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This Big Long Purple Paragraph

First some good news. I came up with the title of Altered Seasons while reading H.P. Lovecraft’s prose poem “Nyarlathotep.” The opening paragraph conveys the sense of a world changing in terrifying ways, very basic rules and assumptions on which human civilization is built being thrown out the window with no regard to how it affects us all. When I read this paragraph, I knew I just had to use it as an epigraph. Here it is in all its glory. (You might want to wear sunglasses to read this — Lovecraft’s prose is so purple it’s ultraviolet.)

To a season of political and social upheaval was added a strange and brooding apprehension of hideous physical danger; a danger widespread and all-embracing, such a danger as may be imagined only in the most terrible phantasms of the night. I recall that the people went about with pale and worried faces, and whispered warnings and prophecies which no one dared consciously repeat or acknowledge to himself that he had heard. A sense of monstrous guilt was upon the land, and out of the abysses between the stars swept chill currents that made men shiver in dark and lonely places. There was a daemoniac alteration in the sequence of the seasons — the autumn heat lingered fearsomely, and everyone felt that the world and perhaps the universe had passed from the control of known gods or forces to that of gods or forces which were unknown.

The good news is that according to this source, “Nyarlathotep” is in the public domain, which will eliminate the need for a lot of negotiating with the Great Old Ones only know who. (Although one paragraph might fall within the realm of “fair use” anyway. And yes, I probably should have looked all this stuff up before getting my heart set on using this quote.) Now for the not-so-good news. There’s no getting around it — Altered Seasons is becoming very, very long. My original estimate was that it was going to be about 150,000 words. I’m approaching that mark now, and I’m nowhere near done. Assuming Years Six and Seven (see below) turn out to be as long as Year Five (which might be as long as Zero through Four put together), 200,000 words is looking more realistic. This raises the possibility of breaking it up into two or three books. It would split fairly naturally into two books — Years Zero through Five in one book and Years Six through Eight in the other. Three books would be a little more complicated.

On the other hand, I’m in the middle of Patrick Rothfuss’ The Wise Man's Fear, which is the middle book in an uncompleted trilogy — and no wonder it hasn’t been finished yet, since both books are prodigiously long. The Name of the Wind is over 250,000 words long, and The Wise Man’s Fear is a whopping 395,000 words long — as Rothfuss himself points out here, longer than the entire Hunger Games trilogy and more than twice as long as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. (I think the “fear” in the title refers to the danger of throwing your back out while picking it up at the library.) That one book is also longer than the entire Locksmith Trilogy is going to be, and much longer than I have any plans to let Altered Seasons become. If it does get broken up, what should I call the parts? If it’s two parts, I could just call them Parts One and Two or Books One and Two. Or I could call them Altered Seasons: The Northern Monsoon and Altered Seasons: [something ominous and weather-related but not too clichéd]. If it’s three books, maybe I’ll go back to that Lovecraft quote: Altered Seasons: Daemoniac Alteration Altered Seasons: Autumn Heat Altered Seasons: Gods or Forces Ultimately this is a decision for the publisher, of course. The bigger a book is, the harder it is to bind. (And if I split it up, Part One will be out much sooner.) And while you're waiting, Cheril Thomas' new novel Squatter's Rights has come out. Check it out.

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