Thursday, August 16, 2018

Scrambled languages


Yesterday, still slightly dazed from finishing a book, I took the day off and watched an old musical. And it's a good thing I didn't try to watch Csardaskiralyno while I was writing, because this version totally scrambled my brains.

See, I have a theory about brains and language development -- totally unscientific, but mine own. It stems from the fact that I myself seem to have only two places in my brain to stash languages. One is labeled, "English" and the other, "Everything Else." The second box is just a stack: whatever non-English language I last used is what it will give me next time I reach into the box.

Most of the time this isn't a problem; I've only noticed it when moving rapidly across Europe, where on one morning I may need German, on the next Italian, and the next day I want all one hundred words of my pitifully small Greek vocabulary. (It gets even worse when you figure that twenty of those are numbers.) Trips like that involve a lot of pulling out and discarding languages before the box finally starts delivering what I need.

But I've been around a number of people who were raised bilingual, and they're not just more fluent in their second language than I ever hope to be; they also juggle multiple languages with aplomb. They can have a conversation with a German, a Hungarian and a Russian without ever getting tongue-tied or stammering as they switch languages.

My theory, then, is that people who spoke two or more languages from the time they learned to talk have constructed better and more sophisticated language boxes than I have. Maybe they've actually got a separate box for each language they learn!

So how did the operetta mess over my language boxes? Well... I've listened to highlights from this operetta so often that despite not being very good at picking out words with music, I seem to have memorized the songs. In Hungarian.

Now, this production was being sung in German, and sometimes the words didn't mean anything at all like the original lyrics.

And since my German's no longer good enough to follow the story unaided, I was heavily dependent on the English subtitles. Which sometimes had little or no relationship to either German or Hungarian lyrics.

So... you try remembering in Hungarian, listening in German, and reading in English for a few hours! Go ahead; I'll wait. And then I'll wait some more while you try to compose a coherent sentence.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Dragon of the Lake

Talk about writing ahead of yourself... Yesterday I uploaded the ebook of A Tapestry of Fire, book 4 in the Applied Topology series. And today I finished the first draft of Book 6, The Dragon of the Lake.

The last few days have been exhilarating but exhausting, as I tend to write faster and faster near the end of a book. Now it's done, and I feel that I've wrapped up Thalia's story pretty well, and now I can start on the new series that's been whispering in my ear.

Not today, though. And quite possibly not tomorrow either. I want some time to wriggle my toes and admire the newly finished story. (Critical editing can happen later.)

So.... whee! The only things between me and publishing the last two books of this series are proofreading, formatting and cover art... and Cedar has already started thinking about cover art for A Creature of Smokeless Flame. I wonder just how quickly we can get these two out?

Monday, August 13, 2018

A Tapestry of Fire - Live!



Well, that was fast.
I just uploaded the ebook this afternoon, and it's already live: A Tapestry of Fire

Meanwhile, here's the blurb, which I hope will stir your interest:

Thalia Kostis is a budding magician (depending on how you define it), but she has a theoretical mathematician's grasp on socialization and people skills. When pressed into spying on a rival magician's company retreat to find out where kidnapped coders are being held, she expected things to go completely sideways.

She didn't expect to end up mistaken for her rival’s fiancĂ©e...

Now she has to juggle her own impending wedding, her cover, her magic, and company politics that might turn out deadlier than anyone expected!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

A Conflagration of Titles


I am so not good at titles.

My first agent once said, "You're so bad at titles, you should call your books MS1, MS2, MS3 et cetera."

I told her that was a dangerous suggestion to make to a recovering math major.

Oh well -- with lots of practice over lots of years, I hope I've gotten a little better at this arcane art. But I've been struggling with the title of the 5th Applied Topology book (not the one that's about to come out, that's #4.) I wanted to keep it in the format I'd used for the first four books: A(n) NOUN of NOUN. Like the title of this post. Not too difficult, wouldn't you think?

For a while I was calling it A Veiling of Djinn, but that never sounded right. It sounded awkward, and wouldn't mean much to people who hadn't read that the Djnoun veil themselves from mortal sight. (Djnoun being the Arabic plural for Djinn, but even I am not crazy enough to put that word in a title.)

So I switched to A Shadow of Djinn, and used that most of the time I was writing, and thought it was an okay title, until one of my children upset the applecart.

The other night at dinner I casually mentioned that the fifth book would be called A Shadow of Djinn.

Daughter and son-in-law: A Shadow of what?

Me: D-j-i-n-n. You know, like in the Arabian Nights?

D and s-i-l: The what?

Two takeaways from that: (1) I should have homeschooled that kid, and (2) time to think up a new title.

And I had to think fast, because #4 (A Tapestry of Fire is in the hands of the formatting service as I write, and at the back there's a short excerpt from #5 with the title.

