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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tasty Summer Reads Blog Hop

Welcome to the Tasty Summer Reads Blog Hop! 

I've been invited by the inimitable Kim Rendfeld, who did an amazing job coming up with recipes that sound delicious AND historically accurate. 

Here's how the hop works: Each author invites up to five other authors to answer five questions about their current summer release or WIP and a tasty recipe that ties into it. Below, I post links to the blogs of all the authors in the hop so far so you can add these awesome treats (and reads) to your to do list. I have invited the lovely and historical Patricia Bracewell (Anglo-Saxon England), Kathleen Rollins (prehistory), and Richard Abbott to join in the hop, and they should have their exotic recipes up soon, so just click on their names to see what they've got cooking.

About my novel, SEVEN NOBLE KNIGHTS:

When courageous, but hot-headed, young knight Gonzalo defends his pride at a wedding in tenth-century Spain, he unwittingly launches fifteen years of devastation on his homeland as the outraged bride wreaks a bloody revenge against him and his family. New hope for peace and justice comes from the unlikeliest place: Córdoba, the shining capital of Muslim Andalusia. Mudarra, our powerful young hero from this exotic civilization, looks just like his half-brother Gonzalo, but would rather catch falling almond blossoms as if they were snowflakes than face his own turbulent history. If Mudarra takes his jeweled sword to the throats of his betrayers, can he restore his family’s power and fulfill his purpose in life?

It's a family saga that will keep you turning pages the same way Game of Thrones keeps you coming back week after grueling week! It's a refreshing take when you hunger for history but tire of Tudors!

It's seeking representation at the moment, but rest assured I will let you all know when I get publication lined up. (Book scouts, publishers, and agents, please contact me!) In the meantime, check out the SNKL website and my publications and translations in the carousel, left sidebar. You'll be hard pressed to find such a variety of unusual books anywhere else.

Now for the Random Tasty Questions:

1) When writing, are you a snacker? If so, sweet or salty? 

I tend to be pretty ascetic when writing, but without snacks, I wouldn't get much editing done. There always comes a point in the afternoon, if I'm editing, when I can't live without a few mouthfuls of Goldfish. The crackers. Regular cheddar or parmesan flavors are the best, and they need a lot of water to wash them down!

2) Are you an outliner or someone who writes by the seat of their pants? And are they real pants or jammies? 

My contemporary stories have always been pantsed. When I was writing The Seven Noble Knights, I had a clear idea of where everything was going — because it's history — and I'm trying out an outline and research procedure for the next historical to see if I can save myself some time on the editing end. That may be spilling over into my contemporary ideas, or else my Muse is getting more organized. Will it work for me in the end? Time will tell.

Comfort is key. I can't imagine writing in real pants!

3) When cooking, do you follow a recipe or do you wing it? 

I'm meticulous about following the recipe when it's baking or it's something I've never tried before. If I'm familiar with how the dish works, I'll guess and eyeball and drive my husband bonkers before I'll ever refer to the recipe. 

4) What is next for you after this book? 

Right now I'm unusually overwhelmed with ideas. I'm researching my next historical novel, set some 40 years after my first, and along the way I'm finding tons of tidbits that would be perfect for a Seven Noble Knights sequel! That would begin a week or two after the end of the first novel, and extend for about five years, so 990-995 A. D. 

I also have a couple of contemporary projects percolating. One ties in with "Middle Awash in Talent" (to be published some time this year) and is about other people in that world with special "Talents." One is an even bigger secret... I haven't figured out how to really write in this hotel room, so it's hard to say when any of these projects will get off the ground, but I'm glad at least the inspiration hasn't left me.

5) Last question... on a level of one being slightly naughty and ten being whoo hoo steamy, how would you rate your book?

About a half a point. Sex is necessary to my plot, but I'm one of those writers who cringes at descriptions of intimate acts in books. Most of the sex in The Seven Noble Knights of Lara is behind closed doors. So at least it's suitable for youngsters in that regard! That said, the story does have love, intense, contradictory, passionate love.

