Swan Tower

Sep. 4th, 2014

06:54 pm - indicted on two charges of negligent authorial cruelty

You would think I’d notice when I’m doing something horrible to my characters — but sometimes the penny drops quite late.

The context for this post is the scene I wrote for Chains and Memory last night. There’s a detail I put into Lies and Prophecy that seemed like an interesting twist, an additional layer to an aspect of the world that the characters hadn’t realized was there. When I started planning out this book, I knew I was going to add another component to that detail; the adding happened a few days ago. And then last night, writing a follow-on scene, I finally realized what I’d done to Julian, by tossing in that little detail so many years ago.

I can’t get more specific than that without massively spoiling things, but I can give a different example of what I mean: Nicholas Merriman, an NPC in my game Memento, which is the campaign that ultimately gave rise to the Onyx Court series. Nicholas is nowhere in the novels, so there will be no spoilers for the Onyx Court if I tell you I may have been more cruel to him than any other member of the Merriman family save Francis. (Who did appear in the novels, so if I tell you his role in the game was pretty much the same except it ended a little bit worse, you’ll have some scale for comparison.)

Memento was a Changeling game about a group of faeries reincarnating in mortal hosts over a period of centuries, trying to create the Philosopher’s Stone. They were assisted in this process by a faerie-blooded human family, the Merrimans, who passed down the knowledge of their quest through the generations . . . but lost bits of it along the way, because seven hundred years is a long time to keep that kind of thing alive. Nicholas, living in the modern day, had only the fragments he’d gleaned from his Alzheimer-afflicted grandfather, and almost no connection to the faerie world whatsoever.

Under the mechanics for fae blood in that game, Nicholas was permitted one single “fae gift,” i.e. an ability inherited from his changeling ancestor. It could be a powerful ability, but he could only have one. I chose Parted Mists. In Changeling, the Mists are a metaphysical force that causes human beings to forget about magical things: to come up with “rational” explanations for them or dismiss them as mere fancy or just forget them entirely. Parted Mists allowed Nicholas to actually remember his interactions with the PC changelings, which was pretty necessary to make the plot go; ergo, my decision seemed like simple common sense.

So they meet Nicholas and realize they were doing something important and go through a process that causes them to remember their past lives, which takes up the bulk of the campaign, with them flashing back to previous centuries (and previous Merriman helpers) before finally snapping back to the present day and finishing what they started.

By which point I had realized that I had been horrifically, unthinkingly cruel to Nicholas.

Because he remembered.

Here’s the thing about Changeling: in that setting, there is a magical layer to the world that we can’t generally see. Changelings can see it; children can see it, but lose the ability as they grow up; adults can be temporarily enchanted to see it, but the Mists make them forget after the enchantment fades.

Nicholas did not forget.

After he met the PCs, Nicholas knew that he was living in grey, dreary Kansas. He knew Oz was right there, all around him: a fantastical world filled with color and magic and wonder. He knew the PCs lived in that world, and he’d been permitted to visit it a few times. But every time, the magic ended, and he was back in black-and-white Kansas — remembering precisely what he had lost.

I did not mean to be so cruel to him. But I was, and it took me months to realize I had been.

And that’s more or less what I’ve done to Julian. Not the same flavor of cruelty, but the same failure to notice until an embarrassingly long time later. The good news is, I have noticed, and that means I can make story out of it; that’s what I was doing last night. Not only that, but in writing up the problem, I realized it had a whole second layer to it, so that he’s asking Kim the question she hears, and also a second question she won’t hear until it’s almost too late.

If I’m lucky, readers will hit this part of the story and think “oh, wow, that’s a really awesome thing Marie Brennan set up there.” They won’t realize how much of it was an accident, that I only just caught at the last second. :-)

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Jun. 24th, 2014

09:56 am - the real work begins

The hard part isn’t running a Kickstarter campaign. The hard part is dealing with all the work after your campaign succeeds. :-P

Good news is, I’m being organized. I’ve made a spreadsheet for all the backers, noting which items go to whom, so that (hopefully) it will be easy to track what’s been taken care of and what still needs doing. It would be easier if I could take care of everything in one go, but of course that won’t work; a lot of rewards involve Chains and Memory in either print or ebook format, and I can’t send that out until after I, y’know, write the book. (And revise it and copy-edit it and proof it and so on.)

