Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Harvest God and Tachmaz

So, the book and novella are both available on Amazon now. Here are some tentative links for Amazon--I hope they work:

The Harvest God

Slaughter at Tachmaz

Links for Smashwords:

The Harvest God

Slaughter at Tachmaz

If they don't work, you should be able to find them by searching for "harvest god ashe" and "slaughter at Tachmaz" respectively. For some reason, I couldn't find Harvest God by searching *only* for "harvest god." I had to add Ashe to get it to show up.

I'll keep you posted when these show up at BN.com and other places.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Harvest God *AND* Slaughter at Tachmaz

I'm thrilled to announce that the sequel to The Dew of Flesh, titled The Harvest God (previously code name Wanton) is now available for sale. It's currently available at Smashwords in a variety of formats, and it should be live at Amazon within the next day or so (I'm not sure if the holiday will slow the process). Over the next few weeks, it should also start showing up at places like BN.com and other retailers.

In addition to The Harvest God, a companion novella titled Slaughter at Tachmaz (previously code name Tachmaz) is also available for sale. Tachmaz explores the events surrounding the most infamous battle of Khaskander's rebellion, as well as why Samir abandoned Khaskander and set up an opposing force. The novella is not necessary reading to enjoy The Harvest God, but it provides additional insights into the world of Flesh and Fell.

Here are the covers for both:

I'll be updating the 'Books' page accordingly in the next few days. Hope you enjoy!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Grieved and Wanton Update

I know I've been quiet on here for a little bit. That's because I've been finishing up the revisions on Wanton. It's done. There's a little tweaking left to be done with the cover, possibly, but for the most part, it's finished. I'll reveal the final title and the cover next week when it goes live.

Why am I waiting? Well, I want to launch Tachmaz (the novella set in the world of the Flesh and Fell series) at the same time that I launch Wanton. Tachmaz is written, but I need to finish revising it and get a cover. All of that should be done by next week so that Tachmaz and Wanton go live at the same time (I'm on schedule this time, which is a good thing).

I really enjoyed both of these stories. Tachmaz gives some insight into the rebellion against the tair in Nakachevir, while Wanton shows events in Nakhacevir and Cenarbasi after the death of the last tair in Khi'ilan. We get one new POV character, Sefiye, a Cenarbasin scholar, and we also have part of the story told by Fadhra.

Grieved (the sequel to Indifferent) is coming along very nicely. I'm not quite a 1/6 of the way through the rough draft, but it's been such a pleasure to write.

I'll post again next week when Tachmaz and Wanton go up.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

John D. Brown on Writing

I believe I've mentioned before John D. Brown's tips on writing--if I haven't, then I should have. He does a wonderful job of breaking down his ideas into clear, intelligible component parts. While I don't always agree with everything he says, I think that 99% of the time he is completely right. He recently posted a more nuanced version of some of his advice here that I think is invaluable for writers.

What is particularly helpful about this piece is that it helps writers to think through the individual pieces of a story. Brown emphasizes the importance of making each piece excellent in order to have an excellent story and he gives some great suggestions on how to do so. I think Brown is absolutely correct; for a story to be great, the individual parts have to be great. For me, great is something that I really love. If I love characters, their voices will be clearer, they will be more sympathetic, more interesting, etc. The same goes for plot, setting, etc.

In other words, Brown makes it clear that if you want to write a great story, it has to be a story that you yourself are completely in love with. It's a great way to think about writing.

Brown has more writing tips that you can track down on his website--some have been reformatted and republished on the SFWA website as well. I think they're worth a read. He also has a novel out that I enjoyed reading (but it's been a while since I read it, so I won't do a review here beyond that).

Thursday, May 10, 2012

David Farland on Character

I've mentioned before David Farland's email service called, "David Farland's Daily Kick in the Pants," which is informative on a variety of topics. Today, Dave did a post on character that I thought was particularly clear that you can read here.

What is really helpful about Dave's advice is that he suggests thinking of characters in terms of their development arcs. I'm 100% in agreement with Dave--this is absolutely the right way to develop a character. I would add that, in addition to considering the physical/social shifts of a character, the emotional and psychological are key components to developing a character. If a character goes from prince to orphan, there are a number of changes that can't be accounted for simply in socio-economic terms. In a similar vein, a prince can remain a prince while still becoming a drastically different person (in some ways, the story of the Henry IV plays by Shakespeare). This is just my little piece to add to what Dave has already articulated so well.

I feel like I should add, too, that I think 'mythic journeys' and archetypal story-telling is, at least in the way it has been appropriated by the genre fiction community, total bunk. Archetypal literary criticism is insightful, but it comes out of a specific literary and critical tradition; in spite of its claims, it's not a universal road map, and I do not buy into claims that these type of archetypal guides are actually effective in structuring a story. Just a thought.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fool Moon, Jim Butcher

One of the many books I've read recently was Jim Butcher's Fool Moon, book two of The Dresden Files. I had read and really enjoyed the first book of The Dresden Files, Storm Front, a year or two ago, and I decided to go back and get another taste of this great series.

