Friday, 30 December 2011

Review of Soul Music by Terry Pratchett

Title: Soul Music
Author: Terry Pratchett
Rating: 3/5

Maybe I had too much of an expectation for this one, but I found it lacking ... something. Of those I’ve read with Death in the forefront, I certainly enjoyed Mort and Reaper Man better than this.
Perhaps it’s Susan. The way she goes through most of the story, just accepting whatever comes her way with the same rational and impassionate stance starts to grate after a while. I think the true her shines when she lets some emotion come through while talking to her grandfather. And the story definitely got more interesting as it neared the last third and tested her limitations more and more.
Death (did I tell you I’m a fan?) is quite amusing in places while he seeks out a way to forget through joining a foreign legion, then drinking and finally joining some of Discworld’s  more eccentric homeless people. And I loved the change of manner when we meet a younger, haughtier, version of him. One that hasn’t been through all he did in Reaper Man. The whole swing in the apple tree mindset seems totally plausible.
And there’s the Grim Squeaker. How can you not love him?
Then there’s Imp y Celyn, otherwise known as Buddy, and his Band with Rocks in. I get what it’s all about, but I found it a bit of a chore to read through these scenes when it reached the middle. After being warned something dire would happen to them, I got bored waiting for something to happen. Which isn’t a great attitude to be in when half the book is about them. Though their affect on the wizards, especially the Dean, was amusing.

Note: the scene on the cover is near at the end and really made the whole book worthwhile. ^_^

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Introducing ...

Name: Scarp
Story: The Rogue King Saga - The Shadow Prince
Status: Head Thief

If you've got a city, especially and big city, you’re gonna have thieves somewhere. It's a given.
But, in most of the stories I've read, the thieves are always helpful. Half the time, it's the Big Cheese him/herself who does the helping. Sometimes they’ll even risk themselves for the Main Characters. And there's the guild. There’s always a guild, yeah? There's guilds out there even now, they just aren't called that. And, in my mind, if you're going to have a den, you better be ready to defend it, or have a good escape plan.
I never saw the head man of my little guild being all that nice. But then, when the law says thieves are to be blinded, you don’t have much room for nice. You've got cunning, though, along with threats and blackmail. Besides, I love it when I read a character who's pleasant until the MC tries to veer off the path they want you to take.
My only regret was not having the opportunity to use him for more than one scene.

What can I say about the image? I like how this turned out. The original Scarp had horns, with bands and jewels. Then I saw just how many of them already had horns and dehorned him. ^_^

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Day: Been and Gone

Hoy, I just got back from a long day of visiting family. The weather was fine, so no problems there.
Although I am hoping my daughter will be sleeping late tomorrow, especially after full fourteen hours of squeeing child under the, near sole, attention of adults ... mostly adoring grannies and granddads. Guess who got a lot of prezzies? Girl is spoiled rotten every year. ^_^
She’s only five, so still in the Santa belief stage.
I’m always a little nervous when it comes to the whole Santa thing. See, I’m not all that big when it comes to the festive spirit and I stop believing in anyone but family bringing the gifts when I was around six or seven. There was just something about the idea of a jolly fat man sneaking into the house while everyone slept to give them all gifts that I found disturbing.
Anyhow, decorating the house ended three years later. Those old decorations are likely mouldering in the attic as I type. So my daughter started believing a little late. At around three years of age.
This was the Christmas when, after a year at her preschool and endless touring of merrily decorated stores, she came back to our house, looked up at the bare walls and said, in the most dejected voice I’d ever heard from her: “There’s no Christmas.”
I cried. Not bawled, but there were certainly a few tears. A couple of chocked-back sobs. ‘Twas the night before Christmas ... okay the day before, but still ... I hauled my butt down to the store and came back with a tree and an armful of decorations.
And so the tradition of decorating the house continued. It’s not much, a little tree, some tinsel and ribbons (and this year, a red and white paper chain that we made one afternoon), but she enjoys seeing it.
And my ... her joy was certainly flowing this morning when she found ‘Santa’ hadn’t just brought gifts, he’d put candy canes on the tree and she’d gotten the “little unicorn with the littlest horn” she asked him for. (Hurray for all the shop assistants who help parents hide a gift and for all the aunts who distract their nieces and nephews while the parents pay for said present.)
Of course, I didn’t enjoy being woken up at 6am by said squeezing five-year-old, but hey, isn’t that all part of Christmas? ^_^

Now to plot my father's birthday. It's on the 1st of January. -_-

And what did I get from my daughter? A lump of amethyst (my birthstone) and a flower hairtie. Both thoughtfully picked out by her and paid for with her own money. ^_^

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Introducing ...

