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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

 

You know what I've got?


I've got a first copy of my new book!

On Monday I met with my charming publicist, and wouldn't you know, copies of Book Two - entitled In Great Waters - have just come off the press. I'm very excited; it's glossy and handsome, and looks great.

Of course, at this stage I can't bear to read it. After writing it, rewriting it, copy editing it and proof reading it, I've had absolutely enough of its contents for the time being; right now, I'm scared to look inside it in case I spot disastrous sentences and end up wailing 'Why? Why? Why didn't I change that while I still had the chance?' However, this is just the oversensitivity that comes from a) being the author and b) reading it too many times; no doubt I'll like it better when I've had a rest from it. All things considered, I'm pretty pleased with how it's come out.

I'm particularly impressed with the cover image. The subject of the book was a horribly difficult one to find a picture for. I say this with feeling; I've compiled illustrated books in my time, and when it comes to matching words and pictures, reality tends to be stubborn: the right poem or the right photograph very often only exists in your mind, and artists throughout history, the pigs, have failed to provide you with what you need. This book in particular involved two completely different subjects, underwater life and court politics, and if you can think of an image that suits both of those, you're a cleverer person than I am.

Fortunately for us, Lily Richards, the picture researcher at Random House, is a cleverer person than I am. The image she tracked down is by the fine arts photographer Narelle Autio, and its underwater beauty combined with a suggestion of violence and struggle, as well as an air of thrown-in-at-the-deep-end which perfectly suits my characters' dilemmas, all are far better than I could have hoped. So while the inside of the book is currently a snakepit as far as I'm concerned, the outside of it is wonderful, and I keep grinning at my copy.

To give you a fuller virtual experience, here's the jacket blurb:

In a tense, divided court, a young princess watches her mother struggle to hold the throne. On a secluded coastal estate, a scholar finds a child washed up on the shore.

Anne. Henry. A Christian princess of the royal blood. A pagan bastard, groomed all his hidden, lonely life to make a grab for the crown.

In this work of stunning imagination, Kit Whitfield has written a fictional history at once familiar and alien. Since the ninth century, when the deepsmen invaded Venice, an uneasy alliance has held between the people of the land and the sea. That alliance was brokered by the warrior queen, Angelica, half landsman, half deepsman, the mother of the royal houses of Europe. Now, centuries later, no navy can cross the seas without allies in the ocean - and without deepsmen guarding its shores, no nation can withstand invasion. The hybrid kings keep the treaty between both sides, protecting their people from the threat of war.

The royal blood is the key to peace, and ferociously protected. The penalties for any landsman who tries to breed with a deepsman are severe; the fate of any 'bastard' child, born of such an illegitimate union, is terrible. But the royal house of England is staggering, collapsing under the weight of centuries of inbreeding.

Anne prays for guidance, a way into the future without hatred or bloodshed. Henry holds with fierce certainty that only the strong survive. But if either of them is to outlive the coming conflict, they may need more than faith alone...


Anyone want to play a game? Who can come up with a first sentence for that book? Both comedy and serious suggestions will be welcome. Accurate guesses will be met with tremendous kudos and suspicious glances. Come on, have a go...


LATER: my delightful publicist has told me that we can send a free copy of In Great Waters to the lucky winner of this first-lines competition that seems to be building up! So, let's say for the sake of convenience that the competition closes at midnight on Saturday, Greenwich Mean Time. Let's hear from you lovely people, and a shiny book could be yours.

Comments:
"It was a dark and stormy night"
 
When she walked into the room, I knew she was trouble; she had dark eyes and fins that just wouldn't quit.
 
"This book in particular involved two completely different subjects, underwater life and court politics, and if you can think of an image that suits both of those, you're a cleverer person than I am."

Two words: Prince Namor.
 
The servant removed the dish's lid and Anne wrinkled her nose with disgust.

Calamari.

Again.

Yes, this time it was tastefully arranged with a light cream sauce and carefully placed browned shallots, but really.

Again.

Anne was starting to wonder if the chef knew how to prepare anything that didn't have tentacles.
 
The servant removed the dish's lid and Anne wrinkled her nose with disgust.

Calamari.

Again.

Yes, this time it was tastefully arranged with a light cream sauce and carefully placed browned shallots, but really.

Again.

Anne was starting to wonder if the chef knew how to prepare anything that didn't have tentacles.
 
Sorry about the double post. Please don't roll me in paper and throw me to Mika as her new chew toy.
 
Prince Namor.

What?
 
"Still waters definitely run deep."
 
Serious:
"Anne watched the French ambassador approach her mother, and thought: *This will not end well.*"

Silly:
"Thomas looked down at the small body on the sand and tried without success to stifle a giggle. It was wholly inappropriate, but he couldn't stop himself. It was clearly a hybrid: danger and opportunity in massive amounts, if it still lived. The shock of it threw him off his reckoning, and all he could think was how small and weak the boy looked. How utterly... *kelpess*.
 
