Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Novel Wednesdays

One last passage from Conan Doyle's The Sign of the Four.


"The division seems rather unfair," I remarked. "You have done all the work in this business. I get a wife out of it, Jones gets the credit, pray what remains for you?"

"For me," said Sherlock Holmes, "there still remains the cocaine-bottle." And he stretched his long white hand up for it.


These are the closing lines of the novel, and I think they are remarkable. While this novel introduces Holmes's drug-use (recreational, I might add), it doesn't carry quite the same charge as it might in our own culture, laden with drug-phobias. In the same way, Conan Doyle is certainly not the first to include a flawed and emotionally disconnected (and drug-reliant) main character, although Holmes is a great example of such a character.

Instead, what I think is fascinating about these lines are how they disrupt the expected ending of the novel. Readers of Conan Doyle would know, after A Study in Scarlet, that Holmes does not expect to get credit for solving mysteries. The Sign of the Four makes the same point again and again; Holmes does not expect to get credit for his work. But Watson's closing comment highlights the injustice of this fact again, and instead of any sort of character growth from Holmes, we see him plunge back into the same state in which the novel began. But perhaps what is most interesting is that I do not think we are supposed to read despair in the last words.

Flesh and Fell Novella Finished

This morning I finished the final novella of Flesh and Fell. That means that, as of today, the entire series has been written. Now, there is still some substantial revision to be done on Mourning and this novella, but by mid- to late summer the final book and novella should be published. That's a great step for me; it's the second series that I will have finished. Flesh and Fell is a very different set of works than The Rim and the Shore, and I've really enjoyed writing them.

Tomorrow I'll start on another novella for a different project (something I'm not publishing yet because I'm not sure what kind of shape it's going to have). Then, when that's finished, I'll be back to working on The Sophistries of June. There are still two more books and two more novellas to write in that series, and I'm going to write them straight through.

As far as I know, The Dew of Flesh is free everywhere except Amazon right now. If you want a copy, get it now, because I'm going to pull it from the other sites and do an Amazon promotion in July. The rest of my books should be available everywhere.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Rough Draft Fridays

Here's a bit more from Abass's story. One of the things that I've liked most about the Flesh and Fell series is exploring the limitations of the godblood magic. It seems like a perfect power--it has very few limitations (you need to be around people to use it, and using it grants people a smaller amount of the same power you draw) and the amount of power it grants is incredible. But what I have found very fun is exploring how those considerations actually make using the godblood much more complicated. I dealt with this in part in The Harvest God, but it becomes even more of an issue in Mourning.


Abass jumped, crashing up and through the branches of a tired elm, toward starlight and darkness. The jump carried him back toward Khi’ilan, a cluster of yellow lights set in a vast clearing to the north. He landed on a massive white oak, just long enough to adjust his course and jump again.

The lights, though, were growing dimmer. Abass felt a flicker of panic. It wasn’t actually the lights that were fading, he was fairly certain. It was the enhanced vision of the godblood. When he landed next, on a dead orange tree, Abass barely managed to keep himself from falling. Grace was running out too. He threw himself into the air, this time barely clearing the tops of the trees. Strength. Speed. Dying as quickly as they came.

He scoured the godblood, but found none of the tiny stars that marked gateways onto the power of the land. Little surprise there; the only people who still lived outside Khi’ilan, as far as Abass could tell, were bandits. And he had just done his best to try and kill the ones closest to the city. Which meant he needed to move fast, or he faced a long walk back.

The alarms continued to call.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Novel Wednesdays

Here is more from Conan Doyle's The Sign of the Four.


At the sound of his strident, angry cries there was movement in the huddled bundle upon the deck. It straightened itself into a little black man—the smallest I have ever seen—with a great, misshapen head and a shock of tangled, dishevelled hair. Holmes had already drawn his revolver, and I whipped out mine at the sight of this savage, distorted creature. He was wrapped in some sort of dark ulster or blanket, which left only his face exposed; but that face was enough to give a man a sleepless night. Never have I seen features so deeply marked with all bestiality and cruelty. His small eyes glowed and burned with a sombre light, and his thick lips were writhed back from his teeth, which grinned and chattered at us with a half animal fury.


After last week's consideration of the misogyny in Conan Doyle, it seems worthwhile to think about his imperialism. Here Tonga, the 'savage' who commits the murder, is finally revealed. It is no wonder that his physical description (he is little, black, has a misshapen head, disheveled hair; he is savage, distorted; has a nightmare face; bestial features; small eyes; thick lips; etc.) is also a complete revelation of internal character.

While in much fantasy writing this continues to be the case (the external is a mirror of the internal; good characters are always attractive, etc.), there have been some good moves away from this (although I'm not entirely sure that the emotionally crippled Tyrion Lannister isn't a continuation of this same trend). More importantly, I wonder how much of fantasy literature continues to revolve around the imperialist/colonialist mystification of non-European cultures.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Poetry Mondays

Here's another sonnet from Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Sonnet 20 from Sonnets from the Portuguese.

