Archive for fantasy

Magical books

Posted in Book review, Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 17, 2017 by Kate Jack

No, I’m not talking about spell books, or grimoires, but fiction books in general. They allow access to adventures, mysteries and places the reader has never seen or experienced; the possibilities are endless. Of course speculative fiction, such as I write, allows the use of magic to enhance a sense of wonder and enthralment not perhaps available in other genres. The bonus of urban fantasy is that it also allows a combination of the real and fantastical.

 The Silver Flute Trilogy

An example of a mixture of the magical, mixed with realism, is one of the most unusual fantasy books I’ve ever read. Set in the 19th century this story is beautifully constructed, using a wonderful mixture of the author’s own characters and real, historical figures such as mad King George III and Lord Wellington.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

The story follows two English Magicians and their partnership as master and pupil, until a falling out sends them careening down divergent paths. The tale contains weird and wonderful creatures, from a world outside our own. There are elements of adventure, conflict, wickedness, tragedy, and reconciliation. To say that Susanna Clarke has produced a tale of wonder and enchantment, that completely draws the reader in, is an understatement. So it’s possible to combine genres successfully and satisfy readers who would not normally read historical fiction or fantasy.

The above illustrates that it’s perfectly possible to combine more than one genre and produce a book that will take readers’ breath away and send them spinning through a story that will immerse and engage with stunning effect.

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A very unexpected adventure indeed!

Posted in Book review with tags , , , , on December 25, 2016 by Kate Jack

josephine-2

Just finished reading An Unexpected Adventure, by Josephine Montgomery, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Here’s my review of her work:

A very unexpected adventure indeed! This is not your typical historical fiction. Yes, there is a 16th century setting, along with some fascinating facts about life in that time. King Henry makes a guest appearance, along with his warship, the Mary Rose. But there’s no bodice ripping or be headings, just plenty of adventure, fantasy and above all pirates! This is a wonderful read for young and old alike, with twists and turns to leave the reader longing for more.

If you’re interested in purchasing this book, it can be found here:

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Stepping stones to becoming a writer.

Posted in General with tags , , , , , on April 30, 2015 by Kate Jack

stepping stones

All writers travel a long road to reach their ultimate goal, but what happens along the way? What stepping-stones do we cross to achieve our aim? For most it’s a hard journey, from trying to decide what to write, to learning how to actually get their ideas down in readable form. “Write what you know”, is a common phrase, and for the most part it’s true, at least for “realistic” fiction. But what about speculative fiction, such as sci-fi and fantasy?

animated

Most non fantasy readers assume it’s easy to write. All you have to do is conjure up some fantastical creatures from your imagination, throw in a few swords, dragons and dungeons, and there you go. Far from it. A great deal of research goes into such work. For classical fantasy, research is needed for weaponry, horsemanship, battle tactics, etc. Even though the world and characters are products of the author’s imagination, they still need to convince the reader to suspend their disbelief and believe in the story and live the adventures of their heroes and heroines, and this means getting the “real” parts of their stories correct, in order to give them verisimilitude.

.

armour

My first stepping stone, on my way to becoming a writer, was to decide what I wanted to write. I began by writing short stories, but over the course of time I realised this wasn’t enough, I needed to expand my horizons. I’d always loved fairy tales as a child, and the first fantasy novels I ever read were Alice in Wonderland and Through the looking-glass by Lewis Carrol.

alice

As I grew older, I moved onto The Chronicles of Narnia, and even though I didn’t know it, my writing destiny was set – I would become a writer of speculative fiction. My first published novel, Land of Midnight Days, uses elements of my hometown, Liverpool, as its backdrop.

midnight 2

The second, Through the Gloaming, is mostly set underground, and for that I used memories from when I used to go away with my school to the Lake District. We would take day trips, some of which involved visiting, not only Lake Windermere, but also some of the caves in the area.

cave

I remember one of them had a pool in it, of such a deep blue, I instinctively knew it was bottomless. I retained this memory and conjured up the image when writing Gloaming.

gloaming 1So, by using these stepping-stones, from reader to writer of short stories, to novelist, I have grown and evolved as a writer. What does the future hold? I’m not sure, but I will hopefully follow my stepping-stones onwards, ever onwards, until the time comes to stop.

