Indie Review: “Shadows in the Stone” by Diane Lynn McGyver

In her book, “Shadows in the Stone,” Diane transports us into a fantasy world that she describes with enough expertise to fully immerse a reader. There are some overlaps into our own world, but they do not shake a reader out of the fantasy. Now, you may be thinking, “All fantasy does that.” Yes, you’re correct, in the sense that the moment an author mentions a sword, a shield, or a horse, they’re pointing to the real world. However, Diane brought in the concept of canned foods, and described a diligent accounting / government system within Aruam Castle, complete with pre-made forms, records, and bureaucratic filing. Yet she incorporated it so well into her world-building that any reader will seamlessly accept.

CastlekeepersOne

Love is the fine lace woven through the main plot. We see familial love, the love of friendship, and romantic love all growing from the main story. It is the driving force behind the actions and determination of the characters.

Besides love, during our time within Diane’s world, there is murder, mayhem, magic, sword-play and a long, gritty pursuit. From these struggles and hardships, much is revealed about the characters’ pasts, loves, and fears. These aspects of the characters are revealed as a consequence of the main plot, rather than being conveniently parachuted in as filler material.

On Writing Quality: Diane Lynn McGyver stands head and shoulders above other indie authors. Her dialog flows well, as does her setting and internal descriptions. She knows how to show and not tell better than most. There is also a skillful knowledge of writing at work. Diane knows how not to overuse ‘to be’, adverbs, and a throng of other useless crutch or weasel words.

Word Creation: One item in the skill set of any fantasy / sci-fi author is creating new words and terms, either for things out of this world or renaming the mundane. I’ve seen other books where this practice is performed ad nauseam, to the point where a lengthy glossary is needed. But Diane managed it flawlessly. I especially liked her creations of sumortide, springan, yesternight, and Hauflin. These words helped me to immerse and stay there (very crafty, Diane). DLM


 F.Y.I  –  Diane maintains a spiffy blog as well


Characters:  “Shadows in the Stone” is a deep look into the heart and soul of the Dwarf Bronwyn Darrow. Now, I simply ask you to drop all of your Tolkien Dwarven standards. Diane has beautifully tweaked and redefined the notion of Dwarf, both in the physical and cultural sense.

Bronwyn Darrow stands as one of my favorite characters ever created within the sci-fi / fantasy genre. The other is Qui-Gon Jinn from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Let that sink in about the company Bronwyn Darrow keeps.

Parting Thoughts: I enjoyed every page of “Shadows in the Stone” as you will too. This is the first in the Castle Keepers series, which is available on Amazon.

 

 

 

History in a Fantasy Novel

The history of your world should play a major role if you are writing a fantasy or even a Sci-Fi novel. Imagine how a reader will feel when they are dropped into a civilization or a post-apocalyptic setting without any knowledge. Surely this scenario can make anyone feel like a stranger in a strange land. History is an essential part of world-building.

Of course, one has to naturally avoid long-winded historical passages when world-building. After all, it’s a fantasy novel not a history textbook. Earlier, I discussed the use of Technology In Your Fantasy World. Dropping such hints tells us where a civilization or society currently stands, but it doesn’t speak about how they got there.

helmets

Reflect for a moment upon Gandalf returning to Bag End to impart his knowledge about the Ring to Frodo. The scene plays out with a sense of urgency rather than seeming conveniently dropped into place as world-building filler material by Tolkien.

In my upcoming fantasy novel, Storm of Divine Light, I only delve into several great ancient battles and religious history. Both are incredibly linked to the main plot and the mystery at hand for the main character.

Another “history” would be backstory for characters. I used some of the same techniques and will discuss the in a future post.

I cringed at the thought of writing a chunk of history and sweated profusely when chapter 3 “Religious Relics Are People Too” was read at a critique. Oddly enough it passed with flying colors.

The trick was to “seed” the history in the previous chapter.

In chapter 2, there are sub-characters discussing and comparing historical notes. The main character listens and sometimes get frustrated by their knowledge. He wants to jump in and ask questions, but feels foolish. Later, he’ll accost one of them alone for the information he needs. His sense of “itching” for more information transfers to the reader. A sense of urgency made everything in chapter 3 flow without the aforementioned “contrived” element and seems perfectly plausible.

4titlead

History and backstory have to be present in order for a complete world-building experience in a fantasy novel, but many feel intimidated by it. How about you? How are you handling history or backstory in your novel?

Thoughts on Chapter Titles

Is it better to title a chapter or just number it?

The gurus, sages and soothsayers of the publishing industry really don’t seem to have a clear answer on this subject. I’ve done some searching and still haven’t found a definitive answer. It all boils down to taste.

