Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Chris Nuttall

Language, Editing, and THUNDER AND LIGHTNING

with 2 comments

Folks, my most recently edited book is Chris Nuttall and Leo Champion’s THUNDER AND LIGHTNING, about first contact with aliens gone spectacularly wrong. I was very happy with this book, because I thought it showcased Chris’s gift for political machinations of the interplanetary sort plus Leo’s gift for the nuts and bolts of warfare. Putting them together in one book was a worthwhile challenge for me as an editor, and one I welcomed.

Both of these men did what they did best, and did it superbly. And I was not disappointed.

thunder and lightning cover

But, you must be sitting there asking yourselves, “Barb, what is this about language? Why are you talking about that with regards to editing and THUNDER AND LIGHTNING?”

Some of what I’m going to say is blindingly obvious, but here goes: When you’re writing about soldiers, you cannot take the high road all the time. And you certainly can’t use what I derisively call “sparkly language,” in that you dumb-down what soldiers say during a war.

Chris and Leo’s soldiers start off in a nasty fight in Africa against terrorists they call “the Wreckers.” These Wreckers are abysmal human beings who, like others in the past, have corrupted a holy book — in this case, the Koran — for their own purposes. The soldiers call them “radical Islamicists,” which is not that dissimilar to what is said overseas now in the Middle East or in other war zones.

And there’s a reason they do this. The reason is very simple. They are fighting a war. They cannot afford to see these people as worthy of redemption, for the most part, and they have many reasons not to see them that way either as the behavior of the Wreckers is truly abhorrent. (Hell, they even take female slaves.)

So, when I saw that, as an editor, I left it alone. I’ve heard from my own cousin, who’s served overseas any number of times in the Middle East as a member of the Armed Services, that what’s said about those we’re fighting (ISIS now, Al Qaeda earlier) is far worse than that.

But will some people be offended by this term? Probably.**

My job, though, as an editor, is not to dumb down what anyone says or feels even if I think it’s something someone out there will dislike. My job is to make that soldier sound and feel real. So you can get caught up in the story. And keep going.

If that soldier says some things you don’t like, well…I urge you to read James Clavell’s KING RAT. There’s lots of stuff that’s not said in “sparkly language,” but if it were, you’d never buy into it.

And you shouldn’t.

Anyway, THUNDER AND LIGHTNING isn’t just about soldiers. It’s about an idealistic woman scientist, Samra, who first finds evidence of aliens we later come to know as Oghaldzon (kind of like three-legged deer), and believes that any aliens coming must be peaceful. (She’s wrong, but you can see why she’d believe otherwise.) And what happens when she finds out the Oghaldzon are almost completely incomprehensible to humans, and humans to the Oghaldzon in terms, is scary, difficult to read, and sometimes incredibly sad, in turns.

We see her in lighter days, when she’s just a scientist at work. We see her finding the aliens’ signal (a fleet) in space, the scientific high point of her career.

And then, we see her disastrous fall, and with her fall, the attempted subjugation of Earth.

We also see a cyborg commando soldier, who saves Samra and stays by her side as they try, somehow, to stay alive and hope for better days. (Perhaps the commando is hedging his bets. Or waiting for a better opportunity. But it’s important to know that without him being there, Samra likely wouldn’t have a reason to fight so hard.)

Along the way, we meet numerous others. Some are politicians. Some are just average Joes. Some are Rockrats — that is, asteroid miners, extremely isolationist in outlook and incredibly hard-headed, to boot.

We need every last one of them to come together, in whatever ways they can, or we cannot save our own solar system from the Oghaldzon.

And along the way, the Oghaldzon are found to be, oddly enough, a different type of idealist entirely. But their idealism doesn’t match ours by any standard, and that is part of why we end up in a protracted war.

I don’t want to spoil the outcome of the book. So I will stop there.

Just know that as an editor, I maximized everything I could for the sake of realism, verisimilitude, and dammit all, for the sake of a damned good read. That is my job.

