JordanCon is just around the corner! The convention, dedicated to Robert Jordan and The Wheel of Time series, takes place April 20th through the 22nd in Atlanta, Georgia. This year, there are many authors that write across the large spectrum of speculative fiction. But Sargon Donabed started with academic non-fiction focusing on folklore before starting to write his fantasy novels. He also has a PhD in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations and is currently working on a MS in Anthrozoology/Animal Studies. Q: Thank you for joining me, Sargon! Your rich background in ancient and modern societies is impressive. Does this knowledge give you a jumping off point for building your own fantasy worlds? Thank you for the interview Mashiara. It’s very kind of you to offer me this opportunity for folks to get to know my work. To answer the question, yes. Only recently had I recognized that some of the (mostly minoritized and indigenous) communities I work with/on, are not only marginalized in their own regions, but also in fantasy literature. Noticing the palpable hunger for distinct perspectives on fantasy, especially through recent works in the field, has led me to rethink ways in which I could offer my reflections, through the imaginative process, on the struggles, triumphs, and simply the lives of those with less of a voice. Q: What correlations do you see between fantasy tropes and mythology? Do you think there any new ideas or is everything rehashed from old beliefs? That is an interesting question. I suppose I see little or no difference. In a course I recently taught, my students began reading Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces then moved to Karen Armstrong’s A Short History of Myth. Campbell of course speaks of a holistic approach and refers to the heroic epic as the monomyth, reflective of human desires in all societies. Armstrong on the other hand shows the progression of the ways in which a changing human society described its place in the world, as it also explained the surrounding world. I think new ideas are always formed, but I do think they are necessarily directly created from old ideas. In other words, I do not believe things exist in a vacuum though I do see a holism to existence. Q: You’re currently working on two fantasy series. One, a retelling of Gilgamesh, is intended for a YA audience. Can you tell us your plans for those stories? I think I can. At least I hope so. So, the work is meant to be a traditional trilogy, though I am writing the second book first. Long story. In any case, book one Lineage of the Ancients is a fantasy steeped in Mesopotamian lore and set on a parallel world where the earth is an ecotopian paradise resplendent with ancient creatures and magical beings. It blends historical fantasy and alternate history where Gilgamesh, King of the ancient city of Uruk in Mesopotamia and designer of civilization, died confronting Humbaba, beast of the cedar forest, while Enkidu, his semi-feral companion, survived. Thanks to Enkidu’s ingestion of the elixir of life, which in our version Gilgamesh found and lost, Enkidu and his particularly undomesticated brand of Mesopotamian culture lived on as a prevailing ethos (rather than a cradle of human civilization), governing the Near East and surrounding regions. A place where reverence for the natural world and the ancient deity Shakkan/Sumuqan, lord of the wild and its denizens, stands as patron. Since I started with book two, I suppose I should speak of that first. Scion of the Ancients, shadows a brother and sister, Nem and Sina growing up along the New England coastal forests with their stalwart and respective feline and canine companions, a Bengal cat and kugsha-tamaskan mix, meet a shaggy unkempt and largely feral recluse who claims the children are of an ancient lineage through which they have been gifted with the power to meld – to transform or merge into animal state, able to interact with them and their communities. At least a child of the untamed has such abilities. A child of the hand maintains an innate ability, driven by the creative spark, to fashion objects of power. The children themselves have this primordial magic due to their relation to a prehistoric Mesopotamian lineage which includes an ability to meld, but only if they are able to procure a nasaru, a guardian/protector, who incidentally, have been hunted to extinction since the fall of ancient Assyria! This revelation coincides with the mysterious arrival of Taela, a peculiar young woman who speaks their native language (sort of) as well as seemingly communicate with their animal companions. But what is perhaps most mind boggling for the young siblings is why Taela insists on an audience with the famed King of Uruk, Gilgamesh, an ancient historical figure dead and buried over 4,000 years ago! Q: Your other series is going to be high fantasy. Why types of magic systems will this series include? Well, here is an older elevator pitch. Explaining anything to 8-year olds is taxing – try explaining they might be gods. Ancient races and deities enter human reality in this epic fantasy entitled Of Beasts and Mischief: The Unremembered Book One, at 100,000 words. The novel follows the travails of a teenage girl with an ability to ride souls and a young man problematically preoccupied with a not-so-forgotten myth as they investigate the origins of two furtive children with mystical abilities. If I gave a bit more detail - The story centers on 4 major characters from distinct communities who have each received a summons from a winged messenger working for the confederation of Nirad with the great honor to participate in the Drasha, a contest/reenactment of the ancient rite of passage for initiates of a long dead mythical race. What the participants do not realize is the contest is real and the stakes are not only life and death, but also the very existence of all they hold dear. Their only clue to completing the Drasha unscathed is a book of fables for children entitled, The Unremembered. Q: How do you balance your academic studies, your academic teaching, and your writing? I don’t. Hell, half the time I fall into a new world, half asleep. It’s tough to be honest. I am still learning. But the academic job pays the bills for now. More important is a good balance for family life and play. Tough in the never-ending New England winters, but important none the less. I must say I would love a few years just swimming and enjoying the sun on a beach, surrounded by pristine nature. So, imagining that as a possibility always helps! Yoga, martial arts, soccer, hiking, time with friends and family, enjoying the good of the earth with a sense of reverence; those things are important. Q: You’ve published many academic papers and articles. When did your desire for writing fiction come about? Money. I wanted to make lots of money. Like, sick money. You know the kind that Bieber has…? Legit joke. Beyond that… I suppose I recognized that fantasy literature had more of a profound effect on my writing, even as an academic, than any academic work I had ever written. From the academic side, I recall the impression left on me by Defending Middle-Earth: Tolkien: Myth and Modernity by Patrick Curry. If you have not read it, I suggest you do so. I was enamored by his sense of re-enchanting reality and the natural world against the machine of modernity. I love that. I think the wonder and hope that children inherently have can make us better creatures. Kinder, have more empathy. I think fantasy can teach this in a way other avenues can’t, or don't. Q: Which fantasy authors have had an influence on your writing? Certainly, Robert Jordan. You’d had to have read my first monograph but, I top quoted one of my favorite lines about forging metal. I also thanked him in my intro. Plus, I entitled my first monograph Reforging a Forgotten History: Iraq and the Assyrians in the 20th century. So much Perrin in there. And Rand. And Sanderson I suppose. Shout out to Tolkien of course. Tad Williams world of Osten Ard. Ray Feist’s Magician – Midkemia is a wonderfully rich and, I believe grounding (in an ongoing active sense) is the right term, world with Pug and Tomas. Robin Hobb’s Assassin work, Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance and Deathgate Cycle work is just splendid and were my entrance into fantasy literature. More recently I fell in love with Erickson and Esselmont’s Malazan works – dear God are they intricate and dense. Grittier than what I hope to offer but their depth is unparalleled in my opinion. For kids works, I adore the Fablehaven series of Brandon Mull, read and reread numerous times, and can’t wait to read it to my daughter. Of course, Riordan’s Percy et al have reinvigorated a classical mythological world for a modern audience and made me think it just might be possible to chat about Mesopotamia and Assyria in a way that would attract an audience. Time shall tell. Q: Why did you decide to pick JordanCon to visit this year? The intimacy of a small venue. By small I speak in comparison to DragonCon or something of the like. Last year I found staff and attendees to be affable in their general attitude and kind as well as generous in their opinions of their passions. Plus, I think it’s vital to honor master storytellers. If nothing else we are a race of beings in need of myths to inspire and comfort us, I think high fantasy at its best leaves room for goodness, and fills us with hope. Q: Can you give us a sneak peek of which panels you’ll be on? Sure. I shall be on the following: Writing in a Sub-Culture, Great Fight Scenes, What should we be reading? Additionally, when I spoke with Thom a while back, I thought it may be fun to talk about how to integrate RJ/WOT into an academic course/setting. From that, there was crafted a Teaching Robert Jordan panel – “Discussing the importance of narrative storytelling, myth, & fantasy to the greater world, and as a gateway to student learning.” I’m stoked about that one. Ordinarily I only get to talk to academics about the course, so I’m thrilled to be inspired by ideas from people immersed in RJ/WOT and fantasy in general. Q: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or your works? Hmmm. I suppose I am most proud of myself (you know the me who loves fantasy and JordanCon etc.) for sneaking in some concepts/quotes into my academic works from some of my favorite fantasy series. I would love more feedback to see if there are others out there interested in my work. I hope that one of the things I can ignite in the hearts (besides acid indigestion) of others is a deeper connection to our non-human animal companions, and the natural world in general. It is necessary that we change our way of interacting with the world around us. Begin to look at others as siblings, companions, fellow subjects in this magical world, this life. Q: Thank you so much for talking with me. I’m looking forward to hearing your expertise on folklore and mythology! Thank you for the interview Mashiara. To find out more about Sargon Donabed you can visit his website.
We are almost there! JordanCon, the convention dedicated to Robert Jordan and The Wheel of Time series, takes place April 20th through the 22nd in Atlanta, Georgia. Just two weeks away! Today’s interview is with Paige L. Christie, author of the acclaimed The Legacies of Arnan series. Q: Welcome, Paige! How does your love of other cultures—specifically Middle Eastern and North African—shape The Legacies of Arnan series? This is such a great question! In this series, most of influence from ELTAM (Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco) is subtle – mostly in the dances and music mentioned. However, there is a good deal of influence from a different part of the world in the 2nd novel – specifically Eastern Tibet, where I had the good fortune to be able to visit in the fall of 2016 as part of a women’s pilgrimage tour. Place, and how people relate to it, is a large part of how these influences come through. Q: Draígon Weather, the first novel in the series, begins with Leiel’s mother being sacrificed to the monstrous Draígon. How do you take this classic element and put a fresh spin on it? The basic idea for Draigon Weather began with the question, “What if the woman tied to the rock waiting for the dragon to eat her, wanted to be there?” Why would that be? What would happen? Answering a question that flipped a trope, led to a trope-flipped story. More than that answer will spoil the book. Q: This series is planned to be four books long. Once completed, do you have another project you plan to work on? Yes – I have a couple ideas rattling around. One is a rural urban fantasy, which sounds weird, but I’m a small-town woman and I know rural areas far better than I do cities. I don’t usually write in the ‘real world,’ so this one would be a departure for me, a new challenge. Q: You’ve started each of your novels by participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). How has this helped or hindered your writing journey? Oh NaNoWriMo! Yes! I have been writing stories since I was 7 years old, but I never thought I really had any stories that people would be interested in reading. So, I just wrote in the closet. Only a couple people in my life even knew it was a passion of mine. Then my friend, Ellen – also a closet writer – found out, and in 2014 she talked me into NaNoWriMo. I had heard about it for years, but I never thought I could do it. But she insisted, and I caved, and I spent most of that November sleepless and in a daze, between fulltime work in retail and writing like I never had before. But come November 30th, I had 50 thousand words of something that I thought had a lot of potential. Ellen and I made a pact -- and we both kept writing and finished our first drafts. Then the real work began: editing and re-writing and repeat until the work is not crap any more. I am SO grateful to NaNoWriMo for the charts and community and tools that it gave me to encourage me to write every day, no matter how I was feeling. It taught me how to write no matter my mood, or how tired I was, or whether or not I thought what I was typing was crap. It taught me how to finish a long work. Ever since, I use it for a jumping off point to get a draft started. I have found I work best with deadlines and charts to keep me accountable, and NaNoWriMo is great for that. I am old enough to know that nothing I produce straight out of the event is worth a damn without a lot of follow up work, but I love the challenge. Plus NaNoWriMo is fun to say. Q: For your writing habits, you say you never write in linear order. How can you keep track of what you’ve already written and what is still left in your brain? I love this question! Honestly, my brain is a pretty wacky, non-linear place. According to every ‘personality test’ I have ever taken, my personality and the way I process information is shared by about 1% of the world population. I really can’t have a direct thought for trying. Everything I do on my life, as my mother would say, “I go around Robin Hood’s Barn” to get to. So, I’ll be working on a scene and have an idea of how that connects to something I already wrote – go back to that scene and type a note – or an idea for a new scene – open a folder and make a note – then back to what I am working on and keep writing. Often, I’ll just change font size in the middle of writing a scene and leave notes to myself in the middle of what I am working on. Then I keep going once the new thought clears itself. It’s messy and convoluted and it works beautifully for my brain. And truly, discovering Scrivener software was the greatest thing to ever happen to my writing. I can have all my scene written in whatever order works for me, color coded, keyworded, cross noted, and move them anywhere in the book on the fly, so the order I write them doesn’t matter at all. I also use Aeon Timeline to keep my events and character ages organized, and that helps keep the story making sense. Q: What is your biggest struggle with being an author? Or more specifically, what part of the writing process do you find requires the most effort? Starting. Just putting the first sentence of any new scene on the page is the most difficult thing for me. Even when I know what needs to happen, finding those first few words, the corner to peel back to access what needs to go into the scene – that’s what I struggle most with. The thing that makes so many writers crazy, namely editing the raw draft, is my favorite thing. It’s also why I love to do in-depth beta reads for my writing partners. Q: Writing is just one of the many jobs you currently have. Do you wish you could write full time? More than anything! I’ve been working-poor, with multiple jobs, for my whole life. I would love to write novels and stories and edit for a living. It’s the big dream, and I believe my books will get me there eventually. I don’t want to be a one-hit-wonder. I want my books to find their audience and endure. That’s a slower path, but I think it can unfold if I keep producing quality work. Having great writing partners, and a fabulous/dedicated editor/publisher is a huge part of that. I am extremely lucky! Q: This is your first JordanCon. What drew you to this convention? I’ve attended DragonCon (and other cons in the region) for a couple decades as just a happy participant. I’ve wanted to get to JordanCon for years, but life never worked out to allow me the time. Then I met Richard Fife at DragonCon in 2017, and the more he talked about JordanCon, the more I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer. I love classic fantasy and sci-fi writing and the idea of being at convention where that was deeply appreciated was extremely appealing. I’m so excited! Q: Can you give us a sneak peek of what panels you’ll be on? I’ll be on 3 panels and doing a reading this year! I have lots of great thoughts about for all of them, and I can’t wait to meet my fellow panelists and share with the audience. Friday April 20th * 2:30pm - Writing in a Sub-Culture: Be it sea-faring, military, or nihlist punk-rock bands, it can be difficult writing in a sub-culture. Come get tips! (Conference Center) * 4:00pm - Author Reading (Dogwood) Saturday April 21st * 10:00am - Myth and Monsters: The bump in the night is just the beginning! How mixing magic, mythology, monsters, and scenery create more than just a Friday night fright! (Maplewood A) Sunday April 22nd * 2:30pm - What SHOULD we be reading?: Come listen to some book suggestions from our Staff and Guests! (Maplewood A) Q: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or your works? I’m an opinionated, cat loving, scotch-drinking, over-educated, belly dancer, Yankee redneck lover of chocolates who writes books my publisher classifies as “High Fantasy Meets High Noon.” If any of that sounds interesting, come meet me and check out my books! Q: Thank you so much for talking with me! I’m anxiously awaiting JordanCon, and the chance to meet you in person! To find out more about Paige L. Christie, you can visit her website, or check out her Facebook or Twitter accounts.
JordanCon is fast approaching. The convention, dedicated to Robert Jordan and The Wheel of Time series, takes place April 20th through the 22nd in Atlanta, Georgia. In preparation for the convention, I wanted to highlight a few of the authors who will be attending this year. Today’s author is Gerald L. Coleman, a sci-fi/fantasy author, poet, philosopher, and theologian. Q: Welcome, Gerald. Can you start by explaining how all your writings connect? Is there a thin line between your prose and your poetry, or do they both come from the same place inside you? Hi, Mashiara, and thank you for the invitation to share here on Dragonmount. I spent many years popping in here, periodically, with the same question so many others had: WHEN IS THE NEXT WHEEL OF TIME BOOK COMING OUT?! Lol. It’s a real pleasure to be here discussing my own writing. But, in answer to your question, they come from the same place. My poetry often makes its way into the novels and the kind of imaginative creativity necessary for writing the novels and short stories is also necessary for writing the poetry. They are, however, different enough that the process of writing one does often feel like I’m taking a break from the other. Q: In the collection Drawn To Marvel: Poems From The Comic Books, it looks like you combined your love of the fantastic with your love of poetry. Can you share what themes you showed with your contribution? That poem was a kind of ode to a younger me - an homage to that time in my life when escaping into the fantastiqué was everything to me. Comics and science fiction and fantasy were my escape. As I wrote in the poem: i was that / shoe unlaced nerd / with luke cage and / iron fist tucked / under my arm And as the theme of the poem relates, I was all those things before it was cool to carry stacks of comics around under your arm, or the newest Elric of Melniboné novel, wearing glasses, a t-shirt, and Chuck Taylors. Not to mention doing all that as an African-American kid. Q: The Three Gifts Series—with two volumes currently available—is praised for adding originality to the often-used tropes of sci-fi and fantasy. How are you able to keep your characters and world fresh? As I’ve mentioned, I loved the fantastiqué. I was always reading and reading SFF. I read everything I could get my hands on from the Dragonriders of Pern, to The Faded Sun trilogy by C. J. Cherryh. I read The Black Company, the first Dungeon and Dragons novels with Drizzt Do’urden, Conan, Joel Rosenberg’s Guardians of the Flame series, Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series, and even the Myth Adventures series by Robert Lynn Asprin. I said that to point out that if you’re going to try to add something that you think is missing to a genre then you need to know that genre to its core. So, what I really try to do is write great, classic high fantasy. The missing element that I’ve added is me. As much as I loved all the great SFF I read, I was never in any of it. There were no heroes (or villains) in it that looked like me. I applauded Robert Jordan when he added the Seanchan and the Atha’an Miere. So, in The Three Gifts there are black and brown folk at the center of the adventure. When you do that you add new elements of imagery, culture, attitude, and perspective to the classic formula of the genre. It adds a depth and flavor that is too often missing from so many other stories. You visit other places beyond the standard European castle and you get to see different lands with different customs and people with different priorities – but it all happens within the context of the classic fantasy story. The other thing I do is write women characters as whole human beings. They aren’t present in the story simply to serve the aims and character arcs of the male characters. They have agency and affect the plot. So, I am trying to do two things: to write in the tradition of the fantasy stories I have loved so much, but to do it in a way that expands the form to include all the people who have been missing. Everyone should get to see themselves as the hero in these amazing stories. Q: You had a short story featured in the Cyberfunk anthology The City. For those who don’t know anything about the Cyberfunk genre, can you explain what it’s all about? Cyberfunk is an attempt to address, in science fiction, what I address in fantasy. Most readers are likely familiar with Cyberpunk as a genre – think Philip K. Dick, Roger Zelany, Philip Jose Farmer. If those aren’t familiar, just picture Blade Runner or Altered Carbon on Netflix. What Cyberfunk does is place people of color, especially black folks, in the center of the story. The City is interesting in that the editors created this city in space with no past or history that its inhabitants are aware of, with various guidelines about technology, characters, and story and then allowed each author to create a story within the confines of that city. It was a blast to write my story, Hunter’s First Rule. Q: You’re attending several conventions throughout the year. What’s your favorite reason for making time to participate in conventions? Obviously, there is the marketing aspect of it. As a writer, it’s important to get my work in front of readers. But, what I immediately found when I began attending Cons was that I enjoyed the celebration of our shared interest, the discussions, the fellowship, and most importantly, getting to know new people. I have met so many people I continue to be connected to through attending these Cons that it makes it so worthwhile whether you sell books or not. Q: This will be your second year at JordanCon. What brought you back? Last year was a blast. I really had fun. I’ve been to a couple of Cons that really turned out to be too crowded, too noisy, unwelcoming to me personally, and felt like work. JordanCon was very different. I felt welcome by the staff, volunteers, and attendees – like they were actually happy to have me there. The discussions on the panels I participated on were incredibly fun. And I met some very cool people that I am still connected to. Of course, there is the fact that it’s dedicated to a fantasy series I spent nearly twenty years reading and enjoying. I think as long as JordanCon invites me to participate, it will be on my schedule. Here’s a sweet moment from last year I’ll never forget. I was sitting at the Author’s Table for one of my one hour slots to sell and sign, When Night Falls. A lovely lady came over, smiled, said hello and picked up my book. She examined the cover and flipped through the inside. After giving it the once-over she placed it back on the table and said to me, “Don’t worry, one day they’ll be lined up out the door and around the block to get your book.” I thanked her, and we shared a warm smile before she made her way back into the main part of the hotel. It was only later that I realized that it had been Harriet McDougal (Tor editor and Jordan’s wife). It was like she’d spoken a prophecy over my novel like an Aes Sedai with the Talent of Foretelling, lol. Q: Are you able to give us a sneak peek to which panels you’ll be on? Sure! Friday: Writing in a Sub-Culture 2:30 pm Saturday: Dr. Who: The 13th Doctor & Beyond 11:30 am Remaking the Classics 1:00 pm Sunday: Afrofuturism 1:00 pm Q: What is your current writing project? I am currently working on a classic science fiction novel (novella?). It’s about a young black girl on the cusp of adulthood, with certain abilities, who may have to save the galaxy – but first she has to save herself. Think Shuri from Black Panther meets Rey from Star Wars. I’m having great fun writing it. And then it’s on to Book Three in The Three Gifts series. Q: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or your works? I always enjoyed the rousing, fun, action-packed kind of fantasy novels. So, when I sat down to write my series I really just wrote the kind of story I loved reading. If they enjoyed The Wheel of Time, I believe they’ll enjoy The Three Gifts. It’s been a real joy writing it for readers of the genre and I hope anyone who picks it up enjoys reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. Finally, on a general note, when I began reading the genre as a kid reader reviews only mattered when it came to word of mouth – as in whether you told a friend about a book you’d read or not. But, given how the publishing industry has changed and given how we find new books has changed drastically (though word of mouth is still incredibly important), I’d like to encourage readers to really go and post reviews about the books they enjoyed. If they’ve read something that they enjoyed, going online to Barnes & Nobles, Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Goodreads, etc, is incredibly important. It’s actually one of the best things you can do, aside from buying the book, to help support authors that you enjoy. You will also encourage that author to keep writing in the face of a tough industry. So, go write those reviews! Q: Thanks so much for your time! I’m looking forward to seeing you in just a few weeks! Again, thank you so much for this opportunity to talk about writing and my favorite genres with this community. I never dreamed I’d find myself on Dragonmount. If you had told me all those years I was visiting the site, as I read through The Wheel of Time, that one day I’d be ON the site, I wouldn’t have believed you. So, I deeply appreciate it and I hope those who read the interview enjoy our interaction. Thanks for the great questions and I’m looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks! “Suravye ninto manshima taishite!” You can find out more about Gerald on his website, or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.
JordanCon is only a few weeks away. The convention, dedicated to Robert Jordan and The Wheel of Time series, takes place April 20th through the 22nd in Atlanta, Georgia. There are many new guest authors who will be visiting the convention for the very first time. I wanted to introduce a few of them before we get to see them in person. Today’s author is Tom Fallwell, an indie sci-fi/fantasy writer who gets his inspiration from decades of playing Dungeons and Dragons. Q: Welcome, Tom. Can you elaborate on how roleplaying games fueled your love of storytelling? Hello and thanks. Yes, as a Dungeon Master playing D&D, I spent many hours creating adventures to take the players through. Early on, I learned that all I really needed was a basic plot, and the rest would be inspired according to how the players reacted to my descriptions and surprises. So, I learned to adlib to make the game more exciting. I loved being a DM for the players. That ability is the essential part of how I write. I come up with a general idea or plot, then start writing, and it is how the story develops that inspires me. For instance, when I wrote A Whisper in the Shadows, the first book in my Rangers of Laerean trilogy, I was not anticipating the story to continue. Yet, when I wrote the ending for that book, I realized I was not finished, and over the course of the next two books, an entire mythos for the world I had created, Hir, evolved. Q: For influences in your writing you’ve listed several amazing authors, such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov. But who would you consider your favorite contemporary sci-fi/fantasy author? Well, I’ve read so many that I truly enjoyed, but my reading for the past few years has been almost exclusively Indie Authors. In fact, I just finished reading a story by another guest coming to the con, Aaron-Michael Hall, and her new book, Kurintor Nyusi, has blown me away. I would have to say, as of right now, she is my favorite author. She is extremely talented and inspires me in many ways. There are so many authors, past and present, to love though. It is always difficult to choose one to be a favorite, at least, long term. Q: Your trilogy—Rangers of Laerean—is set in the world of Hir, where a cataclysmic event caused the near destruction of the inhabitants. How does this detailed history help shape the modern world and the role your characters take in defending the people? Interesting question. I did sit down and create the world and a bit of history, before I ever started writing a story. I wanted a world with a rich history and lore, as it furnished me with inspiration for what I’m writing. You see, I’m almost a total panster. I do some plotting and planning, but very little, and I usually begin writing with nothing more than an opening scene in my head. I believe the character come so alive in my imagination, that they tell me the story to write. Having a world full of history and fantastic lore provides the fuel for my imagination to help bring the characters alive on the pages, as well as in my head. Why the Rangers? Simply because my first love in fantasy is heroic-fantasy. The Rangers was inspired by my love of heroes, even tragic and not so goody ones. Heroes like Conan, Elric of Melniboné, Aragorn from Lord of the Rings, Paul Muad’Dib from Dune, and on and on. Heroes that suffered much, yet never gave up. That is what Baric, in the Rangers of Laerean, is to me. A steadfast hero. Q: Can you share any details about your current writing project? I’m currently working on two projects, and I’m hoping one will be coming out very soon. I’ve been co-authoring a story with Aaron-Michael Hall, entitled Tamesa. It’s a bit of a love story in a world that has been torn apart by men’s greed and lust for power. The world is different, as it could be described as a continent resting in a sea of vapors called the Mists of Entropy, which play a vital role in the story. Tamesa has never seen ships or seas. But the continent has been split in two by a fearsome disaster in the past, divided into the western kingdom of Mogaryn, ruled by the tyrant, and the eastern kingdom of Dahomey, ruled by a more benevolent ruler. The main characters are opposites, it would seem at first. Tinshu is a young man struggling to live in Mogaryn, forced to steal and sometimes even kill just to survive. A’rehn, the woman he falls in love with, is from the other side of the great abysm that separates their worlds, and to him, her world is a paradise. She is well-educated and raised in a loving family, though it is far more complex that just that. The story involves them finding each other, and how they are destined to be involved in the one thing that can save their world from the evil in the west. I’m also writing a science-fiction novel (my first) entitled Heart of the Valkyrie. The Valkyrie is an ancient spaceship that has biological components, and the crew are the main stars, one of which is a teenage girl with powerful psychic abilities. They find themselves on the run from a ruthless Empire in a desperate race to find the lost planet of mankind’s origins, Earth. I guess you would say it is a space opera, and it will be out later this year. I do have other sci-fi stories in mind as well, for the future. I’ve always loved fantasy and science-fiction, and everything in between. Q: Are there aspects of writing you enjoy more than others? Dialogue over description? Characters over setting? Characters. I’d have to say characters. I think any truly good story requires characters that the readers can identify with, get emotionally involved with, and care about. I call characters the essentia of a good novel. Without characters, it’s just another scenic landscape. Characters are what makes a story evolve and grow into a tale the reader will remember. To that end, dialogue is very important, and it must feel real. Not cliched or filled with tropes. I don’t want my character’s dialogue to sound like the old soap operas on TV. I want them to feel real. Q: As an indie writer, what challenges do you face when publishing your works? What do you find easy or appealing about this avenue? As for the challenge, it is getting noticed. If you don’t have tons of cash laying around to spend on high quality advertising, like in magazines, or even radio and TV, then it’s very difficult. That is why I decided I need to go to JordanCon, and I’m very much hoping I get to meet a lot of readers. What is easy and appealing about Indie Publishing, for me, is I don’t have to please some agent or publisher and compete with the thousands of manuscripts they likely see all the time. There are expenses, to be sure; cover art, editing, and so on. But when it comes to putting it out there, that part is easy. The thing is, whether my books are sold or not, I am still enjoying writing them, and if not read today, someone will read them the next day, or the next. I am completely happy being able to share them with others. Of course, becoming a best seller certainly would not be something I’d turn down, but until and when that happens, if ever, I’m having a lot of fun writing my stories. Q: This is your first JordanCon. What are you looking forward to about this convention? Meeting people. Readers, artists, organizers, you name it. I’m very excited and looking forward to a lot of fun and some great conversations. Being able to talk to people who might be reading my books, hearing from those that have read them, and meeting new and interesting people. Q: Are you able to give us a sneak peak to which panels you’ll be on? I will be on one about Great Fight Scenes (I do love writing fight scenes), and one about Urban Fantasy. I haven’t yet written an urban story, though I do have some I’ve made a lot of notes on. I have many story ideas, so don’t plan to run out of ideas for a long time yet. Q: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or your works? Well, I guess I would like them to know how much I’ve loved writing them. Being an ex-programmer, I can be a bit picky about things, so I really put a lot of effort into making my stories something readers can enjoy. I don’t try to write a lot and hope some are good. I try to make every book I write as good a story as it can be. I care about what I write. Q: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us! I’m looking forward to seeing you in just a few weeks! Thank you, and the same goes for me. See you all at the con! You can find out more about Tom on his website, or other social media outlets like, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Today, Tor.com released a very detailed analysis of the Old Tongue--the ancient language used during the Age of Legends. Written by Richard Littauer, who is a linguist, this article sheds some light on how Robert Jordan did follow some rules of languages and when he made them up. This was a very interesting read. Looking at the Old Tongue from an academic and historical perspective was enlightening. Though I had heard several instances of inconsistencies in the dynamics of the Old Tongue, Littauer does a great job of explaining why these phrases can't be constructed into one, cohesive language. And though Littauer concludes that Jordan was only an amateur linguist, he still sings Jordan's praises: The fact that people are still delving so deeply into The Wheel of Time amazes me. After all these years, there's still so much left to explore and ponder.
Welcome back to another “Fantasy Review.” This edition is for J. Scott Coatsworth’s Skythane, the first in the Oberon Cycle trilogy. Slight spoilers follow. Synopsis: The planet of Oberon is missing half its mass. Some scientists speculate the other side is filled with dark matter—balancing the inhabited hemisphere and making it stable. Most citizens of Oberon don’t even think about it. For them, life continues like normal. The rich live in splendor while the poor are forced to scavenge in the Slander. Xander began his life in the Slander. Orphaned at an early age, Xander grew up on the streets—abused, neglected, and forgotten. Also against him is his heritage. He is a skythane—a race similar to humans, but with wings and the capacity of flight. The human settlers of Oberon forced the semi-native skythane out of their homes and off their land. Miraculously rescued off the streets, Xander is given a second chance at life, and a very important mission. When the planet’s main export—a drug called pith—suddenly dries up, Jameson is sent to investigate. When he lands in Oberon City, he’s suddenly wisked away by Xander, and thrown headfirst into a situation that may kill them both. Xander’s companion Quince tells Jameson that they need to save Oberon, and Titania—the other half of the planet only accessible by gateway. And, of course, he and Xander are the key. Pros: This story is an excellent blend of sci-fi and fantasy. Oberon City is full of technology, hovercars, computer chips installed in a person’s brain. The first half of the novel takes place on Oberon, where technology has a relevant role in daily life. The city is run by two rival powers—the OberCorp in charge of mining the pith, and the Syndicate, in charge of the Slander. Xander and Jameson get stuck in the middle of both the powers as they struggle to get to Titania. Then, when in Titania, the fantasy comes through. Though some technology from Oberon filters through the gateways, Titania is a lot simpler in its culture. It’s ruled completely by the skythane—though by two rival houses, Gaelani and Erriani. The skythane depend on their ancient gods to oversee and protect them. Magical creatures inhabit this world—some friends and some foes. The rich histories of both of the worlds adds a lot of depth to this novel. The characters are well developed, with clear goals and ambitions. Xander and Jameson start off antagonistic to one another, and you can see the shift in their thinking as they grow closer. I loved the romance between them. They balance each other and fit as a couple. The skythane people intrigue me. There are several scenes when they fly and Coatsworth does a great job of conveying the feeling of exhilaration. When Jameson learns how to fly, and revels in the feeling of being free, it was very touching. Cons: Though I enjoyed the romance between Xander and Jameson, and they do gradually thaw with their cool treatment of one another, I did feel like it was rushed. Their feelings could have grown more organically. Even Quince “helping” them along by slipping them small dosages of pith—which can act as an aphrodisiac—made me cringe. Conclusion: This story is pure entertainment. It has action, adventure, intrigue, suspense, and romance. It was a quick read, fast paced, and with a deeply enthralling landscape. Every now and then, it’s nice to read a novel that’s just for fun. Rating: 4 out of 5 To find out more about J. Scott Coastworth and his other novels, you can visit his website.
This edition of “Fantasy Review” is for Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer, the third part of The Stormlight Archive series. For a quick refresher of what’s happened in the previous two books, you can read a synopsis of the story so far from Tor.com. Some spoilers follow. Synopsis: After battling against the Parshendi and their new storm, Dalinar Kholin and his Alethi troops take shelter in the city of Urithiru—the ancient home of the Knights Radiant. They set up a base there to try and regroup as the Everstorm rages around the entire world. Reports show that when the Everstorm hits a location, all the Parshmen change into warform and flee. Besides the few groups of Parshmen that hurt or kill on their way out of the cities, this also leaves the nations without a working class. As life settles in Urithiru, Dalinar and his Kights—Kaladin, Shallan, and Renarin—attempt to make peace with the other nations, and beg to use the Oathgates, which would transport people and supplies across the world instantly. Very few monarchs take the bait, assuming it is a trap by the Alethi to conquer their lands. Meanwhile, Alethkar suddenly goes silent. No news comes from the city, or from Elhokar’s queen and child who still live there. Elhokar convinces Dalinar to allow him to sneak into the city with some of the Radiants and try to take it back by opening the Oathgate. In Alethkar, though, there are more than just Voidbringers and Fused. There are also some of the Unmade, ancient spren who are splinters of Odium. When Elhokar’s team runs into these creatures, it seems their mission is doomed. The group (plus or minus a few of their numbers) is transported to Shadesmar—the realm of spren—and unable to return to their own land. Pros: This world is so rich. The characters are amazingly diverse. The storytelling done here is among the best I have ever read. Brandon weaves a world that is so tangible, so fleshed out. His characters act like people, doing things that make sense to them. Each is unique, with their own cares and concerns. That’s tricky to do when you have hundreds of characters! For this part of the story, I loved Adolin the most. He’s really grown since being introduced as a shallow playboy. I was actually concerned for him at the end of Words of Radiance. When he killed Sadias, I thought Adolin would slowly go mad from the guilt. Plus, he’s got a fiancé who’s a Knight Radiant, a father who is a Knight Radiant, and a brother who is a Knight Radiant. I anticipated he’d eventually succumb to jealousy. I was so wrong, and so glad I was so wrong! Adolin is a caring, hardworking, slightly vain person who only has the good of the Alethi people in his mind. I can’t get over how much I came to care for him during this book. Also, during book two, there was a hint of something between Shallan and Kaladin. I didn’t mind the idea, as Shallan and Adolin hadn’t really formed a deep bond yet. However, in Oathbringer, when there are hints of a love triangle, I never once wanted Shallan to side with Kaladin. Adolin is too good a match for Shallan. They are very well suited. And his handling of her increased shifts between personalities shows he cares for her, no matter her current form. Near the end, there was a sort of Star Wars moment (similar to when Han tells Leia he’ll stay out of her and Luke’s way in Return of the Jedi). Like Leia, Shallan sets Adolin straight, letting him know she loved him and that her other personalities can’t dictate her decisions. Another piece I loved about this installment was Dalinar’s flashbacks. We finally got to see his wife, Evi, and what happened to cause him to lose his memories. I cried several times near the conclusion of the book, when Dalinar thinks of his lost wife, and the pain that returns with all his memories. It was heartbreaking. But, Dalinar is such an amazing character. He’s strong. He’s unyielding. He won’t break under any amount of pressure. I was also surprised how much I came to like Dalinar during this book. I felt Shallan and Kaladin were more central to the first two novels, but Dalinar really shone in this one. I think of him as the main character, the hero of the story, much more than Kaladin. Cons: This story is huge. Almost intimidatingly big. There’s a ton of information and side plots, and considering the first two novels had just as much information and side plots… there’s a lot to keep track of. While I enjoyed all of these stories so far, I can’t reread them before each release. They don’t enthrall me the way Wheel of Time did. So remembering what happened to one minor character in the first book and piecing it together with what’s happening in the third book is rather difficult. The online synopsis was very helpful with refreshing my memory, but it doesn't even come close to listing all the minor plot lines that weave through this story. Conclusion: This tale is a great addition to the whole of the series. It was the book I enjoyed most out of the three. I loved the way the characters’ lives developed (particularly Adolin and Shallan) and how they all fought together in the final battle in the novel. When Dalinar stood before Odium with his assembled Knights, my heart rate sped up. It was a powerful moment. Rating: 5 out of 5 You can purchase a copy of Oathbringer from Dragonmount's DRM-free ebook store.
Long time Wheel of Time commentator, Leigh Butler, has released her top five scenes within the series. With a rekindled reading of The Wheel of Time currently underway at Tor.com, Leigh seems eager to get back on her soap box and sing the praises of this wonderful collection of books. Warning! Spoilers follow! In her full article, Leigh argues why each one is especially significant to the plot, the characters, and the entertainment of the readers. Do you agree or disagree with Leigh's picks? One of my personal favorites is when Mat finds out Tuon is really the Daughter of the Nine Moons (which didn't even make the list of honorable mentions). Don't forget to check out Tor.com's Reading the Wheel of Time, which chronicles Kelsey Jefferson Barrett's initial journey into our beloved series.
This “Fantasy Review” is for The Stone Sky, the third and final book in The Broken Earth series, by N.K. Jemisin. Synopsis: Essun is still determined to find her daughter, Nessun. The comm of Castrima Under—where Essun currently dwells—has been damaged by their war with Rennaris. The people must find a new place to ride out the Fifth Season. Due to Essun’s annihilation of the Rennarin people, the comm decides to travel the far distance to the now-abandoned city. Essun’s still plans to grab the moon when its orbit circles close, but there is still time before she must leave her place within the com. Nessun, meanwhile, begins her trek to the other side of the world, with Shaffa and the Stone Eater, Steel, as companions. Steel can transport them through the earth, but Nassun fears the Stone Eater may “accidently” lose Shaffa on the journey. This means a longer way is necessary, going to an ancient station capable of taking them through the earth’s core. But at the earth’s center is something far more frightening than Steel’s mode of transportation. Mixed in with these two accounts is a flashback into Hoa’s past, where the events that lead to the war with Father Earth are finally revealed. Pros: I loved the addition of Hoa’s storyline. It was terrible seeing the beginning of orogenes and the atrocities the ancient society did in order to maintain peace and balance. The choices Hoa and his kind made are understandable, and parallel the conflict within Essun and Nassun. Essun wishes to save the earth by grabbing the moon. Nassun, based on Shaffa’s pessimistic—or maybe weary—view of the world, wishes for it, and Father Earth, to die. I was also pleasantly pleased by the actual ending, the last chapter. SPOILER: I thought the perfect match for Essun was Innon and Alabaster; the three of them together made a wonderful family. However, seeing her paired with Hoa was heartwarming. Essun’s life was so horrible and filled with so much tragedy, it was uplifting to see she wound up with a happy ending. Cons: Once we got the reunion between mother and daughter, the character motivations were understandable, but rather annoying. The reader has the benefit of seeing the character’s thoughts, so I was frustrated when the two were unable to communicate their desires to the other. Like I said, understandable considering all that had happened between them, but at the same time, I wanted to shake them both and make them talk it out! Alas, too much had transpired, too much harm had been done—to both of them. Conclusion: This was a fantastic final. Satisfying and rather hopeful for a brighter future. I’d been doubting whether this would have a happy ending or not. And it surprisingly does. Or maybe—to coin a phrase from the romance genre—a Happy For Now. I loved everything about this series, the characters, the world, the magic. It was emotional the whole way through, tugging on my heartstrings over and over and over. I was very sad when it ended. I could read so much more in this world. Perhaps Jemisin will revisit the world a thousand years in the future—like Brandon Sanderson’s ideas for Mistborn. Rating: 4 out of 5 For more from N. K. Jemisin, you can check out her website.
Earlier today, Barnes & Noble released a detailed analysis of many components that make up The Wheel of Time series. The article focuses on wordcount, and how that applies to several areas of the novels, including character's gender, character's nationality, character's occupation, as well as words per book, and words averaged per chapter. It's a bit overwhelming to look at it in number form, but author Kevin Klein does a fantastic job of explaining what each graph represents, and what we can infer from viewing them all together. If you're in the mood for some deep thinking—or you happen to be in the White or Brown Ajahs—check out Klein's article!
Later this month, Tor.com will be kicking off a new column devoted to reading The Wheel of Time, aptly named "Reading the Wheel of Time." This weekly article will be headed by Kelsey Jefferson Barrett. Barrett, though steeped in sci-fi and fantasy, has yet to embark on a journey through The Wheel of Time series. He will be looking at it all through a new lens and with fresh perspective. Barrett's first steps through Randland will debut Tuesday, February 20th. To celebrate this, and encourage everyone to read along, Tor.com is giving away free ebook copies of The Eye of the World to Tor's Ebook Club members! The free copies can only be redeemed February 13th, 14th, and 15th! Be sure to act quickly so you don't get left behind! Wheel of Time fans rallied behind Leigh Butler and her reread on Tor.com, and I'm sure Barrett will do an equally amazing job of seeing the depth and complexities that make up Robert Jordan's universe. I'm excited to gaze upon its wonder for the first time--even if only by association.
This edition of “Fantasy Review” is for The Obelisk Gate, the second novel in N. K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth series. This book was also awarded the Hugo for Best Novel in 2017. It’s easy to see why. Synopsis: Reunited with Alabaster, Essun once again becomes the learner. He has plans—and since he is turning into a rock—it’s up to Essun to finish them. They try to make the best of things in their new comm, Castrima, but when the world is breaking down, no place is safe. Not only do they need to contend with a dwindling food supply due to the ash-filled sky, but wild animals mutate during a Season, and their evolved abilities can be devastating. When Alabaster finally reveals his mission of catching the moon, Essun wonders if she can accomplish such a fete. Meanwhile, Jija and Nassun travel for a year to reach the safety—and a promised cure for orogeny—in Found Moon. There, Nassun is put in the charge of three Guardians—all of whom have panicked and given their bodies over to the voices inside their heads. The leader of the bunch is Schaffa and he takes a particular liking to Nassun and eventually makes the connection of her being the daughter of Syenite. While Jija wants Nassun to cure herself of orogeny, her desire to help Schaffa pushes her powers to new and startling depths. Pros: These characters are amazing! So developed, captivating, realistic. It’s easy to understand Essun’s choices and her point of view of the world. Her struggles—trying to piece together the life of Syenite, which Alabaster represents, and her life as a mother, which Lerna represents—resonate with raw emotions. This was another book that made me cry. The evolution of the magic system is one of the main driving forces in this novel. With Alabaster’s help, Essun is able to sense something that is not orogeny. It’s described as silver, and it is dubbed as “magic.” With magic and orogeny, Essun’s task to grab the moon may be in reach. Nassun takes more prominence. Her powers grow incredibly fast once she’s under the care and guidance of the Guardians. It’s hard to get a good read on Schaffa’s character. He’s been portrayed as nothing but evil since book one, and Nassun’s favorable opinion of him makes me think he may be redeemed. Or perhaps he’s able to con Nassun easier than he could Syenite. And though Alabaster is not very active in this storyline, he is still my favorite character. Though I also grew to like Hoa—the stone eater who has claimed Essun. The end of the first novel revealed him as the narrator, and knowing that it’s his perspective gave a lot more insight to his character. I’m really interested in the link between orogenes and the stone eaters. It seems like an Aes Sedai/Warder type relationship, but it does have hints of something more sinister. Cons: The pace slowed down a lot from the first book. In The Fifth Season, it covered three different timelines spread out over 30 years. So for this novel to have the scope of only one year, it seemed like not many things were happening at once. Not necessarily a bad thing, a slow pace does not mean a boring book. But for me, personally, it didn’t feel as sweeping and encompassing as the previous novel. Conclusion: I am amazed at the writing of the these novels, the tone and voice, the growth of characters, the details of the world. This one slowed down a bit, but I’m still loving the journey. I’m hoping the concluding novel, The Stone Sky, gives me the epic finale I’m waiting for. Rating: 4 out of 5 For more from N. K. Jemisin, you can check out her website.