The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Kat and More

May 7, 2018 at 2:24 am (dark fantasy, Links, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , )

I recently completed 6th Turn: Kat, my latest read in Ren Garcia’s League of Elder series. I’m a big fan of his writing, and I enjoyed this book because it was a particularly dark story line but followed the action with a consistent thread of hope (I felt the same way Mentralysis, my previous read.)

This was another world-building win from Ren, and was definitely a favourite so far. The story ventures into the realm of the Black Hats – we get to see their creation process with all of its cruelty and suffering, and then follow four shadowtech females sent out on their first mission where success will mean new status. One stands out amongst the others, and when things take a turn for the worse, she manages to overcome adversity with the help of her “angels”. Her quest takes its own turn and she abandons her original mission for a completely new goal.

I loved following her transformation, the budding romance that matures into something stronger and how she deals with all of the obstacles she must face while trying to achieve her higher purpose as the Covus. She’s no fragile flower, fighting, even killing when necessary to protect the ones she cares about.

I liked some of the scenes so much I went back and reread them after I finished the book. I especially enjoyed their startling trip to Vain (with its air of a post-apocalyptic dystopia) and their encounters at Xandarr that ventured into the surreal.

This one was a big thumbs up for me. More like this one please.

I was happy to hear that Ren has now released an Omnibus collection. This is a great way of getting three of his books in one: The Dead Held Hands, The Machine, and The Temple of the Exploding Head, books that follow the adventures of Lord Kabyl, the lovely Sam and their companions.

His space operas, with their mixture of sci-fi, steampunk and strange, dark magic, maintain the high adventure flavour of old cliffhangers.  When you read them, you can count on masterful world-building, diverse characters and moving story lines. I enjoyed these books immensely individually, so its a great opportunity to be able to get them as a set.

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Friday the 13th – Update #2

June 14, 2014 at 1:53 am (fantasy, Fervor, Links, The Snowy Barrens trilogy, writing) (, , , , , , , )

I’m starting to think I’m meant to stick with my semi-pro/amateur writer status after this last blitz. It has been almost entirely unsuccessful. One firm yes so far and royalty-based only. I had a couple of “maybe”s, but one did not pan out because the kick-starter campaign, while meeting its goal amount, failed to reach its stretch goal and the other turned into “we’ll put it in the next anthology in this series” offer…which I guess does count as a yes in a way. Otherwise it has been a stream of “no”s, most arriving in form letters or with feedback leaning heavily on the negative.

Have I lost my mojo along with my muse? It’s possible. I don’t think I’ve written anything to my satisfaction since that ill-fated April. I can still connect with characters I created back in the day, so my Fervor series continues to be going okay, but nothing new has had the same magic. As a lifelong dabbler, I’m starting to think the time has come to figure out the next thing to delve into – maybe something a little less overly popular this time. Perhaps I’ll move into non-fiction. Or something completely different.

On a lighter note, I finally got the ebook version of the last novel in my trilogy up on Amazon (the paperback version has been there for a while.) Now I need to set up links and tabs and put a plethora of other things in place, as well as fix a few typos/formatting issues in the first two that readers reported before embarking on promotional efforts. I plan on doing a first issue freebie offer, when everything is ready.

I also will be posting a surprise as soon as I have permission to make the announcement, a happy outcome in an annual event. At least that much has made me smile.

And lastly, I sent Victims of Circumstance, Masters & Renegades #4, off to the publisher. I’m looking forward to seeing that one in print. It is a fun, but at times very dark, romp involving some of my favourite characters and while it does involve a few standard fantasy tropes, it dishes them out in a highly unusual way.

Happy Friday the 13th

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Women in Horror – A Valentine Interlude

February 14, 2014 at 11:28 pm (fantasy, Magic University, writing) (, , , , , , , )

I’m taking a one day break from my women in horror posting to offer up a Masters and Renegades teaser tale with a bit of romance to it. Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Field Test

 “A field test? What do you mean, a field test?” Urwick was incensed. “I’ve managed to conquer every challenge you’ve thrown my way, Jadira. Why would I need to prove myself with a field test? I have no intention of ever wandering the wilds with my magic. Why can’t whatever testing you need completed happen inside? I thought all that outdoor trial foolishness was done once the Admission Trials were over.”

Jadira gave her dark elf apprentice and lover one of her alluring smiles, batting her deep green lashes.

“It’s a requirement for graduation, love, and if you don’t graduate, we can’t get married. Just finish this one thing, and I am properly yours. That won’t happen until it’s done. I’m sure we’ll get a nasty backlash for revealing our relationship after the test. But once you are no longer my apprentice, no one can lodge an official complaint. — So yes, dearest, a field test.”

Urwick sighed and gave his dryad mentor a disgruntled stare.

“If there’s no getting out of this for graduation, and it remains the only obstacle keeping us from going public – then fine. I’ll do whatever you ask. I hate having to hide my feelings for you even more than I despise trudging through muck in open sunlight.”

Jadira laughed, the soft peals a seductive musical sound.

“It won’t be that bad, Urwick. It’s just one task and it ought to be an easy one for you. Just make sure you have a dimming spell on the ready and confidence in your magic. I’m accompanying you on the trip. I’ll be with you the entire time.”

She entwined her slender green fingers through his hair, enjoying the silken feel of his silvery locks. Then she brought her mouth up to his ear, her breath hot and humid on his skin.

“And when you’re done, love, I’ll have a graduation gift for you of my own…one we’ll have to exchange in private.”

Urwick liked that idea. He pulled her into a tight and hungry embrace, burying his dark-skinned face in the nape of her neck and breathing in her bewitching woodsy scent.

***

    “‘It won’t be so bad,’ she said. ‘It ought to be easy,’ she said,” Urwick grumbled. “What’s not bad about this?”

Unfortunately for the dark elf, while he might have all the skills and confidence required for the task ahead of him, the weather had chosen not to be so agreeable. The skies alternated between offering a chilly drizzle and a solid downpour.

Jadira, soggy herself, provided her apprentice a sympathetic smile.

“At least you won’t be bothered by the sun.”

This drew a frown from Urwick. “The sun is the least of my concerns, thanks to my dimming spell. These boots are brand new. This mud is going to destroy them.”

Jadira giggled. “I didn’t know I was engaged to a princess. Really, Urwick – worried about your wardrobe…”

Since they were far out of range of any university officials, she reached over and took his hand. The feel of her warm, supple skin reminded him of why exactly he was there.

“I suppose the boots can be replaced,” he said softly.

They continued on, hand-in-hand, until they reached the golden haze that marked the boundary of their terrain.

“So we go from here…do you get to give me my task for the field test now?” Urwick asked.

“I do. Here is your task: in order to graduate, you must fetch the egg of a phoenix and return to the boundary before nightfall. Succeed, and you become an official graduate of Magic University – a true Master of Magic. Fail, and you’ll be spending at least another year under my instruction.”

Urwick squeezed her hand. “Like that would be such a terrible thing.”

“Which would include another year of keeping our tryst a secret. Do you really want to continue our romance in hiding?”

The dark elf’s expression fell. “You know that isn’t what I want. I never wanted that. I’d shout my feelings to the world if I could. But you won’t let me.”

“It’s a matter of propriety. Faculty are not supposed to fraternize with students – not our kind of fraternizing anyway. If the administration found out, they would separate us, and if they did not force me to leave the university, I’d likely be looking at a demotion along with a severe berating. I love you, and I’m not ashamed to admit it, but I don’t see how all of that would benefit either of us.”

Urwick understood her position. When he had first become Jadira’s apprentice, he had recognized that the University was her entire life. She had been forced to uproot herself, literally, to attend, abandoning all of her friends, forest and family. She might love him, but was it enough to give up everything she had rebuilt upon settling there? He would never expect nor ask that from her.

On the other hand, he had never understood why she had even taken a romantic interest in him in the first place. He had never flirted with her or made any advances, serious about his studies. He had been a dark horse at the Admission Trials and a black sheep upon admittance. Reformed Renegade he would always be, a blemish upon whatever reputation he managed to build, and he would always display a rebellious attitude, inherent to his nature.

Urwick was surprised Jadira had been willing to talk to him beyond what was necessary for his instruction. But during the earliest portion of his apprenticeship, one very strange day, she had returned from a shopping trip in Anthis regarding him with new interest. She had insisted he had already mastered the energy sphere spell she had just taught him early that morning and when his efforts proved her wrong she had made a point of drilling him until he knew the spell inside and out.

Why energy sphere and why had she seemed so sure? He would always wonder that. As a consequence, her extra attention had brought them closer. Urwick could have sworn at that point she had been trying to seduce him. A woman as alluring and beautiful as Jadira had been impossible for Urwick to resist. Whatever the reason, Urwick considered himself a luckier man for it.

