Tag Archive: Brandon Sanderson


Elantris

20151222_000616[1]Prince Raoden of Arelon awoke early that morning, completely unaware that he had been damned for all eternity.

These are the opening words to one of the best novels ever written: Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson. I first read it in 2011, barely more than a year into my career as an editor. It immediately became one of my favorites, if not my most favorite novel ever.

It had been sitting on my shelf for years, though, waiting to be read. The problem was that the paperback copy doesn’t tell you what the story is about, and so I never knew if I was in the mood for it. My reading list is so long, and I stopped counting at a hundred, that I kept deciding to try something else. This is after reading both Mistborn and The Way of Kings. I’d heard good things, but not knowing what to expect kept making me pick something else.

Well, now it’s the only novel I’ve ever considered worth getting in a collector’s quality leatherbound edition. And not to give you a clickbait kind of hook, but what Brandon Sanderson put on the personalization inside made me tear up.

Considering how I feel about this book, I should have done a review on it years ago. I even said on this blog that it deserves its own review. For some reason, I kept putting it off. Maybe it’s just that I didn’t know if I could do it justice. I’m glad I didn’t, though. If I had, then I couldn’t have given my readers this story.  Continue reading

Son of the Black Sword 1A few weeks ago, I finished Son of the Black Sword, the latest book from Larry Correia. I’ve been delaying on writing blog posts, so this review isn’t the only one on my to-do list; but the thing is, if you like fantasy that’s a little bit different, you need to read this book. You’ll thank both me and Larry later.

Son of the Black Sword is the first in a new series for Correia. It’s also marketed as the first in a new genre; that’s not really true, since he’s been writing Iron Kingdoms tie-ins, but when it comes to his original fiction he’s known as an urban fantasy writer. He’s most famous for his bestselling Monster Hunter series, a contemporary story about a group of contractors whose job it is to hunt and kill the monsters humanity would rather pretend don’t exist. Second to that (and my personal favorite) is his Grimnoir Chronicles, an epic-scale alternate history/fantasy set in an alternate Great Depression where magic exists and the West is in a cold war with Imperial Japan. (Also, there are airships and Tesla superweapons.)

Compared against that, Son of the Black Sword is definitely something different — and not just because there isn’t a single gun to be found. It’s an epic fantasy, of the sort that might normally be described as “traditional fantasy” until you read through the first chapter. Son of the Black Sword is set in a world that heavily draws on South and East Asian concepts, in terms of society, politics, philosophy, and even the fantasy itself. But that’s all mere backdrop, however well-painted, supporting a story with three major twists, five minor twists, and a story where you’re not sure quite what’s going on but you’re hungry, starving for more.

This is epic fantasy at its finest. My favorite epic fantasy remains David Eddings’ The Belgariad and The Malloreon, despite such personages as Brandon Sanderson redefining and expanding the genre. Larry Correia is now approaching a rival for Sanderson, and after this start I would not be surprised if he starts rivaling Eddings for me on pure enjoyment.

Spoiler Warning

As you might expect, minor spoilers ahead. Only minor ones, though, so if you want to read more you should be safe.  Continue reading

high-pain-toleranceThere’s a common misconception about people with high pain tolerances. They tend to be big, beefy, and burly, usually men, and if female they’re all badasses. They shrug off bullets and sword-thrusts like they’re minor distractions; they grunt from the pain and rarely, if ever, scream.

Now, I frequently impress people around me with my high pain tolerance. Most of that is in awe; some few, such as my doctors and a close friend who helps me exercise, approach it with worry, because pain is an important thing. I have such a high pain tolerance that I often automatically ignore signals that I should really stop what I’m doing and rest. I threw out my back (a little over a year ago) and my knee (a couple months ago) precisely because I could just work through the pain . . . until I suddenly couldn’t.

How do I do that? Well, it’s not because I’m tougher than other people. I’m not beefy or burly, and I’m only big if I’m standing up and haven’t turned sideways. It’s never about your mass; it’s all about what you’re used to. Establishing that difference is the key to writing action heroes and other characters that deal with pain through the course of your story.  Continue reading

swearing-at-workWe do it a lot. Of course, we might call it different things. Profanity, swearing, cursing, cussing . . . yeah, we do it a lot.

Of course, not everyone does it to the same degree, or with the same words. Sometimes that can be amusing, at least in certain contexts. A common Australian word for a cigarette, for example, is the same word as an insult for a homosexual in the US. In the UK, a very common swear word (though less severe these days than a few decades ago) simply means to have the quality of blood in the US and Canada. And that’s where everyone speaks the same language.

Swearing serves an important function, and the fact that we all do it to some degree or another means our characters probably should as well; but when should we do it, how much, and why? Continue reading

I took a creative writing course at my first college. I dropped it later, because the professor didn’t know how to actually teach creative writing. That’s not to say that I knew what I was doing; I’d been writing since I was eleven, and by the time I took this professor’s class I was told by one professional author and another English professor that I was publishable, but I (today) wouldn’t consider myself (then) to know what I was talking about any more than that professor. I learned far more from the assigned texts than I did from her.