I've experimented with medieval recipes before: a delicious meat-filled pastry and one really awesome loaf of bread that used ale instead of yeast to rise. Years ago, while living in Massachusetts, I also tried succulent, aromatic blancmanger. It was so tasty, I gave it to Ruy Blásquez to eat in Chapter III before his wedding. As a side note, making your own almond milk is fun but tiring!

I'm currently living in a hotel with only a kitchenette and no access to my cookbooks in storage, so I'll have to cheat and just copy this recipe from Medieval Cookery.

Recipe by 
This dish, a slightly sweet casserole of chicken and rice, was served all across Europe and appears in just about every medieval cookbook. While often described as being suitable for the infirm, it still found its place on the menus of coronation banquets and wedding feasts.

1 pound chicken 
4 cups cooked white rice (about 1 1/2 cup uncooked) 
1/2 cup almond milk 
1 cup water 
2 tsp. sugar 
1/2 tsp. salt 
1/4 tsp. ginger 
1/8 tsp. white pepper 

Boil chicken until very tender and allow to cool. Tease meat apart with forks until well shreadded. Put meat into a large pot with remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat until thick. Serve hot.

Source [Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books, T. Austin (ed.)]: lxxxij - Blamang. - Take Rys, an lese hem clene, and wasshe hem clene in flake Water, and than sethe hem in Watere, and aftyrward in Almaunde Mylke, and do ther-to Brawn of the Capoun aftyrward in-to a-nother almaunde Mylke, an tese it smal sumdele with a pyn, an euer as it wolt caste ther-to, stere it wel; nym Sugre and caste ther-to, then make it chargeaunt; then take blawn-chyd Almaundys, an frye hem, an sette hem a-boue, whan thou seruyst ynne; and 3if thou wolt, thou my3te departe hem with a Cawdelle Ferry y-wreten before, an than serue forth.

Source [Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books, T. Austin (ed.)]: Blamanger. Take faire Almondes, and blanche hem, And grynde hem with sugour water into faire mylke; and take ryse, and seth. And whan they beth wel y-sodde, take hem vppe, and caste hem to the almondes mylke, and lete hem boile togidre til thei be thikk; And then take the brawne of a Capon, and tese hit small, And caste thereto; and then take Sugur and salt, and caste thereto, and serue hit forth in maner of mortrewes.

Source [Forme of Cury, S. Pegge (ed.)]: Blank Maunger. XXXVI. Take Capouns and seeþ hem, þenne take hem up. take Almandes blaunched. grynd hem and alay hem up with the same broth. cast the mylk in a pot. waisshe rys and do þerto and lat it seeþ. þanne take brawn of Capouns teere it small and do þerto. take white grece sugur and salt and cast þerinne. lat it seeþ. þenne messe it forth and florissh it with aneys in confyt rede oþer whyt. and with Almaundes fryed in oyle. and serue it forth.

And here are the authors who've participated up to this point — be sure to check them out, too!

Thanks for hopping!

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Oldest Book

Note to Tasty Summer Blog Hoppers: I'll put up a tasty post on Wednesday!

You've tuned in for the grand finale of the bibliophilia series!

What could possibly top the greatest (and heaviest) book that has ever (temporarily) been in my possession?

Try the oldest book I have probably ever been in the same room with! I'm funny that way.

This encounter also happened during my year studying in England. When you're doing medieval studies, they tend to want to show you really old books, and I wasn't about to stop them. Our cohort took a field trip to Durham, a gorgeous medieval town in the North. Now that I live in North Carolina, I see signs for "Durham" all the time and can't help but feel a little more medieval. (I must be the only one for whom this Durham provokes that reaction!)

In what I think I remember as the castle library (or maybe the cathedral — they're right across from each other), a librarian had thoughtfully laid out an assortment of treasures for us students to gawk at. I remember the most popular item was a facsimile of the Book of Kells, certainly one of the most beautiful items ever produced by human hand.

