Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reviews, reviews, reviews...

Haven't posted in a while, been pretty busy with commitments and writing the sequel to The Shadowed Paths while proofing my next novel and planning the rest of my writing for next year.
But I had to post some more snippets of the reviews I've been getting, they're coming thick and fast now and I have to say they're spurring me on.
For the full reviews please visit either Amazon or Goodreads (where most of them are).

5.0 out of 5 stars Complex characters...fascinating worlds, 27 Nov 2011
By Z.Gorman
"The Shadowed Path" - the first volume of "The Archwood Chronicles" - is an ambitious tale of epic-scale conflicts ... the opening of the story is a gladiator scene, which is the whole reason why I picked up the book: It is so vividly and powerfully presented.

After a heart-pounding prologue the story turns personal. We are introduced to Marcus, a young man of wealthy descent who is "banished" to a journey to the death, all because of his father's most recent mistress. Having just left a life of comfort and safety behind, he finds himself in the midst of the notoriously dangerous "Xore's Garden" where fierce Shadowed creatures roam.

I find "The Shadowed Path" an enchanting read. Its characters are complex and real; the world is fascinating; the politics is intriguing. I enjoy the language and the writing style as well. In many scenes, I felt I was right there.

5.0 out of 5 stars Great read!, 13 Dec 2011
By R.Lolley
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! I got it one day when I was halfway through another fantasy novel (won't mention which one, but it's a series I'm hooked on) and started reading it idly on the way home. I was drawn in so instantly that I put the other novel aside to finish this one, which took me just five days!

What I like about it so much is that there are so many concepts and plot ideas which I haven’t come across before in my extensive reading of the well-used fantasy genre. The Shadowland is an instantly compelling, haunting concept. I love the way we only see parts of what is one of the main elements of the book, keeping us waiting to be drip fed just a little bit more of Marcus' experiences. The Waystalkers are also a truly intriguing race, almost elf like and yet still completely different from anything else I have read.

The further you progress in the book, the more you get drawn into the world of Prast and the characters, who I have to say are well developed, psychologically interesting individuals. I can't wait to see where Marcus goes next, and how Sheena/Jinx is developed as a character.

I love the vaguely familiar Roman/Aztec type settings of Prast and the Sul empire giving us a point of reference against a very fantasy inspired back-drop. The writing style is direct and easy to follow, not overly elaborate, but practical and yet very descriptive. It is easy to picture what is being presented to you. The action sequences are not heroic, unrealistic swash-buckling fights, but swift, brutal, real action, which passes by fast enough that they don't detract from the story but still add that conflict needed to drive a good fantasy story forward.

I can't wait to see what the rest of the series holds, hopefully see more of the Shadowland, and I will definitely be keeping tabs for the next book and grabbing it as soon as it comes out.

I genuinely think this is as professional a book as I've seen on mainstream publishing shelves. In fact, it's a lot better than some I've read!

5.0 out of 5 stars Fab debut !, 10 Dec 2011
By Lorraine Arndell
Wow. This first part certainly has the feel of an epic story. A whole new world, strongly influenced by the empires of the past.

The novel certainly has its fair share of characters and places ... the lavish descriptions and the specific vocabulary will really draw you into the story ... Once I really got into it, the story literally flowed. The book deserved all my attention. And I did feel rewarded for it.
I'm really looking forward to part 2 now. There are so many questions left unanswered, it's going to feel like a long wait !

And "Xore's Arse" has so been added to my list of rude expressions. Don't know if I'll ever get to use it without people thinking I'm a weirdo, but I love it nevertheless!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rules of Writing Part 2: How to Plan a Novel

Having got over the introduction phase of my new Rules of Writing I thought I could just get right into part 2 without any preamble on my part. I was wrong. Something was brought to my attention while reading an article online and it would be remiss of me not to mention this up front. So here it is:

Don’t arbitrarily agree and apply everything I say, or imagine that my own Rules of Writing are THE rules of writing. Of course they’re not, and perhaps it was pretentious of me to even label these posts in such a definitive way. They’re not rules on how to write –adverbs, sentence structure, comma use, pronouns, paragraphs, capitalisation... – there are plenty of places to go to for that and I’m not officially qualified enough to teach it. These posts are about things that I’ve learnt (or learned if you’re that way inclined) about methods that work for me when it comes to the actual crafting of stories, the little idiosyncrasies I’ve developed over the years to hone this strange business of writing fiction. I hope some of this resounds with someone, maybe one or two things will help you and when you read them you’ll think, “Oh hey, yeah, that’s quite a good idea, I’m going to try that.” Please don’t think for a moment you have to utilize all of these points and that if you do you’ll be successful. You won’t be. It’ll take a lot more than knowing how to write and knowing a few tricks. In many ways what works for me might not work for you.

