First: thanks for asking. Seriously. Click through to read my answer.
Polish publisher Zysk began translating my Crown of Stars series into Polish as Korona gwiazd in 2000, with King’s Dragon, Królewski Smok, (translation by Joanna Wołyńska)
Here’s the original cover (yes, she is indeed naked and somewhat uncomfortably placed atop that spiky dragon):
Zysk went on to publish Książę psów (Prince of Dogs):
and Głaz Gorejący (The Burning Stone):
The translation then fell into hiatus for a couple of years.
However, Zysk reissued the first three books with newly redesigned covers when they translated and published Dziecko Płomienia book four (Child of Flame) and, now, Nadciągająca burza book 5 (The Gathering Storm).
I think the new redesigns are great, and I’m happy to share them. (It was also fabulous to have several Polish readers bring books for me to sign at Loncon/London Worldcon.)
While January remains the first month of the Gregorian calendar, February marks the real beginning of an incredibly busy and I hope not too stressful year for me.
In 2014 I published a single piece of fiction ( Spiritwalker-related novelette posted as free fiction on my web site), no novels, and a few scattered pieces of non fiction in the form of blog posts. While that seems sparse, I also did a LOT of work on other projects. You can find a retrospective of 2014 and a list of forthcoming 2015 projects here.
February also brings two interviews (one at writer Gail Carriger’s blog and the other at SFSignal), a very personal blog post at Book Smugglers tomorrow (February 2), an AMA at Reddit on February 17, as well as a few other posts yet to be scheduled. Reviews of THE VERY BEST have started to drop: Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Interzone, with more coming.
For the month of February I will try a steady diet of keeping readers apprised without engulfing them with too much promo, which means I am trying to make a schedule for myself that will include writing about other things in order to counteract the sense that we are all of us being inundated by a promotional barrage.
So, stealing outright from the Book Smugglers with their weekly Sunday “Smugglers Stash and News,” here’s what’s up for this coming week:
Monday February 2:
The Courage to Say Yes, a guest post at The Book Smugglers
On my blog, a post wishing Smart Bitches, Trashy Books a very happy 10th anniversary and explaining why I think SMTB has been so important.
Tuesday February 3:
Showing off my Polish covers for Crown of Stars. After publishing the first three some years ago, Zysk did a re-design for the whole series that I really like.
Wednesday February 4:
Kill Your Rituals, Not Your Darlings, a guest post by Harry Connolly
Thursday February 5: Enthusiasm Thursday
A long overdue “enthusiasm” (I don’t really write reviews which is why I prefer to call this an Enthusiasm) for THE TIME ROADS by Beth Bernobich. My goal is to write an Enthusiasm every Thursday on whatever takes my fancy.
Friday February 6: Memoir Friday
I begin a 24 week series, each Friday blogging a (often very short) chapter from Remembering Japan 1945 – 1946, my father’s memoirs of his nine months posted in Japan after World War II. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and his granddaughter (my daughter) kindly got everything ready to go. However else my blogging goes, this series will run on Fridays until all the chapters are posted.
Saturday: Shabbat and thus no post.
If all goes as planned my first newsletter will launch next week, 10 February. You can sign up here on the blog page (right sidebar) or on my webpage.
The newsletter will be occasional and short, with pre-order and new release information, updates or momentous news, and a few surprises and previews that subscribers will get before anyone else.
Cold Steel (Spiritwalker Trilogy #3) to be published in 25 June 2013. It is possible that print copies will show up in bookstores before that day so keep an eye out.
I will be doing events in San Francisco (June 27), San Diego (June 29), New York City (July 2), Seattle (July 8), and Portland (July 9) in conjunction with publication. Information here.
OTHER RECENT OR FORTHCOMING PUBLICATIONS:
My essay “The Omniscient Breasts” is in Speculative Fiction 2012 edited by Justin Landon and Jared Shurin.
Speculative Fiction celebrates the best in online non-fiction – the top book reviews, essays and commentary of the year. This first volume, edited by bloggers Justin Landon (Staffer’s Musings – US) and Jared Shurin (Pornokitsch – UK), collects over fifty pieces from science fiction and fantasy’s top authors, bloggers and critics.
My short story “leaf and branch and grass and vine” appears in in the anthology Fearsome Journeys, edited by Jonathan Strahan.
Publication date: 28 May 2013 (S&S/Solaris)
An amazing array of the most popular and exciting names in epic fantasy are set to appear in the first in a brand new series of anthologies from the celebrated master anthologist Jonathan Strahan. Featuring original fiction authors such as Trudi Canavan, Daniel Abraham, Saladin Ahmed, Elizabeth Bear, Glen Cook, and Scott Lynch, many more exciting names will appear in this collection. From dragons to quests, cut-throats to warriors, battles and magic, the entire range of the fantastic is set to appear on this first Fearsome Journey!
Audio book company Recorded Books is doing an audio book version of the Spiritwalker Trilogy. This will be my first audio book. They’re recording Cold Magic as we speak! No release date yet.
The four Jaran volumes will appear in e-book format in late summer 2013 through Open Road Media. No date yet.
The Highroad Trilogy and The Labyrinth Gate (my first four novels) will also appear in e-book format through Open Road Media but there is no date set.
As I announced earlier this year, all 7 volumes of Crown of Stars are available as e-books in the UK region, published by Orbit UK.
The first three volumes of Crown of Stars are available in USA and World regions (I have not been given a date for release of volumes 4 – 7 of the series in e-book format in the USA/World regions but feel free to write to DAW Books and ask them).
I have some short stories in progress and some announcements to come about my next novel projects, but not this week.
I keep meaning to set up a quarterly newsletter like people do but I haven’t managed it yet (it always seems more important to spend my time writing fiction and alas I have no personal assistant).
Finally, a fully updated web site, soon.
The February 2013 Apex Magazine is out with a Shakespeare theme.
I have a story (“My Voice is in My Sword”) and am interviewed in the issue, which you can find here.
Again, here is the link to a retrospective I wrote, looking back on the Crown of Stars series, which you can find at the Orbit Books web site.
All seven of the Crown of Stars books are now available in ebook form, from Orbit UK in the UK region.
The first three volumes of Crown of Stars are available in ebook form in the USA and other English-language venues. No schedule yet for the ebook publications of #4 – 7, although they are all available in print form.
Finally some news on ebook releases of the Crown of Stars series.
This information is for the USA market only, where the series is published by DAW Books.
I will post news about the UK/Aus/NZ region (Orbit UK) as soon as I know anything.
KING’S DRAGON is available now as an ebook in Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and presumably mobi and epub versions.
PRINCE OF DOGS and THE BURNING STONE are scheduled to be released in ebook versions on January 15.
I do not currently have a schedule for volumes 4 – 7.
A question for those of you outside of the USA/Canada and the UK and the Australia/NZ regions who like to read English language e-texts: How are you able to get English language ebooks? Are you in a restricted market, or do you have some other mechanism to get downloads?
My stories usually are conceived in a flowering of an image in my head in which I imagine a character in a situation that has some inherent emotion or urgency or conflict that engages my passion to explore it further. Why and how my mind generates these images I do not know.
The seven volume Crown of Stars series grew from an image of a youth walking on a path that led over a ridge as a storm rushed in from the sea and, on the wings of that storm, his meeting with a woman in armor who is a supernatural manifestation. He is dissatisfied with his dreary, ordinary life, and the grim warrior woman seems to him to personify the life of adventure which he believes he yearns for, but the bargain she offers and which he accepts is not truly a gift nor is it a good bargain for him or indeed for anyone. The setting and situation made it clear it was to take place in a European-medieval type of environment. Literally, that is the genesis point of the series. In the published novel, this scene occurs in the third chapter of the first book (King’s Dragon).
Sometimes the initial image I have doesn’t make it into the book in the exact form I first encountered. My conception of what later became Cold Magic started with two girls, cousins, seated in a classroom overlooking an entry courtyard. Through the window, they see a carriage arrive conveying a man who will change their lives in some unspecified way. I kept the academy, the cousins, the man, and them watching his carriage arrive through a window, but changed the venue of the meeting to their home. In the initial image, I knew nothing about the man except that he was arrogant and from the upper rank of their society, and the only thing I knew about the young women was that they loved each other with true loyalty. Their dress and the building and carriage revealed the setting to be in some kind of 18th/19th century milieu.
That’s where the STORY starts.
Once I open myself up to building more on that image, that emotion, that interaction, I start the world building process.
The world building process, for me, hauls in tandem with the accumulation of plot, character, and incident that develops into the story. The two processes interact with and feed each other. One doesn’t happen alone. I don’t build a world and then stick a story in it. I don’t come up with a plot and characters and then construct a world around them. The elements are completely intertwined such that I could not pull those characters and that plot out of one story and insert them into another, because characters and culture and thus their actions and reactions exist in a specific map.
In fact, it’s true: With world building, I always start with a map.
However, by that I don’t mean a map drawn on paper or in the computer. I don’t mean a physical, graphical map.
I mean I start by figuring out how the people in this made-up world perceive the cosmos and their place in it. There will almost certainly be more than one “people” in the world, and each “people” will have a unique way of understanding the cosmos and their relationship to their gods (if they have them), the natural environment, their culture, and to other people both within and outside their own culture.
I have to understand this “internal map” before I can proceed.
One way I do that is by asking questions, as I discuss in this post.
Another favorite technique of mine is to draw a geometric configuration that represents a way of looking at, understanding, unifying, or embodying a culture’s understanding of the cosmos. Many sacred buildings can be understood as physical embodiments of a culture’s understanding of the spiritual and sacred underpinnings of their world. So, for instance, I couldn’t move forward with writing Crown of Stars until I visualized the world and story. I ended up seeing them as two interlocking triangles. The three points of one triangle represented the spiritual and magical aspects of the world while the other triangle represented physical aspects of the world and story.
Because a visual structure appeals to the way my brain organizes information, I like sketching out a geometric representation, but that is just something that works for me. There are all kinds of ways to think about and relate to these concepts, nor is it necessary to think about them at all if that is not how the writer creates story. I mention this because I don’t want to imply that this is how one must or ought to proceed. I’m simply discussing how I personally create my worlds.
At the point at which I have a basic conception of the basic cosmology of the world (however artificially defined it may be), then I will usually draw a physical map of the terrain, the major landmarks, and population centers. Over the course of developing the story and writing the first draft, I will add to this graphical map.
But to paraphrase by quoting Alfred Korzybski, the physical map is not the territory in which the story takes place.
I don’t “start with a map” by placing mountains and rivers and cities on a piece of paper because physical landmarks offer only a partial understanding of a world. A physical map is by definition incomplete and circumscribed because it gives no insight into the mental and emotional and spiritual processes of the characters and the cultures in which those characters live their lives.
I’ve written about this kind of map-making here. The main point I want to draw from that post, in relation to this post, is how careful we have to be about the concept of a graphical representation—the physical map—as being objective. To quote Russell Kirkpatrick: “Maps are not value-free representations of the world.”
This is why the map I start with is the internalized map.
Every character in the story has an internal map through which they measure, comprehend, and navigate the world they live in. Their maps won’t be the same as every other character’s, and they won’t be the same as mine.
That is possibly the most important point.
To understand how “the peoples of my world” look at the world they “live in,” I have to move outside my own narrow range of experience. To a fair degree, I never can, but with conscious effort I can attempt to widen my view and shrink my limitations bit by bit and piece by piece. If I don’t think about the unconscious ways in which my understanding of the world is limited by my upbringing and its setting, and by my own cultural expectations and experiences and perceptions, then I will bring those unexamined assumptions into my world building (and I do indeed do this all too often despite my efforts not to).
I don’t write fantasy and science fiction only to be a mirror to my own experience of the world, even if my own experience strongly influences everything I write.
To quote myself, from the article referenced above:
If a place isn’t on YOUR map, the map in your mind of what matters about the world you want to write about, then you the writer can certainly not go to places you’ve never thought about, places you think don’t matter enough to warrant notice. Matters that aren’t visible to you.
I believe that it is crucial to pause and reflect on what may be invisible in your own personal map as well as the map you are creating.
So, yes, early on in the process I will draw a cartographical representation of the physical world. Yet for me, the most important “map” is bigger than that. It’s not flat, it’s multi-dimensional: A physical map intersects with this internal map, and these conjoined maps influence and are influenced by the architecture of the narrative as it unfolds. I cannot separate these three things as I write.
I got a box in the mail.
In it I found copies of the new Zysk (Poland) translation of Child of Flame, titled Dziecko Plomienia (there’s a slash through the ‘l’ but I don’t know how to get those letters on WordPress yet). I’m not quite sure what the cover has to do with the book, but I quite like the colors and design, and I’m delighted at the slightly larger paperback (the original versions of the first three books were regular mass market size).
Zysk also reissued King’s Dragon — Krolewski Smok — with a new cover.
Here’s the old cover, from the 2000 edition. Admire its 70s cheesy glory. Yes, she is bare-breasted. And don’t even think about how she is managing to sit on the dragon with its spiky spine ridge.
The new cover fits the design of book four, and I think it is quite wonderful:
I’m hoping Zysk may be re-releasing #2 and #3 with the new design and images as well, because they will make a striking set if they do. Stay tuned.
NOTE: These don’t embiggen. I grabbed them off the internets.