The cover is done, the book is coming ... Soon! A new title in the Star Sojourner series by Jean Kilczer, an author I am proud to claim as a friend. If you haven't met her hero, Jules Rammis, you're in for a treat! If you've read her earlier books in this series, you already know that. Jean mixes science fiction action, adventure, danger and humor in a wild ride across worlds, with a good-hearted hero who just can't seem to stay out of trouble. Tangleroot is another winner.
He is, arguably, one of the most enigmatic of all the beings in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. A mystery that intrigued me from the moment I met him. Tom Bombadil in his bright blue jacket and yellow boots, the self-avowed “Eldest” and “Master.”
Others have speculated on who – and what – he is: one of the Mala … a Maiar … perhaps even Eru Illuvatar. One blogger, the Ranger of the North, speculated he is the spirit of the Music of the Ainar, by which the world was created.
That's a most intriguing thought. Take it one step further. JRR Tolkien in one of his letters once described Tom Bombadil as “the spirit of the vanishing landscapes of Oxfordshire and Berkshire.” In the same letter, he described Goldberry – Tom's lady – as the seasonal changes in nature.
Perhaps Tom is the spirit – or perhaps more accurately – the embodiment, of Middle Earth itself: Middle Earth as it has existed from the beginnings to the Third Age – the age imperiled by the Dark Lord Sauron. Tom says he remembered the first raindrop and the first acorn, and – significantly – he knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless … before the Dark Lord came from Outside. The Elves' name for him translates to “Oldest and Fatherless.” Gandalf says he is “the eldest being in existence.”
The One Ring has no effect on him. He takes little note of it, and at the Council of Elrond, Gandalf expresses concern that, if entrusted with it, Tom would not understand its importance and in fact would lose it. Yet one of the Elves, Galdor, suggests that Tom would be unable to withstand a siege by Sauron “unless such power is in the earth itself.” Indeed, there is the suggestion that Bombadil would not survive if the Dark Lord comes into power.
That, to me, holds the key. Tom Bombadil can only survive if Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn and their allies can succeed in destroying the One Ring, thereby defeating Sauron. The same is true for Middle Earth.
The world itself will be forever changed, destroyed, if Sauron comes to power.
It's an intriguing idea. At least … I find it so.
It's all speculation, of course. We can have no certain answer to Tom Bombadil's identity, and … It would seem that Tolkien intended it that way. He himself said there are some things that should remain mysterious in any narrative.
So Tom Bombadil remains – as Winston Churchill once said of Russia – “a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”
May he ever be so.
The Wyoming Writers Conference has just ended. Three days of workshops and book readings. Too little sleep and way, way, way too much caffeine. I'm exhausted. And …
Stimulated. Totally jazzed. Newly fired up with the zeal that got me into this crazy business of writing to begin with. Every writer should attend at least one conference – actually, more than one – during his or her career. Actually, I wish every writer could attend the Wyoming Writers Conference.
Why? Because …
You will meet some amazing people.
The conference that just ended yesterday (Sunday) here in Sheridan featured two agents from New York – Jessica Sinsheimer, an associate agent at the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, and April Eberhardt, a self-styled “literary change agent” and owner of her own business. Then there was Chuck Sambuchino, a Writer's Digest Books editor. And Lee Gutkind, founder and editor of Creative Nonfiction, the first and largest literary magazine to publish narrative nonfiction exclusively. There was Mark Spragg from Cody, Wyo., an award-winning author and screenwriter. And there was Echo Klaproth, Wyoming's current poet laureate.
And besides these guests, there were the Wyoming Writers members themselves, some published, some not, all willing to share whatever knowledge they possess. Which brings me to the next reason for attending a conference.
You will be rubbing shoulders with other people who know what it means to be a writer.
Not even our closest friends and family always understand what we do or why we do it. At a conference, you're surrounded by allies, people who “get” why you don't have a “real job” – because a lot of them don't have “real jobs” either. They understand the ucompulsion to put words on paper, or on a computer screen. They share that drive that keeps you writing even as rejection slips pile up, and friends and family - and sometimes you yourself wonder if you're on the right track.
You will learn. A lot.
As I said, the Wyo Writers Conference featured some very talented guests who served up a lot of solid information during three days of workshops, a lot of which I plan to share here in later posts. The two agents had one-on-one sessions listening to authors pitching their books. Chuck Sambuchino had one-on-one sessions reading and critiquing query letters. There was a “paddle panel.” Authors submitted the first page of the first chapter of their works, and were critiqued on how well that first page grabbed a panel of readers.
You will have fun.
There were open mic sessions Friday and Saturday evenings. Anyone could read five-minutes worth of their books, poetry or short stories. There were breakfasts, lunches and dinners where people could just sit down and visit with other conference-goers. There were breaks between workshops where people could do more visiting. There were roundtable sessions, a bookstore, an autograph session – and a lot more.
A good conference will stimulate you, challenge you, teach you, give you new perspectives on your craft and your career. If you have never attended a writers' conference, find one. And … (hint) the next Wyoming Writer's Conference will be on the first weekend of June 2015 in Casper.
Note: The photo above shows the lineup of guest presenters at this year's Wyoming Writer's Conference.
William Morris wrote his influential fantasy in language based on the medieval tales that were his models – which is the reason that some modern-day readers complain of being bogged down. This isn't a book that will appeal to everyone. You have to remember that it was published in 1896 – and written, intentionally, with a much older flavor.
Yet I think those who love fantasy in the vein of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien – two writers whose own works owe a debt to Morris' tale – this book belongs on the must-read shelf.
The story is basic, an echo of many tales found in folklore and in the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm: Ralph, the fourth and youngest son of a minor king, sets out in search of the Well at the World's End, a magical source that confers near-immortality and strengthened destiny on those who drink from it. After many adventures – including the loss of a lady he loves – Ralph and two companions find the well, and drink from it. The three then face a new decision, whether to settle down to a righteous but stodgy life in Ralph's home kingdom, or set out as almost immortal heroes to right the wrongs in a wider world.
In spite of – or maybe because of – the familiarity of the tale, Morris' book was well received on publication. H.G. Wells compared the book to the writings of Malory, calling the book's workmanship “stout oaken stuff.” And, among parallels to the world Tolkien creates in Lord of the Rings, when Ralph finally returns home after all his adventures, it's to find his homeland overrun by brigands that must be conquered. He uses the strength he has gained on his quest for the Well to rouse the countryside and drive them out.
Author of the Well, William Morris wrote and published poetry, fiction and translations of ancient and medieval texts throughout his life. He also was a textile designer and socialist, and he had a lifelong interest in architecture that led him, in 1877, to found the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.
He was associated both with the English Arts and Crafts Movement and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood – the latter an organization of English painters, poets and critics who rejected the classical poses and compositions of Raphael in particular as being a corrupting influence on art. Pre-Raphaelites were fascinated by medieval culture, believing it to possess a spiritual and creative integrity lost in later eras.
Morris began the series of “prose romances,” works that included The Well at the World's End, during the last nine years of his life. They were attempts to revive the genre of medieval romance. In fact, as the first novels set in an entirely invented fantasy world, they paved the way for the later works of authors such as Lewis and Tolkien.
This is the debut novel in a new series – Krystile Warriors – by L.W. Browning, and I can't wait to get my hands on the next book!
Seriously, if no one had told me that this was Browning's first venture into SF/fantasy fiction, I wouldn't have guessed it. The writing is gripping, compelling, page-turning. This is a can't-put-down book, one of those occasions where I had to stop (frequently) and remind myself I was reading it for a review! It's that good. I ceased to be a reviewer and simply became a reader, letting myself be pulled along by the story.
It's quite a story, too! Claire – an MX, which stands for eMpath with eXtra abilities – is purchased by Koda, the title warlord. Claire belongs to an elite class of women, empaths whose abilities to “read” other people makes them invaluable to the Conglomeration, an organization that seeks domination over other societies through trade.
The abilities of Claire and the other women also make them feared, so feared that they are now marked for death by the people who have groomed and developed them. Claire doesn't know she and the other women are doomed. She doesn't know that Koda wants to save her and the other women. She doesn't know there is a prophesy regarding the eMpaths and Koda's people.
The author weaves Claire, Koda and the plot into a wonderful dance of complexities, lies, deceptions, romantic entanglement, and discoveries. She does it with a deft hand and an excellent eye for human – and nonhuman – nature. The romance, and romantic tension, between her two main characters is beautifully and, in my humble opinion, realistically done. On the SF/fantasy side, Browning achieves that sense of wonder that is vital to the genre.
And it's all grounded in enough reality to make it totally believable.
One small caveat – This book contains explicit sex and some vioIence. If you're not comfortable with that, it probably isn't the book for you. It's definitely for mature readers. But for those who enjoy well-written SF/fantasy and/or romance, it merits a solid 5 Stars.
And now … meet the author: L.W. Browning
Tell us a little about yourself – your background, family, work experience, etc.
I am a GRITS, one of those Girls Raise In The South. I grew up mostly in the south although we did travel quite a lot. I always wanted to be a writer but I did not know how I could make a living doing that so I majored in Business in school. I programmed computers for about 30 years. I enjoyed it. I knew that I would never know everything and that challenge kept it interesting for me. I retired so I could so what I always wanted to do… write. And I love it.
What do you enjoy doing when you aren't writing?
I really enjoy my flower garden. I have always been an avid reader. I also paint in oils. Landscape painting is fun for me. I have dabbled in impressionism and fantasy painting but the paintings I’m most proud of are old houses, barns and buildings, some of them falling down or gone now. I like that they will live forever on my canvas. I think that desire to paint and explore old buildings comes from my love of history. And I really enjoy doing things with my grandchildren. I have three precious girls who are as smart as they are beautiful. The joy of seeing the world through a child’s eyes never gets old for me.
Everyone has their own unique journey on the way from a “want-to-be” writer to seeing your book in print. What has your journey been like? Is there anything along the way that you would like to do over? Change?
What I have always heard is, get the story written. Get it out there. So I did that. However, I lacked the skills a writer should have to tell a story. That was a painful experience. That first fiction novel took a very long time to write, there is blood sweat and tears in that story. I always wanted to write so having a book published made me smile. I think my friends and family were more impressed than I was. I always intended to write books. I told them, I just don’t think they believed me.
I wrote technical documents for 30 years. Writing fiction is very different. I knew when I began that I did not have the skill set necessary to write fiction novels. However, I knew I could learn the skills. My daughter helped me with the structural edit. My first attempts at this story were pitiful. People told me it was bad. I always asked… what’s wrong and how do I fix it? It was a slow and painful journey and I had some great help in the form of wonderful beta readers, a great critique partner and finally a professional editor. That first Christmas I asked everyone for Amazon gift cards. I bought books on writing, grammer, punctuation, etc. And I read them and studied them and applied them as well as I could. I am excited with what I’ve learned but I hope to continually improve.
What kinds of books do you enjoy reading? Do you have a favorite author – or authors?
I began reading westerns and scifi when I was in elementary school. I read every Walter Farley book and anything about horses. When we moved into a new town, we made three stops… the bank, the post office, and the library. Later on I read thrillers… I like to see them find the bad guy. I love Lee Childs’ Jack Reacher series and Iris Johansen. I’ve read a lot of historical romance. Friends at work told me about True Blood which was written by Charlaine Harris who lives fairly close. The book is based on her paranormal series The Southern Vampire Mysteries which is based in the area where I live. I read them and loved the heroine. Searching for a similar series, I found Patricia Briggs Alpha and Omega and Mercy Thompsons series. I read Midnight Breed by Lara Adrian. I was addicted by this time so I went on to read Black Dagger Brotherhood by J. R. Ward and Kresley Coles’ Immortals After Dark. My favorite series is Karen Marie Monning’s Fever Series. I had never seen anything like it. A friend at work enjoys the same kind of books I do and so we still trade information on what we’re reading. I love to recommend a book or a series to someone and have them tell me later that they enjoyed it.
When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? What influenced that decision?
As a young girl, I pestered my grandparents and great aunts and uncles for stories of “the olden days”. Stories were pitifully few from them. One day one of my married in aunts was sharing an interesting story about her family and I asked why my family didn’t have any stories like that to share with me. She explained that it was because my family had no storyteller. I decided I would be the storyteller. I could not go into the past, but I could tell about my experiences.
What is the inspiration for your book? Especially the characters Koda and Claire … What gave you the idea for them and for this plot?
Koda and Claire came to me gradually. I read several books and felt disappointed in the hero or heroine. I don’t care much for broken heroes. I decided I would write a story and make my characters do what I thought they should do. Little did I realize when I began that the characters begin to take on a life of their own and sometimes… they don’t do what I want them to.
The plot came from my own experiences. I wanted to show that being different was not always cause for fear and hate. I wanted to show tolerance of those who are different from us. The bad guys in this book have no tolerance and much hubris. For the characters, I wanted to do something different from vampires and werewolves, although I have a great idea for a vampire story, this one came to me stronger and clearer.
Is this a stand-alone book, or will there be others with these characters?
I hope this book can stand alone, but it is the first of a series. There are a lot of characters and I hope I can handle them all as they develop in the story. The characters have a lot in store for them.
You're self-published. What prompted you to publish your books yourself?
Patience is not one of my virtues. I started writing late and I did not feel that I had time to go the traditional route and have countless manuscripts returned to me. Publishing is in a state of flux now. The traditional publishers are struggling with all the Independents in the market. It’s an exciting time to be publishing, no matter if you’re independent or traditional.
Describe your writing process. Do you outline your story ahead of time, or do you just sit down and write?
Oh, I wish I could outline. I’m a very unorganized writer. I have the main theme in mind. I know what I want the story as a whole to say. Then I have scenes in my head that I want between the two characters. Then I just find a way to get from one of those scenes to the next.
I understand. I'm a "pantser" too. Now ... Your cover is amazing! Where/how did you find it?
Thank you. I have a very talented daughter who is an artist. In fact, she does everything better than I do. I had an idea of what I wanted, I sketched it out for her and we found three pictures and bought them. She used her artistic magic to put them together and make a fantastic cover. I’m very proud of the cover artwork.
What's your favorite part of the writing process?
The writing is my favorite part. I love to just sit and write. And yes, I rip out and start over and move scenes around, but I love it. I guess the part I get most excited about is when a beta reader or a reader says something to me and I realize I did get my point across by showing rather than telling. That gives me a tremendous amount of pleasure. To know that I made a reader decide something for themselves that I wanted them to know, that is a great feeling for me.
You sound like me in that regard. What's your least-favorite part of the writing process?
I hate to say this, but book promotion is my least favorite part. I really just want to tell stories.
Yep, Linda! I totally agree! So ... What advice would you give other aspiring authors?
Write. If you don’t have the skill set needed to writer, get it. Read, take classes, get together with other writers and learn how stories should be written.
Amazon ebook U.S. - http://www.amazon.com/Warlords-Honor-Krystile-Warriors-Browning-ebook/dp/B00H30I99O/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1386174860&sr=8-2&keywords=Warlord%27s+Honor
Amazon ebook UK - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Warlords-Honor-Krystile-Warriors-Browning-ebook/dp/B00H30I99O/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1386179174&sr=1-1&keywords=Warlord%27s+Honor+%28Krystile+Warriors%29+[Kindle+Edition]
B&N Nook - http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/warlords-honor-l-w-browning/1117608113?ean=2940148856696
iTunes - https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id776184825
2Shared - http://www.2shared.com/file/V3eqqkFJ/D_-_LW_Browning_-_Krystile_War.html
Shelfari - http://www.shelfari.com/books/36999667/Warlords-Honor-(Krystile-Warriors)
Bookworld - http://www.bookworld.com.au/ebook/warlords-honor/46428020/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/LaloLafleur
It's the eighth - and final - day of the Facebook Fantastical Reads Event. And I'm sharing one final excerpt from a participating author. I hope you enjoy it!
We sat on opposite benches, our knees a foot apart. Emery watched me curiously while I considered how to start. I resorted to small talk.
“Uh, Emery, so where do you live?”
“We rent a condo near Wallingford,” he answered patiently, making no attempt to elaborate.
“Oh.” I touched my forehead. “Were you born in Seattle?”
“No, Washington, D.C.” Placing his forearms on his knees, he leaned forward. “How did you hurt your forehead?”
I dropped my hand. “Funny. That’s what I want to talk to you about.”
Intently looking at my face, he waited for me to continue.
I touched my nose. “Before yesterday, I had freckles. They were light, but they were there.”
Narrowing his eyes on my nose, he attempted to decipher.
Taking a deep breath, I continued, “Sorry, that didn’t make any sense. Let me put it this way—I had freckles when I went to your mom’s lab with my dad.”
His expression became so intense, frightening almost, that I hesitated. My feelings about him were conﬂicted. He made me uneasy. Everything about him was so foreign.
Emery’s voice took on a soothing tone. “I understand that you injured your head in my mom’s lab. Please, tell me how. You can trust me. I want to help you.”
I searched his eyes. It was difﬁcult to penetrate through the blackness, adding to my unease. “I don’t think you can.”
Here's an excerpt from another of the great books being featured during this week's Fantastical Reads Event on Facebook.
“Peace of life,” said the chideman as he poured the blue water from the glass urn into the pool. It was surreal.
“Peace of life.” My response was automatic.
My heart pounded. For thirteen years I’d trained for this. Still I was not ready. The machine’s copper pipes gave off a warm smell that drifted to my nostrils as if precious biscuits were baking in the eating room. The calming scent only made it worse. I was leaving.
On display before every citizen in the community, my bare feet stepped the few inches further to the edge of the pool. Fear haunted my mind. Shivering from head to toe caused my short golden dress to tickle at the tops of my thighs. I brushed away the itch. Goose bumps peppered my arms and legs. I was freezing. For a moment, the massive musics and sounds on the stage overwhelmed me. I was small in comparison to everything here, all present and to this wondrous event. Through dazed thoughts, my focus returned and I remembered to count to three before placing my foot in the shallow liquid.
With eyes watering, my every heartbeat echoed in my ears. Never again would my father’s eyes look upon me. Never again would I feel his warm embrace. I would so miss his gentle, loving voice. How would I bear it? I fought my great desire to turn and dart to him, or steal a look as he sat in his chair upon the stage. Instead, I kept my step.
There would not be another last goodbye. We already said it, and he wanted just the one. It would be my greatest honor to him to leave with the dignity, respect, and position he bestowed upon me, to act older than my meager thirteen years. I had to be brave and pave the way for the others, as he had instructed.
I've got another great read today from this week's Fantastical Reads Event on Facebook! This one is from Elyse Salpeter. Here's the excerpt:
Hidden in the security camera’s blind spot, she sucked in her gut, closed her eyes and listened intently. “Come on, already,” she thought, drumming her fingertips rapidly against the brick wall. She heard the dogs panting now. This sound had replaced the earlier frenzy of them tearing into the drugged raw hamburger she had thrown over the fence just twenty minutes before. She’d crushed thirty-six Acepromozin tablets into the ground meat, reckoning it would enough to knock out the four guard dogs, if not kill them outright.
She glanced at her watch and waited. This is taking so long. Five more minutes passed, with nothing sounding except the soft, rotating click of the camera. Abruptly, she yanked down the protective goggles resting on her head and placed them over her eyes. The clicking now echoed loudly, indicating the camera was once more faced in her direction. Brazenly she stood, aimed her laser gun and pointed it directly into the lens. The high tech, silicon-based CCD camera had an impressive wavelength sensitivity. The laser's high-powered emitter instantly saturated the pixels of the camera's CCD sensor and burned the chip out instantly.
Ricardo Perez thought he protected himself with the best of everything. He’d under-estimated meeting an assassin so invested in seeing him dead.
Hooking the laser into her belt loop, she flung her knapsack over her shoulders and scaled the wall in a practiced leap. She balanced delicately on the edge to prevent being punctured by the barbed wire and slipped on a pair of leather gloves, grabbed the wire cutters hanging from her backpack and snipped her way through. In less than twenty seconds, she was inside the backyard of the compound. Three of the dogs lay unconscious in the grass nearby, but their twitching feet told her they were still alive. Where is the other one?
A deep, menacing growl came from behind her and she whirled to face the remaining Doberman. She had just enough time to register the bits of bloody hamburger still clinging to its snout before it lunged. Her instincts kicked in and she did the only thing she could remember. She punched the animal savagely in its throat like she’d been taught, and it fell to the ground, dead.
Breathing hard, she turned back to the house where Ricardo had hoped to escape from her. Her body shook and she took a deep breath, trying to keep her anger in check. This man couldn’t expect to destroy her family and get away with it. He was going to pay.
For Day 4 of the Facebook Fantastical Reads Event, I'm featuring an excerpt from R. K. Ryals' Tempest - book 2 in her Scribes of Medeisia series. Enjoy! And ... come visit us on Facebook!
And then I lost my battle with the wind, just remembering to turn my head so that when I fell onto Oran, it was with my cheek, my nose and mouth open and uncovered. It put me eye to eye with Lochlen. His reptilian eyes were dilated, his pupils blackening his gaze.
"It ends soon,” he promised.
His eyes stayed locked on mine, and I concentrated on that. Lochlen, my dragon. I’m not sure when I had started seeing him that way. It was a strange connection I’d felt since I’d first met him at the edge of the Ardus. Not a love at first sight romantic kind of feeling; he was a dragon after all. More of an I need you kind of feeling; a friendship that seemed to start without words.
I was so tired. The wind bore down on us so roughly I felt like I couldn’t breathe. And maybe I couldn’t. There was no room under the fabric for all of us to breathe, no oxygen left. The wind was stealing it all away.
“Just a little longer,” Lochlen yelled, his eyes on mine.
My face was pressed so deeply into Oran’s fur that I could almost smell the forest on him, the hair tickling my nose.
“Don’t let go!” Kye ordered from above me, his voice firm, commanding.
The flat, thick tent was lifting, and I knew the men were losing their battle with the wind.
“Don’t let go!” Kye yelled. “Remember why we came!”
I tried lifting my head, but between the wind, the fabric, and Kye, I couldn’t move at all.
“Can’t breathe!” Daegan panted. “Can’t ...”
“Can’t breathe,” I agreed, my voice a whisper.
No one heard me.
It's Day 3 of the Facebook Fantastical Reads Event - and my third day of posting excerpts from featured books of my fellow authors/event participants. This one is darkly compelling ...
Now the cheating prick had drawn a knife.
Probably shouldn’t have kicked him in the balls, the drifter thought. Especially since his large friend here had him tied up in the stranglehold of a full nelson. It hurt like hell, but it was nothing compared to that spike of static driving right through that splitting headache he had. It felt as if it were cutting into his brain like some impossible electric blade.
“Hold him, Cal.”
It wasn’t the fat man. One of Cal’s buddies had piped up. All of a sudden, the place was just crawling with rats.
The fat man met him squarely, still wincing from the throb in his jewels. The heady mix of bar smoke and brew had him swaying a little, and just when you thought he might rethink this madness, he returned the favor with one solid shot from his steel-toed boot. Pain rippled through the drifter’s groin and into his skull. Still, he’d endured far worse than these boys could dish out, and he wasn’t about to give them the satisfaction. He swallowed the agony. His lips slid into a cockeyed grin.
Outside the packed roadhouse—this stinking pisshole that stank like all the others—the thunderstorm raged. Somewhere down that cold and lonely road that had brought them here, lightning struck a power line, and the lights flickered.
“No more tricks,” the trucker told him, uncertain as the lamps. Clearly he was rethinking this; trying to get a grip on just what the hell had happened here tonight. Trying not to lose that grip.