Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Water, water everywhere...

I don't think I've posted this map before. It's the hand-drawn map of the Realms I use as a reference when working on the Mug and Meralda books. For the last couple of weeks, I've been deep in edits on the new one, All the Turns of Light. I'm hoping to be done with that in a week or two!

The Realms are a very small part of Meralda's world. The Great Sea stretches twenty-five thousand miles in the shortest direction to the world's other land mass, a much larger continent that is home to the Hang. Which makes the world of the Realms several times larger than Earth. 

I did that intentionally. Why?

Ha. I won't tell. Not until around the end of Book 3, anyway.

This new book will have seen the most extensive re-writing I've ever done. But it's going to be a really good book, so it's well worth the effort!

Other Authors at Work

I took this photo inside novelist William Faulkner's home. He famously wrote out the entire outline for A Fable on his walls. He later won a Pulitzer for A Fable, and even wrote the outline on the walls a second time after Mrs. Faulkner had the walls repainted.

I post this image because I'm envious of Faulkner's talent. Let's conduct a thought experiment -- Frank Tuttle partakes of a respectable volume of good whiskey, outlines a book on his wall, and churns out a novel. Does Frank Tuttle win a Pulitzer, get a Historical Society marker erected in front of his house, and then go on to win a Nobel Prize for literature?

Not so much. Frank Tuttle sheepishly repaints the wall and nurses a hangover.

I'll always regret ignoring Step 1 on my Master Plan to be Rich and Famous. What was Step 1, you ask?

Step 1: Be born William Faulkner.

Man, you just can't skip steps.

Faulkner's desk and PC. Bet it runs XP.

Lou Ann Says Hello

Lou and I, on an expedition to replace the memory card in the trail camera earlier today. Taking pictures of Lou is challenging, because she rarely stands still. She has just emerged from a cooling dip in the pond, and is considering a return because she doesn't smell quite strongly enough of mud and algae. Mud composed of rotting vegetation and a thick scum of algae is, of course, Chanel No. 5 to dogs, and is to be applied liberally and often. She's at my side now, exuding an aroma only Swamp Thing could love.

Upcoming Markhat Release

A reminder -- the new Markhat book hits the shelves on June 17!

Here's the Amazon link:

You can pre-order if you haven't already!

Here's an excerpt from THE FIVE FACES, in case you haven't read any Markhat books and would like a sample before diving in.

My new client’s name was Saffy, short for Saffron, and her big brother’s name was Ted, short for Ted. They were hesitant to offer up their surname, as most Orthodox Rannites are, so I didn’t push.

Saffy and Ted lived in an attic flat with their grandparents in the jumble of old alleys that run north of Camptown. Put the kids together and they’d still be outweighed by a sack of moth-wings, which is why I left them in my office and fetched Mama Hog.

Mama has her faults—and then some—but put a hungry child in her vicinity and she’s a one-woman charity kitchen. She took a single look at Saffy and Ted and vanished with a squawk, only to reappear moments later with a basket stuffed with biscuits and big thick slices of salted ham.

She left after delivering her feast, and by the time my new clients and I got down to business, I could smell Mama’s soup-pot boil as she brewed up something hot and savory.

Ted choked down the last bite of his fourth biscuit and wiped his chin on his sleeve.

“Mister, I’m much obliged for the biscuits, but I’m telling you straight—right now—we ain’t got a penny between us.”

Saffy nodded. She was on biscuit five, herself.

“I don’t know much about finders,” added Ted, “but I know nobody does nothin’ for free. So tell me this—why did you tell Saffy you would find Cornbread? We got no coin. And you ain’t havin’ nothing else, neither, if you get my point.”

I nodded. I liked the way the kid looked me in the eyes when he spoke. I liked the way he didn’t brag or threaten or bluster.

“I was a dog handler, during the War,” I said.

He returned my curt nod.

“So you know dogs.”

“Know them and like them. Cornbread—he help your sister get around?”

“I don’t need any damned help, mister,” said Saffy through a mouthful of biscuit.

Ted nodded silently. “Cornbread’s the smartest dog I’ve ever seen,” he said. “We raised him from a pup. He’s been with Saffy all his life, and she’s been with him all hers. We want him back, mister. But I can’t pay you. Not right now, anyways.”

I leaned back in my chair and pretended to ponder the matter. “Tell you what,” I said. “I’ve got a house on Middling Lane. Summer’s coming. My wife likes a neat lawn, and I like a lazy afternoon and a cold beer. What do you say to this—I try to find Cornbread. You give me a summer of yard work as payment if I find him. If I don’t, you still work for me for two months.”

Ted eyed me with mild suspicion. “That’s it? No funny stuff?”

“That’s it. No funny stuff. Meals thrown in by Mama Hog. Deal?”

Saffy grabbed his elbow, whispered something in his ear.

“She wants to know if you’re any good,” he said, giving me that same flat, hard look. “Like I said, I don’t know anything about finders. So, are you? Any good?”

I opened my desk drawer and got out my writing pad and my good ink pen.

“I guess we’ll see. So tell me. What happened today at the Park?”

