Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book Review~The Runaway King

Spoiler Warning: This review contains some spoilers for anyone who hasn't read The False Prince, the first title in the Ascendance Trilogy. If you haven't read it, well, you should—it's fantastic.

Title: The Runaway King
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Genre: Medieval Fantasy
Rating: 5

The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen continues the story of The False Prince, the first book in the Ascendance Trilogy, and follows young King Jaron who must choose between saving himself, his friends, and his country—all while masquerading as one of the low-life pirates hired to kill him, who also happen to be working for the nobles who assassinated his family. Palace intrigue, chases, sword fights, and Jaron's deviously clever plots abound in this second installment of the trilogy.

Every rare once in a while, I will be reading a book and will have to look away from the page—or perhaps get up and pace—because everything is just so epic and cool and the plot is running everywhere and I'm starting to figure things out and I just can't bear the suspense. I have to take a breather from reading a book.

The Runaway King is one such book. The characters and Nielsen's style give it such heart and drama and humor that it was impossible for me to put it down—other than the aforementioned pacing. Frankly, some of the twists I saw coming, but Nielsen's brilliance lies in using the twists to cover up the bigger twists and I'm still left surprised.

Cons of the story: As in its predecessor, The Runaway King contains multiple references to 'the devils' (and some regarding 'the saints'). Jaron, having been a thief and an orphan and still being a mischievous character, often talks about whether or not the devils will smile at him and allow his actions to pass. In the context of the story, these 'devils' seem to represent luck. The logical conclusion is that the devils are the harbingers of bad luck, and the saints for good. However, since the main character lives his life in a gray area, its the devils that are brought up the most. As if, by amusing them, he might somehow appease them.

On the brighter side, I don't think I've come across one foul word, and the content of these young adult fantasies is surprisingly clean.

Truly, I loved The Runaway King and have high expectations for the last installment in this series.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Some Sneak Peaks

As I am going through The Last Storming, I come across scenes which I like for one reason or another, but which I know will be useless in further drafts. They simply don’t forward the story enough. But they were fun to write, so I'm going to share a couple here:

Heron Skye is the rich grandson of Lieshellyk City’s Founder, and Reisoni Klift is a thief living in the bottom of the City, the Corridors. Their relationship is rocky, to say the least. Early on in the story—and for a great deal of its length—the two continue to distrust each other, despite a tremulous bond.

In this scene, Heron’s school friend Finn has met Reise and agreed to do some spying for her. Unfortunately, this is not something he is very good at, although his efforts do provide a curious bit of information which will become important later...

Scene #1
Heron held up one finger as if he were a toddler asking a question.
“Yes?” said Reise.
“Finn found out something else…something strange. I thought maybe you might know the answer.”
“I might if you would cease blathering on and simply tell me.”
“Right. Finn said he spied one of his mother’s guests writing on a notepad. A lot of it was either illegible or words that didn’t make any sense to him. This one intrigued him more than the others and he wrote it down.” Heron dug through a pocket and eventually pulled out a small slip of heavily perfumed paper. Reise thought with an ironic smile that she sometimes knew how to maneuver another person’s pockets than they did themselves.
“What’s with the scent? Trying to vaporize everything good in the world?” She glowered at the offending stationary.
“Finn apologized for that. It was his mother’s and the only paper he could get a hold of at the time. But look at what it says.”
“‘Turq’?” she read. “You’re right, that doesn’t make one lick of sense. I’ve not had any formal education, of course, but I don’t even think that’s a word.”
“That’s what Finn and I said.” Heron replied with some disappointment. “I never said we would make good spies.”
Reise tried to imagine a spy hanging around a suspect for days and collecting all sorts of useless information—such as what type of fish he commonly fed his cat—and believing it all of extreme importance. It was an amusing picture.
“Let’s talk about what we do know, Mister Espionage.” She filled him in on the information she had gleaned from her own observations. Then she explained the operation she had in mind and watched his eyes light up with the sound and feel and taste of it.
“That’s an awfully neat way to…well,” Heron glanced around as if fearing for their privacy. “To do that sort of thing…you know.”
Reise rolled her eyes. “Yes. I know. Trust me, my friend. It’s better than making a mess of it before you even begin. Usually it’s a mess by the end.”
Heron stared at her like she had grown a massive secondary nose.
“What is it?”
“You called me ‘friend’.”
“Don’t get carried away by the flippant speech between two conspiring partners, Bright Eyes.” Reise told him, standing. Heron stood also, like any decent gentlemen. “Our relationship is strictly business.”
“And will remain so, I trust.” Heron added. He was studying her.
She studied him back. “Naturally.”

Of course, these two find out that nothing is that simple when their two worlds—so close and so far apart—collide, with them at the center.

Later, Heron helps some of the Corridor people in a prison break-out. It’s the Point of No Return through which he is shoved from his nice, comfortable world into the mystery of the Stormings and the war of the Corridors.

Scene #2
“Stop.” Over all the noise, one might not have noticed that one forceful word barked from the mouth of a tall, brown haired girl dressed in the strangest assortment of clothing imaginable. Heron, however, was looking for her, and noticed at once. She also held a gun—thankfully one not pointed in his direction—which helped.
No, instead, she was pointing it at the spur who escorted the prisoner.
The spur made as if to reach his gun and the girl kicked out at his knee, causing him to lose his balance. She then struck him in the head with her pistol.
Seconds later, the Corridors girl and the prisoner—an accused arsonist and suspected traitor—vanished into the chaos, into the Corridors, and into oblivion. With his help.
Heron was now, officially, a traitor himself.

