Thursday, March 28, 2013

New Book Recommendation: Wilderness by Lance Weller

As I've mentioned here before, I'm a big historical nut. I love straight non fictional history as well as historical fiction. Lance Weller's debut novel falls in the latter's category and it spans a hundred years to tell the vivid, gut-wrenching story of a Civil War veteran who, at the end of the day, remains a tender, affable guy beneath his hard exterior despite a lifetime of hardship that would have twisted many men into something much worse. I don't want to give much away and I don't like summarizing plots, so feel free to read about it here. I snagged it on a Kindle Daily Deal a month or two ago and it was the best deal of 2013 for me. Seriously, get this book. I don't care what kind of books you like. If you want to be moved, give this a try.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Writing found elsewhere

Just read an interesting article at Grantland, found here:

I love video games and in the same breath I'll tell you they're largely useless. They don't inspire, they don't assist creation, they don't do much more than kill time. But I like killing time and I like being lazy and I really like controlling pixelated hockey players on a TV screen. So video games are good by me in moderation. I don't recommend this article for its video game value though. I think it's a great piece about the craft of writing seen through a different lens. The Bioshock series has always stood out as a cool, eerie shooter in a genre littered with war simulations and alien shooters. Its stories are great, but its atmospheres are even better.

Ken Levine details this process in a number of great quotes, but here's my favorite:

When I was working on Thief with Doug Church, way, way back in the day, we always said that vibe was more important than story. I think that's the same thing as what you're saying. Put the player in an interesting world and make him feel like there's interesting things around the corner. That's way more important than specific details about what's going on.
There are gamers, certainly, who really dig into the details, and God love 'em, because they're the ones you get to sit down and talk with in depth about your game story. But people need a sense of what's going on, and it's our job as writers to make sure they have enough of a sense so it doesn't become a barrier. Just put them in a world with as much visual information as you can, without overwhelming them, and let them bathe in it.

Feels so true. Especially for sci-fi and fantasy. Vibe and atmosphere are so important and I feel like a lot of people who write at my level scoff at such and say they just want to write a story. Well that's great, but if you're going to write in an escapist genre, shouldn't your story let the reader, y'know, escape? 

There are a few other good quotes in there so do yourself a favor and check it out.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

New book recommendation: We Die Alone by David Howarth

If you ever thought, "Sure, Aron Rolston is tough, but I want to read about someone even more hardcore who got lost because he was doing something a whole lot more important than dillying around some cliffs," then I have the perfect book for you. If you'll remember, Aron Rolston is the guy who got trapped under a boulder and had to cut his own arm off just so that he could trek through some desert paths and get to safety. Shit is hardcore, but Rolson has nothing on Jan Baalsrud in We Die Alone by David Howarth. Check out more info here:

Put it this way, Rolston cut off his hand and that shit was undoubtedly gnarly, but Baalsrud cut off nine of his own toes at the top of a mountain while being lashed to a dog sled for six weeks to hide from Nazis scouring the valleys below. Oh, and that's after he fell down a frickin avalanche, which came after he spent days running/swimming away from the Nazis. The truth poignancy comes not just from Baalsrud's suffering, but from the bravery exhibited by countrymen. Anyone who did anything but drag this guy to the nearest Nazi risked the safety of his whole village in helping Jan and yet an astounding number of patriots did just that. Without their help, Jan would have died a lonely man under a pile of snow. Seriously, pick this up if you're itching for some good personal historical fiction.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Book recommendation

I just discovered The Wertzone, which looks like a great place for sci-fi/fantasy fans. Seeing as how I'd just finished Susanna Clarke's massive undertaking Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, I thought I'd see what this guy thought. Honestly, a lot of his ideas reflected what I thought of the book. Fun, ambitious, enjoyable, takes a big meandering misstep around the 2/3rd mark but recovers in time for a satisfying ending. I'd recommend it to only the most patient of readers I know. Clarke's style reads like a breezier version of 19th century literature and the depth she weaves into her alternate world is impressive. Apparently it took her ten years to write this book. Damn. There is literally nothing in this world that's taken me ten years to do. Good on her for sticking with it. I'm one year into this project (third re-writes are advancing somewhere between steadily and glacially) and I can't imagine going on for another year without this beast being somewhat finished.

Anyways, here's the link if you're interested. The book's been out a while, but I recommend it if you enjoyed Harry Potter, but wished for a bit more density to it.