Part three of my interview with Barbara

Today is part three of my interview with Barbara Friend Ish and we’re discussing the future and some books. Part one of this interview is here and part two is here.

Amy: Barbara and I discussed this first question a bit in this post, which actually led to this interview.

Amy: As we’ve chatted about briefly in blog comments, change is never easy but a necessary part of life. What are you looking forward to most in 2014?

Barbara: To finally having a healthy creative life. If I very nearly broke my creativity over the past few years, the experiences I’ve had and the things I’ve learned have taught me so much about the business that I no longer feel I must bring the business stuff into my creative space. I don’t worry about those things any more; they’re a job I know how to do. And after so many years of putting the needs of others ahead of my own creative work, whether as a parent or as a publisher, I finally have the opportunity to put making art in the center of my days.

I’m also looking forward to increasing creative work with my most recent business partner and creative collaborator, Rachael Murasaki Ish. By 2014, all the work we do will be our individual projects, joint projects, or the business stuff involved in bringing our creative work to market. We’ve spent the past several years getting the kinks out of our professional relationship; now we’re ready to have fun.

Amy: I love sneaking a peek at people’s bookshelves. What are you reading right now and is there a book you can’t wait to get to?

Barbara: I just finished reading Scott Anderson’s brilliant Lawrence in Arabia, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. As a public-school kid I got far too little 20th century historical education, and it has made clear a lot of things that were fuzzy to me. That has led me to pick up T.E. Lawrence’s The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which is much richer for that context.

As for reading I can’t wait to get to: I missed out on a lot of fiction, particularly genre fiction, during the past few years. There just wasn’t time for pleasure reading. I am very much looking forward to the leisure to read for pleasure again.

Amy: OK, I can’t let you leave here without asking a most important question. What is your favorite book? And yes, it can be more than one.

Barbara: Oh my! So many favorites. Novels that are special to me include Patricia McKillip’s lovely Riddle of Stars series, which finally came back into print a couple years ago; Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, in part because Pynchon sees your genre definitions and just doesn’t care; and Dan Simmons’ Hyperion. I remain in love with my personal memory of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, because I read it when I was still a young enough reader that it couldn’t make Editor Brain twitchy. As so often happens, my memory of that series is more pleasant than the experience of re-reading.

Nonfiction that lights me up includes Campbell’s venerable The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Hughes’ Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being, and Fred Allen Wolfe’s Parallel Universes. Really, I could go on. Are we friends on Goodreads? You can find me here

Thank you so, so much for inviting me to chat! It’s always such a treat to talk with you.

Amy: And thank you for taking the time to answer these questions for me. It’s been so much fun working with you on this little project. Now, I have to go find my copy of Lawrence of Arabia on my shelf, google a few books…if you need me, I’ll be reading. 🙂


Talking with Barbara, Part Two

Today is part two of my interview with Barbara Friend Ish, author of The Way of the Gods series and publisher over at Mercury Retrograde Press. Today, we’ll be talking about her books. Part one of this interview where we talked about the writing process, is here.

Amy:  I enjoyed The Shadow of the Sun immensely and I’m looking forward to the second book in The Way of the Gods series. Can you tell us a bit about The Heart of Darkness? Anything interesting we have to look forward to? What’s Ellion up to, or should I say, what kind of trouble is he in now?

Barbara: Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the ride, and it’s truly kind of you to say. The Heart of Darkness picks up roughly an hour after the end of The Shadow of the Sun, and all hell breaks loose in short order. This time there are four points of view: Ellion, Iminor, Letitia, and a new character, Leahy. Ellion is still arguing with—well, pretty much everyone. Iminor is unbelievably mad at Letitia. Along the way we’ll encounter traders, pirates, wizards and a variety of unsanctioned practitioners of magic, smiths, priests, shapechangers, and gods: some of whom we’ll meet in the underworld. And Nechton, of course.

You may be surprised by the number of people trying to kill Ellion. Then again, you’ve met him, so you may not. 🙂

Amy: Can I just say, PIRATES! I can’t wait. Thanks for sharing that tidbit. 🙂

Amy:  The first book in The Way of the Gods series is a very vivid story — characters and landscapes that I picture very clearly. Have you ever thought about making it into a graphic novel?

Barbara: I think that would be a really fun project! But I’m not particularly handy with a pencil, so someone else would have to do the drawing. I get the sense from artists I’ve spoken with that a graphic novel is such a huge enterprise from the visual side that anyone capable of drawing one would rather be drawing her own work. Maybe I just haven’t encountered the right artist yet… 

Amy: The business of writing. I hear people say this a lot, some in respect to the habit of writing itself (writing as if it were a job) and the actual business stuff that goes along with writing, like taxes, etc. For you, it’s been a much different journey, especially in your role as an independent publisher. Can you talk about the experience of being a writer and a publisher and what led to your starting Mercury Retrograde Press and the decision to close the press in 2014?

