The ISLAND OF FOG fantasy series

Posted on February 22, 2013 (Subscribe to Blog)

I've been quiet on the blogging front lately, but I've been busy behind the scenes. I went to England for a couple of weeks this month and caught up on reading and editing every chance I got. Obviously I was editing Fog Book 6, Chamber of Ghosts, which is scheduled for release on April 24.

But what was I reading?

Why, I'm glad you asked. For the first time, I'm reading my own Fog series from start to finish. Naturally I read each book numerous times while writing, editing, proofing, and publishing, but I haven't read any of them since other than dipping in once in a while to check facts and continuity.

For the most part, I'm pleased. I found Island of Fog to be a little rough around the edges in places – sentences that I'd write differently today, a number of minor technical faults and typos, that sort of thing. Nothing major, but I still managed to come away with a list of 69 tiny edits. Most of these were missing or incorrectly used hyphens, or repeated words, or clunky phrasing. Anyway, I went through the book and put things right.

I also noticed on Amazon recently that a certain phrase in the book has been highlighted by readers. Kindle users can do this. They can highlight something they liked or disliked and make their highlight public. In the case of Island of Fog, four people highlighted one particular sentence. Taken out of context, I have to admit it's pretty funny:

Amazon Highlights

Clever readers will know that this is a scene in the classroom when Hal spoke to his friends right after he belched up fire and burnt the back of Lauren's chair. It made sense when I wrote it, but okay, I admit, it's a funny comment for Hal to make when taken out of context like this. I've altered it slightly to avoid ridicule, and this new version of the book (sans typos) will be live in the next week or so. I'll be interested to see if the highlight remains on Amazon once the text is altered!

Overall, I liked the story. It's not perfect, and I do see it for what it is – a debut novel. But I stand by it and have no plans to change anything other than those minor typos mentioned above.

Labyrinth of Fire is, I think, better written, at least from a technical point of view. I breezed through page and page without finding a single word out of place (in my opinion anyway). That's not to say it's a literary masterpiece, just that I'm really happy with my own work.

Someone recently mentioned that it was slow to start, and it is a little, but I think that's a problem more for older readers than young. I recall reading Enid Byton's mystery and adventure books when I was around 9-12, and I loved all the stuff that happened before the story got going. The young adventurers would spend a good quarter of the book just reuniting and going on a picnic and catching up, and infuriating the village policeman, and so on – all before the plot kicked in. It was brilliant. Today, all that stuff seems superfluous. Similarly, in Labyrinth, I guess older readers might be less interested in the initial scenes where Hal and his friends are checking out the village and settling in. That said, I didn't really spot anything that was unnecessary.

The action scenes with the harpies and dragons were (again, in my opinion) top-notch! Hehe. And then there's the glass faerie ball. Two much-respected readers suggested this was a case of deus ex machina, where a seemingly unresolvable plot problem is solved by a lucky break. I never saw this when I wrote it, nor later when it was mentioned, and not now either, having read the book fresh. So although I understand and respect the point of view, I still don't agree with it. The reason is because I planned it this way from the very start, and there are plenty of references to the glass ball from early on. So it doesn't feel forced to me at all. The trick, though, is convincing the reader that it was planned. It really was, and it makes sense to me, but... well, that's not to say I'm right about it.

Anyway, again, so far I'm pleased. I can't wait to get stuck into Mountain of Whispers, and I have it all cued up and ready to go on my Kindle.

All this re-reading, by the way, is something I always planned to do before I launched Chamber of Ghosts. I wanted to make sure there was nothing I'd forgotten, no threads left untied. In re-reading the books, I'm finding small details I'd actually misremembered, or details that have since evolved, and there's one thing in particular – fairly minor – that I want to adjust in Chamber to avoid a continuity problem for sharp-eyed readers.

So as much fun as it is to read my own books for a change, I still consider this work, work, work.

Comment by BRIAN CLOPPER on Saturday, February 23, 2013...

Having read your first book now five times (once for myself and now four times with four different 5th grade classes), I can attest that it holds up well. The later books in the series show your development as a writer and it's nice to see the growth with each book.

Your work is a class act! I can't wait to see the next series you tackle and how you build it from the ground up having been informed by the crafting of the Fog series.

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Saturday, February 23, 2013...

Thanks! And I can't wait either. By the end of Chamber of Ghosts I will have written about 600,000 words, which is a good amount of practicing for what lies ahead. :-)

Comment by DQ on Saturday, February 23, 2013...

I'd really like to know if you have any advice on how I can encourage my child to be able to write like this. I believe he has it in him... Was there anything that helped you get started?

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Saturday, February 23, 2013...

DQ, keeping your fingers crossed might help! ;-)

When I was about 9, I didn't read a whole lot until my mum gave me a bunch of Enid Blyton books. I devoured them and spent all my pocket money (allowance) on more, and have been a reader ever since. But I'm still not sure if I became a reader because of those books or the other way around.

Either way, though, I think all we can do with a child is encourage him/her to read and write. My own 8-year-old girl, Lily, likes to reads but doesn't have that hunger — at least not yet. When I was just a couple of years older than her, I collected books and lined them up on my bookshelf, whereas today we're lucky if Lily picks them up off the floor when she's done. But hey, a year or two makes all the difference.

A friend of hers, about the same age, didn't read much until he was given a Kindle for Christmas. Since then he's become an avid reader. Lily now has her own Kindle, but it's a Kindle Fire, and she plays games on it all the time! Sigh.

Years ago, I wrote a book for her (with her name on the front) based on stories we make up together, and recently she asked if I could write another, and I said yes, WE will (meaning she'll have a much bigger involvement this time). So this could be good. I'll get her to plan the chapters, make up the story, create characters, etc, and I'll try and get her to write some of it. I'll probably expand on it and rewrite a lot of it, but hopefully it'll remain her creation, something she can be proud of.

I do think it helps having copies of my books lying around, though. She often shows them to her friends. :-)

Comment by ANONYMOUS on Saturday, March 2, 2013...

Very good books. Always kept my interest.

Comment by ASHLEY on Wednesday, April 9, 2014...

I am really looking forward to your next book! I have devoured your whole island of fog stories in two weeks and I almost can't wait to read the next one!

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