Tag Archives: Gumbee News

Has Your Trope Been Overdone? by Jaq D Hawkins

Long before I became a Fantasy writer, I was a long time Fantasy reader. I started reading Fantasy at the age of twelve, back in the days when Fantasy was a distinctive genre and readers knew what to expect of it… before the Romance and YA invasion that started in 2010 changed all that… but I digress.

The point I’m working towards is that as I read book descriptions to vet the gems from the dross in today’s open publishing market, I continually come across tropes that are being done to death so that I glaze over within a few words of the description. One phrase that is certain to send me to the next interesting looking book cover is “Fifteen-year-old [name]…

The writer has already lost me. The thing is, I’m not adverse to a young protagonist, or even a child character. I’ve written some myself in Demoniac Dance where a whole group of children are primary characters and Namah, the lead character, is far too young to submit herself to a forced marriage not long after she has her first woman’s blood.

The reason that particular phrase sends me running is that it is invariably the portent of a certain kind of story; one where a young person, usually a girl, will go through a prescribed script of growing up challenges and come out strong and happy, having accomplished great things. The stories tend to be very similar as well as one dimensional, effectively slight variations on a common theme.

These stories have their market, but if you look at their sales rank on Amazon, you might notice that the glut of these stories has spread sales very thin for most of them. A ranking with seven figures indicates a book that sells no more than a few copies.

There are other tropes that have become boring in their commonality; the romantic vampire or werewolf character, the damaged woman who survives through inner strength, the zombie apocalypse, the military outcast who saves the universe. There are more.

If this is the kind of story a writer wants to write, then they should certainly write it. However, if they are thinking of putting it up for sale, it is worth being realistic with expectations. Of course your story will be better than all those others with a similar idea, but that’s beside the point. The question is, are you writing it because you will get enjoyment from writing that particular story, or do you have an ambition to write stories that will sell?

If you write for your own enjoyment, I recommend uploading to Wattpad where readers can comment and encourage the budding writer. If you want to write for profit, I suggest studying the publishing market. A few hours of perusing sales figures on Amazon and similar stories to the one you want to write could save you many more hours of wasted creativity that will only add one more clone to an overdone trope.

Of course there is always the possibility of finding a new angle to a particular type of story. The last thing I would want to do is to discourage anyone from writing anything, but study your market. If several book descriptions sound similar to yours, find a unique angle and most importantly, put some extra effort into writing your description so that it doesn’t sound like all of the others. Avoid that phrase, ‘Fifteen-year-old..’ and another turn-off, ‘Follow [name] as he/she/they…’ unless you’re writing children’s books.

If you really must write yet another coming of age story, find a way to be original. Let the transition happen in original ways and shoot down the clichés that all the other stories have done over and over again. We are constantly told that there are no original stories. It’s an opinion that I don’t quite share. At the very least, show the reader that you can tell the story in an original way. Shine with original content and you won’t be wasting all the effort it takes to write a book by ending up among the slush pile of the seven digit sales rank.

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Short Story Collections – Death Walks Through by Lisa Williamson

Short Story Collections – Death Walks Through by Lisa Williamson.

via Short Story Collections – Death Walks Through by Lisa Williamson.

This is going to be complicated, indeed, I hope it’s going to work. Reblog of a reblog. But Lisa Williamson, Gumbee, has a new book out and these links will take you to the details… I hope.

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The Bump – Jim Webster talks about writing and his new release.

It’s a bit difficult to know where to start. Really I suppose I’m trying to explain what I wanted to achieve in a book without spoiling it for those who haven’t yet read it.

I drifted sideways from Fantasy to Sci-Fi with my book ‘Justice 4.1 (The Tsarina Sector).  I regard SF and Fantasy as a continuum rather than two separate genres. Hard SF is very much at one edge of the continuum, Space Opera is much closer to Fantasy.

