The Fleet of Sinsai draws near

Over the last few months my posting has been less frequent than usual. In that time I have been receiving a wealth of great feedback on books one and two of the Valerious Chronicles. I stand humbled by the response I have had for my first books and can only hope that the last book in the trilogy will live up to the hopes of my fans.

The good news is that there is not long to go. Some of my beta-readers have already finished reading and I will be compiling their feedback soon. The others will be completing their work over March and then the final round of editing begins. I am hoping to have the Fleet of Sinsai released late May early June and can’t wait to celebrate once the trilogy is complete.

Stay tuned for more updates in the coming weeks and thank you for reading!

Update on ‘The Fleet of Sinsai’

FOS alternate cover

It has been a while since I’ve posted on my blog. Rest assured this is only good news for those awaiting the conclusion to the Valerious Chronicles. The last few months have been hectic, but progress has been better than I thought. I am writing the final act of book 3, with five chapters to go.

My initial editing has already begun and Beta reading will commence in Jan/Feb. At this stage I plan to have the final book released In May 2015. The champagne is already in the fridge!

So far I am excited with how The Fleet of Sinsai is shaping up. The last novel in a trilogy is the most difficult, as I need to bring everything together whilst keeping an exciting pace and good narrative flow.

With Christmas rapidly approaching I am looking forward to catching up on my reading. I’m halfway through Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb at the moment and looking to pick up some Brandon Sanderson soon.

Wish everyone a fantastic holiday period full of good food, company and above all good books.

My Top Picks – Part One

What are my biggest influences? There are too many to cover in one post. So over the next few weeks I will be covering off on some of the key books, movies, music and shows that have influenced me, not only as a writer, but as a person.

 

The Lord of the Rings:

I will begin with the most obvious of choices. This covers both the books and the movies. I am not sorry to admit that I did not read the novels until after I’d already seen the first movie. Prior to that most of the fantasy novels I read were written by authors like Feist, Eddings and Weis and Hickman. But after watching Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring I found a new obsession.

To me the trilogy of movies summarise the Fantasy genre. It is a visual delight with set pieces and landscapes that make you wish you were born a hobbit. You have heroes and villains, elves, orcs and dwarves, battles, magic and political drama. In every sense it covers the things that make so many fantasy works what they are. The names are amazing, the characters strong. The story is one of good and evil with human drama and emotion the real focus. There is so much to learn from it.

Were it not for the movies it would have been many more years before I read the actual books. And, had that been the case, it would have been a lot longer before I decided to become a writer. But thankfully I picked up the trilogy and never looked back.

Many argue about how exciting the Lord of the Rings trilogy is. I love the books, but even I admit that there are parts where you feel like you are scraping nails against a blackboard. However I look at it as a foundation from which so much modern fantasy came. There are plenty of books which are better, but would those authors have been able to write those books without the inspiration and grounding that Tolkien provided? I don’t believe so.

Thus I attribute much of my desire to write epic fantasy to the Lord of the Rings. The writing is in every sense magical. There are lines from the books and films that make the hairs on my body prickle when I hear them. Scenes in the movies stir emotions in me that real world events fail to. I listen to the soundtracks when I write, for they throw images of Rivendell, Lothlorien and Minas Tirith into my mind. I can’t explain why, but I feel I have more of my own emotions invested in middle earth than in our earth. And I don’t regret it one bit.

 

Remember the Titans:

From an obvious choice to one less so. Everyone loves a good triumph over adversity story. Sport is one of the best mediums for it. I watched the mighty ducks and cool runnings as a kid. Practically everyone my age did. But the one movie that has stuck with me is Remember the Titans. I consider the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars to be outside of the normal catalogue of movies. They are an enigma of nerd royalty which would always win a competition for best movie. As such, taking them out of the running, I would name Titan’s my favourite movie of all time. It’s a big call, I know.

I have watched this movie countless times now. Every single time I am amazed at how much of an emotional rollercoaster it is for me. I swing from laughing, to shaking my head, to almost fist pumping in ecstasy as the movie plays out. At one point I almost struggle to hold back tears alongside the two main characters. Every time! For a movie to captivate me like that, it is doing something very right.

I have taken a lot from this movie with me in my journey to become a writer. The drama in my writing is heavily influenced by the character interactions in Remember the Titans. The varied cast of characters, though in many ways following established tropes, reminds me of what the right mix of personalities is. When I seek to place humour into my work I often think back to the lines in this movie which crack me up every time.

