Life: Editing, Cats, Art, and More Cats — the Usual.

Ever notice how any word, if you look at it enough, starts to look like nonsense? Well, after looking at the word house a few hundred times (and having to determine each time if it’s supposed to be capitalized in that context), I’ve realized that it doesn’t look like a word at all anymore.

I’ve been editing, y’see. On page 207/274 right now. (Here begin the Misadventures of Geoffrey Meeks in the Black Realms. 🙂 The author had big fun turning an old trope on its head with this part of the story — you’ll see when you read the book.) I’m taking things slowly (“The word is slowly — it’s an adverb.”) so as to avoid burnout, but I will certainly be finished with this manuscript soon.

Also, this has been in my brain for a few days, and now I’m sharing it with you so I won’t be the only one “hearing” it:

[to the tune of/patterned after “Nights in White Satin” by the Moody Blues]

Cats in black satinAlways sprawled on your bedJust when you fall asleepThey will jump on your headWhile meowingAnd meowingOh, such meowing

This bit of warped/cat-themed lyrics brought to you by Grace remarking that Tristan, Hugo, and Wendy have fur that looks like satin (very smooth and glossy). They’re “narrow cats” — part Siamese or something similar — so they’re really, really vocal at times.

Speaking of cats… A few weeks ago, Paul mentioned wanting to attend that sci-fi convention in Albuquerque again, so of course Grace is again thinking about that huge art project she wanted to finish and enter in the art show at this convention. She doesn’t care about any other sci-fi conventions, as far as this art project is concerned. It’s just that at this one, she knows there will be a few people familiar with the, ah, source material for the idea. The art project itself has to do with anthropomorphic cat dolls fabric sculptures dressed as characters from one of her favorite series of novels. (She got stalled on this project for a long time because she was having trouble with the heads for the dolls fabric sculptures, but Paul has offered to make a new pattern — how appropriate.) And apparently I’ve been drafted to help make armor for one of these dolls fabric sculpture anthropomorphic cats, which means at some point I’ll be cutting out hundreds of tiny plastic scales and attaching them to a textile base… Probably making a few little plastic swords, too, and an axe, and who knows what else.

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Paul’s First HARDCOVER Novel Now Out!

Notice that I said novel; this is not his first book to be published in hardcover. (For a bit about his nonfiction book, see this.)

We got the proof/author copy of the hardcover edition for I Won’t Cry for Yesterday (The Hand of Providence book 1) at the beginning of the week, and everything looks perfect with the cover, etc., so it’s now “live” on Amazon. We also decided we also want hardcover editions for The Instruments of Faith (The Hand of Providence book 2) and the Endless Realms novels, Project Brimstone and Riders on the Storm. (Riders on the Storm has not yet been published, because the author wants to bring out The Dark Plaza first, and besides, he just had a new book come out at the beginning of this month.) Eventually we’ll add Wheel in the Sky (The Hand of Providence book 3) and whatever the third Endless Realms book is called, as well.

At this point, we don’t know if it’s possible to create hardcover editions for The Awakening series, due to higher page counts. Even if we can make it work, Paul wants to hold off on those until the tenth anniversary of The Remnant‘s publication (May, 2024).

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How the Writing Is Going: January 19, 2023

With the finalization of the back-cover blurb, the cover for Riders on the Storm (yay! the real title, finally) is finished and ready to go. Paul doesn’t want to do a cover reveal or anything yet, but it shouldn’t be too far away.

Cover art for The Dark Plaza has been reworked a bit, and editing the manuscript goes well. I’m now more than a third of the way through what ought to be the final edit of this novel. (I had to hold off for a while, because Paul wanted to make sure nothing in Plaza contradicted anything in the prequel novels.)

Plaza also has to be published before Riders on the Storm, even though these books are in different series (Plaza is the final book of The Awakening, and Riders is the second book of The Endless Realms), because there’s a small bit of crossover. (There was a small bit of crossover in Project Brimstone, too, and if you want to get technical, there was crossover the other direction in The Fallen. I strongly suspect no one pays attention when I say these stories are all connected, because otherwise there’d be a lot more people reading the “extra” books: the ones that aren’t about the Tebrey brothers.)

Paul has already written the first scene for Wheel in the Sky, which will be the third Hand of Providence novel (sequel to I Won’t Cry for Yesterday and Instruments of Faith), even though it’s gonna be a long while before it’s time to bring that book out. To the best of my knowledge, he has not written anything for the third Endless Realms novel. (As we have not yet published the second one, this seems reasonable.)

