Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Updates and Upgrades

Here's just a little catch-up on what's been going on, preparatory to my reviving this blog in the coming months. I've been disseminating news about my writing on my Facebook author page rather than here. The short version, cobbled together from that source:

On September 28, 2017, MuseItUp publishing sent me a contract for the e-book rights to the Heirs of Mâvarin trilogy. Needless to say, I was thrilled. I had pitched to one of their editors at TusCon in late 2016, and successively submitted a revised pitch with a chapter and synopsis, and, eventually, a whole manuscript of the first book. When I heard back, I had just finished writing the prequel novelette, "The Boy Who Saw," so I was free to hop back on the trilogy for one last round of revisions before sending the three "final" manuscripts. Meanwhile, I submitted the contract and three author info sheets, one for each book.

On September 30, I started having trouble with iPad keyboards, a problem that persisted for several weeks and several keyboards. Ultimately I had to reinstall the iOS on the iPad.

On October 4, I finished my "final" revision of The Tengrem Sword.

On October 7, I consulted with Sara Geer about maps she will be working on for me. This is something she's a thousand times better at than I am.

On October 8, I messed around combining old Sherlock portraits with royalty-free stock photos. Here's what I ended up with:

Del Merden

 Crel Merden

Del looks like a beach bum, but that's kind of appropriate.

On October 18, I finished my "final" revision of The Road and the City.

On October 24, I got to see Sara's partial draft of the new map of Mâvarin. The problem with the old ones is that I didn't know where they were when I was writing chunks of the two trilogies, so the place names in the books aren't where they need to be on the maps. Also, Sara understands geography better than I do. Map reading always brought me my lowest score on standardized tests.

On October 25, I discovered that I hadn't actually written six scenes yet at the end of Castle in the Swamp, back when I was last working on it many months ago. Restructuring the original novel into a trilogy with proper dramatic structure for each book had created two plot complications that still needed to be resolved properly. Bummer.

On November 15, I was down to just one unwritten scene. I celebrated with another composite of Sherlock art and photography to come up with this picture of Shela Cados:

On November 18, I wrote that last scene, bought paper and three binders, and printed out all three novels for a final pre-submission proofread on paper. And there was much rejoicing. 

I've now entered my edits from the Book One proofread into the master Word document, performed several global search-and-replace routines on all three books, and started on my Book Two proofread. I hope to get it all off to MuseItUp before the weekend is out. Yay!

"When will the books be out? Can I have an autographed copy?" people keep asking. The contract is for e-books, but I will be arranging for a print-on-demand run in paperback. I'm guessing that the three volumes of Heirs of Mâvarin will be out in the first half of 2018.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Young Fabi

Ten-year-old Fabi Stok, who later grows up to be Fabi the Seer, is the protagonist of my new novelette, "The Boy Who Saw." The story will almost certainly appear in an anthology my writing group will be publishing soon.

To celebrate, I've created both a photo manipulation illustration of Fabi and a cover for the anthology. I'm far from being a great graphic artist, but you get the gist.  Enjoy!



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Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Boy Who Saw: Invitation

The Boy Who Saw
Excerpts from a Work in Progress
by Karen Funk Blocher
© 2017 by KFB

Part One: Invitation

7 Rose Lane
Sabedu, 2 Nefilem, 855

Dear Arti,

Credit: By Pi3.124 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Autumn is almost over, so I’m assuming that the harvest is in. I hope everything went well, and that you got a good price for your cotton again this year.

This being your slow season, I’m wondering whether you might be able to get away for a few weeks and come for a visit. It’s been about five years since I’ve seen you, and I miss my only brother! We have plenty of room, and we’ll make sure that little Fabi is on his best behavior this time.

Husband Fafi has adapted well to shopkeeping. His store is like a little marketplace, with goods from all over. He always seems to know what his customers are most likely to buy, and never gets stuck with unwanted leftovers. I think he misses the caravan, just a little, but overall he’s found his place here in Kinbeth and is quite content.

As for me, I’m still performing, in the local inn and in the occasional play at Skû. The theater troupe there has produced three of my shows, and I even make a bit of money off them. I know you don’t approve, Arti dear, especially since it sometimes takes me away from home for a few weeks; but I hope you’re at least pleased that Fafi and I are well and prosperous and happy.

Little Fabi is ten years old now. He tries very hard to be obedient and considerate, and he’s very loving and kind toward everyone. Even so, somehow he’s always getting in trouble, one way or another. Last week, his pet rabbit turned green for an hour. “Pucu isn’t really green!” he insisted, and it’s true that the animal seems to have taken no harm at all. Then yesterday morning, he came to us crying, and was just inconsolable. He insisted that he saw both Fafi and me dying in our beds. I showed him that we’re both alive and well, but he was very quiet and sad the rest of the day. It must have been quite a nightmare!

I hope to see you soon.


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, 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. 


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!


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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?"


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!