Long Update & Linkage: January 2011

Work proceeds on Cold Steel (Spiritwalker 3) which will, indeed, complete the Spiritwalker Trilogy. It’s going slowly because it is complex, but I’m pleased with my progress even though I wish it were writing more quickly. However, my chief goal is to write the best book I can, rather than the speediest book I can.

Strangely, google’s search engine is currently blocking my web page (and therefore also my wordpress site, which is on my web page) from all searches, but it is still there at (if you’re reading this on Live Journal) at www.kateelliott.com

Other search engines like Bing and Yahoo do still find the web site and wordpress blog. We are looking into it but have yet to get a satisfactory response from google.

Meanwhile, I expect to be online less than usual until I complete a draft of Cold Steel. I’m seriously considering a couple of pieces of short fiction in the Spiritwalker world as well to go with the Rory short story, one featuring Rory and one featuring Bee (the tale promised at the end of Cold Fire, in fact).

I do intend to write a series of posts on World Building but I really can’t work on them concertedly until I have a complete draft of Cold Steel in hand.

In the meantime, I don’t intend to post on my blog much until 1) said draft is complete and 2) the google search engine issue is resolved.

However, you can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. (although honestly I’m not there as often as I have been either due to, you know, needing to write)

Do please feel free to ask me anything, here or on Tumblr or the other social media (although I realize not everyone is on the various social media — no reason anyone should be on any of them). Answering a direct question is generally a little easier than coming up with “dedicated” posts. Also, I’m answering email at kate.elliott at sff.net

I’ll finish with four links to reviews, just because (there are other reviews I would love to link to but I’ll limit myself). Be aware that any or all of these reviews may contain spoilers for those who don’t care for that type of thing.

Beyond Victoriana: A Multicultural Perspective on Steampunk: “Characters with white, brown, and black complexions and curly tight hair, coarse braided hair, and thin hair swept up in lime-washed spikes bring racial diversity to the story.” [I was so very pleased to be reviewed on this blog.]

A one star review of Cold Fire at Fangs for the Fantasy: “The problem is that Elliot never uses 1 or 2 words where she can insert 10.”  [I have to say this is probably the single most consistently seen criticism of my writing throughout my career. I want to note that this is a very thoughtful review by a careful reader, thus proving the adage that just about any review that engages thoughtfully with the material is a “good review” regardless of whether the reviewer ultimately liked or disliked the book.]

Fantasy Book Cafe gives Cold Fire a super positive review so click through at your own risk if you don’t want to feel the love. “Also, Cat can be quite funny (especially when drunk).” [A scene I very much enjoyed writing.]

Finally, this review of Cold Magic/Fire on tumblr has what may be the best “single sentence description of the Spiritwalker books that we can’t quote on the book” ever. It reads best in context.

There’s a part of me that feels it is wrong for me to link to positive mentions of my work like the ones above, as if I am thereby somehow self aggrandizing or bragging or trying to act like I’m better than others or something. This is some of the baggage I carry from growing up as a girl in the 60s and 70s. I’m not quite sure from whence it stems, and I can certainly only speak to my own experience. Partly, it seemed to me that girls were meant to do well but never excel more than boys and certainly if they did excel weren’t ever to say anything of it because it was unseemly and boastful and something one ought to be ashamed of. In fact, there is a little piece of my psyche that feels ashamed (yes: ashamed!) when I read a review like the really fabulous one from Fantasy Book Cafe. This little bit of my psyche rubs alongside the part that is gratified and thrilled by reading a review that gets the things I have been hoping readers will get, as well as the part of the psyche that secretly feels I did a good job and deserve to see some good reviews, as well as the part that is always saying “but I need to do better next time because I can see all the things I did wrong!” We contain multitudes, as the poet said. So me and my multitudes are headed back to work.

My thanks to all of you readers. I mean that quite seriously.

