Overall 3 out of 5.
Alright folks, I wanted to talk a little bit about my first book, now that I have re-released the second edition. There are several thoughts that spring to mind.
First, it is my first book. That is both it’s blessing and it’s curse. It is what really got me started in my writing seriously. Now, I have been writing for a long time, journals, snippets, various classes through high school. But this was my first novel, and that is a big deal to me. There have been at least 8 other manuscripts since I first wrote this book, and my love of writing has only grown. There are constantly new ideas springing into my head.
As far as a blessing is concerned, Of Shadow and Steel reminds me of where I started. It is a relic, an artifact, of when I really started writing. It is an accomplishment that all future works will build upon from a technical prospective. It is like the past, and it reminds me of where I came from.
But that is also it’s curse, because it does not show the refinement or experience of later manuscripts. In several ways it is simple, and lacks refinement. When I read it now, I find several things that I could do better, now that I have been writing novel-length stories for a few years. However, that would mean re-writing the entire story, something I lack the time or the motivation to do. Also, like I said, it is a kind of artifact, and I don’t want to mess with that.
Of Shadow and Steel began life as several “fragments”, little bits of text that I jotted down at various times as I was inspired or motivated to do so. As the manuscript took form, I used a larger narrative to link together the “fragments”, and the world started to take shape. The first edition of the book had a lot more of these “fragments” in the story, and was told through a combination of a first person main narrative, and several third person micro-narratives to help flesh-out the main story.
Later books in the Elder Blood Saga have generally abandoned the “multi-POV” style, as I find it reads somewhat haphazardly. It is clumsy, and kind of tedious. I have cleaned up the narrative quite a bit when I look at the 1st edition compared to the second, and this was a big step forward in my opinion. It reads a lot better now then it was.
And the new cover is fantastic!
The inspirations for this story are pretty evident, and some of those inspirations have been carried right through the series. Of Shadow and Steel is really what I would call anthropological fiction, as it draws heavily from my educational background and archaeology in general. I really tried to fold that into the story, in a way that is not as prominent in the later stories. Also, it is what I would consider soft sci-fi, because hey, my background is in social science, not the hard sciences. Culture, belief, and ideology are all factors in my universe.
Other inspirations are also very prominent. It shows in the story that I was playing Skyrim at the time, and that I was reading a lot of Norse Myth and that kind of thing. Much of that was pulled into the story. On a more general scale, much of the sci-fi and fantasy I have read or watched had a more indirect inspiration. I mean, that is a lot to draw from. Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, just to name a few. It would be beyond tedious to detail them all.
I want to talk a little bit now about my writing process, for this book and for others.. I think that each writer goes about the process in an individual way, and that is what makes each work unique. Also, the inspirations and ideas around a writer are changing all the time, and that also reflects the story.
I like to think of my writing process as an organic one. The story, the characters, and everything else takes shape as I write it, and small seeds grow into the world. In some ways, the story comes first, and is driven by the characters. As they progress through the story, I (and my readers) discovers backstories and the history of the world.
Which I then have to go and write. I create the backstories, the plot, and the characters while I build tell the story. It all kind of grows like a tree. A character hears about a past event, or reveals some concept of a technology, and those are the branches. Then I have to go outside the story to develop those ideas, and flesh out the characters.
Honestly, I don’t have much luck with pre-planning. Writing histories and planning things before hand really doesn’t work for me. I can’t write character sketches to save my life. Really, I discover my worlds, the stories, and the characters as if I am also a reader, one word, one page at a time. I am discovering my stories why I write them.
That is what makes it so much fun! In so many ways, my characters and stories take on a life of their own. They create the story, and I really just record the events.
Before I digress too much, at the end of the day I think Of Shadow and Steel has a lot of room for improvement. However, at the same time, it is my first book, and practice makes perfect. It has its flaws, sure, but it is a constant reminder of where I started, and how far I have come
Thus, 3 out of 5.
Thanks for reading!
The book itself can be found at Amazon.
$4.99 for Kindle or $9.99 for Paperback