Barbara: Writing is a business—but first it’s an art. I think showing up in the study every day is an important practice because it keeps the creative juices flowing, but to expect to hold an artist to production schedules is destructive, and results in lousy art.

That being said, once a project is in the can, it is a product, and selling it is a business. Also, and I am far from the first person to say this, an artist is a brand. (Ugh. But it’s true.) And that brand must be managed and promoted, and those too are business activities. These activities on the business side of the writing life absolutely should be managed as business; it’s appropriate to set goals (though for your sanity and the sake of your creative life, it’s important to set goals that are within your sphere of influence) and schedules and budgets. But it’s important to do all of it with the understanding that, when those business practices come to have negative impact on the creative side of the operation, the business is slitting open the golden goose.

Where did this albatross around my neck come from? Ahem.

You’re right, though: I’ve had a different business journey in this area than most writers. For years I was a writer and an editor—first as a freelancer, then as one half of the consulting team of Be Mused Author Services, a company dedicated to providing education and services to self-publishing authors and small press publishers. Be Mused was a long time ago: before Kindle and CreateSpace and Smashwords had even been conceived. We all still thought Amazon was a benevolent entity. Independent publishing was a wilderness, and my business partner and I spent a lot of time trying to teach publishers and self-publishing writers how not to make a complete hash of what they were attempting. And I spent a lot of time editing novels over which I had no control, because I was just an independent contractor.

It used to make me crazy. Anybody who has seen a Mercury Retrograde Press book knows my standards are, um, high. And here were all these self-publishing authors pulling the plug on the editorial process long before those books were ready for market, whether because they were tired of the editorial process or for reasons I can’t imagine. I still shudder to think of my name being associated with some of those projects.

Meanwhile, of course, I had long since become convinced that independent publishing was the future; watching mainstream publishing implode in the nineties and analyzing what had gone wrong made it clear to me that the only way to do art was at smaller scale. I had reluctantly concluded that there was not likely to be a match between the work I wanted to do as a writer and the sort of risks big publishers could afford to take for years, possibly decades, to come. So the question of what my ideal publishing house looked like was already rolling around in my head.

Finally these two sets of frustrations came together: I realized the only way I was ever going to be satisfied by the work I was doing as an editor would be if I was the publisher as well: if I was the one who got to say when a work was or was not ready for the world; if I got to say when I was prepared to put my own name on it.

It was far from my first start-up business; it wasn’t even the first time I’d been one of the principals. It was, however, the first time the vision of an enterprise was wholly mine.

I never doubted that the work I was doing mattered. Mercury Retrograde became a safe port for high-risk projects and writers, and I was happy and proud to create that haven. Throughout Mercury Retrograde’s life I was continually engaged in troubleshooting the problems of small press publishing for participants on both sides of the desk—and the problems of artists trying to operate in a business setting. Year by year we improved what we were doing; by this year I had absolutely cracked the code on how to operate a publishing business that could be healthy for everyone involved, in a way that could be sustainable long-term. The only flaw in the plan was that it required a full-time publisher, not a part-time one. And I knew I couldn’t live that life, because I am a writer first.

It made me very sad to realize I needed to shut Mercury Retrograde down. And it also saved my life. Artists can’t thrive if they can’t do their best art. Running the best publishing house in the world is doubtless someone’s best art, but as passionately as I loved the idea, it wasn’t mine.

Amy:  What was your most memorable moment as a publisher? What will you take away from the whole experience?

Barbara: Oddly, my most memorable moment as a publisher had to do with the publication of my own work: the day we started taking wholesale orders for my novel. The two halves of my professional life had collided in those orders coming off the fax: as a publisher, I had a book that was exceeding expectations before launch; and the book in question was mine. It blew my mind.

There are so many lessons and blessings I will take away from my Mercury Retrograde years; I’m profoundly grateful for the experience, and for the support of the people—notably my husband and family—who made it possible. All the things I learned from Mercury Retrograde will make it possible for me to move forward with the business side of my writing life with confidence, and they have made me a better editor as well. More than anything else I’m grateful for the friends I’ve made on the journey. I know so many writers who go to conventions and book festivals to work. I get to go see my friends. I may work my tail off while I’m there and come home exhausted, but I do it in the context of a community to which I belong. Any geek can understand how profound that experience feels.

