Thursday, 3 July 2014

Fireblade Array Characters - A Pronunciation Guide

There really is no right or wrong way to pronounce them, but some have asked how I hear/say the names of the characters in The Fireblade Array. Bear in mind that I sound like an English southerner (mostly) and that my 'r's sound flat rather than rhotic (e.g. "art" would probably sound like "ahht" to a North American). I've written this with the non-rhotic, English 'r' in mind. I probably should have done this with the proper phonetic letters (like the stuff they have on Wikipedia), but that was too much work!
In any case - here is your handy, pull-out guide:

Artemi - ART-em-ee
Shortened versions: Tem and Temi (TEM-ee)

Morghiad - MOR-gee-add (with a hard 'g' as in 'get')
Shortened version: Mor

Silar - SEE-lar (yeah, that's surprised a few of you!!)
Shortened version: Si (see)

Medea - med-EY-ah
Shortened versions: Med and Medi (MED-ee)

Tallyn - TAL-in
Shortened version: Tal

Kalad - KAL-add

Mirel - mirr-ELLE

Tyshar - TIE-shar

Toryn - TOR-inn

Selieni - SEL-ee-enn-ee
Shortened version - Sel and Lien (LEE-enn)

Koviere Dohsal - KOVE-eer  doh-SALL
Shortened version - Kove

Seffe - SEFF

Sorann - sor-AN

Sahlke - SAL-kuh

Demeta - dem-EE-tah

Calyrish - cal-EER-ish

Qeneris - ken-EH-riss

Feyan - FAY-ann

Beodrin Mori - BEY-o-drin  MOR-ee

Daisain - DI-sayn

Rahake - ra-HAH-kay

Beetan - BEE-tan (!)

D'Avrohan - DAV-ro-an (the 'h' is not obviously pronounced)

Jade'an - jay-DEE-an

Acher - ASH-er

Sete'an - set-EY-an

Forllan - FOR-lan (another easy one!)

Hedinar Kantari - HED-in-ar   kant-AR-ee

Orwin Mendrelle - OR-win  MEN-DRELL

Eupith - YOU-pith

Romarr - ROW-mar

Vestuna - ves-TYUN-ah

Khasha - CASH-ah

Passerid Collibry - PASS-er-rid  COL-ibb-ree

Febain Reduvi - FEB-ayn  red-OO-vee

Dorlunh - DOR-lunn (the h at the end is supposed to signify a sort of extended and heavy 'n')

Danner - DAN-er (it means fluffy!!)

Aval di Certa - av-AL  dee  SERT-ah

Jarynd - jah-RIN-D 

Caala - CAR-lah

Cydia - SIGH-dee-ah

Alliah - ah-LEE-yah

Baydie - BAY-dee

Gilkore - GIL-core (hard 'g' again)

Places

Sunidara - SOON-ih-DAR-ah

Cadra - KAD-rah

Gialdin - GEE-al-din (hard 'g')

Tegra - TAY-grah

Calidell - KAL-ih-dell

Hirrah - HIR-ahh

Hirrahan - hir-RAY-an

Sokiri - sock-IRR-ee

Achellon - ASH-ell-on


American English vs British - where does one begin and the other end?!

A moment of navel-gazing on the subject of the minutiae of writing.

I'm British, or British-English to be more precise, and my words are full of all the extra 'u's and French-style spellings. I'm aware, however, that most of my audience are American, and this tends to lead to some grammatical paranoia on my part.

Here are some examples of words and phrases I've fussed over, in fear of criticism from readers in the US and at home...

"...wrapped his legs around her waist in a vice hold..."
Americans use "vise" to denote the tool, but Brits use "vice" for both the tool and the moral habit. I stuck with the British version on this one.

"gotten"
I've used this word a fair bit through the series, but it's really an Americanism. Brits would generally just use "got" in place of it, but I think I've watched so much American TV that it's part of my language now!

"if it was" rather than "if it were"
I've noticed that American English speakers are REALLY conscious of the subjunctive, but it's not used as much in British English, even amongst the most educated and high-profile speakers. As I understand it, both versions are equally correct in British English, and "if it was" has always sounded more natural to me. More recently, however, I have been trying to use the "were" version in my writings (mostly out of fear of grammatical reprisals!). Since I've been doing this, I've noticed that the Prime Minister, MPs, BBC presenters and even Sherlock all say, "if I was" when describing hypothetical situations. And the other day, whilst watching Game of Thrones, I heard Charles Dance say, "if I were". It sounded really, really odd to me!