Work on the “prequel series” (someday he’s gonna have to let me use the working title, at least) has paused while we get these other books ready for publication, but he’s on book four now, having big fun writing something without ‘all that gods-and-monsters stuff,’ as someone else once said of their own fiction. (Yes, I did remove the battery from my irony meter before typing that.) I mean, one of the major characters in this series is a university student. In Cincinnati. It’s even a version of Cincinnati that the reader would recognize as very similar to the Cincinnati in their own universe. How weirdly not-weird is that? 🙂

 

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How the Writing Is Going: January 13, 2023

But first, kitten pictures!

Small, VERY dark tabby kitten standing on a burgundy towel and looking at a light brown boot.

That’s Soot Sprite (Sprite, for short), the new kitten. She’s older than she looks; she’s just tiny. It doesn’t show well in this photo due to the lighting, but she’s a black tabby with white/pale grey undercoat.

And here, for comparison, are two of the older kittens, also with that boot:

Believe it or not, the white kitten on the right is only a week older than Sprite. (Both were born in May, 2022.) She’s tiny, and he’s huge (as white-furred “thistle cats” tend to be). The inky beast on the left is Tristan. He’s named for the main character in Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. (We’d recently watched the last couple of episodes of She-Hulk when it was time for the kittens to choose their adult-cat names, and since actor Charlie Cox was in that series as Matt Murdock/Daredevil… *shrug* It made sense at the time, and since the kitten formerly known as Tootles answered immediately when called Tristan instead, he clearly liked that name.) Martin is named after a cartoon mouse — don’t tell him that, though. (Something about his fur reminded Grace of one of the mouse children in The Secret of NIMH.)

And now, the writing stuff:

Paul finished the first draft of the second Endless Realms book (working title: Stormriders) yesterday. Since he’d already done a round of editing/revisions on the first seventy percent or so of the manuscript, all he has left to do is edit/revise the few chapters, and then it will be ready to hand over to his copyeditor (*waves*) to make it ready for publication.

Oh, yeah — there’s also the matter of the cover art, etc. I don’t expect that to take long, though. Paul has always done cover layout, formatting, etc., himself. (Yes, I know it’s conventional wisdom that literally no one who has the skills to be a writer can also have the skills to create a book cover, because supposedly it’s impossible for any person to be good at more than one thing. Imagine me making a rude gesture to express how I feel about such “conventional wisdom.”) Sometimes, we’ve paid an artist for the actual art, as was the case when we (I) commissioned Jerome Peabody to create cover art for Paul’s sci-fi novel The Remnant. We know what we want the art for Stormriders to look like, at least.

Paul and I have joined an online writers’ group that’s, as he says, more for support than for critique. So far, so good. No one in this group is going to tell Paul that he’s “not a real writer” because he doesn’t “writer everyday.” Nor would they say, “You’ll never finish a fiction novel if you don’t have a work ethic and write everyday even when you have nothing to write about and no time anyway, because you need ten thousand hours of practice before you can be good at it.” (Okay, I am not completely certain no one in the group would say that, because I’ve only recently met most of them — the creator/moderator is the only one I knew previously. I just don’t expect it to happen, because these aren’t the sort of people who parrot “conventional wisdom” as if it were the Fifth Law of Thermodynamics.)

Instruments of Faith, the second Hand of Providence novel, went live sometime when I wasn’t looking. At any rate, both the paperback and the ebook are available now.

Behold! the (oversized, because it can’t be made smaller) link to the Amazon page where you can purchase this novel:

Speaking of the Hand of Providence novels — of which there will be three, eventually — as well as the Endless Realms novels — of which there will be three, eventually… Clever, observant readers of the first book in each series (or clever, observant readers of this blog) will probably have noticed that the protagonist in the Endless Realms books is friends with one of the major characters in the Providence books. (Michael Delling is mentioned by name in the first chapter of Project Brimstone, and he’s in chapter six.) And if there’s a big, red-haired guy leaning on the mantel, metaphorically speaking, in the beginning of a story, there ought to be a later scene in which this character is important to the story. So we talked a bit yesterday about choreographing the plot threads, synchronizing the differing time streams, or whatever. Paul has already started writing the third Providence novel, and he has a good idea where the third Endless Realms novel will go, at least in the early chapters. (If there’s a cyborg on the mantel, metaphorically speaking, in the first novel and also a related short story, maybe that ought to be addressed in a later scene.) The set-up for the third novel is in the final chapter of book two.