Even among readers this question can’t be answered. Some readers get enticed by the titles; it may prompt them to purchase the book, or to press on into the night way past bedtime. Other readers prefer numbers and imagine their own title.

openbook.jpg

Open Book by Dave Dugdale used under CC License

It would seem like this is a parallel phenomenon to the character description conundrum. Some want a total description, while others want to create their own mental picture.

I truly believe this lack of concrete answers permits me to simply apply my own taste and work from there. Chefs do that all the time. They might add, substitute, or remove an ingredient based upon their own taste. I’ve admitted to doing that for some of the lovely meals from my Best Recipes Ever section on this blog.

nfpromoblog

***Put NIGHT FLIGHTS on your e-reader at AMAZON***

Personal taste time

I always skim through the table of contents when I’m browsing in a bookstore. Yes, I find the chapter titles to be a curious enhancement and enticement. They act as a builder of anticipation and help to give a coherent organization to the story. Each chapter becomes a mini-story in itself yet contributes to the whole. I think they are more telling than a blurb. Also, I have to admit that there is a unique charm that stems from chapter titles. After all, Tolkien did it, and it was his works that put me on the path of the fantasy genre.

Some naming conventions

A Place Name

Name a place where something important to your plot or main character is going to take place, like a clandestine meeting or a battle. This is great for fantasy authors, because you get the hidden benefit prompting readers to study the map of your world. Tolkien used this technique in The Fellowship of the Ring: Book Two Chapter V: The Bridge of Khazad-dûm.

A Character Name

This is a good way to introduce a new character or to shift the point of view. I’ve seen a few novels where different characters experience the same event and each chapter is dedicated to how each of those characters perceives or is affected by the event. Tolkien did this to introduce Aragorn under his alias in The Fellowship of the Ring: Book One Chapter X: Strider. George R.R. Martin does this all the time in the Game of Thrones series for different P.O.V.’s

Your Main Character’s Thoughts or Quotes

This could be a great retort, a simple quote, inner thought, or a surprise for your main character. From Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged comes Part III Chapter 7 “This is John Galt speaking.”

RSPromo

***Put RAGGED SOULS on your e-reader at Amazon!***

In the end

I believe the bottom line should go something like this. Chapter titles are not going to transform a ho-hum novel into a page turner, nor will it turn a great novel into unpublishable trash. Just do what your artistic instincts lead you to do.

Do other authors prefer to create titles? As a reader, do you prefer them?

The Special Language of #Fantasy

If you’re either a reader or an author of fantasy then it’s a probable bet that you’ve read The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. You may remember with a smile words like taters, olyphaunt, pipeweed, and eleventy-first. It was this precise nature of playing with words that brought Middle-Earth to life in a very special and unique way.

tolkien

“J.R.R. Tolkien, Da Morto” by Daniele Prati used under Creative Commons License.

As part of fantasy world-building, other authors must do the same but in our own way. We should learn from Tolkien and create a #writingtip for our usage. However, we must define what is special about the words. Firstly, you just can’t make up some strange word that is going to act like a speed-bump to the reader. You didn’t need a glossary or a long winded description to recognize “pipeweed”. You knew what it was and recognized Tolkien’s playfulness the second you read it.

Now, the world-building in Science Fiction can be a little different. Remember the tachyon particles from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and how often they were used in the series? People had no idea what a tachyon was; yet, their nature never really had to be explained. #Sci-Fi fans (including myself) just accepted it.

I’ve set out to accomplish the same type of playfulness in the world-building of Tyrhennia in The First Light. Take a look at a scene as two characters have breakfast at the Sword and Anvil Tavern in the city of Mentiria:

Daggorat leaned forward. “You should write a book about the common speech of the three kingdoms. Especially tavern slang.” Cyril responded with a negative grunt. Then Daggorat said, “Back home in Easterly, flatcakes and bangers are roundcakes and porklogs. It could be an interesting book.”

“Certainly not,” Cyril said. “Judging from the intellectual capacity of those three nobnoggins that we refer to as kings, such a treatise would probably start another great war.”

Did you pick up on the meaning of flatcakes, roundcakes, porklogs, and nobnoggins? Readers in the U.K. will recognize banger as sausage, while U.S. readers may not. However, from the use of porklog, the reader should be able to infer the meaning of sausage. Of course, The First Light is not laced that heavily with this type of vocabulary. You’ve just witnessed its most concentrated use in Chapter 1. I don’t do this again until another tavern scene in Chapter 7 and again in Chapter 14 when some characters are studying a map. I couldn’t use the word “geography” in the world of Tyrhennia, so I made up the word “tyrhenostrophy”. How do you feel about word-play for the sake of world-building?