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Friday Reads: The Sharing Knife: Beguilement, by Lois McMaster Bujold

For some reason I’ve been very slow in getting into Lois McMaster Bujold’s work; despite reading and enjoying Ethan of Athos many years ago, and loving The Curse of Chalion, it wasn’t until this year that I went beyond that. I was in a mood to read some SF as a palate-cleanser after so much fantasy, so I started her Miles Vorkosigan series at the beginning (of which more another day). Then I discovered there was a one-day conference on her work being held here in Cambridge just after WorldCon (when I happen to be off work), so I decided I’d better read more of her books before going! I bought a couple more of the SF series in ebook form, then remembered that her entire four-book fantasy series The Sharing Knife was gathering dust on my bookshelves (I bought them several years ago, from a work colleague).

The Sharing Knife is very different from your typical European-inspired fantasy – like Peter V Brett’s Demon Cycle, it has a very rural American flavour, like The Little House on the Prairie with monsters. However, whereas Brett’s series is all about the fight against the monsters, The Sharing Knife is basically a romance with a bit of monster-bashing on the side. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; Bujold is such a good writer that she can hook you with charming characters and domestic squabbles as easily as with heart-pounding action.

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Plotting vs Pantsing – it’s not either/or

Over the past year or so I’ve been gearing up to write a new novel, and I’ve had to rediscover my own writing process all over again. Writing The Alchemist of Souls took so long that I barely remember how I got from vague idea to first rough draft, and whilst the two sequels are very recent, they were written so fast it’s something of a blur!

If anything, writing The Merchant of Dreams and The Prince of Lies gave me a very misleading view of how I work. I assumed that because I was able to come up with an outline fairly readily and only needed a couple of drafts before it was ready to polish up and send to my editor, that this was the way it would go for all future books. Turns out, not so much. Read more

CONvergence 2014

Q: What do you get if you put together 6000+ SFF fans, a bunch of outstanding organisers and a great venue? A: CONvergence, a regional convention that’s been running in Minnesota for the past 16 years (and hopefully will continue for many more).

I first heard about CONvergence back in 2012 from then-Angry Robot editor Lee Harris, and as I have a number of writer friends in the Midwest it seemed like the perfect choice for my next US convention. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go in 2013, but I was determined to make it this year – and I’m very glad I did. Read more

Convention schedule update: CONvergence

This morning I got a nice surprise in my inbox: details of my schedule for CONvergence in Minnesota! I have two panels, one fairly serious, the other…not so much :)

Saturday 5th July

10pm Loki Can Rule Me Any Day – an exploration of side characters who have become fan favourites

11.30pm Science of Sex It’s a necessary biological function – what more can we say about it?

I winced a bit when I saw how late they were, but hopefully I’ll still be operating somewhat on UK time so it will only feel like early evening. I hope to see some of you there – if you want a book signed, just ask! (Preferably not when I’m eating/in the loo/otherwise busy…)

Mini blog tour – and mega giveaway!

The other day I realised it was almost two years since the publication of The Alchemist of Souls - time flies when you’re chained to your desk writing sequels! As it happens, I also started getting invitations to guest post on various blogs, which has turned into a mini blog tour.

Plus there’s a big giveaway on Fantasy Faction this month, with three copies of The Prince of Lies and one full set of the trilogy up for grabs!

Here’s the schedule:

It’s good to be blogging again after a slow winter – hope you enjoy the posts!

“Lost” 17th century fencing manual – now in print!

On Saturday 22nd March I attended the launch of a very exciting non-fiction book – an English translation of Nicoletto Giganti‘s second fencing manual, which until very recently had been lost to history.

The story of its discovery is up there with that of Tutankhamen’s tomb: a missing piece of the historical jigsaw that had faded almost into legend, suddenly found by a couple of bold adventurers. Admittedly the journey of discovery required only a visit to the Wallace Collection in central London, not to Egypt, but for those of us who love Renaissance history, it was just as exciting. Read more

Diagramming your book’s conflicts

This weekend I knuckled down to sorting out the overall plot of my work-in-progress, Serpent’s Tooth. I have a setting, several main characters and some ideas for conflicts, but nothing was pinned down, hence my struggles to get on with writing the book. This is pretty par for the course with me; I tend to get bogged down in plot possibilities because there are so many directions the story could go in and I can’t decide which one is best!

I started with my usual process of “thinking aloud” on paper, and suddenly the pieces began to fall into place: I knew who my main opposing factions would be, and that there would be factions within those factions, divided loyalties, betrayals, etc. It was starting to get quite complicated, so at the suggestion of my writer friend Adrian Faulkner I broke out my trial copy of Scapple, a simple diagramming program for Mac and Windows, produced by those lovely people who brought us Scrivener. Read more

Friday Read: The Dragon’s Path, by Daniel Abraham

Way back in 2011 (gosh, was it really that long ago?) I read Abraham’s debut, A Shadow in Summer, and loved it for its beautiful writing and unusual Eastern-inspired setting, so when I heard he had written a more conventional epic fantasy series I was a little conflicted. I couldn’t blame him for wanting to write something more commercial than The Long Price Quartet, but I’m not a huge fan of bog-standard medieval EF so it didn’t exactly leap to the top of my TBR list. However I’m currently waiting on several much-anticipated books that aren’t out until spring, so I decided to bite the bullet and give The Dragon’s Path a go… Read more