Gathering Storm Review

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

September 28, 2009 -- 4:08 a.m.

Well, I've had a chance to read the Gathering Storm first chapter and listen to the second chapter for free online. I'm glad I did. (Spoilers follow).

Reading the first chapter was, honestly, a little jarring. Brandon wisely didn't try to imitate Robert Jordan's style, which meant that the voice felt completely different to me, with the result that it felt like reading well-written fan fiction. It just...wasn't the same. It made me feel Robert Jordan's loss keenly, not because Brandon wasn't doing a good job, but because it was like it finally hit home for me that I would never be reading anything else from Robert Jordan's bright light ever again. It was a recap chapter, so other than that, I pretty much reserved judgment, except that I felt confused that Rand's reaction to Egware was so strongly negative, but hopefully that will be explained a little better in the prologue. Maybe the hall of the rebel tower is still issuing pronouncements in the Amyrilin's name, pronouncements Rand doesn't like very much.

I also wondered why Rand needed a new sword? Did Semiharg destroy his old one in Knife of Dreams? I don't remember--I haven't re-read it in a long time. Anyway, there is much speculating on the sword, but my favorite guess is that it belongs to Artur Hawkwing...though why it would have a dragon on it and not a hawk, I don't know. But that's the only old sword I can think of that would have any interest to Rand and that he could remember from his old memories. Unless Tam had another stashed away in his closet somewhere.

I wonder what Tam al'Thor's up to, anyway? Surely its been long enough after Rand took Andor that his name has percolated back to him. I just finished re-reading Dragon Reborn, and since Tam and Abel visited the tower after their sons, I wondered if they went chasing them around again.

I also hope we find out where Gawain's lurking at. He should have heard about Elayne's enthroning too by now and should be reunited. Or have heard the name of Egwene mentioned. I liked him as a character, just because I sympathized with him being overlooked in comparison with his more handsome brother and his desire to protect Elayne.

Anyway, I was disgusted with Rand's decision not to torture Semiharg. I mean, I'd think even Rand would see the necessity of having her stilled, at least. He was able to sentence Colavere to exile and strip her of her powers, even if he couldn't kill her outright. I wonder if Min's seen anything interesting in the forsaken's aura? They must not be a pretty sight. I wouldn't be surprised if Nynaeve and the Ash'a'man took it into their own hands to "take care of" Semiharg--she seems oddly obedient, lately. Ta'veren.

I thought Brandon did a very good job dealing with the missing hand--Rand trying to run his non-existent fingers through his hair and failing broke my heart a little.

Brandon also hinted that he'd finally reveal who killed Asmodean, but maybe I'd reading too much into that. It was never a real issue for me, though my bet would be Isam/Luc. I mean, dead's dead, so why does it matter? But apparently arguing over it drives some people nuts. I'd rather find out who the what's-her-face forsaken is impersonating in the tower. And who Demandred is, since he isn't Taim. Here's an interesting theory: maybe he's impersonating Masema?

I don't like the hint that the taint on Saidin is someone the fault of the female Aes Sedai who refused to go along with Lews Therin's plans. The more we learn about Aes Sedai, the dumber they seem, which is annoying because I liked them. They were my favorite part of the first few books, and now they act like a bunch of silly hens. It triggers my feminist instincts because, if Lews Therin's correct, it's like one of my favorite authors is saying, "if women would just be obedient to men, all the problems of the world would go away." I'm definitely reading too much into that, I'm sure, but it would be nice if the gender politics in Robert Jordan's world would tilt toward the women a little more often. Oh, and must all the baddies be lesbians looking for "pillow friends"? It seems like the only active lesbians are both bad girls, and both red Ajah. I can't quite decide if New Spring hinted that Siuan and Moraine were lovers but grew out of it or if that's just in my strange imagination.

Like I said, the first chapter was mostly recap, so it wasn't exactly the most scintillating read. But it wasn't a failure either.

The second chapter, however, I really enjoyed. I was happy to dive into Egwene's perspective--sometimes I'd pull out the Knife of Dreams just to re-read the Egwene chapter. I never liked her much until after she became Amyrilin. I was glad Brandon mentioned the Seanchan episode. I just read the Great Hunt, and I thought, "wow, I'm surprised Egwene is so mentally sane. I'd have major PTSD." And being in the Tower, cut off from the Power and powerless, would be difficult for her. I'd also think it would be helpful. "Hey, the Seanchan nearly boiled my skin off, so if you want to beat me? Eh, go ahead. I've had worse."