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An interview with David Graham

Posted in New Authors section with tags , , , , , on March 30, 2014 by Kate Jack
deathbane cover
Today I’m interviewing, once again, fellow fantasy author, David Graham, or Davie as he’s known to family and friends. Davie writes highly entertaining and charismatic books, which any fantasy fan would be proud to have on their shelves. His current works, The Silent Blade Chronicles, are on sale on Amazon.
Q. Let me begin by asking you, Davie, now that you have three books published, via Ecanus publishing, what’s your next step?
A. Hi Katrina, and thank you for the chance to speak with you once again. The Silent Blade Chronicles are indeed becoming a true epic, and still have a way to go yet, with two more books in the pipe-line. The fourth book, sub-titled “Dawn of the Gods” is now well under way and will hopefully be out in the next few months. This particular episode is a bit of a departure from the first three books as it deals with events that occurred  between 1000 and 800 years in the past. This is also a slightly new venture for me as most of it is written in the first-person, with events seen through the eyes of Endovaar’s first Grand Master Wizard, Trellan. Following directly on from this the fifth book, sub-titled “The Demon Queen” will see our heroes being transported into a strange and terrifying land to deal with the ultimate evil, as a hitherto “minor” character rises up in a last-ditch attempt to destroy mankind… and I think that should be enough to give our readers something to ponder…
As for the future? Well I have already drawn up plans for yet another fantasy series called “The Bloodhoof Saga”, however this time I am pulling out all the stops! This new series will, of course, retain some of my trademark gentle humour, but there the similarity to the age-friendly Silent Blade Chronicles will stop…! This new series will be aimed at a more adult audience, with extremely graphic descriptions, leaving nothing to the imagination!
Q. When you first embarked on getting into print, what kind of support did you get from friends and family? For instance, where they encouraging or sceptical?
A. It is strange how peoples’ views are affected on this before and after the event. Family, of course, would always be encouraging (although there would always be guarded glances of scepticism when they thought I wasn’t looking), and friends and acquaintances would “almost” always say things like “Oh yeah… you, write a book…? Don’t make me laugh!”. Yet, after the first book came out with Ecanus Publishing everything changed. Even my most ardent sceptics suddenly changed their minds, saying things like “Hey, I always knew you could do it, well done!”. This just goes to prove that people should have faith in the abilities of others, and that those who do not try, will never succeed.
Q. Once the books were up on Amazon, what kind of feedback, or reviews did you get?
A. Feedback and reviews are always mixed, and I am sure this goes for any artist. I am lucky enough to have gained a good fan base, both on-line, and in the real world. I’m glad to say that the majority of people I speak with, both on-line and in person, all have good things to say about my work. It also amazes me that my work reaches out to so many “different” people. An example of this are two “elderly” ladies, whom I see in person regularly during the hours of my day job. These lovely old ladies have become fans of the Silent Blade Chronicles, and whenever they see me they are full of questions about up-coming books… And even my own sister (much older than me), who has never read any fantasy in her life, has been converted, simply through reading “A Sword for Hire”. So as far as feedback is concerned… yes, it is surprisingly good.
Q. What are your writing ambitions, in other words, what do you hope to achieve, writing wise?
A. Well, what does any author hope to achieve…? To see my work spread out across the world, with many happy people reading the words I penned: enjoying the antics of my characters; immersing themselves in a truly magical world. This is the joy of writing fantasy… it allows people to escape into worlds beyond their dreams, filled with people and creatures they will love, or hate, and basically experiencing the adventure. If I can make someone laugh at a sprite, smile with an old wizard, cry when a shape-changer is mortally wounded, or experience the adrenalin rush of a mercenary in battle, then I have done my job well.
Q. I’m sure any fledgling writers out there would be interested in what your creative processes are. For instance, once an idea for a story has formed, how do you set about building on that idea?
