The Left-Handed Fate

Ghosts of Greenglass House Cover Reveal and Excerpt, Plus The Left-Handed Fate on the Locus Recommended Reading List!

 

9780544991460_lresOh, I am so late on this post, mostly because I’ve been in the thick of finishing a set of revisions for the book itself, but just in case you missed it, Entertainment Weekly was good enough to host a cover reveal for Milo and Meddy’s next adventure, Ghosts of Greenglass House. And here it is!

9780805098006_FCIf you click on that EW link above and scroll past the awkwardly-large picture of my face, you’ll also find an excerpt to tide you over until October 3, when Ghosts of Greenglass House arrives at a bookstore near you. Enjoy! And in the meantime, if you need a little more Nagspeake in your life and you haven’t already picked up my beloved, current favorite-book-I’ve-ever-written, The Left-Handed Fate, what are you waiting for? It’s currently sitting pretty on the Locus Recommended Reading List, in some pretty amazing company.

Happy reading!

 

Introducing The Illustrated Bluecrowne!

Happy holidays, friends! I hope this message finds you and your families well.

Boy oh boy, it’s been a long time coming (and a long time since my last post!), but I am thoroughly delighted to announce that The Illustrated Bluecrowne is ready, just in time to extend the holidays a bit. (Did you know Christmas used to be celebrated on 1/6? Merry Old Christmas!) You can find it here for download, free or pay-what-you-like: https://gum.co/Yieyk

feelslikedyingThis edition of Bluecrowne has been illustrated by twelve young artists of ages ranging from eleven to twenty-two. I could not be more proud to invite you to enjoy their work on this project–their varied styles and varied imaginings of the characters are just delightful and add an entirely new dimension to the book.

caylaxiao2Oh, and obligatory promotional stuff: If you enjoyed Lucy and Liao’s exploits in Bluecrowne, you can now join them on their next adventure in The Left-Handed Fate, which I may have mentioned was released this past August. To my very great shock, the New York Times reviewed it this fall and described it as “Patrick O’Brian’s Captain Aubrey series as seen through the lens of Hayao Miyazaki.” So that happened and was awesome. Hopefully your local bookmonger will have it readily available, but you can always order from my home store of McNally Jackson if you’d like a signed and/or personalized copy.

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Much love to all of you, and to your families. May 2017 be full of happy surprises.

Your friend,

Kate

A Post about Biggest Things

A couple months ago when I thought maybe, maybe if I tried really hard, I’d manage a couple blog posts a week leading up to launch time, I asked some friends what would make good topics, because I am notoriously bad at figuring out what kinds of things might be interesting to the reader who just happens to land here. Dylan Meconis said she’s always interested in what the biggest challenge of a given project is, which got me thinking and ultimately resulted in a very short list of “biggests” related to The Left-Handed Fate. Here it is.

Biggest challenge of the writing (thank you, Dylan!):

I think there were two.

20121127_191625The first was being detailed enough about the nautical elements of the story for it to pass muster with people who love boats and can spot inaccuracies but not so obsessive about nautical stuff that it pulls readers out of the story. I like to use fun vocabulary generally, so using the same tricks that allow you to confidently toss around uncommon and lengthy words in books for kids helped here. It was also really helpful to have one protagonist who isn’t a sailor and hasn’t gotten confident with terminology or architecture or really any of the practicalities of sailing. Any time I figure Max would need something explained or spelled out, I figure a reader will, too (and vice versa).

The second was making the War of 1812 accessible. I loved writing about this war because I think it’s relevant today for a lot of reasons, but if you’d asked me what it was really all about before I started researching I’d have had a hard time answering. It’s not one of the wars you learn much about in school, and it’s not easily reduced to a single memorable issue that sticks in the memory like the American Revolution, the Civil War, or World War 2. Plus, we didn’t win the War of 1812. We got trounced by Canada, fought to maybe a draw, and even the final treaty ignored one of the primary grievances we had with England. And while it was consequential for the United States, the War of 1812 was basically a spoiler conflict happening at the margins of the wars happening in Europe. It’s a fascinating moment, but it was hard to pin down without getting overly lecturey and expositional.

