Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bridge Of Swords longlisted for David Gemmell Legend Award!

You may well have read an earlier post about what the late, great UK fantasy author David Gemmell means to me.
It was a copy of his debut work Legend that got me into reading fantasy.
He was a newspaper editor in Sussex before he became a writer; I lived in Sussex until I was 16 and then became a newspaper editor before becoming a writer.
I was devastated to hear of his early death from a heart attack.
When Australian Bookseller + Publisher compared me to Gemmell, it was a proud moment.
Now Bridge Of Swords has been longlisted for the David Gemmell Legend Award, which recognises the best heroic fantasy worldwide.
If you've read Bridge Of Swords and enjoyed it; if you think it fits the description of heroic fantasy, then please log onto the awards site and vote.
It would be very much appreciated.
The link is below:

How to write with emotion

If you're a budding author, then I'm sure you've either gone through courses or at least read a few books about writing.
I don't think I have any insights beyond what is already available on the internet. But I can tell you what works for me.
If anyone asks me advice about writing, I always tell them the best thing is to keep writing. The more you write, the better you get at it.
Obviously you need to have the strongest characters you can create. Great characters always trump a great story. If you can have a great story as well, then you are laughing!
Yet I also feel there's more to the process than ``just'' coming up with great characters and storylines.
I try to write with emotion.
I have written before about how I write on the train, as I commute to and from Sydney. As I write, I listen to music on the iPod. But I do try and match what I am listening to, to what I am going to write.
As I have said before, something like Coldplay works well for me during character scenes, while a spoty of AC/DC's Thunderstruck is fantastic for a battle.
But I also try to recall emotions from films.
Now these don't have to be an inspiration for your book. They don't even have to be anywhere near the same genre. But they do have to evoke something in you. You can stumble on these by chance or you can go searching for them. You can build up a personal memory bank of these films, and what they evoke in you.
The choice is yours.
What I like to do is then recall them when I'm writing, to tap into what they stirred within me, and try to communicate some of that into the writing.
Now I'm not saying you rip off a bunch of scenes from random movies and rewrite them.
No, I'm only talking about the emotion YOU feel. Pick up on that and invest that into your writing.
Different films mean different things to different people.
But, to give you an example: one of the strong undercurrents in Bridge Of Swords is Sendatsu's desire to get back to his children and his willingness to do anything for them.
There were two films in particular that I recalled during writing that book.
One was A Very Long Engagement, where Audrey Tautou searches for her lover who disappeared into the horror of World War I. In particular the end, when she finds him, the culmination of years of searching, and the way she walks out to him  ``and sits and watches''. You don't see an emotional reunion but I feel the longing, the overwhelming relief, the desire to throw yourself at them and yet contain all that because they wouldn't understand.
A second was Inception and the very end, when Leonardo DiCaprio returns to his children and starts to check to see if this is all a dream - and then walks away before his control device can give him the answer. Because, at that point, he doesn't care if it is a dream or not. He is reunited with his children and that is all that matters.
It doesn't matter if you watch those films and feel nothing. They meant something to me and so I tried to invest that into the writing.
This whole technique may mean nothing to you - but I use it all the time. If you can put real emotion into the writing, you can invest it with a little more truth.
Yes, I know this is fantasy I write - but it still needs some truth.
Of course you don't need to get those emotions from film - but it adds something I feel. Emotions from songs are powerful, from real life are also powerful but, to me, movies can be visually recalled easily. I replay that scene, tap into what it makes me feel and then write.
It works for me - and you are welcome to try it!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Characters of Valley Of Shields

The end of Bridge of Swords saw the death of several `main’ characters – principally some of the `evil’ ones. The action principally took place in Vales, as well.

In book two of Empire Of Bones, Valley Of Shields, you will see far more of Dokuzen, the home of the “elves”, or Elfarans to give them their real name.

You will also meet new enemies for Sendatsu, Huw and Rhiannon to face – and the end of the book will finally tell you who the real villain of the series is.

You will also meet three new characters, a trio of Forlish soldiers known as Caelin, Harald and Ruttyn. At first they may seem like comic relief, and a source of the humour that I try to weave through all my books. That is true, to a certain extent but they have a vital role to play not just in this book but also in the concluding book of the series, Wall Of Spears.

In Valley Of Shields, you will also see far more of Sendatsu’s true love Asami, his best friend and her husband Gaibun and Sendatsu’s father Jaken, as well as his mother Noriko.

The people of Dokuzen are split into three power blocs, all manoeuvring to take the top spot. Into this potent mix of treachery and betrayal comes the first humans in 300 years – Rhiannon and Huw, as well as Sendatsu.

