Kvetha Fricaya. Greetings Friends.

Well, I’m finally in the home stretch with Brisingr. It took an enormous amount of effort to finish the first draft, but it is finished now, and I couldn’t be more relieved. At the moment, I’m busy chewing my way through the editing, which has been a surprisingly enjoyable experience this time around. The hardest part is having to excise material that I spent days, and sometimes weeks, laboring over. However, as most any writer will tell you, just because you spent ten days slaving over a certain scene is no reason to keep it in the final manuscript. The only question that matters is whether the scene contributes to the book as a whole. If not, then it must go.

I have to say, I love the cover of the new book. I think that John Jude Palencar really outdid himself with this one. It feels right for the book too; Brisingr is the longest and most intense entry in the series so far, and his art reflects that. Someday, I’d like to see him paint the Ra’zac as well. The Ra’zac and Angela the Herbalist. . . . Together. Yup. That would be interesting.

Winter has yet to release its clutches on our valley here in Montana. Just today, we had another whiteout snowstorm and eight inches of snow. I shouldn’t be surprised, though. At one time or another, it’s snowed during every month of the year in Paradise Valley.

In other news, the literary world recently lost Arthur C. Clarke, the last of the Big Three science fiction authors. (The others being Heinlein and Asimov.) Each of the three wrote books that had a profound influence on me while growing up. In Clarke’s case, it was Rendezvous with Rama, Childhood’s End, and 2001. Arthur C. Clarke was one of the greatest prophets and visionaries of our time, and the world is a poorer place without him. May the memory of him live forever among the stars.

Also, on a more personal note, we just had to have our dog, Annie, put down. I mention it because she was as much a member of the family as any one of us, and because it was she, more than anyone, who provided the basis for Saphira’s character. Annie was a mutt: half cocker-spaniel and half Australian Shepherd dog, knee-high and full of wiggles. She looked nothing like a dragon, but she was more like Saphira than you might imagine.

We got Annie as a puppy in 1994, and my sister and I grew up playing with her along the banks of the Yellowstone River. I remember coaxing her into a deep hole I had dug and sitting with her in the cool shadows, watching the clouds scurry past far overhead. I remember running through the snow late at night, shouting her name, frantic because I thought she might be lost. I remember wrestling with her. I remember watching her do the most horrific things to baby mice. I remember her wet nose, and the smell of her fur, and the expressions on her face. I remember walking with her through a gigantic herd of cows, and all of the cows forming a tight circle around us and mooing as loudly as they could, eager to defend their calves from the little wolf in their midst. The cows scared me, but they never scared her. More than once, we saw Annie playing with a wild fox out in the fields. She loved walks so much, we had to spell the word out, else she became so excited, we had no choice but to take her out. Her energy and enthusiasm seemed boundless.

In the past few years, though, various aches and pains began to slow her down, and eventually, they left her in so much distress—along with the stroke she had yesterday—the kindest thing we could do was relieve her of her suffering.

Annie was as good a friend as I have ever known. I shall miss her for the rest of my life. She taught me more about life and death and the art of living than any philosopher. She taught me that happiness consists of five things: food, sleep, exercise, being with your pack, and freedom from pain. Everything else is extraneous.

Over the years, Annie gave me several scars, the biggest ones being bite marks on my forearms, which were my own fault, not hers. Now that she is gone, I wish I had more scars from her, for they are the only things I have to remember her by. And I wish I had taken her on just one more walk.

Stydja unin mor’ranr, Annie. May the ground squirrels whisper your name in terror for generations to come.

Christopher Paolini


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