Tuesday, August 31, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 29

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

Elric of Melnibone
by Michael Moorcock

Elric Of Melnibone: Book One of the Elric Saga (Elric)Back in the early 1980s, I was a just hitting my teen years and was still discovering all that the speculative fiction genres had to offer, from science fiction to fantasy to eventually horror. In a bid to help build my reading experience in such genres, I joined the Science Fiction Book Club.

This club works like many book clubs did back then. You join up by paying a dollar, then you get five or six books at no additional cost. The only catch was you had to buy so many books (I believe it was four, in my case) at regular prices within the next year.

That was a no-brainer for me. I joined up and picked out my original group of books. Back in those pre-Internet days, I had a short pamphlet from which to pick my literature. I believe I ended up snagging some Anne McCaffrey, Isaac Asimov and a collection of Elric novels and short stories by Michael Moorcock.

The book Elric of Melnibone was the first part of this Elric collection. I believe what drew me to this first book were the ancient-looking, arcane images on the cover. It had to be good with all that stuff, right?

It opened my eyes to new ways of telling fantasy stories, and introduced me to new, darker types of fantasy characters.

By that time I had read more than a smattering of Sword and Sorcery tales, so I was somewhat familiar with the darker elements of fantasy, but Moorcock's Elric stories were so much strong, and darker.

To keep it brief, Elric is a former prince of the nation of Melnibone. He's not human. He's also an albino. He can put up a fight, but he's mostly a dark mage of sorts. In other words, he's not really a good guy. Oh, and he has this magical sword. It does more than kill. It steals its victim's souls.

Cheery stuff, eh?

I see a lot of Elric influence in today's fantasy literature, especially epic fantasy. I don't know whether the man is a fan of Moorcock or not, but R.A. Salvatore's Drizzt the dark elf character at least visually seems to be a thematic descendant from Elric.

After first dipping into the stories of Elric, I was hooked. I think I spent the next six months hunting down and ordering every book there was available Moorcock had written about Elric. There were a fair number, a half a dozen or so, but not as many as there are today.

Don't you sometimes wish you could re-discover something for the first time? That's how I feel about the Elric tales. Alas, we don't grow younger.

Up next: Swords and Deviltry

City of Rogues in the Indie Spotlight

City of Rogues (Book I of The Kobalos Trilogy)My epic fantasy novel, City of Rogues: Book I of the Kobalos Trilogy, is featured today at The Indie Spotlight. Over there, I talk a little about the book, but also some about the process of writing and some of my inspirations. There's even a short excerpt from City of Rogues.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Stacey Cochran guest post

For those who might not know, author Stacey Cochran is taking the Kindle publishing world by storm. How big a storm? Just a sprinkle, or a big monsoon? Well, that's for Stacey to decide, but his books are drawing plenty of attention, in large part because he is a master promoter and a darn fine story teller. Today, Stacey takes over my blog temporarily while promoting his latest novel CLAWS 2.

CLAWS 2Thanks so much, Ty, for hosting me in the midst of my CLAWS 2 Blog Tour. We chatted via email about my writing this post on the topic “Things I know now I wish I’d known back when I started.” It’s a great topic. I’m happy to write about it.

Probably the single biggest thing I know now I wish I’d known back when I started this life of being a writer some twenty years ago is simply the fundamentals of how to tell a great story. Character, Plot, Setting, Style, and Theme. I’ve done somewhere in neighborhood of 400-500 bookstore, library, television appearances, online interviews, and guest blog post appearances with other authors over the years on all range of topics: how to get a literary agent; how to publish a novel; how to research a non-fiction book; how to write a memoir; how to write thrillers, mysteries, literary fiction, romance, sci-fi, fantasy; how to work with your editor, your publisher; how to choose a writers’ conference; how to self-publish; how to eBook publish.

I have approached the topic of being a writer from every conceivable angle, have interviewed numerous #1 New York Times bestsellers and local self-published writers. Literary agents and major publishing editors, publicists, marketing directors, book reviewers.

This is what I’ve spent my life doing, and the realization that I’ve come down to is that success in this business boils down to who can create the best story. Success in this business comes down to who can create for their audience the best character, plot, setting, style, and theme.

There is no secret handshake. There is no “in” club you’ve got to figure out how to get into. There is no particular way to kiss ass or flatter your way to stardom.

There is simply at the end of the day five fundamentals you have to master: character, plot, setting, style, and theme.

It’s remarkable how many aspiring writers I’ve met who harbor the notion of writing a book as a “get rich quick” scheme. They come to events on publishing at bookstores and want to know how to make their book (or sometimes just an idea) a bestseller so they can retire to fame and fortune and watch the royalty checks pour in like some endless spring of money.

I’ve learned to recognize these folks over the years. They send me messages through my websites, ranging from talented, courteous and hopeful to abrasive, demanding and wholly incoherent. But underneath it all, there’s a writer who has a book or idea that he/she believes is important and that he/she believes readers everywhere will want to read.

The reality is that unless this person has mastered the five fundamentals, it will never happen.

Mastering character alone can take thirty years. For the vast majority of writers (literally 9,999/10,000), they will never master the nuances of what makes for a character that connects to hundreds of thousands of readers. Add to this plot and setting, and the odds of mastery rise into the neighborhood of sweepstakes winners. Then consider that only three writers in American literary history have wholly re-invented style (Poe, Hemingway, and King), and you begin to understand what you’re up against if you truly want that kind of success.

I used to study chess. I was fascinated by the grandmasters and the prodigies who seemed to possess “genius” level analytical, creative, and tactical skill. I came to wonder if for someone like Bobby Fischer or Gary Kasparov the game was actually quite simple. While tens of thousands of people studied their moves and their great games trying to understand the artistry of their play, to the players themselves chess was simply a matter of picking up the right piece and moving it to the best square on the board.

For writers, our board consists of five fundamentals: character, plot, setting, style, and theme.

They’re there in front of you like life itself.

Bio: Stacey Cochran was born in the Carolinas, where his family traces its roots to the mid 1800s. In 1998 he was selected as a finalist in the Dell Magazines undergraduate fiction competition, and he made his first professional short story sale to CutBank in 2001. In 2004, he was selected as a finalist in the St. Martin's Press/PWA Best First Private Eye Novel Contest. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife Dr. Susan K. Miller-Cochran and their son Sam, and he teaches writing at North Carolina State University.

