Discover more from Pangrammatike
The Village of Strong Branches
In which I show you the amazing watercolor piece that will serve as cover art and talk a bit about the book. BTW, you can preorder it.
If you’ve read some of my recent monthly updates over on KALLISTI (hello newcomers!), you know that I’ve been waiting for the cover artist for The Village of Strong Branches to come out with the book cover. This has happened, so The Village of Strong Branches is now open for preordering. I selected all platforms for Draft2Digital, the distributor I use, and the book is gradually being ingested. (Amazon may hold out for a while, though.) Print will take a bit longer to show up in the distribution channels. The print ISBN is 9781735740645, and I will update here again when it goes live.
Now, what is this book about? Here’s the blurb:
The Village of Strong Branches is a hieropoeic ghost story, interweaving family and professional duty. Keð, a member of the international military peacekeepers, has hidden her mental health breakdown after the death of a close comrade, Wiren, from her family. On her first voluntary leave after her recovery, she visits her family, intent on restoring peace with her sister, Tantas. But Keð’s troubles are far from over when Wiren’s ghost starts haunting her, threatening her stability and challenging everything she has taken for granted and all she has hidden from others as she is drawn into a world of the restless dead and the Goddess of the Mountains.
This poignant tale of liminality, grief, change, and resilience will be an enjoyable read for anyone who loves phantoms lurking in the dark. Readers who love conlangs and non-Earth settings may also enjoy this story.
The cover is the work of Lori Williams, the same artist who did the cover for Acts of Speech. She is a traditional watercolor artist who draws inspiration from the techniques and processes of midcentury watercolor and line illustrators — the kind of artist who hunts down out-of-print primers to learn from as she hones her craft.
To make this piece, I gave her reference images of farming terraces and information about retinal-based photosynthesis (as the planet has some plants that do that), in addition to some images that evoked the spooky vibe I wanted. The Village of Strong Branches is, after all, a ghost story in a speculative fiction setting. She completed several early drafts and showed them to me, and she used that feedback to make this piece. The realness of watercolor is something I really like about commissioning traditional art. With digital art, as AI tools improve, it’s hard to know when something is genuine or an AI imitation, and I’d rather commission something that I know was made by a human being.
Most of the story takes place in rural Mamltaqal, a country on a planet named Maðz in my work, in mountain farming villages. The conlang featured in the work is Mamltab, the national language.
Mamltab ụm nansoz salðam, xe ba. Mamltab is ever glass, not water.
I dedicate each of my fiction works to one or more deities. This work was partly inspired by the Orphic Hymn to Rhea, who is the Mother of the Gods (and here I offer the prayer as translated by Thomas Taylor, names reverted to the Greek):
Daughter of great Protogonus, divine, illustrious Rhea, to my pray’r incline,
Who driv’st thy holy car with speed along, drawn by fierce lions, terrible and strong.
Mother of Zeus, whose mighty arm can wield th’ avenging bolt, and shake the dreadful shield.
Drum-beating, frantic, of a splendid mien, brass-sounding, honor’d, Kronos’ blessed queen.
Thou joy’st in mountains and tumultuous fight, and mankind’s horrid howlings, thee delight.
War’s parent, mighty, of majestic frame, deceitful saviour, liberating dame.
Mother of Gods and men, from whom Gaia and lofty Ouranos derive their glorious birth;
Th’ ætherial gales, the deeply spreading sea goddess ærial form’d, proceed from thee.
Come, pleas’d with wand’rings, blessed and divine, with peace attended on our labours shine;
Bring rich abundance, and wherever found drive dire disease, to earth’s remotest bound.
The bolded lines were on my mind. Hail to the Goddess of the Mountains who is Rhea, Kybele, Magna Mater, the Mother of the Gods.
I am so excited to share this story with you all.