17 April 2015

Book Review: In Siege of Daylight, by Gregory S. Close

Are you a fan of traditional fantasy? In Seige 0f Daylight delivers a sweeping fantasy tale full of adventure, prophecy, and intrigue. Author Gregory S. Close translates many of the familiar tropes into his own breed of characters—characters with flavor and rich backgrounds in a setting that is comfortable, but not too familiar.

His pacing is spot-on, and his prose provides some lovely scenes. If there's one thing that interrupted the read, it would be the naming conventions. Close veers from horrendous, unpronounceable, apostrophe-ridden monikers to French (what?) names without missing a beat. Many of the characters and creatures share names so similar that they confuse.

If you can ignore that, a compelling prologue catapults the reader into the first chapter, where the young protagonist makes his debut. I wanted to slap him several times, but that's a good thing; a young apprentice who knows everything, can do everything, and doesn't demonstrate his actual youth is difficult to believe. Calvraign may be a quick study, but he's also victim to a mercurial temper and a teenage sense of invincibility.

The other figures introduced in this story are equally well developed — no cardboard cut-outs here. Aside from the names, the other races are introduced without the baggage of an info dump, yet they flow into the tale smoothly, and still leave room for surprises.

The plot unwinds at a good pace, displaying contrasting cultures, veiled histories, and surprise reveals. While the territory is familiar, Close does a fine job of keeping it from being cliché. In spite of the number of character views, he’s kept them in balance and done it in a way that coaxes the reader to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next. He is clearly a storyteller worth watching.

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Have you read In Siege of Daylight
What did you like best about it?
What other books have you read that are similar?

10 April 2015

Drop Everything And Read!

is weekend (April 12th) marks the birthday of beloved children’s author Beverly Cleary. Her books have been delighting children for over 60 years—She first wrote about D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) in her book, Ramona Quimby, Age 8. When Cleary received letters from children taking part in “Drop Everything and Read” activities it inspired her to give Ramona the same experience. “Drop Everything and Read” programs have taken off nationwide since then—some of them spanning the entire month of April. In the fall of 2002 Barnes & Noble did a fabulous interview with Ms. Cleary. You can read it here. (Her favorite books are a lot like mine!)

What a gift to the world! The program encourages a love of reading, sharing, and teaching. A couple of weeks ago I talked about 10 Reasons to Read (and I could have gone a lot further than ten…). It is so amazing what reading can do for us! 

Take the day or the weekend — a week! — and celebrate with a book (or two or three). Get comfy, turn off the computer (and the phone!), and support worldwide literacy. Invite your friends and family! Have a read-in! Taking part will not only be fun, it will be a great example of the value reading holds.

The Fantasy Sci-Fi Network (a group I participate in) actively, happily supports the initiative. You can follow us on Facebook or Twitter where we’re using hashtags such as #DEAR and #literacy and #FSFNet.

What’s more, we’re making it easy to get plenty of reading material to keep you busy and happy. The group has over fifty books discounted (or free!) over the weekend.  

Let us know if you’re participating! 

What are you reading? 
Who are you reading with? 
Are you doing something particularly awesome and fun when you Drop Everything And Read?

03 April 2015

Women, Violence, and Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Welcome to the First Friday Feature of our Fantasy writers group, A Drift of Quills! The Quills come together this month to tackle a controversial question: Does violence by or against women add authenticity to fantasy/sci-fi tales?
Does violence by or against women add authenticity to fantasy/sci-fi tales? 

(Woman With a Bow, unknown artist)
Fantasy and sci-fi—No, fiction authors (at least those I know) write to entertain. We write about people. People, both men and women, are often violent, cruel, abusive, and criminally selfish. Our world has a long history of them, from Cain to Bashar-al Assad, from Jezebel to Griselda Blanco. Fictional worlds are rife with them as well, and the genre seems to lend itself to fights, wars, and all kinds of imaginative abuse.

Interestingly, men dominate the lists of “most violent/evil/cruel.” A study published in American Society of Criminology shows that “men account for nearly 80% of all violent offenders reported in crime surveys.” And yet it’s been discovered that women are often the instigators in domestic violence. “Two major studies using a different methodology—the 2000 National Violence Against Women Survey by the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey published last February—have also found that some 40% of those reporting serious partner violence in the past year are men.” (Time.com, The Surprising Truth About Women and Violence, 25 Jun 2014)

It seems that violence + women in fantasy/sci-fi reflects a slice of reality.

And yet…

I believe that those of us who wield the pen need to be cautious about whether we’re being realistic, whether we’re feeding a pattern, and whether we’re actually promoting continued aggression. Media today (television shows, movies, video games, music, and books) has an increasingly longer reach and a strong ability to desensitize its audience. We’re a society that encourages peace on one hand and actively teaches brutality on the other. Perhaps, rather than eliminating violence entirely from our “entertainment,” we need to be careful about how we’re portraying it…

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Author of Oathtaker

The world has changed dramatically, even since I was a child, with regard to the place of women in our society and the options open to them. I’ve experienced the changes and benefitted from them. Still, I recognize that these changes occurred largely in the “western” world, that portion historically influenced by a Judeo-Christian ethic. Women in many other places have not been as fortunate as have I. In some cases, they live in what might be called “medieval” times. This is an important issue, as many fantasies are played out in medieval-type worlds. Accordingly, I expect that the manner in which women are treated in those stories might well differ from the world in which I live today. Even so, fantasy stories are set in make-believe worlds. Those worlds can be whatever the authors want them to be . . . 

(Read more!)
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Author of the short story, Sanguis Dei and a poetry collection, Light and Dark
Kristie's Blog 

My colleagues have made an important distinction that readers used to know without being told. Has that changed? Maybe. In a world where people often have a hard time distinguishing between fantasy and reality, we may need a "DISCLAIMER: ...

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What do you think? We’d love to know!

27 March 2015

10 Reasons to Read

A never-ending reservoir of stories lies waiting for you to dive in. Why should you (or anyone else) read? It could save your life. That doesn't mean you have a life of textbooks ahead of you. No, the reading material is up to you! (Though if you like textbooks, far be it from me to discourage you from reading them!)
According to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), literacy is the "ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society."
Literacy is incredibly powerful! What can it do for you?

13 March 2015

Mug Shots — 10 Do’s and Don’ts for Author Pictures

A lot of people don’t like being photographed. It makes them feel awkward and self-conscious. (I know all about that!) But people like, well, people, and providing a face to go with a name helps us to connect. When we have a face to associate with something—like a song or a book—we tend to remember it better.

Just like your book cover, your author picture (or “headshot”) has a job to do. You want to make a good impression. You want to look professional. Why? Because it helps establish trust between you and your readers. An amateur shot will establish your immaturity. You want to be taken seriously! This picture is going to represent you everywhere you go: on your book cover; in your media kit; in blog posts; on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Google+, and every other social media site known to mankind. Your author picture is an important part of your brand.

  • Hire a professional. Yes, I cheated. I married one. (Free photos for life, even when I don’t want ‘em!) If you can’t hire a pro, read a little “how to” advice: How to Take a Great Social Media Profile Picture in 4 Easy Steps, or Taking Your Own Headshot With An iPhone (On A Budget) 
  • Use a close-up shot focused on your face.
  • Zap the background. People want to see you, not your Star Wars Action Figure collection or the creatively dressed participants at Comic Con. Avoid busy, cluttered backgrounds and surroundings. Provide some contrast, you don’t want to blend into the background. If you’re light-haired, use a darker background. If you’re dark-haired, go for a lighter one.

06 March 2015

Books We Love

Welcome to the Friday Feature of our Fantasy writers group, A Drift of Quills! We Quills get together once a month to chat up aspects of reading and writing. Here we are again with a few of our book besties, applauding Stephen King’s advice that  (read a lot, write a lot)

 Read on to see what’s carrying the Quills away!

