Hey everybody! I am a little excited! You should go to my home page and check out my announcement and the massive website upgrade!
More later, but yes, Armageddon’s Princess, a sci-fi mystery will be published in Fall 2012, which is like really super soon now. As soon as I have an availability date I will post it here. The print book will be available via Barnes and Nobel, a bunch of other places you can special order it from and of course, Amazon.
The eBook will be available exclusively for the Kindle for 90 days in which Amazon Prime members can borrow the book for an unlimited time for free. How awesome is that? Afterwards, Deep Mountain Studios will post the book to to iTunes, Smashwords and the Nook.
Stay tuned for the mega-super squeeeeeee cover reveal.
Dudes. I feel like a chipmunk on crank slurping on a super-sugar Slurpee. I haven’t posted this anywhere else because dragging The Official Publication Date(TM) out of the Powers That Be is really difficult. Man, that imprint run by that guy in Redmond. He needs to GET WITH IT.
There are many readers, myself included, whom are not enamored with recent trends in epic fantasy. The long, drawn out series where the editor seems to have taken a backseat to the writer’s ego seems to dominate the genre. Then when you come across creative bit of fantasy goodness, you realize you have, in your hands, message fiction. The author has a bone to pick, and you’re along for the ride.
Where, an epic fantasy reader, wonders, did sword and sorcery go? For years and years it seemed R.A. Salvator was carrying the classic epic fantasy torch.
Where indeed. If ever there was a disconnect between what’s on the traditional bookshelf and what people want to read, epic fantasy was it. I don’t want a twelve book serial where book seven makes no sense. Epic fantasy should rise above pulp but also fulfill the basic yearning of what comes with the fantasy genre. I’ve found a few authors (some in my recommended list) scratching that fantasy itch. Now I’ve found another. If you like epic fantasy and was thinking about or actually writing it, then check out Kin Kiser’s Fifthwind.
Fifthwind, my friends, is classic epic fantasy at its best.
It’s totally obvious, when reading Fifthwind, that Ken Kiser is a classic epic fantasy fan. Take everything you like about epic fantasy: the world-building, the rich characters, the high-stakes plot, an honest protagonist, the epic feel of the setting–these are all present.
Yet, Fifthwind turns out to be original and fresh while at the same time dishing up what makes classic epic fantasy so great. We depart recent fantasy troupe trends with the main character, Ben. Ben is a bad-ass. He starts the book as a bad-ass and simply dials his bad-ass-ery up notches as the novel progresses.
Yes, let’s talk about Ben.
Ben is bad-ass with a slice of awesome toast served with magic butter and jelly made from the tears of lessor fantasy main characters. Normally, I find characters like this annoying, but not Ben. No, Ben is too busy trying to save everyone else and his own ass to grow his ego and arrogance. In the brief moment where there is a pause in the action and Ben becomes reflective, Ben has doubts, but they are proper doubts. Ben doesn’t doubt who he is for a minute, but he doubts his actions because he doesn’t have all the information. And when he gets information that throws him for a loop, his character changes in subtle ways. Ben eventually learns what he doesn’t know can kill him, and instead of focusing on the obvious, he focuses on information gathering. And every piece of information Ben gathers that helps him figure out what is going on, it makes him a right-royal holy terror on the battlefield.
It’s a great piece of careful plotting in which the story moves forward and so does the main character.
Yeah, this is how one should write fantasy characters. It’s familiar: we have the trusted friend, the mentor, the love interest. Kiser doesn’t spend a single moment in the book turning these people into something they are not in the guise of being “original” or “fresh.” Fifthwind is so refreshingly honest, as a fantasy book, it leaves a reader wondering why other novels of its kind are so hard to find.
The plot, as I allude to, has a large mystery and Ben chews away at it and, often, simply refuses to give up because he simply must know. When he becomes a student of a secret society, it’s almost as if his mentor is simply on a crash course to connect the dots for Ben and not preach to the choir. And the scene where Ben learns that his simple view of the world is dead is quite telling. Ben sees that he must harden up. People are going to die, and soon.
And die they do. Fifthwind has the impressive body count, which dives into the highlight of this novel: the action scenes are many and detailed. They make logical sense and they have a certain urgency yet graceful flow about them, which is totally fitting for the martial whirlwind of death that is Ben. This is fantasy action at it’s very best and I am not exaggerating. It’s R.A. Salvatore good. That, dear writers, is so very worth the careful read.
