Month: May 2015

A quick update on my novel

Okay, I don’t want to drive everyone crazy by sending endless updates on my forthcoming novel – and I think I will limit my news on this subject to only Sunday from now on – but it is beginning to get quite exciting as I received the first review copies of the paperback version of my novel yesterday.

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A fun packed read, starting at the beginning – Gates of Rome, Conn Iggulden #historical #fiction #gladiators

When a famous character of the past is depicted in a novel, where do you start?  Normally the proscribed path would be to research the history books, find out where he or she first comes to the attention of the historians and start your story there.  However, with some historical figures that means that you don’t pick up their story until they are approaching middle age, and you learn nothing of what shaped their character or motivated them through their youth.  That’s certainly the case with Julius Caesar; by the time he started conquering Gaul he was already in his forties and often bemoaned the fact that Alexander the Great managed to achieve so much – he conquered all the lands from Greece to India – by the age of thirty. So rather than wait until Julius Caesar has become a successful Senator and skillful politician, Conn Iggulden, in his novel ‘Gates of Rome’ has gone right back to the beginning and starts his story when Julius – or Gaius as he goes by then …

An Alternative view on History. Guest Article by Burmesa #Byzantine #Conquistadors

I’ve been really looking forward to this post.  Last week I published two articles on  periods of history to set a novel.  Burmesa who has a keen interest in history, and also hosts a brilliant blog on animation named Animestus, read the article and very kindly offered to write an alternative view.  Burmesa has a strong interest in the Byzantine period, and the Spanish Conquistadors, and has highlighted the Pro’s and Con’s of setting a novel in these periods.  So, over to Burmesa….. Byzantine Empire 330-1453 AD Pros: The Byzantine Empire has it all, which is no big surprise considering it reigned for more than a thousand years. Still, it mainly revolves around these three elements: Religion, wars, and intrigue (the urban definitions of both “Byzantine” and “Byzantine Plot” have not been made by chance). The Byzantine Empire was heavily influenced by the prevalence of Christianity. Also, it is the period during which all modern religious beliefs were either born or established. If your story’s theme is religion, this is your go to period. There’s …

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss #Kingkiller #fantasy #novel

Magic is crucial to fantasy novels, spanning the genre in many different forms, as sorcerers of many different guises fill their novels with mystery, wisdom, and sage-advice from a lifetime of accumulated knowledge.  But other than giving a general explanation of ‘a lifetime of study’ or ’many years of hard work’ we often never find out how these same wizards, warlocks, or magicians learnt to weave their spells and magic. Patrick Rothfuss has taken this subject in his intriguing new trilogy named the Kingkiller chronicles, The first of which is called ‘The Name of the Wind’.  The story is explained through a series of recollections from his lead character, Kvothe, as he tells his story to a chronicler to give a genuine account of his life.  It reveals how Kvothe learnt his many different disciplines – both physical and mental – ranging from learning to fight, crafting magical items, to calling the wind to act via his will.  His studies, at a very unusual university, is interspersed with the friendships and the alliances he made, …

Mark Lawrence – Prince of Thorns

Ok, I have spent a fair bit of time discussing Historic Novels this week, so I’d like to return to fantasy novels in this post.  I have chosen to discuss one of my favourite recent series, The Broken Empire Trilogy, written by Mark Lawrence, starting with the novel The Prince of Thorns. When you first meet Lawrence’s character, Jorg, you are shocked.  No really, you are.  I’m used to un-conventional characters and anti-heroes, but this guy is just plain nasty, and the fact that he is just a young damaged youth somehow makes it worse.  But that is the attraction of these books – the complex but darkly charismatic Jorg gradually pulls you into his angry world.  I’ll not give too much away, but his psychopathic behaviour is intrinsic to the plot as the story unfolds.  Jorg leads a rough bunch of mercenaries, through a post-apocalyptic world full of knights, magicians, and radioactively mutated monsters.  If you’re hoping for brotherly companionship amongst the band of mercenaries, you’ll again be disappointed, as this lot will not …

Great periods of History to write about – stage 2 (Tudors to WW2) #Historical #Fiction

Ok, last time I discussed five era’s from Ancient Greece until the Medieval age, this time I’ll be bringing things up until the modern age. Featured novel: Philippa Gregory, The White Queen The End of the medieval period and the coming of the Tudors 1455 – 1603 – War of the Roses, a large King with some unfortunate wives, an iconic Queen. PRO’s:  Where to start with this one!  There are so many stories in this period, be it the Princes in the Tower, the battle of Bosworth Field, Henry VIII and his never ending quest for love  – tearing England apart in the process – and that’s before you even get to Elizabeth 1st and the defeat of the Spanish Armada.  This period more than any other personifies English History in most people’s imagination. CON’s:  Despite the War of the Roses ending in 1485, it seems that some people have yet to realise it.  There are still many in the UK and around the world that are either die-hard Plantagenets or Tudors, and are liable to …

Great periods of history to write about – STAGE 1 (Ancient to Medieval)

Okay, so you want to write a historical novel, but what period of history do you choose?  The list is endless, but here are a few options…. Featured novel: The King Must Die by Mary Renault Ancient Greece 1200BC – 300BC:  Greek gods, myths, large scale battles of Hoplites… PRO’s:  The birthplace of democracy, the Olympics, philosophy, and other ideas that shaped the modern world, give you lots of subject matter to base your novel around; whilst the mythology of Ancient Greece allows your novel to be full of gods, goddesses, and all the mysticism that goes with it.  If you prefer a little more action, don’t worry – you have the warlike Spartans, their rivalry with the Athenians, or Alexander the Great’s invasion of Persia.  Disclaimer: I couldn’t resist the last on that list, so I tried my hand at that myself in the first novel I wrote. CONS:  It can be more difficult than you think to research a historical period so far in the past.  Although there are a host of non-fictional books …

There isn’t one proscribed path….

This week I have looked at four separate novelists which have all made a great contributions to the two genres, but all have used very different writing styles.  In summary: David Gemmell – fast paced, exciting stories, interspersed with highly developed character development outside of the leading cast.  The sort of novel you can’t stop once you start. Bernard Cornwell – Gritty, realistic adventures closely matched to real events.  Strong emphasis on real history, and very clear and understandable battle scenes.  Will finish one of his books feeling you have learnt a lot, without realising how. Robin Hobb – Slower paced, but beautifully written novels, with a lot of detailed description and strong emotional journeys.  Immersion guaranteed into a rich and vibrant world, through close connection to leading characters. George McDonald Fraser – History told in the most unorthodox of styles – with a leading character as far removed from the mainstream as can be imagined.  Detailed history of the nineteenth century including some of its lesser known events; all held together by the author’s …

George McDonald Fraser – The Flashman papers.

Okay, I’ll admit that this one isn’t for everyone.  George McDonald Fraser’s Victorian character, Flashman, that he took from ‘Tom Browns schooldays’ is a coward, a scoundrel, and a complete all round rotter.  Flashman manages to find himself involved in all the leading events of the nineteenth century, despite spending most of his time trying to run from trouble, and somehow always manages to come out smelling of roses, and being decorated with plaudits and medals.  The detailed historical research that went into these novels are also interspersed with George McDonalds Fraser’s quick wit, and they form a fun ride through some fascinating periods of history. The reason it is a controversial choice, is that even the most cynical hearted of readers couldn’t possibly condone some of Flashman’s behaviour, but it is key to these novels.  The novels raise an interesting point in the depiction of certain characters in Historical novels.  I know from my own experience of writing that it is impossible to create a believable character in the past if we try and …

Robin Hobb – The Tawny Man series

Robin Hobb’s writing is characterised by its depth and incredibly detailed description, added to this is a deep insight into her characters inner thoughts and emotions.  It is far removed from some of the faster paced novels so characteristic of the fantasy genre, but that is why her novels achieve something that many other can’t, and that is to bring the reader into complete immersion into the worlds she creates.  The time she spends describing the emotional journey of her characters is what I would identify as the key to her novels.  When somebody dies in her novels, you really feel it, because you have learnt what that character means to others, and by the same token, yourself.  It is important because lives are important, and Robin Hobb never loses sight of that. I have chosen the ‘Tawny Man series’ as my favourite, because it was with this series that I really identified with the main character, a moody, roughhewn man, whose life is characterised by the close bond he holds with his wolf – …