Monthly Archives: June 2015

Reading A-Z: U to Z!

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The Unfinished Song, Book 1: Initiate, by Tara Maya
The real title of this is “Initiate”, but my Kindle had it filed under U for “Unfinished”. So U it is.
I hesitated a bit on deciding to read this because the cover on the edition I have calls it Young Adult, which generally isn’t my reading of choice, and I’m generally not into fae/fairies either. But wow, am I glad I went ahead and read it. The story has a depth and sophistication that makes it much more adult than a lot of YA I’ve read (also, some of the subject matter might be considered more mature than would be usual for a YA audience). It’s set in a refreshingly original world based on ancient Native American cultures and settings, and while fae creatures play an important role, the emphasis is solidly on the human characters. Enchanting, intriguing, and beautifully written. (full review)

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Veil of the Dragon, byTom Barczak
Beautifully-written fantasy about a man facing his destiny to save the world from evil, who has to overcome the evil within himself and those who are supposed to help him on his way. The main attraction of this book is the prose, highly visual (not surprising, since the author is an illustrator and architect; the book is illustrated with the author’s own drawings) and impressionistic, weaving visions and reality together. (full review)

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Whiskey and Wheelguns – various authors
“Where the Devil Drinks” – Alexander Nader
“Watch the Line” – Joriah Wood
“Hair of the Dog” – J. Edward Paul
“Big Roamer” – Michael D. Woods
“Dark as Night” – John Weeast
“Zarahemla and the Skinwalkers” – R.A. Williamson
Six teasers/prologues/backstories to stories in the Whiskey & Wheelguns shared weird west universe. Creepy, magical, and filled with weird western goodness. Apparently, the collective kind of changed direction after this collection was released, so further installments aren’t always easy to find, but based on the taste here, it’s worth the effort.

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Oxygen, by John S. Olson & Randy Ingermanson
I didn’t have anything for X, so I went with the next best thing – a title with X in it.
Hard science fiction isn’t my usual reading, but one of the authors of Oxygen, Randy Ingermanson, developed a popular outlining method for writers (the Snowflake method) and I found out about Oxygen on his site. I’ll admit that what grabbed me was the romance aspect of “science fiction romance”, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying everything about this book. Fun, exciting, suspenseful, with a sweet romance and some thought-provoking ideas. (full review)

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Beyond Sanctuary, by Janet Morris
I only had a couple of different possibilities for Y but couldn’t stick with any of them, so I chose Beyond Sanctuary because it has two Ys in the title. Lame, but hey, whatever. Plus I’ve owed the author a read-and-review on it for a while now. [Please note, with very rare exceptions, I no longer do read-and-review requests.]
Interesting, exciting sword-and-sorcery set in the Thieves’ World shared world, well-written in beautiful, poetic prose. I’m not familiar with Thieves’ World, so it took me a while to figure out what was going on in Beyond Sanctuary, but eventually I got the hang of most of it. On the down side, I found the two heroes, Tempus and Niko, deeply unlikeable – one is a rapist, the other has a penchant for deflowering barely pubescent virgins. To me, these are deal-breakers when it comes to heroes. It’s a testament to the author’s storytelling skills that when I came across things that would normally make me stop reading and delete the book, I had to keep going to find out how the story turned out. (full review)

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Zanna’s Outlaw – Julie Lence
Sweet-natured (though slightly spicy) western historical romance. What I liked best about Zanna’s Outlaw was Buck. Even though he’s an outlaw, he’s also a gentleman through and through. He cares about protecting Zanna and treats her well. And even though no one else in town thinks it’s a problem when the town prostitute, Fancy, gets beat up by a client, he makes it clear that no one’s going to treat women that way in his town. Quick, fun read with a likeable hero and charming romance. (full review)

And that brings the Reading A-Z Challenge to an end! (See the other installments: A-G, H-N, and O-T.) Next I’ll just be reading a bunch of books I’ve been wanting to get to for a while, as well as more from some new favorites I’ve discovered. Watch for periodic reading roundups for my recommendations!
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Friday 5: Five of my must-have writing tools

For this week’s Friday 5, here are five of my must-have writing tools beyond the obvious (computer, printer, paper).

