Tag Archives: Fantasy

Lovecraftian Longings

LovecraftShameful to say, I have never read a single work by H.P. Lovecraft – a classic  master of horror rated alongside Edgar Allan Poe.

According to Stephen King: “Now that time has given us some perspective on his work, I think it is beyond doubt that H. P. Lovecraft has yet to be surpassed as the Twentieth Century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.” It is high praise indeed. I’ve only ever been mildly into the genre of horror, by why is it that I had never come across the actual works of Lovecraft until I stumbled across him in my research.  Shame on me, perchance. I had heard the name ‘Lovecraft’ bandied about, and like many unknown references, it was one I let lie. In my defence, I have never come across his books while browsing the sci-fi/fantasy/horror shelves in bookstores, or in libraries. Perhaps it was my personal oversight or a defiencies in the venues I frequented. Either way, I feel a little cheated.

His influence is wide ranging, for example the Arkham Asylum in Batman is attributed to Lovecraft. His fans include Neil Gaiman, Jorge Luis Borges and Michel Houellebecq. Not to mention, David Bowie, Metallica and Black Sabbath. An impressive fan base to be sure. So I will presently be embarking on my Lovecraftian horror adventure, I hope it will be as fulfilling as when I first stumbled across John Wyndham. The bonus is that all of Lovecraft’s works are out of copyright, so Project Gutenberg, here I come.

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Write for 15 Minutes a Day

StopwatchNo pressure.

15 minutes is entirely do-able. Sit down, set a timer, ready, steady….. WRITE! Don’t stop to think and worry, just go – edit later – this way there will be something to edit.

I think that this is a really good exercise to do when you’re feeling like there is no time for writing in your life. I tried it out this morning. I woke up, made a pot of tea, sat down and just wrote. The short time frame I allowed myself was quite freeing, and it’s amazing how much I got done.

Currently, I am still world building for Four and Twenty Blackbirds. Today, I was plotting the relationships between the many city states in my fairy tale fantasy world. It has made me reconsider the longstanding name of my main city – Farway. I really do like the name Farway, but there has been mention that it sounds a little close to Far Far Away from Shrek. Another name has cropped up on me this morning – Yore, to be referred to as ‘the city of Yore’, etc. Any thoughts?

Editing Fantasy – Words are Wind

A friend “book-bombed” me the other day. By that, I mean that she sent me a book she just read through the post and labelled it – a w e s o m e. I dropped all my other reading material in favour of this newly acquired and well-thumbed tome – The Night Angel Trilogy Book 1 – The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks. (Thanks Lex, you rock!)

The Night Angel Trilogy

trust the reader

It came out in 2008, and a cursory search online tells me that it has a bit of a following. I’m about a third of the way through thus far, and the characters and the world are really well developed. There is some great use of language, imagery and scene setting. But I find myself frustrated as I mentally edit the book as I read. At the moment it’s good, but it could have been great. An example below:

Chapter 9

The following is told from Solon’s point of view. The scene has been set. My editing is as per the strike through

               “Men!” Logan said to the guards loudly to cut her off. “Lady Gyre is tired and overwrought. Escort her to her chambers. I’d appreciate it if one of you would watch her door this night in case she requires anything. We will all dine in the usual room in the morning.”

               Solon loved it. Logan had just confined his mother to her chambers and put a guard on the door to keep her there until morning, all without giving her an avenue for complaint. This boy will be formidable.

Trust the reader. Show don’t tell. The reader knows that this (the language that has been struck through) is what Logan’s done, he’s just said it. Brent Weeks didn’t need to repeat what he meant all over again. I find it really frustrating and distracting, because this sort of clumsy language is repeated throughout the book. It’s almost as if there should have been one last pass of editing that was never done. I am enjoying the depth of the story and the characters, and may well end up reading the full trilogy. But at the moment, it is only my friend’s recommendation that pushes me through the frustration to believe that the book will deliver.

lessons learned

This is a book that has been published by a major publishing house. I’m not sure that it means that their level of editing is inadequate, or it’s simply a lesson to all us unpublished authors that we need to get our level of editing right before our work is submitted.

