"Don’t overlook this book. It’s a hidden gem." Unreliable Narrators
A nice selection of book suggestions listed by sub-genre can be found at the Unbound Worlds site. This is featured on the current page, though the original post date is from early 2017. I don't know if it gets updated, but a book recommended in their weird section got added to my reading list.
I've read The Once and Future King and Mists of Avalon, watched Excalibur countless times, read and watched the Tristan and Isolde tale in many forms (a story that predated and may have influenced the Arthurian tales). I've been to places in England where historical evidence of the stories can still be seen. I've even written a retelling of one of the Arthurian Romance Tales - The Lady of the Fountain - as The Deaths of All We Are in the most recent issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. So how did I not know that a real Sword in the Stone existed? According to the article, though, this sword found its way into the stone around 1180CE, while tales of King Arthur (or at least a famous military commander - Artur, Arturo, etc) began in oral tales probably centuries before a 9th century monk recorded written references in his Historia Brittonum, and they referred to a man who lived around the late 5th and early 6th century CE. It seems possible that the stories influenced the knight's action (or, cynic that I am, that building a chapel around the sword came first and the story second considering the booming business of relics in the middle ages), and not the other way around, but still, cool beans to learn about this.
Sword in the Stone at the Monte Siepi Chapel
Archaeologists in Turkey suspect the church may have been built in the year 325, following the First Council of Nicaea. Article at Aleteia.com HERE
A Borrowed Hell has a shiny new site at Macmillan's Pronoun with links to Amazon's print and Kindle formats as well as the new iBooks, Nook, Google, and Kobo formats. Even better, all digital versions are on sale for 99 cents for a limited time.
I'm currently in the throes of revising my first draft into middle draft on my 4th novel, and I have to say I agree with all the conventional wisdom reiterated in the Blackgate.com article linked below, namely: don't revise until the first draft is finished. I also have to say that, like the author, M Harold Page, I don't follow the conventional wisdom. As implied by the title of the article, the author feels it's acceptable to take a break up to the 33% mark, to go back and revise for reasons of solidifying descriptions and deepening the understanding of the world being created.
For me, there's no hard and fast rule about when to stop revising the first draft and push on to the end. Yes, the cons of revising-as-you-go might outweigh the pros for many people but - unlike newer authors - this isn't my first rodeo. I have confidence that even if I stop and fiddle and revise as I go, I will finish my novel and I will finish it, more or less, on the schedule I've set for myself. Is some of my revision nothing more than procrastination because writing new words is harder? Without a doubt. Is a lot of it wasted effort as those words get cut or changed in the middle and final drafts anyway? I think the answer to that isn't as black and white. Yes, a lot of it gets changed anyway; mostly the wordsmithing I fall into more than I should. No, it doesn't necessarily mean it was wasted effort.
I agree with the points made in the article that I learn more about my world when I revise during my first draft. Even if I'm piddling around wordsmithing (because as I re-read I just can't help myself) I'm exploring nuance of feeling and description that makes my characters and world more real to me and helps me to understand them at a deeper level. Another time I'll stop for revision is when I hit a road-block. When the writing gets hard and I can tell it's not just a motivation issue, I know I've usually gone off-track with the plot somewhere I shouldn't have. Stopping, figuring out where I went wrong, and doing the revision right then unsticks those writing cogs that were jammed up and gets the story flowing again. More than that, everything that comes after now works with the revisions I made.
Perhaps, in time, I'll be able to knock all that out of the park on the first pass. Perhaps, since I'm a pantser, I never will. For me, though, I find that revising when I need to (or want to) helps my forward momentum when I return to writing new words. I can walk about more comfortably in the skin of my characters and their world, and in a plot I feel sure is working. I feel it prevents missteps in future chapters that would then need heavier revision and, time-wise, would perhaps end up taking as long or longer to write than revising as I go. But, like everything about writing, there's no one right path - just the path that works.
Two of the novels in this Unbound Worlds article have been on my to-read list for a long time. I'd also add Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees to this (a book I did finally read a few years ago). Of course, Alice in Wonderland was written in 1865, and the Arthurian legends as well as The Ballad of Tam Lin (along with other fairy ballads) were written over a thousand years ago. Pre-dating those are oral and written myths going back to the earliest civilizations. People who think fantasy began with Tolkien have a lot of catching up to do!
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What a treasure of a book - my only regret is that I didn't read this years ago, when I first learned of it. Published originally in 1967 by an author who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, the book is a sometimes heartbreaking, often wondrous, and occasionally laugh out loud story of 100 years of one family. The magic realism of ghosts, flying carpets, a levitating priest, and so much more sparkle like diamonds among the more everyday quirks and oddities of generation upon generation of the family. I think the best summary of the story comes from a quote near the end: "...the history of the family was a machine with unavoidable repetitions, a turning wheel that would have gone on spilling into eternity were it not for the progressive and irremediable wearing of the axle."
Another great pleasure was having the Audible version narrated by John Lee, who I first heard performing some of China Mieville's novels. I can't think of a better narrator for this book, and he nailed every nuance of the prose.
As an aside - before reading, I saw comments about the difficulty some people had with the book and took the cue to download the PDF of the family tree that comes with the Audible version. It didn't help tremendously as I read in audio while out and about doing other things where I couldn't refer to it, but I have a helpful background habit of keeping scores of epic fantasy characters in my head, and the times I couldn't tell one Arcadio or Aureliano from another, I let go, enjoyed the story, and usually figured it out eventually.
This is a book I'll look forward to reading again.
View all my reviews
This article by Stephen Graham Jones came out a couple of days ago on Tor.com. In it, Jones talks about the fact that horror has continued to horrify over centuries of similar stories because, at heart, they're all 'cautionary tales' that play on primal fears so, ergo, will always work. I don't watch, read, or write slasher horror, but I do play a lot with dark fantasy and weird - which both dance around the edges of the 'things that go bump in the night' brand of horror. An interesting read.
Click on the preview below to go to the full article.
A Borrowed Hell out now from Shirtsleeve Press
"Carlos Castaneda meets Thomas Covenant in a well crafted tale of fear, doubt, and redemption...
- Nathan Lowell, Author of the Tanyth Fairport series
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The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson
Maya Cosmos by Freidel, Schele, and Parker
The Blood of Guatemala by Greg Grandin
Time and the Highland Maya by Barbara Tedlock
Bat Tales: Stories of Adventure, Nature, Wildlife and Life by Mark Batmale
Read so far this year:
The Night Circus
The Obelisk Gate
American Gods (again)
Deryni Rising (again)
All the Birds in the Sky
Steal the Sky
Three Wells of the Sea
The Doors of Perception
Till We Have Faces
The Divinity Student
The Book of Lost Things
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Signal to Noise
Anansi Boys (again)
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children