Friday, December 19, 2014

On Writing Fantasy: Keeping a Reading Journal

The digital age and Internet provides tons of information for people all over the world. To process this information, reading is still a necessary skill to possess since there is plenty of text to sift through every day. People who want to be writers need to read for their chosen art.
Reading is an important part of a writer’s skills set. From reading various things, a writer gains ideas, knowledge and inspiration for their endeavors. Also, reading is a major component of research for projects. Therefore, it is necessary for a writer to keep a reading journal for many reasons. Keeping a reading journal is helpful for writers on two levels. First, a journal helps improve a writer’s craft through analyzing and study of other author’s works. Next, writers need to be readers in order to keep filling the creative well. A journal helps the reader to remember books, how they affected them and to keep information for possible later use. A journal is helpful for research where notes can be stores to be used in a book or story.
Where does a person start? It is easy. You can use a bound fancy journal, notebook or keep a file with entries on a computer. You can find nice journal at I like this journal for my fiction reading ( because it’s small and compact. I use a notebook for nonfiction.
Information you will want in your journals in case you don’t use a ty0pe of journal like above follow.
Things to include for fiction:
  • Date read, title, author, genre, etc.
  • Quotes with page numbers
  • Take notes while reading.
  • Record what the author did like point of view, etc.
  • Thought on how book affected you.
Things to include for nonfiction:
  • Bibliographical information
  • Synopsis of book or article
  • Quotes and notes
  • Personal thoughts on information
Some other articles to check out:

Reading journals for fiction and nonfiction are important for writers to keep. Journals can help with creativity, research for writing projects, provide ideas and improve a writer’s skills. Reading is an important part of being a writer. With so much information in the world available, keeping track of the information in a journal is helpful. Happy  journal writing. May it help your writing.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Review: _Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood_ by Meredith Ann Pierce

Forests hold a fascination over people. There is something about deep, dark woods filled with old trees that appeal to people in a mythic way. Stories taking place in mysterious forests with magic are a part of the Fantasy genre. _Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood_ by Meredith Ann Pierce is such a book. Published as a young adult novel, the book is entertaining for adults too with many things to entice them. A wonderful story is told through appealing characters, an entertaining plot and vivid setting.

Ms. Pierce provides appealing characters that a reader can sympathize with throughout the book. Hannah is a young girl living in a wintry land. She has drab clothing and hair with plants growing in it. Living in the Tanglewood, Hannah lives a simple life with her talking animal friends of Magpie, Badger and young fox pups. She visits the wizard once a month, but does not like him too much. Her worst problem is her amnesia along with her friends, so her past remains in question. Hannah grows throughout the story by the author’s weaving of slow changes for her.

Next, the characters help the entertaining plot keep readers hooked. Hannah brews a tea from the flowers in her hair for the wizard each month. This leaves her feeling weak every time. People come for healing from her, which leaves questions in Hannah’s mind about the wizard. She watches mysterious young knights disappear into the forest all the time. After the wizard plucks all of her flowers one month, leaving her near death, she learns a terrible secret about the  forest. She meets the young knight Foxkith who sets her on a quest in order to save him.

Finally, the author creates a vivid setting to bring the book to life. The characters move through the setting in a change of seasons. Hannah starts out in winter living in the dark, cold Tanglewood forest. Spring changes her dress to green as she runs across fields that come to life in her wake. Summer finds her in a town paying homage to the goddess of the season. Toward the end, Hannah finds herself on the island of the sorceress queen. Ms. Pierce blends the seasons in with places to give the story a vivid life.

_Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood_ by Meredith Ann Pierce is an entertaining Fantasy book. Its appealing characters, entertaining plot and vivid setting brings the book to life for readers. Marketed as a book for young adults, older readers will find a pleasing story with mythic elements in it. For an exciting adventurous read, try a quest into the Tanglewood forest.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Guest Blog by Teresa Edgerton: The Age of Unreason

Today’s post is a guest blog from fantasy author Teresa Edgerton.

The Age of Unreason — Looking Beyond the Obvious

For a long time, most fantasy was firmly entrenched in the Middle Ages.  There were readers who felt that it was impossible to write fantasy outside that period, because if it did not fall into some fantastic approximation of the Medieval era it couldn't be fantasy.  "You can't have magic and technology," they would insist (completely ignoring the vast amount of technology involved in creating, say, a sword).  The idea was that if you could do something or make something with magic there would be no motivation to use technology to do the same thing.  I always thought it was just the opposite.  Once you could find the technology to do something or make something without magic, magicians would no long have the monopoly, and they would turn their efforts toward things that only they could do.  Besides, in a well-constructed fantasy world magic can have terrifying costs.  Why risk catastrophic consequences when anyone with the right tools and materials can do the same thing?

Then along came the steampunk revival, and fantasy was filled with air ships and machinery powered by magic, in quasi-Victorian settings.  And then gas lamp fantasy, which is steampunk without the focus on all the gadgets.  And black powder fantasy where cannons, pistols, and rifles replace swords.  Suddenly it was all right to combine magic and technology.

But somewhere in all this, the fabulous 18th century still tends to be neglected, although it's one of my favorite periods to write about. 

Most readers think of the 18th century, and immediately their minds go to "The Enlightenment" and "The Age of Reason."  They picture men like Kant and Hume having sedate conversations about moral and political philosophy.  They picture Benjamin Franklin with his Mona Lisa smile, and George Washington with no smile at all. 

And yet that was also the era when women wore powdered wigs reaching incredible heights and adorned with ships in full sail and mechanical birds, when quacks hawked "anti-earthquake pills" after the Lisbon earthquake, when the streets of Paris ran with blood — there is nothing sedate about any of that.

But there was yet another side in the 18th century, one we rarely hear about:  a voracious appetite for wonders, curiosities ... and magic.

And it is surprising how easy it is to uncover the unexpected and the extraordinary about any era you may happen to choose.  Here is a sampling of things I found out about the 18th century, in books I brought home after searching through nearby public libraries:

Jacques de Vaucanson (later to achieve fame as the inventor of the mechanical Digesting Duck) outraged the authorities while still a student at a Jesuit college, by his invention of mechanical flying angels.