I leave you with this excerpt from Cold Steel:

     When one of Kofi’s brothers appeared escorting Rory and Aunty’s granddaughter Lucretia, I sighed with relief that Rory had made it here safely. Then I saw that he was holding Luce’s hand in a most inappropriately intimate manner, their fingers intertwined like those of a courting couple. I rose, feeling a towering rage coming on that diverted me from my other looming problems.
Rory released Luce’s hand. He sauntered right past me to greet the older women, his smile as bright as the lanterns. With his lithe young man’s body well clad in one of Vai’s fashionable dash jackets and his long black hair pulled back in a braid, he surely delighted the eye. The men watched in astonishment but I knew what was coming. He offered chastely generous kisses to the women’s cheeks and tender pats to their work-worn hands.
“My apologies. I mean no offense by charging in to your territory without an invitation. But I must obey my sister. You understand how it is with a sister who speaks a bit sharply to one even though she is the younger and ought, I should suppose, look up to her older brother. Please, let me thank you. Your hospitality honors and humbles me. The food smells so good. I’m sure I’ve never smelled better. ” He had routed two already and turned to the remaining skeptic. “That fabric is beautifully dyed, and looks very well with your complexion, Aunty.”
A cavalry charge at close quarters could not have demolished their resistance more devastatingly. He turned his charm on the old men, drawing them out with irresistable questions about their proud and memorable youth.

Re-reading and the Experience of Narrative

As far as we know, humans have always created narratives.  Before the invention of writing these stories would have been oral, spoken and/or sung, or ritualized as dance or as performances that one might equate to early theater.

In pre and proto literate cultures as well as ones in which only a small percentage of the population can read, stories are often also be reinforced through images meant to remind the person seeing the image of a story they already know.  I have seen visualized representation of narratives in diverse places.  In Thailand there are numerous depictions of the Ramakien (derived from the Hindu Ramayana), and the Khmer and later Cambodian kingdoms also used a syncretic mix of Hindu mythology and local aesthetics and culture to create images and visual narratives in their magnificent temples.  In Japan and China, one may find many “snapshots” of the life of Buddha.  In Western Europe, the stained glass on cathedral windows often depicts Bible stories or episodes from the lives of saints.

There’s a spectacular example of this Biblical illustration in an octagonal chamber that is part of the greater complex of Salisbury Cathedral.  A mural depicting scenes from the Torah (aka Old Testament) works its way around the chamber. When we visited there in 2005, my children and I walked the circuit identifying each scene.  We knew them because in Jewish practice the Torah (the Five Books of Moses) is read in its entirety every year (or across three years), a portion each week.

The experience of going regularly to synagogue and hearing the Torah, a specific portion each week, repeating every year the same, brought me to reflect upon the concept and experience of re-reading.

In our modern culture, we are most accustomed, I think, to the “what comes next” interaction with story.  This might be said to be the most childlike way of absorbing story, and I don’t mean that at all in an insulting manner.  Watching a child’s immersion in story is a remarkable process.  It’s pure.  They are either in the story, or out of it, and if they are in it, then they are embraced by it.  This is true whether they are hearing a story for the first time or the hundredth time, and in my experience children love both the new and the familiar.

As novel readers, and especially in genre novels in which plot may weigh heavily, readers often say they want and enjoy the experience of wanting to know what happens next.  Will the police officer catch the criminal?  Will she escape the rising floodwaters?

The reading experience, the story experience, in such circumstances is tied up with a sense of urgency.

Contrast that with the visualized representations mentioned above.  For those images to make any connection with the viewer beyond an abstract aesthetic appreciation for the artist’s work, the viewer has to already know the story.  If we already know the story, what are we getting out of the interaction with the narrative?

Let me take as my example the story of Joseph in the Torah.  Here are the bare bones of the plot:  Joseph is the favorite son of patriarch Jacob and is not above letting his brothers know it.  Envious, the brothers plot to kill him but end up selling him to slave traders who take him to Egypt.  He serves his master faithfully and loyally but gets in trouble because the master’s wife desires him.  Falsely accused, he lands in prison, from which he eventually extricates himself through good behavior but mostly through accurate dream interpretation, which brings him to the notice of Pharaoh, who makes him his right hand man.  Later, famine strikes, and Jacob sends some of his sons into Egypt to find food.  There is a long business with Joseph concealing his identify from his brothers and accusing the youngest, Benjamin (who happens to be his only full brother;  the others are sons by other mothers), of a theft which Joseph himself has set up by placing a gold cup in the travel bags of Benjamin before the brothers leave for the north.  This is all a convoluted means of achieving reconciliation within the family, which is accomplished.

