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Floodtide

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Possibly the hardest thing in trying to write a stand-alone story within an existing series is trying to find the tricky balance between writing for the readers who don’t know any of these characters, and establishing the right dynamics for pre-existing characters who still need to “act in character” even in front of readers who don’t know what “in character” means for them.

Quite some time ago, I pulled out the passages I wanted to use for the teaser series and set them up in a separate file. That way I didn't need to hunt around for something every week and there was no risk of messing with the master file by accident. But that means that for the last few months I've been setting up the teasers while looking at snippets of text in isolation. This past Saturday, I did the review of the final page proofs, which is as close as I've come so far to reading the final novel straight through.

Disasters aren't always sudden and extreme -- sometimes they creep up on you slowly, like the water rising along the steps of the plaiz one at a time. Sometimes disasters consist of tedious waiting as the news dribbles in from those who are harder hit. Sometimes disasters are mere inconveniences to be avoided until they ebb away again. Floodtide in Rotenek has always shown different faces to different people. In the previous Alpennia books, we've mostly seen the "inconvenience" side. Floodtide as a holiday excuse to leave the city.

Even in this modern age of broadcast communication and instant messaging, there are places in our lives where simple, loud, public sounds carry essential meaning. Most of the time, we experience them only in “test” mode—checking on their functionality and accustoming us to the particular form of the alert and the expected response. In my own everyday life, there are fire drills at work, the monthly ammonia-release alert siren test, the interruption of tv or radio shows with the Emergency Broadcast System horns and message, "This is a test.

The character trope of the "personal assistant" -- the person in a subordinate position whose job consists of providing support and devalued labor for a character with more pubic agency -- is tricky to portray. Particularly in an intensely class-stratified culture when that role is not typically freely chosen from among other options. Given her family's background and her work history, Roz sees the position of lady's maid as a desirable goal, but that isn't meant to erase the ways in which being a household servant are exploitative, exhausting, and often degrading.

As Floodtide approaches the events that form the climax of Mother of Souls, I can't escape the need to fill the reader in on a bunch of activities that my protagonist Roz is not only unaware of, but is mostly uninterested in. Roz knows, in theory, that her employer is the royal thaumaturgist and that means she makes up mysteries for Princess Anna. But the details? Not something that touches her directly. And the part being played by Luzie Valorin's magical opera is entirely outside her everyday experience.

I confess it: I love playing a long game in planting foreshadowing and setting things up. The failure mode is having some readers complain that I stick in random events and people as if they were meaningful and then drop the thread unresolved. You can't take every single reader aside personally and assure them, "Trust me, it's going to be relevant. Just hang on."

Although it's a motif that needs to be used sparingly, I enjoy the times when I can show the same event or interaction from different points of view. In Mother of Souls we see Serafina shopping for a small statue of Saint Mauriz to give Celeste as a parting gift. It's an expensive keepsake: more than Serafina can afford to spend and more valuable than anything else Celeste owns (though this aspect is only hinted at).

Between the time between when I established floodtide as a facet of life in Rotenek and now with the book with that title is moving towards publication, the effects of weather fluctuations have become a lot sharper in people's awareness. The massive persistent flooding in the American midwest this year is shocking, but less in the general news than more focused floods due to hurricanes and the like.

Since last week's teaser, the editorial revisions on Floodtide have been completed--the quickest and most painfree editing process I've ever experienced! It'll be nice not to have that hanging over me during my upcoming travel to Worldcon.

I'm not going to lie: I love to embed intellectual "Easter eggs" in my stories that may pass under the radar of 90% of my readers and only be fully appreciated by maybe 1%. I never want anyone to feel excluded by those hidden treats, but I do want to reward close attention and familiarity.

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