Book Review: Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

Genre: Fantasy
Pub Date:
2008
Publisher:
Gollancz, an imprint of Orion Publishing Group
Length:
536 pages
Paperback:
£12.99

Publisher’s Synopsis

The end is coming.

Logen Ninefingers might only have one more fight in him but its going to be a big one. Battle rages across the North, the King of the Northmen still stands firm, and there’s only one man who can stop him. His oldest friend, and his oldest enemy. Its past time for the Bloody-Nine to come home.

https://firstlaw.fandom.com/wiki/Last_Argument_of_Kings

Back in January 2017, I wrote a review of The Blade Itself. I ‘won’ it in a book swap. Little did I know that it would be the beginning of a three-year journey for me into the world of Logan Ninefingers and his motley band of Northmen.

What to say about a trilogy that got mixed reviews and a massive following that led to a well visited wiki Fandom, that I was, on and off, submerged into for three years?

Say one thing for Joe Abercrombie – he writes amazing characters.

Logan Ninefingers is Still alive. Continues fighting, and is drawn into, not only personal conflict in the North, but the greatest battle in the Union. Last Argument of Kings finds him questioning himself more and more – is he a good man, or an evil man? Is he fit to lead his band, or best serving as a follower? Should he allow his barbarian, mindless, other self; The Bloody Nine, to take control in battle, or give up and welcome death?

Ninefingers has been our prime MC throughout the trilogy; as it is him who begins the first book and ends the third, and as he matures, so his view on his own lifestyle is called into question – can a man so steeped in blood and violence opt for a peaceful life – does he even deserve it?

Abercrombie has given us a (anti)hero who could easily have been a pedestrian D&D style character, but despite what some critics say, I do believe he develops. He may not stop fighting, but he lets us know, via internal dialogue, that he wishes the whole bloody affair over and done with. His is a cerebral development; strangely, given that he’s a mercenary, a killer – a murderer. I say it’s cerebral because Ninefingers thinks about what he has done and how he came to be where he is. He thinks about how it might be if he changed, and realises that because he has so much history of violence and a reputation for it, then the chances are pretty slim. This is a melancholic chapter in his, and the reader’s, journey.

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Logan Ninefingers.
Image from
comicvine.gamespot.com

Jezel Dan Luther returns to Adua, his home city. Physically scarred from his journey to the West (Book II: Before They Are Hanged). He is still a young man with dreams to match, yet changed by his experiences. He is a little less brash, a lot less selfish – and in for a terrible time. He thinks to marry the woman he loves; Ardee West. He thinks to settle down into some well-paid post of Captain. Jezel, unlike Ninefingers, gets little chance to think, he must do as he is told; because of the position he finds himself thrust into. His choices become shockingly limited; despite his new-found role, and he can only react to situations. Jezel does his damnedest to be a decent man and feels thwarted at every turn. In the first book, I reacted to Jezel as, I’m sure Abercrombie meant me to, with contempt. He was a superficial, selfish little shit. In this final book, I desperately wanted it all to work out for him.

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Jezel Dan Luther.
Image from GeeklyInc

Superior of the Inquisition, Sand Dan Glokta, is still in the secrets trade. We still get that oppositional internal dialogue when he speaks with others; A shame to leave such lovely company…but when duty calls. He thinks after a short interview with Arch Lector Sult. Glokta probably changes least of all. This could be attributed to the fact that a man so crippled and steeped in politics and up to his elbows in others blood and bile hardly has much choice. He cannot run; literally, he would not be able to hide for sure, and he knows that at any point his bloated corpse might end up floating down the river. But Glokta still held my interest, why? Simply because he sticks to what he knows best, which is staying alive. There are, however, two very touching scenes. One involves his old fencing friend from his youth, Collem West, the other involves West’s sister, Ardee. It is interesting to watch Glokta in the face of helplessness, he always expects the worst outcome – but for two instances, he hopes, not for himself, but for Collem and Ardee.

I have to admit to having a lump in my throat when Glokta encounters his old friend who has been struck down with a hideous disease.

