Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This Is Fantastic!

Finding Wonderland has a terrific interview with D. M. Cornish, author of Monster Blood Tattoo: Foundling and Monster Blood Tattoo: Lamplighter. Read the interview to see why I'm careful to write out the complete title of both books.

This interview is so marvelous because Cornish talks about his various inspirations, how he got started creating the MBT world (which doesn't appear in either book), his women characters, and some behind-the-scenes business related to that title. Oh, and his notebooks. I have a number of different kinds of journals and workbooks. Now I'm feeling inspired to go write in them.

Of course, Cornish might not have gotten into any of that stuff without the interviewers' sophisticated questions.

Right now I'm feeling that I'd like to see the Half-Continent become a world like Discworld, supporting a whole array of different story cycles. That's how pumped I am from this interview! Of course, it's easy for me to be pumped because I wouldn't have to write the books. Cornish would.

This interview is part of the 2008 Winter Blog Blast Tour.

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Just Who Is Our Innocent Little Man?

Lamplighter by D.M. Cornish is the second volume in his Monster Blood Tattoo serial. And make no mistake, this is a serial. Though the main character reaches the end of his journey in the first book, The Foundling, it's clear that the book is not a completed story. The second book has a climactic event, but no resolution. Plus a lot of characters are introduced in Lamplighter who don't do a great deal, which suggests to me that we'll be seeing them in the next book. Lady Dolours, for instance, is featured on the cover but plays virtually no role in this book. And, finally, the lengthy Explicarium/Glossary at the end of the book includes many entries referring readers back to Book One.

To enjoy these books, you need to accept the fact that this is a serial and not fight it. So go read the first book before you start this one.

Monster Blood Tattoo takes place in a world perhaps comparable to 17th/18th century Europe, though a 17th/18th century Europe overrun with monsters with whom humans are in constant conflict. A whole array of different types of human monster fighters exist, many of them having subjected themselves to surgical procedures that will give them inhuman powers. A human who has killed a monster gets tattooed with the monster's blood.

The Foundling was a journey story in which our main character, the orphan Rossamund, travels to Wintersmill where he is to train as a lamplighter, one of the people who light lamps along the highway late in the day and then put them out early in the morning. A journey story has a built-in narrative drive, you could say. Plus The Foundling had a marvelous character in the monster fighter for hire, Europe, with whom Rossamund falls in.

Lamplighter is about identity. Rossamund is becoming a lamplighter. Is he also a monster lover and thus a criminal? Why is he so strong? Who is he? That's interesting, but not necessarily something that moves a story along. His lamplighter training is very military in nature and takes place in a military-type fortress. Military training doesn't have the built-in narrative drive of a journey story. What we get here is not very exciting training broken up with fantastic monster attacks. (From what I've heard, that's similar to real military life--unexciting preparation broken up by all-too-exciting engagements.) I mean, really fantastic monster attacks. The last one was especially good, and I didn't see it coming.

The plot for the entire series does thicken in this volume. Someone within the military is creating monsters, though we don't know why. The bad guys appear to be...bureaucrats. Though we don't know, yet, what they have to gain.

The world of Monster Blood Tattoo is very elaborate, with creatures and all kinds of invented job categories among the humans as well as an invented culture within which they live. I found the reading this time around a little more complex. I had to use the glossary quite frequently. I don't think I even knew there was one in the first book until I finished. The backflap says Cornish worked fifteen years creating Half-Continent in which the story takes place. I can believe it.

As I was reading the book, I couldn't help but think how difficult it must have been to edit. Part of an editor's job is to look for inconsistencies and to make sure the world the author has created--whether it's an elaborate new one as in Monster Blood Tattoo or a grade school world we might know today--is believable. In addition to all the different types of monsters and monster fighters (some of whom are called different things within the military), this book uses invented countries, roads, weapons, holidays, days of the week and months of the year. Someone had to keep track of all that and make sure it made sense within the context of the book. I hope he wasn't trying to work on any other books at the same time.

One other interesting point about this book--the women. The world of Monster Blood Tattoo seems to be male dominated. All but one of the lamplighters is a man. Women appear as nurses and cooks and innkeepers. And yet you also have these incredibly powerful women monster fighters. Killers. The men in the story respect and fear them. Personally, I love women who kick ass, and the women who do so in this serial are a big draw for me.

While I can't say I was as big a fan of Lamplighter as I was of The Foundling, I did find myself missing the world within this book when I'd finished it. I suffered a little withdrawal.