Most of all I am reminded that sometimes all you really need is an inspirational ending. I won’t necessarily put an inspirational ending in my own writing. But as soon as the credits roll on this movie I feel the desire to get to my keyboard and start typing. And the value of that can never be played down.

Stay tuned for more over the coming weeks.

20 quick tips for writers

Writers can never get enough tips and advice from their peers. In an effort to give back from my own experiences here is a list of 20 things I’ve learnt.

1)      If you don’t enjoy writing, stop and look for a new job/hobby.

2)      You will always look back and think that you can improve what you’ve already written.

3)      When selling books to strangers, Book covers are more important than your blurb and often more important than your story.

4)      Anyone who says ‘write everyday’ obviously hasn’t got a full time job and a family.

5)      That being said, write when you can, as often as you can. Even if it is only 200 words.

6)      Your back, neck, hands and arms will suffer. Maintain posture and take breaks!

7)      Don’t write what you think will sell, write what you WANT to write. Otherwise it will be rubbish.

8)      You are way more excited about your writing than your friends and family. Remember not to talk about it all the time.

9)      If someone is helping you with reading/editing make sure you really show them how much you appreciate it.

10)   There is nothing wrong with tropes and clichés as long as what you write is entertaining.

11)   Finishing a story is hard. Every time you do, pop a bottle of champagne to celebrate.

12)   Some people plan, some people write as it comes to them. Neither approach is wrong or right.

13)   Grammar is incredibly important. Don’t trust your spellchecker.

14)   Writing can be isolating. Make sure you step outside into the real world just as much as you step into your imagination.

15)   Reading for enjoyment is one of the most important tasks for someone who intends to write what others will enjoy.

16)   Set yourself small goals. My first goal was to get 1 single person I didn’t know to read my work. So far I’m doing alright!

17)   Even with a lot of hard work, it’s tough to make a living out of writing. But never give up.

18)   It is very easy for us to become overly critical. Be careful in how you judge the writing of others.

19)   Google really is your friend.

20)   Stop to smell the roses every once and a while. Then get back to the keyboard, you’ve got writing to do!

Remember the most important piece of advice, don’t take someone else’s opinions, tips or advice as gospel. Different things work for different people and different people have different tastes. Find your own happy spot and just don’t forget to never stop learning.

Writing is complete

English: This photo shows a bouquet of six lat...

English: This photo shows a bouquet of six latex and one foil balloon arranged into a “stacked layer” style bouquet. The foil balloon has the word “Congrats” written on it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I finished the preliminary writing for book two in the Valerious Chronicles this morning.

Time for a drink!

Now we move on to editing. How I dread thee.

Stay tuned for more updates.

 

Review: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

Cover of "The Blade Itself (First Law)"

Cover of The Blade Itself (First Law)

Say one thing about Joe Abercrombie, say he is a master of modern fantasy. I will be honest I have not had the chance to read a great deal of new fantasy. I am still working my way through piles of the classics. But having read ‘The Blade Itself’, I now realise I need to pay more attention to the new wave of fantasy authors.

Abercrombie’s writing is absolutely stand out. It is fluid and gripping, with a terrific use of both modern and old vernacular to truly paint a picture in your mind. Often I took a moment to re-read one of his metaphors or quirky descriptive phrases because they were that good! I found myself thinking, ‘God what a brilliant way to describe that.’, something I don’t do that often when I’m reading. The book is full of curse words you rarely see in fantasy writing and I sincerely believe that if used properly they really add to the story. They provide a gritty realism to the world often missed by traditional fantasy authors. So hat’s off to Joe for changing the way I think about my own writing.

The true strength in ‘The Blade Itself’ is the diversity and sincerity in its characters. Few books have twisted and uncouth characters as the main protagonists. Sure there are some great examples, but this has got to be up there as one of them now. Every POV character is flawed. But not flawed simply to have a flawed character, flawed in a real sense. Each character is utterly believable, which in a fantasy setting is not always possible.

They are selfish, frightened, mean, arrogant, and deplorable at times, loveable at others. From start to finish you are wondering whether you should be cheering for a character or hoping they plunge into an endless chasm. If Tolkien had his Fellowship of the Ring, Abercrombie has his Band of Merry Misfits.

