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“A song of ice and fire” book 5 released! July 12, 2011

Posted by kmcalear in Book Debut, Fantasy.
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Hello blogland!

I found out one of the very nice perks of the kindle, you get your pre-orders nearly immediately upon hitting the release date! Yay! July 12, 2011 is the release date for the epic novel A Dance with Dragons which continues the stories of the characters of George R. R. Martin’s A song of ice and fire series. It’s hard to believe that I started reading these novels over a decade ago!

Now normally I would re-read the old novels in order to catch up, but A song of ice and fire are over 1000 pages each, and I do tend to warn people they are “stressful” books. The plots are intriguing and the books are hard to put down, but no character is actually safe in the series. George Martin kills characters off that you never expect to bite the big one!

That said, there’s something compelling about these novels and they tend to keep me up until the wee hours of the morning turning page after page. Thankfully I just found a really good summary/recap for those of you who, like me, can’t quite recall where everything left off.

http://afantasyreader.blogspot.com/2011/07/song-of-ice-and-fire-recap-from.html

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Review : The Messenger July 6, 2011

Posted by kmcalear in Book Review, Fantasy, Mystery, Supernatural.
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This novel is a little slow to get started, but about 60 pages into it I really became intrigued with the story. For one thing it opens with the recruiting of a character you don’t see hardly at all later in the novel. As an editor I would have removed that “first chapter” because it set a tone for the story that was not continued later in the story. I was expecting more of a ‘ghost’ story than the supernatural thriller it became, because of the opening chapter. That said, however, the story is intriguing and I liked the twist on the Immortals idea Burke uses. The character of Tyler was also engaging, as was Amanda, although they remained a little flat. I wouldn’t say they’re complete charicatures or tropes, although you have the “awkward girl meets dashing handsome lover” theme, but Burke manages to avoid complete cliche enough to keep me reading. I loved the ‘cemetary dog’ concept and I think Shade may have been my favorite character.  I also rather liked the creepiness and dark appetites of the villian. My biggest critique of the story, I think, is that the end of the novel is very predictable in a Happily Ever After fashion and that there weren’t any true ‘keep you up with the lights on’ scares in the novel. In the end it was entertaining, readable, but an average novel.

Genre:  Fantasy, Ghost story, Mystery

Age: Pre-teen – Adult

Content:  Very little of consequence, some characters drink heavily, violence in the kidnappings and the war flashback

Overall: 3/5

Book Review: Fairest – Gail Carson Lavine April 1, 2011

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Fantasy, Uncategorized.
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Whew…another month almost over.  I don’t know how it happens so fast…no one asked my permission.  Though here in Utah the winter is stubbornly holding on and it’s still freezing and cloudy.  Spring in Utah is a fight between Winter and Summer which Summer will eventually win, usually in about a 48 hour turn around from cold to scorching.

Anyway…bookwise I’ve been listening to many books on CD or MP3 lately as the job requires a bit of a commute.  This last week I listened to Fairest by Gail Carson Lavine.  I was in the mood for something light with a happily ever after kind of thing after reading a lot of darker bits.  I kinda wonder if that’s partially because I’m so ready for spring and happily ever afters tie into good weather in my brain.

Fairest is a retelling of Snow White and takes place in the same world as Lavine’s Ella Enchanted retelling of Cinderella.  The maid Aza is abandoned as a baby and raised by an innkeeper and his family.  Unlike the usual spin on step families the family truly loves her and she truly loves them.  (As a step mom meself it appealed immensely to me to see a happy step relationship.)  Physically Aza is an ugly kid, both in her own eyes and the eyes of other, and that theme of chasing beauty and what it means to be beautiful on the inside and the outside is really what the book is about.

The language is not overly difficult save for some of the names, the fantasy spellings are occasionally horrid, but easily readable by around 10 and up.  In a month where I just needed a little ‘and they all lived happily ever after’ this was a fun feel good listen.  The one problem I had with the audio book is that they sing all of the singing parts, which are abundant.  Initially it was kinda cute, like listening to a Bollywood film, but some of the songs are LOONG and I didn’t like the melodies they’d chosen enough to listen.  I became grateful for the fast forward button at a few points.  Despite some of that annoyance, I do really like the full cast audio for this type of book.

A great book for a lazy sunny afternoon or while on vacation.

 

Genre:  Young adult fantasy/retold fairytale

Age: pre-teens and up

Content:  Very minor violence, one character gets turned to stone but recovers, a plot for poisoning

Overall:  4/5

Meet the author Monday: Marie Brennan October 4, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Author Interview, Fantasy.
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*snuggles into the blankie she won at the family party*  Happy Holidays boys and girls.  I hope your houses are having as much fun as mine.  I’m swamped with children, a sick husband and more dirty dishes than I can count.  Oh well…  :)

Getting on to cooler stuff.  Marie Brennan is our last author interview for December and what a fun ride to talk to her.  She’s been on my TBR list for Midnight Never Come since it came out and I’m already a fan of the Warrior and Witch books.  I’m hoping I’ll get to it here in the next couple weeks.

Housekeeping:  this is the last day to comment to go into the end of the month drawing.  A gift card to Barnes and Noble and a book from one of our December authors of your choice is on the line!