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 28

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

by Doris Piserchia

Doris Piserchia is one of those author's who is still living but hasn't published anything in nearly 30 years. Of course she is is her seventies now, so has probably mostly retired from writing. Back in the 1970s and early 1980s she was known as a feminist science fiction writer and had more than a dozen books to her name.

But none of that was important to the 12-year-old me who discovered her novel Spaceling at my school library in seventh grade junior high.

I was still young and feeling out my interests in speculative fiction. I was going through a phase of reading science fiction and the cover for this book caught my eye. There was a background of molten lava and black rocks. In the foreground was a great big fuzzy monster-like beast. And the title alone, Spaceling, screamed science fiction.

I thought I'd give it a try. So I suppose that is one of the few times in my life I picked up a book because of the cover.

This story blew my mind. It was one of the most original science fiction stories I had read, and still is to this day nearly 30 years later.

This story is about a girl who can travel to other dimensions through the use of colored rings floating in the air. Only she and a few other people can see the rings. And not only can she travel to these other dimensions, but once she enters the other dimensions she is no longer human but turns into a creature that can survive in the particular dimension where she finds herself. There are also lots of twists to the plot, and it comes with an unexpected, but mostly happy ending.

One of the things that made me love this book is it is one of the earliest novels I remember reading that had a young person as the protagonists, and it worked very well.

There. That says a fair amount without giving anything away. I liked this book a lot, and it's one of the few in my life I've read more than once.

Perhaps it's time I got out my old copy again.

Up next: Elric of Melnibone

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Win a free Kindle from author Zoe Winters

Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G, 6" Display, White - 2nd GenerationWant a Kindle? Without having to pay for it?

No tricks. No gimmicks. Just help to promote indie author Zoe Winters' new book and e-book Blood Lust.

It's simple.

And you can win a free Kindle. It's even one of the new fancy Kindles with 3G.

How to get started? What are the rules? Check out Zoe's blog post about her Kindle giveaway contest. Heck, she might even give away two Kindles.

What are you waiting for? Get to promoting!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

American Crossroads, a new short story collection

American Crossroads
American Crossroads, a collection of five short stories, is now available in digital format.

The price is only $1.

If you are a Kindle owner, you can check out a preview or purchase the e-book of American Crossroads at this link.

For everyone else, American Crossroads is available in all major digital formats online at Smashwords. You can also check out a free preview there, as well.

Also, while most of my work is in the fantasy or horror genres, this collection are all non-genre tales. If I had to classify them, I suppose they are sort of Appalachian literature for the most part.

Hope you enjoy the reads!

Kindle not only way to read e-books

People tell me all the time they would read one of e-books, except they don't have a Kindle or a Nook.

Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G, 6" Display, White - 2nd GenerationThen I have to explain to them they don't have to have a Kindle or other dedicated e-reading device to be able to read e-books. There are many ways to read e-books without owning an e-reader.

The easiest way to read e-books is with your PC. That's right, the very item you are using to read this can also be used to read e-books. And in most cases it's free (though you still have to pay for any books your want, but some of those are free as well).

How do you read e-books on a PC?

Simple. Amazon has free software called Kindle for PC. It only takes seconds to download, doesn't take up a lot of memory, and best of all, you get the software for free. It's just like having a Kindle on your desktop. You can read anything available in Amazon's Kindle store.

Also, Google is planning to release Google Editions on the Web very soon. Perhaps even by the time you've read this. Google Editions is supposed to be an e-reader for Web browsers, meaning you could read e-books right through your Internet Explorer, Firefox, Netscape, Google Chrome, etc. Though technically you can already read some e-books through a Web browser. How? Keep reading.

Maybe you want to read e-books directly on your computer, ones possibly not available at Amazon.
That's easy, too, and free. Go to the website Smashwords, then register for a free membership. Smashwords makes e-books available in many formats, including HTML, RTF, PDF, Plain Text, even in formats for the Kindle and other e-readers, and even more.

If you have a Blackberry, cell phone or other handheld device, you can also read e-books on those devices as well. You'll need to get an e-reader APP, several of which are available throughout the Web; check the site of your device's manufacturer to see if they have such an APP available or can tell you how to get one.

Often, those APPs are also free. Once you have an APP, there are numerous places online to find e-books to read on your cell phone or other device. Kobo is one of the more popular sites. Also, Amazon does have several Kindle APPs for various devices, so you can check those out if you are interested.

So, get to reading!

Friday, August 27, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 27

This is an ongoing series looking at works that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass
by Stephen King

Stephen King has for decades now been dubbed the master of modern horror fiction, and there's no arguing his success. King is probably the best-known writer in the world, with the possible exception of J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame. But King has written more than horror, often leaning toward fantasy and mixing horror and fantasy elements.

His Dark Tower series is his best-known fantasy work, being seven novels collecting the quest of Gunslinger Roland Deschain to find the Dark Tower. The term "gunslinger" might throw some fantasy purists, but a gunslinger in this tale is a type of knight of old who also happens to carry ancient revolvers.

On Roland's journey, he draws several companions to him, and he comes up against all kinds of nasty villains from werewolves to robots and talking trains and just about anything one's mind could imagine in a world of nightmares. Roland's quest doesn't take place in one single world, but crosses over into the real world and into other planes of existence multiple times; even when Roland and his companion's enter what we as readers would consider the real world, that "real world" often isn't quite the one we know.

The Dark Tower is an epic tale that stretches across space and time and eventually concludes with an ending that has long confounded readers. Some love it, some hate it, but rarely does a reader leave this series without a strong feeling about it.

Wizard and GlassOf the seven books in the series, the fourth, Wizard and Glass, has always been my favorite. But again, it's one of those books that readers either seem to love or hate.

I love it, obviously.

Wizard and Glass is a story within a story. It's a break from the main plot of Roland's quest. In this novel, Roland sits down with his traveling band and tells them a story of his past, of old friends in battle and a woman he loved and lost.

To my mind, it is the most heart-wrenching tale I've ever read. I think I actually shed a few tears at the end of the tale, the only time a book has ever done that to me.

I won't give away further details, and will let others decide for themselves. But this book touched me.

And it showed me the power of words. Because no other novel has ever quite affected me so.

Up next: Spaceling, by Doris Piserchia

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Money should flow to the writer, right?

There's an old saying among writers. It's heard so often it has become a cliche.

"Money should flow to the writer."

