Tag Archives: book beginnings

Book Beginnings: What Should I Begin?

Good morning and welcome to the blog. Writing so far is going well, and my characters finally decided to stop being coy and tell me the rest of their story. Or at least, they’re telling me the next part of their story, which is good enough for right now, though I might have to start asking leading questions and nagging them here in a chapter or three.

As I do on a lot of Fridays, I’m taking part in Book Beginnings over at the excellent Rose City Reader blog. Also, as I do on a lot of days, I’m doing something a little different. I’m about to finish The Dragonbone Chair, and I’m still working through War and Peace. I need another book to begin, and, well, also as I do on a lot of days, I’m not sure which book to begin. So, I’m going to post three opening paragraphs and see what you think I should pick up next.

King’s Shield, Sherwood Smith (Book Three of Inda)

inda_3This isn’t so much a “Should I read this?” as it is “Should I read this now?” I absolutely loved the first two books of this series… the characters were fresh, the politics was interesting and intriguing without being at any point boring, and, well, as a sailor, I loved reading a fantasy novel that took place out to sea. Here’s the first sentence

After nine years of exile, Inda was going home.

I was going to include more, but some of my readers are also reading this series, and while the first line isn’t too much of a spoiler, the next paragraph most certainly is. As someone who spent seven years away from his country, though, I have to say that those nine words carry a lot of emotion and import. I do want to charge on ahead with this book, but I’m just about to finish up an epic fantasy (and I’ll want to read the sequel to that, a book I should have read twenty-five years ago) and, well… here are the other two I’m considering.

Interference, Amélie Antoine

interferenceI picked this up on Kindle’s summer sale, and it’s been hovering around my library page for six months. I’m a fan of thrillers (especially after reading long works of classic literature or non-fiction) but I know very little about this one. Here’s the opening paragraph:

Gabriel will worry, of course. He’s always worrying about me, wondering if I’m okay, hoping nothing has happened to me. He’s not an anxious kind of person, though. It’s just that I’m his whole world and he’s terrified of losing me. He puts up an aloof exterior to hide his vulnerability, a bottomless pit of anxiety that probably wasn’t there before he met me and came to are about me. I love Gabriel, and I love that he loves me. I love how he makes me feel about myself, and I love knowing that he’s nothing without me.

And… on to the third.

The Strangled Queen, Maurice Druon (Book #2 of The Accursed Kings)

17624063I’d heard of this series in college when I was studying history, but I never got around to reading it until years later, when HarperCollins billed it as “The Original Game of Thrones.” Having recognized a lot of the machinations behind the Hundred Years’ War in the pages of those books, I was intrigued, and flew through the first book in two or three bus commutes. It was straightforward, dramatic, and fun, though I wished it had been a little longer. Just after finishing it I bought the second book, but it’s been sitting in my library for 26 months or so. Here’s the beginning:

On the 29th November 1314, two hours after vespers, twenty-four couriers, all dressed in black and wearing the emblems of France, passed out of the gate of the Château de Fontainebleu at full gallop and disappeared into the forest. The roads were covered with snow; the sky was more sombre than the earth; darkness had fallen, or rather it had remained constant since the evening before.

Of course, the downside to peeking at the first pages of all three of these books is that NOW I WANT TO READ ALL THREE OF THEM! I will pick just one, though, and I’m welcoming any and all comments.

This weekend, I’ll have my review of the best books I read this year, the ones I wished I’d read, and possibly a bit about all the book-related news we had over the last twelve months. Until then, have an awesome day, and read on.

 

 

Book Beginnings: Italian Casual Surrealism

Today, I’m finishing up the editing of Part One of my fiction project, figuring out where the hell I’m going with Part Two, and preparing an article for Reddit’s r/fantasy subreddit. I’m also ignoring the cat, who is currently telling me that I need to put the laptop down and cuddle with her. I really need to focus on the former tasks, but she just went from giving me cute, warm, and fuzzy looks, to turning off “Ms NiceKitty” and indignantly glaring at me because I’m at the other side of the writing room and clearly, I need to be next to her. The hardships a writer deals with, I tell you…

Today’s Book Beginnings post, hosted over at Rose City Reader,  isn’t about a book I’m currently reading (those would be War and Peace, and The Dragonbone Chair, both recommended, both subject to review soon). Rather, it’s about a life-changing book that I’m browsing again for a regular feature about underrated or underread writers. Here’s the first line, in Italian….

Stai per cominciare a leggere il nuovo romanzo Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore di Italo Calvino. Rilassati. Raccogliti, Allontana da te ogni altro pensiero. Lascia che il mondo che ti circonda sfumi nell’indistinto.