Dr. James Graham invented The Celestial Bed, which rested on glass pillars, boasted mattresses stuffed with the hair of English stallions — said to "lend a certain resiliency unmatched elsewhere"— moved on an axis, and contained, among other instruments, an internal pipe organ.  Those who slept in the bed were enveloped in "cherishing vapours" provided by 1500 pounds of "natural and artificial magnets" and bathed in "aetherial" gases released from the dome.  It moved, it is said, with a "sweet undulating, tittulating, vibratory, soul-dissolving, marrow-melting" motion, cured impotence and sterility, and guaranteed the conception of children of extraordinary beauty. (This inspired a short story.)

The Black Pullet, a manuscript described as the work of an officer who served in Egypt during this period, besides proposing to teach the art of talismans, amulets, and magic rings, contains a recipe for manufacturing a black hen, no ordinary barnyard fowl, possessing as it did an instinct for detecting hidden gold.

Franz Mesmer postulated a universal fluid "so continuous as to not admit of vacuum, and incredibly subtle," which he identified as "animal magnetism."  Using a tub filled with "magnetized water," iron filings, and powdered glass, he treated patients in his Paris consulting rooms.  Patients gathered around the tub were connected to the fluid by grasping iron rods.  Some patients slipped into a calm and tranquil state, others suffered the wildest hysteria or even convulsions, others still burst into floods of tears, or were "stimulated to ecstasy." (Doctor Mirabolo in Goblin Moon is based on Mesmer.)  

Vampire sightings were particularly numerous in Europe during the 18th century.

A dentist by then name of Martin van Butchell displayed the embalmed body of his first wife in a glass case.  Red dye injected into her veins, glass eyes, and a lace gown provided a pleasingly life-like appearance.  He was in the habit of introducing her to his patients, until he remarried and his second wife objected.

The Count de Saint Germain, who professed to be 2000 years old and on terms of familiarity with the Queen of Sheba, astounded the French court with his knowledge of European history, chemistry, and languages.  He died, it is said, shortly before the French Revolution, though many claimed to meet with him after his supposed death.

It is recorded that Cagliostro, another 18th century mystic (and sometime pupil of Saint Germain), once held a Banquet for the Dead, at which the shades of great men materialized and dined with his guests.

In the year 1783, the village of Weston suffered an outbreak of a disease called Whirligigousticon.

18th century doctors and scientists still believed in the theory of telegony, whereby a child might inherit the traits of the mother's previous sexual partners.  (I used a version of this for my goblins in The Queen's Necklace.) Therefore, if a widow remarried, children conceived of that marriage might more nearly resemble her earlier husband—a vital consideration in matters of inheritance.
I hope these few examples give an idea of the type of richness that is out there, just waiting to provide inspiration for fantasy novels yet unwritten.

Teresa has been telling stories since she first learned to talk. More than sixty years later, she is still inventing them.
The author of eleven novels, written under her own name and her pseudonym, Madeline Howard, as well as short fiction, reviews, interviews, and articles on writing, she currently lives with her husband, two adult children, a son-in-law, two grandsons, assorted pets, and more books than you might think would fit in the remaining space. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Review: _Renaissance Faire_ edited by Andre Norton and Jean Rabe

Humans are fascinated by the past. Some eras that really draw people are the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Many people spend weekends dressing up to attend recreations of these fairs, involved in various aspects of a fair whether for pleasure or a serious pursuit. These fairs form the main theme of the Fantasy anthology _Renaissance Faire_ edited by Andre Norton and Jean Rabe. All the stories are set in these types of fairs with fantasy elements. Ranging from humorous to serious, readers can find many entertaining stories in the book.

The anthology opens with the humorous story of “Jewels Beyond Price” by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. Daniel is a jewelry maker, selling his creations at a Faire. He is plagued by arrogant customers that do not pay him for his stuff. Things change when he acquires the genie Habib. The wishes Daniel makes changes things and make this story a combination of a humorous and sometimes serious story. Ms. Scarborough provides a good story with nice characters that leads to a satisfyi ng ending.

“Splinter” by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta is a Christian Fantasy. The main character, Wil, is a pick pocket thief. He goes to Renaissance Faires in order to steal from the patrons. Wil tries stealing a valuable treasure from an elderly storyteller, but gets pricked in his finger. After, every time he tries to steal something, he falls down in excruciating pain. He keeps experiencing things and returns to the story teller to discover his plight. The authors use the Christian element of the Cross to tell a compelling story that changes people.

Fairies play a part in the story “Wimpin’ Wady” by Jayge Carr. A two year old girl, Lottie, attends a Faire with her parents. The little girl loves fairies. She is stolen by a young fairy and taken to the land of fairy due to his being lonely. The parents, other people and a friend search for the missing child. Jennet, the limping lady, risks losing her ability to walk searching for Lottie. An entertaining story of likable characters is provided b y the author for readers to enjoy.

Esther M. Friesner is a master author of humor. “Marriage A La Modred” is a humorous story of strange happenings. Renaissance Faires have characters that ply roles. Bethany Barre is singled out by a friar to be married in a mock wedding to a complete stranger. Her brother Vic makes jokes about the situation, further embarrassing Bethany. Events propel Bethany into a binding  marriage with an elf king. Vic must save his sister from her magical fate. Readers will enjoy the hu mor of a fantastic situation created by the author’s vivid description and funny characters.

A man visits a Renaissance Faire that is set up in the place he played games with his best friend Dalton as a child. He tells the story of how he went blind in one eye and other events in flashbacks while taking part in a mock battle at the Faire. “The Land of the Awful Shadow” by Brian A. Hopkins explains how the blinded eye changed the boy’s life. The author writes a memorable tale with vivid descriptions of a fascinating childhood that affects the characters as adults.