Part of the problem with ‘synchronizing the differing time streams’ is that one character in the Endless Realms books will be needed elsewhere, eventually: sometime between Wooden Ships and Necessary Precautions. (The latter is only a working title, and not one to be taken seriously.) So we have to line everything else up so that he’s available at the right time, neither too early nor too late. (He’s not a wizard, obviously. 🙂 ) Even though Paul has stopped insisting that everything written by the “Spence Clones” must be published in chronological order, he still wants to write in as close to chronological order as possible. (Fun fact: We knew the “prequel” story many years before Paul ever wrote The Remnant…, so of course we ended up rewriting all that to change backstories, add characters who weren’t there originally, and have big fun with dramatic irony. The nerve of Drake telling Jason not to keep secrets from Geoffrey! *shakes head* Yeah, I know that last bit doesn’t make sense unless you’ve read The Sleeping and the Dead. So maybe you ought to read it, so you can understand the weird jokes the author’s twin sometimes makes.) 

 

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Cover Reveal (and Blurb): The Instruments of Faith

A bright crimson stain on snow and the smell of burnt flesh…

Dr. Michelle Fredericks is contacted by the FBI to assist in the investigation of a series of grisly occult murders in Eastern Kentucky. The case looks like a straightforward occult serial killer, but things are always more than they seem.

The sullen woods hold dark secrets.

As she begins to suspect there may be more than one killer, she’s drawn into a complex web of murder and deceit. The local police department, the almost feral people living in the mountains, and a vicious local cult all make her life difficult.

And looming over it all is the unseen hand of a certain secret government project and what was done to her as a child.

 

 

 

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More About How the Writing Is Going: January 2, 2023

At nine PM today, I finished copyediting Instruments of Faith, the sequel to I Won’t Cry for Yesterday. Also, Paul tells me that there are no more backstory adjustments necessary to make The Dark Plaza work with the prequel series, so I can get back to working on that manuscript, too.

I want to thank Hannah Givens for excellent advice on how to beat “editor’s block.” (Yes, it’s a thing. I may blog about it sometime.) I cannot say I’m entirely recovered, but I’m on the mend, at least.

 

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Mullets and Massacres: On the Dangers of Using Jargon

(I typed this a few months ago and then didn’t do anything with it… Maybe I should have shared it around Thanksgiving instead, but I didn’t think of that, so here we are.)

Let’s get the confusion out of the way first…

These are massacres:

Heraldic massacres: a set of bull’s horns with a bit of skull between, and a set of stag’s antlers also with a bit of skull between.

And these are mullets:

Heraldic mullets, known to most people as stars. (Three stars, with five, six, and eight points.)

Unless you’re into heraldry and the accompanying terminology, though, you didn’t think of stars or of things that look like hunting trophies.

(Both my brother and my sister-in-law are into heraldry and have even served as heralds within the Society for Creative Anachronism, but I’m fairly sure the word massacre is more likely to make them think of Arlo Guthrie’s song “Alice’s Restaurant.”)

The point — what I mean to tell ya (sorry, the Guthrie-esque inflection just slipped out 🙂 ) — is that these are words that can have very different meanings, depending on the context in which they’re used. If you’re addressing a general audience, you don’t assume they just know which you mean.

Some of the responsibility lies with the audience, too. The expression riddled like pepperboxes comes to mind: In elementary school, we read Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, and there’s a scene in which a few men get drunk and then violently rowdy, and “were riddled like pepperboxes for their trouble.” (If I’ve slightly misquoted that, don’t get mad; I literally have not read this book or any part of it since I was eleven years old.) Most of the kids in that class could not figure out what was meant, since they knew riddled only in the context of, y’know, riddles. They had no idea the word could even be a verb unless it meant to ask a riddle.

You can’t assume the writer/speaker is “doing it wrong” whenever they use a word that you don’t recognize or one that doesn’t seem to mean in context what you’ve always known it means. (Okay, sure, you’re capable of assuming that, but you’ll be wrong if you do.)

