Category Archives: fantasy books

Settings

There was a discussion recently on kboards.com about whether writers “live” near where their books are set. Since I write mostly fantasy and science fiction, that would definitely be “no.” Yet a lot of writers do seem to write about places near where they call home. Stephen King is a perfect example of this, with so many of his books set in Maine. Others seem to go the opposite way, and I fall into this bunch. I like to write about places I’ve only visited, or even places that I’ve never been (but would love to see.)

An example of this is Heart of the Witch. I based the continent of Argessa on Australia; there is coastal rainforest, a mountain range, and then a large desert in the heart of the continent.  The closest I have come to rainforests comes from travel to tropical parts of Mexico, Hawaii, and walking through swampland and forests in Florida. The only mountains I’ve been on include northern Arizona, California, Nevada, and also the Alps in Switzerland.

I can count the number of times I’ve been in the snow on my fingers, and yet I set much of Journey to Landaran in an alpine setting in the dead of winter, with snow everywhere. Yes, I had to confer with beta readers who were more used to wintry weather to check my facts. But I can tell that that coming from a hot desert, I know what it’s like to get cold, because I get cold easily!

For me, I’m fascinated by that which is new and different to me. I’ve always had a love of forests–my grandmother had a cabin at Silver Lake in northern California, and I absolutely loved the place even though there was no electricity. Or toilets. (We did have a sink, which drew water directly from the lake.) I was also an exchange student in Germany, and lived for a summer in a tiny village in the middle of the Black Forest. I think that’s why these kinds of settings are so much richer and more interesting to me. I can write about deserts, sure. I’ve lived in one my entire life. But I do love variety. And what better excuse to travel than for research? I’ve visited San Francisco enough times that I feel pretty confident writing about it. When I dreamt up a story about Mayan ruins, I researched them, and I was finally able to visit a Mayan ruin a few years back.

We are formed by that which is familiar to us, but also that which is foreign and strange. “Write what you know” might be a popular axiom, but I’d add “Don’t be afraid to wander abroad into the unknown.”

Oh, and today’s featured image? That’s a picture I took from a helicopter tour of Maui.

Maui

Review: Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1)

GRRM

Title: Game of Thrones

Author: George R. R. Martin

Series: A Song of Ice and Fire (#1)

Publisher: Bantam

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Okay, so I finally did it. After far too many fellow fantasy readers and friends cajoling and pestering me, I finally opened up the first book in GRRM’s monster series, “A Game of Thrones,” and began reading it. “It’s so great!” they said. “Don’t grow attached to any of the characters!” they said.

My reaction?  Meh. It’s okay. Just okay.

The writing quality overall is good. I can’t find any fault with GRRM on that, and that’s why I gave the book four stars. And so far I like the world that he’s built. But the characters…yeah, I’m not feeling them. Which I guess is just as well.

I think there was only one character that I felt much of anything for, and I’ll keep in mind that this writer likes to kill off his characters. I think GRRM may have shot himself in the foot on that one. It’s one thing to kill off a lot of characters (like Stephen King, for example). But even horror writers know when to keep certain ones alive in order to keep their fans loyal. GRRM has made such a reputation now of being a ruthless killer that I think it puts off a lot of readers from even picking up one of his books. I know it did me, and I’m still not convinced I want to read Book 2. I don’t get what the fuss is about, and at the moment, I think I might enjoy the HBO series more. At least then I can ogle Sean Bean.

As far as the plot itself . . . this is where it felt more like same old same old fantasy. I see the potential with the dragons and the wild things and winter coming, but it felt like it was taking forever for things to get going. Maybe just me? It very well could be the classic issue that books with large casts spread over the world struggle with, as readers of Robert Jordan would know. At least in this case, I saw subplots being wrapped up before the end of the book, leaving only the larger arcs to be dealt with in later books. This to me was a strength.

So now I’m left with the question. Should I actually take time to read the next book? It’s like you have to take a serious commitment to these things at over 1000 pages apiece. I’m not sure I’m feeling that dedicated.

For now, I’ll probably move on to other projects. And maybe I’ll check out an episode on HBO Go or something.

Book Review: Line of Descent

descent

Title: Line of Descent

Author: James Derry

Publisher: Self

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I thought this was an okay book, but the ending didn’t really satisfy me. I think it was because the book was labeled as a “fantasy” novel when it was delivered to me; I see now that on Amazon the main category is now horror/occult. If I had approached this novel as a horror, I think I would have been better prepared. The book was well written and the plot drew me along. I think it was an interesting premise: an ancient (and possibly alien) intelligence has been replicating itself through a single bloodline, being passed down from generation to generation and gaining power all the while.

There are a lot of dreams in the book and even the waking moments have a dreamlike quality to them, giving the entire book a sort of surreal feel to it. Something about the style of writing put distance between me and the characters, but I couldn’t point to exactly what. I think one of the best scenes was Elise teaching Mallory sign language via the pipes in separate bathrooms.

If you like Kurt Vonnegut type stories, or films like “Pan’s Labyrinth,” you’ll probably enjoy this book.

Review: Gilded

gilded

Title:  Gilded

Author: Christina Farley

Publisher: Skyscape

Genre: YA Fantasy (Myths and Legends)

Rating:  4 stars

I’m always on the lookout for a good new YA author or series. I also happen to have a fierce love of Asian myths, so I was excited when I came across this book which deals with Korean legends and myths.

