Michaeline: Lois McMaster Bujold and Three Questions about Writing “Penric’s Fox”

Exciting August news, all! Lois McMaster Bujold came out with a new Penric novella on August 8, 2017! Hang onto your time-travelling imagination caps: “Penric’s Fox” is actually book three, following “Penric and the Shaman” by about nine months, and before “Penric’s Mission” (NB: as of 2017 08 08. Your mileage and chronometer may vary).

"Penric's Fox" title cover with a castle, a fox and a ghostly young woman in elegant medieval robes.

“Penric’s Fox” follows further adventures of Learned Penric, court sorceror for the princess-archdivine. It’s about 37,400 words, so if you read “Penric’s Demon” and “Penric and the Shaman” as well, you’ll have a good chunk of fantasy to enjoy this weekend! Follow it up with the older Penric in “Penric’s Mission” and “Mira’s Last Dance”. (Image courtesy of Lois McMaster Bujold)

“Whaaa?” Not to worry — all the stories can stand on their own, and who is going to quibble when we have the chance to see Penric in action again?

So, go. Make a liter of  something seasonal and delicious, find your favorite reading pillow, and download the book. When you’re done, come back here and see what Lois has to say about the process of writing things.

EMD: I suppose the first question is why did you write a follow-up to “Penric and the Shaman” (the second Penric novella) and not a follow-up to “Mira’s Last Dance”? I mean, I’m grateful for whatever you’ve got, but it is a question that comes up.

LMB: This was the story that wanted to be written first. I am considering a follow-up to “Mira”, yes, but those ideas were not ripe at the beginning of this year (2017), and then the key idea that this story was awaiting suddenly slotted in, so.

The delay proved to be, as is often the case, good for the other set of ideas as well, as a few more have joined that collection since January that I could not have foreseen. For me, a story in the process of assembling itself is like a box of loose objects rattling around aimlessly, till some connecting idea drops in and things suddenly get interesting. (Note that some of those pieces may also prove to be wrong ones, like two jigsaw puzzles mixed together. Sorting those out can also take some time.) Trust me, stories only look inevitable in retrospect.

Some of the ideas for “Penric’s Fox” had been kicking around ever since I was developing backstory prior to starting what became “Penric’s Mission”, but they weren’t necessarily stories yet. The seven years I jumped over to get to Penric at age 30 were full of experiences that were important to him but not necessarily story-like, though I needed to know roughly what they were before I could write him at that later stage. It was basically the same sort of task as developing any new character’s backstory before starting them off on a tale for the first time, even though the reader will never see most of it.

I should also note that one of the developments in the tale came from watching the family of foxes that denned under my garden shed earlier this year, not something I could have anticipated. There’s nothing like Continue reading

Kay: Learning from the Greats

Beverly Jenkins (Credit: HarperCollins/Sandra Vander Schaaf

As most of you know, several of the Ladies will be attending the RWA national conference in a couple of weeks, and we’ve been busy plotting out how we’ll schedule our time. I’ve just started to look at the workshops, and one that looks interesting to me is “Blending Brand and Platform,” which promises to discuss how to integrate “brands” and “platforms” with one’s writing to “develop readership and sales while pushing the boundaries of the romance genre.” Sounds complicated, right? The speakers include Alyssa Cole, Sonali Dev, Beverly Jenkins, and Alisha Rai.

Okay. I’m not at all sure I could tell you what a brand or a platform is, or how they differ, or how to integrate them with one’s writing. What I do know is that I’ve heard Beverly Jenkins speak before, and she’s terrific, so I’m hoping to have fun there and learn something, too. Also I’ve been feeling that Alyssa Cole, Sonali Dev, and Alisha Rai should be occupying prominent spaces in my TBR pile, so I’m looking forward to hearing what they have to say, too.

All these writers are well-known for developing stories that feature characters of color, and that’s another thing I’m not sure I know enough about. My planned three-book trilogy, of which I’ve just finished book two, has a secondary character who figures prominently in all three books. This character is a person of color, and I’m concerned that he’s sufficiently well-rounded that he doesn’t come across as a stereotype. I’ve recently read a few reviews of books where the reviewers felt this issue was insufficiently addressed, and I want to do the best I can for the people I invent.

Speaking to this issue, Beverly Jenkins recently gave an interview to Salon, where she asked why readers can relate to werewolves and vampires, but not people who are of a different race. Good question. To read the full interview, go here.

What about you? If you’re going to any conferences this summer, what do you want to get from them?

 

Jilly: Book Signings

Have you ever been to a signing or other author event at a bookstore? Would you recommend it?

As I may have mentioned 😉 I’m a huge Ilona Andrews fan, and I especially like the Hidden Legacy series, because the books are romance in an urban fantasy setting, rather than urban fantasy with strong romantic elements. All Ilona Andrews books have the same basic components: lashings of imagination, fabulous world-building, characters to care about, strong community, sparkling dialogue, underpinned by kindness and humor, but I love them most when there’s a double helping of romance in the mix.

I was already excited about the upcoming release of Wildfire, the third and final (maybe) book in the series, which will be on sale next month, on 25th July. Then I discovered Continue reading

Michille: Summer Reading List

Liar AbbottNow that Memorial Day is behind us and summer has officially begun, I turned my mind to my summer reading list (it should be on my summer writing list, but alas . . . ). Right now, I’m reading Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott. It’s about four women undercover during the Civil War. Next up will be Nora Roberts’ latest, Come Sundown, and The Uses of Enchantment has been on my shelf for a while now and I’d like to get to that one. Continue reading

Nancy: Retreat, Recharge, and Reclaim Your Writing Mojo

This past weekend, I got to do one of my favorite writing things. I joined good friends (all writers, go figure) and had a writing retreat: two and a half days of working on my own stories, hearing about others’ work, sharing story (books, movies) recommendations, and discussing the ever-evolving publishing industry. Now all we need are house elves to deliver coffee and wine chairside, and we’ll have perfected the art of the writers’ retreat.

In the early days of the 8LW blog, I talked about my writing retreats with this particular group of writing friends. A few years later, I was lucky enough to gather with the other Eight Ladies in Arizona for a retreat of our own, which inspired me to share my top five favorite things about these outings (spoiler alert: number one on my list is bonding with fab friends). Now it’s 2017, time for our bi-annual reminder that writing retreats are an awesome thing, and if you are a writer as well as a joiner of any kind, getting out of your writing cave and spending time around real, live people might just be the thing to kick-start your creativity and reconnect you to the joy of writing.

Continue reading

Nancy: Who Did It Better? Books Turned Into TV Phenomena

Have you ever seen the columns in entertainment magazines where they show two celebrities caught at different events wearing (gasp!) the same outfit? The column writer typically opines about who wore it better and why. A quick google search showed that these columns do, in fact, exist in the digital world, opening up the floor for everyone with a keyboard and an opinion to weigh in on the matter.

We humans love our comparisons. Remember compare and contrast writing exercises in elementary school? Comparative Literature?  Ever been given the advice to pitch your book by comparing it others already out in the marketplace?

Recently, I recalled a high school lit project that required us to pick a topic from a list of maybe 10, develop a thesis around it, and use the books we’d read by that point in the course to support it. I chose to write about whether classic books or movies made from classic books were better. (Spoiler alert: It was a literature class. This one came with a built-in answer, especially if you liked getting A’s as much as I did.) So, yes, using two classics, A Tale of Two Cities and Wuthering Heights – both books I loved in high school, by the way – I came to the astonishing conclusion that the books did a better job of presenting themes, metaphors, and character studies. Continue reading

Nancy: Lost in Translations

Did you ever answer the question: What would your favorite reading day look like? I occasionally think about this, especially when I’m having a decidedly unfavorite writing day and all I want to do is escape into someone else’s really wonderful story.

My answer to that question varies, but this is one of my favorites: I’m on a comfy sofa, wrapped in a warm blanket, in an old library with soaring ceilings and thousands upon thousands of books stacked to the rafters. You know the kind of place, where you breathe in the smell of yellowing pages and well-worn book bindings. And seated on an upholstered wing chair across from me is a handsome man, a native Spanish speaker, with a well-trained voice (think Placido Domingo in the heyday of his opera singing career). We’re sipping Cognac. And this lovely man is reading Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s book Shadow of the Wind to me. In the original Spanish.

Yes, it’s a very weird and specific fantasy. But it gets even weirder because, it turns out, I don’t read, speak, or even understand more than a handful of Spanish words.

That’s the beauty of books in translation. We don’t have to be fluent in another language to luxuriate in amazing storytelling by authors like Zafón or the author who started me down the path of love of modern Spanish literature, Gabriel García Márquez. And because I love so many of these books in English, I can only imagine how beautiful they must sound in their original Spanish. If you’re not already a fan of Spanish books in translation, come hither and let me try to convert you by recommending a few of my favorites. Continue reading