2013… seriously!?!


I’m incredibly sad to hear that the final book of Robert Jordan’s mammoth series, A Wheel of Time, is only going to be released on 8 January 2013. Is it because I’m looking forward to the end and really want to see the end? Not particularly. In the beginning, I loved the series as much as any of the hardcore fans out there. But as the series wore on (and I seriously mean wore on), my interest waned and it turned into a form of loathing. It became worse than some of the “soapies” members of my family watched. Whole books ground out with nothing significant happening for eight-hundred and fifty pages out of nine hundred pages.

The series had originally started out as a planned trilogy and now thirteen books later fans are left to wait another year for a supposed final book. But what is to stop the publisher from deciding they want to grind out a couple more books before the fated Final Battle? “Hey, how about we turn it into a twenty book series?” In my mind, book ten and eleven could have both been trimmed down and combined into a single book, at the very least.

I’m not going to be in line to buy the book on the day it comes out or any other day after that, so why do I care when it comes out? My interest comes from the fact that my favourite author of the current crop, Brandon Sanderson, has been roped into finalising the series. This is where there’s a bit of a double-edged sword to the whole matter. I have to wonder if I would have ever “discovered” his writing if I hadn’t heard he had been chosen to finish The Wheel of Time series. He has brought out the first volume of his Stormlight Archives, The Way of Kings, since he has taken over the writing of the Wheel of Time but the second novel has been put on hold until he has been able to finish A Memory of Light. So if it means that we will only see the last WOT entry in 2013, it only means that we have that much longer to wait before he can get going on Stormlight 2.

I suppose they don’t say that patience is a virtue for nothing.

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Picking up the pieces and Moving On


It’s been about a year since the memory stick where I had stored the book guide to my project ‘Spoil the Child’ disappeared. It means that to use a cliché, a lot of water has passed under the bridge and that a lot of other work and writing has been done. To use another cliché, there is no use crying over spilled milk, but there are days when I wonder what might have been different if that memory stick had not gone missing. I’d basically finished the whole outline, all the character summaries, the setting and history. The only thing which needed to be done was to sit down and write the actual first draft. It was going to be the project that I would plan everything meticulously before I even started and was going to be the complete opposite to Pecan Hill, which was my pantser novel.

I would probably have finished the first draft and maybe even finished going through it a few times as well to polish it as well as possible before I sent it out into the world to fend for itself. Would it have been self-published or gone down the traditional route? No idea. I never got far with planning the ultimate destiny of the novel. I just wanted to write it.

Do I still want to write it?

Yes, but that fire has cooled down a little. The story is still there in the back of my mind but there are other ideas waging a war for my attention and I’m more excited about these than my old story idea. Maybe one day I’ll write it, but for now I’m happy forging ahead with the first novel in my Lords of the Apocalypse duology, War’s Regret. I’ve taken Pecan Hill about as far as I can take it without another major rewrite and I just don’t think I can go through all of that again.

War’s Regret is my baby at the moment and I want to see it all grown up. It’s a fantasy novel, although I’m not sure if it will be a real epic fantasy. It’s scope is epic, but I’m not sure I want to scale it that high. I think I’ll be fine with it being seen as a heroic fantasy. It’s also my attempt to write a fantasy throwing all of the old tropes out the door. It isn’t in a medieval world, there are no dragons, no goblins, no knights or magical swords.

It’s going to be different.

Seat-of-the-pants vs Outliner


The past few months have been particularly difficult in a writing sense for me. I dipped into one of those writing slumps that I have heard so much about and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure I have been able to safely negotiate my way through it just yet. If anything, I can see the end ahead but I think I’m still pushing forward trying to get out. I haven’t had one of those days where I cracked out more than a thousand five hundred words in many a month. In fact, I haven’t had a day where I’ve broken a thousand words.

I suppose you could say that I took a little time out to just have a break and to focus on my day job (the boredom!!).

I believe my problem with not being able to get into that comfortable groove of writing is all dependent on the question of writing by the seat of the pants versus being a heavy outliner. Stephen King has always been a great proponent of writing without an outline and “extracting the fossil of the story from the ground”, while writers like Brandon Sanderson advocate a more structured process to writing by creating an outline first.

I’ve already finished two novel length manuscripts using the seat-of-the-pants approach (Pecan Hill and When Angels Fall) and wanted to use the outline approach when writing my next one, the first novel in a duology (a two book series). My thought was that because it was the start of a series, I would need the structure and stability brought on by the outline approach in order to be able to write a series. My only problem is that I absolutely HATE outlines. I’ve always thought that the best way to write to discover the story as I write it and it’s always been more interesting to me like that.