Biggest fear about the book:

9780544052703_hresThis one’s easy, and my friends and family already know the answer. I’m afraid people will be disappointed that The Left-Handed Fate isn’t like Greenglass House. Yes, it returns to Nagspeake, which was a total joy, but it isn’t cozy. It falls somewhere in the space between Greenglass House and The Boneshaker: a little more darkness than Milo’s story, a little more humor than Natalie’s. And there’s a hint of The Broken Lands in there, too, and not just because Liao is a character in both. Folks who’ve read all three of the earlier books (or five, if you count the Arcana companion books) know that Greenglass House is the outlier, but so many more people read Greenglass House than the others, it’s hard not to be worried.

But in the end, if there’s one thing I have learned as a bookseller, it’s that not all books are for all readers. Still, it’s hard to apply that to my own books, when of course I want everyone in the world to love them all, especially the new one that I love to an unreasonable degree–but that’s plainly unrealistic. So this book won’t be for everyone, and that’s okay. And anyway, there’s Ghosts of Greenglass House coming out next year, so that’s comforting, too.

Biggest research problem:

Working out the architecture of the actual vessel called the Left-Handed Fate. But initially I wanted the Fate to be a really oddball vessel that looked nothing like anything else on the water–for those who’ve read Patrick O’Brian, I was thinking a bit about the “carpenter’s mistake,” the HMS Polychrest, if the “innovations” that made the Polychrest so dysfunctional had actually worked. But as I wrote I realized that constructing a ship like that was really outside my capability if I wanted to keep the nautical elements of the book realistic.

LHFDrawingAugust2DarkerOnce I let go of that idea, I wanted the Fate to be a Baltimore-built clipper, which really became a thing just after the era of the book. So she became a topsail schooner that incorporated elements of some of the other types of vessels that influenced the builders of what would come to be called clippers. And really what kept messing with me was the lower deck layout. It took me so long to get around to nailing that down that Eliza Wheeler (whose patience is really one of the wonders of the world) had already begun drawing and both of us had to revise what we’d done to match the final layout.

Biggest hope for the book:

That it does well enough to justify returning to this era and these characters in another full-length novel. I think that’s always my biggest hope when a book comes out. I fall so deeply in love with the characters that I want to return to them again and again. Even though I’m supposed to be working on other things, ideas are already starting to swirl. I hope, I hope, I hope.

Partying, partying YEAH!*

COME TO MY PARTY! YOU ARE ALL INVITED.

Next week is the official launch of The Left-Handed Fate, and I couldn’t be more excited–unless, of course, you come out to celebrate with us!

There are two launch parties happening next week. If geographically convenient, please do come and hang out.

Tuesday, August 23 (LAUNCH DAY!!): McNally Jackson Books, 7pm

52 Prince Street (between Mulberry and Lafayette)

All ages are welcome; a story and some refreshments will be provided. Find additional details here. 

Thursday, August 25: Barnes and Noble Annapolis, 6pm

Annapolis Harbour Center, 2516 Solomon’s Island Road

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Again, all ages are welcome. At least one of my high school teachers has RSVP’d that she’ll be present, if you’ve been hunting for blackmail material. Find additional details here. 

If you can’t make it but would like to join the festivities, there’s still time to order from one of the four special independent bookstores who have special gifts with preorders of The Left-Handed Fate. Find additional details here, but hurry, because quantities are limited.

*Nathan has played “Friday” several times at me in the past week in a not-very-covert attempt to game my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist to do ridiculous things and a probably not-unintended consequence of this is that I’ve had it stuck in my head since Sunday (which comes afterwaaaaarrrrrdd). I’ve also developed a terrible case of indecisiveness about whether I’d rather be kickin’ in the front seat or sittin’ in the back seat because STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT

FAQs: The Left-Handed Fate and Bluecrowne

As of today, 35 DAYS TO THE LAUNCH OF THE LEFT-HANDED FATE!