“So what happens from here?” he asked Jadira, looking out at the overgrown terrain. “I charge off in search of volcanic crags and use whatever magic is necessary to locate and retrieve said egg?”

Jadira eyed him warily. “Not ‘whatever magic’. You are absolutely restricted from using Renegade magic for this test. I’ve been in your shoes, Urwick. I know you’ve retained much of your original training and it can be tempting to slide back into old ways for a quick fix to a challenging problem, but that’s not an option here. One slip and you’ll automatically be disqualified. Considering what you went through to get here, I really hope you can resist that temptation. If you mess up that way with this test, you’ll give new ammunition to the naysayers who want to keep reformed Renegades like us out of the University.”

“I know, I know. No Renegade magic. For some reason, I get to play champion for the cause.” Urwick did not try to hide his frustration.

Jadira placed her delicate, leaf-coloured hand atop his arm. “This isn’t a joke, Urwick. We both have something to prove here. If you truly love me, you won’t do anything to jeopardize the progress we’ve made.”

Urwick leaned in and kissed her verdant cheek. “Then you have nothing to fear, because I truly love you.”

They stepped through the golden haze together and Urwick cast the first of his spells. Tracer magic demanded both preparation and concentration, a more difficult incantation, but Urwick had been ready for such a challenge.

Once cast, the spell led Urwick, and with him Jadira, on a lengthy trek which took most of the morning. As he trudged along, he wished he had had a scry-type spell that would have allowed him to visibly locate the sought-after egg and permitted him to reach it with a simple portal, saving him a great deal of time and effort. Unfortunately, he hadn’t anticipated the need, but at least he was in good company for the journey. Urwick made the best of it, talking at length with Jadira as he walked and occasionally stealing a kiss. The test requirements could have been far worse.

Thick brush eventually gave way to scattered bushes and even those petered out after a time to barren soil, dotted with the odd patch of dry grass. The rock formations Urwick had been expecting came into view next. The egg he hunted no doubt was atop of one of those stony nubs – Urwick was sure of it.

As he neared the places a phoenix would be most likely to nest, he would find signs that would present themselves in a rather threatening way. Gouts of flame and molten sand would spring from the earth without warning. If you were agile enough to avoid the first burst, you would then have to dodge the fallout as it showered down from the sky.

Aware of this, Urwick had had the sense to put in place a magical shielding spell once he ventured into that part of the terrain. Jadira, meanwhile, was fully clad in all manner of magical defenses. At least he would not be distracted by worrying about her safety as well as his own. She had been allowed to bring in any devices she wished, while he felt mostly naked in comparison, as well as unpleasantly soggy. He couldn’t feel comfortable stripped of all tricks of the wizard trade other than his ordinary clothing and his own magical knowledge and skill. But then again, the field test was one to determine what Master magic he had actually learned at the university, not measure his access to any magical resources. The entrance trials had not been nearly as restrictive. They wanted new students who were resourceful as well as clever.

Urwick was grateful for his defences fairly early into his trip amongst the rocky spires. Only a few moments along, a great blast of fire and lava exploded from the ground in front of him, taking him completely by surprise and dousing him with sticky gobs of flame. The cloak he was wearing went up in smoke, despite his precautions, and the heat seared his extremities a little even through his shields. Urwick decided to take the time and effort to double up on his defensive magic, not wanting to suffer the same way if he encountered any other close calls. For a change, he was actually grateful for the rain sputtering down from the sky, cooling his steaming body quite quickly.

He continued to pick his way through the wasteland, still sensing the proximity of the egg, until he arrived at one rocky outcropping surrounded by a small moat of molten sand. It bubbled and hissed as the occasional stray drop of rain breeched its surface.

“Here,” Urwick declared with a triumphant laugh. “This is it – this is where the nest will be.”

He glanced up. The top of the stony formation extended out far above his head. If he attempted to climb the rock column, his chances of falling were likely, the pinnacle of the rock jutting out above a narrow support. He saw little in the way of secure handholds or footholds. Urwick decided he would have to resort to magic to ascend it.

While the spire appeared precarious, Urwick wasn’t afraid of what he would find at the top. No phoenix parent would be present in the nest to defend its young since the breeding process involved the full immolation of the breeder. The mother would have left a lone egg in its fiery wake.

