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.

15 thoughts on “Long Update & Linkage: January 2011

  1. “The problem is that Elliot never uses 1 or 2 words where she can insert 10.”

    I’ve been accused of the same thing, so I rarely call out other writers on this. It happens, but not that often.

    And, wow, Rory really put on the charm (except to poor Cat) . Nice!

  2. Other readers like the detail.

    I do think Crown of Stars does have too much extraneous detail; I could probably cut it by 15% without breaking a sweat or changing anything just by cutting verbiage. I don’t MYSELF think Cold Fire could be cut by all that much — I think it’s pretty tightly written — but in 5 years I may see a lot more material I could cut.

    Regardless of what I think, not every reader enjoys the degree of world building I do. So a reader can be right for their reading experience without being right about every reading experience. But you already know that.

    This is not the only scene in the book where Rory turns on the charm.

  3. There wasn’t enough Rory in the second book, so it will be good to see how he develops in Cold Steel.

    Crown of Stars was two series ago, and I will concede that you have learned and grown as a writer since then.

    I’m not sure its a smooth and direct line toward tighter and tighter writing for you, or for any other writer. It’s not the only virtue. As you say, some readers like me enjoy the detail. I wouldn’t want you to get “bloat” syndrome, but from my experience, that seems to happen to writers who outmuscle their editors and write without restraint. (I will be kind and not name any names).

  4. Cold Steel: Take your time and get it right. We will wait.

    Too many words? Didn’t someone once acuse Mozart of using too many notes?

  5. Oh, and I completely accept as utterly valid the criticism that there wasn’t enough Rory in Book 2.


  6. I really agree about the “smooth and direct line” — for one thing, writers improve in fits and starts. For another, in my experience, writers are always working around and against and with and despite of their weaknesses and flaws, at the same time they are trying to bolster their strengths. So there’s always a balance going on.

    But for me, re: detail, there’s another deeper issue especially with regard to Spiritwalker and the Crossroads books.

    It is my belief that the more detail one pulls out of a setting, to make the plot move more quickly, more tightly, the more the setting starts defaulting to what I’ll call the generic Amero-European expectations. The best details are always the carefully chosen ones, of course, and it is easy to over write the details of setting and place and culture. I do this myself, and constantly struggle against that tendency to over explain and describe.

    But in a case like Spiritwalker, I specifically wanted to create a culture that was a different mix of 1800 than the 1800 of our own history.

    And while I am sure *now* that I could have done a better job in Cold Magic of introducing the setting, I do think a degree of detail is necessary to let the reader know this is not Victorian England even if certain aspects of it look like that. Because our generic and default settings skew so hard in one direction, I think to push against those boundaries one must use a few more words so there can be no misunderstanding. If that makes sense.

  7. Thank you. I really feel I have to do the material justice, as well as I am able.

    In my experience, readers have wildly different preferences on the “detail” issue. I figure there are a number of ways to look at it, two of which are:

    1) The writer uses more detail than s/he needs to set the scene, and could use with some judicious trimming to find the best detail. This is a craft issue.

    2) Readers’ tastes differ, so that a detailed setting is catnip for one reader and deathly boring to another. In this case, there is not right or wrong, just different reading tastes.

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  9. Hi Kate,
    That was a GREAT review on tumblr and it was fun to read the Fantasy book cafe review as well. When I finished reading Cold Magic, I was so in to it that I couldn’t believe my luck that you had just recently published Cold Fire and so I bought it immediately on iBooks. I lost some sleep but gained a new world 🙂 I look forward with great anticipation to Cold Steel, however I would not hurry you for anything! Cat’s father seems like such an insurmountable barrier, that I am really curious to see how his role will develop. Shoot I just had to erase what I was saying so I don’t spoil the book! The two coach drivers were fascinating too, they deserve a short story of their own. I like that you don’t always write what would be easiest for the reader to expect ( and I’m thinking about Mai in Traitors’ Gate).

  10. Thank you!

    I would like to write more short fiction (besides the bonus chapter and the Rory story) in the Spiritwalker world, especially with some of the minor characters. We shall see.

    You did see the Bonus Chapter 31.5, right?

  11. Hello Kate!

    I’m glad you appreciated the review on Beyond Victoriana. Your book certainly has very engaging world-building in a way that didn’t fall into the traps of cultural appropriation or any of those PoC/non-western pitfalls that I’ve seen in other steampunk works. ^-^

    Founding Editor

  12. Ay-leen,

    Thank you.

    I was particularly thrilled to be reviewed on Beyond Victoriana because it’s a blog I read and admire.

  13. A couple of times! I found it right after I finished the book. It was kind of like dessert!

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