Painting a vivid picture in the mind of a reader within the first few pages of a historical novel is a vital skill. Certain people will pick up and buy a book just from the title or because they are familiar with the author's previous work. Yet writers also rely on those who have never read any of their work to buy their books.
Is it any surprise that James Rollins was chosen to write the novelization of the last Indiana Jones novel? His Sigma Force novels are like modern-day Indiana Jones stories. I am enjoying reading them with their extrapolation of historical events.
The Black Order is the third in the Sigma Force series. It begins with storylines in Copenhagen, Denmark; the Himalayan Mountains and South Africa. In Denmark, Gray Pierce is attending a book auction for a Bible that once belonged to Charles Darwin that winds up sending him running for his life. High in the Himalayan Mountains a monastery of monks is slaughtered and Painter Crowe, the director of Sigma Force, is left with a disease that is slowly debilitating him. And on a game reserve in Africa, mysterious creatures are hunting and slaughtering people.
As Sigma Force begins the race to save Crowe’s life, they uncover a plan started by the Nazis that had been thought long lost or destroyed at the end of the war.
Rollins’ books are always interesting and a fun romp with lots of adventure.
There were a lot of books that I HAD to read in high school and college that I really didn’t like. I once read an article that supposed that the only reason that some books stay in print is because they are embraced by academia who then make their students purchase and read them. I believe it. So when my high school English teacher had us read To Kill a Mockingbird, I was less than enthusiastic. However, I loved it and then I saw the movie and loved it, too.
So I was very dismayed to read that Harper Lee is suing her agent, who she said tricked her into signing away her rights to her story. Though there are two sides to every story, the fact that an agent would even propose such an agreement smells of sleaze.
Though the incident took place 7 years ago, the lawsuit was only filed in past few weeks. The jist of the suit is that Samuel Pinkus, the son-in-law of her long-time literary agent, took advantage of Lee’s poor hearing and bad eyesight seven to get her to assign the book’s copyright to him. This means that the money that Lee earns from this classic novel now goes to Pinkus rather than Lee.
I think what disturbs me the most is that I know, as a writer, how much blood, sweat and tears go into writing a novel. On top of that, the author only gets a small percentage of the sales price of the book already. The rest goes to the publisher, agent and publicity. So then for an unscrupulous agent to come along and take even that small percentage away from the person who created the work just irks me.
I hope Lee gets back all of the money she lost and then some!
Read about the lawsuit here.
Wow! It’s hard to believe that this series has ended (or has it? We are talking about the Wheel of Time after all.) A Memory of Light is the 14th and last book in The Wheel of Time series (15 books if you count the prequel novel). The first volume came out nearly 25 years ago, though I didn’t start reading the series until the 5th book was out. Each book has been the size of 2-3 regular novels so I’ve done a lot of reading following all of the stories that have developed.
A Memory of Light wraps all of those storylines up as the book is all about the Last Battle, the fight between light and dark and the survival of the world. I was surprised at some of the casualties and survivors of the Last Battle. I won’t spoil the story by saying who lives and dies.
The Last Battle is being fought on 5 fronts, though Rand al Thor’s battle inside the mountain where the Dark One is imprisoned is the key battle.
All of the mysteries of the series are resolved, though I was a little let down with how the book ended. I’m still not sure if it’s because of the ending or the let down that a series I’ve enjoyed for so many years had ended.
The Wheel of Time series is EPIC fantasy. Robert Jordan created a rich world filled with at least a dozen different cultures that were developed over the course of the story, each with its own tradition and history. The characters had different personalities and motivations. At times, I would find myself liking one more than another, but then things easily shifted. Not all of the books in the series were fantastic, but the series as a whole was.
A Memory of Light is definintely not a book you can simply read on its own. However, if you want to read an interesting and exciting fantasy series, start with the prequel, New Spring: The Novel. It was written well after the series began, but you might as well start at the beginning. (It’s also the shortest book in the series so it won’t be as intimidating.)
While I am a big fan of Brandon Sanderson, I only wish that Robert Jordan had lived long enough to finish the epic he created.
Think of the last time or two when you were deciding whether or not to invest your limited hours in reading a particular historical novel by an unfamiliar author. You may have initially been attracted by an enticing cover but you likely soon read at least part of the dust jacket summary and the endorsements from other writers.
Quite soon you probably sampled the actual writing, perhaps on the first pages of the story.
