A Review and Related Musings

I finished up River of Stars last night. I highly recommend it to authors and readers both – Guy Gavriel Kay has a distinctive, and very well-crafted style, and I love to read the work of those who use language in new and interesting ways. I am in a strange subset of those who have not read a great part of GGK’s earlier works, so my review, unlike many others, will not focus on a comparison.

What I enjoyed: Without spoiling too much, the story focuses on the interweaving between past legends, current events, and future legends. Our main narrators are, by and large, figures whose stories will be written in legend, and they have a sense of this: they wonder how history will portray them, understand the larger moral implications of their actions, and, in a very human way, both believe passionately in their destinies and doubt themselves utterly. The narration follows the defining moments of their lives, both in terms of events and in terms of thoughts, and the writing style echoes this: lyrical, stream-of-consciousness. Kay does, in my opinion, an exquisite job of placing us in the viewpoint of the narrator. The book is worth reading for this alone.

Further, Kay has described the world of Kitai excellently through a patchwork of vignettes from the perspective of minor characters. With protagonists that are so influenced by the social norms of the world around them, this style of world-building is an elegant way to frame our heroes’ fears and motivations.

What I enjoyed less: Plot and pacing. If there is one flaw to River of Stars, it is the plot arc – and to be honest, I am not sure I can think of it, unequivocally, as a flaw (more on that in a moment). Kay speaks in the epilogue about the liberties he took with a particular set of historical events, compressing the stream of events and shifting things around somewhat, but the plot still meanders somewhat. In a very broad sense, it follows the traditional fight arc, but there are times when, chapter by chapter, it seems to be in a holding pattern. On the other hand, this wandering, this back and forth, this unclear path to success – all of it serves to provide doubt and fear to our heroes, and that is the piece of the book I most enjoyed.

Overall: I highly recommend this book. It is a true joy to read. More, I get the sense that the author truly loved this book. I can find no better way to describe it: he crafted every word of it. The whole book breathes love, as one might find with a little wood carving or a baby’s quilt. And that was beautiful to see.

And now, gentle readers, I am off to go running, and to think on what I have read. River of Stars. You should read it!

-M

Pay It Forward

Good Evening!

A few things tonight: a review of one of my latest reads, some helpful advice I’ve gotten, and an offer for other indie authors.

First, the review! I had the great pleasure to read Pale Queen’s Courtyard by indie author Marcin Wrona. As a ridiculously brief run-down of the story, two main characters highlight the political and social complexities of ancient Mesopotamia, with a dose of magic and religious disapproval thrown in.

The main word I would use to describe the book is raw – Wrona’s talent with language is apparent, and his storyline is both complex enough to engage and clear enough to follow. While he has taken liberties with the culture of Mesopotamia, he has done so deliberately and with forethought; it is difficult to tell where historical complexity fades into the fantastical. However, the novel displays some issues with pacing and highlighting. Certain moments that could have been pivotal, or served to deepen the plot (the battle at the ruined temple, for example, or the last few sentences of the final chapter) were underplayed, some coming off as merely connecting scenes, and others feeling somewhat unsatisfying. Also, I would have liked to learn more both about Barsam, and about the cult of Nin.

None of this should deter you from reading the book – indie fiction offers a rare glimpse into the growing and shaping of an author’s talent, and Wrona has talent to spare. I recommend this book, and I will be intrigued to see where his writing has gone since 2011 (Golden Feathers Falling is Book 2 in the series I began, and Wrona has since ventured into steampunk.)

Now! Onwards. I wanted to share a few helpful books, blog posts, and tips I’ve learned over the course of my publishing and research, so without further ado:

  • Smart Self-Publishing by Zoe Winters – an incredibly helpful book, very strongly focused on the pragmatic side of self-publishing. Takeaway: treat it like a business. Winters will give you some tips on how, as well as some tips on formatting manuscripts and so on!
  • Be the Monkey by Barry Eisler and J.A. Konrath – an intriguing and helpful look at publishing from authors who have been successful both in traditional and self publishing. Takeaway: one of your best methods of self-promotion is to have more books published and available online.
  • 30 Day Books – the spouses who co-run this site have been immensely successful on the self-published side of publishing. Immensely. While much of their advice is more useful to those who write non-fiction, fiction and genre fiction authors should still check them out. There is a free email list, and numerous other helpful aspects to the site. Takeaway: presentation is important, and you can make it work for you.
  • How to Run a Goodreads Giveaway – the author of this blog post has a degree in survey methodology, and has put it to excellent use here. From her own experience with 11 Goodreads giveaways, she offers her insights on the best time frame to use, the best way to make a description, and whether to offer additional copies. Takeaway: exposure is also important!
  • Have you written a blog post or book about self-publishing that you’d like me to highlight, or do you know of one that would be useful to other indie authors? Leave a comment and let us know!

Finally, as promised, an offer to those of you who have read this far. While my time is not unlimited, I have a hearty appreciation for the talent in the indie community, and I do keep a reading list. I will be doing about one review per month, and encourage you to submit your book!

Now, off to read another delicious chapter of River of Stars, and do some editing on Inheritance! Have a wonderful night, gentle readers!

-M

Short Stories & Sneak Peeks

Gentle Readers,

A very pleasant weekend to you! It is raining outside, but Spring is unmistakable – green and pink and yellow all about. Curled up with my writing and a steaming mug of coffee, I feel very cozy, indeed!

First, and very exciting: there is now a sneak peek of Origins available on the site! You can head over and check it out here, and feel free to speculate and comment away! I am sending Origins to the beta readers chapter by chapter, and another should make its way off to them today!

Next, exciting as well: I am dipping my toes back into the world of Miriel and Catwin, and the stories that are emerging are enlightening, vibrantly alive, and occasionally disturbing. It is a struggle to pick just whose stories to tell, and how to tell them, and I find myself sifting through isolated little vignettes I wrote for Catwin’s friends and foes…

Speaking of Light & Shadow, the first book blogger review went up over at Little Ebook Reviews on Friday, and you can find it here. Huzzah!

Questions? Comments? Feel free to leave a comment!

-M