…and here is the first paragraph, in the English Translation by William Weaver:

You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, “No, I don’t want to watch TV!” Raise your voice — they won’t hear you otherwise — “I’m reading! I don’t want to be disturbed!” Maybe they haven’t heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: “I’m beginning to read Italo Calvino’s new novel!” Or if you prefer, don’t say anything; just hope they’ll leave you alone.

The book is If on a winter’s night a traveler. Here, Italo Calvino shows himself to be a talented writer and skilled craftsman at the pinnacle of his career. He’d become famous in the 1950s and 1960s with books like The Baron in the Trees (about a noble son who decides to stop putting up with his family and carves a new home for him at the top of a tree) and Invisible Cities (a masterful short book that imagines different worlds and realities throughout time… if you’ve read Einstein’s Dreams, you’ve read that book’s grandson) but this book is, simply, a love letter to readers. The book itself is about your quest to read the book you’re holding, navigating misprints, quirky bookstores, and all manner of inconvenience. Just buying the book requires a near-military operation where you, the reader, have to make it past

…the thick barricade of Books You Haven’t Read, which were frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you… among them there extend for acres and acres the Books You Needn’t Read, the Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading, Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written… but then you are attacked by the infantry of the Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Just slipping into it is like the feeling you get when you’ve wandered a foreign country for months; the people you meet are nice, and you’ve had great experiences you wouldn’t have had otherwise, but when you suddenly run into someone from your home town, speaking your language, your brain explodes in a frenzy of happiness, laughing, and pure undiluted joy. I liked this book so much that, before I’d finished Chapter 2, I bought Adrienne’s Italian in 32 Lessons so I could, one day, read it in its original language, and I’ve since read it the way he wrote it, along with several other books and stories by him. I was also led to other Italian fantasists like Stefano Benni, Umberto Eco, and even an independent writer of modern sword, sorcery, and adventure fiction with a heart, Davide Mana.

All because of an affectionate note, written in another language, by someone who spoke my language like no other writer ever had.

To Do Today:  I have 8000 words of manuscript to go over and edit because DAMNIT, I told myself I would be done with Part One by this week, and Friday Evening counts as ‘this week.’ I also have to start on Part Two… writing by the seat of my pants might work for getting a project started, but at this point, over a hundred pages in, I need to have a map of where I’m going.  Otherwise, I’ll be sitting at the keyboard, driving around the story in circles, ignoring my frustrated Muse as she keeps telling me “Rerouting… Rerouting…” and getting absolutely nowhere, slowly. I might even get a chance to indulge in my other arcane art, where I get to turn obscure incantations, unusual symbols, and arcane formulae into moving dots and lines and collisions on a screen. Merlin, eat your heart out.

Book Beginnings Friday: A Suitable Boy

Those who follow me on Goodreads know that I’ve just recently finished the 10-volume amazingly epic (and long… very very long) series The Malazan Book of the Fallen. My plans afterwards were to read a few short (like, exceedingly short) novellas and such, but after flying through two thrillers (The Girl With All the Gifts and the excellent, creepy folkloric horror novel The Black Tongue) I decided to plunge back into the world of large book mansions, worlds large enough to get lost in for weeks. Also, don’t tell my Muse this, but I wanted a break from fantasy fiction. So, I picked up a book I’d read briefly a few years before but never finished, or even got too far in, thanks to a freak New England rainstorm which claimed all 1475 pages as a sacrifice, and I’m already lost in wonderment and memories of my first experience with its amazing wordcraft:

‘You too will marry a boy I choose,’ said Mrs Rupa Mehra firmly to her younger daughter.

Lata avoided the maternal imperative by looking around the great lamp-lit garden of Prem Nivas. The wedding-guests were gathered on the lawn. ‘Hmm,’ she said. This annoyed her mother further.

‘I know what your hmms mean, young lady, and I can tell you I will not stand for hmms in this matter. I do know what is best. I am doing it all for you. Do you think it is easy for me, trying to arrange things for all four of my children without His help?’ Her nose began to redden at the thought of her husband, who would, she felt certain, be partaking of their present joy from somewhere benevolently above. Mrs Rupa Mehra believed, of course, in reincarnation, but at moments of exceptional sentiment, she imagined that the late Raghubir Mehra still inhabited the form in which she had known him when he was alive:  the robust, cheerful form of his early forties before overwork had brought about his heart attack at the heights of the Second World War. Eight years ago, eight years, thought Mrs Rupa Mehra miserably.

‘Now, now, Ma, you can’t cry on Savita’s wedding day,’ said Lata, putting her arm gently but not very concernedly around her mother’s shoulder.

A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth

The book continues on for over 800,000 words of this marvelous, beautiful prose. After the first 50 pages or so, I found myself immersed, flying through the small print as fast as my eyes could crawl over the letters. The characters are rich, the culture both wonderfully strange and hauntingly familiar, and the plot weaves and wraps around the lives and thoughts of these wonderful four families. I will have a full review when I finish, but I have a feeling I will not want to leave this world when I turn the last page.