Amy: Join us on Sunday the 29th as we wrap up part three of this interview with some talk about the future, and of course, books.

Interview with Barbara Friend Ish – Part One

An interview! A first here at Just Book Reading — I promised changes and this interview is the kickoff in that new direction.

First, I want to thank Barbara for taking the time to answer a few questions for me. She’s been incredible generous with her time and I very much appreciate her participating in this little experiment.

Before we get to part of one of the interview, a few words about Barbara. She’s the founder of Mercury Retrograde Press, an entrepreneur, writer, businesswoman and incredibly creative person. Barbara is the author of The Shadow of the Sun, the first book in The Way of the Gods series. Her second book in the series, The Heart of Darkness, is in the works. Her full bio is here and I encourage to head over to Mercury Retrograde Press and take a look around as well.

Part one of the interview will focus on the writing process. And, we begin!

Amy @ Just Book Reading: Let’s start with the writing. Every author has a different approach to the writing process. Can you tell us how you prepare to write and a bit about your process, if there is one? Is it different for each book or do you have a system you try to follow?

Barbara Friend Ish: To call how I proceed a system would be to over-glorify it. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer by nature; as I’ve developed my craft, I’ve leaned to do more with planning, but I will never be the sort of writer who outlines before writing and then sticks with the outline. I’ll never be at all efficient.

I generally start a project with a question. These questions aren’t always intended as story fodder; sometimes they’re just mysteries that intrigue me which eventually find their ways into story. The series I’m working on now, The Way of the Gods, began with questions about the nature of godhood: If gods (note the plural) exist, where would they come from? What would be the source of their power? Once I’ve got a question knocking around in my head, I start reading sources that I hope will provide answers. I begin to work on theories. I suppose you might consider this activity worldbuilding, in the sense that I’m working out the rules and frameworks within which my story will play out.

Meanwhile, the things I’m reading and thinking about begin to suggest characters to me. As writers we know that the protagonist of any story is the one who suffers the most at the hands of the story problem; so the characters and the story problem, which may or may not be the same issue as the question that began this mess, evolve simultaneously. Bits of plot and conflict erupt like popcorn thunderstorms in my fevered little head. Finally I reach the point where I’ve got so much half-formed idea in my head, so much sketched-in plot, that I conclude I know what the story is about and where it’s going to end up, and I start thinking about the place to begin. Once I’ve got that, I jump in and start writing.

I generally write approximately two drafts. I say approximately because I write a first draft, a discovery draft, in a way that seems to be pretty normal: just writing forward, telling myself the story. When I finish that draft, I know what the story is really about, so I sit down and do in-depth analysis and plot planning, and then write a second draft.

My second draft process is not normal. I write generally forward rather than skipping around, but I tinker endlessly with what has already been written. By the time I get to the end of the second draft, I’ll have been over a given scene multiple, sometimes dozens of times. At this point each scene will be as developed as I can make it without input from other eyes, so I don’t do another edit pass at this point. I go to review: my first readers, who typically have already seen chunks of the novel during development, and then my beta readers.

These early readers are invaluable. They allow me to see the story from other angles, detect story flaws and missed opportunities and places where the words just didn’t work the way I thought they did. I take in all their notes and objections, make whatever changes are necessary, and then the book goes to editorial.

Believe it or not, this is a very condensed version of the lunacy. Rather than take over your blog I’ve gone into more detail on my own, here.

Amy: Go read. We’re going to discuss more about the writing process over at Barbara’s blog. We’ll be here when you get back with more of the interview.

Amy:  What inspires you as a writer and how do you nurture your creativity?

Barbara: Nurturing creativity is not something for which I should be held up as an example. I’ve done a rotten job of it for myself in the past few years; an ironic contrast to how hard I worked to create a safe environment for creative folk at Mercury Retrograde. All the rules I made there seemed to apply to everyone but me, and that’s no one’s fault but my own.

So, do what I say, not what I do.

What I know I need to nurture my creativity is pretty much the opposite of how we are told professional artists should behave. I’ve participated in workshops for writers that consciously cultivated a boot-camp attitude. The Next Big Thing for writers is the idea—and associated practices—of producing ten thousand words a day. I have great admiration for writers who are able to create art under those circumstances. But those practices are not for everyone, and it is possible to be a thriving professional without them. Productivity does not presuppose misery. For me, the periods of greatest productivity have happened when I’ve put no pressure whatsoever on myself to produce. When I’ve actually been happy, and have viewed the work as a sort of serious play.

