Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

Posted by Simcha 2:44 PM, under | No comments

The Demon Lexicon is a book I probably would have never picked up if I hadn't won it in a contest. I've been rather unimpressed with most of the YA urban fantasy books that I have read recently and the blurb on the back of the book didn't grab me either. But hey- it was free- so I gave it a shot. And I actually found it rather enjoyable.

Nick is the ultimate bad-boy; he's dark, dangerous and can frighten grown men twice his age with just a look. The only person in the world who Nick cares about, and who is not afraid of him, is his brother Alan who practically raised Nick, since their father was busy with task of caring for their unstable mother. And for as long as Nick can remember, their family has been on the run from the magicians who want a certain charm returned to them, one which Nick's mother had stolen many years ago. Nick could care less if the magicians get to his mother, after all, she had never treated him with any kindness. But Alan cares, and for Alan Nick would do anything.

That's why Nick soon finds himself forced to hunt down the magicians that he has always been running from, because it will take the death of two magicians to save his own brother's life, as well as the life of a young boy whom Alan is determined to protect. But in his race to save Alan, Nick discovers a new and unsettling side of his brother which leads him to question his relationship with the one person he had always trusted and loved.

I admit to having enjoyed The Demon's Lexicon more then I had expected to. Alan and Nick are two very strong and compelling protagonists who you come to care for and the complex relationship between the two of them was very well portrayed. Jamie, the boy who Alan insists on saving, is also a very likable character with his self-deprecating personality and funny one-liners. I found his sister, Mae, to be rather irritating though, but she did her part by providing a touch of romance as well as bringing out flashes of Nick's human side.

While the beginning started out strong I felt it got bogged down a bit in the middle with Nick's constant altercations with everyone; proving to everyone how tough he is. That got a little boring. But a little over half way through, the pace quickened and I was easily drawn back into the story which then kept hold of me until the very end. The climax of the story was also satisfying, providing some unexpected revelations and surprises.

I think The Demon's Lexicon is a book that fans of YA fantasy are sure to enjoy though those who don't generally read YA books might not appreciate it quite as much.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Calling it quits with Lord Foul's Bane

Posted by Simcha 3:17 AM, under | 3 comments

After two weeks of trying to make my way through Stephen Donaldson's Lord Foul's Bane I've finally decided to give up. It's just not working out for me. I'm actually very disappointed because the book had seemed so promising, starting out.

A successful author with a beautiful wife and baby is suddenly stricken by leprosy and abandoned by everyone close to him- sounds intriguing, no? And then this character, Thomas Covenant, is hit by a car and ends up in an alternate world where everyone thinks he is the reincarnation of the hero Berek Halfhand and expects him to be capable of a special magic, involving his white gold ring, despite Thomas's continuous denial of any knowledge of magic.

And so Thomas sets out on a journey to the Council of Lords to pass on to them a message that was given to him, upon arrival in the land, by the evil Lord Foul. And this journey is very boring. Even though they do have some adventures along the way, it felt like the story was starting to drag, plus I was getting tired of Thomas's whining and self-pity. And after he committed a particularly despicable act, on page 91, I really couldn't stand him.

Thomas is then transported by boat, on his final leg of the journey, by a giant who likes to tell long rambling stories, and soon afterwards I gave up. I did make it to the end of the boat trip, which for some reason that I didn't quite get was very difficult and treacherous and nearly killed the giant. By now I was halfway through the book and thoroughly bored so I decided to just give up and skip to the end of the book (a decision not made lightly) to find out if Thomas goes back to his world fully healed and confronts his disloyal ex wife and gets back his kid.

Well.....I'm not telling. If you want to know what happens you'll have to either read the book or skip to the end yourself.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Interview with C.L Wilson

Posted by Simcha 1:38 PM, under | 4 comments

To my delight, one of my favorite fantasy authors, C.L Wilson, agreed to take some time from her busy writing schedule for an interview.
C.L Wilson is the best selling author of the romantic fantasy series Tairen Soul. The fourth novel in the Tairen Souls series, Queen of Song and Souls, was just released in October.




