Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for March 17th, 2013

Just Reviewed Lackey and Mallory’s “Crown of Vengeance” at SBR

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Folks, if you are looking for a compelling epic fantasy that’s never boring, features a fine, yet flawed, heroine and a subtext that heroines need love, too (yet can rarely find it), you will really adore Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory’s newest novel, CROWN OF VENGEANCE.  Set in their world of Jer-a-Kaliel deep in the misty past, they tell the story of the great Elven Queen Vieliessar Farcarinon . . . and how the myths and legends that have arisen in the centuries upon centuries since her adventures are both more and less than what she actually was.

Before I discuss more of my typical “after-action report,” here’s the link to my review:

Now, back to the AAR.

See, Vieliessar is a very complex person.  She’s a mage.  She’s a fighter.  She’s a scholar.  She’s a wise and benevolent ruler.  But she starts out very much behind the eight ball, as her mother died giving birth to her, the rest of Vieliessar’s family has been killed due to infighting among the Hundred Noble Houses, and because of that infighting, Vieliessar barely knows anything about herself until age twelve or so.

Instead, she thinks she’s Varuthir, and no one special.  But she hopes to become an Elven knight anyway, and win glory on the battlefield, as that’s the best way for her to gain a name, and home, of her own.

At that point, she is instead sent to the Sanctuary of the Star — the place her mother gave birth, mind you — to become a perpetual servant.  The reason this happens is because the Hundred Houses want no one of Farcarinon left able to reclaim her birthright.  But because one petty, spiteful noble actually tells Vieliessar her real name and just a tad about her heritage, Vieliessar becomes both curious and angry as to why she’s been misled all this time.

The Sanctuary is a safe place for Vieliessar for a number of years.  She learns more about who she is by doing various things, including learning that servants are just as important as nobles, that the status of the Landbonds (serfs tied to the land, more or less — farmers) is far below their actual worth and value, and that she actually has magical talent.

Then, after she’s resigned herself to becoming Vieliessar Lightsister (sort of a combination of mage, cleric and scholar), she has to reinvent herself again due to factional infighting at the Sanctuary.  (Mind you, I didn’t have time to get into that in my review, plus I didn’t want to give too much away.  Read the rest of this AAR at your own risk!)  And she becomes a swordswoman.

At this point, she finds a few of her family’s old retainers — the few that were left alive after the destruction of House Farcarinon — and decides to go to war.

But she’s not going to war with the other nobles, even though they think she is due to her destiny as the “Child of the Prophecy.”  (I talk more of this in my review.)  Instead, she knows she must unite the noble houses behind her banner in order to fight the nasty, vicious, disgusting and evil Endarkened — blood mages of the worst sort, who don’t see themselves as evil but obviously are.

Note that Vieliessar does not know who the Endarkened are, much less what.  But she does know that some sort of monstrous evil has been prophesied.  She also knows that she’s sensed something really bad out there that doesn’t like Elves, and figures that this must be the evil that’s been prophesied.  (She’s right, too.)

Book one mostly discusses Vieliessar’s quest to unite the noble houses.  It’s an absorbing read so long as it’s fixed on Vieliessar’s hopes, dreams, and aspirations — and it’s even interesting when dealing with the petty, political one-upmanship seen in the various maneuvering of the noble houses as they try, in vain, to escape their eventual joint fate as vassals to Vieliessar.

Really, if you enjoy a good, solid epic fantasy, you will love this book.  And if you loved any of Lackey and Mallory’s previous six collaborative efforts, you will assuredly love this book . . . so what’s stopping you from first reading my review, then reading the book itself?  (Go pick up a copy today!  Further reviewer sayeth not.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 17, 2013 at 3:09 am

Editorial Ramblings

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Before I get into this long-overdue blog about my actual profession (writing and editing), let me say something important:

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about editing.

Because I’ve been doing so much editing lately, I’ve had trouble snapping out of “editor mode” and back into whatever mode I’m in when I write.  This makes it more difficult to write blogs — even short ones — as much of my energy is being applied elsewhere.

The ability to write words is something I’ve called the “alpha state,” also known as the best place to be for a writer.  This is when words flow naturally, and it’s seemingly easy to tell a story.  I say “seemingly” because once you’re in the editing phase, you realize how much more work there is yet to do.

That’s why I thought today might be a good day to say a few specific words about editing.  Because even though I’ve not specifically talked much about editing, it’s an extremely important part of any writer’s job whether you call yourself a “writer/editor” or not.

Writers often consider editors to be a “necessary evil” even if they, too, are editors.  This is one of the odder things about the whole “writing/editing” profession; you don’t start editing unless you know something about writing, and you also don’t start editing unless you really enjoy writing (or at the very least, enjoy reading).

Yet the myth of the “Evil Editor” can’t help but persist, especially among writers who are just starting out or those who haven’t worked with many editors over time.  I don’t know how this myth got started, but it really needs to come to an end.  Pronto.

I can guarantee to you that, as an editor, I don’t go out of my way to cause trouble for writers.  I understand writers (I should, because I am one), and I also understand the worry that an editor possibly won’t understand what you’re writing, and thus won’t be of any use to you.

For those extremely nervous writers out there (I won’t call you “nervous Nellies,” as at least some of your nerves are justifiable, if not actually justified), you need to remember that a good editor helps you clarify your thoughts and clean up your manuscript.  Editors exist to help writers, to help polish up that gem of a story you have that’s ready to go out into the big, wide world — otherwise, what would be the point?

I mean, if editors were out there hoping for “perks,” the profession would’ve died out long ago.

Smart writers want editors to look over their work and give suggestions for improvement — at least, I know I want as much editorial help as I can find.  Because while my writing is sound, and my ideas are fresh, why not run it by an editor and make my book even better?

Also, remember that even if you, the writer, don’t always agree with your editor, usually some sort of consensus can be reached if the lines of communication remain open.  And if you’re willing to trust in the process — and not just eschew all editing because your book is perfect as it is, thank you.

Bottom line?  You need to stop fearing the editor, or at least fearing the editorial process.  Because your editor — whomever he or she may turn out to be — can help you improve your manuscript.

And really, isn’t that what it’s all about?


Note: For those of you who would prefer not to deal with editors, and think your work is perfect as it stands, thank you very many — I have news.

It isn’t.

We all need editing.  Every single last solitary one of us.

So rather than fearing the editorial process, or worse, disdaining it as unnecessary, you need to work with it.

Because it’s part of being a professional writer.

And if you’re in this business to be an obnoxious boor, and are insistent that you do not need editing or editors because you are perfect in every conceivable way and the words you’ve written don’t need editing because of your self-same perfection . . . and you then proceed to denigrate editors and editing whenever you can . . . all I can say to you is this:

Grow up.  (Seriously.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 17, 2013 at 1:25 am