“From flames, reborn,” Urwick muttered as he contemplated the obstacle before him.

He settled on a simple levitation spell. It would allow him to float slowly up to the nest, snatch the egg from its blackened bed and then return victorious to the ground – prize in hand. Field test passed.

Urwick cast his spell, immediately rising through the smoke-hazed air. As the ground left him, he watched for the approach of the edge of the rock outcropping. The ascent proved tedious. Unlike flight, levitation magic lifted a wizard at little better than a snail’s pace unless you had a means to quicken the pace: a stiff upward breeze or a method of pulling one’s body up to one’s destination. Urwick had neither.

Perhaps he was being cocky or complacent. Maybe he had allowed his attention to lapse because he had grown bored during the delay. Either way, Urwick was ill-prepared when he got close enough to grab at the lip of the outcropping and yank himself up. The nest, scorched black and still steaming, came into view, the mottled golden-orange prize at its centre. But Urwick was not alone.

While it was true that there would be no parent present to menace Urwick, he had not considered that fact that he might not be the only predator hoping to claim that egg. Hovering directly across the nest from the dark elf, some sort of reptilian winged beast eyed the egg as well.

“Damn!” Urwick knew if he did not act fast he could lose the desired prize and with that, fail the field test.

It took a battle with reflex to quell the temptation to break the rules and resort to Renegade magic. Any offensive Master spells he could launch off the cuff might put the egg at risk as well. Combined speed, power and control was a Renegade spell trait only wielded by stronger Renegades. Lesser Renegades could use spells involving both speed and power but at the expense of control, that’s what gave them the reputation of being dangerous and unpredictable. While all Master spells were controlled, anything involving any power tended to be slow to cast. Even the quickest and most familiar spell, energy sphere, would allow the creature enough opportunity to snatch away the egg and head for cover. The situation demanded an immediate response.

In truth, the only way Urwick could hope to use any Master Magic with an instantaneous effect was by manipulating one of the spells he already had in place. H stripped himself of one of his two existing shields, interposing it between the monster and his prize. As the beast bounced off of the invisible barrier, Urwick ducked beneath it and grabbed up the egg.

If only the hungry reptile would have been willing to let the battle go at that, conceding defeat and heading off in search of other prey, Urwick’s problems would have been over. The dark elf had never been that fortunate, having to fight for everything he ever wanted. This was no different. He now had to win a new struggle for the freedom to openly express his love for Jadira.

Extremely grateful that he had doubled up his shields, Urwick knew he would be relying on the one he had left for protection. Otherwise his soggy and slightly scorched body would have been left completely exposed. Circumventing the shield Urwick had abandoned to the nest, his scaly opponent lunged for him and the egg, only to collide with the second barrier. That was all that prevented the beast’s claws from raking through the dark elf’s flesh and tearing the egg from his grasp. The gesture still resulted in a mid-air collision driving the floating Urwick away from the rocky spire and spinning him out into the open, drizzly sky. The levitation spell kept him from tumbling to his doom but left him stranded beyond the reach of anything that he could have held onto while lowering himself carefully to the ground.

Now a victim of motion-sickness along with other discomforts, Urwick watched helplessly as the creature left its perch alongside the phoenix nest and circled around to make another go at the egg he held. If he didn’t make some drastic move in response, Urwick would likely be swatted around like a dangly plaything until his shields failed him. The descent the levitation spell would allow would be too slow to provide him with a means of escape from the beast’s attentions. He had to figure another way out.

After a second bat from the reptile’s talons, Urwick glanced at the ground far below him. He did have the option to simply drop the levitation spell and allow himself to fall. A giant mud puddle directly below him would offer some cushion and his shield would be a buffer from the concussive force, but then there was the egg to consider. He could handle a solid jolt and take any minor damage, bumps and bruises, that the tumble would inflict, but could his prize survive as much?

As the monster veered around for a third attack, Urwick realized he did not have the time to contemplate all possible outcomes. He bundled the egg in the tattered, sodden and burnt remains of his cloak, embraced it so he would absorb most of the impact and held his breath. Then, rather than get spun out by the beast’s latest charge, he dropped his levitation spell and hoped for the best.

Urwick plunged into the puddle with considerable force, his tired body subject to a jarring strong enough to rattle his teeth. Although he was drenched by a significant amount of muck, he managed to maintain his hold on the egg.

