Annotated Excerpt: GREENSMITH by Aliya Whiteley (Unsung Stories)

WhiteleyA-GreensmithHi! Thanks for asking me to annotate part of Greensmith. It’s an interesting business, to revisit the writing later and see what I can remember of the process. To be honest, I don’t know how much of this was a series of conscious decisions at the time. I remember I struggled with some aspects of this book, particularly where it was heavily plot-driven, but all that struggle seems to have been on the inside, and not on the page, if that makes sense. I was relieved to find I enjoyed reading it back and seeing it again.

When it came to choosing part of Greensmith to look back over with a critical eye, I found myself drawn to this key moment in the early chapters. It’s the gateway chapter. It makes the leap from the initial hard work of establishing character and motivation to being free to run with the plot, travelling all over the universe in this case, with the reader along for the ride. Continue reading

Excerpt: EVEN IF WE BREAK by Marieke Nijkamp (Source Books)

NijkampM-EvenIfWeBreakToday, we have an excerpt from Marieke Nijkamp’s latest novel, Even If We Break. First, here’s the synopsis:

A group of friends go to a cabin to play a murder mystery game… only to have the game turned against them.

FIVE friends go to a cabin.
FOUR of them are hiding secrets.
THREE years of history bind them.
TWO are doomed from the start.
ONE person wants to end this.
NO ONE IS SAFE.

For five friends, this was supposed to be one last getaway before going their separate ways — a chance to say goodbye to each other, and to the game they’ve been playing for the past three years. But they’re all dealing with their own demons, and they’re all hiding secrets.

Finn doesn’t trust anyone since he was attacked a few months ago. Popular girl Liva saw it happen and did nothing to stop it. Maddy was in an accident that destroyed her sports career. Carter is drowning under the weight of his family’s expectations. Ever wants to keep the game going for as long as they can, at all costs.

When the lines between game and reality start to blend with deadly consequences, it’s a race against time before it’s game over — forever.

Are you ready to play?

Even If We Break is out now, published by Sourcebooks in North America and in the UK.

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Annotated Excerpt: DRIFTWOOD by Marie Brennan (Tachyon)

BrennanM-D1-DriftwoodDriftwood might be the oddest novel I’ve written, and I say that as somebody whose previous novel is composed of diary entries, letters, newspaper clippings, and the footnoted translation of an ancient mythological epic.

Part of the reason for that oddness is the setting, which is composed of the still-decaying fragments of mostly-destroyed worlds. But part is that it didn’t start life as a novel: it’s what’s known as a “fix-up,” composed of short stories joined together to make a larger whole. (If you find yourself thinking, “huh, so the form of the book reflects the form of the setting,” give yourself a cookie: that’s why I decided to create a fix-up rather than writing a more conventional novel.) For this excerpt, I’ve decided to give you the opening two scenes of the first story in the book, which is also the first one I wrote.

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Annotated Excerpt: THREADING THE LABYRINTH by Tiffani Angus

AngusT-AuthorPicThreading the Labyrinth, at its most basic, is about 400 years in a haunted English Garden—a sort of Tom’s Midnight Garden or The Children of Green Knowe but for adults. The novel has a frame set in 2010 in which Toni, our protagonist, has inherited a house and the remains of a once great estate; she dubs it The Remains because it’s just that: what’s left after time and economic hardship have taken their toll. As Toni uncovers the mysteries of the place, the narrative jumps back to stories about earlier garden workers, mostly women, who lived there in the 1620s, 1770s, 1860s and 1940s, but not necessarily in chronological order. I wrote the novel as part of a dissertation for a PhD in Creative Writing, which required research into several centuries of English gardening history and how gardens function in fantasy fiction. The final PhD version of the novel was different from the published version of the novel: it underwent a structure shift, lost a POV character, had another POV change, and survived other changes. But what I annotate here is mostly original to the “viva” version of the book. Continue reading

Annotated Excerpt: THE RANGER OF MARZANNA by Jon Skovron (Orbit)

SkovronJ-RW1-RangerOfMarzannaUSAs someone obsessed with process, I love reading annotated things. Books, comics, movie commentary, what have you. When trying to understand how to do a thing (say, write a book), it can be invaluable to get that peek behind the curtain. But if there is one thing we can say for certain about the process of writing, it’s that no two writers do it exactly the same. So when you read this annotated excerpt, I invite you not to latch on to any one thing too strongly, and view it merely as one more sample in a vast sea of writing processes.

In this world there are writers who simply sit down and start writing the book from the beginning and eventually come to the end. And that’s the book. Done. One of these “people” is a friend of mine, so I will refrain from saying anything else about this “method” except that it is most certainly not mine. My drafting process is messy and chaotic, and subject to change drastically from one revision to the next as I stumble blindly through those early stages.

For example, the excerpt below is the first chapter of The Ranger of Marzanna, but it was not written first, second, or even third. In fact, I’d written the entire first draft before I realized the beginning was completely broken. Among other things, it needed the proper framing for the world, and a proper introduction to Sonya Turgenev Portinari, who I imagined before I ever thought of the story, or the setting, or the theme, or anything else. Perhaps it’s my acting background, but character always comes first for me.

Anyway, the purpose of this chapter was let the reader know just what kind of world they’re dealing with and what kind of person the world perceived Sonya to be. So with those two goals in mind, let us proceed… Continue reading

Excerpt: ONE MINUTE OUT by Mark Greaney (Berkley/Sphere)

GreaneyM-GM09-OneMinuteOutUSToday, Berkley publishes One Minute Out, the ninth novel in Mark Greaney‘s best-selling Gray Man series. The novel is due to be published on Thursday in the UK, by Sphere.