But the ball will get rolling pretty soon. I’m just waiting on a half-dozen remaining surveys, at which point I can start sending out the rewards that are ready to go. After those, I’ll deal with the stuff that involves actual production (t-shirts, miniscript photocopies, etc) and/or coordination with the backers (tarot readings, tuckerizations). And then so on from there. This is going to be an item on my to-do list for a while, I can tell.

Such, my friends, are the laments of success. :-)

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Jun. 17th, 2014

11:55 am - The Final Countdown

Just over an hour to go.

The number currently stands at $4,377*, and given that when I launched this I was moderately terrified I wouldn’t reach the $2000 goal, that’s pretty excellent. :-D It’s been exciting to watch the pace pick up, too: there have been more pledges in the last three or four days than any time since the first couple of days. Which is how these things usually go, so it doesn’t come as a surprise — but knowing it’s pretty common doesn’t make it any less exciting.

Anyway, if you want to get in on Chains and Memory, now’s your last chance! All the rewards are still available (though there are only two Tuckerizations left). You’ve got 66 minutes left, as of me hitting “post” . . . .

*I love it when I have to revise that number while drafting a post. ^_^

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Jun. 16th, 2014

01:30 pm - All Around the Internet

I’ve done a number of interviews and guest posts lately, so here’s a quick link dump:

Five Underused Mythological Creatures at Fantasy Cafe, in which I talk about weird things in bestiaries that show up all too rarely in novels.

Interview at Fantasy’s Ink; they ask me about my favorite characters and what I consider to be the most important element in a book.

Another interview, this one with Mike Underwood, who leverages the fact that we’ve known each other for more than ten years to ask me a lot of fabulous questions about gaming, Driftwood, and what martial arts master I would train with if I could.

“Time, Writing, and Tricks of the Trade”, a guest post at Bookworm Blues where I talk about the challenges of writing a sequel fifteen years after the first book.

“Kick(start)ing Myself into Scrivener”, a post at Book View Cafe on my first-ever attempt to write a novel in a program other than Wordperfect.

And finally, one that isn’t mine, but mentions me and makes for entertaining reading: Science in Fantasy Novels is More Accurate Than in Science Fiction.

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09:30 am - One day to go . . . .

A bit more than twenty-four hours left on the Chains and Memory Kickstarter. Over the weekend, we went from “might make it to the third stretch goal; might not” to “that’s the third stretch goal sorted; I wonder if we’ll hit the fourth?” Which is, in a word, awesome.

This means that everybody who backs the project will be receiving not two but five rewards: a thank-you in Chains and Memory, “Welcome to Welton” in ebook format, a short story in the Wilders setting, and the soundtracks for both novels. A couple hundred dollars more, and everybody’s copies of Lies and Prophecy will be illustrated to boot!

I’m going to try not to haunt my email today. Your mission, dear readers, should you choose to accept it, is to make that nigh-impossible for me: I still have Kickstarter configured to notify me every time there’s a new pledge, and if they come in at a good clip OH HEY LOOK THERE’S ANOTHER ONE no seriously, I just got another backer while I was typing this — what was I saying? Oh yeah. I would like to be driven to distraction by a steady flow of new pledges. :-) Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, LJ, Myspace, USEnet, carrier pigeon . . . whatever method you prefer, signal-boosting is a wonderful thing. It’s the last push, and I’m dying to see how far it can go.

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Jun. 12th, 2014

11:00 am - Meet the Rewards: Tuckerization and T-shirts

Combining these two into one because there’s less of a story behind them than the other two.

Tuckerization is the process of either naming a character after a real person or putting that person into the story as a character (those being not quite the same thing). It is, as you might expect, named after a real person.

