Tag Archives: George RR Martin

All the things I plan to do.

I talk to people, when they check out their books. Part of it is Customer Service, that good old “engage with the patrons” philosophy that makes their trip to the library more than just one more chore on the list. But a lot of it is human interaction that I need, and the genuine desire to share my pleasure and excitement about some of the books I see crossing the desk every day.

If you don't get this, I'm sorry. Go watch "Labyrinth" and then "Game of Thrones". But don't get attached to any of the characters. You have been warned.

If you don’t get this, I’m sorry. Go watch “Labyrinth” and then “Game of Thrones”. But don’t get attached to any of the characters. You have been warned.

Right now, of course, there’s a lot of people checking out the various books from “A song of Fire and Ice”, more commonly known as “Game of Thrones“. If someone is picking up the first, I warn them they’re in for a long haul, and that they shouldn’t get too attached to any of the characters. If they’re picking up something later in the series, like book five or six, we exchange some words about the long wait for the next book, and the chances that the tv series will outpace the novels.

I had a plan on the wall, but it also covered the sofa....

I had a plan on the wall, but it also covered the sofa….

Something I say a lot, when talking about GoT, is that I hope George R.R. Martin has a big plan on his wall. I want it to start with the history he hints at – the Targaryan conquest of the Seven Kingdoms by dragon, all the way through the death of the Mad King and Robert’s seizing of the Iron Throne to a decent conclusion. (Don’t worry if this is all meaningless gibberish to you, I have a point coming up…)

The point is the plan, the shape of the whole story. The books are wonderfully compelling, and Westeros is a great place to visit from the safety of your couch or your favourite reading nook, but I really, really want to know that George has an end in mind, that he’s not just moving his pieces round a Risk board and wondering who’s going to come out on top.

For years, I’ve been what’s known in the trade as  a “pantser”. I wrote by the seat of my pants, starting with a vague premise, or some lines of dialogue and simply following the trail, only able to see a little way ahead as I wrote. It was fun, and sometimes the result was particularly good. Even as recently as “Love in a Time of Zombies”, a chance line in the early pages turned into a crucial plot point at the climax of the play, something a review called a “classic example of Chekhov’s Gun“.

The flyer for the show - you can still get tickets!

The flyer for the show

But the satisfaction of pantsing has been tempered by the number of projects that stalled because I didn’t know where to go next. They reached a quiet point, where the characters stop and turn to you and say “Yeah? What now?” Raymond Chandler once said that when things got boring in his books, he would have a guy walk through the door with a gun. It’s nice philosophy, very much in the Panster tradition, but when they were filming “The Big Sleep”, the director suddenly realised he didn’t know who had killed one of the characters, the Chauffeur. Chandler was called and quizzed, but admitted he had no idea either. It just wasn’t that important to the plot he was building. Pantsing can leave plot holes.

The Big Sleep (1946) Poster

So my last two plays and the two e-books that came before them have been planned. I’ve written a short precis, which expanded into a pitch document, which became an outline, which got broken into scenes on a huge sheet of paper on the wall. Now, instead of aiming for word count targets, I’m writing a scene a day, knocking off sections of the project and knowing exactly how many I have to go before the end. I haven’t noticed any dip in creativity, but there has been a drop in the number of abandoned drafts.

Holidays... Don't you just hate 'em? The sunshine, the calm, the beauty... Ick.

Holidays… Don’t you just hate ’em? The sunshine, the calm, the beauty… Ick.

This last week, staying out in Osoyoos with my parents on their third trip to Canada, I discussed a new play with Mrs Dim. From no real idea, to a neat concept in the course of ten minutes by the pool. When August begins, I’ll start my new planning document, and what is only a sentence now will begin to grow.

So what’s YOUR preferred method? Is planning the writing putting a straightjacket on the creative muscles, or is pantsing an amateur mistake?

Books of September

Fall seems an appropriate time to leaf through some new books…

Ok, maybe I’ll start that again.

Kate and Lily in leaves

This Fall image comes pre-loaded with cute – but has nothing to do with books. Sorry.

Now the long days of summer have passed, there actually seems to be less time for reading. I blame this more on the fact that I started the month with huge brick of a book by George R R someone-or-other which took up quite a bit of time, as well as sapping enthusiasm for fantasy epics. Well, let’s get to the list:

A Feast For Crows – George RR Martin

I really wasn’t going to get into the Game of Thrones. Really. Honestly didn’t want to. But then there was all the flap over the Red Wedding, so I wanted to catch up with that. And then Tyrion goes and…well, I won’t drop THAT bombshell if you haven’t got there yet, but suffice to say I wanted to know what happened next.

