Standalone or Series? Where does Gods of Nabban fit?

Sooooo . . . is Gods of Nabban a standalone or fourth in a series? Enquiring minds want to know.

Well . . .

Next question?

Okay, okay, I’ll answer that one. People have been asking about that ever since The Leopard came out, and the reason they need to ask, of course, is that the answer is sort of . . . confusing. Maybe. Both? (Note: Part of this post is lifted from an email I sent someone in answer — I’m afraid he got rather a long answer as I tried to work out how best to explain what I meant — and one part I swiped from a postscript to a blog post I wrote for someone else, which I’ll link to from here once it’s up.)

I think of the stories about the seven devils and the caravan road as a bit like a medieval cycle of related tales. I intended that you-the-reader could come in at any point, hopefully find your feet in the world, and as you read further, make connections between characters and events. Or you could read the stories in order of internal chronology, and let it unfold that way. (I did the same thing with my Torrie children’s fantasy series — except those ones weren’t even written or published in chronological order.) In the caravan road books, each (and also the short story “The Storyteller” which I wrote after Blackdog but which is set earlier) is meant to be something that can stand on its own. (The exception is the duology Marakand, which was published in two volumes as The Leopard and The Lady — you MUST read those two together and in their proper order because they tell a single story.) Whichever way you read them, each story is going to have roots and branches running off to the others. That’s all to say that although there are many overlapping characters between the books, and a common deep history underlying it all, it’s not a series telling a single story; nor is it a series focused on a single central character. The linking thread is actually the devil-bonded warrior Moth who, with the wer-bear Mikki at her side and the Gods-forged sword Lakkariss in her hand, wanders in and out of the official heroes’ stories. However, she’s not the central protagonist of any of them except “The Storyteller”.

Here’s a breakdown of people the stories focus on, leaving out the characters who are confined to just one book:

“The Storyteller” – Moth & Mikki, quite a long time before Blackdog begins.
Blackdog – Holla-Sayan; Moth & Mikki; Ivah
Marakand: The Leopard – Ahjvar & Ghu; Holla-Sayan; Ivah; Moth & Mikki
Marakand: The Lady – ditto
Gods of Nabban – Ahjvar & Ghu; Ivah.

(That makes it look like Ivah might be the ‘series’ hero but remember that there isn’t one; she’s actually a secondary character with a knack for ending up in the thick of things . . . she’s the woman whose face is hidden under the G on the Gods of Nabban cover.)

Gods of Nabban, cover art by Raymond Swanland

Gods of Nabban, cover art by Raymond Swanland

I do think that you can read Gods of Nabban without having first read the Marakand duology, because in it, Ahjvar and Ghu, having unexpectedly survived the end of The Lady (that’s not a spoiler, because there they are on the cover, right?) are starting on a new story; they’ve changed a great deal from the people they were at the start of The Leopard, and the backstory that you need to know does emerge in small glimpses, without having to be a summary of what-has-gone-before. Gods of Nabban is a new tale, not a continuation of Marakand. But on the other hand, you may prefer to read things in the order they happen in the world. (Can I say, even so, that it’s always good to buy the new book if you think you’d like to read it, because that makes authors happy and publishers even happier, and increases the chances of the next book actually getting to happen? I know it’s vulgar to mention such things, but . . . gotta eat to write, y’know.)

That said, it’s really a matter of personal taste and how you prefer to explore a new secondary world. Some people find it’s fine to start with whichever one first grabbed their attention and then go back and forward to the others; others prefer to start at the beginning and have the world and cosmology unfold with the chronological history. However, so long as you don’t make the mistake of trying to leap into The Lady without first reading The Leopard (in which case you will be missing half the story for certain), in the caravan road stories I hope that enough of what’s essential should be there in each book where it’s needed, and be there within the characters as you meet them even if it’s for the first time, so that you can start with whichever story first caught your imagination and work out from there.



Posted in Blackdog, Gods of Nabban, Marakand, Moth, The Lady, The Leopard, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gods of Nabban is out!

Gods of Nabban is out from Pyr and I forgot to mention this fact on my own blog.
Here’s a link to my website page about it.
And the cover, by Raymond Swanland.

Gods of Nabban, cover art by Raymond Swanland

Gods of Nabban, cover art by Raymond Swanland

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Marmalade Oatmeal Layer Cake

Low (lower than many, anyway!) in saturated fats, lactose-free

Flax seed egg substitute:

First, make egg substitute. This recipe needs three eggs. You can substitute as many as you like, depending on your needs. I usually use one egg and replace two for this recipe. The flax seed egg substitute doesn’t give a cake as much structural integrity as real egg. For muffins, you can get away with substituting all; for a firm loaf or tube-pan cake, ditto, but a layer cake is more delicate. It’s important to let anything made with this rest in the pan five or ten minutes before turning out. Also, bear in mind that it will increase the cooking time, because you have water that needs to cook off, rather than proteins that will coagulate.

