marthawells: (Miko)
This has been a week of extreme highs and lows. The high points were awesome but the low points are...low.

I've got news I can't share yet so this is kind of a boring post. I need to get back to my book rec posts but Fridays are kind of a bad day for them.

We were supposed to have a hurricane but it turned and is now torturing a different part of the country.

Oh, I did a Reddit r/Fantasy AMA yesterday, and got a great question on Worldbuilding:

Question: One of my favorite things about your books is the incredible detail and authenticity to the cultures and societies you create. I've read City Of Bones and your Raksura books and I am always immediately engaged when the characters travel to a new city. The residents, architecture, customs, languages, and overall presentation feel well rooted and historical. It really adds an incredible flavor to your writing and inspires me to improve my own.

Are you willing to describe the process in which you develop a new city? When you sit down to create a new location, how you start the vision and do you have a system in how you begin to add layers of detail until the city/town/society feels authentic?

Me: Thank you so much!

I use different methods for different types of book. For the Ile-Rien books, where the locations are based more on real-world places, I did a lot of research into cities in similar cultures, climates, environments as my imaginary city. For the Raksura books, I tried to think of a neat setting for a city, then tried to make it as weird and extreme as possible. Like the Turning City, Keres-gedon, which started out as just a camp in the mountains.

Basically it's a process of coming up with an element you want in your city, like canals. You look at cities with canals, like Venice, and maybe Angkor Wat. What are the canals used for? Transportation, a reservoir, entertainment, defense, etc. You think about how the environment and climate of your city is going to affect your canals. Can they freeze over? Are they affected by drought? Sewage? Plant growth? Underwater monster issues? Etc. Why or why not are they affected by these things? Once you make all those decisions, you decide how they affect the inhabitants of the city, their culture, their everyday life. It can be simple or complicated, and ideally, it leads to ideas that can further characterization and plot. And the big thing to remember is that the reader doesn't need to know everything you know about your canal system. They'll be able to infer a lot from the bits and pieces they see as your characters move through the story, and the sense that the city is operating by a logical system is more important than knowing the exact details.

I also don't usually figure out too many of the details of my settings in advance, since I'm going to concentrate mainly on the parts my characters are interacting with. Like most of the city may be sketched in, but the characters are going to need this little train system and this temple hospital, so those bits are going to get more attention and development. Also keep in mind that cities change over time, with new buildings, new roads, and what stays in place and what gets built over or torn down all say things about the people who live there.

It also helps not to set too many boundaries. You never want to tell readers that there's nothing over the mountains, because it's going to make the world feel closed in, like a puddle instead of a huge mysterious ocean. And if you keep writing in this setting, you may eventually need those empty places to put things in.

I hope that helps!



I have a signed copy of The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red in the Authors for Grenfell Tower Auction:

There are tons of other great items up for auction to benefit the tower fire victims. Please check it out or pass it on.
marthawells: (John Green Trees)
Every time I've done a panel that gets into the topic of finding time for writing, there's always somebody who asks what to do if someone they know actively discourages their writing, or goes out of the way to interrupt or stop them while they're doing it.

Everyone's situation is different, so it's hard to give an answer to that. Hopefully it helps to know that this happens a lot, to a lot of writers.

(I had an ex-friend/roommate once who tried off and on to stop me from writing. She wanted to write movie and TV scripts, and that was great, but me wanting to write novels not so much. It was okay if I wrote fanfic, but not original fiction. Once when I was at home working on The Element of Fire, she saw what I was doing and said, "Oh, you know you'll never finish that."

Well, I did, and it was published in 1993 by Tor Books.)

Another question that's impossible to answer is why do people do that?

It's hard to answer because it's all different reasons.

Some people probably don't know they're doing it and/or couldn't explain why if you asked them. Some people might feel jealousy that you're writing, annoyance that you're paying attention to a screen or a piece of paper rather than them, or they're uneasy because they don't understand your desire to write.

Sometimes it's about power and control. Stop doing what you're doing and do what I want you to do. Stop writing what you're writing and write what I want you to write. Or else.

Sometimes it's about the type of writing you're doing. Writing literary fiction is great, but people will try to discourage or stop you from writing SF/F or mystery or romance or fanfic. I've had that happen to me. Or writing fanfic is great, but people will turn abusive if they catch you writing original stories. I've had that one happen too.

(Your fanfic is great but your original writing is worthless. Original writing makes you a hack, you're a bad person, you're disrespecting other fanfic writers who don't want to write original fiction. Stop, just stop. Or else.)

If you're a woman, sometimes people just want you to stop.

Sometimes it's concern. If you write, you'll be rejected and it will hurt so just stop. Sometimes it's concern trolling. Oh, I know you'll be rejected and you just won't be able to handle it, you're weak because I tell you you're weak, so just stop.

There are a lot of reasons for this and sometimes even if you know the person very well, you can't tell what their reason is. But sometimes there's only one thing you can do about it.

Don't stop.
marthawells: (Teyla)
winged_kame asked I am definitely interested in a Selis update story sometime!

Unrelated Raksura question, has it/ will it be explained why Stone can't speak in his winged-form? Has he never been able to, or is it something that developed as he got older, along with getting bigger/stronger? Is not being able to speak in their other form a normal variation for Raksura, or it rare/ unique to Stone?

It has to do with his age and is unique to line-grandfathers. It has to do with the way the shapeshifting works and how Raksura basically exist in both forms simultaneously, and move between one and the other. (This comes up a bit in The Dark Earth Below, when Elastan is able to see both their forms simultaneously.) At Stone's age, the barrier between his forms is less substantial, so his shifting is different from the other Raksura, and not being able to talk in his scaled form is one of the effects of it.

