Sunday, March 12, 2017

Many Steps Forward

So, what have I been up to in the past 11 months? I'll tell you.

Last November, I attended TusCon, the annual fan-fun sf convention in Tucson. This usually sleepy con was sold out, largely because the Guest of Honor was George. R. R. Martin. I was there because several other people from the Tucson SF/Fantasy Writers' Meetup were going, and to attend a few writing-related panels. The most important of these, to me, was billed as a pitch session. I spent a couple of hours at Denny's that Saturday, honing a one-minute pitch and a revised opening sentence for Heirs of Mavarin. Over the past several years, Heirs has evolved from one large novel to three shorter ones, each volume of the trilogy to have a proper dramatic structure of its own. The pitch, however, was for the whole trilogy. Describing a 200K word story in 60 seconds is a challenge!

The three people I pitched to that night were two small press publishers and an acquiring editor. The first guy had no use for a full-length work, let alone a trilogy. The second was unable to commit resources for a whole trilogy from an unknown writer. The acquiring editor suggested that I try to sell the first volume by itself first as an ebook, and make it as good as possible. If it sold, the second and third could be published, with maybe an omnibus dead tree edition later. This was not far off my own plan, which was to publish three ebooks if I could not get a publisher interested. 

In any case, my pitch should have been for the one book, not all three.

After the pitch session, I was starting to tell a friend that I'd pretty much gone down in flames when the acquiring editor gave me her business card, and asked me to send her pages. Since then I've sent her a revised pitch, and a newly-tweaked first chapter of the first volume, now renamed The Tengrem Sword. (This was the first name the larger novel had, lo these many years ago.) Just last week, having finished a supposedly-final edit of The Tengrem Sword, I sent the whole manuscript of that volume off to that same editor, by invitation. Huzzah!

I turned 60 years old on Friday, and it seems to me that my writing is finally coming into its own, after decades of fits and starts and lots of misfires. I'm about a quarter of the way through my edit of Book Two, The Road and the City. I just did a little light housekeeping on mavarin.com, and taken down old drafts of the first book from this very blog. I'm more confident and more productive with the books than I've been in years, perhaps decades. Best of all, the books themselves are miles better. 

Onward!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Thâlemar Map in progress

This is a map of Thâlemar that I drew over the course of a couple of hours, about a month ago:


Rough map by Karen Funk Blocher

This is the rough draft of Thâlemar that my good friend Sara Cosgrove drew for me in a couple of hours today.


The differences are startling. Mine looks like a child's drawing. Hers looks like a map. Beyond that, Sara's map shows a lot more thought being put into how cities work: who would live where, what businesses would exist, how to deal with shipping and flooding and siege and...well, you get the idea. I can't tell you how pleased I am. Sara asked me a bunch of questions that made me think about details and logistics, and then drew something that answered questions I would never have thought of!

Also, I bought a personal Wiki app called Trunk Notes. The darn thing doesn't stay connected to my computer for more than a couple of minutes at a time, and the iPhone data doesn't talk to the iPad data unless I sync first one and then the other to my computer. You're supposed to be able to sync with Dropbox, but I failed to figure that out. I mean, I'm sure I could conquer it eventually, but it was far from obvious how to do it from the instructions given.

None of the formatting from the Word files I imported were carried over into the Wiki formatting, and the numbered scenes in my outline defaulted back to 1, 2, 3 at every chapter or dating break. I didn't see how to add tags (a place for them, but not an icon for adding them), and the way the links work is weird. At this moment I'm not at all sure I'll keep it. I may take another stab at OneNote or Evernote, or make do with M.S. Word.

Sara's map, though, made my day!

K.




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Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Little Apocrypha

Written as a comment to a writing exercise on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors group on Facebook. It's based on an actual incident at Old Fort Henry when I was a small child.

Apr 02, 2016 6:44pm

"When I was about six years old," Rani said, "my mom took me to the first big Market of spring down in Mashelamar. I think she was trying to expand her clothing sales beyond Liftlabeth into the big city. It probably worked, because she has lots of clients there now." He looked at Cort. "Did you ever see her there? She used to go a couple of times a year."

"Once, I think," Cort said.

"Did you talk to her?"

"No."

Rani took a long look at his father. Cort seemed disinclined to elaborate, so Rani continued his story. "Anyway, this one time, she took me with her. And I lagged behind, looking at a stall full of pinwheels and tops and wooden horses. Then I realized I was alone, and I ran to catch up. There was a pale woman up ahead in a blue dress, and I thought it was Mom, so I ran up behind her and asked if she'd buy me a toy. Then she turned around."

"And it wasn't her," Cort guessed.

"Not only that, but she spoke to me in some language I didn't recognize. Maybe Parsai. That's when I started to get scared."

"Did the woman help you find Rithe again?"

Rani shook his head. "No. It was a man who helped me."

"Why are you telling us this story, Rani?" Meligor asked.

"Because of the man. He was dark like, like both of you when you look human, like me when I was human. He took my hand, and bought me a pinwheel to stop my crying, and then he helped me find the right woman in a blue dress. 'Run to her,' he said, so I did. When I looked back, the man was gone."

