Monthly Archives: February 2013

New Release: DEMON DAZE

It’s here: DEMON DAZE

Dani’s family is unusual. She’s the youngest–and only girl–of seven. Being the lone female, her family would like her to be all girly and sweet like her best friend Allie. But Dani is a tomboy born and bred, and on her fourteenth birthday she discovers why.

Life is about to get decidedly strange!

DemonDaze-Final-2x3

I’ve been having a terrible time deciding where to start my latest Deb Logan novel. Should I begin with Dani’s discovery that she’s a demon hunter? Or should I start with an action-packed battle sequence … one where she obviously already knows who and what she it?

DEMON DAZE solved the dilemma! This short story tells of Dani’s advent: her discovery that she’s not a too-tall, gawky imitation of her very feminine best friend, but exactly who and what she needs to be 😀

Now, as my father used to say, “Let’s get on with the fighting!”

Interview with Elizabeth Baxter, Author of “The Last Priestess”

I’m very pleased to host another independent author this week, Elizabeth Baxter, who either failed to read the warning signs or loves nothing better than a good torturous interrogation process. Join us now in the donjon as we prepare to wring every ounce of information from this unsuspecting victim. We’ll lull her into a false sense of security by asking her friendly questions first…

The writer, I believe, is on the left.

The writer, I believe, is on the left.

Q1: Elizabeth Baxter… I cannot tell you how familiar that name sounds! Probably I’m thinking writer-elizabeth-barrett-browning. But Baxter- was your father named Ted, worked in a news station? Or maybe your middle name is “Raven”? I know what A “baxter” is in a movie-plot, but we don’t want to go there. Are you as sensible and well-grounded as the slang term indicates?

A: Hmm. Sensible and well-grounded are not words normally associated with me (this is the girl who spends her mornings watching Spiderman on the cartoon channel). I think writers need to be a little bit crazy to do what we do. After all, what completely sensible person wants to spend hours locked up in a room with only a laptop for company? I’ve always thought my name sounds old fashioned. Or regal. Add my middle name and it gets worse. Elizabeth Katherine Baxter (sorry, not Raven but that would be kind of cool).

Q2: I’m a firm believer in choice during interviews. Choice One- is the protagonist of your upcoming tale more like Xena (Warrior Princess), Katniss (Hunger Games), Galadriel (LoTR) or Mulan (um, Mulan)? Are we talking “hear me roar” or something more hesitant from her?TheLastPriestessCover

A: Maegwin, the main character in The Last Priestess, is, as you’d expect, a priestess so I suppose she ought to be wise like Galadriel. But she’s actually more of an opinionated, kick-butt kind of girl. And yet, she is forced to be this way by circumstances beyond her control. So I suppose she’d be a combination of Xena and Katniss.

Q3: Do you clearly recall the moment you became a writer? I’d love to know whether one fateful day you squared your shoulders, took a deep breath and started, or if you sort of looked back and realized it had already begun.

A: Yes! I remember it clearly. I was six years old and spent one Saturday sitting in my bedroom writing a story. I don’t know why I did it – it was just an enjoyable activity to me. The story was called The Golden Pheasant and was about two friends, Fox and Deer, who set out to discover what this golden pheasant is that kept appearing in their wood. I even made a cover out of cereal boxes and illustrated it myself. And that was it. I was a writer! I haven’t stopped since. In fact, I’ve still got a copy of The Golden Pheasant somewhere. Maybe it will be worth megabucks one day! (I can only dream).

Q4: That has to be the coolest thing I’ve heard since I was six myself. Choice Two- would you say you are solidly in the “epic/heroic fantasy” camp, or have your plots so far started with real-world folks and crossed over? What do we call that latter sort of writing anyway?

A: I don’t write cross-over fantasy. Sorry, don’t know the correct term. I like my characters to be a part of the world I create. Having said that, some of my favorite ever books have been cross-over fantasies. Take Stephen Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. A masterpiece of the genre in my opinion. I’m not sure how I’d categorize my work. It’s epic fantasy in the sense that it deals with big, world-changing ideas but I also get into the nitty-gritty of my characters’ lives and the minutia of their everyday struggles, the things that really matter to them.

 Q5: Are your fantasy kingdoms unconnected? Or do you see many fantasy realms connect to our alleged-real world? If you create a new fantasy setting, how much do you try to think ahead and map it out, or is it more a driving idea that grabs you and things flesh out as you go?

A: Um, the last option. When I create a fantasy world I have a basic idea of the kind of laws that drive it. This informs how the world unfolds in the story. For example, in The Last Priestess, the world my characters inhabit is one of seven worlds that are interconnected. I like the idea that each world has its own natural laws that govern the types of creatures that live there – this idea formed the basis of how I created the world of Amaury and the six other worlds (or Realms as they are called in the book) it’s connected to.

Q6: Now that’s using your head- why couldn’t I have thought of that? Tell us something about The Last Priestess. Is it heading straight downhill like The Last Samurai, or are we going to see the world reseeded with next-gen clerics by the end… like the kids in Mad Max, only with incense?

A: At the start of The Last Priestess, Maegwin’s world has been shattered. She has two options: start anew or let herself slide into a downward spiral of bitterness and betrayal. The story follows this struggle. She faces many choices. She can choose to accept help or reject it. She can choose to forgive or take revenge. She can choose to form friendships or shut people out. So how will the world in The Last Priestess turn out? Well, that’s up to Maegwin.

Q7: They say marketing your own work is a job; do you have any leads on a person who’d be willing to do it for us? I guess you would have no objection to being handed fame and fortune by an agent and publisher! But assuming you’ve done the majority of your own legwork so far; was that an early choice, a voluntary one? And what can you tell us online authors about rolling this rock uphill?

A: I was offered a ‘traditional’ publishing contract for my first novel, Everwinter. After much deliberation, I turned it down to go indie. Why? Well, I did say the words, ‘sensible’ and ‘well-grounded’ couldn’t be applied to me didn’t I? I thought I could have more fun doing things my way. And I was right. I’ve enjoyed every minute, even though it’s been incredibly hard work. As for marketing? I’ve heard it described as throwing bits of popcorn at a wall to see what sticks. Try everything. And don’t give up.

Q8: … ‘scuse me, I was getting busy licking my popcorn… So I look at the artwork on your covers and immediately think, “OK, off to GameStop to play this one.” Is this CGI influenced art? Do you have the same artist, or how did you set about achieving the nice cover art you have?

A: I like to have characters on my covers. After all, they are who the book is about. The jury is out on whether this works in fantasy. Some people don’t like characters on covers. To each their own. I’m fortunate in that my other half is pretty nifty at graphic design. So I show him the images I like and he puts it together. Ta-da! I’d like to claim credit but I really can’t.

Q9: You married the help? My lovely wife did the same thing! {And it was our anniversary on the 10th, too.} Thanks so much for giving us a peek into your craft, Elizabeth. I firmly predict, anyone who likes Peter Parker and Thomas Covenant is going to be writing stuff I like. Be sure to fill us in with the dope on where to find your previous works, and when to look out for The Last Priestess.

A: There’s loads of places you can catch up with me on the internet. Here’s a few:

The Last Priestess: http://www.amazon.com/Priestess-Songmaker-fantasy-novel-ebook/dp/B00B9Z98SA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1360423888&sr=1-1&keywords=the+last+priestess

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Baxter/e/B007YTE5YW/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1360423917&sr=1-1

Blog (smallblondehippy): http://www.elizabethbaxter.blogspot.co.uk/

Have a great day, everyone!

Fantasy, by the Planets- My Faults are in the Stars

With a tip of the broad-brimmed hat to Ciara Ballintyne, whose wonderful post on the subject kicked my dusty brain into gear, I fell to thinking how to classify the various works of fantasy that I love so well. I’ve come to realize from posts at various sites, that my views are quite simplistic- also showing their age, frankly- but perhaps for beginners I can offer the following easy taxonomy. If it helps you to write, then it’s good.