For each egg you are replacing, grind one tablespoon of flax seed and mix with three tablespoons of water. Let sit so that it gets thick and gloopy. (If you’re using pre-ground flax seed, you’d probably want a slightly heaping tablespoonful.)

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Grease and flour two round layer cake pans.

In one bowl, combine and let sit:

1 1/3 cups boiling water
1 cup rolled oats (quick-cooking are best)

In another bowl, beat together:

1/3 c. olive or canola oil (olive will make a richer cake)
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs or flax seed egg substitute, see above
Grated rind of one lemon

Add, alternately:

1 3/4 c. flour mixed with 1 tsp. baking soda and 1/4 tsp. cloves

The juice of one lemon with orange juice, water, or soymilk added to make 1/2 cup. (You could substitute with all orange juice, vinegar-soured soy/nut milk, water with a couple tbsp. vinegar in it, or if milk’s not a problem, soured milk or buttermilk, if you don’t have a lemon. Just make sure you have some acid, for the soda to react with.)

Mix in the oatmeal, which should be like porridge by now.

Divide between the two prepared pans.

Bake 45-50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. This will be a very moist cake. If you’ve used all real eggs, check for doneness after 35 minutes!

Let cool in pans ten minutes before carefully turning out. The more flax and less egg, the more friable! But the oatmeal holds this one together pretty well.

Put the still-warm layers together with a generous spreading of marmalade. (Raspberry or blackcurrant jam is also good.) It will melt and soak into the cake.

If you want to be fancy, sprinkle a little icing sugar over the top, or make an icing sugar glaze. Caution: The latter decreases your ability to feel virtuous about eating a healthy, porridge-filled cake!

Posted in Life, making things, recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unearthing the Garden

It hasn’t snowed for a whole day, so I hereby declare the gardening season begun. Spent the day raking leaves off my flowerbeds. Every fall, I pile leaves on, in part to give some extra winter protection and partially in hope that they’ll miraculously rot over the winter and enrich the sandy, acidic, and starved soil. A vain hope. They’re mostly Norway Maple, and those do not break down at any great rate. What they mostly do is keep the sheep-sorrel and slugs and evil scarlet lily beetles cosy. (Note that these are not my Norway Maples, except one. There’s what I shall call a copse of the plague-tree south of Next Door and me, and thus our adjoining backyards are mostly within what he calls the Moss Line. We foregather in the gardens — our boundaries blur a bit, though we know where they are — to contemplate things that are supposed to grow in shade, and then we conclude that most ‘shade garden’ books mean elegant, daintily-dappled shade. Not the northern edge of a g.d. greedy-rooted Norway Maple forest. Technically, I think about a quarter of my garden is what is called a blanket-bog — a skin of sphagnum over sand.)

Winter Aconite

Winter Aconite – Eranthis hyemalis

But that’s a rant for another day. (I don’t object to shade gardens, or blanket-bogs. I would just like more room for my roses and peonies and fruit.)

Snowdrops in snow


I have just written on my calendar for October, “Do not pile so many leaves on the flowerbeds.” The crocuses, obeying some inner clock, always come up beneath them and end up rather squiggly and unhappy, which is a waste of a good crocus. The only thing I have that really needs covered is a Bassimo rose, which is borderline hardy here in Zone 5a. Any part of it above the snow dies — which means it would have died this year, if I hadn’t covered it. But really, that’s all that needs the leaf-heaping.

Crocus siebarii 'Tricolour'

Crocus siebarii ‘Tricolour’

Removing leaves, removing the anti-girdling-by-mice white wraps from the apples and pears, is also a time to take inventory. Alas, my new Goldbusch rose seems to have perished, but it was very sickly all summer, too. It’s hardy to 4b, so it wasn’t the winter that got it. I bought it at Cornhill and they’re generally good about replacing things that die for no good reason, so if it doesn’t send up a shoot — it’s on its own roots — I’ll have to mention it to them. On the positive side, it looks to my inexpert eye as though all five apples look as though they have fruiting buds this year. (Five or more if you count the fact that the two I grafted myself have branches of the rootstock left intact.) It will be really interesting to see what Pippin’s Pippin, a seedling named in honour of my late dog, the real Pippin of “Pippin and Mabel” fame, turns out like.

