Greetings and Salutations!

Welcome to the longest-running* yet least-read** blog on the internet! Here you'll find me writing about all the things that I write about, which strikes me, just now, as somewhat recursive. In any case, enjoy :)

* not true ** probably true

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Fantasy subgenres: some thoughts

  • Arguably the first s&s story was written by Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan). "The Shadow Kingdom" was published in Weird Tales in 1929.
  • The phrase "Sword & Sorcery" was coined by Fritz Leiber in 1961
  • Joe McCullough argues that what sets apart a s&s story from other fantasy are three qualities of the main character: self-motivated, outsiders, of heroic stature.
  • I'd quibble with Joe's nomenclature a bit, but by and large agree. S&S protagonists by and large choose adventure, rather than have it thrust on them. They do not, by and large, have a defined, accepted and acceptable place in the cultures of their milleux, (barbarian, thief, what have you). And if by 'heroic stature' Joe means they have some skill or ability that makes them extraordinary, then I agree to that one for the most part as well.
  • But. Always a but. There are exceptions. There are always exceptions. Jirel of Joiry could not be considered an outsider, despite being a female feudal lord in an ersatz medieval France, as her vassals accept her rule without question. Few would argue that Jack Vance's Dying Earth stories, especially Cugel's Saga, were not Sword & Sorcery, though the setting is technically a future Earth rather than an alternate one. But Cugel is a character that refuses to be pigeon-holed. He is self-motivated in the sense that Joe means; Cugel has absolutely no interest in subscribing to the mores of whatever society he finds himself in, unless subscribing offers him some material benefit. Cugel is definitely an outsider, no matter where he finds himself. But Cugel's only extraordinary ability, or rather abilities, are 1. an inability to learn from his mistakes or alter his behavior to minimize conflict, and 2. a sheer, stupid, bloody-minded tenacity.
  • Sword & Sorcery is not High Fantasy, though it can be Epic Fantasy or the more recent 'Gritty Fantasy' (or as I prefer to call it, 'Low Fantasy' but not as an aspersion, just to highlight the fact that it is consciously tying to counter some specific conventions of High Fantasy) . 
  • I would break it down this way: In all these categories, the 'fate of the world' may (or is it 'might') be at stake; but in High Fantasy, generally speaking it must be at stake as a genre convention. Or so the subgenre have evolved. High Fantasy, a la Lord of the Rings. 'Nuff said.
  • Low Fantasy can mix and match from any of the other genres, except when it comes to tone. The tone is generally more akin to Chandler than Tolkien. This is fantasy with the voice of a meat packer rather than an Oxford don. This is fantasy a la Joe Abercrombie. There are no Tom Bombadils traipsing around, singing songs. There is, however, torture, rape, and unflinching delving into the not nice parts of being human. Look at The Heroes. It's a big bastard of a book about, what, a three day battle that nobody essentially wins and is pretty much a pointless waste of lives. It's good stuff, seriously, but it can't help but be what it is: an allergic reaction to High Fantasy. 
  • Epic Fantasy, I would argue, tends to straddle a midpoint between high and low. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire and Jordan's Wheel of Time are the most celebrated examples of the subgenre, though they are very different series. Martin writes very little in the way of magic. It's there, but it's a tiny portion of the whole, and frankly much less important than other themes; themes he tends to share with the Low Fantasy genre. The fate of the world isn't really in question, rather the fate of individuals, families, and ultimately nations. There are no prophesies; every character has agency or not according to their own personality. The Wheel of Time by contrast is absolutely stuffed with magic and the fate of the world does hang in the balance in every book. Prophecies abound. Characters struggle fruitlessly to escape their destinies.
  • So why isn't Martin's Song Low Fantasy? And why isn't Jordan's Wheel High Fantasy? Because I say so. 
  • No, it's because Martin writes primarily to illuminate rather than to shock. Also because Song has more DNA from Shakespeare's historical plays than it does from Tolkien or Smith et. al. It wasn't written as a response to the perceived weaknesses or failings of High Fantasy, even subconsciously. So it is free to roam the very wide bounds of the Epic subgenre.
  • Jordan, despite his dyed in the wool High Fantasy tropes, still wrote with the same sort of vitality he honed when writing the Conan books (yes, he wrote Conan Sword & Sorcery books long after Howard died.) He build a towering edifice of High Fantasy, but he built it on a Sword & Sorcery foundation. Matrim Cauthon could not exist in a Tolkien novel. In the end, High Fantasy has a very specific formula, and that formula calls for certain ingredients and forbids others. Just because you have a farmboy fulfilling a prophesy and a Dark Lord bent on utter domination, that doesn't automatically get you into the club.
  • And what about my lovely Sword & Sorcery? What are its hallmarks? Beyond the protagonist's requirements, there's blessed brevity. S&S is a natural fit for short stories, not series. If there is a series, it's the characters, not the plot, that continue on through multiple books. The focus tends to be on action more than character development, though this doesn not mean that characters are cardboard. Generally speaking the writing is much, much tighter.
Insomnia, I have made you at least mildly useful.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What I want most

What I want most for my writing (want as in desire, and want as in lack; for, not from, my writing) is a few hours, or much better it be days, and barely conceivable, weeks or months wherein I can write, and concentrate on the writing. To write, and not worry about the hour, how short or long. To write without the interruption of a text message, or an email, or a phone call from the little black slab in my pocket that, for various reasons, I don't really get to turn off. I don't get to be that selfish, and if I tried, guilt/worry would drive me to switch it on again, and if I gritted my teeth and kept it off, I would get no work done anyway, and if I did manage to get work done there would be no joy in it.