For me, Brent Weeks’ world is inspiring, because there is so much depth to it. It encourages me to focus on my back story, and world building. But it also reminds me that I need to edit like hell and be ruthless with cutting material. Every word needs to fight for its right to be in my novel: Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Realism in Writing Goals

Reality Check aheadOK, I have an admission. Although I did enroll in Coursera’s Science Fiction and Fantasy course with the University of Michigan. I’m realising that it’s one commitment too far, there are simply not enough hours in the day for me to do this, my blog, my novel and all the other extra-cirricular activities that I am involved in. It’s one thing too many, lest all the balls that I am juggling come tumbling down.

The reading list is great (and I think it I will follow it), the course materials are great, but enrolling late and trying to launch myself into it was a little optimistic. I think that I will definitely enroll into another course where I have prepared myself  timetable-wise. In fact, Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative, a Coursera course with Vanderbilt University which starts in the summer looks particularly entertaining (one of the classes is held in the LOTR MMORPG), but I digress…

Progress with writing 4&20

As far as crafting long-form fiction goes, I am a slow writer. I spend hours agonising over every word and phrase. Constantly fact-checking and looking for better suited synonyms to make my writing just so. Although I would say that overall my standard of writing is fairly good, there isn’t very much of it and to put it frankly, a snail would easily outpace me.

Blog-assisted inspiration

I’ve been blogging for just under 2 weeks, and I really feel that it is helping me. Helping to give me focus in my writing. I have been in a writing slump for nearly half a year: I set aside my novel 4&20 and my fairy tale fantasy world, and they’ve been gathering dust in a shadowy corner. Although I have not yet added anything to my word count for Four and Twenty Blackbirds, it has been foremost in my thoughts this past fortnight. I have been world building and developing my characters, something that I have not done in an age. I’ve also signed up for a drop-in writing class this Thursday with the very awesome Anne Aylor, which I really think will help get my proverbial ink flowing.

100-Word story: jeffrey archer short story challenge

On other fronts, I have finished my 100-word story for the Jeffrey Archer Short Story Challenge, entitled FreeCycle. I will be going over it with my writing group WLWG on Wednesday, and will post it here after submitting it to the competition.

Happy writing, one and all.

Tor UK now accepting direct author submissions

Tor Books

Tor UK is the Pan Macmillan imprint specialising in science fiction, fantasy and horror. Until now, Tor (as with many other mainstream publishers) did not accept direct submissions. In a recent blogpost announcement, Tor Books has now opened its doors to the floodgates.

Tor’s authors include Douglas Adams, James Herbert, Robert Jordan and Amanda Hocking. I wonder if it was the acquisition of the self-published success story Amanda Hocking that inspired the move. The refusal to accept direct submissions has made most publishers more and more insular over the years. Brick and mortar publishers come to become over-dependent on their already established authors, as well as on literary agents to be their filtration system for submissions. This wider casting of the net seems to be part of the general trend of the larger publishers, who have begun to realise that the self-published market is becoming a real competitive threat. Especially in the SFF genre.

It does mean that Tor will be inundated, I wonder how will they sift the chaff? I know from my experience of working at a publisher who did accept direct submissions, anyone from the postroom staff to HR who volunteered to read through the slush pile can be a filter for submissions. The likelihood that it will get to the eyes of the editor is unlikely, as sadly, the majority of submissions are, for want of a better term, slush. Tor’s filtration system for submissions will be the true test of whether their bold move into the brave new world of publishing will work.

Tor will accept English language full length novel (95,000 – 150,000 word) submissions in the genres of science fiction, horror and fantasy only. Submissions need to be via email: TorUKSubmissions@macmillan.com.  Have a look on the Tor Blogpost for details of how to submit your work.

Free Coursera Course: Fantasy and Science Fiction

After finishing my second degree at law school, I swore to myself that I would never go back to university. Famous last words. As per the famed wisdom of Henri the Pigeon, from An American Tail, Never say Never, whatever you do…

Although my BF is impassioned about studying, the underground academic that he is, I did not think my passions lay there. That is until I took a closer look at at Coursera, which provides 9 FREE college level writing and literature courses. Most even come with a certificate when you finish them.

shhhhh-quiet-everyone-study-wallpaperCoursera is a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. Through this, they hope to give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few.

