I am pretty busy at the moment with grad school, and don’t really have the time to pursue full-fledged writing projects outside of my assignments, but when Pat Bertram, author of LightBringer, approached me with the idea of doing a collaborative novel I just couldn’t say no! I’ve known Pat for a few years, and we have “blurbed” each other’s books, but we have never worked together on a project.  There are other writers involved as well, eight of us all together, and the novel will be truly international in scope, with four countries represented.  We have decided to try something in the Steampunk genre.  I am a big fan of Girl Genius, the steampunk interent comic starring Agatha Heterodyne, but I have never written anything like that myself.  Should be fun!

ist2_2831963-punch-cardThe progress bar for Summermoon Fire continues to inch over, and I finished chapter fourteen last night.  Unfortunately I didn’t get quite to the end of the allotted amount of story, so I might have to add a chapter to the end.  I’m aiming for 90-95k words.  My present publisher, Mushroom Ebooks, is evaluating the first book in this series, Wintermoon Ice, right now, but I don’t know if they will pick it up or not.

So the end is in sight, and I am really not sure where I am going after that.  Part of me says I have finished (or mostly finished) six books in the last four years, and maybe I should be taking a break?  I’d like to go back to school for awhile, and study a foreign language, or possibly update my job skills.  I have a minor in computer science, from the days when you input programs by punch cards.  I’d have to do practically a whole new degree to get up to speed on that, but it would be challenging.

OR…

I could start a new book, perhaps in a different genre.  I’m not tired of fantasy, exactly, but sometimes I think it’s too easy to get caught in the same old storyline ruts.  I’m wondering about doing a sweeping historical fiction, a la Leon Uris, about some heretofore unvisited portion of human events.  Doing the research would be a lot of fun.

OR…

I also like the idea of writing geographical fiction, where the setting becomes the main character and people come and go across the landscape.  I don’t know if anyone has ever done such a book, and if they haven’t, I can guess why.  Most people would probably want to read a satisfying story arc about other people, not a mountain or river.  But still, I find the idea appealing, maybe because I have a degree in geography.

I’d have to publish either of the other two books under a different name, so as not to confuse the people who associate Suzanne Francis (which isn’t my real name, BTW) with fantasy.

Decisions, decisions…

Well, I have been taking it easy for the last month, but it is time to get back to writing.  Actually, for me, not writing is much harder than writing, and I’ve only been taking a break because everyone in my family demanded it!  🙂

But enough, already!  I’m ready to start Summermoon Fire, the second book in the Sons of the Mariner…

So–I’ve refreshed my widget, sharpened my keyboard, and poured a fresh, steaming hot cup of words.  Let the fun begin!

A lazy post today–just a repeat of an article I wrote last week for the group “No Whine, Just Champagne” on Gather.  The article engendered little discussion, possibly due to the Vice-Presidential debates happening at the same time.

The comments I received indicated that most of the authors that belong to the group aren’t dealing with language in their works.  A few mentioned accents as a way to indicate “foreignness” but there wasn’t as much interest in the idea of using either genuine or made-up dialects.  Several people said they found it pointless and annoying to include non-English words in a text.  I found that a little discouraging, since SOTA has words in four different tongues, all created by yours truly.  I can only hope others are a little more sympathetic.

Anyway, here is the article:
We live in a world where there are 266 unique languages, each spoken by over a million people. It is commonplace to meet people in our home countries for whom English is not their first language–who speak hesitantly, or use the wrong word at times. When we travel, we might find ourselves in the same position. The problems of communication between different native speakers can create tension within relationships, lead to business failures or even outright warfare. It is a fact of life, and an important one. So, in the pursuit of realism within our fiction, should we give our characters different languages?

Authors have approached this conundrum in differing ways. In the His Dark Materiels trilogy, Philip Pullman does not make any mention of or concession to the variety of spoken languages. Everyone in his books–whether from Earth, alternative London, witch, harpy or wheelie–speaks the same tongue and can easily understand one another. That is the easiest and probably the most common way to deal with the issue; simply to ignore that it exists.

Douglas Adams, in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books, takes a different route. He circumvents the problem. Early on, after Arthur and Ford have left Earth, Arthur receives a singular aid to understanding–the Babel fish that Ford sticks in his ear. By this clever invention, Adams acknowledges that there are a Universe full of different lingos, but he doesn’t have to deal with writing about them, because Arthur can now magically understand everything that is said to him.