Joseph’s story in some ways plays out as a self contained piece, quite an extensive one, and very dramatic.  Except that because we read it every year, we know how it turns out.  So the urgency in reading it is not there:  Joseph’s messengers, sent after the brothers because treasure is missing from Joseph’s house, find the gold cup in Benjamin’s bags!  What will happen!

But we already know what will happen. Yet it is possible to read this story every year (and whenever else you want to) with pleasure and interest.  (Really, who gets tired of reading a story in which the protagonist is described as a well built and handsome man?  But I digress.)

So what do we get out of the process of re-reading?

Part of it is the pleasure we get in what is comfortable (and I don’t use comfort as a bad word).  In reading terms, this is called a “comfort read,” a story you go back to as to a comfortable chair.  It is not surprise you are looking for but familiarity or reaffirmation or relaxation.

Re-visiting a story over and over is also a form of culture building.  People in a community or society share familiar touchstones, they know the same stories, they can make jokes that non-acculturated people won’t get.  The stories they value and transmit, communicate what the community is about and what it values.

In addition I want to suggest that the process of re-reading can also be defined as the process of living.

In life, we come back to the same events or choices, back to similar things, and we can never see them in exactly the way we saw them the first time, or the last but one time, when we encountered a similar moment or that same issue.

After the urgency of needing to know what happens next fades, you begin to have the leisure to look at the details.  And then you begin to have the leisure and interest to ask yourself questions.  And then you start to read between the lines.  And then you start to fill in between the lines.  And then you disagree with yourself, you change your mind, or something you learned elsewhere or an experience you had changes the way you look at the whole thing.

Is Joseph’s behavior toward his brothers–deceiving them?–justified because of what they did to him at the beginning of the story?  Is he just getting a bit of petty revenge before doing the right thing?  Or is he being a wise statesman making sure they have changed and grown, as he had, so any generosity he shows them will not be wasted, or turned against him or his master?

But maybe the real answer is not if one, or all, or none of those interpretations is true.  Maybe the real answer is questions:

What do I as the reader need to see between the lines?   What am I capable of seeing within the story?

The words stay the same but we change.  And that makes the story change, for us.

If we read the story one time in the past and moved on to another story, then the story would remain static;  it would never change, because it would be the story we had read at that one moment in our lives.  But because we reread, the story lives with us.

A truly fascinating article

My goal has been to post on the weekdays and vacation, as it were, on the weekends.

But I have to post this now partly because you really ought to read it and partly because I want to bookmark it so I can easily find it again.

This is the most illuminating article on the clitoris I have ever read. Seriously.

Consider this: In over five million years of human evolution, only one organ has come to exist for the sole purpose of providing pleasure – the clitoris.  It is not required for reproduction.  It doesn’t have a urethra running through it like the penis, and thus, does not urinate.  Its sole function – its singular, wonderful purpose – is to make a woman feel good!!

There is even brief and fascinating discussion of the hope of reconstruction for women whose clitoris has been excised.

The article is itself a reminder of how women’s sexuality has often been overlooked, misinterpreted, misunderstood, or dismissed by male-driven science. I could say a lot about how women’s sexuality is treated in our society and in so many societies, but I wouldn’t even know where to start such a discussion.


Using the story to explore the world: Benjamin Tate on Leaves of Flame

(KE): Today, a guest post


by Benjamin Tate

HIS novel, Leaves of Flame, is out this week.


Once upon a time I started a novel.  I was in high school, I’d just decided that I wanted to be a writer, and so I tackled a novel (after a few half-hearted attempts at short stories).  I had an idea after all, and I had a map I’d drawn in U.S. Government class, and I could see the world in my head.  So off I went.

