Must Read Fantasy

George R.R. Martin is on everyone’s lips because of Game of Thrones.  Many people have seen the HBO series, but I’m sure many fewer have read the books.  In addition to Martin, Tolkien and J K Rowling are also household names, known way beyond the fantasy genre.  These are the mass media darlings, but are they the heart and soul of the fantasy genre.  I say no.

The genre has changed over the years.  It seems like YA fantasy is very popular, but wasn’t it always that way?  Fantasy is one of those literary genres that has always been accessible to readers of all ages.  It cracks me up to see the YA fantasy section in the bookstore.  It’s just marketing because of the success of Harry Potter.

So if you’ve already read Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings, and are waiting for Martin to finish writing Game of Thrones, what should you read? Well since I’m an old dude, I’m going to give you my recommendations for the best fantasy series of the last several decades.  (I’m sure there are others, but these are the ones I have read and can recommend)

  • Glen Cook – The Chronicles of the Black Company; The Dread Empire.
  • Roger Zelazny – The Amber Chronicles.
  • Mickey Zucker Reighert – The Renshai Chronicles.
  • Michael Moorcook – The Elric Saga.
  • Steven Brust – Vlad Taltos Series.
  • Dave Duncan – A Man of His Word; A Handful of Men.
  • Katherine Kurtz – The Chronicles of the Deryni.
  • Terry Pratchett – Discworld Novels.
  • Tad Williams – Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn
  • Janny Wurts – The Cycle of Fire; Daughter of Empire.
  • C. S. Friedman – Cold Fire Trilogy.
  • Harry Turtledove – The Videssos Cycle.
  • Jennifer Roberson – Chronicles of the Cheysuli; Sword Dancer.
  • Raymond E. Feist – The Riftwar Saga.
  • Louise Cooper – Time Master Trilogy; Books of Indigo.
  • Eric Van Lustbader – The Sunset Warrior Trilogy.
  • Patricia A. Mckillip – The Riddle-Master of Hed trilogy.
  • Lawrence Watt-Evens – The Obsidian Chronicles.
  • Angus Wells – The Books of the Kingdom; The God War.
  • David Farland – The Runelords.
  • L.E. Modesitt Jr. – The Saga of Recluse.
  • Steve Bein – The Fated Blades.
  • Patrick Ruthfuss – The Kingkiller Chronicle.
  • Jim Butcher – The Dresden Files.

I almost feel bad about leaving Wheel of Time off this list because it started out so good, but I couldn’t keep reading it much like Game of Thrones – They both grew into this huge web of story arcs that lost my interest.  Anyway, this is my list.  I do prefer my fantasy a bit dark and gritty, but they don’t all fit in that category.  Many of these books are a bit older, but hey, so am I.  Try a couple of these if you haven’t read them already.

 

 

 

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No New Tale to Tell

Earth_Sun_Moon

I was riding in the car the other day and a familiar song came over the radio:

“No New Tale to Tell” by Love and Rockets from their Earth, Sun, Moon album.

At the time, my brain was hopping around like a frog trying to avoid capture.  (Like the tree frog that got into my house the other day, and it took me several tries to get it back out again.)  I was thinking about my recent writing and marketing efforts when the following verses played:

My world is your world
People like to hear their names
I’m no exception
Please call my name
Call my name

My mind jumped to the thought:

Is that why I write?  Is that why people do crazy things on the internet, or in life?  Are we all just trying to be recognized? (For the record, I don’t know.)

Then came the refrain:

No new tale to tell
No new tale to tell
No new tale to tell

That is exactly what I wanted to tell a person the other day in one of my online writers groups.  They were worrying about sharing their work with other writers for fear the other writers would steal their ideas.  I just wanted to shout at them: No new tale to tell!  There are no new ideas, just new versions of the same old stories.  How many times have you seen The Lord of the Rings retold in the fantasy genre?  Let them have the idea, just write it better.

Then came the verse:

When you’re down
It’s a long way up
When you’re up
It’s a long way down

It’s all the same thing
No new tale to tell

Yep, it’s long way up, and down.  Everyone started somewhere and will end somewhere. Hopefully, I’ll end with several readers.  It’s funny how songs sometimes just hit the mark on where you’re brain is currently hopping.

If you’ve never heard of Love and Rockets, you should give them a listen.  They are an alternative rock band from the late eighties.  I own three of their CD’s, and like all the songs.  Here a a few of my favorites:

“Here on Earth”, “Welcome Tomorrow”, “An American Dream”, “No Big Deal”, “So Alive”, and “Holiday on the Moon”

Look them up, check them out, and enjoy.

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Now Hear This…Now Say This?

Listen all you slug-a-beds, we’re about to lose some words.  According to experts there are several words that will soon be lost from the English language:

Academics uncover 30 words ‘lost’ from English language

Hey, I’ve been know to make up a word on occasion.  Wouldn’t it be easier to just use one of these instead before they disappear completely.

I’m all awhape over this, so let’s get busy.

Thanks for your ear-rent.

 

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Filed under Editing, Reading, Words, Writing

Writing Ideas

Where do your writing ideas come from?  For a long time I didn’t really have an answer for that question.  Where did they come from?  Imagination, yeah of course, but what was the spark that brought the idea to life?

Many of my stories, especially my short stories, have come from writing prompts.  I’ve belonged to a few writers groups over the years, and several of them utilized writing prompts to help get the writing juices flowing.  It has worked for my short story ideas, and at least one of my novels started that way too.

One of my problems is figuring out what to blog about.  Writing prompts don’t cut it as blogging topics.  So where do bloggers find their material?

Recently, I was looking for a way to get unbiased news.  I went online and checked media bias websites AllSides and Media Bias/Fact Check and put together a list of media outlets that were considered least biased.  I put together my list on feedly and that’s where I get my daily news now.  It has actually cut down my stress from reading the news, because for some reason I’m not getting pissed off anymore.  Who knew there was so much biased opinion floating around on the internet.

A huge side benefit to this plan is that my news feed is giving me all kinds of great ideas for blog (and Facebook) posts.  Who knew that the news could actually be informative, enjoyable, and useful?

 

 

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But it’s Cozy in Here!

Marketing is for the birds!

At least that is what I want to say.  I should be able to stay in my warm cozy little writing cocoon and not worry about such things.  Well, to stick with the bird analogy, maybe I’ll stay right here in my protective shell instead.

egg-1600890__340

The temptation is strong.  I like to write much more than I like to spend time on Facebook or update my website.  I don’t think it’s just me either.  Writers tend to be a solitary bunch.  If you go to any writing convention, you will see plenty of twittering finches, maybe a strutting cockatoo (or two), and probably at least one pair of lovebirds huddled in the corner.  You’ll also see plenty of eggs.  If they’re at a writing event, they’ve at least started to peck away at their shell and are peeking out to see if it’s safe.

hatching-chicks-2448541__340

They’re hoping to see something like this:

goslings-1566724__340

  But are worried they’ll be met with this instead:

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So right now, I’m working on the marketing plan for my series and peeking out at the online marketing world.  Wow, it’s a big scary World Wide Web out there.  Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Website creation, SEO, blurbs, blog tours, reviews, book this and book that.  Whew, my head is spinning, or maybe it’s the vultures circling overhead.

I’m tempted to repair that crack in the shell and maybe add a nice wine fridge in the corner.  Unfortunately, every egg has it’s shelf life.  So, it’s either get on with the hatching, or get tossed out with the garbage.

It looks a little chilly out there.  Wonder if I need a coat?

Feel free to share any words of wisdom on book marketing with me, and I’ll be updating my progress as I figure out my strategy.

 

 

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Where is Santa?

At a writers meeting the other day, someone asked me about my experiences in the military.  So I told a couple a stories, and then she asked:  “Why don’t you write about that?”

It’s a simple question, with a complex answer.  I spent six years in the US Navy—1982 to 1988.  I was a nuclear electrician and served aboard a fast attack nuclear submarine.  There is no dark, dramatic story behind my reluctance to talk about that time.  Even so, I’m always tempted to use the standard flippant answer we used back then when civilians asked us what we did:

“I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

There are several reasons why I am reluctant to talk about my navy days:

  1. I’m an introvert and prefer to keep such things private.
  2. I was lucky to serve in a time between wars. I have no exciting war stories to share.
  3. Most people think of combat troops when they think of the military. While I was qualified with small arms, the only time I ever carried one was when we had repel boarder drills.
  4. We weren’t allowed to talk about the nuclear submarine (I had a secret clearance) and I still feel uncomfortable discussing it even now (even though that whole submarine class has been decommissioned).
  5. Most of my navy stories involve drinking, which are mostly funny stories, but are not ones I care to share with strangers.

Being in the military, any branch, does give you a different perspective.  I write fantasy novels with a strong military element.  While I was never in combat—especially with swords, spears, bows and arrows—I understand the sense of belonging to a greater group than yourself, and the camaraderie that military people share.

With all that being said, there is a story from my navy days that most people may find entertaining.  I was stationed aboard the USS Gurnard (SSN 662).  It was commissioned in 1968.  At the time when I served on board, it was middle-aged for a submarine; there were older diesel and nuclear subs still in service, but there were also shiny new 688 submarines (Los Angeles Class) getting all the attention.  The older subs, like the Gurnard, had one advantage over the newer Los Angeles class subs—they were designed to surface through the ice.

When the navy decided to send a couple of submarines under the arctic ice in 1984, the Gurnard was chosen.  Luckily for me (Yes, this is meant to be sarcastic), I was on board at the time.  We left sunny San Diego and headed up the western seaboard.

Unfortunately, we had a major piece of equipment breakdown and had to make a pit stop in Adak, Alaska (I did say this was an older boat, right?).  If you’ve never been to Adak, Alaska, you didn’t miss much.  It was a small base on a small island in the middle of a cold sea.  We were there for two days, and I had duty.  All I saw was the dock.  The guys that went ashore only saw the bars, go figure.  From what I understand, there’s nothing left to see there today.

http://www.ktuu.com/content/news/Abandoned-Alaska-Once-a-thriving-naval-base-now-an-Adak-ghost-town-401510545.html

We left Adak and headed through the Bering Strait, submerged.  I worked in the engine room, but the guys from up forward said it was a white-knuckle ride with the ice above and the sea bed below and not much room in between.  I couldn’t say, but sometimes it can be good not knowing where you are.

After that, we were submerged under the ice for over a month (44 days).  We surfaced through the ice twice during that time.  Once early on to load the equipment that needed replacing (from our stop in Adak).  The navy set up an ice camp and we surfaced long enough to clear ice from our main hatch so we could rig the new motor onboard the sub.  I was awake for over a day during that fiasco (I call it a fiasco, but we actually got a commendation letter for our planning and execution), because my division was responsible for rigging and setting up the pump.  After replacing the pump, we slipped back under the ice until we reached the North Pole.

When I tell people I’ve been to the North Pole, I always get two questions, so I’ll save you the trouble:

  • No, there is not an actual pole there, and
  • No, I did not see Santa.

Really, I didn’t see much of anything but snow and ice and darkness.  We were there in the winter when it stays dark forever.  The picture below is the sail of the USS Gurnard sticking up through the ice at the North Pole.  The color on the ice is a reflection from the flare shot off so you can see.

North Pole

I actually got out on the ice twice while we were there.  The first time was because who would go to the North Pole and not go up on the ice?  So I dressed up like a green Stay-Puff Marshmellow Man and went up to look.  I kinda looked like this guy, only all green instead of camo with a mask over my face.

DA-ST-88-03349

We were only allowed to be up there for about 5-10 minutes because of the temperature (I don’t actually remember how long, but it was no more than 10 minutes).  It was probably the most surreal experience of my life—walking away from the boat’s sail, on the ice, in the dark, and thinking, “I hope I don’t fall through (the ice was way too thick for that); I hope they don’t leave me (That would suck); and I hope I don’t get eaten by a polar bear (If you look at the picture, there are two men up in the sail with high-powered rifles.  They were called the polar bear watch.).”

That could have been the end to my North Pole adventure, and I would probably have been left with a more positive overall impression—been left more in awe of the majesty of the place—but this was the navy.  Several hours later, I was woken up (during my never-enough-to-really-feel-rested rack time) to go back up on the ice to hook up temporary lights.  Several crew members decided that it would be awesome to reenlist at the North Pole.  How exciting!  Of course, I was the poor slob who had to go up and string lights for the ceremony.  Have you ever tried to hang lights in the dark wearing two pairs of gloves (the outer pair being mittens thick enough to be used as oven mitts)?  Needless to say, my North Pole memories are somewhat marred by the experience.  But hey, the navy promised adventure, right?

I remember the ads from those days: “Navy.  It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure.”  I’m not sure why they didn’t show someone stringing up lights in freezing weather on that commercial.  I’m sure it would have been a hit.

All joking aside, the navy was a positive experience.  I have made a good living because of the training I received.  (And I don’t glow in the dark much either.)

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Filed under History, Navy, North Pole, Travel

Finally!

I finally finished the last revision of The Eastern Factor.  Maybe I should call it the latest revision.  This is the one where I made much-needed cuts based upon feedback from readers.  It is the last revision before going to the editor.  Which means it isn’t really the last revision.  Wow, I talked myself down from that exciting moment way too quickly.  Let me try that again.

Last revision!  Last revision!  Last revision!  For Now.  (No, I am not dancing around, but I did spin my chair around a couple of times.)

Wow, that felt better. (Still a little dizzy though.)

I’m talking to the editor and will have a bit of a break before it comes back to me.  This gives me some time to work on something else.  I’m looking forward to writing something new for a change.  I actually have a couple of short story ideas that I want to pursue.

Speaking of short stories, my story Granny May Saves the Day will be coming out soon in Issue 4 of Broadswords and Blasters.  Look for it in January.

 

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