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1. Liquid Story Binder (writing software) http://www.blackobelisksoftware.com/
Kinda old now, but full of useful features and amazingly flexible. I can go from brainstorming and outlining to writing to revision and spellchecking all in one program. Scrivener is the really popular writing program now, and it has a lot of features in common with LSB, but I found it a little too regimented. This image shows a working layout from The Lost Book of Anggird, with a timeline, the Builder I wrote in (Builders are a tool that collects a lot of files into one larger file with a “table of content” on the side that lets you add, delete, and move smaller individual files around), and a listing all the files in that project.

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2. Index cards.
I’ll confess, I kind of have a fetish for index cards. One of my desk drawers is crammed full of unopened packs in both 3 x 5 and 4 x 6 sizes. I use these for outlining, putting each scene idea on a card, then I can see where the blanks are that need to be filled in and also rearrange them as needed. I also use them for revision. I make a scene for each card (as described here: http://www.kyrahalland.com/blog/daughter-of-the-wildings-revision-progress) with a one-sentence summary of the scene, notes on the purpose of the scene, the situation or conflict it addresses, what changes in the scene to move the story forward, and what revisions I need to make in the scene.

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3. Post-its.
I use a ton of post-its, or sticky notes. I put them on my revision index cards to give myself an idea of how much work each scene needs (I’m almost never right) (also see the post linked above). I also use them to mark the place in my manuscript where I left off editing, and also to leave notes to myself in the manuscript of things I think of that need to be changed later on. For example, in the crossing the river scene in To the Gap (upcoming book 4), I put a sticky note saying “Mrs B rides across fully clothed”. Cryptic, but I know what it means, and when I get to that part I’ll know I meant to change that. (rides across fully clothed, as opposed to swimming across the river in her underwear like everyone else has to do, if you’re wondering.)

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4. Timer.
I use this on days when I’m having trouble focusing, set for 15 minutes at a time. Or if I have other chores I need to get done, I set it for 30 minutes at a time, then go work on other stuff for a bit. Or if my work hours have been slipping, I set it for the number of hours I need to work that day to make sure I get them all in.

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5. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1st edition.
My parents gave me this for Christmas (or maybe my birthday? they’re close together) when I was in, hm, 5th or 6th grade, and I still have it. This is the original edition, with an extensive section in the back on word origins, which is great for coming up with fantasy words. It’s huge and heavy, and since it’s over 40 years old its eleventy-gazillion entries don’t include the latest slang and buzzwords (but since I write other-world fantasy I don’t need those anyway), but it’s my authoritative go-to for spelling, definitions, and usage (the extensive usage notes have been a lifesaver more than once). An oldie but goodie, and I have no plans to quit using it.

I’m being featured!

This week I’m the featured author in my Goodreads group, Paranormal, Fantasy, Dystopia and Romance Readers, Writers and Reviewers! I want to say thanks to all these nice people who are helping promote me this week:
Aoife Marie Sheridan
Jessica Page
Steve Downes
Aneza Lee
Lynn Thompson
J.R. Boles
Felicite Lilly
A.S. Johnson
Brandy Isaacs
Shari Sakurai
J. Lawrence
Pauline M. Ross
Linda Andrews
M.L. Crum
Ellen Allen
Sue Perry

Go check them out!


Friday 5: Chapter 5 Snippets

It’s time again for the Friday 5! This week, five-sentence (more or less) snippets from the fifth chapter of five of my books.

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In Urdaisunia, Rashali has been elected to take her village’s thanks to a Sazar nobleman who did them a favor:

Rashali looked across the road at Moon Bend, which she had never left in all her life. She had never traveled to Tigun’s native village on the Tabra to meet his parents, or even to the next village downriver. Zir, the great city, was very far away, four days’ walk or more.

