Guest Posts, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

The Pros and Cons of Writing a Series

Happy Friday!

Just a quick note for you today, as I want to share a guest post I recently wrote for author Margarita Morris’s website. In this article, I break down the unique advantages and challenges that writing a series offers, as well as provide a few tips for approaching one.

Click here to read “The Pros and Cons of Writing a Series.”

After you’ve read the post, feel free to leave a comment with your own experiences, tips, or any questions you have about the writing process!

 

Fiction Blog, Guest Posts, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, & Geeky Things

Guest Post: Five Favorite Fantasy & Sci-Fi Worlds by Andrew Q. Gordon

Today, I’m thrilled to welcome author Andrew Q. Gordon to my website. He shares his five favorite fantasy and science fiction worlds. After you’ve checked them out, say hi in the comments and share your own favorite literary worlds!

aqg-champions-of-the-gods-banner

1) Middle-Earth: J.R.R. Tolkien may not have created the idea of world building in epic fantasy, but he is certainly one of the first names people think of when you say world building. I was 12 when my mother brought home the Fellowship of the Ring. I was so engaged my parents needed the jaws of life to get me away from the book. When I first read The Lord of Rings, there were no movies to taint my view of the Shire, Rivendell, Gondor, or the Misty Mountains. I had to ‘see’ those places in my mind. Decades later, I still see my vision of Middle-Earth and not Peter Jackson’s.

There is a deep history that seeps from the pages of the LOTR because Tolkien wrote an entire history for Middle-Earth before he finished the books. There is no info dump of backstory. Instead, it’s sprinkled throughout the books in a way that makes you want to get lost in this amazing world.

the-land
Wikipedia

2) The Land: Another of my childhood favorites – Stephen R. Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Although Donaldson followed the Tolkien playbook of an epic quest stretched over a trilogy, this was nothing like LOTR. There is so much to love about Donaldson’s world –the places, the beings, the people, and lore. Loric’s Krill, the Staff of Law, Berek Halfhand, the Bloodguard, Forestrals, and of course Lord Foul.

I’ll admit I wasn’t as fond of the Last Chronicles as I was of the First and Second, but Donaldson did use the last set of books to give us a more detailed look at the history of the Land. He used these pages to give depth to people and things we read about in passing in the first two books.

3) The Eternal Champion Universe. This is probably cheating because Michael Moorcock didn’t create one world for his champions (Corwin, Dorian Hawkmoon, Elric of Melnibone and others). Despite that, there is a common thread that ties them all together. Each of the heroes is a different aspect of the Eternal Champion. What makes this universe so brilliant is each champion is unique. This isn’t the same character transported across worlds. Corwin is nothing like Elric who isn’t like Dorian.

At one point, Moorcock brings the various champions together for a series and there is no confusion. Each character is distinct and defined. It is really hard to break this ‘world’ down because it is so diverse, but I remember how much I loved this author and his vision.

amber
Source

4) Amber: Roger Zelazny’s Amber. Amber is the one true world. Every other place is a ‘Shadow’ of Amber. The princes of Amber can move through the Shadows and create new worlds as they move. As many others will opine, the first five books in the series – commonly referred to as Corwin Cycle – were better than the second five books – the Merlin Cycle. The series also ended up feeling unfinished by Zelazny’s untimely death.

Zelazny wove many of the myths of Earth into the story arc, offering his own unique explanation on how they came to be. The Pattern, Court of Chaos, Logrus and how royalty walked the Shadows made this a must-read series.

5) Valdemar (Or for the true nerds, Velgarth): This one has a special place for me. When I picked up Mercedes Lackey’s Magic’s Pawn, the first book in The Last Herald Mage series, I had no idea Vanyel, the main character, was gay. It was high fantasy, it had magic, it was my kind of book. That Vanyel, the savior and not some throw away side character or evil maniac bent on destroying the world, made it special.

Lackey’s stories go backward and forward through her timeline. The way she seamlessly connects the dots, explains things we read about in one book by showing us the lives of new characters in other series was masterful. As with all things, there were books I enjoyed more than others, but the entire universe is magnificent. Although Valdemar is a kingdom and reads like a magical medieval nation, the Shin’a’in and Tayledras draw there heavily on Native American culture. Reading the entire library of her books you will see elements from many of Earth’s cultures and some that have no resemblance to anything we know. All in all, this is really magical world and one I could easily move to and be happy. (Assuming I got to give myself great power in the transition, of course.)

Honorable mentions: David Edding’s Belgariad Universe; Pern, by Anne McCaffery; The World of The Riddle Mater of Hed, Patricia A. McKillip; Dune, by Frank Herbert and Isaac Asimov’s vision of the Milky Way.