And if you read the book, and you like the book, do tell Leo and Chris that you enjoyed it. (You can come tell me, too. I’d enjoy that, also.) Reviews matter.

(I know that from personal experience. But I digress.)

In other words, when I edit, I try to find the authors’ voices. And I believe I did exactly what I should, to make THUNDER AND LIGHTNING the best it could be, in the hopes that people would feel, think, and enjoy the book and tell others.

Or in shorter form: Sparkly language, get lost.

—–

**Note that I, myself, have a Koran and have read it many times. My late husband admired the Sufi Muslims, and often called himself a “Zen Sufi Pagan.” And Chris Nuttall himself was exposed to all sorts of different religions when he lived in Malaysia, certainly including Islam, and knows, as I do, that people come in all flavors in all religions: that is, followers of the prophet Mohammad are mainly very good people.

Those who’d chain and enslave women, though, are hardly that. And if they’re using Islam as a way to make that palatable to their (mostly male) believers, that is disgusting.

There are bad apples in any bunch. These Wreckers definitely fit the bill for the type of people who’d try to turn religion to their own ends, rather than live in loving kindness and generosity, as I believe Mohammad truly wanted.

Advertisements

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 19, 2018 at 6:45 am

The Zero Curse — Chris Nuttall’s Excellent Middle-Grade Sequel

with 4 comments

Folks, yesterday I talked about two books that I felt had beaten sequel-itis — that is, the fate of books that don’t live up to its potential after a great first book. And after I talked about Jason Cordova’s DEVASTATOR and Kayelle Allen’s BRINGER OF CHAOS: FORGED IN FIRE, one of my other good friends pointed out yet another book that beats sequel-itis, hands-down.

That book is Chris Nuttall’s THE ZERO CURSE. It takes the wonderful character of Caitlyn Aguirre (also known as Cat) from THE ZERO BLESSING and gives her new challenges, while upping the previous stakes in the process. And the fact that Cat is just twelve years old, and isn’t an idiot savant, isn’t even necessarily a genius — just a reasonably normal smart kid with an unusual ability for her world, that of having no magic at all — makes things all the more poignant.

Chris’s work just keeps getting better and better. And these particular stories are close to my heart for many reasons, most particularly because I got to see them early (as I am one of Chris’s editors), and enjoyed seeing them come to fruition.

Why? Well, I flat-out love Cat. She’s a self-sufficient girl to root for, being without magic in a magical world. And first, she has to figure out how to make her way without having any magic, while finding a way to make her lack a blessing, in THE ZERO BLESSING…before Chris ups the game entirely in THE ZERO CURSE, where Cat starts to realize that the other side of a blessing is a curse, so must start to figure out how to minimize the ways her unusual status as a “Zero” (that is, without magic) can be exploited by evildoers.

Zero Cursed Cover FOR WEB

Once you read about Cat, along with her odious sister Alana and her slightly nicer sister Bella, you’ll never forget her, her world, the school she goes to (Jude’s), her friend and fellow forger (kind of like a magical blacksmith) Akin Ruben, and her best friend, Rose, you’ll never forget it. (Cat’s great-aunt Stregharia in particular is a major piece of work, and you’ll enjoy booing and hissing whenever she shows up, guaranteed.)

So Chris’s book also beats sequel-itis, and is a great book to read on a cold day. (Or any day!) And I, for one, can’t wait until I read the third book in the Zero series, which even I haven’t seen yet. (But I will. Even if I have to find a way to tickle Chris until he says “uncle” to do it.)

Tell me about more books that beat sequel-itis in the comments! (I love hearing from y’all.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 6, 2018 at 12:05 pm

Catching Up

leave a comment »

Folks, I know I’ve not blogged very much in the past week or two. I’ve been working on a big project, and now that it’s out I can talk about it.

That project is Chris Nuttall’s newest novel in his Schooled in Magic series, INFINITE REGRESS. In it, his heroine, Emily, must deal with a new headmaster, romantic complications with her long-term boyfriend Caleb, her own, burgeoning magic, and some hints of a long dormant, malevolent power underneath her school, Whitehall.

