Thursday, 15 September 2011

Back down from the High Road

A late post this month as I was away in Scotland taking a well-earned break. Well, a break anyway.

Much fun was had and my girlfriend and I even managed to see the Glasgow / Philadelphia set of Brad Pitt's World War Z film. Unfortunately, it was empty so all I got from it was this stupid expression.

It's amazing how much good a holiday can do, and as my girlfriend managed to convince me that this was a break not just from work but writing as well, it probably counts double. After a couple of days in I realised just how tired I'd been of writing. I was dragging myself from page to page at glacial speed, hyper-critical of every smear of ink I found there. There's no denying that I'm now very ready to send this story out into the world but unfortunately the story itself isn't ready. Hopefully, this break will give me the energy to give the story that last big push it needs out the door. I'm finally closing in on the end of Part Two and if I have anything to do with it, I'll be starting Part Three early October.

In other news, and I'm sure I had mentioned this before but apparently I haven't, Abyss and Apex Magazine are publishing my short story The Old Factory Award, which Editor-in-Chief, Wendy S. Delmater described as 'enchanting'. She made a few changes (mainly turning my English English to American English) that I couldn't even spot (proof of a great editor) and made a suggestion for improvement that I was happy to make (thinking 'Thank God, feedback!). She sent me a contract for me to sign, which I read carefully (I always read them carefully). So that's all very nice. The Old Factory Award should be appearing in their Q4 magazine soon.

Oh, and I made myself a Facebook page.

So books I have read:

A Dance with Dragons

So what can I say about A Dance with Dragons? GRRM's books have always been long ones but they're so well written that they don't feel long. This one was no exception. But it has to be said that until the last couple of hundred pages it didn't feel like much had happened. But I have a theory on that. In many books you might experience the 'sagging middle', a few pages in the middle of a story that can be a little dull. It's the author getting all of his characters where they need to be (both physically and emotionally) so they can start that downhill charge towards the end. Now in a normal book / story of, say, 300 pages that sag might be 10 pages long, short enough that you might not notice it. But GRRMs story is so big it's taking 7 books of roughly 800 pages each to write. So both Feast for Crows and Dance with Dragons have both been this sagging middle as the author moves his many, many pieces on the board. Hopefully we're over the hump now and The Winds of Winter will prove to be the start of a blistering descent towards the big finale.

American Dervish

Not normally my cup of tea but I did enjoy this one (barring the first few pages which were a bit wobbly). It talks of being a Muslim in America (very topical) but in the end it's focus is on it's own community rather than its place in the West. Really, this could have been a story about living in any religious community. Some people believe that being part of that community excuses any indiscretions made against people outside of that community and so, so many people think that doctrine and faith are one and the same. A debut novel, I found it pleasing to read and was happily propelled along.

The End of the Wasp Season

I've never read a Denise Mina novel before though I have read her stint writing for the Hellblazer comics which were very good. This book was great, the writing was spot on with some very good descriptions and the story and characters intriguing, I was fully prepared for it all to end badly, with the wrong people put in jail (you know who did it from the beginning) and so the feel of the story kept you guessing right up to the final pages.

The Hunted

I had the privilege of putting together a few videos of Elmore Leonard recently (one can be found here on Amazon) and in one of them he says that when he gets to page 300 of his manuscript he says 'Boy, I should start wrapping this up' and finishes the story in the next 50-100 pages. Ever since I heard him say that, I can see it. The novel drifts along and then something happens and then it's over. There's no real beginning, middle or end, it's more just a series of events. But still, there's a reason he's the master of the genre. The dialogue was top-notch and the characters, good or bad, where very well drawn.

The Impossible Dead

Ian Rankin has been writing a long time and it really shows. Like Terry Pratchett, the man's writing is effortless. He manages to get his story from the page and into your mind without causing any friction between the words and your eyeballs. This is his new Malcolm Fox book and I find myself liking his new character more and more as I get to know him. Though it's never spelled out I fell that Fox was possibly not the nicest of men when he was an alcoholic. He seems like a man who holds tight to a lot of anger and not drinking helps him keep that hold. The story is classic Rankin, looking at Edinburgh as we know it today, a strong theme of yesterday's terrorist being today's politician and some good old murders to help it along. Plus, Fox is in The Complaints (Internal Affairs) and so, to him, even fellow police officers are against him, which is a great angle. A little slow at the beginning but before you know it your at the end and feeling good.

The Iron Jackal
Second only to Mike Carey, Chris Wooding is one of those authors who has me grinning from start to finish. His books are just. So. Fun. There's that initial action scene, then that wonderful 'settling back in with the crew' scene and then more adventure. And more. And more. And more. And more. I cannot recommend these books highly enough and may be writing an article on The Iron Jackal for the Gollancz blog soon. So watch this space.

The Midnight Palace

I enjoyed Shadow of the Wind and so very much enjoyed Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Midnight Palace. Knowing that he wrote this before Shadow added a whole new aspect as you can actually see the seeds of it appearing as the story develops.

The Windup Girl

We have a contender for my Book of the Year. I loved this book from start to finish. The world was vivid, every character was fascinating and he really did have me guessing how it was all going to end. It seems (at least to me) that there's a vogue for non-West set Scifi, you just have to look at this year's Arthur C. Clarke shortlist (which included the excellent Dervish House). This has already won awards and damn if it doesn't deserve them. This is the kind of debut novel I can only aspire to.

And so I guess that's it from me, for now.

Thanks for reading!

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