And may she be damned to Araskagan’s darkest pits if she ever chased after a Sazar in order to grovel to him.

“You have to go, Rashali,” a woman said. “He’ll be angry if he thinks we’re ungrateful.”


PictureFrom Chosen of Azara, Juzeva, traveling through the desert in search of a mysterious Source, has an unwelcome encounter:

Hours later, when the sun was sinking low in the sky, she rounded a bend in a narrow gap between two hills and found her path blocked by a red-gold cat the size of a horse. She froze as the animal looked at her through gold eyes and growled softly in its throat.

She fought back a panicked urge to flee. If she tried to run away, the beast would easily chase her down, and she couldn’t climb up the steep, rocky hillsides to escape from it. But if she held still, maybe it would lose interest in her.

The huge cat growled again, then let out a loud roar.


PictureIn The Lost Book of Anggird, Professor Rossony is anxiously waiting for a decision vital to his research:

“Sir Baril!” Professor Rossony called out as he caught up with the Lord Regent just outside the doors of the Lectorium.

The white-haired, aristocratic-looking Regent stepped aside so that they wouldn’t block the doorway. “Your application is still under consideration, Rossony,” he said with an air of impatience, as though they had had this conversation too many times already. “You do understand that this is a decision which cannot be reached in haste.”

“Of course, Sir Baril. But —”

“Be assured, Professor Rossony, we will inform you of our decision the moment we make it.  Good day.”


PictureIn Sarya’s Song, Sarya is undergoing a Penance lashing from a Master who has taken a dislike to her:

Sarya counted the strokes, wincing with each sharp smack of the leather thongs on her back. This whipping was harder than the other one had been, just within the bounds of what was permitted. After the fifth lash, she started to stand up, then a sixth stroke came down hard across her back. Pain ripped from her shoulder to her waist, and a warm wetness began spreading from where the lash had struck her.

She stumbled to her feet and spun to face Master Uldo. “Damn you, that was six! And you drew blood!”


PictureFrom Beneath the Canyons, Silas and Lainie are investigating the strange ore that Carden’s miners are digging up:

Mr. Vendine took a bandana out of one of his duster pockets, folded it and covered her hand with it, then dropped a few of the black lumps into her palm.

Icy pain shot up through her arm, seizing her heart and her lungs in freezing agony. Dark terror wrapped around her mind, cutting off sight, hearing, and even thought. Cold ran through her veins, spreading through her arms, her back and legs, her belly and loins. It was like the night terrors, only a hundred times – a thousand times – worse.


Author Spotlight: Felicite Lilly

Picture1. Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born out west in Aurora, Colorado. Due to that, I began skiing when I was 3. Now if you put skiis on my feet I would face-plant.  I then moved to Salt Lake City, Utah – I don’t care what anyone tells me there is not a more beautiful place than Spring in the mountains.  I have lived in Dayton, Ohio for about 26 years now.  I am married and we have a little boy that steals my heart daily.  I am Greek, German, Irish and Scotch.

2. When did you start writing, and why?
The minute I could hold a crayon, I started “writing”.  I would make picture books and tell stories about them.  My sister is 8 years older than me and says I used to driver her nuts with it. When I was in college I would be writing a short story while doing the rest of my course work.  I got a lot of dumbfounded looks and a lot of “why?” My answer to them? “I need a break.”

Why did I start writing?  I loved creating.  I started reading and never stopped. From reading, my imagination was developed to a healthy level.  Some may even say, to a very active level. My son is very imaginative as well, and I love and encourage it the way my parents did with me.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?

I write whatever strikes my fancy.  However, Demons is a fantasy/paranormal/action/romance…they don’t have a category like that for classification purposes, so I call it either fantasy or paranormal romance.

I decided on this genre because that is who Delaney is.  Let me explain, I created Delaney before the world I surrounded her with.  She was a Hunter, so my book automatically led me to fantasy and the love of her life, Az, is a Demon so paranormal romance. I try not to confine myself to one genre, if something strikes me I will write it.  I’ve even written children’s stories with my son.