Tackling a new field, I wanted to try and achieve something I’d never really attempted with Fantasy, I wanted to show the ‘alien-ness’ that is possible within humanity. Matthew Hughes explained it best in his book, ‘The Other’.

I’ll quote him, rather than try and explain it myself;-

“At that moment, Imbry experienced an instance of the abrupt mental dislocation that often struck those who travelled widely among the Ten Thousand Worlds. He had heard it called the ‘Bump’ or the ‘dissonance’ and had encountered it himself more than once. It was the psychic shock suffered by a human being from one world who suddenly became aware that the person from some other world with whom he was innocently interacting possessed a radically, perhaps chillingly, different mindscape.

The two might be chance-met in a tavern. They would fall into innocent chat about inconsequential matters, each convinced by the other’s views on the weather or the quality of the beer that they were like-minded in all that matters. Until one of them offers an offhand comment about the tedium involved in having to sell his surplus offspring, or enthuses salaciously about next week’s public evisceration of a malefactor whose crime turns out to be something like scratching a buttock within ten paces of the portrait of a local saint.

An icy frisson passes through the stranger. He holds himself perfectly still though his eyes dart about, alarmed. Shadows seem to gather about him. All at once it seems perfectly possible, even likely, that the bland couple sitting at an adjacent table, or the idlers in the street outside might without warning show fangs and unsheathe claws, leap upon the hapless visitor, and turn an until-now pleasant excursion into an impromptu abattoir.”

How do you write ‘the Bump’? Is it possible to allow the reader to experience it or is it merely something you describe the characters experiencing?

I’ve got theories, (or less pompously) I’ve got a feeling that it can be done, but I think that to do it, the universe and the characters must seem normal. They must be people that the reader can empathise with and like. Once you’ve achieved this, you might be able to have your characters and readers go through ‘the Bump’ together. Perhaps.

But still, I wanted to bring into the story things that were of striking normality, experiences the readers could imagine and might want to share. Here’s one of them:-

“When Haldar and Bartan arrived back it was still dark, the streets were quiet, bicycle rickshaws taking the last of the revellers home. Padro was waiting to pilot them in his own flitter. As they flew north and east, Bartan peered down into the darkness spreading out below them. They passed over the lights of the city, then the suburbs, until finally below them was largely dark.

Finally Bartan, sniffing appreciatively, said. “I’m finally beginning to feel at home.”

”Why’s that?” Padro asked, curiously.

“The subtle chife of night soil carried on the breeze,” Bartan explained.

Padro waved a proprietorial arm, as if encompassing the entire plain. “I was born down there.”

Haldar leaned over the side of the flitter and asked, “What are those lights?”

Below them were hundreds of tiny pinpricks of light, concentrated in a rectangular area, perhaps a thousand yards long and a hundred yards wide.

Bartan glanced down. “I’d guess they’re little weeding droids. Are they Padro?”

“Yes, the lights are so you can find the damned things when you need to move them to the next plot.”

“They’re little things about the size of a fist,” Bartan explained to Haldar, “big enough to carry recognition software and pair of snips.”

Haldar was still watching the lights in the darkness. “Why the parallel sides to the area they’re working in?

Bartan asked Padro, “It looks like you use standard half meter soil pipes.”

“Indeed, then they feed into fifteen mil pipes running between plots and we use the usual commercial solar pumps to keep things moving.”

Bartan nodded. “There’s your answer Haldar, the pipes mark the sides of the plot. They serve a combination fertiliser and irrigation system. At least I’d assume irrigation, are there waste water reservoirs, so that you can dilute for irrigation purposes?”
There was pride in Padro’s voice. “Yes, fertiliser and irrigation, but the reservoirs are buried, we don’t waste land. The fifteen mil pipes take standard fittings so you just go in and set up the rain-guns when you want to irrigate a plot.”

Bartan said, “I’ve moved rain-guns in my time. I assume that those down there have their own solar panel to power their pumps.”
“They do.” Padro smiled as he reminisced. “I used to move and service rain-guns before I made enough money to start my first night club.”

“Jarado B14 Masticators in line to keep things chopped up fine and moving, stop the nozzles blocking?” Bartan asked.

“No, we use the big B145, but you only need one every twenty miles.”

Bartan nodded to Haldar. “Ever seen a Jarado Masticator working?”

Haldar sounded a little bemused. “Unless they’ve taken to fitting them to warships, it’s a branch of technology that’s passed me by.”

“They’re impressive. They break things down so completely that they’ll rupture cell membranes. They’ll even break up waste wood that gets into the system.”

“I suppose that’s impressive.”

”It is.” Bartan glanced at Padro. “On New Charity, we reckon they’ll break down a human body in a couple of minutes, and ten minutes later the murder victim is spread over a hundred acres of wheat.”

“Look,” Padro said, “Haldar has a nasty, suspicious mind and doesn’t need encouraging. How about we go down to ground level and take in the dawn?”

Bartan gave a broad smile, “now you’re spoiling me. It might even keep Haldar from mentally running through his missing persons file to see how many have been recycled as fertiliser.”

Padro brought the flitter down and landed it on a dirt road. He switched off the engines, and as they slowly stopped spinning, silence returned to the area. The three men sat quietly for some minutes, watching the first red glow appear on the underside of the clouds. The glow spread, reds, orange, even a hint of purple, and then there was the first rays of the sun. Day had broken.
Suddenly there came the sound of a score of little motors starting up. Bartan tapped Haldar on the shoulder and pointed. On the nearest rain-gun the solar panel was slowly rotating to face the east. Along both edges of the plot a score or more of other rain-guns mimicked the action. As they watched, the sound of the motors grew louder, and then as Star MM43-62 showed her full face, all the rain-guns blasted a ruby laden coruscating fan of water into the air. The rain-guns of Akin saluted the dawn.”

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Romance? Er … (gulp) … OK

This week on the Gumbee blog, we have the quite brilliant (which often means genially insane in my experience) Marcus Pailing. Marcus writes much harder fantasy than I do, and isn’t averse to a bit of gore. So, let’s see what he thinks of the softer side of fantasy…..

(Oh, and incidentally, I was indulging my romantic side when I added the tags for peril, conflict, fight scenes and pursuit… Will)

“Romance, eh?” I thought as the suggestion was put forward. My esteemed Gumbee colleague, Will MacMillan Jones, had recently returned from the Festival of Romance, and was all afire with passion … or such was the impression he gave. It was his suggestion, with a fast-beating heart and hot cheeks, that we turn our attention to the theme, to see whether the rest of us could also demonstrate our forays into the realms of romance.

I don’t consider myself much practised in the writing of romance. Generally I’m more of a swords and spears fantasy writer (and I don’t mean that euphemistically). When I was growing up, fantasy novels either steered clear of ‘lurve’ (and often eschewed females entirely, or kept them as very minor characters); or else treated women as lusty, heaving-bosomed bit-players, planted in the stories to demonstrate the equally lusty masculinity of the over-muscled protagonist.

Now, I appreciate a heaving bosom as much as the next man, but I never wanted to have female characters who were mere eye-candy. At the same time, I never set out to write ‘romance’. I did introduce it to my novels, however; but in small measures only – my main characters do meet women, marry them, and have children with them, after all.

This changed somewhat when I wrote The Withered Rose, because the entire novel is basically a romantic tragedy. So when the idea for this theme came up, I turned to that novel to see what I had written.

In order to explain the following extract, here’s some context. There are two friends, both called Atela. One of them is locked in a marriage that is starting to fall apart, having had a very positive start; the other has recently married herself, and is blissfully happy. Kieldrou, the son of the count of Trall, is younger than both the women, but has dazzled them with his tales of adventure – he has recently returned from a journey in the exotic lands of Azzawa. He has made it clear already that he finds them both attractive, and while he hasn’t exactly attempted to seduce either of them, he has managed in the past to trick them into giving him kisses.

