Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Blood of the Spear - WiP Report 3

Hello fair readers!

It’s been some time since I graced you with an update, and I know you are all waiting with baited breath to hear how it's going...

Well. It's going.



I am currently working on the last PoV doc, and am sitting at 87% of the 5ht draft manuscript done. It's hard to give an accurate word count because all the chapters have been broken up to make the PoV docs. So, I am cutting where I can, but have added in other places so until I put everything back together and let word do it's counting magic... i have no real idea. But I am guessing it's still in the vicinity of 200K (I haven't cut  THAT much).

By and large I have been happy with the edits. Yes, there are days where I wail with despair and want gouge my eyes out. But then there are days where I open a doc and start to edit early work (so work that was done before I grew as a writer [which has been happening very quickly!]) and I am amazed at how easily and clearly I see what I need to 'tweak'. That is exciting and it helps bury that voice that tells me it's all crap.

I still have a prologue to re-work and I have plotted some major re-writes in the middle section, but I am hoping that I will have it completed and ready for some final reads in the next 6 weeks.

Exciting!

In some less exciting news it looks like I have to change the series name for my epic.

I have been calling it The Path of Ascension and have found out that Ian Cameron Esslemont, an established author with books published and a contract with Random House, has named his next series Path to Ascendency'.

Erf.

The Path of Ascension, in my books, relates directly to ancient - and largely lost - teachings of a race called the i'Malisantians that mankind believes will give the follower/practitioner access to enormous 'magical' power and immortality (and that is a very basic view of it).

I have another series title in mind that fits the world and has relevant meaning to the story so…

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat


Stripped of his identity at the death of his father, the king of Akielos, Prince Damianos is consigned to slavery by his half-brother who has usurped the throne. 'Gifted' as a pleasure slave to Prince Laurent of Vere, deadly enemy of the kingdom of Akielos the renamed 'Damen' must submit to his new position while desperately trying to find a means of escape before his identity is revealed and his execution assured.

Captive Prince is a debut from Australian author C.S. Pacat and it is a compelling (for some it will be confronting) tale of politics, deception, power, manipulation and sex. Told from Damen's perspective and coloured by his upbringing in a more warrior-like society than the decadent, pleasure-filled and poisonous one he finds himself thrust into, it is at its heart a love story between captor and captive that slowly builds in a world where sexuality is not constrained by social norms but is liberated by them.

While the marketing department of the publisher is attempting to link Captive Prince into the Game of Thrones audience it is very different to Martin's work. Not least as this is a love story between two men.

Captive Prince is an epic and decadent tale told on a grand, yet still intimate, scale. Full of stunning vistas, two warring Kingdoms, bejewelled pets/slaves and human interaction, it is beautifully crafted and seamlessly plotted wielding court intrigue and betrayals against the strength of hope and honour. Luckily book two, Captive's Gambit is not far off.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Importance of an Editor - and a Manuscript Assessment

I have been reading for years (and years), have beta-read for other authors and review books frequently, but when it comes to writing itself, I am very much still learning my craft for a reader does not a writer make – at least, not entirely. 

Being asked to beta-read has taught me how read critically, to recognise ‘good’ writing from ‘poor’ and to be able to identify plot structure and characterisation rather than just enjoy the read (or not) without thinking any more about it. But identifying issues within your own work is a challenge, especially when you know story, because sometimes what is in your head is not on the page but you can’t see that it’s missing. 

Like any aspiring writer I want to give myself the best possible chance of getting my work published. Working in the bookselling industry I am lucky enough to have a number of contacts who will look at my work – but that is no guarantee of an offer.  So I decided that when my manuscript was ready for beta-reader feedback it would also be ready for an assessment by a freelance editor.


Some writers bulk at the expense of hiring an editor to assess their manuscript. After all, isn't it the job of an editor at a publishing house to go through your work and make it better? Well sure, in a perfect world. But few editors in a publishing house have the time to give a manuscript from a new author that sort of a love and attention. If you want your work to stand out - and to be considered publishable at all - then you need to go the hard yards, and invest in yourself, to polish it within an inch of its life.

I sent my precious manuscript to Abigail at Bothersome Words and the entire experience has been fantastic. I now have an assessment that is making me look at my work through ‘new’ eyes – and furthered my education in the art of prose which I will take with me when I begin the first draft of my next book. I have a detailed and unbiased analysis of the plot and of each character, as well as notes on pacing, questions on world building, examples of showing and telling (and overwriting) in my prose as well as points on its overall cohesion.

