I confess I should have read 'Writing the Breakout Novel' before going on to the workbook. That had b...moreDonald Maass: Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook
I confess I should have read 'Writing the Breakout Novel' before going on to the workbook. That had been my intention all along, however it was thwarted by putting down WTBN and not being able to find it again, so I picked up the workbook first. What an excellent and concise book with short, apposite chapters using a number of examples from 'breakout' books, both genre and non genre to illustrate techniques for deepening character, layering plots, finding the right first and last lines. Each chapter contains an explanation followed by an exercise.
This is not a book offering shortcuts, in fact it encourages authors to go back through their finished manuscripts and revise a lot of the things they already thought were pretty darn good -- because they can always be better. It's not offering a formula. There is no formula, there's just hard work and many, many tweaks to bump up the quality of your book. In fact there are 34 worksheets, each one asking you to consider one aspect of your novel, pull it out, tweak it and slot it back into place.
Yes it's going to take time to do all that and no, I didn't do the worksheets, but I did find points where I thought, 'I can do that right now!' I certainly applied some of the principles to the book I was just on the point of delivering to my publisher and will have it all in mind while writing the first draft of the work in progress. I hope to have time, then, to apply some of the principles in more depth as I go through the editing process. (less)
George R. R. Martin: A Feast for Crows A Song of Ice and Fire # 4
This is half a book, the companion volume to A Dance with Dragons and therefore only h...moreGeorge R. R. Martin: A Feast for Crows A Song of Ice and Fire # 4
This is half a book, the companion volume to A Dance with Dragons and therefore only has half of our beloved characters in it, those still remaining in Westeros. We don't get to see anything of what's happening north of the wall, neither do we see what's happening to Dany and her dragons. Regular viewpoint characters include: Jaime Lannister, Samwell Tarly, Arya Stark and Sansa Stark. New viewpoints go to Queen Cersei, Aeron, Asha, and Victarion Greyjoy, Brienne of Tarth, Areo Hotah, Aerys Oakheart, and Arianne Martell.
Of course this book is seriously lacking any Tyrion Lannister viewpoint and the cliffhanger we left him on at the end of A Clash of Kings is not resolved. It's almost surprising to realise that while Cersei has such a lot of on-screen time in the TV show and is instrumental in quite a lot of plot, that she's not been a viewpoint character before. Now we see her descent into instability fuelled by the loss of Joffrey, the desire to protect Tommen and the resentment that her daughter Myrcella, has been sent off to Dorne where Cersei can't protect her. Cersei makes some really bad choices, but bad choices make for good fiction.
We also get Jaime's viewpoint and having started out as the king-killer who is prepared to toss young Bran Stark out of a high window in order to protect his incestuous relationship with Cersei, we see a transformation. Martin might make a hero out of Jaime yet, a respectable one if not a flawless one.
We get to follow the two Stark girls as they each make their own (very different) way in the world, Sansa with Littlefinger finally learning a few street smarts, and Arya out on her own to learn about death and how to inflict it. At one point Arya frustratingly crosses paths with Samwell Tarly on his journey to take elderly and ailing Maester Aemon Targaryen to safety, but neither recognises the other. That's two of Jon Snow's siblings Sam has met without being able to let Jon know they are still alive.
Through Brienne of Tarth's wanderings across war-torn Westeros in search of Sansa we get to see the effect of the War of the Five Kings on the people and the countryside. Sadly we lose all element of tension in Brienne's quest because we know she's looking in all the wrong places.
There's a subplot about the throne of the Iron Islands which honestly didn't excite me, but I'm prepared to concede this may well weave into other plot strands later.
Altogether, while not my favourite book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, it's certainly still a must-read. I've only got A Dance with Dragons to read now and then, like many longstanding fans, I'll be eagerly waiting for George to finish the next one. (less)
I don't read comics, I have some difficulty identifying characters from the drawings – whether that's a fault in the artwork or a fault in my percepti...moreI don't read comics, I have some difficulty identifying characters from the drawings – whether that's a fault in the artwork or a fault in my perception is a moot point. However I'm a Firefly fan and a Joss Whedon fan and this full colour hardback seems to be the only way to get this story, so I splashed out. It's a beautifully presented full colour hardback with extras such as the pre-production memo for Serenity (the movie). And I can more or less tell which character is which, so a win for the illustrator, Will Conrad.
The story bridges the gap between the last episode of Firefly and the beginning of Serenity. It sees the return of Agent Dobson, with a grudge, and the Hands of Blue. It leads up to the departure of Inara and Shepherd Book and leads into the (unnamed) agent who becomes the antagonist in the movie. The story is hardly complete in itself, just a brief episode in the lives of Serenity's crew, but it does fill a hole – and anything Firefly is fine by me. (less)
Comic books and graphic novels are generally not my thing. I have difficulty recognising characters from the drawings. Having said that I managed with...moreComic books and graphic novels are generally not my thing. I have difficulty recognising characters from the drawings. Having said that I managed with this one. In fact the artwork is excellent and any medium that enables me to get a bit more Firefly is fine by me. This bridges the gap between the end of Firefly (TV) and Serenity (movie). I'm a fan, so what can I say. Recommended.(less)
I really enjoyed the first Gentleman Bastards book, The Lies of Locke Lamora. This one picks up where that one left off – though some of the story is...moreI really enjoyed the first Gentleman Bastards book, The Lies of Locke Lamora. This one picks up where that one left off – though some of the story is told in flashback and you gradually piece together everything that's happened. Locke and Jean are out on their own, exiled from Camorr, running a major con against the powerful owner of what appears to be a mega-casino, a heavily-guarded elderglass tower full of many ways to part fools and their money. The scam is almost complete, but then fate and politics intervene in equal measures. Repercussions from their clash with the evil bondsmage, The Falconer, in the first book start to catch up with them, while the ruler of the city decides that they are the perfect people to go out and stir up a pirate rebellion on his behalf, and he takes drastic measures to ensure their compliance. Scam collapses in on scam and Locke and Jean are all at sea – in more ways than one.
