I Think I’ve Got It!

Once more, into the breach!

Yes, I dove into brainstorming the title for Lodestone Tale 5 one. more. time!

I figured the reason I couldn’t settle on any of the titles I’d considered was because none of them were right. It wasn’t that I’d asked too many people for their opinions. (Although maybe I had asked too many.) No. It was because I agreed with all of their objections.

To Thread the Labyrinth

Even though the concept of the labyrinth appears again and again as a motif in the story, it is not the heart of the story. Lodestone Tale 5 is about courage and kindness far more than it is about discerning the reality behind tricky turnings.

A Legacy Arcane

Neither is the story really about a legacy. Yes, two legacies feature in the novel, but that’s not what it is about. Furthermore, the word “legacy” has a weight to it which is all wrong for the story, which filled with hope, victory, and rebirth. “Legacy” does not feel dark to me, but it does feel weighty.

Talisman’s Reach

I have come to really like the word “Talisman” in conjunction with my story. Talisman is right! But “Reach” is not. Even if no one would mistake it as referring to a feature of the landscape, it is still wrong.

Yes, each of the lodestones in the Lodestone Tales has a long reach through time, but that’s a feature of the series. This individual story is not about that long reach; it’s about what happens between Ohtavie and Lealle. The scope of “Reach” is wrong.

Innocent Trespass

My brilliant writer friend Laura came up with Innocent Trespass. (Really, she’s been doing too much of the heavy lifting with regards to the title for this book. I should be ashamed!)

For several days, I thought this was THE ONE. The book starts off with teenage Lealle trespassing. Lealle herself is not so sure that she does so innocently, but I think the reader will be pretty clear on that. Later in the story, we learn that Ohtavie has also trespassed, also innocently, if not so innocently as Lealle.

When I wrote this story, I’d envisioned it as a standalone. But all of my early readers have requested a sequel to it. My first answer was, “No. Sorry.” But by the time the 4th request arrived, I found myself having ideas for an entire series. I grew excited about what I might do in Book 2, Book 3, Book 4, and Book 5.

Because Lealle is the daughter of the High Justice of Claireau, there will be an awareness of the law present all the books. (Yes, I am going to write them.) So titles referencing aspects of law would be a fun way to go. Innocent Trespass would follow that theme nicely.

But. But. But. Lodestone Tales 5 is very much a fantasy novel. It is not a thriller. It is not a legal thriller. It is not a mystery, although there are elements of mystery within it. Innocent Trespass does not say fantasy. Reluctantly, I loosed that choice from my grip.

What Is Central?

I revisited this question. I needed to stop devising titles that were accurate, but misleading in their focus on a tangent. The heart of my story is the idea that we redeem each other. Even within our mistakes, there is opportunity for us to save one another.

Is there some thing or place or person in Lodestone Tales 5 that embodies my theme and that can serve as the anchor point for its title?

Lealle

Lealle is central. She stumbles upon the first person she decides to attempt saving, but then through choice goes on to save another chance encounter plus an entire townful of people.

One salient characteristic about Lealle is that she is her father’s daughter. “Daughter” would be a good word to have in my title.

Talisman or Trespass

Place did not feel specifically important to my theme. Yes, setting is always important in a story. The people would not be who they are, if they lived elsewhere. The events would fall out differently in a different setting. But, for this story, place was not nearly so important as the action of trespass and the complication of the talisman.

I had three words that felt central. Daughter. Talisman. Trespass.

Models of Title Structure

I’ve read essays about title structures. There aren’t really as many possibilities for the bones of a title as one might wish. (Or, at least, as I might wish!)

It occurred to me that C.S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles include quite a few of the possible structures. What if I used them as guidelines?

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe The Daughter, the Talisman, and the Trespass
Prince Caspian ??
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Trespass of Daughters
The Silver Chair The Iron Talisman Dark Talisman
The Horse and His Boy The Daughter and Her Talisman Talisman and Trespass
The Magician’s Nephew Talisman’s Magic Talisman’s Daughter
The Last Battle The Secret Talisman The Hidden Talisman

Well…maybe. But, no. I tried a few variations.

The Daughter and Her Trespass. Talisman’s Challenge. The Talisman Legacy. The Talisman Secret. A Talisman Unsought.