 

“My ladies, I said that I had gifts for you both.”

The two Atelas sat in a window seat, having moved away from their husbands after a while of conversation. Now Kieldrou stood before them again. He had left his audience, where Derian was now entertaining the folk with more tales of their time in the east. Kieldrou looked a little flushed, but it was not from drink; more likely it was the excitement of having had an audience hanging on his every word.

“I think you should consider becoming a player,” teased Short Atela. “Entertaining the masses with your tall tales.”

“I swear, on my honour, that I exaggerate nothing,” he said, sounding only a little hurt. “I told nothing but the truth. Although perhaps it is better that you did not stay to hear me tell of the thieves of Ukhara, or you really would not believe me.”

“You noticed we had gone?” Atela asked. “I thought you too engrossed in your glory.”

“I noticed,” he said softly. “But it does not matter. I do not seek to gain favour with mere stories.”

Atela raised an eyebrow. “And how would you gain favour?”

“With gifts.”

At that, Kieldrou held out two small wooden boxes, handing one to Atela, and the other to the younger woman. “I found them in Ukhara, and thought of you both.”

“After three years?” laughed Short Atela. “Or did you buy them, and then think of us when you got here?”

Kieldrou frowned, and stepped back slightly, giving them a little space as they opened the boxes.

Atela gasped. Lying inside her box was a small white rose, exquisitely carved from the purest ivory – a rare and expensive luxury in Western Gilderaen – and turned into a brooch. It was a perfect reproduction of the flower, even in miniature. Short Atela was similarly overcome: hers was a tulip, also most delicately carved.

“I recalled the silver rose I gave you at your wedding,” Kieldrou said, his voice faltering a little. There was none of his usual humour in his voice. “I remembered how much you liked it, which is why I thought of you when I saw it. For you, my lady,” he continued, turning to Short Atela, “I wanted something of similar beauty, to match yours.” For the first time in Atela’s memory, he appeared to blush a little.

“It is beautiful,” Atela murmured. “Truly a marvel, and I do thank you. What favour do you wish for in return, then? Are you hungry for another kiss?”

She said it quickly, laughing, and without thinking. She certainly did not expect the reaction she got. Kieldrou’s brows creased in a frown, and he muttered a denial, before turning on his heel and striding away.

The two Atelas looked at each other, puzzled. “Did I offend him?” Atela asked, and the other shrugged. “Oh, Hogra, I fear I have. We forget he is a young man, now, no longer a high-spirited boy.”

“We must apologise,” Short Atela said. “Where has he gone?”

They scanned the hall, but he was nowhere to be seen. They figured he must have left, and they stood up to follow him. Yet they had to be discreet: it would not be seemly for them to go chasing after him. As they walked through the hall they were accosted again by Elnir and Sturgar, and were forced to stay in conversation for some time. When they escaped, they were then trapped by the earl and countess of Mendivar. It was a good half hour before they managed to get out of the hall.

“Let us try the garden,” Short Atela suggested. Atela nodded, and they hurried along the empty corridors towards the door that led out to the cloister.

It was late, and the garden was lit by a pale moon, throwing dark shadows yet illuminating the rows of flowers in the middle of the garden. He was there, walking alone between the bushes. He turned when they called his name, stiffening when he saw who it was that disturbed him.

“Kieldrou, I am truly sorry,” Atela said. “I was teasing, forgetting you are no longer a boy. It was wrong of me, and you did not deserve it.”

“I, also,” Short Atela admitted. “They are truly beautiful gifts, and you must have thought hard about them. We do not deserve your kindness, nor your thoughts of us while so far from home.”

Kieldrou gave a wan smile. “No, my ladies, you deserved no less. I can easily forgive your teasing. It is my fault: of course I expected nothing in return, and there was no call for me to take umbrage. Besides, you are both married women. Perhaps I should not have made you those gifts at all.”

“But they are most gratefully received,” Atela said. “I, for one, will treasure mine.” Beside her, Short Atela nodded in agreement.

“I am glad,” he said. “I have no expectations, but beauty and friendship should be rewarded.”

Atela felt a tightness in her chest, and she never knew what made her do as she then did. “Indeed they should,” she replied, and she stood on her toes to plant a light kiss on his lips. She felt his arm reach round her shoulder and she stepped back quickly. She remembered the strength of those arms three years before, and dreaded what she would do if she felt them around her again. “I’m sorry,” she breathed. “That is all I can give.”

He smiled sadly. “I understand, my lady.” He bowed to them both, and turned to go.

“Kieldrou.”

He turned back, and looked at Short Atela, who stepped forward, biting her lip. “I’m sorry,” she said, “that I cannot offer you even a kiss. I … it would not …”

“Thank you, my lady,” he said, cutting her off to save her the embarrassment of stumbling through a needless explanation. “You are happily married, I know. As I said, I have no expectations. The gifts were gifts, and deserve no payment. Although I shall treasure your return gift,” he added to Atela, briefly touching his lips.

Then he was gone.

“Oh, Hogra!” Atela groaned. “What did I do?”

“Nothing wrong,” Short Atela said, firmly. “It was a friendly gesture, that is all. Although it was wise to step back when you did.” She laughed, but it was a brittle laugh.

“I almost lost myself. What was I thinking? I am eleven years older than he, and married.”

“Locked in a withering marriage,” Short Atela shot back. “Let us be honest about it. Yet you must not do any more. I would advise you – both of us – not to seek out that young man again. You’ve had ‘the talk’ from my mother.”

Atela started. “How did you know?”

Short Atela laughed. “I know my mother. You were clearly unhappy at the time of my betrothal, and you sought a private meeting with her. She never told me what you discussed, but I am not stupid. I know her, and I have seen enough other women seek her advice. It takes no great imagination to guess what advice my poor, dear, beautiful and unsociable mother could give.

“Come on,” she went on, taking Atela’s hand in hers. “Let us get back to the hall and put the Trallian from our minds.”

 

This is the point in the novel where Atela – the one who this time kissed Kieldrou – begins to harbour romantic thoughts about the young man. Later in the novel these are to cause a lot of pain to a large number of people … but to say more here would rather spoil the story.

Still, the novel only costs £1 on Amazon …

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Withered-Rose-Count-Trall-ebook/dp/B008A7RJJK/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1385821608&sr=8-3&keywords=marcus+pailing

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We’re in the mood for love…

Hello, good evening, and welcome from a passing lunatic who has managed to hack MTM’s carefully managed blog: to talk about luuuurrrve.

Sadly there comes a point in every fantasy novel where two characters have to gaze into each other’s eyes: even at the expense of allowing several more orcs to extend their corporeal existence, or letting the expensive manufactured Ultimate Weapon of Doom to get a bit cobwebby instead of knocking the Dark Lord off his Throne, or even failing to collect the magical ring from its appointed hiding place.

It’s called Romance, and mostly we prefer to poke the subject with a sharp stick from a safe distance. Here’s the amazing Jim Webster and his take on the subject.

Romance?
Well obviously I’m both Male and English and therefore am automatically disqualified from not merely writing romance but of even understanding the concept.
Problem is one of the characters whose life I have chronicled is male but isn’t English and being a Toelar Roofrunner, romance is very much an integral part of his existence.
So I’ve tended to be guided in these things by him. The following passage comes from ‘The Cartographer’s Apprentice’, available from all good ebook stores. Amazon have it for 7pp at http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Cartographers-Apprentice-Jim-Webster-ebook/dp/B00ECZIM4A/

“Allonai took over the organisation of their evening meal. She brooked no interruptions, but instead talked long with the cook. She then announced that the meal would be served in her suite rather than in the main dining room.
She showed Benor upstairs and led him into her audience room. It had a large picture window which allowed you to look down Supplicant’s Hill and to the east. There were two doors off, one of which, slightly ajar, revealed a bath, the other led through to a bedroom. The centrepiece of the audience room was the dining table. Benor had never seen one like it. From above the shape was of an exaggerated violin, with the two diners sitting facing each other in the opposing waists. Scattered round the room on various tables were sundry discarded outer garments, a light crossbow, and a selection of shoes. He pointed at the crossbow, “An interesting accessory, does it go with any particular outfit?”
“As I said, I was on a hunting trip; it is a perfectly normal lady’s crossbow, suitable for light game, even dart if you get close enough.”
There were a couple of books on the table next to the crossbow, he scanned their titles. “A lifetime of wasted versifying.”
“Yes, the collected works of Quoloen the Indelicate. If I confess to a liking for poetry will you still talk to me?”
Before Benor could reply, a stream of waiters entered, carrying trays loaded with little dishes, which they arrayed on the table in what was obviously a specified pattern. By each dish was a small wine glass. Finally the entire table was full and Allonai chivvied the last of the staff out of the door and closed it firmly. Then she turned to Benor, curtseyed and announced, “The thirty-seven customary dishes, each with its own wine. Would sir care to take his place at the table?”
With this she ushered him to the table, saw him seated, and then sat facing him. “Have you ever eaten the thirty-seven dishes?”
Rather shamefaced, Benor admitted he hadn’t. Allonai launched into an explanation. “The dishes are placed in order, the first you find in front of you, the others lead off to the left, curl round the table edge and work their way back so both the second and the thirty-sixth dishes are next to your place. So the dishes on your left hand side are yours, the dishes on your right hand side are mine.”
Benor surveyed the scene, each dish might hold two mouthfuls, but then there were thirty seven of them. The wine glasses did not hold a mouthful. Once or twice in the past he had pondered investing in the thirty-seven dishes as a way of wooing a particularly difficult lady, but had never been able to afford the initial investment.
The first dish was a seafood tagine, salty-sour and rather good. The wine was, to his surprise, a sip of strong cider, which turned out to complement the tagine perfectly. Allonai expressed her approval and they both tried the next dish, a clam linguine. For a Toelar man, the dash of pepper was not quite enough to be exciting but still, he felt he approved. Happy that the food seemed to be excellent, Benor relaxed. As he sipped the second wine, a slightly sweet white, probably locally grown, he asked Allonai “So what are your plans when we get this matter dealt with?”
Gently he guided the conversation. He had long ago learned that the ‘good conversationalist’ said very little and merely kept their companion talking. Over the course of the succeeding dishes Benor learned about Allonai’s childhood, the stresses of growing up as a young woman in Seramis, tales of bitter infighting within the family over her father’s estate, and something of her hopes for the future. Deep fried crispy caterpillars were followed by thin slices of horrocks’ testicle, flash-fried in nut oil, each with the appropriate wine. Finally, as he finished a mouthful of honey berries sprinkled with ginger he noticed Allonai was watching him, her expression somehow forlorn. Without really thinking about the consequences, he leaned across and kissed her.”

And there it ends, I’m working on the principle that all my readers are grown up and know all the technical details and don’t need me to provide a user’s manual.

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Gumbee News

A bit of news about our members today.

First up, congratulations to our very own Jim Webster who has a new book out – yes everyone, if you want to post information about your new books up here under ‘News’ tag, you can! I will get some pages for the Gumbee back catalogue I promise. Oh dear, where was I? Ah yes. Books.

Jim’s new book, The Flames of the City can be found on Amazon here for UK readers and here for US readers.

On a rather more boring note, the peerless A.F.E. Smith has interviewed me, M. T. McGuire, in the Barren Island Books spot on her blog. It’s a bit like that radio 4 show with the records only with books, phnark. So, if you want to have a look at that, you’ll find it here.

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