Monday, December 10, 2012

"I was old then; I am much older now." A book update

I got initial edits from my publisher this morning for The Astrologer. I'm pleased to report that mostly it was formatting changes, including the addition of a bushel of the hated Oxford commas. But I don't protest; I know that while I despise the serial comma in theory, I don't actually notice it when I'm reading.

It pleases me to realize how much I still like this novel. In the years since writing The Astrologer, I've written three and seven-eighths other books, which means that the novel of mine which will pub in a little over two months is a book that I've forgotten a lot about. I'd forgotten the eels, and I'd forgotten all the blue, and I'd forgotten the narrator's obsessive reportage of the food served at royal banquets. I'd forgotten all manner of little touches I put in just for fun. I'd forgotten how much fun I had with dialogue:

     “I heard a rumor that you were too elderly to maintain your parish, but clearly this is mere slander,” Christian said. “I do not think you have aged a minute since I first laid an eye upon you, Father.”
     “I was old then,” Maltar said. “I am much older now, my lord. I am ancient.”
     “Nonsense, Father. You have a clear eye and a strong voice. I had expected a withered leaf of a man, not a stout oak. You are yet a powerful warrior of Christ.”
     “I am a barrel of lard, you mean.” Maltar put a wounded tone into his voice but he smiled at the prince.
     “You do not waste away and that is an excellent piece of news, Father.”
     “As you insist, my lord.” Maltar raised a hand as if to ward off any further praise. “Tell me, my lord, what do you at St. Ibb’s?”
     “I come to confess.”
     “My lord?”
     “I have joined good Soren’s party out at the old Brahe manor and must take the sacraments here, Father. I am not shriven since going into battle at Copenhagen, and I would confess myself to you, if you will do me the duty.”
     Maltar did not seem to know what to think of this request. He sat on his bench with eyes half closed and shook his heavy head.
     “You recall how to take confession?” Christian prompted him.
     “I do, my lord.” Maltar blinked slowly, an old bear caught hibernating in his den. “Is not the bishop of Copenhagen your confessor, my lord?”
     “He is. The bishop is a most excellent fellow. My mother is fond of him also.”
     “I doubt it nothing.” Maltar turned his face away from the prince. “My lord, I cannot take your confession. The bishop is a nobleman, but I am not. Before I found my calling, I was the son of a journeyman stevedore who worked Elsinore’s wharves. Men such as I, even though we wear cassock and Roman collar, are not fit to be in your confidence. Go to Copenhagen to be shriven, my lord. Or at least to Elsinore. Father Olaf is a gentleman. I am proud to be a peasant and a priest, but I am still a peasant.”
     The old man was talking rubbish. He wanted the crown prince of Denmark to beg him to be his confessor. He would brag about it for years to come.

While I'm certain that I've become a better writer since The Astrologer, I'm also certain that this novel is a book I can still be proud of, a narrative that remains fun and clever even after having read the damned thing scores of times. The symmetrical structure of the narrative still strikes me as a thing of beauty, and the lessons I learned while essentially re-envisioning this story half a dozen times and once rewriting it entirely from scratch, are lessons that have stuck with me, valuable lessons I use every time I pick up a pen. So that's all good news. I won't be ashamed to tell everyone I know on March 1st that it's incumbent upon them to run out and buy a copy of my novel. Because it is. Incumbent. This means you.


  1. Mmm, edits are fun, aren't they? Copyedits are even better, since by that point you'd rather chew your leg off than read the book one more time. Needless to say, I've read your book a bunch of times and never tired of it, so that's a great sign. I can't wait for your book to be out! Me wants to hold it.

  2. Diane's copyedits were a breeze. I sent her back a couple of comments so there are maybe half a dozen unresolved questions of usage/style, but otherwise, we're all done.

    I keep forgetting that I stuffed so much into this book. In two and a half months, it'll be a real physical object (or a bunch of identical physical objects). That's unbelievable.

  3. Make sure to remind me come March and I'll get a copy. I'll even read it ;-)

  4. Rick, I will tell Everyone I Know in March. Incumbent, I say! Incumbent!

  5. Scott, just like you didn't know about me in June, I did not know about you in March.


    Come on, 2013!

  6. Jennifer, thanks! 2013 will be a great year for books!

  7. Michelle, I misunderstood you about copyedits, but now I get it. What a pains-taking horror that will be. Fun!

  8. Yeah, you haven't gotten to that point yet, I'm assuming. It's after layout is finished. :)

  9. The book's in layout right now. There was some funny business with the Word document at the end of editorial, and a bunch of spaces between words disappeared! We think it's because I use an older version of Word at home. So all that has to be fixed in copyedits. What larks.

    Hey, how do you want to be credited in your blurb: "author of..." what book/books do you want?

  10. Hmmm, I guess Bonded. It's my most literary so far. :)