What do I enjoy about it? I love my world and my characters.  I wouldn’t want them any other way.  Some of them are flawed, of course, who’s perfect? But that is what I love about it.  There is perfection in their imperfections.

Picture4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?

My latest book is Demons, A Hunter’s Novel, Book 1.   It’s going to be a three book series, Demons is out now (Kindle and paperback on Amazon), Darkness (book 2) should be out by July, and Destiny (book 3) will be out either late 2015 or early 2016.  I am also writing a standalone romance, that I got the idea for while I was in Las Vegas, that has the working title of An Unknown Place.

5. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.

The world that surrounds our main characters is filled with supernaturals.  Demons, mostly, surround our characters, but there are still others, Drovers (supernatural shifters that have to stay within a certain radius of their leader), Werewolves, Vampires, Fairies and even Angels. The group that keeps the supernatural population in line is the Hunters.  They protect the humans from knowing about supernaturals as well as keep humans physically safe from them.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?

Delaney (goes by Laney) Hinders is the female lead, the heroine. She is tall at 5’ 10”, curvy, with black hair and light blue eyes.  She is a Hunter.  We meet her at a very dark time in her life.  She has been in a self-imposed, self-hating haze for six months due to her breakup with her boyfriend, which doesn’t seem to be a strong enough word for their connection, Azrael.  This book deals with a lot of her pain and the fall out of past decisions, as well as supernatural issues.  And with all of this on her plate, there still a budding strength in her.  In the next book, well, she’s pretty kick ass even though and in spite of some things that happen.Azrael is a Delaney’s boyfriend, her heart, her Demon.  He is absolutely dedicated to Delaney, from start to finish.  He would do anything for her, but she won’t let him.  Delaney is Hell-bent on protecting him, and all Azrael wants to do is the same.  Az knows they are better together than apart.  He is also very high up in the Demon ranks – second in command, as well as a born Enforcer (he keeps Demons in line when they violate their rules).  He moved up when Delaney broke it off with him.  The fact that Azrael is willing to give up anything for Delaney is what every woman wants to hear…except Delaney.  Az’s heart is my favorite thing about him.  He’s a walking contradiction.

Aniese is one of Delaney’s two best friends.  They grew up together.  Aniese was an orphan, taken in by her father and raised to be a Hunter.  Anie was a Hunter until she was bitten by a Drover.  She became a Drover and kicked out of the Hunter organization.  She is kept in the loop, however, due to her relationship with Laney’s father (Janesh, pronounced Yan-esh).  She is also Laney’s stylist. She’s all smartass and attitude down to her core. Her hard exterior and soft insides are what I love about her.

Caden is the other of Delaney’s best friends. Cade is on the Hunter Counsel.  He moved up quickly because he is a hard worker.  Even though he is on the counsel, he also still fends for his friends.  He was the one to approach Laney and tell her that the Hunters would eventually find out about Az and her’s relationship.  He was the one to push for their breakup.  He is a Hunter to the core, but also loves his friends.  Cade was there to support Delaney and check on her when she broke it off with Az.  He was the only one who was aware of Delaney’s spiral into a pit of despair.  He walks a fine line but does so, for those he cares about, gladly.  It’s what I love about him.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.

Every chapter of my book is started with a quote from a song.  It takes a lot of listening and writing, but you can tell where my music tastes lie. <span “font-family:wingdings;mso-ascii-font-family:calibri;=”” mso-hansi-font-family:calibri;mso-char-type:symbol;mso-symbol-font-family:wingdings”=””>:)

Demons: A Hunter’s Novel, book 1:
Delaney Hinders is on a ride with no rules. After breaking up with her boyfriend and coming out of a six month self-imposed haze, she finds herself being followed by every supernatural in a 100 mile radius. Her life is changing rapidly. As Delaney tries to figure out who can be trusted and who is on her side, she realizes that she cannot live without her Demon…Available at Amazon

About the author:

Felicite was born in Aurora, Colorado and lived some of her early years in Salt Lake City, Utah. She could ski way before she could walk. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in English, and a concentration in creative writing (I know, shocker). She now lives in Dayton, Ohio with her husband Chris and their son Ethan.

