Farisa’s Courage (novel) is Revision Complete

“Revision Complete” means that I won’t be adding characters, changing scenes, or altering storyline in any major way. “Edit Complete” (i.e. fine-tooth comb, zero typo tolerance) will be a couple months from now. I’d like to have something finished and ready for the world by Oct. 1, 2017. We’ll see what I can do.

I’m sending out a finite (fixed but undisclosed) number of copies, even before I shop this out to publishers. It’s an intermediate draft (obviously) and So, to people who’ve read my writing, if you’re interested, please let me know.

Here’s the summary / blurb / trailer for Farisa’s Courage, intended as the first in a series (“The Antipodes”).

The Antipodes

The planet is hot. Civilization thrives close to the poles, but the tropics are uninhabitable. Sea temperatures exceed 50°C (122°F) and violent storms make entering (much less crossing) the tropics impossible. Deserts broil, and the jungles are filled with strange creatures such as skrums, squibbani, ghouls, and dragons. The two hemispheres have been out of contact for thousands of years. There are rumors of a high-altitude path between the two worlds, the Mountain Road. Unfortunately, that path is as dangerous as it is uncertain. Some rumors hold that it doesn’t exist. Others say that it’s protected by a mysterious, ancient magic that sends the unaware to their deaths. There are darker theories involving espionage, ethnic persecution, and the deeply corrupt political and economic environment of the time. Even if the Mountain Road is real, no one knows whether there’s something more dangerous on the other side. The known path passes through cursed cities, dangerous caves, and deserts reaching 80°C (176°F) where the only sustenance is a poisonous cactus. It’s largely believed that what is in the southern hemisphere is even more terrible.

State of the World

Humans have won. Dragons, orcs, and elves still exist, but the human world stands at a population of at least a billion. Technological marvels like steamships and machine guns dominate the world. Trains achieve a blistering pace of twenty to thirty miles per hour. Plank turnpikes supporting carriages connect the cities. However, all is not well. The industrial economy is in decline. Age-old ethnic hatreds are broiling. Cryptic graffiti on city walls suggests danger. Economic inequality and climate change are roiling continents. The lynchpin of the modern world is an organization, originally a detective agency specializing in witch hunts, strike breaking, and bounty hunting known as Alcazar Detectives, now known as the Global Company.

The Global Company

The Global Company in the business of… everything, from alcohol to fossil fuels to railroads to murder. It topples nations, it funds pogroms, and it chooses losers and winners everywhere it can, in order to win at all costs. The Global Company controls seventy percent of the known (northern hemisphere) world economy, and it’s running out of world to conquer. One man, Hampus Bell, in that firm owns more than 45 percent of it, or a third of the world’s wealth. Even as the chief executive, he isn’t safe from internal intrigue, bureaucratic incompetence, and the mysterious syr Konklava that lives within his firm. The Global Company has been studying magic, to limited success, for decades. Yet something is changing. Magic is starting to work, there. No one knows why. Meanwhile, the Company’s mercurial chief executive seems to be increasingly unstable and dangerous. A corporate presentation ends in a grisly murder. The price of Global Company stock (the only stock that matters) fluctuates wildly. Mysterious suicides by high-ranking executives mount.

The Blue Marquessa

Magic is very real. Few deny that it exists, but its practice is discouraged. People with magical talents, or “mages”, suffer from a terrible disease known as “The Sickness” or “The Blue Marquessa”. It causes fatigue, infertility, amnesia, insanity, and death. Every spell has a cost, and numerous dangers come with the practice. According to the Global Company, the vast majority of mages either quit or die within six months. Most dangerous are those who continue, but gradually go insane. This is a world where everything has consequences, and knowledge and virtue (sophya wy fariza, an ancient inscription) are mandatory for a mage’s survival.

Not all, but the most powerful mages can enter minds and control others. If two mages enter one mind, disaster can ensue. Entering the mind of another mage is dangerous. Entering that of an undead means certain death. And being in the mind of a person when that person dies can have unspeakable consequences that continue beyond death.

Farisa La’ewind

Farisa is a smart, good-looking 20-year-old girl “from everywhere and nowhere”, a brown-skinned girl in a snow-white land, a bookish erudite in a world of conflict and anger, an orphan in a mostly friendless and cold world, and a known person in a society where invisibility is the greatest asset. Protected by an ancient, despised ethnicity and a burgeoning resistance movement, she’s an orphan who knows little of her past. Her mother was killed by the Global Company. Her father is believed to be on the Mountain Road. Her three living sisters, like her, live in hiding and rely on espionage and magical assistance to survive.

Farisa’s also one of the most powerful mages in the known world. After a freak accident and, one year later, being accused of a murder that she could not possibly have committed, she has become a symbol in the Global Company’s historic business of witch and bounty hunting. Hampus Bell lacks an interest in her, but can’t prevent his subordinates from chasing the golden trophy among all witches. Presumed missing or dead for a long time, and able to reinvent herself under a different identity, she was once able to attend college and be “a normal girl”. Yet, very recently, all of that went horribly wrong in a way that she must understand, in order to survive… but cannot remember.

