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AQ: Years In the Making


swissmarg is about halfway through. shinygobonkers is at about the 25% mark, and tealterror0 is wrapping up other projects and will hopefully be able to start shortly.

So far, revision still consists mostly of word polishing and clarifications here and there. I have changed some scenes, deleted a couple, and added a couple more, but it's too early to say whether any really big changes will be needed.

Right now AQATWA is still 60 chapters and 283,300 words. Woof!

Plans Years In the Making

J.K. Rowling is often praised for her foreshadowing. Planting of seeds, laying of Easter eggs. The planning she demonstrated, from the very beginning, is one of the hallmarks of Harry Potter, and one of the things that elevates it above so many other children's book series. It's not that no other author ever did that, but there really aren't very many other children/YA series (or at least, there were not at the time) where it was clear that the author had the endgame planned out from the beginning and laid clues throughout the earlier books to things that would happen later.

Of course, this is also one of the most frequent criticisms leveled against her, by fans disappointed in her execution. I have a less harsh view of The Deathly Hallows than some, but you can certainly see places where Rowling kinda sorta knew how she wanted things to go way back when, but wasn't sure how to tie it together when she got there. We know, from her statements, that she had the Epilogue planned from the very beginning. She knew Voldemort would be defeated, the next generation would grow up in a better world, and that Harry would wind up with Ginny and Ron with Hermione (to the angst-ridden screams of millions of shippers who had different ideas).

What I often wonder is how much of the rest she had planned and how much she made up as she went along. It's pretty clear she had Horcruxes planned from the beginning, but I'll bet the Deathly Hallows were something she invented later, maybe as late as while she was writing book seven. I believe Snape's character arc, and the death of Dumbledore, were things she had planned from the start. But when did she invent the Luna Lovegood character? I wouldn't be surprised if Luna popped out of her head fully formed, because she needed a character to fill that role, while she was writing book five. (Maybe she's said differently somewhere? I dunno.)

Did Rowling have the Triwizard Tournament neatly outlined in advance? How about the Battle of Hogwarts? I'm betting the latter was a big climactic but vague scene in her head until late in the series. It always seemed rather messily plotted for such an epic climax.

Did she know every character who was going to live and die when she started writing? Did she ever change her mind? I would give much to sit down with Rowling and ask her those questions, though at this point, I fear fame and ego have gone to her head and I'm not sure she'd be able to answer honestly if she wanted to. She's doing too much retconning as it is.

But, this is all of obvious relevance to me, because, y'know. Years ago, when I began the Alexandra Quick series, I made the insanely ambitious (and optimistic) decision that this was going to be a seven-book series, like the original.

I have also been praised for my foreshadowing (why yes, I did have a lot of this planned out from the very beginning!), so I also worry about whether I can pull off the final execution.

When I finished Alexandra Quick and the Thorn Circle, I did not have the next six books plotted out. And in fact, I still don't.

As a writer, I am a bit of a hybrid between pantser and plotter.

This is evident when I sometimes find the notes I wrote while working on previous books. I am kind of a sloppy outliner. Until now I have usually scribbled ideas down in a notebook, and the finished work is often quite different from what I originally outlined. I have discovered subplots and characters that I forgot all about, to be replaced with something else. I have always had a pretty good idea of what will happen in general in any given book, but the specific resolution for each plot point is often quite different from what I originally brainstormed when first writing down my ideas. I apparently had a very different storyline originally planned for Darla and Alexandra, though the end result was going to be the same. Sonja Rackham being elevated from extra to supporting cast was a decision I made spontaneously in book four. I have a file full of excerpts I cut from AQATSA.

So I'm trying to do things a little differently for the last two books. I have started an outline in Scrivener (which is what I use to write) instead of just scribbling notes in a journal.

Right now books six and seven are a mess of scenes and plot points and events that have been in my head for years. I have known from the beginning how the series will end. Now it's time to write all those scenes down, and organize. So I can finish this thing. Maybe without taking seven years on the next book.

Here is another art sneak preview:

For all the King's horses And all the King's men Do not have the power To change this oblivious fate Collapse )
A semi-satirical alternate history in which the U.S. threatens Japan with... kaiju.

Shambling Towards Hiroshima

Tachyon Publications, 2009, 170 pages

It is the early summer of 1945, and war reigns in the Pacific Rim with no end in sight. Back in the States, Hollywood B-movie star Syms Thorley lives in a very different world, starring as the Frankenstein-like Corpuscula and Kha-Ton-Ra, the living mummy. But the U.S. Navy has a new role waiting for Thorley, the role of a lifetime that he could never have imagined.

The top secret Knickerbocker Project is putting the finishing touches on the ultimate biological weapon: a breed of gigantic, fire-breathing, mutant iguanas engineered to stomp and burn cities on the Japanese mainland. The Navy calls upon Thorley to don a rubber suit and become the merciless Gorgantis and to star in a live drama that simulates the destruction of a miniature Japanese metropolis. If the demonstration succeeds, the Japanese will surrender, and many thousands of lives will be spared; if it fails, the horrible mutant lizards will be unleashed. One thing is certain: Syms Thorley must now give the most terrifyingly convincing performance of his life.

