Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

Gisel frightens the Darcys

August 30, 2011

“I’m not sure what she mentioned, but I must begin at the point of most significance in Regency society. A young woman in our society who attains to a position of value, such as Miss Matah’s invaluable skill at languages, places herself in direct competition with the interests of gentlemen she may meet. A young gentleman of means and of amiable and kind disposition who might be inclined to admire her could be brought up against the very disturbing possibility that she might be called away by her political masters when a matter requiring urgent attention, within her skills, may suddenly arise. All intentions he may have toward making a fuller acquaintance may be cast aside when he addresses the inconveniences, and possibly more serious disruptions it might cause them were they to consider marriage.”

Miss Darcy stopped at the door to the conservatory while Mr Author opened it, but it seemed her eyes were elsewhere. “Hmm. I see what you mean.”

“I actually know of situations where the differing expertise of a married couple result in their spending considerable time in different cities—even different countries. Of course, this happens here as well. One could cite the situation of naval officers and their wives and families.”

“I have met ladies in that situation who have not seen their husbands for several years,” Miss Darcy mused. “What a terrible situation, I always think. With the delay in sending and receiving mail the husband could have been lost in a shipwreck for months before the family hears the news.”

Mr Author thought perhaps the message had been delivered, but, alas, it was not so.

Stopping before the first of the flowering plants, Miss Darcy sighed. “I must confess that I find the prospect of travel to distant places a very fascinating one. Fancy being born in a distant country and having been partly raised by one’s grandparents in Greece. The marvels of Athens, the mysteries of Delphi, the harsh and barren hills of Sparta—surely it would be like living in a poem of Homer’s. I can imagine sailing on the wine-dark sea to the islands on the horizon … but Miss Matah has actually done it—no wonder she can speak with a traveller’s authority on so many subjects.”

“But I perceive that you have travelled the same lands in your mind from reading the classics, Miss Darcy. In many ways that experience is more likely to stir the intellect and the imagination than the hardships, the heat and pestilential flies of the actual journey. I would suggest that the hills of Sparta are not exactly barren but I recall they were very dusty with sandy soil and not as verdant as parts farther north.”

“You have been to Sparta? Do tell.”

Oops. Mr Author realised he should not have shared that information. “I must admit to having been there once…it was a long time ago.”

“How did you come to be travelling in Greece? What was it like?” She turned to face him, her arms akimbo. “Did you visit Miss Matah and her grandparents? I must hear what you have to say. I will not move another step until you tell me more.”

“There really isn’t much to tell. I thought the place a disappointment—certainly after Athens. There was very little trace of the ancient city; no hoplites training in the olive groves—just a rather small, drab country town. I am sure you have heard more interesting tales in fashionable drawing rooms in London when people who have take the Grand Tour relate their experiences.”

“No one has ever spoken of visiting Greece to my knowledge. The Turks are Mohammedans …perhaps even Saracens—it would hardly be safe for a Christian to venture there. How was it possible for you to visit?”
“Well, I—”

At that point the door to the conservatory burst open and Haggerston rushed in, his face scarlet and his breath rasping. “I say…Mr Author! Mr Darcy asks if you … could come at once to the… stable yard…”

Miss Georgiana gasped. “Why, whatever has happened? Is someone hurt?”

“Why, no Miss…but someone very well could.” He turned from Miss Georgiana to beseech Mr Author. “Please come, Sir. It’s your Miss Matah— she is determined to ride Agamemnon!”


My fantasy novel Rast

March 10, 2011

Rast was released at the beginning of March and I’m already deep in promotions things. I’ve signed on for a Virtual Book Tour in April and will be posting information about the tour and giveaways here as well as on the other blog

You can learn more about Rast on my website and on the publisher’s site –

On the Iskander series I must remind everyone that the novella freebie “Gisel Matah and the Slave Ship” is still a free download from my website. I wrote the adventure as an intro to Gisel and her trials and tribulations as security officer for her people on the 17th century alternate Earth called Gaia.

“Masquerade” is slowly progressing through a final polish with my local novel writers’ group; one chapter a month. I think I’m looking at a 2012 release for it, but don’t want to hurry my friends, it’s a good test for their critiquing skills. Perhaps I’ll post a bit of it here later this year. It is my Iskander series take on a man-in-an-iron-mask scenario  – Gisel and her friends know who he is but not where he is. She goes through a series of perilous operational adventures to thwart the Empire’s plans for him – and Zagdorf’s machinations.

I’ll not leave this as long without a new post as I’ve just done – I think I’m caught up on the to do list and will have more info about promotion plans to let you know.