Now, if you’re unaware of this series, you’re in for a treat. Emily, you see, is an American girl who was brought to a magical realm by a necromancer. She won free of the necromancer, made an alliance with an enigmatic sorcerer, Void, and ever since has run into a variety of circumstances that have tested her, her power, and her other abilities at every turn. Because of her practical knowledge, garnered from our Earth, she’s become a wealthy woman; she’s even been named a Baroness by another kingdom, Zangaria, though for the moment she’s set that duty down. (She never plans to go back there, in fact, but that’s for another book.) Emily is smart, resourceful, and would seem to have all the advantages…if you didn’t know she’s also autistic, and must deal with things in a slightly different way than others.

I edited INFINITE REGRESS, and am happy to recommend it to all lovers of fantasy.

Aside from that, I’ve done a little bit of writing and a whole lot of thinking about CHANGING FACES, which is still — still! — in progress. (Here I finally have people talking about my books, and waiting for one, and I am still fighting it out with same. Par for the course, I suppose.)

As far as everything else — the living situation is exactly the same as last reported. (No improvement, but no worse, either.) I don’t know what will happen there, and that unsettled feeling doesn’t help much when it comes to writing. (I can put it aside more easily as an editor, for whatever reason.) Much of this story isn’t mine to tell, so all I can say is this…I’m still trying, I still hope for better, and I haven’t given up.

But yes, it’s frustrating, not knowing where I’m going to be from day to day.

Anyway, that’s about all I can say right now. Do look for a new blog over the weekend, where I’ll be talking about Christine Amsden’s newest, KAITLIN’S TALE (yes, I edited that, too — why did you ask?), and will have a bit from the author herself about why she wrote it.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 25, 2016 at 3:34 pm

My New Guest Blog Is Up at Chris Nuttall’s Blog

with one comment

Folks, I am happy to report that Chris Nuttall accepted a guest blog from me about editing. I called it “Adventures in Editing: Going over A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, 12 Years Later.”And it’s up now over at Chris’s busy blog, the Chrishanger.

Why did I write this, exactly? Well, back in May, I wrote about the struggles I had in going over my final edit of A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE. I ended up adding some scenes, pruning back others…I actually did more than my editor asked for in certain respects, because I felt my book deserved more.

And because ELFY was originally one book, I needed to write a brand-new first chapter, too, plus I added a “What Has Gone Before.”

I didn’t talk about all of that at Chris’s blog, mind. I thought his readership might be more interested in why I did what I did, and what the difference is between what I call a full-on edit (otherwise known as a full line-edit plus a conceptual edit plus a consistency read) and editorial changes.

Here’s a bit of that blog where I discuss exactly what the differences are between a full-on edit and editorial changes:

When you are dealing with editorial changes, you move more quickly through your manuscript – at least, I do – and you aren’t as concerned with the intrinsic wholeness. You have to believe in your editor, and trust that he or she knows your writing well enough that you won’t be steered off-course…and you have to trust that you will make the right changes in the right ways.

But in a full-on edit, you are looking at everything. Word choice, even if no one else has mentioned it. Whether you should add something at the beginning, because you now have two books where you once had only one. Whether you need additional scenes to clarify things, and if so, what?

And when you’re done with your edit, you go back and make whatever changes are necessary.

In other words, I analyzed my manuscript as if it were written by someone else. I saw where it had weaknesses, as well as strengths. I tried to shore up those weaknesses. And I looked for ways to be consistent, without messing with my earlier style whatsoever – as, over time, I’ve become a slightly different writer.

In addition, I added a short and funny excerpt from Chapter 2, which is a scene I decided to add after I was done with my final edit. (The only place this excerpt appears besides Chris’s blog is at the Twilight Times Books site in my sample chapters; this is at the beginning of chapter 2.)

But that’s not the only reason to read my newest guest blog,

Please do go and take a look at this guest blog, as I put in four tips at self-editing that may help you out a little.

