Category Archives: dragons

Passing the Torch: A tale of two science fiction masters

Giants in the genre

and one has recently passed, died, gone over…and left her mark firmly in the world of science fiction.

Anne McCaffrey. She has an extensive series of novels about her world of Pern, much like my meager beginnings take place on Alysia. Only she has written for ages to resounding success and now her son Todd picks up the mantle.

Dragons. Telepathic dragons. Can it get any better?

Yes it can.

The newest book co-authored with her son is about time traveling dragons who go “in between” in hopes of saving a diminishing dragon population and a world threatened once more by thread.

Time Travel! Yeah! By one of the masters. Who we now mourn.

She has left her mark, however, in the wide world, as well as in the personal world for I know a good long time friend of hers who speaks with tears in her eyes of Anne’s passing. One of the members in my Portland Author’s Luncheon group has known Anne for years and says she was a wonderful person and will be sorely missed. Not only was she a fine writer, but a good friend. A kind heart.

A dragon heart.

The hope continues, however, for Anne’s son, Todd McCaffrey has co-authored the latest book of Pern called Dragon’s Time and it threatens to become  one of the best in the series. I am reading it now and will review it next week for you.

Lucky for us readers, Todd appears to have caught the torch and plans some more books in the Pern world.

Another son who caught the torch is Brian Herbert. I met him at a Willamette Writers Conference several years ago where he and collaborator Kevin Anderson talked about going through copious notes left by Brian’s father, Frank Herbert, the genius who wrote Dune. Dune is a classic.

One of the best.

If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend it. An average movie was made from it and a better television serial. (worth the hunt at a local library or offered on Amazon) Frank wrote several sequels to the book, but none matched the brilliance of the first. Still, over the last several years, Brian and Kevin have done a fine job penning a vast array of prequels; the most recent being the newly published The Sisterhood of Dune.

Frank Herbert’s Dune series is: Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse Dune. I liked most of them, except God Emperor Dune got a little strange and turned a number of people off the series. That was a shame because Chapterhouse Dune was good.

If you’re restless and looking for a good series, you might look into this collection and the prequels by Kevin and Brian. There are a good number of them and so far, I have enjoyed every one I have read. I was surprised at how well they followed in Frank Herbet’s footsteps.

They were big shoes to fill.

Frank Herbert also wrote a number of other books too numerous to mention, but many got good reviews. Wander around Amazon to see some of his lesser known works. I wonder why one book goes on to be the largest seller worldwide of all books and others, seemingly well written, fall by the wayside.

Writing is a crazy world.

One that I’m in.

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Filed under alien life forms, award winning scifi, Classic science fiction, dragons, fantasy, Hugo winners, science fiction, science fiction series, Science fiction world building, time travel

Five for the Future

Finding books that will be exciting to read: an interesting endeavor.

I still combed through my favorite authors, but went out on a limb for a few. At the moment I am casting my net towards upcoming novels, or new releases. Later on, I’ll do a blog of old time favorites that are must reads. Sometimes, you miss a few.

Meanwhile I am fervently working on Cosmic Entanglement that I promised in December, but I have not yet published I have the proof and several of my beta readers are avidly going through it with red pen in hand. Soon, soon. No longer do I criticize the big publishers for their long turnaround time. Well, not as much anyway.

Five for fantastic future fun

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline   This is a story that takes place in a virtual reality that has the flavor of the 1980s. The real world is in an upheaval, but put on a headset and enter the world of this virtual reality and life gets interesting…and dangerous. Wade Watts is a trailer park kid that escapes his awful real world into the virtual world. A dead billionaire leaves his inheritance in the virtual world for anyone smart enough to solve his puzzles. In this world, there are hidden keys, that gamers are looking for that offer a fortune if they are found. Some of the people playing the game are serious about winning, deadly serious. This book was in the Amazon Best of Year 2011 and looked interesting.

2. Distrust that Particular Flavor by William Gibson. Geesh, where did he get his title? If it wasn’t Gibson, I wouldn’t give this a second look. But it is Gibson and for that reason, it is on my list.

3. City of the Dragons by Robin Hobb I came late to Robin Hobb, but when I showed up, I went hard. I wasn’t expecting to like her, so I was surprised. Start with the Assassin series, try the Fool’s trilogy and then mosey over to the dragon section. You won’t be disappointed.

4. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest  So much hype about this book, that I just have to investigate it. Steampunk has been very popular the last few years, and this was one of the books that started the craze.

5. Voyage in the Night  by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. By now, you know that I like these two and their Liadon Universe stories. This is the next after Fledgling, Saltation, and Mouse and Dragon.   Sharon and Steve were some of the first to self publish and use the internet to get their books out there. They published e-books and kept on going after their traditional publishing house shut down. They built a fan base through the internet and e-books, and then, Baen books picked them up. Now they have a foot in both places–both self publishing and trad publishing. Go guys.

So, I began my list from last week and read Ghost Story by Jim Butcher. My reaction is that it’s one of his best. Can you imagine waking up and being a ghost and being manipulated into solving your own murder? How Butcher gets around the problem of Harry not being able to hold on to anything, much less be able to speak or communicate is interesting. For once, Harry isn’t in constant pain, but the action is just as wild, the difficulties, even more difficult than ever before. The reader meets all the old characters like old friends (or enemies). There are a few places that bog down with explanations on how a particular magic works, or the history of a particular magical being, but the reader often finds the information interesting. We even meet Uriel, an archangel. I recommend it for any Butcher fans, or fans of fantastical beings in literature.

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Filed under Cyberpunk, dragons, fantasy, magic, Naamah, science fiction, science fiction series, Steampunk, supernatural, the fae

Murder Most Unkind: Dance With Dragons

I’ve had it! One of my favorite authors has gone too far.

George R R Martin.

In his latest book, Dance with Dragons.

If you haven’t read the series, stop reading this right now as the following rant reveals facts that spoils the series for those who haven’t read it yet.

I loved “Game of Thrones” and admired Ned Starke. Well, so much for that. I put up with the cold, the killing, the crippling, because the writing often sang with poetry like sentences and descriptions.

“Clash of Kings” killed off, or diminished, those characters that I had come to like and  “Feast for Crows” was even grittier. Rob was my best hope, and then betrayal at a wedding. I protested that loss. Still, I kept on as a fan. There were direwolves after all. Would they save the day?

I didn’t know who was the hero. I was afraid to attach to anyone anymore because of what might happen to him, or her.
Martin isn’t kind to his characters. If you’re smart and rich, you are made a dwarf with a torn off nose and then kidnapped, abused, humiliated. No one cares if you’re clever, and  all others are stupid. You get sold into slavery to someone who leads an army and dysentery strikes, killing off hundreds. Graphic descriptions ensue. Okay he deserved it. But he came from a dysfunctional family. Tyrion had serious issues.

But young Brandon. Innocent, loved and then crippled. Winterfell is attacked and he is thought dead, but he escapes off into the north past the wall where walking death lurks. And becomes what grotesque entity?

Then there is Brave Jon Snow. He goes to the wall. He fights cold, supernatural beings and fellow conspirators. I didn’t want to care…but I did. Dangerous. That was the final straw. I wanted to throw the book across the room. How can George Martin do this to me?

And every time I thought I finally knew who the characters were and how they fit in, a new one would come on the scene. I needed a chart to keep track of who was what.

Still, there were times when the descriptions, the writing itself sang to me. Detailed descriptions of time and place. Writing that created emotion and caring.But so much gore, pain, and strife. Did life have to be all that dark?

I still highly recommend the HBO series if you have no qualms about graphic nudity. I didn’t mind. The production was gorgeous.

There is yet more books coming out to finish the tale. I may not risk myself. I have no hero left to care about. I violently protest.

George R R Martin has gone too far.

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Filed under dragons, fantasy, science fiction

Return to Normal

 

 

I’M Baaack…

Once again, Orycon was a banquet of experiences from the scifi/fantasy world.

This year the costume of choice was Steampunk. Many men wore WWI kaki uniforms with goggles on leather hoods and several women appeared in Victorian, low cut, ruffled gowns with waving feathered bonnets. An arbitrary Startrek uniform popped up, now and then, with an occasional exotic horror costume making an appearance. There was a parade.

Coming in from the hotel’s garage, I had to warn an innocent out of town traveler that he wasn’t really entering the Twilight Zone…or maybe he was.

I attended formal panels on “To Outline or Not to Outline: that is the Question.” and “Writing with all Your Senses”, “Social Networking Sites”, “Blah, blah, bah she said”, “Spaceships, Colonists and castaways”, and several more

The most amazing panel for me was on Sunday.

I almost didn’t go.

This was on isolated communities and entitled, “Spaceships, Colonists and Castaways.” Since my fifth novel takes place on a spaceship with an enclosed environment that causes lots of stress, I decided to attend. I had no idea that David Levine participated in a Mars simulation where they were isolated as if on a spaceship with limited water and resources for the amount of time it would take to get to Mars.

He had appeared so normal at the luncheons!

And Camille Alexa, also part of my Portland Luncheon Writers group, relayed her experience the night before of being trapped in an Orycon elevator with twelve other people. Eventually, the emergency rescue squad pried them out, but not before she had trouble breathing the diminishing air supply. Panic does strange things to people.

G. David Nordley related his military experiences of being in charge of a unit that was isolated in a foreign country where, in order to alleviate boredom, four soldiers brewed some alcohol and then challenged each other to a drinking contest. He walked in after they had drunk quite a bit, but just in time to stop them from further drinking. They later thanked him for saving their lives. But not all. One died. Death by friendly liquid? Try explaining  that to a soldier’s mother.

While the panels were informative, the best part was networking.

Mary Rosenblum confided that she is working on a sequel to Horizons. Mary heads up a program called The New Writers Interface. It provides services and workshops for new aspiring authors.

Mike Shepherd talked about a brand new series he is planning after having so much success with his Kris Longknife novels.

M. K. Hobson, Nebula nominee for 2011, graciously signed my copy of The Native Star while standing in line at the lobby desk and mentioned that she had just published its sequel. Check her out on Amazon.

And William K. Nolan, of “Logan’s Run” fame, was one of three who critiqued the first 7,000 words of one of my future novels in the Alysian Series that I am currently working on. Yipes!

The writers’ workshops were constructive and tough, but all the stories will be better because of the time and care the pros took with their critiques. I want to thank Carole Cole for the outstanding job she did on organizing it. Kudos Carole.

I came home exhausted and humbled, but wiser in the ways of book writing.

I didn’t hear very much about Indie Publishing. The elephant in the room was ignored as far as my experience went. Everyone talked about query letters, proper submission format and waiting years for a response. There was a lot of talk about newly published short stories, not so much on newly published novels.

I was amazed. I had expected more about self-publishing. The whole industry is going through an upheaval and change and not much was said about it at the convention. Well-known editors were either absent or hiding out in a Steampunk disguise. Most of the attendees had gray hair and lined faces. I wondered where our young future writers were.

Most likely twittering or face booking. They weren’t at Orycon.

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Filed under Cons, dragons, fantasy, Filking, science fiction

Crossing the Line

Okay, I’ve crossed the line. I openly admit it. Many science fiction readers have, you know. Crossed the line…into fantasy.

How could I resist? A NEW author who has worked over twelve years on a 395,000 word epic? Tried to hone it down and it only got bigger. It sounded familiar. However, his famous agent didn’t blink an eyelash and now it’s a best seller? (not as familiar) Who was this person? Once again, (soapbox alert) someone has written a huge book and is garnering accolades for it.

Patrick Rothfuss.

Intrigued, I read his first book The Name of the Wind and loved it. At that length, it’s expensive, so I went the library route. (Sorry, Pat) and went back immediately for the second book A Wise Man’s Fears.

Read this interesting interview on Amazon at the Wise Man’s Fears  page.

In an exclusive interview for Amazon.com, epic fantasy authors Patrick Rothfuss (The Wise Man’s Fear) and Brandon Sanderson (Towers of Midnight) sat down to discuss collaborating with publishers, dealing with success, and what goes into creating and editing their work.

  The story is told in the first-person narrative. Kvothe is a young man who grows to be one of the most notorious magicians his world has ever known. His childhood is spent with a troupe of traveling players until evil demons called the Chandrian wipe out his entire family because they are mentioned in his father’s song. Kvothe is left destitute to spend years as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city where he grows up fast. Desperate to learn more about the Chandrians in order to seek revenge and also to learn the higher magic of naming, he makes a brazen, yet successful, bid to enter a legendary school of magic.  There he makes a dangerous enemy and also garners a cadre of friends. It is a story within a story as the unassuming bar owner, who is really the supposedly dead Kvothe, tells the real story of his life to a chronicler. The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fears are masterpieces of fantasy writing that transports the reader into the body and mind of a wizard and his astounding life. It’s a story you can’t put down with twists and turns that keep you reading late into the night. I highly recommend both…and look forward to the next one in the trilogy.

However, now that I am a publisher, I absolutely see the problem of such a large book. The price of printing. I think the trend is away from them, and that the short story will become more and more popular. In that vein, I have just written a short story that eventually will join my constellation of works. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life.As the explosion of the ebook phenomena happens, one of the questions people are asking from both sides of the aisle is, “How can I find/sell a good book?”

Kristine Kathryn Rusch allayed some of my fears by saying that it will be a lot like it always has been, except instead of walking into a bookstore with hundreds of books, you browse Amazon with millions. However, you will go down the same aisle, (science fiction in my case) armed with some authors you particularly like and gaze around for some new intriguing authors that you may not have read yet. (If you like that one, then you might like…)You will check out the book reviewers, thank you, and the awards to see what might be interesting. You will explore a book that someone has recommended to you via word of mouth, or Twitter. Maybe, through Facebook or Linkedin. The process will be the same, the venue is all that is different.

For example, I want to suggest a new book by an Indie author that I met over LinkedIn. He has a brand new book out called The Stone Dragon.  I read his first chapter, liked his writing, and was intrigued by his storyline. Here is another story of a magician but he only performs magic when he is sleeping. It works through the unconscious. He also has to deal with a dragon that has been embedded into his home and affects his life. I think the book is one you might like to read.

Tom Kepler, the author, has a background as a writing teacher and helped me out when I was pulling my hair out on a formatting problem. Thank you, Tom.

I think that we are going to need more and more review sites to help our readers find what they want and with no big publishing house behind the new Indie author. Maybe we can help out each other.

The hardest part in this new paradigm isn’t the writing, it’s the marketing. A new books gets only whispers, and hopefully that builds until the general public hears some shouting about it. Most often, the word of mouth whispers get drowned out in the day to day distractions. Also, most new authors don’t know the ins and outs of how to market their book. A lot of it, is hit or miss. The old venues aren’t working any more. And we’re not sure what works now.

But this new paradigm is powerful and people are connecting to places they would never have before. A writer in my writer’s group met her husband over the internet. He lived in Portland, she lived in England. A wide ocean between them. They Twittered and e-mailed. He flew over to meet her and now they are married and living in Portland. They plan to return to England soon.

The world is changing and it’s amazing.

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Filed under dragons, fantasy, magic, Uncategorized