Saturday, August 29, 2009

Interview with Robert Lee - The Shadowborn General

When I started this blog, the first thing I did upon completing my very first post, was to find out if there was anyone who was doing a similar blog. Lo and behold, when I posted on a forum I frequent, two posts above mine, was a guy who was talking about the progress he was making on his first novel, he also mentioned that he had set up a blog site and had attached a link. I clicked the link and was taken to a very professional looking website with great graphics. I posted on this site, and within a day said blogger had responded with a polite and helpful post. Following that, every time I posted I received an instant response. Personally, this was the perfect site, it was updated regularly and was hosted by a friendly guy who you felt honestly appreciated you visiting the site.

The aforementioned guy is a man called Robert Lee. He is the author of “The Shadowborn General,” his first book. As of printing, he is extremely near completing the novel with a view of publishing it at the start of 2010.

I emailed Robert and asked if he would be interested in doing an interview with my humble self so we could attempt to capture his feelings as he nears the end of his pet project. Robert agreed immediately, and what follows is the interview. I found Robert to be extremely candid. His answers are open, honest and above all helpful. Quite frankly, he has inspired me to complete my book. Hope you enjoy:

Robert, first of all, congratulations on completing your first book. Can you tell me what it is about?

Right to the meat of it all ha. Well the book is titled "The Shadowborn General" and it follows a Human named Vespasian. The setting is the land of Etherea and Vespasian ventures through the land in an attempt to save two of his friends from a mysterious foe. Along the way an intricate and twisted plot is revealed to include Vespasian's past, a few sinister characters, and a chaos secretly growing in the shadows of Etherea. There are quite a few twists and turns in the book which made it a lot of fun to write.

How did you come up with the idea?

I've always had a pretty creative imagination. When I would get done with a book, movie, or video game I would convince myself that I could do something like that too. One day I decided to give it a shot and started writing down my ideas. At the time some friends wanted to create a video game and I started writing for it. My writings eventually fleshed out and I decided to expand the world and write a book on my thoughts.

Sounds like you spent a long time world building. Did this stop you writing some times?

Etherea was originally the focus due to the idea of a video game. If you want to include everything related to my book I've been working on it for five years now. When I finally sat down to write about the adventures of Vespasian in Etherea it was easy to visualize everything because of all the ground work I did. But yes it did stop my writing a lot. I would find myself focusing on Etherea more than the book at times. It paid off in the end but added a good deal to the overall time spent on the book.

What were your main obstacles?

I'm currently in college and everything from my military duties to papers and Astrophysics has slowed me down. Now the biggest obstacle is getting everything critiqued properly so that my book is polished and professional.

On your blog, you talk about publishing in Dec - Mar. I assume this is self publishing? Why that route?

You're absolutely right. I plan to publish with CreateSpace. There are multiple reasons for this actually. I chose CreateSpace because it’s fairly simple to understand but it also puts your book up on which is a great market. The reason I chose self publishing in general though is because I wanted more control over my book. I have a secure job and am not worried too much about making money or huge deals. I love writing and I want others to enjoy my book. I feel that self publishing will give me a more personal route to reach an audience. If the book is that good it'll get a larger audience eventually.

A noble attitude. Your book comes in at 60,000 words, impressive to those of us aspiring writers. I believe the average is 75,000 words. Did you have a word count in mind or just write your story?

I just wrote my story and let it come in at whatever word count was right. Certain publishers will ask you to hit a certain word count, another reason I want to self publish, but I rather just let the story be what it is. I don't want to add filler just to hit a certain word count. My word count may go up as I continually go back and edit my book before publishing but for now 60k is it.

Who is your target audience?

This is another thing I didn't think too much of. I'm sure there are more professional editors and writers out there banging their heads on the kind of answers I'm giving. But honestly I just wanted to put my thoughts and imagination into writing. I loved writing my book and whoever enjoys reading it is my target audience. The book only occasionally has a mild swear word so it doesn't have to be a mature audience reading it. And at the same time I feel that it's rooted deeply in classic fantasy with a mythological element thrown in that anyone could enjoy.

That’s very refreshing to hear. You talk on your blog about getting your book critiqued. How is that going? How much attention do you pay to critiques?

It's not the quickest process but it's moving at a rate that I'm comfortable with. I use online workshops so I get a variety of critiques but nothing so far that's overly negative. You have to take critiques with a grain of salt. You want to listen to them and improve on your book but you don't want to take the bad ones to heart. Enjoy what you write and be proud of it. Always keep your own personal voice regardless of what others say but make sure to listen even when it seems hard to do.

