#CampNaNoWriMo July 2016: Day 21

CNW_Participant

Word Count: 13,275 words

So a little behind still but I have pulled back a lot so it’s not too bad.

My FMC got her sister off home, got some work done before running out to post it. It was whilst she was out posting that she discovered the slave she had protected the previous day just dumped in a bin in a bag. She got him to a volunteer/charity medical centre for slaves and discovers that MMC2 volunteers there. Once she had handed the slave to the medical staff, she got talking with MMC2 and discovers that he is actually the landlord of the pub. My FMC is also starting to like him even more as a friend than the acquaintance they had been in the past. That’s good as it plays into the love triangle thing.

After checking in on the slave, my FMC went home, slept and answering messages she had received. She also spent time musing on the differences between the country that this story takes place and the one that another set of stories I write. Both countries are apart of the same country so this is high fantasy combined with urban fantasy. Bit odd but it works right? Am I alone here?

As for what comes next, I am thinking I need to bring MMC1 back into the story so that will be today’s task I suspect. How are things going for you? Good? Bad? Hope you are still having fun.

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Life Takes Charge

Sorry for not posting much lately! I am not ignoring this blog or abandoning it. Life has got in the away once more. My job search has had to take a priority as well as a few other personal issues, not through my own personal choice, and it has meant certain things have had to suffer, such as this blog and my own personal writing. I am trying to re-address that balance but it may take a little time. I am determined though that NaNoWriMo will not suffer; that it will generate blog posts and, in turn, get this blog active again.

Just because I haven’t been posting does not mean I have run dry on article ideas. I have toyed with the idea of writing a post on the use of schools as settings and plot devices in books, why they are such a common setting at least and why there is not actually that much in the way of having colleges or universities as setting in books or even any focus on teachers as main characters. At least, in my experience, I have not actually come across any book with these elements. Film and TV, yes. Books, no. If you have any insights on any of these issues, I would love to hear from you.

My job search may yet generate blog posts as well as I am contemplating becoming a freelance writer and becoming self-employed. Again, if anyone can offer any help on this front in any shape or form, I would be grateful as it is a scary prospect for me but I think it would suit me to the ground. It is still very early days and life may yet decide that my path leads elsewhere but it is something to at least being having a think about.

I am trying to read where I can too but, as you might have guessed, that has taken a hit too. I recently managed to finally get my hands on the latest Benedict Jacka book, Hidden, so will be trying to read that as fast as I can so I can get a review up here as soon as possible. I am also re-reading Steven Harper’s Writing the Paranormal Novel, partly for help as I edit and rewrite a novel but also to try to get me back in the writing frame of mind so I can get more writing done than I have done.

So sorry again, I am not abandoning the blog and I am aiming to get this blog more active. Thank you guys!

Three rules for naming your fantasy world

Writers of fantasy, particularly high fantasy, should definitely have a read of this.

Matthew Wright

In my mis-spent early twenties, a friend and I created a fantasy world map for our RPG sessions.

I had to share this pic, taken by She Who Must Be Obeyed. We end up in some interesting places, sometimes. Just in case anybody googles "Stockton Mine". To build a world, start by wearing a hard hat (like mine).

Yes, I played Dungeons and Dragons – and later a game we invented ourselves to get around the sillier D&D ideas. The world was designed around what we might call the ‘rule of funny’, with place names made up mostly of bad puns and motorcycle parts manufacturers. This meant we had waters such as the Greg Lake, next door to rolling hills such as the Sinfields. And there was the Hergest Ridge – though we didn’t have the Old Fields. We also riffed on Tolkien’s unfortunate habit of ending place names with ‘-dor’. You know… Backdor. Frontdor. Dianador. Groan.

That does raise a point for those of us engaged in (more serious) fantasy world-building. Place names gotta be credible. Tolkien, inevitably, set…

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Book Review: Lockwood & Co., The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

Yes! It is my first book review in a while!

Image: GoodSearch/Wikipedia

Lucy Carlyle is the newest Agent to join the most ramshackle psychical agency in London. Charged with dealing with the Problem that has plagued an alternative Britain for the past 50 years, she finds herself working with the mysterious Anthony Lockwood and the annoying, rotund George Cubbins to uncover the answer to a decades old murder case and a mysterious screaming staircase in the most haunted house in Britain! Two big cases for an agency that struggles with the most routine of cases…

This book is a fresh take on the urban fantasy genre for children. Whilst still centred on London, the reader is drawn in through the first person narration of Lucy Carlyle to learn about this alternative universe (AU) Britain where ghost hauntings have been increasing for 50 years and children with special Talents (Listening, Sight and Touch) join and train with psychical agencies to vanquish hauntings for people. The novel is split into four parts and does rely on the reader being willing to flip back and forth from the story, to the glossary at the end and back again or having at least a common knowledge base to understand the book. There are two distinct story lines in the book that are satisfactory tied up at the end.

Stroud also seems to be trying to hook readers into the series for the long haul. This book, the first of a series, has some small sub plots that Stroud appears to be setting up ready to be dealt with over the course of a series, particularly revolving around Lockwood and his past. The ending of the book also tries to hook the reader in with a new plot line linking directly to some character develops with Lucy to make sure they read the next book to find out more. This has certainly worked as I have already started looking to getting the next book when I can.

