Factotum (Monster Blood Tattoo, book 3), by D. M. Cornish

Factotum is the third and final installment in D. M. Cornish’s fantastic Monster Blood Tattoo series (now called The foundling’s tale in USA). This is a series that you should definitely read in order so if you have not read books 1 and 2 yet, I suggest you give them a look. You can read what I thought of them here: The foundling; and Lamplighter. By way of warning, the following review will give away a couple of plot points that develop over the first two books, so feel free to stop reading here and go read those books first.

At the end of book 2, Rossamund took on the role of factotum to Europe, the monster slayer with whom his life had become connected. For those not already familiar with the series, Europe is a Fulgar, someone who has had extra organs surgically added to her body that allow her to generate something like lightning that she uses against monsters. Rossamund had also been accused of being a monster himself – one with a human form. These two developments provide the storyline for Factotum which begins with the final stages of the journey to the city of Brandenbass, including a battle with a sea monster on the way. Rossamund is then introduced to the lavish life Europe leads when not hunting monsters. He has little time however, to sit back and enjoy living in high society as influential people in the city, including some enemies of Europe become aware of the accusations against him. Rossamund also seems to find it hard to keep out of trouble and his curiosity and naivety lead him into a seedy establishment where his conscience forces him to act on what he sees there (sorry, that’s deliberately vague as I don’t want to give too much away).

Eventually Europe and Rossamund along with a couple of his old friends who are now also in her employ take on some commissions to track down and kill various monsters. While this may seem to take them away from the trouble brewing in Brandenbass, it manages to follow them. Throughout the various events in this book Rossamund is exposed to new aspects of the monster world and the ways the monsters and humans exist together as he tries to understand his place in the world.

As with the first two books, Factotum is a long and detailed book including extra information about the world in an Explicarium at the end of the book. If you have read and enjoyed the first two I expect you will want to read this and expect you will enjoy it. If not, then head back to the beginning and read Lamplighter. The series is set in a richly described fantasy world, the characters are interesting and well developed and it it not always clear who is on the side of good or evil. The story has also kept me curiously turning pages (over 1500 of them through three books).

[cross posted from about the books]

Dad

I happen to quite like my Dad. He’s ace. I happen to quite like my brother too, he has a way with words. Some of them are below. The rest are here and here.

We’re on a crusade. Every time we go shopping, we dive into a record store with Dad. We run to the Pink Floyd section, and see if there’s any more albums we’ve never heard of.

He went on this crazy collectionist adventure with us. He is and was awesome.

When I think back, I realise he had some awesome taste.

I’m sure when I get past 60, I’ll be all lovin’ on the Classical like he is now.

Speaking of liking Dad’s music, how good is Neil Diamond?

Oh dear, did I just admit to that? Just don’t get me started on Emerson, Lake & Palmer or The Moody Blues.

Wildflowers wordle

I decided to plug the text of the novel I am pretending to write into wordle, a tool that produces a word cloud making the most frequently appearing words bigger.

Here is my novel in progress:

I don’t claim to know much about writing, but I wonder if this might be a slightly useful editing tool. Obviously the two most commonly used words are character names, so I figure that’s alright. “Father” is up there too, but that sort of works as a character name as well. The next three are interesting: “just, “know”, and “like”. In particular “just” doesn’t seem like a word that should be used more than just about any other word in the story. When I get around to editing what is just a very rough first draft, I will just have to focus on removing that word just as much as I can. I suspect “know” and “like” may not be as much of an issue, but am willing to stand corrected.

NaNoFinMo

I recently posted about my decision to skip NaNoWriMo this year and embark on a modified version, National Novel Finishing Month instead. In short, instead of trying to write a new 50,000 word project, I will try to make a good chunk of progress toward finishing an existing project. I’ll also be setting a lower target than 50,000 with something in the vicinity of 15,000 being a more realistic target for me.

The project in question, with the increasingly inaccurate working title Wildflowers currently sits at 29,244 words. For the sake of a round figure for the total word count I’ll shoot for 15,766 words in November bringing the project to 45,000. That’s a breath over 525 word per day. I think I can manage that.

Wish me luck.

NaNoWriMo vs NaNoFinMo

Over the last few years I have made several attempts at NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The basic idea is that you sign up and attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. This equates to 1,667 words per day. Every day. For the whole month.

I have never managed this. My best effort was 2 years ago when I wrote 16,000 words of a children’s story. Obviously this is nowhere near the target, but it felt great to get that far. I have continued writing that story in fits and starts since then and it is now approaching 30,000 words (has been for 6 months).

If you glance at your calendar you may notice that November is approaching. NaNoWriMo is approaching.

I think NaNoWriMo is a great idea and highly recommend anybody with the urge to write a book to consider attempting it.

I will not be attempting it.

I am sane enough to recognise that I have no hope of getting anywhere near 50,000 words this year. I also don’t want to sign on to another of the requirements – that you begin a new work for NaNoWriMo.

It is tempting to put aside my stalled story from 2 years ago and try something new, but I suspect this could become a dangerous habit. Write a story until it stalls. Start another story until it stalls. Start another story until it stalls. You get the picture.

So I am planning to take part in my own exercise: NaNoFinMo, or National Novel Finishing Month.

My target will be smaller. Probably 15,000 or 20,000 words. I’m yet to decide exactly, but that puts the daily quota in the vicinity of 500 to 700 words. I think I can manage that. I also suspect that will be enough words to carry my work in progress to it’s conclusion.

If you want to write a novel and can find the time and energy to write 1,667 words per day then I encourage you to have a good think about tackling NaNoWriMo. It can be rewarding even if you don’t finish.

Or if 50,000 words is too much and you have a half finished bestseller on your hard drive, why not join me in NaNoFinMo?

14 years

Fourteen years ago today I stood nervously at the front of Faith Baptist Church in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada. This may come as a shock to those who have only come to know me since then, but I was sporting a reasonably full head of hair. Beside me stood my brother who had flown from Australia to be part of the day. This may come as a shock to those who have only come to know him since then, but he was sporting a pony tail. Next in line stood my friend Greg. I haven’t seen Greg for a while so can’t do a then and now comparison of his hair. At the end of the line was Doug, who would become my brother-in-law within the hour. I suspect his hair has thinned out a bit.

We stood together. Chatting. Laughing. Smiling at the people who sat looking at us while they waited for the real show stopper to arrive.

I was nervous.

I was excited.

I needed to use the bathroom.

Then the music started. It was a piece from the soundtrack to When a man loves a woman. The song had these perfect little sections for each of the bridal party to walk in on. We men gathered ourselves into a straight line and looked to the back of the church. My future nephew and niece walked towards us followed by two of my fiance’s best friends and her sister.

Then it happened.

The most beautiful girl I’d ever laid eyes on walked into the room with the intention of marrying me. Her dress was splendid but I could barely take my gaze away from her beaming smile and glowing eyes.

Slowly she came down the aisle, timing her steps to the music just like she had practiced. Beside her walked the man whose baby girl I planned to steal away half way around the world. I am eternally grateful for the support and blessing of my parents in law. Now I have a baby girl of my own I am beginning to recognise how painful it must have been.

I shook hands with Garfield, soon to be my father in law, and took his daughter on my arm.

To be honest, the ceremony is all a bit of a blur. I remember smiling a lot. My face hurt from the smiling.

At the reception, Canadians outnumbered Australians by about 25 to 1. They had a shorter commute.

The celebration was an emotional one. Loaded as it was with the knowledge that this union meant we would head back to Australia for an unknown number of years. At least fourteen years as it turns out.

On the next day we began a driving honeymoon to Boston. We saw amazing fall colours as we drove through Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The trip had low points (a swarm of hornets as we ate peanut butter sandwiches in a park somewhere), and high points (everything else). We had little cash, but enough to get by. I think it was the best trip of my life.

The 14 years since has also had its low points and high points. There has been the odd swarm of hornets, but nothing we couldn’t handle together. My wife is as beautiful now as the day I first saw her playing volleyball on a grassy hill in Lilydale. We eventually managed to bring two little gems into the world, and we have had the most wonderful fourteen years together.

Happy anniversary J, and thanks for fourteen amazing years.

The thing I will regret

Some years ago a friend got his motorcycle licence.

He explained one of his motivations for going out and getting it done, “If I got to be 90 years old and hadn’t got a motorbike licence, I knew I’d regret it.”

I have this crazy idea that I’d like to write a novel. Sure I’d love to write something good enough to be published, but I’ll settle for something I’m happy to send to a publisher. If they like it, that would be a bonus. If they like it enough to publish, that would be unbelievable.

I have started several “novels”. One is currently a couple of thousand words long plus a rough outline. A long way to go but I love the idea behind it. Another is only a few hundred words long and may never move on. Or maybe there’s a short story in it. Another is about six thousand words long. It’s my favourite project so I hope to pick it up and run with it again sometime.

My best effort though and the focus of my current energy is getting close to thirty thousand words long. It’s a children’s fantasy. There’s not many of them so I figure there’s some room in the market.

I have always been tempted to keep this a secret. Plug away without anyone knowing and suddenly surprise the world with a finished manuscript. But I decided instead to tell people. To chat about it like it’s another of my hobbies. Which it is.

For me, talking about it makes the novel more real, the dream more legitimate, and the writer more accountable.

The fact that people know I’m trying this is helping me, even if just to stop me giving up.

This is important because I know if I get to be 90 years old and haven’t written a novel, I will regret it.

Almost enough to make me turn

Apart from the early days using a cassette player to load games onto our Sinclair Spectrum and an occasional flirtation with Warcraft I’ve not really been one to play games on my computer.

But the thought of having this sitting on my desk is almost enough to make me turn.