Dec 21 2012

The Naming Game

Posted by Mathias

Under the Darkened Moon once had a character named Kal.  Kal, alas, is no more.  Oh, he still exists in the story, but he is no longer called Kal.  His new name in the final manuscript is Tarek.

Why did I change his name?  Ultimately it was because too many characters had names starting with the letter K.  Kyel and Kath were enough, so I changed Kal to something else.

The decision was made easier during the live read edit when my wife was reading the story.  She has this particular drawl to her speech where she constantly replaces the “a” sound in words with an “e” and visa versa.  She also does the same thing with the “e”s to “i”s for some reason.  But she only does it on certain words.  For example, pen is pin, but ten is not tin.  She never pronounced one of the characters, called Den, as Din. (more…)

Oct 26 2012

Book Review: The Choosing, written by Jeremy Laszio

Posted by Mathias

Full disclosure: I received a free copy of The Choosing from Mr. Laszio in exchange for an honest review. 

WARNING! May contain spoilers!

The Choosing, I’m sorry to say, had a very, very difficult time even registering on my scale of 0 to 5 stars.  For the first three quarters of the book, I was seriously considering giving it less than one star.  The short reasoning for this is that this story is simply not on par with what I expect from a fantasy novel.  I think my standards are fairly reasonable.  But honestly, The Choosing feels like an unedited, or only lightly edited, draft of a story.  It is missing so much.  It does tell a story, but stumbles in doing so.  And in my opinion the story is not that solid.
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Oct 20 2012

Finally There – Under the Darkened Moon Manuscript Phase

Posted by Mathias

With FINAL edits done, I am now on to the manuscript compilation phase for Under the Darkened Moon.  Ok, so “FINAL” edit is probably a misnomer because compiling the manuscript does entail some minor editing.  I’m still looking for errors, but mostly it will consist mostly of formatting.

However, I do read each chapter one, final time.  In the process, I am looking for: (more…)

Oct 04 2012

The Price Of The Unnecessary Character

Posted by Mathias

I learned an important lesson the other day. Unimportant characters equals lots of unneeded words.

During live read edits for Under the Darkened Moon, I felt as though one character, introduced for just one scene, was unnecessary. Sure, he served a purpose. Sure he furthered the plot. Sure he got my main character from point A to point B. (more…)

Sep 28 2012

Under the Darkened Moon Critiques (Both Good And Bad)

Posted by Mathias

I encourage people to say what they really think whenever they are reading my work in progress (Under the Darkened Moon). I haven’t had it in a formal review setting since I started the live read and final draft process. But, prior to that, I got a lot of feedback from a variety of sources including: my standard review group, writer friends of mine (published and unpublished), and people who I know and who like to read fantasy.

I’m not someone who isn’t willing to let people, whether they liked the book or not, have their say. Here is a sampling of the good and the bad that I got as feedback: (more…)

Sep 22 2012

Back-Story Rewrite In Progress For Under the Darkened Moon

Posted by Mathias

Well, now I’ve done it! With Under the Darkened Moon’s live read and final edits proceeding nearly side-by-side, I have decided to tear apart part of the back-story and rewrite it. It was really the last thing I was thinking of as I was happily steaming towards producing a final manuscript.

I thought the end was within sight.  After all, the live read edit is in Chapter 36, the FINAL edit is in Chapter 25 and there are 44 Chapters to the story plus and epilogue.

But this rewrite had to be done. This was not something that I chose to undertake on a whim. (more…)

Jul 26 2012

Three Most Common Reasons For Manuscript Rejection

Posted by Mathias

So, I have been picking the brains of friends of mine who are authors or are/were in the publication field (literary agents, editors, etc). I have been doing this because I see a lot of people compiling lists about why manuscripts get rejected. I read these lists because I want to give myself the best shot I can at getting published.

But what I seem to be finding is that a lot of those lists are really bunk, or at least these lists are subjective and often contradict one another. Don’t start your story too fast. Don’t start your story too slow. Too much description. Not enough description. Too many characters. Too few characters. Too much dialogue. Not enough dialogue.

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Apr 28 2012

Review: Theft of Swords by: Michael J. Sullivan

Posted by Mathias

Warning! May contain spoilers!

Michael J. Sullivan creates a set of superb characters in Royce and Hadrian, a pair of thieves who get a little too greedy at times. Or at least Hadrian does, and he then drags Royce along with him. I don’t think I can stop saying enough good things about the way the two main characters are constructed, how they maintain character all the way through the novel and are delightful to follow. Royce and Hadrian are surrounded by a cadre of supporting characters that by the end of this first volume have various levels of depth and are used to develop the level of political intrigue that is going on within the story’s world. Some of the other characters appear cartoonish. But this is not because of poor writing. It is merely, in my opinion, because of trying to cram so much into the novel and delve into so many of the side relationships that affect what Royce and Hadrian are involved in. Perhaps in some places these departures from the story as seen from the viewpoint of the main characters could have been done without. Without these side trips I think the story would have flowed better.

While the story opens in an excellent fashion, I love the interaction between Royce and Hadrian and the hapless highwaymen they encounter, the first half of the book does slog along at times as huge boulders of back-story are dropped with a plop into the narrative. And there are points of droning dialogue recited by characters who just seemed to be waiting for an opportunity to expound upon what they know of a situation. There were points in the story where I kept thinking of Syndrome from the animated film The Incredibles who humorously quipped, “You sly dog! You got me monologuing!” because it seems so silly at times. But as the story unwinds, things get significantly better. The second half of the story is tighter and much more captivating thanks in large part to the back-story having been over and done with mostly in the first half. Back-story dropped in the second half of the book flows much smoother with the narrative. If you are struggling through the opening half I assure you it gets better towards the end of the opening act. I will not say that the story was not without points where I had to stop and forcibly make myself resuspend disbelief before continuing, but those moments are minor enough to be overlooked. They happen in every novel I have ever read.

I was however a little disappointed in the ending of the first book. The first book in the Riyria Revelations series is prime example of what is common today among epic fantasy series. It is a book that at the end of it really has no end. There is just the cliffhanger for book two to pick up from and you feel like you have fallen off a cliff between chapters. Major plot points remain unresolved. The final battle with the supposedly mighty beast is light, quick and seems to be more of an anti-climax than a true climax. It was just another point on a slow journey through the story and an invitation to buy the next book of the series. My personal preference is for a more solid resolution at the end of a book, even if it is part of a planned series. I understand however that this is the current trend of the industry.

At the half-way point of the book I was not sure if I would be interested in the continuing adventures of Royce and Hadrian. By the end of the book I was much more interested in what these two thieves would be up to in the future. But not right away. I have put book two of the Riyria Revelations on my “to read list” but have opted to take a break and read some other stories before picking it up. The first book was just too long for me to want to delve right in to another tome on the same subject and I need some time to unwind from it.

I give Theft of Swords an over all rating of three and three quarters stars out of five placing it solidly above your typical fantasy story but not quite in the level of the more elite books of the genre. It was oh so close to getting four stars at times but the issues I discussed drew it back down from that level.

Apr 12 2012

Arrrrgh! Info Dumps! And Complaints About Them!

Posted by Mathias

Every novel has them; the often dreaded info dump. Long paragraphs of backstory crammed in either as uncomfortable, droning dialogue between characters or pages of omnipotent exposition on past events are supposedly frowned upon from the opinions I have been gathering. Yet, surprising, every novel that I have read in recent memory has contained them. For something so universally reviled, it sure does get included quite often as a tool an author to pass information on the reader.

I refer to this as the “And then …. Nothing happened” part of the story. For example, I am reading Theft of Swords right now and I swear that, literally, nothing of great importance has happened in quite some time. I just got done with a passage of the book where there was a long discussion about the various gods of the world just to get the reader informed about who they are. Interesting from a backstory component, but a little uncomfortable and seemingly out of place. That followed what amounted to a lot of travel to the location of a secret prison, which itself followed a lot of information on a monetary that was burned down.

Don’t get me wrong. So far the book is good even if I think some of the recent info dumping currently going on could have been broken up. But I hear it all the time from people who think they know so much about how to write that these sorts of methods for conveying backstory sink a story’s chances of being published. Obviously not!

I am told by people, other writers mostly, that I have too much info dumping in drafts they are critiquing. They tell me how such sequences are too long. They tell me how I must take them out or never be published. Then I show then passages from books where there are info dumps three times as long and make he obvious point that those books were published. I ask them how is their opinion valid in the face of evidence to the contrary. To that question I get a lot of convoluted answers, but never any that really answer the question.

People might complain about info dumps in stories, but the facts are that they exist. And they exist often. And the funniest thing is some of my fellow writers who are critiquing my current works are some of the worst offenders because I have been reading their drafts as well. One lady, for example, complained that a three paragraph sequence (3/4 of a page) putting some backstory forth was “too long” just as a “general rule of thumb”. Yet her most recent work has nearly 4,000 words, some fifteen pages, of backstory dumped in one instance!

I am sure that there are horrendous examples of the info dump that are unreadable. I know, even though I cannot think of them off the top of my head, they exist. I think most people that hate the dumping of backstory remember only the worst of the worst and then proclaim all as bad.

I do not fear using the info dump however. In my own writing I try to keep them small and within the flow of the story and not let the reader get drawn too far away from the here and now and what the characters are currently doing. Hopefully I am succeeding so that my own little info dumps don’t get lumped in with the worst of them.

Jan 03 2012

You Cannot Please Everyone

Posted by Mathias

Here’s the thing about writing that ALL writers must remember. People want and prefer different things when they pick up a story. Some readers want stories that are filled with action and are fast with a bang, bang pace to them. Some people want compelling dialogue as the driving feature of a story. Some people want lush descriptions of everything down to the finest feature of every blade of grass.

You cannot please everyone with their wants and desires and trying to force fit your style to fit all these wants and desires so don’t try. What you should do is write compelling stories in your own, unique, by solid, style and let the critics complain when they do not get what they desire. The quickest way to not loving what you do is to try and bend to the whims of others while seeking what is ultimately meaningless change to who you, as a writer, are. When you bend to the whims of others and write like you don’t want to write you risk becoming just another, boring, formulaic writer who never challenges orthodoxy and producing boilerplate works.

Do not get thrown in with the rest for you will have a hard time being seen.