Ten years and five drafts later, I had a book.  During those five drafts, the world and the map and the magic fleshed itself out, not to mention I managed to teach myself how to write.  I sent it out and got rejection after rejection after rejection.  Most of those were actually good rejections, saying the writing was good, but the idea behind the novel just wasn’t quite there, not for a debut novel anyway.  It was disappointing . . . no, that’s a lie . . . it was heart-rending, but I sucked it up and started work on other books, other novels, other ideas.

And now, five published novels later, I’m looking back at that initial book.  Why?  Because the current series—in fact, all of the books I’ve written—have been set in that same world.  My first trilogy, the “Throne of Amenkor,” was set at about the same time as that first book, but on a separate continent.  The current series—including Well of Sorrows and the just released Leaves of Flame—is set on the same continent but at a much earlier time period than that first novel.  However, both series are connected to that first book in significant ways.

That’s one of the most interesting parts of writing for me, actually:  how writing one novel ends up churning the creative juices and producing thoughts and ideas that, while not appropriate for that particular book, end up expanding the world in which it is set and often produce new stories, ones that deserve their own book or perhaps their own series.  This is where my ideas come from:  the act of writing itself.  And this is how I worldbuild, letting the world expand and deepen on its own, as I write, all of the intricate little parts coming together to create a much larger, and much more complicated whole.

For example, while writing that first book I introduced a magic that I called the White Fire.  It was a wall of white fire that spread out across the world, touching everyone, changing them.  I also had my characters wandering a museum, which I needed to fill with strange, cool artifacts.  One of those artifacts was a throne that, when approached, appeared warped and caused those near to hear thousands of whispering voices.  Both of these ideas—not important for that first book—combined and gave me the genesis for my “Throne of Amenkor” series.  How would this White Fire affect someone on the other side of the world, someone who had no idea where the fire originated or what it was for?  How would it change them, personally, and what kind of an affect would it have on the society?  These questions piqued my interest and the trilogy that grew out of that became an extension of that first unpublished novel.  It expanded what I knew of the world, because I hadn’t spent much time thinking about the cultures on the other side of the world yet, and it deepened my understanding of the White Fire itself and the consequences of its use.

For my current series, the extension from that first book was a little more blatant, but also harder to deal with.  The characters in that first book were dealing with the actions that their ancestors had taken in the past, those that resorted to the White Fire as a last, desperate act to save themselves.  As the book progressed, I learned more and more about those ancestors, what drove them, and the history of the world I’d created.  That history deepened with each revision, became more cohesive and more complicated, until I suddenly realized that the history itself could be a trilogy of its own!

That’s the series I’m currently writing:  that history.  And I’m finding that as I write, the history that I felt was so detailed before was actually lacking.  Not in facts, but in the character details that make a story come to life.  Those characters don’t always react and behave the way that you want them to, so one of the challenges I’ve run into is letting the characters come alive without having them change the “history” already written.  What I’ve discovered meeting this challenge head on is that history is full of layers.  There’s the rote “this is what happened” history, which is all that I really touched on in that first book.  There’s the “this is why we think that happened” history, in other words, the perception people have of history, based only on what they’ve been told or read.  And then there’s the “this is what REALLY happened” history, where the skeletal outlines of what happened is the same, but the characters who actually created that history have added their own layer of flesh and blood and sinew, making that history come alive.

As I write this new series, keeping that first book in mind and where the world ends up after the events of this story, I find that the world I created way back then has so much more depth than I ever could have imagined.  I’ve also discovered that getting all of the threads of all of the stories and books I’ve written to weave together is not only hard and challenging, it’s also a great deal of fun.  I now consider that first book “research.”  I was using that story to explore my own world, to spend time there and get to know it.  Will that first book ever see print?

Possibly.  The world is full of wonders, after all.  *grin*



Joshua Palmatier (aka Benjamin Tate) is a fantasy writer with DAW Books, with two series on the shelf, a few short stories, and is co-editor with Patricia Bray of two anthologies.  Check out the “Throne of Amenkor” trilogy—The Skewed Throne, The Cracked Throne, and The Vacant Throne—under the Joshua Palmatier name.  And look for the “Well” series—Well of Sorrows and the just released Leaves of Flame—by Benjamin Tate.  Find out more about both names at www.joshuapalmatier.com and www.benjamintate.com, as well as on Facebook, LiveJournal (jpsorrow), and Twitter (bentateauthor).