In the dual traditions of Godzilla as a playful monster and a symbol of the dawn of the nuclear era, Shambling Towards Hiroshima unexpectedly blends the destruction of World War II with the halcyon pleasure of monster movies.

World War II, SF fandom, and a love letter to every monster movie ever made.Collapse )

My complete list of book reviews.

Book Review: Ex-Isle, by Peter Clines

The Ex-Heroes find more survivors, with an obligatory superhero brick battle.


Broadway Books, 2016, 389 pages

The spectacular fifth adventure in the genre-busting Ex-Heroes series.

The heroes are overjoyed when they discover another group of survivors living on a manmade island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. But there's something very, very wrong with this isolated community and its mysterious leader - a secret that could put every survivor in the world at risk.

The fifth book in a series that seems to be settling in for the long run.Collapse )

Also by Peter Clines: My reviews of Ex-Heroes, Ex-Patriots, Ex-Communication, Ex-Purgatory, 14, The Fold, and Paradox Bound.

My complete list of book reviews.
An Indian-flavored portal fantasy by a literary author.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Viking Children's Books, 1990, 224 pages

Discover Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Salman Rushdie's classic fantasy novel.

Set in an exotic eastern landscape peopled by magicians and fantastic talking animals, Salman Rushdie's classic children's novel Haroun and the Sea of Stories inhabits the same imaginative space as The Lord of the Rings, The Alchemist, and The Wizard of Oz. In this captivating work of fantasy from the author of Midnight's Children and The Enchantress of Florence, Haroun sets out on an adventure to restore the poisoned source of the sea of stories. On the way he encounters many foes, all intent on draining the sea of all its storytelling powers.

The feeling of a modern children's classic but the density of a lit-novel.Collapse )

Also by Salman Rushdie: My reviews of Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses.

My complete list of book reviews.

Book Review: The Twelve, by Justin Cronin

Revolt against the vampire apocalypse.

The Twelve

Random House, 2012, 568 pages

The end of the world was only the beginning.

In his internationally best-selling and critically acclaimed novel The Passage, Justin Cronin constructed an unforgettable world transformed by a government experiment gone horribly wrong. Now the scope widens and the intensity deepens as the epic story surges forward with...

The Twelve

In the present day, as the man-made apocalypse unfolds, three strangers navigate the chaos. Lila, a doctor and an expectant mother, is so shattered by the spread of violence and infection that she continues to plan for her child’s arrival even as society dissolves around her. Kittridge, known to the world as "Last Stand in Denver", has been forced to flee his stronghold and is now on the road, dodging the infected, armed but alone and well aware that a tank of gas will get him only so far. April is a teenager fighting to guide her little brother safely through a landscape of death and ruin. These three will learn that they have not been fully abandoned - and that in connection lies hope, even on the darkest of nights.

One hundred years in the future, Amy and the others fight on for humankind’s salvation...unaware that the rules have changed. The enemy has evolved, and a dark new order has arisen with a vision of the future infinitely more horrifying than man’s extinction. If the Twelve are to fall, one of those united to vanquish them will have to pay the ultimate price.

A heart-stopping thriller rendered with masterful literary skill, The Twelve is a grand and gripping tale of sacrifice and survival.

Getting to the sequel nine years later...Collapse )

Also by Justin Cronin: My review of The Passage.

My complete list of book reviews.

AQATWA: Cover Reveal

I have three betas for AQATWA. One is about a third of the way through the book, one is on chapter five, and one is still in the process of rereading the first four books. So work is proceeding — I have made a number of changes already, but they are mostly on the word-and-sentence level. They haven't yet hit any of the Big Honkin' Plot Points that I expect will generate the most discussion, and of course, if there are inconsistencies or major plot holes, some may not be apparent until they've gotten to the end of the book.

AQATWA remains a big book. My manuscript... has not gotten smaller. One beta has already commented on the multiple subplots, and made some suggestions for scenes that could be cut. We'll see, because it depends on how necessary/unnecessary they still think those scenes are once they've reached the end of the book.

Anyway, it's time to reveal... the cover. Well, at least a prototype for the cover.

No wait, let me tease you first and talk about terrible covers. Mainly, mine.

Embarrassingly, for all the time I have spent faffing around with Poser and Photoshop, I have spent quite a lot of time figuring out how to do some highly specific and obscure task, like warping text or creating fire effects, and very little time studying the basics of composition and color theory. I kind of knew what a color wheel was, but never actually paid attention to how they are applied.

Which why I created abominations like my first cover.

Aside from the crappy Photoshop job (don't ask me why I couldn't be bothered to even fix that white artifact on Alexandra's pants leg), whatever possessed me to use yellow font on a green background? Yeah, seriously, I had no idea about contrast, triadic color schemes, etc.

I didn't do much better with the next few books.

