The Waterborne Blade: release week

Release week for The Waterborne Blade is upon us! I’m still struggling to get my head round the fact the book is really out there at last, but here’s a brief roundup of reactions so far:

“This is a well-paced, enjoyable read with characters that feel rounded and real, changing and evolving as the book goes on. […] it’s in the scheming of courts and cousins, childhood spats and splintering marriages that the writing shines.”
Rhian Drinkwater, SFX Magazine

“I have to hand it to Murray, she certainly knows when to kick in the exciting developments in plot and character to keep you on the edge of your seat. Just when you think you’ve reached the right place to set it down, you end up reading right through the night to find out where exactly the plot is about to take you. It pretty much blind sighted me and I read a lot of fantasy! […] Fast paced, enjoyable, not too heavy, not too light, just right fantasy!”
Book Frivolity

“An exciting new fantasy series with an awesome female protagonist that is compulsively readable. […] I almost missed my MAX stop on my way home because of this book. It’s totally engrossing, which makes this book go by pretty quickly, and leaves you wanting more.”
Roberta’s Literary Ramblings

TheWaterborneBlade-144dpi“This thrilling tale of sword and sorcery thrusts us right into the action.  When we meet the protagonists, we are given no background on them, or on the situation they find themselves in.  We are told they need to flee, now, and we follow.”
Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Corner

“The Waterborne Blade is an intriguing and compelling fantasy woven from a fascinating story set in a vibrant world inhabited by vivid characters. Susan Murray is a consummate storyteller who fulfills everything you could desire of a book and leaves you wanting more.”
Graeme K. Talboys, author of Stealing into Winter

“This is a wonderful thing, a sweeping fantasy which somehow manages to pull off the trick of being intimate and very human at the same time. It begins with a realm in peril, and then puts its shoulders back and strides confidently towards a horizon packed with magic and love and abandoned palaces and a huge and very real evil. Susan Murray has written a debut novel of great skill and depth, and I loved it.”
Dave Hutchinson, author of Europe in Autumn

Available here:

UK:
Amazon.co.uk | Book Depository | Waterstones | WHSmith

North America:
Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | BarnesandNoble.com | IndieBound.org

Global DRM-Free Epub & Mobi Ebook
Available now from the Robot Trading Company

First sightings in the wild

Release date for The Waterborne Blade is edging closer, and this week the first copies were sighted in the wild – or, more precisely, in a backroom at a top secret location. The first reviews are trickling through, and this whole thing is starting to look real.

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First Draft Euphoria

Or: Outlining? Pfft.

This week I completed the first draft of the novel I thought I’d never finish, nine months after embarking on a major rewrite. It’s rough, it’s messy, and it weighs in at a suitably epic 124k.  I’ve resisted the temptation to print it out. A whole ream of A4? Ouch. Enough paper’s been sacrificed to reach this stage, most of it dog-eared and no longer relevant:Image

A few lessons learned at this stage. All of them are highly subjective as with any creative process.

This project’s much heftier than previous novels so I’ve needed to keep track of world-building notes and plot details. Scrivener offers loads of options for keeping notes and adding meta-data and it’s taken time to fathom out which are most suited to my way of working. Hopefully for the next project I’ll be able to work smarter from the outset.

I started out with a core 50k from the previous draft. With hindsight it would have been better to ditch that and start from scratch as I spent a lot of time getting reacquainted with detail that’s ceased to be relevant as the story’s evolved.

Outlining’s been of limited use for this project. I feel like it should be some kind of magic plot bullet, but, no. Twists and turns emerge organically once I’m immersed in the writing. I’m a diehard pantser (I need a Bruce Willis-style vest* for writing first drafts). Whenever the drafting process ground to a halt it was because I’d outlined a development that didn’t tally with character motivation.

On the other hand, brainstorming possibilities and mind-mapping them has been tremendously useful. Everything gets jotted down, however daft or dull. Then you can drag them about, rearrange them, highlight the useful ones, cross things out and still have a record of where you’ve been if you need to backtrack. I’ve been using Scapple for this, it’s great value for money but Mac-only. The open source Vue is also very accessible and available for other platforms.

I’ve taken to working in 20-30k chunks, pausing to take stock and brainstorming the next section before pushing on. Freewriting’s been invaluable for pushing through the no-idea-what-happens-next moments. From feeling out of my depth working on a novel of this length I’ve stumbled on a process that works for me.

So, I finally got it written. Now to get it right.

* You already knew not to come to me for sartorial advice, right?

The Next Big Thing

Many thanks to that versatile spinner-of-plates, Scott Harrison, for tagging me last week in this writers’ blog chain thingy. Basically there are ten questions to answer about the current project, five more writers to tag for answers this time next week. That’s the theory, anyway.

What is the working title of your next book?
The working title of my current project is Bitter Legacy. At present I’m (re)drafting the final chapters.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
The story started out as an image prompted by a writing exercise.* A small boat was crossing a squally stretch of sea. On the boat sat a woman. She was less than chuffed with her situation. I had no idea where she’d travelled from, why, or what lay in store for her.

What genre does your book fall under?
Epic fantasy.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
This one’s tricky as I don’t envisage characters in precise physical detail. Given it’s hypothetical, I’ll assume access to a time machine. For the displaced Alwenna I’d choose someone who could bring that sense of otherness Uma Thurman or Sissy Spacek (in Carrie) bring to their roles. For the soldier-made-good think Viggo Mortensen (as Aragorn) blended with Clive Owen (moody and secretive as Parks in Gosford Park) and a dash of Liam Cunningham’s Davos Seaworth in Game of Thrones (but younger).

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
In civil war a king sends his wife to safety in the protection of the only man he trusts; with loyalty stretched to breaking point she is betrayed and must draw on dark powers to protect the closely-guarded secret she carries, only to discover her husband kept secrets of his own.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Once the novel’s complete, revised and polished I’ll be seeking representation.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I’m aiming to complete this draft by the end of this year. It’s had a couple of lengthy spells on the back burner while I was finishing my degree or busy with other projects, but at a rough estimate I’d say the time spent actively working on it totals six or seven months so far.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Until I’ve had time to step back from this story any answer risks being wildly misleading, so I’ll suggest Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice, or Kristen Britain’s Green Rider as two favourites and leave it at that.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Other than the years spent exploring worlds created by authors like John Wyndham, Marion Bradley, Raymond E. Feist, and Robin Hobb? Well, one item on the notional Unfinished Business list – after ‘Get that degree’ – has always been ‘Write those books’. Add to that a conversation long ago when my mother asserted nothing – but nothing – changes your life like having children;** and throw in a few random thoughts that have percolated down through the intervening years.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Think Roman Holiday meets Carrie. With swords.

I’d like to tag two talented writers I first met while studying with the Open University:  Anouska Huggins (who has a story in Issue 8 of The Yellow Room) and Graeme K. Talboys (whose latest novel Stealing Into Winter is published by Roundfire Books).

* For the curious, the exercise was 13.5 from Bill Greenwell’s chapter ‘Rhetoric and Style’ in A Creative Writing Handbook (2009, ed. D. Kneale, A&C Black Publishers Ltd). Students of the Open University course A363 may well remember it.

** This was a masterly piece of understatement.