  • I’m following a rule of three, split by Stakes and Mood, for a total of nine sub-Genres. Yeah I know- too tidy, old-fashioned, unconvincing. Sue me. I have simple tastes, and believe that many things folks call genres are better described as flavors.
  • Among those things you won’t see reflected here by name are Urban, High/Low, Historical, Dark and most likely others you’ve come to like. My, I’m being grumpy today. It’s just that I prefer a few categories, and then one can speak of works that split-the-distance, or bend the genre. That strikes me as the greater compliment than to give every great work that comes along a category of its own.
  • My model is a solar system- in fact, ours. The planets represent centers of gravity that define something qualitatively different about the writing, and of course the reading experience. But plenty of room between the heavenly bodies, and most of what we read doesn’t nestle down precisely in one atmosphere or another. Most planets have moons, and there are uncounted millions of asteroids: I know what you’re thinking, the literary genius goes on and on.
  • And here’s another point, before I lay the figure on you. It’s a solar system, which means there’s room outside it as well. Maybe you’ll find the stuff you really like is off beyond Pluto somewhere, and that’s cool. Say hi to Kirk and Luke for me. I know that some of my works to date have spicing from other genres such as Horror, Mystery, and Romance: if Fantasy writing was a country trading with its neighbors, I would say imports outweighed exports by about 10 to 1. Might be cool to consider that in a future post.

So I’ll give the graphic representation here, which I hope is pretty self-explanatory (thousand words and all that). I hope you enjoy it, and then if you like scan as many of my notes as you want. I’m a heroic and epic fantasy chronicler, so believe me, this IS the short version! But stop whenever it’s not helping you anymore. I’m very happy as always to hear your thoughts too. Click on the image to see it bigger.

One chronicler's suggestion

One chronicler’s view

I’ve suggested three major genres of fantasy- Epic, Heroic and Sword and Sorcery (down the middle)  with variations of Mood (across the top) from Cinematic to Morbid, and a second spectrum of Stakes (along the side) from Casual to Crucial. At each “planet” I installed a title that pretty closely fits the location: most of my selections reveal my age but I think they will still be familiar to many. One word of warning; these planets are not arranged in the same order as you might expect by the presence of the “sun” in the picture. More explanations than you could ever want follow here!

EPIC Fantasy is defined by Crucial Stakes; the main character is called upon to Save the World. Combat is rare, humor limited and every act reeks of consequences. Things happen for a reason, it all ties together.

HEROIC Fantasy involves some kind of quest within more limited boundaries, to Save the Kingdom. Heroes fight more often, there can be humorous moments and even mistakes before the (usually happy) ending.

SWORD & SORCERY sometimes identified with “Low” fantasy, has the smallest, most Casual stakes; for the protagonist, the job  is literally Save Your Skin. Fighting and action ranges from frequent to non-stop, and nearly any vice you can imagine is on the table (sometimes takings its clothes off) while mistakes are common (and mean less). By the end, there has often been little or nothing accomplished. Except you’ve enjoyed a great story.

But these tales are also qualified by a tone or Mood which puts them in definable categories. The CINEMATIC (or Light) mood generally carries more humor, a higher level of action and suspense, and often brings more misadventures whose purpose either distracts or relieves tension derived from the main plot. Not surprisingly, fantasies with a Cinematic Mood make good movies. The Stakes are the same (a Cinematic Epic Fantasy is still a quest to save the world), but you can laugh along the way, there’s more of a campy flavor. There’s also less doubt that the world/kingdom/skin will, in fact, be saved. You don’t spend sleepless nights wondering how it will turn out. On the opposite side of the spectrum, fantasy tales of all three genres can be Morbid (or perhaps Dark), bearing not just on death but on a much grimmer prospect regarding the Stakes. You can certainly doubt whether “it” will be saved, or you might be uncertain if you want the main character to succeed. Many works hailed as deconstructions of fantasy, in another view, are Morbid.

THE BOOK TITLES: In case you were interested, some notes on the choices I made. I spotted my own works with initials in purple (TMM- Three Minutes to Midnight, and so forth). I think I have them in the right orbits, but let me know!

Epic: Lord of the Rings is the obvious call, hard to see how any work could displace it. I also include SRD’s Thomas Covenant series as a later, but still seminal example of the Stakes involved. Ironic point- Middle Earth is lost unless Frodo refuses to use the Ring, and The Land is done for unless Covenant decides to use it!