Things are about to change and the barrier of lies that has surrounded Dokuzen for three centuries is about to be torn down.

Conflux 2013

This was my third Conflux, although the first that was also the National Convention.

I love visiting Canberra for bookstore tours, so it was perfect to combine the pair.

Seriously, if you are a new author, or even an old hand, and want to try out bookstore selling appearances, rather than book signings, Canberra is the place to start.

(For full details on the difference between sellings and signings, as well as 50 tips to hand-sell 1000 books a month, see some of my previous articles).

Canberra people love to buy books – almost more than they love sweeping generalisations.

But seriously, there are more eager book buyers in Canberra than anywhere else. I like to ask the question: `Do you like to read?’

One Canberran replied: `Doesn’t everybody?’

Well, no. And certainly not in some of the areas I have sold books into …

Conflux this year was being run by the delightful Nicole Murphy and Donna Hanson, and it was organised perfectly.

I was rather less organised, for a variety of reasons, so ended up with a somewhat higgledy-piggledy schedule.

The important thing was, I got to chat to some great people and offer my limited wisdom to help budding authors. I hope it was of some help!

The panels I went on this time had some really interesting (I thought) topics.

One was on the ethics of immortality, which is one of the major themes of the Empire Of Bones series. It was a fascinating discussion and, in terms of book possibilities, we barely scratched the surface.

There are two types of immortality, of course. There’s the Tolkien-elf immortality, where you don’t get old or sick but are still dead if someone cuts off your head or sticks you full of arrows. Then there’s the full immortality, where you are indestructible – somewhat like a cartoon character or Hollywood action hero.

Immortality can be approached from the point of view of those fighting against immortals or from the immortals struggling with their powers. There are many books in there.

The other panel was about world building, which is also fascinating. I like to base my worlds on reality, recognisably Celtic or otherwise, rather than start from scratch. But the possibilities are infinite.

Plants, animals, even the weather can become as important as any of your characters. The weather, for instance, can become a crueller foe than an army of orcs.

Just don’t fall into what we shall call the 10,000BC trap. That was the Roland Emmerich film that saw the main characters go from snowy mountains, to desert, to steamy jungle in the space of a few days. A classic example of plot defeating logic. Not that it was the most unconvincing thing about that movie but still …

In between kaffeeklatches and panels, I visited Canberra’ s three Dymocks stores. All are great and all went well. It is lovely to see people coming back for the third or even fourth time to get their books signed. A true honour. At Belconnen, in fact, I bumped into a fan that was almost overcome! That was the first time someone has been that excited to meet me. Even my dog doesn’t get that thrilled, so it was a massive buzz for me as well.

At Belconnen it was also great to see Valley Of Shields sitting at Number Six on the store’s bestseller list!

Conflux wrapped up (for me) with the official launch of VOS, along with my friend and fellow Harper Voyager author Katie (KJ) Taylor’s The Shadowed Throne.

Our first HarperCollins books were published in the same month and we are still going along the same pattern, which is extremely unusual but also wonderful.

Her books are  very different  from mine but extremely entertaining and I would heartily recommend trying them.

And so I began the long drive home, thankful for all the wonderful people I met – and looking forward to doing a real tour next time!

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Sunday Telegraph's Janet Hughes gave me this 4.5/5 star review in the weekend paper - Australia's biggest-selling paper!

THIS is the second book in talented fantasy writer Duncan Lay's Empire of Bones trilogy. Bridge Of Swords, the first in the series, ended in a breath-taking cliffhanger and the action picks up almost exactly where it left off.
Led by the reluctant elf-in-exile, Sendatsu, the supposedly magic-less humans struggle to find a way to defend the country they love from their invaders.
In this volume, both the humans and the elves begin to discover that past events are not what they have been led to believe. As the humans search for a way to defend their country, events back in the Sendatsu's Dokuzen continue to unravel.
With multi-layered plots and multifaceted characters, Valley Of Shields is an action-packed, entertaining read.

Final thoughts on Valley Of Shields tour

I had set aside April to get back into bookstores and help promote Valley Of Shields.

Apart from enjoying getting out and meeting new bookstore owners and, most importantly, readers,  obviously the second book of the series is the hardest to sell.

The first book of a trilogy is fresh and exciting, in so many ways. The third book of a trilogy is a thrilling conclusion and readers, especially fantasy readers, are delighted to know a series is finished and they don’t have to wait any longer, nor worry about the author dying before finishing.

Seriously, an author could develop hypochondria the way some fantasy readers ask after your health all the time.

