Archive for May, 2014

lextalionisLast week I finished reading and talked all about the fantastic book Lex Talionis by R.S.A. Garcia. I seriously enjoyed the book. As a writer, I’m not just enjoying books from a reader/fan perspective though. The craft that goes into a novel is a whole additional layer of enjoyment for me when I read. The craft of Lex impressed me just as much as all the other aspects of the story.

I love talking shop (duh) and had all sorts of stuff I wanted to talk about with Garcia so I invited her over to this here blog for some shop talk about one of my most fascinating topics, worldbuilding. Every novel revolves around its story, and every good story is driven by the characters. More so in science fiction than any other flavor of genre, the set dressing and world building can become a character unto itself. There are an endless amount of ways that authors go about it and I always love to compare notes on this.

So without any further rambling, I’m going to let Garcia take the stage and share how she went about building the world of Lex Talionis.

 

Worldbuilding is a topic that I find endlessly fascinating and have heard dozens of different approaches to it. In other interviews, I saw you mention that you weren’t much of an outliner but the entire time I was reading Lex, I felt there was huge detailed galaxy out there. The reader in me loves it. The writer in me is impressed with this world packed full of depth that still never distracted from the story. How did you go about this?

I swallowed a galaxy before I started writing, obviously. That’s how all the best god-heads do it. Bow down to my skills, puny human!

Well, okay, maybe not.

First off, thanks for the compliments! I did work hard to try and set up a vast universe without writing every bit of it all down. Growing up, I preferred to visualize what a author wrote and I was no fan of standard assists like maps. I appreciate the work that goes into it, and I know people love stuff like that, but I hated having to stop the story to go look up a mountain range, and I idolized writers who could take me there with words alone. So I worked hard at using all the senses–sight, taste, smell, sound and touch–to paint a complete picture.

I’ve always been a pantser. With me though, when I write, I see the world and I add what I see to the database in my head. I like to follow ideas wherever they lead and one thought usually leads to another, so if I know I have a planet with an atmosphere poisonous to humans, I will ask myself what WILL survive there, and then bam! I have an alien species. If I made more notes, I wouldn’t have to flip back so often to see what I decided to call my floating jellyfish aliens, but when those aliens show up, they tend to walk in dragging their people’s history and their old boyfriends with them. Then I just write it down.

Did the world Lex inhabits come from years of marinating in your head or did it just appear like Athena, fully formed bursting out of your head?

Very few parts marinated over the years, mostly to do with Lex herself and her background. The rest of the world formed as I wrote and asked myself questions ‘what if’ questions. The first one was, ‘what if aliens found us instead of us finding them–and they just wanted to trade?’ I would ask myself questions about why some things and places were the way they were and the answers formed the basis of the world.

My approach was also influenced by how technology changed over the years, of course, so some things did come fully formed, birthed by some random tech articles or a sentence in a new article. But I didn’t have any of it burst from my head, which sounds really painful, by the way. I doubt there’s enough Excedrin in the world for that!

Did the level of worldbuilding change as you progressed through drafts, i.e. cutting parts out or filling in more detail?

Oh, for sure! I started writing Lex years ago, so a lot had to change. I grew up, got better at writing, started filling in more detail, experienced a lot more life. Those factors and others helped change the world I was building. It started out a lot more light-hearted, less gritty. That changed when I started asking the ‘what if’ questions I mentioned.

I cut an entire book to write Lex, if you can believe it. The sequel to Lex is actually the book I was working on first. But I asked myself how this woman I was writing came to be, and it turned out I needed a book to answer that. It also turned out I needed a few books to work out all the trouble that came with her. Should have just left her alone in the first place–would have been much quieter in my head.

Is your worldbuilding approach going to evolve as you work on the sequel and/or other unnamed projects?

Definitely. The database in my brain is getting obsolete, like all good tech eventually does. I need to start making notes now so I don’t have to flip through all the manuscripts I write looking for the name of some street. I’m exploring writing software to help with that–I heard Scrivener’s good. I want to make sure my other books can be written without me getting eye-strain and cramps from clicking through the pages.

