Friday 30 November 2018

Books Received in October and November, 2018

Turns out when I took my unscheduled break last month I forgot to do my books received post. Sorry about that.

The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson - This is the second book in The Masquerade series, and I've already reviewed it here. The series is quite intense and brilliantly written.

Her world was shattered by the Empire of Masks.
For the power to shatter the Masquerade,
She betrayed everyone she loved.

The traitor Baru Cormorant is now the cryptarch Agonist - a secret lord of the empire she's vowed to destroy.
Hunted by a mutinous admiral, haunted by the wound which has split her mind in two, Baru leads her dearest foes on an expedition for the secret of immortality. It's her chance to trigger a war that will consume the Masquerade.
But Baru's heart is broken, and she fears she can no longer tell justice from revenge...or her own desires from the will of the man who remade her.

FTL Y'all: Tales From the Age of the $200 Warp Drive Edited by Amanda Lafrenais - My review of this graphic novel collection will come out mid December. I loved the diversity of the creators and characters, though found the artwork a mixed bag (artwork is very subjective). This was a kickstarted collection.

Six months from now, detailed schematics anonymously uploaded to the Internet will describe, with absolute precision, how to build a faster-than-light engine for $200 in easily-available parts. Space travel will be instantly—and chaotically—democratized. The entire cosmos is suddenly within reach of all humankind, without organization, authority, or limitation.

This comics anthology is about what happens next.
The concept for FTL, Y’all! was inspired by a 12-year-old thread, which was in turn inspired by the work of Jerry Oltion. 
With 25 stories and over 350 pages of comics, FTL, Y'all! is one of Iron Circus Comics' biggest anthologies ever.

The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi - This is the sequel to The Collapsing Fire, which came out last year.

The Interdependency-humanity's interstellar empire-is on the verge of collapse. The extra-dimensional conduit that makes travel between the stars possible is disappearing, leaving entire systems and human civilizations stranded.
Emperox Grayland II of the Interdependency is ready to take desperate measures to help ensure the survival of billions. But arrayed before her are those who believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth-or at the very least an opportunity to an ascension to power.
While Grayland prepares for disaster, others are prepare for a civil war. A war that will take place in the halls of power, the markets of business and the altars of worship as much as it will between spaceships and battlefields.
The Emperox and her allies are smart and resourceful, as are her enemies. Nothing about this will be easy... and all of humanity will be caught in its consuming fire.

Thursday 29 November 2018

Shout-Out: Stealing Life by Antony Johnston

It was just another job, right?

Nicco Salarum is a thief, and a good one. In the rough-and-tumble city of Azbatha, where every street hustler has an enchantment in his back pocket, Nicco prides himself on using his skills – and the best technology money can buy – to get him into the houses and boardrooms of the wealthy.

But Nicco’s last job went sour, leaving him in debt to a powerful gang boss, and deep in trouble. When a foreign wizard offers him a vast sum for a visiting diplomat’s trinket, he leaps at the opportunity.

But nothing happens in a vacuum. Caught in a game where the futures of whole nations are at stake, Nicco finds himself racing against time to right his wrongs… and save his own skin.

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Video: Aliens the Ride

Planet Coaster is a video game that allows you to make simulated roller coaster rides and theme parks. Hin Nya has used it to create a virtual ride for the movie Aliens, incorporating sets, sounds, and movie clips. This is a ride I'd wait hours to go on. There's a making of video for it as well.

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Book Review: The Razor by J. Barton Mitchell

Pros: lots of action, fast paced, compelling characters, interesting setting

Cons: romance felt somewhat out of place

Flynn is an engineer framed for murder, being sent to the most dangerous prison planet that exists: the Razor. Half of the planet is frozen, the other half boiling, and in the middle, there is a small strip of liveable ground. The planet is home to the purest form of Xytrilium in the galaxy, and whoever controls that power source, controls the galaxy. So when a strange beam lights up the sky and all the guards evacuate, Flynn knows something bad is happening. He’ll have to team up with a group of dangerous misfits if he wants to survive, and get off the planet before it’s too late.