Like both Urban Shaman and Skinwalker, Fool Moon is written in first person and is urban fantasy. I think the thing I love about Butcher's series, though, is the character. Harry Dresden is eminently likable: he's damaged, but good, and chivalrous in a self-consciously old-fashioned sense. Karrin Murphy is likable enough on her own, but she's such a good counterpoint to Dresden that their interactions really drive the book. While I always feel a bit foggy on the rules of magic in Butcher's world, and Harry never seems to have the strength or tools to use his magic effectively (one of my major complaints about much urban fantasy), that doesn't keep the first two books from being very enjoyable.

One thing worth thinking about when reading this book, then, is an approach to writing that is fairly common, but hard to do correctly. I'm referring to the idea of a mash-up, where an author mixes two ideas to come up with something original (or at least something interesting). Here, the idea is mixing a hard-boiled detective with a wizard, which I think works very well (similar in some ways to Simon Green's books). Brandon Sanderson has talked about this as well with Mistborn, claiming it's a fantasy/heist (and contrasting it with Scott Lynch's Lies of Locke Lamora). Anyway, it's an interesting technique when done right, and I think Butcher excels at it.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Skinwalker, Faith Hunter

Another of the books I've read recently (recently being a relative term, over the last month and a half), was Faith Hunter's Skinwalker, the first book in her Jane Yellowrock series. Like C. E. Murphy, Faith Hunter is a regular blogger over at Magical Words.

Like Urban Shaman, Skinwalker is written in first person, which seems to be a fairly standard way of telling urban fantasy stories (I'm thinking too of the Dresden Files); I think in many ways it was hard for me to like Jane as a protagonist (at least at the beginning). Too many of her character traits felt forced, or perhaps simply abrasive. After a while, though, I realized that, while Jane is definitely an abrasive personality, there are some very compelling reasons to like her. She's damaged, strong, and really wants to do good. She's also a practical person (being a mercenary does that), which always helps me to like characters.

One area that I did stumble with, though, was the scenes with Beast, Jane's counterpart. I could never really get into the Beast scenes (maybe because I'm not much of a cat person?), in part because of the intentionally different syntax and prose. However, the Beast scenes are a relatively small part of the book, and I found myself totally caught up in the story--it was a definite page-turner. I stayed up pretty late reading it over several nights. Not only is the character compelling (as I mentioned), but the mystery is plenty interesting, and there's enough action to keep my head spinning. Faith has mentioned somewhere that she thinks readers get bored if something new doesn't happen every ten pages, and let me just say that it never takes her ten pages to give you something new. A very enjoyable read, and a good counterpoint to C. E. Murphy in terms of the types of characters available for writing female protagonists in urban fantasy.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Urban Shaman, C. E. Murphy

I recently read Urban Shaman, the first book of the Walker Papers series by C. E. Murphy. Murphy blogs regularly at Magical Words, a site that I recommend for people interested in creative writing, particularly in fantasy and science fiction.

Urban Shaman was a fun read--it's short, easy to follow, and has a likable set of characters. The prose is straightforward, no serious problems, nothing special to set it apart. All in all, I enjoyed the book, but I didn't feel driven to read the next one. One thing that I really, really liked about this book, though, was that it has an emphasis on a protagonist who is deeply committed to helping people and to making the world a better place without necessarily turning to violence. This is a surprisingly rare idea in fantasy--fighting, whether mundane or magical, makes up a large part of the genre. There's a fair amount of fighting in this book too, but one of the major concerns is how a shaman (who is a healer) can eliminate a potential threat without resorting to killing. It's refreshing to see a serious concern with this idea.

One thing that I'd note for this is that it might be helpful to compare it to some of Brandon Sanderson's work, in two specific ways, to think about ways of telling a story. These two points of comparison are: mysteries and magic. The first, mysteries: at the end of the story, you discover that one character is not who he seemed. That's fine, but I realized it didn't have any of the emotional impact of one of Sanderson's revelation-packed endings. Now, obviously Murphy wasn't aiming at this effect, but I think it's worth noting how the two styles differ and that both can be satisfying, depending on how they are used. The second item, magic, is similar. At the end of Murphy's book, Walker does something with her magic that seems like it's supposed to be shocking, or a twist, or something like that, but it didn't feel like that to me. To me, this seems like a point where Sanderson's First Law applies, that is, that resolving a book with magic depends on a clear set of rules (that's a terribly unfair paraphrase). In any case, another point worth considering. As I said, I enjoyed this book, but I wanted to suggest some narrative points of interest.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tachmaz and Grieved

Apologies for the long delay between posts. April was a busy month for me, but it was also a very productive month. As I believe I already mentioned, I finished drafting Wanton in April, and I also wrote a short story set between Dew and Wanton (code-name Tachmaz). I also started outlining Grieved, the next book in the Sophistries of June series. So, all in all, April was a good month for writing, but not a good month for the blog.

At this point, I'm working hard on finishing up the outline of Grieved. Once that is finished, I'll start writing the draft, which will leave me free to dedicate myself to revising Wanton and Tachmaz. My goal is still to have Wanton and Tachmaz up by the end of this month, so I need to finish the outline of Grieved this week and get to work revising.

There's not much else I have for right now, although I've read a number of books about which I will post some thoughts (by Terry Pratchett, Faith Hunter, C. E. Murphy, and Jim Butcher, among others).