`You’re not going to die on us, are you?’ they ask, half-smiling and half-concerned.

`Fit as a fiddle!’ I usually say, with a big grin.

But then they go away and the doubts begin to seep in. Am I really that healthy? What about that strange pain in the middle section? Indigestion or something more serious – perhaps an Alien-like infestation growth about to burst from my chest? Am I just warm from the shopping centre airconditioning or is it the first sign of a rare and exotic jungle fever? Has the Muzak in the centre given me the beginnings of a headache or do I have a pulsating tumour about to split my skull?

Anyway ….

The problem with the middle book of the series is you have none of that excitement and the added challenge of asking people to have bought the first book before they can start it. For those who didn’t realise you had a new series out there, that’s a cool $60 bucks for two books, thanks. (Although almost all stores that I visit do put a bit of a discount on – so watch out for my tours, because not only can you get signed copies but save a few dollars along the way).

Still, I was visiting Perth for the first time, a bunch of stores who are old friends and a handful of new ones, then finishing off with the National Fantasy Convention in Canberra, held within Conflux, where I would officially launch Valley Of Shields.

That was the plan.

Perth went great and I had a wonderful time there.

But then I had a family health emergency and had to cancel a bunch of stores and then the ones I did appear at, my mind was not wholly on the job.

Still, the good news is, all has turned out well.

And I am planning a massive tour to finish Empire Of Bones and support Wall Of Spears. I’m thinking about seven weeks, taking me through Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.

I hope to see you along the way!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Wall Of Spears is finished (again!)

Wall Of Spears is finished!

Well, OK, I still have some little corrections from my beta readers to go through. Then no doubt HarperCollins will have some suggestions and, of course, the copy editing process will see a few changes as well.

But I am happy with the way the Empire Of Bones series finishes and, barring last-minute flashes of inspiration, it is effectively ready to go now.

Sadly it won’t be arriving in the shops until February 2014 – but I do think it will be worth the wait.

The series comes to a bloody, earth-shaking conclusion in Wall Of Spears.

Already one of my beta readers said it is ``the best one’’ yet.

(Always good to be getting better as you go along.)

In fact, she burned something in the oven because she was so engrossed in the story. Luckily it was only quiche, not something actually worth eating.

Unlike the ending of The Dragon Sword Histories, all questions are answered in Empire Of Bones, both the big ones and the small ones.

Will Asami choose Sendatsu or Gaibun? Cam Huw and Rhiannon find happiness? Will magic return to the lands? Will the truth be revealed? Will the elves admit they are actually human? Will Sumiko betray Jaken and Dokuzen? Will we ever meet Harald’s mother-in-law and is she as bad as his jokes suggest?

I began writing this series right after finishing the 50 Stores In 30 Days tour for The Radiant Child. That was July 2010, so it almost three years later that I wrote those magical words: The End.

The series has changed along the way; the characters have taken it down some strange pathways that I hadn’t planned for. But that is part of the fun of writing!

I am nearly ready to begin another journey into another series. I hope you can come along for the ride but, far more than that, I hope you enjoy finishing the Empire Of Bones journey as much as I have.

Blog Day Tuesday

So, Wall Of Spears is finished – who knew writing and polishing a 180,000 word novel would take so long!

The fact I wrote it out to 200,000 and then had to pull it back, didn’t help much, I have to admit.

Anyway, I can take a breath and look up from the world of Forland, Vales and Dokuzen. I can again turn to my poor, neglected blog, which has suffered from a serious lack of attention for most of this year.

The good news is, I have now prepared a whole bunch of articles, which I shall be posting every Tuesday.

Why Tuesday, you might well ask.

Well, there is no good reason. In fact it is completely arbitrary. I could say it is because my working week starts on that day, so it gives me something other than work to look forward to. Or I could quote cheap pizza day, or half-price movies. Honestly, I might as well say it came to me in a dream or a strange green being from another planet told me to do it on that day. (I work with some strange people).

I’m doing it on Tuesday because. Just because.

So you can check back here each Tuesday, confident in the knowledge there will be something fresh, and not just a couple of tumbleweeds blowing across the screen, to the sound of one lonely cricket’s chirp.

Unless, that is, you feel greedy. Because I could just dump everything in the one hit and leave it to be digested, like some snake trying to sleep off an enormous meal.

I do hope everyone isn’t feeling as queasy as I am after that rather stretched analogy.

So, to summarise, keep checking back on Tuesday.

Or swamp me with demands for more, in which case I might post the lot. Or maybe just a post ruminating on today’s society and our demand for instant gratification …!