Of course this old saying was and is a natural reaction to vanity publishing in particular and self publishing in general.

It's also a saying I agree with. Money should flow to the writer. If you're paying to be published, you're probably being taken advantage of.

However, the times are changing, and writers are often the first to accuse print publishers of sticking with old business models and old ways of thought.

So shouldn't writers also be considering new business models and ways of thought?

With today's digital technology, more and more writers are turning to self publishing. Indie writers abound, at least compared to a decade ago, or even just a few years ago.

And one a writer has self-published their work, they are not just a writer. They have also become a publisher.

Remember, publishers are the ones who are supposed to pay for things. And since writers are becoming publishers, it's natural they should sometimes open their checkbooks a little.

I am not advocating that writers go out and spend a bunch of money on being published or for promotions or for anything else. There are tons of scams out there, after all.

But I am suggesting maybe writers shouldn't always be so stingy with their money.

The key is to spend one's money wisely. Because there are ways, often cheap, a writer can promote ones own work with just a few dollars.

But I still don't think they should pay to get published. And they should be careful how and where they spend their dollars, and to what amounts.

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 26

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

World War Z
by Max Brooks

This is perhaps the most recently-published book to make my list of 100 Days of Fantasy, having only been published about five years ago.

It's a zombie book.

Unfortunately, it's known as a zombie book. Why "unfortunately?" Because zombie fiction is often derided by those who don't care for zombie literature, sometimes even by other fans of horror. And it doesn't help that zombie fans often seem to glorify in the gore and the sometimes silliness of all that gore.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie WarThat being said, World War Z is not that type of fiction. Yes, it has zombies. Sometimes it even has gruesome moments. But World War Z is more than just a zombie novel. It's more than just a horror novel.

Heck, I don't even think of it as horror. It's out-and-out literature.

This book isn't really a novel, but a collection of fictional reminiscences from survivors of a zombie holocaust.

You know the basic idea. Zombies rise up from the dead. They go around eating everyone. Humanity is nearly wiped out.

The stories here are told about 10 years after the zombies appeared. The collection is told as a series of interviews by a book writer.

It seems very real. Which is more frightening to me than more traditional horror fiction.

The stories here vary widely in their subject matter and their execution, which adds to the charm. You'll find all kinds of people and all kinds of responses to the zombie hordes. For my money, the best story is that of a man who helped to train dogs for use in the war against the undead; it's truly a touching story, and can break your heat.

There's also an international charm. The tales here aren't all from the U.S., but come from all over the world, giving the reader a look at just how global and terrifying this zombie uprising was. We were this close to going out for good, folks.

But in the end, humanity survives.

So, this isn't just a zombie novel. It's a novel about humanity, and it's a novel of hope.

Up next: The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 25

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

Starship Troopers
by Robert A. Heinlein

When I was in my early teens, I discovered science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein. I believe the first novel of his I read was Stranger in a Strange Land, an excellent book though it's not for everyone. I found I enjoyed Heinlein's prose, but I also liked that his stories had strong themes and messages without bashing me over the head with it.

What amazed me even further was the inability by myself to label Heinlein. Obviously he was a science fiction author. But socially and politically speaking, his fiction was all over the place. Stranger in a Strange Land, for instance, is obviously a left-leaning work with ruminations about the hippy culture of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Starship Troopers, on the other hand, is a right-leaning, flag-waving, rah rah, let's go kill the enemy kind of book.

Starship TroopersI liked that. I liked that one author had more layers to him than the simple ones defined by American social and political and public culture. I like the fact Heinlein's fiction couldn't always be so easily labeled from a cultural viewpoint.

For one thing, it mirrors my own personal viewpoint and opinions. Politically speaking, I'm middle of the road, conservative on some issues and liberal on others, and mixed on a bunch. My personal feeling is to classify every single thing in the world by only two narrow viewpoints is not only silly, but it's also dangerous. It's also a disservice to other humans, though it can make for entertaining news coverage.

So now you know one of the reasons I love Heinlein's writing.

But why do I love Starship Troopers in particular?

As I mentioned above, it's military science fiction at its most hardcore, with a definite bias towards the military mindset. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. In fact, I love it in this novel.

There is some fun action/adventure in this novel, but there's much more than that. There's a lot of philosophy here, and it never feels heavy-handed, at least not to me. The book explores issues of warfare, soldiering and the like from the soldier's point of view, while also veering into topics of citizenship, and raises questions about rights. Who should have particular rights within a society? Everybody? Only certain types of citizens? Should veterans have more rights? All intriguing questions.

Starship Troopers does offer some answers, but it tends to shy away from definitive ones while sticking to broader philosophical viewpoints.

This book caused Heinlein grief from his left-leaning readers, but so what? As I said, he was obviously an author who at the least could appreciate more than one viewpoint. To me, that's not only a sign of a good writer, but of a decent human being.

Up next: World War Z

Monday, August 23, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 24

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

Education of A Wandering Man
by Louis L'Amour

Despite my love for Western cinema and history of the Old West, I've never had that same love for the genre in literature. I've read and enjoyed tons of men's action and adventure novels, but something about most Westerns I've read has always left me feeling a bit ... fake? I'm not sure. I guess I expect more from Western literature, as in it should be realistic, than I do Western films, which often aren't realistic.

I don't mean to be a snob about it. It's just personal taste, I suppose. Of all the Western novels I've read, those by Larry McMurtry have been my favorites, but those drew me more to an interest in history than Western fiction.

Education of a Wandering ManEven the greatest and best known of Old West authors, Louis L'Amour, could not make me a fan of the genre. I've read a half dozen or so of his novels and short stories over the years, and they weren't anything to snarl against, but they still didn't pull me in.

However, all that being said, L'Amour's autobiography of his younger days as a traveling, blue-collar worker (sort of like a hobo with odd jobs) did bring me excitement.

It's an awesome story of how L'Amour moved from town to town, nation to nation, traveling the glove while working at hard, back-breaking jobs. He did this in order to gain life experience, his thinking that it would make him a better writer once he finally settled down to actually become a writer. Because being a writer was what he had wanted to do all along. It worked out for him.

My favorite story from this book is how L'Amour was working a mine the Death Valley, then for some reason or other (can't remember off the top of my head), he had to leave Death Valley. But there were no automobiles. There weren't even horses. What did L'Amour do? He had to walk out of Death Valley.