In my case, what I’m offering is the use of someone’s name for a character. I’m actually not the sort of writer who bases characters on specific people — at least not mostly. There may end up being a cat in Chains and Memory who is both named and modeled after a friend’s cat, for no better reason than because I was thinking a lot about the book when I knew that friend in grad school, and Hitomi wandered randomly into Kim’s life in my imagination. (Cats, man. Not only do they go where they aren’t supposed you, you can’t even confine them to a single world.) I can’t be specific about which characters yet because I need to see what people end up playing a role in Chains and Memory, but there are a lot of Washington, D.C. types as well as wilders who will be passing through the story, so those are the most likely groups. I’ll be working with anybody who chooses Tuckerization to see what role they prefer out of the available options.

As for t-shirts, there are two options, basically one for each book. The Welton University t-shirt is for Lies and Prophecy, and features a six-pointed star, which is one of the frequent shapes given to the Seal of Solomon in Western occultism. The other is the seal of the Bureau for Special Psychic Affairs, a federal organization that features more heavily in Chains and Memory. The three-pointed star indicates the traditional division of the “psychic sciences” into the telepathic disciplines, telekinetic disciplines, and ceremonial magic. The laurel branches indicate the BSPA copying the look of the FBI seal to give themselves an aura of legitimacy, what with being a relatively new bureau and all. :-P And the motto . . . ordinarily it would be in Latin or English, but I’d established that Irish Gaelic was (for reasons of folklore and history) adopted as kind of the banner language of magic after First Manifestation, and so I decided to go with that here, too. It says “power, wisdom, restraint” — and yes, I know srian means “restraint” in the sense of a bridle, but that’s deliberate. These are the people who control wilders. And the book is, after all, called Chains and Memory. If the last word of the motto strikes you as a little ominous, you aren’t wrong.

That’s it for the “special” rewards, i.e. the things that aren’t books or progress reports or what have you. Plus there’s the stuff from the stretch goals, of course. Just a few days to go, and then the rewards can start rolling out!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Jun. 11th, 2014

10:00 am - Meet the Rewards: Limited Edition Miniscript

Of all the rewards I’m offering on the Chains and Memory Kickstarter, I think this one is the most special to me.

Changeling: The Dreaming has a concept it calls “dross”: objects invested with so much emotional significance that they actually contain energy of the sort changelings use to power their magic. They literally embody somebody’s dreams. Sometimes a piece of dross is famous or valuable — e.g. Babe Ruth’s bat — but they can just as easily be personal, like your beloved teddy bear from childhood.

That miniscript? Is dross. Back in the fall of 1999, when I had finished the first draft of the novel eventually known as Lies and Prophecy, I knew I needed to edit it. Since I was going on a weekend trip to a football game with the Harvard Band, the bus ride seemed like a good time to read through the book and mark it up — but for that, it needed to be portable. And, well, I hadn’t told anybody other than my then-boyfriend (now husband) that I’d finished a novel, and I didn’t want anybody saying “wow, that’s a giant stack of paper you’ve got there; what did you do, write a novel?” So I invented the miniscript: eight-point font, half-inch margins, single-spaced, full justification, print on both sides of the page, and voila, you’ve got a book on forty pieces of paper.

Which is still, to this day, the way I do my first round of edits. (You can tell me that is a bloody stupid way to print out a manuscript for editing. I will agree with you. And then I will go on printing miniscripts, because that is How I Do Things.)

The miniscript of Lies and Prophecy is quite literally the first time the first draft of the first novel I ever completed existed in print. Its creation is pretty much the moment that Marie Brennan, Fantasy Author stopped being a thing I wanted to be when I grew up, and became what I actually was.

It’s also a record of just how much the book changed over the years — and how much it didn’t. The first draft was flabby as all get-out, and I’ve added all kinds of new layers since then (the Yan Path stuff), fiddled around with secondary characters (Grayson used to be white; Liesel’s friends went through about eight different names apiece), cut out bits of worldbuilding that didn’t really contribute anything to the story. But it’s still the tale of Kim and Julian and the attack on Samhain and it ends pretty much the same way. If somebody ever writes an academic work on Marie Brennan, Fantasy Author, this miniscript will be a goldmine for their attempts to trace my growth as a writer.