My grandmother used to call me “Robin the Hood” when I was very little. I was understandably confused—and then I learned about the legendary Robin Hood. The nickname became something of a badge of honor, though I have no idea why should would compare me to a thief. I was innocent! Naturally, I read and watched several versions of the tale, but when I read Lady of the Forest, by Jennifer Roberson, I fell in love. The characters were so real, and so believable. Robin is convincingly traumatized and haunted by his past, Marian boldly struggles with her present, the love story is natural and beautiful. The story is a lovely, rich, and poignant retelling of the classic tale. The author has an extended major in British history, and I love how she uses that without beating the reader over the head with it. I want to write like that when I grow up! Roberson writes prolifically in the fantasy, sci-fi, and historical genres — and you can read a fun interview with her at Fantasy Book Critic (the site's very first author interview!)

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Author of the short story, Sanguis Dei and a poetry collection, Light and Dark

In 1995 an author team wrote "Relic,” a murder mystery/suspense novel about the "New York Museum of Natural History,” in which paying customers to the museum wind up brutally murdered in the dark corridors and closed off rooms. Graduate student Margo Green believes the murderer might not be human. 

… (Read more!)

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Author of Oathtaker

While I love to read fantasy, I have not selected a fantasy story to share. Rather, I am going back in time to a great and timeless classic. Specifically, my choice is Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo.

I’ve heard people over the years say they gave up on Les Miserables as a difficult read. I suppose there is something to that. Yet I consider it the most incredibly beautiful tale ever written—the story, sure—but even more so, the manner in which it is told.  It is like poetry—no . . . music. 

… (Read more!)

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Okay, lay it on us: What's YOUR favorite book?

Answer in the comments below, and be sure to share this page!

27 February 2015

Five Good Things

If you’ve been keeping up with my Facebook page, you’ll know I’m neck deep re-working the outline for my Work In Progress. I suffered a round of depression when I calculated that Act 1 needs to go on an extreme diet or I’ll end up with a 1200+ page doorstop, just for the first book! Using a physical plot board rather than the computer screen has helped a lot. It’s much easier to see what’s going on and what’s missing. (Don’t worry, Beloved Scrivener [http://www.literatureandlatte.com], I still love you!) I’ve used the board to reorganize my Scrivener files and I’m rarin’ to go!

In the meantime, I want to share with you some fun news and articles from people who are not suffering Writer’s Embarrassment.

“HEA is thrilled to unveil the cover of Fierce: Sixteen Authors of Fantasy, a multiauthor boxed set that features 16 of the most entrancing high fantasy reads from Mercedes Lackey, Michael Manning, K.F. Breene, Morgan Rice, Michael J. Ploof, Daniel Arenson, Kate Sparkes, David Adams, Amy Raby, C. Greenwood, David Dalglish, K.J. Colt, Shae Ford, Endi Webb, Michael Wallace and Terah Edun.”

Game Of Thrones: PowerPoint Edition
Stock shapes in PowerPoint take fantasy to a new level.

Hardback Editions of Thread Slivers and Thread Strands
My friend Leeland Artra is about to bring his books to the world as both hardbacks and mass-media paperbacks. And his video is pretty fun to watch, too.

Dragon Sketch by HELMUTTT on DeviantART
“This is just a quick sketch of a dragon I did. really nothing special and actually quite boring.” Methinks he doth protest too much.

Joe Abercrombie’s Fantasy Land
“With the second book in his YA-flavoured Shattered Sea trilogy out this month - featuring a quote from none other than Game Of Thrones’ George RR Martin on the front - novelist Joe Abercrombie talks to Vision about why fantasy is just as adept as literary fiction in reflecting the world in the 21st century.”

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What fascinating fantasy have you seen on the ‘net recently? Comment below, and share this post in your Google+ groups.