And that is what the book seems to boil down to. I haven’t started the rest of the First Law trilogy, and do not want to give away big spoilers, but this book is a tale of gatherings. Whilst most first books in a trilogy culminate in a disaster or reveal a large looming catastrophe, this one only hints at a larger issue, but really focusses on getting the characters together. I found it unusual to flick over the last page and think to myself, ‘I don’t really know where this is going, and don’t know whose side I should be one.’ But damn, I can’t wait to read more.

There were no particular scenes that jumped out to me. If you ask me what was your favourite bit? I find it hard to pinpoint any particular event. Yet the whole thing kept me turning page after page. And there is no truer sign of a good book. If you like hard edged fantasy, go buy this book!

Rating 4.5/5

Giving up on a book

English: Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade...

English: Stack of books in Gould’s Book Arcade, Newtown, New South Wales (NSW), Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t know why, but I feel a little dirty when I give up on a book. Recently I finally picked up my second hand copy of Dune and tried to read it. I got about a third of the way through and then couldn’t bring myself to keep going. This is supposed to be one of the masterpieces, one of the must reads of the genre. Yet I was bored. Don’t get me wrong, I can see its merit, and understand why it is a classic. but I decided that I only have one lifetime to get through my unimaginably high reading pile.

A few weeks later I still feel like I cheated on my high school exams. Why? It’s not like Frank Herbert is going to be at my next office party, leading to that whole awkward, “Oh yeah, still haven’t quite finished your book.” conversation. Well if he did show up it would be a sure sign of the Zombie apocalypse anyhow.

I know that this is a common theme with some of the classics out there. Writing changes over time and oft you can read a book from a few decades ago and feel like a drill is slowly twisting into your eyeballs. This is an inevitable thing (Not the drilling…the changing writing styles). I always use Shakespeare as an example. Most people have to study his works to really appreciate them. I myself never studied a lot of it and get lost in his works. However he will always be a master of the art.

At times I have powered through a book I did not want to read and regretted it at the end. So what is the best thing to do? Keep reading and hope that at some point the light bulb turns on and you see what it is that you have been missing this whole time. Or move on to the next book and pat yourself on the back for giving it a try.

What books have other people struggled to get through?

Writing, Editing, Writing, Editing – What works for you?

Painting The Writing Master by Thomas Eakins

Painting The Writing Master by Thomas Eakins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whilst the motivation is high I have been able to get a significant amount of writing done on book two of my series. The fantastic response I have had to the first book has inspired me to write like I have never written before.

 

RSI, back pain, eye strain and general madness aside, the last few months have been amongst the most productive ever. And it made me think about what has changed. Firstly my approach to writing shifted from sitting down in one or two big sessions a week and grinding out pages and pages. I have moved to short bursts, 2-4 hours at a time of writing, over a number of nights.

 

The results are significant. I am finding less writer’s block and much more thought out words hitting the page (screen). I have also adopted the ‘get something out and fix it later’ motto. In the past, I would waste time finding the exact word I was after or the perfect phrasing. I have found that by just using the first word that comes to mind, I am much more likely to find the right word with ease the next time I read over what I have written. This has dramatically increased my output.

 

I would be interested to hear what other writers are doing that works for them.

 

Drowning in a sea of books!

Bookshelves

Bookshelves (Photo credit: gpoo)

In the past weeks I have heard so many fantastic quotes/sayings about books that I am forced to share a few.

 

“No two persons ever read the same book”

 

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, the man who never reads only lives one.”

 

“There are worse crimes than burning books and one of them is not reading them.

 

“I was born with a reading list I will never finish.”

 

“Books fall open, you fall in.”

 

And if you did not get a chance to read this amazing speech from Neil Gaiman about reading and libraries then make sure you take the time.

 

Dawn of the Valiant is published!

Dawn of the valiant front cover

Every so often a book comes around that will keep you reading until the early hours of the morning. A book that makes you forget your grandma’s birthday. A book that grips you so tightly that you fail to feed the dog or pick the kids up from school.

Is this one of those books? Maybe…maybe not. But do you really want to take the chance that it isn’t!

The first novel in the Valerious Chronicles is now published and available for sale. I urge all lovers of Fantasy and Adventure to sample it and let themselves be taken away to a world full of magic, conflict and characters that will sing from the pages. It is a tale of swords and comradery , where the lines of good and bad are thin, and gods and men struggle in an eternal race for power.

You can find Dawn of the Valiant at the following retailers. Sample a copy for free and most importantly enjoy.

Amazon – Kindle eBook

Smashwords – Multi format eBook