The sonnet begins with a fairly straightforward premise: Browning thinks about what her life was like a year ago, before she met her future husband (the poet Robert Browning). The poem quickly takes on a more complicated meaning, however, and by the end, the poem suggests that there is a link between Browning's personal experience and a larger understanding of the universe. Atheists who cannot interpret God's existence without seeing him are as dull as Browning herself, who describes herself as unable to imagine her future husband before meeting him.

The parallels are stronger, however. The poem begins with "Beloved, my Beloved," a phrase that echoes strongly one of the Biblical titles of Jesus Christ, and in this way the poem, at the beginning, establishes a resonance between Robert Browning and Christ/God that, at the end of the poem, will be made explicit. Browning's poem raises concerns about the relationship between internal experience ("counting all my chains") and our ability to read the world around us ("saw no footprint" "nor ever cull / Some prescience of thee with the blossoms white / Thou sawest growing!").


Beloved, my Beloved, when I think
That thou wast in the world a year ago,
What time I sate alone here in the snow
And saw no footprint, heard the silence sink
No moment at thy voice ... but, link by link,
Went counting all my chains, as if that so
They never could fall off at any blow
Struck by thy possible hand ... why, thus I drink
Of life's great cup of wonder! Wonderful,
Never to feel thee thrill the day or night
With personal act or speech,—nor ever cull
Some prescience of thee with the blossoms white
Thou sawest growing! Atheists are as dull,
Who cannot guess God's presence out of sight.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

David Farland on editing + Dew giveaway

I just wanted to post a link to one of David Farland's recent posts about writing (and more specifically, editing) that I thought would be helpful to other writers. You can find it here.

In other news, The Dew of Flesh is currently available for free at BN.com, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony, the Apple bookstore, etc. I'm hoping that Amazon will pick it up for free as well, but we'll see. My plans are to do a giveaway of The Dew of Flesh through Amazon in the next month or so, but you can always get it for free under my 'Books' page as well. Please spread the word if you think someone might like to read it--the final book of Flesh and Fell will be coming out later this summer, and now is the perfect time to read the first two books.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Rough Draft Fridays

Here's a bit more from Hash's point of view. One of the things that I've thought about quite a bit in writing Hash's point of view is what his relationship with Ilahe is like. (SPOILERS for Dew of Flesh). As you'll remember, Hash is fighting a deep depression after escaping the Pits; he is tormented by what he did to escape and can't forgive himself. His relationship with Ilahe is part of what enables him to move on. But there were events that drove him to the Pits in the first place, events that you haven't learned about (yet).

At the same time, Ilahe brings her own set of issues to the table. In spite of her learning to trust Hash and open up to him, she still carries scars from her life in Cenarbasi. Part of those scars have to do with the child she lost and her treatment at the hands of the Cenarabasin gods. And with Ilahe pregnant, both Hash and Ilahe have to deal with things from their past.


“Get out of my way,” Ilahe said. Her dark eyes, almost black, flashed with anger.

“Get in bed,” Hash said.

She grabbed his arm and pulled, but Hash was ready for her. He shifted his weight, clutched at the door frame, and let her pull. After a moment Ilahe gave up. Hash tried to stifle his grin. His wife was strong—stronger than most women, doubtless. But she was nowhere near the beast she thought she was. The winter months had changed her, thinning the muscles in her shoulders, adding new curves to her sides. And, of course, the unmistakable bulge of the child. The warrior woman who had come north to Khi’ilan the summer past was gone. In her place was a very fit, but now very pregnant, woman who drew eyes wherever she walked.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Novel Wednesdays

Here's a bit from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Sign of the Four.


"I would not tell them too much," said Holmes. "Women are never to be entirely trusted,—not the best of them."

I did not pause to argue over this atrocious sentiment. "I shall be back in an hour or two," I remarked.


 I think it's interesting for two reasons. First, it's a bit of throwaway dialogue in one sense; the women in question are actually not suspects in the case, nor do they turn out to be traitors; Holmes's warning has nothing to do with the plot of the novel, but rather with the world in which he lives.

The passage is interesting, though, more for the bifurcation of misogyny within it. Holmes's apparent misogyny (that women are not to be trusted) taps into a long line of historical misogyny about unfaithful and treacherous women. Although shocking and unpleasant to contemporary readers, it is certainly nothing new.

More importantly, though, I think that Holmes's comment is actually less misogynist (perhaps not misogynist at all) in the light of Watson's reaction. Watson's identification of Holmes's thought as 'atrocious' at first seems to align quite nicely with 20th and 21st century progressive thought. It hides, though, a deeper misogyny--that of women as angels, an extremely common view of women in the late 19th century. Holmes's willingness to allow for women to be human (remember, of course, that Holmes trusts no one, so his mistrust of women is actually unsurprising) contrasts with Watson's very rigid view of female identity.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Poetry Mondays

Stepping away from men-poets for a while, I thought we could look at some great poems by one of the most famous women-poets in European history: Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Here is Sonnet 14 from Sonnets from the Portuguese.

