Blog: Maps, Games and Children’s Fiction

It’s funny how quickly time can slip away from you when you’re busy. I can’t believe it has been almost three weeks since my last post!

I’ll present you with my excuses…

First, I was working on some fantasy map commissions for two clients. They are each vastly different styles, so I’ve been alternating between them over the last few weeks, trying to get those towards completion. Hopefully I’ll be able to share those on deviantArt and on my Portfolio, too.

Second, I was trying my hand at another map, mainly for fun, which harkens back to the antique/Tolkien style I used to use a few years ago. I’ll post it below. People seem to really love this style, so I’m going to be focusing on that type of map for my next couple of projects.

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Blog: In Defence of Saladin Ahmed

This is the first in what I’m going to call my ‘blogging series’. I’m aware that I run a blog, so technically every post is ‘blogging’. However, most of my posts tend to be less about me and my opinions and more about topics. They’re more magazine-y in style, because that’s the type of content I enjoy reading.

So, from time to time, I’ll write a true ‘blog post’ which I’ll use to discuss myself and issues that I want to talk about and share my opinion on. Hopefully you guys will read them and enjoy them just as much as my other content.

Today I want to talk about a certain fantasy author called Saladin Ahmed who broke onto the scene in 2012 with Throne of the Crescent Moon. It was a fantastic book and I even reviewed it for this blog. So late last year I decided to go looking for the sequel (assuming there was one). Much to my disappointment I found nothing on Amazon and nothing in my local bookshop either. I decided to check out Mr. Ahmed’s website in December last year and I finally found answers.

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NaNoWriMo 2013: The End

Its finally over! Thirty days of writing fury: of non-stop plot-weaving, of unrelenting creativity and of a brave foray into the unknown. Well, that’s what NaNo is supposed to be about. As it turned out, my experience wasn’t quite like that…

I started NaNo reasonably well, managing to rack up close to a thousand words every day, for a few days. Not bang on target, but a decent effort nonetheless. It was then, about four days into NaNo that things started to fall apart. I think it was probably a mixture of not enough plotting (you know, actually knowing what happens beyond the first third of the book), too much time spent making planning spreadsheets in Excel and not having a clear enough vision for my story.

Let’s talk about that last point. I am easily influenced by the stuff I read, the games I read and the movies I watch. Sometimes that can be a good thing, but mostly it’s not. It’s fine to be inspired by great stories and worlds, but I really have to learn not to grab those elements and throw them into my stories like some overfull fondue pot. I start out having a clear idea of what my story is and what it’s about, but then I begin to work in other elements which only serve to confuse the whole project. It’s like making a nice spaghetti bolognese and then adding curry powder. You may love curry powder, but in a bolognese it clashes and confuses the dish. It’s unnecessary, so it shouldn’t be there. Continue reading

NaNoWriMo 2013 Midpoint Update

Firstly, let me apologise for the distinct lack of activity here over the last few weeks. I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo this month and let’s just say every ounce of my will to write has gone into the endeavour. That’s not to say I’m doing great (because I’m not), but I am at least consistently writing something each and every day. I’ll share my word counts and progress with you. I was hoping to be 25K words down at this point, but there’s no reason why I can’t make up that time during the last 2 weeks.

I started NaNo on day one reasonably well with just over 900 words. My target was about 2,500… yeah…

The following days were mixed with counts of 700 and 800, before plummeting to 450 and then a good block of six days in which I wrote a grand total of 300 words. Hey, it was my son’s first birthday somewhere in there!

This week, I have come back stronger and more determined than ever. 400 words on Tuesday, followed by just over 1,000 yesterday and so far today I have managed 471 words. I’m aiming for about 1,500 today, though more would always be welcome. Now that I’m well into the meat of my story, things seem to flow much more easily.

So, it’s safe to say NaNo Part 1 kicked my butt round the playground, downtown and into Chinatown. NaNo Part Deux? Bring it on.

“King Rat” & a New Short

Today, I want to briefly talk about what I’m currently reading and also bring your attention to a new piece of flash fiction I’ve just made available here on the blog.

King Rat by China Miéville

I’ve never read China Miéville before. As a fantasy fan, I guess that should make me feel ignorant/shameful/unworthy (delete as appropriate). But you know what? It doesn’t. See, I like my fantasy quite traditional. As much as I love Mr. Grimdark himself, Joe Abercrombie, and his brilliant novels, I still need my fix of magic, quests, dragons and bearded men yelling: ‘By the beards of my forefathers, I shall have my revenge!’

Don’t get me wrong, though, I do read “normal” fiction too. Dan Brown is a guilty pleasure, I make sure to occasionally read sci-fi and I’ve dipped into William Boyd, Ian Fleming and Iain Banks. But China Miéville was an oddity. A fantasy author who doesn’t write about elves, wizards or dragons and almost manages to cross over into what you might call “literary” fiction. As a writer, I always try to broaden my horizons when it comes to reading. The more varied reading experiences I have, the more I’ll learn how to shape my own style and grow my “writing toolset”. Anyway, enough fluff, on with the post!

