It can be tricky to know what to say about a book on its birthday, particularly if it is not the shiny debut of a series. I don’t want to spoil Child of a Hidden Sea for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, after all. Even so, I want to say a few things about where the story picks up in A Daughter of No Nation.
It has been six long months. Sophie Hansa is at home, trying as best she can to prepare herself for what she hopes will be a not too distant return to the world of Stormwrack. She’s attempting to learn skills that mesh with Age of Sail technology, to ensure that she’s fit, healthy, and ready to face a range of physical and mental challenges. There’s endurance training. Knot tying. Re-upping her CPR. Astral navigation. Memorizing everything from A Standard Book of British Birds to simple experiments from the history of science. As the book opens, that’s what we where we find her.
Anyway, I thought it might be fun to right now invent a rundown on what everyone else has been up to:
Bramwell Hansa, for example, is as intrigued by Stormwrack’s existence as Sophie herself. Is it an alternate Earth? A future one? Why does magic seem to work there? Wait… seem? Clearly it does, but how? He’s been been working with his sister on the data they have gathered so far, teaming up develop research plans for any future expeditions. Because, you see, they have to know.
My first impulse was to say that it all been rather nose to grindstone for poor Bram–that he hasn’t been dating. But I think all of you who keep telling me how much you love Bram will agree he could use a nice fellow in his life. Six months, though… he can’t have had anything too dramatic going on, or his sister would have noticed, and cared, and talked it to death. He’s not in a relationship when the book opens, and there’s nothing about recent drama in A Daughter of No Nation. So… was it all science and no play? Did Bram meet someone–have it flare and then fizzle? You tell me. I’m open to to anything, as long as it’s consistent with Bram’s character and what I’ve got on the page.
Sophie’s half sister, meanwhile, definitely isn’t getting any. Come on, guys–Verena’s so young! Anyway, she’s got a huge unrequited crush on a certain tasty ship’s captain, and she’s not about to let that go anytime soon. Also, she’s adjusting to her new job. It’s a big job and she’s completely inexperienced, so naturally, a few mistakes have been made. Good thing the boss isn’t a hardass, right? She is? Well, that’s awkward…
As for the Nightjar crew and Captain Parrish, I’ve got to tell you that they have been having a rough time of it. They lost someone important to them in the first book, as you may remember, and the past half year has served both as a mourning period and an upheaval. Life and work go on, as they must, but the rhythms are changed, and not everyone’s able to dance to the new beat. In fact, the medic and the bosun have both thrown up their hands and quit.
So for Garland and Tonio in particular, things feel precarious. That’s how it is when you lose the people who matter most to you. The ground crumbles underfoot. Everything in life is, simply, harder.
Finally, there’s the Fleet’s chief Duelist, Judge-Advocate Clydon Banning of Sylvanna, legal eagle and sword fighter extraordinare. He isn’t even faintly bereaved. Someone died? Did I kill them? No? Then why are we discussing this, exactly?
Cly has been a busy busy boy. He has taken a leave of absence, dug deep into a bunch of musty legal codes and old lawsuits, and even reviewed his will. He has demanded and earned the equivalent of a higher security clearance from his government, and then elbowed his way into the club of higher-ups holding onto Stormwrack’s most tightly guarded secrets. Put another way, he has obliged the Convene of Nations to tell him about the existence of Earth. Now he is considering how he might best exploit this newfound knowledge… and Sophie, inevitably, will be the key to all his plans.
Do you have a favorite Stormwrack character who’s not included in this roundup? Let me know and I’ll give you a hint about what they’ve been up to.
Second books aren’t always about charm. Sometimes they’re about rolling up your sleeves, raising your fists and damnwell plunging your characters so deep into the dip you might never get them out again. A Daughter of No Nation has tall ships, sirens, man-eating cats, teenage con artists in love, dryads, slaves, leech attacks, tedious dinners with frightful cousins–because danger has many flavors–a really nasty kudzu infestation and the resurrection of a dead conspirator on Issle Morta, island of the judgey monks.
Doesn’t that all just kinda scream holiday gift?
Dreaming Death by J. Kathleen Cheney
J. Kathleen Cheney is a former teacher and has taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus, with a brief stint as a Gifted and Talented Specialist. Her novella “Iron Shoes” was a 2010 Nebula Award Finalist. Her novel, The Golden City was a Finalist for the 2014 Locus Awards (Best First Novel). The final book in that series, The Shores of Spain came out in July, and a new series will debut in February 2016 with Dreaming Death.
Is there a literary heroine on whom you imprinted as a child? A first love, a person you wanted to become as an adult, a heroic girl or woman you pretended to be on the playground at recess? Who was she?
I still have two books from second grade, and one of them is The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare. I don’t know how heroic one would consider Kit Tyler, the main character of the book. She doesn’t fight a battle, kill demons, or win the rich gentleman’s heart (actually, she does that last one but hands it back.) I admired her anyway.
I loved that book too! What was it Kit did–what qualities did she have that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?
What Kit Tyler does is defy expectations. That’s what I admired about her. She didn’t do things simply because she’d been told to do so. Since I seem to be wired that way myself, I could relate to most of her decisions.
Some of them came from simple ignorance on her part. For example, her inability to make decent corn pudding because she’s too impatient–I understand that all too well. To this day, I lack patience in cooking.
Kit makes mistakes, and most of the time she learns from them. But a lot of her defiance is borne of a willingness to look past other peoples’ prejudices and let her conscience drive her instead. And because of that she teaches a young girl to read and makes friends with the title witch. When she’s falsely accused or witchcraft herself, she faces down her accusers in court (with the help of her friends)….even though she was given a chance to escape her jail earlier and run away. She did what she thought was right, though, while knowing it might have a terrible outcome.
