illustration by Richard Andersen
I am underslept this morning, and thus in no fit state to write intelligently about writing technique or craft, so instead, some bits and pieces of news:
As some of you may have seen on Facebook, I have sold a third Gale story to Stacy Hill at Tor.com. It’s called “The Glass Galago,” and it is next in the sequence that begins with “Among the Silvering Herd” and moves on to ““The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti”.”
I saw all three instalments of the Hobbit this weekend, and I find I don’t have much to say about it. It went down better, in some ways, because I had just rewatched the extended Lord of the Rings. Of course, it also suffered in comparison, especially since both the storytelling and characterization were so much weaker. Bilbo’s play with the Arkenstone was brilliant, and nicely executed. But the Bilbo/Thurin relationship never gelled for me. The actors and direction were a bit too wooden, and as a result the emotional beats were as often miss as hit.
On the small screen and only two episodes in, I am very much enjoying Marvel’s Agent Carter.
It’s gray outside as I write this, and dense-grained snowflakes are falling swiftly from above, their descent lines barely aslant, as if there’s no breeze at all. It was chilly and windy all weekend, but I still found it more invigorating than miserable. As long as the snow itself isn’t wet, the rest seems quite bearable.
Tor has posted the first chapter of my new book here for your reading pleasure. It begins thusly:
Sophie Hansa had barely worked out that she was falling before she struck the surface of an unknown body of water.
First, there’d been a blast of wind. A tornado? Rushing air, pounding at her eardrums, had plucked her right off the ground. Howling, it had driven her upward, pinwheeling and helpless, over the rooftops of the houses and shops, carrying her up above the fog, in a cloud of grit and litter, trashcan lids, uprooted weeds, discarded heroin needles, and a couple very surprised rats.
Those of you who’ve read “Among the Silvering Herd,” and “The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti,” might notice that the novel starts about a dozen years further on. Gale Feliachild is older, and Garland Parrish is no longer the first mate of Nightjar–he’s the captain. (Then again, chapter one doesn’t quite get us to Parrish, and Gale’s got a lot on her plate, including a near-fatal stab wound and a niece who overshares when stressed, so maybe that’s not obvious.)
I’m so excited to see this book making its way out to you all! If you have any questions or comments, throw them my way–either here or at the Tor site.
A couple of you have asked about things that inspire me, so I thought I’d mention that this trilogy owes a huge debt to the BBC Nature team and particularly the various series presented by Sir David Attenborough. The moth migration and resulting prey bonanza described in this chapter were inspired by any number of real-world natural events. Here’s one such event, from Life in the Undergrowth. It’s sardines, and not insects, but it’s amazing footage, the kind Sophie Hansa aspires to shoot one day. You can see the predators gathering, above and below, to take that bait ball apart.
The BBC videographers lavish resources on photodocumenting parts of the natural world I can only hope to visit one day, along with parts I’ll never see, either because they’re inaccessible or, sadly, likely to disappear in the not too distant future. I transmute their work into fiction. Inspiration, like everything, is an ecosystem of sorts.
Paul Weimer of SF Signal asks: Do I have a map for Child of a Hidden Sea?
I must, right? You write a portal fantasy, and one of the perks must be that you get a gorgeous map, drawn by a professional, with Game of Thrones steampunky fabulousness and vast deserts and picturesquely named verdant forests, all populated by something way cooler than Ewoks.
This is one of my favorite kinds of question, because there are several answers, and some of them just about contradict each other.
Answer #1 – Yes! Stormwrack is the same size as Earth, though its orbital tilt and the length of its day are different. It takes 365 days to orbit its sun. Zero latitude and the international date line run through the great Verdanii city of Moscasipay, which is the home of something Wrackers call a World Clock. In more comprehensible terms, the Greenwich of this world is located on the same latitude as present-day Saskatoon.
I made the above choices because I wanted to be able to look at a map of our world and say “Okay, The Autumn District of Sylvanna is roughly where Tennessee is, and that means the sailing time from Moscasipay, in a ship moving at X speed, is Y days.” This makes things much easier for me, as someone who has some deficits in the map-reading area. It also fits with my having given Stormwrack many Earth-like qualities: the same gravity, tides, a similar ebb and flow of the seasons.
Answer #2 – No! There will be no actual map printed in Child of a Hidden Sea.
