Earlier this week, Jason Denzel, Dragonmount’s found and webmaster, hosted an Ask Me Anything panel on Reddit.com . The questions ranged all over the board, but there were a few about The Wheel of Time. And, of course, everyone offered congratulations and praise for Mystic Dragon, released July 17, 2018 from Tor. Naturally, people had questions about where the inspiration for the Mystic series came from. You can read the questions and answers in their entirety, here.
Today is the release day for Mystic Dragon, the second novel in Jason Denzel’s Mystic series. This captivating story is a great addition to the series, expanding the scope of the plotlines, the characters, and the world. Though I work with Jason as a part of Dragonmount, it's also amazing to see the author side of him. It can be difficult to judge a friend's work of art, but I strive to point out the positives and the negatives as they appeal to me. These are my honest thoughts on a well-constructed novel, one I enjoyed immensely! Slight spoilers will follow. Synopsis: The first book, Mystic, showed Pomella AnDone, a commoner, summoned by the High Mystic of Moth to trial for an apprenticeship. Though Pomella shows strength and courage and cunning, she’s not selected to be the High Mystic’s apprentice. Instead, she is chosen by Grandmaster Faywong, a man retired from the position of High Mystic of Moth, and becomes his apprentice. Mystic Dragon picks up the story seven years after the events of Mystic. Now, Pomella is a full Mystic, using her training, and her reputation as a commoner, to stop a slaver named Shadefox. Shadefox has been taking the Unclaimed people of Moth and selling them on the Continent. Her mission is cut short, however, by the celestial event known as Crow Tallin--which takes place once every sixty years. Pomella is needed on Moth to help control the fay as Treorel, the Mystic Star, momentarily links the human world and Fayun. However, Shevia, another Mystic, shows signs of going against the traditions of Crow Tallin. Shevia has been given visions of the future and her intentions for the event counter greatly to what Pomella is instructed to do. The two women must make some sort of agreement, or it will be a full-out war between them. And Shevia’s powers are much greater than anything Pomella has ever seen. Pros: From start to finish, this story was enthralling. While the first novel focused on Moth culture, the world is expanded greatly in Mystic Dragon. We see many of the other cultures of the world which solidifies it in the reader’s mind. The countries on the Continent are very different from Moth, and they offer a contrast to Pomella’s upbringing. Though the story takes place seven years later, those years aren’t lost. Through flashback scenes, we get to see exactly what happened to Sim and Shevia during that time. These scenes were among my favorite in the book because of how poignant the emotional reactions were. Much darker than Mystic, this novel dwells on loss and pain, sadness and suffering, loneliness and abuse. These times where the characters are at their lowest makes them shine so much brighter when we see them try their hardest to overcome what’s kept them suppressed. As the time of Crow Tallin approached, I was constantly guessing the direction the book would take. It was completely unpredictable. There were so many ways the events could have played out, so many choices the characters could have made. One surprise after another kept me in suspense until the very last page. And Pomella. I love her as a character. Though she’s been a Mystic for nearly seven years, she’s never forgotten her commoner heritage. Though powerful, she never lets that get in the way of her helping people. She could live a life of luxury, but she insists on being among the commoners. Her character has stayed true despite being so highly elevated. She struggles through this book, she grows, and her future is still uncertain. Cons: The deaths. I won’t give away who (or how many) die, but some of them devastated me. Not to say these deaths were for shock value. They had a purpose. I hope the third novel will ease the pain at these losses, though. Conclusion: This story was engrossing. It was difficult to put down because I wanted to see how the events unfolded. The pace kept the actions going, pulling me along with it, even late into the night. The themes of loss and survival resonated strongly with me. I am eagerly awaiting the conclusion to the series, as so many questions were left unanswered at the end of Mystic Dragon. Rating: 5 out of 5 You can purchase Mystic Dragon from Dragonmount’s DRM-free eBook store. To find out more about Jason Denzel and the series you can visit his website, or follow him on Facebook or Twitter. (Though Jason Denzel is the webmaster and founder of Dragonmount, my review is unbiased and honest.
The first episode of WoTchers—a Wheel of Time reading podcast—was released earlier this month. The podcast, hosted by three authors, Hank Garner, Josh Hayes, and Jaime Castle, starts on an epic quest to finish The Wheel of Time series. The podcasters come from different points in The Wheel of Time journey, Hank and Jamie read a few of the series, while Josh is completely new. This is bound to make for interesting dialogue as these men progress farther into the series. First off, the podcasters state right out that this is not a “fanboy love fest.” In fact, Jamie admits that he would not have finished the book if he hadn’t committed to doing this podcast. They have plenty of criticism to start. This first episode is sort of an introduction, a brief overview of the tropes expected, and the unavoidable “just a Lord of the Rings knockoff” banter. Even so, they have some good points. Reading the series fresh in the year 2018 is a lot different from reading it when it began in 1990. Times have changed. Readers have evolved. It’s difficult to keep the mindset of where the books originated. (This same argument can be used with many older books, and even films; it’s sometimes hard for modern audiences to grasp the culture of the past.) Jaime states that the podcast’s purpose is to look at The Wheel of Time as an example for them to examine their own craft. Viewing the series through this lens would definitely shift the focus. Reading for enjoyment and reading for learning are two separate things, in my opinion. All in all, this was an enjoyable first podcast and I’m curious how their opinions might change—or stay the same—as they progress farther into the series. You can learn more about WoTchers at their website.
Recently, the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America (ABAA) compiled a detailed list of all The Wheel of Time related material it’s possible to own. The list contains many items most fans have heard of—the soundtrack, the comic books, the calendars—and plenty I own myself. However, it also highlights more obscure items, like a poster and program showing Robert Jordan’s permeant display at Daniel Library of The Citadel, or a custom embossed stamp used to denote Jordan’s own books within his library, or a copy of The Fires of Heaven where the dust jacket proclaims the Amyrlin is named “Flaida” instead of Elaida. Not to mention all the foreign-translated novels and the amazing covers they have. The article also speculates about re-releasing the novels with new cover art when the television series kicks off. For the avid fan, there’s plenty to collect. And hopefully, with a television series coming soon, there’ll be even more.
Our friends at the Wheel of Time Spoilers podcast have a new project in the works: Mistborn Spoilers. Following the same format, Patrick and Seth scrutinize Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series—one chapter at a time—and discuss all the nitty-gritty details, backstories, foreshadowing, and wonders that make up this fantastic series. The first three episodes focused on the background information needed to comprehend the world, the Lord Ruler, and the current life of the people. After that, they delve right into the books. I was very pleased when Seth and Patrick allowed me to be a guest host for the Prologue and Chapter 1 episodes. I’m a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson, and the Mistborn series is at the top of my favorite works by him. That doesn’t mean the books are flawless. I’m very quick to point out the under presentation of women in this first novel, and the over-dependence on using rape as a plot device. That said, I do love this book, and I love these characters, and I was happy to be able to discuss them with others who are so knowledgeable. Patrick and Seth currently record Mistborn Spoilers on Monday, and for a $1 Patreon donation, you can listen live while they record! The back and forth dialogue with devoted fans adds a lot to the quality of the show, one of the reasons why both these podcasts are so popular! You can follow Wheel of Time Spoilers on Facebook or Twitter, and you can follow Mistborn Spoilers on Facebook.
As announced last month, PBS will be hosting a new series called “The Great American Read.” Through a national survey, they identified the best 100 books. PBS states: This is exciting for us as booklovers, but it’s also exciting for us as Wheel of Time lovers. The Wheel of Time (the complete series) is one of the 100 nominated. The two-hour pilot airs tonight (Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018) at 8/7c. Check your local PBS station for exact time. Now here’s where devoted fans of Robert Jordan and The Wheel of Time come into play. When the pilot airs, voting for the best book begins. From May 22nd until October 18th, viewers can vote DAILY! On top of that, there are two ways to vote each day. 1. Use the voting app on The Great American Read website. You’ll need to register first, using an email address or a Facebook login. 2. Post an original post on Facebook or Twitter and include the official hashtag of the book you choose. The hashtag for The Wheel of Time can be found on its page once voting has opened. Starting September 11, 2018, there will be two additional ways to vote—bringing the total to four! More on that when it’s closer. The Wheel of Time has a great advantage in a show of this format. We are vast in numbers, and our community is very close-knit. If we all band together, we can share our beloved series with the rest of the country!
It’s time for another author interview! I’m very pleased to be able to have J.S. Fields with us. J.S. is the author of the Ardulum Series, with the third book, Third Don, being released June 4, 2018. J.S. is an author, an artist, and a scientist, with a special interest in wood spalting. Q: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me, J.S. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Thank you for having me! I’m a professor, parent, professional sculptor, and most recently, author. I live in the Pacific Northwest of the USA but am not a dog person, which is sort of a perpetual issue in this region. I love dark chocolate, dark fantasy, and anything with a strong f/f or enby/f romance line (assuming it still has plot). Also I’m queer x10000, but I think that goes without saying. Q: Your Ardulum Series is praised as a ground-breaking space opera with special emphasis on species with more than two genders, or gender-neutral roles. How important is it to you to see this representation within the writing community? Being nonbinary myself, I am of course very tired of not seeing myself in fiction. But I think more importantly, in space science fiction, there is really no excuse to not have nonbinary genders. The binary doesn’t even routinely exist on earth, so why in the world would it exist for every species we might meet in space? While representation clearly matters, I think I’m actually more insulted on a science front when I read science fiction that doesn’t include nonbinary genders. How can anyone claim to be a scientist and not understand (or embrace) the natural variability of living systems? On the representation front, I think in many ways science fiction has not really evolved in terms of gender. Sexuality has always been explored (not always well, or respectfully), but gender seems to be this big hurdle writers can’t get around (exceptions, of course, do exist). We can imagine hyperdrives and wormholes, but not the idea that this person with breasts and a vulva isn’t a woman. And the more space science fiction, especially, pushes the boundaries of sexuality, the more the lack of gender representation stands out. It’s demoralizing and, quite frankly, incredibly ignorant, to imagine worlds where, say, everyone is ‘anatomically female,’ so of course there are lesbians, but no one ever seems to stop and go, oh, hey, just because they have these parts doesn’t mean you still wouldn’t have men, or enbies. It feels like conscious erasure, like nonbinary and trans people are just too much work to put into a narrative. Because calling someone with a penis a woman is so much harder than a two-page treatise on how a civilization evolved on a tidally locked planet inside a wormhole. Q: Your series introduces several new species. Can you explain a bit about them, and how they are different/similar to humanity or other alien species we’ve grown accustomed to? ARDULUM has a number of non-human species. In fact, humans, while present, are not POV characters, nor do they drive the narrative. I did make a conscious effort to make most of my aliens humanoid. This was for a number of reasons, including but not limited to: 1) reader familiarity: while some readers love a good goopy, phase-shifting being, if you don’t have humans as your main characters, you will lose readers who cannot connect with goopy-protag. 2) technology: we all work within the ecosystems that support us. It makes sense that bipeds would generally congregate together due to similarities in needs. Hence, while it is made apparent in the series that plenty of variation exists across the galaxy, the bipeds mostly hang out in biped-specific establishments. This means they generally only meet other bipeds. Some exclusions occur, and in fact, it is the interaction of biped/non-biped interactions that drive a lot of the narrative 3) genetics and reproductive fitness: there are a lot of genetic narratives in play in the ARDULUM series, and for those to work, I need genetically related species. Genetic relations generally tend to mean you look like the person you’re related to (on a family level or higher), so I didn’t have a lot of leeway to have non-humanoid bipeds in the narrative. 4) Sex. I like a good tentacle sex scene as much as the next person but I’m not prepared to write one. To the aliens in ARDULUM specifically: At the heart of the story is Neek (from a planet of the same name), a young woman outcast from her world for failure to tow the religious line. This species has two distinct phenotypes: the eight-fingered variety that mostly have reddish hair and variable skin melanin content, and the variety that have bone white skin and variable fingers. All secrete empathic mucous from their fingertips. There are three standard genders on Neek: male, female, and gatoi. Gatoi is third gender, and while genitals are never discussed, it is established that this gender is a player in reproduction. The Ardulans are bipedal humanoids with transparent skin (of varying melanin contents), also all with reddish hair, and also with a