_Renaissance Faire_ edited by Andre Norton and Jean Rabe is an entertaining Fantasy anthology based on the theme of modern day Renaissance Faires. Readers will discover stories ranging from humorous to dark fantasy. The stories bring to life these weekend excursions into the past by adding magic. Some memorable stories makes this anthology worth a reader’s time.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Review: _Memory of Fire_ by Holly Lisle

Two young women find their destinies in fictional Cat Creek, North Carolina. Molly McColl is dragged from her bed in the middle of the night into another world. Lauren Dane is frightened by a mirror in her house that shows scenes from another world. This is how the Fantasy novel _Memory of Fire_ by Holly Lisle begins. From these two events starts an entertaining read of action, mystery and sorrow. The author weaves a good story through her characters, plot and magic.

Ms. Lisle’s characters brings this book to life through their problems. The book begins the story of two women with serious problems. Lauren Dane is a widow with a two year old son. devastated by the loss of her husband. She must deal with her gate weaving ability, someone trying to kill her, protecting her son, and a memory loss. Her trials help her to grow strong. Molly McColl begins as a troubled loner intent on escaping her captors. A healer, Molly does not want to use her power because it gives h √er pain. She must discover her strength through love and sacrifice. Their growth occurs through interacting with other characters such as Eric of the Sentinels and Seolar of Oria. All of the characters are vivid and realistic in their depictions by the author.

Another element that gives this book a strong, gripping story is the plot. It starts with a kidnapping and magic going awry. Earth is connected to other worlds through magical gates. Those worlds up world from Earth are destroyed, but those down world allow humans to do magic. The world is protected by groups of people called Sentinels that maintain the balance of energy between worlds. Cat Creek is the town of one group of Sentinels faced with saving the world while discovering a traitor and murderer in their midst. Ms. Lisle writes a tight plot with intrigue, suspense and plenty of action.

Finally, the author’s use of magic creates a suspenseful tale. The magical system Ms. Lisle uses is n ot very unusual. It consists of visualizing and applying a person’s will to cast spells, but magic in this story carries a big price. Every time magic is used in a down world it affects Earth. These affects can be minimal or destroy the world. It is why the Sentinels protect the Earth through careful use of magic. They must stop a spell that created a plague threatening to destroy the  world’s population. Time is running out for them. They need Lauren’s help as a gate weaver, but find her hostile since she believes the Sentinels murdered her parents. Magic is integral to the story, adding a lot of suspense for the reader.

_Memory of Fire_ by Holly lisle is a suspenseful book with plenty of action. The author’s deft storytelling weaving of characters, plot and magic provides an entertaining, gripping story for readers to enjoy. Readers will find it hard to put this book down. This is the first book in the “World Gates” series.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Book Review: _Into the Dark Lands_ by Michelle Sagara

In darkness there is light and in light there is darkness. This is the conflict around which _Into the Dark Lands_ by Michelle Sagara revolves. It is the first book of "The Sundered" series telling the story of the battle between the Bright Heart god and the Dark Heart god through their servants. The author gives readers the beginning of an Epic Fantasy with a dark edge full of interesting characters, a twisting plot and bleak setting.

Erin is a young woman of the Light. She possesses the gift of healing, but wants to fight in the war against the Dark. Full of confusion and desire for battle, she rises to become the Sarillorn of her people, carrying the power of her god. Her youth leads her to failure and capture by Stefanos, First Servant of the Dark god. Ms. Sagara has realistic characters in this book. Erin is torn by love for Stefanos and has many flaws. Stefanos is very interesting with his evil nature but ability to show mercy at times. These two weave their way through a twisting plot of darkness and death.

Events in the book twist around an air of uncertainty. The reader is never sure where the plot will lead to by the conclusion of the book. Erin is chosen by the First Servant of the Light god as the hope of the future. She has no idea where that will lead. Stefanos fluctuates between his dark nature and displays of seeming love for Erin. He does things that are contrary many times. This twisting plot gives the book a sense of ambiguity that keeps the reader hooked until the end.

Lastly, the bleak setting increases the suspense of the book. Rennath is a city of shadows, built of gray and black stone. There is no color to relieve the starkness. Screams of the dying fill the air as priests of the Dark god sacrifice victims in bloody rituals of torture. The Nightwalkers like Stefanos feed on the blood of humans too. Erin must survive, making her way through this horrible place without blighting her soul. The sense of forboding this setting invokes makes the reader sympathize with the main character.

_Into the Dark Lands_ by Michelle Sagara is an intriguing, suspenseful beginning to an epic Dark Fantasy series. The author uses clear descriptive words to give her interesting characters, tight plot and dark setting a life of their own. Readers will be hooked into wanting to find out what will become of Erin in the other books. This series was published several years ago and the books might be out of print, but can be found in used bookstores. If you come across this book, it is worth reading.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Review: _Sword and Sorceress XX_ edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The “Sword and Sorceress” anthologies have been around for a long time. One is published every year, telling stories of strong women characters that use swords or magic in their lives. _Sword and Sorceress XX_ edited by the late Marion Zimmer Bradley has many entertaining stories for readers. Most of the stories in this anthology follow the theme of finding one’s true path or self in life. Stories range from serious to humorous.

Humor is the main component of “Too in the Morning” by George Barr. Zanita is a sorceress that puts too much effort unwittingly into spells with disastrous results. Her teacher tells her she cannot be a sorceress, so she becomes the queen of the kingdom and is loved by the people. Her talent becomes useful when the kingdom is attacked by an enemy. Mr. Barr gives the story life through strong descriptions that bring the humor out.

Cynthia the witch of Syracuse returns in the Historical Fantasy “Blood Will Tell” by Dorothy J. Heydt. Set in the early days of Rome when Carthag e was threatening it, Cynthia comes back to a city to ask for a blessing from her dead husband before remarrying. A fisherman asks her for a spell to warn him of the enemy ships. The author tells an intriguing story through interesting characters and lively descriptions of the historical period.

Another interesting Historical Fantasy takes place in ancient Greece. Greek mythology blends with vivid story telling in “The Mask of Medusa’s Daughter” by Kathryn J. Brown. Calli, Medusa’s daughter, must wear a mask to keep from turning living beings into stone. She is trying to free her friend Andras, a man made of bronze, from a greedy king who keeps Andras in his garden. The king sends Calli to steal a secret from a goddess’s temple. This is a good story told in a vivid style by the author.