A humble book? Or indignant about being placed on bubble wrap?
But my favorite was the autograph manuscript of Aelfric's Latin grammar. Aelfric — scholar, translator, monk — lived in the late tenth century and is one of the most intelligent people to ever walk the face of the Earth (that we have evidence for). "Autograph manuscript" means he wrote the whole thing out himself, so not only is this book a thousand years old, but it has that sense of recognition that so titillates the human brain. Aelfric, someone I'd studied, someone whose mark on the world is traceable, touched these incredibly ancient pages! It was like traveling through time. What other object can do that?

I can only describe the experience in terms of Emily Dickinson's definition of poetry: it made me feel like my scalp was being ripped straight off. All my hairs stood on end with the chills that passed through me. It's almost painful, the sharpening of the senses such objects provoke.

I looked surreptitiously around me and couldn't see anyone else having the same experience. No one else seemed to feel the same longing for this book, the same need to own some part of it. Some were even yawning!

I was using a simple little film camera (they used to have those!), and low speed film, so I waited for the tour to move on, set the flash, and darted in front of this most awe-inspiring of books. I did the deed that resulted in the picture in this post, and rejoined the group with an elevated heart rate and a sense of transgression.

I'm sorry I had no choice but to use a flash, which they worry degrades paper and paint over time. But I'm not sorry I have this picture, this representation of that moment when I was completely aware, totally present, so very much a part of a world of infinite beauty.

I imagine some people find this in drugs. Lucky me!

With regret, I must announce that this is the end of the bibliophilia series on this blog. I hope you enjoyed it. If I have any other book nirvanas, I'll be sure to let you know. Feel free to share your love of the physical book in the meantime!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Greatest Physical Book I Once Had in My Possession

Continuing my ode to the physical book, I can't stop before I talk about the most fun any master's degree student ever had!

I was in England, writing my thesis for my medieval studies degree, which was on the Cantigas de Santa María (c. 1252 - c. 1280). So of course I wanted to consult the facsimile — a copy that imitates the colors, size, and binding of the original book — of the Escorial T.I.1 codex, the famous Códice rico. All four surviving manuscripts of the Cantigas are deluxe, royal books, if you will, but the Códice rico is the most lavishly illustrated, complete with gold leaf and rare musical annotation.

Each song is accompanied by at least one full page of illustrations with six frames and, usually, captions, intended to be read in much the same way we use comics or graphic novels today. My primary concern was the way the pictures interact with and play off the text, and what that can tell us about the attitudes of the poets, the artists, and the compilers (as the nearest representatives of King Alfonso X's wishes).

They only printed a few thousand copies of this expensive facsimile in the mid-1980's, and the going price at the the time I used it was $5,000. When I requested it from the British Library depository at Boston Spa (very close to Leeds, where I studied), I expected them to ship it to my university library and then  to have to hoof it over there any time I wanted to consult it, for the length of the loan.

By what I can only assume was a lucky oversight or fluke, the interlibrary loan staffer handed the volume to me to take back home...!!!

It was raining lightly that day in May, and you can see that it's pretty hefty. If I had to guess, I'd say it weighed somewhere between 25 and 50 pounds. I wrapped my prize in my oversized coat to take the brunt of the water damage on me because I can dry off much more easily than this beautiful thing. Then I walked as fast as I could, over hill and dale, about a mile and half, back to my flat, with it clasped closely to me.

I can't believe I looked that young at any time during this millennium, but here's photographic evidence! Can you see the love in my eyes? I actually used this photo on a dating site, because I don't think another photo has ever been taken that better represents what I'm all about. The picture was taken at my flat some time in late May, June, or early July 2000, the happy two months when the facsimile resided with me.

