Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Must Read

You have no idea of my excitement. I couldn't possibly describe it to you even if I tried.

I have been waiting for this book for a long time (not that Michelle has not been writing but I've been waiting for this particular part of the story!).

It had completely dropped off my radar as well - and for that I feel deeply ashamed.

If you don't read Michelle West you are missing out on awesomeness!



Beneath the streets of Averalaan, capital city of the Essalieyan Empire, lie the three Princes of the firstborn, doomed to sleep until the end of days. When gods walked the world, they feared the Sleepers. They fear them even now. If the Sleepers wake, the city will not survive—and the Sleepers are waking. 

House Terafin has already felt the con­sequences of their stirring. 

To save the city—and the House over which she rules—Jewel Markess ATerafin must go to face the Oracle. She leaves a House that is still divided, and a city in which demons, in human guise, have begun to move. At no time in Terafin’s history has it faced the dangers it now faces, and it will face them bereft of its leader. 

Jewel has always seen unpredictable glimpses of the future—images of death and destruction which she cannot control and cannot always understand. To master her birthright, she chooses to walk the path of the Oracle. In her hands, she carries the only hope of the Winter Queen. 

But the path she must travel was old when the gods ceased to walk the world. Ancient creatures stalk winter skies at the behest of the demons, who mean to ensure that she will never reach the Oracle’s side.

Secrets, long hidden from all but the first­born, will finally be brought to light. Choices will be made, and paths chosen, from which there will be no return.... 

Oracle is the intricate sixth novel in The House War series. Set in the same rich fantasy universe as Michelle West’s Sacred Hunt duology and her six-book Sun Sword series, the House War novels recount the events leading to the momentous final con­frontation between the demonic minions of the Lord of the Hells and the defenders of the Essalieyan Empire—a realm with a long and bloody history.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Maps

To map or not to map? That is the question.

Actually it's not a question at all - I am mapping in my book. I don't understand fantasy books without maps; it's never made sense to me. You (the author) have created a whole new world with mountain ranges and deserts and peninsulas and oceans... give me a visual on what the landscape looks like! Let me get an idea of the surrounding environment of the village our hero(es) starts in. Or the great city that is their home.

I dig all that.
A map of Thedas from the DragonAge games (mine own map isn't this pretty - yet)

In fact it is one of the first things I do when I world build. Once I know who main character is and have a sense of what they will go though and know where they will end up (the beginning and ending are always clear for me, the middle bits are more discovery) then I have to know where they are. What is the stage they are on? The environment that surrounds them?

Creating the landscape and the shape of their world leads into its back story, its history. The rise and fall of empires and kingdoms; wars and conquests and cultures. All of this is vital for my process. Story is important, the characters, their tale and its execution, of course. But the story of the land, the world around them is of equal import - even it if its true depth is never delved in the tale I am setting to paper (or word doc as the case may be/is).

But everybody is different and a story should definitely be able to stand on its own without a map. Flipping to the front pages of a novel whenever a new kingdom or city is mentioned is something I enjoy but other readers (and authors) can't be bothered with. Horses for courses.

But I love me a good map :)

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett

I cannot adequately express how desperately I have been waiting for this book. The Skull Throne is the fourth volume of the series, The Demon Cycle, by Peter V. Brett, one of my favourite authors. If you have not yet read the preceding three books, go and order book one, The Painted Man, now.

Brett has created a powerful saga that depicts mankind winnowed to the brink of extinction by night-stalking demons, the survivors who fight back and the prophecy of the Deliverer who will lead them. With one book, his first, Brett strode to forefront of modern fantasy writers to stand alongside the likes of Robert Jordan, Joe Abercrombie and Elizabeth Moon . Crafting a fantasy that leaps off the page and into hearts and minds, he has given us one of the most significant epics since the Wheel of Time.

The Skull Throne begins immediately after the shocking conclusion of The Daylight War , with both sides searching in vain for their 'fallen' warriors before retreating to regroup. Inevera immediately begins to spin her webs, desperate to retain the power she has painstakingly built with Jadir. Meanwhile, their sons begin to vie for leadership of their people and control of his armies while Leesha, pregnant with Jadir's child, is called back to Angiers and Rojer, faces Jasin, the man who murdered his mentor.
 
