Notes on a Review

More work. Was–possibly lovingly–chided for writing slowly last night, and have a fire under me now.

Two things: Xelas Magazine has their inaugural issue up, and it features two landmarks things from me–a non-genre poem and a translation, my very first. The translation is Sappho, and the poem, well, readers of this journal will scry the subtext, I’m quite sure.

Also, a review of both The Grass-Cutting Sword and The Orphan’s Tales up at Strange Horizons. Not entirely positive, but not bad, either.

Having never written a series before, I’m looking at reviews and such, and even enthusiastic reader responses and thinking–oh. They can’t see the shape of it. Not yet, not till it’s done. They don’t really see how it all fits together, why it’s all the same story, why it’s all important. They can’t see why there had to be wizards and princes in the beginning, the whole panoply of standards and favorites, so that these would code as fairy tales, so that I could write about much crazier things at the end, so that robots and women with violin-bows for hands and chemical warfare would still code as fairy tales. (And yes, that’s what’s coming.) Why these stories are the ones on her eyes, why everything. I see the shape and it’s so obvious to me, but the first volume, I think, still reads like charming stories that connect to each other, but don’t make a whole, not entirely.

And of course that’s terribly obvious. But I’ve never lived in the space between book releases before. In my head, it’s all so clear. And I start to think that people are going to be amazed when it’s all done, and they can see what I see.

Of course, the suffering and bloodletting? Not going to go away. The thing is, while we may prefer raunchy Chaucer, we love the parts of Grimm that are the most violent and disturbing. We love the implements of destruction–spindle, iron shoes, glass coffin. We want blood. Blood is compulsory. The call for less blood and more laughs is what led to the Disnification of fairy tales to begin with.

And the book I’m writing now, the third book in the internal four-book structure, we’ve all begun to affectionately refer to as “The Empire” around here. As in “The Empire Strikes Back.” As in, unrelentingly awful so that the fourth book explodes with fire and light and joy and there is catharsis. But at the moment it consists of bludgeoning my characters in the head until they can’t ever, ever get over it. So it is very hard to write, because it’s really fucking depressing. But the light is coming–I see it, it is so clear.

So get to it, Cat-o-Nine-Tales.

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