A. I mainly start with character building. In the beginning the original members of Silent Blade consisted of six characters, but I cut that down to four, and converted the two left over to the “evil” side of things. However this was only a very small beginning… What was I to do with these characters? For a long time they existed only on a notepad, with a few basic descriptive notes for each one. I had no idea what I was going to do with them for a long time, till one night I had a weird and very vivid dream. That dream showed me the emergent birth of a powerful dragon god, and was to become the core element for my books. After that it was relatively easy. With some help from a very clever friend of mine we constructed “rules” for the different magics I would use in the books, and all I needed then was a plot. Little did I know at the time that this plot was going to stretch into five books, containing over 750,000 words! 
Q. How do you feel about writing groups? Do you consider them useful, or full of hobbyists and egomaniacs?
A. I do belong to several writing groups on such platforms as Facebook etc, but I seldom use them. As with all of these things there are some really good authors on them, along with the inevitable egomaniacs ( as you call them ). But I baulk at these things, mainly because I feel that a true author would have no need for them. To explain this, I believe that if you are any good at writing, no matter what genre you work in, then your work will speak for itself, and there should be no need to keep showing up on a forum trying to explain your work to other authors… after all those other authors are only interested in “their” work. This might seem a bit harsh, but from what I have seen to date, most of these writing groups are simply platforms for authors to shout about their work to other authors.
Q. Do you write in any other genre, apart from fantasy?
A. To be honest, yes, I have tried… and failed miserably. I had an idea once for a detective series, however never having read any detective novels, I had no idea where to go with it, so it eventually got binned. Fantasy has been my life since I was a small boy, and I feel at home with the magic, the dragons, and the strange worlds. Some people say that high fantasy is the hardest genre to work in, yet I find it easy. I can relate to the mythical creatures I create, simply because they can be, and do, anything I wish.
Q. Name one or two of your favourite authors, and why you like their work.
A. There are so many, but of course I have to start with the great Father of fantasy JRR Tolkien. Without him the fantasy genre would be a poor place to work in. He is a man I have looked up to ever since I can remember, and has given this mortal world something very special indeed. One of my other favourite fantasy authors is the late Anne McCafrey. Her Dragons of Pern series is a masterpiece, and I would highly recommend them to any fantasy buff.
Q. Are any of your characters based on real life people?
A. Of course they are. I am a bit of a people-watcher, and often jot down  notes after seeing the antics of a “real” person. I believe that this is an important skill for any author… to be observant, and watch what is going on in the world around you. It is amazing what you will see, if you really pay attention!
Q. How important do you think it is for a writer to have a website, and/or a blog?
A. Very important. In this age of technology ( ebooks especially ) a website or blog is a valuable tool. Not only does this help to spread the word about your work, but it allows the author to interact with his audience personally. I have found that people like this interaction, and it helps them to relate to their favourite author.
Q. How long did it take for you to find a publisher for your work?
A. Quite a long time, actually. My first book was written over ten years ago, and to begin with I was going down the traditional path of sending printed manuscripts off to various publishers. Of course I received the usual rejection slips, but I never gave up! Then, back in 2011 my partner pestered me to sign up to Facebook ( something I said I would never do ), and low and behold within a few months I spotted an advert from a new publishing company, looking for new talent. I emailed them, and the ball started rolling from there. Up till that point I had never heard of ebooks, and had no idea what a kindle was ( showing my utter lack of tech knowledge ). But to my delight, on the 20th of December, 2011, my first book was published on Amazon, and I can tell you that was the proudest day in my life. So it was a hard slog, but as I said, I did not give up on my dream… and now people all over the world can share in that dream, and I have my wonderful partner to thank for that.
Q. Finally, what one piece of advice would you give fledgling writers?
A. There is so much advice I could give to any fledgling author, but mainly I would say: work hard on your manuscript, pay attention to detail, be sure to keep your plots strong and try not to wander off the story-line ( which is easy to do ), make your characterisation powerful because your readers will need to know who they reading about, make sure you enjoy what you write about… and above all, never give up!

Thank you for the interview Katrina, and before I head back to my writing I would like to add a few links for your readers, if that is okay with you.
Firstly my blog:  
And the Silent Blade Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TheSilentBladeChronicles
And now the links to the first three books
davie
Thanks for sharing your work with us, Davie, and all the best for the future.
 

Childish or childlike?

Posted in General with tags , , , , , , on August 2, 2013 by Kate Jack

crystalball

It’s an often asked question, is fantasy and sci-fi childish? Are both fans and writers of speculative fiction geeks and nerds, trapped in their childhood? Well for me the answer is no. I’m fifty plus and have always liked these genres. Despite this, I function perfectly well as an adult. I work full-time, pay my bills, learned how to drive a car and am perfectly capable of facing the vagaries of “real” life, without falling to pieces and crying for my mummy 😀

crying-baby

So what makes people think that fantasy buffs are grown up kids? One possible answer is lack of imagination. A tad harsh, I agree, but so is the assumption that fantasy and sci-fi are childish, especially when said detractors have never read the genre. Fair enough, if it isn’t people’s cup of tea, but hey, I don’t read romance. I don’t like spy novels or vampire stories. That said, I’m not going to knock those genres. They’re are some fantastic writers of the above, but it just doesn’t appeal to me. I’m not about to label readers of this kind of fiction as dull or boring; far from it. Written properly, any one of those type of books I’ve just listed can be, I’m sure, full of thrills, surprises and cliffhangers.

romace

To me fantasy and sci-fi represent that childlike wonder we all had, when we were very young. Those of us who read and write such things often possess limitless imagination and a willingness to suspend our disbelief. It’s sad that when we “grow up” that sense of awe and wonder, the ability to grow wings and fly with the faeries, is lost. For most of us, life becomes increasingly dull, as we pass through school and enter the world of work. So forgive me if I indulge in a bit of magic and mayhem, from time to time.

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An interview with Jane Dougherty

Posted in New Authors section with tags , , , , , on April 4, 2013 by Kate Jack

citadel

Before we begin, I would just like to say thank you to Kate Jack for inviting me to her blog. It’s a real seal of approval; I feel honoured.

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing Jane’s soon-to-be published fantasy novel, The Dark Citadel. Curious as to how Jane works as a writer, I invited her to answer some questions on her creative and reading life.

 Q. Where did the idea for The Dark Citadel come from?

 A. My children, who devoured fantasy literature, had been complaining that they were sick to the teeth of thick warriors, evil witch queens, wise mages, and endless wars fought over some princeling’s rightful inheritance. Being naturally irreligious, republican and bolshy, I could see their point. I began to think about the kind of story they might like to read, and for some reason I had a very strong image of teenage girls, swamped in grey veils, sitting in a classroom. They were in a place that offered no escape, no change, and their future was bleak and colourless. Almost the exact opposite of the highly coloured frescos my kids were currently reading. I hadn’t read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale at that time, but when I did, I thought, wonderful! I was thinking along the same lines as a great writer.

 Q. How long did it take for you to complete it and is there to be a sequel?

A. It took years to get the story into its actual shape. It started off as a fat 106K tome, far too long for YA. So I cut it into three, rounded out characters and added scenes until I ended up with a trilogy that weighs in at about 205K. There is also a prequel and a few in-world stories. The whole process has taken about eight years though I have had several projects on the go at the same time. The next up should be the prequel. I’ll keep you posted about release dates.

Q. Did you edit it yourself?

A. I butchered it all on my own, carved it up, and made a first attempt at putting it back together. Then I had the bright idea of posting some of the first volume on the authonomy site. Whatever the shortcomings of authonomy, it is certainly a great place to meet like-minded people, and I had the good fortune to run across a handful of great writers who helped me sort out some of the glaring problems with the story. One friend in particular went through the whole trilogy giving her wise opinions, and inspiring a lot of new ideas. I have also worked with a tremendous editor at Musa Publishing who ironed out the last wobbly bits and pointed out the remaining plot holes.

 Q.What first inspired you to become a writer?

A. I’m not sure I became one, I think I always was a writer. For every successful writer, there are hundreds of unsuccessful ones, and for every one of those, there are hundreds more who never have the nerve to have a go. I’m just one of the tenacious buggers who persisted with it. I’ve scribbled ever since I learned to write, it was always something I knew I could do well, but it took an act of bravado to say, I can write, and when I write, I am.

Q. Who are your favourite authors and why?

A. The writers who have given me the most consistent pleasure have probably been John Masefield and Tove Jansson. I started reading them when I was in primary school and fell in love with their fantasy worlds. I have since read works by both authors for adults and have found the same lyrical beauty in them. Jean-Claude Mourlevat is an author I discovered not long ago and I have loved all of his books. They lie in that mysterious zone between fantasy and reality, between children’s and adult literature. Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum are both books that I have reread a number of times and each time I have been swept away into Eco’s fantastic recreation of the Early Middle Ages, or his absolutely mind-boggling thriller that blends Templar daftness, black magic and madness.

Q.  Do you come from a writing background?

A. I come from a background of readers, writers and…talkers. Both my father and my mother’s grandfather were poets. My father was a regular contributor to a literary magazine where many of his poems were published. My great-grandfather Brennan wrote his memoirs as well as dozens of poems, both in Irish, his first language, and in English. My mother and two of my sisters are artists: we’re a bit short on scientists in my family. Unless you count studying form.

Q. Where do you see yourself – writing wise – in five years time?

A. There are another two volumes of The Green Woman to prepare for publication, plus the prequel. I have another two-part YA apocalyptic fantasy ready for publication, and the first part of a ninth century saga. Two volumes of another series, Angelhaven, set in the same world as The Green Woman are written in first draught form. I’m not sure if five years will be enough to finish writing the second volume of my Viking saga, the third volume of the Angelhaven series, and editing the whole lot. I’m going to try though!

Q. What is your writing routine – for instance, do you listen to music, or write in silence?

A. I need silence to think. If there’s music playing I listen. If I don’t like it, it annoys me; if I do I get absorbed in it.

Q. What are your favourite genres?

 A. What I ask of a book is that it take me somewhere I’ve never been before. Fantasy in its many forms can do that. Historical fiction I enjoy, especially alternate history, and literary fiction when it is set in a foreign country or another epoch, or when the characters are so vivid I really care about what happens to them. My ideal bedtime reading though is a mixture of all three, alternate history written in a literary style, with a hint of fantasy so that I can expect absolutely anything to happen.

Q. Finally, what advice would you give to writers just starting out?

A. To keep writing: you get better the more you write. But also to listen to criticism—I can’t stress that enough. If you can’t listen to what your peers say about your writing and take their suggestions to heart, you will never improve. I don’t mean rip your first chapter to shreds because one reader who would have been happier with the Beano said it was rubbish, I mean when several readers whose opinions you respect point out a weakness, try to understand what they’re driving at. Look on it as a small compromise in order to get your book out there. You leave out some of your beautiful adverbs and in return, instead of taking up memory space on your computer, your book could be on readers’ bookshelves. 

Thank you Jane for sharing your thoughts with us. For anyone interested in purchasing The Dark Citadel, watch this space for publication dates.

centaur

A story fit for Kings, Queens, Demons and Angels!

Posted in New Authors section with tags , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2013 by Kate Jack

citadel

I’ve just this minute finished reading Jane Dougherty’s The Dark Citadel, and what a read it was! Filled with characters for the reader to love, hate and admire, this story carries such a wealth of tension and worry on behalf of the protagonists, I very nearly had a stroke! Primarily fantasy, there’s also a touch of mythology and the dystopian, making an eclectic, enthralling mix of the fantastical.

No matter how fast I read, I couldn’t stop until forced by tiredness and the need to eat, I unwillingly put the book down. When I reached the end, I felt elated, yet at the same time deflated that it was over, done. This writer has the enviable talent to draw the reader into the dystopian world she’s created, not only with the charisma of her characters, but her vivid descriptions too:

Here and there jagged splinters of rock rose, some straight, some leaning crazily. Chasms and fissures split the earth, and the sandy plain was pockmarked with craters, some small enough for a man to curl up in, others several times the size of the great square of Providence and as deep as the Parliament building. Quaking ponds popped and hissed as gas bubbles burst like boils at their viscous surface, the noxious fumes rasping Zachariah’s throat raw.

The images accelerated, a flickering film of towns spreading, shrinking, tumbling into ruins, of tall warehouses, cranes and aerials, roads, cars, cargo ships.

My only nitpick, and it’s a very minor one, is the slight overuse of adjectives in some places; that said, we’re all guilty of this at sometime or other, but other than that I can’t recommend highly enough the readability of this novel.

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