Sunday, November 05, 2006

My catamaran

Here is my cover painting!

This is a reposting of most of the content that I added to Jeff VanderMeer's blog this week:

I’m a first time novelist as well as the cover artist and illustrator for my novel, “The Steam Magnate”. Aio Publishing took the very innovative step of contracting me as author to supply artwork for my own book! We’ve had really positive feedback on the unity between the writing and the visual mood of the book, which is elegant, toned-down and literary in feel.

Check out the Aio site and follow the links for a sample of the cover painting, as well as an excerpt from the book and ordering information.

I’ll be posting some short excerpts from the book this week, to give everyone a sense of my work and of what readers can expect in books to come. (I’m at work on a second one right now!). To see some of my other artwork, please visit my art portfolio site .

So, what can you expect when you pick up “The Steam Magnate”?

The characters:

Eson- Eson is “The Steam Magnate”. He inherited a steam power legacy, and has amazing powers of influence over others. Is he a supernatural being, or merely a person of unusual talents? He is a sort of ‘demon lover’ character, romancing others toward his own ends, yet is vulnerable to both his own weaknesses and to the ill intents of others.

Kyra- Kyra is mysterious, young and enigmatic. We know little of her past, only that she has been sent on a mission by a powerful woman who wishes vengeance against Eson. Kyra walks the dangerous ground between Eson, the people he holds power over, and the people he fears. She is called upon to make ingenious use of her growing strength of character.

Jado- Jado is also young, and comes from a culture with strong ties to family and place. He takes a chance in working with Eson on a clandestine tidal power deal, compromising his values and facing dangers to his life as he ventures beyond the sheltering world of his community. Jado dreams of crossing the ocean in a solar powered boat, to the land of his ancestors.

The Story:

Reviewers have described the book as a story of power and personal transformation:

Heartland Reviews: "A literary fantasy, this story is about power, both environmental, magical, and interpersonal. The author has created an unusual world of forces both elemental and societal. The story is subtle and well-crafted—a truly literary work. Its complexities of relationships and politics make for an interesting read. We applaud the publisher for taking on a delicate work of this nature, providing a platform for a new and deserving talent."

Reader Views: "The author does an extraordinary job of illustrating the world of Eson and Kyra in both language and simple line drawings throughout the book. I would highly recommend this book for readers of all ages, from teens through adult. While The Steam Magnate has an engaging, somewhat wistful storyline that many would appreciate, it also gives pause for other readers who find within the story many aspects of their own lives as well... and it is such books that can draw the reader from their world into that of the characters; books that are to be both read and treasured."

Visit Aio's site for a full set of reviews.

Here is the first passage from “The Steam Magnate”, which begins as a kind of travelogue. Kyra is new to the Broken Glass City, and the reader is carried with her, learning something of the odd mission she’s been sent on, and of the cityscape that will change her life:

“Kyra arrived late at night, on a crowded, rattling steam engine, at an ancient place they called the ‘City of Mirrors’ or the ‘Broken Glass City’, depending on the language used. The city earns these names from stained glass that has been superimposed onto the exteriors of the walls and walkways, as though glass were shattered and thrown about into patterns, some random, others deliberate. The murky stone beneath dilutes the clarity of the glass and creates the illusion of hidden texture inside the walls, as when the stones beneath a river are visible under shallow water.

Despite the awesomeness of the place, apparent even under the dimness of night, Kyra felt gripped by a cold and powerful fear, as she had been sent here as a vassal to one whose mind was contorted toward revenge. The one who had sent her cared little if Kyra returned. She was to find a certain person in this city, to stay out of the sight of anyone of importance, and to rest assured that those who were making her a part of their scheme considered her quite worthless. The man she was seeking, whom she knew by the name of Eson, had likely arrived some days earlier and with a great deal more opulence than her own arrival had occasioned. There was mention of a contract or deed of some kind that she was to try to obtain from him through her innocuous and seemingly guileless manner, and through deception and over an extended period if need be. It would not be an instantaneous thievery, and perhaps not thievery at all, as the contract was said to be at least half the property of her employer. So was her task set before her, a vast pool of darkness into which she must step.”

Kyra is caught between forces beyond her control. Will she accomplish her strange duty, and how will she be transformed in the process? Is she really as innocent as she seems, or are there more layers to her identity? What is in store for her in this illusory city?

A large excerpt from the story is also available on Aio’s site. This excerpt introduces Eson’s character and gives you a sense of his conflicted and ever-searching nature. I always write Eson in first person perspective (so far!) and always write Kyra and Jado in third person. So, you are hearing Eson’s account of the story directly from his mouth, as he wants you to hear it….