“Legacy” by Lisa Deason is the story of Serenity trying to live up to her mother Merriment’s reputation. Serenity comes from a proud line of women warriors. She has trouble wielding the sword Legacy, only wanting her mother’s @ approval. Her story weaves around the plot of escorting a princess home and preventing an assassination of the young princess. Ms. Deason tells an entertaining story with a nice theme in a steadfast way.

Coming into one’s magical power is a standard theme of Fantasy. It is the theme of “Late Blooming” by Margaret L. Carter. Miri is the daughter of a family of powerful mages, but has no significant talent of her own. She must save her aunt from a rival mage when he attacks her home, discovering her true power in the process. This is a fast paced story with an interesti ”ng ending.

One story with a flavor of the desert is “The Challenge” by Richard Calantropio. Safiyah is the adopted daughter of the queen in a matriarchal desert society. Her mother accepts a challenge to kill a mythical beast to stop a plague killing their people, but Safiyah believes it is a trap. She is scorned by the second in command for having a limp and must save her mother by using her wits. The author provides an interesting story of adventure that readers will enjoy.

Published once a year for twenty years is a strong recommendation for a continuing anthology. _Sword and Sorceress XX_ edited by the late Marion Zimmer Bradley is another entertaining addition of the series full of stories of interesting women characters. Readers will find stories with humor and adventure. There is something to entertain readers of every taste.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Review: _Wreck of Heaven_ by Holly Lisle

Lauren and her sister Molly must fight to save the chain of worlds again in the second book of the World Gates trilogy. _Wreck of Heaven_ by Holly Lisle picks up where the first book ended to start a new effort to protect Earth,  Oria and other worlds from the dreaded Night Watch. The author provides another entertaining read in this second book of a series. It has realistic characters, a fast moving plot and strange magics.

Characters are important in stories to give readers someone to identify with through the book. These characters must change and be as human as possible. Realistic characters in this book make it interesting.  Lauren is a widowed mother thrust into danger with her son. She must use her magic again to save the boy and her world. In constant conflict, Lauren must choose between being a mother or duty to save Earth. Molly, Lauren’s sister, has a more difficult problem. After coming back to life, she must contend with the terrible knowledge of not possessing a soul. The book is focused on these two characters, but they receive help from secondary characters like Teo and Pete.

A fast moving plot keeps the reader engrossed to get to the end of a book. This story picks up a few weeks after the events in the first book. Lauren is trying to put her life back together and reassure her traumatized son. A messenger from Oria comes to tell her that her sister Molly is alive and wants to speak with her. Shocked by the news, Lauren struggles about getting involved in another problem. She eventually travels to Oria, meets her sister and they learn about the Night Watch, which is a group of soulless beings like dragons who feed on the deaths of worlds. The plot keeps moving quickly with a lot of action between short interludes of quiet moments. Ms. Lisle is a keen weaver of the plot that keeps the reader hooked until the end.

Finally, the author created strange magics to help give the story a lot of action to keep the book interesting. Magic is done by a person’s will, but they must travel to a world lower on the world chain then theirs to do magic. Use of magic must be done carefully because there is a feedback energy to the upper worlds that might create a disaster. Another interesting magic is the resurrection of certain beings all tied into gold metal. The use of this magic renders the wearer immortal but without a soul. Complications created by these magics helps the characters strive for creative solutions to difficult battles. Ms. Lisle’s creations of magic engenders the book with lively action.

_The Wreck of Heaven_ by Holly Lisle is an entertaining book because of its realistic characters, fast moving plot and strange magics. Holly Lisle is a talented Fantasy author that brings her books to life with plenty of action and tight prose. She keeps the second book of the World Gates trilogy interesting with having a lot of things going on in the book. Readers will find this book an exciting read. It is not a stand alone book, so readers will need to read the first book Memory of Fire to understand what is going on with the story. Enjoy the books.

Friday, July 04, 2014

On Writing Fantasy: Worldbuilding

Middle Earth. Valdemar. Mythago Wood. Midkemia. Amber. A reader hears these names and it conjures images in their mind of Fantasy worlds where epic battles took place, quests happened and heroes triumphed. In Fantasy writing, world building is an essential aspect of creating memorable stores that remain with readers for a long time. It takes time and patience. Some of the steps to strong world building are reading, thinking and research.

Reading is an important step for help to build memorable worlds. Read in the genre is which you want to write. This will give you ideas on what is being done, but this can lead to imitation. Try to avoid this. Don’t limit your reading. Keep it general. Read many different things like history, geography, cultural anthropology, etc. Mythology is helpful for adding a mythic element to your world. I find “Archaeology” And “Discovering Archaeology” magazine inspiring for ideas. Reading different things gives your brain a broad base of information to create a realistic world for your novel or story.

Another important step that leads to better world building is thinking. Take the time to think through the details of your world. World building isn’t just drawing a map. You must develop many things like a magical system, cultures, religions, and many other elements that make up a viable society. Reading different things helps here, but be careful. Try not to rely on role playing game manuals for your world building. They are insufficient to a writer’s unique imagination. Keep a notebook and write down the details you come up with of your various creations. You might not use all of the information, but it will help you keep track of inconsistencies and bring your world to life. I keep such a file on my ˛ computer to refer to while working on my novels.

Lastly, research is an important step in building your Fantasy worlds and cultures. It helps create believable worlds by using details about it. Also, it keeps a writer from making silly mistakes. For example, some writers have had horses that can run over fifty miles without rest. A real horse would die from such treatment. You can’t write about a sword maker without some idea on how weapons are made. Research is time consuming but very helpful. A good place to start is in the children’s section of a library. Here you can find books that explain things simply. From there, move on to other books, magazines, and the Internet. Try to confirm a detail you want to use by two independent sources. One caution: Don’t let the fascination of research take you from your writing. Combining the three steps of reading, thinking about your Fantasy world and research gives a writer a foundation for building a memorable story. With time and patience, you can create a detailed world that will propel your characters to their destinies.