And in case anyone is tempted to argue, no, this is not some sort of stupid “proof” that the audience is “wrong” to want words to be used to mean what they actually mean. Calling an imaginary creature with the front half of an eagle and the back half of a lion a dragon is incorrect, and your audience isn’t “doing it wrong” when they expect you to either use the existing term or make up a new one rather than misuse another existing term. (See also: Calling a person who can move objects with the power of their mind a telepath; calling a skirt-like garment a kirtle; calling a falchion an orc sword because you don’t know jack about medieval blade weapons except what you saw in the screen adaptation of a famous trilogy of epic fantasy novels that you can’t be arsed to read. *)

I swiped the artwork for this post from the site my sister-in-law uses for some of her Creatively Anachronistic pursuits. I admit, I was disappointed to learn that the person who decided to use a pike (a kind of fish also sometimes called a lucy) in their personal heraldic device did not go with Lozengy, argent and azure, a lucy argent (which is basically heraldry-speak for Lucy in the sky with diamonds). Most SCAdians who fight wear plastic armor, and you can be sure that most of the ones who wear fancy Renaissance-ish brocades/damasks are wearing modern, synthetic fibers, but they’d never stoop to making a reference to something “mundane”/modern (such as a song from the 1960s) in their Historically Authentic heraldry. (‘Chocolate cake is medieval!’ because some queen of the Outlands said it was during her reign years — nay, decades — ago, but gods help you if you wear linen instead of wool for your handsewn Norse garb due to something as trivial as a life-threatening allergy to wool. *rolls eyes* And this is another reason why I’ll never be a SCAdian…)



* “So… Weaver. What’s that micro-tirade about?” That micro-tirade is about Paul’s friend who insists, “It’s inappropriate for adults to watch Disney or Marvel movies,” despite that friend being obsessed — I am using that term correctly, thanks for not assuming otherwise — with the Lord of the Rings movies. As you already figured out, that person has never read the books on which those movies are based. Why read a book when you can just watch the screen adaptation and know everything that’s in the book anyway? *rolls eyes* And since one of the people doing effects and props for those movies referred to the groove down the length of a sword blade as a blood groove, of course that’s what it’s called, right? And of course the armor worn by Theodan and friends is “Dark Ages plate armor,” which totally proves that full plate armor is period-accurate for a SCAdian with an eleventh-century persona. …And this is another reason why it’s for the best that Weaver will never be a SCAdian. He knows too much about too many topics, and he Has Opinions about being accurate when claiming to be accurate: Do, or do not, but don’t lie to people and insist you Haz All Teh Knowledges concerning topics you can’t be arsed to, like, read a book or even a Wikipedia article on — or watch a YouTube video from a reliable source, if pictures and sound work better for you than words-on-pages.

(Seriously, did you expect me to “stay on topic” for the duration of a nearly 1K-word blog post? If so, you must be new here.)

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How the Writing Is Going

Happy 2013!

No, that’s not a typo. It’s currently the first day (first few hours, even) of 2013, in the novel Paul finished writing on Wednesday.

Truth be told, the characters in the novel are, for the most part, not happy at the end of the book: In the last few chapters, somebody crashed Alan’s party and tried to kill a couple of his guests, Elena fears her boyfriend may be insane, and Geoffrey is worried that his girlfriend — Elena’s best friend — is going to blame him for everything that went wrong. Plus, Drake is worried about an old evil that’s becoming more active and may be behind several recent deaths back home. (It’s not at all as “mundane” as that makes it sound, by the way, but I’m… not at liberty to say much about the story until it’s ready for publication.)

Technically, Paul finished the first draft of this novel on Wednesday. He immediately started on the next book in the series, although once he’s done with the immediate crises of the early chapters, he’s probably going to set that manuscript aside and work on something else — finishing the sequel to Project Brimstone, most likely, since that manuscript is maybe 15K words from completion.

Books that need to be written before “that novel” (not necessarily in this order):

Changing Magic

Wooden Ships

the story of the Roald Amundsen mission to Alpha Cent.

The Fire Throne (could be a single novel — could be a trilogy)

the third book in the Endless Realms series (which begins with Project Brimstone)

Changing Magic has to be written before “that novel” because it introduces readers to a location that will be important later in the overall story arc. (It’s backstory for one of the characters in Project Brimstone, by the way.) Wooden Ships fills in some of the gap between the war on Earth that’s alluded to in The Madness Engine and the beginning of “that novel.” (So does the story of the Amundsen mission: the Amundsen left Earth right before the war.) The Fire Throne addresses a problem that began toward the end of The Dark Plaza but couldn’t be dealt with then (’cause the characters who would’ve done something about it were busy with a much bigger problem just then). And I suppose the third Endless Realms novel doesn’t have to be published before “that novel,” since the only direct connection between them is a character in Project Brimstone who kinda needs to be present when, or soon after, “the Andover anomaly” (a.k.a. the Andover Gate, which is actually a waypoint — anyone who’s been reading Paul’s novels already knows this) stabilizes and begins to function properly.