But Feast For Crows is a bit mean. GRRM says (at the end, helpfully) that he was a long way into it when he realised it was too much for one book, and rather than only tell half the story for everyone, he decided to tell the whole story for half the characters. Thus it was that, halfway through the book, I was wondering why we hadn’t heard from so-and-so, or thingummy. Because they were in the next book, that’s why.

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Star Wars : Force Heretic Remnant – Sean Williams and Shane Dix

I thought this might be one of the many Star Wars Yuzhong Vong War books I had on audio but failed to listen to all the way through. It turns out it isn’t. None of this stuff is familiar, but it has got more of the story of Tahiri Veila between the death of Anakin Solo and the rise of Darth Cadeus. And if you don’t know what any of that means, then you have lots and lots to read before you can pick up this book.

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A Dance With Dragons – George RR Martin

Like “Feast for Crows”, but the other half. And then a bit more, and just when you think you’re sure who’s going to come out on top, there’s another brutal stabbing. Not HIM…. I swear, I’m not reading the next one, just flipping to the last page in the bookstore.

How to tame an out of control writing project in 20 steps – R. Lynn Cole

I picked this book up because of a piece of self-promotion on G+ and it was well-worth it. R.Lynn Cole has some great ideas about getting the harder aspects of writing done. Editing is the thing I hate most, and because of that I avoid it, or do it badly. It’s like my weasels and math homework. Anyway, her method sounds good, and it’s something I haven’t tried before, so I’ll be giving it a go on the next book I’m going to publish (My YA book, that was called “Tribute” but now needs a new title along with everything else. I hear one word titles are big this year. Any suggestions? The heroine is a singer songwriter with parental issues. Something about harmony would be ACE…) I seriously recommend this book if you’ve reached the end of your first draft and you’re facing the long uphill slog of editing.

Surfacing – Jim McGregor and Natasha Jones

I gave Surfacing its own blog post here.

The Last Jedi – Michael Reeves and Maaya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

This is a neat Star Wars book. It springs from a series that’s almost Star Wars PI, with an ex-Jedi trying to hide out from Darth Vader just after Order 66, but doing it on Coruscant, while still doing the kind of things that Jedi do – help the helpless, uphold the good and the right etc etc. The characters are interesting and the plot fits into the SW universe, as you’d expect. Have a look at the first in the series : Jedi Twilight, Coruscant Nights Vol.1

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Star Wars: Force Heretic Refugee – Sean Williams and Shane Dix

I’m just going to say “Yuzhong Vong” again, only this time I also get to mention the Srri Ruuk and Bakura. Honestly, I’m not making this stuff up. I’m looking forward to getting through the third book to fill in the gaps in my own memory about the search for Zonama Sekot and Tahiri’s journey from Jedi apprentice to knight, to Vong, to Jedi and then to Sith. And then back to Jedi. Sort of.

What makes your brain happy and why you should do the opposite – David DiSalvo

I don’t read as many non-fic books as I’d like to, but working at the library means I see a lot of great-looking ones, most of which promise to improve things, or reduce things, or increase things. This one tells you a lot about why your brains prompts you to do or like things that aren’t always the best for you, and why there’s nothing you can do about them. For example, our brains “like” the feeling of being right, so they will add weight to your certainty on something because it “feels” right. Doesn’t mean it is right.

There were some interesting points. One chapter showed that people will quickly follow on if one person in an office environment starts to point the finger of blame at someone else. However, if all the people in the office are invited to write down (ie, express) their own values, then they are far less likely to act in such a negative way – we want to live up to the ideals we’ve expressed, but only because we’ve expressed them. There’s some great content here, written in a very accessible style. Just not a lot of practical help, or not enough to balance the bad news.

I’ve also been reading “The Meek” by Brad Poynter, another previous post subject. Unfortunately, due to some technical glitch, the book isn’t showing up on my Kindle, and I’m having to read it on my phone. That seems ironic, since the story deals with everyone in the world suddenly shrinking, and I’m having to read it on a tiny screen…. Full review next month, I promise.

The Books of June

June has been a pleasant month, especially when compared to the misery of last year – We had Juneuary last year…. This time around it’s been better because of the good weather, the visit of my In-Laws (which was great) and the new job (which was unexpected).

The return of the sun has permitted the Weasels to enjoy the garden.

The return of the sun has permitted the Weasels to enjoy the garden.

Of course, none of the above have slowed my reading, and since the new job is at the library, I could pass off collecting more books as “job research”. Here’s the latest research I have compiled:

It- Stephen King

See my earlier review

Night Train to Rigel – Timothy Zahn

I really enjoyed Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars novels, so I thought I’d give this trilogy a try. It’s a private investigator story, a real Bogart Knight Errant, once a man of the Authority sort of thing. I liked it, but found the politics a bit heavy going, and the hard sci-fi made my brain hurt a little. The idea of real tubes of metal through hyperspace carrying trains….Too much material, I thought.