Felicite keeps herself on this side of the padded cell by vegging out on Sherlock Holmes (BBC with Benedict Cumberbatch), reading someone else’s work, playing with her son and exercising (which are sometimes one and the same). She finds joy in the small things in life and wants to do one thing that scares the crap out of her each year.

Where to find Felicite:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads


Friday 5: Cool Web Stuff

LOLTrekFor this week’s Friday 5, here are five fun and/or useful links from my Cool Web Stuff bookmarks folder (as always, remember that websites come and go; proceed with caution):

1. Paletton: http://paletton.com Color scheme designer. Fiddle around with different color schemes. Great for art projects, scrapbooking, web design; it even gives you the hex codes for the colors.

2. LOLTrek: http://granades.com/2007/05/02/loltrek/ The “Tribbles” episode of Star Trek in lolspeak.

3. Rinkworks: http://www.rinkworks.com/ About as old-school as you can get on the web, but still lots of fun. Book In A Minute, text-based games, puzzles, the Fantasy Novelist’s Exam, fantasy name generator, horror stories from tech support, everything you need to kill an hour or three.

4. Wordle: http://www.wordle.net/ Create word cloud graphics.

5. Madglibs: http://www.madglibs.com/index.php Online mad libs games.

Have fun out there!


Reading A to Z: O-T

More books on my Reading A-Z challenge. (Part 1, A-G; Part 2, H-N). The rules: choose a book with a title for each letter; it has to be something I already own (if I don’t have a books for a particular letter but have a sample, I can buy that book); DNFs don’t count (except in the case of collections and boxed sets; have to read at least one of the stories all the way through); indie authors strongly preferred. So, here’s O through T (links, except for Quest, go to Goodreads):

Out of Exile

Out of Exile (Teutevar Saga, book 1), by Derek Alan Siddoway

What if the medieval Europe of traditional fantasy took place in the American West? Out of Exile explores the combination of the two in an exciting story in a refreshingly different setting. Read my full review here, and also Derek’s guest post on medieval westerns.


Path of the Heretic

Path of the Heretic (The Beholder, book 2), by Ivan Amberlake

Path of the Heretic is the exciting follow-up to The Beholder, and I liked it even more than the first book (which I enjoyed very much). The book is darkly moody and atmospheric, but I also appreciate the touch of romance from the man’s point of view. Great reading for fans of urban/contemporary fantasy. See the full review here.


Quest

Quest, by various authors

I didn’t have any books for Q, but I do have a multi-book boxed set called Quest, so I decided to dip into that. I didn’t read every book in it, but here are a few notes on what I did read. On the whole, there’s something in it for nearly all fantasy fans, and it’s well worth picking up to sample some new authors.

The Book of Deacon – Joseph R. Lallo: I had already read this. Not without its problems, but if you enjoy coming-of-age and learning-about-magic fantasy, check this one out.
The Emperor’s Edge – Lindsay Buroker: I had also already read this, as well. Book 1 of the wonderful Emperor’s Edge series, fun and exciting epic fantasy with a steampunk twist. I highly recommend the whole series.
The God Decrees – Mark E. Cooper: The kingdom of Deva, under attack by a kingdom of powerful sorcerers, is desperate for help, so one of Deva’s few sorcerers risks everything to bring a powerful magician from another world to help out… a 19-year-old aspiring Olympic gymnast from our world named Julia. Who knows nothing about magic, and anyway, women aren’t supposed to be able to use magic! See the full review here.
Defender – Robert J. Crane: Epic fantasy that reads a lot like a video game. Readers who also like playing games like World of Warcraft will probably enjoy it a lot.
Draykon – Charlotte E. English: skipped because I was getting impatient to move on to the next letter.
Fire & Ice – Patty Jansen: Interesting premise, set in a world where people born with physical deformities are left to die, but those who survive are capable of powerful magic.
Lost City – Jeffrey M. Poole: Treasure-hunting dwarves in an adventure story for tweens/YA readers.
Reversion: The Inevitable Horror – J. Thorn: skipped for now because I was ready to move on.


Redfall

Redfall (Legacy of Ash, book 2), by James Downe

A group of travelers are crossing a vast, desolate grassland, hoping to avoid the barbarian natives. The leader of the caravan ignores some dire omens, resulting in trouble when they meet up with the barbarians – and when one of the travelers turns out to not be what they appear to be.

A long short story (close to novella length), suspenseful and magical, written in evocative language (though it could use one more quick edit to clean up a few mistakes). The characters are memorable, the world is well-developed in a few well-chosen words, and the climactic confrontation is explosive. Intriguing possibilities are left open at the end, and I really hope there’ll be a follow-up story. Recommended if you want a quick immersion into an exciting fantasy world. (Redfall is labeled Book 2 of Legacy of Ash, but it stands alone.)


Soldier, Kraken, Bard

Soldier, Kraken, Bard (Legacy of Ash, book 1), by James Downe

A city perched on rocks over the sea is attacked by a gigantic storm, presenting a challenge to the survival of three characters – a female soldier, a talented bard, and a young girl. Who will triumph, the people fighting the storm or the storm itself?

Tense and evocative and horrifying, set in a well-developed fantasy world skillfully conveyed in a few careful brushstrokes. Beautifully written (though it could use a final clean-up edit to fix a few mistakes). The ending is somewhat darker than I prefer, which is why I couldn’t quite rate it 5 stars, but I would really love to know what happens next and hope there’ll be a follow-up story.


Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids

The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble’s Braids (Amra Thetys #1), by Michael McClung

Wow, this was really amazing, one of the rare books that I start reading and it almost hurts to have to put it down. Reads like a mashup of thief/assassin fantasy and hardboiled detective novels (I could almost hear Amra saying in a female Humphrey Bogart voice “I knew he was trouble the moment he walked in”). Read the full review here.


May 2015 Wrap-up and What’s Ahead in June

PictureWell, what do you know, it’s a week into June already and I still haven’t done the monthly wrap-up and look ahead. Basically, most of what I’m doing is still working on edits of To the Gap, book 4 of Daughter of the Wildings. It’s going really well, and so far everything’s on track for a release in the first part of July. I know I’ve blogged about this before, but here’s a rundown of my writing/editing workflow:

1. first draft
2. deep, major revision
3. out to test readers
4. 2nd major revision
5. refine dialogue, descriptions, action, pacing, flow
6. fix mistakes, awkward sentences
7. proofread on paper
8. proofread on Kindle

A lot of times, if the manuscript is really a mess, I do a second copy edit between steps 6 and 7. But so far, on step 5 on To the Gap, I’m not finding a whole lot of changes to make. So hopefully I won’t have to do that extra step.

On days when I finish my editing quote on time, I’ve been working on outlining the Healing Tree, a novel set in my world of Estelend. Should be ready to start writing soon. I found the perfect soundtrack for it, the new album Haven by Kamelot. Here’s a video of one of the songs from the album:

I’m still reading from A to Z. Up to V now; the end is in sight! For a while there I kept finding books that I couldn’t finish. I’m not going to say what they are; this indie author gig is tough, and taste is subjective, and I don’t want to be the one putting down a fellow author. Instead I’ll just focus on the books I do read all the way through. I’ve been discovering some amazing reads; watch for another roundup soon!