The Skull Throne is packed with action and adventure, politics, intrigue and exciting character development, not to mention demons and runic magic. You cannot miss this book, or this series.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Importance of Beta-Readers

When I began dreaming of writing an epic fantasy novel, a long time ago, I imagined that I would write a first draft, polish it up in a second draft and then send it on its merry way to publication and bookshops all over the world.

Time and experience can change many beliefs and ideas; that belief happens to be one of them for me.

As I moved into work as bookseller I became exposed on a personal level to the authors whose books I loved and sold. I got to talk to them about writing and their process and kept hearing about the importance of good beta-readers. I was not, at first, convinced. This wouldn't apply to me surely. I knew what I was doing. I had a plan.

Hahaha!

Thankfully some part of me was open to the possibility that I was not perfect (?!?!?) and neither was my writing.

As I was procrastinating working on the first draft I was approached by an Aussie author who wanted a male POV on a new book they were working on. And thus did I look behind the Wizards curtain to see what was going on and what a beta-reader can do for a writer.

So as I meandered through various drafts of my own WiP I began asking people if they'd be willing to beta-read my work when it was ready. Of course that 'ready' took longer than I expected, however when it was I had a team of readers ready to go.

They are all people I know - I personally wouldn't be comfortable giving my work to someone I didn't know, although there are some schools of thought who believe that people who do not know you will be more honest in their feedback. Well, knowing my beta-readers beforehand did not help to soften their punches. I had to crawl away and have a cry in a dark room after some of the feedback...

Beta-readers can pick up dropped threads in the narrative that you haven’t noticed because it's in your head. They can wince at and point out the turns of phrase that you thought were beautiful and poetic but don't quite read the way you thought they did, or maybe they don’t make any sense at all. They can talk to you about scenes that might lack something or character motivation that just doesn't work for them. Or they might talk about your characters in a way you never imagined, a way that brings a whole new angle or insight to the experience. Maybe. Maybe not, but hopefully they will give you feedback that will make you think.

(It is entirely possible that a beta-reader can do more than this and I am just not utilising them properly. I am certainly open to learning more. I've heard Brandon Sanderson has a whole google doc spreadsheet thingy happening for feedback here beta-readers can see each other comments and discuss 'amongst themselves' the feedback being provided, and that specific questions are asked for specific passes over. But he also has an assistant to help co-ordinate that and I am just not that organised... but I am looking into it for the next book!)

Of course, on occasion,  a beta-reader won't give you any feedback at all. Either they weren't able to read the manuscript because of time issues or just because they didn't connect with the story. And this is okay. A beta-reader is doing you a favour and everyone experiences a book differently.  

Just remember that you can’t please everyone and you shouldn't try. You have to write the book you are writing. Your beta-readers are a sample audience and can give you a glimpse at reader reaction - as well as an audience for the for work you have been slaving over for so long.

The feedback I have received - both good and confronting - has given me a map of what I need to do to make the book a better, more polished version of itself. It has highlighted (for me) my own strengths and weaknesses and has given me a check list that I will use in the self-editing of my next book BEFORE I send it out to readers...

And it's not over yet. Once this re-write/tweak is done I have a few more people in line to read it (or as the case may be, to re-read it and comment on the text after changes) to give me more feedback before I look for an agent and/or submit.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Remembering Sara Douglass

I can recall picking up Battleaxe on the day of its release. Having always been an avid reader I visit the local bookshop every lunch time with an eye for something new. And back then there was not nearly as much to choose from as there is today. References on the cover comparing to Robert Jordan peeked my interest and I took it home (paying for it first). Those comparisons are not accurate to my mind but it didn't matter, I quickly engrossed, lost in a richly imagined world of magic, adventure and wonder.

Anyone well read in genre fiction will be familiar with the story being told. It's not that it is unoriginal - there is much originality in it - it's just familiar. In a good way. You know what you are getting but you know the way you are going to get it and Douglass twists that familiarity in a gritty melding of bloody battles, sex, betrayal, magic and greed. The fact that Battleaxe is still in print 20 years after it was first published says a lot about how well it continues to sell and gain new fans.

Battleaxe does have its flaws but Douglass' gift was that her writing, her story telling, is so enthralling that you just keep reading. Many books can be described as page turners, keeping you up late into the night - Battleaxe actually did this to me. I just needed to know what happened next. That it was the first in a trilogy was even better because it meant that there would more books. Battleaxe holds a special place on my bookshelf as the book that broke Aussie fantasy to the world opened the doors for the likes of Kate Forsyth, Jennifer Fallon, Ian Irvine and Karen Miller.