9780805098006_FCAnd, predictably, I still keep forgetting to post here. On the other hand, I do have at least one good reason: I’m working like crazy to get The Illustrated Bluecrowne PDF ready for release before the LHF launch at the end of August. And since Bluecrowne is so closely related to The Left-Handed Fate (and since a forthcoming review actually refers to LHF as a sequel to Bluecrowne), I thought it would be good to talk a little about these two books and how they’re related.

Bluecrowne_Cover2Bluecrowne is part of an endeavor I call the Arcana Project, which is a series of short novels set in the same world as The Boneshaker, The Broken Lands, Greenglass House, and The Left-Handed Fate—all of which are related to one degree or another, but all of which are stand-alone tales that can be read independently of the others. The Arcana books are meant to provide additional tales and, in some cases, show how certain books are related to others. I don’t publicize them heavily because I imagine them kind of like Easter eggs—if you find them, good for you! Enjoy. If not, no big deal. I had fun writing them. So far, there are two books, The Kairos Mechanism and Bluecrowne. The Kairos Mechanism takes place after the events of The Boneshaker; Bluecrowne takes place before the events of The Left-Handed Fate. Here are some FAQs I get about how these books are all connected.

Q: I see that some of the characters in The Left-Handed Fate appear in an earlier book, Bluecrowne. Is The Left-Handed Fate a sequel? Do I need to read Bluecrowne first?

A: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO READ BLUECROWNE FIRST. The events of Bluecrowne take place first; however, both are truly standalone stories. (Bluecrowne is also the backstory of the building of Greenglass House, for instance, and explains the origins of two key clues to the mysteries Milo and Meddy solve, but I am completely certain that most people who read Greenglass House are entirely unaware of Bluecrowne‘s existence.) If you have (or do) read Bluecrowne before The Left-Handed Fate, hooray! You’ll definitely have insider information, including insight into Liao’s pyrotechnical gifts and the reason Lucy and her father aren’t excited to return to Nagspeake. But if you haven’t or choose not to read it, no big deal.

Q: Ok, cool. How do I get Bluecrowne if I want it?

A: You have three options.

  • You can get the ebook right now in the format of your choice from any of the usual ebook retailers. You’ll see that there are two versions, and one is more expensive than the other. The more expensive version is called the Kickstarter Edition, and it includes a bonus story from The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book (which you will know of if you’ve read Greenglass House).
  • You can get the paperback very rapidly (how fast depends on your shipping preferences) from McNally Jackson Books, where the books are printed using the Espresso Book Machine. If you want your copy signed or personalized, there is a field in the online order form where you can request that (note that I’m only there once a week, so signed copies might be delayed until I’m next in). Order here, or you can call the store directly to order by phone (212-274-1160). Bonus: on most Saturdays, if you call between 10 and 6, there’s a high probability I’ll be the one answering the phone! Hi!
  • You can read it free (or pay what you choose) starting sometime in August when The Illustrated Bluecrowne ebook is released. Right now I’m waiting for the last few pieces of original art from the young illustrators, but I expect to have it finished and available for download by mid-August or thereabouts. It’ll be a PDF, so it should work for you whatever kind of reader you use, and I’ll add a link here as soon as it’s ready. The art, by the way, is really outstanding. I can’t wait to share it with you. Preorder here.

Q: A free illustrated version? What’s that about?

A: As part of the Kickstarter-funded publication budget of the Arcana books, I included funds for a digital edition that would be illustrated by young reader artists and offered free or pay whatever, with the idea that I wanted the artists to be able to share their work at no cost to their friends and families. (Any money contributed by readers who do choose to pay goes into the pot for the next book’s illustrators.) The artists are between 11 and 21, and each used a style of his/her own choosing. It is, hands down, my favorite part of the project.

Q: I see the Bluecrowne paperback says “Arcana, Volume 2” on the spine. Do I have to read The Kairos Mechanism first? WHY IS THIS SO CONFUSING, KATE?

It was odd because they were strangers, and because they came in on foot. It was odd because of what they carried.

A: You do not need to read The Kairos Mechanism before Bluecrowne (although if you want to, you can follow all the same info above to get it in ebook or paperback (order the paperback here, and the free-or-pay-whatever illustrated version is here). Like Bluecrowne, it’s a standalone story, although it is definitely more closely tied to The Boneshaker. As for why it’s so confusing: I overcomplicate things. There. I said it. It’s just who I am.

Q: I’ve read the Arcana books and I was really hoping you’d have one coming out this year, but I haven’t heard anything. Are you doing another Arcana book?

A: Yes. Two more at least. But not this year. I have discovered to my shock that my ability to turn out three thousand words a day disappeared the day I had a kid. So here’s what’s coming down the pike: hopefully first, possibly as early as next fall, will be The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book. Additionally, I have an as-yet-untitled adventure featuring Sam and Jin from The Broken Lands. Kickstarter backers of Bluecrowne will get an advance peek and free digital copies, because this book arose from a short story I promised as a bonus reward during the Bluecrowne campaign that turned out not to be a short story at all.

Here’s hoping that clears up the relationship between Bluecrowne and The Left-Handed Fate. Any other questions you have, pop them into the comments!

 

A Few Things that are Lucky at Sea

I don’t know about you, but I need some happy thoughts right about now. So in the interests of good cheer and good fortune, here are some things likely to bring good luck to your blue-water voyage. Fair winds and following seas to you, friends.

A Partial List of Good Luck Stuff I Could Think of Off the Top of My Head

Albatrosses, if alive

Black-handled knives

Black cats

Scratching a backstay (part of the rigging)

Spitting, when intended to counteract bad omens or luck

The “bitter end” of a piece of rope

St. Elmo’s lights, if they’re ascending the masts (unless you’re a Chinese sailor, in which case the reverse is true)

St. Elmo’s lights, if there are two of them

Any object having proved itself to be a Good Luck Charm

Tossing the source of a specific piece of bad luck overboard

An Incomplete, Just-Off-the-Top-of-My-Head List of Things That Are Unlucky at Sea

Girls

Preachers

Broken knives

White-handled knives

White cats

Albatrosses, if you killed them

Fridays, if you leave port on one

Wednesdays, for reasons I can’t remember

Anyone who’s left-handed

Whistling

Talking about things like wind and weather out loud

Opening a chronometer

St. Elmo’s lights, if they’re moving down the masts (unless you’re a Chinese sailor, in which case the reverse is true)

Painting your hull certain colors

Anything suspicious not already known to be lucky

 

75 days to launch…

The Coundown to The Left-Handed Fate Begins!

Boy, oh boy. The last time I updated this site was far, far too long ago. But it’s time to dust things off and get to blogging, because as I’m writing this, we are a mere 81 days from Pub Day for The Left-Handed Fate. I have so much to tell you guys.

In the next not-quite-three-months, we’ll have loads of cool LHF-related trivia and a few contests and giveaways, so keep checking back. (I’ve made some promises to my publisher on this score, so between now and late August, anyway, I am actually going to have to follow through and actually write stuff here.) But for today, let’s talk origins.

Whenever I go to visit schools, and often when I’m at bookstores and libraries too, someone asks something along the lines of, “Where do you get your ideas?” Ideas, of course, come from all around, and I can give lots of different and equally true answers to this question. The way I usually answer it is to admit that a high percentage of my best ideas, the ones that spark whole new books or solve serious story problems, actually come from my husband.

Nathan is, thank God, not a writer. (Or at least, not yet, although I suspect he’s got at least one book in him that will eventually surface.) Therefore, rather than doing what I do and hoarding every idea he gets in a notebook, certain it will eventually be the missing piece to a story he’s had kicking around in his head for however long, he sends them to me. Most often he does this by sharing links to articles he knows I’ll enjoy or might find useful, but sometimes he’s less subtle. The Left-Handed Fate arose from one of those less-subtle times. Nathan badly wanted me to read Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series, which he’d loved. I read the first one under duress, mostly to get him off my back. But that was all it took to get me addicted to the adventures of Captain John Aubrey of the Royal Navy and Stephen Maturin, naturalist, ship’s doctor, and spy.

Guys, these books are so good. Seriously, so good. They’re exciting and funny and full of amazing dialogue and historical detail and the friendship of the two main characters, which begins with an almost-duel and continues through their adulthoods into middle age, is phenomenal. And did I mention they’re funny? They’re hilarious. (For the record, Nathan likes Horatio Hornblower better, but I never quite fell in love with him the way I fell in love with Jack and Stephen.)

