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Saturday, February 28, 2009


Just saw something very cool today - a 14th printing copy of Transformation. This is very cool, even in the day of better technology so that publishers can reprint in smaller, more $-efficient quantities.

So, here are some questions I'm often asked:

How can you tell what printing?

Is a 14th printing the same as a 14th edition?

If one of your books is only in 2nd printing, does that mean it's less popular than a book in its 14th printing?

How can you tell what printing?

For some books you can't tell by looking at the book. But for many books, including mine, you can look at the copyright page in the front of the book. Look at the list of numbers in reverse order. Something like this

20 19 18 17 16 15 14

Look at the last number, and it will tell you which printing. This list says 14th.

Is a 14th printing the same as a 14th edition?

Nope. An edition is a typeset version of the text. So a new edition is something that requires re-typesetting. That is, the text is revised in some way, such as the "2010 edition of Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door, or the text is typeset for a different format, eg. a mass-market-paperback edition or a trade paperback edition." A reprint is just a new batch of the same book, and usually does not include any revision of the book's text. It just signifies that the publisher is getting low on the book in the warehouse and needs to print up some more to keep in on the market. A 14th edition would have been revised at least 14 times, and I've not touched the text of Transformation since it was published.

If one of your books is only in 2nd printing, does that mean it's less popular than a book in its 14th printing?

No. If an author's books do well, then chances are that the first printing of subsequent books are larger than the first printing of previous books. So it might take longer to empty the warehouse and get to that second (or later) printing. Breath and Bone reprinted within a month of its initial release - which is great.

My current tally on the rai-kirah books (which have been out longest):

Transformation 14
Revelation 11
Restoration 8

Some others: Son of Avonar - 7th, Breath and Bone - 2nd.

All of my books, have gone to multiple printings, which is very gratifying. It shows that my publisher has faith that readers will continue to buy my books and tell other people about them.

Thanks, all of you!

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Right Ordering of Endings

Having so recently emerged from the boiling kettle of devising an ending for this book, I thought it might be well to speak to some ending considerations.

I think of endings as a ziggurat - a stepped pyramid. Once the rising action of the climax begins, there is no going back down to the beginning level. Of course, there may be several parts to an ending, and you can have a short breathing space between them, but you don't want to let down and rest, as you might with story arcs earlier in the book. And the level step, or breathing space, should be short, compared to the elevation gain with each piece of the climax. Never let yourself lose the elevation gain.

Once you've reached the summit--the final battle, the climactic confrontation, the split, the bomb, the rescue, the cataclysm, the unveiling, the kiss, whatever it might be--it's time for a brief denouement. Contrary to popular misconception, the denouement is not the climax itself, but the winding up of threads, the actual resolution that follows upon the climactic events of the story. It is what you find on that summit, not the climbing action of getting there. And you notice that the actual area at the summit is much smaller than the base of the pyramid, and much smaller than the combined effort of getting to such a height. The harmonious shape of the ziggurat demands it.

So what are my rules of thumb wrt endings that my recent efforts (and six chapters in two weeks is definitely an effort for me!) recalled to me?

1. Don't introduce something new - a new power, an artifact we haven't seen, or a new character who is the exact locksmith needed to work things out. It's too convenient. It smacks of deus ex machina - and readers will throw the book across the room. You might get away with such a thing earlier in the story (though you shouldn't) but never, never at the end. Many people consider this a common flaw of fantastic literature - "oh, the author can make anything happen at the end, magic, reconfiguring the tachyon particles, or whatever. It's just too easy." I believe you have to make the rules of your magic or science or culture or alternate reality so clear that your climactic events can most definitely lead to failure. DOn't let it be easy.

2. Use people and events from earlier in the story to bind the whole thing together.
If your story starts with a book (like Valen's book of maps in Flesh and Spirit) think carefully about what part the book plays in the climax. If you need an unlocking spell, make sure we know they exist in this magic system. If a dead body turns up, make sure your readers know the significance of that person (hmmm...oops...a matter for revision) and can feel the emotions you want to drive the conflict and climax.

If you are lacking the particular whizbo, person, or talent you need to feed the action, go back and put it (or him or her) in earlier - but seamlessly please. Don't hang a bright red arrow pointing to the golden ball that's just the right shape to plug the dike! The ball needs to serve a function in the earlier part of the story, too.

3. If you find yourself explaining too much, stop. Remember those short steps on the ziggurat? If you make one step horribly wider than the others, you've thrown off the balance. So look at what you're trying to explain and figure out how to salt in the explanations earlier, so that the reader will say, "Ah, yes. Wow! Of course!" as she is swept to the ending.

4. Be meticulous about your characters' decisions that lead them into and get them out of the climactic events. Explore all options. Why did he choose just the right path that would get him out of a jam? Let the climactic events flow naturally out of the building tension of the story, and your characters' dramatic reversals - maybe the thing they said they would never do - build upon the trail of evidence you've laid.

Did you tie off enough threads? Endings should not be a checkoff list, but don't leave the reader hanging with the big stuff. You want to leave readers with the feeling that life goes on, but you want to satisfy their most urgent questions. "Well did Gerick stay in Avonar or go back to where he had been living?" "Did Valen ever get a chance to have that great party he kept hankering after for a THOUSAND PAGES?" "Did Seyonne get it back?" (Well you have to leave some questions open...)

