Saturday, 25 June 2011

Blogfest....interrupted

It's my friend Sash's first blogfest today...the 



...the task of which is the following: 

On Saturday, June 26th, post a 500-1000 word scene of your characters being interrupted - doesn't matter what they're doing, doesn't matter what's interrupting them (end of the world, knock on the door, little voice in their head...), they just need to be interrupted. 
Well, this is certainly a blogfest for me. Not only do my characters constantly interrupt me (preferably when I'm working), they do it to each other, too. The following is an excerpt from last year's NaNo novel The Blood of the Land. Taren (the MC) first gets interrupted in his musings by the brash Duke of Ware, then interrupted (or saved?) again by Esialetha...looking for something appropriate to post for this blogfest, I found out that conversations are the most-interrupted thing I have in my writing...go figure. 


***


I watched through the dirty window as the people congregated on the field of brown grass that had once been the market green, offering their meager goods. Food was growing scarce and fuel was almost non-existent. The salt was everywhere and nothing would grow. The people grew gaunt and grey as the fields lay fallow and night descended on our kingdom. 
I turned to watch my fellow lords and ladies chink glasses and make merry. There were so many candles burning that daylight and nightfall faded away to insignificance inside the Royal Lodge. They laughed and danced and made music. Servants circulated the room with heavy trays of crystal glasses full of bright and bubbly things. Others wandered back and forth between the great rooms and the kitchens with plates of food in finger-sized portions. I stared at the glass in my hand. A pretty thing, etched with patterns and swirls and the royal seal. I downed the amber liquid it held and stifled a cough at its bite. 
A hand slapped my back and snaked across my shoulders, holding me still. “Amber! Why so glum on such a fine afternoon, your highness?” The sun is shining, the company is good, there’s drink aplenty. Are those not reasons to celebrate? And you off on the first quest in almost a century! We need to raise our glasses to that!” 
I hated it when they called me Amber. Duke of Amber was my courtesy title so long my father held the throne, but right now I’d prefer some more amber in my glass, thank you very much. I looked about but there was no servant close enough to refill my glass right now. There might be alcohol aplenty swimming about, but apparently even a prince had to wait for relief. 
“Your Grace,” I said, resigned to spend some sadly sober minutes with my least favourite amongst this inane throng of merrymakers. “These are indeed most fortunate circumstances.” 
The Duke of Ware’s coarse laugh made him sound like a bear in rut, but I smiled along anyway. That man wouldn’t know irony if it came up and introduced itself, but he was the greatest landowner outside the royal family. His was one of the estates least affected by the salt creep. One had to play nice with such people, or so my father taught me. 
Nobody came to my rescue as he started expounding on the fine music. Darkness fell most thoroughly and the market outside emptied as he rambled on and on. He’d finished with the music and the wonderful quality of drinks and moved on to the ingratitude of peasants when the rescue party finally arrived. 
The most beautiful woman in the room had come to join us in our corner. Her red dress glowed in the candlelight and everything seemed to sparkle around her. 
Esialetha. 
“Ware, isn’t that your wife over there, drinking Castlewaithe’s whiskey?” she asked, pointing towards the court’s most ardent ladies’ man. Ware almost choked on his drink, then excused himself and ran off to corral his wife. 
I bowed low to my golden beauty as she gave me her hand. I kissed her palm and pulled her into my arms. She smelled of honey and cinnamon. She was home and love to me, light in all the darkness. 
“That was well done, my love,” I whispered into her hair. We swayed gently to the music. I rested my cheek against her hair and started to hum along. It would have been perfect, had we been alone. 
“Taren, light of my life, you can’t let him get to you.” 
“I do not want to leave tomorrow, my heart,” I said. 
“And I do not wish you to go. But go you must.” 



***

Did you like that? The scene isn't actually in the most recent edit of the story, because Esialetha's role has changed, but I still like it so I thought I'd share it with you. Let me know what you think! 

...and don't forget to check out the other entries to this blogfest HERE
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Friday, 17 June 2011

Fiction Friday: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence


Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire)



by Mark Lawrence

Published:  4th August 2011 by Harper Voyager

Source:  ARC (Waterstone's promotional copy)

Blurb (as per Amazon):

When he was nine, he watched his mother and brother killed before him. By the time he was thirteen, he was the leader of a band of bloodthirsty thugs. By fifteen, he intends to be king...

It's time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what's rightfully his. Since the day he was hung on the thorns of a briar patch and forced to watch Count Renar's men slaughter his mother and young brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. Life and death are no more than a game to him-and he has nothing left to lose.

But treachery awaits him in his father's castle. Treachery and dark magic. No matter how fierce, can the will of one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining?