Oh, and - Prince Namor, Marvel Comics' answer to Aquaman.
 
Namor! Right on. Namor is actually a Golden-Age 1930s character that precedes Aquaman, I believe. Wonderful character, has'nt ever really been used to his full potential--even by Kirby and Lee.

Kit, I apologize in advance for what is, I'm sure, a painfully obvious and overasked question, but...was this book inspired by the possibilities of a fictional world inherent in H.P. Lovecraft's "The Shadow Over Innsmouth"? The way his story "Pickman's Model" inspired exploration of it's premise by Caitlin R. Keirnan?
 
I regret to admit that the first thought that popped into my head was, "Call me Fishmael."

*blush*

More seriously? Um...
"It's said that many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it. But the politics and protocols of my mother's Court usually left love withered and gasping for air."

More seriously yet, the book looks great! Congratulations.

word (really!) is "mismsere." A season in a coastal country which is foggy but never rainy, leaving the fields dry and the rivers huddled in their central channels.
 
Kit, I apologize in advance for what is, I'm sure, a painfully obvious and overasked question, but...was this book inspired by the possibilities of a fictional world inherent in H.P. Lovecraft's "The Shadow Over Innsmouth"? The way his story "Pickman's Model" inspired exploration of it's premise by Caitlin R. Keirnan?

1. No need to apologise; questions always welcome.

2. Nope. I'm not a particular Lovecraft buff; I've read a few of his stories, but they're not really my thing. I don't think exploring the possibilities of a fictional world suggested by another writer's story is really my thing either; occasionally I bounce off other writers' ideas, but it's usually with the desire to disagree rather than to explore.

The story of how I came up with the idea is actually pretty simple. I'd sold Bareback and got a two-book contract, and was wondering what to write next. Someone suggested mermaids as a joke, given that I'd already done werewolves, and I said 'Ha ha, very funny ... actually now I think about it...' I played around with the idea for a little bit, getting nowhere in particular, and then my boyfriend remarked that I was interested in court-cum-family politics - a university friend of mine had studied history and listening to her talk about it I'd been struck by the way royal status seemed to affect family life - and suggested I put the two together. So I played around with that for a bit, starting on the character of Anne and again not really getting anywhere. Henry was originally intended to be a minor character, but I started writing some backstory for him and got absolutely mesmerised, so he moved to centre stage. Then I came back to Anne, did some thinking about her family, and suddenly she came to life as well. So I scrapped everything I'd written and started over with Henry and Anne at the centre, and went on from there.

So basically, the inspiration came from a couple of people I know making semi-serious suggestions, and me fooling around, drafting and redrafting until I hit my stride. I actually stayed away from mermaid stories while writing it, which is a post in itself...

Call me Fishmael

*Collapses, laughing her head off*
 
Congratulations Kit, that's just awesome ! I can't wait to read it.

This book in particular involved two completely different subjects, underwater life and court politics, and if you can think of an image that suits both of those, you're a cleverer person than I am.

This image came into my head : a medieval tapestry with courtly people talking and drinking in that awkward, kinda-in-profile-but-facing-outwards-with-no-perspective kind of way, except they've got fish tails. They're levitating, of course.

No need to thank me.

Word of the day : "pringab", a mermaid prince in his larval stage.
 
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single prince in possession of a fine realm must be in want of a fish."

More seriously, do you have a date for the US release? Personal copies are all very well, but I want to get it into my library, and we can't do overseas orders.

(Verification word: "comayell", that peculiar inarticulate yelp uttered by insensate persons when you pour ice water into their ears.)
 
"Love means never having to say you're soggy."

Or

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, and also there were lots of weird fish-people."
 
US release date is still under debate. I'll let you know as soon as I do.

Word: varooni. An Anglicised spelling of Hindu peasant word meaning 'woman whose eyebrows meet an a surprisingly attractive way'.
 
She looked at the child with horror - there was no way anyone would believe that the father was the King.
 
After "Call me fishmael" I'm not sure I have much to add, except Congratulations!

("menal"? Small tasks for human males?)
 
Okay, here's a What If...? version, inspired by J.J.'s inquiry about The Shadow Over Innsmouth:

A crack of lightning split the air as the Scholar uttered the final words and lowered his arms. A small body lay near the center of the circle that he had painstakingly inscribed in the sand hours earlier. Behind it, or perhaps below it, he had a sense of some half-seen thing receding, a dark tide retreating into the ocean... or stranger depths still.

He stepped out from between the two piles of ash - piles which had, moments earlier, been blazing fires built in careful patterns and fed with sacred herbs and other things. The circle was intact; he approached it cautiously. The figure stirred as he drew near.

It was a hybrid, human in basic shape but marked with the ichthyan features of a Deepsman, and it was male. Perfect. He stood for a moment longer, savoring his victory. Then he broke the circle and raised the boy in his arms. "The Royal House will not survive you," he promised.