So, King Rat, what’s it about?

When Saul Garamond’s father is murdered in mysterious circumstances, Saul is left as the only suspect. Arrested and placed in a cell, he is rescued by a strange man called King Rat who needs his help to defeat an old enemy known as the Ratcatcher. King Rat introduces Saul to the real London, a grimy world where every rubbish bin contains a nourishing meal and where rats squabble over scraps of territory in the sewers. And then he reveals the truth about who Saul really is…

I’m about a quarter of the way through with this book and I’m enjoying it so far. It’s quite surreal, while at the same time feeling really familiar and grounded, which is a difficult thing to convey I think. The characters are all well-crafted, particularly King Rat himself. I’m not so keen on the characters/storyline of Saul’s friends, Natasha and Fabian, but I’m hoping something happens soon to draw me in (I didn’t particularly enjoy reading about Jungle music and Natasha’s vehement love of it for several pages). I need to be patient and give the characters their chance to shine, so I’ll reserve judgement on that for now.

I love the overall tone of the book and the atmosphere that the author has created around the character of King Rat, as well as his penchant for cockney-rhyming slang. I’m still a little puzzled as to how King Rat is a rat, but in human form, so I’ll read on to discover more. I may check out the New Crobuzon series at some point, as I can only begin to imagine what Mr. Miéville could do with a secondary-world fantasy.

Three Brothers: An Unfortunate Tale

And lastly, I’ve just added the titular flash fiction to the Shorts section for your reading pleasure! This was a piece I wrote a long time ago and self-published on Kindle as a bit of an experiment. Needless to say, I learned a lot about the Kindle platform, but now I want to share this story with you all. Basically, it’s a fantasy take on the tale of the Three Little Pigs and should hopefully have you chuckling and on the edge of your seat simultaneously…

Just hit the link below to check it out!

Take me to the story!

The Words Are Flowing

Finally, I have started to feel like my writing is flowing for the first time in a long while. I wrote 1000 words yesterday and again today. I hope to make it a daily target. I think the secret was writing what I really wanted to write and planning properly.

More on this in detail tomorrow.

NaNoWriMo 2012 Approaches!

As you may know, National Novel Writing Month 2012 is fast approaching. If you don’t know what this momentous occasion is all about, I’ll tell you. It’s about writing a novel in a month.

There. Easy, right? Well, maybe.

Any other time of year, it would certainly be a seemingly impossible task. But during the month of November, during NaNoWriMo, the ball is in your court. There are a few reasons why it’s so much easier to write during this event and here they are:

  1. There are loads of other people around the world writing away, just like you.
  2. Everyone’s progress and goals are tracked and put into a leaderboard.
  3. You get regular pep talks from the organisers and also support from your fellow writers.
  4. If you reach your goal, you have a full novel written by the end of the month! What could be a better reward?

So, the reason I’m telling you all this is because during November we here at Fantasy In Motion are going to go NaNoWriMo crazy! That’s excited-crazy, not crazy-crazy.

Among other things we’ll have:

  • A weekly catchup where you can all come to the blog and share your progress and see my own.
  • Regular advice and handy tips from myself and published authors.
  • Maybe a guest post or two.

If that all sounds like fun to you, make sure you pay us a visit during the next few weeks and during November and we’ll help one another get into NaNoWriMo mode!

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A Shoutout in the Name of Fantasy Fiction!

I thought I’d do a shoutout for my newest WordPress followers and raise a clarion call to get some entries in time for tomorrow’s Fiction Friday: The Story.

Here goes:

If there’s one thing I want all you readers out there to do today, it’s take a look at the post below and leave an entry:

Fiction Friday: The Story – Episode 5

Check back tomorrow for Episode 6!

~ James

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The Olympic Games

Welcome to a brand new week and the start of our new posting schedule! Don’t forget, you can leave me your feedback using the form that appears above.

I just wanted to talk a little bit today about the Olympics. I watched the GB team win a lot of gold and silver over the weekend and thought it was pretty impressive, seeing how we weren’t expected to win very much at all. It got me thinking that the support of the crowds and fans at home probably contribute towards some of their success and give them a real boost both in confidence and focus.

As a writer, it would be really nice to have a stadium full of fans there to cheer me on when I need it. You can’t lie, it would be pretty damn nice, wouldn’t it? Having said that, I do have my family who encourage me and show interest in what I do, so that’s a huge bonus.

Usain Bolt

As part of this Monday post, I’m going to set you all a challenge.

Think of an Olympic event that has inspired you recently and try to capture some of its spirit to infuse into your writing. Whether it’s Usain Bolt winning gold with ease, Andy Murray beating Federer or America’s domination of the swimming pool. Find out what inspires you about these things and try to use that to inspire your readers in the same way.