These are just some of the basic techniques for world building. A writer can pick up more as their experience grows. So keep writing and imagine your world to its fullest. Maybe some day you’ll find your world will invoke memories when its name is mentioned.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Review: _Maiden, Matron, Crone_

Many ancient cultures were matriarchal societies where women tended to hold the power. This was reflected in their religions where the main deities were a goddess. The mother goddess had three aspects of the maiden, matron and crone, portraying three major stages of women’s lives. _Maiden, Matron, Crone_ edited by Kerrie Hughes and Martin H. Greenberg contains thirteen stories exploring the triple goddess in her various forms. Stories range from poignant to serious, which many readers will find entertaining.

Elise is a runaway, wandering around the country by hitchhiking. She finds herself stranded along an empty road, walking until she encounters a mysterious woman in a berry thicket. “A Lingering Scent of Bacon” by Brenda Cooper follows Elise as she encounters different women that help her to make an important decision. The author creates a sympathetic character that readers will like and want to see how her story ends.

“Strikes of the Heart” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman is a story of three gene rations of women. Kishi is the granddaughter of the powerful wizard Omara who raised her. Laran, Kishi’s mother, is a warrior for the king. Kishi has a plant for a husband. She uses her magic to help at the castle. Her grandmother is showing signs of aging. When a man tries to rape her, Kishi discovers she is the victim of her grandmother’s spell. Laran is raped too. The king grows uneasy with Omara being so powerful but no longer in her right mind. Kishi must find a way to stop Omara. Ms. Hoffman creates a strong story with memorable characters and interesting magic.

In “Misery and Woe” by Jean Rabe, Elspeth is happy with her new home. She is a witch and wears the matron aspect of the goddess. Her main problem is the men of the village. They make excuses to visit her every chance because she is well endowed. This creates problems with the wives too. The author creates an interesting story with a strong theme through vivid, tight descriptions. A little humor runs through the story too, which ends in an unexpected way.

Celtic Fantasy is represented in a story about ancient Ireland. Brae is a woman warrior of the Fianna, an elite band of warriors of the king. She is teaching her young protege Etaine to be a warrior. Etaine has a vision that brings Brae into a quest with two other women to solve Etaine’s vision. “The Three Gems of the Fianna” by Fiona Patton is a lively story of strong women. Ms. Patton brings  the legends of ancient Ireland to life with memorable characters and a fascinating story.

“The Unicorn Hunt” by Michelle West is an Urban Fantasy with a dark edge and a twist on the unicorn hunt. Told in the first person point of view of the main character, this story is about the three aspects of the goddess embodied in three real women. They live in the real world and unicorns play a different role then they do in mythology. The main character helps Maggie, the Mother, to save the Maiden from danger with help from the main character’s acerbic grandmother. Ms. West provides a good story with interesting characters full of insight.

_Maiden, Matron, Crone_ edited by Kerrie Hughes and Martin H. Greenberg is an anthology of entertaining stories, which focus on the three aspects of the goddess. The stories have women in various stages that range from strong women to those learning life lessons. Readers will find many enjoyable stories to read contributed by good writers of the genre.

Review: _The Wizard's Treasure_ by Irene Radford

Many Fantasy books are part of a series. Some are good, extending the story to new ground, and some are rehashes of the same story over again, which can frustrate readers. _The Wizard’s Treasure_ by Irene Radford is an entertaining book that keeps the reader interested until the end. It is the fourth book in the “Dragon Nimbus” series. This book has an interesting plot, likable characters and strong world building.

Taking place around the same time as the third book, this one introduces two new characters into the conflict. Robb and Marcus are journeyman mages sent to bring back the dragons to the kingdom of Coronnan. They take shelter during a storm in an abandoned monastery to become trapped by an ancient spell curse. Other sub-plots include a missing queen with amnesia, an evil sorceress pursuing her father and a man trying to get back his son. Ms. Radford blends the plot elements into an adventurous mix that leads to a satisfying conclusion.

The author also populated her book with likable characte rs that keeps a reader hooked in the story. Marcus and Robb work their way through a difficult problem to find their own way to their coming of age. They do this by having a strong friendship and through teamwork. A new woman character is introduced with Vareena. She is loyally devoted to helping the trapped victims in the monastery, but longs to be free to start a new life elsewhere. In addition, the Rovers from a gypsy-like culture add a humorous and colorful element to the story. All of the characters are realistic and likable due to the author’s vivid descriptions of their interactions.

Lastly, strong world building is an important skill for a Fantasy author to bring their worlds to life. Ms. Radford has such skill for this series. Her setting of Coronn an is well developed with its cultures, politics and everything else. There is one kingdom that has destroyed its environment. The city of Hanassa has a population of rogue mages and criminals living in the caverans of its ancient volcano. All magic users have their own university and rules in the use of magic. This author weaves these and other elements to create a detailed world that appears realistic, keeping a reader engrossed in the book.

_The Wizard’s Treasure_ by Irene Radford is an entertaining book and fourth in the “Dragon Nimbus” series. The author creates a captivating book with an interesting plot, likable characters and strong world building. This keeps this series book intriguing for the reader through lively descriptions and plenty of adventure. It is an enjoyable book for readers.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

An Apology

I’m posting this to apologize for not keeping up with my blog this month. Life events put a wrench in my plans. I suffered from a bout of bursitis which put my right arm out of commission with pain for a week. When that got better I ended up with a backache. That took out another week. Finally, I caught a cold. I’m better now so hope to get back on track. There will be be articles on the blog soon.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Tad Williams

Do you like Epic Fantasy with a lot of detail and an edge? Tad Williams is a Fantasy author whose books are highly detailed and gripping. He uses vivid descriptions and strong themes to tell memorable stories of lasting power. Readers will find imaginative settings, realistic characters and complex plots in his works that will keep you reading until the end. All of his books are worthwhile to spend time on.

The first book by Mr. Williams was _Tailchaser’s Song_.This book is a combination Animal and Epic Fantasy. It is the story of the orange colored cat Fritti Tailchaser. He is on a quest to save his friend Hushpad from a terrible fate. Fritti must travel to the cat version of Hell and defeat a cat god as part of his quest. Readers get a detailed description of the world of cats and the first taste of this author’s incredible imagination.

