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Dance of the Rings
F(requently) A(sked) Q(uestions)

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Ring of Intrigue, the sequel to Ring of Lightning, hit the stands in late January 1997. Within days, I had received more response (all in the form of e-mail) than I'd had in my previous five years of publishing. (Despite the apparent neglect, I love my web page!) That e-mail, combined with the First Major Move created the First Major Delay in updating this page.

<<We will politely ignore the previous THREE MONTHS of inactivity.>> --->The Wesser's compliments.

<And we will politely ignore the Peanut Gallery, Smith.>

---As I was saying, I've received a lot of comments and since the ubiquitous "they" say that for every reader who writes to an author there are . . . well . . . lots who don't, I'm starting the Dance of the Rings FAQ pages.

But first, a word about my books and spoilers and answers to questions:

There was a movie made years back about Hans Christian Andersen, a musical starring the late, great Danny Kaye. The title song had a line: "You laugh, Ha, Ha, but you blush a bit, 'Cause you realize, while you're reading it, That it's also reading you."

I always loved that line. I'm no Hans Christian Andersen, but one reason I write is to explore human nature and I hope my books do raise questions, about the story, about human nature, and about the person reading the book. I have no desire to write in-depth Social Commentary, and certainly I don't claim to have all the answers to the Human Condition. But I found the stories I have to tell and especially the characters involved delve into areas that I decided I could not, ethically, treat lightly or toss off with simple solutions. It was either leave these topics out, or try to handle them with the respect and complexity I feel they deserve.

This means taking the reader on a voyage of discovery.  If the answers to the questions raised are only my answers, the reader's  kaleidoscopic exploratory voyage becomes a paddle-boat ride on a pond.

However, I hope to raise questions, not frustrate the reader, so there are very few questions regarding the books to which I won't respond honestly (though it's going to take a little time to get them up.)

The Ring books were structured as a true trilogy, not a series about the same characters. Issues are raised and characters are introduced in Ring of Lightning; those issues and relationships are developed in Ring of Intrigue; and the final resolutions are the substance of Ring of Destiny---

Well, that was the plan at any rate.  For those of you who have read Destiny, you know that's not quite the case.  I freely admit, this story grew on me, an aspect of writing I will eventually address in The Write Box.  The short version here is, there are some factors introduced that are not, in actual fact, tied off smoothly in Destiny.

However, that small caveat notwithstanding, the information flow and development of the concepts that are resolved in Destiny are based on that division. Certain questions are purposefully left unanswered at the end of each book not only in order to set up for the following book, but also to give the reader time to consider their own answers, and as the books' creator, I obviously suggest that if you have any inclination to read the books, you might not want to punch the FAQ-link button just yet, because I like to believe it will affect your reading experience.

<On the third hand (aren't aliens great?) she can't stop you, can she?>-->TW

 

A Few Introductory Ideas

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-------------------------------------- Q: Where did the idea for the book come from?

A: My first series, the Groundties books, had been hard Science Fiction.   Hoping to avoid getting pidgeonholed and to expand my audience, I decided to write a fantasy.

The notion for the rings came from one of those little perpetual (with the help of a magnet) motion toys that's a bunch of concentric, randomly-spinning rings. I needed to come up with an idea fast. I had a contract almost settled with DAW, but I realized I just wasn't ready to write the book I'd proposed. I was sitting in my living room, staring out the window, and here was this silly little motion sculpture, doing it's flashy-thing in the sunlight. Add the old-world notion of lines of power, murfle a physical explanation, add a touch of attitudinal "Mother Nature" from the old 60's commercials, and you have Rhomatumin magic.

Then, I needed a setting.  Although I've studied ancient history (primarily the Romans and early Celts) rather extensively, I'm a science and anthropology major, not an historian.   I hadn't the background to step into the "Medieval" mindset, either for the "typical Medieval" fantasy novel or the real thing.  Since viewpoint is one of if not the most important factors in writing, and since nothing bugs me in a psuedo-historically set piece as a 20th century mindset in a viewpoint character, I prefer to leave that particular sandbox to those who have made a lifelong study of the era and can slip the reader gracefully and seamlessly into that mindset.  I decided I wanted a society on the brink of the electronic age, a "magic" that was one of practicality, not mysticism.  Hence, my light and heat generating leythium ... and Mother, certainly the least mystical pseudo-goddess I've ever encountered.

Then I needed characters (Mother, for all she'd tell you otherwise, doesn't count.) Still exhausted from my daily association with Stephen Ridenour (Groundties), I wanted to have an older main character, one with his/her life in order, whose primary complications in the story were outside his/her own head. Once I settled on Deymorin, still in search of contrast and since Stephen was an only child, I decided to plague ... er ... bless Deymio with siblings. I come from a large family myself and am fascinated by the ... um ... rather charming misconceptions many only children seem to have regarding that singular social structure.  (This is not to imply the Rhomandi situation is "typical"... no real relationship can be termed "typical", but from the reader response to the books, it is anything but atypical.)

