Six impossible things

Miscellaneous Updating

 First things first: a bit over two weeks ago, our own Michelle Wood emailed me that she’s done a wonderful video trailer for the Frontier Magic series. I’ve been planning to put a link to it on the website, but I’m in the downhill rush to finish the book and updating the web page is low, low priority. So I finally decided to mention it here, so people can start enjoying it. There’ll be links on the website eventually, I promise.

Second, one of my cousins is taking a marketing class and needs a variety of people from all over to answer a survey. It’s only two questions, so if you have a minute to pop over, it would be much appreciated.

And speaking of the book, I thought maybe folks would like an update. I’m supposed to be finished by next Monday. I’m not completely sure I’ll make it; it took me 17 chapters to get them out of town this time, and the outbound leg of their trip is taking a lot longer than I expected, mainly because it has suddenly dawned on me that I have a trilogy’s worth of plot lines to bring together in the last ten or so chapters, and I’d better get started.

For those who are interested: there will be quite a bit more of the mammoth in The Far West than there was in either Thirteenth Child or Across the Great Barrier, and I apologize for making you wait so long for it. Also, I finally talked my Cathayan Master Adept character into paying a visit to Mill City (she was supposed to show up in Across the Great Barrier, but she absolutely refused to waste her time that way). It’s a very short visit, unfortunately, but it means that there will be at least a little more about Hijero-Cathayan style magic and the Cathayan Confederacy.

Once the first draft is done and turned in, I get to take a short break (emphasis on “short”). I’m planning to be at Wiscon this year, though I’m not on any programming, and Elizabeth Bear, Lois Bujold, and I will be giving a pre-convention writing workshop for Fourth Street Fantasy convention in June. Somewhere in there, I’ll have to have a talk with my agent about the perennial What To Write Next question. I’ll probably get the editorial revision requests in July or early August, which means odds are good that they’ll overlap with the release of Across the Great Barrier, and since I really don’t want to wait until September to start Whatever The Next Book Is, I’ll probably be too busy to think straight for a couple of weeks.

Minor miscellaneous jobs include the aforementioned update of the web page, reviewing the spring royalty statements (which are due at the end of April and May) and finishing the update to the royalty tracking database, a long skull session with my agent regarding all sorts of subrights, and swapping out the research materials for the last three books from the shelves near my computer to the main reference shelves (which are farther away). I also will probably need to do a fair amount of research for Whatever The Next Book Is, one way or another. Oh, and updating my Quicken categories to make next year’s taxes easier, because they changed some of the lines again.

And that’s just the writing stuff. There are dust T. Rexes under the bed, I have about eight loads of laundry stacked up, and there are still at least four large boxes of my mother’s fabric stash to sort through and perhaps turn into something wearable. I have ongoing paperwork to do for my mother’s estate, and I really ought to plan something for my Dad’s 91st birthday besides a phone call! If I’m going to plant basil this year, I need to get the seeds started now, and dig over the garden as soon as it stops raining. The cats need vet appointments for their annual shots. I am at least 400 books behind on my To Read shelf. And let’s not even talk about the UFOs (UnFinished Objects) that are my knitting and cross-stitch projects.

In other words, my life is pretty much like everyone else’s – full to bursting with Stuff To Do, and unlikely to change any time soon. But right now, I have a hot cup of tea, one cat on my lap (who is purring loudly because she is making me sit sideways to type, which always pleases her greatly) and another cat perched on top of the computer pillar in Standard Cat Meatloaf Position #3, and I’m going back to finish up Chapter 22. Life is good.

  1. What to write next? Will you take suggestions?

    in order of preference:

    1) whatever you want! it’ll be good, we know that. hopefully if you are writing it because it’s a story you want to be telling, it’ll be even better than good

    2) failing that, it would be amusing for us to have you revisit the place your readers like best. I’m sure you have a feel for that from the contents of your mailbag. perhaps even more amusing would be to revisit the _least_ popular place, just to show what you can do with it

    3) what I wouldn’t mind seeing is what’s been going on around the Seven [former] Towers – in many ways those were some of your most promising characters, and I’d not mind seeing you look in on them again, with another 25 years writing experience to back you up

  2. I recently started reading a collection of letters from William Clark to his brother Jonathan, and I hadn’t gotten more than one letter in before I thought, “This really makes me eager for the next Frontier Magic book!” And now I’m even more eager, hearing that there will be more mammoth in the third book!