So I'm going with A Smokeless Flame, in the hope that it will sound interesting to readers even if they don't happen to be up on the finer points of Islamic theology, such as the fact that Allah created the Djnoun (knew I'd be able to work that word into a sentence sometime!) out of smokeless fire. (I didn't want to use the word "fire" because it would echo Book 4's title.)

I hope this one works.

At least I feel reasonably sure that my semiliterate offspring and their spouses know the words "smoke" and "flame."

I'm still vacillating between just A Smokeless Flame and something like A Creature of Smokeless Flame. Any opinions would be more than welcome.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Yippee! New stuff to read!

Pam Uphoff's new book in the Wine of the Gods series,External Relations, went live this morning. I've downloaded it already and am working really, really hard to write another couple of thousand words and strip the basil leaves for tonight's pesto before I put my feet up and indulge myself.

Should you start with #37 in a series? Oh, why not? Pam's really good at setting the scene so that readers can dive in just about anywhere in the series. And if you don't trust my judgment, well, it's also available on Kindle Unlimited.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Did you know that I have a book coming out?

Thanks to The Passive Voice for pointing out this essay:

Did you know that I have a book coming out? If you’ve visited any of your social media channels even once in the past month, you should know. It is very important for the world to know that I have written a book that is actually getting published so I have posted pictures of the following: me writing my book; me editing my book; me pressing send on an email to my editor; a Boomerang of me opening a box of my finished books; a video of me in Barnes & Noble finding my book; a repost of every single reader who posted a picture of themselves reading my book; every review I’ve ever gotten (with negative bits artfully cropped out); and, of course, the obligatory publication day bonanza photo that I doctored with confetti. They really should create a dedicated “I wrote a book” emoji. Need to speak to someone in Silicon Valley about that.

- - -
Did you know that I have a book coming out? You should know because you’ve been invited to at least five different readings and six different parties celebrating my accomplishments. Wait! You’re kidding, right? Are you absolutely sure that other people don’t throw parties for themselves just for doing their jobs? That’s so strange. Are you telling me that if you finished your accounting reports on time and did all the work for which you were contractually obligated you wouldn’t have a cocktail party to celebrate?

But you should really click through to the original at McSweeney's and RTWT. It's all good.

And since the formatting service I use won't be able to get to Tapestry of Fire for a whole week, I may have time to forget how ugly unbridled narcissism looks before I start pushing the new book...

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Gaslight

For the last week I've been reading in circles. The ebook cover for the next Applied Topology book, A Tapestry of Fire, is ready and all I had to do was give the document a couple of serious proofreading passes before sending it off to the formatting service I use.
Or so I thought.
Instead, I've been going over the manuscript again and again with frustrating and confusing results.
I'm almost ready to go back to proofreading from a printed, dead-tree manuscript! That's how I used to do it, but since getting into indie publishing I've found an easier method -- at least, up to now it was easier. I convert the Word document of a book to PDF and send it to my Kindle via Amazon's automatic conversion program. That program isn't good enough to use for publication -- it gets kind of funky about hyphens, em dashes, and paragraphs -- but it does produce a version of the book which I can read on my Kindle. And it turns out that what I personally need for proofreading isn't necessarily hardcopy; it's something that mimics my reading experience. I read so many books on Kindle that this is quite comfortable for proofreading and minor editing.
The way it usually works, I read the Kindle version of the manuscript and use the Notes feature to highlight typos and wording changes. Then I open the manuscript on my laptop, in Word, and refer to the Notes on the Kindle version to find the places I need to fix. Two or three passes are usually sufficient to give me a nice clean manuscript -- and I'd already reviewed A Tapestry of Fire more than once. So, a piece of cake, right?
Wrong. This particular piece of cake has given me severe indigestion. On one reading, my Kindle decides to show me only the notes for the second half of the book. On another, I discover actual typos which I distinctly remember seeing and correcting at least two revision cycles earlier. I've been going over and over the manuscript and I think it's clean now, but I'm going to look at it again tomorrow. Just in case.
I've been at a loss to explain these sudden problems; or rather, any explanation I come up with is unsatisfactory. Amazon's Notes for the Kindle is suddenly experiencing random failures? Doesn't seem likely. Microsoft Word is sadistically refusing to save random editing changes? I'm almost paranoid enough to believe that one, but not without a motive.
Or -- here's the scary one -- my own brain is shutting down, giving me false memories of having corrected typos I never actually fixed?
That one is so terrifying that I temporarily quit thinking about the problem at all, because I am not ready to go soft in the head. I've got the last book and a half in this series written and I want to finish them, and then I've got a new book ready to go, and... not yet! Please don't let my mind fail yet! Can't it wait until I don't have any more book ideas?
Then, last night, it came to me.
Gaslight.
Of course. Amazon and Microsoft are teaming up to make me think I'm crazy, as part of their secret plan for world domination. And Charles Boyer is probably in on it too.
Paranoia. It's good for solving your problems.
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