Of course there are many, many other characters who deserve mention – The Last of the Magi; Bayez, The Dogman, Black Dow, Ferro Maljinn, Severard, but I couldn’t do them all justice in a simple blog post.

There are few men with more blood on their hands than me.

Logan Ninefingers knows all about fighting and death, and there is a tonne of it in this book. The battles are hideously well written. The fight on Crummock i’Phail’s hill fort is astonishingly violent and immersive. It was like being behind the wobbly wooden barricade with them, as they waited in the dawn mist watching Bethod’s army waiting to move. Fingers, limbs, heads, every possible body part is pierced and sliced and skewed and bludgeoned. How on earth Abercrombie found so many words and phrases to describe death in battle is beyond me. It isn’t a huge cinematic blockbuster of a war, it’s one of those horrible localised battles; sure there’s hundreds of men involved, but we are exposed to the horror of hand-to-hand fighting, the smells and the grunting, the feel of steel sliding on bone. We see our ‘hero’, Logan Ninefingers do a truly horrible thing. In previous books we have seen skirmishes and battles, we have seen blood and guts, but this battle is truly mayhem. How can the reader possibly relate to the character after committing such an atrocious act? But here’s the thing, I did!

The final battle in Adua is equally violent, with a dash of Bayez’ magic thrown in for good measure. Sometimes, battles in films and books can be so expansive, so huge that we cannot really get a feel for what is going on. Abercrombie gives us snapshots of the city through the eyes of each character as he, or she, struggles to survive. This way we see what it is like to be a refugee from one’s own home, the starving peasant, the soldier who actually is scared, ruination where once stood beauty.

It’s bleak. It’s dark. It’s depressing. And so it should be. War is no fun for anyone; even those who signed up for it in the first place – because it is fucking dangerous, and we can feel this in the people fleeing, in Jezel’s desperation to lend a hand, in Ninefingers mad rush into a row of pikemen, in West’s hasty assault with his cavalry and infantrymen. And I was totally engaged.

I have read reviews that said the writing is ‘clunky’. I have read that people found it boring, or everyone dies (everyone doesn’t die by the way). I thought the writing was succinct, none of that Tolkeinesque, flowery stuff, just your good, solid writing that I feel fits the style of narrative. I still like that Abercrombie kept the chapters as seen from different points of view, and the internal dialogue is wonderful. It isn’t fantastic writing – but then again, I’m not sure what that means – a thoroughly academic command of the written word AND the ability to create an amazing story AND engaging characters AND…whatever else?

But it’s a fantastic tale well told.

Boring? Boring?! I can’t imagine what they were reading. This is not a boring book. It keeps the pace of the previous two, action, violence and intrigue, interspersed with quieter moments to alter the pace. Abercrombie manages to avoid clichés very well, the whole thing could easily have tipped into another fighting fantasy book with swords and sorcery and blah, blah, blah. It doesn’t. I’ve picked up loads of books in the fantasy genre and then tossed them aside after a couple of chapters (and that was being generous in some instances).

Not to spoil it, but everyone doesn’t die. Some do – I’m not saying who – some survive in the same way they always have; by their wits or by violence, and some survive because they bend with the times.

We don’t always get what we want – could be the moral of the story (if there has to be one). Or, be careful what you wish for, you might get it!

You see, like real life, sometimes good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. Is there a ‘happy ending’? I’m not sure, but I was not expecting that.

I always have a little sad moment when I complete a book, and this was no exception. I’m going to miss drinking wine with Ardee, struggling down dank staircases with Glokta, and wrestling with my conscience with Logan Ninefingers. I’m not sure I can leave it all behind, I might have to go after other titles by Joe Abercrombie – and that for me is what makes a good, if not great, storyteller.

