Get to Know the Fantasy Reader #BookTag

So this week, instead of new fiction, I’ve decided to try out this whole book tag thing. I ‘ve never done one before so hopefully it’s fun for you all. Feel free to try it out yourselves and tag me so I can read your answers!

Apparently there are some rules. Here they are . . .

Rules:

  • Make sure you give credit to the original creators of this tag – this tag was originally created by Bree Hill
  • If you want to, pingback to the post you first saw this tag – I first saw this at Paperback Tomes, and then read some more of it at Lost In Neverland.
  • Have fun!

What is your Fantasy origin story? (The first Fantasy you read)

Wow. First question and I’m already unsure how to answer. This will go well . . .

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading Fantasy of some kind. I was only two years old when Dinotopia came out so I’m not sure how much reading I was doing at that point, but it was likely one of the first things I read. Probably the first book I read and was consciously aware of it “being fantasy” was the The Hobbit, and then Lord of the Rings. Of course I ate up all the Harry Potter books when they came out (except maybe the first two? I remember being slightly late to the game on HP)

If you could be the hero/heroine in a fantasy novel, who would be the author and what’s one trope you’d insist be in the story?

I’d want to be in a Terry Pratchett novel. I feel like my life already has enough ridiculous hijinks happening in it anyway, so why not just lean in and let crazy take the wheel. Make it weird.

And maybe to just really up the weird, we could have a multiverse trope, or a time travel trope like Ground Hog’s Day. Maybe both?

What is a fantasy series you’ve read this year, that you want more people to read?

The Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty. Technically, I read The City of Brass, last year, and just finished The Kingdom of Copper (the sequel), and loved it just as much. Started The Empire of Gold yesterday and it’s shaping up to be good as well. This series has been such a breath of fresh air for me. I hope to be seeing a lot more from Chakraborty in the future (put Daevabad in space! Ok I’ll be calm down now).

What is your favorite fantasy subgenre?

Without a doubt Epic Fantasy. One does not read as much Brando Sando as I do and answer some other subgenre. I would just be lying to myself and everyone around me. I can get behind High Fantasy (honestly this is shades of gray), Sword & Sorcery or even Grimdark, but I’m a real sucker for those EPIC STAKES. Drop me in a secondary world (aka someplace that’s not earth but can be similar), and turn everything up to eleven! Give me your weird mythical creatures (weirder the better), and your less-than-holy gods; give me your warring kingdoms (and political intrigue), your fake history, and made up customs. Dazzle me with your magic . . .

Wow. I think I need to calm down again.

What subgenre have you not read much from?

Steampunk. Really any of the punks, but I think steampunk is the one I’ve been let down the most by. Not sure why, but in my mind, I just want every Steampunk novel I read to be like watching Wild Wild West for the first time, and then when (literally) none of them are, I get disappointed. This is completely my fault as I probably just need to spend some time searching around, and figure out which book is considered the quintessential Steampunk book . . . and then READ THAT BOOK before being judgy, but so far it hasn’t happened. If you have a recommendation, please leave it in the comments.

In a slightly more positive tone, I discovered something called Bronzepunk exists. I would like to search out and find more of that. The fun example that got me hooked is Achilles vs Mecha-Hector, by Jesse-Beeson Tate. Go and read it. It’s a wild ride (I mean how could it not be?). Sadly I’m still waiting for a sequel. Please write more of this!

Who is one of your auto-buy fantasy authors

As mentioned earlier (and many many other times on this blog), Brandon Sanderson is definitely this for me. I’ve read like 30 of his books at this point and I’d probably read 30 more. I think Martha Wells is also achieving this status for me, though I’ve only read her Murderbot Diaries stuff. Hopefully I can visit some of her earlier stuff sometime soon.

So much! So little time!

How do you typically find Fantasy recommendations?(Goodreads, Youtube, Podcasts, Instagram. . .)

Recently? I get a lot of recommendations from my writing group. Like more than anyone can possibly read (which is wonderful). I am also signed up for about a billion newsletters from publishers. I try to keep up with industry awards, so if a book is doing well there, I’ll be more likely to read it. Goodreads also. Then sometimes insta.

What is an upcoming Fantasy release you’re excited for?

This is another tough question as I’m still trying so hard to catch up with last year’s releases that I haven’t payed much attention for what’s on the docket for this year (just look at that TBR).

BUT . . . I recently finished Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic (soo good) and while she seems to have plenty of titles I could go back and read (looking at you Gods of Jade and Shadow) I like reading new things too, so Certain Dark Things will probably be my next one. I’m sure there are some genre arguments to be made here, but I’m gonna consider it Fantasy and say that is the one I’m anticipating most at the moment.

What is one misconception about Fantasy you would like to lay to rest?

This is a tough question also, because I think the genre suffers from many misconceptions, but perhaps the most important to me, is that ‘Fantasy’ is just stories about white farm boys slaying dragons. This is just not the case anymore (though it may have been once). In a lot of ways, Fantasy has become something of a platform in which you can tell any story that you want. Want to read a mystery? Well what if it took place in post-Civil War Philadelphia from the point of view of a married couple working as conductors on the Underground Railroad. Well then check out Nicole Glover’s The Conductors.

How about a romance? Perhaps you should read Tasha Suri’s Empire of Sand inspired by the Mughal Empire.

Or maybe you WANT to read about dragons. Well there’s still plenty of fresh takes there (look at Johnathan Strahan’s Book of Dragons)

Anyway, there’s something for everyone here in ‘Fantasy land’ so come on down.

**Call back to earlier when I said I didn’t read enough Steampunk . . . Apparently there are STEAMPUNK DRAGONS! I guess I’ll be reading The Iron Dragon’s Daughter by Michael Swannick soon . . . this has been a fun digression.

If someone had never read a Fantasy before and asked you to recommend the first 3 books come to mind as places to start, what would those recommendations be?

I’ve seen Harry Potter on a lot of these kinds of posts and I would have to agree, it’s probably the best place to start (as mentioned before, it was one of the places I started). Depending on how old you are, you might be looking for something a little more ‘adult’ (although HP seems very mature by the end of the series), I would recommend Brando Sando’s Mistborn next. I’ve had pretty high success with that one. I’d probably go with The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin next. It’s truly fantastic, and I feel pivotal in a lot of ways for where the genre is (or could be). It’s not a popcorn read though so . . . fair warning.

Who is the most recent Fantasy reading content creator you came across that you’d like to shoutout?

I’ve been enjoying reading my friend Mary’s blog, The Inciting Event Blog. Recently, I feel like I’ve learned a lot from her post on maps called How to Build a World Part Two: THE MAP. She also has a super cute dog.

Welp that’s it.

I think that concludes my first foray into book tags. If you’d like to see more of this kind of thing, let me know in the comments. I’ve got a bunch of these lined up that I could do so you’ll probably being seeing more of them in the future. Anywho, thanks for reading this far. I’ll see you next time!

The Truth About Dinosaur Lords

Great cover

Great cover

I’ve been looking around and haven’t seen a lot of negative press about Dinosaur Lords. Which honestly, I wouldn’t have expected based on the premise alone. I also haven’t really seen a lot of press at all about The Dinosaur Lords which is very surprising considering how excited it seemed like the zeitgeist was to read it. However, after reading a bit into the book, I’ve decided that something should be said. Here goes:

The Dinosaur Lords has a really cool premise. I can’t believe no one has done this before. Unfortunately, I felt there were some problems with the execution. Mostly, I found the writing style did more to obscure what was happening in each scene than show us. I recommended this book to a friend before reading it and each day we’d meet up and be like “So what happened in here?” Nine times out of ten one of us was like “OH! Now I get it”.

All of that being said, it’s still a good read. I think the sheer coolness of KNIGHTS RIDING DINOS!! will be enough for most people to enjoy it. And honestly, it should be enough.

I’d love it if someone took the time to make a map of Paradise. When I first cracked open the book and saw the Portrait of La Merced I was like “Finally, a fantasy novel that doesn’t have an overbearing map that I won’t look at”. Then as I got into the book further, I realized that is exactly what the book needed.

I guess the the last thing I’ll say is, this book is not yet “… a cross between Jurassic Park and Game of Thrones” as promised by GRRM. It is dark enough in places to be like GoT and has dinos (so Jurassic Park) but it somehow seemed to fall short of that mark. Its obvious to me that this is going to be a series, but I think this opening could have benefited from a little more closure. I feel like I watched the first part of a miniseries which just ended after 450 pages and I’m not sure what larger story each character’s plots are involved in. Or whether or not they relate at all.

I hope there is a sequel to this, but I’d like to see it carefully done. I think that is all. Don’t murder me in the comments.

A&A welcomes D. H. Aire!!

Hi there. This is James Weber. We’re taking some time today to talk with author D.H. Aire about his revolutionary work of Fantasy, Highmage’s Plight . Hope you enjoy!


JW: Hi there. Please, if you could give us a little bit about yourself before we begin discussing Highmage’s Plight

DH:I’m D.H. Aire. I’ve a love of history, particularly archeology. In my travels I have walked the ramparts of the Old City of Jerusalem and through an escape tunnel of a Crusader fortress that Richard the Lionheart once called home. I’ve toured archeological sites from diverse cultures that were hundreds, if not thousands of years old… experiences that found expression in Highmage’s Plight.

I was a “closeted” writer since college. I can’t help but write stories; however, the very idea of facing another rejection letter was rather daunting way back when. Then one day I didn’t care anymore. I’ve amassed over a hundred rejection letters since then and have had some success, including the publication of my first novel, Highmage’s Plight.

JW: Anything you wish our readers should know before we begin discussing Highmage’s Plight?

DH: Highmage’s Plight is the first book in a sci fi/fantasy series that was serialized in the ezine Separate Worlds and published in novel form by Malachite Quills Publishing’s Chimera Tales imprint last year. Highmage’s Plight’s sequel Human Mage was also serialized and is being published later this summer.

JW: Please explain Highmage’s Plight. You’ve termed the series an experiment. How does it work?

DH: The Plight is a blend of science fiction and fantasy, exploring ideas such as what happens when technology is mistaken for magic. What if magic trumped science, what might a world look like, and what might it mean to be human under such circumstances? The Plight is the story of a world under the ultimate threat, being suborned by an evil, which has been cutting off all hope of prophecies being fulfilled until history is changed through the power of a paradox which starts with the summoning of George Bradley, a man of science from Earth’s future, an archeologist who falls through a ripple in reality, with only the clothes on his back and his computer staff, which among other things can help him envision what a dig looked like in the past.

Another look at the cover!

Another look at the cover!

Highmage’s Plight is the start of an epic fantasy series with a protagonist, who wants only one thing… to go home. George arrives in the world in the wrong place, fleeing the minions of the demon who wishes to destroy the human race. He crosses a wasteland, crosses mountains and the lowlands beyond, which is riddled with city-state kingdoms, in order to reach the Aqwaine Empire, a land ruled by elves and those of elvin blood. If that was not bad enough, his computer is rather sarcastic.

This is a world of prejudices, including one that knows human cannot do magic because they don’t have souls. This is a world where fate is going to bring George unlikely allies to help him survive all those who seek his life.

What makes Highmage’s Plight different on a completely singular level is that I was not trying to really get it published. I first wrote it more than twenty years ago and when I found myself out of work as the Great Recession hit, I asked myself during my long job search why my beloved books in the digital age needed to remain static. By that I mean, what if the book you read changed. What if the dialogue or a character’s actions diverged from the last time I read it? Why couldn’t a book evolve with reader input in electronic form?

So, I began serializing the Plight on Writing.com and found there was an ezine interested in serializing it. My evolving science fiction/fantasy project seeks to involve readers in new ways, but it hasn’t the audience at this point to make the next phase possible just yet. I offer a limited number of those who are interested, who purchased the book, to have a complimentary membership. At this point, they get an advanced look at the next book I’m serializing and additional stories from some of the other stories in the series. Ultimately, I want to “sell” character memberships, allowing readers to become the spirit behind a character, and advise on their exclusive character. If I agree, I’ll make changes to the evolving version, even consider adding to the storyline, whether affecting the first book or another as time goes by.

There are interactive stories, but nothing like what I seek to do with Highmage’s Plight. Perhaps it might be called an “intra-active” story, since I’m seeking to engage readers in the creative side of the story. No one else is doing an experiment like this (learn more at my website, www.Dhr2Believe.net).

Once I’m ready for the next phase, I am going to offer exclusive character memberships (for both major & minor characters) and general memberships as well (which is the currently complimentary access level now). All members of the group will need a free basic membership to Writing.com and will be able, as members of the group, to read and comment on the books and short stories posted in the series, published and unpublished.

The experiment is evolving, but those are my objectives. Writing.com, established in 2000, makes a lot of what I want to do today possible, which to me is the exciting part of trying to launch a new idea.

You got this!

You got this!

JW: How do you see your role in this project? Has it met your expectations? What has been some of the difficulties you’ve experienced?

DH: At this point I’ve only a few readers who have been interested in my promotional offer of a complimentary one year membership, which gives them access to the backend of the series. I can have 250 members presently, but can expand to 2,500. I never expected the series to find a publisher so quickly once I began the project. I’ve even written another series, Dare2believe, a young adult urban fantasy based on the idea of fans becoming their exclusive characters and turning into trolls, ogres, elves, etc. Suddenly they can do magic… and the world as we know is coming to an end.

Ultimately, it will take a significant audience to make an evolving story approach like what I’m experimenting with work. That’s going to take time and a commitment on my part in building an audience, which means writing, writing some more (including articles on my learning experience as a writer), going to sci fi and fantasy conventions, and networking as much as possible. I’ve gotten some great advice on what challenges my little project faces and ideas as to what I have to commit to in order to try to make it work. It’s led to my featuring the opening chapters of Dare2believe on Wattpad.com, a free website used by millions of young adult readers. Dare2Believe is basically Gulliver’s Travels meets Urban Fantasy and is available at: http://www.wattpad.com/story/5048546-dare2believe.

JW: There is a sequel coming out soon? When will it be published? Any difference in the process?

DH: Human Mage is currently being copyedited for publication and, if I say so myself, the first sample drawings for the cover art are “cool.” It should be out around Labor Day Weekend. The next sequel will begin being serialized by Separate Worlds in August. I’m hoping to see it released at the end of 2014.

Sweet logo

Sweet logo

JW: What is your experience working with publisher and imprint?

DH: Highmage’s Plight is published by Malachite Quills Publishing’s Chimera Tales imprint. The sequel is being published by Spectacular Publishing, which publishes Separate Worlds.

Malachite Quills is a small press, established in the fall of 2011. The Plight is one of the first books they published. They’ve grown into several imprints and the Plight is published under their fantasy imprint. Spectacular Publishing released an anthology at the same time as MQ published the Plight. Their anthology, Flights of Fantasy, Vol. 1, featured a number of my short stories and the opening stories of the Highmage’s Plight. They love Human Mage and approached me to see if they could publish and MQ concurred. So voila’ the ebook and print-on-demand editions will be available shortly.

JW: Any authors that influenced your work? Specifically Highmage’s Plight? The series as a whole?

DH: Among the many authors that influence my work are Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover Series, Anne McAffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern, and Roger Zelazny’s Amber Series. You’ll also see that Charles Dickens, Alexander Dumas, and J.R.R. Tolkien have taken a toll on my psyche.

JW: What aspects of the story are you most proud of?

DH: I love turning the tables on the classic stories. For example, I’ve got liveried sword wielding warriors (musketeers of a sort), who are all women; trolls who think they are human; and an ogre who’s a good guy at heart, just trapped by circumstances, poor guy. But what I’m most proud of is George’s relationship with his sarcastic computer alter ego, Staff, and his “family.” Together, George and Staff make quite the human mage. Together with his friends, George makes quite a human being.

JW: Are you working on any other writing at this time which is not involved with Highmage’s Plight?

DH: I’ve a two book space opera I’m hoping to see published in the next year or two called The Terran Catalyst and lots of short stories like Crossroads of Sin (a time travel tale), which appears in the anthology RealLies.

JW: Any closing remarks or thoughts which you would like to give to our readers? Also, Unicorns? Anything juicy behind that?

Sorry couldn't resist. Just love this pic!

Sorry couldn’t resist. Just love this pic!

DH: My motto is “Dare to Believe.” As a writer I’ve dared to believe in myself, knowing I’ve plenty of challenges ahead of me. I believe that’s true for all of us at one time or another and if I hadn’t, I’d never have published a single short story or Highmage’s Plight.

Okay, why a unicorn, you ask? You’ll have to read the series to find out… or you could read my Dare2Believe series to find out. Fine, Dare is completely based on the Plight, not just the idea of the evolving story experience run amok. That’s a plus in my book, particularly since those pesky characters seem to think playing in our world might be fun…

In other words, I write because I love to and, well, not writing drives me crazy. All I can say is, Dare to Believe.

D.H. Aire

http://www.dhr2believe.net

Highmage’s Plight by D. H. Aire

Aww yea. Cover yea.

Aww yea. Cover yea.

Looking back through my notes on this one, it appears that my initial reaction to this novel was:

Unicorns? Really?

All joking aside, that addition to the story was actually pretty great as far as fantasy creatures go. My prior experience with unicorns is effectively zero (actually it is zero) so I was (and still am) interested to see where that piece of the story goes and how it will develop.

Anyway, before I get into the meat of the review I’ll give you a quick set up of the story so you can decide whether or not you might be interested in reading further. Essentially, our main character, George or “Georj” as most of the other characters call him, is an ordinary Archeologist (for the future anyway) concerned with seemingly ordinary archeological problems (dating the site, continuing funding etc.) when he stumbles across a magic gate which transports him through time and possibly to another planet.

In this time (or on this planet) magic is an important part of the society, its cultural hierarchy/power structure etc. George and his computer, shaped like a large walking staff, must navigate through this new world, learn and use magic, and fight the attempts of an evil elf king to thwart their movements and destroy the world as we know it!

Why couldn't it have just been snakes . . .

Why couldn’t it have just been snakes . . .

Not just another day at the dig site huh?

Highmage’s Plight is interesting in a variety of ways. First, in some aspects Highmage’s Plight functions as a normal story. It has characters and plot, a climax etc. However, this isn’t the whole story. It is actually meant to be an interactive, or perhaps ‘intra-active’ series in which fans and other story tellers alike can make decisions about the plot, and imbue the characters with their own individual spirit and personality. I’m hosting the author, D.H. Aire, on the site Friday and we’re going to discuss the process some more, so make sure to stop by then as well. In the mean time, you can take look at it yourself at DHR2Believe.net It’s pretty cool.

The second is in the way the story’s world is structured. Magic and technology compete in stark opposition. Both are real, and affect the world in very real ways. George and Balfour (his Healer guide) meet, and are married to four Cathartan women (2 apiece) which serve as bodyguards along the quest. These women were born into a society in which a plague ravishes the male population (definitely some evil magic going on here). Of course typical gender roles are non-existent in favor of a society where women occupy almost every role available. It’s a strange dynamic in that you have strong, ultra competent women who are still beholden to men because of their rarity. However, George arrives on the scene with the aid of technology on his side and seems reluctant to wed them or bed any of them. I sense social upheaval, the likes of which have only been propositioned in the most epic of fantasies (I’m thinking Wheel of Time here).

As far as the story elements are concerned, I feel that this piece was something of a foundational work. It set the stage for more writing to follow. The characters are interesting and have lots of room to develop. Also, it seems there are wuite a few characters to work with. Many heroes but also a great many villains. It will be interesting to see the way these threads are woven together and what the end result will be.

I’m gunning for more Unicorns! Bye all.

This one almost looks real!

This one almost looks real!

Vigor Reborn!! New Spring Inspires New Motivation to Finish the Wheel of Time

It has been approximately one year since I last picked up a Wheel of Time novel. Approximately 5 years since I picked up Eye of the World, and I’ll say I was feeling a little worn out. After 7 books which each had to have had at least 500+ pages, I hit reader’s wall (if runners can hit a wall during a marathon I think so should readers. Also thank god WoT isn’t 26 volumes.)

The last I heard from Rand al Thor he was fighting some raged out Forsaken in Shadar Logoth and taking all of the appropriate amount of wounds before heroing his way to victory! As for Egwene, Mat, Perrin, and the host of other characters? I can’t really remember, it’s been a year after all. So after finishing Crown of Swords, I decided it was time to take a break from the Wheel of Time. All things considered, it wasn’t going anywhere and there were still some more books to be written until the concluding work. As Robert Jordan has made abundantly clear: there are no endings in the Wheel of Time . . .

Little did I realize that my destiny was not my own. The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills and it doesn’t give a fuck how many pages you’ve already read, you’re gonna read some more and dammit you’re gonna enjoy it!

I was part of the pattern.

About a month ago, I began the process of interviewing for a new job at a library (I won’t say which to protect the innocent? Or maybe the guilty). I knew some of the people who worked there because I had worked there previously. I went in to visit one of my old supervisors and BEHOLD!!! There was a Wheel of Time Novel sitting on her desk. I talked with her politely for probably an hour, all the while attempting not to look at the cover which I instantly recognized as WoT by its artwork. I didn’t want to know which volume it was. I had put all that behind me. Finally I couldn’t bear it any longer. I had to know which one she was reading.

At this point she told me promptly that she wasn’t reading it at all. It was an extra copy that somebody had returned to the library by mistake. (Destiny?) And if I wanted it, it was mine no questions asked and that I should probably take it otherwise it would thrown out because the library didn’t have the rights to lend it (It’s a trap!!). I figured I could walk away. Likely it was one that I had already read, or one which was several volumes away so I would likely never get to it. However, it was New Spring! The prequel which I didn’t even know existed and had to look up on the internet to make sure was legitimate. It was and it is.

I put the novel in my backpack and eventually it made it to my bookshelf where I assumed it would collect dust until Tarmon Gai’don. Weeks passed. I got the job. Re-opened my old work email account which I hadn’t checked in forever. Apparently I was still receiving emails from Tor and they were getting super excited about A Memory of Light which is supposed to be released tonight! (Don’t think I don’t see the irony in finally finding the time to do this post tonight, on the night of the launch party. Coincidence? The Wheel weaves). Anyway, I began to miss Rand, and Egwene, and Mat and everybody else. I began to miss Robert Jordan, for whom Tor produced a series of videos telling of his life and of the life of the series.

Then I began reading Leigh Butler’s non spoiler post and her other post about what Wheel of Time has meant for so many of its fans. I began to get sentimental. There was no way I wasn’t going to at least try to finish this series now. But I was worried. What if I started the series again and it was too much? Could I take another disappointment? After all, I felt scorned. Used up. Could I really do it all again? That is when I remembered New Spring. Just sitting there on my shelf, waiting to be read.

So I took the novel off the shelf devoured it. It was . . . exactly what I needed! Certainly a new spring of rejuvenation for the series when I felt I could not continue. (I supposed I should try to make another reference to running a marathon here but . . .Eh)

It tells of Moiraine bonding Lan as her warder, and of how she finds herself on to the search for the Dragon Reborn, and gives you some of those little tid bits you’ve been wondering about with her and Siuan. And of course, it is a perfect example of the type of writing style which Jordan employs and I am sure Sanderson has continued (It’s Sanderson’s fault I’m even reading these books. Why was Mistborn so good!?). But most of all . . . it was short! And self-contained. I can read other books between now and whenever I pick up the next Wheel of Time.

But despite everything, I will be buying The Path of Daggers soon, and will begin riding this pony once again. Or should I say cracked out bitchin warhorse? I don’t know.

Go readers and read! And read New Spring.