Annotated Excerpt: A DESERT TORN ASUNDER by Bradley P. Beaulieu

BeaulieuBP-SotSS6-ADesertTornAsunderUKToday, we have an annotated excerpt from Bradley P. Beaulieu‘s A Desert Torn Asunder — the final book in the author’s Song of the Shattered Sands series. Before we get to that, though, here’s the official synopsis for the novel:

The final book in The Song of the Shattered Sands series closes the epic fantasy saga in a desert setting, filled with rich worldbuilding and pulse-pounding action.

The plans of the desert gods are coming to fruition. Meryam, the deposed queen of Qaimir, hopes to raise the buried elder god, Ashael, an event that would bring ruin to the desert.

Çeda and Emre sail for their ancestral home to bring the traitor, Hamid, to justice. To their horror, they discover that the desert tribes have united under Hamid’s banner. Their plan? A holy crusade to annihilate Sharakhai, a thing long sought by many in the tribes. In Sharakhai, meanwhile, the blood mage, Davud, examines the strange gateway between worlds, hoping to find a way to close it. And King Ihsan hunts for Meryam, but always finds himself two steps behind.

When Meryam raises Ashael, all know the end is near. Ashael means to journey to the land that was denied to him an age ago, no matter the cost to the desert. It now falls to Çeda and her unlikely assortment of allies to find a way to unite not only the desert tribes and the people of Sharakhai, but the city’s invaders as well. Even if they do, stopping Ashael will cost them dearly, perhaps more than all are willing to pay.

The series is published by Gollancz in the UK and DAW in North America. The other novels are Twelve Kings of Sharakai, With Blood Upon the Sand, A Veil of Spears, Beneath the Twisted Trees, and When Jackals Storm the Walls. (Beaulieu has also written a number of short stories that fit within the chronology of the series. You can find more details of those here.)

And now, on with the excerpt!

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Guest Post: “Accuracy & Writing Historical Fiction” by Adrian Goldsworthy

GoldsworthyA-CoV1-FortHCI have always loved history, was lucky enough to study it at the highest level, and after teaching for a while have been even luckier to make a living writing non fiction history books. At the same time, I have always loved historical novels. At their best they give a flavour and feel for a place and an era much faster than reading conventional history. So when I came to write historical novels, accuracy was very important to me. A novel will only work if readers get caught up in the plot and want to spend time with the characters, but the world it conjures up has to feel real, at least on its own terms, and that is as true of fantasy or science fiction as it is for stories set in the past. The world of the story has to be convincing enough for readers to visit it in their imagination. Many readers and authors do not care too much if that world bears little or no relation to the reality of the past as long as it is consistent. That is fine, after all, reading should be about pleasure and we all have different tastes. However, I am a professional historian and find it hard to switch off, which makes me an unrepresentative reader, and I only stick with a novel if I feel that the research behind it and the author’s sensitivity for the period are good. Since, like most authors, I write books – whether novels or non fiction – that I would like to read, that is how I try to write my stories. So each novel begins with research. Continue reading

Annotated Excerpt: TEN LOW by Stark Holborn (Titan Books)

HolbornS-TenLowA large chunk of this book was written as a NaNoWriMo project a few years ago. I’d never done NaNo before (I did write most of Nunslinger’s 180k words in about eight hazy months, so I wasn’t too worried about word count), but I’d come out of a crappy year in terms of publishing, and wanted to write something just for me. An idea that had zero ties to the publishing world, didn’t have the market in mind and was just a mash up of influences that had been percolating, which ranged from Mad Max: Fury Road to Hard to be a God.

I think I write best in intense, consuming bursts – I like writing that way, at least. Most of Ten Low was written with headphones on, ambient desert wind roaring, getting words down without worrying too much about where things were going. I ended up with 50k words that way. Of course, when it came to fleshing those words out into a full novel, I completely ran out of gas; spent weeks agonising over the fact I didn’t know what the plot was or why; resorted to augury in the form of flipping through a dictionary, stabbing at random words, which – horrifyingly – worked.

So, writing an annotated excerpt has been an interesting experience, because so much of what I wrote at first was subconscious, especially this first chapter. I knew where I wanted to set the book. I knew who the main character was, roughly who else she would meet and… that was it. This chapter hasn’t changed all that much since I first scrawled out those first 1000 words for NaNoWriMo. I hope it does the job and welcomes you to the dusty, teeming moon of Factus, where an ex-convict medic sits alone by a fire, one dark night…

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Annotate Excerpt: THE SHADOW OF THE GODS by John Gwynne (Orbit Books)

GwynneJ-B1-ShadowOfTheGodsUSThanks so much for the invite onto Civilian Reader, I’m chuffed to be here and have this opportunity to share with you a chapter from my latest release, The Shadow of the Gods, book 1 of the Bloodsworn Saga.

This book is set in a world called Vigrið, the Battle-Plain, and is heavily influenced by my love for Norse mythology.

I grew up on tales of mythology – when I was a child I fell in love with the stories Arthur and his quest for the Grail, of Troy and dark lairs and minotaur’s, and tales of those enigmatic and fickle Norse gods. Amongst my favourites were the legends Beowulf and his band of monster-hunting shield men, and of Ragnarök, that end-of-days battle amongst the Norse gods, and to my mind this book and series is my love-letter both to Norse mythology and Viking-era history, merging the blood and grit of shield walls with the terror and thrill of monster hunting.

I hope that it feels markedly different from my previous books in its tone and world-setting, but there are also similarities. Family and friendship are themes that I will always write about, and you will find them here, although I’ve come at them from different angles than you find in my previous works.

Other things you should expect are: shield walls, longships, betrayal and vengeance, and a lot of monsters. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Deleting Digits” by Oliver Langmead

LangmeadO-AuthorPicA confession: I don’t know how much a billion dollars is. Not really. Sure, I can write it down ($1,000,000,000), but that number doesn’t really mean much to me. I imagine that it gets even more meaningless the more zeroes you put on the end. I know how much a tin of beans costs, and I know how much my monthly rent is, but I would genuinely struggle to tell you the major differences between a millionaire and a billionaire, despite the staggering disparity between their relative fortunes (billionaires have more jet planes?).

Similarly: I don’t know how long a thousand years is. It’s beyond my ability to comprehend. When it’s written down as a figure (1000) it’s lovely and neat, and I know it’s a hundred decades, or ten centuries, or any amount of artful mathematical ways of putting it, but I struggle to imagine what living through a thousand years would actually be like; how that vast amount of time would feel. Neither can I effectively contain all the events that would happen during a span of a thousand years in my head. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Genre Mashups” by Tim Major

Perhaps all novels are genre mashups, in some sense. Or at least, any novel has several key influences circulating within it, informing its tone, the tendencies of its characters and the directions of its plot. Few romantic novels are exclusively about the mechanisms of two people becoming a couple. Few SF novels concern solely scientific concepts.

But the pitch for my novella Universal Language is more overt than most. It’s an SF murder mystery. I’ll be honest: it’s refreshing to be able to pitch one of my books in such simple terms. You like SF? You like murder mysteries? Come over and take a look! Continue reading

Guest Post: “Writing During Lockdown” by Dan Coxon

CoxonD-AuthorPicUntil 8 April, Unsung Stories are crowdfunding a new anthology called Out of the Darkness. The theme of the anthology is mental health – with contributions from writers like Alison Moore, Jenn Ashworth, Tim Major, Aliya Whiteley and Simon Bestwick – and all royalties and my editor’s fees are being donated to charity Together for Mental Wellbeing. The Kickstarter campaign has meant that my attention has been turned towards mental health more than usual, and at the same time the topic is frequently in the news, as the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic are felt. Everyone has struggled to cope during the lockdowns, and often during the more ‘open’ periods in between, and writers are no exception.

When the first UK lockdown was announced in March 2020, I saw several comments online about all the free time we’d have – and in particular (given the circles I move in) the amount of time to write. The everyday distractions of the outside world would be behind lock and key, and we’d finally all have time to ourselves, to let our imaginations run riot and our pens (or keyboards) flow freely. We’d have so much time, so the supposition went, that there would be a flood of new novels and short stories once the lockdown was lifted. I almost believed it myself. Continue reading

Excerpt: THE BEST OF WORLD SF, VOLUME 1, by Lavie Tidhar (Head of Zeus)

TidharEd-BestOfWorldSFNext week, Head of Zeus is due to publish The Best of World SF, Volume 1 — a collection of science fiction stories by authors from around the world, it was collected and edited (and in some instances, translated) by award-winning author Lavie Tidhar. The publisher has kindly provided me with an excerpt to share. But, first, here’s the synopsis:

Twenty-six new short stories representing the state of the art in international science fiction, selected by Lavie Tidhar.

The Best of World SF draws together stories from across the spectrum of science fiction – expect robots, spaceships and time travel, as well as some really weird stuff – representing twenty-one countries and five continents.

Lavie Tidhar has selected stories that range from never-before-seen originals to award winners; from authors at every stage of their career; and a number of translations, including a story translated from Hebrew by Tidhar himself.

A full Table of Contents can be found at the end of this post — it’s an impressive line-up, too: I’ve already read three of them (de Bodard’s, Tidbeck’s and Moreno-Garcia’s), so if the rest are as good, then this will be an excellent read. Read on for an excerpt taken from the introduction to the collection, by Lavie Tidhar. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Progression Fantasy – A Merger of Genres?” by Alex Knight

KnightA-AuthorPicFantasy, as we know it, is an ever-evolving genre. It’s wild, sprawling, and impossible to pin down for any length of time. It’s the beauty of the genre.

At the present, though, I believe we’re seeing a relatively unique evolution in progress.

In recent years, the genre of LitRPG has exploded on the indie and small press scene – and is now reaching into traditional publishing and media. For those that don’t know LitRPG, there are a bunch of definitions, but the one that’s always helped me is this: LitRPG is any story where the characters go into a video game OR the story takes place in a game world OR the story takes place in a world where game logic and mechanics replace physics. Continue reading

Annotated Excerpt: THE UNBROKEN by C. L. Clark (Orbit)

ClarkCL-MotL1-UnbrokenToday, I’m very happy to be able to share with you an annotated excerpt from The Unbroken by C. L. Clark. One of the most hotly-anticipated fantasy debuts of the year, and the first novel in the Magic of the Lost series, it is the story of two women who “clash in a world full of rebellion, espionage, and military might on the far outreaches of a crumbling desert empire”. Due out next week, here’s the synopsis:

Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought.

Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet’s edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne.

Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren’t for sale.

And now, on with the excerpt…!

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