Quote: 


You know, I warned them that we do this for a living. I said it to their leader, Bovid Tor. I gave them that chance, I always do. But no. They wanted blood and slaughter. And they got it. 
Jorg, Prince of Thorns, p.1/2 


What I thought: 

Now, let me start by telling you I was really happy to get this book (I had it on my amazon wishlist) for FREE! I found it on the shelves of a London bookstore, where it wasn't supposed to be, and because someone put it there and I found it I got to keep it! *happy dance* 

Ahem. OK. So what did I think of the book? The cover of the ARC I have compares the story to George RR Martin's A Game of Thrones, so I started reading it in expectation of intricate political manouverings, bloody fights and a general epic-ness that most modern fantasy seems to lack. 

In reading it, however, I was put more in mind of The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman, or the Godless World Trilogy by Brian Ruckley. Lawrence has the same gritty style of writing as these two do. 

Jorg, in particular, reminds me of Hoffman's Cale - a young man (a child by our standards, but they both live in worlds that require adulthood at a younger age) who has seen too much, who's view of the world and the morals he keeps as a result of the violence and pain he has grown accustomed to. 

Lawrence drops the reader straight into the action, lets us see Jorg in full (somewhat sociopathic) action. He and his band of ruffians are busy raiding a village with all the blood and guts that implies, and Jorg is in no way reluctant to do his part and more. 

Only as the story progresses does Lawrence reveal what made Jorg into the person he is today, and thus opens the reader's eye to what's really at stake...but I won't go into details, I don't want to spoil anything. 


Suffice to say there's more to it than a ruthless and bloodthirsty young prince and his not-so-merry band of men. 



What I thought of the characters: 


Jorg is something of an anti-hero. He's ruthless, blunt, deliberately unpolished and not just a little cold-blooded and bloodthirsty. And yet, I couldn't help liking him, couldn't help sympathising when little details of his past slipped out. 


His men are thoroughly unlikeable, with the exception of Makin. They have no redeamable characterisics that I could find, but that makes them even more interesting, or rather it is fascinating to see Jorg's dealing with them. 


Throughout the book, Jorg is very definately the main character. There is no one who comes close - what I mean is that while there is a peripheral involvement of a female character whom Jorg shows interest in, this book is dedicated to Jorg himself, almost exclusively. This is not a bad thing. It's gotten to the point where most fantasies place such emphasis on 'love interests' that the line to the romance genre has blurred somewhat. It's nice to read a 'traditional' sort of fantasy, gritty or not.  


What I thought of the setting: 


This is fantasy, with a twist - the world is not something you'd recognize (ok at least I didn't), other than the universality of a war-torn country. And yet, Jorg's education includes familiar authors from by-gone days, he swears by Jesu...is this really a fantasy world, or is this our world in some distant future or alternate universe? It's certainly an interesting amalgamation of sword-and-armour fantasy and an almost post-apocalyptic vibe. There's more to this, but I won't go into any more details - I don't want to spoil anything!


What I think you should consider: 


If you liked The Left Hand of God (or the Godless World trilogy) you will probably like this book, too. Don't let the reference to Game of Thrones on the cover (uhm...if that is even ON the normal cover and not just the ARC) mislead you. This is a single-character focused story, not a sprawling epic covering multiple viewpoints - or perhaps just not yet? It is only the first part in the series, after all. Who knows what the future will bring? 


Rating: 



(8 out of 10 cupcakes)

