12
Jun

Best Dragon Quote Ever? From Rilke

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III   in Inspiration, Poetry

Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke

From Rainer Maria Rilke (context):

“Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.”

I found it in the comments on a Lev Grossman post about “The Best Thing Anybody Ever Said About Fantasy.” Some great stuff there.

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Fahrenheit 451I sat in a movie theater re-reading Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 for an hour before Prometheus began. Terrible decision. Turrible decision.

Fahrenheit 451 is a masterful clarion call from 1951 warning us about dumbed-down, soulless, unconscious modern life: quick electronic entertainment over real relationships; staying numb rather than asking real questions; doing things the same old way instead of seizing the now.

Bradbury was Socrates asking us to examine our lives, to think rather than follow the herd. Thoreau calling us to live authentically. Jesus raising our vision to much greater things. Buddha reminding us of the suffering of others and calling us to put our feet on the path to enlightenment.

Prometheus is no District 9, a sci-fi movie which understood that speculative fiction can be mindlessly entertaining and possess uplifting social consciousness. Prometheus is the kind of entertainment that could have played the role of antagonist in Fahrenheit. Not that there’s anything wrong with mindless entertainment now and then (for the record, I really enjoyed The Avengers). It’s just going to induce some of the best parts of your nature to snooze more deeply, particularly when the end product is mediocre. Storytellers, we can do better. Audiences and readers deserve better.

Prometheus features gorgeous special effects, it’s nice and subtle in 3-D, but it’s cheap horror in outer space. It’s Hollywood. It’s fine for what it is, which is a spinoff on Alien/Aliens (better movies). If that’s what you’re looking for, then go see Prometheus. Disposable, one-dimensional characters who prevent your suspension of disbelief? Likable characters who turn into invincible killer space gorillas? B-Grade horror movie flashbacks? Action without humor? Prometheus has all of that. Go see it.

Then, when you need to put the pieces of your soul back together (and you will–whether you realize it or not), do yourself a favor and read Fahrenheit 451 afterward.

That will blow your mind. Completely.

p.s. Please check out one of the best tributes to Ray Bradbury I’ve read this week, from Stephen Hubbard at BookReporter.com: Farewell, Ray.

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Sasha Siregar was born in January. Here she is in one of her not-so-secret roles:

The Fairy Queen

Sasha, The Fairy Queen

She joined Athens, our 5-year-old son, and now we have the matching set. Becoming a Dad all over again has made me think hard about who I want to be when I grow up.

This year, while searching his soul, Dad has been spending time with son, coaching T-Ball, playing D&D with friends, and making some money.

Head Coach and Leadoff Hitter for "The Purple Spies"

I’ve been asking myself if I’m still committed to the writing dream. Smarter people than I have said that if you can quit, you probably should. But thanks to the people who have read my first book and gone on this journey with me, I can’t. Not today.

This saga that I’ve started (Splendor and Ruin) has another couple of big books left in it. Outside of being responsible to the people around me there’s nothing I want to do more than to write these books. And after I write these two books, I really want to write more.

One critical thing helped me get back on track. Over the last ten months, I’ve sold over 3,000 copies of my novel and given away roughly 20,000 free copies. In March, Amazon matched iTunes’ free price on my novel for six days, leading to 12,000 free downloads. I waited, expecting to get killed by reviews from so many new readers who downloaded a freebie that “just wasn’t for them.” Instead, I got so many kind reviews and many more kind emails. I shit you not one bit, my readers gave me the boost I needed. You told me that I should keep writing.

When I wrote The Black God’s War over the course of two years (the only book I’ve ever attempted), it looked like Mt. Everest. And before I attended my third Superstars Writing Seminar a month ago, book 2 looked just as difficult to climb. But after the seminar, my perspective changed.

I am going to pour all I’ve got into the next two books in this trilogy, but I’m already looking down the road, seeing that these books aren’t huge mountains in front of me anymore. These are books I’m going to write as if they were the last things I will ever get the chance to write, and then–Universe willing–I’m going to quickly move on and write more.

I want to get back into blogging regularly, but if I don’t, I can almost guarantee you that it’s because I’m writing. Because over the last month, I have been totally recommitted to these books. Do or do not. There is no try. And I love the way books 2 and 3 are coming together.

I’d like to get book 2 out by the end of 2012, but that might be too ambitious. We’ll see. I’m definitely giving it all I’ve got, and I’m shooting for mid-2013 at the latest. I want to thank everyone out there who is looking forward to book 2, THE GODS DIVIDED. I know one little guy who can’t wait to see it (especially the map–he loves the maps):

 

My Biggest Fan

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Reddit is pretty cool. It’s a massive online community with countless  forums devoted to different topics.

I’m hosting an AMA (“ask me anything”) in the r/Fantasy forum as an independent author who debuted my first novel this year. Here’s the link to the thread, and you’re invited to participate or just read along if you’re curious about my book or indie publishing. You can also win a trade paperback copy of my book.

So far, I’m the only indie author who has hosted an official AMA in this huge r/fantasy forum. It’s incredible to see my name on the list of AMAs with Joe Abercrombie and Patrick Rothfuss above, and Robin Hobb and Brandon Sanderson below. One of these names is not like the others. Thanks for your support, r/fantasy!

p.s. 2012 is gonna kick ass. Thanks to Monique Martin for the graphic.


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22
Dec

Scriber, by Ben S. Dobson (My Review)

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III   in Ebooks, Indie Publishing, On Authors, Reviews

I don’t write many book reviews. As a reader, I’m pretty tough to please (which sucks, believe me). But I recently found a pretty fantastic little fantasy novel by an independent author named Ben S. Dobson. As an ebook it’s usually priced between 99 cents and $1.99 in the kindle store (sometimes as much as $3.99). By the way, I have my own novel on a temporary 99 cent ebook sale right now, too.

Here’s my review of Scriber, which you can also find at Amazon and Goodreads:

Scriber by Ben S. Dobson

Scriber by Ben S. Dobson

Scriber might be the best fantasy book I’ve read, or at least it might be my favorite. It’s not dense like Erikson or Martin, but it has the two things I always look for and rarely find together: great writing with great storytelling.

The best thing about Scriber is the telling of the tale through the voice of the incredibly flawed scholar Dennon Lark. This is first person epic fantasy, and first person is not easy to pull off, even harder when the lead character is a self-hating wimp. But it works. Brilliantly. One reason it works is because it makes sense that Dennon would be telling you a story since he is a historian–first person often feels artificial, but not this time–and because Dennon’s humility helps us root for him. And if you’re not sure at first, keep reading. You might find the author stumbling a little bit here and there (or not at all), but if you do, don’t worry and just keep reading.

Scriber isn’t “high fantasy.” No dragons (though the characters sometimes curse by saying “Damn it to the Dragon!”), no elves, no magical swords. There are wonderful fantastic elements, though, mostly related to a mysterious semi-undead enemy and nature spirits. The story is unconventional in many ways, but it also sticks to some tried and true fantasy tropes (big heroine, big stakes)–in just the right balance of being both different and familiar. The setting feels medieval and the author writes that flavor well. And it’s a true standalone story and a fast read (in the good way).

The story features the scriber and a large band of female soldiers. One of the few issues I had with the book was the abundance of characters in that troop. The women were referred to by first name only and, especially early on, I sometimes had a hard time telling them apart and remembering who was who. Another reviewer recently wrote that this wasn’t a problem for him, so that could just be me. I have to say that Sylla was my least favorite; she was believable enough but still a bit one-dimensional, but at least she played a good role. Also, I have to say this: Orya for the win. I loved Orya.

The book has two major characters, Dennon Lark and Bryndine Errynson, the leader of the company of female soldiers. No one else gets fleshed out as much as these two. The one limitation I wish hadn’t been in the book is that we never got deep into Bryn’s head–because the book was written in first person from Dennon’s point of view. Bryndine is a memorable, noble character and so easy to root for. I started playing a paladin in a D&D campaign recently and I had to resist the urge to name the character Bryndine (she’s really inspiring). On the flip side, though she was very human, she also had few flaws and she never felt quite as real to me as Dennon did. But that’s mostly understandable considering the first person pov. Still, I can’t help wondering how great it would’ve been to be able to take a peek inside the mind of Bryndine.

One of my favorite scenes in the book was a meeting between Bryn and Dennon when they first opened up to each other about their vulnerabilities and soon laughed at them–just a beautiful scene full of believable humanity. This is where I think the author’s gift for characterization really shone through.

