Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Goodreads Review: The Buried Pyramid by Jane Lindskold

The Buried PyramidThe Buried Pyramid by Jane Lindskold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a thorough, absorbing historical adventure, deeply rooted in the culture and society of the era. The reader gets inside the minds of headstrong Jenny Benet, a young woman raised on the American frontier and with a dim view of English society and all its restrictions; and Neville Hawthorne, a thoroughly British military man who has become obsessed with the mystery of a legendary pharaoh. It is this mystery that brings Neville and his companions to Egypt and a perilous quest ...

Lindskold excels at creating characters that you identify with and enjoy; their foibles make them real. Even the "villains" in this story are people with depth. I loved Stephen, the peculiar young scholar who is brought along to translate. There's even a cat with a personality all her own. (Particularly fitting in a novel of Egyptology ...)

The build-up in this novel is lengthy, with much planning, preparation, warnings, cautions and preludes ... but it all pays off in the end, and when the fantastic element finally arrives, the reader is fully primed for it. That said, I still think this book spends a bit too much time digressing into the research / background, adds maybe a hurdle or two too many, and could probably have been 50 - 100 pages shorter without losing this tension.

All in all, though, I really enjoyed this book and would love to experience further adventures from this cast.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

For whatever reason, I've always had trouble naming (or titling) things.  I can syllable-mash with the best fantasy writer, and I've spent hours working on naming languages that produce very cohesive and credible results, but if you ask me to come up with a descriptive name for an organization or - perish the thought - a business, my brain seizes up.  Part of it is the inner editor, given room to have laser focus and dismiss everything as not good enough, but the rest is inexplicable.

Of course, I'm terrible at word jumbles:  I look at a mess of letters and my brain doesn't unscramble them, it goes, "Oh, that would be a great character/place name."  But I digress.

When I stumble upon something that works, it often seems to be an accident.  I'm fairly happy with the titles I used in Flow:  water-witches, Borderwatch, the Unwashed, but I don't recall spending a lot of time or mental energy on those - they just developed naturally.  I can't say the same for the Pinnacle Empire and the Galactic Collective in Scylla and Charybdis - they took a while to work up, and they're workable, but not the most brilliant gems in the box.

This all comes up for a reason far more mundane and probably more important, in the scheme of things:  I'm trying to come up with a name for my pastry / culinary face.  I don't want to be "Lindsey Duncan Pastries" or the like - as a matter of personal preference, I've never liked that kind of business name.  I have a great one for the future, Entwined Harmonies ... but that's for use with wine-related ventures.  I want something serious but clever, ideally with a musical reference ...

But I can't even start.  Forget brainstorming, all I have is a handful of lame, unsuitable notions.  I just have to relax and let the idea simmer on the backburner ... but I wish I knew why it was so hard.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

It's been a while since I've posted, and I've decided to return to Thursdays to a) preserve the alliteration and b) post on a day that is hopefully less insane.  Cue the hysterical laughter now ...

I had a very vivid dream a little over a week ago, and I've been playing with it and developing it as a possible future novel - though I have so many ideas in my folder that it may never see the reality of keystrokes.  However, the foundation of this concept is perhaps the oldest fantasy trope in the book:  the Chosen One, whom the Dark Lord (trope #2) wants to destroy because of their power / prophecized role / etc.

Of course, I've taken that and twisted it about, working with it to go in a different direction.  My Chosen One has fully accepted the mantle of her role.  In this case, the "chosen" aspect is the possession of a rare form of magic ... and, of course, the villain is the only other person who can wield it.  He's trained, she's not.  Ideally, he'd rather convert her than kill her, which means there are people on her own side that feel it would be better to remove that possibility - forcibly.

So the basic plotline is that our main character decides to stage her capture with the goal of learning from the villain and then escaping.  Obviously, this is shaping up to be a character-driven sort of story, so besides the cliche of the motive-less Dark Lord being just terrible, he needs to be fleshed out.  Part of what I've developed in my head is how he became a conqueror, and that inciting incident plays into his philosophy and the goals he's set that seem tyrannical and wrong to our heroes.  Somewhat ironically, part of what he's doing is removing the traditional fantasy system of noble inheritance ...

All this explanation is a roundabout approach to my concerns.  If I were to pitch this book to agents, how many would get past the cliche setup to the more original elements?  How many would it be a "do not pass go" no matter how well written the book is?

I've had the same worries pondering a rewrite of some old concepts.  Yeah, this is a great story, I've thought, but it opens up with an assassin ...

Clearly, these kinds of books get sold, but ... how do they do it?