Getting an assessment of my work has helped me craft a plan of attack for my 5th (and final – I hope) draft and pointed things out to me that I was just too close to the work to see. Seeking assistance from someone who works with the written word for a living has benefited me in ways that have already changed how I approach each stage of working on a novel – not to mention in ways I have not even noticed yet – and I highly recommend it. I will definitely be working with Abigail Nathan at Bothersome Words again.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Blood of the Spear - WiP Report 2

I've just come back from two weeks of a annual leave and the 5th draft of TBotS is now sitting at 56% complete.

I had a lovely time imagining that I was a full-time writer, working for myself. I was up at 7am every morning , coffee in hand, and writing until 9am to stop for breakfast before going back to the pc to continue until about 11am or so, which gave me the rest of the day to myself.

Image from getwrite.com


Such bliss. I could do this for a living, ya know?

Sigh.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, my novel has two main characters, half-brothers Kaiel and Darien Toranth, and much of the novel is written from their PoV. In this final (I hope) draft I have collected each characters chapters and am working through them so I can focus on their voice without distraction. I have completed Kaiel's chapters and am about half way through Darien's

Unfortunately being back at work means my progress will slow down some given I can only concentrate on the manuscript on weekends - I am just too tired after work to get much done in the evening at the moment.

AND I have realised that the entire middle sequence (of about 4 chapters) is not working. Brainstorming on my break I have worked out how to approach it and rework but I will wait until I have finished this pass on the PoV's and put all the chapters back together. THEN I will work on the middle, re-jig the prologue and send the manuscript back out to beta-readers for a final look.

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.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Blood of the Spear - WiP Report 1



I've been working on this book, The Blood of the Spear, for a long time. Its genesis spark flared to back in 1992 or so but if the truth be told I've only been writing it since 2010.

I am now on my fifth draft, having sent the 4th out to beta-readers and getting a manuscript assessment by the awesome Bothersome Words.

The feedback has been good and various issues with telling (vs showing) and some characterisation have been pointed out. No-one has had an issue with the plot which is a huge relief. If I'd had to go back and make major changes I think I would have cried. The fourth draft incorporated what I thought was going to be a small change, moving the introduction of two characters from the beginning of the book to the middle. It turned out to be a rather major undertaking, akin to pulling a thread out of a woven tapestry and struggling to make sure it didn't unravel. And at 200000 words that can be a...challenge.

Well, I've completed that and don't need to do anything like that again... I hope. Just 'tweak' stuff.

Of course 'tweak' makes it sound a lot simpler then it is. But I am getting there.

What I've done this time around, is pull out each PoV chapter and am now focusing on one character's story at time, effectively, going back to the beginning and working right through to the end. There are 4 main PoV and 2 or 3 smaller ones that pop up throughout the book.

Once that work is done, it will go out to a few more readers and then - all things being equal (ha!) - it will be ready for submission.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Dagger's Path by Glenda Larke

The Dagger's Path
The Forsaken Lands Book 2
By Glenda Larke

The second book in a new epic fantasy trilogy from Glenda Larke, author of the Stormlord series - full of scheming, spying, action and adventure 

THEY FOLLOW WHERE THE DAGGER LEADS

 Ardhi, Sorrel and the excommunicated cleric, Saker Rampion, stow away on a ship to the Spice Islands. They must return stolen items of great power to Ardhi's home, but there are ruthless men after this power, men who will kill to possess it.

 At home in Ardrone, an army of demonic origin runs amok while Saker's superiors in the church struggle to quell it. And the young queen Mathilda struggles with the possibility that her newborn child, the heir to the throne, may be linked to the corruption that has erupted throughout the land. 

Sorcerers, lascars, pirates and thieves collide in this thrilling sequel to Glenda Larke's epic fantasy adventure The Lascar's Dagger.

______________________________________________________

Glenda Larke is one of my favourite Aussie authors. She is an absolute master at worldbuilding and at writing enthralling tales that are both exciting, and carry deeply considered insights that are reflections of the world around us. A hallmark of a Larke novel is an avoidance of stereotypical settings and the Forsaken Lands - with its roots in 17th Century empirical expansion and spice trade - is a refreshing change from the medieval staging so often utilized these days.

Last year saw the publication of The Lascar's Dagger and less than 12 months later we have the second instalment, continuing her epic tale of magic, religion and spice trade wars. You don't want to miss out on this one.