I won't tell any more of L'Amour's tales, because he can tell them far better than myself, but if you have an interest in the Old Western, biographies and/or writing, do yourself a favor and check out Education of a Wandering Man.

It is an awesome tale.

Up next: Starship Troopers

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Book Review: Demons: A Clash of Steel Anthology

The best of heroic fantasy short fiction is being brought to readers today by Rogue Blades Entertainment, and the publishing company doesn't disappoint with its latest release, Demons: A Clash of Steel Anthology.

Demons: A Clash of Steel AnthologyWithin the 224 pages can be found 28 short stories of sword-slinging action, demonic villains, dastardly wizards and heroic warriors battling it out with the forces of evil.

Among all the stories, there is not one stinker. All bring a different take on the demonic subject matter within the genre of heroic fantasy. Some stories are stronger than others, however, and three in particular are favorites.

The Sacrifice, by Jason Irrgang

Three strong warriors, all members of a religious clan but different from one another, stand toe to toe against the ultimate evil. Can they survive against such seemingly unstoppable power, let alone win? This fine tale provides the answer, but it is not a simplistic answer and it is one that comes with sacrifice, thus the title. This tale, perhaps stronger than any other in this collection, examines the bonds of brotherhood in combat. Quite surprisingly, this was writer Jason Irrgang's first published short story. With such talent, more can be expected from him in the future.

Born Warriors, by TW Williams

Perhaps the darkest of the stories collected here, "Born Warriors" is a tale of a military leader given a choice in his and his men's own fates. He has lead his unit into strange, foreign lands where they have become lost, and to escape those lands this captain is tempted by the offerings of a demon. What will he decide? And once his decision is made, what will be the outcome? It is quite the unexpected ending, and veers into horror literature. Author TW Williams has numerous stories published in print and digital markets, and it's understandable why after reading this tale.

By Hellish Means, by Bill Ward

Imagine a world having been overrun by demons. That is the type of world found in this story. There are few places to hide, and those are safe only temporarily. Monsters roam the land tearing and slashing and eating everyone in site. But within this land remains one last hero, a woman who is the final survivor of a cult of priestesses who have sworn to stand to the last against the demonic foes. She brings skill, power and a quick blade to the war against evil, but will that be enough? The ending brings about a nice surprise, but it doesn't necessarily leave the reader with a feeling of hope. But that's not a bad thing. That's the type of story this is. Only someone as skilled as Bill Ward, the Contributing Editor to Black Gate magazine who is known for many published fantasy stories, could have pulled off such a marvelous story. Well told!

There are plenty of other great tales to be found within the pages of Demons: A Clash of Steel Anthology, and Rogue Blades Entertainment also has to offer several other short story collections of fantasy literature as well as upcoming other projects. If you have a yearning for some action reading, turn to Rogue Blades Entertainment. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy, Day 23

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have had an affect upon me as a fantasy author.

by R.A. Salvatore

Despite all the fantasy reading I did in my teens in the 1980s, or perhaps because of it, by the time the '90s rolled around I was through with fantasy. I was somewhat burnt out on fantasy, and being young and naive, I felt I'd read everything there was worth reading in the fantasy genre.

For the next ten to 12 years, I hardly read any fantasy at all. Mostly I read horror, thrillers, biographies, history and non-fiction books. During that time I discovered a lot of good writing, so I'm glad for it.

But every once in a while there would be a little voice in the back of my mind telling me I needed to read some more fantasy. I ignored it.

Most of the time.

Homeland: The Dark Elf Trilogy, Part 1 (Forgotten Realms: The Legend of Drizzt, Book I) (Bk. 1)During this long winter of no fantasy reading, I did pick up one fantasy novel. It was Homeland: Book I of The Dark Elf Trilogy.

Why did I pick up this novel? Mainly because I recognized the author's name, R.A. Salvatore, as one who was making the bestseller lists a lot. Though I was shunning fantasy at the time, I was still a short story writer and I wanted to keep up with major writers.

So, I picked up Homeland.

I instantly saw why this author had a readership. He wrote combat scenes quite fluidly, and his prose didn't need much fat trimmed from it. He had storytelling down pat.

But, alas, I read no further fantasy for several more years.

The Dark Elf Trilogy: Homeland, Exile, Sojourn (Forgotten Realms, the Dark Elf)Part of the reason I had turned from fantasy because I was tired of everything being a trilogy or a series. But in my 30s I finally got to the point where it no longer mattered to me anymore. If a book is part of a series and I read the book, I don't have to read further unless I really want to.

Plus my short story writing had turned to writing of novels, and of course I was writing fantasy. It only made sense I turn back to reading fantasy.

A decade without reading fantasy. I suddenly realized I had a lot of catching up to do. There were new authors during that time, plus authors with whom I was familiar with their names but who had not been big sellers back in the 1980s.

I started to read fantasy again. And I started off with Homeland once more, and then went on to continue The Dark Elf Trilogy and to read more of Salvatore's work.

I'm glad I did.

Up next: Education of a Wandering Man

Friday, August 20, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 22

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

The Sandman: Season of Mists
by Neil Gaiman

To try and explain The Sandman graphic novels to one not already in the know is nearly a possibility, at least in the limited space of a blog post.

But I'll try. Briefly.

For those who only know comic books as a medium full of super heroes in spandex outfits ... that's not The Sandman. The Sandman was a comic book, and eventually graphic novels, about a powerful, immortal being named Morpheus, also known by some as the Sandman. Morpheus is a member of a family of immortals called the Endless. They are sort of like ancient gods of mythology, except they don't see out worshipers.

The Endless do, however, have major influence (and some would argue out-and-out control) over certain portions of reality. Morpheus is in charge of dreams. His oldest sister is in charge of death. His oldest brother is in charge of destiny. The list goes on.

Morpheus himself has pale white skin and black hair. He also usually dresses in lots of black. He's got a goth thing going on, in his wardrobe and his attitude. But he can pretty much look like whomever he wants, if it came down to it.

The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of MistsIn Season of Mists, the fourth collection of stories from The Sandman, Morpheus travels to Hell. Yes, the Hell. He's going to Hell to right a wrong he did thousands of years earlier. See, he sent a woman he loved to Hell. For ever. Because she spurned him. Yeah, Morpheus wasn't always such a nice guy.

Upon arriving in Hell, Morpheus expects to have to do battle with Lucifer himself. Lucifer and the Sandman have some history, and Lucifer isn't real crazy about or protagonist.