But Lords of the Apocalypse (the name of the series) has a huge mystery in it and I’ve been struggling with how to solve the mystery. I wanted to go into the novel and the series knowing the steps that the characters would have to take in order to crack the mystery. That way I wouldn’t have to go back and have so many new drafts at the end to try and get everything right. The problem is that the steps I take after I have finished a manuscript are pretty much the same steps as my outlining steps at the beginning of the project. Insane I know, but it’s the truth. It’s this step which actually robs me of any passion I have for a project.

I’ve been trying to do an outline for Lords of the Apocalypse before the devil climbs on my shoulder and whispers in my ear that I should just write the thing like I did with Pecan Hill. This means that I’ve been stuck between two approaches and it’s not working. I need to get more willpower to stay the course and finish the outline before I leap into the writing. I know it’ll help me otherwise I’ll reach the end of a chapter and a scene and then be stuck because I have to think of what will come next.

If I plan and outline before hand, I don’t need to stop at the end of a scene – I already know the next step and can carry on.

I just need that backbone.

The Way of Kings – 2011 Book of the Year


Yes, yes, I know that I’m a little behind the times and that Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings came out in August 2010, but I was only able to get the novel this year. Before we go any further let me admit this – I’m a fan of Sanderson since I opened the first novel in his Mistborn trilogy. Admittedly, I didn’t enjoy the second and third novels in the series as much as that first one, but he had me hooked.

 

To be more honest, if it hadn’t been for the fact that he had been tipped to finish Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, it might have been several more years before I discovered him. Any of you who have been following my blog for a while will know my dislike of the series, but everyone has their own tastes and one can’t fault the man for accepting the mantle to finish a project as big as The Wheel of Time. In fact, I admire him for the courage to take the torch from a man he admits as being his inspiration.

 

But, this isn’t about his work on The Wheel of Time but instead the first chapter in his own epic series, The Stormlight Archives. The man has taken what he learned while he wrote The Gathering Storm and applied it to his own writing style to refine his work even further.

 

It’s important to remember that this novel was the first act in what is reportedly a ten book series and any resolutions found in the novel are relatively small ones and there are definitely more questions posed in the novel than resolved. There are some characters which are only introduced and shown in the interludes between the different books and you just know that these characters will come to the fore in the rest of the series.

 

The best thing I can say about the novel is that it is the first one in a long time that I want to re-read.

Honorable Mention in Writers of the Future


Those of you who have been following this blog know that my writing group and I tried to put an anthology of our short stories together earlier in the year.  Unfortunately, due to some things which were really out of our control.

I suppose you could say that the project had a positive spin-off.  Writing the short story for the project changed a gear or something in my head and after finishing the first draft for the group project I wrote another short story which I called Necromancer as a way of taking a break from the other.  

In the end, it was the second short story which I enjoyed more than the first and after polishing the story I decided to take my chances and submitted to the Writers of the Future.  I thought nothing more of it and actually thought it had done nothing with the judges.

But this morning I got an email from the contest administrators saying that I had received an Honorable Mention for the story.  It feels strange but it's a little bit of validation telling me I'm on the right path.

Congratulations to the All Blacks (and Conspiracy Theories)


Well, Rugby World Cup 2011 came to an end on Sunday when the All Blacks defeated the brave French 8 – 7.  The only difference being a penalty that Stephen Donald got over.  Or did he?

Before we go any further – let me say congratulations to the All Blacks for winning the World Cup.  The New Zealand public had been building the pressure on their team for 24 years since the last time they won it.  But then I’m going to add a caviate to my congratulations and say they deserved to win, but maybe they had a hand from the referees in being able to win.

People can say that the South African public like to believe there is a conspiracy theory against the Boks all they want but this game didn’t involve the Springboks. The referee was South African though but reports to a New Zealand boss.

There have been so many games in this Rugby World Cup where the referee had a direct influence on the result of the match that there are many people questioning whether the whole result was rigged right from the beginning.

The Springboks came into the World Cup on the back of a victory against the All Blacks.  Their first game was against the Welsh which we narrowly won by 1 point.  I can’t remember the score but the game was close.  Many people wrote the Springboks off as a team that wouldn’t trouble the All Blacks when the time came.  But then the games against Fiji and Namibia came and going into the last week of round robin play in the pools arrived and the Springboks had a better points difference than the might All Blacks and the All Blacks messiah, Dan Carter, was ruled out of the rest of the tournament with a groin injury.  The last game against Samoa was a scrappy, niggly affair where the referee turned a blind eye to the intimidation and off-the-ball tactics of the Samoans who were more interested in picking a fight than playing rugby.

