Wednesday check-in

Here’s a quick update on Clary Books and me. Into the Rift is live and has had its first free days on Amazon. So far there has been one sale and fewer than 50 free downloads. Which means no one is paying attention to it and that is sad, though I have received a lot of lovely support from friends and family. I’m not worried because Rift is only the first stop on this particular journey. Onward into the future then.

Rift will be free again on Nov. 29, and then one day in December and one in January. After that, the story is leaving Select and will be published to all my other distribution channels. My other short story, Last Night, gets regular downloads on Smashwords and some of the sites they distribute to (mostly the Apple store and Sony), so I look forward to watching Rift in those channels. (Barnes and Noble occasionally sells one of my garden books, but has never moved a single copy of Last Night).

In the meantime, I am working on the next tale of Tahylam. The working title of the sequel is Faolan, which is the name of the young mage at the heart of the story. To begin, I sketched out a rough sequence of events and related notes. For the first time I used Scapple, brainstorming software designed by the creators of Scrivener. I love Scrivener and so far Scapple has been a good tool to help sort out my thoughts, which as usual are muddled.

WhatThe other tool I’m working with now is a book that I recommend to everyone, whether you’re a writer or not. It is called What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank, written by Krista D. Ball and published by Tyche Books, a small Canadian press. It’s subtitled “A fantasy lover’s food guide”.

This book is a delightful look at the historical record of food and drink as it applies to fantasy stories. How much food does a traveling army need, and where does it come from? What can your small group walking cross-country reliably expect to forage at different times of year? If they’re riding, what do they feed their mounts, and how much food can they carry? How do you keep the food from spoiling? And how long does it really take to stew a rabbit, or dress a deer?

Now that I write fantasy again, I struggle with the amount of world-building that must be done to flesh out the details behind every story. And these small questions of food reverberate across the culture. If a band of warriors steals food, that’s one kind of relationship to the people around them. If they expect tribute, that’s a different relationship entirely. If they stay at inns or buy food from farms, there must be certain class and economic structures in your world.

So thinking about the food and farms in Tahylam helps me understand the culture Vanessa lives in, and the customs and conventions of the Ranks. The funny part is that most background details are never shown in the story. But food (and drink) are always around and knowing where they come from affects everything you write, the whole arc of your story and the constraints of your world.

Krista’s book is great fun to read too, which is why I recommend it for readers as well as writers of fantasy. It is full of historical references without being academic or dry in any way. You’ll learn a lot, and see the worlds of fantasy with a deeper understanding.

As much as I love ebooks, you really should buy What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank in print because it has by far the loveliest cover of any reference book in the world. The book is not only intellectually but physically delicious. Try it.

Meanwhile, I’ll get back to writing.

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