Otterb asked You may have answered this already somewhere, but what's a normal Raksura lifespan (if you're not a line-grandfather), and how long are they normally fledglings before they leave the nurseries?

I'm pretty sure I have answered this before, but I looked back through the tag and can't find it, so it's been at least a couple of years! I want to wait on exact numbers, because I'm pretty sure I've worked that out before, and I don't want to contradict myself. It is different for Royal Aeriat, Aeriat, and Arbora, with Aeriat (warriors) having shorter lifespans. They're fledglings for at least twenty to twenty-five turns, depending on when the Arbora decide they've reached physical maturity.

I was thinking about Shade and Moon being considered young consorts. Obviously Shade was born after Moon was separated from the colony in the Fell attack some 40 turns ago. Moon was a fledgling at the time. So how much older is he than Shade?

Moon is only maybe five or six turns older. Moon was considered as fully mature after he fathered a clutch.

And is a "turn" of the Three Worlds roughly equal to an Earth year?

No, it's somewhat longer, maybe more like a year and a half.


Audible is doing an MP3-CD set for The Cloud Roads to be released in May. I don't know yet if they're doing an audio version of The Edge of Worlds. It depends on a couple of factors, including sales of the audio version of previous books in the series (Stories of the Raksura I and Stories of the Raksura II) and sales of the hardcover and ebook of The Edge of Worlds.


Signed Books: if you want a complete-so-far signed Raksura set, I have a signing for The Edge of Worlds at Murder by the Book in Houston, TX, on Saturday April 9 at 4:30, where I'll be co-signing with J. Kathleen Cheney whose new fantasy is Dreaming Death. You can preorder our books (including all the previous Raksura books and Kathleen's Shores of Spain trilogy) at that link and get them signed and personalized, and then shipped to you.


PSA for Reviews: If you liked a book or didn't like it, it really does help to leave reviews. This is especially important on Amazon where the number of reviews control how often the book shows up in searches and suggestions. Reviews on Barnes and Noble, other retailers, and GoodReads and LibraryThing, or just on your own blog, twitter, FB, tumblr, etc help too and are much. much appreciated. (Or if you want to take a picture of the book with your cat or something and post it, that's just cool for me to see.)

PSA for Libraries: You can also look for my books at your local library, and if they don't have a book, request that they buy it for their collection, or see if they can get it through interlibrary loan. (Remember that many libraries have ebooks now too.)

Question Answer

Monday, March 14th, 2016 10:05 am
marthawells: (The Serpent Sea)
lukamender from Tumblr asked:

I love your books, especially the Raksura series. If you're still taking writing/publishing questions, I wanted to ask you about any advice you might have on writing non-human/animal-ish-people, with more unique social structures, as the central characters in the story. Are there any special tricks that really make this work? Are there challenges in pitching material like this (they're not human, they have different than normal genders, etc.) to publishers?

Thank you!

Are there any special tricks that really make this work?

Point of view is incredibly important anyway, but I think when writing from the perspective of non-human characters it's super-duper incredibly important. You have to think about how the physical attributes you've given them will affect their culture, social structure, interactions with each other, interactions with other groups. The culture and social structure is going to inform the choices they make, the way they feel about the things that happen. You need to try to be as consistent as you can, and try to get into the characters' heads and see your world through their eyes.

Sympathizing with a non-human character is usually not a problem. (For most readers, anyway. Some people just won't do it but they aren't your audience so forget them.) You can sympathize with an amorphous blob as long as it has issues that engage you. When I'm talking about this, as an example, I bring up the first Pixar trailer with the desk lamp. It turns to look at you, and suddenly it's a person. It's easier to do that with text, since we have the option of showing the audience the living desk lamp from its own perspective.

Are there challenges in pitching material like this (they're not human, they have different than normal genders, etc.) to publishers?

For a novel, usually it's an agent who you'll be pitching to. The right agent for you will be the one who will get what you're trying to do and like it, and she'll be the one pitching to a publisher on your behalf. Whether the agent likes it or not is going to depend more on your writing ability, your story-telling, how compelling the story was. (If it's your first book it should be complete before you start querying agents. Lots of people have great ideas and can write first chapters, but the only way you can prove you're one of the people who can finish a book is by finishing a book.)

You don't usually pitch short stories, so you'd just be submitting the complete story to the magazine and hoping they like it.

I hope that helps!

I'm still taking questions, general question about publishing (how it works, agents, etc), or a writing advice question, or a question about my writing, or my books, or cats, or anything else I've been doing, ask in this post and I'll try to answer it.
marthawells: (John Green Trees)
I haven't done this in forever, but if anyone has a question, a general question about publishing (how it works, agents, etc), or a writing advice question, or a question about my writing, or my books, or cats, or anything else I've been doing, ask in this post and I'll try to answer it.
marthawells: (Zoe)
Michael Mock said: Heh. I've got a different problem: I can't find my opening. I know the characters, I have (I think) a pretty good feel for the world, I know what I want to have happen, or at least a loose sequence of events. I know my antagonists, I know how they connect to the characters, I know how they fit into the larger world. I'm pretty excited about the journey, and I feel like if I can just get it started it'll go pretty smoothly. (I could always be wrong about that, of course.) I just... can't seem to get myself onboard the train, so to speak.

I realize there are people who write the opening last, and at this point I totally understand that. I don't think I can do it, but I totally understand it.

There's a lot of reasons why this can happen. There may be something about the story you haven't figured out yet, and your subconscious brain is dragging your conscious brain's feet until you realize. Or you may just not have come up with the right point of attack yet. (Point of attack = point where the story starts.)

I would try focusing in on your main point of view character. Try to get into their head and think about when the story starts for them. The moment where things change, or when they notice something strange is happening. There are writing advice books that say you always need to open with an action scene, and this is not true. You need to open with something happening, but it certainly doesn't have to be action. (Like the way the Lord of the Rings starts with Bilbo's birthday party, even though Frodo doesn't leave the Shire until much later. Bilbo acting on the decision he's made to leave and not take the Ring is the start of the story, even though Frodo doesn't know it yet.)

A good place to start is often with the character leaving a familiar place and arriving at a strange one. (This also gives you a lot of opportunity to describe your world, since your character will definitely be noticing things that are different compared to what they're familiar with.) The arrival of a stranger is also a good start, or a friend or enemy returning. But you need to think about what begins the story for your POV character.

Sometimes it helps to just start freewriting scenes you know you want to have happen and see if that jogs anything loose. I've had books where the first scene I wrote, intending it to be the beginning, actually ended up in chapter eight.

Previous Post: The Writing Middle-Slump
marthawells: (Reading)
(I'm going to try to do more posts about writing, so here's some thoughts on the difficulties of middles.)

I wanted to do a blog post about getting through writing slumps, because of something someone said on Twitter. (I can't remember what it was now, but that's how my brain rolls lately.)

A lot of people talk about the mid-book slump. Writing the beginning of a book is exciting, everything is new, you're creating the world, meeting the characters for the first time. The end is also exciting, because all the plot threads are tying up and you should be done soon.

The middle is the hard part, where you have to make the magic happen and start pulling things together, increasing the complication but starting to find answers to mysteries. You have to make all the cool stuff you came up with in the beginning make sense. You have to set up the end. The story engine has to be fully engaged, etc.

Sometimes it feels like a slog, and that's when you want to quit and go write something else. You want that really, really bad sometimes. If you do that with every book you write, it's going to be a problem and end up getting you zero finished books. (This, by the way, is why agents, and publishers who take unagented submissions, only want to see finished books from new authors. It's a lot easier to start a book than to finish it, and they want to make sure you can finish. A lot of people are certain they can, and then don't.)

So if your book-middle feels like a horrible slog and you'd rather go out and shovel snow or haul rocks or dig holes in the back yard, it isn't necessarily a problem. It's just that middles are hard.

But one thing I've noticed about myself is that if the writing doesn't come easily (and it's not just because I'm tired or unwell or stressed) then the chances are good that there's a problem that part of my brain is aware of even though the rest of me is willfully trying to ignore it. Figuring out what that problem is can be tricky, but first you have to figure out whether it's actually a problem.

I think you do need to ask yourself some questions. Is the book-middle like climbing a mountain backwards through a mud storm because you're tired and need to just keep going? Or is there an actual problem? Is it a pacing issue, are things moving too slowly? Are the characters still in character, are you making them act in ways you kind of know they wouldn't just to make your plot work? Is there something you're trying to do now that needs more setup earlier in the book? Did you forget to put in something you know you really needed?

Or are you actually getting bored with your plot? Because if you're bored with your plot, readers may be bored with it too.

If you're saying: "I have to write this part and I don't want to." Ask yourself: Do you really have to? Is it necessary for the plot, characterization, the story? Why don't you want to? Is it not right for the pacing, slowing things down when it should be speeding things up? Maybe it doesn't need to be there.

If you don't like it anymore, it's okay to make something else happen instead.

You can always take a step back and re-imagine your plot. You should know the characters better at this point; maybe your plot needs to change to accommodate that. (It's often hard for some writers to create a character in a vacuum. It's only when I write characters interacting with other characters and facing situations that I start to get a real sense of who they are and how they behave under stress.)

What is the coolest, most exciting thing that could happen here that will still fit the story you want to tell? Maybe you should be writing that instead.

Your plot is not carved in stone, even if you did an outline. One thing I've found out over and over again is that plot points can sound great in the outline and it's only when you start actually writing those scenes that you see the flaws.

This is where experience and understanding how your own writing brain works is important. The only way to get experience is of course to keep writing through those middles, no matter what you have to do to get to the end.

Raksura Question

Thursday, September 24th, 2015 10:10 am
marthawells: (Default)
This is a Raksura question and bit of discussion on consort sexual politics over on tumblr

notahyper-specific asked:

It hadn't occurred to me until I read your last post, but now I have a question about queens and consorts. Consorts are almost as physically powerful as queens, but their role in the court is almost completely passive. Is that an attitude queens deliberately encourage to keep their consorts "docile", a consequence of how important they are to the survival of the court, or a combination of the two?

marthawells answered:

Originally, it was probably mostly the second reason, that they are important to the court’s survival, with a bit of the first mixed in. It’s definitely a cultural construct, but also figures into the way Raksura manage their bloodlines. Queens wouldn’t want other courts to steal consorts and get access to their court’s royal bloodline without permission. Consorts are also a status symbol. Allowing the consort out to fight for the court, or to do anything that a queen or a warrior would normally do, would also lessen the court’s status, since if you have to resort to using your consorts that way, your court must be up shit creek. Having consorts who don’t have to do anything except make and raise babies is a sign that the court is rich, well-defended, and comfortable.

Though for small courts like Indigo Cloud that tried to establish colonies outside the Reaches, there probably were quite a few consorts that ended up fighting for the court or going on more exploring and trading visits than would have been seen as acceptable in the Reaches. (I think Jade tells Moon at one point that consorts have fought for Indigo Cloud in the past. (Though Indigo Cloud had pretty much been living on shit creek for most of Jade’s life.) They have the ideal of how consorts are supposed to be passive and protected, but don’t always have the resources to live up to it.

1houreveryday said

I think my favorite thing about the Raksura books is Moon coming into this and being like “you may be physically stronger than me and faster than me and look down on me for not fitting you ideals but I’ve been kicking ass for a long time and I’m not gonna just stop now, obviously”.

notahyper-specific said

One of the things I =love= in the Raksura books is Indigo Cloud interacting with courts that are used to consorts who won’t even go to the bathroom unless they check with their queens first, and then they end up having to deal with Moon and Stone taking the Look at all the Fucks I Don’t Give revue on tour.
marthawells: (The Serpent Sea)

* Some thoughts about Tragic Queer Narratives
And we go downhill from here. The tragic queer narrative? Widely available. Very, very, very common. Arguably more common than positive depictions of queer characters and relationships. Books by LGBTQ authors with LGBTQ protagonists who are not tragic queers? Much less common and much harder to find.

* Writing Wednesday: Putting Handles on the Cups by C.E. Murphy

This is reality-based writing advice. I said on Twitter: I've seen writing advice that said unless you do 2000+ words every day you aren't a real writer/are a bad person etc. That's bullshit. How I write has changed a lot over time, as I've gotten more experience and tried different things. Writing media tie-ins to tight schedules taught me a lot, writing fanfic let me explore new ways of storytelling, helped my fantasy writing. I write faster now than I did 20 years ago, but I still can't hit 2000 words in a day more than a few times a month, if that. I have days where my brain just doesn't work, or all I can do is figure out plot. I had a day like that yesterday, and did not get 2000 words of anything written, but I do know how to restructure the end of the book now. That's just how my process works, and everybody's process is different, and will often change over time as you keep writing. There is no right way to do it, there's just the way that allows you to produce a finished piece of work.

Raksura questions

J. L. asked: Okay, I have a Raksura question: will we be seeing Opal Night again? I have an ultimate soft-spot for Moon's interaction with Opal Night, and I can never get enough of it.

In The Edge of Worlds there are some of the characters from Opal Night, but Moon and the others don't go back to the colony. I may do a novella or short story where they go back to visit Opal Night again at some point, because I enjoyed those interactions too.

Darrell asked: I have tons of questions, but I'll try to stick to a few. 1) Since Raksura are usual born in clutches of 5, what happened to Jade's and Balm's clutchmates? Were they stillborn or did they die later? 2) In The Edge of Worlds, will we get to see more of the social dynamic in a Raksura colony (like faction, clutches, family relationships, etc)? Really can't wait for the new book! Thanks for writing such incredible books!

1) The other three were stillborn. This was basically the first incident that started the court's slow decline, though they wouldn't have realized that at the time. In the turns after that, Pearl's next clutch was stillborn, and there were a lot of deaths among the Aeriat, and then some time after that was when the sister queen Amber had a clutch where only two warriors survived, Spring and Snow, and them Amber died.

2) Yes, definitely! Though they do leave the court for the most of the story, I try to show as much of the social dynamic as I can, because I really enjoy writing it.

And thank you for reading them!

(no subject)

Friday, September 18th, 2015 08:19 am
marthawells: (Default)
I'm behind on everything. I've been busy working on the revision for The Edge of Worlds, plus my husband's been sick with a bad cough and off and on fever. All I've made time for is revisioning and laundry. I am looking forward to new Doctor Who this weekend.

I answered this question on tumblr, and wanted to copy it here:

punkranger asked: Do you use music for inspiration? If so what do you listen to? :) Also, have you heard of Ayreon? They do a lot of sci-fi/fantasy-inspired music and all their albums are very intricate stories.

I do, and it’s kind of a weird mix. Here’s one of my playlists for the Raksura books (don’t judge me).

Did Anyone Approach You a-ha
Apple Cibo Matto
Life’s What You Make It Talk Talk
Loneliest Star Seal
[ Untitled ] VAST
Sugar Water Cibo Matto
Show Me What I’m Looking for Carolina Liar
Under The Milky Way Sia
Where Has Everybody Gone? The Pretenders
Night of the Hunter 30 Seconds to Mars
Bedroom Hymns Florence + The Machine
Tell Me Billie Myers
Forever May Not Be Long Enough Live
Silence Delerium & Sarah McLachlan
Calm the Storm Graffiti6
Afreen A. R. Rahman, Nakash Aziz & KM Sufi Ensemble
Inside Moby
Under the Influence Elle King

I add songs whenever I hear something that just strikes a chord. I haven’t heard of Ayreon, but they sound cool. I’ll have to check them out.
marthawells: (John Green Trees)

* Six of the Weirdest Fantasy Worlds Ever Created The Cloud Roads is on this list.

* For Books' Sake: For Books' Sake Talks to Martha Wells

* Cushing Library Releases Digitized Media Fanzine Collection
Cushing Memorial Library and Archives is pleased to announce that it is now able to offer free, limited online public access to select titles in the Sandy Hereld Memorial Digitized Media Fanzine Collection. Since the collection was first initiated in 2013, access to its materials was previously restricted to only those with a Texas A&M-approved ID until additional permissions could be obtained from the fanzine creators who contributed to the collection.