Hi Cheryl. Can you start off by telling us a little bit about your latest book, Queen of Song and Souls?


Queen of Song and Souls picks up a couple
of weeks after King of Sword and Sky ends. The new Mage Wars have begun. Rain and Ellysetta discover information about a cataclysmic forthcoming attack, and they race to Celieria City to warn the king and to gather the ancient allies.



Originally, wasn't Queen of Song and Souls supposed to be the concluding book in the series? Why did you extend the series to a fifth book?


Yes, QUEEN was supposed to be the conclusion, but my idea of an epic fantasy novel and my publisher’s idea of an epic fantasy novel differ by about 300 pages per book. Two major subplots that were supposed to happen in KING actually got pushed back to QUEEN due to page considerations, which meant QUEEN was even bigger than I’d planned. After deciding that we absolutely could not cut any of the events from the story, and we absolutely could not extend the page count due to publishing considerations, my editor and I concluded that splitting the book in two was really the only viable option.


It wasn’t an easy decision, nor one I made lightly. In fact, I fought against it
until I knew there was no other choice. I don’t’ like splitting books. I like my character arcs and story arcs to go as I planned. But in this case, my choices were (a) rush the ending, shortchange the readers and discard half of everything I’ve been building towards for four years…OR, (b) cut the book in two. I chose option B. That makes QUEEN more of a “bridging book” than a standalone episode of the series, but I hope most readers will enjoy it nonetheless.



Do you find yourself reluctant to finish the series, and part with the characters, after working on the books for so many years?


Actually, I’m looking forward to moving on. I’ve spent the better part of the last 10 years with these characters and this story, and I’m ready for a change. I’ve got several projects waiting in the wings that I’m chomping at the bit to get started on.


Can you tell me more about these projects?

My next projects are WINTER KING, then Bel and Gaelen’s stories. Other projects except those are still “secrets” as I haven’t contracted for them yet.



That's great! I'd love to read more about Bel and Gaelen and I'm really glad that you will be returning to the world of Ellysetta and Rain even after the Tairen Soul series is over.


When you start writing a series, do you have the whole story planned out or does the story unfold for you as you are writing it?


I know basic character and story arcs. I know the GMC (goals, motivations, and conflicts) of all my main characters. I know the 4 major turning points of the external plot. Then I dive in and set out on the same journey of discovery as my characters. It’s the only way I can write. If I know everything, I’m bored and disinterested long before I reach the end of the book. I need the surprises to keep me going, to keep me excited about a book.



Does creating a unique world of fantasy and magic require a lot of planning and research or is just a matter of using your imagination and writing down whatever you come up with?


A certain level of believability is required for any world. I created time lines, historical events, magic systems, etc.. I drew upon my own imagination combined with a broad background in history, myths and fairy tales, cultural anthropology, and other interests. (I’ve always loved “world building” since I was a child, and my interests reflect that) Vadim Maur’s “Army of Darkness” for instance, is loosely based on historical acts of Xerxes’ great army.


I do have to document everything I reference in the book, and I keep that “encyclopedia of the Fading Lands” current with every book. Things I’ve committed in print get annotated with book and page references to help keep me from contradicting myself in later books.


Some elements of the world required fairly extensive research – such as travel times by horse, carriage, foot, over various terrains. Tairen back travel times I calculated using documented bird flight speeds. Fey running speeds, I calculated based on actual human sprinting speeds, which I then enhancing using a formula similar to what you find when comparing real life jogging vs. sprinting. I keep a very careful account of all locations and distances in my world. I’ve also made an effort to keep geographical detail realistic.



Skillfully developing a romance between two characters in a book seems like it can be tricky. How do you go about doing this so successfully?


