Saturday, August 25, 2018

Not your typical Disney fairy tale

So, having finished up the Applied Topology series with an adventure (The Lake of the Dragon, forthcoming later this year) that takes Thalia up into the Pamirs, I'm starting a new series that has some links back to the first series -- notably, the language of that remote village in the High Pamirs, which turns out to have some very interesting properties. And at the same time, I'm mulling over a third fantasy series built around Lake Shaimak and its Dragon.

Reading the folklore of a region often feeds my fantasy plotting with new ideas, so I went hither and yon on the Internet in search of Pamiri folk tales and found just one book: Tales from the Roof of the World. 333 pages. In German. No translation that I could find. "Oh, well, it'll be good for my vocabulary," I groaned, and ordered a copy.

I've been relieved to find that it's not very difficult reading. The stories are written for a general audience, not a scholarly one (Thank you, God) and I can get by with looking up maybe 4 to 5 words a page if my dictionary's handy, or I can wing it making context-based guesses if the dictionary's in the other room. And the stories are starting off on an unexpected note.

I knew I was going to enjoy the first group of stories when I saw that the table of contents listed them under the sub-heading "The Power of Women." What I didn't see coming was...

The first story opened as all such tales always have. The king whose daughter's beauty shone like the light of the moon, check. Task for the princes who woo her,check. Prince after prince after prince fails, check.

Then, just as I was about to go to sleep, there entered the Hashish Smoker and his Water Pipe.

Not only that, the Hashish Smoker gets the girl because he tells the best stories!

Oookay. We're not in Walt Disney World any more, and I can't wait to find out what the next folk tale is about!

But if you want to look at traditions before they were Disneyfied, you might note that the Victorians wouldn't necessarily have been as surprised as I was by the entrance of the Hashish Smoker. Just look at the illustration to this post; it's one of Tenniel's original illustrations to Alice in Wonderland.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A particular talent for seeing hidden connections

A Tapestry of Fire

Once again, I'm trying to entice readers into a story with the chapter headings:

1. A particular talent for seeing hidden connections
2. Two truths and a lie
3. Something fishy
4. Practical demonology
5. The ice princess and the floozy
6. The imminent prospect of being unmasked
7. A rajah’s palace
8. Headstrong, reckless and irritating
9. ‘What is your good name?’
10. ‘I have no fiancée.’
11. Two thousand pounds of water
12. Loaded for grackle
13. A destructive force of nature
14. The jewel in the forehead of the idol
15. The experience of being a fish
16. Bombers’ moon
17. Falling stars
18. The death of a city
19. An order is an order
20. Lampposts wilting like flowers
21. ‘London can take it!’

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 fiancée...

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.
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