Books

Join the War, Choose a Side on Facebook

I have relaunched my author page on Facebook. Originally, I had it set up under my book series name, but it makes more sense to be under my name as the series grows (which is how most authors set up their author FB — today’s free social media tip). You’ll see some shared posts from this site, but new content as well. More coming soon, so be sure to join the War Among the Shadows on Facebook right now. Are you ready?

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Know your First Lines? Then win a copy of AtS!

Ready to choose your side in the War Among the Shadows? Answer who wrote the following first lines, and in what book or poem they are found, and you’ll win Among the Shadows for your Kindle!

1. April is the cruelest month.
2. Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary…
3. Call me Ishmael.
4. It was a pleasure to burn.

Use the Contact form to send the answers, and I’ll be sending up to three winners their own Kindle copy of Among the Shadows. Good luck!

Update: Congrats to Julie D. for winning! Here are the answers:

1. April is the cruelest month.The Waste Land, T.S. Elliot
2. Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary…The Raven, Edgar Allen Poe
3. Call me Ishmael.Moby Dick, Herman Melville
4. It was a pleasure to burn.Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

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100 Books Every Man Should Read

The Art of Manliness has created a list of 100 Books Every Man Should Read. Not that these books were written particularly for men — most were not — even though the majority were written by men about male characters. The point of such lists are to remind people of important and classic books and the impact they have had.

Many books are written, many more forgotten, and only a select few are remembered.

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Why Does Every Story Have a Villain?

In Waking the Dead, John Eldredge writes:

Little Red Riding Hood is attacked by a wolf. Dorothy must face and bring down the Wicked Witch of the est…Frodo is hunted by the Black Riders…Beowulf kills the monster Grendel…Saint George kills the Dragon. The children who stumbled into Narnia are called upon by Aslan to battle the White Witch and her armies…

So why does every story have a villain?

“…Because yours does.”

What are the villains in your life, your Story? Addictions, vices, work, bad habits, crazy people… As Eldredge writes, we are “born into a world at war.” He is coming from the perspective of Evil that was long ago unleashed in the world and seeks to undermine all that is good.

Our stories have villains because our stories are inspired by life. Fiction is only fact in different clothes.

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Have you Abandoned your Story?

Every wonder why stories speak to people as they do? Is it, as Brent Curtis and John Eldredge write in The Sacred Romance, that it is written into our very beings?

Life is not a list of propositions, it is a series of dramatic scenes. As Eugene Peterson said, “We live in narrative, we live in story. Existence has a story shape to it. We have a beginning and an end, we have a plot, we have characters.” Story is the language of the heart. Our souls speak not in the naked facts of mathematics or the abstract propositions of systematic theology…Contrast your enthusiasm for studying a textbook with…read[ing] a novel, or listen[ing] to the stories of someone else’s life.

Is it any wonder why stories of people finding their purpose, their part of the Story, never go away? A little Hobbit defeats evil and saves Middle Earth…frail Steve Rogers becomes Captain America…Luke Skywalker doesn’t want to stand on the sidelines anymore… Perhaps it is because we too often abandon our story?

Children aren’t a bad place to look when we’re trying to get beyond the cynicism of adulthood…Before skepticism takes over (what we mistakenly call maturity), children intuit the true Story as a fairy tale…the best fairy tales aren’t romantic in the poor sense of the word. They are realistic, only more so. There are ogres and evil sorcerers and wicked stepmothers, to be sure. But they are neither the whole story or the heart of it. There are genuine heroes and heroines and a cause to live for that is worth dying for. There is a quest or a journey strewn with danger and the stakes could never be higher.

Choose to not ignore that you are part of something bigger than your day to day tasks and busyness. Find your place in the Story.

It is not too late.

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Are You Reading Enough?

Author Nadine Brandes asks the question, and explains why and how you should be.

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Win AtS for your Kindle

Want a free Kindle copy of Among the Shadows? Of course you do! But you have to answer these three questions from classic sci-fi:

  1. What is the name of the Princess of Mars?
  2. Where is Thongor from?
  3. What planet did Carson Napier travel to?

Use the Contact form to send the answers, and I’ll send the first person who answers all three correctly a copy of my book for your Kindle (Hint: All the answers can be found on this website).

Good luck!