Now our author:
Marie Brennan
Webpage: Swan Tower
Books: Warrior, Witch, Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie (2009)
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy

How would you classify your fantasy? (For example, epic, historical, classic, re-told fairy tale, low fantasy… etc.)
The series I’m writing at present is historical fantasy, set in London at different points in time.  The first book, Midnight Never Come, takes place in the Elizabethan period; its sequel In Ashes Lie covers the Civil War the following century.  My first two novels, however, are more middle-of-the-genre adventure fantasy.

From the mouth of the author:
What is the fantasy cliché that most bothers you, or what is your book pet-peeve?

I really don’t like Destiny.  Except in the hands of *extremely* good authors, it tends to render the protagonist’s choices less meaningful; I’d rather read about a character who *decides* to step up to the plate and solve a problem, instead of one who’s been fated from birth to do so.  The motif can work if you use it to explore questions of free will and the like, but too many authors use it as a convenient jump-starter for their plot, to explain why this random nobody is so special they’re going to save the world.

What is your favorite fantasy critter or fairy tale character and why?  No, it doesn’t have to be one you write about.
I’m a pretty big fan of faeries, which I *do* write about.  They tie in well with my folklore background, and because “faerie” is a pretty broad category, there’s a wide variety of things you can do with them in a story.

We all know it’s easy to get distracted when a project is taking its own sweet time to bubble.  What is your Achilles heel when it comes to getting distracted from writing?
The Internet, easily.  It contains infinite distractions, many of which update regularly, so that it’s easy to decide I need to check and see if any of them have posted new content.

With the holidays coming up what is your favorite winter activity?
Curling up in the armchair and reading. :-) I grew up in Dallas, so things like ice-skating or snowball fights were a rarity, and being outside in the cold is not something I particularly enjoy.

I’ve heard of inspirational eating, so when you’re settled in to get things done is there a particular food that you just have to have on hand?
Not really.  I try not to snack too much while working, though sometimes I’ll have a bowl of trail mix on my desk that I can munch from.

What does it take to write a really good villain?  Do you ever find yourself in a mental space that scares you or makes you wonder if that really came out of YOUR head?
I very rarely write villains, as it happens.  My plots more often involve antagonists: people who are genuinely trying to do what they believe is the right thing, but their “right thing” lies at cross-purposes to the protagonist.  I find that produces a richer conflict, because the opposition isn’t as clear-cut right-and-wrong — and it usually means the protagonist can’t take the easy way out of their problems by killing the bad guy.

Which of your characters gave you the most trouble and was the hardest to write for?

Tiresias, the mad seer in Midnight Never Come.  He isn’t the actual Greek Tiresias — he’s just named that because of his prophetic gift — but man, writing a crazy person is *hard*.  Making somebody wacky and random?  Easy.  But creating a compelling madness, something that seems to have its own logic and contains buried fragments of truth . . . that’s much, much more difficult.  The book contains five interludes from his point of view, and I think it’s fair to say they were one of the hardest parts to write.

We all have darling lines or paragraphs in our stories.  Stephen King even says we should kill them.  What is your most favorite murdered darling from any of your books?

Hmmmm.  I don’t tend so much to fall in love with specific lines; more often it’s a scene I don’t want to cut.  There’s an outtake from the first act of Midnight Never Come that had Deven, one of the protagonists, interacting with Queen Elizabeth, which I really enjoyed because it showed a side of her that didn’t come through anywhere else in the novel.  She loved to ride very fast, and as one of her bodyguards Deven has to keep up with her, so it’s this scene where she’s playing a little game by trying to outrace him, and he gets to see a side of her that’s more the woman Elizabeth, instead of the Virgin Queen.

What is your worst writing habit, the thing which you keep telling yourself you’re going to change and you do it anyway?
Not so much that I tell myself I *will* change it as I wish I *could*: writing late at night.  My best working hours start at about 10 p.m. and go until about 3 a.m.; I kind of wish I operated better on a more normal schedule.

If you were going to interview another author, whose brain would you want to pick?
I’d probably have to choose Diana Wynne Jones, though I fear my attempts to pick her brain would degenerate into aimless fangirl babbling.  If I had to point to one author who’s responsible for me being a writer today, it would be her.

From the mouth Lune, the faerie protagonist of Midnight Never Come, which is why her responses sound a little archaic.

What is the best piece of advice you’d give to other Fantasy characters on how to survive troubles and tribulations?
Never cease thinking.  If your author is like mine, the trials you face will require you to solve the riddle or learn the history or find the solution no one expects.  Brute force will only rarely avail you.

How do you feel about magic powers? Indispensable? Only for the Lazy Hero/Heroine? You wish your author gave you more?
For those of us whose nature is magical, they are as commonplace as breathing — but their power is limited.  While I might wish to be a great enchantress, I suspect it would not rescue me from the need for quick thinking.

What’s the best way to vanquish mad witches, evil dragons… orcs, ogres?

With aid.  ‘Tis a rare hero who knows all and can do all, without another to guard his back.

Is there a happily ever after on your horizon, or is true love only for those sappy romance books?
Mortals may love until they die.  Faeries may love — until the one they love dies.  The grief that follows lasts forever.

Magic artifacts? Useful, indispensable, more trouble than they’re worth…
All of that and more.  But my greatest protection has come from the most ordinary of things: mortal bread.  Use lies in everything, if you can but find it.

Thanks so much to Marie and Lune!

Meet the author Monday: Peter V. Brett September 13, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Author Interview, Fantasy.
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Greetings from the frozen mountains of the Rockies.  It’s snowing hard outside and I’m trying to make it all the way through the work day with the hope of getting home without dying on icy roads!  However, I’m happy to have a White Christmas, so I can’t complain too much.

Santa has been good to us here at Reality By Pass and we have more Author Interviews than we do remaining Fridays!  To this end there will be at least two author interviews a week for the rest of December.  Remember that there will be a drawing for books at the end of the month.  Ask a question, comment on the state of the weather…just let us know you’re out there to win!

Nooow…onto today’s interview with Petter V Brett.

Vital Status:

Lives:  Somewhere in the US.
WebpagePeter V Brett
Books: The Warded Man (March 2009)
Genres: Fantasy

From the mouth of the author:

What is the fantasy cliché that most bothers you, or what is your book pet-peeve?

Oh, there are so many. I guess the standard fantasy story arc/climax gets to me the most. Basically, this is where the main character discovers they are the heir to a magic they did nothing to earn, don’t understand, and are afraid/unable to use. They muddle through the book with no control over this special power until the last possible minute when all seems lost, at which point,  for no real reason other than plot resolution, they manage to bend the magic to their will just long enough to defeat the villain, who is usually a  life-long master of the same magic, because “good” magic, as everybody knows, is stronger than “bad” magic, and the hero always has the strongest magic of all. Of course, when the sequel rolls around, they are back to not understanding their power. Lather, rinse, repeat.

A lot of amazing fantasy authors, including many bestsellers, have used this story skeleton through the years, some to great effect, but it’s begun to stick in my craw because I think that with a very few exceptions, it makes for an unsatisfying climax. The author builds enormous tension getting the protagonist into an inescapable fix, and then  kind of cheats to get them out. Victories in real life don’t happen that way, and I am a big believer that even fantasy fiction should mirror reality as much as possible, so that readers can relate to it.

What is your favorite fantasy critter or fairy tale character and why?  No, it doesn’t have to be one you write about.

Unicorns. Totally.

Okay, I’m lying. Screw unicorns. Actually, my favorite fantasy critters are the ones I write about. Demons.

I always loved demons, even back when I was a little kid playing Dungeons and Dragons. I memorized all the demon types in the Monster Manual and Fiend Folio, and looked for any excuse to use them in a game. Did you know the Balrog in The Fellowship of the Ring was a Type VI demon called a Balor? Those things are no joke. Makes you really respect Gandalf. The real D&D demon you didn’t want to fuck with, though, was the Demogorgon. That thing was a two-headed psionic supra-genius with a -8 armor class and 200 hit points. D&D also made a point of distinguishing demons from devils, which I think is important.

There were also these evil demons called the N’gari that fought the X-men in the early 80’s. There was a special Christmas issue of the X-men (Uncanny #143, I think) where a demon chases Kitty Pryde all over the X-mansion. That comic scared the crap out of me when I was a kid; I must have read it a thousand times. From there I went on to read lots of demon-centric fantasy novels like Terry Brooks’ Elfstones of Shannara, Lyndon Hardy’s Master of the Five Magics, and… heck, just about any of the many works of RA Salvatore or CS Friedman.

You get my point. I was always hunting demon stories, and it was great to finally take a crack at writing them myself.

We all know it’s easy to get distracted when a project is taking its own sweet time to bubble.  What is your Achilles heel when it comes to getting distracted from writing?

Same as everyone these days, I reckon. The internet. It’s probably why I usually get more writing done on my smartphone riding the subway for an hour than I can all day on my home computer with its seductive high-speed web connection. That said, it’s just as easy for me to get distracted by sorting my socks.

Distraction is a real problem for me, and I think for anyone who wants to be a writer. Stephen Pressfield calls it “Resistance” in his book The War of Art. The fact is, unless you have the muse sitting right on your shoulder (which is a rare and undependable thing), writing, at least, writing well, is a lot harder than it looks. It can be such a trial sometimes that to a struggling author, the thought of climbing an icy ladder to clear leaves from the roof rain gutter starts to sound more enticing that sitting by the computer with a hot cuppa. I truly believe that training yourself to focus and produce work consistently when you’re blocked or tired or not in the mood is what separates pro writers, even hackish ones, from talented amateurs.

I wish I was better at it, myself.

With the holidays coming up what is your favorite winter activity?

My family used to have a ski house at Hunter Mountain in New York, and we would go skiing a few times every winter. Sometimes my dad would even pull us out of school on a Friday to take advantage of a day without weekend crowds. Those were the days!

Now that I live in Brooklyn and am married to a non-skier, I don’t get to go as often as I used to, but my father and sister and I still try to go once every winter if we can.

I’ve heard of inspirational eating, so when you’re settled in to get things done is there a particular food that you just have to have on hand?

Ugh. Prepare to be sickened. I like to eat Nerds Rope, which is this Willy Wonka candy where they essentially take a long Gummi Worm and stick Nerds candies to it. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, be thankful. It is somehow several times as sugary as pure sugar.

I also mix iced coffee with Diet Coke when I am working late and want a caffeine boost. Don’t knock it until you’ve let it keep you up till 4am. Red Bull is for sissies.

What does it take to write a really good villain?  Do you ever find yourself in a mental space that scares you or makes you wonder if that really came out of YOUR head?