Wait a minute! That last was definitely not right, but it had the same structure as A Legacy Arcane. What if I pulled “Legacy” out, and replaced it with “Talisman”?

A Talisman Arcane

The talisman is definitely secret, mysterious, and understood by few. It is arcane. But unlike the weighty word “legacy,” talisman has a lightness to it. It breathes of hope and trust. Lucky pennies are talismans. We keep them for luck, for good fortune, in the hope of a bright future.

Yes! That’s it! My title! This is THE ONE! 😀

A Talisman Arcane.

 

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Writing vs. Publishing

I need to be two people!

One me would write my new novel, a sequel to The Tally Master.

The other me would ready the latest book in The Lodestone Tales for publication in March 2019.

Actually I need a third me, who would write blog posts, create cool visuals to appear in BookBub’s newsletter, compose emails to send to those of you subscribed to my newsletter, and do all the other things involved in communicating with the wonderful people who read and enjoy my books.

Since I have only the one me, I’m attempting to strike a balance each day between these three different hats that I wear.

In the past, I’ve not tried to wear all three hats on any one day. I’d spend 3 to 8 months wearing the writer hat and writing a story. Then I’d move into revising. After that came the publishing mode: proofreading, formatting the manuscript as an ebook, creating the cover, uploading the files, etc. And then I’d blog about the book and try to get the word out.

The thing about doing it that way is that it leads to long gaps between the writing of my stories. The gaps are long enough that I start to pine for the writing.

So, over the years, I’ve worked to reduce the gap between writing stints.

Combining the publishing and communicating modes happened pretty readily and easily. They go together, in my brain at least.

I also learned that I need not wait until my first and second readers were done with my previous book in order for me to start on the next book.

But right now I am attempting to write The Sovereign’s Labyrinth in the mornings, while I work on publishing tasks for Lodestone Tales 5 and marketing Fate’s Door in the afternoons.

It’s a wobbly balance, but I’m doing it!

Some days I don’t get the writing in. Other days I don’t manage any publishing tasks. But it feels great to be writing, and I feel confidant that I will get everything done for publishing on time.

So how are things progressing under each of my hats?

I’m so glad you asked! 😉

Lodestone Tales 5

I still have not settled on a title for this book!

But that is not stopping me. I’m progressing steadily in the very last stage of getting the manuscript ready both to format as an ebook and to create the paperback edition.

This last stage involves listening to my computer read the story aloud.

The computer does a pretty good job of reading, so it’s kinda fun listening. But it’s an essential step, because I find the last teeny-tiny glitches that need to be fixed. In this particular manuscript, there were several instances of ‘though’ that needed to be ‘through,’ and two places where ‘through’ needed to be ‘thorough,’ plus two spots missing a ‘the.’ But they are all fixed now.

I’m two-thirds of the way through this audio proofing, and it is going well.

I’ve also been making a list of phrases from the manuscript that might make good titles. Want to see what I’ve got so far? You know I want to share! 😉

Reaching Refuge False Refuge Strangling Thorns
Rife with Hiding Places Held Breath Choose to Open
Choose to Unchain Not Just Fear Fighting Retreat
No More Doubt Other Doors Worse than Dying
Death by Beneficence Say Nothing of Me Word of Silence
Word of Solitude Before They Kill Me Pinching the Pendant
Sundered Radices Sundering Hope Unblessed Solitude
Fortunate Trespass Benevolent Trespass Honorable Trespass
Trespasser’s Surprise Long Secrecy Bequeath Doom
Approach with Courage Alluring Shadows Push Back the Darkness
Hallowed Beast Hallowed Secret Promises Kept
Promises Unwise Venture Beyond Let the Curtain Fall
Let the Curtain Rise Benevolent Illumination Intriguing Legend
Healing Knowledge Prelude to Friendship Magical Gift
Magical Talisman Occupy the Shadows Occupy the Edges
Enigmatic Magic Enigmatic Hunt Without Even a Knock
A Trespass Most Generous

Are any of these serious contenders? Well, no. But I have another third of the book to read. Maybe the perfect phrase is waiting there for me to find it.

The Sovereign’s Labyrinth

I’m super excited about my new work in progress, the sequel to The Tally Master!

I’m thrilled to be hanging out with Gael and Keir again. And I think the adventure facing them is way cool! I’ve got only the first scene written so far, but my plans for what comes next have me jumping metaphorically up and down in excitement.