The book opens with Flynn’s arrival on the planet and while it take several chapters before things start to go wrong, the characters and setting are quite fascinating and carry the book easily. Short chapters and a lot of action makes this a quick read.

The characters are an interesting mix. Flynn is book smart but that won’t save him in with the general population of inmates. Key is street smart but feels the weight of the people she’s let down, and tends to cover her fear with bravado. Maddox is an ex guard, turned prisoner, who faces a rough welcome from his previous squad members. He’s also got a guilt complex for the people he couldn’t save. Raelyn is a doctor who made some bad decisions and is living with the consequences. Zane was probably my favourite character, a man who was experimented on and is now super strong, with the ability to absorb metal.

The romance between Maddox and Raelyn made a kind of sense, with him using saving her as motivation for living. It still seemed somewhat out of place considering the severity of what was happening. The romance between Key and Flynn felt like something that might burn hot and die out quickly as they have nothing in common to keep them interested in each other after the adrenaline rush of staying alive is over. It also seemed a bit odd that all the main characters paired up. I did like that neither pairing felt rushed. They both developed fairly slowly and organically.

The Razor is a fun read with good set-up for the sequel.

Friday 23 November 2018

Video Game Review: HUE

Hue lives in a world made of up black, white, and grey. His mother researched colours and one day disappeared. When he finds a light blue square, he learns she’s lost in the colours. To save her, he must finish the colour wheel and go to the university where she once worked.

This is a puzzle game, where you have to manipulate the colours on the wheel to get through and over coloured blocks. In some puzzles you have to move them onto pressure plates, others have jumping components, etc. Each level adds a new component. Every door you pass through is a save point, so while some of the puzzles are difficult, if you die you only lose progress from that room.

There are hidden potions to find, some of which are obvious and some of which a quite hard (one required replaying the full level three times before we found the hidden passageway).

The controls were easy, though there were times when I swore I was on one colour but when I left the colour wheel I was actually on a different colour (not sure if that was the controller, the game itself, or if we had our sensitivity too high). Also, some of the colours were so similar it was easy to mess up (like the pink and purple, and yellow was very close to the orange on one side and green on the other). This seemed deliberate, as it would have been easy to get hues that weren't confusing.

The story was interesting - talking about the mother’s time at the university and why she thought researching colours was so important. It’s fairly short, but it felt complete.

A few puzzles were frustrating, but on the whole the game was a lot of fun.

Thursday 22 November 2018

Shout-Out: Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri

The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited.

When Mehr's power comes to the attention of the Emperor's most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda.
Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance...

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Video: Hyperlight

A fantastic short film by Nguyen-Ahn Nguyen.

Two elite astronauts wake up in the abyss of space; they return to their stranded ship and discover the surprising reason behind their mission's catastrophic failure.

Hyperlight [4K] from Nguyen-Anh Nguyen on Vimeo.

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Book Review: City of Broken Magic by Mirah Bolender

Pros: unique magic and monster system, interesting characters

Cons: pacing issues, slow opening

The city of Amicae is built as a 6 tiered structure with an outer wall. It citizens believe the wall keeps magical infestations at bay but that’s a lie. Infestations from broken or improperly cared for amulets happen all the time, and when they do the cops call in the experts: the Sinclair Sweepers.

Laura is Clae Sinclair’s only apprentice in the dangerous work. She wants to prove she has worth as a person in a society that sees her as more of a walking womb. When they acquire a second apprentice and infestations start to increase, she gets her chance.

It took me a while to get into this. First because the world started out feeling very medieval fantasy despite its bicycles and robots. The worldbuilding was alternately slow and full of info dumps in the opening chapters.

Clae is acerbic and rude and while I liked him, he takes some getting used to. For the most part I liked Larua, though I was surprised by her age when it was finally revealed, as I ended up picturing her younger given how she treats Okane.

