Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Lost Star's Sea Background

I set out to do three things with The Lost Star's Sea – the first was to write a fitting companion volume with The Black Bright Sea. The Black Bright Sea runs some 320,000 words in length and I wanted to have a matching companion volume. As it turned out, I rather overshot the mark and ended up with 350,000 word story, though it does include the 2016 release, The Castaways of the Lost Star. The remaining 80% of the book, however, is all new material.

There are some in publishing these days think who readers have less time to read and want shorter works – novellas rather than novels to fit into their busy lives. Obviously I disagree, however, even if this is the case, because this novel is written as a series of linked but self-contained episodes, each with beginnings, middles and endings, The Lost Star's Sea can be read, episode by episode, at whatever pace you desire.

My second challenge was to write a planetary romance type of story, like those made famous by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jack Vance, and others. And to treat it as I had the classic space opera; by updating the social norms of a hundred years ago, and taking the often cardboard characters of those pulp works and fleshing them out into well-rounded, engaging characters. I also try to ground my story and characters in a realistic world, by paying some attention to the everyday details of life and keeping the dangers and the character's responses to them realistically human.

And finally, in a field were grim, often apocalyptic stories, and unpleasant characters seem common, I wanted to write a lighthearted adventure with humor and characters with whom the readers would like to travel with.

And I should note that as much as I love reading series books – this volume brings Wil Litang's adventures to a close. At 675,000 words – six good sized novels' worth – I think ol'Wil Litang has earned his cha garden.

I don't like reading blurbs that outline the story to be told, so I'll not share the plots of the book. I'll just say that the story owes a lot to Edgar Rice Burroughs – filtered through my personal tastes, and updated to reflect the changes in society over the last century. I like understated things, small, clever, quiet things, everyday life. Big, grand things don't appeal to me, and dangers need not be more pressing than personal extinction All of which is to say that Wil Litang effortless avoids becoming the Warlord of the Pela. He's often lucky to survive. I have retained the romance element of ERB's stories, but Wil's love interest is no princess – and she certainly doesn't need saving, though he gallantly tries. Part of the fun of writing the story was turning ERB's scenes on their heads. Wil may burst into a room to save his love, only to find her having tea and quiet conversation with her captor. In addition, I've tried to create strong female characters who are as competent as any male counterparts, and tried to make sure that they are represented throughout society as equals – this story is set in the future, after all. And, as in The Black Bright Sea, I've tried to include a cast of interesting, well fleshed out supporting characters to accompany Wil on his travels within the Pela, from slave-ship captains, to wandering sages, to sarcastic dragons.

In writing these new stories I made a few minor changes to Castaways of the Lost Star and even in The Bright Black Sea to reflect a better understanding of the Pela than I had when I started. The newest editions contain these changes, but to past readers, I should call your attention to these changes.

First, for simplicity, I've made all Pela character names follow a single pattern; all are one word names with a family name prefix followed by a given name. For example, KaRaya or EnVey. I gone back and revised both The Bright Black Sea and Castaways to reflect this decision. The first names of Temtre characters in the original Castaways – Clan-chief Raf Envey becomes simply EnVey, and Clan-king Kin DeKan becomes DeKan. While having everyone from different parts of the Pela be named by the same formula is not very realistic, with so many unfamiliar, made-up names, I think simplicity overrules realism in this case. Changes in The Bright Black Sea reflect this system as well. For example, Sub-captain Tri'n is now Sub-captain Trin (no given name used) and Captain Lil'dre is now Captain LilDre.

The second major change involves identifying the two human races of the Pela. Because all the native fauna of the Pela are feathered, it seemed to make sense that the creatures with hair should be viewed in that context as well. So I changed my terminology to reflect that. The feathered people of the Pela are now referred to as “broad feathered” while those with hair are thought to have very thin or fine feathers and so are referred to a “fine-feathered” and sometimes “large islanders” rather than hairy, or fuzzy. I have revised The Bright Black Sea to reflect this as well.

I'd like to thank the half a dozen volunteer beta readers who very generously spent many hours finding my many mistakes. With their help, I believe that this will be the most error free release of mine to date. I've found that the more eyes you have looking over the words the more errors that are found, so if you should find any errors that have escaped us, please feel free to call them to my attention and I will correct them.

I've had a great fun dreaming up and writing The Lost Star's Sea, but it has been work as well. There were times that I seemed to be dragging this story to its end – a glimpse of what it would be like if I had to produce books because I needed to in order to eat or meet a contract deadline.c There are some authors that have more stories to tell than time to tell them, but I'm not one of them. Writing The Lost Star's Sea made me realize that unless I have a story that I'm having great fun daydreaming up – one that wants to bubble over into words, I'd best avoid writing. We'll have to see if I can find that story.

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