It looks like Brandon might be doing alternating POVs per chapter, which will kind of annoy me. One thing I liked about the series was that it stayed in one character's POV for large chunks of time--infuriating if it wasn't a character you cared for much, but at least you knew when you finally got back to what you did care about, you were going to stay there. But I understand how the alternating perspectives is easier on the author and how it's a tool for building suspense. It's supposed to make me grind my teeth, but I don't have to like it. I don't have much right to complain because of all the POV jumping around I do in the beginning of my book.

Anyway, in the second chapter, I didn't feel jarred by the different writer at all, and I loved it. It bodes well for the rest of the book. Hopefully we'll get the answer to "Siuan's puzzle". All signs point to the idea that the Ajah heads might be in communication so they can create one hall again, but that would seem strangely cohesive given the dissention in the tower. Also, if they had the backbone to do that, I'm surprised they haven't had the backbone to depose Elaida and pick someone, maybe a neutral party, as Amyrilin. Or a loyalist Amyrilin/rebel Keeper, something like that (perhaps how Egwene ends up with Beldeine as Keeper, as is in her Accepted's test).
I'd think, after the bungled kidnapping and the prisoners captured by the black tower, only the Reds would still be supporting Elaida.

All in all, things look very promising and I'm looking forward to Oct. 27. It should be fun. I love the characters so much, I'm glad to see what happens to them. Other than the voice, nothing was particularly jarring--small annoyances, but they seemed in character for Jordan's world. Nothing that would make me put the book down.

I wish Harriet was coming to BYU. I'd love to meet her. One day, I'm hopefully going to have enough power to strong arm someone into letting me write some short stories in the Wheel of Time world. For example, Elayne's test for accepted, how Semiharg let a prisoner go once just because she was curious what being merciful felt like, how Birgitte met Gaidal Cain for the first time, or the Dragon met Illyeana. How Sammael got his scar and why Artur Hawkwing was so dead set against Aes Sedai, thanks to Ishamael.

I had the weirdest dream a little while ago that Brandon Sanderson hired me for his secretary, so I booked all his book tours and once. I ended up getting fired because of the recession.

Catch up time

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

September 26, 2009 -- 5:34 a.m.

Busy, busy, busy. I'm behind on everything.

The party went all right, a few people came and I had some nice conversations. No one came prepared to swin, so my swimsuits were a moot point. They arrived Monday and I love them.

The novel's going in circles. I've been reduced to removing and replacing words like "that" that I removed only a little while ago. Oh, the agony!

I've decided that I'm going to stew and wallow in the minutiae of commas and split infinitives unless I set a proper deadline. So, on a whim, I've decided that I will send it to people, ready or not, when I get the new Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson book on Oct. 27. The prologue for a Gathering Storm is for sale on The first chapter is free though, if you register. (Link is here). I just found it so I'm just reading it, so I can't comment on it. It looks like they continued the tradition of adding a paragaph of description to the "wind thing" per book. I have a sense that when I read it, I'll feel lukewarm no matter how well-written it is. The idea of someone else writing his books...

No offense to Brandon. I'm sure he understands. I can't imagine how he sleeps at night, I'd be so nervous. Will the fans like it? Will they hate it? It's a big, huge thing for his career either way. I wish him luck.

I'll get used to the idea, I'm sure. I was thinking that next year will be the Wheel of Time's 20th birthday. Oh my.

Anyway, I'll be there in the BYU bookstore signing. I'm applying to be one of the volunteers, but if I'm not, I might try to be first in line. I wonder how early I'd have to get there? I wonder how many other people will think of the same idea? I wonder whether or not the bookstore has plugs so I can put the finishing touches on Godsplay as I wait.

But that gives me about a month to get things hashed out. I'm trying to "lock down" a chapter a day. I'm putting my foot down and saying "no more revisions." Unless I need some earthshaking plot change or something, that is. But no more changing "he intoned" to "he said" and then changing my mind and putting it back again. And changing it again. And again.


Well, I've locked down the prologue and the first two chapters, which are now 1) Rachell meeting the Elv and 2) Sathain plotting. Tomorrow or Sunday I will try to lock down chapter 3) Rachell dreaming. Then comes 4) Thaya getting brain sucked. So that's the new order since the workshop. Necessary, because I threw such huge chunks of description in there. Everything lengthens.

I still feel a little nervous about the book's ending. I wonder if I made a mistake by limiting myself by word count. Maybe I should go for the gold and try for the 300,000 word novel, as long as every word is delectable and irresistible. Good sense, or my original vision? What should I do?

I was also thinking about Robert Jordan's vision for the scope of his series. How much did he plan out and how much did he wing it? The foreshadowing in his novels indicates he had a lot of stuff done in advance (can you imagine remembering every vision you foreshadowed for decades of writing? I'd probably forget and leave stuff out of my books). I don't, which makes me nervous. Stephen King didn't work from outlines. I'm kind of in the middle. I'm do outlines for a book but not the series. Because the plot of Godsplay was too big to fit in one 100,000-size book, it will get split into at least two, so I know what happens in this one and the next one, but after that?

I don't know. I have no clue. I'm lost in the dark. I wonder if I'm not giving myself the space to work, if I'll accidentally write myself into a corner I can't get out of later because I don't know what tools I'm going to need in the future. If I suddenly die, my readers are going to be screwed because I don't know what's going to happen.

Most people would say: don't invite trouble. How about you worry about getting one book done before you worry about the third?

Of course, that would be sensible. But human beings are not.

In order to save space, I ripped out the quotations of the Gods having conversations in the beginning of each chapter. I liked them, but they weren't really adding anything to the plot. And I need space, not filler, and they were easy to stow away. I've got them saved, of course. Maybe I'll use them somewhere else. Another book. The conceit is just too beautiful.

Celebrating my birthday tomorrow, again, this time with the cousins/aunt and uncle. I'm trying to learn two songs to play on piano at my cousin's baptism, but I'm so out of practice. My wrists are sore from playing and typing. I'm not sure I'll make it. They're simple songs, but it's been 14 years or more since I played seriously. We'll see how it goes. Luckily, there's a backup if I flunk out.

In between all that, I've been reading a little. The problem with revision is that you have a hard time just reading for fun--I have this urge to read with red pen in hand and strike out all the unnecessary commas (one of my own vices, I know). But I still managed to relax and enjoy several books in the past month:

I try and read with an eye toward education so I can improve my writing, but Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth sucked me in. I loved almost every minute at it and was amazed by the amount of detail and research in it. I expected it to be dull, but it wasn't at all. If you have this on your "to read" list, I'd recommend bumping it up and doing it soon. I was deeply disappointed that Kingsbridge wasn't real--I wanted to visit the cathedral in person. If I learned anything from this book, it's that, if you write what you love, a subject that may seem deadly dull to some people can be very interesting. Though anything with religious politics will likely stir my interest. This was a historical novel as historical novels were meant to be written.

Next is Terry McGarry's "Illumination." This is a re-read for me. I enjoyed this book a lot the first time I read in and have ever since. It has one of the most unique magic systems I have ever encountered. How the author ever came of with it fascinates me. One of the best things about the book is that it has a fallible narrator. Ever hate the fantasy heroes who always succeed? Meet a stubbornly flawed heroine who's wrong more often than she's right. It's the first book of a series, but it stands alone on its own--it's sequel doesn't involve the same POV characters. I also took away from it that using lots of incomplete sentences is okay as long as the meaning is clear. McGarry has advice for aspiring authors on her website. I wonder if it's good luck having a name like Terry? It seems to have worked for certain other authors.

Finally, I have PastWatch, the Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card. I don't normally like time travel books, but this one worked for me. Another good historical book, though with less depth (anything has less depth than pillars of the earth). I liked the characterization of Christopher Columbus and the history. I wished he'd focused less on the science fiction and more on the past world, but that's just me and my obsession with history. It's always fun to see more international characters woven into his stories. What I learned from this is that two authors can approach a subject in completely different ways and there's space for both. Because, while I liked OSC's way, it made me think about a time traveling book where Columbus discovers time traveling people are out to get him--a thriller, rather than contemplative. I'd read them both and I'd own them both. Like vampire books--okay, most of them are quite similar, but if two authors put different spins on the work, I'll put both of them on my bookshelves. Which is good news for anyone nervous because they're writing about an idea that's been "done before" (ie, Arthurian Tales, Tolkein-style fantasy, etc.)

