I Was A Middle Aged Writer

July 31, 2010

Book Review: Act of Will

Filed under: Reviews,Uncategorized — danielrdavis @ 1:04 pm

Well, the book may have been named Act of Will, but it didn’t take one to read it.

But let me elaborate.

Act of Will is a novel by AJ Hartley. It’s about an actor and playwright that gets forced into the mercenary adventuring world when he’s accused of spreading rebellion and immorality through the Empire with his craft and has to flee the place he calls home. He takes up with a group of adventuring mercs and is plunged into a dark plot by unknown forces when they take on the job of investigating and stopping a mysterious army of raiders who seem to appear and disappear as if by magic.

The pacing is great. The story hits the ground running and doesn’t stop. I read at night and I had a hard time putting the book away to go to sleep. The characters for the most part are heroic and true to the end. I say for the most part because the main character, Will Hawthorn, starts out as a very self-serving character whose only interest is in keeping his own fat out of the fire. Through his dealings with the honorable warriors he’s become tied to he begins to grow and we get to see this happen throughout the story.

The action is excellently done, and you can’t help but to read faster as the action scenes drive you on. Even the “downtime” of the characters flows, not dragging or bogging you down into slow spots that might make you put the book down for any length of time.

Will Hawthorn is a witty, smart-mouthed, humorous character who grows as a person, kicking and screaming at times, throughout. I couldn’t help but to keep reading to see what was going to happen to him next. If you like the witty and sometimes biting humor of some of Pratchetts characters you’ll love Will.

Honestly, about the only bad thing I can really say about the novel is that there are places where you can tell that some of the story comes from an RPG campaign. This was admitted by Hartley on another forum. However, it reads more like normal everyday self-serving guy gets thrust into a campaign with a group of noble and stalwart adventurers and has to deal with it. Adapt, run, or die.

Still, Hartley does a great job of making these characters come to life and making it more about the growth of the main character and budding friendship between him and these mercenary adventurers he’s been forced to travel with, than the campaign style “pay you to rid the region of the raiders” scenario. But even with that, there are still hidden agendas, intrigue, heroism, and battles aplenty with a bit of magic tossed in for good measure.

It was an enjoyable read and I can’t wait for Will Power, the next in the series, to hit the shelves.

If you want a better idea of what the character is about check out AJs post on Magical Words. And check out the entire site while you’re there. It’s a great resource for writers.



July 22, 2010

Opening Lines

Filed under: Uncategorized,writing — danielrdavis @ 2:05 pm
Tags: , ,

I hang out over at Magical Words and a recent post on Beginnings by Lucienne Diver, Literary Agent at The Knight Agency, got me thinking about opening lines.

I’ve always been big on getting opening lines right. You have very little time to catch the attention of your audience, be they consumers or editors or agents, and get them to continue reading. Sometimes the first sentences can mean the difference between a sale and getting the book put back on the store shelf. One of my own personal rules has always been, interest your reader in the first couple sentences; firmly hook them in the first paragraph. Now, the rule is a little subjective. Sometimes I use three sentences, sometimes I have the hook slowly insert over two paragraphs, but the idea is to get the reader to keep reading. In screenplays, the rule is to have something that grips or interests the viewer, something that makes them sit up and take notice, within the first five pages, which they say is approximately the first five minutes of the film.

This is the best advice any editor, agent, or author can give a writer and it’s one of the best pieces of advice this humble and hopeful novelist can give. I’ve been writing for a while. I’ve had a lot of practice writing novel beginnings and the one thing I’m always told when I’ve had people read the beginnings of my stories is that they can’t wait to read the rest. This is what you want. And if the opening shines, not only will it hook a reader, but it’ll stick in the memory of the reader. Some of my favorite novels also had some of the best openings.

It’s a skill that takes some practice, but if you can get this one down you’ll be that much closer to getting your novel sold.

And just for fun I’ll toss some of my own beginnings out here:

“Servos whined and jet retros flared as Ahlia Jensen’s Battle Suit pirouetted in a dizzying one-eighty to face the Palantine class suit that had just blasted by.”
–Rogue 5—

“It was a small room, more of an antechamber than a real room. It made Kel’s back itch just between the shoulder blades, the place where an assassin’s knife might slide.”
–The Dagger’s Champion—

“Micah Rhiannen stood in the middle of the sparring room, padded staff held loosely in one hand and the butt of one end resting on the floor behind her heel.”
–One Who Calls Gods—

“The Starflare tore into the atmosphere of Sargassi far faster than any Hopper had a right to.”
–The Darkling War Saga: The Darkness Between—

“Ryak slid his sword as silently as he could from its sheath; its weight reassuring in his hand.”


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