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Cover of first volume of The First Law comic book covering The Blade Itself.
Image from GeeklyInc

I’m giving Last Argument of Kings (and The First Law trilogy)

5 stars

A Brief Intro To Worldbuilding

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                                         Image from The World Building Institute

Worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worldbuilding

Engage the Reader

Whether a real or imaginary place, a certain amount of Worldbuilding is required. For example, I recently wrote a short story set in early 17th century, there’s some stuff on the internet about the history of England at that time – however – it was set in a none-existent village, in a landscape partially based on reality, with characters from my imagination – bring on the Worldbuilding – houses, the inn, the church, beehives (skeps), brewery, orchard, river, etc. etc. I drew a map, I collected pictures; of landscapes, of replica buildings, of people, I researched dialect and place-name etymology. I created the village of Hope Ghyll.

Do You See What I See?

It’s all about getting your reader to suspend disbelief – if you go too far, i.e. no psychological realism, then you have lost them and the story is senseless. Lewis Carroll and J.R.R. Tolkien created worlds with fantastical creatures; a land that is always winter, or one whose dangerous element is essentially a visible, intangible evil that can call upon the heinous and chaotic to fight on his behalf. Tolkien was especially adept at showing us his creation without actually describing an awful lot. Instead of slapping a large platter of roast orc, horse sweat and forest before us, he wafted the aroma beneath our reading noses, thus allowing us to create the vision in our own minds – and yet, when we watch the films, somehow we all ‘saw’ the same thing! Now that’s genius!

Fantasy and Sci-fi writers, I believe, have the biggest job of all – pretty much EVERYTHING has to be ‘built’.

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Map of Westeros from Game of Thrones

Geography 

Where does your story take place? An alternative or parallel universe? Another solar system? Are you on planet Earth even? You are free to make the landscape anything you want, and for it to be any place you want, but it must be justified within the story-line. Your geographical location affects who we are – think about the stereotypes of various nations around our world, you don’t even have to look too far – Londoners are a different beast to, say, Yorkshire folk, inhabitants of Los Angeles have a different mind-set from people living in New Hampshire. Remember that quote from Ken Russell’s Excalibur, “You and the land are one.”? Well so are your characters. Which leads us nicely to…

Maps

I love maps. I love looking at the shapes of coastlines, the quaint names of places in Britain; names are very evocative, the distances between one place and another; that in times past, people travelled on foot! I also enjoy making my own. I often create a map when I DM a game of Dungeons and Dragons, there’s something satisfying in being a world creator, the Master hand, dare I say, God. If you can’t draw, use existing places – have a look at Google Earth and take a screen-shot. Not only that, have a look at how our world used to look – the Neolithic Age might be exactly what you’re after for a fantasy ‘off-world’, https://www.eupedia.com/europe/neolithic_europe_map.shtml#early_neolithic. There are templates to be found online of existing and imaginary land masses.

Time 

Depending on where your story takes place, you might want to look at how time works, if you are on Earth, then no problem – or is it? If you are in a fictional Roman Britain, then you are going to be using the pre-Julian calendar; https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/roman-calendar.html, which had only 10 months! Most countries today use the Gregorian calendar. http://roman-britain.co.uk/roman-calendar.htm.

Different planets have differing day lengths; this will affect the character, activities and potential festivals you have in your world. If Counter-terrorism agent Jack Bauer has 24 hours to solve a crime on planet Earth, how long will he have on Saturn? Not as long, so he better get a move on!

History

The history of your setting will have impact on the lives of characters your reader meets. If there has been a robot uprising 50 years previously, that is going to shape the politics and lifestyles of them now. If you are setting it in a prehistoric jungle infested with lizard men, how did they develop? What will their relationship to your protagonists be?

History cannot be ignored, we don’t live in a ‘bubble of the here and now’, wherever you live in the world, think about what your daily life is like, what has affected the way your country is run? Is there a ‘ruling class’? How did they get there? What about your own family, maybe there is a story from your ancestors that you can use as a jumping off point? Your hero hasn’t sprung up fully formed – unless he/she is one of those Greek Gods that emerge from the severed head of its parent! – he/she will have a reason that they’re in the position they are, right from the beginning of your story. Know their history.

