The Bujold Nexus

December 2006

Subject: (news & chat) report from the publishing pipeline
Date: Sat, 30 Dec 2006


Today's mail brought the proof cover flats for the mass market edition of The Sharing Knife, vol. 1: Beguilement. I'm hoping they will still sell some more of the prettier hardcovers myself, but hey. Anyway, its official mmpb (mass market paperback) release date is set: May 2007. (On-sale date 4/24/07, to be exact.)

For the record, the ISBN will be 978-0-06-113907-9

The color reproduction seems rather gray-brown-yellow, losing some of the beautiful and subtle colors of the original painting. (Which is now framed and on my newly-repainted living room wall here in Minneapolis.) Granted, the modern-looking and very pink blanket the artist put in to match her sunset sky behind Dag was a bit of a problem; but I hope this doesn't mean we end up with a brown sky on the other volume. No raised metallic foil on the lettering this time around, either, hm. I actually don't faunch after the fancy lettering except as a sign of publisher support, as I think such costly extras are so common these days that they no longer make a book stand out. However, thanks to y'all popping the book onto the NYTimes extended list in its first week of hardcover sales, they will be able to put "New York Times Bestseller!" on the top line of the cover, which should help grab the attention of the all-important wholesale buyers, who order in the month's books for their stores and chains on the basis of brief glances at their covers (and of the prior book's sales figures). Yellow is not my fave color, but the lettering does stand out readably in it.

The Sharing Knife Vol. 2: Legacy will be on-sale in hardcover 6/26/07.

Ta, L.

Subject: (News) TSK goes to Spain
Date: Fri, 15 Dec 2006

Hi all --

I am pleased to report that The Sharing Knife (both volumes) has sold for translation in Spain. It's to a publisher who is new to me, Libros del Atril in Barcelona. As is not-uncommon, I know nothing about them. It'll be interesting to see what they do with the books.

Spanish, like German, is one of those languages that fluffs up on translation from English; its Spanish publisher split the not-all-that-fat The Curse of Chalion into two volumes for that reason. Pre-split, TSK should slot right in as-is.

Ta, L.

Subject: (Chat) The 6th blog post
Date: Sat, 02 Dec 2006

I ended up this evening, in response to a poster on the Baen Board, writing what amounted to a sixth blog post like the ones I did for Eos a few weeks back. ( Might as well share it with y'all as well. (Also archived here).

Dialect and dialog...

Ah, I'm so glad someone noticed, if only subliminally. (Actually, subliminally is preferred; intended, even.)

All of my books so far are in a viewpoint dubbed variously tight third, third person personal, and other variants. That means they are written, more or less and to the limits of my ability, attention, and endurance, in the vocabularies, dialects, and personal styles of their respective point-of-view characters, rather than that of some separate omniscient narrator.

Within that frame, any given sentence may be written in one of three narrative distances, roughly, from that of the viewpoint voice. Direct quotes -- dialog and italicized internal dialog, which are the character's thoughts directly reported -- will all of course be in that character's own words (and grammar). Paraphrased thought -- the stream of observation and sensation the character is experiencing, and the reader along-with -- will be in something closer to standard English, but salted with the character's personal style and opinions. Sometimes, especially during narrative transitions where the writer must hike up her skirts and run quickly from one fully-dramatized scene to another, it will be more standardized still, but preferably with some flavor of the POV (and their limits) lingering.

If a given book of mine is written in a single viewpoint, there is no way for the reader to tell where the character's style leaves off and the writer's begins, as it's all the same from end to end. In multiple viewpoint, more variation is possible, and visible.

Each book's writing style is therefore both driven and constrained by the viewpoint character/s selected. Miles's voice is post-modern, ironic, and educated, and he has access to basically all the vocabulary I do. Cazaril is educated and exposed to if not steeped in his language's poetry and theology, although with a strong side-order of military, man's-world experience. Ista has the education and vocabulary of a Chalionese court lady, broadly overlapping Caz's, upper class and literary. Neither have access to modern vocabulary or world-view detritus -- all the psycho-technical b/a/b/b/l/e vocabulary Freud, er, gifted the language with, for example, is beyond their purview, nor should they use any metaphors stemming from modern technologies. The characters' ages will also often be reflected in their language -- more formal for the older or more powerful ones like Aral, more breezy for fellows like, say, Ivan.

Ingrey is based on a different root language (in his world) than that of Caz or Ista, as well as having a very different personality. His background is upper class for his realm, but he's not literarily inclined. I tried to make his language more terse and direct to reflect this, while still keeping an archaic flavor. (And, of course, the usual time-and-place-and-tech-level vocabulary control.)

One runs into limits as a writer, and sometimes has to just give up and go with the standard English that one's readers can parse, or be stripped of words altogether. The world of Chalion, ferex, never had the medical theory of the four humours, nor much of our medieval astronomical or astrological (or alchemical) terminology, but I still use such words as choleric or sanguine or saturnine for that world; they have the proper archaic flavor.

I am at best a toddler-writer in these matters. In Tom Shippey's book J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century he has a wonderful analysis of the Council of Elrond identifying something like 23 different nested dialog styles, each with distinct vocabularies and grammar. But that's Tolkien.

All this as preamble to The Sharing Knife. Because TSK is written in dialect; several of 'em, in fact. My native dialect, to be precise -- or what would be if my parents hadn't been from Pittsburgh via California and a lot of formal speech training -- that of rural Ohio (and points nearby).

Fawn's voice is rural central Ohio pretty directly, as are the rest of the crew from West Blue. The Lakewalkers speak in a slightly more formal and educated variant of the same thing, as befits their more powerful status, although Dag's unique tag "leastways" is clearly something he picked up in Luthlia. We also dip into the Appalachian-tinged syntax of southern Ohio, at the Horseford's farm. Later, in the third book, I have a major character who speaks that dialect exclusively. The narrative remains in dialect as well, though with the usual shift to something more standard during transitions.

Vocabulary control was tight. Both Fawn and Dag are, as we see, literate (tho' Fawn only barely), but neither have a speck of the literary about them, except what they've picked up from listening to song and ballad. (And traditional song and ballad also tend to strong, simple language, because the ear can't parse complex terms at speed.) Neither Fawn nor Dag are readers, because there's almost nothing to read in their world. (Save for what's in Lakewalker lore tents and patrol reports or village clerk's records, all of which tend to the utilitarian.) So neither should have highly polished, polysyllabic, literary vocabularies.

Both should have very extensive technical vocabularies, however, dealing with the work of their daily lives. Fawn could leave the average reader in the dust on weaving tech or the diseases of sheep, I have no doubt, or Dag on the arcana of trapping or the treatment of skins and hides. But these don't much come up in the course of the book, nor have I any special wish to bombard the reader with esoteric research unless it's directly pertinent to the critical parts of the plot (as, ferex, the spinning in Ch. 17).

Invective is a little weak. Naturally I had to throw out all religion-based invective from our world. The Lakewalkers have only a few unique words and phrases. The farmers ought to have all the earthy Anglo-Saxon monosyllables, but I've left most of them out in order to maintain a certain tone in the midst of some very mature subject matter. (Too, both my POV characters are rather clean-mouthed by nature.)

I probably used my on-line thesaurus more with this book than with any other I've ever written -- to find simpler but equally precise synonyms for the polysyllables that tend to fall most trippingly from my typing fingers. I suspect the practice of paying such close attention to my language was good for me as a writer; I know it was fun.

Ta, L.

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