male/female/gatoi breakdown (you see now where the genetic through-line is coming in). To describe much more would give spoilers, unfortunately, but generally this species has some unique telekinetic abilities. Mmnnuggls are the primary non-bipeds of the series. These are ball-shaped beings that hover a few meters off the ground (the mechanics of this are not discussed). They’re generally shades of purple (sometimes so dark as to be almost black). They have four genders (primary male, secondary male, primary female, secondary female), which includes both anatomical changes and social role changes. This species was a lot of fun to write because they choose to interact with bipeds, but there is so much to understand between fundamentally different lifeforms. What are the purpose of hands, afterall, if your species has evolved to have no use for them? They probably just look downright stupid! But really, having characters like the Mmnnuggls points out the real struggle in writing aliens, and why so many books/movies chose to use a standard biped form. If you’re going to have multiple aliens, there’s just too much anatomy and culture to build to even have your species begin to interact. And the more disparate the anatomy, the more likely it is that the species require mutually-exclusive environments. And then you’re into a whole different type of science fiction. The final species of note are the Risalians, an agender, bipedal, humanoid species with a blend of mammalian and reptilian roots. These are the prerequisite blue-skinned aliens of the series (tropes help ground readers, I’ve found, when you have a lot of new information and ideas to toss at them). While the neopronouns for the Risalians threw some readers, I thought it was really important to not just give nonbinary genders a pass with ‘they,’ especially since there are so many different flavors of nonbinary in the book. Hence, every type of nonbinary gender gets its own pronoun set. The reviews on that are about what you would expect, but as a nonbinary person, it was really important to me to highlight the uniqueness of each gender. ‘They’ just wasn’t going to cut it. Q: How important is it to add romance within the series? Do you feel it’s a personal preference or more an obligation to the reader? I think that depends on what type of audience you are trying to capture. A lot of hard science fiction readers aren’t looking for romance. Romance readers, clearly, are. Yet, it’s very hard to market a book as f/f and not have some romance (although it really shouldn’t be. Lesbians are allowed to have autonomous lives without chasing tail constantly). For me personally, I like to see a romance line in a heavier plot, because I just haven’t had the opportunity to see the kinds of relationships I engage in mirrored in fiction. Hence, my books always have a romance line which is integral to the story, although as in the case of ARDULUM, the purpose behind it is so deeply wound in with the plot that you don’t see its purpose until the very end. Q: Do you have any authors that have influenced your writing? Not particularly. I think a lot of TV shows influenced me though, especially the slew of 9pm sci fi serials that used to play on FOX back in the 80s and 90s. M.AN.T.I.S., VR5, Time Trax, these were the shows that shaped my understanding of science fiction/fantasy and inspired me to write. Q: Your scientific background is amazing! How does your academic work influence your fiction writing? Specifically for the ARDULUM series, the science part of the book is entirely informed by my background in wood science. I get to interact with some really neat tech as part of my job, and it was a great opportunity to get to showcase some of that work in fiction. In THIRD DON, I got to play with the other end of my research, fungi, and I think any mycophiles reading it will be pleasantly surprised with the nods to the science of wood decay. Q: Do you have any other fiction projects in the works? I am currently querying a YA fantasy with a nonbinary protagonist, where the magical system is based on spalting fungi (there’s that academic tie-in again). There will also be a fourth ARDULUM book—a book of shorts that contains origin stories for the main characters. Q: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you, or your series? One of the best ways to support authors, especially indy and small press authors, is to leave reviews, especially on Amazon! If you read any of the ARDULUM books I would love it if you would take a few minutes and leave an Amazon review. It can be something as simple as ‘Boobs!’ or a several page narrative. One start or five, every review matters. And of course if you want to chat, whether to bemoan the very slow-burn romance of Neek and Emn, or to work through the mechanics of cellulose microkinesis, you are always welcome to engage with me on Twitter. You can check out J.S.’s website, Twitter, or Goodread’s page for more information. First Don and Second Don are currently available, and Third Don is available for preorder from NineStar Press.
Most Wheel of Time fans know that Robert Jordan, besides being an avid writer, was an avid reader. On the lastest episode of Wheel of Time Spoilers, Wilson Grooms—Jordan's relative—stated that Jordan was reading one book a day. This led his personal library to reach over 10,000 books. And that collection will soon be available for purchase from Mr. K’s Used Books, CDs, DVDs and More: For those in the areas, the four Mr. K's locations are in Asheville, North Carolina, Charleston and Greenville, South Carolina, and Johnson City, Tennessee. You can see a map of their locations here. Don't miss out on the opportunity of owning one of Robert Jordan's personal books!
Our friends at Wheel of Time Spoilers reached their milestone 100th episode while attending JordanCon 10. To celebrate this prestigious event, Seth and Patrick sat down with Jason Denzel, Brad Kane, and Wilson Grooms. To listen to Episode 100, click here! This episode, recorded live at JordanCon, delved into many topics. Most importantly being the current status of The Wheel of Time television show. During the Team Jordan panel at JordanCon, Jason asked Harriet McDougal of the show’s fate. For those unable to attend that panel, Jason shares the basics here. Wilson, who has been a big part of The Wheel of Time fandom, including helping Robert Jordan update his blog posts during his treatments, also shares some fond memories. Wilson talks about Jordan’s love for reading, his days in the military, and the process of publishing The Wheel of Time stories. For more from Wheel of Time Spoilers, you can check out their recent interview with Dragonmount, their website, or their new spin-off of sorts, Mistborn Spoilers.
This year marked the 10th anniversary of JordanCon. It's truly amazing that the dedication and loyalty of so many Wheel of Time lovers has turned this convention with a modest beginning into a yearly pilgrimage for many fans. The depth of love from all the people involved--from the staff, to the volunteers, to the attendees--is a testament to Robert Jordan and The Wheel of Time series. To celebrate the milestone of ten amazing years, during the opening ceremonies, a video overview was shown. It highlighted Robert Jordan, his fight with amyloidosis, and the following years of JordanCon where his life and his life's work were/are celebrated. After this played for the crowd of con-goers, I can pretty much guarantee there was not a dry eye. You can view the video here. Even without being surrounded by hundreds of other fans, this is still beautifully touching. The song fit the theme of this year's JordanCon, SeanCon: the Return. But the deeper meaning is there. If you've ever had the privilege of attending a Wheel of Time related event, you know that meeting fellow fans is like a homecoming.
This year’s JordanCon was epic in proportion, first because it was the tenth year of the convention (according to Jennifer Liang, everyone thought the first JordanCon would be the last JordanCon), and second because this year marks the 20th anniversary of Dragonmount. Arriving Thursday night was like coming home to a group of very good friends. After checking into my hotel room around midnight, I headed down to the lobby and promptly began deep, philosophical discussions about The Wheel of Time series with none other than Paul Bielaczyc—though there was a moment when he got The Wheel of Time mixed up with HG Wells’ The Time Machine…. That, in a nutshell, is JordanCon. Approach any person, say hello, and they’re your friend for life. This year’s lineup of panels and guests was colossal. If I had to list a negative part of the Con experience this year, it was that too many amazing panels happened simultaneously. I had many difficult decisions to make, and I feel many other Con-goers had the same dilemma. This year’s Toastmaster, and Empress—may she live forever—of the Seanchan’s glorious Return was Aubree Pham. The Seanchan theme continued throughout the event, including a game in which members of the Low Blood were required to eliminate members of the High Blood. Even the annual Saturday night dance party was the Homecoming: One Night in Falme. Naturally, the Author Guest of Honor for the year of Dragonmount’s 20th birthday was Jason Denzel. He attended many panels, hosted a Kaffeeklatsch, read a snippet of the next series he plans after the Mystic trilogy is finished, and talked at length with Matt Hatch of Theoryland about the origins of their respective websites—including an incident that happened at JordanCon 1 involving Brandon Sanderson’s newly finished, and unpublished copy of The Gathering Storm, Brandon’s credit card, and a Kinkos. The Artist Guest of Honor was Stephanie Law. Her artwork was spectacularly displayed in the vendor’s hall, and she dazzled attendees with a watercolor demo. The highlight was the “Women in Illustration” panel, with other artists, Ariel Burgess, Melissa Gay, Amanda Makepeace, and Angela Sasser. In another panel, Stephanie, Angela, and Ariel also helped explain Patreon—the ins and outs of the subscription service, and how to determine if it’s a worthwhile investment of your time and energy. For me, personally, one of the best moments was being inducted as an Asha’man into Bill Nesbitt’s Black Tower. I worked very hard on my Asha’man costume to be ready for the pinning ceremony. But even better was the Wheel of Time discussion at the party afterward. For more than an hour, there was a healthy debate over the nature of the Creator and the Dark One, and whether it was possible that Rand was actually the Creator. The next day, I talked to Matt Hatch, and he solved the debate in less than a minute. Though his presence at the party would have solved it quickly, as the Knights Radiant are fond of saying: “Journey before destination.” For the Daes Dae’mar trivia contest, Dragonmount had an official team entry! It consisted of myself, Verbal32, Keyholder21, Songstress, Hallia, Kathleen, and Leelou, plus four other friends we found along the way: Monica, Jeanine, Anna, and Natalie. Through our valiant efforts, we tied for second place. The dreaded Theresa Gray (Terez from Theoryland) determined our answers were subpar, so she awarded the other team, The Salty Wetlanders, second place, and awarded us third. Naturally, the team Gap of Infinity—consisting of Theorylanders—won first place. We’ll have to do a rematch next year. So Dragonmounters, start your re-reads and be prepared! And though Dragonmount’s birthday isn’t until September—Jenn Liang was very definitive of the month—we still celebrated! We had as many people as possible crammed into a suite, and while everyone chatted and indulged in merry-making, we also had a Wheel of Time spelling bee. We were doing okay until we got the word “Ta'maral'ailen.” Jason couldn’t pronounce it. Brandon couldn’t pronounce it. Maria Simons (of Team Jordan fame), wasn’t in the room. But we did have contestants successfully spell Tel’aran’hriod, Tarmon Gai’don, and Asmodean, to name a few (that last one was me). I also had several opportunities to talk with Seth and Patrick from Wheel of Time Spoilers. They even mentioned how they kicked off their newest podcast Mistborn Spoilers. They’re starting at the very beginning of the first trilogy, so make sure to start while it’s new! This was my fifth JordanCon, and it was the best of the bunch so far! The guests were amazingly friendly and accessible. The game hall had activities going nonstop. Every corner of the hotel was filled with people who love The Wheel of Time as much as me. If there’s such a thing as paradise on Earth, it’s JordanCon! You can already order tickets for JordanCon 11: Shai’Con. The Guest of Honor will be Brent Weeks, author of The Night Angel trilogy and the Lightbringer series. The Artist Guest of Honor will be Dan dos Santos, well known in our circle for his ebook cover of the The Fires of Heaven, as well as the cover of Warbreaker. The Toastmaster will be Paul Bielaczyc—which is self-explanatory since the theme is Shai’Con. If you missed out on the fun this year, don’t make the same mistake for next year! I hope to see you all there! You can see a collection of JordanCon pictures in the Dragonmount Gallery, or browse through the JordanCon Facebook group!
This summer, PBS is hosting an eight-part series dedicated to discovering America's favorite books. A list of 100 books have been selected, and the PBS series will focus on narrowing down these top picks to select one winner. Naturally, The Wheel of Time series is included on this list. The first episode—which premieres May 22nd—will consist of a two-hour introduction, highlighting each of the 100 books, and what they have contributed to American culture. The show will continue with one-hour episodes in a documentary style with authors, celebrities, and book lovers, discussing the nominated books. The finale will air in October and the winner will be announced. Here’s where you come in. The point of the show is to narrow the results, and to do so, PBS is asking Americans to vote! We all know The Wheel of Time fandom is the best in the world, so we’re calling on all of you to let everyone know how amazing our beloved series is. Voting will open on May 22, in conjunction with the two-hour premier, and can be done online and through social media outlets. Follow “The Great American Read” on their website, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. And always check back to Dragonmount for updates!