26 April ’94

It’s two in the morning. Barefoot and wearing ill-fitted clothing, Farisa is running through woods, then rural by-roads, and then the drunkard- and john-filled, declining industrial city of Exmore. She’s been running for at least ten miles, maybe more. Her memory is rapidly deteriorating, presumably due to an attack of the Blue Marquessa. If she finds a safe spot, she’ll get better. But where? She knows that she needs to reach “House 139”, where her questions might be answered and her journey can begin. As she passes through the dilapidated outskirts of the strange city, she comes to a frightening conclusion based on the offensive, cryptic graffiti. The people of the town already know that she’s there– before she arrived. Mages? Spies? Something dark in her past that drew her there? It isn’t clear. To add to her disadvantage, Farisa has no memory of the four years leading up this point, 2:00 am on April 26. If she wants to survive, she’ll have to recover these memories– and figure out why she lost them.

The two most powerful people in the world– a talented mage with a big heart and a terrible illness, versus a trillionaire who dislikes profanity, harbors a perverted secret, and loves the Global Company more than anything in the world– are drawn into a conflict that neither of them really wants to fight. Hampus must find Farisa in order to prevent unrest in his own company. Farisa must avoid Hampus to survive. Possible fates range into those worse than death, as the Global Company’s engineered pogroms increase and its prison camps proliferate. The stakes get higher and higher with every mile.

Farisa meets Claes Bergryn, a gun-toting steam-era knight in a leather jacket. She meets Mazie, a beautiful resistance fighter with a million secrets. She meets Vikus and Wegen, the key to deciphering a dangerous city’s haunting graffiti. She meets Andor Strong, a college professor considered by the Global Company to be one of its most dangerous adversaries. She meets spies (whom I won’t name, spoiler-duh). She meets orcs and dragons and machine gunners and, perhaps the biggest danger of all, other mages. She finds love and loses it. Her skills develop. She learns, over time, not only who she is but who she was… because her survival depends, though she may not know it, on her ability to remember what happened on April 25– the night before.

There’s also a mysterious trash novel called Jakhob’s Gun, rumored to contain a coded message that might save the world. Unfortunately, no one– not even the brilliant Farisa– can decipher it…

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14 thoughts on “Farisa’s Courage (novel) is Revision Complete

  1. Pingback: Why “Agile” and especially Scrum are terrible – Michael O. Church

  2. Although your articles could be terser, you are a good non-fiction writer, but I haven’t put my time into your fictions. The outline of the story in this article interests me. Can you send me your story? How do you fabricate a story? How did you learn to do it?

    • > Although your articles could be terser

      Ay. That’s my mathematical training. It’s not a proof unless you cover every case.

      > I haven’t put my time into your fictions.

      Most of them, I never put out there.

      > Can you send me your story?

      I already did.

      > How do you fabricate a story?

      Honestly, the better I get, the less I can answer that. Writing used to be about rules for me, “don’t use sentence fragments”, “don’t end a sentence with a preposition”. (The fragment is impressionistic and powerful when used sparingly. The second is not a rule (and it is also grammatically acceptable to split infinitives– English ain’t Latin) at all.) “Your characters’ names shouldn’t start with the same letter.” “No anachronisms.” Now, it’s more about a state of consciousness in which I can tell a compelling story. Of course, that state of consciousness is frenetic and the prose requires a lot of work, for clarity, afterward.

      Literature is, in a way, a tool for inducing a mild, benign hypomania in others. You have to get into the same sort of state (high-functioning hypergraphia?) yourself.

      It’s not formulaic. You can’t sit down and say, “I want to write a story, and a story needs characters, and so I’m going to have a white female character and a black male character and a green shemale character, and then I need an event. What’s a good event that’s not been done before?” It fails, especially because everything *has* been done before so it’s about combination and execution, not “originality”. Hence, “Good writers steal”. Plot-wise, you have to know where you’re going in broad strokes, but you also need your characters to do the driving, not you (that’s called deus ex machina, playing god in your world). When I set the story out, I knew how the 1st book was going to end, but I didn’t know that (mild spoiler) XXXXX was going to betray YYYYY in the Ivory Ashes. I knew that XXXXX was a jerk and that he’d probably do something bad at some point, but I waited for him to spot the opportunity. Nor did I know that the dragon in Switch Cave was ZZZZZ, or even that there was one. But Farisa ended up in place AAAAA and I was like, “What should be there?”

      One of the reasons why good writers are rare is that you have to enjoy it, because it’s so hard and it takes so long to get good at it. It shocked the hell out of me to learn this, but a lot of highly successful (not the same as good) writers don’t enjoy it. They like the fame and money, but the writing is a chore to them. I won’t name them, but some of these are people who get $500,000 or higher advances (in fiction, that’s massive) on a regular basis– and that’s why they do something they don’t really enjoy. I like writing.

      It’s hard. It’s very hard. There’s no easy way. Part of what I enjoy about writing is that, in a technological world where we get rid of supercomputers called “mobile phones” to buy a new one every two years and where we really don’t have to work much anymore, writing remains difficult. Like mathematics, it’s an Old Game.

      > How did you learn to do it?