Why? Stormwrack is mostly ocean. The land there takes the form of small archipelagos of islands. They’re much like the Galapagos: little blobs of terrain, each with its own microclimate. The biggest land mass is, again, Verdanii, and that’s not even as big as Australia. So here’s the problem: a map of the whole world, printed at the size of even a double hardcover page, would be water, water, water and more water. Take a page of blue construction paper, sprinkle a pinch of basil on it, and you’ll get the idea.
Aha, you may be thinking, do a partial! Excellent point. Some months ago I had a conversation with my editor, Stacy Hague-Hill, about whether there could be a map of the region where Child of a Hidden Sea takes place. But Nightjar crosses from one archipelago to another in this book: Sophie visits Stele Island and then Erinth (the island where “The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti” is set.) She sails from there to a place called Tallon and finally ends up hooking up with the Fleet of Nations, at sea. There are also a few stops in San Francisco.
In the second and third books, Sophie and Parrish spend a fair amount of time on Sylvanna, without so much zipping around, so maybe we’ll revisit the issue.
Another Yes! Of course I have an actual map of Stormwrack at home, laid out atop of a map of Earth, with pins marking important locations and saying which sea is which.
But also, No! Since I can’t draw, at all, the islands on the above-mentioned artifact look like someone pounded a bunch of Pop Rocks and blue-green wax crayons into some silly putty and threw it all into their microwave.
Finally, Yes and No–there are lies! I have a Gale story drafted, called “Island of the Giants.” In it, Parrish finds out that the official Fleet Maps of Stormwrack contain some politically motivated fibs. I don’t know yet when Sophie’s going to work that one out, but I promise she will be deeply unimpressed.
Paul Weimer was kind enough to pitch me this question a couple of weeks ago when I started asking what all of you who read this blog might want to know, about me or the books or, really, anything.
Here’s the original request. I am still gratefully taking your questions.
Here’s what Tor.com says about “The Ugly Woman of Castello Di Putti,” which is live on the site today. (The lovely cover illustration is by Richard Anderson)
Returning to the world of Stormwrack where she set the Tor.com story “Among the Silvering Herd,” A.M. Dellamonica offers a new story that takes us deeper into this fascinating world, the setting of her new fantasy novel Child of a Hidden Sea.
The Fleet, integral to the governing of a world that is mostly water sprinkled with a number of islands, must deal with a unique form of magic, inscription, which is so subtle that its effects can sometimes only be known in retrospect. When a ship of the Fleet visits an island where scripping is common, the crew members of the sailing vessel Nightjar are at a disadvantage when faced with local matters of which they know little. Strangers on the shore, indeed, they may enjoy the local customs… but also may attract unwanted attention that could cost them more than embarrassment or money.
The Castello di Putti has a suggestive sound to it, but don’t be deceived. This is a story of civil strife, of culture shock, and ultimately of the risks and rewards of naval duty. Filled with Dellamonica’s fresh, inventive worldbuilding and the joie de vivre of a society in flux, it shows a side of Stormwrack very different from that presented in the previous tale.
Here’s the opening paragraph:
They had barely come ashore before the riot started.
Sindria, capital of Erinth, was a city of black marble and volcanic glass, a dark architectural foundation layered in color and light. Carved urns and stone window boxes built into the structures all burst with bougainvillea and daisies. Fruit trees nodded along the avenues, laden with oranges, lemons, and sun-burnished golden plums.
As they strode up from the landing, they passed a young couple, a fine-featured woman and handsome man, decked out in vivid fabrics, leaning on each other and sharing the support of a sturdy hardwood walker.
As you can see, I have a cover now for my upcoming Tor.com novelette, “The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti.” It’s small here, but if you want a better look there’s a link here you can use.
This story is the second of the series I’m calling The Gales. The first was “Among the Silvering Herd”, and like that story, this one features Gale Feliachild, ship’s Captain Royl Parrish, and their ridiculously handsome first mate, Garland Parrish. Their first adventure took them to Redcap Island, where Gale realized that Royl was considering turning the ship over to Parrish, because he’d like to retire. The second takes them all to one of her favorite island nations, the volcanic island of Erinth, for something of a holiday. Unfortunately, there seems to be a conspiracy afoot against her good friend, the ruling Conto.
The story will be out in early March. I will keep you posted.
(But wait! There’s more! Buy now and we’ll give you… um… forks?)
These stories cover certain events on a world called Stormwrack many years before the opening of my upcoming novel, Child of a Hidden Sea. I hope to be unveiling that cover soon… it is not quite finalized, but what we do have is gorgeous.