Author Bio

aqgAndrew Q. Gordon wrote his first story back when yellow legal pads, ball point pens were common and a Smith Corona correctable typewriter was considered high tech. Adapting with technology, he now takes his MacBook somewhere quiet when he wants to write. Andrew’s imagination has helped him create works of high fantasy, paranormal thrills and touch of the futuristic. To find out more about Andrew, follow him on his website or on Facebook (links below).

You can sign up for his monthly newsletter and get a copy of The Last Grand Master, Book One in the Champion of the Gods series: http://aqgsignups.getresponsepages.com

Follow Andrew:
website: www.andrewqgordon.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/andrewqugordon
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AndrewQGordon

Fiction Blog, Guest Posts, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, & Geeky Things

Guest Post: Fear and Loathing in My Mind by Michael Bolan

Today, I’m pleased to welcome author Michael Bolan. He’s celebrating the launch of his new novel, The Stone Bridge, the third book in his Devil’s Bible historical fantasy series. (You can read my review of the first novel, The Sons of Brabant, here. Michael talks about the power of fear and describes the literary villains that still terrify him — did your favorites make the list?


sons-of-brabantWhen I was a young child, my parents moved us from the huddled safety of a village to the remote isolation of a newly-built house in the country. During the day, life was idyllic, with acres of space to run around, the beauty of nature everywhere, was so peaceful. At night, however, darkness fell, and brought with it a silence and foreboding I had never before experienced.

I had grown used to falling asleep with a dull glow sneaking through the crack in the curtains, the streetlights standing sentinel over my bed. In the countryside, there’s no light other than the moon, and in foggy, wet old Ireland, she’s loath to put in an appearance. The darkness of the countryside is the blackest of phenomena that no city dweller could contemplate. And alone in the darkness, with hours to wait before sunrise, a child’s imagination conjures the most devilish creatures and wickedest monsters.

I was a happy child, the typical mix of shyness and confidence that only a child can be, but in the stygian gloom, I was scared. Had you asked me to elucidate my fears, I would have struggled. After all, what did I really think would happen? In fact, if I had rationally worked through the list of possible outcomes, I may have realised that there was no monster, no tarantula, nothing coming to get me at all.

As a reader, I have dabbled with many genres, but I have always had a love/ hate relationship with horror. I don’t like being scared, but I do. IYKWIM. The problem that I have with most horror is that it’s just not scary. Maybe shocking or gruesome, but nothing that would turn my blood cold like those dark nights alone in bed. Just as voicing my fears as a child would have allayed them, so too does the written word. A gory murder scene? Predictable. But the thought of deliberately harming my loved ones in a fit of rage – now that raises the hairs on my neck.

What does it for me is me. My mind. My fears.

You asked me once, what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.
— O’Brien, 1984

Orwell had it right. Horror, and fear, is different for everyone, which makes the genre so challenging. But for me, the key to fear is to leave plenty to the reader’s imagination. It’s the not knowing that causes the heart to pump in a fight-or-flight reflex, it’s the suspense that is what we dread, not the denouement.

However, thankfully millennia of fascination with scary stories has produced some fairly bone-chilling baddies, and here are a few of my favourites:

1. Hannibal Lecter works as a villain in a way that Freddie Krueger can never manage. The sophisticated doctor of Thomas Harris’ books eats people, but is more concerned with the wine pairing that with the evil of his deeds. There’s a sense of dread in imagining what he will do next, and how directly you as a reader might be involved.

2. A Clockwork Orange has been cloaked in scandal since it was released, but it’s not the beatings or the rape or the brutal murders that make Alex scary: it’s the fact that he simply doesn’t accept that he has done anything wrong. His sense of purpose protects him from any humanising emotion. “Unfortunately there is so much original sin in us all that we find evil rather attractive. To devastate is easier and more spectacular than to create.”

hidden-elements3. Shakespeare’s Iago is a twisted manipulator, whose only motive for his evil seems to be that he enjoys it. Why would he wreak such destruction on someone he once called friend? Spite, jealousy, selfishness – Iago is a creature of the basest emotions. If he can’t have something, then no-one else will.

4. Mr. Hyde is a representation of the darkness that lives in all of us. That’s why he’s scary. How far would you go, what would you do, if you were pushed far enough? If each I told myself could be housed in separate identities life would be relieved of all that was unbearable. Hyde’s actions are bad enough, but the thought that he could be us or we could be him, now that’s truly scary.