The facsimile cover is overlaid with suede, so you can imagine the tactile delights! They simulated the gold leaf in the pictures, so I was more or less to required to stare at every page from every angle to see how it best caught the light. This book embodies everything that's beautiful about the Middle Ages: colors, architecture, graphic emotions, and of course, King Alfonso. It lived on my desk — and took up nearly all of its area — and I had the songs and the pictures practically memorized before long. Being that it's an exact facsimile, there are places where it looks torn or has holes, and that simulation was so delightful, I dare not think how I would feel in the presence of the original document.

When it was time to take it back, I waited until the very last day, and had my strong-armed English paramour (what a life!) carry it back to the library. I stopped at the color photocopier and laid that book right against the glass, then turned it in to interlibrary loan, where I think I remember a few looks of dismay. I doubt that book was ever loaned out again.

What could top this? Tune in on Monday for the grand finale of this bibliophilia series!

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Pleasures of Research

Another post in praise of physical books.

I recently got a borrower's card at the university library in order to do research for the next historical (and also find out more tidbits about SNKL). What an exciting day! I have to assume the experience was so ecstatic because it's been a long time since I was last in a high quality academic library. My husband was with me, observing at a distance, so I didn't lose my head entirely and spend all day there or attempt to cover myself up with a book tower or hit myself over the head with the larger volumes so as to get their wisdom by osmosis. I also needed him to rein me in because there's a limit to how many books a non-student can check out, so thanks, hon.

I made it out of there with two freshly printed books of history essays and two of three volumes of the book pictured above. The three volume set was printed in the 1970's, and I've fallen in love with it! It has that inimitable library smell I can never describe because it's the fragrance of everything lovable you can only find in a library. And the odor is aggressive, reaching out for your nose like a bunch of ripe peaches when you first open the bag.

Many have waxed poetic about the perfumes of old books, but these books are a complete five-sense experience. (Well, four: I haven't tasted one.) The glossy burgundy-colored leather of the cover has dried out in such a way as to make a hollow sound when you tap it. The thick pages have a soft feel from years of use and their yellowed edges don't lack a few unidentified stains. They make their own sound when turned, and then the relaxed spine mercifully stays open, making reading that much easier. Reading a book like this is another experience entirely from reading a new one, which is in another realm again from an ebook.

Aside from all that, these books are crammed so full of the information I've been looking for since I started writing SNKL. Did you know research for a non-erotica book could be so sensual? I didn't!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In Praise of the Physical Book

I jumped on the digital book bandwagon wholeheartedly in 2008, when my husband-to-be gave me a Kindle for my birthday. Thank goodness, because we've moved around so much and books aren't easy to move, and I've had such long periods living with my stuff in storage (now being one of those times). If I didn't have the portability of ebooks, I would be reading much less.


A physical book is such a magical object. No matter how cheap, a book doesn't have the same presence in the world as an anonymous table, for example. It's a physical artifact that can reach across time and give insights into other human beings as well as record information. It communicates with us profoundly after the most basic training. And of course, there's the possibility of pictures!

I've been feeling a little burned out from all the digitization lately, and then I went to a new writers group where they happened to be talking about the way staring at screens all day can ruin your eyesight. That decided me: in order to recharge, I would purchase and read an honest-to-God book that had already been edited by someone else, and just enjoy it.

I went last weekend to my local independent bookstore (which happens to be the beloved Quail Ridge -- amazing place!) and got Magnificence by Lydia Millet, an extraordinary writer I can't recommend enough. If I don't do a review of that book, it's only because I'm using it to get away from all those duties and just enjoy the act of reading, my chosen world. Just read it!

Behold the wonder of an actual book!
We saw some gadgets for sale in the store that accomplish with only the thumb what I'm doing here with thumb and pinky.

So, the dust jacket has that weird faux-skin feel you get from the new matte finish. It ooks me out a little, and I find myself holding the outside of the book by the rich yellow actual covers. They have that rough-smooth burlap texture you expect with an expensive hardcover. The spine is tight and resistant to opening, so the book demands to be touched in order to stay open. The pages have a razor-sharp edges that are already softening in this humid environment, and the letters stand out crisply from the the light creme-colored pages. The fragrance, typical to new books, must be actively sought out. When you do, you'll be welcomed with the fresh, sweet odors of the ink and glue and the potential for countless years of loving use.

