Writing About Writing, Law, Life, and Occasionally Politics
I post news and excerpts about my novels, plus miscellaneous thoughts, speculations and occasional rants about writing, publishing, current events, legal issues, philosophy, photography, and events in my life.
Here's another character interview, this time with Honnu, one of the main Vushlu characters in my SF novel Water to Water. Honnu's family are fisher folk and live by the sea. This interview takes place around the time the story begins, on the beach, in late afternoon. Honnu is cleaning a fishing boat.
Q. Hello. I hope I’m not disturbing –
A. Watch out! I’m using seawater here.
Q. It’s splashing all over you. Isn’t that a problem?
A. Not with this suit on. [He gestures along his body.]
It’ll keep the water out for years and years yet.
Q. Do you have such suits for visitors? For rent, perhaps?
A. Sorry, no. They take a long time to make. We only get
them when we’re done growing, and then we keep them for a long time. Let me
just finish up here, and we can talk.
[a few minutes later]
All done! I have a few minutes before I go do chores.
Q. I gather you fish for a living.
A. That’s right.
Q. Do you like it?
A. [a slight pause] Pretty well. I like working with other
people. More when they appreciate my help, which they mostly do. Of
course, I like it better some days than others. In hot season, it’s cooler out
on the water than on land – though the suit does make me warmer than I’d be
otherwise. Cold season, that can get, well, cold, suit or no suit. And
I get pretty tired by the end of the day. But it’s better than being bored.
[another pause] Not that I’m never bored.
Q. Do you picture yourself doing anything different, later
in your life?
A. [scuffs a hind foot in the sand] I’d like to see more of
the world, someday, somehow. I hear stories – mainly from the Weesah
peddler who comes here – and I want to see for myself whether they’re true, and
what other stories might be out there waiting to be found.
[someone calls Honnu’s name from a nearby dwelling]
I’d better go. Chores, like I said. It was nice talking to
you. If you want to come with me, you could maybe stay for dinner. The peddler
brought sausages, and we’ll be having a campfire.
How many excerpts can I extract from my October 17th release, WATER TO WATER, and still avoid spoilers? We'll find out!
This one is from Chapter 3.
Terrill was almost home.
They would be home too soon. A bleak
prospect, that. Da would be gone; and everyone would be talking about him, on
and on. And Terrill would have to take on some new role, whatever it might be,
or whatever his family might decide it should be.
It could be a long
time before he went anywhere again.
The pain of giving
up the journey he would have made with the friends of his year, the joyful
adventure that he would never experience, pierced him afresh, a pang as cold as
the season to come.
this cold season, Da would not be there building
up the fire, or draping a blanket over Ma as she slept, or preparing the garden
for its coming nap. Terrill would never again see him come in from the garden,
smelling of soil and fresh air, rubbing his hands together to warm them,
spreading the dirt on them in the process.
A scene he had forgotten — that he had
wanted to forget — came back to him, as clearly if he had remembered it over
and over. He was very young. His father’s mother had been sick, moving slowly,
not talking much; and then she had gone away, hugging him as tightly as she
still could, and Da had gone with her. And after a long time, more days than
Terrill could count yet, Da had come home again. He had come through the door,
and looked around, stared around, as if everything had become strange and
different while he was gone. It had scared Terrill enough to make him cry.
What would it be like for Terrill to walk
through that door, with his father gone?
It's time for you all to meet some of Water to Water's characters.
Kititit, the Weesah peddler, is what you might call an important secondary character. Look hard enough at something that happens, and you might see his long fingers stirring around in it. And I, for one, find him entertaining. Here's an interview with Kititit.
Q. How did you become a peddler?
A. Well, now. That’s a ways to think back . . . . When I was
a young sprout, we had a neighbor who was a peddler, wagon and all. I thought her wagon was about the
prettiest thing I’d ever seen, all painted up as it was. And she used to let me
help load the goods in the back – leastways, helping is what she called it.
Getting in the way is what I’d call it, remembering. And when she’d been away
and came home again, she always had stories to tell about the places she’d
been. I’d never been anywhere, and I got to hankering after a life like she
Q. Your wagon – did it used to be your neighbor’s?
A. Right you are! Though by the time she figured she was
ready to stay home and play with her grandchildren and take it easy, the wagon
was what you might call used up – the canopy, anyway. My folks gave me a new
one, and I picked what to paint on it.
Q. You have a mate and children, I hear. How have you
managed to strike a balance between traveling and family life?
A. Well, I don’t have just any mate. I made sure to find a
lady as liked to hear stories. I promised to always bring back plenty of
stories. And she’s an independent sort – doesn’t need someone at her elbow all
the time, telling her how to do things. A mate as hung around every day might
get annoying for such as her. So we suit each other. And the longer I’m away,
the longer I stay home and do my bit with the young ‘uns and the beasts and the
garden and all. And now that some of our young ‘uns are grown, she has plenty
of help when she needs it.
Q. You’re acquainted with Terrill and Honnu, I believe. How
did that come about?