As a master teaching a trade, Clae’s a mixed bag. On one hand he does teach weapons and technique, but I was astonished by how little Laura knew about kin and its creation. As the main weapon against infestations, I would have thought learning how to make kin would be vital to a sweeper’s job.

I loved the monsters and how the sweepers fight them. It’s very original. I also liked that another city is visited and there’s some information on how the various cities operate and that sweepers use different tactics and that they share ideas through meetings and letters.

The last half of the book was quite fun and the pacing was much better as the tension worked up to the climax.

While it’s a bit uneven, it’s a good debut and I’m curious to see what’s next.

Friday 16 November 2018

Box Theatre Kit: Country Notes

I got the itch to do another model a few weeks ago and pulled out a kit I bought off the internet. It comes with all the stuff you need (though I did add a few things from my craft stash). Here's the box with all the bags of parts. I love these kits as they're not only fully set up for you, they also teach you some cool tricks for making things like trees out of paper rope, thatch out of twine, pots & pans out of metal pieces.

 Here I've papered the insides of the tin and wired lights along the ceiling and put in the floor and battery cover.

 The house mostly constructed with some of the furniture ready to go in it.

 And the finished piece + the two bunny inhabitants (the only things not glued down).

Thursday 15 November 2018

Shout-Out: Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko

The definitive English language translation of the internationally acclaimed Russian novel—a brilliant dark fantasy combining psychological suspense, enchantment, and terror that makes us consider human existence in a fresh and provocative way.

Our life is brief . . .

Sasha Samokhina has been accepted to the Institute of Special Technologies.

Or, more precisely, she’s been chosen.

Situated in a tiny village, she finds the students are bizarre, and the curriculum even more so. The books are impossible to read, the lessons obscure to the point of maddening, and the work refuses memorization. Using terror and coercion to keep the students in line, the school does not punish them for their transgressions and failures; instead, it is their families that pay a terrible price. Yet despite her fear, Sasha undergoes changes that defy the dictates of matter and time; experiences which are nothing she has ever dreamed of . . . and suddenly all she could ever want.

[Translated by Julia Meitov Hersey]

Wednesday 14 November 2018

David Attenborough’s Life That Glows Documentary

Attenborough examines different kinds of bio-luminescent life, from fireflies to deep sea creatures. My favourite creatures showed up at the 38:50 min mark: larvae of a kind of gnat that live on ceiling of caves. They lower strands of silk sticky with drops of saliva and light in their tails act as lures for other insects at night. The deep sea creatures were also fascinating to see.

It was interesting that there are a variety of reasons for why creatures developed bio-luminescence: defence, attraction, mating. In some cases (like a certain type of earth worm in France) scientists still don’t know why creatures employ it.

It’s a cool documentary, if you’re looking for some interesting glowing creatures to add to a story, or if you’re simply interested in some of the cool critters on planet Earth.

Tuesday 13 November 2018

Book Review: The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

This is book 2, click here for my review of The Traitor Baru Cormorant.

Pros: political intrigue, interesting characters, fantastic worldbuilding


Baru Cormorant’s actions on Aurdwynn have numerous consequences. She is now Agonist, a cryptarch, one of the secret lords of the Imperial Throne of the Imperial Republic of Falcrest. She has also made a lot of enemies, one of whom is a navy admiral, who decides to mutiny in order to bring Baru to a form of justice.

Baru believes she’s one step further towards destroying Falcrest and freeing her homeland, but cryptarch rivals Hesychest and Itinerant have a job for her and two of their other proteges.

This book picks up immediately where the previous one ended, and if you don’t remember all of the characters and subplots of the first book, I’d highly recommend giving it a quick reread. I was very happy that an issue I had with that book’s ending was dealt with pretty heavily in this one.