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Mr Wicked’s Leap Day Adventure

So, Leap Day … I’m all for leaping, especially if the humans let me run free, free, free … which they don’t very often because I’m an EvilWickedHusky and also full of German Shepherd brains, which means I think about things. Like, yes, you want me to come back but I want to sniff this thing over here and maybe eat it, so first I’ll sniff and maybe snack. Then I’ll come back. You just be patient and wait. (You shouldn’t have taught me the concept of “first … then …” if you didn’t want me to apply it. Oh. Do I have to stay on my rope the whole time?)

White down in a brown field, with blue sky and some red dogwood.

This is me, and I am outstanding in my field. Aren’t I handsome? (I certainly am, and I know it. )

But yesterday it was like Spring, even though it was Winter, and we went for an Adventure to the place we get to go in Summer. We drove and we drove and we drove … and there was the ferry. You don’t drive on ferries. You sit and say “Grr” out the window at the ferry-guy, because he’s walking up and down the ferry in a Suspicious Manner. He’s up to something. Why do the humans always roll my window up?

So here we are, on the Evandale Ferry.

The Evandale ferry on a balmy Leap Day.

The Evandale ferry on a balmy Leap Day.

And then we drove some more. Some people call it the bog road. I’m not sure why. But we have a Jeep!

The road was a bit exciting, but we kept all four paws on the ground.

The road was a bit exciting, but we kept all four paws on the ground.

And we had a picnic. Picnics are good. The humans did not take pictures of me eating ham sandwich crusts, but I did. I had to. The humans forgot to pack any dog biscuits. Foolish humans! But I got to have tea, too, so that was okay. And I like to sit in the sun and look at things and smell the wind.

Dog with river in background.

At the lookout.

Here is the River.

St. John River, February 29, 2016.

St. John River, February 29, 2016.

At this time of year it is supposed to be all ice, the humans say. It isn’t. Look at the ice floating by. It might be cat-ice, strong enough to hold a cat. It was not strong enough to hold a dog. I tried to stand on some and it sank. No leaping across ice-floes like my arctic ancestors. (Maybe that’s why the humans kept me on my rope?)

River landscape, with ice.

The St. John River again. The human accidentally set her phone to sepia.

The river, with ice in foreground.

Isn’t this almost the same view? And why aren’t I in this picture?

Look, it’s Leap Day and I’m leaping! Leap! Leap! Leap!

Dog and log.

The approach …

dog and log

The take-off …

dog jumping log

And the leap!

(Do you know how many times I had to do that before the humans got a photo that had more than my tail in it? But that’s okay. I like jumping over things.)

I went downriver to visit the Terrors, Bonnie & Macintosh. They’re my friends. But their humans weren’t home and when they barked out the window I suddenly remembered that sometimes they look after a Truly Evil dog who is scary and I had a panic attack and tried to run away. I know the Truly Evil dog is about the size of my head, but he’s still Truly Evil and Scary. (The human says, Mr Wicked, you’re supposed to be a great tracker, can’t you tell from the widdle that Evil Dog isn’t here? But how does she expect me to apply logic when I’m having a panic attack?)

[The human thought she took a picture of Bonnie and Macintosh through their window, but the truth is, the human can’t see what she’s doing with her phone without her reading glasses, which she does not normally wear when Adventuring, and apparently she didn’t. Which is too bad, because they looked very cute with their wee Scotch noses pressed up to the window and their little tails waggling.]

We went to look at the River again to soothe my nerves.

Dog by river.

Recovering my nerve after inciting a barking frenzy in my Westie friends. I like to play with them, actually. I just have delicate nerves.

We couldn’t go home on the Gagetown ferry. The government cancelled it again and this time they’ve really made sure it’s cancelled. Look at those big posts in the road. I widdled on them. Now the guys who watch the security camera that watches the sign in case of vandalism have something to look at. (Widdling on signs is not vandalism; it’s just being a dog.) Look, that’s Scovil’s Landing over there. I like the road from Scovil’s Landing. It has trees and osprey and wild sunflowers and more osprey, and turtles and milkweed and horses and mules to bark out the window at … going over the big bridge is boring and so is the highway. There’s no ferry guy to bark at on the highway. And what about the birds? This ferry had a bird-house and tree-swallows on it. What happens when the swallows come back and their ferry is gone? Humans should think more about these things.

barrier blocking access to ferry landing

No more Gagetown ferry. No more nautical tree swallows.

Flood gauge post.

Flood gauge at Gagetown landing. No flood so far this spring.

Well, no ferry to Scovil’s. So we drove and we drove and we drove, and we came home and had supper. I was very tired from all the excitement. And that was my adventure. At least I didn’t have to have a bath. All my mud fell off in the car.

Posted in dogs, Photos, The Adventures of Mr Wicked | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment