Archive for June, 2016

A Review of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai (by Bradley Beaulieu)

About the book:

Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings — cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.

Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings’ laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings’ mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings’ power…if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don’t find her first.

Series: Song of Shattered Sands (Book 1)

Hardcover: 592 pages

Publisher: DAW (September 1, 2015)

Buy it now:


I’ve been dying to read Bradley Beaulieu’s book TWELVE KINGS IN SHARAKHAI for some time now. But since I write Silk Road-inspired fantasy, myself, I elected to wait until I’d gotten to the ARC stage of THE DRAGON’S LEGACY. I fret about other peoples’ stuff leaking into my book (especially the really good stuff, and I anticipated that this book was full of really good stuff).

TWELVE KINGS IN SHARAKHAI was worth the wait. Dude, so good.

I loved that this book is based outside the usual Medieval European milieu, and I loved more that it’s not trope-y desert fantasy filled with hospitable knockoff Bedouins and veiled princesses in peril. This is a rich, new, and skillfully wrought world that I was able to sink into and disappear, and I loved every minute.

I found the world entirely believable and gorgeous, and was rooting for Ceda from the very first sentence on. She’s not perky, she’s not a princess, and she is most certainly NOT waiting for someone to come save her. She’s a driven, skillful, interesting young woman…and a gladiator of sorts, a pit fighter.

Have I mentioned that I loved every minute of it?

If I were to compare this book to any, it would probably be David Anthony Durham’s ACACIA, which I also loved to distraction. Wonder and magic, strange new worlds, impossible odds facing a conflicted and ambiguous heroine…this book is right up my alley. Beaulieu’s writing is gorgeous; it rolls like the soft dunes at times, screams in like a sandstorm at other times, and is always flawlessly executed.

If you love well-written fantasy, and especially if you are hungry for something beyond dreary castles and moldy old dragons, I urge you to go buy this book.


Jai tu wai,



How I Write: Understanding (sort of) Dan Wells’s Seven Point Story Structure

So…story structure.

This is a topic that has been much on my mind as I tackle the second volume in my ridiculously huge saga of ginormous proportions and an unwieldy number of characters (otherwise known as THE DRAGON’S LEGACY volume 2: THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM).

How does one tackle a project of this scope and insanity?

Well, of course with whiskey; that’s obvious, thank you. But what else?

I have heard that perhaps George RR Martin writes organically, that he’s one of those gifted souls who writes without an outline or a detailed road map or plan or anything.

Okay, yeah, Divines bless the man if this is true, but if I tried a stunt like that I’d end up like that young dude who gave up all his money and headed forth to go live in the wilderness of Alaska without a plan or a map or, you know, food.

Time was, I wanted to be a seat-of-my-pants writer. I wanted stories to pour forth from my heart like the moon puking up the Milky Way, to splash my sparkling words across the sky and watch them form amazing patterns before my eyes.

Then I started to take this shit seriously.

I am in no way denigrating ‘pantsers’. Dude, if you can write a brilliant book I don’t give a flying fuck if your method involves hanging upside down inside your closet while singing “Hallelujah” in a snide falsetto; you do you. But if *I* attempt to write anything longer than a dirty limerick without a blueprint, well:

I’m sure it’s art, but I don’t understand it.

I wish I’d known more about story structure when I began writing THE DRAGON’S LEGACY. It certainly would have been finished in less time, and the first draft would have been more gorgeous and less goatfuckery, for sure. But the second time round, when I was planning SPLIT FEATHER, I’d begun to see the light.

SPLIT FEATHER is a more straightforward story than THE DRAGON’S LEGACY, in pretty much every way. There’s a definite Hero’s Journey, a single POV, and nowhere near a fucktillion subplots. So it was a good story to practice laying out against a clear structure. While fleshing out chapters and scenes and all those things that make a garden grow, I found articles and books and videos about the Seven Point Story Structure of particular interest.

You can read about Dan Wells’s Seven Point Story Structure here:

Dan Wells’s Seven Point Story Structure

Or, like, a million other places on the web. Which you can find here:

Ta daaaaah! Don’t get distracted by cat videos, though.

Seriously. Cute little fuckers. Also, that octopus with a coconut shell, right?


And now you can see why I need an outline…


Where was I? Introducing a thirty-fifth POV character?

No, I was not…because I have an outline.

As I was trying to fully and dutifully absorb every slender nuance of meaning that could possibly be found in discussions of this story structure—and maybe procrastinating a little, because starting a new book is scarier than that clown doll that I’m pretty sure is hiding under my bed—I was mentally using what I’d learned to break down THE HOBBIT into a seven point outline. I chose that particular book because I’ve read it well over a hundred times and know that story so well I can hold it in my mind and look at it from every angle.

Now. One of the things I love so much about THE HOBBIT is the writing. That story is my safe haven, even though every time I read it I end up eating so much bacon and cheese I gain like five pounds. I adore Tolkien’s storytelling voice, the way in which he speaks directly to the audience, and o! The lovely quotes! I ran across one particular quote, which seemed to fully describe a plot point.

