nalohop's blog

Blackheart Man progress

Had a writing date today with the wonderful Madeleine Robins, who's working on another Sarah Tolerance novel. (Yay!) We ate blueberries and wrote. I did about 1,000 new words in Blackheart Man, and came up with a bunch of exciting new world-building elements. Research over the next few days is going to be fun.

And, as you might remember, I'm working on Blackheart Man also by way of participating in the write-a-thon to support the Clarion science fiction and fantasy writing workshop, of which I am an alumna. You can read some of my excerpts and/or sponsor me here

My publisher's discussion questions for Sister Mine

My publisher, Grand Central Books, is including discussion questions in the trade paperback edition of Sister Mine. They've given me permission to post their suggested questions on my site.

Sister Mine Reading Group Guide: Discussion Questions

  • Makeda and Abby are twins, yet they have very different personalities. In what ways are they similar and in what ways are they different? How do you think their individual challenges and experiences have affected their personalities, and their relationship with each other? How do you think Abby’s physical dependence on Makeda during their early years shaped their relationship?
  • What do you think of the bargain Cora made for the lives of her daughters? Did she make the right choice? Would you have done the same, in her place?
  • If you were born conjoined to a twin, would you want the doctors to try to separate you, even if it might mean one of you could die? Or would you rather not take the risk, and live permanently connected?
  • Do you like Uncle John? Do you think he knew what he was doing to Makeda? Why does he insist that Makeda’s rug isn’t her mojo. Is he lying to her?
  • This book is full of unconventional relationships: Abby/Makeda; Cora/Boysie/Uncle John; Abby/Makeda/the Bejis. Do these relationships feel realistic and true to you?
  • How do you think the poem extracts sprinkled throughout the book relate to the text? Do they deepen to your understanding of it?
  • I wrote today!

    To sponsor me in the write-a-thon to raise money for the Clarion writing workshop, click on this link.

    Some of today's draft, unpolished:

    "Why you asking folk for the tale of the three witches? All will recite you the same story, nah true? Everyone in Chynchin know it."

    "Not exactly. Look like every s'maddy, every compong, every town have its own version. I trying to discover as many versions as I can."

    "I don't mean to vex you, Maas', but I still wondering; why?"

    I had rolled him a stick of tabac. He took it with a grunt of thanks. I struck a match and lit both our sticks. We kept silent a little space, through the companionable ritual of taking the first few pulls of smoke. Then I answered him: "To ferret out the truth of what happened that day. We may need to find the trick of it again."

    He nodded. "Abiodun dey-come. I mark."

    Trashion; upcycled crocheted doilies into dress

    Seems like I need to always be making something. Since I realized a few weeks ago that I don't need to be able to read a pattern in order to crochet clothing, I've been doing that pretty much nonstop. I mostly use cheap cotton twine from Kmart, and combine it with old crocheted pieces I find in second-hand stores. In this case, I first followed simple instructions I found on Youtube for crocheting bra cups tailored to one's bust. That worked pretty nicely, so then I had to figure out what to do with the resulting cups. I rummaged around in my doily stash, and came up with: a y-shaped doily with raised flowers on it in strategic places; a flouncy circular doily; and a lovely rectangular rayon shawl in a pineapple stitch (I love pineapple stitch, even though I've never done it).

    I used freeform crochet to attach the pieces. There was much trying on and pulling out and starting over and muttering before I had something dress-shaped. By then, I had combined seven different colours and many different gauges of yarn. This is where dye is a blessing. I bought blue dye and stuck the whole dress into a hot dye batch. I crossed my fingers that it wouldn't shrink.

    The weave of the cups was dense enough that it didn't need lining, and I was okay with leaving the midriff and the upper back unlined. But I wanted to line the skirt. It would have been easy enough to sew a tube of cloth to fit, but I already had a light cotton skirt lining that I'd removed from a skirt that didn't need one. I tossed that into the dye bath, too.

    The dress didn't shrink. Whew. Of course, it came out all different shades of blue, but I didn't mind that. There were enough tones in common to unify the look of the dress:

    Sponsor me in the Clarion write-a-thon?

    So, I've decided to participate in the Write-a-Thon to raise funds for the Clarion Writing Workshop, of which I am a graduate.

    Clarion is an annual writing workshop for budding writers of science fiction and fantasy. 17-19 students live on campus (currently the U. of Cali San Diego) for six weeks in the summer. Every week there is a different writer in residence, and one weekend there's a visit from a professional editor. Under the guidance of the writer-in-residence, students write and write, and take part in workshop critiques every day. Clarion was an amazing experience for me. I learned in six weeks what it would have taken me six years to figure out on my own. It was tough and scary and humbling, and some of the best fun I've ever had.

    Clarion is not part of UCSD. The workshop pays its own way, and raises its own funds. The write-a-thon helps to subsidize the costs of running Clarion. If you'd like to sponsor me, just click on the image below for details.

    Clarion West Writing Workshop, based in Seattle, Washington. It operates on the same principles as Clarion, but is a different organization than Clarion. I've taught at both Clarion and Clarion West a number of times. Both do great work, so by all means feel free to support Clarion West in its own write-a-thon as well. (Note that if you sponsor me, the funds go to Clarion only, not to Clarion West. I had to pick one, so I went with my alma mater

    Blackheart Man; 507 words

    507 new words in Blackheart Man this morning. I'm trying to build a sense of the everyday imaginative life of the world of Chynchin. It's a little stuttery for now:

    I nearly went flying as an idle camel nosed me hard in the small of the back. I emerged from the land of kings and crocodile’s bellies, and found myself in another place; home.

    Blackheart Man, rewrite

    Now that the teaching quarter is nearly over and I have 3 months of summer ahead of me, I've begun working on Blackheart Man again. That's the novel that got stalled due to illness, and that my publisher cancelled. I banged through the first chapter pretty easily in the past few days, but now that I'm on chapter 2, I'm hitting conundrum spots. I need to internalize my worldbuilding around economic exchange & magic systems. I know sort of how I want them to work, but I'm not yet managing to integrate them smoothly into the narrative.

    Powered by thunder thighs

    Yup, it's true; with a couple of folding panniers, a pair of locking bungee cords, and a knapsack for overflow, you can fit the contents of a grocery cart onto the back of a bicycle.

    It's getting hot in here...

    103 degrees Fahrenheit in Riverside this afternoon. That's 39.4 degrees Celsius. But there's a stiff breeze blowing, and for all we make fun of this, the fact that the humidity is low does make a difference. The heat feels quite agreeable for brief jaunts. It's kind of like stepping into a hot tub, except dry. I'm not even sweating, even though I just rode half a mile on my bike. At this kind of temperature in Toronto, I'd be unable to move more than six inches away from the air conditioner without feeling like my whole skin was strangling. I'll have to keep an eye on my plants, though. The combination of high temperature and a brisk breeze will pull moisture out of their leaves and the soil really quickly.