New Books

* Ghost Summer by Tananarive Due
Tananarive Due, a winner of the American Book Award and an Essence and Los Angeles Times bestselling author, brings you her debut short fiction collection! The title novella, Ghost Summer, won a Kindred Award from the Carl Brandon Society (originally published in The Ancestors). This collection includes Patient Zero, The Lake, The Knowing, Herd Immunity, and many other stories.

* Temporally Out of Order edited by Joshua Palmatier
In this collection, seventeen leading science fiction authors share their take on what happens when gadgets run temporally amok. From past to future, humor to horror, there's something for everyone. Join Seanan McGuire, Elektra Hammond, David B. Coe, Chuck Rothman, Faith Hunter, Edmund R. Schubert, Steve Ruskin, Sofie Bird, Laura Resnick, Amy Griswold, Laura Anne Gilman, Susan Jett, Gini Koch, Christopher Barili, Stephen Leigh, Juliet E. McKenna, and Jeremy Sim as they investigate how ordinary objects behaving temporally out of order can change our everyday lives.

Raksura Questions

[personal profile] nthngtoseehere asked:

1. Raksuran naming habits: generally Raksura like to give their clutches names that share a theme, but Jade and Moon gave their clutch generally unrelated names. Is it a 'rule' that doesn't apply to royal clutches? How did Jade come up with the names she chose?

It's not really a rule, it's more of a just a thing that's done sometimes. All the names Jade chose were from past queens and consorts of the court, except for Fern, who was the female Arbora baby that Sorrow saved along with Moon, and who he thought was his sister.

2. Are Pearl and Ember expected to have a clutch? There's been no mention of it, so I was wondering if they're waiting until he's a bit older, or if she's SO DONE with kids and doesn't want more, or they just haven't gotten around to it...?

They probably will, once Ember's a bit older. For one thing, they'll want to bring Ember's Emerald Twilight bloodline into the court.

3. Presuming at least one of Jade & Moon's boys is a consort, has Frost decided which one she wants yet? (I just imagined her hearing that there were two males in the clutch and going "FINALLY. I'VE BEEN WAITING FOREVER." And being very impatient while waiting to find out if one or both would be consorts because, like, really, why must they keep her in suspense?? Rude.)

That will probably be a whole story in itself! Though right now I think Frost is still at the age where she's not going to be too interested in them until they're old enough to play.

4. Flower mentioned, regarding the way past mentors caused the mountain tree to grow in certain ways, that their court had lost so much knowledge. Do Raskura do any kind away type of thing? Would Heart or Merit go to Emerald Twilight, for example, to learn from their mentors how to manipulate the mountain tree? Or would another mentor come to them? Or is that just done via book exchange?

I think for that to happen the courts would have to very close allies. That might be something I'd address in a future story.

Raksura Answers

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 10:20 am
marthawells: (The Serpent Sea)
[profile] pilgrim3 asked: tool use by the Aeriat. I know that the Arbora use tools (anvils, etc., have been mentioned), but it seems rare that the Aeriat use tools at all. Is not using tools the norm for them? Or are there exceptions lurking in future books?

And an odd question - what is your next favorite race to write about in the 3 Worlds setting?

They do when they need to, but it's more from necessity, where the Arbora always used tools for things like making their living spaces more comfortable, making art, etc. The Arbora make all the material goods for the colony because they put a high priority on both having those things and the effort and talent it takes to make them. Without the Arbora, the Aeriat probably would only bother with the minimum they needed to survive.

Favorite race other than the Raksura: it might be the Kek, because they're a lot of fun to work with, because they're very different from the Raksura, and they're very different from humans, too. I ought to do a short story from the Kek's perspective, at some point.
marthawells: (Default)
YAY!!!! I just got a great Publishers Weekly review for Stories of the Raksura: The Dead City & The Dark Earth Below! "The Raksura world features innovative and alien creatures; Wells thinks far outside the humanoid fantasy box. The line between animal and person is drawn extremely thin, and the power structure among the races resembles nature more than it resembles any human civilization. With a strong sense of adventure, horror, and mystery, this is an enjoyable read for fantasy fans seeking a new series to sample."

I also got an invite to be on the WorldCon program, so I decided to go ahead and bite the bullet and go. (Bite the bank account, actually, because the hotels are hella expensive this year.) I have a roommate so it shouldn't be too bad.

Writing ramble

One thing I've noticed is I still have an occasional plotting problem which I think of as getting ahead of myself and leaving the characters behind. When I trying to move the characters through a sequence of events because that's what I need to have happen, and it's just not working, because I'm not considering whether 1) the characters are actually going to want to do these things at this point 2) these things are or are not priorities for them at this point. These things have to happen, I just have to make sure the characters' motivations are lined up first and that there's space to deal with the stuff that they see as more important. It's a POV issue, which I tend to think lies at the root of most of the roadblocks and problems in writing. You have to see things from the characters' viewpoint at all times.
marthawells: (The Serpent Sea)
I was answering Raksura and Three Worlds-related questions back in February, then something happened and I dropped the ball. I have a couple of unanswered questions left, but if you have an old question or a new question I didn't answer, feel free to comment with it.

[personal profile] nthngtoseehere said Can I ask, roughly how many years/turns comprise a Raksuran generation? And how old is Stone? I've been thinking he's going on at least a couple hundred turns, but I have no idea if that's even close....

I'm thinking a generation would be around forty turns, but I haven't worked that out yet on paper, so I reserve the right to change it. :) Turns are also longer than years, and may be measured slightly differently by different cultures

Stone is at least a couple of hundred turns, and probably closer to three hundred.