"to person x and I" rather than "to person x and me"
I'm naughty and I sometimes employ what's known as the creative use of the grammatical case/object-pronoun agreement. It's also described as a hypercorrection or solecism, and this one generally only happens in Brit Eng. There's a Wiki article on it here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solecism
Like "gotten", it sounds quite natural in my speech, but probably irks others.

"a hill" rather than "an hill"
I always used to use "an" to precede words beginning with 'h' in my writings, but decided that was too archaic. I really wish I had used that now, as I itch to write it that way every time!

"the army were..." rather than "the army was..."
The collective noun is followed by a plural verb in Brit Eng, but a singular verb in Am Eng. I tend to stick with the British version.

Oxford comma.
I have mixed feelings about this when it comes to lists of things, and my writing probably reflects that!

In sum, I've tried to write in my native tongue, but in spite of my RP accent, I'm not sure that it's entirely British, or that such a thing even exists. These are just the conflicts I'm aware of, though I'm sure many of you will have noticed other terms and phrases that sound foreign.

Feel free to comment below if you remember any of these oddities in particular!


Sunday, 6 April 2014

In defence of the cliffhanger

Quite often my series will get torn apart by reviewers for containing cliffhangers. Some people just don't like them, which is fair enough. I don't like unresolved discrimination (e.g. racism or sexism) in the books I read, or the advocation of rape-y relationships. They make me angry, and for some people, cliffhangers are an equally heinous crime. When I'm looking at reviews of my own work, it's tough to read the accusations of being a manipulator, of 'resorting to a low level of authorial behaviour' (I've paraphrased here) or of participating in 'cheap tricks' to get readers to buy more books. It all feels a bit personal.

I would invite reviewers and readers, who think these things about me, to consider my defence.

My love of the cliffhanger:

I've always loved cliffhangers. To me, the anticipation to read the next book is half of the thrill and forms part of the climax of reading it. True, the cliffhanger thing cannot go on forever (Robert Jordan, anyone?), but for me it's like waiting for a present in the post. Looking forward to Christmas and birthdays is part of the fun of them, I say, especially in a world where so much is now granted to us instantly. The phenomenon known as 'instant gratification' is one many of us will have grown used to. No longer do you have to wait for a book to arrive in the post, or even go to a library to check it out. Just one click on the website of your choice, and it's in your hands.

While instant gratification is useful and efficient in the case of book-buying, I think it has a limited return in terms of satisfaction. It's not long-term, and it's never memorable. With a lot of standalone fiction books, I'll finish them and think, "That's done; now onto the next," and promptly forget about it. That's not so much of an experience as it is a box on a list that can be ticked. For me, the best books I've read have been part of a series. Those have been the ones that have spread the enjoyment over a longer period than just a few hours, and have left the impressions of their characters upon me for years afterward. These books comprise the epics. They are a world you can become lost inside for a long while, and they are particularly prevalent in the fantasy genre.

Epic series:

I set out to write an epic; not a standard novel. When I'm finished with The Fireblade Array, I reckon it'll come to about one million words. Maybe slightly more, maybe slightly less. That works out as about 2,500-4,000 printed pages, depending on font size. In terms of the physical constraints, it's really very, very difficult to print a single book that thick! In terms of time, I would be writing for four-to-six years without any publications to my name, or any feedback from readers. I would stand no chance of getting a book that large published in one go, and I imagine that such a large tome would put people off rather than entice them if I'm self-published. No one would know me, and no one would be able to download/buy such a large first section separately in order to try my writings out. My visibility on Amazon and elsewhere would be nil.

Another thing about epic series is that they are pretty common in fantasy. Okay, I do realise that the 'everyone else does it, so it's alright' is a poor argument, but someone out there obviously likes it other than just me. Sometimes I wonder if the epic approach is not as common in romance, and I might be getting a somewhat irate audience from the romantic section because they're simply not exposed to it as a standard format  (do you think this is true?), but my book is a bit of a genre crossover. Just a quick browse on Tor's website will reveal a vast pile of series, each linked by a cliffhanger, which leads me on to....

Why link up the parts of your epic with cliffhangers?

Two reasons: the alternative would be to just cut off the story mid-flow. I've read series that do this, and I feel that they are a bit lazy in terms of approach. Often, it reads like the author has just taken a hacksaw to their own writing for the sake of dividing the books up, and no more thought has gone into it than that. My cliffhangers, on the other hand, are carefully planned and outlined well in advance of the books even being written. If you've read my books, you'll note that the cliffhangers all follow a certain pattern: this is the second reason -SPOILER- someone always dies in one way or another. Perhaps they're changing state, or moving between worlds, but it's The Fireblade Array. It begins with death and ends with a death of some sort, and I wanted each book to comprise a life, giving the reader an array of lives that form the whole series.