There are plots within plots, and two main points of view, that of Baru (told in third person) and Xate Yawa (told in first person). The switch was a bit jarring at times, but insured you didn’t mistake who’s thoughts you were observing. There are also flashbacks to a previous war from the viewpoint of Tau-indi, a prince of the Oriati Mbo, which gives cultural and historical information for the continent and for the war of ideas between the cryptarchs.

The worldbuilding is incredibly intricate. Everything is connected and the language recognizes differences from our own world - like ‘matronizingly’ instead of ’patronizingly’, because some cultures have a matriarchy as a system of rule. I loved the attention to detail.

While Baru is often - though not always - able to avoid personal consequences for her actions, once again it’s clear how she causes serious fallout in her wake, particularly with regards to trade and the economics of some of the islands she visits. Very serious consequences, for what seems like limited gains on her part. This makes her an increasingly hard character to like or sympathize with. Which I believe is the point.

A lot of the action is set-up for the next book, so the plot here feels scattered at times. Having said that, the level of intrigue is high and I never felt bored.

Be prepared to remember a lot of names and get lost in intrigue. If you like morally dubious characters, this book is for you.

Friday 9 November 2018

Not a Review - Nier: Automata

Pros: great characters, interesting story, wonderful soundtrack, lots of action, variety in locations and battles

Cons: lots of unanswered questions at the end, some questionable content

Thousands of years ago aliens invaded the Earth and used machines to wipe out most of mankind. Now the remnants live on the moon and have created androids to help them retake their home world. YoRHa sends combat unit 2B and scanner unit 9S to Earth for reconnaissance and to help the resistance wipe out the machines. But they discover a new type of machine, one that looks human.

As I’ve said before, I’m not a gamer, and while I’ve played a good number of games, starting with the old Atari, Commodore 64, and original Nintendo Entertainment System, I’m terrible at them. I do love watching my husband play games though, especially ones with interesting stories. So when my husband got me to play the first level of Nier: Automata I didn’t expect to spend over 100 hours finishing the game.

First off, I played it on easy mode. This meant there were times when the game quite literally played itself (though, for the record, one of the 2 times I died was because I didn’t realize I could turn off the auto-fire system, which forced me to stay in an arena with constantly spawning enemies 20+ levels higher than me).

This was also my first time playing an RPG and I was shocked at how much fun I found all the levelling up battles - otherwise known as the grind. I thought that would be boring, but I enjoyed exploring the world and seeing (and killing) the wide variety of machines.

The game play automatically switches from regular mode to side scroller at times, with additional switches to air ship mode. Some of the side scroller switches were annoying (moving to the left suddenly changes to moving forward - a real pain when there’s a chest or something you need to get that’s just before the screen change and the game flickers you between modes). For the most part, it was cool seeing the different modes and the first chapter models all three (which is why my husband insisted I try it).

The reason I kept going after that first chapter was the story and characters. You start the game by playing as 2B. She’s mostly unemotional and her dialogue plays well with 9Ss complaints about their workload (side quests as well as official missions). The voice actors are absolutely incredible. Kira Buckland as 2B and Kyle McCarley as 9S especially deserve a lot of credit for making me care about the characters. They’re so expressive and made the characters fell alive.

I’m not sure if this has been done in a video game before - and it’s kind of a SPOILER - so if you don’t want to know what happens later in the game, skip to the next paragraph but… there comes a point where you get to the end and … the game starts again. Only this time you’re playing as 9S. The first time through you don’t really know what’s going on and there are so many side quests (some you can only do a certain points in the game) so getting a second chance to do some of those and to see the world before things change again, was really cool. Playing as 9S also comes with a new ability - hacking. And hacking allows you to find information about the old world. I also loved that you learn the back stories of some of the antagonists during this play through, and start to feel bad about killing the machines.

The world-building was mostly well done. The final boss battles left me with questions and exposed some holes in their backstory, which was unfortunate.

The world is fun and there were several hidden areas to explore off the regular map (that is, the sections you’re officially sent to for missions). I found the variety nice. There’s a desert, a ruined city, an amusement park, a factory, a forest with a castle, and a sunken city. 