The story is heavy on dialogue, maybe a little too much for my taste, but at least the dialogue was great. The plot sometimes moves forward in ways that are a little too convenient, but I never cared to nitpick because I was having too much fun. The pacing was excellent, although somewhere around the three-quarters point I though it sped up a little too much (after the big return)–this was the only part of the book that felt out of place with the rest, in my opinion. I thought the fight scenes were good, not great, but this isn’t a book about fight scenes.

This is a book about a man struggling against the shame of his past and trying to uncover lost truths about his world’s history. It’s a book about a colorful band of women warriors. It’s a book about a heroine as noble as any you’ve read. It’s full of great worldbuilding, heaps of mystery, and mature, skillful writing. And it finishes with a great crescendo.

As a horribly picky reader, I almost never find books that come this close to being perfect for me. That’s one of the reasons why I became a writer myself, because I wanted to at least try to take readers on the kind of journey that I want authors to guide me through, the kind of ride Ben Dobson just led me on. I’ve talked to Ben some since I started reading his book, but I didn’t know him before I picked up Scriber for free in the kindle store.

I just want to be clear in saying that although Ben and I are both independent authors writing in the same genre, and although I only write reviews for the rare books that I love, this review has nothing to do with a prior relationship with the author (we had none, even though he had already read my book and I didn’t know it) and everything to do with me loving this outstanding book and wanting to recommend this book to everyone. So this is just a guy named Moses, telling it on the mountain:

I’ve never found a free or cheap ebook as good as this one. It’s fantastic, and I’m so glad to have found a new favorite author. Ben, thanks for a great story told well. And sorry to be selfish, but I really hope you write more books as great as this one.

Here’s Scriber on Amazon.
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This morning, I decided to start a thread at the Writer’s Cafe at Kindleboards. It turned into this (I’ll just reproduce the post here).

On Facebook, someone said:

“I give my boss (who owns a small editing company) a weekly update of all the hot topics in book publishing news, and I get so tired of reading about people recommending self-publishing as essentially another get-rich-quick scheme. I feel like it’s all about the business end of things rather than the honor and prestige of producing a quality piece of literature.”

To me, this rings true. I understand that we’re mostly interested in talking about the business end of things over here (I like to talk about these things too), but that’s really the point. Indie authors are for the most part, all about the business end of things. Does this help us when readers see this? Does this help us in reality?

Why aren’t we talking–with other writers, on our blogs, on Facebook and Twitter–about books that have inspired us, whether classics or recent indie works? Why aren’t we analyzing what goes into great writing, great scenes, great characters, great plots, great dialogue. Why aren’t we lauding great books over great sales, at least more often than we do? Do we love words or do we love numbers? Poetry or spreadsheets?

We all have different goals and we’re all in different situations. I don’t believe that anyone’s goals are better or more important than anyone else’s goals. I have enough trouble judging the worth of my own goals. Entertaining thousands of readers through a combination of good books and smart marketing is a worthy goal, period. I think most of us want to write the best books we can and market them as well as we can so that we can reach more readers and make more money.

But, I offer this question: what is your heart’s desire as a writer? Because that is what you will tend to create in your life. Is it money? Fame? Respect? Craftsmanship? The journey or the destination? What are the inevitable outcomes of these goals? There are no right or wrong answers–just wherever you really are. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying money or fame.

I ask myself this question a lot and the answer isn’t always clear. But mostly for me it comes down to the journey of crafting good (hopefully great, perhaps someday classic) books. For me, that goal is more sublime. Money and fame come and go, and fame in particular is a mixed blessing. Respect is nice, but there’s no freedom in being enslaved to other people’s opinions.

What reading and books are all about–for readers–is beholding something touched by a muse of inspiration, raising your consciousness to behold the beauty and magic in a great story crafted with love, skill, and devotion. When that’s the goal–for an author–the only number that matters is one. One reader is all that matters. Whether that one reader is you, the author, or someone else–that’s up to you.

I respect anyone who wants to make enough money to live comfortably, support a family, or support their favorite causes. I respect anyone who wants to go on the roller coaster ride that is fame; life is short and at least fame brings you into other people’s lives. I respect those who wanted to be respected. Critical appreciation is as good a measuring stick for value as anything else.

Here, there are no right answers. Only honest and dishonest ones. Life will eventually show us the value of our goals, and then we’ll change again.
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26
Nov

Free at iBooks and Amazon.co.uk, For a Limited Time

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III   in Ebooks, Giveaways, My Work

The Black God's War (Novel)Short and sweet today. My epic fantasy novel, The Black God’s War, is currently free at Amazon UK and at iBooks/iTunes. I’m not sure how long it’ll remain free, so if you’re in the UK or if you use iBooks, please my guest and download a full copy of the novel. Reviews are appreciated, but never expected. Enjoy!
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Steven Erikson
Steven Erikson

Over the last year, I’ve interviewed some incredible authors for Adventures In SciFi Publishing (where I am a co-host). You can see all the interviews I’ve conducted here. At the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego last month, I got in some long interviews with Steven Erikson, N.K. Jemisin, Joshua Bilmes, Michael Stackpole, John Jarrold, and Brian Hades, as well as short interviews with lots of authors, including Scott Lynch, Elizabeth Bear, Patrick Rothfuss, Connie Willis, Robert V.S. Redick, and Eric James Stone. We’ll be sharing those interviews over the next month or so at the podcast.

 

Although it’s been a thrill to talk to so many bestselling authors over the last year, I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a better interview than this one with Steven Erikson. I truly respect him and his work, and I wanted to give his fans a chance to gain a deeper insight into everything he’s been doing with the Malazan Book of the Fallen. So it’s been really cool to see some of the people at the Malazan forums enjoying this interview.

 

Speaking of the interview, here it is: Steven Erikson Interview: Adventures in SciFi Publishing 151. I really hope you will enjoy it.

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6
Nov

Guest Post by Ty Johnston on Magic

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III   in Guest Posts, Magic

From Moses: Full disclosure: I like Ty. He’s a really good guy with a fantastic imagination, working hard on writing in so many realms. He also runs a great blog. I’m happy to share this guest post from Ty, where he talks about the importance of rules for magic systems in fantasy fiction, as well as the magic in his own created world.

Fantasy author Ty Johnston’s blog tour 2011 is running from November 1 through November 30. His novels include City of Rogues, Bayne’s Climb, More than Kin, all of which are available for the Kindle, the Nook and at Smashwords. His latest novel, Ghosts of the Asylum, will be available for e-books on November 21. To find out more, follow him at his blog tyjohnston.blogspot.com.

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GHOSTS OF THE ASYLUM by Ty Johnston

GHOSTS OF THE ASYLUM by Ty Johnston

Magic is a common element among nearly all fantasy fiction. Some fantasy tales are strong in magic, while others only hint at the magical. For a reader to believe in the magic of a given tale, the author has to create, understand and follow logical rules concerning magic in his or her story.

Why are these rules necessary? Mainly to make the use of magic believable and sensible to the reader. Most times it is not even necessary for the reader to fully understand these rules, but the writer must, and should use the rules for story balance. Keep in mind, in works of fiction writers are asking readers to temporarily suspend their disbelief, to accept the implausible, and in fantasy this is even more so. To help readers in that suspension of disbelief, fantasy tales must contain logical rules for the existence and use of magic.

In my latest epic fantasy novel, Ghosts of the Asylum, I was writing a sequel to my Kobalos Trilogy, so fortunately I already had a magic system worked out for my world. Below is a basic look at how magic works within my writings.

Two Types of Magic

Magic is powered from one source, the soul or souls of living beings. That being said, magic is then broken up into two types.

High magics are magical powers or spells derived from one’s own soul. A wizard, or magical creature or item, draws upon its own soul energy to perform magics. This is the most common type of magic during the time of Ghosts of the Asylum. Nearly all mages uses high magics, as do most magical beasts.

Low magics are the opposite. Low magics are spells or effects that draw upon the soul or souls of other living creatures outside of the spellcaster. Low magics are not common during the time of my novel, though they were at one time in its history, and are generally considered evil.

The distinction between the two types of magic seems non-existent to the non-initiated, but it is quite distinctive and has had huge impacts upon the history, religions and societies of my Ursian world.

Two types of wizards

Traditional wizards are the most common, and have been throughout my world’s history. This type of mage learns his or her craft from someone else, sometimes officially from a professor at a university, but often times spells and knowledge are passed down through family ties or from one singular caster to another. Sometimes a solitary mage has learned his or her craft on their own, through a codex or scrolls or simply from paying attention to another wizard. Theoretically, anyone could be a traditional wizard. The ability to cast spells is not based upon intelligence or wisdom, though creative minds have been shown to be most open to the arcane arts. Strength of will is important, giving a caster more stamina in casting spells, so as not to be too weakened. But all of this is superfluous.

Wizards are not more common than they are in my world for a variety of reasons, most of them being social. Until recent history, the end of the Mages War almost sixty years earlier, wizards were outlaws and hunted and executed. But times have changed.

Natural mages are a much rarer breed. Natural mages are born with the innate ability or knowledge to cast magical spells. Natural mages also tend to be much more powerful with their special abilities than traditional mages. Some natural mages have also studied under traditional wizards, learning more knowledge and becoming better able to work their spells. An untrained natural mage can be quite a dangerous thing.

The importance of Ashal

To the Eastern and Western churches in my world of Ursia, the almighty Ashal was a living god who walked among men for roughly 30 years approximately 2,000 years earlier, spreading words of wisdom and performing miracles.

Educated wizards know better, and have a tradition of their own. Ashal was no god. He was a flesh-and-blood man. He was also the first known natural mage, and he was the first known caster to use high magics. He is traditionally considered to be the first true wizard.

There were spellcasters before Ashal, but all would at best be considered traditional wizards by today’s standards, having learned their spattering of knowledge from one another and from the ancient tomes of the Zarroc. Also, all of them used low magics. That is why sacrifice was necessary in performing magical rituals in earlier times, the caster literally drawing forth soul power from the sacrifice, and using that energy to perform magics.

According to church doctrine, Ashal was a god, and all wizards are evil humans who use only low magics. This simply is not true, but 2,000 years of evidence to the contrary has not changed any minds. Unfortunately, the churches have had much more sway politically and socially than the spellcasting classes, thus the general public’s opinion of magic and wizards tends to sway toward that of the churches. During the time of my Kobalos Trilogy and the novel Ghosts of the Asylum, times are indeed different, but it is a foolish mage who would show himself anywhere in Eastern Ursia or even in remote or rural regions of Western Ursia.

The Zarroc

The general public knows next to nothing about the Zarroc in my world. It is known they existed. A few of their structures, mainly ancient temples, partially stand in the southern deserts. A very few of their ancient writings are rumored to exist, though no wizards or university will admit to having such items. There have even been discovered a few skeletal remains of what might be members of the Zarroc race.

The Zarroc were not human. They lived during the time of the great lizards, long before the ages of men, and it is surmised the Zarroc themselves were a race of bipedal lizard creatures with intelligence and language and a society of their own.

Why they died out, no one knows.

There is no known true history about the Zarroc, but there have been some intelligent guesses about them over the centuries. They apparently were the first intelligent creatures to use magic. Also, supposedly they were great makers of many magical weapons and items. Even the honored Sword of the Elements, the birthright of King Alexandre of Caballerus, is rumored to be one of the Zarroc’s great weapons.

Mages who have attempted mighty spells to look back into the time of the Zarroc have discovered nothing. Perhaps the Zarroc shielded themselves from such prying.

In closing

Much of the information above is not needed for readers to enjoy my epic fantasy novels (at least I hope they enjoy the novels). And I did not give away all my secrets, elements I’m saving for future writings. However, I did give away some secrets. For instance, the Zarroc have not been mentioned in any of my novels, though their name does come up in one novella (at least at this point). Yes, I have future plans that will include the Zarroc or at least will be related to the Zarroc. But I’ll keep that to myself for the time being.

Also, I could have gone on into quite a bit more depth concerning magic in my world of Ursia, but I hope not to bore the reader with minutia. The rules of magic in my writings are known to me, and I find them necessary in spinning my tales. Those rules help me to write, and hopefully they help to bring some realism to my fantastical tales and to the reader.

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KINDLE 3

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I knew I had to record a little bit of history when I saw this in my World Fantasy Convention 2011 program:

Founders of Steampunk – Saturday, 1:00 pm

Steampunk was first defined in a letter over 20 years ago. The writer of that letter, and two of the authors whose work helped define the subgenre, talk about their inspirations and look at where steampunk literature has gone.

John Berlyne (M), James Blaylock, K. W. Jeter, Tim Powers

The panel was fascinating, and a lot of fun too. K.W. Jeter (the man who coined the term ‘steampunk’) was hilarious. You can find his novels at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. When I talked to him, he was especially enthusiastic about his new Kim Oh books.

If you like the video, please share it with someone else who might enjoy it.

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