I don’t really write about villains, because I’m not convinced they exist in the classical sense. No one sees themselves as a villain, that is just a label from the person on the other side of the conflict. In real life, people find all sorts of ways to justify the evil things they do. I try to be impartial as an author, and just describe conflict and motive and let the reader decide who’s right and who’s wrong.

That said, there are several characters I’ve written that scare the crap out of me, especially Jardir’s wife, Inevera, who makes her first appearance in my nearly-completed sequel to The Warded Man, titled The Desert Spear. I have nightmares about her.

Which of your characters gave you the most trouble and was the hardest to write for?

Probably the Warded Man. My main protagonists, Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer, all have clear voices in my head, but the Warded Man is an entity unto himself, and a being of constant internal conflict. It’s a difficult head to get into sometimes.

We all have darling lines or paragraphs in our stories.  Stephen King even says we should kill them.  What is your most favorite murdered darling from any of your books?

I have many murdered darlings. The version of The Warded Man I originally sold to Del Rey books was 182,000 words. The final draft I released to print was a sleek 158,000. I had reasons for everything I cut, usually pacing or redundancy, and the end-product was better for it, but some really great (in my opinion, anyway) material was lost in the process. So much, in fact, that I am planning to add a “deleted scenes” blog to my website to reveal some of those delicious tibbits to anyone interested in the writing process, or who just wants a little fix before the sequel comes out.

What is your worst writing habit, the thing which you keep telling yourself you’re going to change and you do it anyway?

Overwriting. I always write more than I need to. Like this answer. I could have just said “Overwriting” and been done with it, but was that good enough for me? Noooooo.

If you were going to interview another author, whose brain would you want to pick?

CS Friedman or George RR Martin. Both have an amazing ability to keep an incredibly complex set of POV characters and story arcs straight and still tell a cohesive story.

From the mouth of the Warded Man:

What is the best piece of advice you’d give to other characters on how to survive troubles and tribulations?

Stop being afraid to stand up for yourself. You can’t count on someone else coming along to do it for you.

How do you feel about magic powers? Indispensable? Only for the Lazy Hero/Heroine? You wish your author gave you more?

No one gave me my magic. I earned it, paid for in blood and scars, and now I walk free in the night when others cower behind their wards. But magic’s nothing compared to the will to stand up and defend what’s yours when the demons come to take it.

What’s the best way to vanquish mad witches, evil dragons… orcs, ogres?

Ent no such thing.

Is there a happily ever after on your horizon, or is true love only for those sappy romance books?

Gave up my chances for happiness long ago. I spend more time amongst demons than I do men now. I’ve eaten their flesh and stolen their magic. No woman in her right mind would want me, or the spawn of my tainted blood.

Magic artifacts? (You know what I mean, enchanted swords, books of spells…) Useful, indispensable, more trouble than they’re worth…

Weapons can be lost. They can be broken. They can be stolen. Make your own body a weapon, though, and nothing can take it from you, or catch you unarmed.

Meet the author Monday: Juliet Marillier September 6, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Author Interview, Fantasy.
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Welcome to another author interview! Today we’re featuring Juliet Marillier, author of 11 novels currently in print, and hopefully author of 11 or 12… or 50 more! (*nudge nudge*). Juliet’s latest book Heir to Sevenwaters is newly published here in the US and in Australia, and would make a lovely Christmas Present if you’re still looking for gifts. Her novels have a beautifully flowing prose, engaging protagonists, romantic heroes and beautiful imagery. She richly deserves her many awards, most recently the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Young Adult Novels. (Cybele’s Secret).

Don’t forget to post comments! There are prizes to be won.
Enough from me…. on to the interview! (~K)

Lives: Perth, Western Australia
Webpage: Juliet Marillier
Books
: The Sevenwaters Trilogy, The Bridei Chronicals, Wolfskin, Foxmask, Wildwood Dancing, Cybele’s Secret, Heir to Sevenwaters
Genres: Historical Fantasy, Celtic Fantasy

From the mouth of the author:

1. What is the fantasy cliché that most bothers you, or what is your book pet-peeve?

My number one book pet-peeve is head-hopping – constant changes of point of view within one scene. It’s still pretty common in fantasy writing and distances the reader from the main protagonists. My number two pet peeve is writers using ‘lay’ when they mean ‘lie’, and editors who don’t correct it.

2. What is your favorite fantasy critter or fairy tale character and why? No, it doesn’t have to be one you write about.

The non-human characters in my books would be deeply offended if I ever referred to them as critters. They’d prefer to be considered somewhat similar to humans, but superior in all ways that matter. Most of them come from mythology or folklore, but I take quite a few liberties with them. I had a lot of fun with the Irish mythological race of Fomhoire in the Sevenwaters books, especially HEIR TO SEVENWATERS – they have become distinct individuals now with personal quirks. Their strongest skill is being able to blend with the surrounding landscape, whether it be water, stone, foliage or whatever. This has ensured their survival over many generations.

3. We all know it’s easy to get distracted when a project is taking its own sweet time to bubble. What is your Achilles heel when it comes to getting distracted from writing?