Here is another excerpt to let you in on Eson’s perspective. He is describing his home country, The Steam Territories, which is a cold nation to the north of the mild Broken Glass City, and a nation under tight political control:

“Everything here is run by steam. Steam billows out from the roofs of buildings, and steel pipes run along the lines of the buildings which are high, like those in the glass city, but made of a darker kind of stone. We are the lucky that can live high up, near the water’s sources, before it is piped downhill to the power stations. We’re all wealthy because of the steam sources, and so we are largely immune to outside forces. We are few in number, and all have inherited at least some wealth from our ancestors’ positions as guardians of the original springs. Many, I among them, have been able to increase our wealth greatly through private dealings with myriad and secret persons. I have my own spring that flows next to my home into a pool surrounded by rocks, mine and now Sarah’s to enjoy. Steam heats our narrow houses and the enclosed walkways running between them. The entire town is built into the hillside, and from a distance it looks only like a wall of windows and dark beams set into the slope. The twisted evergreens insinuate themselves anywhere there is a slight chance for survival, their branches pressed against our windows like spiky green hands. Rivers of evergreens run along the valley below, and the train tracks continue toward the lights of our vast and hideous capital.”

Eson lives in reverence of the mountain springs that his family lineage has long protected. The springs are the source of his power, wealth and influence, as well as supporting his inner strength and spirit. Power of all kinds, from steam and tidal power to personal and social power are key elements in the story of Eson and his world. The reader may trust him and his smooth words, or you may wonder, “What isn’t he telling me, behind all his talk of power and inheritance?” The layers of Eson’s story unfold toward surprising revelations…

Another excerpt from my book...

This one brings you into the nightclub that is the focus of much action in the book. Editor Tiffany Jonas and I are having a contest for readers to think of a name for the nightclub, which will appear in later books. The contest runs until Nov. 22 and there is a cool prize for the one who thinks of the best name. Details are at Aio’s site. Like the City of Broken Glass, the nightclub is almost a character in its own right and a great place to find a party:

“Pretending to head back to the tram station, she circled around the block and turned in to the café’s door. It was an immense place inside but warmly lit, like a cave taken over by fireflies. Though its exterior had consisted only of a shabby, decaying wall and a sign with a chip missing, the interior was nearly extravagant, set on three tiers with a stage at one end on the main level and flimsy staircases leading to upper terraces on all sides. The paper lanterns were in profusion, and a jazz band was warming up to play to a crowded room. People jostled everywhere and bar maids and waiters swam about the crowds, surfacing and ducking though the guests as efficiently as dolphins navigating a choppy ocean. She swam through as well, circling the perimeter of the main floor, surveying the terraces. And there on the third floor, in a distant corner, was the man she had been told was her mark, though a quarry dangerous and unpredictable. The silken coat that had made its sly way into her subconscious was slung over his chair. He wore a styled suit and sported an ostentatious hairstyle of the kind much admired in places of consequence the world over. He sipped a martini pensively, and seemed, even in stillness, to calculate and weigh options with eyes darkened in the dim light of the terrace.”

The nightclub is a place for characters of all kinds to cross paths...

By the way, for those of you who have never tried stuffed monkey, I would highly recommend reading "Twelve Collections and The Teashop" by Zoran Zivkovic. It may be the best dessert you've ever had... ;) I'd also recommend his other books: Seven Touches of Music, The Brige, Miss Tamara, The Reader, and several others.

Here is a final excerpt from "The Steam Magnate", and one of political intrigue. Eson is in his element, setting up an electrical power deal with a sea trader in a coastal city, far away from his mountain springs. While the other excerpts were from early on in the book, this one will be from the rich, delectable middle, where the thick has plottened considerably!

This is the introduction to their encounter:

“There’s a waterfall running over the side of a particular building in Waters Rising, streaming down an indigo wall nearly like water itself. I’ve come here to convince someone of their need for me, and my energies rush out temporarily as do tidal waters before a great wave hits. I feel light and quick as I pass through the building’s high door into the dark, translucent interior. There is nothing I enjoy more than this, really. I’ve brought my contracts and ink, stowed in an immaculate and finely made case that has been my accomplice in many such ventures. There is often a thread of guilt in the moment of the inevitable agreement, but now, before the real negotiation begins, there is only the elated vault of possibility in my mind. The sea is very close at hand, and whether that will work to my advantage or to the other player’s is still unknown.
The cool woman I’d met on the lower slope of the Glass City, my ally, appears in an upper doorway of the translucent room and waits for me to ascend the shallow stairs to the upper floor.
With a sidelong glance, she assesses me before offering her invitation. “The other negotiator is already waiting. He will see you for only a short time, as it seems the venue does not suit his comfort for a long meeting—yet I wouldn’t rate him an easy mark for your purposes.”
Even though she has signed my contract, she will convince herself she is an impartial mediator for our consultation, will not admit to herself that she is on my side. I respect this in the utmost, though it matters little to the outcome of our gathering. I grant her the sense of honor, and respond to her as though she is indeed an impartial mediator.
“Please assure him I will waste little of his time.” I say it with care, not wanting to sound dismissive or overconfident.
“You may assure him yourself.” We approach a light door that swings outward at her touch. She gestures for me to precede her into the room, where there is a comfortable sitting area. A solitary occupant sits there, his back to the high wall opposite the door. The sea, visible beyond a great pane of glass, seems somehow to radiate expansively from him. He has the composure of one who knows the sea, who is a visiting dignitary when walking upon land. His face is broad and strong, polished by the ocean wind, a face from beyond the western sea. His age would be greater than mine, but not by much, I’m sure.
“You’re the tidal magnate, then.” His voice is solid and unquestioning, with no room accorded to doubts.”