And as I often like to do, I’m sharing this at Rose City Reader as part of their Bookish Friday Celebration. I’m there right now, but later on, join me at Friday Night Writes on Twitter. (@bovisrex)

Book Beginnings: The Iron King

Well, I finished a couple of books this week, including the Malazan book I was reading (Return of the Crimson Guard… good, but still not quite as awe-inspiring as the main series), and I’ve also been fighting off what I really hope isn’t the Walking Dead virus. I do live in Atlanta, so that is entirely possible, though. I have a few shorter books that I’m reading (a book of essays about books by Anne Fadiman, A Clockwork Orange (yes, yes, I’m sorry, I’ve not yet read that) but the one I’m going to share today is The Iron King by Maurice Druon.

I only recently heard of this series and I kind of regret that fact. Already, the first book is captivating me in a way well-written historical fiction does. (That’s perhaps the reason I have little to no patience for poorly written historical fiction.) The series was apparently a big influence on George R. R. Martin and his own A Song of Ice and Fire, and while I haven’t gotten to any of the more colourful happenings of that series, I can already tell that I’m going to plow through all seven books of the Accursed Kings.

Here’s the prologue:

The Grand Master felt surging within him one of those half-crazy rages which had so often come upon him in his prison, making him shout aloud and beat the walls. He felt that he was upon the point of committing some violent and terrible act — he did not know exactly what — but he felt the impulse to do something.

He accepted death almost as a deliverance, but he could not accept an unjust death, nor dying dishonoured. Accustomed through long years to war, he felt it stir for the last time in his old veins. He longed to die fighting.

He sought the hand of Geoffroy de Charnay, his old companion in arms, the last strong man still standing at his side, and clasped it tightly.

Raising his  eyes, the Preceptor saw the arteries beating upon the sunken temples of the Grand Master. They quivered like blue snakes.

The procession reached the Bridge of Notre-Dame.

That’s from the very beginning, and the book proper starts in the early 1300s during the reign of Philip IV. The entire series promises to be good, and I’ll keep you updated on it. I’ve heard from many readers I respect that it’s a shame it’s not very popular in the US.

As with every Friday, I’m linking to Rose City Reader and their “Book Beginnings” feature. Earlier, I spent a bit of time this afternoon waiting for the cold drugs to take effect, and I will say I’d rather spend five or ten minutes browsing the beginnings of books that other readers are enjoying than mindlessly consuming clickbait. Check them out.

Book Beginnings Friday

I hope you liked yesterday’s flash piece. It was based on family folklore dating back to my early teens, and also a sneaking conviction that my cat knows a  lot more than she reveals. I think most writers have a similar belief. Plus, flash pieces and short-short stories help clear my mind for my larger projects, and I highly recommend them to anyone who wants to do any kind of creative work.

Today is also Book Beginnings Friday over at Rose City Reader, and while this week I’ve been a little light on the blogging (I’ve taken on a few students, and I’ve been mulling over a pretty big decision) I’ll catch up this week with my musings on books and movies and Hallowe’en and other fun things. Today’s ‘Book Beginnings’ comes from a book I just started, but one I’ve meant to read for years, Katherine Anne Porter’s Ship of Fools. No, not this “Ship of Fools,” though I confess that my musically-angled brain sings this song nearly every time I look at the cover. This one:

August, 1931 — The port town of Veracruz is a little purgatory between land and sea for the traveler, but the people who live there are very fond of themselves and the town they have helped to make… There is maybe a small sign of uneasiness in this pugnacious assertion of high breeding; in this and in the methodical brutality of their common behavior towards the travelers who must pass through their hands to reach the temporary haven of some ship in harbor. The travelers wish only to be carried away from the place, and the Veracruzanos wish only to see the last of them; but not until every possible toll, fee, extortion, and bribe due to the town and its citizens has been extracted. It is in fact to the passing eye a typical port town, cynical by nature, shameless by experience, hardened to showing its seamiest side to strangers:  ten to one this stranger passing through is a sheep bleating for their shears, and one in ten is a scoundrel it would be a pity not to outwit. In any case, there is only so much money to be got out of each one, and the time is always short.

It’s always nice to pick up a book and realise that you can safely sink into the comforting hands of a true master of the craft. As a former sailor, I’ve passed through many towns that seemed exactly so, or at least they did on the surface. Sometimes, such as in Newport, Rhode Island, you could dig under the surface a little and find one of the warmest groups of people you would ever meet on the planet. And sometimes, such as in… well, a bunch of other port cities… you find that when you’ve finally dug through the garbage, there’s nothing but sewage and pain and cynical, hardened creatures quite comfortable wearing their person-suits and pretending to be human.

This weekend:  book reviews, movies, Hallowe’en, and other fun things.