New book bliss.

What type of book appreciator are you? I'm definitely a "cherisher." Find out here.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Gary Bonn, Author of The Evil and the Fear

Gary Bonn has achieved publication in a very contemporary way. He's here today to share his experience and his book, The Evil and the Fear.

JK: This isn't the first book you've published. Did that have an effect on your journey?

GB: Getting The Evil and the Fear published was not easy, even on the back of Expect Civilian Casualties and all the reviews and attention it generated. It seems having one book published does not make you hot property.

JK: It's rough out there! What makes your publisher unique?

GB: The publisher, Firedance Books, is prepared to look at work that is out of the safe zone of big publishers hit by recession – who often fall back on “safe sales”. Firedance likes ground-breaking, not formulaic. But my telling the story of a psychotic 17-year-old girl may have had even them fainting around the board table. Writing the story certainly burned a few of my neurons out.

JK: How so?

GB: When writing Expect Civilian Casualties, I had to spend months in the head of Jason (the main character) in order to write his story. Like an actor, a writer has to be the principle character, the main characters and the rest. I would walk downstairs and think, how would Jason, at 17, walk down these... why? How would he switch a kettle on? (and, given Jason’s mind), how would he feel about kettles/electricity/kitchens – or even being in a house? He struggles with most of these, and has a particularly hard time with televisions and entering buildings. However, in his own environment he’s breathtaking, oozing confidence and enthusiasm. The contrast was wonderful to work with.

JK: What was it like for you to be a 17 year old woman with serious problems? 

GB: Being Beatha (pronounced ‘BAY-ah’) in The Evil and the Fear was a wonderful roller-coaster ride. I spent months immersed in her mind. But, like a real person, she took over her character, told me what she did and how she felt about herself and the world... I merely recorded everything. Oddly, it’s not her great struggle, or how she inspired people around her, that make me love Beatha. Instead, it’s the little things she did, lying on her bed and crying over a map, drawing on the hand of a friend, and that manic moment in which she scrambled the minds of two police officers who wanted a statement. Take four ordinary people, put them in extraordinary situations and they’ll make a story for you. James’s firework personality, his heroics, Mark’s gentle, but unshakable, loyalty, Ailie’s mischief and enthusiasm for life... characters are so real when you’re immersed in them. Characters taking over a book? Oh yes.

JK: Do the characters often take over from you?

GB: I’m working with another writer on a collaborative three part SF series at the moment (samples here). We intended it to be an action story aimed at men. However, the character Jeanette, trapped in an abusive marriage, struggling with rapid promotion as a fighter pilot, and trying to get her little girls through a war, stormed into the story and made it clear she was the main focus. How did that happen Who cares? The audience is enthusiastic and growing. Men and women alike are going to WriterLot each week to see what happens next.

JK: If only the characters could get themselves published, too, right?

GB: As some of you will know, writing is immersive, addictive and can take over your life. Getting your work published, however, is unbelievably hard. A tiny fraction of new writers find it easy through luck perhaps, but the rest of us must struggle for years to get noticed.

Hurray for Firedance – an adventurous publisher. A glance at Tales of the Shonri, The Walker’s Daughter, Out of Nowhere, Stillness Dancing, etc, is a bit of a hint. 

Firedance also seem to have read the market well – judging by the reviews on the books they publish.

JK: How do they treat their authors?

GB: They are pretty demanding of the writers. We're expected to critique the other Firedance writers’ work, beta read, structurally edit, copy edit, proof read... and keep up with social networking and current work from other publishers.

However, Firedance is totally committed to the author – and give unrivaled support. What other publisher  helps a writer in the very beginnings of an idea? or puts so many readers and structural editors on the writer’s work? I’m sure there are a few – but being part of the Firedance stable is an inspiration in itself.