Fithwind is also bittersweet. The story did not end the way I thought it would and I loved every page of the last two chapters, so if you like your epic fantasy served with grim and dark, you’ve come to the right book. You’ve also come to the right book if message fiction and cheap and pretensions thematics causes you to toss a book aside. Fifthwind doesn’t truck in recent trends of literary preaching. It’s an epic story of good vs. evil–monsters and bad guys that simply need killing. Violently.
Highly recommended for both a novelist in the fantasy genre and the reader. I give Fifthwind the coveted five bacon strips out of five.
A repost for you!
There I was, dragged, dragged I say to the movie theater to see what would possibly be the chick flicks to end all check flicks. Titanic. The Wife Unit insisted on seeing the movie (when we still went out for movies), and so there we were.
At the time I was sitting there thinking “this has got to be the most retarded movie idea ever”. So, as the lights dim, I lean over to my wife and say, none to quietly,
“Hey, guess what?”
“What?” she asks.
“The ship sinks.”
Oh man I had the wit back then let me tell you.
Three things happen:
The two tweeners in front of us turn to me and I swear shoot TWEENER NINJA EYE DAGGERS (TNED) at me. You would think these maybe-pubescent girls would not know the infamous Female Glare of Doom yet, but I swear I squirmed in my seat and vaguely wondered for my safety. As they turned back, I crossed myself.
Then from behind me a guy (and a complete stranger no less), totally loses it. He starts laughing so hard I can’t help but turn and grin. He has tears streaming down his face. He wife/girlfriend/significant other/spousal equivalent turns in her seat and actually smacks him. TWACK. This shuts him up, and then she turns to me and gives me a look like “you’re next”. I wipe the grin off my face and turn back in my seat.
It’s the Wife Unit’s turn to glare, and LO I FEEL THE ICY ARMAGEDDON APPROACHETH (get it, icy, Titanic, iceberg… never mind). But then she says, raising her voice because some inane preview is on the screen,
“Be QUIET or I will COVER your eyes when they show Kate Winslet’s breasts.”
Well that got my attention.
“Uh, this movie has boobies?”
“Kate Winslet’s breasts?”
(note even then one did not refer to Kate Winslet’s breasts as mere ‘boobs’)
“Yes! Now BE QUIET!”
Then from behind me I hear,
“Did that woman just say we get to see Kate Winslet’s breasts?”
Followed by a,
Followed by the TWEENERS OF DOOM turning in their seats and going,
I am now watching this film with the utmost attention. And yes, the ship sinks.
The lights come on and I stand up because I believe my ears are going to bleed from the Celine Dion song. I turn to my partner in crime, the man behind me. I cannot contain my enthusiasm for this wonderful film. I cannot!
“I can’t belive we got to see Leonardo DiCaprio freeze to death!” I say.
“I can’t believe we got to see Kate Winslet TOTALLY NUDE, Dude!” he says.
We high-five each other, but simultaneously our body temperatures drop due to the combined ICY GLARES OF DOOM from four annoyed females who really really have to pee.
To this day, Best. Movie. Ever. Thus, when I think of that space between Christmas and New Years, I think of movie… magic.
For anyone new to Rehabilitated Hack Writer Recommends, I target my book reviews towards novelists (you can find my prior reviews here). I also need to point out that this is a review of the first book of a series, not the series itself.
Before we dive headfirst into the fantasy pool of epic goodness that is Tara Mara’s The Unfinished Song: Initiate, we need to take a step back and formally define what epic fantasy is in the novel landscape of 2012. The classic definition of epic or high fantasy is it’s a sub-genre of fantasy set in invented worlds.
I hate that definition.
To me, epic fantasy needs to be, well, epic. Epic. This is fun, but not epic, fantasy:
A mysterious, sexy pale-skinned sword dancer hires an infamous mercenary to find her kidnapped brother. The mercenary learns there is more to women than bedding them, while the sister learns that if she lets her quest define her life, she becomes defeated before the rescue of her brother ever begins.
Bonus points if you can guess that book, by the way.
Now this, this is epic:
The good peoples, it seemed, never defeated the evil that threatened to consume them all, only delayed the final battle. The dark and vile lord who threaten freedom everywhere wrapped his essence into a ring, and now a band of unlikely heroes must cast the ring into the fiery pit of its creation or see it reunited with its maker. Setting out on their quest with the best intentions, the task soon falls to the smallest and unlikeliest hero while the armies of evil marshal to crush everything in its path. If the hero doesn’t destroy the ring and thus the dark lord in time, there won’t be anything left to save.
Epic fantasy is ambitious. Epic fantasy is grandiose. Epic fantasy is bigger than the sum of its parts. It’s heroic, it’s classic, it’s is all-encompassing and all-consuming fantasy. There are stakes. The stakes are high. You could say that the stakes are (wait for it!) epic.
And Mara’s Unfinished Song: Initiate is an introduction into 21st century epic fantasy. Here’s the teaser:
Dindi can’t do anything right, maybe because she spends more time dancing with pixies than doing her chores. Her clan hopes to marry her off and settle her down, but she dreams of becoming a Tavaedi, one of the powerful warrior-dancers whose secret magics are revealed only to those who pass a mysterious Test during the Initiation ceremony. The problem? No-one in Dindi’s clan has ever passed the Test. Her grandmother died trying. But Dindi has a plan.
Kavio is the most powerful warrior-dancer in Faearth, but when he is exiled from the tribehold for a crime he didn’t commit, he decides to shed his old life. If roving cannibals and hexers don’t kill him first, this is his chance to escape the shadow of his father’s wars and his mother’s curse. But when he rescues a young Initiate girl, he finds himself drawn into as deadly a plot as any he left behind. He must decide whether to walk away or fight for her… assuming she would even accept the help of an exile.
Now I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking, wow, that sounds cool, but um, that doesn’t sound too epic to me.
Oh, my friends, pour a cup of hot tea and wait for it. Don’t let the girly frou-frou cover and character-driven teaser fool you. Behind the rich, detailed world-building lies the heartbeat of an epic fantasy tale that rises above the bounds of mythology and into a coming-of-age novel that will leave the reader yearning for more. Maya clearly dips her plot and characters in several different mythologies, yet the book has a distinctive voice that tugs at your heartstrings.
Let’s deconstruct the goodness going on here.
Maya’s world building kicks ass. It’s unique, it’s ambitious, and it has an undercurrent of femininity that, without the advent of the interweb tubes, the story Maya is trying to tell never would have seen the light of day. It’s so different it is, and I say this with no exaggeration, a high fantasy literary bomb of mass destruction. It is not so much a filled with troupes and familiar themes as it becomes a classic example of the very idea of world-building.
How does she accomplish this? Maya’s neolithic setting latches on the magical undercurrents of the world she envisioned and never lets them go.
For example, stone-aged peoples in the real world were concerned primarily with survival. Gender roles and relations follow a path necessary for the continuation of the individual and the group. There is a reason when an attractive woman smiles at a man she unconscionably puts her hair behind an ear, why rejection impacts men and women differently and why we are creatures of instinct despite our technological advancements.
Yet, toss magic into the fray. Magic, like technology, lends itself to the removal of the disparity of force. Maya takes this one step where few tread: it’s not necessarily what you can wield, but more what you know. Dindi’s quest isn’t so much a classic grab-onto-the-power but an unlocking of a mystery.
That moves us back to the impact of the type of magic Maya puts forth. Women, in her tribal society, have distinct roles but they are far from simple property. Women need to bear children so the society she has shaped takes that into account, but it’s not as if the magic is something that sits around in a feudal or even Victorian society as if it’s a character by itself rather than infused into the setting. It has a distinct feminine vibe without the politically correct bullshit.
This is evident from the ground up. It’s in the way characters talk. You might think ancient peoples would also have a primitive language and culture. But neolithic-era people with magic? Maya nails this. It’s in the way they dress, how they pick their mates, how they relate to other tribes, how they view politics, honor and duty. In a world where magic comes forth from a dance, where pixies, talking bears, and fae abound–Maya uses this magic as the glue to everything: setting, plot and characterization. It is the basis of her world-building and because of the creative and talented way she does it, Initiate comes off as highly original, unique and engrossing.
I’m not exaggerating here. World-building. How To. Tara Maya. Initiate. Read it.
My number one surprise with this book is that this book has guy stuffs in it. I could talk at length how fascinating Dindi is, how she comes across as both vulnerable yet puts aside her fears to do what must be done. How she seems like she is fourteen going on eighteen one moment, and fourteen going on twelve the next. Maya pens her as tenacious and doesn’t shy away from giving her a sexuality. Dindi’s great.
My little fantasy heart, however, belongs to Kavio.
Because Kavio kicks ass.