Next, Mr. Williams turned his talent to Epic Fantasy. He created the complex world of “Osten Ard” for his trilogy of “Memory, Sorrow and Thorn.” T‹his is a complex world full of different kingdoms, people and creatures. The series is textured with vivid details that haunt a reader’s memories for a long time. Mr. Williams creates his world, plot s and characters with meticulous care.

_The Dragonbone Chair_ is the first book of the trilogy. It starts with a young boy named Simon who works as a kitchen servant in the ancient castle. The death of the high king sets off a war between the two young princes. Simon finds himself apprenticed to a member of the League of the Scroll. He finds himself on a quest for an ancient sword. Meanwhile, the undead Sithi lord called the Storm King rises to destroy the human kingdoms.

In the second book, _Stone of Farewell_, events get more complicated. The main characters are on a desperate search for a refuge and rallying point point for the human armies. Simon meets trolls and the Sithi, an elven like race. The League of the Scroll searches for more allies and weapons to fighÏt against the Storm King while his army sweeps through the land.

_To Green Angel Tower_ is the last book of the trilogy. This book is full of detail, action and war. The allies must rally together to stem the tide of the immortal Storm King. Two brothers, princes Elias and Josua, fight against each other. While the League of the Stroll struggles to solve the riddles of the ancient past to save their people, Simon travels through the shadow haunted, dark beauty of a buried Sithi city under the palace. The trilogy ends with an unforgettable climax.

Tad Williams is an impressive author of Epic Fantasy. His career has spanned over fifteen years. In those years, he has produced Fantasy books of high quality, full of realistic characters, vivid settings and intricate plots. The themes of the books leave a reader with a lot to think about for a long time. He has turned his talents to science fiction with a virtual reality Fantasy land. He brings a strong voice to that genre too. He is returning to the world of Osten Ard with a new trilogy in the near future.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Short Review: _Night Broken_ by Patricia Briggs

_Night Broken_ by Patricia Briggs is the latest book of the Mercy Thompson series. The new book finds Mercy and her family with new problems from a dangerous supernatural creature. Mercy finds herself with new complications when her husband’s ex-wife asks for help from a stalker and moves in to Mercy’s home, creating tension with her family. She must find a way to find the stalker to get her life back to normal. Other complications arise when a Gray Lord wants a magical fae walking stick returned. Briggs gives readers another action filled story is the series. The characters grow and there is an interesting new monster that provides a suspenseful plot. Readers will enjoy this entry in a popular series with a memorable character.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Epic Fantasy Revisited

Epic Fantasy is the largest category in the genre overall. More books in this category are published each year with several making it on to the bestseller lists. Most of this genre expanded with the help of Tolkien’s _Lord of the Rings_. There are many books that have grown into popular series over the years, written by interesting authors who set their books in Fantasy worlds of their own creation. These worlds are as popular as Middle Earth.

Robert Jordan created a vast Epic Fantasy story with his "Wheel of Time" series. Consisting of ten books, so far, the story is about the coming final battle between the Dragon reborn and evil dark lord Shaitan. Jordan set this story on a continent of many different nation   s and cultures. Many interesting characters are involved in the vast tapestry of the plot, caught up in a destiny that readers eagerly wait for the next book. The first book in the series is _The Eye of the World_.

Women authors have written excellent Epic Fantasy books too. Patricia McKillip contributed a vivid story with her _Riddlemaster of Hed_ (contained in one volume) trilogy. In her world, hereditary rulers of kingdoms have a bond to their lands. Morgon is a young prince of Hed, but loves to solve riddles. This draws him into a big riddle that changes him and brings great changes to his world. McKillip is a talented creator of many fascinating worlds and magic in her descriptive stories.

Some authors mix elements of mythology into their books to give them deeper themes and meaning. Guy Gavriel Kay did this with his trilogy of _The Summer Tree_, _The Wandering Fire_ and _The Darkest Road_. The books have elements of Celtic and Arthurian myth woven into a story of five college students from our world drawn to the world of Fionavar. In this world, they each find their destinies while helping to save all of creation. It is a memorable trilogy for readers.

Another woman that writes excellent Epic Fantasy is Melanie Rawn. Her books are long with strong plots and memorable characters. _The Dragon Prince_ is the first book of a series that tells the story of Prince Rohan of a desert kingdom and his Sunrunner wife Sioned. They must fight a ruthless High Prince and his vicious daughter to bring freedom to the kingdoms of their land. After six books in this series, Rawn turned to another series that began with _The Ruins of Ambrai_. This trilogy remains incomplete at this time.

George R.R. Martin created a vivid world in Westeros for his ambitious series. _A Game of Thrones_ takes place on a world with a rich history and where seasons last for years. A long winter is coming. Enemies to the north plot to invade the kingdoms. Two families begin a struggle for the Iron Throne. This begins a long series with a complex story that will be told in six books. Different character viewpoints provide interesting views on a vast struggle.

David Drake created an interesting series of which _Lord of the Isles_ is the first book. This series tells the story of four young people in a kingdom made up of islands with one king. There is a vast history to this world of magic and battles. The first book begins the stories of four young people from a small village that end up in an epic struggle of intrigue an danger. Mr. Drake is an expert of militar   y things. His books contain vivid descriptions and captivating plots. Readers will enjoy the epic scope of each book.

Finally, Terry Goodkind writes a powerful series that begins with _Wizard’s First Rule_. In this series, a magical wall is about to come down, which will bring a new menace to the land. One man possesses the Sword of Truth and other magic knowledge that can save or harm the land. He travels the land with a woman and wizard with the goal of defeating a dangerous mage who could destroy the world. The book is a good beginning to a popular and interesting series of eight books so far.

