Guest Post: “What’s in a Name?” by Simon Bestwick

bestwicks-authorpicI have the devil’s own luck when it comes to titles, at least as far as that there Jonathan Oliver at Solaris is concerned.

The new book, The Feast Of All Souls, is the third I’ve written for Jon. The first, for Abaddon Books, is the only one where the title wasn’t an issue: Tide Of Souls.

Tide was published in 2009: fast forward to 2011, when I pitched Jon a novel called Ghosts Of War. He liked the story and commissioned it, but suggested a different title, quite reasonably pointing out that Ghosts Of War gave away the plot. Continue reading

Quick Review: THRILL ME by Benjamin Percy (Graywolf Press)

percyb-thrillmeAn excellent writing memoir and book of advice

Anyone familiar with the meteoric rise of Benjamin Percy’s career will surely have noticed a certain shift: After writing two short-story collections and a literary novel, he delivered the werewolf thriller Red Moon and the postapocalyptic epic The Dead Lands. Now, in his first book of nonfiction, Benjamin Percy challenges the notion that literary and genre fiction are somehow mutually exclusive. The title essay is an ode to the kinds of books that make many first love fiction: science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, horror, from J. R. R. Tolkien to Anne Rice, Ursula K. Le Guin to Stephen King. Percy’s own academic experience banished many of these writers in the name of what is “literary” and what is “genre.” Then he discovered Michael Chabon, Aimee Bender, Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, and others who employ techniques of genre fiction while remaining literary writers. In fifteen essays on the craft of fiction, Percy looks to disparate sources such as Jaws, Blood Meridian, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to discover how contemporary writers engage issues of plot, suspense, momentum, and the speculative, as well as character, setting, and dialogue. An urgent and entertaining missive on craft, Thrill Me brims with Percy’s distinctive blend of anecdotes, advice, and close reading, all in the service of one dictum: Thrill the reader.

Benjamin Percy is one of my favourite “new” authors. I only discovered his work upon the publication of Red Moon, which gripped me from very early on. Since reading that novel, I’ve read everything of his that I could get my hands on — The Dead Lands, his two-part story for Detective Comics, his ongoing run on Green Arrow, and now Thrill Me. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this book, but I came away entertained and inspired. Continue reading

Quick Review: ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING by Ray Bradbury (Voyager)

bradburyr-zenintheartofwritingukA collection of articles and essays from the author of Fahrenheit 451

In this exuberant book, the incomparable Ray Bradbury shares the wisdom, experience, and excitement of a lifetime of writing.

The first thing a writer should be is – excited

Author of the iconic FAHRENHEIT 451, THE ILLUSTRATED MAN and THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, Ray Bradbury is one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

Part memoir, part masterclass, ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING offers a vivid and exuberant insight into the craft of writing. Bradbury reveals how writers can each find their own unique path to developing their voice and style.

ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING offers a celebration of the act of writing that will delight, impassion, and inspire.

I picked this up on a whim the other week, while enjoying a books-about-writing binge. The prolific Bradbury seemed like a good bet for an interesting book about writing, and I wasn’t disappointed. This is a lively (perhaps almost hyperactive, in some sections) about the joy of fiction and writing. It is not a how-to book, although there is plenty of general advice. Continue reading

Guest Post: “On Worldbuilding” by Rhonda Mason

masonr-authorpicIn the beginning, there was the protagonist, and the author saw that it was good.

My worldbuilding process starts after the creation of the protagonist, never before. I write novels to tell the story of a person, not the story of a world, and all of my novels have sprung from a first impression of the main character. For The Empress Game trilogy it was an image of Kayla holding a kris dagger in each hand, fighting another woman in a pit while criminals cheered her on.

Once I have that first impression of a character, the worldbuilding begins. Who is she? (The exiled princess from a rival planet) Where is she? (Hidden on the slum side of her hated enemy’s border planet) Why is she there? (Trying to raise credits to buy passage back to her homeworld) And, most importantly, why is she special? Why are we telling her story, and not someone else’s? Continue reading

Guest Post: “Pushing The Envelope In Fiction; Navigating A PC-Centric Media Universe” by Edward Lazellari

Lazellari-AuthorPicSo you’re going to be a writer? Awesome. You are never going to please everyone, so own it; the thin-skinned have no business being authors (or auteurs). Words have put the most popular and successful authors on the painful side of a controversy (Sometimes it’s intentional.) That said… keep an open mind to the opinions of critics and friends. If you are going to create fictional scenarios that skirt the edge of mass acceptance, know why you are writing those actions. When George R.R. Martin decided to have brother and sister lovers in Game of Thrones, he was setting up the premise of the entire series. The question of legitimate authority and unraveling of Westeros as a society came out of that relationship. Everything that happens in your story, no matter how taboo, should serve the narrative. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Some Thoughts on Fantasy Series & Stand Alones” by Blake Charlton

charltonb-authorpic“Is this book a standalone or the third in your trilogy?” A question that I’ve had to address since the publication of my latest book, Spellbreaker. The answer, perhaps confusingly, is yes. When justifying this answer, I’ve done a lot of thinking about the way stories are told in series, particularly in epic fantasy.

I don’t think too many will disagree that in the traditional conception of epic fantasy, the use of a series of books is a logistical necessity, not an aesthetic choice. The Lord of the Rings, of course, was written as one book (to rule them all?) and broken into three only because the printing, binding, and shipping costs would have been prohibitive. This precedent created the current expectation that every book in an epic fantasy series will be the immediate continuation of the last. Since the 1980s, the majority of successful fantasy series have done exactly that. There are many, well-known advantages to this approach; it allows for intricate exploration of subplots; it proves continuous and detailed character development; it creates an experience in which the reader traverses an epic number of pages that mirrors the characters’ journey across and among an epic number of landscapes and cultures. The grandmasters do so effortlessly and with style. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Writing Strong Women” by M.R. Carey

careymr-fellsidetourbanner

My latest novel, Fellside, had its UK release in April and it’s just come out in paperback. To commemorate this fact I’m spending the week running around on other people’s blogs (thanks, Civilian Reader!) shouting “look at me.”

It’s a time-honoured tradition, and to keep you from saying the same thing ten times over your publisher will usually come up with a list of possible themes or titles. On the list in front of me right now, about two-thirds of the way down, the following phrase appears:-

“Writing Strong Women”

It immediately made me wonder whether or not that’s something that I do. Continue reading