Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Erickson and Clarke

I just finished reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I enjoyed the story but absolutely hated the style. I despise third-person omniscient narrators (where the narrator is a character and can also peer inside the thoughts of any other character at any time). It came close to derailing the book for me in a couple of spots. There's a whimsical, almost young-adult narration style to the book that sometimes is at odds with what's going on, especially toward the end as the events become more serious and take on a more mythic tone. I understand why she made the choice she did -- the novel is set in the early 1800s, and third-person omniscient was a style very much in use back then -- but I don't have to like it. I think Neal Stephenson did a fabulous job of writing about the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries in his Baroque Cycle of novels. He used an ironic tone throughout, but it fit the story and characters and could be both laugh-out-loud funny and deadly serious without ever seeming out of place.

I'm also embroiled in Steven Erickson's Malazan Empire novels. I really didn't care for the first one, Gardens of the Moon, and almost skipped the second one, Deadhouse Gates. I'm glad I didn't. It was leaps and bounds better than the first. I still have problems with Erickson. He creates way too many races that serve no real purpose and aren't differentiated from each other in any way. Can someone please tell me exactly what a Trell is? "Pastoral nomadic warrior society," which is in the glossary, doesn't cut it. But those are minor quibbles. Anyone who can write something as powerful as the "Chain of Dogs" segment of Deadhouse Gates deserves a round of applause. If you like extremely complicated, grim epic fantasy, check out Erikson. Skim Gardens of the Moon because it's necessary for character introductions and plot points, but sink your teeth into the rest. I picked up the third and fourth books in UK paperback editions since they won't be available here in the US for some time yet, and I wasn't willing to wait. So I guess that gives you an idea of how much I like him, despite my quibbles.

Line edits

I've been terrible about keeping this thing updated. As I said before, I'm not a diarist, I don't have any great urge to post my thoughts on politics or my daily routine, and for a while I've just been grinding away at writing, so there hasn't been much to write about.

I've seen a revised cover sketch in color which looks really good. It's dark and spooky and should do its job, which is to make it stand out on the bookshelves. I'm really happy with it and can't wait to see the final oil or acrylic version.

I just got the line-edited manuscript from my editor. There's not really that much to revise other than a general tightening and some grammar fixes. She only has a handful of plot and/or character comments, most of which make sense and shouldn't be hard at all to fix. I need to get this back by June 29 to keep on schedule for the bound galleys, and I don't think I'll have much of a problem with that.

Writing The Words of Making has given me some ideas for a fifth book in the series, tentatively titled The Path of Ashes. It's still pretty vague and it may be that I'll simply incorporate the ideas for it into one of the other volumes, but right now it looks llike a book-length idea to me. I'm not sure if it will be book three or four chronologically. I expect to plan all of that out once I have a draft done of The Words of Making .

I'll post something soon about a couple of books I recently finished reading.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Cover art and contracts

It's been a busy couple of days here. Yesterday I finally received the contracts from HarperCollins, and today I got to see a sketch of the cover art. The artist's name is
Tristan Schane and you can see some of his work here: