Jul 04 2012

Painting Yourself Out Of A Corner As A Writer

Posted by Mathias

Nearly every novel has them, that scene or chapter that just never feels right when being read in context with the story. Sometimes they are minor. Other times they are major. But the fact that they exist so often, sometimes multiple times in a single story, is a reality.

In a way, their very existence sort of gives us aspiring authors hope. We tend to fret about every bit of our story being so perfect. Not as good as it can be mind you, but one-hundred percent infallible. It seems that this is what holds us back more than anything else. So many people never submit the novel they have written because they are certain that it has faults. Even though every story every published has faults too.

(more…)

Jun 25 2012

Book Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Posted by Mathias

Warning! May Contain Spoilers!

Catching Fire is book two of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. It continues the story of Katniss Everdeen and her trials and tribulations after being a victor in the Hunger Games, a sadistic competition put on by the totalitarian government of a post-apocalyptic America. The games pit children against children in a yearly fight to the death.

First off, and bluntly, Catching Fire is not as good as The Hunger Games, the first book of the trilogy. Secondly, it is not a bad book and is quite above average. Thirdly, it suffers from, and even magnifies, one of the major problems with the first book – its predictability greatly detracts from the story. (more…)

Mar 13 2012

Hand Of Fate And Meddling Gods

Posted by Mathias

Her Lovely Blood, the latest novel I have started, makes use of the hand of fate and meddling gods to move the story forward. These sorts of stories can be problematic in that many similar stories I have read with this sort of plot device tend to over rely on it. Every time the hero gets into trouble, some god or another intervenes to save him. If not every time, then somewhere around 90%.

I am consciously trying to make sure that while the gods do interfere from time to time, their interference is minor and not simply to get my heroine out of impossible situation after impossible situation. Oh, the number of stories I have read like that which have bored me to tears! The heroine herself will have to eventually succeed or fail because of her own abilities.

Too much meddling by all-powerful or even quasi all-powerful beings and you are left with a shell of a story. It may be wrapped up in the greatest prose ever, but the story will be predictable with the reader immediately trying to figure out what the gods will do to save the main character as soon as [insert death defying situation here] comes up.

Mar 12 2012

Submitting, Editing, Reflecting And New Stories

Posted by Mathias

So much going on. I have finalized my short story Second Chances and am going to starting submitting it for publication. Since it is based as sort of a prologue to my novel Under the Darkened Moon I had to get very close to completion of that project to work out any discrepancies first. As for that novel, it is still in the editing phase. I am about 80% done with my second serious edit. There have been three edits and four versions of the story in all (rough draft, rough edit, first edit and now second edit).

I have learned a lot by writing it including how petty other writers can be and how what one person finds thrilling others find boring. Overall however, reviews from people who have been reading it are positive. You cannot please everyone though. Lots of comments along the lines of, “better than much of what gets published,” in Fantasy literature. So I am encouraged by that.

Right now that novel is sitting as I am working on Her Lovely Blood which is turning into a story that will be not all that unfamiliar to anyone well versed in the stories of ancient Greek gods. No, it is not a copy of one such story. I only mean that it is similar in the sense of the players and how the plot will twist and turn with gods meddling here and there. The trick is going to be to keep the story seeming logical without any, hopefully, unwarranted excursions into the realm of doing something unbelievable to save the story’s heroine from peril.

Right now the novel is 16,666 words and growing by the day. It seems that it will likely be a trilogy or at the least a first book and then a sequel to complete the story arc. The overall ending is unwritten although I do have three alternatives that I am keeping in mind as the story unfolds. This first draft is being free written with very little editing so far.

Mar 03 2012

Book Review: Vengeance (The Tainted Realm #1) by Ian Irvine

Posted by Mathias

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Note: I am using the Unabridged version for this review.

I want to start off by saying that I give Ian Irvine credit for creating a vast world with some very deep and potentially intriguing history in his book Vengeance. There are certainly a lot of moving parts to the story and the world took a long time to come into complete focus.

However I am not going to mince words beyond that. I was overall disappointed by this novel. It feels like it was rushed to press and not polished in many places.  In other places there was a lot of dwelling on minutia and then an often repeating of it.  The story started out more than all right with the heroine, Tali, watching her mother being murdered. But alas the narrative never regained that opening flare. It tried. It just never succeeded.

Shortly after the start, the story suffered from the introduction of too many characters and the flipping and flopping between their points of view with frequent rewinds past already occurred events. To me it seemed like the entire story tried to accomplish too much, too fast and was scattered. It covered too many characters and faltered in trying to flush them out, not succeeding until very late in the story arc. Character development seemed haphazard and random. The characters themselves, other than Tali, often were very ill defined until long after they were introduced taking simply too long for the characters to fill in. For example, I never felt like Rix was a strong warrior until he and Tobry were in the mountains fighting for their lives well after he was introduced and (pardon the pun which you will get if you read this book) painted strongly as a brooding, artistic type at first. I just think his initial introduction to the story, despite being a key character, was weak. Other characters which were introduced seemed too much along for the ride despite teasing their importance.

By far the character of Tali was the strongest part of this story. But despite her, throughout the book I felt like I was in the middle of a Tuesday night AD&D session. It really did not feel like a story that was happening organically and logically. Rather it seemed as if it were being guided by the invisible hand of a Dungeon Master unwilling to let the characters go off in their natural directions. In my opinion the characters just suddenly realized things too often (flashes out of the blue) which caused them to change course or offered up information that I just found unbelievable to have been realized so suddenly. Also, the constant escaping from harrowing situation after even more harrowing situation after yet another encounter with certain death for all the main characters just drained me by the last third of the book. How many times can people cheat death? I don’t know. But this book certainly tries to find out the answer to that question. Ultimately I never felt that there was any real danger to any of the main character despite being in the middle of a war and their lives constantly, supposedly, based on the words that were put forth by the author, being in jeopardy. Even when Tobry is, once, again, presumed dead at the very end, I as the reader just cannot believe that he is as the novel closes.

As just the first book of The Tainted Realm Trilogy, I am left seriously pondering if book two should be on my reading list when it is slated for release later this year. Thankfully I don’t have to make that decision at this time. However I am inclined to say that I would only pick it up if there is nothing else to read that strikes my fancy when it is indeed released.

I give Ian Irvine’s Vengeance three out of five stars. It was not overly bad, despite its faults. Certainly not among the worst fantasy novels I have ever read. In my opinion however this novel is not for anyone of discriminating tastes in epic fantasy.


Nov 08 2011

Hero, Anti Hero, Other?

Posted by Mathias

A friend who read my short story “Second Chances” tried to engage me in a conversation about whether the protagonist was was more of a heroine or an anti heroine in my mind. I said that she was prototypically neither.

In truth, I said, she exhibits traits of a hero, an anti hero and even a Byronic hero. I find that any of the basic hero archetypes, if used in their true forms, are just too predictable. I like to mix and match the traits of my main characters to make sure they don’t fall into any particular pigeonhole.

In the sense that in the beginning she exhibits none of the traits of a pure hero I don’t think anyone could confuse her for such. If anything, if you push me, I would say she is much more of the anti hero.

I think though that mixing things up leads to much more well rounded and believable characters.