    • Louis Robinson – 1) Thank you!. 2) Several of the things on the current 20-book To Write List are sequels or prequels or side stories to existing work, so it’s not an impossibility. However, this is where business considerations rear their ugly heads. The best point at which to sell a new volume in an old, out-of-print series is when you make a deal to re-sell the old series at a new publisher. It is sometimes possible to get the original publisher to revive the series, if they’re still hanging on to the rights, but that’s usually a second-best possibility (the original acquiring editor is usually gone by that time, so there frequently isn’t anyone left in editorial who has a stake in the book and who will push it enthusiastically). Bottom line is, revisiting older works probably won’t happen until there’s a new deal in the works.

      Louise – There’s not a LOT of mammoth in book three, just more than there’s been. It’s kind of hard to find plot-useful things for him to do, and I’ve never been much for padding. Also, this book doesn’t NEED padding; with all the subplots I’ve got running, there’s more than enough plot stuff to fill it up.

  3. You’re welcome.

    I know – that’s why a visit to old friends wasn’t at the top of my list. Come to think of it, that is an interesting area where the craft and business of writing can interstect in odd ways. What are the pros and cons of leaving lots of hooks in a story to hang sequels on? As I see it, on the one hand if you don’t tie everything up with a nice, neat bow, but don’t go on with it, readers will complain that ‘she never finishes a story’. On the other hand, making sure that everyone can’t wait for the next one means that there is a assured market for the sequel, and if you do a good enough job it can be as big a market as for the first one. On the gripping hand, since any editor is going to be far happier buying a book she knows is going to sell than one that looks like it _should_ sell, it can be hard for an author to break away from something that was not their best or brightest idea and switch to a better story – or ant least one they’re not tired of writing about.

    • Louis Robinson – I’ve never particularly seen a need to leave hooks in a story to hang sequels on, and it doesn’t seem to matter greatly to my readers whether or not I’ve done so. Even Snow White and Rose Red, which has the traditional “and they lived happily ever after” fairy-tale ending, has gotten fan mail requesting a sequel. I personally find cliff-hangers annoying, and since I tend to eventually abandon authors who do that to me too often, I try to extend the same courtesy to my readers. Editors do like sequels, but it’s actually fairly tough to write a book for which there is absolutely NO reasonable way to construct a sequel. You’d have to blow up the sun and kill everyone … and even then, you could write a “sequel” about the alien archaeologists trying to reconstruct what happened, or a “prequel” about the favorite characters’ lives before everything went pear-shaped.

      Editors…well, all of mine have been lovely people, but it took me a while to figure out that what they really want is “Patricia Wrede writing at the top of her form, coming up with a book that will do as well or better than the last one.” The thing is, they can only ask for that in terms of what they have already seen. Their job, after all, is not to come up with the ideas and write them; it’s to pick out the good stuff once it’s all been written. So it’s really up to the writer to listen carefully and then decide whether the editor’s suggestions are something to go for, or something to bounce off of in a totally different direction. And sometimes it works, and other times it doesn’t. There isn’t a sure-fire recipe for any of this stuff, I’m afraid.

  4. I hope it’s not too late to comment. 1) “UFO’s” and “standard cat meatloaf position #3” — Hah! 2) I SO wish I could attend Fourth Street. I ran across the term “future setting fantasy” in the description of one of the sessions, and I have to ask: does that mean spaceships + magic? Personally, I love such stories. But I’ve been told that it’s not okay to call magic “magic” if other standard SF tropes are present. What are your thoughts?

    • Cindy – I haven’t looked hard at the Fourth Street Programming, so I’m not sure, but I suspect it will indeed by a combination of futuristic technology and magic, probably along the lines of Doyle and MacDonald’s “The Price of the Stars.” And I certainly don’t know of any reason not to call magic “magic” just because a story also includes spaceships and ray guns. It is perhaps more common for futuristic magic to be slotted into some other, similar category – psi powers, for instance – but it certainly isn’t a requirement. Though there may well be people who are extremely passionate on the subject, just as there are those who get bent out of shape if you call anything “hard science fiction” that does not conform completely and rigorously to the theories of science-as-we-know-it-today (meaning, no faster-than-light space travel, for instance). The only way to avoid long, drawn-out, loud, and extremely silly (IMO) arguments with such people is to avoid using whatever terminology they have decided is “forbidden” while you are in their presence. Odds are, hardly anyone else will care.

  5. It’s nice that most of the characters in the Frontier Magic were good characters. Well maybe not the aunts and uncles that believed the unlucky thirteen thing. What would have happened if Eff did go bad?
    Will we find out if Eff gets married in this new book? If she does, will she have kids, 13 or more of them and/ or have a 7th daughter?
    I am so excited to see how this new book unfolds.

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