Once totally submerged in the murky water, Urwick decided it was best to stay that way for some time – at least for as long as he could continue to hold his breath. He hoped the predatory reptile, having lost sight of him, might grow discouraged and fly away. Urwick tried to ignore the cool wet, saturated by grit, as it continued to seep its way into all of his orifices. He was not a man who tolerated physical discomforts very well. By the time he emerged from the puddle, retching and gasping for air, he was wishing he could shed his muck-slathered skin to escape the remains of his muddy bath.

It took a few moments for him to clear enough of the sludge from his eyes and ears to gauge his surroundings. The strange sounds he heard as he resurfaced proved not to be the beast squawking in frustration as he anticipated, but Jadira giggling at his predicament.

“You must really love me,” she said with a wide smile.

“I’m so happy my misery is serving to amuse you.” Urwick spat away the ooze that clung to his lips and trickled in at the corners of his mouth. “I could have knocked myself unconscious and been drowning under there…and you would have been chuckling at my early demise.” He glanced down at the muddy but solid form of the egg still resting in his arms. “At least this is still intact.”

“I knew you would be just fine, my love. You always fare better than expected. You may not be lucky in life as a whole, but you are lucky enough when it counts. I’d wager you have a guardian angel with a sadistic sense of humour.” She flashed him a playful look. “I thought you might like to know, that creature flew away while you were under. Good thinking on your part. Apparently, it didn’t want to go wading through the muck anymore than you or I normally would.”

“So I’m done then? I passed the test?”

“All you have to do is portal back to the boundary that marks the edge of University terrain. The egg’s in one piece, isn’t it?” She laughed.

“It is. I guess that makes you mine then, as agreed.” Urwick tucked the egg under one arm and withdrew a small container from his pocket – a container which had escaped the worst of the muck. “Which means I expect you to put this on and wear it from this point onwards.”

Jadira gently plucked the little box from his messy hand. She cracked it open to reveal a ring inside adorned with a sizable emerald surrounded by tiny fire opals. Urwick grinned at her squeal of delight.

“Only the best for you, my dear,” he added.

Her squeals intensified as he wrapped a muddy arm around her and planted a dirty kiss upon her lips. He followed this up with hasty caresses that left obvious hand-prints on the places explored. It was his turn to laugh.

“And that will leave no doubt whatsoever of how I feel about you.”

Urwick did not give Jadira any chance to protest or take revenge. Splashing out of the puddle, he darted off in the direction of Magic University, all of his goals for the moment accomplished.

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The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Friday Edition

June 7, 2013 at 9:05 pm (fantasy, Links, writing) (, , , , , , )

This is normally my Monday thing, but for timing reasons, I’m doing a Friday edition. Not a review in this instance…

This is Autumn.

Not the season – I’m well aware it’s spring – the person. To be specific the writer.

Autumn is a travel and fiction writer currently based in Maine where she lives in a yurt with her husband and lovable Cairn Terriers. Her work is featured on the adventure travel website No Map Nomads where she is the co-editor and writer (and also known as Weifarer). Her writing blog is at Weifarer’s Wandering, where she talks about the fun and trials of being a writer as well as upcoming releases. She is also a member of Guild of Dreams, which features her blog posts as well as those of eleven other fantasy writers. She is an indie author with two other books currently available: the adventure fantasy novel Born of Water and Born of Water’s Novel Companion. The sequel to Born of Water, Rule of Fire, is scheduled for release in June of 2013. She has plans for many more novels. Check out Weifarer’s Wandering and her Facebook page for updates.

With a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bucknell University in Studio Arts and English, Autumn once considered a career in illustration. After a few years of selling paintings while working as the manager of a gallery and custom framing store, a party and fine gifts store in Virginia, working retail at a gourmet kitchen store, being the head embroiderer at a college clothing store, and finally waitressing for a year, she decided to head back to University. After two years of intense science courses, this career path change led to a Master of Science degree in Ecology and Environmental Sciences from the University of Maine in Orono. Since graduating with her M.S., Autumn has worked for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

A wanderer at heart, Autumn’s desire to travel has led her to France while still in high school, a year abroad in Manchester, UK which led to excursions in Wales, Scotland, Ireland and around many parts of England, and more recent trips with family to Mexico (both the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico sides), US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, Costa Rica, Saba, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, and four Canadian provinces. She has plans for many further adventures both real and fictional.

And this is Autumn’s new cover!