Links of Interest

Aliette de Bodard writes about her story “Scattered Along the River of Heaven,” now available at Clarkesworld. I really love it when people talk about where stories came from or how they were written.

This one started with poets: to be more specific, Aimé Césaire and Qiu Jin. . . .

The whole Qiu Jin angle tied in with some thinking I’ve been having about revolutions and wars of liberation; and about messy transfers of power. Mainly, that revolutions always have a losing side, and that they create exiles . . .

I wanted one of the strands of the story to be poems: the idea was that Anshi’s life would be seen through her writings; and what better writings for a scholar than poems? Most scholars in Vietnam or China composed poetry; and the ability to do so was widely praised; in a quasi-Asian future, it made sense that poetry would still be very important.


I linked to this on Twitter but it’s worth linking to again: What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success.

Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.


I meant to link to Malinda Lo’s post A Year of Thinking About Diversity back when she posted it about 2 weeks ago, but here it is now, ever relevant.

So, writing from personal experience is important. Writing about people who are different from you is important. These two beliefs sound like they’re contradictory, but they’re not; they’re complementary. Diversity is complex. It’s slippery. I think there’s room for more than one way to negotiate it — something that is both wonderfully flexible and frustratingly difficult.


There were some other brilliant things, but I was visiting relatives over the holiday and did not do a good job of keeping track.
Tomorrow I will have a guest post from Benjamin Tate whose fantasy novel, Leaves of Flame, is just out.

Ways of Struggling with Gender

YA writer Mette Ivie Harrison writes an excellent post on Gender Masquerades (mostly focusing on the tv show The Mentalist but with wider applicability):

As it is now, any romance between them I think is simply too uncomfortable for a modern American audience which, for all our talk about equality between men and women, still clings to very stereotypical views of what is feminine and what is masculine. I wish that I believed that we would come to accept that labeling certain behaviors as “masculine” or “feminine” is just silly and ultimately confining to both men and women in the real world. We should not choose our behavior based on what is allowable to our gender, but on what is authentic to our feelings and to the person we want others to see us as. All gender, in my view, is in the end, a masquerade.

Her thoughts have a lot of resonance with me and my experience (as does a story she tells from her own childhood) for a number of reasons.

I’ll just mention one, reflecting the current series I’m working on, Spiritwalker (Cold Magic and Cold Fire, with Cold Steel still a-writing). [If you are extremely sensitive about spoilers, the following may be construed to have them in the most general sense.]

One of the elements I’m struggling with in Cold Steel is, as always, the baggage of my youth sliding in unannounced and unheralded to warp what I think I’m trying to do (what I’m actually doing is probably beyond my ability to parse).

I’m a feminist. I’m an athlete. As a child I was what was then called a “tomboy,” which to me means merely that the things I was told were “boy” things, like playing outdoors, climbing trees, being active, and wanting to have adventures, were the things I did and wanted to do.

I try very hard to write stories in which there are as many female characters as male characters, with as much agency and importance in the plot. Yet I often have consciously to go back through later drafts to make sure that my female leads aren’t being more passive than I actually want them to be, aren’t letting others make decisions for them or devise all the cunning plans (unless there is a specific reason because of experience, competencies, or social roles), are showing leadership, and are present as confident individuals with a strong sense of themselves (as long as that is within character).

Yes, even with Cat, who is one of the most forthright characters I have ever written.

Curiously, I had less of this problem with the character Mai, in the Crossroads Trilogy, who is certainly my most stereotyped-gender “feminine” protagonist. In an odd way, this suggests to me that I may have been to some extent unthinkingly “comfortable” with the limitations she and others saw in her role, enough so I was always able to write her as a strong-minded character who grows into her full potential without any unconscious backsliding on my part. One way to describe it is that she fit a role I never did, although I was told often enough by the society around me that it was a role girls ought to want to fit. Obviously Mai’s journey has its own unique path, but regardless, I find that the more I dig down, the more baggage I find.