Serious play? I will try to explain. I need—I think most people, and creative people especially, feel this too–to feel the work I’m doing is important; that it matters. It can verge on a spiritual practice. All of this is a roundabout way of saying that I view what I’m doing, on both sides of the desk, as art: not entertainment to be consumed and forgotten, but work that will have impact on the people who receive it, that will stay with them long after they set down the book. The ideas I’m exploring matter to me—and, conversations with readers suggest, to people who enjoy my work as well. This sense of making art, of doing something that matters, is for me the first prerequisite of a healthy creative life.

Other needs include a quiet, safe space in which to work (though early in my career I wrote at a desk in my children’s playroom, wearing headphones and listening to ear-bleeding alt-rock to drown out all but the noises that required my attention)—and the sense that I’m not stealing time from someone who needs it more. I go to great lengths to create the feeling that the world can’t see me when I’m in my writing space. I need that sense in order to be able to write true, without worrying about what this person or that will think about the story as it evolves. Because the minute I let those sorts of concerns into the room, I must abandon making art, because art stripped of unflinching truth is popular entertainment. And the big-box stores are full of that already.

What inspires me as a writer: questions; mysteries. All the things I can’t quite understand, and that includes topics ranging from the grand unified theory of physics to the inner workings of my husband’s mind. My ideal story includes both those topics, which is why I work in speculative fiction: this genre has been described as the literature of ideas, and in many cases it’s only through the tools available to us in genre that I can get at the ideas I want to explore.

Amy: Into every book goes a bit of research. What type of research do you enjoy the most and what’s the most interesting fact you’ve come across?

Barbara: When you work in spec fic, more than a bit of research! They used to say in Department of Defense contracting (and maybe they still do, but I don’t know) that the plane wouldn’t fly until the documentation weighed as much as the aircraft itself. At least for me, every paragraph on the page is the result of at least the same amount of research material read.

I love the research that lights up my imagination. There are people who delight in digging into original source materials to find the least atom of data; I prefer broader sweeps of information. I like to put totally unrelated ideas together and come up with unpredictable results; I like to read history or science or esoteric literature or any of a dozen other topics and follow the little sparks of ideas that emerge–into story ideas that not only will no one else ever have, but which I wouldn’t have at any other point in my life.

It’s hard to isolate a single most interesting fact, because there are so many. I think my favorite ideas are tied up with the word egregore, which is an esoteric concept signifying a thought construct: literally, something that never existed until someone thought it up, and which would cease to exist in the absence of people’s belief in it.

Modern currency is an egregore. Those pieces of paper we exchange for food at the grocery store are worthless, except that we all agree they have value. The electronic currency that threatens to replace it is more esoteric yet.

I can’t be held responsible for what will happen to your mind if you follow the concept of the egregore through its various applications to its logical conclusion. But I can guarantee it’s an unforgettable ride, and that’s why it’s arguably my favorite.

Amy: I know you have a few pets, cats, I believe. While I don’t have any cats myself, I know a few with very strong personalities. Do any of their personality traits ever show up in a character? Also, do you have pics to share? I’m a sucker for pet photos. 🙂

Barbara: I am a cat person. I cannot recall a period during my adult life that was longer than a couple weeks during which I didn’t do the bidding of at least one cat. Presently I am slave to two cats: brothers and littermates Fergus and Niall.

Fergus and Niall office

Fergus and Niall Xmas

(Fergus is fluffy; Niall is not.) Because I live in the part of Atlanta that is frequented by coyotes, their idea of the great outdoors is my second-floor deck. But they spend their days protecting me just the same.

I’ve known writers who reincarnated their pets as characters. I’ve edited books in which that happened, though I’m not going to out those writers here. But for the life of me I can’t draw any substantive connection between any cat I’ve ever known and any character I’ve ever written.

For what it’s worth, it’s the same with the humans in my life. Although I know people who would tell you they were the inspirations for certain aspects of certain characters in my work.

Amy: Thanks, Barbara, for talking about your writing process and sharing photos! We’ll be back on the 27th with part two. Join us on Friday.

Sad, Yet Inspired by Choices

I want to talk about a small publisher, Mercury Retrograde Press. The founder, Barbara Friend Ish, made the announcement recently that she’s closing down the press at the start of 2014. You can read her post here. I’m saddened by the news because I was introduced to this publisher, and it’s amazing group of writers, earlier this year by another blogger (Elizabeth at Darkcargo) and I’m sad to know the press won’t be around to continue publishing great books. That said, I’m happy to hear that the closing of the press will actually mean more books to read. Strange thing to say, I know.

