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Chuck Wendig: How To Finish That Effin’ Book You Monster

Writer/Aspiring Writer Friends,

Great advice from Chuck Wendig on how to finish that book already! Even the most seasoned writers have days when they’d rather do the laundry than get the writing done. Plese beware, Wendig is very candid, sparing no ears the sting of his profanity laced blogs, but his commentary is always spot on regardless of his delivery:

That book you’re writing is mewling again in the dark. It’s a half-formed thing — all unspooled sinew and vein, its mushy head rising up out of the mess of its incomplete body, groaning and gabbling about this life of misery it leads. Its life is shit because you haven’t finished it. It’s flumping along on stump legs, pawing its way through your hard drive, bleating for attention. It needs words. It needs plots. It needs resolution.

YOU MONSTER.

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE.

It’s okay. I’m here. I can help you.

CLICK THIS BUTTON TO GIVE ME $199.99 IN 78 EASY HOURLY INSTALLMENTS AND I WILL SHOW YOU HOW bleah okay fine I won’t charge you any money. I’ll do this for free. Because I like you. And because I feel bad for the ill-formed thing you call a ‘novel.’ And because I hope secretly you will respect my advice enough to one day form a cult of personality around me.

You wanna finish that book?

Here’s how you finish that book.

1. Stop complaining about it. I know, it’s hard. It’s easier to talk about writing than it is to actually write, isn’t it? And it’s extra-special-super-saucy-easy to get online and join with others who have joined the Aren’t Finishing Shit club, and it feels somehow productive to talk about not being productive. Trust me, I know. I’ve been there. I’ve done it. I’ve flopped about publicly and engaged in the illusion of productivity. But you gotta stop. I’m not saying you can’t vent about it — just vent after you’ve BARFED WORDS UP ONTO A PAGE.

2. Accept your limitations. You are not a perfect person. You are given over to frailties and foibles. Others have different frailties and foibles. Yours are yours, and others may possess privilege that you do not. (Also true: you may possess privilege that others do not.) That changes no part of the reality of how this happens: writing requires writing. It demands work. A little here, a lot there, whatever you can accomplish within your given time and considering your limitations. You can do it. Gotcher hands chopped off? Type with your nose.

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The Single Best Way to Sell a Lot of Books

The Single Best Way to Sell a Lot of Books.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2013 in Featured Guest blogs, Fictional Writing

 

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Why Stephen King Spends ‘Months and Even Years’ Writing Opening Sentences

Friends,

Books (1)A wonderful, informative piece from Joe Fassler, a columnist for The Atlantic for writers (and readers) on first sentences:

Stephen King brings us two new novels in 2013 — one on shelves already, and the other forthcoming. In June, Joyland was published by Hard Case Crime, an imprint showcasing classic and contemporary crime writers in paperback editions dressed up like vintage pulps: Stylized covers feature ominous taglines, brooding private dicks, and draped-out femme fatales. Though Joyland’s story is haunted by a terrifying killer of young women, the book mostly chronicles the yearning rhythms of one adolescent summer — carny talk and plushie toys, boardwalks and broken hearts. In The New York Times, Walter Kirn aptly compared the book to a fair ride — it’s brief, thrilling, and sweetly quaint.

King’s second book, Doctor Sleep, which will be published in September by Scribner, is everything Joyland isn’t. On his website, the author calls it a “return to balls-to-the-wall, keep-the-lights-on horror.” This long-awaited sequel to 1977’s The Shining revisits traumatized child psychic Danny Torrance — he goes by Dan, now — all grown up and still struggling to understand his frightening gift. “It’s a good book, a scary book, but I wonder if some people won’t like it as much as the original,” King told me. That book’s pre-Kubrick readers are 35 years older now. “I can hear everyone saying, ‘That wasn’t so scary. The first onereally scared me,” he said. “Well, that’s because you read the first one when you were 13 fuckin’ years old, hiding under the covers with a flashlight!”

When I asked him to share a favorite passage for this series, King couldn’t choose between two favorites; both, we noticed, were first sentences. So, he analyzed both his choices as part of a broader discussion about opening lines — a topic not addressed at length in his memoir-as-craft-manual,On Writing. King paid tribute to Douglas Fairbairn and James M. Cain, looked back on favorite intros he’s written, and explained how he approaches a book’s first moments. Stephen King spoke to me by phone from his home in Maine.

When I asked him to share a favorite passage for this series, King couldn’t choose between two favorites; both, we noticed, were first sentences. So, he analyzed both his choices as part of a broader discussion about opening lines — a topic not addressed at length in his memoir-as-craft-manual,On Writing. King paid tribute to Douglas Fairbairn and James M. Cain, looked back on favorite intros he’s written, and explained how he approaches a book’s first moments. Stephen King spoke to me by phone from his home in Maine.

Stephen King: There are all sorts of theories and ideas about what constitutes a good opening line. It’s tricky thing, and tough to talk about because I don’t think conceptually while I work on a first draft — I just write. To get scientific about it is a little like trying to catch moonbeams in a jar.

But there’s one thing I’m sure about. An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.

How can a writer extend an appealing invitation — one that’s difficult, even, to refuse?

We’ve all heard the advice writing teachers give: Open a book in the middle of a dramatic or compelling situation, because right away you engage the reader’s interest. This is what we call a “hook,” and it’s true, to a point. This sentence from James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice certainly plunges you into a specific time and place, just as something is happening:

They threw me off the hay truck about noon.

Suddenly, you’re right inside the story — the speaker takes a lift on a hay truck and gets found out. But Cain pulls off so much more than a loaded setting — and the best writers do. This sentence tells you more than you think it tells you. Nobody’s riding on the hay truck because they bought a ticket. He’s a basically a drifter, someone on the outskirts, someone who’s going to steal and filch to get by. So you know a lot about him from the beginning, more than maybe registers in your conscious mind, and you start to get curious.

This opening accomplishes something else: It’s a quick introduction to the writer’s style, another thing good first sentences tend to do. In “They threw me off the hay truck about noon,” we can see right away that we’re not going to indulge in a lot of foofaraw. There’s not going to be much floridity in the language, no persiflage. The narrative vehicle is simple, lean (not to mention that the book you’re holding is just 128 pages long). What a beautiful thing — fast, clean, and deadly, like a bullet. We’re intrigued by the promise that we’re just going to zoom.

To continue reading please click HERE.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2013 in Featured Guest blogs

 

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Today’s Introspection & An Excerpt from THE ELEMENTS

Friends,

Consevative Libertarian blogger Talitha McEachin

Conservative libertarian writer Talitha McEachin

In light of all of the drama after the Zimmerman verdict and talks about race & racism, I wanted to share my thoughts from my Facebook page today, because this philosophy is at the heart of my reasoning for writing my current epic fantasy series:

“I will say this – that the racists of America, of all colors, are starting to realize, that they don’t have as many allies in the general population as they thought or once had…I can feel it & it’s a great thing. Racism concerns me deeply because I want the best for us as human beings, and it’s inextricably bound to some economic problems we have. We cannot progress as a species until we learn that we’re more alike than we are different.” 

And now here’s an excerpt from Book I of THE ELEMENTS (Chapter Six), Enjoy!

“Kgosi’s plan of attack is foolish,”

“What do you mean? The Lungi prophesy says that the Kishnu will begin to follow the Lungi way. My uncle is only pretending to fulfill this to take back our lands. He says their land belongs to our people and they drove us into the caves long ago – Ajuoga you have taught this yourself. It is a good plan,”

“Is it a good plan or is it foolish? There are gods – there are those before us. The Lungi believe this too. They say that their god gave a word that our people would come to him, after a war which the Lungi will win. Is this not the very thing Kgosi is doing? Does it matter that he does this with intent? He still does it Phenyo. There are better ways to have war than mocking a man’s god. We should let the Lungi be. Everything that we need is plentiful here, the land is good to us. We want for nothing. Kgosi is a fool of the worst kind – he spills the blood of our sons to show his power. His war is not with Nkosana, it is with the god of Nkosana. It would be better if he aimed his spear at the one whom he can see. Men are not suited for wars with the unseen,”

“That is why I want to lead a group of women there instead Ajuoga.I would like your blessing and a muthi for this journey,”

“You ask for my blessing and I will ask those before us for this, for you. You ask for my muthi and I will make a special one for you to drink. You will ask Kgosi to give this duty to you, and he will fill your ears with laughter,”

“I will show him that mine is a better way,”

“The women in Kishnuizwe have always been warriors in some form or another and you are the best – as good as most men and better than some, but Kgosi thinks too much of men Phenyo.Victory in war he preserves for men,”

“I want to ask the she-god myself …I believe she will give me the power to bend my uncle’s will to mine on this matter Ajuoga,”

“I have been waiting for you to ask for proof of the she-god Phenyo…so long have I waited for you to believe. Now you have at last asked to see her, though your asking comes wearing the cloak of disbelief,”

”If I did not believe there was a she-god -” Ajuoga stood and leaned over to touch Phenyo’s face and her hand felt for her nose then moved down to her lips. Using the tip of her thumb and the finger next to it she pulled a little at Phenyo’s lips and held them tightly, as if one more utterance would summon a known terror. Her next words were frightened, whispered caveats and she let go of Phenyo’s lips before she spoke them.

“No, No….No Phenyo! She gives us words only for truth. She does not protect those who use them for lies. You know this daughter. We speak only of what we do or will do or what is – never if I did or did not. There is a she-god or there is not!”

“There is,” said Phenyo, visibly startled

“I believe. I want to see her,” she continued. She may as well go along with it. Although Ajuoga seemed willing to show her the she-god, she had decided long ago, that no matter how obviously a figment of her mind, she would behave as though she were real. It was the respectful thing to do.

“Good! Now that you have asked you shall see daughter of mine. Will you lend me your eyes?…will you tell me what you see? I want to know of her face – again…the she-god. I want to know of her beauty! My eyes….my eyes….I only have eyes in my sleep! There was a time when my eyes could see…long ago…I was still a girl. The she-god came to me then but I did not believe! I saw her with my eyes and she took them with her when she left me Phenyo – she took my eyes! I refused to believe but I was only a girl. Will you be my eyes Phenyo? I want to see her face again!”

Ajuoga trembled as she rubbed her hands together. Her words rushed into one another in desperation then were slow, like a procession of beasts running with all their might, slowing down for a cliff ahead and slamming into one another’s flesh. For the first time Phenyo felt afraid in her company but reached for Ajuoga’s leathery face with courage and wiped away the tears with her fingers. Ajuoga seemed more like a stranger with remnants of familiarity to her now.

“Yes mother…from where will she come?”

“Shhh…only believe what you can see…daughter. Believe what you see,” Ajuoga stood slowly and spread her arms – the left one towards the ceiling and the other perpendicular to it. Though closed, her eyes shone a dull white through the lids and escaped between her lashes at the bottom, like rays of a partially eclipsed sun. The arch in her back straightened itself triumphantly against the rush of wind that flew into the dwelling, past Phenyo, then orbited both women. Ajuoga’s hair rose and fell as Phenyo’s neatly woven hair withstood the wind. Dust and small pieces of debris danced. Phenyo stood but wanted badly to abandon her flesh standing there, allowing herself to escape invisibly, unable to be followed or seen. Shiluba could be heard outside scurrying about and making high-pitched pleas. If the winds didn’t calm soon, the chimpanzee would seek comfort in the heights of the trees away from the izindlu.

“Ajuoga?”

“You are Phen-yo,”

“Yes…are you from those before us?”

“Phenyo…you are a fine woman indeed. I see why she loves you so,”

“You are the she-god?”

“Yes,”

“What have you done with mother’s tongue?”

“She is here still – and has not been harmed,”

“What do you want of me?”

“I did not summon you Phenyo. What do you desire of me?”

“What is your name?”

“You wanted to know my name? How can a she-god help you?”

“I didn’t believe,”

“I know – she knows. I told her you would not believe until you could see,”

“Whose blood belongs to you?”

“No Phenyo, I am not an ancestor of the Kishnu, the Kishnu are of me,”

“Then you are -”

“Phenyo, do you believe?”

“No,”

“Will you believe?”

“Yes,”

Copyright 2012 All Rights Reserved by TK McEachin.
 
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Posted by on July 22, 2013 in Fictional Writing, Philosophy, Society

 

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A Cat Tales and Whiskers interview

A great interview of Ceillia Naden, a 13 year old author from my home state of Georgia, who happens to be dyslexic,. CAT TALES & WHISKERS, a Christian paranormal novelette is her first published work. It is available on Amazon in both paperback & e-book formats (the e-book is only .99 cents and the paperback is only $7.59). I believe in encouraging and supporting our young people in their endeavors, and not just lamenting & admonishing the negative stories. Please check this out & share, share, share! Please support her if you are able. This is what the American dream is all about.

George's Shorts

I was asked my opinion on a book written by 13 year old author Ciellia Naden. Her mother is a writer friend and an accomplished YA author in her own right. I sat down with Mother and Daughter this week to ask some questions about Ciellia’s first Novel “Cat Tales and Whiskers” Here’s what I found out. As I was talking to her mother I found out that Ciellia’s first manuscript was a home school assignment which of course led to the following question of mom

For Cynthia: What made you decide to assign your kids a book to write as a home school assignment?

Neither of my children like writing assignments, and it always seemed to be tough when I’d assign them a specific topic to write about, so I figured this would be a good incentive to get them to write. I told them that they could write…

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How to improve writing skills by reading different genres

 

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An Excerpt from THE ELEMENTS Book I

Friends,

Today I wanted to share a brief excerpt from Book I of my upcoming, alternative Earth fantasy – THE ELEMENTS, which I began in 2003 after seeing the news coverage of the beginnings of the war in Iraq. I have talked about my fictional writing mostly on my website, but I wanted to share some it with you all. Enjoy! 
Zuri, the flesh must be divided evenly,” instructed Leena, pointing to her too generous cuts of the meat given to them by the recently returned warriors. 

 “You mean less the largest portion which goes to the Queen,” The young woman stopped cutting the flesh in front of her, took a deep breath and started dividing the portions already cut into smaller pieces.

 “I hear she doesn’t even eat it,” said another.

 “She doesn’t. She doesn’t like the meat from wild beasts and says that it smells bad. I tell her that it’s all of the meat we have now. She just drinks the muthi and makes me take the stew away most days– I give it to the those in need of it,” said Olufemi. 

 “You give it to Wasswa,” teased Nia as she walked by Olufemi carrying a basket full of fruit that somehow she had to divide between so many. 

 “We give the best to the King’s family while the people are starving. It isn’t enough and it never is,” said Olufemi. 

 “You can ignore me all you want Olufemi but I see the way he looks at you…and you he,”

 “He is a warrior and I am a servant, bound to the king and his family. These eyes wander no further than the Queen’s izindlu,” said Olufemi without looking up from her task.

 “We do as we are told and we are lucky to have this much meat. The days of hunger will end and we will have rain again. King Nkosana has shared this from the ancestors, that we will suffer for a short time and the Kishnu will kneel at our feet. It is prophesy!”

 “Yes, Leena of course,” said Olufemi, nodding her head in agreement.

 “Leena, you are old and sound just like the King. Do you have any thoughts that are your own? I’m tired of the prophesy and I want to eat everyday. I’m tired of hearing about the ancestors, what about the living? Why can’t we till the soil or go fishing in the sea for ourselves? Why must only Nkosana provide?!” asked Nia for the third time since the last rain.

 Without warning, the elder cook rushed to the girl, raised her right hand up above her,slapping her left cheek with so much force the girl staggered backwards. All of the others stood where they were, speechless. The young cook’s pride alone was enough of a dam to keep tears from her face. She raised her hands to the left side of her face for a moment, then dropped them and faced Leena as if she was ready to strike her back. 

 “Nkosana comes from a line of kings too great in number for you to count, child. He has always provided us with food even when the land refuses to. We don’t have to sweat in the hot sun or suffer the dangers at sea like Kishnu women – faces painted black, climbing trees,weapons in hand like men, with not a trace of themselves left recognizable, except for bosoms. Your tongue is a young child running ahead, beyond the reach of your father’s spear, into the jaws of a lion. Our duty is to prepare the food given to us by our king. Never again let Nkosana’s name pass your lips unless followed by praise or gratitude!”

Nia, wait! Don’t leave!” yelled Olufemi as the girl turned and rushed out of the room so quickly a breeze tickled each of them.

 “I’ll go after her,” announced Olufemi while cleansing her hands with water from a potjiepot in front of her.

 “No. There’s too much work to be done and every hand is needed. She wants you to come after her as you always do when she’s in trouble. Leave her to her anger. It will have abandoned her by night fall,”

Leena, she’s my sister. She is young and needs me. Let me go to her. I’ll bring her back to finish the cooking,”said Olufemi.

 Leena turned to Olufemi and embraced one of her shoulders by extending one of her arms.

Olufemi, you’re loyal to your sister and that is good, but now your duty to Lungizwe requires your loyalty. You cannot share it. Let her be,”

 “Yes, she’ll be fine. She always is,” said Olufemi with a faint smile. By now the others were listening but had returned to their respective duties. Leena and Olufemi returned to theirs, all in silence.

 

Excerpt from THE ELEMENTS Book I Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. www.theelementsbooks.com

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2013 in Fictional Writing

 

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Top 10 Storytelling Cliches Writers Need To Stop Using

I thoroughly enjoyed this list. Some things were news to me but most I know of & avoid like the plague in my own writing. This is from columnist Rob W. Hart on Lit Reactor. Writers pay attention:

rob-w-hartCliché is the enemy of good writing. 

We, as writers, are trained to kill clichéd phrases in sentences. But that’s not the only place they can hide—they can infect the spaces between the words, too.

Clichés can infect storytelling techniques.

Need to build some tension? Have a time bomb with a digital readout slowly ticking down to zero!

Is your narrator a dick? Blame it on abusive parents!

Want to get all writerly in conveying the plot? Put it in a dream!

These are storytelling devices that pop up again and again, crutches for the writer to lean on and help move the story along without actually having to stretch their abilities. What follows are, to my mind, the worst of the bunch. 

1. Characters describing themselves in mirrors

Why it’s easy: Describing a character when you’re writing in the third person is pretty easy when the narrative voice is omniscient. But first person is a bit of a challenge—how do you convey what your character looks like without making them sound vain and self-obsessed? Wait, how about using a mirror!?

Why it’s a cop out: It’s lazy, it’s been done to death, and anyway, no one looks in a mirror and takes stock of all their features in severe detail. I would argue you don’t need to belabor the description of your main character anyway. You can hit the big points—if your character’s defining trait is a deformity or a hairstyle—there are ways to work that into the narrative. For the rest of if, you have to trust the reader. First that they don’t need to be coddled, and second, that they’ll project something onto the character. 

2. Broadcasting an upcoming plot twist

Why it’s easy: Sometimes you need to give a little weight to a character who’s been sitting around and doing nothing, or make sure the reader is on his or her toes. What’s wrong at a little hint at things to come?  

Why it’s a cop out: This is the “little did he know” principle of storytelling. In The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown, toward the end of the book, the albino monk is captured by the story’s heroes. And it says—I’m paraphrasing here—something like: “Little did he know that he’d soon turn the tables.” Leading me to ask: Why would you broadcast a plot twist? Especially in a book that’s classified as a thriller?! Dan Brown isn’t the only author to commit this crime. It’s just the first example to come to me. 

3. Blaming bad behavior on bad parenting

Why it’s easy: It’s hard to justify bad behavior. If your narrator is a dick, you still want him/her to be a redeemable dick, or at least someone damaged enough that their dickishness isn’t so far-fetched. You know what makes people into dicks that you can’t really question, you just have to accept? Bad parents! 

Why it’s a cop out: Almost every fucked-up character in fiction can trace his or her issues back to being sexually abused or slapped around by parental units. Making the parents into monsters is an easy way to explain away bad behavior. It’s too easy. The thing is, sometimes this can be profound or deeply affecting. But a lot of the time, the bad parents are there for the sake of it. You know what’s scarier? Someone growing up in a normal household and still becoming a dick.  

4. Too many inside jokes/references

Why it’s easy: Because you need to make sure everyone knows you watched The Big Lebowski. 

Why it’s a cop out: Few things stop me as cold in a story as an inside joke or a belabored reference. We get it. You’re funny and you watch cool stuff. But I would need two hands and both feet to count the amount of times I’ve read references to rugs that tied the room together. Writing for your friends, or for your own ego, is a sure way to alienate a reader. 

5. The chosen one

Why it’s easy: Your hero isn’t just special. He/she has been chosen by some higher force! 

Why it’s a cop out: Characters can be special without being touched by the hand of fate. And anyway, if your character is the only person who can solve a given problem, does that make him/her heroic? Or just easily coerced? They have no choice but to be heroic, and that’s not really heroism. Very rarely is this trope used well. Most of the time… it’s not.  

To continue reading this hilarious & informative piece, please click HERE!

 
 

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Help Me Support Danger Word Film!

I rarely ask people to donate funds for anything, but this project, Danger Word Film is very dear to my heart & it is important to me, so I wanted to remind everyone about this community funded project I’ve have asked you all to be a part of, throughout social media. It’s from husband-wife writing team Steven Barnes Tananarive Due . Steven is the author of 27 novels & has written for television shows such as The Outer Limits, Andromeda & the (new) Twilight Zone. The episode he wrote “A Stitch In Time” on The Outer Limits won an Emmy Award as well.

Tananarive is the award winning novelist of 10 horror novels such as the African Immortal series which started with MY SOUL TO KEEP & she is the Spelman College Cosby Chair in the Humanities.

I have met them both, been informally mentored as a person and writer & they are wonderful, down-to-earth, exceptional human beings. Both of their novels have influenced me as a writer as well. Please visit www.dangerwordfilm.wordpress.com to learn how you can be a part of/support this project! I will be donating myself & NO DONATION IS TOO SMALL (OR BIG hehe!) Amounts can be donated anywhere from $1 & up, simply click the “donate” button once you’re on their website! They have acknowledgements for all levels of donations and some fantastic incentives available. Recently, they announced that the part of “Grandpa Joe” will be played by veteran actor Frankie Faison, well known for his roles on television show “The Wire” and The Silence of The Lambs. Faison is currently co-starring in Alan Ball’s series “Banshee” on Cinemax. Steven & Tananarive share more here:

;

Connect with Danger Word Film on social media:

“Like” DWF on Facebook HERE

Follow DWF on Twitter HERE

Thanks so much to those who have donated already! It is greatly appreciated.

-Talitha “TK” McEachin

 

 
 

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Book Review: ‘River of Stars’ A sweeping saga of a swordsman and a poetess

Friends,

ROSOccasionally, I come across a book review written so well, that it causes a curiosity within me so strong, that I must let my fingers do the “walking” to my favorite website & purchase the novel & read it immediately.(Note that such a review need not be favorable to be well-written per se, although this one is.) Author, editor & book reviewer for the Seattle Times Nisi Shawl has written such a review and I wanted to share it with you all. I have shared here, on my website & throughout social media my thoughts on the importance of book reviews, so I’m always excited to share great ones, as I look for new books to spend my hard-earned money on & read.

This book’s plot is fascinating to me because I love the overall fantasy genre but get tired of the same old archetypes. I’m always looking for books to read, that don’t have elves, a dark lord, a farm boy who doesn’t realize he’s “the one” or talking non-human characters, so I am so looking forward to this. The review is of Guy Gavriel Kay’s RIVER OF STARSGuy Gavriel Kay is a Canadian author of fantasy fiction. Many of his novels are set in fictional realms that resemble real places during real historical periods. Kay has written over 10 novels and numerous shorter works. His works have been translated into 22 languages, and have sold over two million copies. Nisi Shawl has been reviewing fiction for the Seattle Times for nearly 12 years & I thoroughly enjoy her erudite analysis of the works of so many authors. Here is the review:

Why would a white man want to write an epic fantasy based on Chinese history? Why would he do so twice?

In the case of award-winning Toronto author Guy Gavriel Kay, the answer could be, “Because he can.” “River of Stars,” (Roc, 576 pp., $26.95), the follow-up to Kay’s acclaimed “Under Heaven,” takes place in Kitai, a land closely modeled on China. Set during a period mirroring the centuries-long Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE, as “Under Heaven” mirrored the Tang Dynasty of 618-907 CE), “River of Stars” tells the intertwining stories of a swordsman and a poetess. Not the most iconoclastic pairing for this milieu, but Ren Daiyan and Lin Shan are fully realized characters rather than the shadows those labels suggest.

Beginning with Ren’s sudden understanding that the bandits he confronts as a boy may hold the key to his future — that he needs to live in their midst rather than fight against them — the novel takes several surprising turns. Yet though the plot is blessedly unpredictable, its hero is no inscrutable warrior type: Ren is motivated by understandable emotions born of a culture well described. Brilliant, stubborn, loyal, daring, he does what he must. But his tasks are often determined by chance and other elements beyond his control, elements he as a character and we as readers recognize only in hindsight.

Lin Shan is a woman brought up by her idealistic father to break the far-too-­restrictive mold defining her sex. Through his characters’ unobtrusive reflections, Kay carefully differentiates the ways changing eras affect the roles of upper-class women. Whether she and her father travel to take part in a far city’s celebrated peony festival or to visit a country gentleman, the mores of the Song Dynasty dictate that Lin must stay in their destination’s women’s quarters; she must dress so as not to incite lust, must remain virgin till her wedding night and so on. Her literacy, while not forbidden, is viewed as eccentric.

To continue reading this review, please click HERE.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Book Reviews, Fictional Writing

 

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