You fight a nice variety of machines, which are modified for their environments. The boss battles are all unique, with side stories.

The soundtrack was wonderful. Each section has its own themes and there are some really haunting vocals. 

We didn’t know there was a previous game until I started looking up hints late in game play. It’s fairly clear there are a lot of callbacks to the original Nier, though I don’t know the full extent.

The game did have some problematic elements. Like when my husband was finishing off the achievements, we learned there was one for looking up 2Bs skirt 10 times, and another for playing as 9S without pants for an hour. I liked 2B and 9Ss main outfits, but couldn't stand the torn clothing they gave A2. We had a DLC that added battle arenas that gave each playable character a new outfit. I immediately switched A2 to the nice fully clothed hunter style outfit, but refused to use the skimpy lingerie 2B got and I really don't know what to say about the... apron thing for 9S.

Towards the end I was getting burned out. The game goes on for quite a while, and if you do all the side quests and fishing and everything, well, it's a LOT. While I enjoyed playing as a new character for the final sections of the game, I was unhappy over why that character was necessary.

On the whole I really enjoyed the game.

Thursday 8 November 2018

Shout-Out: Illusions by Madeline Reynolds

Dear Thomas,

I know you're angry. It's true, I was sent to expose your mentor as a fraud illusionist, and instead I have put your secret in jeopardy. I fear I have even put your life in jeopardy. For that I can only beg your forgiveness. I've fallen for you. You know I have. And I never wanted to create a rift between us, but if it means protecting you from those who wish you dead-I'll do it. I'll do anything to keep you safe, whatever the sacrifice. Please forgive me for all I've done and what I'm about to do next. I promise, it's one magic trick no one will ever see coming.


Wednesday 7 November 2018

Video: Toil Sweat Owkwa O2

A while back I saw this video by Animaphonics, posted on the Escapist channel. It's a tribute song for the TV show (and novels) The Expanse. The language is belter speak, a co-mingling of several tongues where a different sort of nationality is practiced. The official description is:
You take kowlting, we say no more; In honour of The Expanse and it's last minute rescue, Animaphonics looks back at the inciting incident of the UN-MCR war to create a song of rebellion for the opressed Belters.

Tuesday 6 November 2018

Book Review: The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black by E. B. Hudspeth

Pros: fascinating premise

Cons: dry text, little explanation of how these evolutions work within the framework of other biological data, illustrations don’t progress far enough

This is a scholarly work giving a brief biography of the brilliant but ultimately misguided Dr. Black and reprinting his lost manuscript, the Codex Extinct Animalia.

The book does a good job of sounding appropriately scholarly in regards to the fictitious Dr. Black. A little too good, as it’s quite dry and often boring even as it describes what should be fascinating: a man whose conviction that mythological creatures were based on real human and/or animal evolutions, and that people and animals with strange medical conditions and physical abnormalities are recovering that genetic heritage.

The problem is that the text never really goes into how such a variety of creatures could have evolved or why they then devolved. Take Cerebus - Canis Hades in the text - the three headed dog. If it was a creature that evolved to have 3 heads, why did two heads die out? Where are the examples of 2 headed dogs in mythology? Did both excessive heads disappear at the same time? We’re given to believe the doctor pondered such issues but the text’s author doesn’t seem to care about them, and for me at least, this is the more interesting side of what’s being examined.

The codex itself has some wonderful illustrations of what the skeletal and musculature of such creatures would look like (including the Sphinx, Ganesha, Pegasus). Alas, here too the information is scant and the descriptions lacking. The Pegasus for example is conjectured to have air bladders that help with flight, but air bladders are neither bone nor muscle and so they don’t show up on the illustrations. The only item that’s thoroughly done is the harpy, for which the illustrations go into more layers, so the flight bladders there are shown. I was also disappointed that there was no discussion of how other major physical changes worked, like Ganesha’s two pairs of arms. The skeleton shows there’s a sort of flap extending out the back that holds the extra shoulders, but there’s no discussion of how two sets of arms work in practice (is one shoulder in front of the other? Do the arms interfere with each other? Is there an evolutionary advantage to having four arms?).