A. I’ve known Honnu a good piece of his life, I’d say. I
visit a few different fisher villages, and he lives – or lived, I’m not sure
which is right just now – in one of ‘em. I was the first Weesah he ever saw, I
reckon, and how he would stare! Anyhow, he’s a curious fellow and always likes
to hear my traveler’s tales.
Q. That brings up an interesting point. Aren’t you somewhat
given to exaggeration in those tales of yours? Should Honnu believe everything
A. (laughs) No, I can’t say as he should. But I reckon he
knows that. Now, I wouldn’t say he knows just what to believe and what not to.
But if he ever asked me, serious-like, I’d tell him.
Q. And Terrill? How did you meet him?
A. That was luck, if luck is something that happens, as to
which I’ve no firm opinion. His da took ill, and Terrill was one of the funeral
party as took him to the sea. I left Honnu’s village about the time they left
to head home again, and we got to talking on the road. A nice young fellow. On
the serious side, and tending to worry more than is comfortable for a youngster
his age. I did my bit to cheer him up, when I could.
Q. And how did Terrill and Honnu meet each other?
A. (chuckles) Well, I’ll maybe let you ask one of them about
that. I’d best be packing up and heading on, pretty soon. Any last questions?
Or might you be wanting something from the wagon before I go? I’ve got some
good knives I picked up a few towns back. Or if you’ve little ones at home, I
have toys -- balls for juggling, and these dolls. See the bits of shell that
make up the armor? And of course, I have fish. Always plenty of fish.
Time for another short excerpt from my upcoming SF novel, Water to Water? Why not? After all, the book is now up for preorders on Amazon and elsewhere :-).
This one is from Chapter 2. Terrill, a young member of the Vushlu species who has just watched his father's death ritual, is on the way homeward.
should spend this time remembering his father, calling up all the memories he
wanted to preserve. What was his earliest memory of Da?
earliest memory of any kind . . . he would have liked a more pleasant one.
Someone had smacked his hand, on the unarmored palm, for making some mess or
other. But he couldn’t remember who had done it. It wouldn’t have been Da, not
for such a young child making a mess. Ma, maybe, in a moment of exasperation.
Or his uncle, visiting.
might have been a couple of years older the time Da gave him a ride, telling
him to put his arms around Da’s torso and hold tight, Terrill’s baby legs
splayed wide across Da’s broad back. Da had put just a little bounce in his
gait, enough to be thrilling, but not enough to loosen Terrill’s clasped hands
. . . .
arose next was from a few years later, but still from childhood. A hot day, the
hottest so far that year, with the end of the season seeming forever away. Da
going from creek to creek to find the coolest one, and pouring a bucket of
almost-cold water all over Terrill, Terrill gasping in pleasure and relief . .
memory, very different, almost as far back: Terrill standing outside, watching
the sky colors shift from day to night, wondering if the sky looked the same
everywhere, even in the far-off cities where his older siblings wanted to go.
He had turned to go back inside and only then seen Da, walking back and forth,
slowly, in the road a few paces away, his shoulders slumped, a posture Terrill
could not remember having seen before. Something was wrong, and Terrill had no
idea what it was. He had never had the courage to ask about it.
My SF novel Water to Water is due out on October 17th, so it's high time I posted an excerpt.
Well, more than one, really. First, you'll need this bit from the Preface to understand the excerpts proper.
Nitpicky note (for all the excerpts): the formatting here is not identical to either the ebook's or the paperback's.
When a Vushlu reaches the age of adulthood, its family, or if it has none, respected community members, take it to the ocean. Traditionally, it will never have been there before, unless its family catches sea creatures for a living. Often many families will travel together, a pilgrimage of celebration.
On its last day of life, a Vushlu swims out to sea, or if too weak to swim, wades in and lets the waves carry it. The ocean swallows its front legs, its rear legs, its back, its torso, its arms, its shoulders, and finally its head. Immersion in the water softens its living armor, its exoskeleton, until the plates sheet off and wash away, followed by the soft flesh within.
No Vushlu has ever returned to its home with this process incomplete. But Vushla splashed with seawater report no pain.
Now for the first Actual Excerpt, a short one. This comes early in Chapter 1, and introduces us to Honnu, one of two major Vushla characters.
Honnu squatted by the campfire, all four legs comfortably sunk in the sand, his lower armor sealed tight to keep sand out, and watched the procession approach the sea. It was a small group, with only one young Vushlu among the older ones. A funeral, then. The young one must be the son or daughter of the Vushlu, aging or ailing, whose funeral it was.
Honnu turned away before the group reached the edge of the water. He knew, of course, what would happen, but he had no wish to watch. After all, he lived with the ocean, lived from it, rode out every day to toss the nets and haul them back. He and his family depended on the ocean. But he often thought he must feel like a farmer with a very, very large and powerful bull. Such a useful animal — it sired strong beasts like itself, and it pulled plows through earth too sticky for pull-cycles. But it could, any time it chose to, trample the farmer into jelly. The farmer could hope that the bull would never turn on its master. Honnu lived with the certain knowledge that one day, the ocean would reveal itself as the largest possible beast, and devour him whole.
