Luftpause

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To be blunt about it, the last few years of my life have been crazy. It has often felt like I was caught up in a hurricane — a sense of rushing wind, of not knowing where I was being swept to or how fast or where I would land. Some of that motion has been of my own making, but it has been no less disorienting or tumultuous than the storms that came from elsewhere.

Earlier this month, after finally delivering the last copy of Mornnovin to the last Kickstarter backer who was due one, I found myself suddenly between chaoses long enough to take a much-needed beach vacation with the best man in the world.

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If we look exhausted, it’s because we drove through the night to get there.

As I was sitting on our shady balcony in the nice sea breeze with the soothing crash of the surf in my ears, I realized that for the first time in I-can’t-remember-when, there would be no major thing waiting for me upon our return home. There would just be… life, such as it is.

After swimming dizzily in the void of that realization for a few minutes, I decided it was a good moment to take a breath and have a look behind me. I opened up a Word file on my laptop and started a bullet-point accounting of everything that had led to me being in that moment with that man on that beach.

The resulting list starts with Jiro’s death in December of 2013, ends with leaving for vacation on the 6th of this month, and pared down for brevity is ten pages long. So many things were happening to me or needed to be done that it’s no wonder I felt like my whole world was in the air.

Our return home did not end up being quite as leisurely as I expected, what with an immediate dog crisis and the revelation that there are ongoing issues with the hardcover edition of Mornnovin (ugh), among one or two other annoyances. (Why does the office suddenly smell like vomit?) But once the dust settled even from those issues, it is still true that for the first time maybe ever, I’m getting to just kind of go along and mostly do my own thing for a minute.

I’ve got stable housing, a supportive partner, a great dog, I live in a climate that isn’t killing me, and for the first time in my life I’m more or less earning adequate money to handle my expenses. I have to spend more of my time than I’d like every day running around satisfying the demands of capitalism, but we all have that. It’s pretty much just me, my guy, our doggo, and our art.

In some ways, it feels like my fantasy series and my life are both starting Book 3 at the same time. And maybe that’s why I’m not sure yet where it’s going to go.

It’s going, though. They both are.

Perhaps finally at something like my own pace.

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Two Days!

Okay, yeah, I dropped the countdown ball. It’s because 1.) I am bad at this, and 2.) there has been a lot to do as far as actually getting ready for launch. I spent an entire evening this week signing book copies, and then spent the next two days getting shipments packed up and sent out. Not all of them, I’m afraid, but many. As many as I could do in the time I’ve had. I will continue to chip away at it as I can.

But I mean. Check this out.

50 books

This is what a shipment of 50 books looks like. There is another shipment like this on its way.

So, I do actually have some more work today, finishing the special hardcover edition for the two people who will be receiving it. But before I turn my attention to that, and because I am a nerd, I want to spend a little time talking about conlangs with you.

What is a conlang? some might ask. Boy do I have your back.

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Image from Wikipedia. According to the website of Language Creation Society: “The Conlang Flag was designed by Christian Thalmann, Jan van Steenbergen, Leland Paul, David J. Peterson and Adrian Morgan.”

“Conlang” is an abbreviation of “constructed language,” a term used to refer to a language that was deliberately invented and planned rather than developing naturally. The most widely-spoken conlang is Esperanto, but other examples include Klingon (Star Trek,) Dothraki (Game of Thrones,) and, of course, all of the languages created by J.R.R. Tolkien.

It has become more common, especially in the age of moving media, for storytellers to create languages — or at least just enough of one — to lend their work a greater element of verisimilitude. But in fact, Tolkien is on record as having stated that rather than inventing languages for his stories, he invented stories to explain and lend context to his languages. “The invention of languages is the foundation. The ‘stories’ were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse. To me a name comes first and the story follows.” (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien)

As a lifelong word-nerd and language fan, I have always been utterly charmed and delighted by this approach. I actually think this is one of the things that first drew me to Middle Earth when I was very young. It is completely unsurprising, then, that within minutes of having drawn a map of Asrellion, I was already thinking about my languages.

Obviously, I was very young then. What has eventually evolved into my Elven language bears nearly no resemblance to those early scribblings. (Neither do my names, although the places and people are the same places and people they’ve always been.) Honestly, what really kicked my language-development into high gear was when I began to study French in the eighth grade and, at the same time, my extremely exacting English teacher was having us memorize our Greek and Latin roots.