Watch this Space

February 12, 2011

While my new website is gathering visitors, many of whom are downloading the free novella “Gisel Matah and the Slave Ship”, I’m getting ready for a big announcement at my other blog, now pointed to promotion for my fantasy novel “Rast” from MuseItUp Publishing. I have a new promotional blurb posted there today, at
Yes, “Rast” should be released in a little over two weeks.

In the world of Gaia and my Iskander series novels, I have a promotion planned with another author. Joe Douglas Trent has just had his historical fantasy thriller “The King of Silk” published by MuseItUp. Somewhat similar to the Iskander series, in that his protagonist is projected into another world, the Italy of 1492, we both have novels that explore the adventures of modern people in earlier times.

We propose to post an ongoing discussion on a new writing forum The Professional Writers Connect . Anyone registered on the site will be welcomed to join in as we compare and contrast our fictional scenarios and the themes we explore in our novels. I hope we get writers there with other ‘takes’ on the theme of modern meets ancient – and by posting our discussions also on readers’ sites, we hope to bring readers to our novels to see what the fuss is all about.

I’ll let you know when the first posts are done and also where readers may join us when we decide on those venues.

In other news:  The website, is almost complete and already working nicely. I’m mulling over what links and announcements should be posted. Obviously, links to these blogs should be added, as well as to those of other friends and associates. Feel free to send suggestions. I’m finally clearing the decks for a concentrated bash at polishing my latest novel “Mindstream” before sending it away to a publisher and an agent or two. Being an entirely different work – in theme and scenario – from my other novels, I’m looking for a home for it in a slot where that kind of novel already has a presence. Until it is placed and gets a blog of its own, I will post updates and teasers here once in awhile.

Interview with an Oracle

September 23, 2010

This was written originally as a character interview promoting Rast, my fantasy novel to be released next March. I’m enlarging on it here (well it’s my space, isn’t it?)

CH: Hi, folks. First off, this is me, the author, setting up the interview. To interview the Pythian, one has to descend a long passage beneath the Palace of Rast to the underground chamber where the Oracle resides. Another thing to mention is that the Pythian is given to breaking out into riddles in blank verse. To give the setting, I’ll quote a passage from a chapter in Rast where the Prince goes down to consult him.

<Step after step wound away before him. His feet followed them down and down, around and around, as if the way would hypnotize him. The bronze studs of his boots clacked on the hard stone until there were steps no more, merely a steep sloping tunnel to slip and scuff down into the depths. He descended in a flickering bubble of light that seemed as a globe, drawing him down into a darkened, petrified ocean. And then, all at once, he was at the bottom.

His light became a glimmer in a wide chamber. At the far end two green orbs appeared as from an empty void. “Egon,” came a resonant voice. “What a pleasant meeting.”>

CH: Here we are in the pitch black chamber … don’t become bogged in the thick dust … it’s a bit creepy. Can’t see a thing. Whoops, there are the eyes in the distance, like two green moons.

“Oh, hello. Have I met you before, dear boy?”

CH: Boy? That’s a good one, I’m seventy-one.

“Pshaw. I’m at least a hundred times that. But should I know you from somewhere?”

CH: I did write the book.

“Mere triviality. We are the creatures who inhabit it –.
“Empty pages only blow in wind
“When no spirits reside therein”

CH: I guess you’re right about that. But one thing I didn’t establish in the book was this matter of all magic creatures being connected. How does that work?

“Interests in common
“Common discourse make”

CH: Uhuh … so what form does it take?

“No phone have we;
“No Internet.
“We may reside in diverse abodes
“And fixed as mountains or the sea …”

CH: Yes, I know all that but how do you do it … telepathy?

“I’m coming to that. Don’t interrupt.”

CH: Sorry, but I don’t have your millennia to pursue these answers.

“Fault is yours; creator-man.
“Builder of worlds fantastic.
“Written a better self prognosis should you have.”

CH: I didn’t get the chance.

“Then what merit is yours
“Ink bedraggled scribbler?

CH: You took that from a line in my book.

“So sue me for plagiarism.
“Mighty author, what power hast thou
“If a minor character
“Has wit to baffle your designs?”

CH: Okay, already. Characters have to possess the freedom to be themselves.

“So I may choose my answers?
“Foretell or obfuscate
“As I may delight?”

CH: Will you let us get on with the answers if I concede your point?

“Meaning, dear boy?”

CH: You’re right.

“I generally am. Did you come for some advice, or a foretelling of your future?”

CH: You might let me know how many copies of Rast will sell.