Name: Asclepias
Story: The Unborn Trilogy - Golden Dawn
Status: Servant (of sorts)

Yet another lady who’s just slightly off her rocker.
Okay, maybe a little more than slightly. (Hoy. I’ve a lot of insane people kicking around this story.)
I actually see her as this sweet thing who wants to protect her brothers just as much as Atropa did. Only, like so many of her sisters, she seeks a more physical way to stop them. Honestly, none of them seem to understand the power of a good, old-fashionedly frank talk.

I must’ve changed and rejected so many things in the background for this one. Somehow, a whole lot of axes just felt right, and I like how it sort of clashes with her name. Asclepias being the genus for milkweeds, which in turn was named after Asclepius, the Greek god of healing. Axes ... healing ... I guess it’d work in some cases. But then, hitting a great many things with an axe would pretty much lead to said things being irreparable.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Introducing ...

Name: Tarpas
Story: Witch of Morthin
Status: Count of Pafferdale

Now here's a long suffering man with an overbearing wife and a son who doesn’t want to inherit his title. He started off as a distant figure, someone who was only occasionally referenced, but it soon became apparent that he, along with his wife, would have to come to the foreground before Witch of Morthin’s sequel.
I honestly have no idea where his name came from. It was quite a long time ago and I think I may have just randomly tapped keys until I got something I liked.

As usual, I spent more time on the animal than the person (who I knocked up in a few minutes). With me using my old, departed, horse as the inspiration for this one, I think I’ve a good reason. ^_^
Originally, the horse had full armour on, but I think this looks a little more relaxed in a “lord going for a midday ride” sort of way.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Ten thousand words ain't all bad.

Yup, Dark One's Mistress skipped over the ten thousand mark. And it happened a chapter before I thought it would. ^_^

Like I mentioned in an earlier post, if this works, I will have done two things: sticking to one point of view and, basically, trying to keep the same level of action in a limited travelling area. I've a bad track record in both. Though I've attempted the former before in The Unborn, I couldn't stop myself from switching pov's for the three 'epilogues'. It was necessary for that novel. I've two main characters sharing the narration in Dragon and three in The Rogue King.
It's whether the latter holds up over fifty/sixty words. Part of me thinks I may be getting just a bit too over my head there. Guess I'll just have to see how it goes. It's a rather large citadel, so all should be okay, but then again my main character travelled two levels in a paragraph. It all depends on what's more important at the time, I suppose.

But, at the moment, the one pov is going quite well for me. I've gotten a good number of words out of it, anyhow. ^_^

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Introducing ...

Name: Niaja
Story: The Rogue King Saga - The Forgotten Queen
Status: Captain of The Prophet

I really like Niaja. He started off so low and, via several circumstances, he’s now in command of an old warship.
He’s probably the strangest one of the lot when it comes to talking and the hardest to hold a long conversation with. I don’t blame him though, I blame his mother ... okay, I should be blaming me, but I like his quirks too much and he’s too old in more ways than one for me to go about changing him. I do be aholding a soft spot in my heart for the old dragon and it did be a great pity I couldn’t be ausing him some more in that there story, but I do be having future plans. ^_^

I think I spent more time trying to get the image of The Prophet in my head right than the man who commands her. The closest I’ve gotten to an earth variant would be the Spanish galleons. Without the cannons, though. Which, considering the past of those ships, is actually sort of fitting.

My daughter took one look at this picture and called him a ‘horse lizard’. ^_^

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Hello, week? Can I have a redo?

Gah, this week has been perhaps one of the most annoying starts of December I’ve had in a while.
Let’s start with Sunday: One of my poor car’s belts (of which there are three) decided to snap. It wouldn’t have been so bad. But, yeah, it’s a Sunday. No mechanic open to head to. We got replacement belts (yay) and I thought everything would be fine. Yet, on the way to my other half’s father’s place (to put on the belts), the temperature gauge went haywire.
Yep, the belt that broke was the one that drove the water pump. Sure enough, the radiator blew just as the house we’re aiming for came into view. But that bang we heard wasn't the cap, oh no, it couldn’t be just the cap. The whole top of the radiator decided to split.
Hoy! -_-
Don’t know how long it’ll be until we’ll get that fixed. Though I’m glad there was a spare car. It’s my father’s which means it’s completely rubbish to drive and thirsty as heck, but you can’t be without transport here. My daughter wouldn’t get to school for one, never mind the food-buying issues.
And then there’s my other half’s Ute. Happened yesterday. It’s kind of funny compared to mine. Mine was a horror that I pray will never be repeated. His was an accident.
In short, a digger smooshed the front.
The damage? Crushed the bumper and grill, bent the hood, folded the top of the radiator (I sense a trend, December. Do you just hate radiators? Is that it?) and the cowling round the fan had to be ripped away so the fan could actually turn. It really looks like it should be in a junk yard.

*sigh* Ah well, December, you’ve probably yet to do your worst.
Just wish you’d hurry up and give me January.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Sequel! Sequel! Who’s got a sequel?

I’m a fan of big books – in fantasy that is – and epic stories. Do I really need to say I love sequels?
My shelves are packed with trilogies, quartets and series. I’ve even got a few prequels. Especially when they’re about beloved characters. Give me at least three books and, if you get me hooked on the first, you’re guaranteed to have me reading the third.
I like to linger in a world, see the sights as well as poke about in the corners. What’s more, I’m still likely to remember what happened in book two by the time I’ve reached ... say ... book seven. Even if a number of years separate when I read them. I think that’s probably why I enjoy the longer series.

But, in my opinion, to make anything beyond that first book count, it calls for at least one of four things:

1.       A big cast such as in the mighty Wheel of Time Series. The need to put in everyone’s actions practically demands a lot of books.

2.       A reoccurring threat that can’t be easily stomped out for whatever reason. This would be accurate of Thread in the Dragonriders of Pern. This can run the risk of being repetitive if not done right and usually calls for other, lesser (but not minor) threats/obstacles in the way. Having the characters gain ground throughout the series is a big plus.

3.       A journey that’s so big, it takes several books to cram it all in. And you can take your pick on this one, it seems to be the most common of the sequel traits, right along with ...

4.       A new threat. And, gosh, don’t it fill in the space of the old threat just nicely. The threat must be a) bigger than the last or b) threaten in a different manner, and they better have a good reason for not being in the first story. In conjunction with that, it must NOT be defeated the same way as the last.

If it’s a prequel, then there better be a hint of that back story in the first book. Nothing worse than finding something happened way back when (something, occasionally literally earthshakingly, monumental) and no one from the original novel knew about it.
On the other hand, Trudi Canavan wrote a good prequel with Magician’s Apprentice. The war it’s about is mentioned in the first book of - as well as a number of times within - the Black Magician’s trilogy. David Eddings does the same with the Belgariad Series and the two prequels Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress. But then, he’d ten books to weave back-story hints into.

When it comes to writing, I naturally think of stories in more than just standalone. I’ve been conditioned to it, I suppose.
Thing is, what with my desire to have an actual ending at the end, I’m often left with choice number Four.  There’s one big downside to that choice, unless your second threat leads to a blending of numbers, you can’t keep adding new threats.
Okay, you can, but after a while, unless done right, you can run the risk of ... well ... of looking like you’re trying to get too much mileage out of those characters and your readers are going to get tired of it. Monster-of-the-day might work well on TV, but it takes a little longer than thirty minutes to read a novel.

So, before you sit down and type out that sequel, you need to have a good look at what you’ve got and ask yourself: Does it need to be said?

And let’s hope a few factors don’t get dropped along the way. Like ...
Continuity. This is the big one that everyone understands needs to be watched. Things like if Person A needed an elaborate spell to contact Person B in book one, then, unless something major happened at the end of the story, that’s what needs to be done in book two.
Yeah, you could have them ‘just be more powerful’ at the beginning. Person A might have trained majorly while we weren’t looking and is now so much better. It’s been done but, being someone who likes to see them improving, I’m not a fan of this route.
And, often, little errors are brushed aside. Say Person B sneezed every time he went near a horse, yet in book two they’re suddenly able to ride them without a sniffle and, often, with no explanation. I smell convenience and it reeks.

Character. All that moulding to make those words feel like the lives of ‘real’ people seems to waver, or gets dropped, in favour of plot or newer characters. I’m sure it’s not a deliberate choice, but just because I know who the older people are and what they’re like doesn’t mean I don’t want to see them evolve further.

Geography. Especially if travelling is involved. And not just what they’ve tramped over so far. If you mentioned a desert to the west last time, and they’re now walking through grassland, there better have been a shoddy cartographer somewhere or one heck of an upheaval (which has either happened in the last story if not the catalyst for the next). I’m pretty sure that’s why most series books have maps.
I’ll probably now go on to make those very mistakes. ^_^

If you’re into sequels, either the writing or reading kind, what oversights have you read/done/heard about?

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Introducing ...

Name: Betula
Story: The Unborn Trilogy - Golden Dawn
Status: Servant (of sorts)

This is one gal you don’t want to trust with your drink. But isn’t that usually true of anyone who messes with herbs of any type? Her name comes from the genus for a birch tree, which, to my knowledge, I’ve never actually seen in the bark before. Even now I’m surrounded by pines and gum trees. My childhood home had the added patches of manuka and the odd giant kanuka. I hadn’t even seen an oak until I was in my late teens.
But back to Betula herself ... I see her as the sort of person who’s led along by her sisters. She certainly doesn’t have much pagetime in the story itself. Two scenes, probably. But two important scenes.

I contemplated several images for her. This one sort of fell out of the program while I tinkered.