I did appreciate that there were some non-Eurocentric creatures included in the Codex.

On the whole it was a quick read but I probably wouldn’t read it again.

Friday 2 November 2018

Odyssey Online Winter Writing Workshops

If you're working on your NaNoWriMo novel this month and decide you want more instruction on certain aspects of the process, Odyssey Online has released their winter writing workshop schedule. If you're interested, application deadlines are in December.

Here's their emailed press release:


“The class definitely blew away my expectations! It was fascinating, rigorous, and I had to work hard to keep up, which was exactly what I wanted. I would recommend Odyssey Online to anyone serious about improving their writing.”
—Andrew Alford

Since its founding in 1996, the Odyssey Writing Workshop has become one of the most highly respected and effective programs for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror in the world. In 2010, to further Odyssey’s nonprofit mission of helping developing writers of the fantastic, we adapted the techniques that are so effective at the in-person workshop to create online classes. We’ve worked very hard to ensure that our online classes are of the same caliber as our in-person workshop and that they deserve to carry the name of Odyssey.

In live class meetings, students learn specific, invaluable techniques, ask questions, and participate in discussions. Between meetings, they interact with each other and the instructor in a discussion group, complete demanding assignments, and give and receive in-depth feedback. Each student also has a one-on-one meeting with the instructor.

Odyssey Online offers only three online classes each year and admits only fourteen students per class, to keep quality high and ensure each student receives individual attention.

Application deadlines are in early December, and courses are held in January and February. While Odyssey’s nonprofit mission is to help writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, writers of any genre of fiction are welcome to apply. Courses will also cover issues relevant to writers of adult, young adult, and middle grade fiction.

Emotional Truth: Making Character Emotions Real, Powerful, and Immediate
Course Meets: January 10 – February 7, 2019
Instructor: Award-winning editor and publisher Scott H. Andrews
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Application Deadline: December 12, 2018

Instructor Scott H. Andrews is the editor-in-chief and publisher of the fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies, a six-time Hugo Award finalist and winner of the World Fantasy Award. When asked the most common weakness in the submissions he receives, Scott says, “Most writers fail to convey character emotions in a powerful way.”

How do you convey a character’s emotion? You might just tell readers what the character is feeling (“He was afraid”), which can convey that information clearly but fail to make the emotion real and immediate. You might try an internal life sign (“His heart pounded”), which can be more immediate but often feels clichéd. Or you might try an external action (“His eyes widened”), but this can sometimes feel like overacting, or if we’re in the character’s point of view, it can feel like we’ve jumped to a point of view outside the character.

Scott will explain the most effective techniques to convey character emotions realistically and powerfully on the page, so that moment by moment, you can create an authentic and evocative experience. He’ll show you which techniques work best for point-of-view characters, and which work best for non-point-of-view characters. He’ll also discuss how to handle multiple emotions, conflicting emotions, and complex emotions, because that’s when stories get really interesting.

More than that, the course will cover strategies for developing situations and stories with strong potential for emotional resonance, and how to use character emotions to make every page a gripping read. You’ll dig deep into your own emotional reservoir to find that emotional truth that will give readers an authentic, powerful, involving experience.