(I am very bad at both math and dates, so I always have trouble working these things out.)

Raksura Answers

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 08:21 am
marthawells: Cover for the Cloud Roads, Art by Matthew Stewart (The Cloud Roads 2)
First, here's a link back to an older post that might be handy for people: Plot Stalls, and Tips for How to Unstall them


[personal profile] nojojojo said Speaking of Stone, what is up with the line-grandfathers? In "The Tale of Indigo and Cloud" it was mentioned that l-gs are apparently a weird occasional quirk that runs in certain lines, and it's not actually a good thing. But it also seems like they're just really, really different -- they're not considered consorts anymore (although other old Raksura are still treated as full members of their respective castes), they're not even recognizable as Raksura (by the groundlings at uhhh that city in THE SIREN DEPTHS), Moon can't see Stone's face unless he's semiconscious, and they can't talk. I'm kind of getting the idea that they're like... were-kethel, or something? Raksura who aren't quite Raksura anymore, or maybe a rare fourth caste of Aeriat or... I don't really have a question, here. :) I really just wanted to gush about how awesome it is that you have a species so notoriously cranky that their irascible old men turn into giant monsters.

Line-grandfathers! I think my original idea was that they were sort aging into proto-dragons and that yes, they were a sort-of Raksuran version of the major kethel. I say my original idea because I don't plan my worldbuilding out meticulously in advance like a lot of writers. It's kind of like my plotting, it's much better when I let it sort of evolve naturally as it goes along. This was especially true with The Cloud Roads and The Serpent Sea, where I started out optimistically thinking they were marketable books and gradually realized that there was a good chance no one would ever read them but me and a few friends. That they sold at all was mostly luck and my agent. So when I was writing the first two books, I was discovering bits and pieces of the world as it grew, and thinking I was never going to get much further into it. Now that I have had chances to get further into it, I'm figuring out more things that were mentioned in passing and that I didn't really have any chance to reveal to the reader. (Like, in one of the upcoming novellas, there's a clue about what actually happens when the Raksura shift, that they exist simultaneously in two dimensions.)

[personal profile] curtana asked I have a question about daughter-queens and sister-queens. Am I right that those are more like ranks rather than literal descriptions of biological relationships? Does a queen change from a daughter-queen to a sister-queen in relation to who is the current reigning queen, or based on her own age/power/influence? Are there ever ... I guess they'd be mother-queens? Older queens who haven't been reigning queen but are still around the court? Or would it be unlikely that such a power dynamic would persist that long before someone split off to form their own court, or killed each other quarrelling? ;)

and related, [personal profile] otterb asked That makes me wonder ... is there any such thing as a queen emeritus? Or do reigning queens reign until they die? And is succession by seniority or could there be power struggles within the court over who becomes the next reigning queen?

Yes, sister queen and daughter queen are ranks, not contingent on being related to the reigning queen. And yes, there are queens who never become reigning queen, and remain sister queens. These would be queens who are possibly less aggressive, possibly just enjoy being more free to travel outside the court on diplomatic trips, and possibly just don't want the burden of being a reigning queen. If a sister queen did want to become a reigning queen, and the current reigning queen wasn't interested in stepping down, the sister queen would have a couple of options. She might go to another smaller court and "marry" into it by taking one of their unattached consorts, if the other court was agreeable. Or, if her original court was getting crowded, the sister queen could take her consort and a group of warriors and Arbora off to create a new court. This could only happen if she had enough Arbora willing to go with her. Because the important part to being a reigning queen is having the support of the Arbora.

Couple of examples: In Opal Night, Malachite and Onyx are about the same age. Onyx was actually reigning queen before Malachite returned from the east with the survivors of the eastern colony. Malachite took over the main court from Onyx and became reigning queen. At this point, Onyx could have taken part of the court and gone off to create a new court, but because of what happened with the Fell attack in the east, the Arbora wanted to keep the court together and basically made everyone stay where they were and get along with each other. So Onyx became a sister queen.

In The Cloud Roads, Stone and Flower's original idea was to get Pearl to give way to Jade, and basically step down and let Jade become reigning queen. Pearl is so depressed at this point, and doesn't seem to want to be reigning queen anymore, that it seems like a reasonable solution. But when Pearl gets away from the Fell influence, she starts to rule the court again, and replacing her with Jade is no longer necessary.

[profile] michael_mock had a great idea for a fanfic fusion Great. Now you've got me crossing books, and picturing a Dowager Queen -- specifically Ravenna, from The Element Of Fire -- as a Raksura.


As a Raksura.

I was about to say that, wow, that wouldn't end well for anyone trying to keep her out of power, but on further thought I'd guess that given Raksuran social dynamics, there'd be nothing to stop her from resuming her role as reigning queen. Raksuran courts are more fluid, that way.

...And those poor Unseelie Fay wouldn't know what hit them.

[profile] thesaraghina asked I've actually wondering why Indigo Cloud left the Reaches, only to end up in the smaller ruin? I'd gotten the impression that the court was too big, and/or the Reaches were too crowded when they left, but from the descriptions of the ruin in the 1st book, would the ruin have been able to house everyone from the colony tree? Or did parts of the court split off and go elsewhere? Or, from what Stone said about the Kek dying out in their part of the forest when they left, was the court growing smaller at the time, making them able to fit well in the ruin?

This is just something I'd been thinking about in my latest re-listen to the audiobooks. ;) Anyway, I love the books, and am very much looking forward to Volume 2 of the Stories! :)

Thank you!