At some point as I was devouring the twenty-book series for the first time (I’ve read the whole thing twice, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to read the last, unfinished book, 21), Nathan pointed out that since kids routinely went to sea at young ages at that point in history—and could even wind up actually commanding vessels, at least temporarily—a fighting ship during the Napoleonic Wars would be a perfect setting for a middle grade novel. I recall not being instantly excited by this idea, until suddenly I was. I can’t remember what the trigger was, but something clicked and I had the first inklings of what story I could maybe tell. And then it was off to the races.

I recently found the page of notes where I was working out the name of the ship at the heart of the book, which I was pretty sure was also going to wind up being the title. It was one of my first entry points to the story. I hadn’t worked out who the characters were or what was going to happen, but I had ideas about the ship. So perhaps this is where I’ll leave you today, with those first notes and the ship herself. Oh, and this link, where you can preorder signed copies from McNally Jackson Books.

Welcome to The Left-Handed Fate. I can’t wait to share her story with you.20160520_224846

Novellablog: On Remembering; or, The Care and Feeding of People and Places You’ve Invented

I replied to an email from a reader about a week ago and for one reason or another, in that email I included a list of the notebooks that were in my work bag at that precise time. There were eleven in the bag that day. Here’s the list:

  • 1 for lists and general notes (write blog post today, buy paper towels, pick up laundry, that kind of thing)
  • 3 notebooks with notes for a new project called Border Saints (1 for general ideas and 1 for notes from a certain book I’m using for research and 1 that’s redundant but fits in a pocket)
  • 5 notebooks for Bluecrowne, the next short novel, which I just finished and am revising (1 has notes on every year between 1764 and 1817, 1 has notes on the crews of two different ships, 1 has historical notes and ideas and 2 have general revision notes)
  • 1 notebook I use to track how many new words I’ve written every day
  • 1 blank notebook, in case I get an idea for a brand new project or something

Now, admittedly, eleven notebooks is a little excessive even for me. And to be fair, all of the Bluecrowne-related notebooks are also Left-Handed Fate notebooks (although those aren’t even the complete set of Left-Handed Fate notebooks). And about half of what’s listed there are Field Notes books, so they’re little (thank god for my Field Notes subscription).

But on any given day, I am likely to be carrying at least one notebook for anything I’m actively or even kinda-sorta working on, which always equals at least three projects. Today, for instance, when I went to my branch office (aka my local diner) to work for a few Griffin-free hours, I had three projects represented in my bag: Greenglass House, since I’m working on the first pass; The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book, which is a book of folklore referenced in Greenglass House; and Border Saints, the new thing, which I was be allowed to mess with only while taking a break to order and eat a sandwich.

And yet, all those notebooks, all the notes I make and research I do and keep–I am discovering that none of it keeps me from having to re-do a certain amount of work each time I start working on a new project. Because I can’t keep everything in my head, and because up until now, every project among the seven manuscripts I’ve finished and the eight I consider to be on my active-but-unfinished roster is related to the rest–with the exception of only two. (Those two, in case you’re curious, are Border Saints and a thing called Greensward.) So almost every time, I wind up revisiting something from a previous book.

Now, they’re not all directly related. Not all have to do with Natalie, Sam, Jin, and Jack Hellcoal. But they are all set in a world I have begun to call in my own mind the Walking World, a place peopled with uncanny itinerants called roamers, who include everyone from the denizens of traveling medicine shows to those who’ve faced the Devil in competition to the strange beings called Jumpers to those, like The Broken Lands‘ Sam Noctiluca, who have what the card sharp Al Tesserian refers to as dust on the soles of their shoes.

