Skirmish: Spoiler discussion thread

People who post here are going to be discussing evens in the book itself, so if you hate spoilers, this is not the thread for you :).

Skirmish Summary, part 2 of part 3, and a note about the differences between reading and writing

This is the final part of the summary of the events of The Sun SwordSkirmish Summary 03.b.

There are — as I think Michael pointed out in the previous thread — events that I didn’t mention, in part because it would add enormously to the length of the summary, and if I hit 60k words, it pushes the meaning of the word “summary”. It probably wouldn’t surprise anyone, but it also wouldn’t be finished until next month.

I think the summary contains the backstory necessary to understand what’s happening now in Skirmish, but if there are points that are confusing, this is the post to ask questions in. I will try to answer them as they come up.

I also want to add something here. I did have a spoiler thread for Cast in Ruin discussion. I am happy to have a similar thread for Skirmish discussion, but when people begin to discuss, in depth, the contents of one of my novels, I try to absent myself from the discussion. This isn’t because I’m not interested; it’s because I don’t want to be a damper on the discussions that do arise, and if I weigh in, it frequently has that effect. What we perceive as writers and readers are different.

There are characters that I love that some readers hate. (I think Sendari holds the title as the character that’s caused the most conflict: my editor and several of my friends really loved & empathized with him; my mother and Kate Elliott loathed him). I obviously can’t argue with their reaction. I have my own — but my reaction in no way invalidates reader reaction. I didn’t intend that he be hated. I can’t change him after the fact, and to be honest, wouldn’t. He is, in my mind, who he is.

That’s an obvious example. But when discussions devolve into “what do you think the author intended”, it gets trickier. I can tell you what I intended (or didn’t intend, see: Sendari above), and I can sometimes do that without killing discussion completely, but not often. “Where do you think the author is going” is another example. I can’t really weigh in, because some people hate spoilers of any kind; even if I say “it is never going there”, it will close off those possibilities in a way that will leave some readers disgruntled.

I’m happy to answer questions — but some readers prize the discussion itself, and answering questions often kills that discussion. So: if you want my (non spoiler) answers to questions you have about my books, ask me here or in a blog post that’s not devoted to spoiler discussions, and I will try to answer them in a way that doesn’t step on reader toes.

Skirmish, and the story so far

First, noting the tags, I want to apologize for a number of things.

I did not intend to write a series of books that would break in the middle this way. What kind of an idiot writes a series that requires another entire series to be read in the middle? Apparently, me. Had I realized, when I finished Hidden City, that there would be three books that would cover one arc, I would have called the series something else, and had one “early years” trilogy.

I like to believe that I learn from my mistakes. I promise that I will never make this one again.

It didn’t occur to me, while writing Hidden City, that people who hadn’t read The Sun Sword would actually be reading these books. I am enormously grateful that they are — but it wasn’t something that I considered at the time. I know I should have. I am, I think, a clearer writer than I was when I first started writing The Sun Sword, but one of the things I’ve struggled to accurately understand is how much needs to be said for clarity’s sake. But when it became clear to me that I had new readers for this series, I was left with a large problem: How could I make the actual House War make any sense to people who hadn’t read The Sun Sword? I wrote several versions of a first chapter in Skirmish in an attempt to cover the story-so-far in a way that wasn’t intrusive.

But I realized, with each variant attempt, that it was a lost cause. I couldn’t do it in the book itself unless I changed the start point, and I couldn’t do that because the events are written, published; they can’t be conveniently moved or changed–and so, for better or worse, I didn’t, but instead, decided that I would have a summary, a story-so-far, for people who hadn’t read The Sun Sword.

When I approach a novel, I know what it’s going to be about. I have a plan. I don’t know it in every small detail; I know the world, I know the characters, I know what they want – but there’s an alchemical reaction that occurs on the page when two characters actually meet and talk. Whole conversations veer in directions I hadn’t anticipated, because people are like that. It’s like when you introduce two of your best friends to each other. You love them both; they love you. You naturally assume that they will love each other because it makes sense.

