<![CDATA[FARRELL KEELING - Blog]]>Tue, 04 Aug 2020 13:17:15 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[A Bizarre Foray into the Merry Go Round of Trump's Presidency: Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward]]>Tue, 04 Aug 2020 08:37:13 GMThttp://farrellkeeling.com/blog/a-bizarre-foray-into-the-merry-go-round-of-trumps-presidency-fear-trump-in-the-white-house-by-bob-woodward
There's a saying by the president, Donald Trump, that practically flies out of the pages.

"Real power is, I don't even want to use the word, fear."

Though an airborne quality may certainly befit such words, however, perhaps they are deserving of less clean imagery; thick smog, oozing from the pages at hand, would seem more suited. Indeed, such is the nature of Bob Woodward's observations that alarm bells should be ringing in perpetuity in the background, as you delve deeper into the dragon's den.
Of course, to those of us with the sense enough to understand what is deemed 'presidential behaviour', the shocking quality of Trump's first term in power will hardly come as a great surprise. What may come as a greater shock - hear me out here - is how Woodward's account of the White House's daily proceedings manages to humanise one of the most maligned political leaders of our generation.

Having furiously thumbed down a host of tweets previously, whilst practically frothing at the mouth with rage, I found myself embroiled in a conflict of sorts against my cognitive compulsion toward empathy. Though, before I take an unintended tumble into the pit of cancel culture, I feel I should state, for the record, my continuing, hm, 'disapproval' (to put it lightly), of Trump's presidency.

​Despite the initial suggestion of Trump's rule by iron fist, Woodward's detailing of the power struggles within the White House appear to paint a completely opposing picture - one of a temperamental teenager boasting of his superiority (not least of all about the ginormous proportions of his nuclear button).

​Trump may claim to rule by fear, yet, if Woodward's account is anything to go by, Trump's supposed dominance is little more than a fantasy permitted by a squalling child's imagination. The president's aides' efforts to protect Trump from his most disastrous whims by snatching documents from his desk - not to mention private outbursts of exasperation at his child-like ignorance - certainly resembles that of a parental role in this fantastical scene that whiffs of comedic orchestration.

Fear presents a White House with an often vacant throne - of a man somehow managing to live with delusions of grandeur whilst in the world's most prestigious public office. Woodward's litany of sources pull back the curtain to reveal that, actually, not a great deal has changed; the Establishment, in spite of Trump's grand claims, remain a notable faction within the White House, among stiff-backed generals and expletive-merry Cabinet members.

Resisting what one can imagine to be near insurmountable temptation to write in an incriminating fashion, Woodward offers you a more than generous peek into this political circus from underneath the pinstriped tent flaps, that will leave you just as baffled and mesmerised as one with a front-row ticket. Make up your own mind about him, he says. While this approach may leave some feeling a little short-changed, having expected a skewering of sorts, one cannot deny that the main attraction of this encyclopedic work lies in its lack of authorly instruction.

Take from the book what you will and don't be surprised if you feel more than unfettered rage.

Enjoy the show.

- Farrell
<![CDATA[A Middle-Point Fantasy Entry Heavy on Foreshadowing: Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan]]>Tue, 28 Jul 2020 13:36:46 GMThttp://farrellkeeling.com/blog/a-middle-point-fantasy-entry-heavy-on-foreshadowing-lord-of-chaos-by-robert-jordan
Lord of Chaos is Robert Jordan's sixth entry into the Wheel of Time series, following the events of The Fires of Heaven. 

"On the slopes of Shayol Ghul, the Myrddraal swords are forged, and the sky is not the sky of this world..." 
- Lord of Chaos

Before my return to Jordan's exquisitely expansive world, I had caught wind of some pretty despairing reviews of the later entries of The Wheel of Time. The gist seemed to be that, from the point of The Fires of Heaven (or The Shadow Rising, depending on who you listen to), the Wheel of Time starts to become less Trolloc-slaying fun and more cool, political intrigue with a dash of the occasional swordplay and world-bending magical feats.
Such critique of Lord of Chaos is not - as much as it pains me to admit - entirely undeserved. Indeed, the novel reads as being less committed to narrative progression than its predecessors, and instead functioning as a point of connection between Acts. However, for those of us who appreciate fine description, there is still a great deal of beauty to be found in Jordan's prose to make up for any such deficiencies.

As with every Wheel of Time novel, as far as I remember, if the pacing was not to your liking throughout the main body of this commendably bulky work, you're in for one hell of a shock come the final thirty or so pages. Resisting the urge to be loose with the details, I could only compare the finale to the Wheel of Time's sixth instalment as being caught napping at the peak of the Verrückt only later to be shoved abruptly down the slide.

​- Farrell
<![CDATA[Phoenix Saga Progress Report]]>Sun, 16 Feb 2020 14:55:42 GMThttp://farrellkeeling.com/blog/phoenix-saga-progress-report​While I'm delighted to be back working on the Phoenix Saga, I can't help but feel that *Mysterious Project No.3*, as exciting as it was at the time, has been something of a palette cleanser.

Moving on to a new series was always going to be a challenge in itself, of course, even more so if you were as foolish enough, as I, to think you could detach yourself from your SIP (series/saga in progress, is that a thing?). Not to say that it isn't doable. Certainly, for the more experienced writers out there, a capacity for cold-blooded ruthlessness when it comes to switching between projects has often long-since been cultivated. Take Will Wight for instance, currently demonstrating such a feat with his The Elder Empire series... boy, is that guy just damn productive....
​*Stares wistfully into the great outdoors*

Anyway! I suppose I should talk about the somewhat less mysterious project I'm currently  bashing out - Book 3 of the Phoenix Saga.

Good news! I'm up to about 73 pages! Bad news: I've somehow only completed three chapters, which potentially suggests that this one could be mightily chunkier than Obsidian Crown. Which, I suppose, is a good thing... right?

If I was pressured for an estimate, I'd say this could be a 400+ pager, which would fit with the general increase from the last two books. Naturally, more pages, however, does mean greater pressure to ensure quality within each chapter, so it'll be an interesting challenge!

As I'm sure you've already surmised, this does mean my previous expectation of sending out a manuscript to betas by early 2020 (for my previous *mysterious project*) will have to be tweaked juuuuuuust a little bit. Realistically, taking into consideration my commitments to uni work (damn you, dissertation!), I feel we're probably looking at yet another Summer release for the third instalment of the Phoenix Saga.

Keep your eyes peeled, people, and thanks for bearing with me!

- Farrell
<![CDATA[Change of Plan]]>Sat, 01 Feb 2020 14:55:03 GMThttp://farrellkeeling.com/blog/change-of-planWelcome one and all, and an outrageously belated Happy New Year to you lovely people!

For those of you who haven't come across my guest appearance on Yakira Goldberg's blog (which you can catch here) I thought I'd cobble together a quick post to inform you all of a recent change of heart I've had in regard to my writing.

I'm still writing, by the way! I won't be hanging up the keyboard just yet.

I had been working since the Summer on a completely separate project, basically with the idea of seeing how quickly I could write a novel (extremely rough first draft, more like). Inevitably, however, life tends to get in the way of our goals and I was thrust once more into university life, and all the fun and joy that it entails. Not to say I'm not enjoying it, but, as one might expect, it has made writing more of a juggling exercise.

As such - and considering how much I've missed the Phoenix Saga - I've decided to focus all my attentions on the third book and the following instalments before I attempt such an ambitious move again.

Bring on the Phoenix.]]>
<![CDATA[Soft vs Hard Magic Systems]]>Tue, 29 Oct 2019 09:37:24 GMThttp://farrellkeeling.com/blog/soft-vs-hard-magic-systemsSo... I was wondering this morning about the practicalities of designing either a 'soft' or 'hard' magic system within a book.

Establishing strong characters and an equally compelling story line should, in my opinion, always be the first port of call for any genre. But magic systems are also the calling cards of Fantasy - they make the genre distinctive.

Harry Potter has wands and spells; the Mistborn Trilogy has a strict system of rules and limitations, requiring the consumption of metals for magic and for the 'magic user' to have been born able to use one or all of the metals; and then you have Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (LoTR), where the limitations and extent of magic are shrouded in mystery.
I had an English Literature teacher who found the use of magic in books utterly abhorrent; he felt it undermined any clever writing and effectively allowed characters a get-out-of-jail-free card when things got a bit sticky.

Proponents of hard magic systems argue that by having a clearly designed magic system with a set of rules and limitations ensures a better functioning novel - characters can't cheat their way out of trouble and readers understand how the magic works.

Soft magic systems, as present in the likes of LoTR, work quite well in the sense that magic isn't used so much to get characters out of trouble but rather to project a sense of wonder about the world as you explore it.

Things get a little blurry between the two distinctions when you factor in how 'nebulous' or 'rational' a magic system in a particular book is.

A rational magic system will establish consistent laws that the characters have to follow when wielding magic. A nebulous magic system things are bit more... iffy; take, for instance, Gandalf. In LoTR we see brief flashes of awesome power but we don't really know the full extent of his powers, its limitations, how it works, etc, etc.

Brandon Sanderson (author of the Mistborn Trilogy) laid out a set of guidelines for the building of magic systems in Fantasy:

Sanderson's First Law: An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic in a satisfying way is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.

Sanderson's Second Law: Weaknesses (also Limits and Costs) are more interesting than powers.

Sanderson's Third Law: Expand on what you have already, before you add something new. If you change one thing, you change the world.

Hope you enjoyed reading this!

​- Farrell