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         Worldbuilding by games designers is fantastic. Image from Mass Effect 3; The Citadel (Image from WallDevil)

Civilisation/Culture 

Is it a flawed system? Does public transport run late, or is everything perfectly in-tune with the surroundings? Who rules? A Royal family of dragons?! What are the politics? What sort of art/music/dance/sculpture is created there? – If there is, in fact, any creativity at all – maybe you have a warrior based society only. Looking around our own planet, we can see a huge variety of differentiation between countries – education in the Scandinavian countries, for example, is regarded as some of the best, whereas in the Wodaabe culture, because they are a nomadic peoples and the land is everything, they do not have schools or an education structure that many in a Western ‘developed’ country would recognise. What about religion? Even if you yourself do not follow a belief system, chances are your society is moulded by one. There may be laws that dictate your character’s daily life, there may be holy festivals, holidays, observances that shape the mindset of this individual. Every society has a culture – the extent of it’s intellectual achievement is up to you.

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                            Image from Alex Greene’s Klingon language lesson

Language 

You can, of course, write anything you want in your story – it’s your story. You can make up new words for an imagined language, BUT, if you make something too complicated, your audience is going to struggle to read the actual story as they will be so busy trying to work out what the Hell you are talking about! Names; people and places, are a great way of adding texture and signalling to your reader that this is ‘another world’. Baggins, Mordor, Galadriel, Gondor – words that conjure a place and time that is not our own. Tolkien was an expert on the Old Norse language, and incorporated it into his work to give his invented world a real sense of believability.

New Crobuzon, Bonetown, Sil, Besźil – another place and time; totally different to Tolkien’s, China Miéville offers us a future; or alternative reality, that is succinctly expressed with Worldbuilding mastery. If your story takes place in the distant past, again, readers are going to struggle if you write the whole thing in Middle English (see Chaucer), so select the odd word or phrase that gives a flavour to your tale; don’t have your reader struggle over every ‘daggere hangynge on a laas hadde he’.

And Finally

Let’s be honest, Worldbuilding takes time. The amount of time/research/planning you are prepared to put into it will affect your writing when you begin. You should be the expert on this world you have created. You should know EVERYTHING there is to know about it. You won’t necessarily mention all the stuff you have built into your world; like how long it takes to shear a sheep, but it will have an impact on your mind-set as you write and will therefore add some element of realism. Worldbuilding can be hard work, but if you are planning to write a series, then it will definitely be time well spent.

 But most of all, enjoy it!

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You don’t have to go this far! Building for the film Blade Runner 2049

Skyrim – When Will It Ever End!?

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The beautifully realised Solitude, Skyrim

I bought Skyrim for my daughter (Yeah, sure I did) some six years ago, and I have been playing it ever since.

For those who do not know, Skyrim is a fantasy video role-playing game. It’s correct and full title is, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It is an open world action role-playing video game by Bethesda Game Studios.

I am onto my fourth or fifth incarnation; the others got lost in PS3 game wipes, or I got bored and started a new character following a different allegiance.

When the first Skyrim games came out, game-players of all stripe were excited – video-gamers, LARPs and Dungeon and Dragons fans, flocked to play this well-rendered, highly populated, multi-themed addition to the Fantasy genre – who didn’t want to be that hero with the horn-ed helmet we saw as a cut-out stand throughout stores?!

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Who could forget this guy? Dragonborn

There is just so much to do and it keeps on coming (though some might argue it’s the same fight in a different guise).

The main quest is the resolution of the so-called Dragon Crisis – you do this, you become the Dragon Borne – cue expansive, emotional music. Then there are the the secondary quests: that’s all the ‘factions’; Thieves Guild, Companions Guild, Mages Guild etc, etc. Added to each guild are side quests. Add to this a civil war, which prompts you to choose sides, and all the side quests that go along with that. Then there’s the ‘gods’, dungeons, city stories, and bounty hunts.

Do I cheat? Of course I do! What’s a laptop for?

Currently I am playing a Level 62 Wood Elf (oh, did I not mention the races? Human, Elf, Argonian, Khajit, I’m not explaining them all), called Gylia Whitethorn. And this is one of the things I like about the game, you get to choose your race, your gender, your looks, your name; women enjoy playing sword and sorcery genres as much as males – and you don’t get the sexism like in Grand Theft Auto (that is such a male cisgender, ‘duh’ scenario). Gylia Whitethorn is, I suppose, what D&D players would recognise as a Rogue. She is an excellent Archer (100), Thief (100) and almost perfect Enchanter. What more could a girl want?!