Gael and Keir have arrived in Hantida, a city-state far to the west and south of Belzetarn. They’ve just witnessed a very peculiar failed arrest, and it is clear that ALL IS NOT WELL here. 😀

Oh! I can’t wait!

I need to do a quickly sketched floor plan of the house where they are headed to treat a badly burned girl, and then I can get on with writing the next scene. (After I finish this blog post, of course. See what I mean about those three hats!)

Fate’s Door Is On Sale

These days, getting the word out about one’s books is key. If you don’t do it, no one knows they exist. Which means no one buys them and reads them.

::J.M. shudders::

The idea of no one reading my books horrifies me!

I had great success last spring when I put Troll-magic on sale and created an image announcing the sale to appear in BookBub’s newsletter. Lots more readers than usual picked up a copy, and that heightened visibility continued for a full 2 months after the BookBub mention.

Naturally I’m trying to replicate that experience with my other books! But it’s tricky, and there is much to learn.

I didn’t get the same results when I tried this for Blood Silver, which did about half as well as Troll-magic. But I’m continuing to experiment, and now Fate’s Door is receiving its turn in the sunshine. I’ll be able to assess the results sometime next week.

In the meantime, the ebook edition of Fate’s Door is available at a discount on Amazon, so do pick up your copy!

*   *   *

That’s what I’ve been up to lately.

I have a bunch of blog posts I want to write about the world of Lodestone Tales 5. Plus I still want to share some of the Whole30 menus that I devised. Watch this space! 😉

(Maybe I need to be four people!)

 

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Lodestones

So, what is a lodestone?

In the real world, it’s a magnet. But in my North-lands, it’s a magical artifact that intensifies the magical powers of a mage.

Different cultures in different time periods and different locations of my North-lands possess different names for mages.

In the Steam Age, the people of Silmaren call them keyholders, the denizens of Fiorish use the term seer, while the citizens of Auberon say patternmaster or enigmologist. There are more variations, but I’m not going to list them all here. 😉

The five lodestones rattling around the “modern”-day North-lands came out of ancient Navarys. So for the duration of this post, I’ll use the term favored by the ancient Navareans: fabrimancer.

The Navareans called their magic energea and their magical focus stones were energea-stones, not lodestones. The lodestones were created at the end of Navarean history, not its beginning, and I’ll get there soon. Promise. But first I must talk about energea-stones.

Energea-stones were crafted from the remains of a meteor fragment lodged in the mountainside of the isle of Navarys. To the ordinary eye, they look like small black pebbles—about the size your thumb-tip—with a shiny finish. (A few were made at larger sizes, but the vast majority were small.)

Energea-stones have been around for almost as long as the Navareans themselves (from pre-history and the age of reed huts). The Navareans learned about fabrimancy (magery) from the energea-stones, rather than fashioning the stones after they developed fabrimancy.

To a fabrimancer’s eye (if he or she is a visual practitioner, not an aural one or a kinesthetic one), the stones hold spiraling patterns of silvery light. This light is the visual manifestation of energea, of magic.

But more important than what energea-stones look like is what they do and how they do it.

In Navarys, an energea-stone would be shaped by a specialist to do a specific task, such as spinning a spinning wheel or a grain mill, tossing a shuttle across a weaver’s loom, or winding the rope of well bucket around a spool. Or the stone might be formed to simply magnify a fabrimancer’s power.

Different stones performed different tasks, but the Navareans especially liked to use them for semi-automating the tasks of craftsmanship. And they wished the stones could be fashioned to permit full automation. It was a sort of holy grail with them.

Energea-stones required the presence of a fabrimancer channeling his or her energea through the stone, almost as though the fabrimancer were a sort of living battery funneling electricity through an engine.

The lodestones were the breakthrough Navareans had been hoping for.

A lodestone looks a lot like an ordinary energea-stone—a small black pebble—except its surface finish is a velvet matte, not shiny. Like energea-stones they can be fashioned in different sizes for different purposes.

But a lodestone draws energea from its surroundings at large, not just from the fabrimancer wielding it. And thus a lodestone permits true automation. It must be forged so as to direct the energea flowing through it to perform the task desired. But once the fabrimancer sets it going, the lodestone does its work until the fabrimancer halts it. The fabrimancer can actually walk away from the work in progress.

