Category Archives: Wizards and magic

Calling on Angels

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If you’re one of my hard scifi readers, this week my writing has taken me off that path a bit.

I will return. (scramble, scramble)

Currently, I’m writing about one of my favorite characters–Angel. Angel is the offspring of two aliens who live on Alysia in seclusion. These are Enjelise that at one time protected the humans of Alysia and now have “evolved.” Modeled on our concept of angels, Angel doesn’t have wings like his parents, but he has been tasked with protecting Richard Steele’s daughter, Tempest, and it’s quite the challenge.

And fun to write about.

 While I was contemplating what to blog about, I recalled Sharon Shinn who wrote a whole series on a planet where angels ruled.

 Often as an author writes, great creative ideas seem to pop out of nowhere. I loved writing about the Enjelise and was rolling right along with them when I remembered Sharon Shinn and her series, and was surprised at how much they unconsciously influenced me.

 Where do we get our inspiration from? Sometimes I think an idea or concept is rolling around out there in the ether just waiting for creative people to harvest it, and at other times it’s buried in the subconscious and bubbles to the surface when needed.

 Well, I was bubbling.

 So I wanted to at least mention this author in case you’re inclined to this style of story.

Because I am.

I first read Sharon because the title of a particular book was so compelling, and then the reviews were also good.

The Shape-Changer's WifeThe Shape Changer’s Wife was such an intriguing title I wanted to read the book to see what the author would do with it.

 So authors, your title is important. It should draw in a reader.

 I enjoyed the story of Aubrey who decides he wants to learn more than his current University’s training offers and seeks out the most accomplished wizard of shape changing, Glyrenden. Odd events and and dark rumors cause Aubrey to try to figure out what is going on in the wizard’s household. Often Glyrenden goes off for long periods of time and leaves his wife, Lilith, alone. She carries a sad secret and Aubrey tries to help her. As he helps her, he discovers a lot about himself.

Archangel Because I liked that story, Sharon Shinn’s name came onto my radar screen, and then I discovered her Samaria Series. Samaria is a world dominated by angel like creatures that are beautiful, have wings, live high in the mountains and sing. Once each year the reigning Archangel and angels gather with the lesser humans and sing a chorale praising Jovah so that God will not smite the planet. The praising must be a duet of the Archangel and his wife.

Gabriel is the newly selected Archangel who will be elevated at the next celebration. Several challenges face him. First, the previous Archangel has created a division of poor and rich upon what had been an egalitarian society. The world is worse off, but Raphael doesn’t want to relinquish his power and step down and plots to thwart Gabriel’s election. Meanwhile Gabriel has delayed in seeking a wife and when he finally visits the oracle to learn who she must be, he finds out his chosen is a slave in an oppressed culture who dislikes the angels and is quick to tell him what is wrong with the world. Neither one is happy about the choosing and would rather marry another, but to save the planet, they try to make it work. However, Gabriel’s delay means he has only six months to do that.

The clock is ticking…and no one is co-operating.

Jovah's Angel An interesting love story with several twists and turns.

The series continues with the second book in the series, Jovah’s Angel and concludes with the Alleluia Files.Alleluia Files

 With the Alleluia Files, Shinn takes a fantasy series and sharply twists it into science fiction. Here’s where I had forgotten Shinn’s book and when I saw her name recently on a new series, it all started to resurface. In The Alleluia Files, a rebel Jacobite, Tamar believes the “God” of their world is more technology than deity and searches for the files of an angel, Alleluia, who proposes that a satellite ship circles Samaria controlling the weather and interacting with the angels when they sing, fulfilling the role of “God.” The current Archangel, Bael, is out to squash this idea and has ordered all Jacobites killed. But Tamar teams up with Jared, an Angel with an open mind, to discover the truth. This is an interesting finale to the trilogy.

 Sharon Shinn flavors her stories of Samaria with bible references and weaves a complex world of angels and humans, of love and conflict that you may enjoy.

Thirteeth House I also want to commend her Twelve House series. Here she revisits magic and shapeshifters. I loved The Thirteenth House, Reader and Raelynx,  Mystic and Rider and Dark Moon Defender–to name a few.Royal Airs

And recently out, her new Elemental Series, Troubled Waters, the first in the series, came out in April 2013 and the newest offering is Royal Airs out last November. In this series she works with the five elements that control everyone’s life in her created society. The society is full of court intrigue and dangerous liaisons and could take place in any of the European courts from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century.

Once again, an intriguing world with magic and romance, danger and dark deeds.

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Filed under Alien and human bonding, alien life forms, Alien worlds, Aliens in Science Fiction, Best selling science fiction, fantasy, genetic manipulation, Paranormal Romance, Wizards and magic

Debut Author in Fantasy Noir: Joe Abercrombie

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Being recognized as an emerging author can be tough nowadays. Although the powerhouse publishing houses are said to be having a rough go, I still feel they have a powerful advantage when it comes to marketing their stable of authors.

They know how the system works.

Many newbie Indie authors don’t or are intimidated by it. (Finger points to me)

Getting reviews is key for authors because often readers check out what others think about a book in order to decide whether they want to buy it or not. Knowing this, I still shy away from leaving reviews on Amazon and suffer guilt pangs later knowing how important it is for authors. I promise to do better.

Big publishing Houses, such as Tor and Baen, have contacts into channels for various important awards and distribution catalogs. They have an extensive network built up over many years of being in the business. They know that libraries and bookstores across the country rely on certain catalogs to pick out their next offerings and make sure their authors are represented.

Someone who is doing a wonderful job helping Indie authors understand the myths and realities of self publishing is Dean Wesley Smith. He pops ten myths of publishing writers believe.

See his blog: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=12014 The most recent blog talks about the myth of how only big name published books get into the bookstores and outlines how self publishers or Indie authors can put their books on bookstore shelves too.

It’s easy, and it isn’t.

If you want to.

For me to opt in to Amazon’s extended distribution, I would have to price myself almost too high for an unknown beginning author. With my 400-500 page books, the question for me is will I make more selling a few in bookstores or more selling a lot at a lesser price on Amazon?

Wide distribution is great if you’re going to sell, but not so great if no one knows you’re huddled on some back corner of a bookstore shelf and priced too high, leaving no margin for royalties–that is if you even get the attention of the buyer to be put there in the first place.

Being in the catalog is not the same as being in the bookstore. Only the buyers put you on the shelf.

And I’ve sat on Smashwords website with three books because someone argued that the concept of wider distribution means more sales…and I’ve sold very little there. I’m trying to find out where my readers are and target that area.

The Blade Itself2This week, I selected a debut novel to read and review to help push along a promising author. Joe Abercrombie’s trilogy: First Law is worth a look. The Blade Itself is the first of the trilogy and was published by Pyr. Pyr is a science fiction and fantasy imprint of Prometeus Books with a few surprising authors such as: Kay Kenyon, Ian MacDonald, Kristine Katherine Rusch, Mike Resnick and others.  Interestingly, the Blade Itself was published in 2007 and is now gaining momentum. So writing can be a long tail business that with patience could eventually pay off.

But I’ve mentioned that before. (Mantra)

This trilogy came to my attention by word of mouth and a hazy recollection of having seen it on an Amazon recommended list. They say you have to see a product name several times before you are prompted to buy. So when expert writer D. Wallace Peach extolled the book as the best writing she’s ever read, I had to check it out.

Fantasy Noir. Not really my wheelhouse, but then…

For me this is a new sub genre term. Think George R. R. Martin. The four major characters are: Sand Glotka, an imperial inquisitor crippled in an enemy prison camp and now giving back his own; Captain Jezel Luthar, an egotistical and shallow rich high society soldier of the king’s guard; Bayaz, a balding heavyset wizard that everyone considers a sham, until he does a few amazing things; Major Collem West, a stout-hearted commoner who fears he will turn into the brute his father was, but hard work and intelligence enables him to rise high in the Adua military and Logan Ninefingers, an ugly battle-scarred barbarian from the North who turns into a killing machine if pushed too far.

Everyone has a flaw, and everyone has a strength.

If you can get past the first several chapters where Glotka is torturing confessions out of fat and wealthy merchants because the head inquisitor or prime minister wants their business and family destroyed, then you should like the rest.

Somehow Abercrombie makes this motley collection of characters endearing as each struggles with the corruption and conflict around them. The insufferable soldier falls madly in love with Major West’s sister as he faces an important, possibly deadly, dueling match. The sister, Ardee West, is witty, charming, but drinks too much and has been abused by her father. After their father’s death, she seeks protection with her brother, Major West, of the high standards until he finds his sister slipping around with his friend Captain Jezel of the loose morals. To his horror, West discovers that he has become his father when in a fit of temper he hits Ardee.

Gradually, as each story is told, the group comes together, at odds with each other, but coerced by Bayaz to form a company to travel on a quest to the end of the world.

If you like fantasy with crunch and chew…interesting characters and the wild humor within their wretched condition, then you’ll love this series

And don’t forget we authors need your reviews if you like our books. Pass it along so others can enjoy what you like. Don’t be shy.

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Filed under Best selling science fiction, Book reviews, fantasy, fantasy series, Indie authors, magic, Marketing and selling novels, Noir Fantasy, Uncategorized, Wizards and magic

Noir Fantasy with a Cutting Edge

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Is it just me or are fantasy novels getting grittier? Looking over several lists, I notice that fantasy dominates popular reading and selections for 2013, but ever since Game of Thrones, the stories I’m reading seem harsher, gorier, gritty. Does this reflect our society? And in what way? Are current writers being influenced to write coarser protagonist with more violent plot lines?51LqynbphlL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

In George R.R. Martin’s last book, Dance with Dragons, the hero still standing  was a one-eyed dwarf with a torn off half face who suffers from dysentery. You end up with him at the close of the story on a gory battlefield knee deep in mud.

No swashbuckling hero him.

Skin GameAnother current favorite is the urban fantasy series by Jim Butcher. Harry Dresden fights to protect the city of Chicago against vampires, goblins and evil enemies, but he is usually tattered, aching, bruised  and needs a bath when dealing with “the dark side.” It is only after he dies and becomes a ghost that all the aches and pains go away. Yet his frustrations continue with the limitations imposed on his ghostly self. Can’t even twist a doorknob open.

Now, the next book coming out in May is titled Skin Game…and dare we hope he returns to his battered human self? And what mayhem and grotesque ghouls and evil doers will he confront to cause this transformation?

What sparked this introspection is that I’m currently reading Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself and while the writing is vivid, every character seems damaged in some way. One of the main characters is Glokta, an Inquisitor, who performs particularly violent procedures to wring confessions out of his victims.

I couldn’t get to sleep last night for images of fingertips flying through the air as he hacks a confession from a prisoner, or teeth breaking under pliers as he wrenches information out for his master all the while groaning in his own pain and agony. Even the king is a fat gross fool who is manipulated by greedy and power hungry ministers. The supposed brave knight/soldier is such a self centered fool that you want to strangle him yourself the moment you meet him. Still, the story is engrossing and I do keep going back for more. This seems to be the popular offering nowadays.The Blade Itself2

Whatever happened to unicorns and strong jawed heroes that save fair damsel?

Fantasy is not reality…it’s fantasy.

Reality is for tv shows.

Interesting that two of the Oscar nominations were in the science fiction genre. “Gravity” dealt with outer space and “Her” with a man following in love with a computer.

No wonder I want to jump back into the science fiction genre where I only have to deal with space battles and the occasional deadly aliens.

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Filed under dragons, fantasy, fantasy series, Noir Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Wizards and magic