Scott Lynch is an author not afraid to be cruel to his characters. Both Locke and Jean are put through the mill, physically and emotionally and the ending, while a win of sorts, is bittersweet as it leaves them in a precarious place ready for the next book, Republic of Thieves, which, of course, I had to buy for my Kindle immediately. (less)
Life is never dull when VW mechanic and coyote shapechanger Mercy Thompson's around. Now Mercy Thompson-Hauptman after marrying the Alpha of the Tri-C...moreLife is never dull when VW mechanic and coyote shapechanger Mercy Thompson's around. Now Mercy Thompson-Hauptman after marrying the Alpha of the Tri-Cities werewolf pack, she is still not getting her happy-ever-after, though by and large it's not her fault. This time Adam's ex-wife, Christy, comes back on the scene, fleeing for her life from an ex-boyfriend turmned stalker who [spoiler] turns out to be not only supernatural but also almost invincible.
The invincible enemy, however, is not Mercy's real problem. Adam's ex is a real piece of work who undermines Mercy's position in the pack at every available opportunity and plainly wants Adam back. And as if that wasn't enough the son of Lugh wants his magic walking stick back, but Mercy gave it to Coyote who, as usual, is proving elusive and trickster-ish.
Oh yeah, and Mercy's got a brother, kinda, sorta...
Another great outing in Patricia Briggs' excellent werewolf series. Urban fantasy at its best with not only werewolves but coyote shape-changers, vampires, fae and... that stalker. I just dropped everything to read this as soon as it arrived and I was not disappointed.(less)
All the fuss about the book passed me by, which is a pity because this is excellent. Now I'm torn... do I read the other two books in the trilogy firs...moreAll the fuss about the book passed me by, which is a pity because this is excellent. Now I'm torn... do I read the other two books in the trilogy first or wait for the movies and read the books afterwards? The movie was pretty faithful to the book, though the book adds a little clarity to the reasons behind some of the motivation and decisions taken.
Direct comparisons with the Hunger Games are going to be difficult to avoid, you only need to check out the reviews that say: move over Katniss and make way for Tris. Well, in a way it's a fair comment, but there's more going on her than a knock down-drag out fight to the bloody and bitter end. Beatrice (Tris) is a member of Abnegation, one of the five factions of a future dystopian Chicago a hundred years or more after some unnamed war. Everyone is shoehorned into one of the five factions which are based on their signature character trait. Abnegation are selfless and therefore the governing faction. Dauntless are brave; Erudite are intelligent; Candor speak the truth, and Amity are peaceful. Those who don't fit are factionless, i.e. homeless, jobless, worthless street-people.
But the Divergent don't fit either. They are a little bit of everything and as such regarded as dangerous, maybe because they have the capability to do a little joined-up thinking. Anyone found to be Divergent is likely to end up dead.
When tested at 16, Tris doesn't fit into any one faction and, warned to keep that information to herself, chooses Dauntless over her birth faction of Abnegation, thus beginning a gruelling training programme to learn how to be brave, physically and mentally. It's difficult, but she eventually makes the grade due to her own efforts and the tough-love attitude of her instructor, Four.
But that's only part of the story. Erudite is plotting to overthrow Abnegation and a smear campaign is followed by a coup which Tris must thwart to prevent her family being murdered and her friends unwittingly becoming murderers.
This includes elements of a love story (though it's not really a romance) and political intrigue while exploring the tropes of identity, destiny and self-determination. It's a rights of passage story with some tightly written action set-pieces and some interesting character studies. Four, as the love-interest, has secrets that are only gradually revealed.
It's written in first person present, which actually works in this case. Tris at times seems older than sixteen and Four seems way older than eighteen. More like eighteen going on twenty-eight. I look forward to seeing how both characters develop in the next book.
There are books on writing and there are Books On Writing. This is one of the latter. It would be tempting to say: if you only read one book on writin...moreThere are books on writing and there are Books On Writing. This is one of the latter. It would be tempting to say: if you only read one book on writing make it this one, but - hey - I haven't read them all.
This is not for the beginner, it's for those who already have a grasp of the basics and probably it helps if you've already completed at least one novel. This book doesn't tell you how to write, or even how to write a novel, but it does tell you how to write a BETTER novel. The cover says it offers 'passion purpose and techniques to make your novel great' and largely I think it delivers on that promise.
It talks about character, pivotal scenes, voice, verisimilitude, humour and tension as well as that all important sense of place that comes with great world-building - but not just boring old description, rather it concentrates on seeing the world through the eyes of your characters, imbuing description with meaning. And finally it talks about the fire in fiction, weaving your passion into your words.
There are exercises at the end of each section. If you have a piece of writing you're working on, you can even use this as an instant editing tool.