Psalms of Isaak Readthrough: Requiem

Yowza.  It took me two months — a month longer than planned — but I’m through the first four books and preparing to dive back into the fifth and final volume.  Sometime next week I’ll start reading through Hymn, tweaking and adding in notes, and then as soon as I’ve finished that, I’ll start drafting the second half.

But Requiem.  Wow.  The voice actors once more were brilliant.  And Emily Rankin joining the cast as Marta was perfection.

I’m digging through what few notes I take down when I’m prepping to write a novel.  My first file of scattered thoughts was in November 2009.  So…four months after finishingAntiphon and seeing Lizzy and Rae into the world.  And about nine months after my Dad’s death and the publication of Lamentation.  Crazy times.  There were more notes in May and July of 2010.  And then I started drafting in September 2010 just before Antiphon’s release.  This was about the time my PTSD was reaching fevered pitch and I crashed pretty hard after the Antiphon book tour.  Still, I had five chapters in hand by January 2011 when I stalled out completely.  In February 2011, I had my first PTSD treatment with Lipov in Chicago and while it helped the symptoms, I struggled to get back to writing.  I fumbled about with the book a little in the Fall of 2011 and was up to chapter fourteen the week Jen’s father died unexpectedly.  Things went dark for a few months.  I picked up again in January 2012 and made it to chapter 23 when I stalled out after my step-mom’s death in the spring.  The big push to finish came in early August and I wrapped the on August 11, 2012.  I was sitting at my booth in the Village Inn Lounge.  Liz Coleman was down from Seattle watching the girls back at the house because Jen was out of town and I was in that last big push to be done.  So two years from start to finish…the longest it’s taken me of the four novels completed.  Of course, I started Hymn in September 2013 and it’s looking like I’ll land it in August-ish.  Same time-frame, oddly enough.

One of the early struggles I had with Requiem was that I had two new environments to write in — the moon and the Empire of Y’Zir.  Beth helped me figure out what was off in the first five chapters and I overhauled them.  I’d been uncomfortable in the new environments and it showed.  So I put more thought into what those places “felt” like in my mind.

My favorite addition to the series shows up in Requiem.  Marta stole my heart.  She’s based on a good friend of ours who used to help us with the girls when they were tiny.  I wanted to thank her for being so wonderful to our crazed little survival unit of four.  And the character and her love for the mysterious metal man she finds really stole the book for me in her handful of scenes.  She is, by accident more than intent, a nice tip of the hat to Lester Del Rey’s Runaway Robot, a book that brought me into the SF/F family.

Charles, too, had grown on me through Antiphon and his arc in Requiem was a place where I explored a lot of my own losses.  “Those we lose are lost” resonates deeply with me through his scenes and his last scene in the book is one of my favorites but I won’t post it here.  Instead, I’ll link to the song I give homage to in that scene.  Because don’t you know in this new dark age, we’re all light?

And of course, I think I had the most fun giving Vlad Li Tam the power to build his pain into an army with the help of the staff.  I never imagined when I started Lamentation that his character would go so far and do so much.  Turning him loose in Y’Zir with a staff that gives him the powers of a pissed off Old Testament prophet was quite a ride.

Ken Endeavour AwardAll in all, I think Requiem is still my favorite of the books so far.  We start to really get answers, though I think I might be making people work pretty hard to find them.  And there are even more answers buried out there in a few of the stories also set in this universe that should start to make sense at this point in the series.  Like this one from years before the Psalms of Isaak.  And this other one that I wrote in between Lamentation and Canticle.  The book was well received when it came out and I had a great time out a Great Requiem Road Trip through Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, and Idaho.  Sadly, I learned on that tour that there would be no paperback which has been unfortunate.  It was the beginning of me figuring out that though the series was popular with a small group of fans and with most of the critics, it wasn’t taking off as hoped for when it came to big sales.  For lots of reasons — delays in the writing of the books, the shitty economy they released into, the e-book revolution, etc.  I was disappointed and it fueled Writerly Angst but the answer has always been to go write the next book.  And the jury’s out on this series until Hymn is on the shelf next to the rest of the Psalms of Isaak.  It could still go on to grow legs over time and we’ll see a spike, I’m sure, when Hymn releases.  I hope it takes root.  If it does, I’ve got So Many More Tales to tell about Lasthome and Firsthome and all the homes between.

I was surprised and delighted when it won the Endeavour Award in November 2014.  It was a nice bit of validation for the first book of mine that I really loved from start to finish.  I’m still astonished at how well it all held together despite the fits and starts and tough circumstances it was written through.  I feel that way, really, about each book from Canticle until now.

And so now, for my next trick, I’m off to read the first half and then finish writing the second half of Hymn — the finale to this mad endeavor of mine sprung from a tiny short story about a metal man and a Gypsy King.  Whew.

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