Kavio, actually, is a tragic figure. Maya gives him nobility and youthful idealism as his moral fiber, and tosses him into situations of conflict where it becomes apparent that Kavio greatest enemy is himself. Kavio is a good guy, but he’s also a weapon of mass destruction. He follows the rules when obviously he could, quite simply, make up the rules himself with his magic. He’s like a Jedi Knight being given a ticket by a traffic cop. Press hard, Kavio, you’re making five copies. The cop has a gun and feels superior, but Kavio could turn him inside out, burn his cruiser, go to the station, and have it swallowed whole by a rent in the earth while blood pixies rip out everyone’s eyeballs through their noses making the police station scene in The Terminator look like a scene from a Jane Austin novel.
Instead, he signs.
Did I mention he’s a bad-ass?
As a writer, Kavio fascinates me mightily. I’m beginning to wonder if someone handed Maya an honorary penis because she hones in on the masculine feel of Kavio with laser-like focus. She nails what I call the Tragic Masculine Paradox: when confronted with an attractive young woman coming-of-age, the man of honor is torn with feelings of protectiveness as a father figure yet desires as a lover. You see this in fiction all the time. Rarely do you see it done with such empathy and understatement. Many writers go overboard with this, giving this a tragic (and pervy) element. Maya, however, simply presents it as-is. Kavio has bigger problems than his youthful naïveté.
Dindi’s feminine, innocent beauty, simply highlights Kavio’s main attraction: Dindi is magically powerful. Without going into the rest of the series, he’s slowly falling in love, and love, my friends, is messy. Dindi is more than a girl and then more than a young woman. She’s the catalyst to…
But I digress. Dindi isn’t the only character in a come-of-age journey in Initiate.
Which leads us to the clever, delicious plotting, and how we come full circle back to our discussion about epic fantasy.
A prevalent, and welcomed trend in speculative fiction is the come-of-age journey set in a fantastic (be it wonderful or dystopian) setting. I am a huge sucker for these types of stories, and in Initiate, Maya plots a literal come-of-age journey as Dindi goes out to become a woman, ready or not (and no, she wasn’t ready).
But epic fantasy has stakes. Big stakes. End-of-the-world (or worse!) type stakes, but unlike much of what is out there today, this book is surprisingly not a coming-of-age novel with an epic plot line to give the character’s punch and excuses to reveal their literary humanity. No, this is a book that provides the foundation for the true story: the battle with the malevolent forces out to crush humanity. It’s not exactly Clan of the Cave Bear meets The Lord of the Rings, but you get the idea.
Dindi is on a personal journey and she yearns to become a magical dancer in the society she was born in. However, if, as a reader, you’re paying attention, you can spot the epic plot that Maya is serving up like drops of water to the thirsty.
And this is where we depart the shackles of traditional publishing. Maya fearlessly has plotted out a twelve book series and each book is building on that plot in a relentless, epic fashion. Let me be very clear, I am not a big fan of many-book fantasy series. Many of them have problems with continuity, editing, and, quite frankly, sometimes as a reader, I feel I’ve been ripped off around book four because I’m being milked rather than being cleverly entertained.
eBooks, and today’s book market, however, has expanded the types of books we can find and buy, and Maya’s greatest accomplishment as a writer is taking full advantage of medium. The twelve book format, based on her world-building, is not only daring but also a little slice of epic fantasy goodness, and her skill at characterization draws the reader right into her world.
It’s epic fantasy by our very definition, and it’s yummy. Give me those twelve books. I’ll gladly ready every one of them. If you love a good fantasy series fix, Maya’s your drug dealer, Baby.
You can tell I’m a fan. Initiate is a wonderful, rich and diverse book and the series thus far is a fantasy reader’s fantasy series. I do have quibbles with it, but they are nits in the larger picture. I’m not a fan of the cover art. I disagree with some of the editorial decisions made and feel Maya’s talent could easily support books of larger word counts, smoothing some of the abruptness of the plot presentation.
Yet these are mere nits because from a storytelling standpoint, it just doesn’t work, it’s a slice of Awesome Toast with Bacon. I tell my non-writer, but reader friends, the Era of the Reader is upon us. Novels like Initiate proves that assertion. If you are a writer, take a step back from all the meta that goes on with writing, look at the bigger picture, and read Initiate. You’ll realize the sum of the book is bigger than its parts, and, at its heart, epic fantasy many readers want to buy, but haven’t really been able to do so.