I keep telling myself I need to start thinking about what comes after Daughter of the Wildings. At the moment I have three novels in draft awaiting revision, a fourth about ready to be written, and a binder full of short stories related to Chosen of Azara and The Source-fixer. And I’ve started developing ideas for a follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings; I know the basic series conflict and the basic plot of the first book. I’ve been so deeply absorbed in Daughter of the Wildings it’s hard to focus on anything else. But at least I know I won’t be running out of things to work on any time soon!


Friday 5: Five fantasy novels that influenced me

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For this Friday: Five fantasy books/series (well-known and not so well-known) that influenced me. (links go to Goodreads, to first books in series. Covers shown are the editions I own.)

1. The Prydain Chronicles, by Lloyd Alexander. The first epic fantasy series I ever read (that I can recall, anyway). A great starter series for kids, and also entertaining for adults. The struggle between good and evil, the colorful characters, the adventure, and the love story between Taran and Eilonwy (even as a child, eight or nine years old, I loved love stories) all caught my imagination and made me want more.


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2. The Earthsea Trilogy, by Ursula K. LeGuin. My parents gave me a nice boxed set of this when I was 11 or 12, for my birthday or Christmas (they’re close together). Magic and adventure on the oceans and islands of Earthsea with Ged, one of the greatest fantasy characters of all times. Ged was one of my book crushes when I was a tween (of course, I’m far too old for that sort of thing now *coughcough*). This introduced me to the idea of the wizard dedicated to that life (and to the concept of schools of magic), and contributed to my thinking that it wasn’t fair that wizards didn’t get to fall in love and if they did they could never do anything about it. Naturally, I was intrigued by what could have been the romance between Ged and Tenar. The relationship is finally continued in the 4th Earthsea book, Tehanu, but I had a lot of problems with that book, especially feeling like Ms. LeGuin changed her characters almost to where they were unrecognizable to suit the political/philosophical points she wanted to make in the book. So, for me, Earthsea stops with book 3 and I let my imagination take it from there.

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3. The Riddle-Master Trilogy, by Patricia McKillip. Gorgeous prose and dripping with magic in a world where riddles hold the keys to ancient, lost knowledge, no one thinks there’s anything strange about rulers who are hundreds of years old, ghosts and spirits walk the earth, and magic isn’t a discipline, it’s the fabric of which the world is made. Morgon, the farmer-prince, is another of the greatest fantasy characters ever (and another of my teenage book crushes), and the relationship between him and his betrothed Raederle is another great love story. (The cover on my original copy of book 1 is hideous. Get the very nice omnibus edition instead.)

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4. Crispan Magicker, by Mark M. Lowenthal. I’ll say it right now, yet another of my teenage book crushes. There are a lot of problems with this book, but the character of Crispan makes up for them. He’s a wizard dedicated to the Order, naive and honorable, who has to go after his teacher Vladur who has become corrupted and put a stop to his evil plans. Along the way he is tested and tried and stretched, required to become a military commander and take lives, and ultimately has to risk losing everything that matters to him in order to protect the world. Really an awesome character. This book again brought up the themes of wizards dedicated to the practice, and to a formal order, and also risking losing everything you have and everything you are in order to do the right things. And again, why don’t wizards get to fall in love and do something about it? There’s a tantalizing hint about “a woman by an unknown sea”, and Crispan clearly has a lot of adventures ahead of him, but no sequel was ever published. Which makes me sad. Long out of print, which also makes me sad, but used copies are available. I would love to see Mr. Lowenthal (also a prominent figure in intelligence and national security circles) get the rights back, republish independently, and write some sequels.

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5. The Apprentice, by Deborah Bickmore. Yes! Fantasy with a real romance in it! Jaimah, the young apprentice/servant of the powerful sorceress Shayna, is drawn to and terrified by Corwyn, Shayna’s mysterious and powerful new apprentice. When it comes to a showdown between Corwyn and Shayna over a powerful, dangerous spell, which wizard will destroy Jaimah and which one will save her? The kind of book I love to write (and love to read if I can find them), where the fantasy and the romance are in equal balance. This book was out of print for a long time, but now Ms. Bickmore has indie-published it in Kindle and paperback editions, hooray!

