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

Guest Post: “What I Ripped Off From My Life And Used In My Book” by Sharon Doering

DoeringS-SheLiesCloseWhen I was writing She Lies Close, my debut psychological thriller, I was feeling desperate for the first time as a writer. I hadn’t felt it before in my twenty years of writing (countless short stories, a horror novel, a romance, a PI novel, and three tech thrillers). Out of nowhere, a terrifying thought hit me. Wait. Wait. What if I never get published?

That desperation I was experiencing in my writing career? I gave that to my main character, Grace Wright. Grace wasn’t worried about her writing career, but she was worried about, well, pretty much everything.

My desperation didn’t just work its way into Grace’s psyche, it weaved into the novel’s plot. I threw the kitchen sink into this novel. I wanted She Lies Close to be a car crash where you (and first, an editor) couldn’t look away. Grace is running; she’s crying; there’s an attack. Put her on stimulants. She can’t sleep. Her neighbor might be violent. She’s sleepwalking. What about the missing girl? Oh my god, who just ran across the lawn? Did her menacing neighbor give her three-year-old candy? Continue reading

Guest Post: “Border Crosser: The Sixteen-Year Novel” by Tom Doyle

DoyleT-AuthorPicI have a confession to make. My forthcoming novel, Border Crosser, took sixteen years to write.

Border Crosser is the story of Eris, a psychologically extreme secret agent who fights the fascist klept-oligarchs and theocrats of the far future while struggling to recover her own mind.

That such a novel took sixteen years seems as unusual to me as it probably seems to you. So far, I’ve written five novels. Three of those were part of the American Craft trilogy. Another fantasy novel is currently in the trunk (which means I’m not currently trying to sell it, and may revise it later). Each of those four books was written in a year of concerted effort, with some minor revisions afterwards.

Border Crosser didn’t go like that at all. Continue reading

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

Guest Post: “Worldbuilding Interconnectivity” by Amber Royer

RoyerA-C3-FakeChocolateI think bats are one of the coolest animals – and one of the most maligned. Look at their faces. They’re basically flying puppies, and many species can eat up to 8,000 insects in a single night. We used to have a small colony of Mexican free-tail bats in a tree across the street from our house, and we never had mosquito issues. It broke my heart when the neighbors cut down that tree and the bats moved.

And when you talk about chocolate, and the ecosystem where it’s grown, it’s hard to ignore the importance of bats. Cacao trees grow fruit in pods with thick, waxy outsides, pineapple scented pulp, and purple-brown seeds that eventually can become chocolate.  Bats are one of the animals with the patience to chew through the pod to get to the sweet pulp. They disperse the seeds, helping propagate new cacao trees. Meanwhile, other bats are busy eating insects that otherwise might harm the trees. And still different species of bats are pollinating other plants in the same ecosystem, such as banana flowers. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Influences & Inspirations” by Premee Mohamed

MohamedP-BeneathTheRisingMy parents said I was talking at eight months, and I believed them because many of my cousins also started super early; they said I was walking before I was a year old, and I believed them for the same reason. But when they told me that I could read when I was two, I made an earsplittingly loud raspberry noise. How could that even be possible?

Anyway, later on I researched hyperlexia and (with sinking stomach and moistening skin) realized that they might have been right after all. I cannot remember a time when I couldn’t read. So when I think about the influences on my personality, decisions, preferences, and proclivities, I think: it’s books, it’s always books. It’s always been books and it’s always going to be books. 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…

Continue reading

Guest Post: “Where do I get my ideas from?” by S.E. Moorhead

MoorheadSE-WitnessXUK‘Where do you get your ideas from?’

It’s a question most writers will be asked at some point.

If you look around at the world, stories are everywhere — the latest news report, your grandfather’s adventures as a boy, a relationship between two famous people made public, a new type of scientific discovery that might change the lives of hundreds of people…

The very fabric of life is story — layers of events that have already happened, are presently unfurling or are yet to come, maybe. Our memories, hopes and fears are all stories.

Not only do stories form the basis of human experience, they are also currency which we use to negotiate in relationships; gossip, jokes, promises, and even commitment — when we merge our stories with others, and maybe a new story will be born. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading