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What's New:

The Neverland's Library Anthology is now on sale! With an introduction by Tad Williams and stories by Mark Lawrence, Marie Brennan, Jeff Salyards, Miles Cameron, Joseph R. Lallo, Mercedes M. Yardley, William Meikle, J.M. Martin, Teresa Frohock, and many more, the Neverland's Library Anthology is a collection of original works will take readers back to that moment when they first fell in love with the genre.

Miserere is now available at Audible.

My short story "Naked the Night Sings" is only one of the many fine stories in the urban fantasy anthology Manifesto: UF, edited by Tim Marquitz and Tyson Mauermann, Angelic Knight Press, 2013.

Free!

 

Death comes for us all.

Keep her as your friend.

 Read "La Santisima"

Novels

"Filled with show me now and tell me later prose, [Miserere] was one of the finest debuts of 2011 and remains a novel that I remember details from nearly three years later." Justin Landon, Tor.com

Download an excerpt of Miserere here

Sunday
Sep222013

all the things ... and a snippet from Cygnet Moon

The joy of having a writing partner (or group) is that I am on task to finish certain projects within a specified period of time. My writing partner and I are old friends, and I am so very fortunate that she is in my life.

We meet every two weeks and we are determined to have at least one chapter ready to be read. On the weeks that we do not meet, we touch base via email and describe what we've been doing. Most people think that writers write and that is all that writers do. However, part of her list included organizing her notes and outlining where she wants her chapter to go. My list included marketing (revamping the web site, setting up a profile on BookLikes, and working on a guest post for Bastard Books), writing chapter three of Cygnet Moon, and world-building.

World-building this week included coming up with animals to represent certain hours such as in the Chinese zodiac. I want to do something similar with Cygnet Moon, but I wanted to change the animals so that they all were birds. So my hours look like this:

Chinese zodiac

Hours

Cygnet zodiac

Rat

23:00 – 00:59

Heron

Ox

1:00 – 02:59

Stork

Tiger

03:00 – 04:59

Swan

Rabbit

05:00 – 06:59

Grouse

Dragon

07:00 – 08:59

Dragon

Snake

09:00 – 10:59

Crane

Horse

11:00 – 12:59

Phoenix

Goat

13:00 – 14:59

Gull

Monkey

15:00 – 16:59

Osprey

Rooster

17:00 – 18:59

Rooster

Dog

19:00 – 20:59

Dove

Pig

21:00 – 22:59

Swift

 

These are all fairly arbitrary right now. I didn't really put a lot of thought into why I chose this bird or that one, it was more like scrolling through a list and seeing what felt right. I don't let myself become too hung up with minor details during the zero draft portion of the story. What I have created is what I like to call "place holders." These are details that may or may not change, but they give me the ability to achieve the desired mood while filling in the broader strokes of the story itself.

So that is what I did with my week of writing.

Oh. And I've almost finished chapter three of Cygnet Moon, which is turning into a very dark fairy tale. I'll leave you with a teensy snippet:

“Makar,” Mother whispered my name. A thin line of salvia trailed from her bottom lip to the rim of the cup. “I feel as if he is here.”

Fear hardened around my heart.

Balian gestured to the guards with her staff. “Search the room! Seize him!”

Mother raised her head. “Be still!” Her voice emitted a shrill note I’d never heard her use before.

Balian seemed to shrink inside her voluminous robes.

“They will not find him. His body is not here, he is merely watching, hiding in the shadows, seeing what shouldn’t be seen. Ungrateful, spiteful child.”

Mother makes Catarina look like a novice, because Mother isn't emotionally unstable, she is just plain evil.

Wicked women rule.

Carry on and read books for pleasure.

I'll be making words ...

Thursday
Sep192013

riding the razor's edge--urban fantasy and horror

What is the razor's edge that divides urban fantasy from horror? 

I give a few thoughts on the subject of riding that razor’s edge between horror and urban fantasy and talk about my short story "Naked the Night Sings," which appears in the Manifesto: UF anthology. I have a guest post this week with urban fantasy author Suzanne Johnson. If you don't know Suzanne, she is the urban fantasy author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series. You can read all about Suzanne's books here.

Suzanne is giving away a copy of Miserere too and all you have to do to enter is leave a comment. Come on over and join the discussion!

Monday
Sep092013

Writing other cultures -- Diversity in SFF

Or writing outside of your comfort zone, as I like to call it.

I'm not talking about sprinkling people with different colored skin throughout my novel, or even about adding a gay person here or there to show diversity. I'm talking about taking the time and energy to immerse myself in another person's skin. It's not an easy thing to do, but writing about other cultures has broadened my world view and raised my awareness; it has made me more empathic to other people who live differently than me.

I try to follow three rules when writing outside my comfort zone: 

  1. Talk to people from the culture or who live the lifestyle that I'm trying to represent, and if possible, ask someone from that culture to beta read the story for me. That is the best way possible to prevent stereotypical errors that I might be blind to but that someone from that culture would be highly sensitive about.
  2. Read and watch documentaries about the people and/or time period that I want to portray. I try really hard to immerse myself in someone else's world before I put the first word down.
  3. Be respectful.

When I first started Garden in Umber, I had one character who I knew was gay. He was a very minor character, not one who I saw as rising up to take over the story, but he did. In the beginning, Diago was almost an afterthought, a side-character and a very stereotypical gay man. I'm almost ashamed to admit that now, but if I don't tell you where I began, you won't truly understand how I learned the lessons that I did.

While I worked on my character sketches, I happened upon some blog posts about the lack of competently rendered gay characters in novels, especially in SFF. The more I read, the more I realized that my character was exactly what people hated to see, and they very clearly articulated why they found a lot of the gay characters offensive.

Sometime around this same period, Dark Scribe magazine did an interview with several gay horror authors (The Fear of Gay Men: A Roundtable Discussion on the New Queer), one of whom I had met online and whose work I greatly admire. I emailed Robert Dunbar, explained the situation, and Rob set up a place for me to ask questions. Then he did the most generous thing of all and asked some of the fine gentlemen who participated in the Dark Scribe interview to answer my questions.

Other members of the online gay community showed up and were very generous with both their time and their honesty. One thing they said, over and over, was that they were tired of seeing gay characters being all about sex. They said (and rightly so) that gay people are whole, complex people with many passions and many loves--that there was more to being gay than sex.

In short, they taught me many things and directed me to some wonderful resources. My character Diago went from being a frivolous stereotype to being a much darker character, but he has reason to be dark.

I don't know anything about being a gay man in the 14th century, but I do understand what it means to have people treat you badly because of who and what you are. I know what it means to be shut out of "polite" society, and all I can do is translate those feelings of loss to Diago and Miquel.

To honor all those people who took the time to answer my questions, Garden in Umber is about love, not sex, because sex is not always about love. Love is about acceptance and thinking beyond yourself, and those are the themes of Garden in Umber.

Writing Garden in Umber took me far outside my comfort zone, but it was a worthwhile journey. I learned to understand love from an entirely different viewpoint. Hopefully, I've translated all these things accurately, and if I haven't, I hope people will at least appreciate the fact that I tried.

Of course, if I hadn't read those posts on gay characters a few years ago, I never would have undertaken my journey the way I have. If I hadn't asked questions or reached out, I would have written another stereotypical gay character from a heterosexual viewpoint.

Having learned my lesson with Garden, I decided to use the same approach when I wrote my short story "La Santisima." The story initially began as a story about the drug war, but I was at a loss for a supernatural element for the story. I contacted Sabrina Vourvoulias, who kindly answered my questions and pointed me toward some valuable resources. Through those resources, my story opened up to shift completely away from drugs to immigration. The story became less of a cliche and more realistic than I imagined.

Sabrina kindly read the story for me and she advised removing and rewriting portions that were stereotypical and might be offensive to people. Neither of the things that Sabrina picked up on were intentionally introduced to be racist, but they reflected my ignorance about the culture. So I tweaked the trouble spots again, and now I'm very pleased with the story.

Writing diversity into stories takes the author (and the reader if the author has done his or her job properly) outside of the confinements and comfort of commonly perceived notions. It's not easy writing, but that is why I call it writing outside of my comfort zone.

Nor will I lie to you, it is harder to get these stories published, at least for now. Publishers are hesitant to try new things, but to their credit, publishers are giving us works by Nnedi Okorafor, NK Jemisin, Saladin Ahmed and more. Authors like Sabrina are utilizing small publishers like Crossed Genres to get their important works and voices heard. Maybe if we write more and more stories with people of different lifestyles and cultures, these works will become easier to sell. I'm willing to take that chance. I hope you'll take the chance and read a book by someone from a culture different from your own.

If you have a moment, recommend a novel or story that has changed the way you think about a certain culture or lifestyle. Name an author whose work put you outside of your comfort zone.

Tuesday
Sep032013

a guest post over at a bitter draft

This week, I'm hanging out over at Patrick Doherty's blog, A Bitter Draft, with a guest post that contains some of my random thoughts on religion in fantasy. I talk about religion, fanatics, and societies, oh ... my! Check it out.

I'll be back next week to tell you about the movie Solomon Kane and why I enjoyed it, but for now ... go say hi to Patrick and tell him that I sent you.

Monday
Aug262013

Manifesto: UF is out

Just in case you missed all the excitement yesterday, the ebook urban fantasy anthology Manifesto:UF is officially out. [Let me pause here to give a shout-out and say thanks to the folks at Reddit r/fantasy and SFFWorld.com for helping us get the word out last night! You guys rock!]

Manifesto features my short story "Naked the Night Sings." This anthology is really special to me because "Naked the Night Sings" qualifies as my very first short story sale.

Angelic Knight Press has released the ebook edition of Manifesto: UF and it is live on Amazon.com. For those of you who are print aficionados, print will follow sometime within the next few weeks.

I love anthologies because they're like Whitman's samplers: you get a chance to see an author's writing style and how he or she carries a story without the full time commitment of a novel. If you take a bite and find a certain story isn't to your taste, move right on to the next one. This anthology is like a box of rich dark chocolate and is full of interesting nuggets.

Now I want chocolate.

Of course, just throwing a bunch of stories together isn't what makes an anthology good. I would recommend following Ryan Lawler's advice to read the stories in order. Tim and Tyson did a magnificent job of creating a flow between one story and the next.

If you have missed it anywhere else, the table of contents for Manifesto: UF is:

Rev – Kirk Dougal
I’m an Animal. You’re an Animal, Too – Zachary Jernigan
Los Lagos Heat – Karina Fabian
Savage Rise – Adam Millard
Front Lines, Big City – Timothy Baker
Break Free – Ryan Lawler
Naked the Night Sings – Teresa Frohock
Double Date – Andrew Moczulski
That Old Tree – R.L. Treadway
Dharmasankat – Abhinav Jain
Nephilim – TSP Sweeney
Toejam & Shrapnel – Nickolas Sharps
Green Grow the Rashes – William Meikle
Under the Dragon Moon – Jonathan Pine
Gold Dust Woman – Kenny Soward
Wizard’s Run – Joshua S. Hill
Chains of Gray – Betsy Dornbusch
Bloody Red Sun of Fantastic LA – Jake Elliot
Queen’s Blood – Lincoln Crisler
Beneath a Scalding Moon – Jeff Salyards
Separation Anxiety – J.M. Martin
Blessing and Damnation – Wilson Geiger
Jesse Shimmer Goes to Hell – Lucy A. Snyder

Well? What are you waiting for? Go sample!

Wednesday
Aug212013

why so silent?

While I'm letting a short story percolate, I've returned to work on Cygnet Moon. I don't have any taglines or blurbs for this novel yet, but I am thoroughly enjoying the story. The protagonist has finally begun to show me a few moments of subtle psychological imbalance. That trait has prevented the story from slipping into the tired old frame "young person goes into the world to mature."

Makar is twisted around the edges--his madness is embedded in his DNA and comes from both his mother and his father. I'm still discovering all of his quirks, but this one surprised me as I completed a scene the other day:

“Swear your loyalty to me, Makar.”

With the suffocating whiteness of her ar’nel gone, I could breathe freely once more. My eyes still burned and refused to focus properly, but I glimpsed the shadowy image of Balian as she stepped close to Mother’s side.

I disengaged myself from Tatiana’s grip and knelt before Mother. “I swear on the names of my ancestors and on the blessed name of my grandmother Queen of Heaven Norayn ib Jebid that I will fulfill my duties to our people and protect them from harm.”

“With your life.”

“With my life,” I whispered to the floor, then kissed the hem of her robe and made sure to smear my blood on the underside of her gown. She wouldn’t notice until this evening that she had carried a part of me with her all the day. The very thought of my blood on her person would horrify her. “I will not dishonor this house.”

Ah, family.

I've also been working on some guest posts that will be showing up online over the next few days and weeks. I'll keep you notified of when those go live.

I'm over at the Ranting Dragon, making a case for Marion Zimmer Bradley's novel The Mists of Avalon as my choice for their Great Fantasy Novel series.

Tomorrow, my big post of the week will be at BookSworn.

I'm really excited about the Manifesto: UF anthology that is coming September 1. I've had a chance to read several of the stories and I love the way that Tim and Tyson have segued from one story to the next. There is a definite flow to the anthology that makes reading the stories in order very smooth.

One thing I've loved about the various stories that I've read so far is the scope of urban fantasy. Manifesto: UF has a little something for everyone.

I'll be talking more about my story, "Naked the Night Sings," over at Suzanne Johnson's blog later in September. Suzanne is an agent-mate of mine, we're both represented by Marlene Stringer. You can read about Suzanne's urban fantasy novels right here.

While I worked on "Naked the Night Sings," I thought a lot about the fine line between urban fantasy and horror. Of course, we all know what happens when I start to think--either nothing good comes of it, or I end up writing an ungodly long blog post about it.

So that is what has been going on behind the scenes. I hope you've been busy too.

#SFWApro

Monday
Aug122013

on the grimdark ... again

Last week I wrote a blog post on epic fantasy, and in that post, I categorized my work under the term "dark fantasy." I mentioned in a footnote that I dislike the terms "grimdark" and "gritty" in reference to genre literature; therefore I do not use them. I find both of these terms rather meaningless--a notation that my friend and colleague David Annandale noted was a "hand grenade in a footnote."

Of course, another friend, whose opinion I respect, disagreed with me. He likes the term grimdark and finds it to be a useful descriptor of novels with darker themes.

Rather than justify the terms or even defend the novels, I'm going to tell you why I'm ceasing to use either of these expressions.

Obligatory cherub on skulls, the official pic of the Grimdark. Click on the picture to Know Your Meme.

But first, the obligatory "grimdark" picture of a fat cherub reclining on skulls. No blog post on grimdark is valid without it, so here it is for your viewing pleasure: 

There.

Aren't we all glad that's over with?

Thanks to Steve for sending me the link to the Know Your Meme site. Click the picture to read their version of the history of the term grimdark if you're unfamiliar with it. I doubt you are. Most of us have been exposed to the term in one form or another.

My first encounter with the term "gritty" was through a post by Leo Grin regarding what he termed as nihilistic fantasists. He took special umbrage with Joe Abercrombie's work. Grin derided Abercrombie's novels (and to be fair, several other authors) as nihilistic, an accusation that I disagree with, but that is another post for another day. The short analysis is that when balanced against the ultimate nihilistic novel, Grendel, by John Gardner, Abercrombie's work is all unicorns, kittehs, and rainbows.

Having read Abercrombie's work, I can attest that Adam Whitehead came closest in his analysis by stating that Abercrombie's work is "gritty, violent, morally ambiguous and darkly funny fantasy with a streak of intelligent cynicism." Whitehead used the word "gritty" as an adjective, which is apropos of the work. He did not use the word to deride (there's that word again) Abercrombie's style.

I have a couple of reasons that I'm beginning to avoid the usage of gritty or grimdark to allude to a literary form, and these reasons are simply personal. For a long time, neither gritty nor grimdark bothered me until recently when I've noticed more and more that the terms are used more often as a pejorative indictment rather than as a stylistic descriptor. There is a difference between these two things. You're all literate, I don't need to explain it to you.

I don't believe that we, meaning the genre community, need to be involved in condescending critiques over which is better: non-violent or violent fantasy. People are going to read the novels that they enjoy reading, and rather than disparage one form over the other, I think we should be rather grateful that we all can find such a huge variety of work to choose from.

The second reason has more to do with the actual meaning of the word. One fine day, I was on Reddit where the discussion had turned to the grimdark and someone noted that Poe and Lovecraft were grimdark. That stopped me.

Poe wrote mysteries and horror, Lovecraft wrote horror. Grimdark was becoming a catch-all for anything with a hint of dread in the storyline and, to me, that diluted the meaning of the word.

I made a comment in my review of Abercrombie's The Blade Itself that "I couldn’t help but think that if Joseph Wambaugh decided to write fantasy, The Blade Itself is what it would look like." That does not mean that I believe Joseph Wambaugh writes grimdark. I meant that stylistically the two authors exhibit the same penchant for dark humor and sharp prose.

Joseph Wambaugh does not write grimdark. That would be like saying that Gillian Flynn writes grimdark novels. Gillian Flynn writes thrillers. Dark and luscious and haunting but thrillers--not grimdark.

Going back to the Reddit Poe/Lovecraft comment, I've always considered horror to be more of a psychological literary form whereas grimdark and all of its associations seemed to be more material. Yet as that Reddit conversation illustrates, there are some readers who consider horror grimdark.

This does not make these readers bad or wrong or terrible. I simply disagree that grimdark and horror are interchangable. If they were, why bother inventing a new word to encompass an old idea? There are subtle differences between the two styles and while I would love to do a line by line critique, I don't have time for that and time to write the stories and the blog posts and do ALL THE THINGS. Because, time.

My point, however, is this: to take a term like grimdark and apply it so universally (to thrillers and horror and any dark novel) tends to rob the word of meaning. I don't consider grimdark to be nihilistic, nor do I find it appropriate to make grimdark a universal tag for all forms of dark fiction.

You may disagree and that is certainly fine with me. I think if you enjoy novels with more intrigue than violence, then you shouldn't be shamed for disliking darker fantasies. Likewise, readers and authors who enjoy darker fictions shouldn't be castigated for reading or writing those stories.

I once asked my daughter what she thought of a particular novel she was reading at the time. She shrugged and it was very vanilla. I asked her if that was bad and she said no, sometimes she enjoyed a vanilla novel; although, she drew the line at sugar-free vanilla.

Which, in turn, made me think of ice cream and tastes. Some of us like vanilla, others need a little more flavor, so it is with our reading preferences--some of us like sweet stories, some of us enjoy the bitterness of dark chocolate. Then I couldn't stop thinking about ice cream and I had to go eat some, but that is another post for another day.

Frankly, I'd like to see us, meaning the genre community, do a lot less arguing and be more respectful of one another and our diversity. We'd be an awfully dull lot if we liked all of the same things all of the time. Discussion is good; however, let's try a little harder to disagree without being disagreeable.

If you're so inclined, leave a comment and tell me what you consider grimdark and how you define the word. Take the conversation to Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit. I'll be watching to see what you say. As always, I'm interested in your opinion.

#SFWApro

Saturday
Aug102013

do spider webs make my site look fat?

For those of you who are regular visitors, you've probably noticed a slightly different background and header on the web site each week. I needed a change, something that fit me and the stories that I write. I have tried and rejected several different looks for the site, kind of like trying on clothes to see what fits and feels right.

I don't like headers or backgrounds that are jarring or detract from the content. Sparkles and vulgar colors don't become me.

In terms of web sites overall, I tend to repeatedly visit those that are easy on the eyes and the focus is on content, not gimmicks. This is why I eschew a lot of the flash and glitter that is available in web design. To me, a good site is more about personalty, mood, and most importantly, content.

I think I've finally got the right combination for me. This is the first time in weeks that I don't find something that I want to tweak everytime log on to write a post.

So now that I've tried on several different looks, tell me: do spider webs make my site look fat?

Monday
Aug052013

epic or not, that is the question

When I wrote the review for Helen Lowe's Heir of Night last week, I started thinking about epic fantasy--what it is and what does it mean in relation to my own novels. I know fans and authors have a lot of definitions of "epic fantasy" but I just wanted a good literary description of "epic." In my search, I came across this:

"Epic" refers to long narrative poems portraying adventures. The adventures consist of episodes which contribute to the formation of a race or nation. The "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" are two folk epics attributed to Homer. Other examples of epics include "Beowulf," and "Mahabharata."

Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia; 1996, p324-324, 1/5p

If we remove "poem" from this definition and change the term to "story," then we have: "'Epic' refers to a story portraying adventures. The adventures consist of episodes which contribute to the formation of a race or nation."

Epic fantasy would then be a story that portrays adventures. The second portion of the definition is where we sometimes shift our focus from the people (or intelligent non-human race) to the world. World building can easily overshadow the human or racial elements of the story, depending on both the reader’s expectations and the author’s intent.

Everyone refers to Tolkien as the archetypal epic fantasy, and occasionally the discussion becomes so mired on the epic nature of the story and world building that people sometimes forget that Tolkien's characters shaped the story through their choices. Boromir's ambition overcame his better nature and he failed to make the right choice whereas Aragorn remained true to the Fellowship from beginning to end.

Tolkien spent a lot time on his characters' respective backgrounds and he did it for a reason--how an individual is brought up can very easily shape his or her nature. Aragorn lost his father when he was too young to remember him, but he was raised amongst the elves with Elrond as his adoptive father. He was surrounded with positive influences. That is not to say he was perfect. Aragorn was given to self-doubt, yet he always struck me as a humble character, one whose early misfortune was counterbalanced by Elrond's steadying influence.

Boromir, on the other hand, had a much different upbringing and personality. His father was a grim man. Boromir desired the trappings of a king rather than the more humble position of a steward. He craved honors and questioned the leadership of Gandalf and others within the company. Although his intentions were not evil, his behavior often placed the Fellowship at risk.

Here, it seems I've slipped off course, but not really. The fate of Frodo and the ring (and therefore the fate of Middle Earth) hinges on these two men and the decisions they make from the core of their integrity. To me, that is much more epic than the world building.

Another excellent example of relationships in an epic fantasy is Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon. Here, the relationships and decisions of Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar shape the course of Britain. The entire culture is affected by who wields the most influence over King Arthur. Yet Bradley keeps the focus of her work deeply attuned to the relationships between the women in Arthur’s court.

Epic.

In both of these stories, and many more, the characters shape the course of the world through their decisions. For a very long time, I avoided using the word epic in regard to my own work, because I don't write about worlds--I write about people. Worlds bore me. People, on the other hand, hold an infinite number of possibilities. Our choices are more often based on emotion than we would like to admit. Allegiances can change on the spur of a moment, based on logic, impulse, and the proverbial gut feeling.

Is Miserere epic? In many ways it is. Rachael and John's choices influence Woerld's events. The course of the war with the Fallen depends on the choices that Rachael, John, and the other Seraphs make. Lucian switches his allegiance from the Citadel to his sister, then decides to switch his allegiance back to the Citadel. His decision changes the course of the war and shifts the balance of power, yet he changes his allegiance not for the good of Woerld but for very personal reasons.

Under this definition, Garden in Umber is much more epic than Miserere. Guillermo, Diago, and Miquel must overcome their pasts in order to shape the course of their world and ours; however, unlike Miserere, the ramifications of any decisions in Garden will have more immediate impact on the characters and their world. Since Garden is still on submission, that is all I can say about it right now, but even more so than Miserere, Garden falls within the definition of epic.

Epic fantasy is about how worlds and cultures are shaped, but only in the most peripheral sense. Epic fantasy is really very much about the people who shape those worlds.

Does this mean that all fantasy is epic? No. There is a great deal of breadth within the sub-genres that leave room for all types of fantasy, but epic fantasy is, in all probability, the best known.

One of the most wonderful aspects of epic fantasy is its many faces: some stories are the more traditional epics such as the ones written by Lowe and Brooks and others are of the darker* variety such as those of Martin and Lawrence. My work falls somewhere between the two extremes, but leans more toward dark fantasy than the more traditional versions. I avoid nihilism, because I simply am not nihilistic myself. Yet I don't shy from the hard facts, the terrible scenes, because to me, these are the quintessential moments that shape our lives.

It is only in our darkest moments that we find our true light, and I believe very much in redemption. Boromir recanted his failure to act nobly when he recounted his crime against Frodo to Aragorn. People can change, and those changes often do affect the course of nations. Likewise, an individual's decision not to change his or her behavior can also create turbulence not just in the personal realm, but in the greater world as Mark Lawrence shows us with Jorg.

Once upon time, I avoided the "epic" tag to my work for fear that people would mistake my novels for young adult forays into the genre. I don't feel that young adult novels are bad; however, I saw the negative feelings that YA readers had when they read my work. I don't want to misrepresent what I write. I certainly don't want people to read a book they won't enjoy.

My work is dark and sometimes borders on horror. My friend Peter Cooper once dubbed me with the tagline of "deliciously creepy" fantasy. I'll take that.

Drop your "epic" opinions into the comments if you like, or share them on Facebook, Twitter, or your own blog. I'm always interested in hearing your views on the subject. If you want to tell me why you think Miserere may or may not be epic, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

_____________________________

*I avoid the use of the terms "grimdark" and "gritty" fantasy. These two terms are meaningless.

#SFWApro

Wednesday
Jul312013

The Heir of Night--Review

Thanks to Helen Lowe for her patience--she has waited a very long time for me to get to her novel, Heir of Night. If you will remember, back in January, I talked about doing a book exchange with Helen in this post. Unfortunately, due to several issues between my day job and my writing committments, I have been highly delinquent on my portion of the exchange and I apologize to Helen for this.

Meanwhile, I've carved some time aside to read Heir of Night.

Just to refresh your memory and reiteriate a bit, in the Heir of Night ...

If Night falls, all fall . . .

In the far north of the world of Haarth lies the bitter mountain range known as the Wall of Night. Garrisoned by the Nine Houses of the Derai, the Wall is the final bastion between the peoples of Haarth and the Swarm of Dark—which the Derai have been fighting across worlds and time.

Malian, Heir to the House of Night, knows the history of her people: the unending war with the Darkswarm; the legendary heroes, blazing with long-lost power; the internal strife that has fractured the Derai's former strength. But now the Darkswarm is rising again, and Malian's destiny as Heir of Night is bound inextricably to both ancient legend and any future the Derai—or Haarth—may have.

The Heir of Night is the first book of the Wall of Night series, which is a more traditional epic fantasy (think Brooks, not Abercrombie), a sub-genre that I don't normally gravitate toward; however, I wanted to challenge my reading habits in 2013 and try new novels and new authors. I never know when a novel will introduce me to a new way of thinking or bring me back to a sub-genre that I drifted away from, such as the more traditional epic fantasies that I enjoyed so much when I was younger.

In The Heir of Night, Lowe tweaks the old tropes by giving us a female protagonist, Malian, a precocious young woman who finds that there is much more to being a hero than she first imagined. What interested me was how Lowe deviated from the traditional third worlds of epic fantasy with her backstory of the Darkswarm and the Derai.

The Darkswarm and the Derai move across space to fight through the centuries on different worlds, a storyline that gives Heir of Night a science fictional spin. Lowe utilizes necromancy and other dark arts to give the novel the right touch of dread for epic fantasy fans--not so much as to qualify for horror, but just enough to send a shiver down your spine.

Lowe keeps a firm grip on her world and her magic systems to deliver a well written, well told story, and I can think of no greater compliment to give to another writer. If you enjoy Tad Williams, David Eddings, and Terry Brooks, then you will definitely enjoy Lowe's Wall of Night series.