However, it turns out Lucifer doesn't attack Morpheus. Lucifer is busy with other things. He's shutting down Hell. Kicking out the demons, closing the doors and locking them. Lucifer apparently has had enough of being God's whipping boy through all the eons, and has decided to retire.

That's when Morpheus shows up. And Lucifer gives Morpheus the key to Hell.

I won't tell any more of the tale, but I will say this story is quite possibly the best comic book writing I have ever read in my life. Truly, I rank it right up there with several of Shakespeare's plays.

When Season of Mists first came out in 1992, I was still in college. I had returned to reading comic books a few years earlier, but The Sandman at the time was by far my favorite. I couldn't wait until the next issue came out.

Since that time, The Sandman has come and gone. The comic is no longer a regular series, though from time to time original author Neil Gaiman will put out a special issue or some other writer will do a short series on some of the characters from The Sandman.

The Sandman had a story arch. A huge story arch. It took 75 issues of the comic, as well as a few special editions on the side, to tell the story of Morpheus.

For the time, it was one of the most epic comic book tales ever, and still is right up there at the top though a few indie comic writers have since gone on to larger works (Cerebus by Dave Simm rounded out at 300 issues, for example).

As a reader, I loved The Sandman. As a writer, it taught me much.

For instance, The Sandman showed that a beautiful tale could be told in any medium, including comic books. Up until that time, I would never had expected such a major, epic, beautiful story as The Sandman could be told in graphic fashion.

The Sandman, and author Neil Gaiman, also opened my eyes to the beauty of words. I've always been one of those working-class writers who doesn't worry so much about words being pretty, but The Sandman opened my eyes to new possibilities. Without The Sandman, I probably would never have my own John Dee character, for instance (Dee's an immortal wizard, by the way, based upon a minor Biblical character). Heck, there's even a character named John Dee who appears early in The Sandman, though my character is not named for him but is named for the actual, historical figure named John Dee (an astrologer of sorts for Queen Elizabeth, in case you wanted to know).

So, if you are one of those readers who tosses up their nose at comic books and graphic novels, you are really doing yourself a disservice by not reading The Sandman. It's much more than just a comic book. It's literature at its finest.

Up next: Homeland, by R.A. Salvatore

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why I publish independently

Today is blog carnival day!

What is a blog carnival, one might ask? A blog carnival is when a bunch of different bloggers decide to write upon a particular topic on a particular day, and then do so. Generally there is a host blog where readers can go to find links to all the blog posts about that day's topic. This particular blog carnival was the brain child of Chris Kelly.

Today's topic: Why I publish independently, or as I call it, "How the hell did you become an indie writer?"

Today's host blog: Dun Scaith, Home of Scathach Publishing

So, how did I become an indie writer?

First, let me say right off the bat that until very recently (as in the last couple of weeks), I've never thought of myself as an indie writer or a self-published writer or whatever you want to call it.

I was just a writer. Until a year ago, I had never self-published anything of my own. For years my short stories had found their way into print or online markets, and I have a print contract with a small book publisher for some of my fantasy work.

If anything, I thought of myself as a traditional print writer.

Then along comes Amazon with the Kindle, and thus was born the capability for writers to publish their works directly to a digital audience without having to go through a publisher. It also doesn't hurt that the money is pretty good if you can make sales.

At first I was hesitant. I had some of the fears and concerns a lot of traditionally-published writers still have. Self-publishing is a sign of giving in and giving up. Self-publishing means no traditionally print publishers will ever touch you. Self-publishing means your work sucks.

I remained hesitant for at least six months, trying to make up my mind whether or not I would go ahead and begin publishing my work on Amazon.

Then several things happened over about three months. These were events that forced my hand on self-publishing.

I lost my job.

Okay, so I got another job. Then I lost that job.

And my wife lost her job. She got another job. Then that job fell away, too.

Blame it on the bad economy, if you will. I had been a professional newspaper editor for nearly 20 years, and suddenly not only was I without a job, but my whole career seemed gone. Sure, there are still newspapers out there, but their readership is dropping like flies (literally in some cases since the average newspaper reading audience is older) and the advertising dollars are no longer there.

Of course I kept trying to get another job, but it never worked out. My wife tried, too, but it wasn't happening.

So, call it a matter of desperation, if you want. I call it, "How I pay the damn bills every month." I had already been writing fiction in short and long forms for as long as I'd been a newspaper editor, so why not go ahead and make some money from it?

I've chatted with a number of other indie authors over the last year or two, and many tell me they became indie writers because they wanted complete control or they felt their work was unusual enough that traditional print publishers would never publish them.

That's not me. My newspaper career was over and I needed money. It's that simple.

I still work with print publishers, and will continue to do so on some projects. But I'll also keep right on doing my digital thing, publishing on Amazon, Smashwords and at other online venues.

Oh, and the reason I recently came to think of myself as an indie writer has to do with all the naysayers. Actually, that's not accurate. I don't mind naysayers. The truth is I began to think of myself as an indie writer because of all the "assholes" out there trashing indie writers, many of those assholes being involved somehow or other with the traditional publishing industry.

I don't mind people disagreeing with me. I don't mind people thinking something I'm personally doing is stupid. But to go out of your way to verbally assault myself and others in such a nasty fashion as I've seen done numerous times on other blogs ... that's too much.

So, if you're one of those people who hates the idea of self-publishers and indie writers and digital publishing and the Kindle and everything that goes along with it, you can thank your fellows for adding one more to the ranks of indie writers.

In other words, it's a big F-U to those assholes.

I have bills to pay and mouths to feed. I don't have time to wait six months for a print publisher to decide whether or not they want my latest book, then a year before the book is released, and then perhaps another year for my first royalty checks to start rolling in.

I don't have time to be concerned that someone's itty bitty feelings have been injured over my doing something that has no effect whatsoever on their life, and that they're scared the traditional print publishers are all going to go away or that books will no longer play an important role in the world, economically and artistically.


I've started a business. Don't like it? Don't buy my products.

Besides, print books are going to be around, at least for a long, long time if not forever. Far too many people have their panties in a bunch over nonsense that doesn't really matter. To borrow (steal) a line from fabulous paranormal romance indie author Zoe Winters, "We aren't curing cancer or feeding Ethiopian children. It's just publishing."

And as I've said before, "I've seen what happens to the print industry when digital publishing comes along. I was in the newspaper business for far too many years not to recognize the signs. Not this time. Not to me."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 21

This is an ongoing series reflecting upon books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

The Dark Knight Returns
by Frank Miller

Batman the Dark Knight Returns #1 First PrintIn 1986 I was 16 years old. I had not read comics books in several years at that point because I thought comic books were kid stuff and I was no longer a kid. Still, every once in a while my eye would be drawn to one of the two comic book shops in the town where I lived then. One shop was fairly plain looking from the outside and could have been thought to be a book store or something else by casual lookers passing by. The other comic shop was down by the university campus, and there was no way you couldn't tell it was a comic book store because of all the big posters in the window.

That was where I saw my first poster for the graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, written and drawn by Frank Miller with some art and inking done by Klaus Janson.

I knew as soon as I saw that poster that I would be buying comic books yet again. The poster was of an aged, angry-looking, bruised and battered Batman with clenched first staring right at you. But it was beyond that. This Batman looked more than angry. He looked downright pissed, and just a little insane.

As soon as the collected graphic novel was available, I snagged up a copy. And I've never been the same since.

Up to that point, I had not read much in the hardboiled genres. I had seen a few old TV shows and movies, but they were nothing compared to what I discovered when I opened up The Dark Knight Returns.

It was a different world, a darker world, than anything I had seen before in comic books. Batman was still there, but he had been in retirement for 10 years. The Joker was in a mental asylum, and Robin ... well, Robin wasn't around. Something had apparently happened to Robin. Something bad.

I don't want to give any of the plot away. If you haven't read The Dark Knight Returns, you must. It is a has-to-be-read piece of modern (or post-modern) literature. You don't have to like it, necessarily, but if you don't see the genius behind it, then you're too stupid to be reading in the first place.

Sorry, just getting carried away there. But honestly, give it a try, especially if you like hardboiled fiction and/or action/adventure genres.

But don't expect the Batman from the television shows. Even the movies haven't gotten it right. Yet.

Up next: The Sandman: Season of Mists

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 20

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

In Cold Blood
by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood (Paperback)This is the first non-fiction book to make this list of books that have influenced me as a writer. And there are multiple reasons it is the first.

In Cold Blood is without a doubt the finest true-crime book I've ever read, and I've read more than a few. This makes it also one of my favorite non-fiction books.

The author, Truman Capote, does an excellent job of twisting around the reader's emotions, so much so that Capote never wrote another novel-length work the rest of his life after finishing In Cold Blood. It would seem that twisting of emotions had also fallen upon the author, probably more so since he eventually became personally connected to some of the people in this dark tale.

And what is this tale? To simplify: A couple of 1950s hoods break into a farmhouse in search of money, and finding none then go on a rampage through the house, killing an entire family, a man and wife and daughter and son. Then the two killers flee into the night, only to be captured days later. That's pretty much the first half of the book. It will leave you hating these killers and feeling they deserve whatever they get.

The second half of In Cold Blood focuses upon the trial, prison terms and eventual executions of the killers. It's as heart-rending, brutal and emotional as the first half of the book. Unless you are totally made of stone, this section of In Cold Blood will have you feeling sorry for the killers. I kid you not, and I'm generally a proponent of the death penalty.

Whether you like true-crime books or just want to see some of the best writing the 20th Century had to offer, do yourself a favor and read In Cold Blood. You'll never be the same again.

Up next: The Dark Knight Returns

Monday, August 16, 2010

Map of Ursia

Below is a map of the continent of Ursia, where the novels in my epic fantasy The Kobalos Trilogy series takes place. Also, a number of my fantasy short stories take place in this world as well. Click on the map for a larger image.

I came up with this map a few years ago, throwing it together in Photoshop for my own reference, but I thought some might want to see it.

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 19

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

Paradise Lost
by John Milton

I only read this book a couple of years ago. It blew my mind.

I'm not a "words" writer. I'm what I think of as a blue-collar writer, typing out the story and getting it done. I rarely focus upon the beauty of words when I'm writing. Poetry, with few exceptions, I tend to find self-indulgent to the point of obnoxiousness.

Paradise Lost (Modern Library Classics)But Paradise Lost, it was something special. It showed me how words could be used beautifully, while still telling a tale to its maximum effect.

If you've not read it, Paradise Lost is the story of the fall of Satan and his temptations of Adam and Eve. For the most part, this book published by John Milton in 1667 is told from Satan's viewpoint, though there is a generous middle section that focuses upon Adam.

It's quite possibly the most beautiful literary work I've had the pleasure to read. The words bring to life the rage and depravity of Lucifer, while also making him understandable to some extent without making you feel sorry for him. Lucifer is the villain. It's his job. It's what he does. And here he does it well.

Adam and Eve come off as somewhat simple-minded, but it makes sense that they would be. They were the first people, and they were new to the world. They had a lot to learn, and were taken advantage of by Satan.

Despite the subject matter, and the outcome of Satan downfall and man's falling away from God, this story isn't a downer. The reader is left with a positive ending, a look to the future possibilities of redemption. And God's love.

Whether you are a Christian or not, you owe it to yourself to read this fine book. Make no mistake, it's not the easiest of reads, but it is well worth your time. Especially if you love the beauty of words, which I've come to recognize.

Up next: In Cold Blood

Sunday, August 15, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 18

This is part of an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

Watership Down
by Richard Adams

Watership DownThose who know me know I’ve been a fan of rabbits for a long time now. Why that is, I do not know. My mom says it’s because I had a rabbit pillow when I was a baby. I think it’s got something to do with me finding innocence and potentially helplessness in such tiny creatures, and a feeling I need to protect them. But that’s only when I pause to think about it, which I rarely do.

I have pet rabbits, two at the moment. I’ve had more, and others, in the past. I’ll probably have pet rabbits as long as I live. Especially since my beagle gets along with them just fine.

But perhaps another reason I love rabbits so much is because of the novel Watership Down.

I first read this book in high school. I liked it, but I don’t remember it blowing my mind or anything. Later, while in college, in one of my classes about ancient and epic literature, my professor spouted something like, “Watership Down is as classic an epic tale as is Homer’s Odyssey.”

Something clicked for me. I went right out and re-read Watership Down, this time with different eyes. Then I read it again. I couldn’t believe I had missed so much during my first reading, but back then I hadn’t been the experienced and educated reader I was later to be.

My professor had been right. Watership Down is an epic tale, and it’s also a tale of heroics and sacrifice and struggle and … I could go on. It’s truly as good a book as anything Tolkien ever wrote, perhaps even better in some ways.

Watership Down is the story of a group of rabbits who go in quest of a new home after their burrow is destroyed. But that’s just the basics. That just skims the surface of this tale.

I don’t like giving away too much of the plots about books I’ve read, because I don’t want to derive potential readers the pleasure of discovering these treasures on their own and in their own way, but Watership Down is worth your reading if you are a fan of fantasy literature, especially epic literature.

Besides the plots, the characters are memorable, from small Fiver with his special (almost magical) abilities to the evil General Woundwort. And the writing is just darn good. Also, pushing this tale towards the fantastic, the rabbits have their own belief systems, almost a religion of sorts; they fear the Black Rabbit and generally have praise for El-ahrairah, a heroic figure, and Lord Frith, a sun god of sorts. The rabbits even have some of their own language, such as “hrududu,” which means car, or “silflay,” which means to eat grass. I’m oversimplifying all this for the sake of brevity, but I’m hoping you’ll get the picture. This is a complex and glorious tale.

And don’t let the cute little rabbits on the various covers of this book fool you. These rabbits aren’t Peter Cottontail or Bugs Bunny. They’ve got a lot more in common with Achilles, Gilgamesh and even Conan the Cimmerian.

Up next: Paradise Lost

Saturday, August 14, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 17

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

The Iliad
by Homer

The Iliad (Penguin Classics)The Iliad is one of the oldest works in literature known to the world, along with its companion tale The Odyssey. Over the centuries there has kind of been a tug-of-war among scholars between The Iliad and The Odyssey; for a while there will be general acceptance that The Iliad is the better of the two tales, then the tide will shift and The Odyssey is the better story.

The current trend tends toward The Odyssey being the better tale. But I don't follow that trend.

The Odyssey is definitely the more iconic of the two. I'll give it that. But for me, The Iliad has a strong resonance in its morality, and in its vision and descriptions of the heroic. I won't go into the plots of the two books, as I don't want to spoil anything for potential readers, but I'll break it down simplistically and say The Iliad is a tale of warfare while The Odyssey is the tale of one man's quest. But truly, both stories are so much more than that.

Being a reader of fantasy fiction and history, I had heard about The Iliad for years before finally deciding to read a modern translation from the Greek while I was in college. Then I immediately had to read it a second time.

Some might find The Iliad rather boring reading. There are pages upon pages of heroes spouting poetry and lists of names at one another. But through all the poems and bloodshed and backstabbing that goes on in The Iliad, the story truly comes to climax in one touching scene featuring the hero Achilles and Priam, the king of Troy. Again, I'd prefer not to give anything away.

For fantasy readers and writers, this tale has everything one could want. Heroes. Swords. Action. Adventure. Gods roaming the land. It's all there.

And it's all great reading.

Up next: Watership Down

Friday, August 13, 2010

The times they are a changin'

A year ago I was leery of self-publishing any of my e-books at Amazon. But I needed the money, so I went ahead and did.

And now, a year later, I'm nowhere near as leery of it. I'm glad I did it.

Yes, I've made some money. No, I'm not rich. I'm not even getting by on my writing money as of yet, but each month I'm making a little more than I did before. Plus, I've already got plans for my next e-book publications, and those will only bring in even more money.

One of the difficulties of self-publishing has always been the stigma of it. Self-published books are crap. At least that's what a lot of people seem to think. But many self-published authors nowadays are going the extra mile to make sure their books and e-books are top quality. For example, many are hiring professional editors or cover artists.

There's also the feeling some self-published authors have that they have let themselves down, that they weren't good enough. I might have been one of those authors 5 or 10 years ago, but not now.

Many traditional authors who have "made it" are now turning to self-publishing, mainly because changes in technology allow them to do so and because much of the traditional print publishing industry is slow to figure out what to do with the changes this technology brings to their business models.

Many authors are going it on their own without the aid of traditional print publishers.

For example, mystery and horror author J.A. Konrath a while back announced he would not longer be using a print publisher but would publish his own works, print and digital, through Amazon (as well a handful of other sites such as Smashwords). Konrath has sort of been labeled a rogue figure by some, so it's not surprising he would make such a giant leap.

And then I learned that longtime pro author Dean Wesley Smith is selling and promoting much of his backlist and short stories on Amazon, though he's not giving up on print altogether, which makes sense. His wife, novelist Kristine Kathryn Rusch, is doing much the same thing.

Now I see where horror novelist Brian Keene, he of zombie fiction fame, has dropped his print publisher and is going it alone with digital publishing, though he's also working in comics and not completely giving up on print if the right publisher comes along.

And then there are all the lesser-known authors out there who are self-publishing digitally, authors such as Zoe Winters and Charles Gramlich.

So, a revolution of sorts seems to be happening. Authors are going it on their own, without publishers. Where will this lead? I don't know. But I do know it's an exciting time to be a writer. And I'm glad to be here riding the wave.

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 16

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
by Jules Verne

I first discovered Jules Verne in the 1980s while in high school. Though I tend to read more fantasy and horror, some science fiction has come my way over the years, and Verne seemed a natural as he’s considered one of the grandfathers of science fiction in particular and speculative fiction in general.

20,000 Leagues Under the SeaI was going through a period where I felt I needed to read some of the masters of science fiction, and Verne was a logical choice. Eventually I read quite a few of his novels, but the very first one was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I started with this book for no other reason that it seemed the most famous of Verne’s work.

Immediately I was drawn into this tale of adventure and the themes behind it. As I’ve blogged about, one of the things that drew me to the book Moby Dick was its treatment of wrath and sanity. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea drew me for many of the same reasons. I’ve always wondered who was madder? Captain Ahab or Captain Nemo? I’ve always leaned toward Ahab for madness, but Nemo for pure vile.

Anyone interested in science fiction literature and/or writing should read Jules Verne, especially 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Verne can show that speculative literature isn’t only about the speculative, but it also can touch open the human element, our emotions, our mental states and more.

Up next: The Iliad

Thursday, August 12, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 15

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as an author.