Pretty special, eh? She’s a talented graphic designer.

And this is what the fuss is all about…

Rule of Fire:

Six friends stand alone against the combined Orders of Fire, Water, Air, and Earth, protecting a girl whose forbidden abilities have condemn her to death. Now they are joined by a man who was once the Curse, the Church’s most powerful weapon and Ria’s greatest threat. Left with no name and no memory, the decision to aid this stranger will cost friendships and more as the group of friends journey north to seek a tribe of people lost to time amid an ancient war. The path home is riddled with dangers as the Church of Four Orders still seeks Ria and the former Water Priestess Nirine. For one High Priest, the desire for vengeance is personal.

Ria must unravel the mysteries of her power to find acceptance in a world where her abilities are considered a taint. Is the strange gift of magic an aberration that should be destroyed or something far more, related to the skills held by the Elementals who rule Myrrah?

The sequel to Born of Water, Rule of Fire is book 2 in the epic fantasy trilogy, the Rise of the Fifth Order. Return to the world of Myrrah ruled by the Church of Four Orders. Release is scheduled for June 21st!

Learn more about the world of Myrrah and book 1, Born of Water, on Autumn’s blog, Weifarer’s Wandering.

Any questions?

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The Blurb on Other People’s Words – Bruce Blake (Once more with Feeling)

January 28, 2013 at 3:39 am (fantasy, Links, writing) (, , , , , , , , )

Something new from the awesome Bruce Blake:

It began with a vial of blood, a curse, and a quest to a haunted land.

It continued through a strange subterranean land and a city of the damned, where an assassin raised from the dead sought to end it all while a sorceress invaded his home.

Now, Khirro’s Journey comes to its end.

The highly anticipated follow up to the best-selling Blood of the King and Spirit of the King has arrived.

—————————————————————————

The heart of a coward. The spirit of a king. Together, the last hope to save a kingdom.

Sheyndust, the Archon, desires to be Necromancer and wield dark magic the likes of which the world has never seen. For years, her deadly plan has fallen into place piece by piece, treachery by treachery, death by death. With her enemies on their knees and an army of the dead at her command, nothing stands between her and the ultimate power for which she thirsts.

Nothing except a farmer and a dead king.

The curse that bound Khirro to his task was broken when the blood of the king spilled, but the king’s spirit—a tyger of vengeful flame—burns bright within him. It pushes Khirro through hostile lands to return to his home. It pushes him to be more than he ever thought he could be despite the doubt and fear devouring him. It pushes him in a race against time to save the kingdom, a race he is bound to lose.

As the final pieces of the Archon’s plot fall into place, and her power and army grow, it looks certain that all will be lost.

Unless a coward can look inside himself and find the heart of a king.

Find it on:

Amazon: http://viewBook.at/B00B5JDZ8O

Kobo: http://bit.ly/UqbiM4

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/278428

Haven’t begun the journey yet? For a limited time, grab the first chapter, Blood of the King, for only 99 cents on Amazon: http://viewbook.at/B0091PQG56

Looking for something a little different? To celebrate the release of Heart of the King, get yourself a copy of urban fantasy On Unfaithful Wings (Icarus Fell #1) for free Jan 27-28 on Amazon: http://viewbook.at/B006PJ9M3G

Bruce Blake is a writer, a father, and the trophy husband of a burlesque diva. When he’s not writing…he doesn’t quite know what to do with himself, so please read his books to keep him from wandering around aimlessly and bumping into things.

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Genre for the Holidays – It’s Magic!

December 21, 2012 at 2:26 am (fantasy, writing) (, , , , , , , , )

My Top 5 List of Holiday Magic

5) A light-up nose – the Christmas equivalent to a magic lighthouse – brings new meaning to the saying “like a deer in the headlights”.

4) Wormhole chimneys – How else would someone with Santa’s girth fit through there? Instead of “slip n’ slide”, this is more like “shrink n’ slide.”

3) Faster-than-light speed sleigh travel – Wormholes might be involved with this one as well, or perhaps Tardis technology.

2)Animated snowmen – from cutesy creations like Frosty the snowmen to creepier constructs like the snowman in the movie “Jack Frost”, supernatural snowmen are super cool! (pun intended)

1) Flying reindeer – I have a thing for reindeer thanks to my just completed project based on Sami mythology. Mind you, the Sami would sacrifice reindeer for Winter Solstice, rather than fly them. This is the happier, more PG version.