With that said, I’m not going to change the title. These are my rules for writing the fiction I write to help me to finish what I start and make each project as good as I can make it. So, that said, let’s get onto part 2!
Rules of Writing Part 2: How to Plan a Novel

Like George Lucas, I’m going to do a prequel here. (I hope this turns out better than his did!) Last time I talked about how to get on with writing, but now I want to backtrack to how I, personally, plan and work on a novel before I begin writing the first draft.

The Idea:

I’m not sure what there is to say about this. Other than having the desire, the time and the ability to write, this one’s the most important. At least for most types of novel. It’s never been something I’ve struggled with myself, I quite literally have hundreds of rough ideas for stories both large and small tucked away in notepads and on my laptop. Most will probably never see the light of day or at best will be incorporated into another story. I have far too many ideas and nowhere near enough time to form them all into stories. Perhaps the ease with which someone can come up with an idea is dependent on the type of stories they enjoy writing, but I also think there’s not much I can tell you for tips on how to get story ideas, it’s a very personal, esoteric thing. All I can say is keep your eyes and ears open; plenty of my ideas are gleaned from everyday events, news items or simply letting my mind wonder.

Refining the basic premise:

Now comes some real work. You’ve got the basic idea, how do you form it into something you can develop into a structured, coherent, logically developed story? It’s true some extremely lucky or extremely talented writers just run with a basic idea and begin writing with barely any framework at all, hoping that their subconscious fills in the gaps and subplots and leaves the story fairly free of holes in the first draft. It might even be true that in some genres (literary novels and romance especially I presume) which focus more on the prose and simple character interactions this is a fine way to start. But for me personally, a writer who values plot as highly as any other aspect of my novels, I need to plan, to outline where I am heading in a story and all the main plot-points and even some minor ones. This isn’t to say I stuck methodically to this structure, it unfailingly changes as the story progresses, but I couldn’t imagine writing a complex full length novel without this initial structure.

So how do I go about creating the framework from the basic idea? Essentially in three ways.

Short Synopsis:

Firstly, I write a short synopsis, outlining the major themes of the novel (this also becomes handy when writing the final synopsis once the book is done.) This initial synopsis is for my eyes only and just helps me flesh out the idea and get the old grey matter working, get me firmly rooted in the novel’s setting. It needn’t be too long, for a pre-novel synopsis mine are usually somewhere between one paragraph and half a page at most. When writing this, just stick to the absolute main plot and overall theme. Quite often while doing this I begin to come up with all sorts of smaller points I’d like to incorporate into the novel and I’ll note these down in my Notes page...


For every novel I write I have a Notes page for it. Just a simple word document within which I throw all manner of ideas in no real order. The notes page always becomes a mess, a hodgepodge of random ideas and points and even sometimes historical or factual references if needed. I could organise it, I could alphabetise it, I could somehow make it easier to navigate, but I never do. By the end of the novel it takes a good while to search my notes page for a specific point I wanted, but I’ve never bothered about turning it into something more organised. The most organised thing I do with it is cut/paste points I’m going to incorporate from the notes page into the Scene By Scene document (coming next), just to keep it from getting too cluttered. Think of the Notes page as a bits box you might use if you’re into some sort of hobby (electronics, Lego, plastic models...), it’s somewhere you put stuff that might come in handy later. For novels with a great deal of research (historical/scientific in particular) I sometimes have more than one notes page for different topics, but that’s as far as I get in organisation.

Scene by Scene document:

For me, this part is both the most time consuming of the preparatory stage and the most useful. I also seem to do it a slightly different way each time I write a novel. What this is not is a chapter by chapter breakdown. I’ve only ever done one of those once for a specific submission and I hated it. If you’ve ever written a full length novel you’ll know full well just how much it changes, evolves and grows in the writing, so having something as rigid as a chapter by chapter outline doesn’t make sense to me at all; but scene by scene is great, it allows for development, it’s slightly more dynamic.

Each scene doesn’t have to be too long, but doing this will help immensely in seeing the big picture of the plot. Here’s a brief run-down of the types of scene outlines I’ve done for my novels (sometimes combining them!)

- Simple single paragraph per scene – This is a great way of visualising the entire main plot, but doesn’t leave room for any details, so if I use this method I’ll usually use it alongside a more in-depth one. The key here is to keep things crisp and to the point, just the facts, it’s like a longer version of the Short Synopsis.

