Tag Archives: fantasy

Confronting the Demon: An Experiment in Self-Publishing

An Experiment in Self-Publishing


You could be forgiven for being surprised that I’m about to self-publish – you might have the impression that I’m against the indie movement. 

You could be forgiven, but you’d also be wrong.

I have been outspoken in the past about self-publishing, but less against the concept of self-publishing, which I think is a fantastic opportunity for talented writers, and more against the execution of the idea. Which is to say, it is a fantastic opportunity for talented writers, but many (though not all) of those writers take short-cuts. Self-publishing is too often perceived as a reason not to do the hard yards, a way to circumvent the long arduous toil that is the pursuit of publishing, while failing to recognise that we learn from the hard knocks.

Nothing makes me cringe more than the biography of an author announcing this is their first book. Not their first published book. Their first book. There are a handful of exceptions – perhaps they’ve been working on it, rewriting and revising for a number of years, or perhaps they’ve written others, but came back to, and revised and polished, their first, for example. But many of them literally mean their first book, and all too often, the first draft of the first book.

Confronting the Demon will be my debut book, but like many of the self-published authors I respect, it’s not my first book. Previous to it I have written eight novel-length stories, and there are excellent reasons none of those have been published – or ever will be without significant rewriting. I’m also not self-publishing it because I’m pissed off with the traditional model for refusing to publish me – in fact, I will still pursue traditional publishing on other projects.

Many of those authors publishing their first book may be talented, but many are also yet to learn their craft. Like we wouldn’t seek medical advice from a first year medical student, or ask a first year law student to defend us in court, all too often those books fall short of the standard set by true professional writers – and I don’t define professional as ‘traditionally published’ here. A professional writer is someone who has gone about the business of writing with a professional attitude, who has done their study (by whatever route – it doesn’t have to mean university or an MFA), who seeks constant improvement, who doesn’t treat it like a hobby, and doesn’t expect the consumer to pay for a sub-standard product.  

So if I was to self-publish, I was determined to do it right. That meant editors, because a story that hasn’t been edited is like an uncut gemstone; it has value, but with a bit of cutting and polishing, it will really shine. Ideally you need three – a content editor, a line editor and a proof-reader. Many writers use the one editor for all three jobs, or at least to content edit and line edit, but it’s difficult for the one person to do all three jobs, or even two of those three jobs, for the same reason it’s difficult for a writer to edit their own work; eventually the editor becomes close enough to your work that they also can’t see their errors.

It also meant a quality cover artist, because let’s face it, readers do judge a book by its cover. It’s the first thing they see, the writer’s first opportunity to hook the reader, and if you miss that chance, all too often you don’t get a second chance.

More than both of those things, though, I needed the rightproject.

For a number of years now, I’ve only had the one book that I considered might be of a sufficient standard to publish, and I wasn’t prepared to commit my one quality work to self-publishing at a time when I was undecided what direction the publishing industry was taking, least of all a 100,000 word book with six sequels. I had too much hard work in it to casually decide its fate – if I was to ever self-publish it, then it would happen after due consideration, and then probably not until I had written the first two sequels. In short, it wasn’t happening any time soon.

Then I wrote a fantasy short story determined to be something more, and my first novella was born.
A novella, to my mind, was a better candidate for a first foray into self-publishing. It’s shorter, so there’s less time invested. A traditional market exists for novella, but not a very big one, so this story had very limited opportunities to be traditionally published. The story is self-contained, so while hopefully my readers will want more, they won’t specifically be waiting for a conclusion to this story – which suits me, since I work full-time, and have two children under three at home. I can only commit to so much.

And so Confronting the Demon began a rather fast, hectic but ultimately short journey to publication. Interested to know more? Here’s the blurb:

The gates to hell are thrown wide when Alloran is betrayed by his best friend, Ladanyon, and framed for forbidden magic. He is pursued by the guards and the wizards both, tormented by the gruesome murder of his friends and loved ones, and crippled by fear for the living. Now Alloran must face his demons, or lose the woman he loves.

Confronting the Demon is due for release in mid- to late-September.


Waylander by David Gemmell: Review by Club Fantasci

Club Fantasci held its May Hangout on Friday to discuss Waylander by David Gemmell. You can watch the discussion by hosts Dionne Lister, David Lowry, Melody-Anne Jones Kauffman (or MJ as she likes to be called) and myself below. All hate mail to MJ!


Reviews by each of the hosts will be available on the Club Fantasci website. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads

June’s Book of the Month is Fool Moon by Jim Butcher and you can join us for the discussion on Friday June 28 7:30pm CST.

Life Lessons in Fantasy



I’ve long believed reading fantasy books moulded who I am. I have no real basis for this belief except a bunch of things I don’t think I learned from my parents or anyone else, in particular a marked black and white set of ethics. That’s not to say I don’t recognise ‘grey’ areas, but not many, and for me this reflects the good-evil dichotomy of classic fantasy. I love the anti-hero, or the dark hero, but when I started reading fantasy in my formative years, he wasn’t yet in vogue. 

I thought more about this when I recently started reading Raising Girls, since I know find myself in possession of two of them – girls, I mean. The book contains two markedly different stories about young girls faced with their first sexual experience. One is heart-breakingly casual and unfulfilling, and the other never happens. The second girl tells her boyfriend she’s not ready, and he delivers the ultimatum ‘Have sex with me, or I’ll walk’. With uplifting bravery, she tells him to walk, and doesn’t look back, not even when he wants to get back together with her sometime later. 

I firmly believe in ‘if he really cares, he’ll wait’. I don’t believe in sex on a first date – not if the woman is looking for more than casual sex. Once you start having sex, it’s difficult, or impossible, to go back to filling in the emotional gaps, that ‘getting to know each other’ stage that takes place on the first dates. My informal polling of men (in my generation) generally indicates a lack of, or less, respect for women who don’t make them wait. I’ve posed to men the phrase ‘OK to bed, but not to wed’, and it’s met with general agreement. 

This isn’t something my parents taught me, and while I’ve refined all the above thoughts as an adult, I must have had some awareness of the concept as a teenager, because I sure did make him wait.

Then I thought of Richard and Kahlan from Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, which I’ve been reading since I was thirteen. In the first book, Wizard’s First Rule, Richard falls in love with Kahlan. She discourages his affections, and his own grandfather tells him to ‘choose another girl’. He later finds out that any kind of physical relationship with her is impossible – if they were to have sex, her magic would destroy him. 

What does Richard do? He certainly doesn’t run off and pick up the first girl he comes across. Despite the fact he understands his love is impossible, that it can never be, he persists. In the end, he solves the problem. Even having solved it, though, it’s four books before he actually has sex with Kahlan, and despite constant setbacks, he waits. 

It occurred to me there’s a lot of important messages in there for any teenager who might sit still long enough to read it. Here’s a few that I spotted without even needing to think hard:

  • If it’s worth having, it’s worth waiting for;
  • If at first you fail, try again;
  • Fidelity and devotion as virtues;
  • Anything is possible;
  • Follow your dreams;
  • Sex isn’t everything (although I grant it isimportant, and I think that message is probably conveyed by the diligence with which Richard and Kahlan pursue that goal).

Are there other messages in there that you can see? What life lessons or important messages have you seen in the fantasy books you’ve read? Did you learn something from fantasy? Do you hope your children learn something from fantasy?

I do. I’ll be off now to borrow Dad’s illustrated copy of The Hobbit, and my first introduction to fantasy.  



Interview with A Wrighton – Author of The Dragonics & Runics

A Wrighton


Today I’m welcoming A.Wrighton to my blog. She has been imagining flights of wild fancy since before she could figure out how to tie her shoes. Her love of writing, creating, and imagination has led her through a life full of flights of fancy and amazing adventures. Following her creativity’s calling, she earned honours in a BA in English as well as honors in a MFA in Creative Writing.

A. Wrighton writes sci-fi/fantasy (her passion), historical fiction, character-driven fiction, romance, and suspense. She also writes feature screenplays, TV spec scripts, and the occasional short film. Residing somewhere in the beautiful Ventura County, she still claims and loves her native city of Los Angeles. She lives with her amazing family and two dogs and often finds herself writing in little neighborhood joints – a cup of coffee or tea at her side.

Thanks for joining us today. Can you tell us what genre you consider your book(s)?

My main genre is fantasy/sci-fi if you’re looking at the overall spectrum of all of my books. If we’re just talking the Dragonics & Runics Series – it’s a bit more complicated. I’ve never been one to colour inside the lines and that shows in my writing. Most of my work is actually a hodgepodge of genres – whatever it takes to best tell my story – so pinning down just one specific genre is hard. Yes, that can work against me but I have always put story ahead of all else. It’s why I write. The Dragonics & Runics Series novels are a mix of political fantasy, steampunk, high fantasy, adventure, and romance (who doesn’t love a good romantic intrigue, eh?)

Honestly, I think some of the genre lines are a bit artificial. Growing up, I always considered a good fantasy would naturally include adventure and romance. In fact, fantasy, to me, was always the playground where you got to play with elements of other genres.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
           
Jane Austen & Ernest Hemingway are tied. Jane has taught me to really get behind characters, make them as real as possible and to be brutally honest with my reader when I portray the characters in all facets, especially emotional ones. Hemingway taught me to put up or shut up and that the art of word-smithing – picking the right words concisely – is an amazing skill to have. I’m still learning, but I love when people can get a feel for Austen and Hemingway in my work. It definitely makes me smile and go – good, it’s working then.

My bad, I’ve not read either, which I know tends to be frowned on. Oops.

What are your current projects?
           
I have the rest of the novels in the Dragonics & Runics Series in various levels of completion as well as a Sci-Fi novel that is in development. I’m toying with turning another concept into a graphic novel with a few illustrator friends and I am a part of the creative team and lead writer on a soon-to-be-released web series called Things Left Unsaid. I also have a feature film screenplay that I am going to start putting out there soon.

Heavens, you’re one busy bee! Do you write an outline before every book or project you write?
           
In one fashion or another, yes. I write in segments – usually out of order – in clips or scenes. To help organize and streamline the plot, I have a general outline that I adhere to for ordering and flow. Is it rigid? Absolutely not. Does it look the same from before I started writing to when I’m in editing mode? Not even close. But I do outline in a combination of timelines and old-fashioned “OG” fluorescent note cards.

I don’t believe an outline should resemble the finished product, either. A good writer is flexible enough to follow new ideas as they arise, but I also find an outline helpful for continuity and ordering.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
           
Part II of the Dragonics & Runics Series (the title will be announced on my Facebook in April) picks up where Defiance: Dragonics & Runics Part I left off – you’re back with the Resistance struggling to put together the pieces of the Prophecy before the Council destroys you and everything you’ve worked towards. You’re going to see a lot of the same characters as in Defiance but get introduced to a few more – and learn quite a bit more about some characters who, in Defiance, might not have caught your full attention. Lots of surprises and, unfortunately, a bit more in-depth look into the struggle between the Rogue Dragonics and the Council. Bottom line – nothing is for certain – things and people can and will change, so you best be careful!

What was your favourite chapter (or part) to write and why?
           
Anything with the Dragons. I love, love, love, love dragons. I always have. Even back when I was an awkward little thing taking painting classes in 6thgrade, I painted dragons. My love of those mythical beasts shows in every Dragon I write – they are all unique with as different personalities as their human counterparts. Later in the series, I have even more fun with the Dragons… at the expense of the humans.

Ooh, a woman after my own heart. Remind me to tell you about my dragon coffee table one day, the centrepiece of my collection!

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

Toughest criticism was probably that I focus too much on developing my characters that it gets lost on the reader. It’s not necessarily a bad criticism but it helped bring into focus that I need to always remember to bring balance to character development and other aspects of writing. I was so grateful for the reminder at the time that I went back and re-evaluated my creative process. This was all during my MFA program and it made me such a better writer for it. Every writer needs to take those hard-to-swallow comments and squeeze the good out of them. The professor that had said it – an award-winning writer – came back at the end of my program and complimented me on my adjustments. I ended up taking the highest award in the program and a direct award from that professor. The head banging on the wall was worth it then. Even the stomach-wrenching choking moment I had for – oh, a few months.

I think it’s safe to say not all the character development (or worldbuilding, which is character development of another kind) that a writer does will show up in the book. Some of it we do so we can know our character better, or to draw upon if needed, but what we need to remember is just because we made it up doesn’t mean it has a place in the finished book.

What has been the best compliment?

My best compliment is that people can see where I take them. They can see my characters, their surroundings. They can hear their voices, smell the surroundings and taste the food. That they can really imagine themselves in the story. That’s a huge compliment because that’s how I want my reader to be when they read my work – I want them immersed in the story’s world so the plot and characters mean that much more to them.

Ah cinematic description! I remember getting that compliment from an editor. I even remember the scene she referred to. The compliments are so much nicer than the criticisms, but unfortunately we need the constructive feedback so we can improve.

Do you have a day job as well?
           
Don’t we all? I’m a mom and I work full time at a lovely company in the entertainment industry. It keeps me running and busy 80% of my day, and I fit writing in whenever and wherever I can. One day, hopefully, I’ll reach that level where writing can be my day job, but until then I’ll keep my nose to the grindstone (so to speak).

Oh yes, we’re all in that boat! For a bit of fun, if you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?

Wolf. Hands down. And not a werewolf… I would hate the whole changing under the moon thing. There’s just something majestic and beautiful about the wolf – especially their loyalty and sense of duty.

You surprise me. I would have said dragon! What would I find in your refrigerator right now?
           
Blueberries, strawberries (I live in Ventura County, you can’t blame me!), yogurt, cilantro, chicken, mango, leftovers, homemade pizza, some of my pasta sauce, cheese, and pickles. Oh, and some turkey and egg whites. I also think there’s some mystery leftover in the back, but we’re going to ignore that for the moment…

Mmm, strawberries. I’m jealous. The season is about over here in Australia. If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be?
           
Elizabeth Bennet. I’m a Darcy fan. I want to see him walk out of the fountain all wet and stuff. Am I right, ladies? That… and I’d also like to stick it to Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Mr. Collins.

You’ve lost me… I only have a vague notion that he’s from

Pride and Prejudice. Please don’t shoot me – I suspect there are many who would totally agree. Thank you for sharing your time with us today.

If you would like to know more about A. Wrighton, you can find her at:


You can find A. Wrighton’s books at:

Dragonics & Runics Series Website: www.defythecouncil.com

Defiance Book Trailer: http://bit.ly/dandrvideo
Defiance on Amazon: http://bit.ly/dr1amazon
Defiance on Kindle: http://bit.ly/dr1ebook (other ebook formats coming in June!)

Things Left Unsaid – a web series: www.facebook.com/thingleftunsaid

Review of ‘The Accidental Sorcerer’ by K.E. Mills



Welcome to Ottosland, a country with a vague British flavour, in a world that more or less resembles ours, except that alongside the telephone sits the crystal ball. This is a world of both magic and technology.

Gerald Dunwoody is a Third Grade wizard, graduate of a mere correspondence course in wizardry, and reduced to the level of inspector for a government department. When the blame for the destruction of Ottosland’s most prestigious staff factory falls on Gerald, he finds himself virtually unemployable.

At the enthusiastic insistence of his genius friend, Monk Markham, Gerald takes a job as advisor to the King of New Ottosland. Monk reasons that Gerald needs to get away from the debacle that is the destruction of Stuttley’s, and when he returns, not only will the uproar have died down, but Gerald will have ‘advisor to a king’ on his resume.

Reg, Gerald’s apparently sentient bird, is less enthusiastic. Potential employers need to be vetted, she says. Royalty can be dangerous. And what does a king want with a Third Grade wizard?

Against Reg’s objections, Gerald takes the job and they travel to New Ottosland, where they are greeted by Princess Melissande, the Prime Minister of New Ottosland. It quickly becomes clear things are not at all what they seem. The Privy Council has been sacked. Melissande, under-staffed and over-worked, is trying to do the work of the Council, the Prime Minister, and negotiate with a delegation from neighbouring Kallarap about tariffs the king refuses to pay. The kingdom is verging on bankruptcy.

And King Lional himself demands that Gerald impress him, or be sent on his way.

Sweating under pressure, Gerald somehow manages to turn Lional’s cat into a lion. A level 12 transmogrification spell? Impossible! Such a feat is beyond the skills of a mere Third Grade wizard. But what if Gerald isn’t a Third Grade Wizard anymore? What if the events at Stuttley’s have… changed him?

Completing the royal ensemble is Prince Rupert, more interested in his butterfly house than the running of a nearly bankrupt kingdom or royal politics. He is quite obviously mad, and yet Gerald has the sinking feeling that Rupert might be the saner of the two brothers when Lional announces that Gerald will be his secret weapon in the negotiations against Kallarap.

Adding a sinister feel to proceedings, it soon comes to light that Gerald’s five predecessors in the position of advisor to King Lional, all First Grade wizards, have not been seen since they supposedly left New Ottosland…

Why is Lional determined to provoke war against his neighbours? What happened to the missing wizards? And what does he want with Gerald?

The book is engaging and fast-paced, as well as humorous, though perhaps written more in a young adult style. If that bothers you, give the book a miss, but I found the story compelling and well-written. Though hardly the most competent wizard, Gerald draws you in with his personality, his well-meaning dedication, and his genuine attempts to make the best of a bad situation. When things turn really pear-shaped, he is really tested, and the decisions he makes will shape the man he will become.

A mostly fun, light-hearted read interspersed with darker moments, the book is a solid, well-written effort and definitely worth your time. 


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