Update: We have a winner! TeacherofYA answered all three correctly:

1. Dejah Thoris is the Princess of Mars, from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom tales.
2. Thongor is from Valkarth (or I would have accepted Lemuria) from Lin Carter’s Thongor of Lemuria fantasy series.
3. While John Carter was on Mars, Carson Napier was on Venus in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Carson of Venus adventures.

Congrats to our winner, and watch for more contests coming soon!

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8 Heroes of Krynn

Always on the lookout for a new fantasy series, I ran across Dragonlance a few weeks ago. It turns out the series isn’t new, but began way back in 1984 with Dragons of Autumn Twilight. This would spawn nearly 200 books in a shared universe. In the book world, a “shared universe” is a series of books written by multiple authors.

Dragonlance is set in the mythical land of Krynn. Like many “classic” fantasy tales, it is populated with races of humans and other creatures, battles between good and evil, and those who must rise up and decide the fate of the world. I know there are some who look down upon such stories as a “trope” — and I’m sure whatever they are reading is high-level, amazing literature — but the rise of heroes to battle evil is a timeless theme that crosses genres and speaks to our own existence.

What often makes or breaks a story is its characters. Dragons of Autumn Twilight introduces readers to Kyrnn’s most memorable band of friends, whom have already been trough much together before we drop in their world, only to be faced with far greater threats. Book 1 finds the heroes in one dangerous encounter after another — probably reflective of the authors being involved in creating Dungeons & Dragons games. As the series progresses, the epic scope expands across Krynn. Continue reading

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The End of Shannara

For four decades now, Terry Brooks has penned his epic Shannara fantasy series. Now, he has decided to bring it to a close.

More or less.

Recently announced, he will write the chronicological end of his creation in a series of books. Then he may — or may not — go back and write some books to fill in gaps in the series.

With nearly 30 books in the series thus far, Shannara has become a staple world in the fantasy genre. It emerged at a time when high fantasy fans didn’t have much to choose from. When I had read everything Tolkien had written (which, unfortunately, wasn’t a lot), a friend recommenced Terry Brooks. While some argued his first book, The Sword of Shannara was too much like LotR, the series quickly established itself as an original world. So for Tolkien fans, Brooks provided a land of humans, elves and other creatures that filled the post-Tolkien void.

As a series goes, some of the books are self-contained standalones, though most are trilogies. This makes it easy for new fans to drop into Shannara without necessarily going back to the first book. The books, or groups of books, usually are separated by decades, if not centuries of time. One issue fans of the epic Wheel of Time series have, is that if you started it as a kid, you didn’t finish it until you had kids. Plus, you can’t start at, say, volume 12. On the other hand, I’m sure many Shannara fans have hoped for Brooks to go back and revisit their favorite characters.

I recommend starting with the first book, but regardless where you begin, Shannara is a land that will endure for ages to come.

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Distant Lands and Fantastic Places

One of the main goals of any novel is sending readers to locations real or imagined. What of the real ones, though? Does a writer have to travel to those places before writing an authentic story?

Many writers love traveling the world for research, and this certainly not a bad idea. Fusing your novelist career with that of a world travel would be fun, but isn’t always a feasible option. Especially if you’re writing about some dangerous region or perhaps a real, yet inaccessible place, such as Mars.

The truth is that a writer needs to be able to make a reader believe he or she is somewhere they have never been — whether or not the writer theirself has. In the Information Age where you can learn of any place — though I have learned that other books are often just as, if not more, valuable — any writer should be able to quickly drop a reader into another world.

You always run the risk of a reader who has been to your chosen locales finding a inaccuracy or omission. While a writer should strive for realism, part of writing well is picking the right, and enough, details to paint the mental picture. Going to a historic location in a novel shouldn’t read like a history lesson. Nor should it be a simple laundry list of descriptors.

Stonehenge and Glastonbury Tor are among the places that figure into Among the Shadows, anchoring the fantasy adventure in the real world. One of the opening scenes in Book 2, Awakening, unfolds on Nan Madol, a mysterious and ancient, ruined city in the Western Pacific. While visiting these places would be a fun way to write, not visiting them is a welcome challenge in creation, as much as is the world-building that fantasy and sci-fi genres are known for.

A writer explores to write, a reader reads to explore. Or is it a writer writes what he wants to read, and a reader reads what she wants to write? In either case, a great book should be like that looking glass or wardrobe and send you to another place and time.

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