Monday, March 29, 2010

Shadows Left Behind: Returned From The Dead

I found it after all! It's sitting in Critique Circle under the name SLB. Hallelujah! I've still even got access to it. Be still my beating heart... Waving of many tiny flags... All is right with the world.

This is me and my old story:

If you want to see more glorious pictures such as these, take a look here.

Dialogue Advice

This line sums up for me what good dialogue is:

Sparkling dialogue is a tug of war where two, or more, people struggle to guide the discussion, or influence the listener, in different directions.

Writing Exercise: Body Language Descriptions

I found some old notes from when I decided to jot down some relatively colorful descriptions of body language witnessed at a training session a few years ago. Exercises like this really helped me hone my descriptive skills and I should probably do it again at some point in the near future. All you need is a pen, a piece of paper, and a way to nonchalantly scribble down notes without anyone getting suspicious of you.

I focused on their gestures and descriptions. As this was an exercise in noting body language, and not in writing descriptions, they're not very well-written.

So, excuses aside, here's what I had jotted down:

A haggard woman whose eyes were fixed on a point somewhere between her and her desk.

Four fingers dug into his lips as he strained forward to listen.

A middle-aged woman, soft in flesh and in voice, led the conversation.

A blonde woman, chin resting on her knuckles, nods along with the speaker.

His beard was several shades of gray paler than his hair. His blue eyes glanced from book to speaker from behind wire-framed glasses.

Arms crossed, head slowly nodding, eyes glazed from behind her glasses, she watched the speaker.

A woman who looked like she should still be in high school leans forward over her notes.

Arms crossed, leaning back, head cocked, yet so aware of his surroundings that he looks at me when I glance at him.

Lips pursed against the flavor of the cheap coffee.

Arms crossed, lips slightly parted, she rubs at her eye, listens, head cocked, clutching her paper.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Review of The Blighted Cliffs: Book One - By Edwin Thomas

This is a book I love. It's a wonderfully entertaining, swashbuckling, murder mystery adventure series with a comic bent. Set at the turn of the nineteenth century, it focuses on the foppish cad, coward, and third-rate naval lieutenant Martin Jerrold is forced to try to clear his name of a murder charge before his uncle sends him off to some obscure colony. Enter conspiracies, murder and unsavory characters galore! He has a very entertaining way of creating a cast of characters that are some stylized without becoming stereotypical. The flow of dialogue is a joy to read and half the time it almost felt as though I could hear them talking.

Edwin Thomas has a particular knack for revealing dialects, dialogue rhythms, and speech mannerisms in a way that quickly identifies who is talking and each voice feels somehow unique. That is a very rare talent and one that other writers would do well to learn from. The only other author who comes close is the late, great Ed McBain of 87th Precinct fame.

Scrutinize it for varying dialogue styles and doing stylized characterizations.

5 / 5

Friday, March 5, 2010

Funeral eulogy for Shadows Left Behind

I thought for a brief moment that Critique Circle might still have held copies of the first dozen chapters of Shadows Left Behind. A novel I have followed through a dozen very different incarnations since I was about 14 years old. The last copy was on a hard drive that crashed and I haven't found it on any of my old CDs so far. I was desperately hoping they might have had it somewhere ... but no. All they could get me were a few Meh chapters of Aelven Blood.

How I miss my Shadows Left Behind ... how I yearn for you ... the perpetually incomplete novel ... any of your previous incarnations would fill me with joy ... any of them.

To make it worse, I once printed it off in hard copy but never bound it. I then decided to just turf it because I could always print it again.


The Butterfly Lady

Here's to The Butterfly Lady being almost completed. I've done the ending and the epilogue. I've done the first 26 chapters. I just need Chapter 27. Once that bit is done (which involves a fairly awkward and difficult conversation which makes it hard) then I will have finally finished a novel. Well, unless you count the two booklets I did in Year Two.

I've tried to complete Shadows Left Behind, ooh, nine times so far? Each time a re-write. One day, I'll find that novel again. Then I'll probably revise the heck out of it, polish it, and then spiral bind it so that I never lose sight of it again. True, each re-write was substantially different, but even if I can only have one version, I'll be happy.

Review of To Hell and Back - Lilith Saintcrow

This novel is a neat paranormal adventure whose protagonist is a woman out for vengeance against Lucifer in a semi-Noir, semi-cyberpunk, semi-urban fantasy, semi-horror world. And somehow, Lilith makes it work!

Yes, it's an urban fantasy with a paranormal romance (between a treacherous demon and a kick-ass Necromance heroine) but it has demons in it rather than vampires, begins with Lucifer committing a rather taboo act that Dante then represses and barely acknowledges, and Dante even worships my favorite goddess of destruction, dear old Sekhmet, for a bit. I'm not normally a fan of urban fantasy of the kick-arse heroine kind, but all in all, Saintcrow's novel has plenty of interesting elements to keep my attention.

She also managed the difficult task of having the last novel in the series be accessible to people new to the series. I haven't read any other book in the series but I could easily keep up with the character histories and interactions without ever having to deal with lengthy exposition. If anything, the little mentions here and there of things that had happened books ago just made me more interested in reading previous titles.

Also, did I mention there were demons?

Scrutinize it for the magical descriptions.

3.5 / 5

Review of Way of the Shadows - Brent Weeks

I came to this trilogy after a long break from reading novels and it recaptured my excitement for the fantasy genre. This is the first in a dark fantasy trilogy that is full of flair and excitement. It centers upon Azoth, a guild rat who seeks an apprenticeship with Durzo Blint, the city's most accomplished wetboy (a type of magical assassin). It's brutal and bloody and the twists and turns of the conspiracy-driven plot are pretty intense. No sooner do you think you've got it sussed when you're thrown another curve ball. There was only one instance when I thought the curve ball was a bit much - a certain individual that was better off gone.

The characters manage to be both brutal and sympathetic (generally) and the author manages to tackle some really horrendous taboos (child sex abuse) in an off screen, subtle enough way that just made it all the more horrifying. I really enjoyed watching the characters develop and though I could guess at how a few of the characters would end up, I was still interested to see how it happened.

It did have a few cliches that irritated me, however. The enemy civilization was both evil and led by irredeemably evil men and there wasn't a trace of real justification for their actions other than a desire to prove how willing they were to get their hands dirty. There was also a sub-plot (thankfully just a few scenes) where a few secondary characters throw around words like 'The Magic Sword' (capitals are the writers'). This whole sub-plot grated on me and I happily skimmed through it to get to the good bits. My only fear is this sub-plot appears to be the over-arching plot for the rest of the books and it might put me off the second and third books in the series.

Having said that, most of the novels' fantasy subject matter is handled quite well. There's talk of prophecies but it isn't an ancient prophecy handed down the generations like a bad Nostrademus impersonation. Instead, its a seer's divination. Weeks also handles magic use in a rather unique fashion that is often quite horrible to behold.

Overall, a great book. I happily encourage any who like their fantasy a little darker to take a look.

Scrutinize it to learn how to do some of the best fighting scenes I've read in fantasy.

4.5 / 5

Why a blog?

Partly because I was curious as to what having a blog might be like. Mostly because I have a lot of rants, reviews, critical analysis of how other authors did what they did on hand. So I thought I'd be better off uploading it here for everyone to see rather than letting it clog up my computer until a format sends it off to the great Recycle Bin in the sky.

Should be fun.