Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reading Outside Your Genre (and Century)

With a newborn in tow, one of the things I’ve discovered to help pass the time while trying to settle her to sleep was reading off my Kobo. As far as eReaders go, this thing is a gem. Since my second daughter’s birth in early October, I’ve read the last two George R.R. Martin novels, about 2100 pages.

One of the things I’ve found with my writing is the need to look outside the science fiction and fantasy genre. This affords me the chance to catch a glimpse on other styles, different prose and methods of presenting ideas. One of the things I endeavour is to do a throwback into previous centuries to the classical era, if not the classics. Reading Lord of the Rings certainly throws the currently accepted and expected prose for fantasy novels, which makes the reading experience that much more interesting (if not aggravating at times).

My current book is The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper. This inspired one of my favourite movies, one I endlessly return to if I’m bored or in the hankering for some historical fiction. First published in 1826, the narrative syntax was an absolute shocker. Did people really write like this 'back in the day?' A little research finds that many, even Mark Twain, had criticisms of the style. I later found that JFC wrote Last of the Mohicans in a style meant to be read aloud. With this in mind, reading the text flows much better, and I find the style actually lends itself to the setting.

One thing I found to be a delightful surprise was the way JFC described certain scenes. At first, I was put off by the nearly 10-page description of Magua. That said, it played into further scenes in a way I found acceptable. Less than half-way through, I can’t possibly do justice to the way he sets a scene. In one scene, the party are trapped in a series of caves, facing off against Magua and a Huron war party. In what they discover to be the sounds of horses neighing in terror, JFC describes in a fashion that could compete with any modern horror story. The atmosphere and descriptions (particularly when imagined read aloud in a darkly lit room) made for a chilling scene and added heaps to the conflict facing the characters. Loved it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Writing and Sleep (or the lack thereof...)

It has long since been my intention to continue blogging about my writing, as well as my efforts to get Days of Reckoning published. Long has it been since I’ve had the chance to provide any input to the blog, let alone do anything resembling writing. The reason for it is simple, yet not an excuse.

Upon returning from vacation in August, I found myself facing a few research related problems concerning the follow-up to Days of Reckoning. After a short trip to Chapters and the local library, I gathered two books to further in delve me into the samurai culture and how to adapt it to my fictional setting. Voila the two books I took to with veracity.

From both, I learned a great deal about Japanese culture, as well as certain pitfalls about this chosen slant to my epic fantasy. Names can get muddled around pretty quickly, and there was a litany of politics in the background. For the first, I’ve made painstaking efforts to address the proper and family names in a manner least confusing to the reader. Of course, when I look at George R.R. Martin’s epic ‘A Song of Ice and Fire,’ which uses a relatively Anglosaxon base for naming characters, even some of his books could get confusing.

The other issue I discovered was the immense and intense politics. This made me go back and pull the book from active agent seeking simply to re-work this aspect, which I know is lacking. An agent is surely to pick up the same thing. When I looked back, I was astounded to see several political arcs naturally formed through at least a half-dozen exchanges, each of which really should be addressed. Now the challenge is to get them in there without the word count ballooning.

The true reason for this hiatus is the birth of my second daughter. Cute as a button and the apple in her older sister’s eye, sleep deprivation makes thinking about writing fiction about as useless an exercise as trying to jump to the moon. For now, this all now frustratingly pauses all efforts for publication until I am comfortable in the final product, as well as spending the requisite family time. Oh yeah, and keeping my day job too.