One of the reasons Barbara gives as part of her decision (which I’m sure had to be heartbreaking) is to have more time to continue her own writing. Writing I very much enjoyed earlier this year when a group of us got together to read and talk about The Shadow of the Sun, her first book in The Way of the Gods series. As a means of disclosure, I also offered to help give this press some bloggy love this year — something I’m still going to do by means of reading another of the press’s authors and buying (stocking up!) a few books before the end of the year. I may also see if I can get Barbara to answer a few questions for me that I’d post here. I need to see if she’d be willing. Barbara?

Here’s the thing. Change is something we all need. I’ve been feeling this for a long while, and though there are significant parts of my life that probably won’t change, but one of these changes I want to enact is more writing. I’ve been saying for a very long time (even I’m sick of hearing myself say it) that I want to expand my writing. I want to look for new opportunities. I’ve started writing some fiction of my own; it all sucks, thanks for asking, but it’s fun. I want to keep doing it because I’ve been told it will (should/maybe some day) get better. Either way, I need to give up a few things in order to do more writing.

Lately, I’ve been reading slow. Incredibly slow. I mentioned last week that I finally finished George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons (the 5th book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series) and instead of rushing to finish it, I spent over 10 days with this book. Yes, I was rushing to finish it in the end (just to be done for the love of god — it was 1100 pages) but not because I needed to write a review of it. In fact, I’ve been thinking and I’m not sure I’m going to write a review. And if I do, finally, write a review, it’s not going to be a traditional review. I’m stepping away from that. I’m not going to do it anymore. It’s my change.

I’m still writing reviews for another site (The BookReporter), and I plan to continue that because I enjoy it but I don’t want to repeat what I do for another group for myself. I also stopped accepting review books for this blog. NOTE: If you sent me an email and never heard back, this is why. I posted this months ago and I’m tired of replying with the same email and you’re tired of reading the same email. Good? Good. Nothing personal. If I’m interested in the book, you’ll get a reply. 

Read slow. Write more. Repeat.

This has nothing to do with anything but I’ve gone back to practicing yoga. It’s been phenomenally freeing. I never thought I’d be able to find solace in 75 quiet minutes of breathing, and yet, I have, in a most extraordinary way. I found I’m full of ideas; ideas that want to be on paper instead of in my head. And, these thoughts, are not about books. I kinda like that. It’s not that I don’t love me some books (hello!?) but there are topics that need to be explored. I want to see where the path leads.

Basically, this means that while this will remain a book blog (primarily) you might be seeing some other things like posts about cooking (I do a lot of it), yoga, and probably a few podcasts. It might also be about my writing because I’m finding truth in that old saying — when you finally start calling yourself a writer, you start treating yourself like one. That means writing. I plan to do it.

So, it means I won’t be going back to a regular posting schedule and there won’t be standard reviews here anymore. If I love a book, I’ll still tell you all about though.

Finally, what changes are going on in your lives? I feel I haven’t talked to all of you in a long while. I guess taking time out to contemplate does that. 🙂

The Shadow of the Sun Read Along – Part 5

The Shadow of the SunIt’s week five of The Shadow of the Sun read along. Also, the end of the read along so I’m writing this post with a glass of wine to celebrate the conclusion of a good book. This week, we’re covering chapters 29 – end. Once again, thanks to nrlymrtl of Dab of Darkness for putting together the questions.

As a side note, this has been a fun read along and I’m looking forward to book two more than ever. I’ll be doing a review soon and tying together a few of the posts because if you haven’t heard of this one, I’m going to try and make sure you do.

1) These final chapters show us much more of Iminor’s character and his growing Talent. What stuck out the most for you about how he handled the various exploding aspects of his life?

It’s hard to say. On one hand, he’s calm about all that’s happening to him and seems to be taking it in stride, as if he knew something like this might happen along the way. The seething hatred he’s nurturing toward Ellion may be a side effect of the stress he’s feeling (and Ellion’s night activities with Letitia which he has to know about) and I think he’s channeling that stress into not dealing with the problems with his growing Talent. As with the other Tan, he’s pretty good at hiding some, not all, of his feelings and I think he’d doing that and putting up a front so no one really knows what’s going on with him. I don’t see good things for him though in the future though.

2) While Rohini is a late addition to the party, she is an interesting one. What aspect of her character or objectives would you like to see more of in forthcoming book(s)?

I want her to kick more ass. That is all. Thank you. 🙂

3) Amien has been managing and maneuvering Ellion quite a bit in this last section. What do you think his motivations are?