And while I believe every writer needs an editor besides himself/herself, you can help your editor out a great deal if you at least try to go back over your manuscript and attempt to read it as if it were written by someone else.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 24, 2015 at 4:51 pm

Book Discussion: “Schooled in Magic,” “Kindred Rites,” and More

leave a comment »

What makes a book interesting enough that you want to pick it up immediately and start reading? Or, for those of you who exclusively read e-books, what makes you willing to sit down and read the sample pages?

While no one’s quite sure of the answers to the above questions, one thing’s for certain: Books aren’t written in a vacuum, and it’s hard for them to gain traction if no one knows about them.

Even if you’re an author with a following, as is the case with Christopher G. “Chris” Nuttall, Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, and Rosemary Edghill, it’s unclear what makes someone decide to read one of your books as opposed to another. Sure, there’s genre preference and all — some people just enjoy reading, say, fantasy-romances, and if your book falls into that category, you’re more likely to be read. But a book that’s so good that people are willing to fall all over themselves recommending it is rare . . . unless you’re a regular book reviewer, as I am.

Then, perhaps, it’s not so rare.

At any rate, Chris Nuttall’s newest novel is SCHOOLED IN MAGIC, the first in a series about Emily, a girl from our Earth who’s transported to another world and finds she can do magic . . . but only if she can get away from the necromancer who transported her there, first.

I’ve read SCHOOLED IN MAGIC and found it to be an interesting take on the old “fish out of water” tale . . . what Emily does in this brand-new world is often life-affirming, but she can’t help but make mistake after mistake due to being unfamiliar with this world and its environs. (Note that this new world is never named; it’s simply “the world.” That’s done for a reason, as the people of this world are decidedly backward by Earthly standards, being roughly at a feudal level.)

A sample chapter is available here for your perusal . . . if you like what you see, please follow the links from that page (there are many) and get yourself your own copy (’cause I’m not sharing mine).

I recently reviewed two of Rosemary Edghill’s books over at Shiny Book Review, IDEALITY: VENGEANCE OF MASKS and FAILURE OF MOONLIGHT. The former is a dark fantasy with elements of SF and horror (tough to quantify, very interesting to read, and extremely thought provoking), while the latter is a series of short stories about Ms. Edghill’s popular character Bast, a Wiccan detective who has only her wits and her faith to help her solve crimes. Bast is extremely intelligent, makes many witty asides, and can be exceedingly trenchant in her opinions . . . which is one of the reasons I enjoy reading about her so much.

FAILURE OF MOONLIGHT is one of those books that you just can’t stop thinking about once you’ve finished reading it. While the one-liners are great and well worth the price of admission, it’s Bast’s mind, thoughts and opinions that call me back again and again. Bast is moral, ethical, and principled, and while she mostly walks apart from others due to her Wiccan faith being profoundly misunderstood (even by other NeoPagans), she’s someone many people would want to befriend if they ever met someone like her outside of a story.

Best of all, if you enjoy these stories, there are three excellent novels about Bast available in BELL, BOOK AND MURDER. These, too, are well worth reading, and are books I return to again and again as I ponder various thoughts and wonder just how Bast managed to come up with the answers this time . . .

Finally, what can I say about the incomparable Katharine Eliska Kimbriel that I haven’t said before? Her work in both hard science fiction with her Chronicles of Nuala series and now in dark fantasy/frontier fantasy with her Night Calls series is outstanding; best of all, she’s currently working on the third book of the latter series even as I write this.

Her most recent release is KINDRED RITES, book two in the Night Calls series; I reviewed it over at SBR back in January. It features Alfreda “Allie” Sorensson. Allie is now thirteen, a burgeoning magician with unusually strong powers, and is studying with her Aunt Marta as she must learn self-control. Fortunately, Allie is a good-hearted young lady who has no wish to coerce others; she only wishes to live her life unmolested, and help others as need be.

In other hands, Allie could easily have turned into a Mary Sue-type of character. Instead, Ms. Kimbriel wisely shows Allie struggling with the things any young girl struggles with — boys. How other girls treat boys. Puberty (or at least the fact of it, as inexorable as the sun coming up in the morning). Learning her craft, which includes birthing babies, digging for herbs in foul weather, and many other unpleasant things . . . and dealing with the effects of magical “hangovers” when too much magic is expended, no doubt. (This is more sketched than shown, but is there nonetheless.)