- Detailed scene by scene outline – This is the best way of insuring you incorporate everything you want to in a particular section of your novel. Each scene will incorporate subplots and little details. For these I usually scour my Notes for all the points I want to include for a specific section and cut/paste into the relevant scene. This is the most comprehensive, but also not so great at getting a feel for the overall picture. Fantastic when it comes to writing your chapters though.

- scene map/plot arc – This is the best idea I’ve come up with for being able to scope out and connect all the plots of my novel. I’ve never used a plot arc on its own, but I consider it a great tool. Basically I have a collection of text boxes running from the top of a page downwards. In the centre and in bold is my main plot, to either side are subplots and important notes. Again just the basic facts. They all interconnect and do get quite complex towards the latter parts of the novel, but for myself it’s just such a great way to get a good overview. You can do this on paper, in word, in a drawing program or, for best results, use an excel sheet. Check out the picture below for an idea of what I’m talking about. I may even decide to show one of my real ones one day if I get enough requests.

- flash cards – some people love using these, writing a chapter/scene on each card and keeping them in a box. I understand why they’re a good idea; it’s easy to add or takeaway or edit a scene while still keeping them in good order and having something physical to refer to. You can also number them and lay them out like my plot arc (see above). Personally I found doing it this way quite time consuming and not for me, but give it a go.

And that’s pretty much it. With all of the above done at this point I’m usually more than ready to get into the actual writing of my novel. Having done this level of preparation really starts you off on the right foot though, so keep these thoughts in mind. And if you have any tips that I haven’t covered in here by all means leave a comment or get in touch and I’ll add them.

Final thought on ideas and notes.

When you’re truly in the zone ideas can come to you at any time, so be ready to write them down or I guarantee you’ll forget them when you get back to your computer. A great many writers swear by those little notepads. I’ve tried to use them, but I find they’re just one more thing to carry around with me and I’ve never been able to stick to them. These days mobile phones are practically handheld computers anyway so I have a notepad program on mine for those flashes of inspiration while I’m out. I’ve even used a Dictaphone (voice recorder) app on occasion. Whatever way you decide to go, make sure you have something with you to record your ideas wherever you happen to be.

That’ll do for episode two, next time we’ll get into the nuts and bolts of actual story writing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Reviews of The Shadowed Path

Thought I'd just post a few reviews I've had so far:

"This is an amazing book so far (I'm halfway through). Complex and intriguing characters, a masterfully-written plot and a world much like Gladiator (movie) mixed with dark fantasy and all the awesome monsters and peoples related to it--and intense action! (I wrote this in quick layman terms which won't be in its final review). I'm bracing myself for what will happen when Marcus and Sheena meet, as I foresee sparks flying one way or the other--or both!" - http://infinitydreamt.blogspot.com/

"The characters are likeable and come across as well-defined individuals...
...The world-building, despite borrowing terminology from the Romans is good, blending the familiar with the unfamiliar. The descriptions and conception of the Shadowland creatures are vivid and worthy of a Simon R Green story. The waystalkers have a unique culture and way of life. The fight scenes are what makes this book stand out and I would describe as Gemmellian in their awesomeness. Fans of heroic fantasy would certainly be pleased with them." - Amazon reviewer, Noor A Jahangir

"5/5 Review:

The Shadowed Path is a book that quickly pulled me into a vivid Roman Empire-like world, immersed in dark fantasy elements. Two nations on the brink of war, and between them a place all its own; the Shadowland. Here it is the waystalkers, inhumanii connected to the earth, who are at one with its darkness. But on the outside of their world they are slaves to humans who they cannot kill. The rules change when the enemy bends some of these lethal waystalkers to their advantage, and Marcus and his companions barely escape alive.

Marcus didn't want to get sent away from his comfortable, rich life to join a merchant caravan on a such a treacherous journey. On getting out of the Shadowland four years later, he finds nothing remaining of the life he left. When things begin to escalate violently in his search for answers, his quick-wits, calm demeanor and fighting skills gained from the Shadowland make him an awesome character to follow.

When Sheena joins the story, she goes from a woman in despair to one bent on vengeance. Her shattered mind due to the traumatic loss of her family gives her character an even more suspenseful edge, particularly when she aims her vengeance at Marcus.