Amien. I don’t know what to think of him. I want to like him, and in some respects, I can and do appreciate his skills, but I don’t trust him. He’s incredibly manipulative and that shows in the way he’s been treating Ellion. I don’t know what he’s up to and maybe he doesn’t know either which is why he’s pushing Ellion so hard. Or maybe he knows something that no one else does and that’s his motivation. Secrets, secrets…

4) Letitia continued to learn more about her abilities, but everyone agrees she still lacks the ability to go toe to toe with Nechton. What more would you empower her with?

Confidence. Loads and loads of it. I think she’s got some skill but having been groomed for something all her life, she’s not confident in the end goal. While she certainly has her convictions and very distinct lines of right and wrong, as well as a healthy respect for duty and responsibility, she’s not mentally equipped to deal with what she has to face. Does it sound like I’m worried about her? A bit. Not sure she has what it takes, although I’m hoping she pulls out all the stops in the end.

Also, another thing that sort of worries me, she makes bad choices. I won’t name him, oh why not, Ellion! How many times can she keep showing up naked with this boy.

As a note to clarify, I complain because I like it. 🙂 I’m totally enjoying all the bad choices they’re gettin’ on here.

5) Throughout this entire book, the deities have played an important, if a backseat driver, role. As a reader, how has this worked for you in the world-building/plot department?

I’ve enjoyed the way the gods have been interacting with the characters. On a larger scale, it’s set a tone for the book and shows just how important the gods are in the characters’ lives and the driving force, even on the sidelines, they can be.

Ellion’s making choices based on what he thinks the gods want but he doesn’t really know what they want, and no matter, he’s still guessing. In many ways, for as prominent as the gods are, they’re still not telling anyone what to do and that I do like.

As for the world-building, it’s an inventive way to show this world. I read in pictures and this book has been a great stream of images for me.

6) We had yet one more assassination attempt in the hot water baths of Sucello. Now that we are at the end of the book, what are your insights into who is behind these attempts?

I still have no idea. I want to say it’s Nechton but I’m not sure about that theory any more. Maybe it’s Carina back from the not-so-dead out to stop everyone after having gone crazy from the battle with Nechton.

7) Bealtan reveals much about our narrative hero, Ellion. From his reuniting with Conar, to the revelation of Amien’s intentions, to his argument with Letitia, and his own internal recriminations about himself. Here at the end, what are your lasting impressions of Ellion?

He’s still not sure of who he is or what he wants to be. I’m good with that actually. I’m enjoying his folly and I don’t think badly about him because I like him. Yes, I’m willing to gloss over some major flaws in his character because I think he’s a good guy at heart even if he isn’t so sure.

Some of you might disagree with me about this but sometimes a character like Ellion is what makes a story. Stories don’t move along when everyone gets along and everything happens according to plan. Bad choices make the story go round.

How long until book two? 🙂
Question for Barbara this week: Have you ever thought of a graphic novel adaptation of The Shadow of the Sun? Maybe Ellion’s early life or a spin-off dealing with the gods, or the Deluge, the battle between Nechton and Carina? nrlymrtl’s question about illustrations got me thinking about this one. There are so many great scenes that I think it could easily work in that form.

The Shadow of the Sun Read Along – Part 4

The Shadow of the SunIt’s week four of The Shadow of the Sun read along. This week, we’re covering Chapters 22 – 28. Once again, thanks to nrlymrtl of Dab of Darkness for putting together the questions. I will be around to discuss with everyone this week.

1) Ellion and Letitia finally have not 1, not 2, not 3, but four trysts in this section of the book. What insights into the characters did you gain from these assignations?

Umm, that they need to learn to keep their pants on. OK. That’s obvious.

Actually, it occurred to me that these are two very hurt people looking to assuage guilt and be assured by someone, or something, even if that something is sex, that what they’re feeling is normal, and that it’s OK to feel they way they do. Letitia has no idea what she’s up against and has no faith in her abilities. Ellion is running so fast he’s bumping into every wall, real and imagined, that he can find as if he’s doing it out of some need to punish himself. Ignore this. I seriously have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m not going any further with my analysis than that.

2) Letitia’s retinue has diminished even further. How did this affect you as the reader and how do you think it will affect the dynamics of the remaining Tanaan?

It’s making me nervous! Barbara, please stop the killing! 🙂

Are they going to make it is the question that keeps rattling around in my head. Also, I’m beginning to think Amien is slightly useless on the wizard front. I want him to do more than throw green bolts. For god sakes, he a wizard! Also, I want him to get off Ellion’s case. Ellion needs some tough love but there’s too much guilt being passed between them to help matters.

I do think it’s starting to stress the Tanaan though. They’ve watching so many of their friends die that it has to be hard to them.

3) We’ve learned a bit more about the missing Carina in this section. What do you think is in her grimoire that has Letitia so secretive?

I think Letitia’s embarrassed because she doesn’t understand what she’s reading. She’s obviously had no training, believes that she’s supposed to know and understand everything on her own, and doesn’t want to admit this to anyone. I think she’s also terrified of what she has to face.

Letitia said she was willing to die if needed, so she seems to understand on some level what she’s up against, but I think she’s truly misread everything and it’s not her fault at all. It’s almost as though everyone expects her to know. How can she understand, be capable, if no one can or will help her? I’m feeling bad for her but also — keep ya pants on!

4) We’ve heard plenty about how much Ellion’s vow not to draw power means to him. But then we also see him finding several ways to feel, touch, smell, and use someone else’s power. What do you make of this and where do you think it will take Ellion?

Oh, all the wrong places. Totally off topic, is that a lyric to a country music song because it feels like it? Also, it fits with Ellion right now. This boy. I like him, I want him to finally come around and be what he’s supposed to be but, can he do more to make me question his judgement? Can he make a good decision here? He’s such an addict when it comes to power and I give him some credit for holding himself back but he’s cheating. He knows it too but doesn’t seem inclined to stop at all.

5) Nechton also played a larger role in this section. Which aspect has caught your attentions so far?

That he’s pretty much a badass. Although, Ellion’s description of Nechton when he sees a vision of him while touching the Spear is kinda eye opening. It’s a rather sexual description too which for Ellion is all normal. I mean, really. Pants. On. Ya just had sex too…it’s impressive but…not a race boy.

6) The mummers were in and out of this section, turning up in city and on the river. What did you make of their antics?

I found them disconcerting. They know entirely too much. Each time they showed up I was waiting for trouble. Although, they have been amusing and let’s face it, the death toll is a bit high not to laugh at something.

7) So far throughout the book we have gotten maps as we read. How is this working for you as the reader?
I like it. It helps me visualize the setting, where they’re going, and how they’re getting there. While I’m awful at directions, and honestly can’t read a map to save my life, (While in California last year, my husband asked where we were and I told him somewhere in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. That was all I could come up with.) I appreciate seeing the terrain. Although, if it’s possible to drop a temple on a corner where they need to turn, that would help me so much.

The Shadow of the Sun Read Along – Part 3

The Shadow of the SunIt’s week three of The Shadow of the Sun read along. This week, we’re covering Chapters 16-21. I’ll post some links to other posts later in the week. Once again, thanks to nrlymrtl of Dab of Darkness for putting together the questions.

1) Up to this section, we believed the Basghilae could not cross water, but we learn to the detriment of our heroes that this is not so. What further hidden abilities do you think might crop up from these walking dead?

I think maybe they’re learning as they go. The puppeteer, that’s what I’m going to call whoever is controlling these things, is figuring out as he/she goes and has figured out a way to get them into water. I’m waiting for them to fly now.

2) As the party enters the human lands, they come up with a cover story and request that Letitia remove her torc. She refuses. Do you think her decision was the correct one?

I don’t know if there’s a right or wrong answer. Letitia thinks she’s doing what’s right and believes that she bears the burden, always. She can’t simply remove the torc and pretend to be something she is not. I understand that devotion and sense of ownership but I think she also put the group in danger, and in her quest to not run from who and what she is, she doesn’t stop to think about the group as a whole. These people have sworn to protect her, and many have died trying, and while I do see her point, she could have given in for a short time. People are learning to compromise for her; she needs to compromise for others too.

3) At one point Ellion lingers over the warding process, specifically warding Letitia, and how a person must be completely nude for wards to be put in place. I’m going to leave this one wide open for comment ;).

He he. Ellion has got an imagination and knows how to use it. That boy has lots o’ sex on the brain.

4) Ellion makes a tough decision to leave the Tanaan and while he watches them leave he has a huge epiphany about his inner motives. How do you think this will affect his actions and motivations the rest of the book?

Oh Ellion. I so like him but I do wish he’d think a moment. He’s so worried about what his being there will mean that he doesn’t think about what his not being there will mean.

Letitia couldn’t take off her torc because she understands what it means to bear responsibility. Ellion likes to run and he thinks this is going to be the right answer in this situation as well. I don’t. Obviously, he has some power that’s going to be needed and he needs to stick it out and see what happens.

5) We saw the Tanaan and Ellion in some interesting situations of a more personal nature in these chapters, from the Night Butterflies to cutting in at a dance. What did you make of these instances, what further cultural differences along these lines do you foresee happening, and have you ever been a part of such a situation?

I’m going to tell a story here.