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Genre for the Holidays – My Fantasy Christmas Wish-List (for fun)

December 19, 2012 at 1:36 am (fantasy, writing) (, , , , , , , , , , )

As a lark, here’s my top 10 fantasy gift list:

  1. A dragon to both fuel my furnace, roast my marshmallows and weenies and eliminate any issues with my neighbours
  2. A fairy godmother who could magically “poof” my books onto the best-seller lists (better than relying on puppets…)
  3. An elf who likes to do housework (no explanation necessary)
  4. A wondrous cauldron that could instantly conjure any food I wanted (with zero calories – of course)
  5. A saddle-broken jackalope so I could get to work super fast and not worry about gas or parking
  6. A magic beanstalk that could take me anywhere I want to go (without motion sickness)
  7. A gorgon who can hang out in front of my cubicle so I can get some work done without interruptions
  8. A goose who lays golden eggs as my lay-away retirement plan
  9. A mermaid to snag me some lobster for Christmas dinner (otherwise, we’ll have to make do with roast beef)
  10. A magic beating stick (if you insist on knowing why, I’ll let you find out first hand)

    Only a week to Christmas!

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The Blurb on Other People’s Words – The Unwilling Warlord

December 11, 2012 at 4:31 am (fantasy, Links, Reviews, writing) (, , , , , , )

The Unwilling Warlord by Lawrence Watt-Evans

You’ll hear me say I love fantasy and I hate it, because most fantasy lacks realism. Not that I’m suggesting there shouldn’t be elements of fantasy in a fantasy novel, but that the characters should be less than perfect, the situations less than ordained and less than typically heroic, and the scenery not so overly scenic. If you can give me a story like that, that is well written, I’ll give you a fantasy novel I’ll enjoy.

There are a select few fantasy writers I love, because they deliver on that realism. They have reluctant heroes who are likeable losers who experience a series of spectacular failures but still manage to struggle their way to success. The story ambiance is gritty and dirty, where they slog their way through bad weather and muddy pathways. They describe the things that matter, rather than the twelve different flowers they see along the roadside or the outfits of the half-dozen strangers they pass in the streets. Lawrence Watt-Evans brings that substance to his tales, and The Unwilling Warlord is no different.

In the beginning, we are introduced to Sterren, a failed warlock who makes money by cheating at gambling. Out of the blue, he gets the martial problems of a far away kingdom, Semma, dumped in his lap. Apparently, he has inherited the position of warlord there, because an unknown relative has died without a closer heir. It sounds like an interesting venture, but he is dragged there against his will, forced to learn their language, has to deal with a bitter and incompetent king, and must make do with horribly meager resources and less than favourable odds. He considers running away, but out of a morbid sense of curiosity and a masochistic sense of duty, he turns instead to making things work his own way.

To be honest, for all his faults, the reason there’s a story at all is because Sterren never gives up.

This was a fabulous story, with everything I look for in fantasy and none of things I don’t.

For those who were following my NaNoWriMo project, Chapter 18 is now up, here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/116340552/The-Trading-of-Skin-Chapter-18?in_collection=3963405

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Genre for the Holidays – Holiday Travel?

December 10, 2012 at 12:47 am (fantasy, writing) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Travel through time and space…trips to alternate dimensions…magic and angels . These are all things we associate with a variety of speculative fiction, science fiction, fantasy and the paranormal – so in a way, you can consider a true Christmas classic also a genre classic. My husband and I watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” again the other day and I still love that movie, even if it is an old black and white flick I’ve seen several times. I find little details I missed the time before every time I watch it and the more I watch it the more entrenched I get in the speculative aspect of the film, the “What if?” The plot has quirky twists and turns that make you realize how big an impact George has made on the people in his life before he is even in the process of re-examining it, and how his fate has foiled him at many a turn in order to guide him to the place he is at, the place which leads to his encounter with Clarence. It’s well plotted and very magical, the kind of story I wish I could have written.

And I can’t discuss genre classics and time travel without mentioning Dr. Who. In fact, it was a picture I saw of Santa Claus daleks that made me decide to write this post. I haven’t seen the Christmas special yet, but shots of grinning evil snowmen and weeping angels are everywhere on the Internet, and I’m definitely intrigued by the idea. It goes to show that Christmas and time travel really can mix, under the right circumstances – an eerie blend, but a fun one.