The problem with many creative writing courses is that they spend a lot of time teaching you what not to do rather than what you should do. That’s a lot easier, I suppose; as I frequently say, writing is an art, not a science. There are a few ways to fail, and an near-infinite number of ways to succeed. It’s easier to talk about what not to do. The problem is that these courses go on and on with their rules rather than treating it as an art form. When I teach writing, I actually approach it the same way one might teach drawing or painting: here’s some stuff to try, and here’s how to refine it. The rules of fiction aren’t the laws of physics.

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One such rule, which this professor was quite strict on, is one that many of you will no doubt have heard. Don’t use adverbs. The professor in question was even more specific: “Don’t use -ly words.” Whether she didn’t care about adverbs that didn’t end in -ly or she just thought we didn’t know what an adverb was, I don’t know; it could honestly have gone either way. (You can tell I didn’t enjoy that class.)  Continue reading

Victory-Cigar-Congress-Passes-DST.jpegIt’s that time of year again. It’s time to wake up an hour early, only to look at the clock and be confused because it’s an hour later than it feels like it should be. It’s time to grumble and moan and ask yourself and anyone in earshot why do we do this ridiculous thing!?

That’s right. It’s Daylight Saving Time.

It’s a peculiar practice that supposedly saves energy, except it winds up causing far more headaches than benefits, makes scheduling things weird, and is generally a pointless exercise that may or may not save a few bucks.

This time, though, it made me think of a different topic. Strange peculiarities that may or may not make sense but always seem weird from a different perspective are what make a real-life culture seem, well, real. What kind of things can we learn from that for worldbuilding?  Continue reading

As I said in my review of Shanna Swendson’s Enchanted series, I wound up with a lot more to say that was really appropriate for a review. Like many of my posts, it’s a long one, clocking in at over three thousand words, but it’s aimed more at writers than all readers. And, I promise: spoiler free! (Well, except for the romance angle.)

So, without further ado, here’s my analysis of this new favorite series.  Continue reading

Yep, I’ve been away for a while. I had some personal-life things to take care of. Nope, I’m not going to describe them here, because they don’t have to do with writing or fun stuff. This ain’t no LiveJournal or MySpace here, bub! (Aaaaand I just dated myself. Moving on.)

I was going to make my first post back be a book review, but instead I decided to get off my duff and start the worldbuilding series I’ve been meaning to do for months now. The reason is that two parts of my life have converged on the same topic very recently. The first is that my workshop at Christendom College has restarted; the second is that I play World of Warcraft on the side.

What’s the relevancy? you might ask, and rightly so. Warcraft players might be able to guess, of course, but I’ll address the workshop angle first. Most of my students are interested in writing fantasy, which is a happy coincidence for me as I fully expected the opposite even though all evidence of youthful interest in fiction backs it up. (Just glance through the Teen Fiction section at your local bookstore, or see what the most popular movies are among the teens-and-twenties demographic.) I tailor my workshop lectures to my audience’s interests, and when I mentioned I could do some lectures on worldbuilding, there was much rejoicing.

One of the things many people overlook when worldbuilding, however, is economics. That doesn’t mean Wall Street and esoteric ideas of bull and bear markets or how one makes money using other people’s money. No, I mean taking into consideration what is valuable to a different society, what constitutes that level of value, how you represent and trade that value, and how you go about creating value.

Oh, dear. I did promise non-technical, didn’t I? It’s right there in the post’s title. I guess I need to live up to that! Continue reading

Fooling the Audience

Normally I ignore April Fools’ Day, but it occurred to me that it would be thematically appropriate to talk about a valuable writing skill: hiding things from your audience.

“Wait, what? Hiding things? That doesn’t sound like a good idea! The whole point of writing is to tell them things!”

Exactly! But you don’t just tell them the end first, do you? You build up to it, with clues that set up the twists, but then hide those clues so that it’s still a surprise to all but the most eagle-eyed.

I feel I should issue a warning, though. Learning these concepts can lead some people to feel that all stories are ruined forever. If you’re just here for the reviews, don’t read any further. Personally, I find it enjoyable to spot the tricks, especially with a skilled author; it doesn’t ruin it any more than knowing how to spot individual brush strokes will ruin a masterful painting. Still, I’ve seen people become disappointed, and so I give you fair notice.  Continue reading

Don’t Dump

One of the most common mistakes, even with professional storytellers, is to deliver a lot of exposition in a small space, or otherwise give “idiot lectures” where you have one character being a bit more dumb than usual simply so that a second character will have to explain something to him (and therefore to the audience). This is often called infodumping, and it’s often hard to avoid — but the best authors watch out for it and work around it.

Continue reading

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