Your blog is impressive. Who does the artwork?

The artwork I have on the blog is from a group of friends that were creating the Etherea: Dark Genesis video game. It was meant to be an MMO but these were high aspirations for everyone. Right now everyone's regrouping to build a web based game and eventually move back to the MMO realm under a more professional approach. I have artwork I'm getting for the book but that was done through commissions.

As I mentioned your blog looks great. How do you let people know it exists?

Thanks. I try to use the internet as much as I can. There are plenty of resources out there including sites that you can add your blog on. I also include a link in my signature on the critique website I use, I use a Twitter account that talks about my book and my blog, and I try to be actively involved in other people's blogs and stories. You learn a lot, meet a lot of cool people, and at the same time advertise yourself.

Can you tell me more about the game?

The web based strategy game is that group of friends I mentioned that wanted to make the MMO. The main being Chris Hill who currently lives in England. Him and I have been good friends for years and he and I agree that a web based game would be fun. We would like to eventually connect it to an RTS but we are taking everything at a slow pace. Without professional funding you just have to work at a "let's have fun while doing it" pace.

A sensible approach!!What about you? Besides writing what do you like doing?

I love playing rugby, basketball, and other sports. As I mentioned I'm in the military, I attend the Air Force Academy, so I enjoy hanging out with my friends and people in my squadron. There are a lot of duties and academics but always time for fun and hanging out.

What's an American doing playing rugby?

At the Academy we have all sorts of intramural sports including rugby. We also have a rugby team that competes nationally and is usually highly ranked but I just do intramural rugby.

What authors do you aspire to be like?

I love the works of George R. R. Martin. I'm not going to fool myself and say that I'll ever be as great as him, I'm not aspiring to be a professional writer. I have a job and love it, I just enjoy writing on the side and hopefully inspiring other writers who will do it better than I could. George R. R. Martin has some pretty inspirational words on fantasy though that I love. He mentioned that when he dies everyone can keep their heaven, he’d rather go to Middle Earth. I think the idea of always creating something better and somewhere we'd all wish to live in is the heart of fantasy.

I approve of your taste! That is also one of my favourite quotes. When you've finished your book, what's next?

I want to work on a few short story ideas I have before starting the next book set in Etherea. Yes there will be a "next book" but since I do this because I enjoy writing and at my own pace I couldn't tell you when that will be. If there is enough desire for the next book after "The Shadowborn General" I'm sure I'll pick up the pace for my audience. Right now though I'm looking to getting this book out, writing a few short stories, and graduating.

Now you are near to the end of your book any tips?

My tips to aspiring authors would be to have a vision of your story before you just start writing. Some people write and hope that all of the story comes to them but you should have a view of the world or your characters before you start. Plenty will come while you're writing and your own writing will inspire you but if you don't put the effort into your writings it will show. Write for you, at your own pace, and enjoy what you write. Hopefully others will enjoy reading it.

And finally anything else you would like to add?

Thank you very much for giving me the chance to speak on my book and good luck to you on your own book. There are so many fantasy writers out there but that is only testament to the imagination and creativity of man. Always look to creating a place you and the reader would want to live in.

Thank you and best of luck with getting the book published and graduating. I for one will be buying it.

Check out Robert’s blog at Where he has also posted the first chapter of his The Shadowborn General.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Scott Lynch's: Republic of Thieves - Prologue

What has this post got to do with writing my novel I hear you ask? Well simple, these guys are the ones that inspired me to begin writing in the first place.

I have always been an avid reader. Mostly I read crime and thrillers but like most readers I have read and love the Lord of the Rings. Unlike most people I don't gush over the books, I found them hard to read and the pace very slow in places. Nevertheless, I love the world that Tolkein created. My first taste of the world was when my Nan told me to watch the cartoon adaption - anything other than her having to sit through Star Wars again. I loved it immediately and loved the Peter Jackson films that followed.

So long story short, I have always liked fantasy stories, but just never really read them. This all changed when I kept seeing praise for a little known book called A Game of Thrones. Intrigued, I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Needless to say, I loved it and am now a huge fan of the Song of Ice and Fire series. Incidently, I've also read Fevre Dream and Dreamsongs by George R R Martin - both superb books.

Since reading A Game of Thrones, I have tried many books in the fantasy genre. Stand out authors for me are Joe Abercrombie and the title of my post Scott Lynch. I've read the first two books in the first law trilogy (I'm saving the third, don't ask me why, I like to draw series out - I'm weird like that) and I've read the first two books in the Gentlemen Bastard series. I find this series to be superb. It is so different from anything out there. The popular view that the books are like Ocean's Eleven set in the fantasy world are spot on.