The third option is to embrace multiple languages within the plot, with all the difficulties that entails. C J Cherryh, in her Foreigner Universe books, does this very successfully. Her protagonist, Bren Cameron, is a representative of the human race thrust into a alien world, where words like love and loyalty, even when directly translated, do not mean the same thing. Cherryh creates tension through mistranslation and misunderstanding, and that adds to the “foreignness” of Bren’s experience amongst the Atevi.

I also chose the third option for Song of the Arkafina. My world, Yrth, is home to many languages, and when the characters travel from one part to another they have difficulties in making themselves understood. Sometimes it is important to the plot, other times it is just something that they have to deal with–as do we, in normal life. It made the writing more difficult, especially when there were several languages being spoken in a group at the same time. On some occasions, I did employ my own sort of “Babel fish,” but other times I had my characters lost and confused because they could not understand what others were saying. I think it adds realism–others might find it pointlessly distracting.


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Thanks to my good buddy Andy, who keeps an interesting blog here, I have added a little bit of code to keep up with my progress for “Wintermoon Ice.” I think it will be motivational, or maybe depressing–we will see…

The words are all coming very nicely at the moment and I am at 116,000 or Chapter Twenty Four. Things are winding down, a little, but I have a bit more story yet to tell. At the end of Chapter Twenty Three I had to say goodbye to another old friend, probably my favorite character in the whole series. It was tough and I have to say I shed a few tears. That part was bittersweet, because the character was happy to be moving on. (more…)

Just about to hit 105.000 words, and I do think I have the final details of the story worked out in my head now.

Does it always take her that long? I hear you asking yourselves in surprise…

And the answer is: um…Yes!

I always have a basic story structure in mind when I start writing. In fact, I usually do a pretty detailed chapter by chapter synopsis, so that I can break the main action down into manageable chunks, and get the flow of the novel. (more…)

Check out the new tab at the top of my blog. It is a page for Dawnmaid, the third book in the series. I’d like feedback on the cover image, if you are so inclined. I originally planned to call this book “Birth of the Dawnmaid” but when I put all that on the cover it looked cluttered and busy. (Also several people said it reminded them of “Voyage of the Dawntreader.”) “Dawnmaid” by itself gives more visual punch, I think.

Picking a title for a book is a serious business. You need something original and catchy that encapsulates the meaning of your work in only a few words. A tall order! I was pretty surprised to find that Dawnmaid hadn’t been used by anyone else. (more…)

Today is the last day I have to get organized and ready for my trip, so it will be a busy one. I probably won’t do much updating while I am gone, other than a few words here and there. I don’t plan to bring my computer with me, although I am buying an ASUS eee while I am in the US. Prices on small consumer goods are double here what they are in the good old US of A.

Publication for Ketha will go ahead as scheduled. Work on editing book 3 continues. Hopefully I will have it ready to go by mid May and it should hit the ewaves by July. Wrote another thousand words for book 4 last night. I have the idea than one of the problems is the fact that a couple of the characters are rather static; they don’t seem to grow or learn anything new during the course of events. So I plan to give that some thought while I am away and perhaps set up some new challenges for them when I get back.

I am still struggling with the ending. I want it to be happy. I HATE books that don’t end happily, after all the characters have been through. But I also want it to feel real. I think back to the Lord of the Rings. Frodo deserved to be happy–he had saved the world, after all. But there was no joy left in life for him. He had suffered too much. My main character, Katkin, is also like that. I don’t think I can just send her home with her true love and expect them to live happily ever after. I have an idea, but I will have to actually write the words before I know whether or not it will work.

I will keep you posted.

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I have reached a point in Beyond the Gyre where the characters have one last chance to relax before the final showdown. I plan to devote an entire chapter (chapter 17) to this latency, also giving the reader time to catch his/her breath. But I am a little worried that I will lose my momentum, so whether this experiment appears in the final draft is up in the air. I have two characters speaking, or rather one speaking and one singing. Each is quoting something else–one a seafaring journal and the other a mythic poem set in a madrigal. I will intercut the two, trying to play off the archetypal elements in each and also include little snippets of the other character’s reactions. If it goes on too long I can always trim it later. (more…)