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Tuesday, 14 June 2011

10 Things about Fantasy (genres) in bookstores

It has come to my attention that a new species of bookshelf is turning up in bookstores all over the place... "dark romance" and "dark fantasy" abounds... but what exactly is that? Isn't dark romance just angsty vampire/shifter/randomsupernaturalcreature romance? Why the new category? So I though I'd do a post on what fantasy categories I could think of and see what you've got to add...
  1. Fantasy/Sci-Fi: This is the most general category possible, and covers pretty much everything from Asimov to Tolkien to Bova to JK Rowling. And there we have the first problem with categorisation...why is JK Rowling not in every fantasy section? Because she writes "YA" books, of course. So head on over to the children's section to find her...
  2. Horror: You'd be surprised (or not) to know that this is where most vampire books can be found. Why? Because vampires are bloodsucking monsters, of course! *sigh* I know at least one 'horror/dark fantasy' author who would be better placed in the erotica section, thank you very much. 
  3. Classic Fantasy: Ok so I've only seen this once in a bookstore (and in Goodreads) but still...what would you expect to find here? Tolkien again? Are we talking epic fantasy, here, or are we talking writing style (in my limited experience 'classic' fantasy seems to be more descriptive, the worlds drawn in more detail, than 'modern' stuff) - in which case George RR Martin and maybe David Gemmel would find their home here?
  4. Epic Fantasy: One particular author comes to mind immediately: the late Robert Jordan, whose Wheel of Time epic is VERY epic indeed. Or again, George RR Martin. But what about Terry Prachett, whose DiscWorld series has uncounted books? Is that epic? Or how about Laurell K Hamilton? Her series are long, but play in an alternate present. 
  5. Romantic Fantasy: This type of book (or shelf subsection) is mostly found amongst the romance novels. Why? Because the main plotline is ROMANCE, duh. There are also, for the most part, two MCs rather than one. And lately, there's likely to be a werewolf or vampire involved. 
  6. Paranormal Romance: Uhm...what about the word "FANTASY" did people object to, exactly? Is this one of those old cow-new cow things? A marketing gag thingy? Because for the life of me I can't tell the difference between "romantic fantasy" and "paranormal romance". Maybe they thought "Paranormal Romance" sounds better?? Is that why Paranormal Romance sometimes rates its own shelf, unlike Romantic Fantasy? Discriminating, that's what it is... *grumble*
  7. Dark Fantasy: is just what it sounds like. It tends to involve a LOT of night, seeing as there's usually a vampire or two running around. Think Christine Feehan, or (again) Laurell K Hamilton. Uhm...wait a minute. Those are writers with a definite trend towards romance...I don't know. Would you consider looking for Stephen King in Dark Fantasy? Because what he writes is surely dark and mostly fantasy. But no. He's in the Horror section. So what is Dark Fantasy, then? The nighttime sister of Paranormal Romance??? 
  8. Dark Romance: don't even get me started on this. Last bookstore I went to, they had all the YA type "Dark Fantasy" and plain "Fantasy" shelved under "dark romance". Whatever. 
  9. Science Fiction: Oh, finally a category nobody seems confused about. Phew. Only....ehm...the recent development of the whole 'distopian world' topic, couldn't one consider that science fiction? I'm thinking The Hunger Games here. Or the Maze Runner Trilogy (though I'm not certain what that is actually shelved under). What do you think?
  10. YA Fantasy/SciFi: I give up. Really I do. Does everything with a teen MC belong into this category? I don't know. Do you? What makes something YA rather than 'normal'? 
I'm sure I could come up with some more categories, but let's leave it at that. Do you have anything to say that might enlighten me? Any category definitions I should know? Any pet peeves in terms of bookstore shelving policy?
    Because let me tell you, I'm starting to get annoyed with not knowing where to look for what. *sigh*
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    Tuesday, 7 June 2011

    10 Things about (written) Conversations

    I don't know about you, but I'm a HUGE fan of lists. I have lists all over the place...on my pinboard above my desk, on the desk, on my laptop, on my phone and even on the door to my study (it's white, so it's kind of like a whiteboard...).

    I shared one of my many lists with you last week (10 Things about Plotbunnies), and because I'm feeling a little creatively challenged right now, I'm going to share another one with you today. Who knows, maybe I'll make a serial thing out of it? ; )

    So here goes....

