I was dismayed to see that my last blog post was pretty much exactly one year ago. This gives the impression that I’ve stopped writing, which is false. Martian Born is still moving along, though more slowly than I’d like. I’ve talked it over with someone who was involved in a simulation of living on Mars for NASA, which was a great experience, and I hope to get more information from her as the book progresses. Otherwise, it’s now at about 80,000 words, which is 25,000 more than the last time I updated it.
But it’s slow going. Every new bit of information I uncover in my research forces me to go back and revise what I’ve written. After that conversation I mentioned above, I “moved” the colonies to lava tubes. They’re now at the bases of Uranius Tholus and Ceraunius Tholus, and their spacesuits have been redesigned. You might not think the latter would be a big deal, but it affects the way they enter and leave the colonies, and a number of subtle details. The first month after I got back from the 25th anniversary of Viable Paradise this past October was all about rewriting. My big concern is that there just won’t be a market for it, once it’s done. There have been a ton of YA books about Mars since The Martian came out. The biggest selling point of Martian Born is probably its realism, but any day now another book could come out that would challenge that.
The other reason things have been going slowly is that I lead a double life — I publish adult MM Romance under the name Jamie Fessenden, and that’s been taking up the bulk of my writing time lately. (These books generally fit into the MM Romance genre.) That doesn’t mean I don’t want to write YA anymore. But I’m a bit ADHD when it comes to jumping back and forth between projects. Whatever’s shiniest.
One of the projects I’ve been planning is a new trilogy in the world of Dreams of Fire and Gods, which takes place centuries before the events in those novels, and details the assassination of the emperor and the formation of the samöt.
In the meantime, I’ve been trying to finish up a novella called Rosem, and it follows the exploits of Sael, Koreh, Donegh, and Gonim in the months following Gods. A new character has also been introduced: Ven, one of the two soldiers Gonim dragged along to the confrontation with Imen at the barrier. When we first meet him, he is in bad shape….
Then Gonim heard a faint sound in the darkness. It was the bell near the gate to the courtyard, which announced visitors to the Temple. Father Kosün had ordered the gate locked after dark, since there weren’t enough men to keep watch, but after the bell rang a second time, Gonim’s curiosity got the better of him. He didn’t have the key, but he could talk to the visitor through the bars. It would do no harm to see what he or she wanted.
Gonim slipped the necklace back over his neck. There was no time to bother with the loincloth, but he pulled his robe over his head. Then he hurried to the gate.
The man standing on the other side was older than Gonim, though not by much, and he was dressed in a tunic with the seal of Dekan Seffni emblazoned upon it. A soldier, then. He gasped when Gonim approached and clutched the iron bars. “It’s you!”
Gonim hesitated. This close, the soldier looked vaguely familiar, but Gonim couldn’t remember anything about him. “Have we met?”
“I saw you…. You were torn open—burned! You had no heart! But somehow… you were saved… and Imen….” He stopped talking, perhaps afraid he was making no sense.
But Gonim felt a rush of joy at his words. “You were there?”
“I was a soldier at the barrier. The day King Caednu burned the emperor’s camp. The old emperor, that is—Savön. Queen Imen ordered me away, but I saw! I saw!”
The man seemed on the edge of hysterics. Was he insane? Had what he’d witnessed driven him mad?
Instinctively, Gonim placed a hand over one of his. The soldier’s fingers were ice cold, but Gonim felt them relax their grip on the bar as his hand warmed them. “Why have you come here?”
“To find someone—anyone—who might believe me. You don’t know what it’s been like. Nobody saw… what I saw. No man can see the gods—that’s what they keep telling me.”
Gonim did know what that was like. “Surely, other soldiers witnessed King Caednu battling with the king of the Taaweh.”
“Only one,” the soldier said. He moved his other hand to cover Gonim’s. “But he refused to ever speak of it, and he has gone to gü-Khemed. If any others saw, they will not admit it. ‘Keep your mouth shut, Ven, if you don’t want the gods to strike you down where you stand!’ That’s what they tell me. But you were there! You saw everything! Please….”
“Aye,” Gonim said. “I saw everything. And more than you know. Queen Imen, King Caednu, the Taaweh king and queen….”
The man sighed and leaned forward as if to kiss Gonim’s hand, but he merely rested his forehead against the metal bar they held. Gonim could feel the warmth of the soldier’s breath on his fingers. “Thank you.”
“Your name is Ven?”
“I cannot open the gate, Ven,” Gonim told him gently. “Can you come back in the morning?”
“Aye. I’m on a few days furlough.”
A thought occurred to Gonim. “Do you live in the city?”
“I have a room in the outer circle, near the smiths.”
“Do you live alone?”
It was, perhaps, a bit foolhardy to meet a stranger alone in the city, far away from the monastery—especially one as disturbed as Ven seemed to be—but Gonim didn’t like the idea of having a conversation about that day where the other tadu or caedan might overhear. Perhaps when Ven had calmed down, but at the moment he sounded like a madman. His corroboration of Gonim’s claims would do nothing to persuade the other residents of the monastery.
“Then don’t come here,” Gonim told him. “Wait for me at your home, and I will come see you tomorrow.”
“As early as I can. After the bells of Penent.”