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When I'm deep into writing a novel, everything else sort of blurs. On my own, I'd eat whatever's simplest to grab. I don't have much sense of serial time on my best day, and when the book takes over I'm likely to be off by a week or more on when things have to be done. The fact that things (this includes sending in the taxes and paying bills) are done and I'm fed excellent, healthy meals, is due to the efforts of my wife Jo.

Dorothy Day and my webmaster Karen Zimmerman archived my rough and intermediate texts, so that if disaster struck central North Carolina the work would survive. (I might not, but that doesn't concern me. In that case, somebody else will have to sort out the problems.)

Dorothy helped with continuity matters (for example, what color was the Ornifal standard?), and Karen (a skilled cybrarian) researched all manner of questions, including finding books and images that my whim suggested might be helpful. (I have very clever whims, by the way.) I joke about "my trained staff," but in all truth Dorothy and Karen make the process smoother and the result significantly better than it would be without their help.

Dr. John Lambshead provided me with drawings of a large, vicious nematode which he discovered and named after his then-girlfriend, now wife. (Hi, Val!). My version of the creature is bigger still but perhaps no more dangerous if you happen to be of the right size.

I had computer adventures. (Do you know anybody else who had the power button of his PC fall into the case? Mine did.) My son Jonathan and my friend Mark Van Name kept me going. All they get out of it is a fund of stories with which to astound their fellow geeks.

Thank you all.
Dave Drake


The religion of the Isles is based on the Sumerian triad of Inanna, Dumuzi, and Ereshkigal. That fact is of more significance here than it has been in the previous books of the series.

The magic (which in the Isles series is separate from religion) is based on that of the Mediterranean Basin in classical times. Its core was probably Egyptian, but it borrowed heavily from other cultures (including Jewish elements). What I call words of power are the voces mysticae which were written or spoken to bring the request to the attention of demiurges.

I do not believe the magic of the Isles series or any other magic is effective in the waking world. I've been wrong about many other things, however. On general principles, I prefer not to pronounce the words of power when I transcribe them.

My background is basically that of a classical antiquary. There's a great deal to amuse other classicists in this novel besides the snatch of Ovid which I translated (and for more, check my website, I put in these references not as jokes but to give some of the texture of our wonderful real world to my fantasy creation. (Though, okay, the discussion of Pytheas and Strabo is a bit of a joke.)

I don't believe I've discussed style in print before. I'm going to do so here because of some recent questions.

Although this novel (and most of mine) is told in third person, I do not use an omniscient narrator: each section is written from a particular viewpoint and in language appropriate to that viewpoint. Ilna is more formal than her brother Cashel, but neither of them has the educated vocabulary to be expected from Garric or Sharina. In all cases this internal viewpoint involves the use of contractions that would not be proper in (say) an academic paper.

I believe this helps to put the reader in the character's own worldview. You may think I'm a fool to do this or that the technique doesn't work; we can discuss those matters. Please, though, don't assume that I and my erudite editor are ignorant of the rules of formal English prose.

One final note: we scattered the ashes of my editor and publisher Jim Baen in a grove on my property. I've put the grove into this novel. I can't say with Horace, "Exegi monumentum perennius aere . . . ," but I felt that a little extra memorial to my close friend would be a good thing.

Dave Drake

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