Like Martin, there has also been a long wait forLynch's next book. I'm fine with waiting for books, when it's done it's done. Sure you want it to be released as soon possible, but there is so much out there to read that I don't feel the need to slate off the author for taking their time in writing the books that we love them for.

So getting round to the title of my post (I knew I would get there), after a long hiatus from the internet, Scott Lynch has become active again and has posted the prologue to his third book Republic of Thieves on his website. In the book we will meet the much mentioned Sabetha. He believes this will be published in 2010. I for one can't wait.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Enthused by the muse!!

As you may well know, I have previously commented on the fact that I am not one for heavy planning on my novel. However, I have always had an ending in mind for my novel. I knew when and how I want my story to end but I had no idea how to write one of the final scenes and what would happen. I just figured I would put it off until I got there. Occassionally, I would imagine the scene, but the dialogue always felt wrong.

Last night I wasn't really thinking about my novel (I was actually washing up) and then this particular scene just came to me, the dialogue started playing out in my head. It sounds cliche but the characters were actually talking themselves. I grabbed a pen and ended up scribbling out the notes and dialogue on a pad so I wouldn't forget them. An hour later the whole chapter was done, and reads pretty darn good

I read the chapter back this morning and I'm very pleased with the material. It was a tricky scene. You never know, it might completely change once the rest of the story unfolds, but for now I have something good written down.

When you read tips on writing, one of the things that always comes up, is carry a pen and pad with you everywhere. I always thought that this was a bit sad to be honest, and personally have never seen anyone scribbling away on a bus other than working on their shopping list. I type straight on to my laptop. However, this is the third time when I have been thinking about my novel and not been my laptop. I have acknowledged that the scene unfolding in my head was just too good not to be captured and have been forced to write it down. So I guess what I am trying to say is, the reason that tip keeps coming up on the writing websites and "how to" books, is because it is a bloody good one.

As far as the story goes. I've now finished the beginning of my story now and I know the end, I just need to get there. I know five things that have to happen, and 2 of those scenes I've already made copious notes on, so it is just a question of writing the chapters. For the first time this morning, (maybe it is the Friday feeling) I'm starting to actually think, I might actually complete the novel some day.


Keep the gloom away.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The problem with time

This week I got caught up in something I was determined not to get caught up in - World building. As much as I think it is important to have an idea of your world and how it all fits together i.e what your races believe in, how the currency works, is the sky blue and the grass green etc, I found that many authors on the various forums I visit get far too bogged down in creating their world rather than writing about it.

There was one member on a forum that stated they had spent 3 years realising their world and still didn't feel ready to begin writing. This to me was just an excuse. They were lying to themselves that they were working on their novel rather than actually working on their novel. I couldn't help but think that by the time that this person felt "ready" to start writing, they would be bored of the whole thing.

Personally, like I have previously said when talking about your plot, I find that if I have an idea of the world my characters inhabit then that is good enough to begin with. The fun comes in exploring your world with the characters.

However, that being said, one of the obstacles I have been experiencing is writing about time. My world is set roughly in a medieval style era. They obviously did not have watches in those days and I was getting fed up with using phrases such as "Noon, dusk, early morning" etc. I also wanted to talk about months, years etc. The last thing I wanted was for the reader to suddenly think, "that is stupid, how could they have told the time back then" (even though it was another world).

I therefore spent quite a lot of time doing some research on the subject. I learnt all about how time was told using: sundials, water clocks, candles etc etc. I surfed websites, visited forums posing questions and even went to the library for inspiration. How was I ever going to work this into the novel without boring the ready with some heavy explanation?

Do you know what I learnt? IT REALLY DOESN'T MATTER. The reader is not stupid, they don't need everything explained for them. I can talk about days, weeks, months etc, it is my world for crying out loud. I created it. Calendars were around in Ancient times anyway. I did a degree in it for God's sake!!

In fact, by just thinking about my world for 5minutes I devised a really cool idea about the calendar people would use. It is not complicated, it is not a million miles away (oh my God can I say miles!!) from the Gregorian calendar we use now. I like it. It makes perfect sense for my novel and the reader can sure as hell follow it - if I choose to mention it at all that is.

Bottom line, as long as I don't talk about minutes etc I'll be o.k. (although "moments" is used as a substitute quite a lot at the minute).

Simple motto: Writing is good, getting side tracked is bad. The editing stage is where you pick up any glaring errors.

As a result of this revelation I have rattled off another 2,500 words in two days.

Keep the gloom away.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

One follower

It also hasn't escaped my attention that one or two people have posted comments and I have my first follower. That is fantastic news, so pleased you have taken an interest in the site. Hopefully we can get those numbers up over the next couple of weeks.

I think as a way of rewarding you all when I get to 15 followers I will publish the first chapter. You'll have to bear in mind that I plan to edit only at the end and not as I go along, but I feel it is only right that you get to see some of the material you are reading about!!

Keep the Gloom away.


35,000 words!!!!

The title says it all really, I have hit 35,000 words on the novel. The good thing is that although I am adhereing to a rough outline, there are still plenty of new ideas flying about. Some of them, I am having to force myself to shelf and maybe include in a sequel novel (I am not that presumptious to state that I will be writing one, lets get the first one completed to begin with).

Last Thursday I was particularly happy for two reasons:

1) I was having difficulty with the order of some of my chapters and from a timeline perspective the story wasn't making sense. Last week I solved the problem by merging two chapters and chopping a scene from one and moving it to another chapter. As a result, the book now flows a lot better and this was reflected in the writing, allowing me to expand a passage I was struggling on.

2) There was one chapter where I had literally only jotted down 2 lines of a plot outline. I knew that an event must happen but I had no idea how to include it or even make it interesting. I had been putting off writing about it for ages until last Wednesday, where I was determined to have a stab at it. It turned out that the muse was on my side and I ended up writing the best material of the book so far. In two days I had written 5,000 words of good quality stuff. I was so happy about it, I wanted to tell someone, but could not think of anyone that would be overly interested, (other than just being pleased that I was pleased if you get my drift). That is why I am so pleased I have started this blog. I can write events like this down and if (heaven's forbid) I experience the dreaded writer's blog, can look through these posts and motivate myself.

I had my stag do at the weekend. It was excellent (or so I am told), I will try and put photo's up when they are developed. The lads did a good job of dressing me up in a jockey/horse combo outfit and parading me around Ascot. As a result of the subsequent recovery days, I have not even thought about writing over the weekend and so am looking forward to continue writing this week.

My there was a lot of use of bracketts in that blog!!

Thanks for reading.


Monday, August 3, 2009

I know, I know, 2 out of my first three posts have seemed like shameless plugs for other tools/websites. I assure you they are not. I discovered back in May, when I was wondering how other people than my friends and family would view my work. was suggested as a great of doing this.

Basically it involves you joining a mailing list and getting other author's short stories etc sent to you for you to critique. Not only is it a great way to read other people's styles etc, it also helps with your own writing. As you critique other's work, you begin to realise how others might view yours.

I submitted a short story to the queue, to be read back in June. Providing I kept up with my own critiques, it would be read mid-July and critiques would come in to my mailbox around the end of July.

To cut a long story short, they did. I got 23 critiques on my short story, some varied wildly in opinion - it is amazing how 2 different people can read the same paragraph, one can love it and the other can hate it. Most of them liked my work, there were many that suggested the same things to improve the story, which has proved invaluable. The important thing was that all of them liked my story telling and characters. To me that has always been the most crucial element to a book.

If you want to check out my early first draft, sign up and look for Ritual 246.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


I discovered this free tool on the internet to help you construct your story. I have to say it is fantastic, it allows you to write your chapters by scenes, keep track of the characters you have created and locations they have travelled to. It is great for consistency purposes. It is also incredibly easy to drag scenes and chapters to different parts of your novel.

I know there are more detailed writing tools out there, but for one that is free and easy to use, I thoroughly recommend it.

First blog

So here goes!! I've never blogged before, often thought about it, never known where to start. Quick search on google and I couldn't believe how easy it is.

Today, I exceeded 30,000 words on my novel. Rah!!! I know there are budding authors out there that have done this on a regular basis, but to me this is amazing and a huge achievement. Considering I have a full-time job, a new born baby and a wedding to arrange, I am silently happy with myself. It means that my novel is well and truly on it's way. What is more encouraging is that I haven't really struggled with any part of it, in terms of coming up with ideas. I know the basic outline, I know the ending and I know certain events that have to happen. (I am not one of those authors that has to plan out every aspect of the story - I feel too stiffled by this and quickly lose interest in writing the story).

What I have struggled with is finding the time! As I have mentioned above, there is a lot going on with me right now. I am trying to set aside an hour each day to write. My fiance is incredibly supportive of this, but I still try and do this in my lunch time at work, so I can undertake my fair share of baby duties.

So welcome, I hope you enjoy my blogs and I look forward to sharing my progress with you.