Of course, because it’s a novel, things come out all right in the end.
How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? Do they rebel against all she stands for? What might your creations owe her?
I would like to think that most of my heroines do the right thing, even if it’s not what they’re told to do, not the socially accepted thing, or not the most financially sound decision. In a lot of ways, they do go back to that second grade reading experience. They make mistakes. I want them to learn from them, like Kit Tyler did (although I will eschew the corn pudding experience.)
And I want them to make the hard choice, the choice that they could have worked around.
Hard choices are what make a heroine, even if she’s not killing demons.
Bonus round: How do you feel about the word heroine? In these posts, I am specifically looking for authors’ female influences, whether those women they looked up to were other writers or Anne of Green Gables. Does the word heroine have a purpose that isn’t served by equally well by hero?
In most ways, hero and heroine are the same, the protagonist of the story. But heroine carries one added factor: the heroine usually has to defy societal norms. In most cultures, men are expected to step up while women are expected to wait. And that’s where a heroine’s actions can be much more subtle, yet still be heroic. In some places, heroism might be something as small as wearing trousers or going to school or talking to someone your family doesn’t approve of. And while men can face similar challenges, in most places, the bar is harder for women to cross. So I feel like the word heroine has that additional baggage attached.
About this post: The Heroine Question is my name for a series of short interviews with female writers about their favorite characters and literary influences. Clicking the link will allow you to browse all the other interviews, with awesome people like Linda Nagata, Kay Kenyon, and Louise Marley. If you prefer something more in the way of an actual index, it’s here.
“The Glass Galago”
I am pleased to announce that Christopher Morgan at Tor.com has bought the fourth of The Gales, a story called “Losing Heart Among the Tall,” which tells the story of how Gale Feliachild and Garland Parrish convinced Gale’s sister, Beatrice, to hide a certain powerful object that plays a big role in the conspiracy at the heart of Child of a Hidden Sea.
This fantastic news comes hard on the heels of receiving my beautiful Richard Anderson cover art for the third of The Gales, “The Glass Galago,” which will be out early next year.
I thought I’d celebrate by running down the list of every last one of the fictional things I have on the Tor site, available to anyone who’s interested for absolutely free.
So! A Daughter of No Nation will be out in 13 days, and you can read an early chapter of the book here! This novel is the sequel to Child of a Hidden Sea, and here’s the excerpt for that.
The Gales, meanwhile, are prequels to the above two novels. First in order is “Among the Silvering Herd,” and the second is called “The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti.”
Moving on to a completely different series, you can check out my sexy novelette, “Wild Things,” which is a tie-in to the world of my award winning first novel Indigo Springs and its sequel, Blue Magic.
Last but by no means least, I have two stand-alone works: a time travel horror story called “The Color of Paradox” and my ever-popular ‘baby werewolf has two mommies’ story, “The Cage,” which made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010.
For the next little while I’ll be putting up the occasional guest post at Charlie Stross‘s blog, which is a marvelous place filled with many wonders. My opener is a “Hi, I’m Alyx” type post, for those of his readers who haven’t heard of me, but it does contain medium-known facts you may not have heard before.
Google’s automatic egosurfing software brought me a listing, on myself, from Order of Books today. This is the sort of thing that happens now and then, and generally I’m grateful if the biographical info pillaged from my site is arranged in a somewhat comprehensible fashion. This particular site would also like you to know that I’m in good company, storywise:
Bujold! McGuire! Lackey! I’ll take it.
A. M. Dellamonica, 2014, photo by Kelly Robson
Here is every single tiny thing I will be doing at SFContario next weekend…
Friday, November 20 – Mass Signing
All authors, all signing, all the time… well, from 8 to 9 PM. Bakka-Phoenix will be on hand to sell books.
Saturday 11-11:30 AM, Room 207 – Reading
Some of you have heard me read my favorite chunk of A Daughter of No Nation, so this menu item is officially still called Alyx Surprise!
Economics in SF – Saturday 12 PM, Gardenview
Economics is frequently overlooked in SF. Do the adventurers simply live on nuts and berries and what they can kill? What do they pay with when they visit an inn or buy a drink? What’s the economic base of different regions? How is trade carried out, particularly between species? Is there still a struggle for resources or has science advanced to the point where anything can be fabricated?
Alyx Dellamonica(M), Michael Martineck, David Stephenson, Hayden Trenholm, Jo Walton;
First Contact in Real Life – Saturday 2 PM, Gardenview
It looks so easy in Star Trek but how could we really establish a common conceptual base to communicate with another species? Sure, we have numbers and the hydrogen atom in common, but how far would that get us with a world of beings who share none of our sensory apparatus
Stephanie Bedwell-Grime, Alyx Dellamonica, Neil Jamieson-Williams(M), Peter Watts;
Author Guest of Honour Interview – Saturday 5 PM. Courtyard
That’s right… I will be grilling Saladin Ahmed about all the things.
QUILTBAG in the media – Saturday 6 PM, Courtyard
Our media may be starting to feature more characters and situations from the queer/questioning, undecided, intersex, lesbian, transgender/transsexual, bisexual, allied/asexual, gay/genderqueer (QUILTBAG) perspective, but there’s still a long way to go. How do we move from tokenism to full inclusion? We’ll discuss favorite characters, new challenges, and available resources for writers and readers.
Alyx Dellamonica, JF Garrard, Bob Milne, and…. Kelly Robson! That’s right. My beloved and I shall be quilting our bags together.
And on Sunday I shall be attending the Aurora Awards.