Many readers love stories of epic proportions with great battles, romance and a mythic feel. Epic Fantasy is a large sub-genre that appeals to people who love these types of books. Tolkien began a tradition that continues to grow every year. As long as readers continue to want stories of epic scope, the genre will continue to grow.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Review: _The Summer Country_ by James Hetley

There is a fantasy world a few steps away from ours. It is called the Summer Country. This world is inhabited by amoral beings that have little use for humans. They roam the modern world too, pursuing their personal motivations. _The Summer Country_ by James A. Hetley is a Celtic Urban Fantasy that tells the story of a group of people of these two worlds. It is an interesting book propelled along by its characters, plot and mythic elements.

The author introduces realistic characters that readers can understand. Maureen is a young woman with many problems. Molested when a child, she is troubled, hating and distrusting men to the point of carrying a gun to kill them. She is bitter and difficult to get along with other people. Jo is her sister. She wants to protect Maureen, but gets frustrated with her sister’s problems. These women interact with other interesting characters. Brian Pendragon is an Old One who protects humans from others of his kind. He is a world weary soldier with a hard edge. The Old Ones like Fiona, Sean and Dougal are amoral beings that threaten the main characters. The author's descriptions makes all the the characters believable.

Next, Mr. Hetley’s plot moves along at a fast pace with a dark edge. It starts while Maureen walks home from work on a cold winter night in Maine. A man follows behind her. She takes refuge in an alley to defend herself with a gun but is saved by Brian. Maureen lets him escort her home where she becomes angry at her sister Jo having her boyfriend David in the apartment. Brian has trouble with Fiona and Sean trying to kill him. Eventually, Maureen, Jo and David get dragged into the Summer Country and the ancient struggles of the Old Ones. The action is fast paced with some brutal scenes of violence that keeps the plot on a dark brink.

Finally, the book’s interesting use of mythic elements gives it a fascinating perspective. The author uses elements from Celtic mythology. Old Ones are based on tales of the sidhe, amoral fairy creatures with no concern for humans. Mr. Hetley’s Summer Country is green and warm but dangerous. People can be sacrificed to the land, their blood and souls sucked out of them. Other inhabitants keep feudal systems with vile traps and guardians for their holdings. Th Nere is no chivalry to be found in this dangerous fantasy world. Mr. Hetley weaves these elements together with vivid descriptions that makes the book memorable.

_The Summer Country_ by James A. Hetley is a Celtic Urban Fantasy by a new author to the genre. The book’s characters, plot and mythic elements makes it an entertaining experience for readers. There is a dark edge to the book with a lot of action and some violent scenes. This book is realistic with troubled characters facing magical events that make them stronger. First of a series, readers will eagerly await a sequel.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Book Review: _The Winter Oak_ by James Hetley

In many myths, the Summer Country is an idyllic other world, a paradise of great beauty and immortal life. Fantasy author James Hetley provides a Summer Country with a twist in his book _The Winter Oak_. This book is the sequel to _The Summer Country_ continuing the story of sisters Maureen and Jo. The author gives readers an entertaining Celtic Fantasy with a dark edge through his realistic characters, action plot and modern themes.

Characters are realistic with real problems to overcome. Maureen returns in this sequel with many personal issues unresolved. Choosing to remain in the Summer Country, she struggles with her personal demons of abuse while trying to learn her new powers and love Brian, her new boyfriend. The increasing stress of fight ing enemies drives her deeper into alcoholism. Jo, Maureen’s sister, returns to Maine with her boyfriend David. She is put under pressure by having to deal with an injured other and hateful father. Lack of money due to loss of their jobs while gone to the Summer Country strains her relationship. Both women must try to overcome a lot of baggage striving to gain happiness. The men in their lives must deal with two volatile women characters with many flaws that readers can understand.

Next, the plot is full of action that keeps the reader hooked until the end. The action starts in the Summer Country with Maureen facing an angry dragon and trying to settle into her new home. Maureen is agitated from being tortured in the first book. As she tries to develop her relationship with Brian Albion. Fiona, her enemy from the previous book, begins new plans to destroy Maureen. Magic exists in this Summer Country, but it is not a paradise. There are enemies everywhere. Our world is represented by a messy, spring Maine wher e Jo must deal with her dysfunctional parents without Maureen’s help. Another element of suspense is added with the interfering Pendragons. The author weaves these plot threads into a fast paced action plot, which brings out the themes of the book.

Finally, the book explores modern day themes that are thought provoking. Mr. Hetley gives readers a story with no easy answers. Abuse is the main theme of the book. The sister come from a family with an abusive father. Maureen suffers a rape at a young age while ]Jo contends with physical abuse. Both women suffer devastating emotional problems from the abuse. Despite the magical elements, all of the characters confront real issues that face people in the real world.

_The Winter Oak_ by James Hetley is an excellent dark Celtic Fantasy. The author’s realistic characters, action plot and modern themes grabs readers to provide an entertaining story of a dangerous Summer country.  Mr. Hetley brings the story to life with vivid descriptions to tell the story of two strong sisters with troubled lives. This book is a good sequel to _The Summer Country_.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Book Review: Earth, Air, Fire, Water edited by Margaret Weis

Imagine a place you can travel to for knowledge that can only be reached by dreams, meditation or desire. Here you meet a being that guides you to stories which impart wisdom. _Earth, Air, Fire, Water_ is the second anthology of the "Tales from the Eternal Archives" series. Edited by Margaret Weis, this anthology has stories based on the four elements of ancient belief.

The anthology opens with "Burning Bright" by Tanya Huff. Carlene Aswith discovers she's a fire elemental when her mother, a wizard, dies. She wants to be a human again. Her friend Alynne helps her in her quest. The wizards are a bunch of dense, jealous fools. This story has humor and good characters. It's a tale about friendship.

"The Fire of a Found Heart" by Linda P. Baker is another story in the element of fire section. Asha's people and the elves hate each other. This long story tells of Asha's search for his soul mate before his people go to war. He experiences a journey of truth which changes him. Vivid settings and a strong theme make this story memorable.

A small town on the coast of Oregon is at the center of mysterious events. The police chief of this town investigates a mutilation killing of a seal pup. "Strange Creatures" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch is a story of the element of water. Dan Restler, the police chief, is drawn into a dark tale of selkies, an insane teenager and arrogant rich people. Rusch provides a gripping story with realistic settings and characters. Her style is clear and direct, making the reader want to finish the story.