Unfortunately, the lodestones embody one serious danger not possessed by ordinary energea-stones.

When an energea-stone is used by a fabrimancer to magnify and concentrate his magical powers, the stone also acts as a sort of overflow valve. If the fabrimancer loses control and summons too much energea—a potentially destructive amount—the excess is channeled away through the stone without doing damage to the fabrimancer.

Lodestones don’t possess this safety feature. Instead, they always carry exactly half of the energea summoned by the fabrimancer. Which means that if the fabrimancer summons a damaging amount, it does damage. Specifically, it tears the energetic structures that underlie the fabrimancer’s physical being.

That damage manifests as the troll-disease that appears in so many of my North-lands stories.

Only six lodestones were originally created. One of them—the largest—sank to the bottom of the great ocean. The other five are loose in the world, creating trouble when they are found.

Skies of Navarys tells the story of the creation of the lodestones, through the eyes of a pair of teenagers.

The Tally Master follows one of the lodestones into the hands of a troll warlord, where an honorable accountant and his assistant determine the outcome of the encounter.

Resonant Bronze shows how a lodestone might turn the tables on the troll horde.

Rainbow’s Lodestone and Star-drake recount the fate of a lodestone used to commit an evil deed.

And To Thread the Labyrinth, due out in March 2019, sees a lodestone returned to a place of proper oversight, although the larger story focuses on a troll-witch hiding her troll-disease.

For more about ancient Navarys, see:
A Tour of Navarys
From Navarys to Imsterfeldt

For more about the magic of the North-lands, see:
Magic in the North-lands
Magic in Silmaren
Radices and Arcs

 

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Series by J.M. Ney-Grimm: Making Things Clear

The first ten titles I published as an indie author were set in my North-lands. The world beguiled me, and I was delighted to discover so many stories I wanted to tell about its denizens.

But my eleventh and twelfth stories were set utterly elsewhere.

Devouring Light takes place in our own solar system, although it’s still fantasy, not science fiction. And Serpent’s Foe occurs in the underground duat of the ancient Egyptians.

This departure from my North-lands amplified a concern I’d been weighing for a while.

As a reader, when I encounter a new-to-me author, I have a mixed reaction when I see they have more than four or five books on offer.

On the one hand, if I really liked the book that introduced me to them, I’m delighted that there are more.

On the other hand, I feel a little overwhelmed with deciding which book to read next, especially if there are more than a dozen. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed enough that I can’t choose, and I go on to read someone else altogether.

I worried that readers in my audience might have a similar reaction.

The clear solution was to group my titles into categories or families. Fortunately my stories fell fairly easily into natural clusters.

The two newest – one involving the Greco-Roman pantheon amongst the celestial spheres, the other starring a goddess of ancient Egypt – were Mythic Tales.

The stories about Sarvet and her Hammarleeding family formed the Kaunis Clan Saga.

The stories featuring one of the ancient lodestones of the isle of Navarys became the Lodestone Tales.

And all the rest, set in my North-lands, but lacking any other substantive connection, became simply the North-lands Stories.

I adjusted my list of Titles by J.M. Ney-Grimm accordingly, and it looked a lot more approachable than it had when it was one long string of twelve.

The stories I’ve written since this reorganization have fit comfortably into one of the four categories I established. Hunting Wild was a North-lands Story. Winter Glory belonged in the Kaunis Clan Saga. Caught in Amber and Fate’s Door were perfectly at home in Mythic Tales. The Tally Master was planned from the get-go as a Lodestone Tale. And my current work-in-progress can be considered a Lodestone Tale as well, with the smallest of reaching.

So where’s the problem? (You knew there would be a problem, right?)

The problem was that nowhere on my website (or the websites of the etailers where you can buy my books) was there any explanation of what my “series” names meant. How would potential readers know, if I didn’t tell them?

Well, I put the task on my to-do list – write series intro paragraphs – and dragged my heels. Writing stories was so much more appealing than crafting series descriptions that were clear and explanatory, but also intriguing and brief.

I believe I let that particular task sit undone on my to-do list for nearly 3 years.

Finally, a few months ago, inspiration attacked me – actually woke me in the middle of the night, if I’m remembering right. I jotted down a few notes and went back to sleep.