My plan was always to advance the tech in my world as the years pass, so the reader can see the world’s evolution as they go. Technology is proceeding at such a pace these days that it’s going to be a tall order writing a science fiction novel that Elon Musk hasn’t rendered archaic by the time it goes to print. But we’re also closing the gap between finishing a novel and publishing it to satisfy this new generation of ravenous readers, so perhaps I have a better chance of getting away with that now than before.

Either way, I hope to keep changing, improving on my worldbuilding and writing better stories as I go. Otherwise I’ll be forced to return to my galaxy swallowing ways and believe me, only the Children of Cthulhu want that *gives everyone the evil eye*.

 

RSA Garcia lives and works on the island of Trinidad in the Caribbean with a large family and too many dogs–not that any of them belong to her.

She decided to be an author when she discovered that Louisa May Alcott had been published at the age of 8. Determined to waste no more time, she finished her first collection of stories at 10. She has not stopped writing since, and indulged herself in a deep love of all speculative fiction despite the best advice of every English teacher she has ever had.

Lex Talionis is her debut novel available now from all the major players. Learn more about her and her novel over at rsagarcia.com.

Advertisements

Lex Talionis

Posted: May 25, 2014 in Reading
Tags: , , ,

lextalionisLex Talionis a.k.a. my twitter pal wrote a kick ass book.

I haven’t been doing much in the way of book reviews in the last few months due to the limited free time, but I need to take some time to pontificate about this awesome book.

Like most books I read now, I found Lex Talionis by RSA Garcia via a recommendation from another person I know. I’ve been twitter pal’s with the author’s sister for a while and she was all like “Hey, my sister has a book coming out. You should check it out.” Whaddya know, it’s right up my alley.

On one of Earth’s planetary outposts, a young woman dies–and is brought back to life by a mysterious alien.

Inside a military starship, a wounded soldier is stalked by an unseen enemy.

When Lex reawakens in a clinic, she doesn’t remember who she is, or who killed her. All she remembers is a phrase she does not understand. Lex Talionis. The law of revenge. Stripped of her past, Lex focuses on the only thing she can. Retribution. She will find the people who murdered her and she will make them pay.

What Lex doesn’t know is that she’s being hunted. The alien who saved her and the soldier fighting for survival are the keys to her past…and her future. She must discover what they know before the hunter finds her. Every clue brings her closer to powerful enemies. Everything she learns draws her nearer to the person who almost destroyed her.

The only man she has ever loved.

Lex takes one of my favorite sci-fi tropes and runs with it blending the whole thing with mystery-thriller aspects. Protags with amnesia that are trying to learn who they are right along with the reader are an underutilized trope in the genre. Other than this book, I can think of four in all of my bookshelves that deal with it. One of them happens to be my all time favorite book, Nine Princes in Amber. I guess that meant I started reading Lex with the bar set pretty high. That was alright, ’cause Garcia nailed it.

I mentioned above how Garcia blended some mystery-thriller tropes into her book. I felt that a lot of them were in the storytelling itself. There are two very distinct parts of the story corresponding with how much memory Lex has. Because of this, the timeline and the POVs bounce around a lot. It’s not sometime I often see done to the extent Garcia does it. I found it different, but never distracting or confusing. The book also starts with a slow burn rather than huge bang. Garcia takes the time to set things up in the first quarterish of the book. She’s setting us up for a marathon, not a sprint. I only dabble in mystery books, but I got a sense that the pacing came from the influence of that genre.

Holy shit, the payoff is worth it.

When Lex hit its climax, I was seriously impressed as a reader and a writer. There is one passage is probably the most cinematic passage I’ve ever read in a book. For lack of an adequate literary term, Garcia crosscuts between two parallel scenes and creates this mosaic that floored me. The two different scenes become more powerful together and flow together as one scene. In years of film school, I saw very few filmmakers do this well. I have never seen a writer do it well. That’s the kind of craft that turns a good chapter into a friggin’ amazing chapter.

Lex’s character arc is satisfying as is the resolution of her immediate problems. There are a lot of doors left open for the sequel, but I wasn’t left bothered by any dangling plot threads. If anything, the set up for the sequel is exciting. I am interested in seeing the direction Garcia is taking Lex on her overarching quest. By playing around with the timeline again towards the end, Garcia gives us a glimpse of the sequel and there are a lot more I want to see.

So it was a little difficult to dance around spoilers, (Lex is partially a mystery after all) but I cannot recommend this book enough. I love blending genres together. It helps keep the whole scene fresh by pushing SF in new directions. There is also something really awesome about discovering a new author’s first novel. I’ve done it a few times now, (Wendig, Cole, Chu, Manieri, Ahmed) and it gets me excited as a reader to see the promise laid out in front of them. I am grateful that the random connections of the internet led me to this book and I hope you give it a shot. The genre needs books like this in a dozen different ways. And Garcia is rad. So’s her book. Go read it.

I actually have some free time and today (edit, not really. I wrote half of this last Tuesday) so I am going to use it to talk about awesome books. Or at least, books I expect to be awesome. I’m not going to talk about books I’ve already finished this time. I’m elbow deep into Dance with Dragons anyways, so the previous read was a while ago. Today, I want to talk about the books in my To Read Pile. They’re sitting on the shelf, waiting to be read as soon as I finish this last GRRM tome. Of course, at the speed I’ve been getting books done lately, I’ll see October before I finish this pile.

toreadpile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that’s them, held up with a Medusa head. That’s how I roll. Time to talk about them. From top to bottom and left to right.

Generation V by M. L. Brennan – I think I first heard about her because Brennan was at NY ComicCon with Myke Cole. That sounds about right. Then I saw on twitter she was going to be doing a reading from the latest book in Providence and I was all like “Holy shit! People do things in Rhode Island! …. on days I’m unavailable…” One thing I’m seriously jazzed about, this book takes place in Rhode Island! New Yorkers can get blaze about urban fantasy happening in their backyard but after the author tweeted “Enjoy the RI locales”, I skimmed for where they were. The protag lives in Cranston, all of two miles from my house. I’m absolutely going to troll Cranston and take pictures of where the book happens. I’ve always wanted to do that (the pictures part, not trolling Cranston)

The Cracked Throne by Joshua Palmatier – This guy is a Shelf of Honor author with Well of Sorrows (as Benjamin Tate). This particular book is the second book in his first trilogy. Honestly, I often don’t read the back of the book for Shelf of Honor authors, or sequels to books I already liked. I don’t need any further convincing to buy them and the way the last book left off, the second should pick up pretty shortly after. I first saw him at Boskone 49.

Half-off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire – This is book three in the InCryptid series. I think this will be the fifth of hers that I’ve read. I first started reading her books from a recommendation by Jim Hines. I started with InCryptid, instead of the Toby Daye books, because InCryptid was brand new at the time. McGuire was the Guest of Honor at the last Boskone and is pretty rad.

A Discourse in Steel by Paul S Kemp – Another sequel. Hrm, seems I have a lot of these. This is the second Egil and Nix book. They buckle swashes and kick asses. I’m pretty sure I learned of these books because anything published by Angry Robot is automatically on my radar.

Tricked by Kevin Hearne (a.k.a. Taco Pope) – Book four of the Iron Druid Chronicles, which is up to six or seven plus some novellas. I found Hearne off a recommendation via Sam Sykes (who was recommended by Scalzi). The protag, Atticus, and his dog Oberon are one of the best duos in the SF genre. There’s just as much humor in these books as the serious stuff. It makes the books refreshing.

In a Fix by Linda Grimes – This is a straight up bookstore browse find, the only proper one on the list. The protag is a “human chameleon” who pretends to be other people to fix things for them. Like getting someone to accept a marriage proposal. Shapeshifters and spies? Done. You don’t need any more to sell it.

The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig – Here’s some more awesomeness from Angry Robot Books. This is book three of the Miriam Black series, which just got picked up for a TV deal on Stars. Wendig writes with a lot of flair. And swears. So many swears. He’s also one of the go to people for writing shop talk. I read the first Miriam Black book when it was brandy new based off the trifecta of Lauren Beuckes, John Scalzi and the power of the Angry Robot.

The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig – Copy and paste half of above right here. This is the start of a new series about gangsters and demons and magic.

Zeus and Co. by David Lee Jones – This is an old one I scored on a Book Barn browse. That’s the seriously epic used book store down in Connecticut. The book is old enough that it doesn’t even have a picture on Goodreads. I can’t even find any sort of web page for the correct David Lee Jones. It’s about hackers and Greek gods. I love godpunk so I nabbed this right away. I’m sure the 20 year old tech is going to be silly in it’s oldness, but I’m hoping it holds up anyways.

 Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest – Buying this book was another no-brainer. Fiddlehead is part of the Clockwork Century series which was bequeathed (bequoth?) on the Shelf of Honor. The series is often considered the definitive books of steampunk. I also enjoy how they are all interconnected but still readable as individuals. That’s a nice trait when I don’t usually have time to go back and reread a whole series. I think I first put Boneshaker (the first Clockwork Century) on 2009’s Xmas list after reading a Scalzi Big Idea post.

The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin – This book takes place in a world where the dominant magic system is fueled by people’s dreams. That is bad ass. The practitioners of this magic, well they could heal you … or maybe kill you. Either way. That’s a temple that is definitely worth reading about. Jemisin also comes recommended by most of my twitter feed.

Reamde by Neal Stephenson – Here is another Shelf of Honor author (with Ananthem). This is another of his books set in the real world. Reamde is a cyberpunk deal about online gamers and wars with Chinese gold farmers that spill over into the real world. It will get me all nostalgic for my Warcraft and EverQuest days. I read my first Stephenson book years ago off a recommendation from my dad.

God’s War by Kameron Hurley – I swear I had this book on my To Buy List before it was nominated for all the awards. Freelancing ex-government assassins? That’s pretty sweet. “Alien gene pirates” alone would sell me on it. I know that was all part of a back cover marketing angle and there are a lot more layers to the book. Good. As it should be. I think I first heard about Hurley from Seanan McGuire. She’s also a great person to follow on ye olde twitter.

Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear – This is not my first book by Bear and I know it won’t be the last. I previously read Undertow and thought that Bear wrote one of the best alien POV’s I’ve ever read in decades. She even got the seriously obscure reference to the cheela I made when I talked about her well written aliens. Ghosts is the first book in Mongol / Eastern based fantasy rather than the same old Medieval British based fantasy world. Bear came recommended from most of my twitter feed and I finally bought some of her books after seeing her at Boskone 50 last year.

lextalionisIn The Mail – Lex Talionis by R.S.A. Garcia – I was recommended this book when a twitter pal said “Hey, my sister has an awesome book coming out soon.” I was all like “Ima gonna go check this out.” And I did. And I got super happy because Lex uses one of my favorite SF tropes, which I hardly ever see anywhere. Amnesiatic protags that have to discover their identity right along with the reader. I can think of all of four books that do this, and two of them (Nine Princes in Amber and A Thousand Words for a Stranger) are on the Shelf of Honor. So this book is totally happening. I’m pretty sure I would have found this book regardless because Elizabeth Bear has also given it her recommendation.

 

shatteringtheleyOn Order – Shattering the Ley by Joshua Palmatier – Remember above how I said he was a Shelf of Honor author? Still applies here. The magic system in this book is closely tied with the infrastructure of the world and I find that whole concept very intriguing. I’m excited to see an epic storyline set in the urban city of the book. Ley drops in July right before Readercon so I’m hoping Palmatier rolls in for that con and I can add to my signed shelf.