With Spiritwalker one of the interesting struggles I’ve had is with the American ideal (and I want to be specific here by citing American culture) of the male warrior hero. I’ve written warrior heroes before (Sanglant from Crown of Stars is an example of this type). Andevai is not a warrior hero. He can in some ways be described as essentially a geek. I grant you that he is an extremely competitive young man who takes any assault on his status so personally that he will go out of his way to make sure you know that he is better than you at whatever it was you challenged him at . . . albeit mostly within the context of his expertise, which is cold magic, and almost exclusively in the context of other young men.

Cat is the one with the killer instinct (which I mean literally). When Andevai says, “That is what I want. No killing.” in Cold Fire, does that make him less manly, by these standards? She’s the effective fighter who thinks on her feet. He’s the methodical thinker who prefers to plan everything out. They’re both very physical, by which I mean they both live very much in and think about their bodies, but his physicality is mostly described in the context of his manual labor, his fixation on his appearance, and the mentions of his love of dancing (which culturally for him is a masculine activity) while hers is mostly described in athletic terms, like punching sharks, out-racing soldiers, and playing batey. Her capacity for violence is much higher than his. I keep slamming up against my own knee-jerk reaction that I have to make him more violent lest readers think he is not “masculine” enough while at the same time I deliberately riff on “beauty and the beast” variations to flip these expectations.

I go on about this because I’m trying to understand how these underlying message creep into my ways of struggling with gender in my fiction. I don’t have an answer, nor do I think there really is one except for the constant need to be alert, to be present, to try to keep one’s eyes open and learn and do better. It’s a constant, changing process, just as living is.

Do you struggle with gender issues in your work? Do you struggle with gender issues in work you read? To go back to what Harrison said, where do you find your authenticity?


ETA: I want to flag Cora Buhlert’s really excellent post responding to Mette’s post as well as (to a lesser extent) my own.

Hmm, looking at all this I wonder whether the rather rigid gender role pattern in the US (which is a lot more rigid than in Germany) is gradually breaking up.

The Serpent Sea, Martha Wells, & talking up the books you love

Last year on the advice of Steven Gould I read The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells.

Some years ago I had given Martha a quote for the first of her Ile-Rien trilogy:

Martha Wells writes fantasy with a unique twist and a modern sensibility. The Wizard Hunters drew me in with strong characters and an intriguing setting and kept me reading as the plot raced headlong into a marvelous adventure. A great read!

I lost track of the subsequent books in that series. In fact, they were not widely available. Wells’ career went through what we writers call a crash. She writes about it in this really excellent post over on The Night Bazaar:

This year, 2011, was supposed to be my last year as a writer. In January of 2010, I was in a really bad place. It had been five years since my last new fantasy novel, three years since my last published book. . . .


When writers have career crashes like this, the big important true piece of advice that you get from other writers who have been in the same position is not to give up. But I was beginning to think my time would be better spent becoming a personal trainer, a job I had been interested in for a while. That maybe the world was telling me my time as a professional writer was over.

If you are a publishing writer or if you are an aspiring writer or if you are a reader and general human being wondering about some of the gritty reality of the writer’s life, read the whole post. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

I picked up The Cloud Roads because, as I said above, a person recced it to me. Otherwise, quite honestly, I might not have noticed it was there because there are so many novels published every year.

I loved it unreservedly. The world and characters and story ate me whole, just swallowed me up. I love being overtaken by story in that way.

The novel is unrepentant science fantasy with a fabulous world that felt so real I wanted to go there (even though I think I would be eaten within the hour) and with a thoroughly relate-able story that combines a tale of finding one’s identity and home with a lot of layered social and gender complexity that I truly enjoyed.

Over the year, as people have read it and recced it, The Cloud Roads has continued to gain new readers.

Now, the second book in the trilogy, The Serpent Sea, has been released (although I would start with The Cloud Roads if you haven’t read either).

But there’s another comment I want to make.

If, in this age of social media, you ever wonder if talking about a book online, in person, over the phone, or anywhere, really — whether writing a review on your blog or up on goodreads or LibraryThing or Amazon — makes a difference: It does.

Visibility matters.