Except that they don’t, always. You know them. They know you. But what happens between these two people you know and care for is outside of your control, and often confounds your expectations. Writing is like that, for me. I know a lot about things in stasis. But things in action (where action in this case means the actual writing) move or change in ways that surprise me while still remaining utterly true to what I know of the world or characters.

I sat down to write the story so far, and as usual, I had trouble summarizing. In part, I have trouble because what I know and what is in the text are not the same; the text is a subset of the knowledge. (The other part: I wrote six books when I thought I had two. I am so not the person to write a summary of anything). I dragged my heels. I worked on Peril and War. In my mind, it’s still the end of November. And yes, our Christmas tree is still up.

So: There are three parts of the story so far. The first is a simple point by point recount of events that involve House Terafin leading up to the moment Jewel leaves for the South. These events are largely contained in The Broken Crown and The Uncrowned King. I don’t think this will be of interest to anyone who’s read the actual novels: Skirmish Summary 01

The second is a conversation between Finch and Jewel on the night Jewel returns from the South: Skirmish Summary 02

The third, and by far the longest, takes place in the kitchen, between Jewel and her den. In Skirmish, Jewel does speak with her den in the kitchen; this is in some ways a longer version of that discussion. This actually takes place before the conversation between Finch and Jewel. It is the longest because it touches on the larger issues that affect Jewel and the Empire: the wild magics, the hidden paths, the gods. A much shortened version does appear in the book. Because I’m so late with this, and because it is not finished, at 15k words, I am posting the first part of the third section, and will post the last part tomorrow (or possibly the day after): Skirmish Summary 03.a

The reason parts two and three are written as if they were novel text, rather than point-by-point summary is selfish, in some ways. The first section recounts events that the den as a whole experienced. But for the last four books of The Sun Sword, Jewel is not with her den. She is with Avandar Gallais, Lord Celleriant, Kallandras and a number of other characters. Her life is not political; the events she witnesses and participates in do not reflect the increasingly dire situation in House Terafin at all.

Jewel doesn’t see what’s happened in her absence; the den doesn’t know what’s happened to her in theirs. It made sense to write these sections as if the characters were attempting to fill each other in on what occurred, when time is a constraint, but it also tells me what they know, and what they won’t say.

Happy New Year, and Skirmish Prologue and first chapter

Well. The end of 2011 was hectic, and I’ve been a little snowed under with work.

I’m an introvert by nature. People who’ve met me in real life often find this description a bit confusing, because in real life, I don’t generally strike people as shy. But introversion is not synonymous with shyness. I like interacting with my readers. Actually, let me rephrase that. I like interacting with readers for whom reading is a lifelong obsession, because that pretty much describes me, and it’s something we have in common.

But interaction, when I’m overwhelmed, takes thought, focus, and energy, and when writing is particularly difficult, that’s where all the mental energy goes–and it leaves me with very little left over. When I am in that state, it resembles this, except with more writing, less going outside, and no video store. Given that I am working, and that work frequently involves wholesale removal of the thousands of words I worked on with such hair-pulling difficulty the day before, I begin to feel like a bit of a fraud. If you are here because I’m a writer and I am obviously writing so badly that I need to throw out thousands of words repeatedly, how entertaining can I be?

Intellectually I know I will wrestle the book into shape. I know that four years from now, I won’t actually remember which words were the product of multiple attempts, and which words came naturally and effortlessly. I know this because that’s what always happens. Because I know this, I don’t want or need sympathy, and frankly, you are not coming here to pat a pathetic person on the head.

I think, a decade ago, it was less obvious when I underwent the inward-focused work collapse–but with online social media and its prevalence, it’s become much more obvious when I become entirely overwhelmed and have to shut down anything that’s not writing. I apologize for my absence; my New Year’s resolution is to make a daily attempt to gain control over an overflowing inbox, among other things.

I’ve noticed, as I’ve tried to catch up here, that there’s a sample of Skirmish on google books. It’s available to North American residents because DAW owns North American rights for this series, but a UK reader emailed me this afternoon to ask that I make it available for non-North American readers who are waiting on copies to arrive. I’ve now added the Skirmish sample, for those who couldn’t read the Google version. It’s the prologue and first chapter.

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