Three is always a good number. Plenty of room for complications of relationships, not too many characters to follow closely, and like a three-legged stool, while it may tilt in every direction, always basically stable. Hence, we ended up with Khyel and Nikki. The other characters arose out of story need. ---Except for Dancer.

As for Dancer... Long before I ever started the Ring project, I attended a local production of "M. Butterfly." I exited the theater fairly indifferent to the obvious question of how a man could have a twenty year affair and never realize his lover wasn't a woman.  I could care less about the self-delusion of the so-called "victim" of the situation.  What caught my attention and had me wishing we'd seen/heard more from the man who had pretended to be a woman for twenty years was, what was the effect of those twenty years on his psyche? Did he think of himself as a man or as a woman? Was he in love, (as the play implies) and if so, was he in love as a man loves a man or as a woman loves a man or is that a completely irrelevant distinction?

Just as the sibling relationship moved rapidly beyond any pop-psych notions of first-child second-child, the question of Dancer and Dancer's self-perception soon passed beyond any resemblance to M.Butterfly. But that's where it began.

-------------------------------------- Q: From a Historical Romance reader: I'm not much of a "sci-fi" type, but I'm totally enjoying Lightning. ...I got to thinking about the SF/F aspects---Isn't fiction really just someone's fantasy? Granted ley and rings and nodes are a little harder to imagine than, say, a Barbara Taylor Bradford romance, but those books are still something of a fantasy. ... Actually, I can picture myself as more likely living in a controlled environment in the not too distant future than married to a super-rich man and sipping champagne on a yacht!

A: Genre divisions began as a marketing gimmick, not a reality.   What that marketing decision has done to the quality of writing within all genres is eventual fodder for the Write Box.  I don't really think of what I'm doing as "fantasy"---at least, as opposed to anything else. As the reader points out, all fiction is fantasy. A well-written, compelling story is a well-written story. Whether I'm writing (or reading) SF, Fantasy or Historical, the standards I apply to the story and the prose remain constant. There must be a well-conceived world, a solid plot and compelling characters with believable motivations.

The wonderful thing about SF and Fantasy as a genre is that its scope is so great, it's really every genre rolled into one heading. When I worked in the bookstore, I could generally send every customer out with at least one SF book, regardless of what was on their shelves at home. It's just a matter of finding the author who writes "your" kind of story.

The benefit I personally find in the SF/F created world format is that the created world and social structure gives me the freedom to deal directly with the human dynamic and not have to take precious word-count to explain 20th century attitudes. It allows me to deal with certain subject matter in a much less opinion-charged environment.

Unfortunately, within that very freedom lies the greatest gap between SF/F and mainstream.   Non-SF/F adult readers seem to have a difficult time making the leap into a created world.  This is more fodder for the Write Box, but in short, I find it both strange and a bit sad that the very essence of the Fairy Tales we all grew up with---Once upon a time, in a land far, far away---has been lost to so many.

-------------------------------------- Q: I'm an SF reader, not Fantasy, but I picked up Ring of Lightning because I enjoyed Groundties so much, and find, to my surprise, I'm really enjoying it. 

A:  See above.   Also, the mindset of these characters and this society is very "modern."  Their rational, scientific approach to their magic has much more in common with the 21st century than the 12th.  I think, perhaps, this makes them just a bit more "accessible" to the primarily SF reader mindset, while the lack of obvious tech keeps the exclusively fantasy reader comfortable. 

For all I've had readers who seem to like my books primarily for these secondary elements, in both series, the technology and magic, society and environment are all just backdrops against which the psychological/motivational play unfolds.  If you like one, chances are, you'll like the other.

-------------------------------------- Q: Interesting commentary on technology...Nikki muses on liking cats and dogs and horses and other things that one can't have Inside (the City), and on liking lights and sewers and things one doesn't have Outside. Sort of the tension between the comforts of the technological world and the pleasures of the natural world. (Am I reading too much into this?)

A: Nope. :-)

The long answer is, I'm personally a technophile. I love technology and humanity's endlessly capacity to manipulate the environment. However, I also feel that Nature keeps us humble---and human. I think both the Groundties books and the Ring books reflect that philosophy in varying ways.

-------------------------------------- Q: How are the character's names pronounced?

A: Any way you want.  I'm honestly not picky. I pronounce them one way; my editor put the accent on a different syllable, and it sounded fine to me. However, in my own head, they sound like:
Deymorin=DAY-mhor-in.
Deymio=DAY-mee-o
Mikhyel=Mi-KHI-yel. (The kh is soft, aspirated as opposed to a really hard K.)
Nikaenor=Ni-KAY-nor
Kiyrstin=KEE-yrs-tin. (You really close your throat around the iy combination)
Mirym=Meer-IM
Rhomatum=rom-ah-TUM
Anheliaa=an-HEE-lee-ah (Although some people say an-HELL-ee-ah, which seems singularly appropriate. ;-) )
Lidye=LID-yeh
Nethaalye=net-ha'al-yeh

FAQs for those who have read Ring of Lightning
FAQs for those who have read Ring of Intrigue

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