-------

Okay, technically - in order to make this a proper Lovecraftian story - I'd need to introduce a perfectly innocent narrator who would slowly track down the history behind the Strange Boy Who Lives In The House By The Strand, but I lack the patience for that much build-up.

My verification word is Hyrat, which is the near-mythical undersea city from which the child was summoned.
 
Ok, is this supposed to be a first sentence or is there some leniency here? I see a lot of full and even multiple paragraphs...
 
Good question. What are the rules for the contest?

'Cause I want to win me a book!
 
The rules are as follows:

1) The decision of Mika shall be final.

2) See rule one.

3) Bring Mika fishy treats.
 
Michael Mock, you also need a gibbous moon in there somewhere.

(word verification: "wriseen", the weird unearthly undulations of the insect gods as they mourn the passing of the Nameless Proud)
 
I left a congratulatory message a couple of days ago, but it went away.

Anyway, I shall try again: congratulations! This is great news.

First sentence. Um, "Splash!"?

(See, there's a reason not everyone should do this creative writing thing.)
 
Okay, my best shot at a first line for IGW:

"He's back... and this time it's ceremonial."

Yeah, not original, I know.

Verification word: "sampullo". A kind of pre-technological era deep-sea diving equipment designed in Venice and involving quite a lot of glass.
 
If you feel moved to write more than a sentence, be my guest. Whatever entertains you.

I think I'd better extend the deadline to midnight on Sunday, as I've been away from the internet for two days and haven't been able to tell you this until about six hours before the original deadline. I've got a nasty cold for the second time in as many months, which as I take regular exercise and get my five portions of fruit and vegetables a day and maintain good standards of personal hygeine is simply not fair. But I wouldn't want others to suffer for this, so Sunday it is.

Word: symings. A popular name chosen to bestow on suburban houses in the 1970s.
 
'Cry haddock and let slip the cod of war.'

(Note from Kit: obviously he doesn't get the book, because 1. That would be corrupt, and 2. A nice man will shortly drop about twenty of them on our doorstep, so it's not like there'll be a shortage or anything. He's just playing along.)
 
Well, if he was playing for real, he'd win.
*snicker*

Hope you feel better soon. No, cold germs have no ideas about legitimate targets; they go about seeking whom they may devour, regardless.

Word: shranst. A particularly nasty and ineffective patent medicine. "Drink your nice Shranst, dear, you'll feel better." But it's not nice and you don't feel better.
 
Yeah really - his sentence made me laugh! Is he an author too? (I'm out of books. Can you tell? :p)
 
Anne watched the stranger as he glided effortlessly through the sea of the gathered court. She caught a brief flash of silver as he slipped between the gaunt, robed eminences of the Ichtyan Brotherhood. The elders, for their part, scarcely noticed his passing as they swayed to their own internal rhythyms as kelp do on the tide.

His wide eyes never seemd to blink as he darted through the throng of courtiers. His cape billowed behind him, evoking the menace and sense of purpose of a dorsal fin.

Anne couldn't deny it. There was something fishy about the guy.
 
/whaps Abel Undercity with a pickled herring/

(verification word: "ardisca" -- a scrofulic infection of the amatory gland)
 
Ow! Funny, hapax isn't this mean when I post as damnedyankee on Slacktivist.
 
Oh hi Abel/DY!

Is he an author too?

He writes as a hobby sometimes; nothing with a view to publication. You can read some of his stuff here if you're looking for something to do...
 
Hi back atcha, Kit!

Anybody know how to get the smell of herring out of a t-shirt?

denth: The state of being about ten percent dead.
 
If fishes were horses...
----------------
Anne watched the new arrival with restrained interest. He was handsome, strikingly so, but he'd arrived with Cornwall, which made him immediately suspect. A lifetime in the court had taught her to avoid hooks, no matter how pretty the bait upon them.
-----------------
"Anne? Come with me, please."

The princess welcomed the arrival of her mother's maid. Years ago, she'd found it amusing to watch her peers struggle to match the posture that she, as a hybrid, carried naturally. Now, she only found their comportment lessons tedious.
-----------------

I dunno, I think I'm out for the moment. I may see if I can generate some more later on.

Verification word is hamboaph, which is a fourteenth century device used for measuring sounds in the deep ocean. (It was only centuries later that human translators realized just how much of what they were hearing was actually Deepsmen cursing.)
 
Okay, one more:

Henry stared down into the moonlit sea and wondered if his parents were there somewhere.
 
Distractions. Every time Martin thought he'd be able to sit down and put ink to vellum, something came up. This time, it was the squalling of some babe down by the shore. A quick thrashing of the mother should see them off and let Martin get back to his long-neglected work.
 
Henry could remember the moment of his birth.
 
::Thwaps Donalbain with a fish::

::Walks away giggling::

Verification word: allung. An artificial lung, partly bio-engineered and partly cybernetic, which allows breathing in a variety of atmospheres; in the year 2274, an allung can be purchased for a modest fee and installed in a small booth in any reputable shopping mall.
 
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