Cinematic Epic: I chose the 1980 version of Flash Gordon for two reasons. First, even though it’s about as silly and campy as anything ever put on film, the Stakes are unmistakably Crucial: Ming is moments away from destroying Earth and ruling the entire galaxy. It’s technically science-fiction, but the lasers and mind-probes are pretty soft-pedaled especially in this movie: the best moments like the stump-of-death and the tilting-floor duel are pure fantasy. Secondly, it’s a shout-out to anyone who was at Camp Dudley YMCA in 1983, when five hundred boys trooped to the movie-hall after four days of torrential rains, expecting to see another boring baseball series recap film. Instead, the pulsing drums of Queen preceded Max von Sydow sneering “Foolish Earthlings, who can save you now?” The cheering echoes up in the Adirondacks to this day.

Morbid Epic: I think Stephen King’s Dark Tower series stands well here, because of the grim tone, the gruesome moral choices made and the severe prices paid. I’m not sure who I want to win, nor whether anyone will. And the Stakes once again are the entire world (no matter how small). Should I have yelled “Spoiler Alert” a few paragraphs ago?

Heroic: I personally put Ursula LeGuin’s series on a pedestal just as high as Tolkein’s or anyone else’s, and the first book I think is a splendid example of individual heroic activity for big (but not yet universal) Stakes. There are two kinds of readers on earth- those who need to read Earthsea and those who need to read it again.

Cinematic Heroic: The book is better, yet the movie of The Princess Bride brings out the Cinematic mood just as well. But the book is better.

Morbid Heroic: Here’s where I would stash GRRM, personally, and for emphasis I laid him alongside Elric of Melnibone. I think Tad Williams’ Shadowmarch can also be classified here. The struggles going on in Game of Thrones et al will not bring the world down to darkness (most likely)- and with most characters showing a gleam of virtue already dead I’m not sure anyone would notice if they did. Heroes are saps. Even some of the bad guys are suckers, compared to some of the other bad guys. I count down from the top of my list of characters who are a) somewhat good and b) still alive, and here’s my top 3:

  1. The brave bastard (no really) who’s still alive because he lives at the polar ice-cap so none of his enemies can be sure where he is
  2. The girl who’s hoping to become an assassin
  3. the blonde guy who actually said no to boinking his sister for a change, and who might be getting a tad weary of being so evil all the time

Can you tell I don’t like Morbid fantasy much?

My choices for Sword and Sorcery are all nearly as old as I am and I cannot see into the darkness far enough to make out a Morbid choice. Perhaps you have some suggestions to fill in my star-chart?

Speaking of that, let me wrap up (this IS the short version) with a run-down of the various planets.

The SUN brings “light” of course, so the three planets closest to it are Cinematic and the furthest are Morbid. But that’s not strictly a distance thing.

Arranged to fit my own fantasy

Arranged to fit my own fantasy

Venus is where you should expect to find her, both the lowest and most light-hearted spot suited to the pursuit of, ahm, venality.

Neptune occupies the Cinematic Heroic spot because like many tales in that sub-genre, it’s turned on its side.

Pluto is Cinematic Epic because its very survival (as a planetary body) is at stake. Despite being so far away it is at least solid, and remarkably bright for its small size. So a nice combination of light and far-out.

Mars is the home of Sword and Sorcery and if Conan wasn’t so cool I’d have put Jon Carter there as a title in a heartbeat.

Earth is the home of heroes. Full stop. Keep looking, they’re there- and my Lands of Hope are the proof.

Epic Fantasy is the King (I know, the planet I used has rings, but it’s a great color). And Jupiter has many moons, lots of tremendous titles we all could name in its orbit.

Morbid S&S needs a planet where things are cold as hell but can move quickly and dangerously. Mercury, remember, doesn’t spin- the dark side temps drop to -350 F or lower. In a Morbid S&S your life could be over in fewer seconds than the days of Mercury’s orbit.

Uranus is appropriate for Morbid Heroic because it’s so large and full of gas. Deadly gas. Fortunately for me, it’s also far away. Did I mention Morbid is not my favorite?

And Saturn wishes it could be Jupiter again but will have to settle for second in size, still slow of speed, lots of material in its orbit too.

If you’ve made it this far, I should give you a reward. Why not download The Ring and the Flag from Podiobooks? It’s free to listen, and the hero spends lots of time staring up at the stars for answers. Sincere thanks for your patience, I’ve enjoyed the rant. Ar Aralte! (Hope Forever)

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