One of my must-read series, I’m very happy that the publisher has allowed me to run this excerpt from the new novel. First, however, the synopsis:

While on a mission to Croatia, Court Gentry uncovers a human trafficking operation. The trail leads from the Balkans all the way back to Hollywood.

Court is determined to shut it down, but his CIA handlers have other plans. The criminal ringleader has actionable intelligence about a potentially devastating terrorist attack on the US. The CIA won’t move until they have that intel. It’s a moral balancing act with Court at the pivot point.

Now, on to the excerpt…

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Excerpt: SUN AND SERPENT by Jon Sprunk (Pyr)

SprunkJ-BotBE-SunAndSerpentToday, we have a short excerpt from Sun and Serpent by Jon Sprunk. The fourth and final book in the author’s Book of the Black Earth series, it was published by Pyr Books in December. Here’s the synopsis…

THE WAR CONTINUES, AND THE UNDEAD RAVAGE THE LAND. JIROM, HORACE, AND EMANON BEGIN TO HOPE THEY MIGHT FREE THE EMPIRE. BUT CAN THEY MANAGE TO DO SO BEFORE THE DARK KING CONQUERS THE WORLD?

Horace has come a long way from his days of slavery. Now he, Jirom, and their companions think they just might glimpse victory ahead, and the triumphant end to what began as a mere slave rebellion. But first Horace must recover from the loss of his beloved Alyra. And Jirom finds himself asking if even victory will be worth the cost–how can he be sure he and the other winners of this war will rule more justly than the Akeshians did? Meanwhile, a mysterious mass murder-suicide in a temple in Thuum hints that they have more foes than they knew of. And as they advance upon the capital, they find strange obstacles barring their way. Obstacles that suggest the barriers between worlds are growing dangerously thin…

Now, on with the excerpt…

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Annotated Excerpt: THE LAST ROAD by K.V. Johansen (Pyr)

JohansenKV-GotCR5-LastRoadThe Last Road is the fifth and final novel of Gods of the Caravan Road, and although the other novels in the series can be read alone (counting The Leopard and The Lady as one book, Marakand, in two volumes) it’s written assuming that the reader has at least read Blackdog. You could probably get by piecing together supposition about Ahjvar, Ghu, and Yeh-Lin from the middle books, but you need to know Moth and Mikki and Holla-Sayan. However, they aren’t the people they were at the end of Blackdog. This is almost two centuries later. Their world has changed and so have they.

I’m very excited — make that, very nervous — to be offering this up to you at last.

First, here’s the novel’s synopsis:

When even the gods are dying, the hope of the world may lie in its most feared enemies. A new god proclaimed as the All-Holy has arisen in the west and leads an army eastward, devouring the gods and goddesses of the lands between, forcibly converting their folk and binding their souls to himself. The very fabric of the world appears threatened by forces beyond the understanding of scholars and wizards alike. Even the great city of Marakand, where the roads of east and west converge, seems powerless to resist the All-Holy, though the devils Moth and Yeh-Lin and the assassin Ahjvar, undead consort of the god of distant Nabban, have come to stand with it. That may avail Marakand little, for the shapeshifting Blackdog, once a champion of the gods, follows obediently at the All-Holy’s heel and Lakkariss, the sword of the cold hells, is in his master’s hand.

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Annotated Excerpt: THE BONE SHIPS by RJ Barker (Orbit)

BarkerRJ-TC1-BoneShipsUSToday, we have the honour of sharing an annotated excerpt from RJ Barker‘s highly-anticipated novel, The Bone Ships! The novel is due to be published by Orbit Books this week in both the UK and North America. First, though, here’s the synopsis:

A brilliantly imagined saga of honour, glory, and warfare…

Two nations at war. A prize beyond compare.

For generations, the fleets of the Hundred Isles have built their ships from the bones of ancient dragons to fight an endless war.

Then the dragons disappeared. But the battle for supremacy on the high seas persisted.

When the first dragon in centuries is spotted in far-off waters, both sides see a chance to shift the balance of power in their favour. Because whoever catches it will win not only glory, but the war.

Now, I’ll turn it over to RJ…

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Audio Excerpt: SWEET SORROW by David Nicholls (W.F. Howes)

NichollsD-SweetSorrowUKAUDToday, W.F. Howes publishes the audiobook edition of Sweet Sorrow, the new novel by David Nicholls. I’ve enjoyed a few of Nicholls’s past novels, starting with Starter for Ten and The Understudy which I read during a summer at college (can’t remember exactly when, but it’s been quite a while). The excerpt is below, and here’s the synopsis…

One life-changing summer, Charlie meets Fran… David Nicholls’s highly anticipated new novel, narrated by Rory Kinnear.

In 1997, Charlie Lewis is the kind of boy you don’t remember in the school photograph. His exams have not gone well. At home he is looking after his father, when surely it should be the other way round, and if he thinks about the future at all, it is with a kind of dread.

Then Fran Fisher bursts into his life and despite himself, Charlie begins to hope.

But if Charlie wants to be with Fran, he must take on a challenge that could lose him the respect of his friends and require him to become a different person. He must join the Company. And if the Company sounds like a cult, the truth is even more appalling.

The price of hope, it seems, is Shakespeare. Poignant, funny, enchanting, devastating, Sweet Sorrow is a tragicomedy about the rocky path to adulthood and the confusion of family life, a celebration of the reviving power of friendship and that brief, searing explosion of first love that can only be looked at directly after it has burned out.

The excerpt is narrated by Olivier award-winning actor Rory Kinnear.

The print and eBook editions of the  novel are out now in the UK, published by Hodder & Stoughton; the US edition is still a while away, due to be published by Mariner Books in May 2020.

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