Visibility particularly matters for writers who don’t often fall into the territory of bestsellerdom or persistent critical or award acclaim. It’s hard to buy a book if one doesn’t know it exists.

By the way, I wrote up a quote for The Cloud Roads, too:

I loved The Cloud Roads so much that I begged Ms. Wells and Nightshade Books to let me tell you–Yes! You! You, the one who is looking for a new book to start!–to read this marvelous science fantasy series. With excellent, inventive world building and wonderful characters I adored spending time with, it is completely fabulous.


One of the great things about the new world of social media is how easy it now is to talk about books with other book lovers. So don’t be shy: Talk up the books you love.




I have probably unreasonable and hugely ambitious goals for 2012. Therefore, I will keep them to myself except to say this:

I’m hoping to get a lot written. I’m hoping to maintain an optimistically assertive attitude. These two things go together.

Here’s the administrative part of the post:

The ARC giveaway for Melanie Rawn’s forthcoming novel, Touchstone, was won by Heather S. Email me, Heather!

Now, for the kvelling portion of the post:

My daughter made a short story sale last year to Arcane, an anthology edited by Nathan Shumate and published by Cold Fusion Media. On the site the anthology is described as “thirty macabre, unsettling and weird tales to tickle that spot behind your eyes you just can’t reach.”

Arcane is now available in print and ebook editions.

Besides being a writer she’s also an artist (finishing her BFA this year at Portland State University). She has work in this non-profit fund-raising calendar for dance group BodyVox, about which she says:

The annual BodyVox dance company fundraiser calendar is on sale now, which I mention because I have a piece of art in it! It’s a cool concept, where they have artists modify photographs of the dancers in the company into fantastical hybrid art pieces. The calendar can only be ordered online through a slightly arcane system but is on their website


On Dec 20, 2011 I posted a survey via the new “question and answer tool” Urtak, a means to do a fairly simple survey via Yes/No questions.

I got over 1000 responses, which means over 100 people who answered. Mostly I found fairly universal agreement with my basic questions, all of which were relevant to what people might want (or not want) to see on my blog in 2012. Respondents liked posts that offered scope for discussion, felt it was okay for me to post links to reviews or to do some promotional content on my blog, and were interested in posts on world building, my work in general/specific, and (slightly less so, interestingly) in reviews of books/film and pop culture.

I got closer to a 50/50 split on the question of whether people wanted me to talk about politics, so I think I will stick with my longstanding general avoidance of politics as a blog topic. It’s not that I’m not politically engaged or that I don’t have strong opinions; I do. I’m not particularly interested in political wrangling on my front porch, and in the sense that I consider Twitter the water cooler of my work life, I consider my blog my front porch.

I’m probably a bit more political on Twitter than I am here (and by extension Facebook, to which all my Twitter posts autofeed). In general, though, brought up in rural/small town Oregon and in an ethnic household with an immigrant mother, I learned early that you didn’t discuss politics or religion in general company. I’m not at all against people discussing politics or religion in general company, I should add. I myself quite enjoy reading political content. I’m just saying that, on the whole, I’m not going to do it here very often.

I do plan to do future Urtak surveys, but they won’t be about the blog. I may come up with a set of questions about reading likes and dislikes, or some such, something that combines being serious and fun.

One of the interesting aspects of the Urtak tool is that respondents can add questions.

A question was asked:
Do you plan on uploading extra stories about your various existing series’ to your website?

I’ll answer it here:

I have added the Cold Fire Bonus Chapter 31/5 on the Extras page.

I have also added the story featuring Rory, To Be A Man, on the Extras page.

I don’t have any other stories written within my existing series, because I am not really a short story writer. In fact, I have written three times more novels than short stories. I am thinking of trying to write more short stories this year (I have a couple more in the Spiritwalker universe I would like to tell, from the point of view of characters other than Cat, like the two above). If I do that, however, I will likely offer them in ebook form and charge a (modest) amount (depending on length, probably $0.99 or $1.99): a woman’s got to eat and pay for her outrigger canoe paddling obsession. I do plan to write more about my various worlds here, and in some cases I may post additional material or, in some cases, cut material.

So we will see what 2012 brings. One really never knows.


Happy New Year!