So anyway, although I have commissioned quite a few pieces of art for AQATWA, I'm back at the Poser hacking, and I renewed my subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud, so maybe now I will actually try to learn something about color schemes, blending, layers, all that good stuff. But the fact remains, as a digital artist, I'm a pretty fair writer.

So, below the cut is the cover image I commissioned from Katerina Ventova. The art is her work, but the title and author text is mine. I think I chose an appropriately contrasting color this time, and the font size and positioning looks okay to me, but I have a terrible eye for these details, so if there are any typographic designers out there, please speak up and tell me what I can do to make it look better.

This is never going to be a commercial release, of course, but I'd like to at least get my covers a bit more polished.

Leventart, by the way, did a beautiful job, I think, so feel free to click to her DeviantArt page and give her some love. (Or commission her!)

Alexandra Quick and the World Away - the Cover.Collapse )
Post-Apocalyptic shenanigans in Dinétah.

Trail of Lightning

Saga Press, 2018, 287 pages

The sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse have destroyed most of the planet…yet out of these waters, Dinétah, a former Navajo reservation, has been miraculously reborn.

When Dinétah needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie - a monster hunter and supernatural killer - is its last, best hope. Trail of Lightning follows our heroine as she walks the land alongside gods, heroes of legend, and monsters alike. Reluctantly, she enlists the aid of an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel Dinétah, unraveling clues from ancient legends and trading favors with tricksters. As Maggie discovers the truth behind the killings, she will have to confront her past if she wants to survive - for what she uncovers about the monster she is sent to find is much more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Is it urban fantasy if there's no more urban?Collapse )

My complete list of book reviews.
I read my first "Light Novel" and am not impressed.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?

Yen On, 2013, 216 pages

In Orario, fearless adventurers band together in search of fame and fortune within the monstrous underground labyrinth known as Dungeon.

But while riches and renown are incentive enough for most, Bell Cranel, would-be hero extraordinaire, has bigger plans.

He wants to pick up girls.

Is it wrong to face the perils of Dungeon alone, in a single-member guild blessed by a failed goddess? Maybe. Is it wrong to dream of playing hero to hapless maidens in Dungeon? Maybe not. After one misguided adventure, Bell quickly discovers that anything can happen in the labyrinth--even chance encounters with beautiful women. The only problem? He's the one who winds up the damsel in distress!

Loli boobs, harem fantasies, and dungeon crawling.Collapse )

My complete list of book reviews.


AQATWA: End Year Five

The first pass is done. I have revised and rewritten and revised some more, and I'm at the "moving words around" stage, which I could do forever, so it's time to unleash this beast on my betas. And so I have.

Word Counts

A funny thing happened in the process of revising this draft.

It got bigger.

I usually think of my first revision as "tightening up," among other things. I slash unnecessary words, sentences, and sometimes entire chapters.

Previous AQ books - indeed, pretty much everything I have written in the past - have very consistently become shorter after my first revision, usually by about 10%. I have never not ended up with a shorter manuscript.

But this one... well, there were indeed several chapters that got completely rewritten, and I found that again and again I was actually adding scenes.

When I first announced the completion of my first draft, in December, the word count was 281,900 words.

My revised draft? 284,400 words.

It may well become smaller in the next iteration - I rather hope so. But it's a bit scary to think about how much bloat this might represent. The fact is, I started writing this book seven years ago, so if ever I've had a manuscript that needs more pairs of eyes on it, it's this one.

I also noticed that I broke chapters up a lot more in this manuscript. Currently, AQATWA contains 61 chapters. That's an average of 4662 words per chapter. By comparison, here is what previous books looked like:

Title (Average words per chapter)
AQATTC, 160,327 words, 29 chapters (5529)
AQATLB, 226,846 words, 37 chapters (6131)
AQATDR, 196,588 words, 31 chapters (6342)
AQATSA, 252,313 words, 39 chapters (6470)

So, right now AQATWA has much shorter chapters. Probably some of them will be combined and/or cut in the editing process. This isn't really a conscious decision I made, but I am not sure if this is just because of the nature of this book, or because my writing style has changed.

Anyway, enough introspection. This is why I went ahead and told my betas to have at it.

Here is some more teaser art. Note that this was just the artist's initial sketch for my approval. The finished piece is absolutely gorgeous.

Her hair of floating sky is shimmering, glimmering in the sunCollapse )
The third book of the Demon Cycle — more sex and violence than plot.

The Daylight War

Random House, 2013, 639 pages

A continuation of his epic Demon Cycle series, The Daylight War features Inevera, the wife of Jadir, who took center stage in Book 2, The Desert Spear. In this heart-stopping installment, humanity continues to struggle against the demon plague - even as survivors hold out hope that the Deliverer will save them all. On the night of the new moon, the demons rise in force, seeking the deaths of two men, both of whom have the potential to become the fabled Deliverer, the man prophesied to reunite the scattered remnants of humanity in a final push to destroy the demon corelings once and for all.

The secret origins of a 12th Level Sex-Ninja.Collapse )

Also by Peter Brett: My reviews of The Warded Man and The Desert Spear.

My complete list of book reviews.

My Book Reviews



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