I have completed the main quest, I am leader of ALL the guilds, I have been a were-bear and a vampire, I have lost, slain or accidentally had killed dozens of companions. I married and adopted 2 children, built my own houses and have collected enough gold and gems to choke even Smaug.

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Lakeview Manor – my first home don’t y’know

So why am I still playing it? When will it end?

Well simply put, the game NEVER ends; it keeps spawning dungeons, monsters, minor quests. I was expecting (five years ago) that there would be an ‘Hallelujah’ moment. I would be crowned Queen of Skyrim and all would come and bow before me -nah – members of the guilds are just as snotty towards me as ever before, and that is an irritating point, the ‘little people’ all have set dialogue, so even when you’re the head honcho of The Companions in Whiterun, no-one actually gives a toss, you still get sent on crappy little missions (should you choose them).

So why am I still playing?!

I honestly don’t know – sometimes I have played as a relief from a crappy day at work, “Eat my ebony arrow, Management.” In the beginning it was obviously to complete quests and gain treasure. But now I have so many magic staffs that I don’t know what to do with them all, honestly it’s ridiculous. I like the world the game is set in, I like to wander sometimes and just look about, until some wretched Ash Spawn attacks, and then, yawn, I take it out. However, when I look at images of Skyrim on the internet, there are many places I do not recognise or creatures I have not encountered, so what have I been doing all these years?

There have been long gaps between gameplay, over the years those gaps have grown, sometimes it is a couple of months I don’t play it.

Maybe the gaps will get longer until I just stop playing altogether, I can’t see me stopping altogether any time soon.

Maybe I will be an eighty year old granny, sitting in my fluffy slippers and dressing-gown, yelling at the screen through my false teeth as I take down another Draugh with a balletic swipe of my Daedric Blade. They will have to peel the controls from my cold, dead hands…

                                             “By Ysmir, you won’t leave here alive!”

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Skyrim, Slippers and Scones…

The Sam Stone Interview

Good Morning readers.

Today I would like to introduce you – if you’re not already familiar with her work – to Sam Stone; horror/fantasy writer. Another hugely prolific author with an impressive resume of novels, novella’s, short stories, a screenplay and editorials under her belt. Winner of multiple awards; including the 2011 British Fantasy Society Awards for Fool’s Gold. She writes poetry and prose and is even a radio host on SirenFM. Modest and polite, even if she does write of horror and occasional gore, just don’t cut her up on the motorway – you may end up in her next story!

Award winning author Sam Stone began writing aged 11 after reading her first adult fiction book, The Collector by John Fowles. Her love of horror fiction began soon afterwards when she stayed up late one night with her sister to watch Christopher Lee in the classic Hammer film, Dracula. Since then she’s been a huge fan of vampire movies and novels old and new.                                                                                                                        http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1681383.Sam_Stone

 

Hi Sam, Welcome, and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog; Flailing Through Life…

A: And talking about flailing; do you ever find yourself ‘flailing through life’?

S: All the time! That’s what being a writer is all about! We don’t just make up fiction, we’re all winging it in the real world too. 🙂

SS KatOnAHotTinAirship

A: What were you like as a child?

S: I guess I was a quiet, studious child. I was always hiding in a corner somewhere reading a book. But for all that, I hated reading aloud to my teachers. I found it embarrassing and I stumbled over my words. As a result they thought I couldn’t read well and gave me extra reading lessons. All of which I really enjoyed!! I also loved to sing, and my sister Adele and I used to sing together all the time. I was always too shy to actually get up and perform and usually avoided being involved in school plays because I would just get too nervous. I hated feeling like that and so I always stayed in the background as much as possible.

 It would probably surprise you to know that most of the time I still feel like hiding!