By the way, Lamplighter has been nominated for a Cybil.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How Long Do You Suppose It Will Be Until I Read This?

Readers' Rants reports on the second volume in the Monster Blood Tattoo series, Lamplighter. Amazon says it will be available May 1.

The first book in the series, The Foundling, was very good.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Haphazard. Yes.

Miss Erin has an interview up with D.M. Cornish author of Monster Blood Tattoo. I particularly liked the portion on writing process. When asked "What is your writing process like?" Cornish replied, "Haphazard."

I like that. I feel that word may define me. Haphazard.

Labels: ,

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Searching For The Ultimate Adventure

I had a hard time finding "real" information on Elizabeth Haydon the author of The Floating Island, though she has published a number of fantasy titles for adults. The Floating Island is the first in a series for children ten and up.

I had trouble accepting the basic premise of the book, which carries the subtitle The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme. According to the preface, these journals were the basis of two of "the most important books of all time," within, of course, the world of the book. But they've been lost. Only fragments of the journals still exist. "Great care has been taken to reconstruct the parts of the journal that did not survive, so that a whole story can be told."

Well, of course, I'm kind of nitpicky, so my thought is, How? How can they possibly reconstruct the story? And who's doing this? The journal fragments really are just fragments.

But once I was able to just put all that out of my mind, the story is engaging. It reminded me of Monster Blood Tattoo in that it is an adventure fantasy with sophisticated writing. Monster Blood Tattoo has a story line that sticks to its premise, though--a world dealing with monsters. The story line in The Floating Island is a bit like a pinball game. Ven is dealing with pirates, with mermaids, with ghost-like beings, with royalty, with prison. He bounces from thing to thing.

Child readers may not have a problem with that. Or with the fact that one aspect of Ven's character isn't developed at all. He's not a human, but a Nain, beings that live much longer than humans because they age so slowly. He looks thirteen but he's actually fifty. But that isn't picked up on at all in this book. (Though one of his friends does notice that for a fifty-year-old, he's an awful lot like a kid.)

Perhaps Haydon plans to build on Ven's race in a future book. My bias about making each book complete, though, leads me to feel that anything that was brought up in this book should have been dealt with in this book. Dragons, for instance. One appears on the cover, and they're mentioned in the preface. They don't appear anywhere in the body of the book. This led Fuse #8 to award the book a Golden Fuse Award for Most Misleading Cover.

After all these complaints, I still feel the actual sentence-to-sentence, paragraph-to-paragraph writing is well done. This would make a good book for readers whose interests lean to adventure but who have good enough reading skills to handle a little more sophisticated writing.

By the way, Haydon has a curriculum for the book available on-line.

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 22, 2007

News From Down Under

The Children's Book Council of Australia has announced its shortlists for Book of the Year. Included on the shortlist for older readers is a favorite of mine, Monster Blood Tattoo: Book 1 Foundling.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

An Innocent Abroad

I received a copy of Monster Blood Tattoo by D. M. Cornish several months ago. I had a hard time working up much enthusiasm for a book with a monster on the cover and a monster in the title. But I started seeing references to the book here and there on the Internet and finally decided to give it a go.

Monster Blood Tattoo took me back to my teenage years when I was reading expansive historical novels about characters' struggling through adventures out in the big world. Except that this is no historical novel. It's set in a marvelously imagined and detailed world in which monsters are very, very real, and people have to watch out for them on a daily basis. It sounds a little bit like the nineteenth century (I've read somewhere that the nineteenth century is a trend in fantasy, a move away from the medieval stereotype.) but not any nineteenth century we've known.

A young orphan leaves the institution in which he grew up to set out on a career. But on his way to the new job, he's kidnapped. And it's one thing after another after that. The book is filled with unusual terminology, some of which is defined at the beginning of each chapter. I didn't find that any more difficult to deal with than the terminology in many scifi book or even some historical novels. But for readers who find themselves lost, there is an enormous "Explicarium" at the end of the book. I don't think it's necessary, myself, though it does give you a little backstory on some of the characters. Some great characters, by the way (my favorite is Europe), who appear in illustrations done by the author.

My only complaint about this book is that it's a "Book One" and doesn't actually end. Oh, I suppose you could argue that it ends because young Rossamund completes the first stage of his journey. But it's very clear that we've been left wanting more. There's not a completed story here.

I will be looking for the next book, though, and I can't say that about a lot of serials that I read.