5. If Mr. Hyde is ‘us’, then O’Brien from 1984 is definitely ‘them’. We all know that Big Brother is watching us, but O’Brien embodies the fear that someone or something knows what we are thinking: our hopes and fears, the brightest and the darkest of what is within us. His cruelty to Winston is usually what attracts attention, but it’s the depth of his understanding of Winston, and his simultaneous commitment to the cause, that is truly scary. “Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or laughter. You will be hollow.”

6. A dinner-party companion once described Heathcliff as a romantic hero. After I had wiped up the food that had sprayed from my mouth and apologised for my lack of manners, I offered my humble viewpoint. That his cruelty does not stem from his love of Cathy, but rather that he’s simply a sadistic bully. His weapons of choice are not only brutal violence, but insidious mental cruelty and neglect, meticulously planned and executed on those weaker than himself.

7. Lady Macbeth’s descent into evil is entirely of her own making. Seeing an opportunity to advance her husband, and hence herself, she invites evil into herself, feeding on its strength to achieve her goals. Once she has crossed that threshold, nothing is off limits. She loses her mind and eventually dies, but not before half the protagonists. Come, you spirits, That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe topful, Of direst cruelty!

8. The dichotomy of Cathy Ames’ alluring presence and her ‘malformed soul’ creates a sense of loathing in Steinbeck’s East of Eden. She believes that there is only evil in the world and, like Lady Macbeth, surrenders herself to it fully. She sees the good in others, but doesn’t understand it, so she uses others’ trust to achieve her own parasitic ends. Had she been alive a century earlier, they would have burnt Cathy at the stake.

9. Devotion to a cause is a common foundation for evil, and nowhere more so than with Star Trek’s Borg Queen, leader of a vast hive of forcedly-assimilated half human, half cyborgs. Her unwavering focus on the modern-communist Borg vision and an insatiable thirst for more bodies mean that no-one cannot be bettered by joining her collective, despite their screams of protest. Couple this with graphic visuals (her head and spine being lowered into a cyborg body) and a touch of ice-cold sensuality and you have the ultimate terrifying, if slightly sexy, baddie.

10. Rounding off the Top 10 is Reinald, Duke of Brabant from the Devil’s Bible Series. Sociopathic, psychopathic, schizophrenic, soulless, Reinald is only too eager to commit acts of senseless brutality because he wanted “to do the right thing”. Not only does he kill his brother, he seeks to destroy the entire world because there is nothing of substance in his. I’ll never forget the first time I saw his eyes clearly – there were beyond dead – like a Gorgon, they sucked the life out of everything they saw.

Nowadays, as I climb into bed an older and wiser version of my young, scared self, I have a (more or less) self-assured sense of confidence that these baddies are resigned to the page and celluloid, so I sleep a little more soundly than I used to. In any case, I am assured by my wife that my snoring would scare off the most fearsome of predators, so I guess I’m safe for now.


sb-cover-webThe Stone Bridge

The Rapture continues to wreak havoc across Europe in its quest to acquire the elemental Seals, the only thing preventing the Devil’s Bible from purging the world in fire. Brought to Prague by the Fianna, the Seals’ only protection lies in the secrecy that shrouds them.

Reinald, leader of the Rapture, enlists the world’s greatest minds to free the Devil’s Bible from the depths of Prague Castle, where it has languished under lock and key for centuries. Meanwhile, the plans of the Four Horsemen unfold, wreaking havoc and misery across the entire continent.

Not content with forcing his siblings from their ancestral home, Reinald sends a vast army to harry and persecute them, forcing them to flee ever eastwards. Taking shelter with their friends, Willem, Leo and Isabella commit to one last act of bravery, making a final stand to defend the city of Prague.

As each nation commits its final resources into the conflict, all roads lead to the Stone Bridge that divides Prague, where the Sons of Brabant and their Fianna allies will face the ultimate test of their strength.


More About Michael

It took Michael Bolan over two decades of running in the corporate ratrace to realise that all he actually did was tell stories.

There was no Damascene revelation for Bolan which caused him to pen his first work of fiction, “The Sons of Brabant”. An avid reader, he simply felt that he could do as good a job as many of the authors he read and decided to put his money where his mouth was.

Living and working in many countries left him with smatterings of a dozen languages and their stories, and his love for history focused his ideas on the Thirty Years War, the most destructive conflict that the continent has ever seen.

Now living in Prague (again), Michael brings alive the twisted alleys of the 17th century and recreates the brooding darkness of a fractured Europe, where no-one was entirely sure who was fighting whom.

Michael writes while liberally soused in gin, a testament to Franz de le Boë, who was mixing oil of juniper with neat spirit while the Thirty Years War raged around him.