My two dogs, a Miniature Pinscher and a Maltese / Bichon cross. They are always up for more cuddles, snacks or walkies, so it’s easy to use that as an excuse to stop work – who could resist a little dog’s softly pleading eyes? I brew and drink a lot of tea and coffee, especially as my current work space is the kitchen table. Using the Internet for non-essential purposes is another great way to waste time. Close to deadlines, I disable the modem so I can’t obsessively check my email or visit favourite sites. I don’t switch off the dogs or the kettle.

4. With the holidays coming up what is your favorite winter activity?

Curling up with the dogs and reading a great book while drinking tea. Or at least, that’s what I’d do if it actually was winter, but I live in Australia, where Christmas coincides with summer. That means the dogs and I are more likely to be paddling in the nearby river or collapsed in a heap under the shade of a big tree. Summers are extremely hot here.

5. I’ve heard of inspirational eating, so when you’re settled in to get things done is there a particular food that you just have to have on hand?

I have a mug of Twinings Earl Grey on hand pretty much all the time. (See above regarding kitchen as workspace.) Food-wise, I graze on whatever is to hand. Sitting at the computer eating and drinking most of the day tends to lead to ‘writer’s bum’ (in American, I guess that would be ‘writer’s butt’) so I also go to the gym three times a week.

6. What does it take to write a really good villain? Do you ever find yourself in a mental space that scares you or makes you wonder if that really came out of YOUR head?

Over the course of twelve books my villains have become a lot better (by ‘better’ I mean subtler and more interesting as characters – they’re no less evil.) In my first book I wrote a cardboard cutout villain. I even included a ‘since you’re about to die, I will now explain in great detail all the evil things I’ve done’ scene. These days, I guess I don’t write ‘villains’ as such. I’m intrigued by characters whose moral codes are a bit askew, or characters lacking the ability to come to terms with certain aspects of their existence. It’s interesting to explore their motivation and to look at how nature and nurture shaped them. Mac Dara, the prince of the Fair Folk from HEIR TO SEVENWATERS, is a complex character, with his own motivations and his own weird logic to back up his decisions. Some of my bad characters, such as the seriously warped Somerled in WOLFSKIN, are extremely popular with readers. A sympathetic baddie is a good baddie. Do I ever shock myself? No, but I don’t enjoy writing the scenes where unspeakable things happen.

7. Which of your characters gave you the most trouble and was the hardest to write for?

Faolan from the Bridei Chronicles gets the prize for being the most trouble AND for being my favourite. Clearly unhappy with his intended bit-part as assassin and spy, he moved himself up to hero’s best friend in THE DARK MIRROR, then insisted on taking the central role in the second and third books in that series. One book to introduce him, one to break his heart, one to let him sort his life out. Hardest to write for has been Anluan, the male protag of the novel I’ve just finished, HEART’S BLOOD. He is such a burdened character, he and I both had to dig deep to find his heroic qualities.

8. We all have darling lines or paragraphs in our stories. Stephen King even says we should kill them. What is your most favorite murdered darling from any of your books?

I prune nature descriptions, pagan rituals and angsty internal monologues. I’m getting better at recognising what is slowing the story down. Looking back at some of my earlier books, I can see a couple of passages that cry out for the editorial red pen.

9. What is your worst writing habit, the thing which you keep telling yourself you’re going to change and you do it anyway?

A tendency to wordiness. I’m working on it. Writing two novels for young adults, with a shorter word count, taught me to write more tightly.

10. If you were going to interview another author, whose brain would you want to pick?

I enjoy discussing the craft of writing. The authors I most admire are those who combine excellent technical skills with great storytelling ability. I’ve already interviewed the two fantasy authors I most wanted to talk to, Jacqueline Carey and Joe Abercrombie, for genre writing blog http://www.writerunboxed.com. I’d love to talk about writing technique with Orson Scott Card – I especially admire the earlier books in his Alvin Maker series, in which he makes brilliant use of voice. I’d like to interview Margo Lanagan, whose recent novel, Tender Morsels, is a dark and gritty variation on Snow White and Rose Red.

From the mouth of Clodagh, the narrator of HEIR TO SEVENWATERS:

1. What is the best piece of advice you’d give to other Fantasy characters on how to survive troubles and tribulations?

Recognise your own strengths and trust your own judgment. Who would have thought my sewing ability could have achieved what it did? It helps to have capable friends, too.

2. How do you feel about magic powers? Indispensable? Only for the Lazy Hero/Heroine? You wish your author gave you more?

My author has a theory that ordinary women can be heroes without needing magical powers, so she didn’t give me any except for the ability to mind-talk with my twin sister, and that only got me in more trouble. She didn’t give me any combat skills, either, because she has another theory that her stories need to be plausible within their historical and cultural context. As it happens, I did quite well with just my common sense, courage and readiness to accept outsiders. Oh, I did get one small magical device to use. Judging by what happened, I think I’d have been better off without it.

3. What’s the best way to vanquish mad witches, evil dragons… orcs, ogres?

We don’t have any of those in our stories. What has to be vanquished is fear or prejudice or a crippling memory. We did face a dark prince of the Tuatha de Danann. This time around, we got the better of him by courage and cleverness, and a smidgeon of magical craft. It was a case of out-tricking the trickster. I feel sure there will be a next time; he wasn’t happy.

4. Is there a happily ever after on your horizon, or is true love only for those sappy romance books?

My author believes in true love, but she thinks it’s unrealistic to have everyone live happily ever after. My beloved and I got a ‘happy for the foreseeable future BUT…’ sort of ending. It’s enough to be going on with; I’m a practical person. When you have a powerful enemy, you don’t expect to live the rest of your life in peace.