 

A: We have met a number of times now; through Steampunk, and you are always polite, always smiling, always giving of your time to fans of your work. Are you ever angry? Do you ever swear? And what would it take to make you do either of those things?!

 S: I love to talk to people and meet them at events. I’m eternally grateful for anyone continuing to buy my books and support my work. As any creative person should be. So when I hear about how obnoxious other writers or media celebs can be that makes me angry. Without their readers or fans they wouldn’t be anywhere would they?

I get a bit angry whenever I’m not having time to write. I find writing cathartic and so when I’m not writing for any length of time I become a little bit moody and frustrated. Even a bit depressed to be honest.  Writing makes me happy. I’m a very sociable person but I love my own space.

 I do sometimes suffer from road rage. My husband, David, says I have ‘driving’ tourettes!! Other drivers can be bad-mannered and they really annoy me!! I dislike someone tailgating me. I detest them using bullying tactics to shove you out of the way. It’s just so rude. It makes me cross that some people think that their journey is more important than yours, and that you have no right to be using ‘their’ road.

 But real anger – rude people. Ignorance. I hate it when people criticise other people without actually knowing anything about their circumstances. Bullies make me angry. Cyber-bullies especially because they usually hide under false names. Some things that people say online is totally inappropriate – the way they treat others is unacceptable. They would never say or do these things face to face. But it’s okay for them to do it behind their computer screen. Cowardly for sure.  No one person is better than anyone else and everyone deserves to be treated with respect no matter who or what they are.

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A: What does literary success look like to you?

S: Success is always somewhere way above my head and out of reach. Even the most successful authors think this. All you can do is strive to write the best you can. Reading should be fun and as long as people continue to buy and enjoy my work, then I have all of the success I need.

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A: Sam, you’re well-known for writing in the horror genre, you have ‘Zombies in New York and Other Bloody Jottings’; a collection of short stories and poems that walk firmly on the dark side, and ‘Killing Kiss’, amongst others. What draws you to this genre and what kind of horror do you prefer to read (or watch) yourself?

S: Growing up I loved Hammer horror movies. This led onto me reading horror, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Anne Rice. I enjoy a good Zombie movie now. Love watching horror that’s fun rather than bloody. I’m not into torture porn at all, even though I’ve written some pretty gruesome stuff in the past. I don’t really like non-supernatural horror much either. So no home invasion films for me! I think horror should be something that you can use to help exorcise and face fears and phobias but, for example, the claustrophobic The Descent was a bridge too far even for me! Which is why I personally prefer supernatural horror, because it’s easier to have the scare thrill but you don’t carry it with you for long afterwards.

 I do enjoy watching a variety of different types of fiction these days. Horror is something of a busman’s holiday to me sometimes. But I love  IZombie, Santa Clarita Diet, Outlander (Historical Romance – but quite gruesome in places!), Lucifer (Comedy) and I recently bought the box set of a series called Revenge.

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So exploring caves is NOT on Sam’s To-Do-List. The Descent 2005.

 

A: You also write Steampunk novels, Kat Lightfoot being the eponymous heroine of many of these. Can you tell us how Kat came to be, and did anyone in the ‘real’ world influence her character development?

S: My daughter, Linzi Gold, was actually the basis for the personality of Kat in the first book. They were both the same age and Linzi is funny and strong and really sparky. Naturally Kat has evolved and become completely her own thing now. But how the character was initially created came from the title of the book Zombies  At Tiffany’s which David suggested to me. It shaped all of the characters: Kat was Audrey Hepburn in looks for example.

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A: Does writing energize or exhaust you?

S: Writing definitely energises me. Although when I’ve had a particularly busy day and I’ve written 5-8000 words, I’m a little bit spaced out! David gives me a glass of wine and I’m soon back to normal, and back in this world and not in the one I’m creating.

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A: What is the first book (another author) that made you cry? And have you ever shed any tears when writing your own pieces?

S: As a teen I loved the Angelique series of books written by Sergeanne Golon. They were epic historical romances and I did cry when one of the main characters died in that series.

 

A: As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? And why?

S: A wolf. Wolves are pack animals when they need to be but like solitude too. They always protect their young, and I am by nature a very nurturing person. I always look out for others – even when I know they wouldn’t do it for me.

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The Wolf : a symbol of guardianship, ritual, loyalty,

 

A: Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

S: Oh yes! I often kill off people that have done something vicious to me, and believe me it has to have been bad for that to happen because I’m a very forgiving person. The clue to who they are would be in the description I give of them. But there are also lots of hidden meanings to things too because I do reflect on human nature quite a lot.

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A: And finally, what is your favourite childhood book?

S: I don’t really have one. I didn’t enjoy young fiction at all when I was young. The stories we were forced to read were all fairly boring. I only enjoyed reading once I discovered adult books. The Collector by John Fowles was the first one I read. Then after that it was anything I could get my hands on that was grown-up or scary.

 

Thank you, Sam, for taking part.

 

 

*You can find Sam at www.sam-stone.com, and her books in all good book stores, and online retailers or visit www.telos.co.uk for signed copies.

 

 

The Joy of Book Swaps

Currently reading/read it. Book review – The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie.

So, I just finished reading the above title; ‘The Blade Itself’ by Joe Abercrombie, #1 in the trilogy The First Law. I obtained the book via my writers club annual book swap, an idea I introduced when I joined, after having run a one off many years ago, when I worked for a well-known book sellers.

What you do: find a bunch of like-minded bookish types, oddities like yourself helps, but if pushed, colleagues will do. You select a book that you have enjoyed reading, something that you wouldn’t mind sharing with someone else. You know when you meet people and one of you says, “Did you see the latest (–fill in the gap–) last night?” or “Catch that Superman/Batman/Catwoman/Froglegged Bee Keeper Man movie?” How often do people say, “Hey! Read any good Philip Pullman recently?” generally NOT!

Sorry, I digress. So, you get your well-thumbed copy of whatever you have enjoyed. You wrap it in plain paper. Everyone else in your nerdy group does the same. The disguised books are put into a box (or whatever) and then you all take one out – no not your own idiot! You read that already, look at the wrapping paper! You take it home, unwrap it and hey presto! You have a new title to read, free!

Now here comes the good bit. Initially you might go, “Ugh! What the —-! I’m not going to read that!” and fling it aside. But hold on there just give it a go, you might be pleasantly surprised. I haven’t had a dud yet ; which leads me to the current title.

I opened my grubby brown paper package and first off I went, “Ugh!” I hated (and still am very unsure of) the cover. If I saw it in a book shop, I would definitely ignore it; dull, brown, with a clichéd, surly, tangle-haired ‘thug’ on the front. then the person who had dropped it into the swap box informed me, it is the first of three. Really? Did I want to spend my time reading this, well-thumbed…The End…that’s how it begins, oh, okay…four pages in and…I quite like this, I think. When I was introduced to the second character, the writing had changed gear. This was a vastly different individual to the first, physically, mentally, emotionally; and the writing matches it. Some reviews I read revealed readers were divided, many thought the writing ‘clunky’. I think it suits the format perfectly. Abercrombie has altered, only enough, the feel of the writing to represent the different characters point of view, as much as writing the POV itself.

Its a fighting/fantasy world, where men are men and women are thin, pale and decorative (except for the odd one or two!) The initial protagonist has a slightly crappy name – Logan, hmm, too much like ‘Logan’s Run’ or Logan the Wolverine I think, but, beyond that, he’s not 2D, as some of the other characters believe him to be. Logen Ninefingers is an infamous warrior with a bloody past. He has plans to settle a blood feud with Bethod, the  King of the Northmen. He spends a lot of time, for a hulking brute saying, “Still alive.” There’s more to him than meets the eye. Then there’s Inquisitor Glokta, a cripple, a former fencing champion, now a torturer extraordinaire. A truly brilliant creation, you have to love him – no really, just wait and see…we get a lot of Glokta’s internal thoughts, in italics, running alongside his conversations and can’t help but admire the ability to keep two trains of thought going, an obeisance in his expression, whilst wanting to vomit all over the person he may be speaking to. Finally, Captain Jezal dan Luthar; in the words of Glokta, “…an arse…”  he is also a nobleman and would-be fencing champion. He is vain, shallow, selfish and self-obsessed, one wonders why the important bald chap who arrives in the Agriont needs him.