6. If there is to be a sequel, did you leave the right threads open? Is there a spooky undertone to the denouement? Check out the ending of The Soul Weaver (D'Arnath Book 3). At one time, it was the third of three books. When I discovered the "story arc" of Daughter of Ancients, I went back and modified the denouement. I'll bet you can pick out the pieces I slipped in.

Once you've completed those last chapters, reread your first chapter. Consider balance and symmetry. What were your hero's emotions, expectations, and opinions. How have they changed?

Consider the mood. Did you start off writing a farce and end up in a deadly, gripping battle for survival? Is your reader going to be confused that you started off a bedroom farce and ended up with a serial rapist threatening your heroine?

Or if your opening posed a mystery that turned out to be much wider and deeper than the original question, did you set the spooky music playing early on? Yeah. I think so. Cool!

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Titles Redux

This title search was truly difficult. I made word lists. I brainstormed combinations. I searched language dictionaries and pulled out my trusty thesaurus. The problem was, of course, that I was trying to think while madly producing words to reach the end. Until early last week, I could not have told you what the blasted stories are truly about.

First iteration - a set of Latin titles. I wanted to introduce a Renaissance feel to the names. The books are set in a world on the brink of an explosion of scientific advancement. I came up with Latin titles I loved for the second and third books, but I couldn't find one I liked for the book I was working on. A little survey on my Warrior of Two Souls Forum bore out my editor's conclusion - the only title that had come to mind-and wasn't in current use!-would not mean anything to readers who hadn't come across the term somewhere else. It could actually lead to the wrong conclusion. Bummed. (I still love Ars Maledicta, my planned title for Book 2, though!)

But as I neared the end of the book, it suddenly dawned on me that everything in this book...and the series...had to do with seeing. Both physical and metaphorical. Seeing into secrets. Seeing through deceptions. Seeing into hearts and souls. Seeing through lenses - spyglasses, prisms, spectacles. Looking through a device and seeing something wholly unpredictable. There is even a scientific demonstration of "the nature of light" in the book (based in part on a historical demonstration of Isaac Newton's). And this started me thinking about optical devices.

Second iteration - Despite what I said in the earlier post about shying away from objects in titles, I realized that "seeing devices" could represent the "scientific side" of the Sabrian world. But if I were to go in that direction, I wanted to juxtapose a word that would convey "magic" or the "spiritual" side of the world, referencing the balance and harmony of the two sides (or lack thereof! Picture evil grin here.)

After much whirling, I came up with "The Adept's Lens," adept being the reference to magic. But I didn't like the specificity. This story isn't about one person or one instrument, and certainly not about one person's instrument.

I finished the book at 1am last Wednesday. And Thursday I woke up with the titles. And they are...

The Spirit Lens

The Soul Mirror

The Daemon Prism

This story is about seeing. Each title is an object, but each is also a metaphor for seeing, so you can expect that each part of the each title has multiple references. And to impart a slight flavor of the Renaissance, instead of a series title, each will be appended with

a novel of the Collegia Magica

I am happy. My editor is happy. The marketing folks are happy. So far, so good.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009


The new book is packaged and sent off to New York!

Is it finished? No. Lots of work still to do.

Is the story complete? Probably so. All the elements are there and set down in a reasonable ordering.

So why the vast quiet of the past two weeks?

The ending kept slipping farther away. With a multi-layered story such as I like to write, the writer ends up with LOTS of threads to tie off - or deliberately NOT tie off. I had three main pieces in mind for the ending.
1. A big BAD
2. A big GOOD, involving self-realization one of the main characters
3. A big, dark REVELATION to carry us into the next story

I accomplished them all, but it will take another post to explain why that took six chapters and twenty days!

Right now I want to celebrate and get the cobwebs out of house and head.

More soon!

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Science and Magic

One of the "themes" of my world in the new book is that of science overtaking magic. As I've been working on the grand finale - getting there S L O W L Y - I've had the need for some examples of the scientific revolution. The opening half of the seventeenth century is truly remarkable. Astronomy, physics, mathematics, optics...one discovery following on another...one theory proven, one debunked, ideas... I don't know that I ever appreciated it before. One guy figures out how to create a vacuum. Seems small, and yet, people hadn't really believed there COULD be such a thing as a vacuum. Another person figures out how to generate static electricity, not knowing exactly what it was. Another person realizes that balls rolling downhill accelerate at a uniform rate that can be calculated. One person starts thinking systematically and realizes the liver couldn't really produce enough blood as people had thought...and so develops the theory of the circulation of the blood...and does everything he can to find out if it's true. These things seem so simple and obvious now, but were like magic then. They required leaps of understanding.

And the most amazing thing to me...

...was the people who did this. It's easy to picture scientists who make marvelous discoveries as dedicated, focused nerdy people. But you look at the people who caused this great revolution and they are all writers, translators, clergymen, physicians, musicians, or any number of other things. Some made their own instruments. The guy who invented the barometer built telescopes and taught mathematics. And Isaac Newton...did everything from running the English Mint (and doing all sorts of things to reform the currency and punish counterfeiters) to laying the foundation of physics and calculus, to writing religious and philosophical works, corresponding and collaborating with other scientists and mathematicians, writing books, teaching, etc. etc. We really do stand on the shoulders of giants. As they did, too, of course, as much of what they started with came from Aristotle and all those others who asked questions and formulated some kind of answer.

Makes me feel like a real intellectual wimp!
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