5. Magic artifacts? (You know what I mean, enchanted swords, books of spells…) Useful, indispensable, more trouble than they’re worth…

In the right hands, this kind of thing can be very useful. In untrained hands (mine, for instance) it’s a really bad idea. In our type of story, it’s not magical trappings that save the day but human virtues such as courage, faith, love and loyalty. In other words, it’s what a person is INSIDE that makes the difference. (Wait – my author just pointed out that her next story contains magical mirrors, grimoires and a spectral horse … Oh, it’s all right, my beloved tells me we’re not in that one.)

Meet the author Monday: Michael Sullivan August 30, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Author Interview, Fantasy.
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Hiya folks,Today we start our author interview series, beginning with a debut author Michael Sullivan! His debut book The Crown Conspiracy has received positive reviews from Fantasybookcritic and Odyssey Books.

The Crown Conspiracy is the story of thief Royce Melborn who is framed for the murder of the King. He and his partner must clear their… if not good, at least innocent-of-murder, names or face a death sentence.

So enjoy, pose your questions or comments on the blog, and remember: we’re giving away prizes this month. It seems we just can’t help being Santa Claus. (I’m not as witty as Jana’s intros… but I try!)

Vital Stats on Michael:
Lives: Virginia
Webpage:  Michael-Sullivan
Books: The Crown Conspiracy: (Oct 2008) | Avempartha (April 2009)
Classification: Classic epic fantasyFrom the mouth of the author:

1. What is the fantasy cliché that most bothers you, or what is your book pet-peeve?

What I have the greatest problem with in most fantasy novels is the extreme amount of unnecessary information writers provide about their worlds. Authors work very hard to develop a wonderful and elaborate setting but I get the impression that some are just unable to restrain themselves from sharing. Not everything they invented fits with the plot, but they find all the details and backgrounds so interesting they assume the reader will too. In reality, I think most readers read fiction for the story and the characters, not so much for the setting. The setting should support the story, not drag it down which can happen when for every page of plot, you need to wade through five pages of description, background and ancient history. I am also not particularly pleased with the efforts some authors appear to go through to create unpronounceable names for characters. I will admit I am guilty of using a few long, oddly spelled names for places and things, but these have a plot element attached. Character names I think should be easily recognizable or at least easy to sound out, with at least one vowel and without apostrophes or hyphens. I don’t see the point in making the reader work. Reading fantasy should be fun.

2. What is your favorite fantasy critter or fairy tale character and why? No, it doesn’t have to be one you write about.

I’ve always been partial to Harvey the pooka, just because he is so friendly and polite, but a balrog is a real attention getter.

3. We all know it’s easy to get distracted when a project is taking its own sweet time to bubble. What is your Achilles heel when it comes to getting distracted from writing?

This is a notion I have never understood, although I have heard other writers talk about it. It is like asking what is it that prevents you from skiing, or lounging on a beach. I’ve never been distracted while working on a project. If anything, I spend too much time focused on a story. If I am not writing, I am thinking about it, penning pages in my head. If I take a break and sit down to watch television, I quickly see something that triggers an idea and off I go to work on it. The only thing that prevents me from writing is responsibilities and other irritants like eating, sleeping and walking the dog.

4. With the holidays coming up what is your favorite winter activity?

Writing. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but it is really what I do in winter. I take summers off to play. I bike, paint, hike, etc. But when September arrives, I start my next project and work on it through the winter finishing around spring. When it is cold, snowy and windy outside and the naked branches are rapping the window of my study, sitting with a cup of coffee and writing is great.

5. I’ve heard of inspirational eating, so when you’re settled in to get things done is there a particular food that you just have to have on hand?

Just coffee, otherwise I get my keyboard all sticky.

6. What does it take to write a really good villain? Do you ever find yourself in a mental space that scares you or makes you wonder if that really came out of YOUR head?

What I think makes a good villain is a believable one. There are too many two-dimensional antagonists—characters that are evil because they are evil. I actually think the best villain is the kind you can understand and even to some extent sympathize with. And no, I’ve never scared myself, I am pretty at home with my dark side.

7. Which of your characters gave you the most trouble and was the hardest to write for?

Again another question that doesn’t really apply to me and my writing. Sometimes my characters like to go off and do or say something that wasn’t planned, but it is a random thing. None of my characters have ever really been a problem. (whispers: of course I have to say that or the Fictional Character’s Union (FCU) will come down on me with a lawsuit.)

8. We all have darling lines or paragraphs in our stories. Stephen King even says we should kill them. What is your most favorite murdered darling from any of your books?

Do writers really remember these? I don’t keep a list. It is kinda morbid just thinking of all these little decaying corpses laying around.

9. What is your worst writing habit, the thing which you keep telling yourself you’re going to change and you do it anyway?

I am actively working on trusting the reader more. Readers are more intelligent and observant than I expect. I want to make sure they get all the little clues and points and because of that I make them too obvious, too easy. As a result, I am working on making the gaps between what is said and what is implied wider. Putting just enough information up so that the reader can figure out for themselves what’s happening. I think this makes the book interactive. The reader becomes part of the story as it demands their participation. Of course I need to measure very carefully so that the gaps aren’t too far for the average person to leap, otherwise…well—splat!

