Verdaia (Imaginary History) News

Number 13… or maybe 14.

I have finished the first draft of a historical pirate romance set on the same world as Across a Jade Sea. It took me about a year to write. I don’t know exactly how long it is, because I wrote it out by hand, but at 281 pages, with my average page of longhand being somewhere between 150-200 words, it is clearly a full novel in length. That makes it my 13th completed novel.

Unless Lioness ends up getting split into a duology. Which is very possible.

Either way, 13th or 14th, it’s still a milestone, and I still get to celebrate. 🙂

I started working on it because I wasn’t feeling very well, and I was having trouble putting in a regular work day (especially since my computer had been moved out of my bedroom due to family computer-shortage issues). But I really wanted to be writing something, so I said: ‘Why don’t I write longhand? That way I can take it to bed with me, and I can tell myself, ‘it doesn’t matter how good it is, because I can fix it when I type it up later’. Also, I can just work on one of the random shorter things in my head that isn’t in the regular queue, so that if I start feeling better I won’t mind abandoning it for something else.” (I thought it would be ‘shorter’. I don’t always guess right when it comes to length.)

By the time I felt better — several months later — I had at least 50 000 words, and I didn’t want to abandon it. I wanted to get it written.

But now it is written, and I can finally get back to my ‘regularly scheduled’ work. Yay!
Which means: getting the two Bambi books ready to go off to my copy editor; finishing my first pass edits on Lioness, so I can get reader feedback; and then writing Book Four of Song of Asolde, Fencing With Waves.

I’m kind of eager to get to Fencing With Waves, because while in the middle of the rush to the end with the Pirate thingy, I took a week off to get the previous Song of Asolde book into a state where I could send it to my oldest daughter as a birthday present — she has been eagerly awaiting the next installment in that series for a few years now. So now I have that story in my head, but I really need to finish off some of my other projects first. Sigh.

First Week on the New Schedule

So I’ve tried it for a week.
In order to make the switch from work to music, I set my husband’s alarm-clock to turn on the radio. This worked fine for stopping me from editing, but on Friday when I was coding, I just ignored it. ::rueful::

Still I not only got a better balance of stuff accomplished, I also got more total accomplished. Stopping working before I hit brain-dead apparently has fringe benefits.

(I used to know that. Once upon a time my wordcount goals were actually there to tell me “Time to stop,” not to push me to write more. But I guess I sort of forgot that in all the excitement of doing the publication thing?)

Anyway, here’s what I got done last week…

  • Writing: I fixed many errors in Eyes of Infistar, installed a copy on our tablet for my husband to read, got back several chapters worth of notes, made more fixes, and put a new copy on the tablet.

    I also ebook-ified a book written by my daughter, put it on the tablet, and did a read-through.

  • Art: Compiled 19 pages of ink scans for Scent of Spring.
  • Music: Practiced 5 times (inc. 3 “vocal workout” sessions). Worked on scoring Scent of Spring. (Yes, the song has the same title as the graphic novel… There’s a reason for that.)
  • Coding: Started work on an image carousel for inserting on the bottom of certain webpages. In the process, discovered that the ‘$’ jquery shortcut doesn’t work consistently when used on a page that is integrating wordpress content. The discovery process involved a certain amount of hair-pulling. ::rueful::
  • Tatting: Worked on a design that still isn’t right. (I do a lot of that.)

Plus, I did 11 holes of disc golf, played the Eldritch Horror Boardgame with my family 3 times (we just got a new expansion, so we were eager to try out all the new stuff), helped one daughter build a website and helped another make bead lizards* to give away to friends. All in all, a good week.

*My design from over 15 years ago. They were actually the body of a dragon, but the wings were futzy and delicate and the older kids and I ended up making a bunch of dragons without the wings, back when. Examples were still inhabiting my bedroom, and she wanted to make a couple. Her first one is pictured below.

Researching my way Across a Jade Sea

The fact that I do research seemed to be very important to my reviewer/interviewer for Across a Jade Sea over at Underground Book Reviews who asked about it both in the interview and earlier when informing me that they would be posting a review.

I wasn’t sure how to reply exactly. A reading list* didn’t seem too appropriate. Besides, compared to many historical authors I don’t do that much research. Perhaps more to the point: I do research differently. I’m not usually trying to re-create anything specific, I’m just trying to learn, to understand — I figure the better I am at understanding this world, the more real my own worlds will feel.

