on 27 April 2013
About a year ago someone challenged the stable of writers from Firedance Books to compose an anthology themed around the word Firedance.
It was tougher than we thought. Months of blood, tears and sweat later - here it is. It's wonderful to be included in a project with so many writers that I admire and respect so much. Every one of their stories is beautifully crafted, memorable and riveting.
I hope you'll enjoy and treasure this as much as I do.
on 6 July 2013
This book, on ideas to do with Firedance, is a curious mish mash. It is well produced, printed and designed. Nevertheless one wonders why they bothered. The writing ranges from quite good to terrible. The "stories" all reflect the anthology title in one way or another, but few engage the reader. Some of them are not stories, merely visions. All very well in their way, but one feels a glimpse of some idea that the author had about something or the other is a starting point, not the finished product. This is true, for example, of "The Flame" which reads like a teenage wet dream.
Some of this collection falls under the rubric of fantasy. To catch and hold the reader's attention the writer of fantasy (and the writer of science fiction) must early on set the scene for us, describing aspects of the world we are going to be in with authority. This is not done by throwing strange words (all nouns) about and never bothering to say what they mean. The author of "Dancing Down from Heaven" (a plot free story) commits this sin over and over. The idea of the story, such as it is, would work better in a Kansas cornfield, where we could get a contrast between the unfamiliar world of an alien visitor and human surroundings.
Some of the writing is in a heavy going portentous style that the authors seem to feel is demanded by their subject. I have news for them, it doesn't. "Fire Starter" avoids this problem, and, written in a cheerful demotic style, is the better for it. One wishes, though, that its author had chosen a better topic. Tales that rely on ideas like 'life force' make one cringe.
There are some welcome stories outside the realm of fantasy. "Messing with Fire" is a Raymond Chandlerish gangsters and secret agents piece with a beginning, a middle and an end. It is predictable but moves along with verve. One feels the editor's blue pencil was needed in places, but, as we all know, there is a world wide shortage of blue pencils.
Too often one feels there is a good idea trying to get out, but all we have is a first draft. "By the Throat" is an example. A story about a Great Dane and its owner's evil doings is spoilt by clumsy writing and weak editing. Pity.
Firedance Books is an authors' collective which publishes its members' own books. This is a great idea, removing the agent, publisher (and bookshop) from the bottom line. The need remains, however, for the key functions of selection and editing. Even best selling authors have their work extensively reviewed and modified before it sees the light of day. This is a painful lesson Firedance will have to learn if it is to succeed. Having edited several anthologies myself I know how difficult it is to achieve a balanced, well written selection on any theme. There are some gold nuggets here, but far too much dross.