      Lots of effort over almost 34 years. Ok, that’s a slight lie. I can’t count the years that I was pre-verbal, so “lots of effort over 32 years”. That said, not all years are equal and it’s possible to have intellectual growth spurts in your 20s and 30s and probably beyond– your IQ stays the same as it was, but you learn more– so I wouldn’t tell people to give up.

    • Sent you a copy, as well as general guidelines on who you may and may not send it to. Obviously I can’t control that, but I’d like to keep the outstanding manuscript count in the double digits until I decide how I’m going to price/distribute this thing on the market.

  3. Are you planning on self-publishing or traditional publishing? Do you have an agent yet?

    As someone who knows the publishing industry, you might have a hard time getting the book out in 6 months.

    You say this is part of a series? How many books? On what schedule?

  4. Having enjoyed a lot of your non-fiction over the years, I’m looking forward to reading it!

    Being a linguist I am interested to see how well people separated by millennia will be able to communicate and what their languages will be like.

    And horrible monsters called “skrums”, huh? They sound terrifying 🙂

    • I just sent a copy of the most recent version (2017-04-11) to the email address in your profile (the yahoo one). Is that the correct/current one?

      Please ask me before you share with anyone, but I’m pretty lenient and would like as many intelligent eyes on the manuscript as possible– especially if I’m going to self-pub, because I won’t have paid proof-readers.

      Skrums are terrifying, but wait till you get to the drampfs. (If you watch John Oliver, you should catch the allusion.) There’s also a troll named Pulgrum (a very minor character, which is all that his muse deserves).

      • Am up to page 57 (of about 450 in the MS Word version) and am really liking what I’m reading! The worldbuilding is excellent, and that’s what I’m looking for when I read these kinds of stories. I’d actually like to have a lot of that stuff spoiled beforehand so that I can appreciate the story better: readers may enjoy slowly discovering that this is the far future, on a much hotter Earth, but that most of the surface is still habitable (Wait, is it? How much surface area is contained in the belt between ~30 degrees on either side of the Equator? Now I have to figure this out!), and that kind of thing, but as an advance reviewer I’d rather know in advance and then see *how* the book handles these things.

        I’ve caught a couple of typos here and there. Small, but of course they need to be fixed.

        Do you have a mailing list where we can toss ideas around? It would be fun to do that with fellow reviewers rather than just e-mailing you my opinions.

        • So, it’s not necessarily a future Earth. I leave that unanswered. It is Earth-sized and has a 15-degree axial tilt (as opposed to our 23). The lesser axial tilt (a) makes it possible to have uninhabitable tropics while keeping 30-40 habitable– with our 23-degree tilt, the 30-45 range is hotter in summer than the tropics–and (b) makes it possible to have their 70 N comparable to our 50 N, both in day length and climate.

          They do have fossil fuels, which suggests that either we haven’t used them all up for that some time has passed. The continents are significantly different so, if it is a future earth, there was one hell of a terraforming accident. (It would also take a massive about of energy to change the planet’s axial tilt.) Also, they have more land in the northern hemisphere than we do. Only one of their continents (thus far; this is all subject to change) crosses the equator. Our planet is 71% ocean; theirs may not be.

          A previous project (early 2015) had all of its world’s people (and, again, it may be a terraformed planet, but it doesn’t matter) as descendants of a few hundred Israeli scientists. This may explain all of the Jewish themes, which remain because I carried over some of my favorite characters. However, I decided to split the book’s world off from ours. If there is a connection (I’ve remained agnostic thus far) it doesn’t matter.

          Typos? Yeah, I’ve found a ton in the polishing process. It’s going to be 3-4 passes before I decide how to publish this and get started with that. I’ve probably fixed the ones you found. I hope that I have or will.

          If I self-publish, I am going to send this off to an editor before sharing this with the world. If I use a trade publisher, I won’t have a choice not to use an editor. (I’m not GRRM. 🙂 ) So, don’t worry about that.

          For now, please use email. I’d love to open a group discussion later on.

  5. I sat here thinking about how I would eat the poisonous cactus for a few minutes. That took me to an interesting space. Good fiction does that.

    I’m excited for the release! Thanks for sharing.

    • Unfortunately, the more I learn about the publishing industry, the more I have doubts that I can get it out by the end of the year. Maybe I don’t want to. The story’s great, in my opinion, but I’ve got some work to do on polish.

      I’m tempted to self-publish, but that has pitfalls as well. I think I can get it pretty good on my own, but I wouldn’t mind a professional edit. It looks like a full edit (copy, developmental, line) from a competent editor is going to run me (if I go alone) about $15,000. I’m sure that it’s absolutely worth it, and will probably be paid back in sales if I’m halfway competent at the initial marketing, but it’s still more than I could afford right now.

      I bought some books on editing but there’s something to be said for another pair of eyes. One upshot of using a traditional publisher is that, even though everything takes forever, you do get an editor as part of the package.

    • I’ll reach out to you. My general request is that you commit to reading within 2 months. (Of course, life comes up.) In case I go with traditional publishing, I want to say that the number of beta manuscripts is less than XX. It doesn’t matter to me, but it might matter to them in negotiations.

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