25 Jul 2012

Bloggy news! Abaddon open submissions, fantasy taverns and crowd funding self-publishing!

Abaddon books logoby

There's a lot of news happening around the blog-o-sphere over the past few weeks, so here's a run down for you:

Zoe at Fantasy Bytes has found that Abaddon books are taking open submissions for their new series of e-novellas. They are accepting a wide range of speculative sub-genres and ideas, so take a look. The closing date is at the end of September.

Ross from Cursed Armada has launched a new Facebook page called The Fantasy Tavern. Facebook is lacking a good place where fantasy fans can congregate and share their love of all things speculative, so head on over and say hi!

Land of Hope and Glory by Geoffrey Wilson
Michael Abayomi has an insanely ambitious project ahead of him; he is attempting to self-publish six fantasy book in as many months using crowdfunding to meet the publishing costs. Best of luck to you, Michael! You can watch Michael Abayomi's campaign video on YouTube.

As for Mithril Wisdom news, I've also received a few review copies of books - a paperback copy of Land of Hope and Glory by Geoffrey Wilson and a digital copy of Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan. They both look like very good reads and I'm looking forward to both of them. Thanks Geoffrey and Michael!
Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan
 A note to authors and publishers - until further notice, I will no longer be accepting review requests, at least until my backlog has cleared a little. I've updated my review policy to reflect this.

Also, I've hit 350 followers! Yay! I'm getting together some prizes for a giveaway in the next few days, so watch this space!

Are you tempted to enter the Abaddon submissions challenge? Would you consider sponsoring a crowdfunding project? 

19 Jul 2012

Three tweaks to get your old blogposts noticed


Natalie portman headshot
This is a Part II from my post back in March on why you should tweak your old blog posts (this post also explains the presence of Natalie Portman to the left). If you've not read that one, pop on over and see why you should be tweaking, then head back here and I'll show you how.

Thankfully, Blogger has made things a lot easier in the four months since my original post, and it's pretty simple to tweak your old blog posts to maximise their effectiveness (I'm using Blogger in Draft; so for some of you these tweaks might not be applicable). What these tweaks will do is help people find your posts better and improve your traffic (and your comments, likes, shares, and general awesomeness as a blogger).

Fix broken images

Blogger logo with wrenchThis is such a big thing. People are far more likely to read your post if you have a picture to go along with it (even if the picture isn't 100% relevant/interesting). A lot of my older posts have broken images because I've just pasted in the image URL from some other site. Once that other site takes the picture down, you lose it too. Always upload images to your own blog. Credit sources where you need to, but always, always host them yourself. 

Blogger also lets you add alt text to describe your images too, which helps when people use Google image search to find pictures, leading them to your blog. Type into Google Image Search "blogger logo with wrench" and the first result is the picture you see above, leading you to my original tweaking post.

Inter link

This is a great way to send some traffic back and forth between posts and to increase their presence. This post is a great example. As you saw, I linked to my original post at the top because it's relevant. What I'll do once this is published is go back to my original post and link to this. Not only will visitors be able to travel back and forth between the two, but giving the older post a link to this new one (which could be more popular because I have more readers now than I did then) will give it extra authority in the eyes of The Internet Gods, making your blog better as a whole.

This also works with links to labels/tag/categories. If I'm doing a general blog post about Terry Pratchett, for example, I'll link to my label so people can read everything I've written a bout him. Doing this enables people to navigate deep into your blog and find good posts that they wouldn't have otherwise seen.

Get with the now

Jason Engle - Celestial
How many times have you changed your blog's colour scheme/template/layout? If you're like me, several times. What I didn't realise is that it can seriously mess up the way your old posts look to the reader. This happened to my Jason Engle fantasy art showcase; it was a mess. Pictures everywhere, broken links to other sites, it looked horrible. So I cleaned it up, edited my text a little to make it sound a little better and I think it's had a positive effect.

[Headshot image source]

Do you have any tips for tweaking old blog posts? If anyone wants any more or more in depth info about tweaking (the bigwigs call it 'optimizing') then let me know!

9 Jul 2012

The Way of Kings (Part One) by Brandon Sanderson [book review]

The Way of Kings (Part One) by Brandon Sanderson
The Way of Kings (Part One) by Brandon Sanderson
Book one of The Stormlight Archive
Published by Gollancz
Paperback - 592 pages
Published May 2011
Personal copy of book

Read the synopsis for The Way of Kings on Goodreads

First of all, something has to be said about the artwork in the book. The maps, the sketches, the journal entries and the chapter illuminations all serve to enhance the experience of reading The Way of Kings. Nothing is superfluous here, and it adds an extra level of depth to the story. The artists who worked on them - Greg Call, Isaac Stewart and Ben McSweeney - should all be commended. A story isn't about how 'pretty' the book looks, I know, but the art is integrated so well that it deserves a mention.

Master of culture

Brandon Sanderson is a master of his craft. His world is teeming with rich, vibrant and diverse life. Sanderson seems to know every detail of Roshar, from the global climate and highstorm currents to the different attitudes of plantlife in different parts of the world. His world is detailed, but never boring, and a lot of this is down to his use of culture as an important element of his storytelling.

I loved reading about Kaladin. His back story and his determination to never give up (although he comes close) was inspiring. His sense of guilt drives him, and although others see him as lucky he sees himself as one who brings death to those around him. His path to the cusp of death and resolution to save the members of his slave crew were a pleasure to read.

I also really enjoyed the contrasting views of Dalinar's internal conflict. At one moment he is resolute in his convictions as a general and advisor of the king, and the next he fears for his sanity. He is a very proud but complex man, and the way he acts around his sons and his peers only scratched the surface of his persona.

An epic of epic epicness

Despite being a sprawling epic (at 600 pages for only half of book one, 'doorstopper' is an appropriate term)  at no point do you feel bogged down by exposition, info dumping or tedious chapters about 'the journey'. Sanderson manages to keep everything running at the right pace and still maintain depth to his characters and to his world.

You've got an excellent mix of character arcs that play to several fantasy favourites that combine them into a single story - court intrigue and politics (Dalinar and Andolin's war on the Shattered Plains), a quest (Shallan's attempted theft of a powerful artefact) and the personal redemption of a fallen hero (Kaladin and his fall from decorated soldier to bridgeman (the lowest of the low) and how he claws his way back).

Nothing is perfect, however. I found that the sheer size of the story meant that I'd spent a third of the novel without having read about Shallan, making me unsure of her place in the world once the focus shifted back to her. Also, the first few chapters had more than a few instances where full stops (periods) were left out of the ends of sentences, making each sentence tumble into the next.

The Way of Kings (Part One) is a masterpiece of fantasy literature. Sanderson has managed to achieve that to which many fantasy authors aspire - the creation of an entirely new world with a rich culture and brilliantly written characters. Bring on Part Two. In fact, give me everything that Brandon Sanderson has published to date. I'll gladly devour it.

4 Jul 2012

Top 5 contributions to fantasy by American authors

As promised in my Jubilee special on the top 5 British fantasy authors, in celebration of July 4th while everyone's going nuts with fireworks and such, I give you my top 5 American contributions to fantasy. They made it, and so can you.

Incidentally, I'd like to apologise for the behaviour of my nation during the 1700's. We get kind of greedy once we get our paws on a country. But we gave you guys Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Doctor Who, so forgive and forget, eh?