I love how Abercrombie weaves the separate lives across the landscape. There are multiple protagonists in this tale, along the lines of Game of Thrones, but what each of them wants becomes unclear, which I liked. How they will succeed in their initial task is unknown, I will have to read #2 – and I will. Definitely. I think it is hard in these times of Game of Thrones on TV, fantasy ‘heroes’ on the big screen, to get a book in this genre noticed. Fantasy writing is a massive market, with hundreds, possibly thousands of would-be-authors of the style out there. Abercrombie has grabbed my attention, and that’s a rare thing these days.

So, for the New Year, go and run a book swap, you may find a hero wrapped up in that package!

P.S: other covers are available.

P.P.S: apparently, there’s a graphic novel series too!

 

 

 

 

Call For Papers

Generally speaking, I devote this page to fiction. I am a huge fan of all genres of writing; mystery, sci-fi (including ‘internal’ science fiction), fantasy, historical, crime, children’s literature, horror and so on and so forth. I only write fiction. There is a whole world of books out there I will never have time to read; and this saddens me in my more melancholic, Louis de Pointe du Lac, moments.

However, I am being tempted to write a piece of non-fiction.

LUNA PRESS PUBLISHING™ are inviting writers to submit their thoughts on the portrayal of women  in fantasy and sci-fi worlds. Anyone familiar with these genres will be aware of the ‘either/or’ principle when it comes to fantasy women; either she has big (and I mean BIG) breasts, or she’s a minor character. I’m posting this here in case anyone is interested in writing their own piece for Academia Lunare; the academic branch Luna Press Publishing. Gender identity and sexuality in Fantasy and Science Fiction: do we have a problem? is the theme.

Open: 01/04/2016. Closing Date: 30/11/2016

Follow the link –

http://www.lunapresspublishing.com/#!academia-lunare/cfd3

 

 

Featured image: Author’s own drawing of Pollyanna Carveth from “God Emperor of Didcot” by Toby Frost.

 

Collective Ramblings Volume 1

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Good afternoon everyone,
I am very pleased to announce the publication of Rambunctious Ramblings first volume of short stories. After a bout of contests run in 2015, these are the winning stories compiled into a single anthology. Aaron Hughes, Managing Director of Rambunctious Ramblings Publishing Inc, and his team, has compiled an eclectic and interesting set of short stories for this first volume.I am very proud to be one of those selected.

Collective Ramblings: Volume 1

by Various Authors

 

The Unsinkable Molly Brown

Molly Brown, a runaway orphan heads out to sea as the unlikely Captain of a Pirate ship. Meeting new and unusual friends on the way, including a talking cat, she is a fearless, imaginative and feisty girl. Aimed at readers aged 8 to 12 years.

TheUnsinkableMollyBrown

 A number of years ago a film hit the big screens – a story of love, bravery, inspiration and the British class system – that film was Titanic, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. I thought it was a disaster – much like it’s theme of the titular, doomed vessel. It began me on one of my mini obsessions. I began reading about the real Titanic, its construction, the men involved in its design and realisation, the great day of launch and the journey. A huge, stylish floating village with everyone in his or her place. The nobs at the top, the poor Irish in the lower decks and engine room. We all know what happened. But one person really stood out for me, Margaret Brown (July 18, 1867 – October 26, 1932). She  was an American socialite, philanthropist, and activist who became famous because of her survival of the  of the Titanic disaster.  She took command of the lifeboat she was placed into and demanded the crew of the lifeboat to return to look for survivors.  She became known after her death as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”, and her image loomed large in my mind. Wasn’t this the sort of role model/heroine our young girls should look to, not the skinny models and ego fragile celebs flaunted daily in the media? And so I wrote my book for my daughter. It took a long time – too long. By the time I decided to self-publish, she was too old to read the printed copy, but she did act as my proof-reader when she was a child. Bless her.