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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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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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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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

Annotated Excerpt: DRIFTWOOD by Marie Brennan (Tachyon)

BrennanM-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-1-RangerOfMarzannaAs 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

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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Annotated Excerpt: ASH KICKERS by Sean Grigsby (Angry Robot)

GrigsbyS-2-AshKickersToday, we have the annotated first chapter of Sean Grigsby‘s latest novel, Ash Kickers — the sequel to Smoke Eaters. Published this week by Angry Robot Books, the author has added some commentary about the story and his writing. First, though, here’s the synopsis:

With ex-firefighter Cole Brannigan in command of the Smoke Eaters, the dragon menace is under control. Thanks to non-lethal Canadian tech, the beasts are tranquilized and locked up, rather than killed. But for Tamerica Williams, this job filled with action and danger, has become tediously routine.

When a new threat emerges, a legendary bird of fire – the Phoenix – it’s the perfect task for Williams. But killing the Phoenix just brings it back stronger, spreading fire like a plague and whipping dragons into a frenzy. Will it prove to be too much excitement, even for adrenalin-junkie Williams?

And now, on with the excerpt!

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