And if you want a copy of your very own, you can have one. :-)

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Jun. 10th, 2014

04:00 pm - Meet the Rewards: Tarot Readings

I meant to post these a while ago, rather than in the last week of the Kickstarter — but hey, better late than never, right? So over the next few days, I’ll be making a few posts to talk about the non-book rewards available for Chains and Memory, and why I chose them.

First up are the tarot readings by my friend Emily Dare. I included these because Kim is a divination major at Welton, and tarot is her preferred tool, so it’s something that’s both very fitting for the story and also kind of unusual. And I asked Emily to participate because pretty much any time* Kim sits down with a tarot deck in this series, that’s Emily’s handiwork you’re seeing: I tell her what I want the reading to convey, and she reverse-engineers that to say what cards Kim should get, what layout she would likely use, etc. For Kim’s big reading in the early part of Lies and Prophecy, that ended up adding quite a lot of depth to the scene, because of Emily’s suggestions for how to complicate the process. And that’s exactly why I look for outside help: I could sit there with the itty-bitty Rider-Waite booklet and try to make something up, but I wouldn’t get the nuances and the neat little details that make it seem more real.

(Which is pretty much a true statement of any instance where I recruit help on a particular topic for a story. It’s always good to ask the people with the hands-on experience; they know the things you wouldn’t even think to ask.)

So that’s it for the first of the special rewards. I’ll be back later to talk about the miniscript, Tuckerization, and the t-shirts. Stay tuned!

*The exception being the Tower scene in Lies and Prophecy. I made up that particular reading all on my own. :-P

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Jun. 9th, 2014

11:05 am - Countdown to the final week

Eight days left on the Chains and Memory Kickstarter! We’re just $285 from a short story. Less than that, even, if I count the people who have donated via Paypal — which is a thing I should mention here, I suppose. If you cannot or do not wish to contribute via either Amazon or Facebook (and I can totally understand that decision), then I am more than willing to accept donations by other routes, and will include you in the appropriate reward level when I send things out to backers. Ping me here or by email and we can work out the details.

I’ve been working steadily on Chains and Memory for a little while now, so as to be sure I can finish it by October 4th, and it’s proceeding apace. There’s been some two-steps-foward, one-step-back shenanigans as I figure out how to launch the various strands of the plot, but I’m experimenting with Scrivener for this novel, and I think it may assist with tracking that stuff. Regardless, I am definitely on schedule for finishing the draft by the fifteenth anniversary of Lies and Prophecy.

Anyway, we’re headed into the final push. Do spread the word wherever you can, and let’s see if this thing goes to 11!

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Jun. 2nd, 2014

10:00 am - Chains and Musicry

Over the weekend, the Chains and Memory Kickstarter reached its first stretch goal. This means that every backer, current or yet to come, will also be receiving the next best thing to me sharing the novel soundtrack itself: a discussion of the “score” I made for Lies and Prophecy, with links to the songs where possible.

I’m looking forward to putting that together. The first song on the list is basically the reason I make novel soundtracks at all: I listened to it a bunch while writing the first draft of the novel, which caused it to become associated with the story in my mind, and then I leveraged that to help me get in the mood for writing, which led to me making playlists for books and so onward to the actual, formal score-type-thing. I love having the story in musical form; it adds another layer to how I perceive the characters and events. And now I can share that with other people!

Now, of course, it’s on to Stretch Goal #2: Short Story. The most likely prospect is that I’ll write about Henry Welton during First Manifestation — the days when half the planet suddenly had psychic powers and no idea how to control them. It’s possible something else will suggest itself while I’m drafting Chains and Memory, though. Speaking of which: I’ve started work on it, and am now a little more than 7K in, counting some material that got written beforehand. That puts me on track to finish it before October 4th, with time off for being in Okinawa and having ankle surgery, with a bit of a cushion to spare. Fingers crossed that things continue to go well.

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