The Springboks lost their biggest asset in the backline, Francois Steyn, to injury from the game for the rest of the tournament.  Due to Australia losing to Ireland in their pool, they were destined to meet South Africa in the quarter finals.  Many said that Australia had lost due to the incompetent handling of the scrum by Bryce Lawrence (remember the name).  Bryce even came out after the game and admitted that he had been poor in his handling of the game.

Bryce’s father, Keith Lawrence, had a bit of a brain fart in the nineties when as a referee he sent an e-mail to the Australian referee association (and copied in the South African referee association) saying they needed to “teach the Japies (South Africans)” a lesson. Bryce comes from such brilliant stock, doesn’t he?

Funnily enough, Bryce Lawrence was appointed to the South Africa/Australia game.  Why would a referee who admitted to being poor be elevated to referreeing one of the biggest games in the tournament?

The South African quarter-final was another poor referreeing performance by the same Bryce Lawrence who allowed the Australian’s David Pocock to spoil and break every rule in the book. Now I don’t blame Pocock – as the fetcher his task is to bend the rules as far as the referee will allow.  Bryce just let him bend them until they were completely broken.  Something he didn’t allow the South Africans to do.

South Africa lost 9 – 11 and were on their way home.  Admittedly, we could have avoided this fate, if we’d only taken one of two penalties in the first half instead of kicking to the corner.

If South Africa was viewed at such a fate, the only other team which had beat the Boks (other than the Australians) would be just as dangerous and that was Wales.  Wales had beaten Ireland to advance to the semi-finals against France.  France, their opposition, had been viewed as a weaker team as they had already lost to New Zealand as well as Tonga.

The referee for the Wales/France semi-final was Nigel Owens. Nigel Owens – the same tosspot who had made such a hash of the South Africa/Samoa game.  He went into the game trying to make amends for a showing which had been too lenient by being far too pedantic.  Eighteen minutes into the game the Welsh Captain, Sam Warburton, carried out a “tip tackle” on French winger, Vincent Clerc.  Did it deserve a card?  Yes.  Did it deserve a red card?  I’m not so sure.

France went on to win the semi-final by a single point and there is no doubt that if Warburton hadn’t been sent off they would have been in the final and viewed as a much harder opponent than France.

The IRB, in my opinion, are a bunch of stuck-up snobs who have different rules for different teams.

England was guilty (and admitted to it) of swopping balls when former wunderkind Johnny Wilkinson was kicking for posts against Romania.  It’s an actual rule in the law book that teams aren’t allowed to do this.  The punishment?  Absolutely nothing.  Why would you punish the country which is really your home base? In the same week, a Samoan player wore a branded mouth guard – his punishment?  A $10,000.  It seems as though the IRB favour money over following their own rules.

The same IRB have also turned the All Blacks into a protected species better than any other team playing the game.  It’s a rule (although God only knows why) that the opposition team has to line up at least 20 metres away from the All Blacks as they perform their dance, the haka.  The French broke this rule when they advanced to the halfway line (10m) during the haka and they were fined  £ 10,000 (that’s £ 1,000 a metre).

So congratulations to the All Blacks for winning the RWC 2011 FINALLY.

And congratulations to Paddy O’Brein and the rest of the referees in ensuring they did.

 

 

Frustration


I’m just feeling so frustrated at the moment that if somebody said the wrong thing I’m afraid I might just snap and beat seven different kind of snot out of them.  The funny thing is that today has been a good day.  Yesterday was the literal day from hell where nothing could go right and everything which could go wrong – did.

The Spingboks are out of the World Cup because of a cheating referee who has made me question where I want to carry on following rugby or sport at all.  But that was two weeks ago and since then the Boks have come back and bolstered the Sharks who destroyed the table-topping Lions 53-9 to secure a home semi.

My writing has been going “okay”.  I haven’t been burning the word processor but you could say that I am busy making progress.  I’ve finished a rejigged schedule of scenes for Pecan Hill and am busy shifting existing scenes around according to the new schedule and writing the new scenes which are missing.  The next step is to make sure my characters shine through and line edits.  So I’m definitely getting there.

So why do I feel like Dave Grohl in Foo Fighters Walk music video?