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Book Review: Promise of Blood, by Brian McClellan

“The Age of Kings is dead…and I have killed it.”

This awesome tagline adorns the cover of Brian McClellan’s  debut novel Promise of Blood, the first volume of the Powder Mage Trilogy, and aptly sums up the political theme of the book: revolution.

After a few false starts with novels I struggled to get into, I’ve taken to downloading free samples from kobobooks.com with the intention of only buying the book if sufficiently hooked. Promise of Blood passed this test with flying colours and I quickly bought the ePub so that I could continue reading. Read more

I&E follow-along: Outlining

This week I’ve been off work, so despite the distractions of a convention I’ve managed to get most of HtTS Lesson 8’s exercises done. I still have a few gaps in my character planning, but I have the core of their story motivation so that will do for now. The rest required little or no work, since I’d already done the wordbuilding during my earlier brainstorming phase.

So, next up is the outline! I’ve decided I want to try outlining this book in detail, just to find out if I can make the method work for me—I have plenty of time this summer for experimenting. The idea is that if I can do it this way, I can storm through the first draft this autumn in a couple of months and end up with something that doesn’t need to be rewritten from scratch before I dare show it to my agent! Read more

Edge-Lit 2

On Saturday I was a guest at Edge-Lit 2, an SFF literary convention held in Derby. I’d been to the previous year’s event and also to an iteration of AltFiction that was held at the same venue, so I was really looking forward to it.

Whilst I only did one panel this year, it was momentous in that it was my first time moderating. Luckily I already knew most of the panelists (see names in photo), so that helped to make it a more relaxing experience. I had sensibly prepared some notes beforehand (OK, at 11pm the night before, when I couldn’t sleep for nerves/excitement!), so it wasn’t difficult to get the ball rolling. Read more

I&E follow-along: Characters

This week I’ve not been doing a lot of work on I&E, as the hot sticky weather doesn’t agree with me; it’s hard to sleep, which makes it hard to concentrate on work that needs my full attention. However I’ve made a start on HtTS Lesson 8 (if you’ve got the Ultra version – Lesson 7 in the original course), and have begun Module 1: Critical Characters.

My protagonist was easy; I already have a critical event that gives rise to his story motivation, so it wasn’t hard to fill in most of the questions about him, though I’m still prevaricating over the “three physical characteristics” section. The poor fellow has a very distinctive appearance that will make for a multitude of conflicts, so I hesitate to burden him with anything else!

The antagonist is giving me more problems—as  per bloody usual! It’s not that I don’t have one; on the contrary, I have several candidates who “oppose” the hero in different ways. There’s the hero’s arch-nemesis, who in this book wants the same thing as the hero, albeit for different reasons; the arch-nemesis’s minion, who is therefore the person actively competing with the hero; plus the character whose aims both hero and villain are trying to thwart. Add in the fact that the hero is working against the villain in secret, so any actual “opposition” is somewhat one-sided, and you have one hot mess!

I guess I really need to develop both the first two characters and possibly the third as well. Whilst Holly cautions against doing too many characters at this stage, I’m trying to write a series here, so I think a little extra planning won’t hurt :)

 

Guest post: Django Wexler on point-of-view

This week I’m very pleased to welcome Django Wexler, whose epic gunpowder fantasy featuring a military commander hero and a cross-dressing heroine sounds right up my readers’ street!

Reconnaissance: Point of View as a Precious Resource

First, the Universal Caveat—this is, of course, only the opinion of one reader/writer, so please take it for what it’s worth.

I read a lot of books, as you might expect.  In fact, ever since getting involved with the writer/publisher/book reviewer blog-tweet-sphere-o-net, I have been deluged with more books than I can reasonably read.  There’s a pile of about fifty on the end of my desk right now, shaming me and threatening to collapse and knock over my lamp.

As a result, I’ve had to get a bit more ruthless about abandoning books in the middle if I’m not actually enjoying them.  I used to make a bit of a fetish about finishing books, out of a masochistic sense of duty, but the growth of the pile has made this impractical.  My new rule is that each book gets a hundred pages to hook me.  Recently, I found myself tossing several novels in a row, all for roughly the same reason—too many points of view.  So I thought I would talk a bit about what that means. Read more

I&E follow-along: Stage 4

With my initial brainstorming period complete, I can finally start planning the books—hurrah!

Stage 4: Creating the framework

A lot of writers go straight from idea-generation into outlining their novel scene-by-scene, but I’ve discovered that this doesn’t really work for me. There’s a big difference conceptually between the narrative—the stuff you actually show the reader on the page—and the plot, i.e. the objective sequence of what happens in the world of the story. I like to know what my plot is before I decide which parts of it I want to show the reader (and through whose eyes). Read more

Book review: The Painted Man, by Peter V Brett

Thus continues my summer of catching up on my reading, especially those (mostly epic) fantasies that came out a while ago…

*** Spoilers ahoy! ***

The Painted Man tells the stories of three exceptional young people—Arlen, Leesha and Rojer—growing up in a world where demons rise from the earth’s core every night and try to kill humans. The only things that can keep the demons back are wards: painted or carved symbols. Arlen has a talent for drawing wards and wants to become a Messenger (one of the couriers who defy the demons, travelling from town to town); Leesha is a skilled herbalist; and Rojer’s music has an Orpheus-like effect on the demons. Their stories run in parallel for most of the book until they meet up towards the end.

Read more

I&E follow-along: Stage 3

So, I’ve done my preliminary musing (Stage 2), and now I’m ready to start planning the book, right? Wrong. I know that in Lesson 4 of How to Think Sideways, Holly jumps straight in with creating her Sentence (what is more generally known as a premise), but at this stage I still haven’t made any decisions as to what I’m writing about. I barely have characters, let alone a plot, so I need to do some more work before I can even think about nailing down the core conflict. In effect, I’m skipping ahead to Lesson 8: How to Develop Your Personal Writing Project System—which is appropriate, since I’m now in the position to know what works and doesn’t work for me. Read more

Book Review: The Spirit Eater, by Rachel Aaron

This time last year I read and reviewed The Spirit Thief, the first Eli Monpress novel from Rachel Aaron. For some reason I didn’t review book two, The Spirit Rebellion, but I enjoyed both enough to continue with the series. In fact I picked up book three, The Spirit Eater, when I was having trouble getting into any of the new books I’d picked up—I thought perhaps it would be easier to slip into a story where I already knew the characters. Thankfully I was right, and Aaron’s book broke my reading dry spell! Read more