Friday, January 3, 2014

In Heaven's Shadow and other cool places

Happy New Year! I had intended to write a reflective post about the past year, but that's a bit egocentric and I doubt that I could add anything particularly new or insightful. I would rather look forward, since a new year is a lot like the wonderful blank page that is the foundation of every new story. I adore that moment when I sit down to write something new. The page is limitless in its possibilities. That perfect white expanse, awaiting the mysterious little black shapes that spell out letters and words and sentences that turn themselves somehow into scenes and fantastic worlds. And the best part is—I never know where the story is going until it's done. That first sentence? I am always clueless what the world is going to be like, how the magic works, or who is going to inhabit my pages. It's a mystery, it is, and so is every new year until it almost imperceptibly becomes the old year viewed in our rear view mirrors.

What do I know about 2014? I know that I am writing Delver, the fourth and last book in the Masters of the Elements series, the most recent of which was Seaborn, released in September. We will all (including me!) finally learn why Fire is in rebellion against Earth Mother, and what the clans must do to prevent the ultimate firestorm sweeping away Metrenna and every living thing in the land. The story is already developing layers I had no idea were lurking in there. The story-within-the-story is poignant and shy and I hope I am good enough to capture it as it should be captured.

I also know that I will be publishing at least three other books this year, through Taliesin Publishing and Sky Warrior Books. The first is In Heaven's Shadow from Taliesin, a Civil War ghost story/fantasy that I wrote the only time I took up the NaNoWriMo challenge. I like this book a lot because it helped me deal with my dad's death, and it is offbeat and let me put on my historian's hat for once while still getting to put in some cool magic. I have a degree in history and I love to research, so this one was fun to write even though the themes of death and afterlife and respectability often hit pretty close to home. Did you know that the American mortuary industry was pretty much born amid the horrors of the Civil War, as both North and South struggled with the aftermath of battles that produced as many as 12,000 dead soldiers in one day? Before the war, most families buried their own dead; as the big battles began, it became necessary to find a way to preserve bodies well enough to ship fallen soldiers home to their grieving families for proper burial. While coffin-building and embalming took a quantum leap forward, the actual shipping was quickly abandoned as logistically impractical. The sad fact is, as the war dragged on, most families got only the word that their loved ones were dead, with no body to bury and only a funeral service to try and achieve closure. And when so many died at once, often torn to pieces by cannon fire, many families only ever got the thin hope of “missing” to cling to. Hope can be a terrible thing, as we will see when In Heaven’s Shadow comes out February 6th.

I am also launching a new high fantasy/soft SF series this year from Sky Warrior Books called Fate’s Arrow. I love the idea that humankind knows so little of what actually may lurk in the vastness of the unexplored universe. It leaves open the possibilities of what we may encounter on foreign planets when, someday, we may finally set foot there. And when unsuspecting humans encounter alien catalysts—well, who can say what is real and what is not when human wishing and human ambition meet the very stuff of Creation? Oh, my.

The first book in the series, “The Mask of God,” is in the last stages of production. The cover is looking awesome and I have only to return the final proof to my publisher. And then a story I started over 20 years ago will finally get out to the world, full of gods who aren’t gods but have all of a god’s powers—and a god’s single-minded purpose; human pawns who refuse to act like pawns; and two royal brothers who really only just want to get through the day without somebody taking potshots at them. These books are about love and loyalty and the deepest desire of the human heart to believe in something...but just what our hero finds to believe in may surprise you. And they’re about magic, that also has its own, inexorable requirements.

I plan to resume writing my “Horses in Fiction” blog series this year as well. I confess that I have not had the heart for it because my own riding was so severely curtailed this last year. It is tough having horses standing around the pasture that you are not medically allowed to get on and ride. But, rather than sit around and whine, I will play with them to the best of my ability and share what I know with you all. Heh, see there? In Heaven’s Shadow, which is set in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, is lingering on my tongue, as I hope the story itself will stay with you.

Have a very delightful new year, everyone. I hope we can share part of the journey together!


Ann Wilkes said...

I know just what you mean. I think it was Madeleine L'Engle who said that she was always excited to see what her characters were going to get up to. :) Have a fabulous 2014, Sue!

Rebecca Stefoff said...

I look forward to In Heaven's Shadow; the excerpt you read at Orycon was great. And your new high fantasy/soft SF series sounds interesting. I like the meshing of F and SF--sometimes I find it in space opera or science fantasy--and would love to see more of it.

Works of S. A. Bolich said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it, Rebecca. It's one of my favorites. Anne, the best of new years to you, too!