    10 Things about (Written) Conversations
    (otherwise known as Dialogue)

    1. Conversations can move the (fictional) world (ok maybe the real one, too, but that's outside the scope of my blog - no, really, it is). Dialogue is a sensible fiction element to propel your story forward, to change pace, reveal backstory, set moods, show characters in more detail, indicate a theme you're going for - pretty much anything you like. Dialogue is a multi-purpose tool that every writer should be aware of. 
    2. People like to talk (at least most people do), so talking is a natural thing for your characters to do. Nonetheless one needs to be careful not to include dialogue just to include dialogue. It needs to come naturally to the characters, or the reader won't like it much. And with coming naturally to the character I also mean no stilted "Hello George, how are you today"-"I am fine, Michael, how are you?"-"I am well, George, but for this life and death problem I have..." - you know what I mean? 
    3. Dialogue can change the pace of your story, speeding it up or slowing it down, depending on what you need. Slow, rambling conversations can ease the mood and relax the reader, short sentences and exclamations indicate action and exitement, speeding things up again. 
    4. Dialogue can reveal quirks because nobody talks exactly the same as someone else. As a writer, this is something you can play with. You can use accents (though one needs to be careful not to overdo that), certain words a character may be fond of, dialogue tags revealing actions that are characteristic to one person or another.
    5. You don't write the same way you talk because  honestly, no one wants to read 'uhm' and 'ah' twice in every sentence. Written dialogue tends to be a lot more condensed - purposeful, even - than the real-life counterpart. Nonsense conversations get summarised into single sentences unless they have a particular point to bring across in the plot or character development. For example, you probably wouldn't add this (real-life) conversation to your story unless you had a REAL good reason: 
      • Uhm, could I have a latte, please? 
      • Would you like to double-shot that? Any flavours? 
      • Ah....maybe...yes, double-shot, please. Let me see...uhm....could I have that with a shot of chai sirup?
      • One dirty double-shot chai? Soy milk, skinny or full fat? Any whipped cream?
      • Uhm...that's a dirty chai? Eh...ok...skinny, please, no cream. 
      • One dirty double-shot skinny chai, coming up. What's your name?
      • My name? Uhm...why do you need that?
      • So we know which drink is yours, ma'am. 
      • Oh, all right. My name is Annie. 
      • Pleased to meet you, Ms Annie. Pick up your order at the end of the bar, please. 
      • Oh, wait! Could I have that iced, please? 
      • Of course, Ms Annie, one iced dirty double-shot skinny chai, coming up. 
      • Uh... so I get it at the end of the bar?
      • Yes, you do. 
      • Over there? 
      • Right there, ma'am.....
    6. People can reveal their own story, so you don't need prologues or backflashes or anything like that. They can tell the person they're talking to all about their life if they want to. Just be careful you don't include details for the sake of the reader that the parties involved would already know. No backstory links like "Oh Erik, do you remember when..." "Yes, Jessica, you mean when you...." or similar...
    7. Words can make you cry (or laugh) because they can carry emotions, and I don't mean saying "Oh no, I'm so sad I might cry any minute" *cue swoon* kind of dialogue. I mean words that come from the bottom of the characters' hearts, or from the bottom of their sarky souls or whatever. True feelings, my dears, that's what it's all about. Keep in mind that while it's true that you're supposed to show, not tell, your characters CAN tell (or is that showing in their own words?). 
    8. Dialogue can go horribly wrong in oh so many ways. I think the best rule to go with here is too much of a good thing can be really, really bad. Nothing should be overdone unless it's on purpose, for comedy reasons or something like that. 
    9. Dialogue can, in a way, indicate genre because the way people talk is different in different types of literature. A regency romance heroine is bound to speak in a different manner than a high-power urban-fantasy butt-kicking Amazon. 
    10. Dialogue is fun. Keep this in mind, please? 

    So that's my quick-list on dialogue... any majorly important points you could add? Anything you totally, utterly disagree with? Let me know!
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    Saturday, 4 June 2011

    Pen or Keyboard? - A Necessities of (writing) Life post

    Like most people these days, I'm surgically attatched to my laptop - or so it seems some days. I have lots of word processing stuff - Scrivener (cool), Pages (classic) and Texteditor (boring) to name but a few, and I've been known to use all of them when the mood strikes me.

    Only...

    When I'm REALLY in a writing mood, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, beats pen and paper. The feel of ink flowing across the page, the physical act of turning a page when you've filled it with WORDS, the slight crampy feeling in my hand when I've written page upon page upon page... using a laptop just can't relate.

    It's also really hard to doodle at the edge of a computer screen or keyboard.

    I'm at a stage of I'm-so-stuck-yness right now that I'm considering putting away my laptop altogether (for writing, that is, God knows what I'd do without email, twitter, blog, tumblr, facebook.....I'm addicted, right? *sigh*), and get out a good old notebook and pen. Preferably a fountain pen, they just feel so much better when flowing across the page.

    In fact, they're the only implement that really does flow - I tend to push to hard with pencils and normal ballpoint pens and that either makes these letter-shaped dents on all pages beneath the one I'm using or it gives me horrid cramps in my hand (I guess I'm getting old). I also managed to dislocate my little finger twice yesterday whilst writing *shudder*, but then I'm weird that way.

    How does the writing process work for you? Do you feel more creative on a keyboard or when using pen and paper? Does your Muse have a preference either way?

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    Thursday, 2 June 2011

    All Evidence to the Contrary...

    I AM A WRITER

    No really. I may have had little more than a handful of hours to write these last few weeks, and perhaps I'm  terminally plothopping, and ok, so I'm really, really bad at finishing things.

    But you know what?

    I'm still a writer. Because, you see, no matter what I do, all I want need is to write, to tell the stories of all those people roaming around my head like so many plot bunnies dust bunnies tumbleweeds. I can't seem to stop. Even when I have no pen at hand, no paper close by, scenes and conversations run through my head and I curse myself for not having a dictaphone. I'll see something on the street, hear a snippet of someone talking on the phone/to their neighbour/to the waiter, and there it is, that bit of plot I've been missing. Or maybe a new plot, who knows.

    According to some of my friends, I even have conversations with myself.          o.O

    So here's my statement of the day:

    TESSA CONTE IS A WRITER

    and maybe, one day, soon I'll be an author, too.

    What about you, my dearies? What convinces you that writing is what you're meant to do?
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