(From the early May 2019 newsletter that went out to readers interested in the progress of The Door Into Starlight. To join this audience list, use this link: http://eepurl.com/cVSGOr )

Hey there everybody! DD here. Hope things are going well for you!

First of all: it’s been a while since the last of these newsletters went out — my apologies for that. The delay’s been mostly work-related… we’ll get into that in a bit. (If local news bores you, scroll down to the next section.)

Let’s deal in passing with local news. There hasn’t been very much, really. (The biggest excitement we expected to have—the installation after years and years of waiting of actual broadband—hasn’t materialized yet, due to as-yet unresolved infrastructure issues. The Phone Company now says that the infrastructure situation should be sorted out during “the first week in May”… but we’ve heard this kind of thing before. We’ll see.)

The late winter/early spring has been kind of a fallow period around here, particularly in terns of travel. Partly this is because Peter and I looked ahead to what was awaiting us later in the year, and decided to sit tight and concentrate on work at the moment… because later on, things may get a bit hectic.

What the upcoming travel specifically involves are the three conventions we’ve got scheduled this year — CrossingsCon in Montréal, over the third weekend in June: the 77th World Science Fiction Convention (Dublin 2019) in mid-August: and Bristol-Con in late October. Once our obligations to those conventions have been discharged, we’ll have time to think about taking a weekend or so off somewhere. Meanwhile, business dominates the local daily landscape… and much of that is book business: writing, etc.

So let’s talk about that for a bit.

The Door Into Starlight progress and process

As regards The Door Into Starlight: It progresses. (I did say in the previous newsletter that I wasn’t going to discuss specific progress “numbers” or putative pub dates in these missives; for those who find that disappointing, my apologies. People will hear about it, belieeeeeeve me, when I have a complete “zero draft” of the book. But after that there’ll still be a good stretch of road to negotiate — editing and rewrite, beta-reading (if I elect to go that route), sorting out print-edition options, and so forth.)

By the by, in case anyone’s unclear about the basics on this: the book will inevitably be privately/self-published, as no conventional publisher is going to have the slightest interest in bringing out the fourth book of an out-of-print series that debuted forty years ago. My hope—and I say hope—is to be able to make some more concrete announcement regarding the book’s progress around Worldcon time. But a hope is absolutely all it is at the moment. I won’t be discussing the issue any more concretely than that.

Having said that: there’s no harm in everybody knowing that Starlight is my major writing project for 2019. While the 11th Young Wizards novel is fairly well along, I’ve put it aside for the year to concentrate nearly-exclusively on Starlight. The exception to this—the “nearly”—lies in the Tales of the Five works (the second of which has just come out: scroll down for more details). Those works are proceeding in parallel with TDIStarlight, and are proving very useful for all kinds of reasons.

Part of this has to do with process. These books have a specific writing “tone of voice” of their own that is significantly different from the tone in all other writing I’ve done since beginning the series with The Door Into Fire. That tone evolved slowly over the first three books, and is now evolving further with the extra practice that the Tales works are affording. And believe me, the practice is welcome. The awareness that all four of these books need to hang together tonally, despite having been written at fairly long intervals, is constantly with me.

If I’ve got my numbers right, I’m guessing that Starlight will top out somewhere around 130,000 to 150,000 words. (Weighing the story in “the hand of the mind” at this point—and this judgment is one I’ve learned to trust over time—I can’t imagine what would take the book beyond 150K.) But those words will come out in parallel with—again, if my numbers are correct—somewhere in the neighborhood of a total 200,000 words of associated, densely character-driven material in the Tales. My just-completed experience with The Landlady has suggested to me that at least one of the three remaining Tales will run as long as Landlady did (75K). And it is possible, just barely possible, that I may need to return to Herewiss’s POV for a sixth Tale if (once the first five are finished) I judge that I’ve shortchanged him. We’ll see how that goes.

Unexpected consequences

Without getting unduly spoilery, another way these works are proving useful for work on Starlight is in dealing with or exploring issues that the requirements of dealing with plot and action in Fire, Shadow and Sunset made impossible. A character does something in extremis to deal with a given problem and succeeds in solving that problem? Fine. But afterwards, what will that solution do to the world? In the first three books, everybody’s largely too focused on dealing with whatever crap is happening right now to spend forever dwelling on what might or might not happen as a result, a decade or two down the road. This whole issue—of unintended consequences—will continue being a driving force in the Tales as they go forward.

In the same general area, The Landlady surprised me a bit (once it really got rolling around in December) in terms of how much hadn’t been said in the first three books about quite basic things: like, for example, political structures. The Middle Kingdoms cultures we’ve dealt with so far are obviously all monarchies who extend their power down toward the grassroots via “middleman” structures (the Forty Houses in Darthen, the Four Hundred [members of nobility] in Arlen).

But there’s an essential difference in the quasi-medieval structures of the Kingdoms to the ones we know in our own world. In the Kingdoms, every human being knows that the Goddess who made everything, and runs the Universe, is infallibly going to turn up on their own doorstep one day and (among other things) want to know whether or not they’ve been good. And if they haven’t, why not. There are known to be personal consequences for bad behavior. (The Middle Kingdoms cosmology does not have a Hell—but divine punishment for bad behavior does exist.)

So the impetus toward just forms of government— toward a kind of rule that won’t make the Goddess yell at you when She turns up—is stronger in the Middle Kingdoms than it might be in other circumstances. Which immediately provokes the question: well, if you’re going to have a just and fair quasi-medieval government, what might that look like? What will it look like when it works right? And what will it look like when it goes wrong, or breaks down, and needs to be fixed?

Necessary exploration of his issue was what kept the through-line in the story in Landlady from being resolved in 20,000 words and change, the way the one in The Levin-Gad was. The problems Segnbora deals with in Landlady— in which her own personal history is deeply entangled—proved not to be ones that could be resolved with one night’s drinking in a bar. (Which she probably would have vastly preferred, but that’s neither here nor there.)

So, to make a long story short (sort of)—so I can wind this up for today: the Tales are helping Starlight go places it couldn’t have gone without them. Starlight is obviously going to be a standalone—but I imagine those of you who read the Tales will appreciate Starlight better than you would have otherwise.

Anyway! Time to get back to work (as I’m presently laying groundwork for Tales #3). Thanks for your company on the road: you’ll hear a bit more from me at the beginning of June.

Take care of yourselves!  — DD