Cort nodded, but said nothing.

"It was you, wasn't it?"

Cort shrugged. 'Maybe. I've reunited a few lost children with their parents over the years. Were you one of them? I don't really know."

"Now you've reunited Rani with his father and grandfather," Meligor said. "That counts for something."

Cort shook his head. "No, I didn't. Rani did that himself."

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Making it Real

I am determined to finish Heirs of Mâvarin this year. It's lots of fun to go over it and over it, and tinker and tinker, improving the wording and catching the occasional typo; and there are times when I add or overhaul whole scenes. The books get better and better as I do this, but there's obviously a problem. At some point, I have to concentrate on coming up with a final version of each chapter and each scene - or, at least, as final as it's going to get before being turned over to an agent or editor, one last time. Leonardo Da Vinci wrong, "Art is never finished, only abandoned." I really believe that. At some point a piece of art needs to be pushed out into the world and abandoned, to be discovered by others.

RutanaBut I'm not quite there yet. There are still a few scenes to be written, a few improvements to be made. For example, in re-reading a Patricia C. Wrede novel last week, I realized that not one character in the Mâvarin books, aside from the people in the Palace, has even one servant. Is that realistic for my society at this stage in its history? It's true that I've more or less consciously created a milieu that was far more egalitarian than most historical, pseudo-historical and fantasy realms. Have I overdone it? Probably. Certainly Rutana, an elderly mage in uncertain health who lives alone in a fair-sized house, needs and deserves a servant to help her out, at least a few days a week. She'll get one. And here's a related point. Can she afford a servant? What does she do for a living? If she's retired, where did she make her money before that? So I've had to figure that out, not just for Rutana but for Fayubi as well. Robert Young's character in Father Knows Best rather famously had no apparent job or source of income. I don't want that sort of stumbling block in the way of my books' verisimilitude.

Another current project is to figure out the geography of Mâvarin's capital city, Thâlemar. I had about five named streets, but only a vague idea where they were in relation to major landmarks and to each other. I'm no mapmaker, but I will have to make a map. And just tonight I finally decided the name of Rutana's street, and Fayubi's street, and the Ramets' street.

What's the point of all this? It goes back to worldbuilding, and Damon Knight's comment to me, many years ago now, that he had the impression that my world "ends ten feet from the road." I've come a long way since then, but I have just a little farther to go, I think. Once you know that Rutana's housekeeper Etha leaves Harmony Street just before noon each Market Day to buy Rutana's groceries, including fresh apples in season and Derion chocolate whenever possible, the world becomes that much more real. I hope so, anyway!

Karen

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

I'm on Book Three of my supposedly final edit / rewrite of Heirs of Mâvarin. Currently the plan is to put Heirs out as a trilogy of ebooks. In the years I've been toiling away on my first novel (or distracted and not working on it), the publishing industry has changed drastically. A part of me still wants to see it in a bookstore, with the Ace or DAW or some other major imprint on it, but market forces and the economics of publishing these days offer pretty strong arguments for self-publishing. We'll see.


I started a "fan" page for the books on Facebook. Yes, it's way too soon, but I want to have some content built up for when the time comes to really start promoting these books. Get a sneak preview at https://www.facebook.com/mavarininfo.

Here's a snippet from Chapter One of Heirs of Mâvarin, Book One: The River's Edge:


Rani Fost set down the belt he was embossing and slipped out the front door of the deserted leather shop. Del was already in the stable yard next door, shading his eyes and staring in the direction of the river. He pointed. “There!”
Houses and trees blocked much of their view, but Rani spotted two riders, a man and a woman, barely keeping their seats as their horses neighed and plunged in fear of the large, dark creature that pranced in the middle of the normally quiet street near the lumber yard. Other hunters milled around the creature. 
It was the monster from Rani’s dreams, the one he had been desperate to catch a glimpse of in his waking life for the past three days. At first glance the tengrem could have been another horse and rider; but there was no saddle. Instead of a rider, the equine back sprouted a furry torso, like a bear on its hind legs. Two long, hairy arms ended in pink-clawed, five-fingered hands. The dirty yellow horn in the forehead was long and slightly curved.
The tengrem opened its wolf-like snout, revealing teeth so large that Rani could see them even at this distance. A moment later it spouted fire as a hunter ventured too close to the tossing head. The hunter’s horse shied as flame touched its legs. 
The tengrem bolted for the woods that covered the hills at the village’s edge. The hunters shouted and plunged in after it. Rani and Del watched for a few moments longer, but saw no more of the quarry or its pursuers.
K.

Friday, June 19, 2015

(Just Like) Starting Over

Gee, has it been so long? It's been nearly four years since I last wrote on this blog, positing an experimental reorganization of the trilogy Mages of Mâvarin. I gave up on that particular idea after about a week.

Since then, all my blogs have fallen by the wayside, my social media presence has mostly been on Facebook, and much of my writing has been non-fiction as the newsletter editor and social media consultant (and bookkeeper, photographer, etc.) for St. Michael and All Angels Church. But just over a year ago, I joined a writing group, hoping to jumpstart my fiction writing again. If you live in or around Tucson and write sf or fantasy, feel free to join us:

Tucson SF/F Writer's Meetup

In the past year, I've gone back to the first novel, Heirs of Mâvarin, and revised the heck out of it. Now it's a trilogy of short novels instead of one really long one. The idea is that this configuration is easier to market than the longer first novel, especially if it ends up as an ebook.

To do that, though, I needed to restructure the first book in the trilogy. It was fine as the first third of a book, but it lacked the proper dramatic structure for a stand-alone novel. So a major character, who originally learned something important a hundred pages in, has to figure it out toward the end of the volume. Another character has to escape from a place, while the first character has to escape into a different place. Overall I think it's gone well, and I have the meetup group to thank for the motivation and feedback. Thanks, you guys!

The book's new opening is as follows:

Rani Fost set down the belt he was embossing and slipped out the front door of the deserted leather shop. Del was already in the stable yard next door, shading his eyes and staring in the direction of the river. He pointed. “There!” 
Houses and trees blocked much of their view, but Rani spotted two riders, a man and a woman, barely keeping their seats as their horses neighed and plunged in fear of the large, dark creature that pranced in the middle of the normally quiet street near the lumber yard. Other hunters milled around, apparently trying to surround the creature. 
It was the monster from Rani’s dreams, the one he had been desperate to catch a glimpse of in his waking life for the past three days. At first glance the tengrem could have been another horse and rider; but there was no saddle. Instead of a rider, the equine back sprouted a furry torso, like a bear on its hind legs. Two long, hairy arms ended in pink-clawed, five-fingered hands. The dirty yellow horn in the forehead was long and slightly curved. 
The tengrem opened its wolf-like snout, revealing teeth so large that Rani could see them even at this distance. A moment later it spouted fire as a hunter ventured too close to the tossing head. The hunter’s horse shied as flame touched its legs.  
The tengrem bolted for the woods that covered the hills at the village’s edge. The hunters shouted and plunged in after it. Rani and Del watched for a few moments longer, but saw no more of the quarry or its pursuers.

The Clarion Write-a-Thon starts in two days, and I'm thinking of participating. This fundraiser for the workshop, where I first met my husband of 36 years, runs from June 21 to August 1, the same dates as this year's workshop. (I'm pretty sure that my Clarion started on July 3rd, 1977.) Their website explains the What and How of it:

Welcome to Clarion UCSD's Sixth Annual Write-a-Thon! What is a write-a-thon, anyway? Think charity walk-a-thon. In a walk-a-thon, volunteers walk as far as they can in return for pledges from sponsors who make donations, usually based on the number of miles the volunteer walks. Our Write-a-Thon works like that too, but instead of walking, our volunteers write with a goal in mind. Their sponsors make donations to Clarion sometimes based on number of words written, sometimes based on other goals, or just to show support for the writer and Clarion.
All donations are made through The Clarion Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
As I embark on my revision of Book Two of Heirs, should I make it a Write-a-Thon project? If I do, will you sponsor me? Better yet, will you join me?

Update: I signed up.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The New Paradigm Mâvarin Novels

I had an awesome idea today for revamping my unsold fantasy trilogy, Mages of Mâvarin. I’m very excited about it.

(Please note: This was originally posted on Tumblr, where it will mostly be seen by Doctor Who fans who have no idea what Mâvarin even is. (It’s a fantasy country in an alternate universe, geographically located in the eastern U.S.) But the Tumblr entry will be picked up by Twitter and Facebook, and here I am reposting on Blogger, which will also hit FB. So much duplication, and maybe two or three people will end up reading it. But it’s worth it.)

Anyway, here’s the background. I recently finished editing my first novel, Heirs of Mâvarin, and am gearing up to submit to agents and publishers. Meanwhile, I recently reread the sequel, Mages of Mâvarin, cut one scene and added another, and called it done except for tweaking. The difficulty with Mages is that it’s over 300k words long, long enough to be a trilogy. So years ago I broke it into three volumes, with vague stopping places in the overall narrative, sort of like Tolkien did with The Lord of the Rings. An Adept in Mâvarin would set up the several plotlines, Another Mâvarin would get Our Heroes in even worse trouble, and Return to Mâvarin would complicate things further and then resolve all the plotlines, more or less.

I want my bookshelf to look like this!

But here’s the idea I had today. Instead of breaking Mages chronologically, with none of the volumes truly complete as novels, what if I made the three books concurrent? The first book would cover Rani and Darsuma’s storylines, the second would be about Fayubi, Fabi and Temet, and the third would focus on Li and Prince Talber. Each novel would begin on the same day, and each would end on the same day, and some events would be retold from different points of view, as Moorcock did with Corum, Hawkmoon etc. This way, each book tells the whole story of what happened to those particular characters, and stands alone as a complete novel. At the same time, each novel provides context for the other two.

This will be a really interesting writing exercise, and may even make the books more marketable. Here I go, starting right now! Hooray!

But yes, I’ll be submitting Heirs in the meantime.

Karen