So, for instance, in the interest of understanding I currently have this big thick book on the 30 Year’s War out of the library. Which is almost ironic, because it’s a war that wracked the Holy Roman Empire, several decades after the Holy Roman Empire ceased to exist in the alternate history world the story I’m “researching” is set in. But it was a book about roughly the right time-period and the right part of the world for a story that’s only a handful of titles away in the queue, and so I’m reading it to try and gain a better understanding of that time and place. I don’t care about who fought who where, and who died, or any of those nity-gritty details. But I do care about the reasons why they were fighting, the social pressures, the culture, the economic factors… that kind of stuff. (Plus: a war that started with some people getting thrown out a window, so all throughout the war people kept making references to throwing people out of windows. Lovely! It’ll probably be some other book entirely, but I’m certain I can get some story mileage out of that tidbit somwhere.)

 

Anyway, my daughters look at this big, thick, undoubtedly dry history book about a war, of all things, and then stare at me like “Mom, we always knew you were nuts”, but my oldest son goes “Oh, cool! I might want to look at that one when you’re done with it.” Chacun a son gout!

Similarly, I just scored as a library discard for 25 cents an entire book on the construction and architecture of the Hagia Sophia with lots of pictures and diagrams and such. My most writerly daughter sees me pick it up and says “You know Mom, I look at these books you get and they just look so boring. I’d rather just google stuff.” I use google too. But IMHO its best for getting a very basic overview, or for finding a specific fact. For gaining an understanding of a topic there’s nothing to beat finding a good book on the subject and reading it.

Not that I know why I need to understand the architecture of the Hagia Sophia… but I’m sure I’ll find a use for it eventually. Besides, only 25 cents! 🙂

 
 
* According to LibraryThing where I have been attempting to track my reading for the past five years or so, I read the following books specifically as research for Across a Jade Sea. (This list is probably incomplete, and does not include related fiction, internet research, or movies/documentaries watched):

 
Diesel’s Engine: From Conception to 1918 by C. Lyle Cummins Jr.
The Complete Titanic: From the Ship’s Earliest Blueprints to the Epic Film by Stephen J. Spignesi
SS Leviathan: America’s First Superliner by Brent Holt
Picture History of the Normandie: With 190 Illustrations by Frank O. Braynard
The Small-Engine Handbook by Peter Hunn
Ancient Chinese Warfare by Ralph D. Sawyer
A Concise History of China, J. A. G. Roberts
A Thousand Pieces of Gold by Adeline Yen Mah
Old outboard motor service manual. Vol.1
The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain**

 

Why did I read these particular books? Because they were what I could find at my library. As I said, I don’t do historical research like someone who is trying to re-create history –it’s not worth it to me to spend money hunting down rare primary sources or obscure facts. I’m going to be making up everything. So I just need to understand. How does a diesel engine work, what did the integration of diesel technology look like and how did it compare to the existing steam tech? What were its advantages and disadvantages compared to the gas-burning engines that were also being invented and introduced at the same time? What did a marine diesel engine of the era look like? What did the big passenger-liners look like? Who travelled on them, and why? Who worked on them, and how were they operated? The Chinese history, of course, was for inspiration in creating Chunru’s country–which definitely isn’t China, but it’s probably more like China than anywhere else on Earth. Small motors and outboard motors… well, if you’ve read the book you’ll know why. 🙂

There’s also everything I’ve ever read that was useful BEFORE I got the idea for this story (and which predated me recording my reading on LibraryThing). For example, I’ve also read a book on medieval clockwork, one about a journey across the ocean on a balsa raft, several books on pirates, a bunch more on particular aspects of various Asian cultures (there were five or six of those from when I was “researching” for Cantata and Pavane), on European history (an area of ongoing importance, I can list some of the more recent of those if anyone cares), on Language and Linguistics (another ongoing interest) etc, etc.

Also, never being afraid of stuff that looks old, I have read many fictional works that were written in the time period that Across a Jade Sea is set in. That might have been the biggest help of all.

 
 
** Yeah, okay, it’s the wrong time period, but still… non-fiction, journey by steamboat around Europe and the Holy Lands. Plus: Mark Twain. So I figured, why not?

Now playing…

In My Head Theatre had been running scenes from the “Spy Guy” story from my Opera Magique world, but now that I seem to have got a reasonably complete plot put together, it’s been switching things up a bit. Today it was the Across a Jade Sea sequel featuring Batiya’s oldest brother. (Don’t get excited, anyone. I won’t be writing it any time soon. It isn’t even in the queue yet.)

Working out plot points for the “Spy Guy” story in advance seems reasonably benign — with the flex of a totally rewritten history to work in, I don’t think further research into Germany circa 1700 is going to destroy a plot about a bunch of smallish political entities vying for control of a magical item.

But do I really know enough about the technical challenges facing an Army Engineer in WWI/WWII to be able to put that kind of a plot together at this point?

No Monkey for Me

I am currently second from the top of the Alchemy Ranking List for Puzzle Pirates’ Emerald Ocean (Alchemy is a crafting minigame. Puzzle Pirates is a MMORPG that runs on minigames — your skill at the minigame IS your skill. For everything. There’s no such thing as character levels.) So when my husband woke me up early this morning to tell me they were running a contest and the player with the top Alchemy score would win a shoulder monkey, I actually woke up enough to enter the contest. But I only made tenth place. 🙁 I really wanted a monkey.

Luckily the weather was nice enough that my husband could take me out disc golfing and that cheered me up. We went to new course that we’d never tried before, and I got through all 18 holes without any trouble at all. Not one single rest stop. Woot! (It was a reasonably non-strenuous course without being a boring one. We’ll probably add it to our list of regular courses.)

And in other news, now that I have started telling everyone that Across a Jade Sea is up and available not just on our store website, but also on Amazon I have not only had a few sales, but also some people saying nice things about it. That’s always a thrill. 🙂 I have also put up a giveaway on LibraryThing for the first book, Serendipity’s Tide, so if anyone out there is already a member of LibraryThing, or is willing to become a member (it’s free), they can probably get themselves a copy.

It’s in the Details…

I just put a street food vendor’s dried squid cart into the background “crowd” portion of the painting that might possibly be put on the cover of Across a Jade Sea Volume 3: Fealty’s Shore. This made me happy. I guess I get excited over some pretty strange things.

Look what I made!

This is the CGI “Treasure Box” that was my latest project for Across a Jade Sea.

Beside it is my two projects ago CGI creation: an origami fold. (Yes, okay, maybe it’s a bit odd to be making virtual origami folds… I made some out of real paper first.) Both the box and the fold have plot significance in Across a Jade Sea. Now onto the next project: the sixth and final map for the series.

If you saw this cover, what sort of book would you expect to find behind it?

Serendipity's Tide Cover Draft One

This is some cover art we are considering for one of my stories, which my husband has decided he wants to try publishing. He notes that it does not match the current trends in cover designs. So, will it attract the right kind of audience for the story inside? Will it attract anyone at all? Should we dump this approach and go for something a little more fashionable? Should we keep it, but maybe fix a few things… and if so, what? (If you left click on it and load it in another window, you can get a slightly larger version.)

Here’s the whole wrap around image without the text:
Serendipity's Tide Full Cover Draft One

One of my Clever Ideas actually Works!

One of the things that slowed my progress on Scent of Spring was that I’d moved on to editing, and suddenly needed to do a lot of tracing. I have mostly been working on this project while chauffeuring my kids about, and I needed a tracing technique that was simple, inexpensive and highly portable.

So, I have created for myself a portable light table.

I have a clear plastic clipboard, which fits into the large clipboard/carry-case that holds the pages I am working on and my pencils, pens, etc. And I also have a clip-on reading light, which can be coiled up and tucked away in one of the carry-case compartments when I’m not using it. When I want to do some tracing, I clip the light on upside-down, and adjust it so that it shines up from underneath the clipboard, through whatever part of the drawing I’m trying to trace. Tah-dah!

Author's Note on Verdaia

I kept dreaming up these stories that seemed like fantasy or historical romances. But if they were fantasies, where was the magic? And if they were historicals, why couldn't I recognize any of the settings? I finally decided that all these story ideas were set on the same non-magical world, and named it Verdaia.

Verdaia has different geography than earth, and a different history, but is otherwise very much like earth. For me the fun of this world is in building cultures remincient of earth cultures, and yet not exactly the same.


 
Quote from Scent of Spring
 
'A widow with money is always more beautiful than a wife with the same face.'
 
-- Prince Harchung
 
 
Copyright © Michelle Bottorff

Email mbottorff at lshelby period com