The sonnet, like all of Browning's work, is a wonderful piece. The enjambment in the first line, for example, makes the condition of 'except,' which follows 'nought,' even more suggestive of the poem's concern about what it means to love someone. The poem moves through a catalogue of reasons that are, for the poem, unacceptable reasons to love someone. A smile, a look, a way of speaking; a trick of thought; pity. These, for Browning, are not reasons to love someone. Or perhaps better said, they are reasons that are problematic precisely because they are so mutable. What happens to love when the precondition (a smile, a look, pity) ceases to exist? Love being wrought and unwrought is the threat that the poem is worried about.

The poem ends by suggesting that love for love's sake allows for eternal love, but the poem leaves unanswered a troubling question: what does it mean to love for love's sake?


If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
I love her for her smile ... her look ... her way
Of speaking gently, ... for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day'—
For these things in themselves, Belov├Ęd, may
Be changed, or change for thee,—and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry,—
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou may'st love on, through love's eternity.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Rough Draft Fridays

Here's another passage from Saat's point of view. As you've already seen, part of Saat's journey is just getting himself back on his feet (sometimes literally). And part of what he's trying to work out for himself is just exactly what it means to be an esis--something he never really had a handle on, even back when the eses ruled Khi'ilan. But this chapter opens with Saat having made enough coin (through questionable means) to provide for some of his basic necessities. The next question will be, what is he going to do when he has to live up to the deal he has made?


A man, the eses taught, could be happy anywhere or anytime. In the Pits, in a shrine of life, drunk, sober, rich, or poor. Saat, however, had recently gained insight into this particular statement and found it to be a particularly fragrant pile of horse droppings. Rich, he thought, as he stomped his feet in his new boots, was decidedly better than being poor. And it made it much easier to be happy.

His feet, for the first time in forever, didn’t feel like they were about to fall off. That, for Saat, was a critical step on the path to happiness.

Three silver mis went a long way. He’d replaced the balding sheepskin cloak for a much better one, thick enough that Saat felt a bit like a sheep himself, drowning in the heavy warm clothing. A pair of wool trousers, only patched once at the knees, a linen shirt that was as blue as a summer sky and looked almost new, and a warm wool vest doubled his currently available wardrobe. There had been coin leftover to pay Wari, buy a hot meat pie and a mug of warm cider at one of the food carts, and—most importantly—to buy the rather lovely short sword that currently hung at his waist. Sharp enough to shave with, free of rust, and the hilt well wrapped in good leather.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Novel Wednesdays

Here's a passage from Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus. It sets up the central conflict of the novel with the ambiguity that's typical of the book as a whole.

"You have been given a venue to work within," his instructor says. "You present your skills to the best of your ability and your opponent does the same. You do not interfere with each other's work. It shall continue in this manner until there is a victor. It is not that complex."

"I'm not certain I understand the rules," Marco says.

"You don't need to understand the rules. You need to follow them. As I said, your work has been sufficient."


Mourning Finished

Good news!

The final book in Flesh and Fell is finished. I wrote the last words of the rough draft this morning. That means I now need to write the novella that will come between The Harvest God and Mourning. Then I need to revise both the novella and the novel. Then they will be up for sale!

I'd estimate a date somewhere in the second half of July. I will try to give a more specific launch date as things get closer.

It's very exciting to have written the last words (of the rough draft) of this series. Flesh and Fell is a very different set of books from The Rim and the Shore, and I've learned different things while writing it. Some of my favorite characters are in Flesh and Fell (some whom you've met, and others you haven't). I look forward to sharing the last book with you.

After the novella is finished for Flesh and Fell, I will pick back up with The Sophistries of June. There are two more books to come and two more novellas. Then--

Well, there are a lot of stories I still want to tell.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Poetry Mondays

Another fun poem from Shelley, "Love's Philosophy." Shelley's poem fits into a long and noble tradition of poems that are simultaneously sophisticated and beautiful while, at the same time, instruments of seduction. The poem works by pointing out the phenomena of nature that manifest what is, for the poem, "a law divine" -- namely, "Nothing in the world is single."

Shelley's vision of singleness, or perhaps I should say of pairing, is not as straightforward as it might seem. Fountains mingle with rivers; rivers with oceans; the winds of heaven mix together. This minglings and mixings, though, are also a collapse of a pair into a single thing. Rivers can't be separated once they meet the ocean. They become ocean. Identity dissolves and changes as individuality disappears.

Of course, this leads Shelley into the second stanza, where he has the beautiful lines, "And the sunlight clasps the earth / And the moonbeams kiss the sea," both of which are absolutely wonderful, but which lead him into a question that is fraught. "What is all this sweet work worth / If thou kiss not me?" The beauty of creation teeters on the edge of meaninglessness, waiting to be given new meaning by the beloved's kiss. While at one level, this is just a great way of asking a girl to kiss him, it also points to the internal logic of the world of the poem: the world (the sweet work) actually can't be worth anything if the woman refuses to obey this natural law, since it is precisely this natural law that gives the world its worth and meaning.


The Fountains mingle with the Rivers
And the Rivers with the Oceans,
The winds of Heaven mix forever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
Why not I with thine? --

See the mountains kiss high Heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother,
And the sunlight clasps the earth
And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
If thou kiss not me?