Specifically, this was Plot Point One, the point in our story at which something within the protagonist responds to the Call to Adventure (pardon me whilst I mix and match my story structures, kiddos), and the quote was:

“As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and jealous love, the desire of the hearts of the dwarves. Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.” ~JRR Tolkien, THE HOBBIT


And then something bookish woke up inside me, and I wondered whether I could find a quote that I felt best exemplified every beat in the story structure I was studying. This turned out to be surprisingly easy to do (even though I admit to having been so smitten with Tolkien’s words, once again, that I sat down with a plate of crisp bacon and sharp cheddar, and read the whole thing through again).

When I was finished, I thought the resultant outline was harmonious and elegant; better yet, if you read the selected quotes in order, they do a pretty good job of telling the heart of the story. My seven point breakdown of THE HOBBIT, using quotes from the book, ended up looking like this:


Seven Point Plot Quotes

HOOK: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

KEY EVENT: “Sorry! I don’t want any adventures, thank you. Not Today. Good morning! But please come to tea – any time you like! Why not tomorrow? Good bye!”

PLOT POINT 1: “Let’s have no more argument. I have chosen Mr. Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you. If I say he is a Burglar, a Burglar he is, or will be when the time comes. There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself. You may (possibly) all live to thank me yet.”

PLOT POINT 1 (alternate): “As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and jealous love, the desire of the hearts of the dwarves. Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”

PINCH POINT 1: “Fly, you fools!”

MIDPOINT: “It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterwards were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait.”

PINCH POINT 2: “By the beard of Durin! I wish I had Gandalf here! Curse him for his choice of you! May his beard wither! As for you I will throw you to the rocks!” he cried and lifted Bilbo in his arms.”

PLOT POINT 2: “I go now to the halls of waiting to sit beside my fathers, until the world is renewed. Since I leave now all gold and silver, and go where it is of little worth, I wish to part in friendship from you, and I would take back my words and deeds at the Gate.”

RESOLUTION: “So ended the adventures of the Misty Mountains. Soon Bilbo’s stomach was feeling full and comfortable again, and he felt he could sleep contentedly, though really he would have liked a loaf and butter better than bits of meat toasted on sticks. He slept curled up on the hard rock more soundly than ever he had done on his feather-bed in his own little hole at home. But all night he dreamed of his own house and wandered in his sleep into all his different rooms looking for something that he could not find nor remember what it looked like.”

RETURN: “Indeed Bilbo found he had lost more than spoons – he had lost his reputation. It is true that for ever after he remained an elf-friend, and had the honour of dwarves, wizards, and all such folk as ever passed that way; but he was no longer quite respectable. He was in fact held by all the hobbits of the neighbourhood to be “queer” – except by his nephews and nieces on the Took side, but even they were not encouraged in their friendship by their elders.

“I am sorry to say he did not mind. He was quite content; and the sound of the kettle on his hearth was ever after more musical than it had been even in the quiet days before the Unexpected Party.”


Notice, if you will, that for Plot Point 1 I identified two quotes that I thought might showcase the Call to Adventure. This is true of every plot point; indeed, as I studied and thought about it, the quotes and points I chose might shift a scene or two. In this way I began to better understand this particular method of structuring a story.

AND THEN a thought occurred to me. One of the things I long to do is write beautifully. I wondered whether I could plan out a seven point story outline by thinking up quotes for my own story—ahead of writing any of it—and so build a blueprint not only of the actions and reactions I needed to lead Siggy from the darkness I’d dropped her into (that’s not a spoiler. I torment all my characters and always will.) and down the even darker path I’d chosen (I told you. Torment and wickedness.).

I can’t share the result here because SPOILERS, but the answer was a definitive fuck yeah. Not only did I have waypoints to keep me on track as I was writing, but I now had images and emotions and in some cases entire paragraphs or scenes to use as stepping-stones. Probably three quarters of the quotes I thought up using this weird method made it into the story, and the rest didn’t wander far from the trail.

I can’t ever show you the first novel I wrote–without an outline–because I burned that fucker with prejudice, but I can assure you that SPLIT FEATHER was a whole hell of a lot better as far as structure. For one thing…it HAS a structure. And it even tells the story I set out wanting to tell.

And that’s the whole point of this journey, innit?

Anyhow, yeah, that’s one of the weird methods I use when I’m planning and outlining and all that good stuff.

Procrastination is another huge part of my process.

…just sayin’.

I hope someone out there in the Nethersphere finds this moderately weird and maybe a little bit useful. For myself, I’m going to go think up some snarky, funny, depressing, devastating quotes and passages for my next book, THE FORBIDDEN CITY.

Since you’re reading this, I can reasonably infer that you are probably procrastinating, as well. My next bit of advice?

Get off the fucking Internet and go write, knucklehead.


Jai tu wai!



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