Yes, Indigo Cloud was fairly small when it left the Reaches, and one of the reasons why it left was a belief that the overpopulation of the Reaches was affecting Indigo Cloud's growth somehow. (We don't know if they were right, but that was their thinking at the time.) They actually stopped and lived in a few other places for a few generations before they finally settled on the ruin.

From Dreamwidth, [personal profile] spatz asked Oh, I have a question! I was re-reading the series and noticed that some Raksuran senses are different in shifted form and some are not. Moon mentions repeatedly that his sense of touch is more keen in groundling form, and smell is stronger in shifted form, and I *think* I remember Chime shifting to eavesdrop at some point, which implies that hearing is stronger as well. Anyway, I couldn't recall anything about sight or taste, so I was curious if they are different as well.

and [personal profile] voidampersand commented What an excellent question! I remember Suzette Haden-Elgin writing about how she gave linguistics seminars to groups of people with different dominant senses — doctors tend to be touch-dominant. Of course, different body forms would have different dominant senses.

I can't remember if I've nailed this down anywhere, but sight would be keener in their scaled forms and taste would be keener in their groundling forms. Though with sight, it might not make that much of a difference, and they do have very good night vision in both forms.


Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 11:26 am
marthawells: (The Serpent Sea)
Question for the Journal:

Someone asked: Will you ever write a novella or short story about how Stone and Azure got together? From reading The Tale of Indigo and Cloud, it seemed as if Stone wouldn't have been considered desirable as a consort because of his bad eye. I'm wondering what the story was between him and his queen, especially since he's so fantastically cantankerous.

I answered:

hanks for your question! I don’t have plans to do it at the moment, but it is a story I’d like to tell at some point. It would also be taking place not too long after the court first left the Reaches, so that would be interesting, too.

Anybody else have Raksura-related questions?
marthawells: (Miko)
First, a Raksura question I forgot to answer earlier:

[personal profile] beccastareyes asked What do newborn Raksura look like? Especially since they're shifters.

We know that when queens clutch, you can't tell which of their offspring will be fertile queens/consorts and which will be warriors, enough that warriors from Aeriat clutches have a reputation for being stuck up compared to the Arbora-born warriors who always knew what role they would play as adults.

Actually, that's two different things: 1) warriors born from queens' clutches rather than Arbora clutches get stuck-up because of a belief that it means their bloodline is superior, more closely related to the royal Aeriat. 2) The other is that when it's a queen's clutch and all the babies are female, it's impossible to tell at first if they're all queens or all warriors or a mix of both, because queens don't develop the web overlay of color until they're past the toddler phase, and there's a belief that this can cause psychological problems in the female warriors. (We don't know whether the second one is true or not, and it may be a Raksura urban legend.)

I'm going to leave the rest of your speculation here, because it's interesting:

But Aeriat in their winged form have different coloration depending on if they are queens, consorts or warriors. Consorts and (male) warriors look the same in their groundling form, but queens don't have groundling forms.

The only thing I can come up with is that newborn Raksura have a 'baby' coloration in their Aeriat forms (or a 'baby' form that they lose once they can shift*) that obscures the difference between a blue/green/brown warrior and a black consort, or the bicolor markings of a queen.

So what are Raksura infants like? Besides probably adorable.

(Of course, the problem is that Moon probably won't see a royal clutch until Jade has one, since I gather it's not the sort of thing shown to visitors, even of allied courts. And Indigo Cloud might forget that Moon wouldn't know this because the longer Moon says with other Raksura, the less obvious his knowledge gaps get, and I'm sure all consorts and queens are a bit jittery about their first clutch and making sure all their children are healthy.)

* This one I'm questioning because it might have come up when Chime changed, if only as a comparison to (re)learning to shift and work in two forms.

In the next set of novellas, in the one called "The Dark Earth Below," Jade actually has her first clutch, and scene goes into a bit more detail than the one in "The Tale of Indigo and Cloud."


I have a book coming out tomorrow! The paperback edition of Star Wars: Razor's Edge.

Online, it's available at Amazon US, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, Amazon UK, Waterstones, Amazon DE, Amazon Canada, Amazon France, Amazon Spain or look for it in an independent bookstore in the US through Indiebound.

It's also still out there in hardcover: Barnes and Noble, Powell's, Mysterious Galaxy, The Tattered Cover, Book Depository, Book Depository UK, Waterstones, Books A Million, Chapters Indigo,, Amazon UK, Amazon DE, Amazon Canada, Amazon France, Amazon Spain or look for it in an independent bookstore in the US through Indiebound.

ebook: Kindle US, NookBook, Kobo, iTunes, Kindle UK, Kindle Germany, Kindle Canada, Kindle Australia.

and audiobook: Barnes and Noble,, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon Canada
marthawells: (The Serpent Sea)
Sorry for the delay in answering! One of our goddaughters came to visit this weekend and we went to a great wedding. It was very fannish, with table centerpieces from all different fandoms (we sat at the Stargate table) and lots of delicious food. I think they said the bride made the curry, which went really well on top of the barbequed brisket.

Yesterday was also my 19th wedding anniversary, so we went out to dinner and had way too much food. There has been wacky publishing news I can't really talk about yet, though some of it (dealing with the Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot disaster) is mostly not good. I am really looking forward to being able to show off the cover of the next Raksura collection, because the sketch was looking pretty gorgeous. I'm also going to be involved in a couple of kickstarters that are coming up.

[personal profile] kalinara asked I've been rereading the Raksura books (which are lovely) but I'm finding myself confused a bit about how Raksura age. I had gotten the impression that Jade and Moon were fairly young for Raksura. However, I remember reading that Tempest was (or appeared to be) about the same age as Jade, and she already has an adult child. On the other hand, characters like Lithe and Shade still seem very young.