“Your pecuniary question is moot
“Since your task is done
“And other eyes and minds will take their route.”

CH: Thanks, I believe I already knew that.

“Oh, think a lot of ourselves, do we?
“Is that the right you claim
“As writer of the book?”

CH: Hmm. Should we get back to this oracle business? What would be the best avenue of book promotion?

“Does a poor magic creature
“Residing in dark, bereft?
“Offer words of value
“For so little consideration?”

CH: Oh, you mean I didn’t bring you your honey toasted roaches?

“Aha, not so dull after all.
“Visit the palace kitchen
“Catch the morsels (plenty reside therein)
“And tender them to me.
“I may answer your question then … or not.
“You see – the future is easy not to learn.

CH: Drat. Here I am on the way up the passage. Sorry I wasn’t able to find out more about the Pythian and his world. Magic creatures are not easy to handle.

My next release – Rast.

August 12, 2010

My fantasy Rast will be released in March 2011.

Rast cover image

While Rast is not a story in the Iskander series, Jady, the co-protagonist is a pretty tough gal and has her own part to play in the crisis.

Character Interview – Jady from my fantasy “Rast”

July 15, 2010

Since I need a need a new  tack for this blog, and I’m busy with my editor preparing “Rast” for release by MuseItUp Publishing in March 2011, I thought it was time to interview some characters from my fiction. It also serves as a way to show those of you, who’ve offered my writing  encouragement after reading the sorry tale of  “Nothing Venture” and the true story behind it, that I did persevere beyond those disappointments.

Before I start I should mention a few things about Rast. To my mind it stands out from other fantasy in a couple of ways. Firstly it deals with a conflict, setting a simple folk dependent on magic to order their world against a materialist invader – a disbeliever in magic, bent on imperial conquest. Moreover, it takes the side of the invaded party. When I mention that this was mostly written in 2001 – 2003 and the imperialist invaders are treated with a strong satyrical bent, you may get a sense of the author’s voice behind the story.

Secondly, the magic in Rast is not a jolly party trick, an easy crutch that might embolden some weaker soul to challenge the darker forces. Magic is one of the darker forces; or at least it can be if it’s not kept under control by the Drogar, the sorcerer king of Rast. It is also fatal to its wielder, building up harm against him like the over-dosages of radiation that killed the early experimenters into radioactivity.

So, on with the interview.

TWV: Welcome to The Wildcat’s Victory, Jady. Would you care first to tell us a little about yourself?

“Yes. I am Jady, of the family Soule,  the lineage of the Guardians of the Silent Forest. People call me the Soulingas, which means ‘the people of Soule’ which, in a way, I have been ever since my father and brothers were killed by Krachins in the forest. If I have no sons, the line of the Guardians will come to an end.”

TWV: The position of the Guardians sounds rather dangerous, particularly for one so young as I sense you are.

“It can be. The Krachins are simple creatures, but fully four parts human. They are too weak to resist magic influences that can turn them from their slow animal natures into mobs of savage beasts.”

TWV: To which the fate of your family can attest. Is that the duty of the Guardians … to keep the Krachins in check?

“To keep them from spreading their nests into the lands of Rast, yes, but that is not the most perilous duty.”

TWV: There’s more?

“Near the southern edge of the Silent Forest, up against the flanks of the mountains, lies a hidden valley wherein lie the magic Deepning Pools. No one knows what gave life to the strange fluids that lie in the hollows of the valley, but when the magic influences become powerful these living substances can organise and work to increase their fell powers. The best known of the threats are from the Siren Spells that fly out from the surface to look for conscious life and sting it into a trance. The possessed creatures will then brave any danger to reach the Pools and submerge themselves within its substance.”

TWV: Sounds horrible. What happens then?

“Excuse me, (shudders) but I’d rather not think about what happens when one is absorbed into the magic creature. One of my duties is to visit the Pools on the sacrificial nights to prevent the Krachins from offering themselves in sacrifice to form an alliance against the people of Rast.”

TWV: You have to go to these Pools?

“Yes. I must use my bow to prevent the living sacrifice from submerging into the Pool.”

TWV: That sounds frightening. Do you have any weapons or magic charms to help you in this duty?

“I have one family heirloom, the Gossamer Veil, that I can wrap about me to prevent the Spells from touching my bare skin. It’s origin is lost in the distant sands of time. Then my crystal tipped arrows have been enchanted by the Drogar so that they fly true to the target I aim at.”

TWV: That’s it? Nothing else?

“My pride, my sense of duty. Should there be more?