And, of course, because Allie is so powerful, other people want to steal her away before she can fully come into her own, magical birthright.

In other words, there’s many practical elements to both of Allie’s stories, NIGHT CALLS and KINDRED RITES, plus many speculative elements, and both add immeasurably to the richness of these tales. Allie’s innate goodness is refreshing, while her natural curiosity and wisdom also appeal . . . in short, if you’re looking for YA fantasy done right, look no further than Katharine Eliska Kimbriel.

So there you have it — three fine works of fiction by three disparate writers, all different, each with something interesting and special to offer. I consider all of them “comfort books” for different reasons, and enjoyed them all immensely.

Your next assignment, Dear Reader, is to figure out which one you want to devour first . . . then have at.

And the Next Big Thing Chain Continues with Jason Cordova

leave a comment »

Folks, yesterday Chris Nuttall responded to the “Next Big Thing” blog chain, which I referred to in yesterday’s really brief blog post.

Today, I found out that Jason Cordova also responded and has posted his responses for the “Next Big Thing” here.

In brief, Chris discussed his new book SCHOOLED IN MAGIC, which I edited, while Jason discussed his work-in-progress WRAITHKIN.  Both of these books should interest anyone who enjoys SF&F, albeit in different ways.

Chris’s book is a young adult coming of age story and also a bit of a “fish out of water” epic as it’s about Emily, a teenager from our world who ends up in a wholly other place and finds out she can do magic.  (The main twist Chris has is that Emily is definitely not coming back, so she has to come to some sort of accommodations with her new culture, her new abilities, and new life as quickly as is humanly possible.)  Emily is appalled by the way most people live in this new world as the main society seems to be a type of medieval feudalism, and does her best to implement as many modern advances as possible.  This helps to keep the reader both interested and engaged, as most of the time, a character’s frustrations with a new world just doesn’t get any airplay at all.  (Many characters immediately “go native” instead.)  And of course Emily makes a few quite understandable mistakes along the way, too . . . .

At any rate, SCHOOLED IN MAGIC is a fun book with some unexpected depth and a great main character.  I enjoyed reading — and editing — it immensely.

Jason’s WRAITHKIN is a much darker story that deals with the whole issue of genetics and he freely admits it was inspired by the movie Gattaca.  However, Jason’s book also has aliens, a parliamentary monarchy and a civil war in the making and is described as both military science fiction (milSF) and a love story.

I don’t know as much about Jason’s story as I do about Chris’s for two reasons: one, Jason hasn’t finished it yet.  And two, I haven’t edited it.

But I do know Jason’s writing and at least a bit about how he tends to come up with plots.  (In effect, it’s the Lois McMaster Bujold method, which roughly stated amounts to, “Find out what’s the worst possible thing you can do to this guy.  Then do it.”)  Which is why I’ve told him I can’t wait to read WRAITHKIN, just to see what he’s come up with this time.

Neither of these books are available right now for two different reasons.  Chris wants to see if he can interest a publisher in his newest novel, while Jason is still in the process of finishing his newest novel up.

But both Jason and Chris have other books and stories available for your reading pleasure, so do go to Jason’s site and Chris’s blog and check out what they have to offer.  You might just be pleasantly surprised.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 15, 2012 at 12:32 am

The Next Big Thing Continues With Chris Nuttall

leave a comment »

Folks, Chris Nuttall has kindly followed up with the Next Big Thing blog chain; his post is available here.

As I said before, Chris has a number of novels available right now through Amazon.com that range from military science fiction to any variety of fantasy.  His most recent fantasy novel is THE ROYAL SORCERESS, which I discussed a few days ago in my own “Next Big Thing” post.

So do, please, read his post over at his blog.  Then go check out his work over at Amazon, OK?

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 13, 2012 at 3:32 pm