What is the author's role in the age of digital disruption? Will authors who treat books as start-ups be the agents of disruption, or will they be subjected to the whims of this disruption?
Authors Guild president Scott Turow thinks change in the industry will hurt authors in the long run. In his New York Times article "The Slow Death of the American Author,"
It’s always nice when you can start out writing a story from your outline and the words flow quickly onto the page. Too bad that doesn’t often (if at all) happen. However, I can usually tweak things as I go along and then smooth out the rough edges of a book in later drafts.
That hasn’t been the case with the latest historical novel I’m working on. It’s the third book in a series and it looks like it will vex me as much as the first book did. So I’ve taken a lesson that I learned in writing the first book to help me with this one.
When I was writing Canawlers 13 years ago, things went pretty well until about the middle of the book. I was still following the outline I had prepared, but the story just didn’t seem right. It held together logically, but things stopped feeling natural about the way the characters were acting. So I sat down with the outline and partial draft and storyboarded the novel. I wrote down each event on postcards and laid them out on my floor. Then I started shuffling some of the events around, rewriting others, tossing a few. In essence, I was creating a new outline.
I had a better feeling about this revision, but it was still missing something. I finally wound up killing off a main character who had lived through the original outline. It was a hard choice, but his death opened up some other opportunities for other characters.
Completing the first draft based on the new outline turned out to be fairly easy. However, if I had continued writing the draft based on the first outline, I would have had to throw most of it away. The changes I made to the outline were so significant, that they affected not only how the story went forward, but everything I had written to that point.
I’m a big believer in writing your way through writer’s block and then fixing later. Sometimes it just doesn’t work, though. You have to be willing to go back to the drawing board and look at your outline with a little more experience. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find the changes I need to make with this new book so that it starts moving forward rather than wallowing around looking for direction.
I’m not sure why I finally decided to read The Black Prism by Brent Weeks, but I’m glad I did. I think I kept seeing it at the bottom of the Amazon pages of other authors that I liked and finally decided to buy it.
Even though this is the first book in a new epic fantasy series, there’s a lot of back story that you learn over the course of the book that give the characters a lot or richness.
In the world of The Black Prism, color is the basis of magic. Gavin is the Prism because he has the ability to harness that magic that comes from all colors unlike most of the people who have magic. They can control only one or two colors.
Gavin learns he has a bastard son in a far land where he fought during a war with his brother. Gavin never knew the boy existed, not because he left the boy’s mother the next morning, but because Gavin is actually impersonating his brother. He fears that the boy could be the beginning of unraveling the secret that he has tried to keep for so many years.
Besides having an interesting magic system and world, the book has plenty of action, likeable characters, mystery, romance and politics.
I liked that I couldn’t see everything that was coming. Enough of the story was wrapped up and enough left open for the next books.
So, as if I didn’t have enough books in my “to read” pile, I’m now going to be adding Brent Weeks books.
I miss teaching classes about writing. I used to teach one or two non-credit continuing education courses a semester at my local community college. It was a lot of fun to talk to enthusiastic writers about their projects and help them refine their books, articles, etc. and get them ready for publication.
However, the college gutted much of its continuing education department because of budget cuts and so I haven’t had the opportunity to do any teaching since then. I’ve given talks, but they were about the subjects of my books rather than the writing process.
That may soon change. I had a good meeting with a representative at my local arts council today who is interested in having me teach some classes there. With luck, I’ll be working with burgeoning writers before too long. The representative seemed excited about some of my class ideas. The next step is for me to send her course outlines to look at to make sure they’ll fit with her goals.
So keep your fingers crossed.
I’ve been really struggling to switch gears from writing nonfiction to fiction lately. I can’t tell you why. All I can say is that it has really been frustrating. I sit down to work on a historical novel that is my current project and it’s a struggle. Plus, I’m usually not happy with the way what I do write sounds.
Has anyone else ever hit a similar type of writer’s block? I’d be curious to know how you tackled it.
I started by setting a goal of 500 new words a day. I figured that it wasn’t a lot of new fiction to produce and that once I had something written down, it would be easier to edit it. So far, it seems to be work. I’m finding it easier and easier to hit my goal. In another week, I may up my daily goal to 1,000 words a day.
I’m doing a lot more editing with what I’m writing, too. I would like to think it’s because I’ve become a better self-editor and not because what I’m writing is dreck. Still, this is what editing is for: to polish dreck until it becomes a diamond.