So, you want to go to a convention. Maybe you’ve attended conventions before, but now you want to go professionally — to make contacts, sell books, or to be a celebrity. Depending on the convention you attend, a booth/table could set you back a lot of money, so how do you make sure your con is successful? My latest article is up on the Writing Bloc exploring this topic with input from several community members.
This month, the the Writing Bloc’s Best of June post, I recommended The Seclusion by Jacqui Castle. Read all the recommendations by Writing Bloc contributors here.
The Seclusion is the debut novel from journalist Jacqui Castle and it’s a ripper. The story is set in a dystopian future America that has been twisted into an isolationist authoritarian nation, separated from the rest of the world by the enormous Northern and Southern Security Borders. All history predating the walls is banned and information is tightly controlled. In this new America, the people are ruled by a faceless board and mindless patriotism is favored above all else. Into this setting we meet Patricia. As an environmental scientist, she’s one of the few people permitted to roam beyond the city walls. It’s while on one of these research trips she stumbles upon a trove of forbidden information that triggers a harrowing sequence of events.
In the year 2090, America has walled itself off from the rest of the world. When her father is arrested by the totalitarian Board, a young woman sets out to escape the only country she’s ever known.
While on a routine assignment scouting the viability of dwindling natural resources outside the massive urban centers most American citizens call home, Patricia ’Patch’ and her co-worker Rexx discover a relic from the past containing dangerous contraband―unedited books from before The Seclusion. These texts will spark an unquenchable thirst for the truth that sees Patch’s father arrested by the totalitarian Board.
Evading her own arrest, Patch and Rexx set out across a ruined future United States, seeking some way to escape the only home they’ve ever known. Along the way, they learn about how their country came to be this way and fall in love. But their newfound knowledge may lead to their own demise.
There’s no pretending The Seclusion isn’t political. It was written before the election of Trump, but many will see it as prescient, with the world it paints an extreme conclusion to the right-wing populism currently sweeping not just the USA, but many other countries as well. Basically, if you’re a racist, right-wing conservative who doesn’t believe in human rights, you’re probably not going to enjoy The Seclusion. Suck it.
I loved this novel. Patricia is a great protagonist who grows throughout as events spiral out of control. The world, though extreme, is well realized and the journey from present-day to dystopian future all too believable.
Disclaimer: The author and I are both contributors to the Writing Bloc. I read an advance review copy of this novel. However, I had already pre-ordered and paid for a retail copy before receiving the version I reviewed. The Seclusion is out September 4th.
Over on the Writing Bloc we’ve kicked off monthly book recommendations from contributors. Our first post is up, covering our recommendations from March. My recommendation this month is The Fireman by Joe Hill. You can find the recommendation below, or read all the recommendations over on The Writing Bloc.
The Fireman by Joe Hill
My book of the month is The Fireman, by Joe Hill. It came to me as a recommendation from one of my editors, which is high praise in itself. The Fireman is an apocalyptic horror by best-selling author Joe Hill. It takes us to a version of our world that is burning. Literally. A mysterious disease, known as dragonscale due to the markings it creates on the body, is causing mass spontaneous combustion. With the sheer number of people catching fire, almost everything else seems to be going up in flames too, including civilization. Into this setting we meet Harper, an uncompromisingly positive nurse with a fondness for Julie Andrews. Harper is amazing. She’s a charming mix of innocence, courage, and intelligence. Experiencing the world through her point of view is a delight.
“Harper put the novel back on his desk, cornering the edges of the manuscript so it stood in a neat, crisp pile. With its clean white title page and clean white edges, it looked as immaculate as a freshly made bed in a luxury hotel. People did all sorts of unspeakable things in hotel beds.”
The story is a slow burn, building the intensity as the disasters mount. The world is well-realized and the dragonscale fascination, but throughout it’s the characters and the prose that shine. The novel telegraphs each of the disasters and betrayals beautifully, letting you stress as the tension builds without spoiling the moment when it finally arrives.
“Almost as an afterthought, she put a box of kitchen matches on top of it as a paperweight. If her Dragonscale started to smoke and itch, she wanted to have them close at hand. If she had to burn, she felt it only fair that the fucking book burn first.”
My second article is up on the Writing Bloc! This is the first of a new series we’re starting titled Whichcraft?. We’re going to produce a series of recommendations for writing craft books our members love. This one is for Elements of Fiction Writing: Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card. Read the article here.
I’ve joined the team on the new Writing Bloc community and will be contributing articles to the website. My first post is an update on an older one from here: How a manuscript becomes a book (Traditional Publishing Edition).
Elements of Fiction Writing is a series of instructive books on the craft of writing, each written by a different author. Characters & Viewpoint is an installment by Orson Scott Card, and I found it to be a great educational read.
“A character is what he does, yes — but even more, a character is what he means to do.”
The book covers in great depth a range of topics, from inventing characters through to portraying them on the page. It looks at understanding what characters you need, how to develop their identity and history, the roles they should play in the story, and how to make it come alive. It also looks at the types of stories you may be telling, how that might affect which characters you choose to focus on, and the points of view you may want to use.
This weekend was the Anime Island Convention in Hobart. It was my second year attending this small local con with a table to talk books and I had a blast. This year, organisers changed things up and put the fan traders on the upper level outside the halls, which meant I had an amazing view, lots of sun, and a direct line to the coffee cart!