Besides, if it weren’t for time travel, could the big guy in red and white really make it around the world in his magic sleigh in a single night?

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Genre for the Holidays – Christmas Magic

December 5, 2012 at 1:44 am (fantasy, writing) (, , , , , , , , , )

Face it – Christmas and fantasy go together. There’s no stretching required to bring the holiday together with the genre like there might be with sci-fi or horror (although I love The Nightmare Before Christmas). Christmas tradition is awash with fantasy, everything from flying reindeer to elves, talking snowmen to incredible one-night sleigh rides around the world. The most moving Christmas stories I’ve read, however, don’t tread fully over that line but present a “maybe”, tiptoeing carefully along it.

Two of the best known, well-loved (at least by me) Christmas tales are poignant stories littered with a mixture of emotions including angst, pleasure, regret, love and loss. Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” may present the readers with ghosts, spirits, and trips through time and space, but all of these things happen at night, rousing the protagonist from his sleep, and there is always the possibility that everything that happens to Ebeneezer during the story is nothing more than troubled dreams brought on by regret, guilt and loneliness. In Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Match Girl”, the wondrous scenes she sees upon lighting the matches might be Christmas magic to grant her a few moments of joy before her short life comes to an end, or delusions brought on by the fact that her hunger and the cold are slowly killing her – grim and sad.

I’ve tried my own hand at one of these stories, not yet published, and I’m hoping I’ve hit the mark by walking that fantasy line (is it real, or is it magic?) In it, a young girl grieving the loss of her family to divorce makes a brief connection with an elderly neighbour who has lost his wife to old age and illness. They enjoy a few moments together, sharing the supposed magic found in a very special paintbox. Here’s an excerpt:

It was funny, but the last time she remembered being a happy family, before the divorce, was at Christmas time. Rather than making things worse, the holidays seemed to multiply their joy in those more pleasant days. Based on her experiences, Gemma believed that Christmas took whatever the existing feeling was and intensified it. If you were happy, it made you happier. If you were unhappy, it made you miserable, and that’s where Gemma was at the moment. She wondered if that was how it was like for Mr. Franklin too. When his wife was around, Christmas had been blissful. Now that she was gone, this time of year made him grieve her all the more.

She knocked at his door and, after a short wait, his wrinkled face peeked out at her.

“Ah! Gemma – I’ve already made great progress on your suggested painting. I hope to have it done in time for Christmas proper. Come see.”

She followed him into his warm kitchen. His newest painting was already taking shape, a portrait of a more elderly Mrs. Franklin gleefully decorating, cookies cooling atop the oven and gifts waiting to be wrapped. It was only partially complete, but the image immediately carried Gemma back to the days when the neighbourhood children would gather in the house. At the thought, her heartbeat quickened and her cheeks flushed with delight.

“It’s beautiful, Mr. Franklin. It almost feels like she’s alive in there.”

The old man’s blue eyes gleamed and his grin broadened.

“Thanks to you, my dear. You showed me what I was doing wrong. I’m sure she will look alive by the time I’m done. I’m capturing her spirit with the paints, just like she said I could. The magic is there. It’s carrying me back to happier times. I feel alive again myself for the first time in a long while.”

Gemma stayed and watched him paint until late in the afternoon, while they chatted about what she could remember of the parties, as inspiration. She recalled the games they used play with sizable candy canes and barley toys as prizes. She had won a red rooster sucker one year and a barley Santa climbing out of a chimney another – one large enough that it would barely fit in her mouth. All the children got to take home little stockings filled with Mrs. Franklin’s home-baked goods, sugared nuts, peanut brittle and chocolate-covered candied orange peels. All of those things still made Gemma think of Christmas and warmed her heart. She would always treasure those memories.

She lingered as long as she dared to, not wishing to be late for supper. She didn’t want to be the cause of another argument or give her mother a reason to take issue with her visits to Mr. Franklin’s house.

“Can I visit again?” Gemma asked as she was leaving.

“My daughter will be coming over for Christmas – my sons live too far away to drag their families back here for any of the holidays,” Mr. Franklin told her, “But Alison has no kids of her own. She’s a ‘career woman.’ She’ll be gone again by noon on Boxing Day. You can drop by then. Hopefully I’ll have it all finished when you get here.”

Gemma nodded and watched him close the door. Then, hugging her arms for extra warmth, she started crunching her way through the snow, towards home.

More tomorrow J

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