Trials and smiles of an author (8)

It’s been quite a few months since my last “trials and smiles” post (  ) and maybe it’s time to update readers on progress with book 4.

The first thing to say is, Don’t hold your breath. The very fact that the book doesn’t yet have a title (possible contenders so far are “The Land of Tales” and “I Do Not Lie”) should tell you that you’ll have to wait a while.

As would the fact that when the first two Ragaris tales came out, I was able to provide a fairly full blurb in each of them for the next one. By contrast, “The Servant’s Voice” just says at the end “The fourth Tale from Ragaris is expected (sic) to be set in the north-western land of Falli.”

Progress for various reasons, including starting a part-time job before lockdown, has been slow. I have to keep reminding myself that (for me, I can’t speak for any other author) abandoning the beloved characters and situations of one story to start on another is hard work. It was a long time into both TPOJ and TSV before they were being anything like as much fun to write as their predecessor. They became fun eventually.

I have provided myself with an assistant whose role is to ask whenever we speak, “How’s the writing going?” She knows who she is.

But I’m fairly sure it’ll be at least a year before it’ll be worth anyone even asking “when’s the book coming out?” and at least Christmas before anyone needs to apply to join a focus group.

(There might be some very short short stories before then, though.)

The second thing to say is that it might not end up being Falli, but it probably will. What do you, the careful readers, already know about Falli?

Falli is a traditional ally of Marod, and rejects the Jaryari claims to overlordship of the West. It’s on the north coast of Ragaris, to the west of Marod, and if you look at the continent’s map (home page of this site!) you’ll see that it has very nicely-defensible natural boundaries: sea to the north and mountains on all other sides.

The Song of the Peoples (xenophobic version) says: “In Falli the folk hear the voice of the sea/And it calls them to singing and fair minstrelsy/Their lakes and their valleys, their knowledge is deep/But they never remember in whose bed to sleep.”

A troop of Fallian dancers/acrobats also performed at the Marodi court in TPOJ. “Lida thought her master (or her mother, for that matter) wouldn’t have approved of what they wore. Falli had a reputation.”

Those who know the books by heart may remember that King Arrion’s father Orthon was originally a Fallian prince, as the Marodi royal family makes a bit of a practice of diplomatic marriages. His behaviour may possibly have contributed to the reputation, and also for his son’s emphatic disapproval of adultery.

On the other hand, a lot of the above may be purely prejudice. There’s a lot of prejudice on Ragaris. Don’t expect the book to be too steamy.

What’s certain is that Falli has less use for books than Ricossa, and less use for money than Jaryar. Just as my trip to Venice in 2018 added a little to my understanding of Ricossa, so my trips to Japan and Uganda in 2019 may have contributed to Falli.

I’ve also thought for a while that it’s time to explore what gender-equality-without-technology would actually look like in respect of childcare and parenting. Is there maternity leave in Ragaris? Is there abortion? How much pressure is there on pregnant women to get married? This may explain why I’ve sought advice from a few midwives of my acquaintance.

Falli is also a land of oral tradition, and tale-telling, even more than Marod. I’m open to suggestions as to fairy or folk tale traditions that I could incorporate, although you should bear in mind the general lack of actual magic.

The story will however correspond to the traditional Tale format of including at least one murder. So far this is being the most traditional-looking detective story of them all. Which means it has to have at least one murderer – at least one victim – a motive – a method – and a detective. I’m not guaranteeing that all of these are yet in place, let alone the necessary clues and red herrings.

But I will say this. Earlier books required, at least for the author, maps, numerous family trees, and complicated date-lines and time-charts.

But Book 4 is the first to need an actual floor-plan. It doesn’t yet have an X marked on it.

Love from the PPI Blogger. I’m hoping for the next post to be 29th May.

  • Stephen Sheridan

    15th May 2020 at 6:13 pm Reply

    I’m very excited to receive any news about the next tale, so this is a big treat and we know that it will be worth waiting for (unlike the never-to-be-written completion of the Tales of Ice and Fire!).
    The most obvious basis points for an oral tradition for a rocky coast area with lots of fishing activity is Ireland Celtic or the Norse tradition. Then again Ancient Greek oral tradition has a similar background and the Odyssey is one of the greatest seaborne tales ever told, extracted directly from an oral tradition. Perhaps the people of Falli are secret explorers and have contacts with both Europe and the Americas of Ragaris. Maybe with the Falli, the lesser concern about sexuality derives from a pre-Christian tradition that survived better in their area. Early Christianity with its emphasis on chastity and monasteries seems to have started the negative viewpoint on sexuality and I suspect some that may have been a reaction to the Roman quite sexualised view of the world (including the ubiquitous phallus symbols as a sign of “good luck”).

    I really look forward to your expansion of the gender equality explanations in your world, as you set yourself a tough task there and you have carried it through magnificently. Given ancient history is typically brought to us through the patriarchal perspective of the Romans and the Greeks, it is very hard to know how much gender equality there may have been in some ancient societies. The Romans certainly thought that the Ancient Britons had quite a matriarchal society (rulership often went through the female line, with kings often bridling that their wives had more political power than they did), but the Romans always loved accentuate small differences to make tribes they encountered more interesting to encourage themselves to go and fight them! One only has to read the negative propaganda Octavian (later Augustus) churned out against Cleopatra to see that.

    I guess that true gender equality has to start with economic power. Some of this may be built into legal and cultural systems, but much will come from productivity and the biggest impediment for women there is child care; but if the culture makes a virtue of men taking on more childcare (as we have seen already in your writings Penelope), then it gives women the opportunity to excel in certain professions and create more economic balance. A massive crisis that requires total mobilisation of the entire population accelerates this economic equality, which I think is one of the principal factors which supported the drive to emancipation in Europe and America during and after both World Wars.

    Lots to look forward to Penelope – your fans await, but please only do it if you get the chance to enjoy what you are writing.

  • Judith Anne Renton

    15th May 2020 at 10:49 pm Reply

    OOOOH an exciting taster of what is to come. Sounds like it will be a cracker. Hurry up!

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