Native American myth fills the water element tale of "Out of Hot Water" by Jane Lindskold. Jeanette is a young accountant spending her vacation at a hot springs resort in New Mexiso. She wishes something exciting and adventurous would happen to her. Her wish is granted by the grandmother water spirit of the springs. She must help the spirit stop thieves from plundering an ancient village of ruins nearby the resort. Readers will enjoy this story with it's interesting plot and realistic characters. It's streak of humor helps too.

Nina Kiriki Hoffman's "The Giant's Love" is the story of the giant Stig. Living underground all of his life, one day he pokes a hole into the above ground world. He slowly ventures out into the world and discovers he loves it. This is a gentle tale about the world we take for granted at times. Hoffman's deft storytelling brings this story alive and gives it a neat mythological touch.

Many other stories of the four elements are in this anthology. Readers will find stories of humor, joy and terror. The authors contributed diverse stories of magic and entertainment. It is a good addition to the "Tales from the Eternal Archives." Seek out the first book too called _Legends_. These anthologies are good if you don't have time to read a longer book.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Interview with Jennifer Roberson

Jennifer Roberson is the author of several fantasy novels. She wrote the "Chesuli" series about a race of shapechangers that struggle with a race of sorcerers. Her tales of Tiger and Del are told in several "Swprd Dancer" books which are very poplar. The most recent series is "Karavans" telling the stories of people struggling against the living forest Alisanos. In addition she has written several stand alone books and some historical fiction. Ms. Roberson lives in Arizona where she also shows Cardigan Welsh Corgis as an accomplished dog show person. More information about her books can be fun in this article and at her website:

Debbie Ledesma: What led you to decide to become a writer?

Jennifer Roberson:  I loved reading, so it was a natural progression.  I wanted to tell my own stories.  I wrote my first novel when I was 14.

DL: Why did you choose to write in the fantasy genre?

JR: It was my favorite genre, but I wrote a western, romantic suspense, and two girl-and-her-horse manuscripts before tackling fantasy.  I loved fantasy and was afraid I couldn't do it justice, but I also enjoyed other genres and decided to try them, first.

DL: How long did it take you to write your first book and how long did it take to get that book published?

JR: The first  two I wrote were Young Adult girl-and-her-horse novels, which never saw the light of day.  Next came my western, which was not published until after my first book was sold.  So it was actually the fifth book I wrote that was published first.  The western and romantic suspense were published later.

DL: What authors, Fantasy or otherwise, influence your writing?

Nowadays, I have my own voice and don't really have any authors who influence my writing.  Originally it was (in no order) Marion Zimmer Bradley, C.J. Cherryh, Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, and Katherine Kurtz, in fantasy.  But I love historical novels, and grew up on Samuel Shellabarger, Anya Seton, and others.

DL: Do you have a favorite character in your books? Which one and why?

JR: Tiger, from the Sword-Dancer series.  He is just so much FUN to write!  He's sarcastic, funny, but also very complex as he matures.

DL: After you fulfill all of your current book contracts, which book or books would you like to write next?

JR: I would like to write another historical.  I have ideas for a couple, but nothing settled as yet.

DL: Your books have been different with Cheysuli, Tiger and Del, and now Karavans. I know you plan to write more Cheysuli books. Will any of them take place after the final book?

JR: At this time, the three new Cheysuli books will be a prequel to the original series, a book about Finn and Carillon in exile, and a book about Keely in Erinn.  No plans at this time to write sequels to the original series, but of course that could change.

DL: With the popularity of urban fantasy, do you think you will ever try your hand in this area? Maybe something that could include your dog show and breeding expertise?

JR: It's a possibility, but I haven't given it much thought because I have five novels under contract and ideas for a couple of historicals.

DL: The TV series "Game of Thrones" has been very popular. Which of your books do you feel would make a good TV series or movie?

JR: They now have the tech to do great shapechanging, so the Cheysuli books could be filmed.  But I've always felt the Sword-Dancer series could be a lot of fun.  It had been optioned at one time for the potential of making a movie (or movies), but nothing came of it.  Probably the Cheysuli novels would make a better TV series because of the dynastic nature.

DL: I'm reading the second Karavans book _Deepwood_. I love the characters and the forest Alisanos. Did you do research for these books?

JR: A little research on the big old prairie schooners and Basque sheepherder wagons, and the yurts of the steppes tribes.  

DL: I’m always fascinated with Fantasy that has mythic themes. Do you use themes from mythology in your books?

JR: Now and again there are some influences, but I've never purposely involved specific myths--unless you want to call the Robin Hood legend a myth.  I wrote two novels about the legend, with an emphasis on Marian, in LADY OF THE FOREST and LADY OF SHERWOOD.  These are historical novels, though, not fantasy.

DL: What do you think is the important function of Fantasy?

JR: Certainly it provides entertainment and escapism, but it allows for a vast exploration of different themes, time periods, archetypes, and tremendous characterization.

DL: What themes do you find most compelling to include in your writing?

JR: Personal growth.  If your main characters remain the same people throughout a series, eventually the books become boring and the plots predictable.  I like to take my characters on physical as well as emotional journeys.  Lots of self-discovery for my characters.  Also, you can educate a bit as well, if you do it in a subtle and/or entertaining, interesting fashion.

DL: A writer friend of mine said that all Fantasy authors eventually attempt an Arthurian novel. Since you live in the country where the King Arthur legend was born, do you have any plans for an Arthurian story? Does the legend influence any of your writing?

JR: Actually, I live in Arizona.  8-)  Born in Missouri, but have been in AZ since 1957.  (I did live in London for 6 months.)   I have dabbled with several Arthurian stories, and am considering a historical which will partially involve the Arthurian Cycle.

DL: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

JR: For traditional publishing, it is more difficult today to find a publisher.  But it does still happen; find a good agent, as some houses no longer accept unsolicited manuscripts.  Keep in mind, too, that now we all have the option of independent publishing, with distribution through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other outlets.

DL: Thank you very much for your time.