Th
ough I possess a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a concentration in Creative Writing (which provided me a basis for “literary” fiction writing), the bulk of my training in has been in the field of genre fiction. Apart from basic craft, which I’ve absorbed from every available source (Writer’s Digest, books on writing books, etc.), most of my genre fiction training came via RWA (Romance Writers of America – www.rwanational.org). So developing the romantic relationship is their primary focus, and the topic of countless workshops I’ve attended over the years.



I don’t believe writing a good romance is easy—no easier than building a good marriage. The ups and downs, the give and take, the conflicts and compromises—those conflicts between two people falling in love and building a life together can be intense. They are always emotional and personal and challenging to the people involved. For me, the conflicts are usually about making choices driven by love, or choices driven by fear (or self-interest, which usually boils down to a type of fear).



What aspects of writing a book do you find the most challenging and which are the most satisfying?


For me, filling a blank page is always the most challenging part of writing a book—and also the most satisfying. I live by the mantra of the Little Engine That Could – I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. And as I near the end of a book, when I can see the end is near, then I tell myself I know I can! I know I can! I know I can!


It doesn’t get any easier. Every blank page is a daunting mountain to climb, and I always have to start at the bottom and work my way to the top. But I keep trying different things, trying to improve my process and make the miracle of creation easier.



Do you find that the media you are exposed to, such as books, movies and TV, during the period that you are working on a book influences the book that you are writing?


I think to some extent they must. All artists are sponges. We absorb the world around us, and every input affects our vision, our understanding of the world, what we have to say. I tend to find music that has the same “feel” as whatever book or scene I’m working on and use that as a creativity booster/mood enhancer. (for instance, I totally cannot write a battle scene to a lighthearted ditty). If I’m stuck, I might also go watch movies that have similar conflicts or situations as what I’m writing on, analyze the conflicts and how they were handled and use that as a brainstorming vehicle to jump start my own creativity.


I’m a very visual writer--part of my art background, I suppose. I see the scenes of my books play out like movies and I write what I see. I do try to be careful about gorging on visual inputs (movies, tv, etc) that are too similar to what I’m writing because I don’t want those images to have an exaggerated influence on my own. Having said that, I like design, costuming, calligraphy, etc., so I will often turn to my love of art for influence—I might examine, for instance, dozens of books about historical armor and weaponry, and try to find elements from historical sources that I can incorporate into my own designs. I also look to nature, and world cultures for design ideas.


History and current events are rich sources for conflicts, military strategy, etc.



So was there anything specific that influenced you while you were writing Queen of Song and Souls?

The complete recordings from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was and remains a mainstay of my writing this series. The music is so evocative. In the beginning of the year, I also began listening to a variety of “Brain Synch” CD’s to improve focus while writing and to facilitate meditation before writing.



What books are you currently reading?


I’m currently reading Dark Legacy, by Anna DeStephano, and Darkness Rising by Elissa Wilds. I’m also reading Fire, by Kristin Cashore, and can’t wait to get started on Anne Bishop’s new The Shadow Queen.


Which is your favorite literary romantic couple?

Well, I adore Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy (who doesn’t?). But I also love Sebastian and Jess from Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels, Shea and Jacques from Christine Feehan’s Dark Desire, Derek and Sarah from Lisa Kleypas’s Dreaming of You.

This month is National Novel Writing Month and thousands of aspiring novelists are attempting to write a novel within thirty days. What advice would you give to these writers?


Don’t try to write perfect scenes. Just write what you know – what interests you most. You can flesh out scenes and revise later! Make notes to yourself – either in the manuscript or on a note pad of things you want to be sure to add.


Try “Write or Die” software from Dr. Wicked’s Writing Labs. I’m loving it!



Thanks so much Cheryl for taking the time to do this interview with us.




For more information about C.L Wilson stop off at her website and take a look at some of her other interviews:


Interview by Tampa Books Examiner

Interview by Scifi Fan Letter

Interview by AAR After Hours


You can also read my review of Lord of the Fading Lands, the first book in the Tairen Soul series, here

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