His website (http://www.michaelbolan.org) is a place where he can post his thoughts and feelings – along with reviews of books he finds lying around the internet.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/michaelbolan225
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michaelbolan225
LinkedIn: cz.linkedin.com/in/bolanov
Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/author/michaelbolan

Fiction Blog, Guest Posts, Musings & Bookish Things, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Guest Post: Exploring Truth in Crime Fiction by Kate Evans

Today, I’m excited to welcome back crime fiction author Kate Evans. She’s talking about using her Scarborough Mysteries series as a vehicle to explore human truths, psychology, and mental health. Whether you’re a writer or a reader, this is a fascinating take on one author’s approach to fiction! Stay tuned tomorrow, when I’ll be reviewing Kate’s latest book, The Art of Breathing.


art-of-the-imperfect-cover‘What should the novel do: be a mirror to the reader’s world, reflecting it back at her, or be a clear pane of glass, not reflecting but offering something away from the self, a vista of a bigger, wider, different world outside? The moral energy of the novel form derives from its capacity to imagine the lives of others. This empathy can be seen as the beginning of the moral sense.’ Neel Mukherjee, shortlisted for 2014 Booker Prize.

Mirror or window, I enjoy novels which are either or both. I want my reading to make me think, make me ask questions, offer me perspectives on parts of the world I am unlikely to visit.

I write the kind of novel I would like to read, which means a novel which looks askance at the world we live in.

My own experience of depression and therapy and then my training as a psychotherapeutic counsellor led me to interrogate how we in the UK (and, perhaps, more widely in Western culture) perceive mental health. I am intrigued by discussions around why we talk about physical and mental health, why are the two separated? What we mean by good and bad mental health, what is the line, the distinction? About the idea of diagnosis, are we medicalising too much what are straightforward human responses?

art-of-survival-coverThese kinds of questions underpin my three Scarborough Mysteries novels: The Art of the Imperfect (long-listed for the Crime Writers Association debut dagger); The Art of Survival; and The Art of Breathing. The series is set in Scarborough, the North Yorkshire coastal town where I live. The stories are told from the point of view of three characters: Hannah Poole; detective sergeant Theo Akande; and Aurora Harris. Hannah is training to be a counsellor, but her own rickety sense of self is sent into turmoil when her father dies and she begins to get back in touch with the memories of the childhood abuse she suffered. Theo is black and gay and a new-comer to Scarborough, trying to find his place on the town’s police force. Clever and kind, he undoubtedly has the most psychological equilibrium of the three story-tellers. Aurora Harris is neighbour and friend to Hannah; solicitor and new mum she struggles to balance these roles. Each book has a different crime which the three characters are drawn into, plus the emotional stories of Hannah, Theo and Aurora twist, interweave and develop.

Through Hannah’s narrative, in particular, I hope to give the reader a taste of depression from the inside and also the experience of a possible route towards recovery. I know that several readers found Hannah ‘too hard to like’, missing, perhaps, the point that depression leads to a self-loathing which is unutterably distressing and all-encompassing.

The Scarborough Mysteries are a result of a thirty year long journey of writing and they didn’t find their genre – crime – until I made the decision to give my novel writing the time and space to come to fruition. So why crime? It was one of those weird writing experiences when I’d been tussling with the problem of structure and one day I woke up knowing that a crime novel would offer me the scaffolding within which to construct my story. Since I’ve always enjoyed reading a lot of crime novels, it was relatively easy for me to reacquaint myself with the crafting of one and the writing began to flow. It was a good decision. Having said this, the first in the series, The Art of the Imperfect, is less like a traditionally plotted crime novel than my third, The Art of Breathing, and I did a lot more planning for this most recent book with the usual shape of a crime novel in mind.

art-of-breathing-coverIt was only after taking my decision that I began to hear writers talking about crime as a genre for exploring the way our society is today. For instance, author Val McDermid has said that, of all the genres, crime is the best at tackling current issues. In a recent Artsnight (BBC2, 22nd July 2016), she explored what she described as the ‘complex relationship between truth and fiction.’ She said she had, ‘Walked the fine line between making things up and staying real.’ And, for her, ‘The very act of imagining has been a powerful way of accessing the truth.’

In addition, I want my novels to go against what I see as a wrong-headed trend in modern day crime writing, the propensity to label the perpetrator of the crime, usually murder, as a psychopath. For me this is too easy. It also has the tendency to mark out the murderer as ‘other’, it’s too cosy, for me, for the reader to think, ‘I am not a psychopath and so I would never do anything as awful as this.’

In my stories I want to explore what measures very ordinary people might take – out of fear, jealousy, hate, love – and how it might all go horribly wrong. I do believe most people who commit crime, particularly abuse and murder, are able to justify their actions to themselves, and I am very interested in those justifications. I do think we have many potentials within us and if we ignore what may be lingering in what Carl Jung called our ‘shadow’ we do so at our peril. Firstly because we are not fully aware of all of ourselves. Secondly, we might unknowingly act from our shadow which could have disastrous consequences for ourselves and others.

In the UK, around a quarter of the population live with emotional or psychological vulnerabilities. I hope they may recognise some truth in my novels. And, maybe, those who are around them may gain an increased understanding of what mental health and resilience means.


Kate EvansAuthor Biography
Kate Evans is a writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Her non-fiction articles have been published in (among other publications) The Guardian, The Independent, Counselling Today, Poetry News, The Journal for Applied Arts in Health and The Journal of Poetry Therapy. Her book Pathways Through Writing Blocks in the Academic Environment was published by Sense Publishers in April 2013. She has created two word-based installations for the arts festival Coastival, one inspired by the works and life of Edith Sitwell. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Sussex University and teaches on the Degree in Creative Writing at the University of Hull, Scarborough campus. She is trained as a psychotherapeutic counsellor.

In October 2016 she will be appearing at the Beverley Literature Festival. The Art of Breathing will be launched in WH Smiths in Scarborough on the 29th October 2016.

Connect with Kate Evans
Email: kateevans@tinyonline.co.uk
Website: www.scarboroughmysteries.com
Twitter: @KateEvansAuthor
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kate.evans.author
The Art of the Imperfect: https://goo.gl/JrGat2
The Art of Survival: https://goo.gl/6RPzk5
The Art of Breathing: http://amzn.to/2fbu1g7

Fiction Blog, Guest Posts

The Theme of Evil in Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I by Charles F. French

Today, I’m excited to introduce my friend and fellow author Charles F. French. Charles is an English professor turned author, who is preparing to launch his debut horror novel Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I. As you can imagine, the theme of evil features heavily throughout the novel, and that’s exactly what he’s here to discuss. Over to Charles.


maledicus-finalThe existence and nature of evil and the human response to it are central themes in my horror novel Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I. This idea is one with which I have been concerned much of my life. From the first Gothic novels I read as a youngster, including Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, through the myriad of reading I have done during the course of my life, including works of classical literature such as William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Hamlet as well as the contemporary thrillers of John Connelly and Tana French, and the numerous novels of the master Stephen King, evil has been present in a wide variety of forms.

I am deeply concerned not only with the nature and existence of evil, both human and supernatural but also with people’s response to it when confronted by evil. Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Unfortunately, it does not take much effort to search human history for occurrences of monstrous evil in the form of too many genocides.  The history of the 20th and 21st centuries is replete with these inhumane situations, and too often, the world turned its collective gaze away from these horrors, often until it was almost too late to do anything about them.

Ordinary people, as well as nations and larger collectives of persons, are also confronted with evil in their existences. When a person witnesses a terrible event, he or she must decide either to do nothing and leave the responsibility of action to others, or they chose to act directly at the potential risk of their safety or lives. They must decide either—“I don’t want to get involved,” or “I must do something.”

This moral and ethical dilemma is what the three older men who form the basis of The Investigative Paranormal Society face.

maledicusteeIn my novel, I posit evil existing in two forms. First, human evil manifests as a man who was a sadistic psychopath—a torturer, spy, pimp, and murderer—who lived during the realm of Caligula in ancient Rome. Supernatural evil also is real in my book.  In death, this man, who goes by the name of Maledicus, is seduced by a mysterious being into becoming a demon. As a new form of existence, Maledicus is able to manifest on Earth and target people for his victims. He causes mayhem, including murder, suicide, insanity, and disease.

While investigating what they believe to be a ghostly haunting, the three men who are the Investigative Paranormal Society—Roosevelt, Sam, and Jeremy—soon realize that this malicious thing that is threatening a five year old girl in their town, is far worse and more dangerous than any ghost.

They must choose either to abandon their investigation and this child or to choose to battle this demon at the risk of their sanities, their lives, and their souls. These men, along with the help of several friends, choose the path of responsibility as they confront the terrible demon Maledicus.

I hope that, in my novel, I deal effectively and thoroughly with this issue of evil and the human response to it.  Only the readers can truly make that judgement.


Thanks so much for sharing Maledicus with us, Charles! If you’d like to read Maledicus, it’s now available on Amazon. You can also learn more about Charles and his work by visiting his website at https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com. And be sure to come back to this site on Friday, when I’ll be sharing my review of Maledicus!