Moby Dick
by Herman Melville
Moby Dick (Oxford World's Classics)Moby Dick seems to be one of those classic novels many people can’t stand. They find it boring, even tedious. The story breaks off into long winded tales of the history of whaling, while forgetting about the actual plot and characters for pages at a time.
Which didn’t bother me in the least. I was actually interested in all that whaling history, all of it true. To me, all that extra information just added to the story. By today’s standards, all that exposition on whaling would better be worked into a tale (at least by most of today’s professional fiction authors), but Moby Dick was published in 1851. Today’s reading audiences have shorter attention spans and expect today’s writers to cater to that attention span. It’s understandable.

But besides all the information on whaling, my favorite aspect of Herman Melville’s novel was its study of the depths of hatred, vengeance and even madness. To this day, I’ve read few novels that come close to delving into anger and revenge as well as this tale of Captain Ahab’s loathing for the great white whale Moby Dick. Not even many of the horror novels I’ve read over the years comes close to this, though a few have, as have some other classics of literature and a handful of non-fiction books.

I first read Moby Dick while I was in high school back in the 1980s, but I didn’t read it for a class. I read it for myself. Moby Dick is one of numerous novels that’s been labeled “the great American novel,” so I thought I owed it to myself to find out what this book was all about. I was a reading nerd back then, much as I guess I am now.

I’m glad I read Moby Dick. And I don’t want to come off as snobbish about it, but I’m glad to be one of the small group of people who loves this novel. To me, it was never boring. And that’s the most any of us can ask from our reading material.

Up next: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy, Day 14

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as an author.

The Three Musketeers
by Alexandre Dumas

Every writer of action and adventure fiction over the last century and a half has been influenced by author Alexandre Dumas, even if they don’t know it. Dumas, and his series of adventure tales of the musketeers, literally created modern action/adventure fiction in the 19th century, and as well had an influence on historical literature.

The Three Musketeers (Wordsworth Classics)I first discovered the novel The Three Musketeers in high school. Of course I’d heard of the musketeers as there’d been a bunch of movies over the years concerning the adventures of Porthos, Aramis, Athos and D’artagnon. I was heavy into fantasy literature during those days, and once I’d discovered Alexandre Dumas, it seemed only natural that I would turn to his literature. His stories seemed like fantasy, just without the magic; there were sword fights, damsels in distress, evil villains worth tackling, intrigue, plots, etc.

But once I actually read The Three Musketeers, I was blown away by the depth of the book. This was more than just an adventure tale. True, there were plenty of adventures and intrigues, but the book was so much more than that. For me, it seemed to touch upon every aspect of being human. There was joy and happiness as well as sadness, loss and much, much more. The Three Musketeers was the first novel I’d read that seemed extremely broad in its emotional appeal.

The movies over the years have never done this book justice, though some of those movies aren’t bad. The problem is the story is so expansive, there’s no way a director could fit the tale entire into just one movie.

After The Three Musketeers, I moved on to Dumas’s other writings, many of which feature the famous musketeer characters. Each Dumas book I’ve read has been different than the ones before, and each has been quite excellent, but none quite have the place in my heart that does The Three Musketeers.

If you like adventure stories, do yourself a favor and read this book.

Oh, by the way, in case anyone was curious: Athos has always been my favorite musketeer.

Up next: Moby Dick

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Kron Darkbow invades England

Actually, during the last week Amazon has made my e-books available on it's UK site. So, if you have a Kindle and live in Great Britain, my e-books are now at your fingertips. What are you waiting for? Get to reading!

City of Rogues: Book I of the Kobalos Trilogy

Road to Wrath: Book II of the Kobalos Trilogy

Dark King of the North: Book III of the Kobalos Trilogy

SEVER: Five Tales of Horror

SLICE: Seven Tales of Horror

Preludes: four tales of the fantastic

Day of the Dollar (screenplay)

Dark Side of Io (screenplay)

Abandoned Towers has new look

I've been meaning to mention this one for a while, but Abandoned Towers Magazine has a fresh, new design over at their website.

I love the new look. Very professional and pleasing to the eye.

And if you're not familiar with Abandoned Towers Magazine, it's time you familiarized yourself. There's some mighty fine science fiction and fantasy reading to be found there, as well as tales in other genres, comics, poetry and much more.

Reality sometimes intrudes

I've been away from all computer access for the last few days. Been busy moving, yet again, and that with a few other things have kept me busy and tired.

But I'm back online and at the keyboard now. I've still got plenty of unpacking to do, but normalcy will eventually become ... well, the norm ... once again.

I've not written anything in about four days, so that kind of sucks. But it's not that big a deal. I like to write every day because it helps to keep the old mental juices flowing, but I've pretty much moved to a point in my writing where I can skip the actual writing process for a while and then get back into it without too much of a mental fuss.

So, that's been my reality of late.

Reality of the future is also hitting me, and not kindly.

I really, really, really wanted to go to the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio, this year. I had plans for it. I like Columbus, and this is probably the closest the convention will ever be to where I actually live.

But did I mention above that I just moved? Yeah, I'm no longer near Columbus. And frankly, I just don't have the cash at the moment to shell out for such a long trip.

Ah, well. Life goes on.

On the plus side, I had a boost in my Amazon sales while I was offline. That's seems to happen every time I go offline for a few days. Maybe I should stay away more often.

Friday, August 06, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 13

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

by Alan Dean Foster

I first discovered author Alan Dean Foster in the late 1970s when I was still a kid. After all, he had been the author of Splinter of the Mind's Eye, the very first Star Wars sequel, and that was a book I'd had to have back then.

Spellsinger: Book 1I continued to read Foster over the next several years. Much of what I read by him was science fiction or novelizations of movies. But then he came out with a fantasy novel called Spellsinger.

Spellsinger was different than any other fantasy fiction I'd read up to that time, about 1983 when I was 13. The story was about a man named Jon-Tom Meriweather from our Earth who magically gets transferred to a fantasy world inhabited by talking, bipedal animals. Once in this new world, Meriweather soon discovers he is a Spellsinger, a natural-born mage of sorts who can sing and perform music to create magical spells.

It was a fun book, and a funny one, as well. Jon-Tom played the guitar, and he was a bit of a classic and metal rock fan, so much of his magic was brought about with him performing songs by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, AC/DC, etc. That was and continues to be one of my favorite eras of popular music, too, so the tale has always had a special place in my heart.

Spellsinger was followed up by seven more books based upon Jon-Tom's exploits in magic. And each of those books was entertaining, but the original is still my favorite to this day.

If you like lighter fantasy with a humorous twist, this series should be right for you.

And it won't hurt if you like to crank up an electric guitar every once in a while.

Next up: The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas