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I was feeling smug this morning about getting on the road by my target time (before 6am). I'd have lots of time in the coffee shop in Berkeley to compose this blog and maybe get some other things done as well before going to the office. And then I saw the big flashing freeway sign "West Hwy 24 accident all lanes blocked." They don't go to that extreme for a minor fender bender, so I quickly reviewed potential alternate routes and took off into the hills, detouring through Moraga, up Canyon Road, and winding through the east bay redwoods.

When writing a series, there's always the tricky question of how to bring readers up to speed on the characters' back-stories without brining the narrative to a screeching halt for an info-dump. But when writing a book that's meant to be able to stand alone but exists within a series, the issue of back-story becomes even trickier. You need to provide readers enough information so they understand why these minor characters are wandering in and out of the book, but without setting up expectations that they will be important to this particular story.

The issue of character motivation weaves deeply through chapter 3 of Floodtide. Why did Dominique reach out to Jeanne to help Roz? Why did Jeanne agree to see what she could do? (These were covered in last week's teaser blog.) Why did Jeanne approach Margerit? (“Who did she know who kept a large enough staff that there would always be a place for one more? And who could not possibly object to the reason for the girl’s fall? The answer was obvious.” Mother of Souls ch. 12) Why did Margerit agree to give her a try?

Because Floodtide is written solely from Roz’s point of view, there are a lot of details that she (we) don’t have access to. Like why in the world Dominique would go out on a limb to try to get Roz another position in service? And how did she arrange for Margerit Sovitre, of all people, to consider her?

Fortunately, if one has read Mother of Souls, the answer to the second question is laid out there, although purely in passing.

* * *

[from Mother of Souls]

It isn't that I go into a writing project assuming that I know exactly what needs to go into the story and what would be superfluous, but it would be accurate to say that I don't go about writing entire chapters without a clear purpose to them. So when the editorial feedback (in this case, from my beta readers) comes back pointing out serious issues that can only be fixed by eliminating entire scenes, events, and characters, there's always a twinge involved.

It's time for the return of Teaser Tuesday! Floodtide doesn't have enough chapters to post a teaser from each chapter weekly up to publication day in November. I plan to do regular Tuesday posts intended to stir up buzz and anticipation. Some will include teasers, some won't.

One of the protections that my Alpennian ladies have for their personal lives is the willingness of Rotenek society to look the other way. To enter enthusiastically into the belief that “nice women don’t do that sort of thing” and therefore that two women who are well-born and respectable could be the closest of romantic friends without ever stepping across the line into forbidden desires.

I'm not forgetting my promise to talk more about the geography of Alpennia, but in order to come up with even the sketchiest of maps, I need to organize and review the data. In the mean time, I thought I'd tell you how Floodtide is coming along.

Alpennia is all about challenging and subverting default paradigms and tropes, simply by its existence and by the people and stories it focuses on. But it can be tricky to have the characters themselves challenge those paradigms without falling into the trap of pausing for set-piece speeches. Consider, for example, the problem of both portraying and challenging the types of social prejudice endemic to early 19th century Europe without turning my characters into 21st century progressive activists.

Just a brief snippet this time, sparking a consideration of magical healing. One of the first contexts in which Margerit designed her own "effective" mystery was in Daughter of Mystery after Barbara was attacked on the bridge by Langal's thugs. That mystery was for the purpose of protection, not healing, and Margerit bemoans the fact that every kitchen maid knows an array of healing charms and her more ceremonial interests are of little immediate practical use. But that raises the question of how "effective" healing charms are in the world of Alpennia.

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