What do you think will be the outcome of Eson's meeting with this Sea Trader?

Review News:

There is another review of my book available as of today. Horrorscope, an Australian site, has reviewed "The Steam Magnate". Some highlights from this review: "Copithorne's world is one of the most striking features of this novel. Broken Glass City is a crisp, intricate place of stone and glass, made real by a meaningful and historically rounded culture. The plot returns often to the city's architecture, a unique approach that enchants the reader with buildings and monuments and constructs a rich portrait of translucent pastels and angular modernity" ... "Another element that sets Copithorne's writing apart is her characterisation" ... "Coupled with the oppressive, clean beauty of the city and the author's explanatory, precise voice, this intriguing style engenders the book with an idiosyncratic atmosphere that is at its best in the richly visual scenes on which the story hangs." (Reviewer Miranda Siemienowicz)

I've been amazed and gratified at how each reviewer has brought their own perspective to their thoughtful and insightful reviews of my work. The reviews are starting to pile up with the list that are on Aio's site, another due soon on SF site, and a rumor that some sites in Germany will also be posting reviews. As well, Juanita Watson of Reader Views will soon be posting an interview with me on their site.

A few weeks ago I went to VCON, my first Science Fiction convention. Among the interesting things there was a panel discussion on cover art, which I took part in. Both the writers and artists had horror stories about how little control they had over the integration between the cover art and the book (and the authors were both well established, and highly regarded, as were the artists!)

I felt very lucky to present my story of how it has been publishing with Aio. After siging my novel contract, I mentioned to my editor, Tiffany Jonas, that I was also an artist, and she asked e to send some samples of my work. When Aio agreed to contract me for a cover painting as well as inside illustrations, I couldn't believe my luck! I did the art for this book after I'd finished writing the draft. The images from the story were still setling in my mind, and in illustrating the places and scenes from the novel, I came to know my own work on a very different level. The cover painting ended up being like a small window into the world of the Broken Glass City. Eson looks out over glass and stone buildings, and the sky is chaotic with clouds. We added a maple leaf into the design, which points out he fact that I'm a Canadian writer. An image of the cover is available on the amazon listing for the book, and on alot of other sites.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Hello all you people who are going to be reading this with admiration and fascination someday! ;) (even if that 's only three people in the world, I'll consider it a success!)
I'm right now most of the way through the manuscript for my first novel, which is exciting, to say the least.

Some of my influences have been Iris Murdoch (The Green Knight, plus countless other novels), Angela Carter (Nights at the Circus, Artificial Fire, The Bloody Chamber), Francesca Lia Block (Weetzie Bat, Dangerous Angels), David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, Number9Dream) and Michael Swanwick (Stations of the Tide, The Iron Dragon's Daughter).
This is just to name a few of the authors I really like. I also like Doris Lessing, Ursula LeGuin, and a number of Japanese and Czech writers. (I don't speak either language, however)

My own novel, a work of speculative literary fiction, will tie together ideas about science, art, nature, architecture and urban theory, psychology, sociology, love, and philosophy. There will be tide and solar generators for the ecologically minded, plus no cars, and cities designed for walking and living, not driving. :) Aside from the occasional dust storm or tidal influx, the weather will be mild and the scenary enrapturing. While it is not utopia, the world I'm creating will be a mysterious and exciting place for the reader to immerse within. And there will be some illustrations to look at, to help in picturing the places you will be transported to. Watch from the comfort of your favorite chair, while I, the capricious god, dole out tribulation and mercy upon my characters as I see fit! Nobody gets hurt, but there is a lot of change and personal realization as the characters transform through their predestined fates. I've tried to avoid formulaic plot constructions, in favor of more innovative and subtle dynamics.

Stay tuned for more about the writing, plus the odd piece about why Kundalini yoga is the best form of exercise in the universe, and possibly other topics when I eventually emerge from my cave and do something other than writing or yoga. Cheers!