That’s all for today. Remember, there’s no new post on either Tuesdays or Thursdays, but there is plenty of other stuff to check out on the blog when you visit. Check along the sidebar on the right-hand side and you’ll find reviews, interviews, writing advice and tons more! Make sure you come back Wednesday!

~ James

Let’s Be (Thought) Provoking

I was driving into work this morning and listening to one of my countless CDs that are strewn about the place. After months of hearing a familiar song over and over, I finally listened to the lyrics today and heard something pretty interesting:

But death is a force, not a man on a horse.

In case you want to check out the song for yourself, it’s by a band called Dry The River, but I forget what it’s called now. They only have one album, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find.

Sometimes, when you hear something that grabs your attention, it can get you thinking and send your imagination into overdrive.

Have you heard/read anything recently that really got you thinking? Share it here!

P.S. I also updated the My Stories page with two new flash fiction pieces. Check them out when you get a chance!

~ James

What I’m Reading – July 2012

I thought I’d talk a little about what I’m reading at the moment. Usually, I’m known for not reading much at all and taking ages to get through a book. Recently, however, I’ve decided to make amends for that and I am now reading four books!

A Game of Thrones (George R. R. Martin)

This one I keep in the living room downstairs and read whenever television is uninteresting enough to allow me. I’m currently about a third of the way through and am just finding out more about the former Hand (Jon Arryn) and his mysterious death. It’s really fantastically written and it’s going to be really hard not to go and pick up the second in the series straight away. As a writer, I try to read a variety of authors so that I experience as many styles and stories as possible. As a reader, however, I just plain love the story!

Empire of the Saviours (A. J. Dalton)

This one was given to me as a birthday gift by my lovely wife. It’s a typical epic fantasy with a young boy who must leave his parents and go out into the world to make it alone. However, there are two other viewpoint characters who really change up the formula and offer something fresh. I’m only 48 pages in at the moment, so have only read the chapters for Jillan and Freda so far. Let me tell you, Freda is really something original and different. Go and read a snippet on Amazon and see what you think.Elric of Melnibone

Elric (Michael Moorcock)

Of course, a classic tale that needs no other introduction. I loved reading the Conan stories, have yet to pick up Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and have read a lot of sword & sorcery in the form of fan fic, Warhammer novels and game-based fiction. Simply put, Elric is fantastic. Go check it out.

Pregnancy For Men (Mark Woods)

This one’s my non-fiction bedtime reading at the moment. The title says it all – it’s about pregnancy. It’s actually pretty funny and interesting. I’ll be a father in November, so I need to get this one tackled quickly!

What are you all reading at the moment? You can share your thoughts in the comments below.

Talking About Me…

There’s no author interview today, though do check back next week because I have a fantastic one lined up and then another two for the following weeks. There are some really brilliant authors coming up, so be sure not to miss out! So, I thought I’d write about me today. I try not to talk about myself too often on this blog, just because I want to put my subject, fantasy writing, first and foremost. Alas, today I’m going to break that rule.

So, what’s been happening?

First, I’ve been asked by a bestselling fantasy eBook author to translate their world map from their own hand drawing into a fancy one with pretty colours and stuff (obviously using GIMP as I’m useless with a pencil). The bonus for me is, I love making maps anyway, so this is a really nice little project.

Another exciting thing that happened is I was approached by a pretty well-known fantasy author who hangs out on SFF World and she’s very kindly offered to do an interview for the blog. I won’t give away who it might be, but you’ll want to come have a read once it goes up.

As far as my own writing goes, it’s progressing nicely. I just devised a great scene which I’ll now use as a prologue and should set up the mystery for the rest of the storyline. I originally wasn’t going to have a prologue, and I still believe firmly that unless you have a good idea and its needed for the readers, there’s no need for a prologue. Anyway, the main plot itself is coming along well and I’m excited to progress further into the first part of the story because there are some scenes set on the high seas which build up to the catalyst for part (book) two.

I’m also planning to take part in the monthly flash fiction contest on SFF World this month. I didn’t enter last time because I had so much going on and my story was floundering a bit. This month, however, I still have a busy schedule IRL, but I’m looking forward to getting stuck into a new piece of flash fiction.

Lastly, I want to let you know about two things:

  1. I’m currently looking for ideas for special series’ of Life As They Know It. If you have any suggestions, you can let me know via the Contact Me page. I’ll choose the best suggestion and do a series from it!
  2. The new Fantasy Mapmaking page is live and it features my complete article on creating a fantasy map in GIMP. Check it out, it makes really nice looking maps. I also want you all to share your own tips/secrets when it comes to making maps. Leave a comment on the Fantasy Mapmaking page and I’ll include the best tips in a special worldbuilding post later on this summer!