I was hoping you might clarify: how long do Raksura remain fledglings? Approximately what age do Raksura reach adulthood?

Thank you!

Aeriat Raksura basically have a long period of adolescence, even after they leave the nurseries. The Arbora do as well, but it doesn't last quite as long. Once Raksura reach adulthood, they don't change physically or show signs of aging until they get into what would be the equivalent for a human of their late 60s, early 70s, when they start to lose the pigmentation in their skin/scales. So Tempest looks about Jade's age, but is older. (You also have to remember the descriptions are from Moon's perspective and there's a lot he doesn't know or realize yet.) Lithe and Shade are both younger than Moon, but have also been sheltered quite a bit in Opal Night. (Because of Moon's experiences, most if not all of the Raksura his age that he meets are going to seem younger, just because they've spent their lives protected by a court.)

Moon's been alive about forty turns, but as far as Raksuran aging/maturity levels go, this would be the equivalent of being in his early twenties.

I hope that makes sense!


Upcoming signings

* I'm doing a signing Saturday November 8, 2014, at 1:00 pm for Stories of the Raksura Volume I and the paperback edition of Star Wars: Razor's Edge at Murder by the Book, in Houston, Texas.

If you can't be there, you can use this page to order a signed book from the store. They can also order The Cloud Roads, The Serpent Sea, and The Siren Depths from them to be signed and shipped to you also, so if you wanted a signed set of all the books, say as a Christmas or other winter holiday present, this would be a good time to do it.

* I'l also be doing a signing for Blade Singer with Aaron de Orive, at the Barnes & Noble Arboretum in Austin, Texas, on Saturday November 15 at 2:00. Hopefully they'll have some of my other books, too.

* On February 13-15, 2015, I'll be a panelist at ConDFW in Dallas, TX. This is one of my favorite cons, so if you're nearby, check it out.
marthawells: (Default)
[personal profile] thanate asked Did you mean for there to be a bit of a family resemblance between Kade and Flower?

I don't think I intended that, but yeah, there is a bit, isn't there? One of the things I wanted to do with Flower is that the things Moon assumes are just part of her normal appearance are actually signs of advanced age, but he doesn't realize it because they're different from Stone's signs of advanced age.


One thing you can do to actually help the ebola epidemic is donate to Oxfam America or Oxfam International to send water, equipment, and other supplies to medical teams in Sierra Leone, Liberia, etc.


Still Taking Questions

If anyone has a question, a general question about publishing (how it works, agents, etc), or a question about my writing, or my books, or cats, or anything else I've been doing, ask in this post and I'll try to answer it.
marthawells: (Manly Hug)
It's a depression and sinus headache day, so let's do questions!

Here's the first two question answers from the previous post:

* [personal profile] nthngtoseehere asked I am re-(re-re-re-re-re-re-)listening to the books on audio during my commute, and having all kinds of rambly thoughts about how the stories/events/characters would look through other characters' eyes (I make my own fun! :P). I know you took a shot at writing from Jade's perspective and decided to stick with Moon's POV, but do you ever compose scenes from another POV for...whatever reason? Fun, or to think things through, or whatever?

No, not really. The POV controls so much about the scene, and the information that the reader is getting, I like to stick with the one I'm going to use in the final version. The reason for this in the Raksura books is that since Moon didn't grow up in Raksuran culture, his view and interpretation of it is very much affected by that. He misinterprets things, is wrong about things. That changes as the books go on, as he learns more and gets more comfortable. So to keep it straight in my head I really have to stick with his POV and not show alternate responses to scenes that he's in.

With other books that had more than on POV, I've occasionally had to re-write scenes where it felt like I'd tackled them from the wrong perspective.

* [personal profile] trobadora asked Which one of your books was the easiest to write? Do you know why?

City of Bones was a lot of fun to write and went fairly quickly. It was my second novel, first time to invent an alien species and have an alien main character (Khat), and since I wasn't basing it closely on any particular time and place, I felt a lot more free to just do whatever I wanted.

The Ships of Air was also a lot of fun, because it was my first sequel, and I just had a lot of fun with the whole with the whole concept. I had all the characters together on a giant ocean liner crossing an alien sea into danger, plus Tremaine Valiarde. I also got to start telling the readers how wrong the characters were about what they thought was happening in The Wizard Hunters.

Extra: one of the hardest was The Siren Depths, because of all the tricky emotional issues. Moon had built up a family and now I had to tear it apart and put it back together again, at least in his head, and that was not easy.

* There was also a question asked on tumblr about writing alien characters' gestures, body language, etc.

Remember the Book Fair

The annual Book Fair for Ballou SR High School is still going on. The school's library is badly underfunded, and while it's now in a new building, there is still no money for new books. At the link you can find the link to the school's Powell's wish list, and the direct address to the school librarian where you can ship the books:

Melissa Jackson, LIBRARIAN (be sure to include her title so the books go to the right place)
Ballou Senior High School
3401 Fourth Street SE
Washington DC 20032
(202) 645-3400

The list includes SF/F, graphic novels, mystery, YA, non-fiction, and pretty much everything. Most of the books on the list are under $20 and some are under $10.00. If you can't afford a book, please pass this info on.

Still Taking Questions

If anyone has a question, a general question about publishing (how it works, agents, etc), or a question about my writing, or my books, or cats, or anything else I've been doing, ask in this post and I'll try to answer it.


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