Why Fantasy-Western

My vision of fantasy-western (or, if you prefer, western fantasy) and how and why I got the idea to mash up the two genres. (This is based on two different but similar posts I wrote for Derek Alan Siddoway’s blog and the Speculative Fiction Showcase. Since other people’s blogs can come and go, I decided it’s best to have something this important on my own blog as well. Also be sure to check out the other versions on those sites!)

 PictureOut of the dusty desert hills he rides into town, the nameless stranger astride a horse as toughened with hard experience as he is. The wide brim of his hat conceals his eyes and unshaven face in shade; his long brown coat, much patched and mended, blows open just enough to reveal the six-shooter holstered at his hip. He seems to be just another wandering gunfighter, but that gun can do things no regular gun can do, and, on a silver chain hidden beneath his shirt, a ring set with a blue stone glows with the strength of his magical power.

This is no ordinary gunslinger.

Meet Silas Vendine, the hero of my fantasy-western series Daughter of the Wildings. The fantasy half comes from high fantasy, which I define (and I know everyone has their own definition) as fantasy set in another world, with a heroic storyline, where magic is an essential element of the story.

The western part of fantasy-western comes from the traditions of the classic pulp westerns: the wide-open, lawless frontier, confrontations between good and evil, self-reliance, individual freedom and responsibility, the struggle to survive, and characters who are trying to make a new start in life or find justice, revenge, redemption, or just a ton of riches.

To me, fantasy and western were made to go together. There are so many places where the traditional elements of the two genres can come together to enrich and expand each other. Desolate and mystical landscapes; the struggle between good and evil; characters who don’t fit into ordinary society, epic journeys where simply surviving is a victory – you’ll find all of these elements and more in both fantasy and westerns. Silas Vendine, the gunslinger who is also a mage, fits into a long tradition of both fantasy and western heroes: the mysterious man with extraordinary skills and strengths, a loner, who has his own mission in life and his own moral code that doesn’t necessarily fit with the accepted conventions.

And it isn’t just the similarites between the two genres that inspired me to combine them. The contrast between the down and dirty struggle for survival that was life in the Old West and the otherworldly wonder of magic, and between the rough technology of the late 1800s and the traditions of magic and fantasy, are ripe with storytelling possibilities. In Daughter of the Wildings, I wanted to put the familiar western elements into a world that isn’t ours, where magic is pervasive and well-known. Gamblers play cards in the saloons – but the cards have names like Moon Mage and Star Dragon. The A’ayimat, the indigenous people of the Wildings, have blue-toned skin and golden eyes, and can understand any language that is spoken to them. Clocks with numbered hours, eyeglasses, and guns are the products of foreign science and are forbidden in the civilized, mage-dominated land of Granadaia. Cowboys herd cattle out on the open range while man-eating groviks – think furry alligators with rabbit-ears – roam the mountains. And on the night of the dark of the moon, when the eight gods hide their faces from the world, that mournful howling you hear could just as easily be a coyote, a demon, or lost and lonely spirit.

The landscapes of the West are another inspiration. I was born and raised in the West, and still live there. I love to set my favorite genre, fantasy, in the wide-open landscapes I grew up with, the snow-covered peaks, evergreen forests, grassy rangelands, and rugged desert hills and dry riverbeds. Mountains and deserts especially play an important role in my writing. Mountains are places where the earth and the heavens meet in a mystical joining, while in the desert, things are hidden, buried, waiting to be revealed by an angle of the light, a rainstorm, or fortuitous digging in the right place. Both mountains and deserts hold deep secrets and power and history, and demand the utmost in skill and courage of those who journey or live there.

Come join Silas Vendine and Lainie Banfrey on an exciting western adventure set in a world of fantasy and magic – or an epic fantasy adventure in a world of cowboys and gunslingers.

For availability and more information about the books, go to the Daughter of the Wildings series page.
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