Storm of Swords – George R R Martin

A long time ago, I had the chance to read the screenplay for the first episode of the TV version of “Game of Thrones”. It was good, but ended too soon, and I wanted to read more. Naturally, I took the book out of the library, but re-reading material I’d already seen in the screenplay was dull, since the book made much heavier going of it (compared to the screenplay, which is by necessity faster and more superficial) I gave it up as a bad job. Since then, I’ve been kept informed of the rough progress of events on GoT by my friends on G+, and when the storm broke about The Red Wedding, I had to go and find out more. Reading the third book without having read the others was tricky, and it wasn’t until I was about halfway through that I felt comfortable with all the characters. It feels like George RR Martin is playing a chess game on a board that has seventeen sides, and he’s doing it in the back of a van driving fast down a cobbled street. And he’s wearing a blindfold, and the rules change every ten minutes.

That said, I’ll be having a go at book four at some point. Just to see who else dies. To be frank, there aren’t many people left.

Warm Bodies – Isaac Marion

Zombies. Love ’em, even if I don’t get to watch many zombie movies these days. I loved the trailer for this movie, and was delighted to find the book delivers even more. There’s the humour, the unique premise of a zombie being “cured” by love, but also some deep philosophical thinking about what life is and how we choose to live. Best of all, I left this lying around carelessly and Middle Weasel picked it up and read it (in three days! That’s my girl!). Now she’s not so bothered about zombies, at least in daylight.

Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick

I don’t think I’m ever going to watch the movie of this story, even though I like both the leads. The book was easy to read, but the story is tough, coming from the point of view of someone suffering from a traumatic head injury and a fairly sad life too. His up-beat outlook doesn’t quite cover all eventualities, but it’s worth sticking it out to the end of the book. Mainly because you’ll have an idea how his accident happened, but you don’t get it confirmed until you reach the last chapter.

The Return of King Doug – Greg Erbe, Jason Oremland, illustrated by Wook Jin-Clark

I haven’t read a graphic novel for a while, and the cover of this one looked like it promised to be fun. And it was! Doug visits the kingdom of Valdonia as a boy, enjoying himself as he escapes from the real world of his parent’s holiday home, down the well and into the magical land beyond, but when the creatures who live in Valdonia ask Doug to lead them in rebellion against the Evil Queen, he runs away. Years later, Doug is living a loser lifestyle, failing to be a responsible father to the child he shares custody of. When that son finds the entrance to Valdonia and is captured by the Queen, Doug must – finally – face up to his responsibilities as a ruler and a Dad.

The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

Some time ago, someone on G+ posted this article about fantasy novels that are good despite their bad cover art. Mrs Dim said we should track some of them down and give them a go, but every time I found myself in the library, I had forgotten to note any of the titles. The only one I could remember was the name “Patrick Rothfuss” and so I got hold of this book. By then Mrs Dim was stuck into another novel, and didn’t have time to read it, so I tried it.

It’s a fantasy epic, it’s really, really big in scope, though it’s the story of one man. The clue to the scope is the fact that this book could crush a small pony if dropped from the height of four feet, yet it is only “Day One” of the three days the main character is taking to tell his life story. There’s a whole world and tons of history and myth woven through the tale, so the best thing to do is just nod and let it flow through you. I ground my teeth in frustration more than once, but at the end of the book I made a note to get the next in the series. It’s about the same length and is subtitled “day two”. Frankly, if there was a pamphlet with a summary of events, I’d be happy with that.

I’m the kind of person who flips to the back of a gloomy novel to see if it’s worth reading right through to the end. And if it isn’t, I’ll give it up. Life is short enough.

Han Solo at Star’s End – Brian Daley

I mentioned that my In-Laws came to stay. They have a fondness for second-hand bookstores, and I drove them out to one of our local stores one rainy afternoon. Thus I got to browse the sci-fi and fantasy shelves and found this wonderful book that goes with the other two Han Solo books by Brian Daley that I have reviewed in past months. Now I have the whole trilogy again and it’s like revisiting a beloved former home. Also, this is the book that first mentions the Z-95 Headhunter, something that Lego have just produced as a kit because it’s featured in the Clone Wars tv series. I love canon consistency!

The Mammoth Book of Steampunk – Edited by Sean Wallace

I love collections of short stories. For one thing, it’s easy to get to the end of a tale and put the book down when you have something to do, which is harder with chapter books (Just one more! Just one, then I’ll start…) For another, if the quality is good, it’s like reading a dozen novels in a row. This collection only had a couple of stories that didn’t pull me in, though Steampunk seems such a vague genre that the stories vary wildly in time, location, technology, character and outlook. If you haven’t tried Steampunk, this might not be a bad place to start.

This post being late, I’m already into my next set of reading. What’s on YOUR bedside table right now?