But forget the phone. Just a few days or weeks where I did not have to hunch my shoulders, waiting for the next emotionally draining episode of my private life to arrive, would work wonders. If I knew that, say, all the various aspects of my emotional life would remain stable until Thursday next, I could concentrate. I could focus. I could get some shit done.

Friday, May 18, 2012

By request

My son has requested I write books like the Beast Quest series, but instead of a setting called Avantia, it should be called Nexis. Monsters are tomkeep showing up through a magic portal or gate, and they must be defeated by a boy named Bly. So we'll just add that to the pile of projects...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fact: I am outselling Stephenie Meyer and Amanda Hocking*

Heh. That got your attention. Here are all the catches/provisos/whatever:

  • As far as I know, it's just the Canadian iTunes store
  • It's the children's fiction category
  • It's not all of my books vs all of theirs. Twilight is still selling better than my title, but Eclipse, Breaking Dawn, My Blood Approves, Virtue et al are not.
  • My book is 99 cents. The cheapest of theirs is $2.99
  • I don't expect it to last the day.
Le proof:

Oh, CA-nuh-DAH...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

I like you, so I'm giving you something for free

Two somethings, actually, made by my very own self especially for you. Because I love you, that's why.

At long last, the book formerly known as THAGOTH and now known as The Thief Who Spat In Luck's Good Eye is available (I may have mentioned this before). I've done yet another round of edits (That would make five) and caught a bunch more typos. I'm sure you eagle-eyed (and handsome/beautiful - did I mention the handsome/beautiful part?) readers will catch more. Which is good. as long as you tell me about them, so I can fix them.

Free is here (for a month, no less): The Thief Who Spat In Luck's Good Eye (Coupon code WZ67V)

Also, did you know I have a short story collection? it's true. And, oh, it's a grim but delicious grab bag of horror, fantasy and sci fi.

Free is here (also for a month- never doubt my affection): The Sorcerer's Lament & Other Tales (Coupon code RK93Y)

But what can you do for me, you ask? Oh, no. See me shyly demur. See me act coy. Oh, well, if you insist, you could leave a nice (but honest!) rating, and if you had the time in your busy schedule, you might consider leaving a review alluding to my genius and/or stunning good looks. You could do that on Smashwords, or eve better, you could do it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Sony or Diesel or Kobo or even the iBookstore if you are Apple inclined. Here are a few links:

The Thief Who Spat In Luck's Good Eye (Amazon)
The Sorcerer's Lament (Amazon)
The Sorcerer's Lament (Barnes & Noble)
The Thief Who Spat In Luck's Good Eye (Diesel)
The Sorcerer's Lament (Diesel)
The Sorcerer's Lament (Sony)
The Thief Who Spat In Luck's Good Eye (Kobo)
The Sorcerer's Lament (Kobo)
The Sorcerer's Lament (iTunes)

Hugs and noogies,


Thursday, May 10, 2012


I has it. I also have a developing cough and chunky phlegm. Just what you wanted to know, I'm sure. Like, eight hours ago I was feeling dandy. Now? Blech.

I realized the other day that this blog makes it sound as though all my time is taken up with my writing. I mean, I know this here blog has come to focus on my writing, because I intentionally retooled it to do so, but I do miss yabbering about other things, sometimes. But I don't like to talk about my day job, and really I'm a pretty private person. Which leaves the inane. "Tuna sandwich today. They put cucumber in it. I hate cucumber."


Now I'm gonna chug some cough medicine and pretend I'm asleep.

Saturday, May 05, 2012


Hullo all, Just so you know, The Blade That Whispers Hate is coming along, but it might be delayed just a smidge. Another title of mine that recently went live at the apple store is doing well enough that it's in my best interest to get another in the series out the door toot sweet. No, it's not fantasy. It's a kids' book for kids just starting to read. While I'm more than happy to see a few sales (at long last), I also feel a bit like a chef who comes home and has to cook dinner (teaching young kids is my day job). I have to admit, though, getting to write and have people buy stories like 'Hen Has Gas' is pretty sweet. In other news, at Barnes & Noble all my ebooks combined have been downloaded 1301 times since the start of the year. Not bad. If I only had a nickel...