I'm manipulative.

Yes! That is my job as an author. I'm here to make you happy, miserable, furious and everything in between. If I fail to do that, then I've failed at writing. Yes, of course I want you to buy more books from me. All authors want that. Why would any of us deny it? We hope you'll enjoy our books and all of the emotions they bring so that we can continue to share our ideas with you, entertain you (because entertaining you makes us feel popular) and share something of the human experience (etc.). I write for the love of my stories first and foremost, but these are nothing if they are not read by someone. Also, I need to pay the bills, and though that comes second in my list of motivations, it is important that I can pay for my home if I'm to write more.

And here's something else to consider: ALL things that are sold to you are done so by forms of manipulation. Think of the adverts you see on TV - they guilt-trip you, they sell you the idea of a lifestyle you'll get by buying X, or they come in pretty designs that make you go, "Oooh." Even if you walk into a shop with no intention of buying something, sometimes its attractive packaging will make you want it, an assistant will recommend it, or sometimes just the atmosphere and layout of the shop will sell it to you. There is no such thing as an objective purchase. We're guided by our eyes, our preconceptions, immediate needs and our character. Therefore, accusing me of manipulating my readers into buying more is the same as saying I have something for sale.

I've been trying to think of a situation where I'd sell a book with no forms of manipulation. I came to this: it would have to have a blank cover (pretty covers manipulate the reader into wanting the book), no title (might be too exciting), not be in any shop/online store (reader might have the book advertised to them, be locked to a specific reading device and might already enjoy shopping there) and not have any content (a particular language might manipulate them into reading the first few words if they happen to be fluent in it). It would be a nothing, to be read by no one.

Sidenote: If someone gets annoyed at a cliffhanger, I sometimes wonder if it's because they actually got very into the story and came to care for the characters. If they had reached the cliffhanger and just thought, "Meh," then it's possibly because they didn't care either way. As a barometer of engagement, I kinda like it.

Am I trying to *force* you into buying more books? No, I can't do that without stealing your credit card. It's absolutely up to the reader if they want to buy or not buy. My first book is free, and I invite readers to invest their time in it to see if I'm worth  more. That book, however, has probably taken me a thousand hours of work to complete and make various alterations to over the years, maybe more. It was not an easy decision to make it free (or very cheap - even with the POD paperbacks I make about $0.20 per sale), but I respect that a reader's time is not something they can get back, so it seems a fair deal.

Cheap Trick

I hope I've made clear here that my cliffhangers are not 'tricks' in the slightest, or that they're 'cheap' (certainly not in terms of time - they cost me a lot of effort to write!). I certainly have not 'resorted' to them over anything else. It's just part of the structure of an epic series, and it's something I have always enjoyed immensely in my own reading. "Write the book you want to read," is what people say to new writers, and I think it's fair to say I've done that :-)




Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Volume 5 very, very nearly done!

I'm so close to the end now. It's been a long haul with this one. I think it gets harder with each book - more storylines, more character history to think about and I'm becoming ever more self-conscious about my writing style.

News to follow shortly about publication...

In other news, I'm sad to say that Sony eReader Store and Diesel are closing. As good as Amazon is, I don't think it should be the only online bookstore out there. Many of you have discovered my writings through smaller outlets, where I've had the good fortune of being more visible than I could ever be on Amazon. I'm sure there are other authors out there who have found their readership via B&N or iTunes for the same reason, or readers who have discovered new authors from amongst the (slightly calmer) melee.

Please continue to support B&N, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords and others if you can.

Oooh, and I was very pleased to see a whole raft of awesome reviews over the last few months. I'm so thrilled to see them all, and completely spoiled by the recent messages from fans! Thank you :D

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Makina Music Video by BenDaure

Just thought I'd share this awesome Makina video by B3tan bendaure, as I think it is wonderful. It took him two years of work (on and off) to complete, and when you see it, you'll understand why. So much complex animation - so many moving parts! Looks lovely in HD.


Thursday, 9 January 2014

There is a formula for best-selling books!

And City of Blaze came out top! Oh, alright then, my book isn't mentioned. But would I like to run it through their algorithms?! 

Researchers from Stony Brook University in New York have published a paper (via the Association of Computational Linguistics), showing that a novel can be predicted as successful with 84% accuracy. Pretty cool, eh?

“Predicting the success of literary works poses a massive dilemma for publishers and aspiring writers alike,” said Assistant Professor Yejin Choi.

Yup.

The paper is here: