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Posts Tagged ‘novels’

Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth, England. And I am among the millions of readers who are grateful.

Of course, sentimental reader that I am on occasion, I love his A Christmas Carol and the transformation of Scrooge most. That said, how can any reader not enjoy his many books including Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Nickolas Nickleby, Bleak House, and Hard Times.

An extravagance I usually don’t allow myself, I have purchased Charles Dickens complete works – and it is with great pleasure I open the volume and settle into the detailed and sometimes grim world of Dickens.

So Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens – and thanks! For more information on Dickens, check out this link.

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Writers struggle to not only write, but to find publishers for their novels. Sometimes, misery likes company (remember, clichés do come from a bit of truth). So I thought this post, 15 Classic Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels that Publishers Rejected would offer some comfort to writers.

It proves that not every book is for every editor or publishing company. And it also proves, persistence counts! Hope you enjoy the article. 🙂

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I visited this post just to see if I’d read any of the Science Fiction novels listed!

I had – five to be exact. And of that five, I hated one of them. (No, I’m not going to tell you which one I loathed). Of the remaining four, I think I liked Dune by Frank Herbert (and his other novels set in this world) the best.

Though lists like this perhaps nudge readers to pick up a good book they’ve missed, I think they also do a disservice to the dozens of should-read books they ignore. For me, what I noticed most about this particular “top ten,” was the lack of female writers. Let’s not forget the ladies!

Do you agree with this “top ten” list?

I hope you’re enjoying my blog posts and links. Want to show some love? Visit my Amazon page and consider buying a book. 🙂

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Thanks to author Cindy Young-Turner for stopping by and sharing another point of view on the darkness in fantasy literature and film.

Finding Hope in Fantasy by Cindy Young-Turner

cyt_photo “A guest blogger here recently commented on the dark themes in YA novels these days. I like the fact that YA literature isn’t afraid to deal with serious issues. I’ve been reading a discussion in one of the fantasy groups on Goodreads about the current trend toward darkness in fantasy. It does seem like many of the popular fantasy books are very grim and very graphic. In fact, that could be said for a lot of media, whether it’s books, movies, even music. I’m not sure what the reason might be. Maybe it’s the 24/7 coverage of crisis after crisis or the recession and fears of global instability. Darkness does appear to be all around us. Perhaps the new trend of anti-heroes in a world where there is no right or wrong is simply a reflection of our times.

I don’t mind a bit of darkness in my fantasy. I like realism and characters with shades of gray. I like the answers to be difficult to obtain, and a book that makes the reader think about the fine line between the perception of what’s right and wrong. But as I’m currently working my way through G.R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (please, no spoilers, I’ve only finished books 1 and 2), I’m noticing that the grimness can be overpowering. Slogging through 800+ pages of the brutal effects of war on a populace and following a huge cast of characters, most of whom are pretty despicable, with the ones you actually like having little chance for happiness, makes me want to take a break and read something lighter before I tackle book 3.

TOHFINAL200x300 While I’m enjoying ASoIF, it’s also made me think about what I like most about reading fantasy, which I haven’t found much of in this series: the element of hope. Fantasy is often written on an epic scale. There might be a dark lord who needs vanquishing, a kingdom to save, an invasion to counter. Somewhere in that desperate situation, a hero will arise. Maybe it’s a hero you least expect. Maybe the hero herself never expected to be in that role, but somehow she carries on. She may stumble along the way. She may take a few wrong turns and make some bad choices, but in the end she gives the reader hope that the darkness can be turned back. Even when things are at their worst, such as Frodo and Sam on their trek through Mordor, or Harry, Hermione, and Ron facing the forces of Voldemort on their own, the reader clings to the hope that somehow the heroes will succeed, despite the odds stacked against them.

There are many things I love about fantasy, such as the amazing world building, the magic that I wish could be real, and the characters I’ve fallen in love with, but ultimately the stories that touch me the most are the ones that leave me with a sense of hope for the future. Although the fantasy worlds aren’t real, one of the great things about writing this genre is that it allows us to explore elements of our world and the human condition in a different venue. A hobbit can stand in for anyone who would rather be home enjoying a book and a pipe by the fire and instead is thrust into an adventure and a quest with grave consequences. And these unsuspecting heroes do the right thing. That gives me hope that any of us might make the choice to do the right thing.

Little Moon_JourneytoHope_CindyYoung_200x300 There’s a wonderful conversation between Frodo and Gandalf in the film version of Fellowship of the Ring that has stuck with me ever since I saw it. Frodo says, “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” And Gandalf responds, “ So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

To me, this sums up the power of fantasy. Even in our darkest hour, we can decide to find the hero within.”

Cindy Young-Turner is the author of Thief of Hope, and a short prequel, Journey to Hope, both published by Crescent Moon Press. Read more about her and her writing at www.cindyyoungturner.com. Thief of Hope is available in paperback and ebook at Amazon,Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Journey to Hope is a $.99 ebook available from Amazon Kindle.

Thanks again to Cindy Young-Turner for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and my new feature, Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a light-filled day.– Vonnie

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The following is the second part of a 1999 interview I did with science fiction writer, Jack L. Chalker. Click here to read Part I. (Photo of Jack Chalker courtesy of Patti Kinlock, chair of Balticon).

A Conversation with Jack L. Chalker (part II)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVWC: Earlier you mentioned the controversy surrounding The Soul Rider Saga from the mid-eighties (Spirits of Flux and Anchor, Empire of Flux and Anchor, Masters of Flux and Anchor, The Birth of Flux and Anchor, and Children of Flux and Anchor) and just now you mentioned naming characters in a manner that avoids lawsuits. Do you think fear of lawsuits and controversy are having an impact on today’s writers?

JLC: Well, if I really worried about that I wouldn’t have had so much fun with the Well World names. It’s crass, but publishers have insurance for this sort of thing and that’s in my contract as well. I have had some problems with legal staffs, but it was almost always because of commentary, rather than within the story itself. The only serious problems I had were with my autobiographical comments in my story collection, Dance Band on the Titanic, where the insurance company simply wouldn’t take the risk. There are other outlets, though, and other ways to say the same things.

Fear of lawsuits doesn’t affect many writers but it does affect editors and publishers through which we have to deal to get our work out to the public. This is nothing new.

The Soul Rider controversy wasn’t a legal problem, it was simply that people who see things in absolutes and do not understand what this work is about yelled because they believed it was politically incorrect. It may be, but not for what they said. My biggest critics on it, though, have all proudly admitted that they never read it. Unfortunately, at least one of these people is an influential editor for one of the dwindling number of New York publishers and he has kept a lot of writers’ work from going further based on this sort of PC lens. I have had more problems with this sort than with any lawyer.

VWC: I know from checking your website [no longer available], that you’re not convinced that e-books are profitable or that readers typically discover new authors via e-books. I happen to agree with you that many ‘people don’t read novels off screen, and they don’t have a tendency to shell out real money for books when they don’t retain anything physical for their money.’ [Remember this is 1999, before the Kindles, Nooks, etc. were mainstream.] So what do you think is the future of the science fiction/ fantasy publishing industry?

JLC: Unfortunately, I’m very pessimistic not just about science fiction, but about fiction books in general in the future. Readership overall is graying and down. The only areas of increase are tie-ins to movies and TV shows. The new distributors are MBA types who focus only on quick sell-through, maximize quick profits and invest nothing at all in the future or in the long term. These in turn drive the publishers, who can’t get books out on the shelves and racks that the distributors won’t take.

There’s a lot of excitement about Amazon.com and the like, but these are not online book stores, they are book SERVICES. That is, if you know what you want, it’s a quick and easy one stop source. But what about all the people who haven’t seen my books (or anybody you want to name as author). How do the new readers find you? Traditional reviewing sources are always inbred and tend not to have wide influence in any case, and online hype is actually paid for. If my publisher doesn’t pay the fee, Amazon.com doesn’t put those ‘If you like Farmer you’ll like Chalker’ type things up.

New and building readership comes from impulse buying, and that’s where nothing can beat the vanishing bookstore. The distributors weren’t interested in Priam’s Lens, so Barnes and Noble only bought 1,250 copies for their entire chain. Amazon’s selling a bunch, but they’re to my following, not to new people. You can see that I’m very discouraged about the future of books in general. I used to tell new writers not to quit their day jobs until they spent at least three years making more off writing than the job. Now, I tell them don’t quit unless you can retire with no book income.

VWC: Novels are like children, it’s hard to pick a favorite – but nonetheless, do you have a novel of saga that holds a slightly more cherished place in your heart? And is there a book or series that you wish you could change?

JLC: Well, Web of the Chozen was a joke done to win a bet and isn’t one of my personal favorites. It also came out due to some complexities in the wrong order; everybody who’d ignored me had to pay attention when Midnight at the Well of Souls became a spontaneous bestseller; they looked at my next book, which was supposed to be Identity Matrix. As it happened, though, Chozen came out next, and many reviewers and critics never read me again.

Favorite? The original Midnight at the Well of Souls, because it made my career and because it holds up as well now as when it was written. I’m uneven on the series that developed out of it; some are good books, but none, I think, approach the original stand-alone. Soul Rider was my most complex series, one many people could see only as a wild adventure, but that’s okay. Although I’d like to tweak the final book of the five, otherwise it’s pretty much the way I would do it again. The tweaks would be just to make clearer the sources of the wacky ideologies that emerged in the books.

My all-time favorite of all the things I’ve written is a novelette; Dance Band on the Titanic. I think it accomplished more of what I wanted to do in writing than anything else I’ve written.

VWC: Lastly, what advice do you have for the beginning writer who wants to be a novelist?

JLC: Go ahead and write. And, in fact, you can still get published even under the pessimistic conditions I outlined. But unless that first book’s a bestseller and turned into a Major Motion Picture, think of it as something you do for yourself and for posterity, not for a living.

VWC: Thanks for taking the time to talk about writing. I’ve just seen Priam’s Lens on the bookshelves and I’ll be looking for Currents of the Well of Souls and Ghost of the Well of Souls in the near future. Your productivity amazes me!

JLC: Well, I think Currents and its second half are as good as I’ve done in the Well universe in many years (and absolutely no characters or races from the past books, period!) But as to my productivity – I spent a year and a half when they took my books but didn’t publish them. During that time, there were rumors that I was gravely ill, and after Priam appeared many people said, ‘Gee, I thought he was dead, it’s been so long since we saw anything new from him!’ So one person’s productivity…

VWC: Hmm, almost sixty books, not counting re-issues in twenty-five years. I’d say most writers dream of being so prolific. As to rumors of your death, after a similar experience, Mark Twain said, ‘Reports of my death were greatly exaggerated.’ Judging from the list of titles on your website that are planned, but not yet completed, we’ll be seeing quite a few more Jack Chalker books as we move into the next millennium.”

End Note: There were additional books written and published after the interview, but not enough for his fans. Jack died on February 11, 2005. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society‘s annual Maryland Young Writers Contest was renamed The Jack L. Chalker Young Writers’ Contest in 2006, so his presence is still felt at Balticon and in BSFS. And the first SF organization Jack belonged to, the Washington Science Fiction Association, is still going strong, too. As for me – I am a better writer for having known him. – Vonnie

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KB Lever photo Thanks to Young Adult and Children’s Author, K.B. Lever for stopping by and sharing her views on putting a few facts in fiction. Enjoy!

Finding the Truth in Fiction by KB Lever

It’s the oldest trick in the book – adding truth to fiction. There are laws about it, best selling novels that use the technique, and let’s be honest, “truth is stranger than fiction,” said the famous author, Mark Twain.

A great novel is one that pulls the reader into the story and refuses to let go until the last page is turned. In order for an author to do that, they must evoke the response that each individual reader strives to find. Anything from pulling at the reader’s heartstrings, a suspenseful story, or an unsettling tale that makes them shift in their seats.

Currently, the population is infatuated with placing people in uncomfortable situations for entertainment. Let’s look at the following examples:

1) Strangers forced to live together in an elaborate house where they must go as far as to share their sleeping quarters, bathrooms, and cars.

2) Twenty women competing over one male (proper suitor) that are sent off on elaborate vacations where, come on, no one could resist falling in love.

3) Eighteen people taken to the Philippians and cast out in an unfamiliar territory and told to survive through hunting, building shelter, and betraying one another.

KB Lever -Executing the List What is the drive for these types of stories? What are the reasons that their ratings are the highest in the industry? Simple, it’s because of one reason – the events are actually happening! People are getting to witness firsthand the outrageous behaviors of human nature! It truthfully lies in the shock value associated with someone being able to say, “that really happened!”

So, with the large desire for the public to be able to relate to a novel’s characters and for the wish to be stunned, intrigued, or manipulated by the plot. Why would anyone want to take fact out of fiction? The real challenge is to perfectly mesh enough fact with fiction to come up with a heart-stopping novel.

Take a journey inside my books, Manipulating the List and Executing the List, and see if you can decipher the truth from fiction. I’ll give you a clue. There are more than just a few real-life events.

KB Lever’s The Immortal Companion is a Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy series that consists of three novels: Manipulating the List (2012), Executing the List (2012), and Legacy of the List (To Be Released July 2013). The series follows a young girl, Katherine, who finds herself in an unlikely relationship with an entity similar to the Grim Reaper.

KB Lever-Manipulating the List For more about KB Lever’s books, visit http://www.KBLever.com  To buy a copy: http://www.KBLever.com/Store.html Be sure to “friend” her at http://www.Facebook.com/author.KB.Lever and “like” her Facebook pages: http://www.Facebook.com/TheImmortalCompanionSeries , http://www.Facebook.com/LalooDreamWeaverSeries , http://www.Facebook.com/ThirtyDaysInMay And follow her on Twitter @KBLever.

Thanks again to KB Lever for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and a new tasty feature coming in February. Have an enchanted day – Vonnie

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Well, shiver me timbers! Once again, September 19th has arrived, and it’s time to celebrate the roguishly fun Talk Like a Pirate Day. The official website offers a new sing-along this year in addition to their usual pirate fare: http://talklikeapirate.com For those of a more delicate disposition, might I suggest viewing the options listed for kids after you enter the site.

Why such interest in pirates? Nowadays, we have Johnny Depp and Disney’s Captain Jack Sparrow to thank for renewed interest in these scallywags of the seas – but long before the films arrived in theaters, pirates had captured our imaginations. William Kidd, Black Bart, Henry Morgan, Blackbeard, and others seemed to live a life filled with swashbuckling escapades. They sailed to exotic lands, captured treasures, drank a lot of rum, and had romantic encounters with beautiful women.

And speaking of women, there were a few ladies who cast aside their frilly gowns, dressed in male garb, and pursued the life of a sailor. In the 17th and 18th century, there are records of female pirate captains including Charlotte de Berry, Mary Read, and Anne Bonny. But like their male counterparts, their life of adventure ended badly.

 After a shipwreck, Charlotte’s husband lost the “drawing of straws” selection process, and was eaten by his starving shipmates. Once they were rescued, Charlotte chose to join her dead husband, and jumped from the ship into the sea. Mary Read and Anne Bonny were eventually captured, tried as pirates, and sentenced to hang. They avoided the noose by claiming they were pregnant. Mary died in prison. As for Anne Bonny – she vanished. The romantic in me likes to believe a guard fell in love with her and let her escape, or another pirate was so smitten with her independent nature that he risked all to set her free.

And who can forget Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island? As a teen, I read the novel and saw the movie. The book introduced me (and many other young readers) to: “Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest…” (Chapt.1) and “Pieces of eight!” shouted out by Long John Silver’s parrot, Captain Flint (Chapt. 27). The beauty and wildness of the exotic locales visited by pirates was aptly captured by Stevenson, especially in this bit from Chapter 27: “Suddenly a kind of brightness fell upon me. I looked up; a pale glimmer of moonbeams had alighted on the summit of the Spy-glass, and soon after I saw something broad and silvery moving low down behind the trees, and knew the moon had risen.”

But it was the ambiguity of Long John Silver that I liked best in Treasure Island. (Writers take note!) Despicable and likeable, he was the forerunner of Captain Jack Sparrow and his comrades. Robert Louis Stevenson introduced his readers to a most complicated character. And like the charming and deadly, Long John Silver, pirates are to be scorned and envied:

“’John Silver,’ he said, ‘you’re a prodigious villain and imposter – a monstrous imposter, sir. I am told I am not to prosecute you. Well, then, I will not. But the dead men, sir, hang around your neck like mill-stones.’

‘Thank you kindly, sir,’ replied Long John…” (Chapter 33)

The words most often associated with these privateers gone wild: independent, romantic, freedom, and adventure – are, I think, the reason we find the pirate life so appealing. Most of us value freedom and independence. Many of us crave adventure – though more tame than battling opposing pirates with knives, axes, pistols, cannons, and machetes. Lots of us daydream about the romantic life at sea – minus, of course, the scurvy, worm-ridden food, appalling living conditions, and violence.

But let’s set aside the reality of trials and hangings, torture and peg legs, and poor hygiene in the extreme – at least for one day a year, we can shout “Aarrgh!” for no reason. We can relax the  workaday-world seriousness, and greet our office mates with an “Ahoy, mateys” rather than the usual “Good morning.” And we can thumb through a copy of Treasure Island dreaming of adventure.

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