Saffy swallowed and coughed. “A man came up and asked me what kind of doggy I had. I heard him get on his knees, and I thought he meant to pet Cornbread, but the leash jerked and Cornbread barked and the man took him—”

I spoke before she could start crying again.

“The man. Did you know his voice?”

“No. He talked funny.”

“Funny how?”

She knotted her dirty brow in concentration.

“What keend of a doogie is that, lass?” she said, aping a deep baritone and a thick accent I couldn’t place. “What a wee leetle doogie he is!”

“He sounded like that?”

“Just like that.” She hesitated. “He smelled funny. Perfumy, like a fancy lady. And he had a big hat.”

I raised an eyebrow. Blind she might be, but she sensed my unspoken question somehow.

“His shadow was too big. I could feel it when he blocked out the sun. He had a big hat, mister.”

I scribbled on my pad. Fancy toilet water, wide-brimmed hat, strong accent.

“And you,” I said to Ted. “Where were you?”

He didn’t blink or look away. “I was watching the birds,” he said. As he spoke, he made a rapid reach and grab motion with his hands. “I lost sight of Saffy, just for a minute.”

Pickpocket, I added to my list. Mind your coin.

When I didn’t spill the beans to Saffy, Ted actually showed me a brief, narrow smile.

“So you never saw the man who took Cornbread?”

“No. I’d have gutted the bastard if I had.”

I didn’t doubt that for a moment. Life doesn’t breed any gentle children of leisure in Camptown.

Mama Hog pounded at my door. “Boy,” she shouted. “Let me in. Got some stew I needs to get rid of.”
I rose and let her in. Her basket was full of bowls and spoons and a pot with a lid and half a loaf of hard-crust bread.

“Reckon you young-uns got room for a bite of stew?”

They were face-down in the bowls and sopping up stew before Mama could hand out spoons.
Mama grinned, showing off her remaining front tooth.

“So, what are these here urchins hiring a finder for, pray tell?”

“Someone snatched their dog. Cut the leash and took him in the park.”

Mama’s grin vanished. “You’d best find them another dog,” she said. “I reckon them what took it has intentions of using it as a bait dog.”

Saffy swallowed hard and cleared her throat. I made frantic shushing motions at Mama.

“We don’t know that,” I said. “Her dog’s name is Cornbread. Saffy. Tell Mama here how the bad man talked.”

Saffy repeated the man’s words, complete with accent.

“Mama, that accent sound like anybody you know?”

She shook her shaggy head. “I reckon not. Though there’s all kinds of foreigners coming out of Prince these days. Some of them talks outlandish, I hears.”

Dogfighting is illegal in Rannit. And not much practiced. Too many War vets came home alive because a dog warned them Trolls were closing in. Anybody caught fighting dogs for sport tended to meet with the kind of displeasure that takes months to heal, if one survives it at all.

Maybe they didn’t think that way in Prince.

Mama leaned against my desk and watched my new clients eat.

“Reckon it must be nice, bein’ able to give away work for free,” she muttered. “‘Course, now that you got Gertriss bearing most of the load, you can afford to be all charitable, can’t ye?”

Mama’s great-niece Gertriss is now my junior partner. Since Mama brought Gertriss to Rannit to be trained up in the card-and-potion trade, Gertriss’s defection to the noble art of Finding has been a sore spot with Mama of late.

“I certainly can,” I replied with a big grin. “I’ve even got time to help you run your business, Mama. Set me up a table, and I’ll start reading the cards this afternoon. Can’t be much to it. The card with the skulls means death, right? And the one with the swords means conflict?”

By then I was talking to Mama’s back as she stomped out of my office muttering about ingrates and the poor upbringing of those who failed to respect their elders.

Ted looked up at me, stew leaving greasy trails in the soot on his chin. “You got a mouth on you, Mister.”

“So I’m told.” I noted his observation on my pad in a show of attention to detail. “Finish the stew. You two need to run along home and I need to start looking for Cornbread.” I pointed at the address I’d scribbled on my pad. “I can find you here?”

Ted nodded. “First door on the right, second story. Grandpa’s deaf. Grandma can hear but not speak. She’ll know your name.”

“Fine. Scoot.”

They drained their bowls. I fussed with my notes and pretended not to see the loaf of bread or both Mama’s spoons find their way into any shabby little pockets.

When they were gone, I put the empty bowls back in Mama’s basket and swept the few crumbs that had escaped off my desk.

I put the basket by Mama’s door when she refused to answer my knock. “Got a few hours before Curfew,” I said, loud enough for Mama to hear. “I’m heading down to the docks to ask around about newcomers from Prince. Darla will worry unless somebody sends a kid to my house with a note telling her I’ll be late, but that can’t be helped, since Mama isn’t home and I’m pressed for time. Woe is me, alas, and etcetera.”

With that, I hailed a passing cab and bade the driver to head for the docks.

He jokingly asked if I was looking for trouble, heading for the docks this late in the day, and I jokingly replied I was, and where better to look?

I tossed him a coin, and off we went, toward the setting sun.


So it all starts with a blind kid's missing dog, and winds up -- well. Let's just say things get complicated and dangerous for our hero, wise-cracking Markhat.

I mentioned editing earlier, and I have a lot left to do, so that's all for this week. Take care, folks!

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