The course which caught my eye is one called Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World with Eric Rabkin, provided by the University of Michigan. It started on the 22nd January and is 11 weeks long, but I reckon that I can catch up. I am really quite excited about it. It shouldn’t be surprising, but to me when it comes to studying, it is:  it’s strange that, when it’s something that you’re truly passionate about, it doesn’t seem like work.

I’ll keep  you updated on my progress.

The Financial Reality of a Genre Novelist

Image

GalleyCat today has posted a mildly depressing article about the Financial Reality of a Genre Novelist. It specifically mentions those who work in the genres of Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror. Essentially the GalleyCat article relates the obvious truth that we all know (or at least suspect), that it’s really hard to make a living writing books. So I guess I won’t be giving up my day job any time soon.

I do still hold out hope that mine will (once finished) be the next big thing. Don’t we all.

But these are all distractions. The cart is way before the horse. Finish the book first, that will be a feat in and of itself.

London Super Comic-Con 2013

OK, slightly off the topic of writing appaand books, but still in the fairy tale, fantasy zone (somewhat), my charming and rather indulgent BF has bought me tickets to a day at London Super Comic-Con 2013 on February 23rd. Although I am a hard and fast fantasy/sci-fi/superhero geek of the highest order, the only comic-esk convention I’ve ever attended was when I was interning at SFX magazine many moons ago. And I didn’t even get to attend the main convention in that instance, so I’m not sure that that counts.

In any case, I am very excited, and although BF’s tastes differ somewhat from mine, there are mutual geek-grounds that we can meet on. One point of order is that we’ve agreed to do a little dressing up for the part of the comic convention (a must do, methinks). We have not yet sourced our outfits, but we’ve decided on Avatar: The Last Airbender (the TV series, not the movie), specifically we’ve both decided to go as Appa, the Avatar‘s flying Bison, the show’s secret star.

We need to get into action sorting out our respective outfits. We are not going all-out crazy with dressing up, but we are looking at getting the hat below for my BF and the dress for me (Hat and Dress both available via Etsy). I am so excited to go, and hope that it goes some way towards getting inspired to write.

Appa Hatappa dress

Blood Song: Nearly on par with Game of Thrones

bloodsongAlthough there are many amazing unpublished writers out there, I’m always highly suspicious of self-published books. Not because they are definitively bad, but because there is so much vanity publishing that it’s really hard to distinguish the good from the trash. Even if it does have really good ratings.

For so long, we’ve relied on publishers to be our curators of taste, and to a large extent this is still the case. Self-publishing is in its infancy. Of all the genres that I Five-Stars1thought would definitely require a curator of taste, epic fantasy is perhaps the top of the league table. And this is why I was so surprised at this outstanding first instalment of the Raven’s Shadow series: Blood Song by Anthony Ryan. It was recommended to me by a friend, otherwise I would have been hugely unlikely I would have paid for a random self-published ebook no matter what the star rating or how many people gave it (a sad fact, as I may well have to self-publish my own). BTW the rating on Good Reads and Amazon is 5* with thousands of reviews.

I’ve read widely in epic fantasy from a young age. From Tolkien to Eddings to Gemmell and more recently Martin. Some have been great, others less so. When I first picked up Game of Thrones, I thought that it was the best fantasy I’d read since Tolkien. Anthony Ryan’s writing excites me almost as much as George R.R. Martin’s. Anthony Ryan’s writing is fantastically honed and really tight, I wonder if he did his own editing or hired a professional. It is so impressive that this is such a polished piece of work. Unsurprisingly, Anthony Ryan’s book has now been picked up by Penguin US, and along the Game of Thrones lines, I can visualise a TV series to be made out of this one. Seriously it is one to watch.

Blood Song will be published in hardback on July 2, 2013 in the U.S. and U.K. by Ace (Penguin USA).  As discussed, the book is already available in electronic format.