I'm curious to see what happens next with Marcus and Sheena and how the waystalkers will further play out. A great deal of the four years in the Shadowland has yet to be revealed as well, as the imprints it has left on Marcus and his friends are significant. Great characters, story, and action, makes this a series I will be following closely." - http://fantasycookie.blogspot.com/

Friday, October 21, 2011

Win a copy of The Shadowed Path! Free to Enter competition!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Shadowed Path by Simon Stone

The Shadowed Path

by Simon Stone

Giveaway ends November 04, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

First Edition Trade Paperback of The Shadowed Path now available!

Click the link below or to the right to view the print version of my debut novel.

This is a 6"x9" Trade Paperback First Edition

To celebrate the release of the First Edition Trade Paperback of my debut novel I'm giving copies away at Goodreads!

This will be the first of several promotions coming up within the next month, so take advantage of it, it's completely free to enter and.

If you win, all I ask is that you write a short review of the book and post it online.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Add Custom Screensavers / Lockscreens to your Kindle!

Okay so I got my new kindle a few days ago (see here: http://www.simonstoneauthor.com/archives/341) and right away I NEEDED to change the lockscreens. As much as I admire these long-dead writers and great minds I didn't really want portraits of them every time I saw my little hibernating ereader. So, I tried searching for a way to change the screensavers. Should be easy right? That's something people would want to change so I was sure Amazon would have some conspicuous folder somewhere where I could add/delete lockscreen images.

No. No such luck. That would be too simple.

On to plan B. Jailbreak it.

Now way back in about 2007/8 Amazon began releasing the source code, the GPL libraries used to power the Kindle software. Since then, not too long after each new firmware update, talented little hackers (I say little because most I'm aware of are under two decades old) make simple update .bin files available so you can unlock your kindle and easily modify things in it.

I thought doing this might void the warranty. It usually does. It turns out at the most it might void a warranty pertaining to any software/firmware issues. At best it seems Amazon don't mind you modifying your device in this way since it's so easy to uninstall any modifications. I will say you take your own risks in this and do your own research. I'm just posting a "how to".

So, how to do it? Read on:

1. Work out what kind of Kindle you have and what the firmware version is. You can find that by going menu/settings, and it shoudl be at the bottom of your screen. Mine currently says 3.2.1 then a bunch of numbers in brackets. And I have a UK Kindle Wi-fi without 3G.

2. Upload the zip file and unzip.  If you have 3.2.1 the file can be found here: http://yifan.lu/p/kindle-jailbreak
If you have an earlier version and for some more really good clear instructions go here: http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/37424/jailbreak-your-kindle-for-dead-simple-screensaver-customization/

3. Next you want to connect your Kindle to your pc and keep it in USB mode. Open up the kindle's folder.

4. Now choose your file. Copy and paste the correct update for your device into your kindle's folder.
k2 = Kindle 2 US
k2i = Kindle 2 International
dx = Kindle DX US
dxi = Kindle DX International
dxg = Kindle DX Graphite
k3 = Kindle 3 Wifi + 3G (US & Canada)
k3g = Kindle 3 Wifi + 3G (Elsewhere)
k3w = Kindle 3 Wifi
Mine was called "update_jailbreak_0.5.1_k3w_install"

5. Eject your kindle and unplug. Go to menu/settings then click menu/update your kindle
click OK and the jailbreak begins. You've set your kindle free!

Now for part 2: setting up the folder to put screensavers in!

Bascially it's exactly the same steps as jailbreaking. Download the custom .zip file here: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=BLJV0WKE
or find the second part of the "how to" here:  http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/37424/jailbreak-your-kindle-for-dead-simple-screensaver-customization/

Again, extract, plug in your kindle, open the folder and copy/paste the correct file (in my case "update_ss_0.20.N_k3w_install").

Then disconnect and again go to menu/setup, then in setup click menu/update your kindle

Once the update is done, plug your kindle back in and open the kindle folder. You should now see a new foldoer called "linkss". Open that and you should see a bunch of files and folders, one of which is "screensavers". That's where you put any new images you want for your lockscreen! Make sure they're the correct size and greyscale (no colour). Easiest thing is to do a google search and find already made ones online, but they're easy enough to make yourself with a simple photo editing program.

Once you've dropped some images (.jpg, .gif., .png) into the folder and you want to check them out, unplug the kindle and reboot it. (I just hold down the off button for 15 seconds.)

After it reboots you should now have some great new screensavers!!

If at any point Amazon releases new firmware and you want to update it, you can just go through this process again in reverse, putting the "uninstall" files on your device until it's back to how it was, then update and hunt around for the latest jailbreak to fit the new firmware version.

Any questions get in touch. Here' some pics of mine!