JK: What else are you working on?

GB: What happens after the Evil and the Fear? Well, I have another YA, two fantasy and two post-apocalyptic books written and awaiting publication. That will probably take years. The SF series is most likely to go out first as it has such a following.

Christy and I have yet to write the third story, though we’ve planned it thoroughly. Two people working on one project is mind blowing – I recommend collaboration to any writers out there. We hope the book is a similarly exciting experience for the reader. Watch this space! :)

JK: Thank you for stopping by with your adventurous stories and adventures in publishing.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dedication and Revision -- Shh!

Robert Greene, author of Mastery, says, "It’s not the fact that you’re born a genius, or that you have a larger brain. It’s the level of dedication and persistence and patience." Amen!

I'm the sort of person who goes along just fine, but once someone remarks on how hot it is, I start to melt. 

My dedication to writing is dogged. I read a lot about how writers have to persist (and persist), and how if we really love it, we'll never be discouraged. Honestly, my patience is pretty organic and I think I do much better when I'm not reading about how I should be doing it. I mean, these pep talks are inspiring, but they also point out the long road ahead. The difficulty of the chosen path, I find, is best ignored. It's just easier when you don't dwell on the rough time you're having.

But, if you've reached a goal, then it's okay to acknowledge just how arduous it was to get there. Case in point: my query letter is probably the hardest thing I ever had to write, and now it's on display. It will probably be changed again soon, so it may be premature to reflect on all the difficulties involved. For now, let's just say I think people who can write good query letters should make careers out of writing them for other novelists so we can get back to our stories!

And also, I totally do all the great things listed here. I really do! Well, most of them...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Citric Lovers and Rejections

I thought it would feel like this, with me as the small snowman.
Not yet...
Two weeks ago, the only agent I had a real "in" with politely rejected my query for SNKL. I thought I would cry and scream at the unfairness of such a sad event, but really, it's just gone into the little black box where all the rejections have gone. I'd thought just sending out made the whole process real, but I guess I've assimilated that already. For it to get real again, I'll need a positive response.

My favorite poet, Manolo García, has a wonderful song about accepting rejection, which I partially translate below:

"The Citric Lovers" [Not lovers of citrus, but lovers who are made of orange]
I had a love, and I'll have others
but today eating takes up my time
because boys don't cry
the world is so big with its four corners. [There are more fish in the sea.]
So full of possibilities and challenges,
so full of corners to sniff around in,
and of so many beautiful women.
I had a love, or thought I did.
I've been walking alone since daybreak
and new vastness will open up out of this slow road.
I stupidly believed that an orange in love
is half a sphere
belonging to another half sphere. [This is the popular Spanish image for the concept of "soul mates." One's partner is often called one's "half an orange."]
Although late, I discovered that art exists,
and that it consists of citric lovers
making a move at more or less the same time.

Isn't that the truth? All the ducks have to be in a row, all the pieces have to fit, for the magic to take place, with love, with finding an agent, with everything.

If I keep submitting (and getting rejected) at my current rate, I'll be out of possible agents before the end of the year. Cross your fingers I won't run out! And of course, I have something up my sleeve...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Translating and Discovering Tree/House

The Tree/House cover was originally of a tiger butterfly, so I always wanted to put butterflies in the post when I finally announced its translation into Spanish. This is a Blue Morpho, which is to say that it looks blue on this side, but on the other side it's a dingy brown with motes and a big spot on each side that's supposed to look like a scary eye. So this butterfly has two different faces, just like Tree/House, now in English and Spanish. This is the kind of parallelism you'll find throughout the book.
When you translate a book, you get intimate with it in a way that's not comparable with anything else, except maybe those uncomfortable times when a relative hugs you too tight, if you know what I mean. I have always wanted Tree/House to be available in Spanish, but because it's already flesh of my flesh, I couldn't translate it myself.