“Scott has put together a treasure chest of ideas and exercises to help bridge the gap between ‘good’ and ‘great’ in speculative fiction. Although I feel that I’ve only scratched the surface of what it takes to excel in writing, Scott’s course has definitely helped me on my way. The subject matter is ambitious, but all the more valuable as a result. Overall, a very positive experience.”
—Derrick Boden

Riveting Descriptions: Bringing Your Story to Life in the Reader’s Mind
Course Meets: January 3 – 31, 2019
Instructor: Award-winnng author and editor Lucy A. Snyder
Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Application Deadline: December 5, 2018

For most writers, crafting strong, effective description is a major struggle. Some avoid description, fearing they’ll lose the reader’s attention, and instead they leave the reader lost in a vast, white nothingness. Some embrace description, drowning the reader in details so important ones are lost and unimportant ones create expectations that will never be fulfilled. Some use a hit or miss approach, throwing in a detail here or there and hoping they’ve magically made the right choices.

You don’t need to guess or struggle anymore. Award-winning fiction writer, poet, and editor Lucy A. Snyder will guide you through this critical and often-avoided subject. You’ll learn how to identify the key details that will immerse readers in your world, allow them to feel they know your characters, and put them in the middle of the action. Lucy will explain the qualities of strong description, how to know how much description is enough, which details to include, and where in the scene to include them. You’ll also learn how to use subtext so your description suggests deeper meanings, and how to write description with emotional impact.

More than that, this course will explore the role of point of view in description. How a character sees and describes his world can deepen personality, convey motivation, increase tension, and drive plot. Lucy will also discuss how to use poetic techniques in your description, and how to avoid common descriptive pitfalls. You’ll finish this course feeling much more assured about your description and knowing how to use description to make your story more impactful.

“After six weeks of hard work, I feel a bit reborn as a writer. Top notch workshop. Top notch instructor. No matter what our genre or what the level of our proficiency was beforehand, in just five weeks of hard work, all of us were much more skilled writers. I can’t recommend it highly enough.”
—Gigi Vernon

Getting the Big Picture: The Key to Revising Your Novel
Course Meets: January 2 – February 13, 2019
Instructor: Award-winning novelist Barbara Ashford
Level: Intermediate
Application Deadline: December 4, 2018

In response to many requests, we’re bringing back this course, one of our most highly rated. There are few things more difficult than revising a novel. You’ve worked on it for months, or years, and you’re so immersed in it you can’t step back and see the big picture. You might polish the draft and make minor changes, but you don’t really know what to change to turn that rough draft into a powerful, unified novel. And chances are, major changes are necessary. In this course, Barbara Ashford, one of our most popular instructors, will guide you in a deep examination of the “big picture” elements of your novel–premise, promise, theme, world, character, plot. Analyzing each of these building blocks and how well they are working together can give you new perspective on your novel, reveal weaknesses, and provide direction for major changes that will help you to maximize your novel’s potential.

Whether you’ve already completed your first draft, are still working on it, or are struggling with revisions, this course will provide invaluable insights into your novel through the lectures, assignments, and critiques. Barbara’s feedback on assignments has been widely praised for its depth and helpfulness.

Barbara’s course will be longer than the standard Odyssey online class, with four class meetings rather than our usual three, so you’ll be able to fully process and incorporate the important concepts discussed. If you’re participating in #NaNoWriMo, this course can show you the path from rough draft to completed novel.

“Getting the Big Picture helped me focus in on the true nature of my story, what lies at its heart. The class has given me the tools to improve both plot and characters and tie the two more strongly into the theme. These are the most useful class sessions I have ever attended.”

—Scott T. Barnes

Thursday 1 November 2018

Shout-Out: The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

Teodora di Sangro is used to hiding her magical ability to transform enemies into music boxes and mirrors. Nobody knows she’s a strega—and she aims to keep it that way.

The she meets Cielo—and everything changes.

A strega who can switch outward form as effortlessly as turning a page in a book, Cielo shows Teodora what her life could be like if she masters the power she’s been keeping secret. And not a moment too soon: the ruler of Vinalia has poisoned the patriarchs of the country’s five controlling families, including Teodora’s father, and demands that each family send a son to the palace.

If she wants to save her family, Teodora must travel to the capital—not disguised as a boy, but transformed into one. But the road to the capital, and to bridling her powers, is full of enemies and complications, including the one she least expects: falling in love.