Oh, that’s not to say that the Elven of Asrellion is Fantasy French — not at all. Just that, for the first time, I was really starting to peek behind the curtain of grammar construction and the relationships between vocabulary elements. It made me realize how small I’d been thinking. From that point onward, I wasn’t just pulling a word here and there out of thin air. I was building a coherent linguistic structure, thinking about how words related to each other and what roots they might have come from, and the sort of sounds the culture I’d created would use to express itself.

And doing that, organically, led to me thinking more about the philosophies of the culture I’d made. How those philosophies would manifest in the language, how they would have shaped its development. The language grew from the civilization, but the civilization also grew from the language.

I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say, like Tolkien, that the language comes first and the story is secondary. I am after all my own writer with my own voice, my own process, and my own stories to tell. But I do very much feel him when he says, “To me a name comes first and the story follows.”

All of this is to say that in two days, when Mornnovin officially launches, it will bring a brand new conlang into the world with it. I hope my fellow word-nerds and language fans are just as excited by that as I am.

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The countdown continues on this April the 2nd

Today it is seven days to Book Launch, and it is also World Autism Awareness Acceptance Day. This seems like a good moment to call your attention to this blog’s header.

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That’s right! We’ve got an autistic person on our hands here! And I can assure you that it has most definitely shaped the writing I do. How could it not? Autism is not a thing I have, it’s a part of who I am.

I was twenty-five years old when I received my autism diagnosis. At that time, my life had been decomposing at a snowballing rate for the last several years and I’d been trying to get to the bottom of why I couldn’t handle very basic everyday things that everyone else seemed just fine at. In retrospect and placing it within the larger context of my childhood moving forward, the diagnosis of autism seems super obvious. At the time, it was a revelation that helped me slowly begin to get my life under control.

By then, I’d already been writing about the characters and cultures of Asrellion for a decade and a half, so they were already fully-fledged even so long ago. And without knowing it or even doing it on purpose, I had written what my friends would later observe (as if it were glaringly obvious) was an autistic protagonist. Not just that, but an entire autistic culture.

I remember an occasion early in my first marriage when my husband-at-the-time was raging at me about whatever had flown up his nose that day. The angrier he got about the subject, the more vital it had seemed to me to remain calm and rational. Someone was going to have to do something about this thing that was enraging him, and I didn’t see how it could be either one of us if I started foaming at the mouth the way he was.

But the calmer I remained, the more intense his rage grew. He asserted that I obviously didn’t care about [whatever damn thing it was] since I wasn’t getting worked up. I explained my thinking to him. In a towering fury, he spat that I was “a damn Vulcan!”

He had meant it as an insult (which, what?) but refusing to take it as one, I simply replied calmly, “I think you mean elf.”

Needless to say, he wasn’t amused, but this isn’t about that jackhole. The point is that even then, and without quite meaning to, I had developed a culture and worldview that functioned in a way that made sense to me as an autistic woman. I’d invented a society of, essentially, Vulcan elves. And how my elves and their culture fit into what is for all intents and purposes a larger neurotypical world is a major ongoing plot element in the stories I write.

I don’t want to do too much telling before any of you have had a chance to read the novel, but I do think it is obvious, relevant, and interesting how my atypical neurology plays out in the world of Asrellion through my characters.

On this World Autism Acceptance Day 2019, as we count down to the launch of Mornnovin, I invite you to ready yourselves for a fantasy world and protagonist that are unashamedly neurodivergent. To restate the old saying, this novel is about us and by us.


As a postscript, April being Autism Awareness Acceptance Month, if you are feeling any inclination to get involved with autism charities, outreach, education, or activism, as an autistic person I implore you to steer well clear of Autism Speaks. They are among the worst (if not outright seizing the title of Absolute Garbage Nightmare Worst) offenders in the predatory, disreputable charities department.

Instead consider giving your attention to one of the wonderful groups being run by autistic people for the benefit of our own community, such as The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network or the Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network.

Countdown to Partytime: Day 8

When I was running the Kickstarter campaign to fund this publication, I shared several updates about my fantasy setting and the characters who appear in this first installment of The Way of the Falling Star. This seems like a good moment to bring those introductions off of the Kickstarter page and into wider circulation.

As the day draws near for Mornnovin to permanently enter the world we live in, I thought I’d start to build a little excitement by talking about another world:

Asrellion.

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Earth, meet Asrellion.

I was ten years old when I drew the very first version of this map to impress a cool new girl at school who I wanted to make friends with. At the time, I was OBSESSED with Tolkien to the point where I could actually draw the full detailed map of Middle Earth from memory. It should come as no shock that my first stories of the adventures in Asrellion pretty closely mimicked the tales and faces from Tolkien’s world.

That was a long time ago, and my stuff is now my own stuff after taking a meandering detour through a lot of Shakespeare, various fantasy greats (Roger Zelazny, Tad Williams, Guy Gavriel Kay, Neil Gaiman, Susan Cooper, Stephen R. Lawhead, and Lloyd Alexander among others,) a smattering of sci-fi, and a loooooooooot of fanfiction over the years.

Now, the world of Asrellion has become the world I’ve needed to see in fantasy and haven’t until creating it myself. I guess you’ll see what I mean if you read the book.

“Don’t like it, make your own!” the jerks like to say.

Okay. I did.

Strap in for Ye Olde Creation Legend.

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*endless screaming*

The proof copy of Mornnovin was supposed to arrive today, so I was pretty excited as I checked the mail. In fact I opened the door, looked down, saw a package, and literally squeaked.

Let’s get this bad boy inside!

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Well that does look pretty book-shaped. Let’s see what–

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OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!!!

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*screaming*

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THIS IS MY BOOK. WHAT THE FUCK‽‽‽

So yeah. Um.

I made a book and I am not calm about it. You must excuse me while I go hyperventilate.

I’m pending!

Having shared this first with my backers on my Kickstarter page, and then having taken a moment to finish screaming, I’d like to announce that my debut novel, Mornnovin, has a (tentative) release date of April 2nd, 2019.

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cover art © Scott Baucan 2019

This is obviously tremendously exciting. There’s still a lot to be done and shockingly little time left in which to do it, but let’s just all scream together for a moment, yeah?

HOLY SHIT, I’M PUBLISHING A NOVEL! LOOK AT MY BEAUTIFUL, REAL COVER!

So, yeah. Stay tuned for more about this VERY EXCITING thing that is happening. Like, I’d actually like to do a post about the backer rewards I’ve made, because I’m pretty proud of them and I want to share, but for right now it’s all about the fact that at this very moment, somewhere in the world, a physical copy of my novel actually exists and is in the mail on its way to me for my final approval, and how that’s so surreal and wonderful that I can hardly breathe.

 

this has been Week One proper

Did I forget to mention here that, at long last, I’m finally making a book?!

Although my Kickstarter campaign closed (successfully!) on January 4th, I’ve spent much of the month in creative limbo while waiting for the site and my bank to process the donations. The waiting was not awesome, knowing what I needed to be doing but not having the means to do it.

Following the national holiday on Monday, the funding finally came through on Tuesday, and after doing a squealgasp of excitement I got to work.

The LLC is filed and paid for; I am now the somewhat giddy owner of my very own shiny new publishing imprint. That’s a check on the copyright, too. I also bought a bulk package of ISBNs and so was able to start compiling the files for the eBook, paperback, and special hardcover copies of the novel.

Do you know how long it takes to browse 658 pages of fonts online? I do, because that’s how I spent last Sunday night instead of getting a full night’s sleep, shopping for the perfect cover font.

One of the prizes going out to my backers is a short story set in the world of Asrellion, and I’d been kicking around the idea of using some of the surplus funds to print out nice little physical copies. That idea, unfortunately, has turned out to be a bust (too cost-prohibitive for anything halfway decent) so it’s back to Plan A on that which is digital. But work on the other little bits and bobs of backer swag continues while I also try to get a handle on the business aspect of everything that goes into not only publishing but promoting a novel.

Most thrilling of all, I’ve been getting progress sketches all week from my cover artist, Scott Baucan, culminating in a surprise message yesterday that it was done already, ahead of schedule. And guys. It. is. gorgeous. I can’t tell you how much I love it and how excited I am to see it in my hand on the front of my book.

Here is just a little teaser-taste for your ogling enjoyment.

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This week I’ll be getting craftsy, and continuing work on the files to be sent to the printing company. I’m trying without much luck to untangle a pretty knotty riddle: they want my page count in order to complete the setup file and issue my cover template, but how do I know what my page count will be before I’ve seen the thing formatted as a print book?

So yeah, that’s where I’m at. Now that I’ve got an imprint, and cover art, and ISBNs, and funds to pay for printing, the only thing standing between me and a spring release of my debut novel is my own ability to format the interior files, navigate the setup process, and figure out how one goes about obtaining advance reviews on a book that does not yet physically exist. This is dizzyingly exciting, but I’m also discovering that the stress and anxiety of being in charge of this whole thing myself is pretty nauseating and I’m sure I’m going to mess up something crucial.

Still. For tonight, I leave on this high:

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Guys that’s my name on the cover of a book — my book!