TWV: I suppose not, but clearly you are a heroine from a world far different than ours…
I hear a summons in the distance …
Yes. It must have been for Jady – she’s gone. I’ll try to get her or someone else from Rast to come and tell us more. Next time.

More WF 2008 Convention

November 17, 2008

The Language of Fantasy – panel – Carol Berg, C. L. Wilson, Farah Mendlesohn, Kay Kenyon.

This panel opened my eyes to the deeper aspects of writing fantasy. When I started my fantasy novel, Rast, I jumped in with both feet and carved my own path, learning from mistakes along the way. As I usually do. Perhaps I’m lucky that this process resulted in a novel of which a publisher said, “I like it. A lot.”

To set the tone of the panel I should mention the frequent references to the proscenium arch, which to me at that time, meant only that it sounded very old and very Greek. The term refers to the forward part of the theatre stage, today that portion forward of the curtain toward the audience and in ancient Greece the whole structure of arch or arches forming the rear of the stage. You might guess I learned a great many new things in the panel – and in reading Farah Mendlesohn’s book, “Rhetorics of Fantasy” that I was able to buy in the dealer’s room. Actually, in this account, my memory of the panel is probably aided and coloured by my reading of that.

What does proscenium arch mean for the language of fantasy? My understanding, such as it is, leads to the  comparison between the presentation of the mythical or fantastic quality of the story and the normal world of the reader. One goes to the theatre as one’s self, sits in the relative safety of the audience while the created illusion of the production unfolds before one’s eyes across the other side of the proscenium arch – an involving experience yet safely separate. In fiction it refers to the separation between creation and audience, the page and the mind – the separation the writer must coax the reader to forget if he or she is to become immersed in story.

The language in which fantasy is written must draw the reader across that arch and into the story world. To this end, the demotic language of the crime thriller or adventure often gives way to some level of elegiac or elevated language. Somehow I had instinctively done this when I started Rast – it seemed to me that the story came with its own language. Luckily my local writing group was run by a poet who was quickly able to bring my elegiac excesses back to earth. The language of the commons, demotic or ordinary, is used in fantasy only to present the fantastic as familiar. As Farah Medlesohn said, “There are no fixed rules, but every story demands an appropriate technique”.

It is acceptable to vary the language within the story according to the nature of the character who speaks or listens. It’s no surprise that each character has their own voice, but their perceptions also affect what they hear and understand. There also can be a level of the story that has to be discerned by the reader according to whether the character relating the information can be relied on to tell the truth or may deliberately or unknowingly contribute falsehoods.

The elevated tone of fantasy can extend far into other techniques the author might use. Metaphors tend to replace similes and some of the story meaning can be conveyed by allegory. The reader expects to be taken to a more fantastic place – Oz or Minas Tirith – where profound secrets are guarded and people wiser than ourselves interact. If the reader is completely captured by story then they might actually, for a short time, visit these extraordinary places and experience truths they would dismiss in real life. I know that I am only one of many readers who felt profoundly moved and given new insights many years ago by my first reading of “Lord of the Rings”.

This is not to say that elegiac language and a heightened sensibility is all fantasy needs. As in all story, the whole must fit seamlessly together. The language is the vessel that carries the reader into the story, but it cannot do this alone. The world building and premises must fit as well. A western could be rewritten as high fantasy, but it will fail if any trace of its origin escapes.

The panel imparted much more than a discussion of semantics. The language of fantasy is the medium through which arcane secrets are divulged and the author has many opportunities and much responsibility for the art he or she wields.

World Fantasy 2008 – another panel from the convention.

November 14, 2008

The Resurgence of YA Fantasy Literature – Garth Nix, Kathryn Sullivan, Anne Hopper, Sharyn November.

The premise of the panel was “Harry Potter aside, YA literature has always been popular. Is YA fantasy riding a wave today? If so, why? And is fantasy literature more appealing to younger readers than other genres?”

The short answer was that the panel disagreed with most premises in the questions. They felt that a return to science fiction scenarios rather than fantasy was long overdue, and signs existed that this was already starting. The Potter look-alikes, the vampires, and the dragons had all outstayed their welcomes and new directions were needed to keep the readers coming.

In that vein, Garth Nix came up with a good aphorism, “A good story badly told can still succeed, but a bad story well told will likely fail”. The editors on the panel held forth at length what a crapshoot it was to try to predict the marketplace. They have to try to predict what readers will want next year, but admit the premise is basically a foolish one.

Many harsh things were said about weak and derivative novels that have done quite well in the marketplace, but I’d better not quote anyone or specific titles on this. For the writers out there beginning to settle on a story and a genre for new work it seems that it would be a good idea not to attempt to jump on any bandwagon. As always – write the story that has meaning for you.