10. If you were going to interview another author, whose brain would you want to pick?

I suppose this is another way of asking who my favorite authors are. I don’t have a desire to interview or “pick the mind” of another author, but I’m sure I would enjoy the dinner conversation at a meal with King, Rowlings, Updike, Steinbeck, and Tolkien assuming those deceased can return for the dinner untainted…maybe I would leave King out just to be on the safe side.

From the mouth of Royce Melborn:

1. What is the best piece of advice you’d give to other Fantasy characters on how to survive troubles and tribulations?

Avoid doing good deeds—they always end in disaster and never pay well.

2. How do you feel about magic powers? Indispensable? Only for the Lazy Hero/Heroine? You wish your author gave you more?

Useful, but creepy. As far as getting magic powers…I’d be happy if Sullivan would just leave me alone.

3. What’s the best way to vanquish mad witches, evil dragons… orcs, ogres?

Pay me.

4. Is there a happily ever after on your horizon, or is true love only for those sappy romance books?

I’d bet money the romance books are lying too.

5. Magic artifacts? (You know what I mean, enchanted swords, books of spells…) Useful, indispensable, more trouble than they’re worth…

Not much experience with that unless you’re referring to Alverstone, and if you are you’re obviously listening to dwarves which is a bad sign right there and more than enough reason to end this interview.

Meet the author Monday: Elizabeth Bear August 23, 2010

Posted by kmcalear in Author Interview, Fantasy.
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Welcome to another Interview Friday, folks! I’m really excited for this next one, Elizabeth Bear’s Sci-Fi is some of my favorite out there. Imagine my delight to discover she writes Fantasy as well! Wooohooooo! She has won a long list of awards and honorifics for her writing, including the following in 2008:

  • Philip K. Dick Memorial Award nominee (Undertow)
  • Lambda Award nominee (A Companion to Wolves) (written with Sarah Monette)
  • Asimov’s Readers Choice Award for 2007 (“Tideline”)
  • Hugo Award for Best Short Story (“Tideline”)
  • Sturgeon Award (“Tideline”) Sidewise Award nominee (“Lumiere”)
  • Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Nominee (“Dust”)

Vital Stats

Lives: Connecticut
Webpage: Elizabeth Bear
Books
: The Promethean Age : Blood & Iron (2006) Whiskey & Water (2007), Blood & Iron paperback release (June 2008) Ink & Steel (July 2008) Hell & Earth (August 2008). Iskryne world (with Sarah Monette): A Companion to Wolves (Oct 2007) The Edda of Burdens: All the Windwracked Stars (Oct 2008), By the Mountain Bound (forthcoming Oct 2009) The Sea thy Mistress (forthcoming Oct 2010)
(And many Sci-Fi novels, short stories and more!)
Fun Fact: She was born the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins
Genres: Norse Fantasy, Historical Fantasy and Contemporary Urban Fantasy, Sci-Fi

On to the Interview:

1. What is the fantasy cliché that most bothers you, or what is your book pet-peeve?

Oh, I have a ton. Usually, I start writing a novel because I’m annoyed by some common trope and want to undermine it. Thus, the companion-animal fantasy in A Companion To Wolves, to choose an example at random.

2. What is your favorite fantasy critter or fairy tale character and why? No, it doesn’t have to be one you write about.

I have to pick just one? Oh, that’s hard. I love dragons And they are so very rarely done well. They have to be used sparingly, I think, because it’s easy to wear the luster off–but a good dragon is unmatchable.

3. We all know it’s easy to get distracted when a project is taking its own sweet time to bubble. What is your Achilles heel when it comes to getting distracted from writing?

I’m not actually all that procrastinatory. More often, my frustration is wanting to write and finding that the story isn’t quite cooked yet.

4. With the holidays coming up what is your favorite winter activity?

Well, I live in New England, so my favorite winter activity is waiting for the weather to clear. ;-) Mostly, my life doesn’t change too much in winter: I do less hiking, and more climbing indoors as opposed to out. If I had a dog and a fireplace, my favorite thing would be sitting in front of the fireplace with my dog and a mug of cider.

5. I’ve heard of inspirational eating, so when you’re settled in to get things done is there a particular food that you just have to have on hand?

Not in particular. I often have characters who crave a particular thing, though–I’m a method writer, apparently, and one of the things I do in order to write a character is feed myself things they like. This can be very problematic when it comes to foodie characters, or alcoholics, or a couple of the Shadow Unit characters, whose physical demands are in excess of five thousand kilocalories a day.

6. What does it take to write a really good villain? Do you ever find yourself in a mental space that scares you or makes you wonder if that really came out of YOUR head?

I have shelves full of forensic textbooks. The contents of my own head are not particularly scary to me. Although I did once deeply worry an ex-boyfriend by getting a little too thoroughly into the head of Vlad III or Wallachia. I don’t often write villains, per se. I write antagonists, which is to say, people who are on the opposite side from the protagonists, but who are not puppy-kicking evil. Some people consider this a strength of my work. Others, a weakness.

7. Which of your characters gave you the most trouble and was the hardest to write for?

Michelangelo, one of the protagonists of Carnival. He’s a bit of a sociopath, and he really did not want to let me get into his head and get access to his motives.

8. We all have darling lines or paragraphs in our stories. Stephen King even says we should kill them. What is your most favorite murdered darling from any of your books?

I try not to cut out the good bits, actually. Because I am a chronic under-writer–apparently the opposite of Mr. King, who I know claims to cut 15% of his first draft–I rarely have editors telling me to cut things. More often, they get after me to add bits, and explain more, and establish things more. So my second draft is usually 15% longer than my first draft, because of all the stuff I left out. That advice to “murder your darlings,” I think, often gets misinterpreted. People take it to mean that you should cut out any bit you like, which is just nonsense. What it means, or what I understand it to mean, is if you are getting attached to the pretty at the expense of the story and the character development, the pretty has to come out. If you find yourself going through amazing elaborations to avoid cutting a sentence because you think it’s pretty… cut the sentence. That’s just part of good editing.

9. What is your worst writing habit, the thing which you keep telling yourself you’re going to change and you do it anyway?

That’s another meme I think is nonsense. Any writing process that works is a good process, and this idea that you have to do it in a particular approved way to be a Real Writer is foolishness. As long as what we are doing produces quality, finished work, and the general quality trend is upwards, we’re doing it right. That said, my worst habit is probably a workaholic streak. Even when I don’t really need to be working–or when it might be smart for me to take a break and let my brain regenerate–I often keep pushing. I’ve gotten better about it, though. I’m on vacation right now!

10. If you were going to interview another author, whose brain would you want to pick?

Living or dead? I dunno. I never really thought about it. I do study the work of other writers for technique, and there are some books of writing craft I think are indispensable–John Gardner’s On Becoming A Novelist is a great book on how to observe like a writer. I’d like to buy Edward Gorey a cup of tea.

Book Review: Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson July 7, 2010

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Children Books, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult.
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Hey folks!  Hope everyone in the stats had a great 4th of July weekend.  For our family it was a time of fireworks, memories and really good food.  Beyond that we also finished the book we’ve been reading together, Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson, so I decided it would be a good review today.

We’ve been reading Alcatraz a chapter at a time for about the last 2-3 months.  My husband is our reader and myself and our two boys, ages 9 and 13, are the erstwhile listeners.  To give credit where it is due I think part of the joy of this reading is listening to my husband who is a very good reader and creator of various voices, but it certainly helps that the story he was reading was a delight in and of itself.  Alcatraz is told from a first person point of view, but it’s from a future version of Alcatraz looking back to tell how his story got started.  The narration is irreverent, humorous and filled with delightful forshadowing of upcoming events in completely unexpected ways.  Sometimes a rutabaga is far more than just a rutabaga.

Alcatraz himself is a character walking the line of deciding what kind of person he is going to be.  He addresses the bad things he does with the same honesty that he acknowledges bravery and love.  He’s a boy who has been raised in the foster system and who has an unnatural ability to break everything he touches.  Come to find out that the ability is a Talent and his whole family has them.  His thirteenth birthday begins with a present in the mail, the arrival of his grandfather, who has the Talent to be late, and a gun toting librarian because…of course…the world is not what we think it is and Alcatraz is thrust into the middle of a war between the Hushlands and the Free Kingdoms all while learning more about himself, his talent and what it means to be a family.

The book was delightful.  Some folks might get annoyed with the interjections by the narrator and moments when he’s purposefully poking fun at writing conventions, but I found them hysterical.  The language of the book is very accessible for middle grade readers and young adults, but there are enough twists to how the language is used that adults can be delighted by a whole other level of what’s going on.

We’re buying book two and three now cause we have to know what happens next to the boy that breaks things and his family.  And we’re still curious about the sacrifice on a stack of outdated encyclopedias!

Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians

Genre: Modern Fantasy

Age: 8+

Content: Minor violence

Overall: 5/5 paws

Book Review – Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George January 27, 2010

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Fantasy, Young Adult.
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It’s another blustery snowy day in the mountains of Utah and I’m wishing I could be at home reading instead of at the day job, but I like getting a paycheck so here I be.  🙂

Today we’re talking about Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George.  This is a fairytale retelling…well…a fairytale fleshing out is likely more accurate.  She follows very closely the traditional lines of the East of the Sun, West of the Moon fairytale, fleshing it out by adding more breadth to the characters and some detailing.  All in all it’s an enjoyable read.  George has a good knack for fairytale language and the book flowed well.  I found that I liked the ‘lass’, since she doesn’t have a name, for the most part.  I liked that she was industrious and generally sensible, for example when she finds she needs new clothing she doesn’t ask for clothing from the servants but rather cloth so she can make clothing herself.  Her prince suffers from what a lot of prince’s suffer from which is a lack of real character development.  He’s handsome and falls in love with her and was a third son but doesn’t feel particularly lucky, so ideal for a fairytale love, but leaves me wondering if they’ll get home to his golden palace and she’ll discover he still farts like a bear.

There are a few other places where the author sets up a clue which didn’t get the pay off that I was expecting.  I found this a bit disappointing, since such a big deal had been made through the whole book and in the end it didn’t matter.  I’m trying not to be spoilery here, but that’s a tall order.  Let’s just say the power of naming should have been more important in my opinion.

All in all I’d read another of Ms. George’s book, but I definitely consider it fairly light reading.

Jana

Genre: Fairytale

Age:  10+

Content: True lurve, adventure, romance

Overall: 3/5  paws