I give Initiate four bacon strips out of five. And while this is a singular book recommendation, I’ll just drop a teaser that as good as it is, the other books in the series get better.
Athens, 460 B.C. Life’s tough for Nicolaos, the only investigating agent in ancient Athens. His girlfriend’s left him and his boss wants to fire him. But when an Athenian official is murdered, the brilliant statesman Pericles has no choice but to put Nico on the job.
The case takes Nico, in the company of a beautiful slave girl, to the land of Ionia within the Persian Empire. The Persians will execute him on the spot if they think he’s a spy. Beyond that, there are only a few minor problems:
He’s being chased by brigands who are only waiting for the right price before they kill him.
Somehow he has to placate his girlfriend, who is very angry about that slave girl.
He must meet Themistocles, the military genius who saved Greece during the Persian Wars, and then defected to the hated enemy.
And to solve the crime, Nico must uncover a secret that could not only destroy Athens, but will force him to choose between love, and ambition, and his own life.
I’m giving away not one but TWO Advanced Reader Copy’s of Gary Corby‘s The Ionia Sanction.
(one, two ARCS AH AH AH!)
All you have to do to win is:
**Comment below with your email
**Have a valid postal address somewhere in the world
That’s it. Don’t you love simplicity? I sure do!
I will randomly select two winners on Sunday, October 23.
I will put that copy in the mail on Monday. That version will be an virgin ARC, waiting for your hands in breathless anticipation.
The other copy will go out sometime next week after my lovely wife is done reading it.
Which leads me to “How Gary’s Book Almost Caused a Divorce,” by Anthony Pacheco, Rehabilitated Hack Writer.
See, there I was, innocently editing my latest novel, when I get an email from Gary. Gary asks hey, do you want an ARC or two for giveaways?
I’m sitting in The Writer Chair(TM) at home, and go something like “Ah, man.” This is where I get into trouble.
Wife Unit: What?
Anthony: Gary wants to send me an ARC of his next book.
Wife Unit: What’s an ARC?
Anthony: That’s an advanced reader’s copy, available before you can buy it. Normally for reviewers and promotional giveaways.
Wife Unit: Cool!
Anthony: Well, it’s my policy to not accept promotional material including ARCs for books I recommend.
Wife Unit: But this is Gary’s book.
Wife Unit: You know how much I liked the first one.
Wife Unit: And…
Wife Unit: …
Wife Unit: It’s a good thing this couch is really comfortable.
Wife Unit: I’m sure you would not be the first husband banished to the couch over an “ARC.”
Wife Unit: The dog could use some company downstairs. He can keep you warm.
Anthony: Um, I think I’ll tell Gary thanks, that is really nice of him and send him our address.
Wife Unit: Thank you, Husband.
Now this story does not end here. Today I get in the mail the two ARCs.
Wife Unit: Oh! My book! Yay!
Anthony: Who loves you?
Wife Unit: You do! But… I just thought of something. If I read the ARC now, I’ll just have to wait longer for the next book.
Anthony: I am so blogging this.
Serves either 4 (couple and two growing boys) or 6 adults. Yes, I really am this awesome.
Wild Alaskan King Salmon (1.75 to 2 pound)
Fresh ground pepper
Cook in 400 F oven until done. Use no other seasonings. If you do, turn in your PNW Native card and move back east with the rest of the unwashed heathens.
Baked Garlic Chicken
Chicken (with skin) thighs and drumsticks
Old Bay spice
Spice the chicken. Cook uncovered in 425 oven for 33 minutes, then set oven 400 F and put salmon in. Salmon and chicken will be done at the same time.
Pan fried oysters
Medium or large oysters (2 jars or shucked)
½ cup Italian herb breadcrumbs
½ cup flour
Pat dry the oysters with paper towels. Mix the flour and breadcrumbs. Coat the oysters. Do not seasons unless using plain breadcrumbs. Fry in pan in canola oil at medium-high heat.
Seasonal Spinach Salad
Crumbled blue cheese
Blue cheese dressing
Fresh ground pepper
Theoretically, this can be an entire meal. Mix ingredients in large salad bowl, except the avocado and blue cheese dressing, which is served on the side (most people decline to put dressing on this salad)
Rosemary round loaf
Sourdough round loaf
Serve with soft, unsalted butter
Serve with a very chided Louis Jadot Chardonnay or slightly chilled Pinot Noir
Cream cheese chocolate frosting (various recipes)