I did, however, edit the translation I had a couple of other people do, and that editing has caused me to experience the book in a new way. I frequently laughed out loud when I came across key phrases, sometimes because they were funnier in Spanish, and sometimes just because it was so exhilarating to see my dream come true.

First cover of the English edition
I always thought the book would make more sense in Spanish. I wasn't sure why, but I felt certain I wouldn't get the odd-stare-type responses I've had from some readers in English. Reading the translation, I think I've figured out why: some of the passages appear to be straight out of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, a surrealist film by Luis Buñuel, a Spaniard. I've written a surrealist masterpiece without even realizing it! I now strongly believe that Tree/House is written on the same foundations as surrealist and absurdist texts. How did it get that way? I blame having been forced to read twentieth century literature in school when all I really wanted was to dig into medieval texts I didn't yet have access to.

One core tenet of both surrealism and absurdism is that the art should disturb the reader or viewer. I'd always wondered where I got that apparent mean-streak-need to disrupt reader expectations. Again, blame twentieth-century literature for teaching me that I need to pay attention to my muse at the expense of reader comfort. Tree/House's disruptive yearning is apparent in its dissected title. The translated title means "A Home in the Trees," which has a lot less disruptive impact and points instead to what I'm trying to do in the book when you get past the weirdness.

The new cover by
Amygdala Design
What I'm trying to do is show through metaphors and Jungian archetypes (see the book club guide) that we've all been asleep and now is the time to awaken to our possibilities for growth, creativity, and, ultimately, empowerment. Those noble intentions probably kept me from seeing the absurdist tendencies of it, because I find most texts in that tradition to lack "redeeming" values. I've also had a surprise recently, when my friend and excellent author Seymour Hamilton read it and kindly reported to me that he didn't "get" it. I directed him to the book club page, and he was then able to fit it into his conceptual framework in a very flattering way -- in its symbolism, he said it was similar to Pans' Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro! Love that film!

In the opposite way the girl in that film navigates a horrifying reality by responding to a complex dream world, Emma in Tree/House has let her dreaminess drag her through situations that negate her personhood. She has to break out of all the weirdness and find either the real world or one of her own making. It doesn't matter a lot, but in either case, Emma's new world must be free of the indecision and lack of confidence that has stood her in such ill stead.

Yup, I wrote this in my early twenties, mostly for myself.

I'm now prepared to do guest lectures on this book in undergraduate absurdism or Jungian criticism seminars. The graduate ones will have to wait a bit longer...

All of this is just to say that Un hogar en los árboles is available in ebook -- at last, at last! It seriously is the realization of a dream for me and I can't emphasize enough how happy I am with the quality of it and with it finally seeing the light of day.

Here's the Kindle version. Paperback coming soon. And the English version is already available for your enlightened enjoyment!

Happy Fourth of July tomorrow!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Old Castle, New Ideas

The castle at Monzón de Campos, Palencia, Spain
I've got query letters at agencies and a couple of new readers for The Seven Noble Knights of Lara (translation: I'm feeling horribly exposed!).

I've read that the best remedy for any anxiety that kind of exposure can cause is to start a new project. I always have a million projects going at once, but I'm relieved to find I can sift through the nerves and find the spark of creativity for another historical novel. Yup, there were several moments when I swore I'd never do another historical, but there it is. I've written the first words and now plan to follow the advice of the QueryTracker blog and write a synopsis before I seriously begin the writing of the novel. I started SNKL kind of haphazardly and it caused some real head-scratchers for the editing process. I hope a pre-writing synopsis will remove that painful step from the whole novel process.

The inspiration for those few words I've written already come from the castle pictured above. It's a pretty unassuming, typical structure, but oh, the drama it's seen! Online sources say it's been around for a really long time, but as yet I haven't unearthed any sense of what the castle may have looked like during the time of my new book. The best news is that it's been refurbished and I think people can actually stay in it as a hotel. To me, that sounds like the best way to figure out how to present it in a novel.

So let's all work on making a research trip to northern Spain a reality in the not-to-distant future!