In the morning, I went to work on those notes and came up with an intro for the Lodestone Tales. Check it out!

 
Lodestone Tale books

The Lodestone Tales

In the years that came before the ancient days of the North-lands, a brilliant inventor fabricated the lodestones – powerful artifacts that concentrate magical force.

And while men and women walk the earth but a short while, the lodestones persist through centuries, even millennia. When they fall into the hands of mortals, history changes.

Follow the lodestones down through the ages as adventure follows adventure, and ordinary folk rise to meet extraordinary challenges.

Skies of Navarys  (1)
The Tally Master  (1.5)
Resonant Bronze  (2)
Rainbow’s Lodestone  (3)
Star-drake  (4)

(Although the Lodestone Tales form a rough history, each story stands alone. You need not read them in order.)

* * *

That broke the ice. With one intro present, it bugged me that the other three were absent. I sensed that the words describing the Kaunis Clan Saga were there for the taking, somewhere in my backbrain, if I only made the effort.

With that kind of encouragement…I made the effort! 😉

 

Kaunis Clan Saga

The Hammarleeding people dwell in the high mountain valleys of my North-lands. They wield a tribal magic born of dance and song and the flow of sacred waters.

Ritual and tradition hold a special place in Hammarleeding culture. Their rites are beautiful and uplifting, but they underpin a way of life that features many thou-shalt-nots.

In each story of the Kaunis Clan Saga, one woman – or one man – challenges the shibboleths that threaten her – or his – particular bright dream.

1 • Sarvet’s Wanderyar
2 • Crossing the Naiad
3 • Livli’s Gift
4 • Winter Glory

(Each installment presents a unique protagonist from a fresh generation of the family. The stories stand alone and need not be read in order.)

* * *

Then I dragged my heels again. I was fresh out of ideas and inspiration. How could I describe the Mythic Tales, with nothing in common save their origins in ancient mythologies? And how could I create a captivating introduction to the North-land Stories, which seemed almost a catch-all group created for titles that fit in neither the Lodestone Tales nor the Kaunis Clan Saga?

I decided to let it rest. And let it rest, I did. But not for as long as I had the first time. Once again inspiration arrived in the wee small hours.

But when I looked at my notes by the light of day, I wasn’t quite satisfied. The draft was close, but not quite right, and I didn’t know how to fix it.

I let the draft sit for a month. And then I knew, without even reviewing what I had, that the needed revision was there.

I took that draft out, worked it over, and then I had my Mythic Tales intro.

 

Mythic Tales

What if the goddess Bast lay caged in the underground duat of the ancient Egyptians, entrapped and imprisoned there? What if the messenger god Mercury flew between the celestial spheres of our solar system, rather than between Mount Olympus and Mount Helicon? What if the sea nymphs of old Greece ruled underwater kingdoms beneath the warm waves of the Middle Sea?

My mythic tales feature different worlds and characters, but they share the same rich source of inspiration – the vibrant mythologies of our own ancient history.

(Each story stands alone. You can enjoy any one without having read the others.)

* * *

Okay then! With three out of four complete, I just had to manage that fourth. I’ll admit I borrowed a few phrases from the “About” page on my publisher website, but I got the paragraphs written.

 

North-lands Stories

Inspired by the Norse folk tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon, I wrote Troll-magic and thereby created a world, the world of my North-lands.

From the cool, forested reaches of Silmaren to the rich, spice-scented empire of ancient Giralliya, the North-lands feature an epic landscape of forgotten henges, vast wildernesses, charming hamlets, and vivid cities.

Within this ever-evolving realm, ordinary people accomplish extraordinary things.

Each story stands alone. You can enjoy any one without having read the others.

Troll-magic, Perilous Chance, and The Troll’s Belt are roughly contemporaneous – taking place during the Steam Age of the North-lands – while Hunting Wild transpires 800 years earlier during its Middle Ages.

* * *

It feels good to have them done. No, it feels great!

But I’d love to hear what you think.

I suspect that my readers have a clearer idea about what my series really are than I do, because I can never read my own work with completely fresh eyes. I always have what I meant to do, as well as what I did do on the revision drafts, jostling in my mind with the final creation.

So what do you think? Did I capture the essence of each series fairly well? Or did I miss?

 

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