On some days, I needed to creatively boost my word count. I decided my city would have a way communication system via vacuum tubes which carry short messages all across the City. I then gave my MCs a cryptic conversation.

This is a good example of what NaNoWriMo can be like:

Scene #3
Reise opened the little curl of paper and read the note.
Might I have a secret name of my own? ~H
Not entirely certain that it was truly Heron, or whether or not she could trust him, Reise’s response was cryptic and she signed with her alias:
So long as you never make it known. ~Lady Kuyn
His response was long in coming and Reise had begun to worry she was addressing the wrong person. The slip that arrived at long last made her chuckle.
I can’t come up with anything good. ~H?
Smiling, Reise adjusted her seat and pecked out a new note on the type set, pulled it off, and fed it into the tube.
It would greatly surprise me if you should. ~LK
Do you have nothing of worth to say? ~H
Yes, and we haven’t go all day. ~LK
Stop that. ~H
Pardon? ~LK
You were saying everything in rhyme. ~H
A neat practice, if you’ve the time. ~LK
Stop! Tell me what you want to do. ~H
You informed you wish to come through. ~LK
Through where? ~H
Down there. ~LK
Truly, that’s getting annoying. ~H
You waste time and paper with your toying. ~LK
I, toying? ~H
Indeed. With bothersome worries employing. ~LK
I shall simply ignore it all, then. ~H
Come you to the hall, when? ~LK
You tell me. ~H
Tomorrow’s day in hours three. ~LK
The rapid fire messages paused.
Then we’re understood. ~H
And that is very good. ~LK
Reise had to admit to herself that she was enjoying the word play too much.

^ I can still smile at the absurdity of the whole thing.

Let's finish with the news:

I've gone back and written an acceptable beginning—though I still don't like it very much. Meanwhile, ideas for this year's Project, The Turq Wars, have been slowly accumulating. There are still major sections of TLS which simply do not exist, however—due to skipping over them in November. I'm making progress, but it's a tough and sticky trek.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"Fall of the Crowned Ones" New Story Idea

“I'll be dead in thirty minutes,” said the prince to me over lunch. “Please pass the sugar.” Funny how those two sentences could be spoken in the same tone.
My instincts warred inside of me to do two things:
One. Assess the threat and neutralize it.
Two. Pass him the sugar.
My body reacted by standing abruptly and reaching for the sugar bowl at the same time. I missed and sent it rolling, scattering its contents all over the table before it landed on the floor. It didn't break, thankfully, but now there was sugar everywhere and the prince was looking at me with his eyebrows raised.
“A bit clumsy this afternoon, are we?”
He was calm. Why was he calm? He wasn't in jest—I knew him better than that.
My eyes swept the room. No dangers that could be seen. Then my gaze fell on the lunch platters and, finally, the tea trays.
Of course.
So begins my newest story, a planned 'strict medieval fantasy' that started brewing in my  head a little over a week ago.

(possible villain)

Allow me to point something out. Something which might surprise you. Something which frustrates me. Something I really think you should know. I don't get new story ideas very often.

It's true.

Early this summer I jotted down some notes for what I'm referring to as a Retro Fantasy, a project I am looking forward to writing...once it has more plot. Before that, my latest story idea was from sometime in the spring: a retelling of the Pied Piper. Three story ideas in almost nine months. That's all.

I've heard of writers who get one idea, write it, and then wait for another one, but these seem a rare and almost insincere breed. I also have friends who come up to me on a regular basis—daily, at least—and say, “Guess what awesome idea I just had!” (You know who you are.) Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately—take your pick—I don't belong to either group.

Besides the fact that most of my ideas come without plots, the ideas themselves take an eternity to show their faces. (And I don't mean full blown book concepts, I mean little inklings of a fresh something.) Part of me thinks this is good, since I can avoid being utterly sidetracked five times a month.'d be nice to have a larger quantity of fresh material on hand.

But I digress.

This particular story comes from one of my Screen Saver Thoughts (a concept I'll probably make up a separate post for in the near future) and is the first of its kind to originate that way. It is also, I've realized, my first strictly medieval tale. (Castles, royalty, swords, political intrigue, etc.) Others like it have either included dragons, magic, or have had the feeling of a medieval tale but with no castle or royal family in sight.

And I am very excited about it.


New story ideas give me the same sense of euphoria as a kid on Christmas morning.

(a lady of the enemy court who promises to be a fascinating character)

The project's working title is Fall of the Crowned Ones, in case you didn't guess that much. And the reason I'm so excited about this one is that, along with its spontaneous arrival, this one came complete with plot! Most of my ideas are more of the here's-a-cool-setting/character/scene/creature/thing-but-it-doesn't-fit-any-of-my-stories-so-let's-invent-a-plot-for-it variety. FOTCO—which rather sounds like a filling station—actually has a plot! (Aside: This is a major accomplishment for me.)

Basically, the MC  in Fall of the Crowned Ones is the bodyguard to the crown prince  and there is a threat to the prince's life, a threat which the prince discovered and then was made to forget. (Exact properties of this are still in question.) The threat is on the rest of the royal household as well, which should keep my characters busy.

Considering the time frame the prince has given, I'm hoping that about the first half of the book will be a mad dash to figure out what's going on and to save the prince in those deadly thirty minutes. This will be tricky, but wonderful if I can somehow pull it off.

I know a few more details than that which give the plot more body and complexity, but that's all I'll say for now. Oh, and neither the prince nor the MC have names just yet. Lucian or Lucius are possibilities for the MC, but I just don't know.

(this quote fits the story nicely)

So does the hero figure out the assassination plot in time to save the royal he's sworn to protect? *sneaky grin* That is the question, now, isn't it?