Unfortunately, I am not sure introducing new plot points at the end was a good idea. I will grant Stroud is an established author (he has already found success with the Bartimaeus series) so can probably get away with breaking the rule that says don’t introduce new plots or characters towards the end of the story but I feel that in this instance, it was completely unnecessary and would probably have been better placed nearer the start when set up with Lockwood started.

I have previous mentioned that the book requires a reader willing to either be flipping back and forth between the story and the glossary or have a common knowledge base on ghost hunting and this is something else I have a problem with. It is very hard to initially get into the book because the reader is constantly having to break the suspension of disbelief to look up terms. This could lead to readers potentially abandoning the book before getting to part two of the book where background information, about Lucy, the AU Britain and many other things are explained. This makes the story very badly organised in my view and possibly broken back. The first part is probably Stroud’s attempt to draw the reader in right from the start but I don’t believe it has worked as well as maybe he wanted.

This makes my concerns about having another series of Urban Fantasy books set in London rather redundant.

The Screaming Staircase is a wonderful start to a new series and is very different from other books on the market for both children’s and adults. It draws on the traditions of the genre whilst adding a new twist and encouraging readers to keep reading. I have no doubt that Stroud will continue to deliver interesting novels, develop the characters as they get older and, hopefully, will develop the world it is set in. A series to watch I think.

Book Review: Writing the Paranormal Novel by Steven Harper

So as well as reading the Auto-Correct book, I have read this book.

Writing the Paranormal Novel is about exactly that, writing a paranormal novel. This book does focus mostly on Urban Fantasy and covers everything includes what makes a novel a paranormal or fantasy novels, working out what magical elements are going to be in the work, if the paranormal elements are secret in the world or in the public domain and if the magic is persecuted or dominates lives, magical culture, research, whether to have clichés  keeping the magic/paranormal real, plotting, fight scenes, dialogue and a whole section on getting published.

This book was the first one I ever bought on Kindle and so far, it is proving to be some of the best money I have spent. Written in a way that is easy to understand without condescending, it provides excellent information on world and character building and gets a writer (often addressed as you and yours in the book) to think about the things that they may not have considered before, such as about the economy of the magical world and fight scenes, especially if you have characters like werewolves. It also covers the use of clichés and how to craft and handle those when creating the magical creatures in the novel. Whilst some of the information is available in other how to write books, this is completely focused on the paranormal novel and crafting the elements in that book. It also looks at the idea of story arcs, in books and across series as well as general plotting.

This book definitely covers everything possible and is all-encompassing, which I have not found with any other how to book I have read or looked at. I am trying to think of anything negative with this book and finding nothing to say. I know, I know. It sounds bad to say, I know, but it is the honest truth.

I could not recommend this book highly enough as a must have and must read for anyone wanting to write paranormal stories (short stories or novels). It is certainly a reason I keep my Kindle nearby when writing so I can dip in sometimes to find what I need when I need help.

Book Review: Cursed by Benedict Jacka

Cursed by Benedict Jacka is the second book in the adventures of chance mage, Alex Verus.

This time he is trying to train Luna as his apprentice, run his store in Camden and dealing with some weird and wonderful (and sometimes nuisance!) customers who can’t seem to take a hint, avoid the mages he managed to upset in his last adventure and dodge assassins who would like to kill him. Nothing different there until that is, he gets asked to consult on an investigation into the death of a magical creature which turns out to have been killed by anything but normal methods. To add to his problems, someone takes an item called the Monkey’s Paw (a twisted genie in the lamp wish granting item) and his front window is smashed when a creature created by a mage comes flying in to kill a woman who has just rushed in asking for help!

This might seem like a lot of different story lines to have in one book but Jacka manages to deal with them all (and a couple more) very well and they all lead into one another and combine to become a very interesting and readable book. I particularly enjoyed the dynamic between Luna and Alex as he tries to train her and the fact that, for a short while, Alex seems to be in a sort of love triangle. Jacka also expands his world very slightly to include magical creatures and new terms for organisations (if you will) of dark and light mages and how the mages all get along, such as agreements and a ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine’ deals economy.

Problem I had with this book though is that it felt like Jacka was recycling the format he had in the first book. The meeting and setting up of agreements and alliances between mages, the use of Elsewhere in the same place, the battle in one place then another, the arrival at the Big Bad‘s home for part of the book…

Of course, if it isn’t broke, don’t break it but surely you would mix it up some? Why have Alex go through the same set of events, just to a different storyline? The battles in this book doesn’t seem as good as in the first and there seems to be a large focus on Alex using guns instead of his magic and wit and brain to fight. This book definitely seems to fall into the second book slump territory which is a shame as he has a brilliant concept and a different spin on the urban fantasy concept. I hope this is not a sign of things to come for the third book (which I have lined up ready to read) but there does seem to be an indication that things will improve and the format change, especially as the master/apprentice relationship looks set to make things new and interesting. Other concepts are ready to be introduced and maybe this will improve the next book.