This panel was one of the liveliest that I attended. Sharyn November’s sharp wit contrasted nicely with Anne Hopper’s quiet diplomacy and between them the two editors kept the audience alert with ears pricked. As I mentioned this was my first writing convention and I soon learned that the entertainment value of a panel can be equal to the informational content.

Another observation that might be interesting to others planning to attend their first convention is that there were four streams ongoing through most of the event – two different panels running each hour as well as two rooms where writers read from their own works, a half hour for each. This meant that one needed to plan one’s own participation in the program ahead and expect that a sometimes difficult choice had to be made between competing appearances.

There were name authors from the A-Teams of publishing holding forth or being interviewed most days, and sometimes a interesting panel might need to be weighed against the chance of hearing things from the horse’s mouth. Then again, most days the programs ran right through lunch hour and so one had to balance starving the mind with starving the belly. Every day, a couple of hours were set aside for dinner, so I guess writers are expected to munch a sandwich at the computer while creating, but to pay proper attention to good cuisine and drink at the dining hour.

Overall, it seemed as if the Harry Potter phenomenon has been classified as an exception rather than the rule – no one is expecting another series to come along soon and light up the cash registers in the same way. I must admit to be more cynical than that. I wonder how many copies of the saga were actually read from cover to cover by those lucky ‘young adults’ with such attentive grandparents. I liked Sharyn November’s comment, “If youngsters are not already reading adult books by the time they’re sixteen, there is likely something wrong with them.”

More from World Fantasy 2008.

November 12, 2008

Real Life Villains – panel David Morrell, Anita Siraki, Mark Van Name, Janine Young.

The panel discussion ranged widely, and in my memory, perhaps covered more horror than fantasy.

I don’t recall any specific references to modern fantasy villains in the panel, beyond the usual suspects of Monsters, Vampires, etc. However, even they have been modified by the current fashion of the romance-erotic crossovers who are obsessed with vampire lovers. This is getting closer to psychology than fantasy.

Someone made the point that in the genre classic, Frankenstein, the monster is far less a villain than the good doctor who created him. This led to another main point. Most of the panel stressed that believable villains do not believe themselves to be acting villainously. Many examples of real life villainy followed.

The case of CEOs of business enterprises who callously destroy lives and careers whenever the business model says “cut overhead”. The overhead is almost always taken to be fixed costs –  wages and salaries of staff. I had to agree with Mark Van Name who quoted the example of the head of a company he had worked for who complied with convention and slashed several thousand from the payroll – not without some angst – but with the justification that he had no alternative. I also have had a conversation with a manager who had to ‘weed out’ unproductive workers from an enterprise that had been taken over. He was given the job of turning the operation around or else presiding over its closure, so he had the added incentive of saving his career from the black mark. Here again, the focus was on saving the welfare of those who might remain if the surplus bodies were sacrificed. Not sure if this would fly in a dungeons and dragons story.

While this seemed to be drifting away from fantasy, it definitely addressed the mistake of writing even fantasy antagonists as stereotypical nasties. Even monsters, and the portrayal of Grendel as the latest example in the movie Beowulf, have cogent reasons, to them, for their actions.

The discussion continued into the modern horror of the holocaust with two examples from the death camps. Dr Mengele, doctor death who performed horrible experiments on helpless inmates, was reckoned among his contemporaries as a compassionate and humane man. The key to his actions was that he had closed his mind to the humanity of his victims – to him, they were not people (perhaps for irony I might use the word mensch). He focused on the lives his experiments might save in the future. He loved his family and actually saved the life of one Jew – his secretary in the camp.

In this vein came the second example from Dachau. The efficiency of the “Final Solution” was such that the numbers of inmates brought in invariably outstripped the speed of their disposal and the solution was to farm the extra out as domestic servants until such time as their turns came up. During the war, some 30,000 of these domestic slaves were placed among 3000 German families in the area. It’s recorded that the only complaint about the process concerned  the inconvenience of losing the servants soon after their training had been perfected – and not one of the families ever attempted to assist the prisoner servants to escape their fate. Perhaps pointing toward real life horror.

The final villain I’ll mention who was given as an example – again from the experiences of a panel member – resided in detention for the criminally insane. While asking for the reason of the inmates’ acts was generally avoided, the situation with one young man, who had murdered his parents, made the question, why, relevant. The young man thought for a moment and then said, “Because they were home.”

I’ll leave that with you. Fantasy and horror sometimes have strange roots in the psyche.