No, he had no need to watch it happen to others, not when he would be paddling the boat out again tomorrow morning.
Here's one more excerpt, a longer one. It starts shortly after the first, and switches partway through from Honnu's POV to that of Kititit, a visiting peddler. (Kititit is a Weesah, not a Vushlu. The two species' anatomy differ substantially, a fact to which Honnu makes a passing reference.)
The last taste of dinner was fading from Honnu’s mouth. Even food was different when the peddler came. This very night, around this same fire, they had roasted and eaten plump sausages spitting with juice, made from some crawling creature that pushed through underbrush and rooted in the earth of far-off forests.
Honnu stretched his arms and upper body to soak in the warmth of the fire, welcome as the end of hot season brought cooler night breezes. Which of the peddler’s tales might actually be true? Honnu had never traveled farther than the nearest market town — far enough away from the shore that the sea could not be seen, but not too far for its smell to carry, competing with the smell of the fish he sold and the pastries and spices and flowers in the stalls all around him. Were there really trees so tall that a Vushlu would have to rear back on its hind legs and lean against something sturdy in order to see the tops? Did mountains soar even higher? Did rivers of water pour out of those mountains? Did the mountains rise above the air itself, so that the air strained and grew thin, and one could look down and see the thicker air below? Did fountains of fire leap up from hidden places to consume travelers? Did birds, glowing as bright as any fire, swarm over the fields in springtime, keeping farmers from sowing seed until the birds had flown away? Did a species of giants, giants who never came near the ocean, giants with two legs and two arms like the Weesah but each limb twice as thick as a Weesah’s trunk, raise beasts for farmers, never leaving their ranches, requiring farmers to come to them? Were there places where the sky was always red, and others where the sky was always black?
Honnu’s family must know the answers to those questions, or to some of them, but his aunt never wanted to talk about it, and his grandfather changed his story from one time to the next, and his mother said none of it was true. Honnu refused to believe that.
Unless he found a way to go see for himself, he would never know.
Now he heard sounds of movement and conversation, and tires pushing through sand. The procession must be leaving, with one of its members gone forever into the sea. They would probably not go very far in the dark. There was an inn serving such travelers in the market town. But by morning, they would be on their way back to wherever they came from. To one of the many, many places Honnu had never seen.
* * * * *
Kititit looked at different Vushla in turn as he told the story about buying a beast from a giant and tricking the fellow into lowering the price. The Vushla’s armor mostly left their faces bare, so you could see them drink the story in, especially the young ones. All right, maybe his mate’s uncle’s cousin wasn’t exactly a giant, but he was big enough that none of his neighbors gave him any backtalk. Kititit had come out of that exchange well enough to enjoy bragging about it, even if he did embellish the details a bit for effect.
It was a fine way to spend an evening. It would have been, even if the breeze hadn’t been a trifle nippy. He’d always liked campfires, but he particularly enjoyed them in villages like this. Vushlu armor wasn’t exactly reflective, but almost, enough to catch the firelight and play with it a bit. And while he always liked the smell of a campfire, it mingled especially nicely with the unique tangy smell of the sea. As for the traces of fish odor, he didn’t mind them. He did wonder, looking around at the Vushla, how much of it all they could smell with those small holes in their faces. His big mesh-covered nostrils had to do a better job, unless they somehow didn’t.
He caught the fisher lad’s eye for just a moment before the lad looked away. A bit shy, that one, but with thirsty ears, always soaking in whatever story Kititit chose to tell. Kititit’s oldest son had been like that, when he was a good bit younger. And when the boy and his sister had come with Kititit on his journeys, there had been plenty of time for telling tales.
Naturally the boy, or rather the proud young father, had started staying home now that he had a mate and little ones. And Kititit’s daughter, once proud to be included, had lately been more like willing. A good-hearted lass, ready to help her father in case he was too old and feeble to handle things alone; but it was time for her to live in the center of her own life, and Kititit to go back to how he used to travel, enjoying his own and the beast’s company.
Still, it was nice to have a youngster or two around the campfire.
Well, what do you think? Want more? The ebook, and possibly the paperback, will be available for preorder on Amazon if their website starts cooperating just a little better. Stay tuned!
I've been vacillating about when to do a cover reveal on this (much neglected) blog, but the time has come. I'm thrilled to show off the cover that Damonza did for my upcoming novel Water to Water.
Here is my (tentative) teaser for the book.
Two young Vushla questioned what everyone knew about death. What should they do with the answer?
When the time comes for Vushla to die, they go into the ocean and are dissolved away. Or so Terrill has always believed, and still believes after accompanying his father on the latter’s final journey. But after meeting another young Vushlu, Terrill must confront new information that calls this fundamental belief into question. Will the two of them discover the truth? And what should they do with what they find?
If all goes well, the book will be out on October 17, 2018.