A few years back I had to go to Las Vegas for work. I invited a friend who had never been there to join me so we could explore. One evening, we took a stroll down the Vegas Strip and stopped in front of Treasure Island to watch the show. I’m sure it’s changed over the years but when we were there the show consisted of two pirate ships, one full of pirate women and one full of pirate men. They taunted each other something along the lines of:

Male pirate: “Surrender women!”

Female pirate 1: “Never! Why don’t you come over here and board us, boys…”

Female pirate 2: “Yes, boys, we’re all wet and hot from all the fighting. Come and board us.”

Not too raunchy, I mean Vegas is trying to be a family destination, but enough raunch to still be Vegasy. It was nothing too memorable until the following day when we ran into a few people I knew and they asked if we had the chance to see anything. We mentioned our walk down the Strip and watching the Treasure Island show. The following was said to us:

“That show is so cute. The boy and girl pirate flirting like that.”

Yeah. My brain kept yelling at my jaw to remain shut. Cute. Flirting. Um, I should also point out that all the pirates, women and men, looked as though they stepped out of a strip show soaking wet. Not the way I would have described it. It was slightly awkward and we had a great laugh after. Then again, maybe our brains just go to the dirty faster.

6) Once again, we were treated to some fight scenes. What stood out for you about these scenes?
I’m always amazed how fast everything happens in a fight scene. When I’m reading, it feels like it lasts forever but it’s minutes and people are dead and others struggling to survive when it’s over. I sometimes skip over fight scenes because they can be too violent. These scenes are adding a lot to the book and I haven’t once felt like any of it was too much.

The Shadow of the Sun Read Along – Part 2

The Shadow of the SunWeek two of The Shadow of the Sun read along. nrlymrtl of Dab of Darkness is hosting and if you’re interested in joining us, the schedule is here.

This week, chapters 8-15.

1) Ellion has quite a mystery on his hands with yet the third assassination attempt. The assassin is the same dude, and once ‘dead’, he proceeds to disappear once again. What do you make of this elusive, reappearing, dead guy assassin?

The reappearing dead guy assassin is starting to freak me out. Ellion needs to whack off his head the next time he appears, because obviously, he’s coming back for him. I want to know what Ellion did because he seems to have really annoyed someone for them to go through the trouble of sending this guy after him, repeatedly. They obviously want him dead and seem more than willing to try, try again.

2) Throughout this section, Ellion and Amien have several exchanges of words. Did you have the urge to ask them politely, yet firmly, to step out back and settle the matter for the duration of the trip?

Or swat them upside the head. Obviously, these two are living a bit in the past and what happened between them.They really should share this with the group, and by sharing with the group I mean me, so that way we can all move on. Actually, I’m really curious about what happened between these two. I feel as though Ellion let Amien down but I think it goes slightly deeper than that as well.

3) The Tanaan suffered a great loss in the past, calling it The Deluge, believing it to have been brought upon them by a wrathful goddess. Do you believe this Deluge was due to a goddess striking a disobedient people? What could the Tanaan have done to warrant such action?

I greatly dislike the idea of a god this vengeful but it makes for interesting reading. Would a god do this to its people? I don’t know but let’s just say that if I were the Tannan, I’d avoid this place and never bring up anything having to do with it. Ellion, blundering his way onward, brings it up and can’t seem to let go until scathing looks are sent his way — the only clue as to his social inadequacies. I actually wanted him to keep asking questions because there’s something very interesting about a god like this one but he was stifled, after stepping on a few toes.

4) The Tanaan are use to fighting in tourneys, one-on-one, and not in formations with team goals. How do you think they will take to Ellion’s attempts to school them in real combat tactics?

If he can convince them that learning fighting tactics will help them protect the Mora, then I think they’ll be open to learning. Of course, that’s if Ellion can keep his mouth shut and treat everyone with respect while doing it. I’m not so sure he’ll be able to keep his mouth shut. It opens before his brain starts the processing.

5) Letitia has been wearing her mother’s diamond on her torc, which turns out was a gift from Amien. He crafted it himself and says it is a tool. What kind of tool do you think it is?

I’m suspicious of Amien and Letitia’s mother. Obviously, they had a close relationship but now I’m wondering how close. Amien thinks Ellion isn’t being honest but he needs to knock off the games too and come clean.

6) What is up with the Tuaoh Stone having a strong reaction to Ellion?
Ellion is much more powerful than he lets on or, me thinks, understands. I’m not sure he can handle the power either and maybe that’s why Amien is pissed at him. Obviously, Ellion has some power not even he’s aware of at this point or he’s aware and trying to avoid. I think he’s hiding a lot.