There are the usual expected tropes for a YA novel–love interest, lots of self doubt, problems with friends and parents, etc. The book moves along at a swift pace, however, and I liked that the stakes were high for Jae Hwa, an American-born Korean who is in Korea to study after her mother’s death.

I loved how the book used Korean gods, demons, and monsters. I really hope to see more Asian fantasy out there, and I think this was a good way to introduce young readers to a broader world. It amused me that the heroine is into archery. That seems popular nowadays with heroines!!  I guess if you’re going to choose an ancient weapon, a bow’s not a bad way to go. It does conjure images of Diana. And it looks badass. I also found it amusing that the heroine kept winding up in traditional Korean dresses.

Overall, this was a light, enjoyable read, and I may be back to read the next book in the series.

Writing goals for 2015

I posted a few weeks ago about meeting my 2014 word goal early, and that much of that writing was in another pen name. So I won’t really go over specific projects. However, I like to post my overall goal in this blog each year, so I will make that statement.

In 2011 I probably wrote about 50,000 words or so. Much of that was in fanfiction.

In 2012, I wrote about 78,000. Most of this was in short stories and Journey To Landaran.

In 2013, I wrote 96,000.

And in 2014, I wrote 146,773 words of NEW writing, for books, novellas, and short stories. That word count does not include edits, blog entries, or anything else. It’s my best year ever.  My goal was 125,000.

So what’s my goal for 2015?  I think I can make 150,000 words. I find that the more I write, the easier it is to write more. Writing creatively is like running–it uses “muscles” which must be trained and honed to be able to produce more. I started with very modest daily goals, and now I’m writing between 750 to 1000 words per day. I’m going to make it a goal in 2015 to have as many 1000 word days as possible.

I also want to finish the next Spirit Mage book, which right now is at 44,000 words. The first book ended up at 118,000 so that’s about where I expect the second to be. I started writing this book a year ago. For some reason, my epic fantasy novels are just harder to write, and I take longer. Fear not! It will be written, and then published.

I’m also going to be publishing the next installment of the Cathy Pembroke series of short stories, “Ogres At Alcatraz Isle.” This will come with a new cover, and I also have a new cover for my tale “Fairies at Fisherman’s Wharf.” I plan on taking down some of my older stories including “A Troll Under Golden Gate Bridge” so if you want it, now’s the time to get it. In addition, I have a couple science fiction tales that I’ll be publishing as a two-pack.

We’ll see what else 2015 brings.

Writing-writing-31277215-579-612

Review: Soul Meaning

Title:  Soul Meaning

Series: Seventeen (Book One)

Author: A. D. Starrling

Publisher: A. D. Starrling

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

soul

A popular trend for indie writers is to offer the first book of a series free, as a way to hopefully draw readers in. I picked up this book because of the premise and the first line, “My name is Lucas Soul. Today I died again.  This is my fifteenth death in the last four hundred fifty years.”

So that’s a great opening set of lines. Totally hooked me.

As I read deeper into this very long (420) page book, however, I found it harder and harder to continue. There was plenty of action. Actually, there was nothing *but* action. And that was my main issue. I never felt like I got to know any of the characters, and therefore I really didn’t care what happened to them. So many of the so-called immortals died, it was like watching a movie. Whoops, another one died?  Oh well.

I actually think that if the writer had reduced some of the many fight scenes and expanded backstory and interactions between Lucas, his pal Reid, and the woman he loves, this would have been a better story. But apparently others love the action, by the many four and five star ratings the book has received. So if you love nonstop action, this is your book.

I just found it ironic that the book was titled “Soul Meaning.” To me, it didn’t have much meaning. Or much soul. Just a lot of Lucas Soul, kicking butt.

Feeling Basically Blasé

depressed-person2

I’ve been in kind of a funk lately, when it comes to my fantasy and science fiction writing. That’s not to say that I’m not writing at all; in fact, I’m writing more now than ever before. I just happen to be writing under a different pen name in a completely different genre (romance). I eke out about 200 words a day on the sequel to Journey To Landaran, but I know that’s pretty pathetic. And yet I can’t seem to make myself go faster.

I write my fantasy novels very, very slowly. I always have. It took me five years to write Heart of the Witch. It took me a similar time to write Journey To Landaran. (Actually it was longer, but I also took a few years off while raising a small child on my own.)

And up until about June I continued to write shorter pieces as well, like the next installment of Cathy Pembroke, Ogres At Alcatraz Isle. That one is currently submitted to Tor.com, but I don’t really have high hopes for it. I feel kind of like a failure in what was originally my first love, fantasy.

This may change, of course. There’s some icky stuff going on in my personal life that isn’t helping, and my daughter is still struggling daily with depression and having the courage to be herself. I may get a little quiet on this blog in the meantime. I’ve scheduled some free days for Journey To Landaran next week, Dec. 3-5, mostly because it’s the end of the time that I plan to have the book in Kindle Select. Then I’m opening it up for distribution everywhere in ebook form.

I have two projects to publish for next year, both short. I’ll slowly keep writing Fall of the Guardians so that people can continue to follow Aidah and Tavish’s journey.

And I’ll just hope and pray for a brighter tomorrow.