Paul wants me to write some short stories to further flesh out the story threads, show more of what the characters are like, etc. (If I could still write fiction, I’d have already written “the Tennessee story.” It’s kinda historical fiction, though — set in the mid-1950s — and I honestly have no idea how to do that properly.)

 

 

 

 

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Winter Solstice and the New Year… in a Fictional World Much Like This One

University students’ love lives! Family secrets! Dramatic irony!

First, there’s the Solstice party in Cincinnati (yes, I know Cincinnati exists in this world, but lots of Earths have a Cincinnati), at the home of two of the characters in the prequel novels.

When telling me about those chapters, Paul cautioned me, “It’s not all cranberries and muffins. There’s a lot of drama.” I was expecting the drama. I was not expecting… other things that happen. At least there are plenty of lighthearted elements in these scenes, too. And since the characters are happy with how everything turns out, I’m not complaining.

And then, a few chapters later, there’s the New Year’s Eve party at Alan’s house. (*types and then deletes long paragraph explaining exactly who Alan is, as described in previously published novels set many years after these WIPs*) I’ve talked about this part of the story elsewhere on this blog, I think, so I don’t have to explain again why it’s so important for some of the characters.

In between the aforementioned chapters, though, are darker scenes. (If you’re familiar with the thematic elements in the author’s other novels, that’s not a surprise.) The current WIP is the third book of a five-book series, so naturally it’s a turning point in the overall story arc. A major threat has been growing throughout, and the end of this book is when one of the characters is finally able to take do something about it. For many of the characters, life vastly improves after this… for a while. So yeah, no boom today.

This series (tentatively called Darkness Rising) is considerably slower, by certain measurements of story speed, than the chronologically later books by the same author. I won’t say it’s entirely without space battles and other blatantly sci-fi tropes, but that’s not the focus. Also, I suspect one of Paul’s fans is going to be sorely disappointed by these, since his favorite character from the other series isn’t in this one at all. (And people who read these first may be disappointed by the other books because none of the characters in this series are in The Remnant, and only some of them appear later.)

And speaking of chronologically later books… Paul told me this morning that he still isn’t ready for me to do the final edits on The Dark Plaza, because there may still be details he has to reconcile with stuff from the prequel novels. (Yay! I can focus on getting Instruments of Faith ready for publication instead.) I mention this in case anyone still thinks Paul actually plans out all the details of these stories in advance.

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How the Writing Is Going: December 5 and 6, 2022

Dec. 5, 3 PM:

At least 4,500 more words on book three of the “prequel series” got written last week, and this week is already off to a good start.

Right now, about two and a half miles from here, my dear clone-sibling is writing the early part of a difficult conversation between three characters, and I’m glad he told me in advance that he’d be working on it, just in case I suddenly felt the need to drink lots of coffee, or if I reacted more strongly than usual to the neighbor’s dogs barking. and didn’t know why. Such big fun, being mindlinked to a sci-fi author who’s writing about a character who may be one’s own alter ego or something… 

(A funny thing happened on the way to typing this. A few minutes before, I was reading a blog post by author Michael Seidel, and he’d decided to share a link to a song that events in his own life made him think of today: “Human,” by The Human League. Irony is flammable — throw some cinnamon twigs on that bonfire, why dontcha? *shakes head*)

Dec. 6, just past noon:

According to the author (to whom I spoke a bit more than an hour ago), two of the characters from the WIP are currently in Maine… It’s mid-October (and almost a decade ago) in this setting, so the weather is cold but not bitterly so. (Also, this is before WWIII and the “fimbulwinter” that followed, so there are still trees growing everywhere, and people living in the town just south of the mountain.) They’re there to see about a piece of ancient machinery that’s been nonfunctional for a long time, in the hopes that one of them can fix it. Minor spoiler, though: He can’t fix it. In fact, Drake is actively prevented from opening the Andover Gate, because someone powerful on the other side wants it sealed.

And if no one bothers Paul with day-job stuff this afternoon, he may even get to the next scene, one I’m both dreading (because I cannot help feeling some of what one of the characters is feeling) and very much looking forward to.

 

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