When you get to know a world through and through, it’s hard not to want to return to it. When you fall in love with your characters–and when they’re characters with long histories–it’s hard not to want to tell as many of their adventures as you possibly can. But that means always being able to bring them back to life as fully as you did the first time. And it means making sure what you’re resurrecting is the same character as before, adjusted for differences in age and circumstance. A lot of this is voice, but it’s way more than voice alone. And I don’t know about anybody else, but I find this very difficult. The first time I had to do this was when Tom Guyot strolled into the Reverend Dram in The Broken Lands. Since then, I’ve had to do it with Natalie (and everybody else in Arcane, including Tom again), Jack, Liao, Liao’s sister Lucy, Liao again, Lucy again…I don’t know, maybe it’s me. I love doing it, but it’s never easy.

There’s also the matter of more simple, everyday consistency between the books. In which leg was Tom Guyot wounded? In which battle did that happen? Does Doc Fitzwater’s cane have an alligator head or a crocodile head? Who’s the purser of The Left-Handed Fate? As I’m typing this, I found an example of what I’m talking about, and I only found it because I just checked to be sure I was quoting Tesserian correctly when I mentioned dust on the soles of one’s shoes. In The Broken Lands, when the term “roamer” is used by Tesserian, it isn’t capitalized. I’m pretty sure we capitalized it in Greenglass House. I will now have to make a note to go back through and check that. 

Then there’s the matter of the stuff I learned for whatever reason and suddenly have to re-learn again. I don’t have the bandwidth to retain for four years everything I learned about waidan and fireworks when I was writing The Broken Lands, but I needed it for Bluecrowne. (This is why I hoard books, I tell myself. At least I know when I suddenly need them years after the project I initially got them for, I’ll still have them.)

So I keep these notebooks. I keep notebooks for every project, and sometimes even for specific ideas if I think I need to devote more space to them than just a few pages in a notebook dedicated to something else. I should really have done that for my notes on the waidan of Liao and Jin, for instance. Live and learn. But even more than that, I’ve started to keep a universal set of notes. It’s not world-building stuff or history. It’s mostly the details: what kind of head tops Doc’s cane; in which leg Tom took a bullet; when I think Jake Limberleg was born, in order to calculate his likely age in 1821. (Yes, Limberleg fans. I know you’re out there. More to come.)

Still, half the time I don’t know what I need to know until I’m knee-deep in a New Thing, so heck if I know if trying to anticipate the kinds of questions that New Thing will require me to remember the answers to will actually help at all. And it certainly won’t help with replicating a character’s voice, or any of the extrapolation that goes into figuring out how Tom Guyot of 1877 is subtly different from Tom Guyot of 1913. But I’ll give it a try. It’s gotta be good for something.

Plus, you know, that’s one more notebook I get to maintain, and I like me a good notebook.

 

It’s Alive! Introducing Bluecrowne.

At last, at long last, Bluecrowne is live on Kickstarter! 

Let me tell you about this story. I’m super-excited about it. I hope you will be, too.

It’s September when the sutler Foulk Trigemine walks into the year 1810 and the Sovereign City of Nagspeake. His mission is twofold: to acquire a particular knife in the shape of an albatross from the a legendary weapons-maker known as the Ironmonger; and, with the help of a peddler called Blister, to locate a special kind of pyrotechnical prodigy known as a conflagrationeer.

Meanwhile, in a brand-new house full of stained glass, Lucy Bluecrowne is about to be marooned. That’s how it feels, at least. Thanks to the threat of war with America on top of the ongoing war with Napoleon, her privateer father has decided it’s time for his family–Lucy, her half-brother Liao, and Liao’s mother, Xiaoming–to live ashore like a pack of landlubbers. And Lucy has never handled being ashore well. 

Then Liao’s genius for fireworks brings him to the attention of Trigemine and Blister, who waste no time in identifying the boy as the conflagrationeer they’ve been seeking. Neither party can afford to lose. With her old life aboard a private ship-of-war about to be gone for good, Lucy has nothing left to fight for but her family. As for Trigemine–not only does his boss, the merchant Morvengarde, not handle failure well, but nobody wants to disappoint the client who’s ordered up the conflagrationeer from him. Morvengarde might be scary, but according to the rumors, not even the Devil wants to tangle with the client.

 

One short novel. 30 days.

Read the first chapter here.

Back the campaign here.

Follow my attempts not to have a nervous breakdown right here at The Clockwork Foundry, and on Twitter.