I also read Worlds of the Golden Queen from David Farland. It's always fun seeing fantasy pretending to be science fiction. I loved the bear character, he was my favorite. I thought the author did a really good job thinking about what it would mean to be a bear. The POV was totally real for me. I liked the ending of the first book, too. I didn't see the Maggie part coming. From this, I learned that I probably need to work on differentiating my POV characters more. A human would not think like a Lomari, even if they grow up in the same culture, side-by-side.

What else? Well, I've been watching Legend of the Seeker in Hulu. It's humorous how bad the acting is sometimes. I want to whack the scriptwriters and say "use contractions. Interrupt each other. Have them speak in not perfect grammar." You can pretty much guess what's going to happen, and the characters don't always act with perfect, logical consistency, but Richard Cypher's a cutie. It's best when it sticks to the books, and there are moments of genuine humor. I liked the episode with the "Grand Puppeteer". Zed is the best actor of the bunch, I think. I wonder if he looks so bug-eyed in real life. I wonder how Terry Goodkind came up with Zed Zul Zorander's name anyway. I like the sword fights. They're a big step up from Buffy/Xena type "whap/pow" tv combat.

I have to find a gift for my cousin tomorrow. I never put off shopping for presents like this. What's wrong with me? Like I said, I've been busy.

I think this damn book is going to give me an ulcer.


Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

My computer's back from the shop with brand new, shiny anti-virus software. The novel's fine. I've started over from the beginning with the goal of packing it jam full of shiny new adjectives, too. I'm ignoring the word count and pretending that this novel won't balloon to 200,000 words in the process. Hopefully, it won't.

It feels so good to write again. To go back to a familiar world. My self-confidence has been kind of shot lately, I don't know why, so it's good to be back to things I'm actually good at.

In the meantime, my swimsuit hasn't come yet and there's another person throwing a birthday party at the exact same day as me, so I'm likely to end up with a lot of food and no guests. Oh well.

Low expectations are the key to happiness.


Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

Sept 9, 2009 -- 1:09 p.m.

What have I been up to? Where does the time go?

Well, writing has been slow of late. I started re-reading the book from the beginning and was disappointed at how much better the beginning is than the middle/end. It feels fresher, more vibrant. Understandable, since I spent so long perfecting it--this must be my 3001st draft of Rachell running down the hillside. The earlier versions are so different its funny/amazing. I figured out that I need to bring the villains out a little more front and center--hard to do, since really the book is almost three separate sections in one, and each time the villain is different (oddly like Mercedes Lackey's early work tended to be--except darker and different in tone, theme, etc.). The main thing I think is I need to tune up the description in the later chapters. Dave's workshop encouraged me to slow down and add more description, but the further I got away from the workshop/the more pressed for words I was, the more bare things became. So I'm trying to overwrite and cut out later.

I find that I actually write better description when I'm zonked out because my mind goes strange, non-cliche places. So I edit during the day and write/describe at night.

But I think I'm going to have to go over it all AGAIN before I send it out to beta readers. So tack on another month's delay, alas. I love you for volunteering!

If there's anything to read, that is. I was shopping for swimsuits online--I'm having a big birthday bash to celebrate my 26th since I haven't been able to really celebrate my 24th or 25th (damn newspaper)--and I somehow managed to contract a nasty virus that's effectively killed my laptop. I don't know how--I didn't download anything, to my knowledge. Anyway, it won't let me open anything except for a window offering me anti-virus software. Ahh, modern day mafia tactics. Extortion in the digital age. Can't you see some nerd with bug-eye glasses bullying me for "protection" money?

Well, of course I said a few obscene words that were, shall we say, 'very descriptive'. I've been saving my novel to a flash drive so hopefully that's all right, but things like the word count comparisons, lists of repairs and possibly some scenes I wrote separately could be utterly lost. Including the end of the novel. Grumble.

I'm not too worried. Even if they can't drive away the malware, they can probably retrieve the word data. Maybe I'll take the opportunity to replace my laptop with one that works better.

Other than that, I've been job searching. I might get a job running a flight simulator for a star trek space center thing here in Utah. It looks fun. I get to work with kids and computers. Unfortunately, it would mean a half hour commute and waking up early on days I had flights.

At least, after all the trouble I went through, I found my new swimsuit for my big pool party. The link is here. Though I almost bought this one or this one. Who'd ever think I'd have to order a size large? Asian sizing for you, I suppose. Anyway, it's free shipping today at this site so if you want to order anything, do it today! I love the wedding dresses--I wonder how my family would react if I showed up to my wedding in fire engine red.