Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sick of Reading the Same Story...

I haven't posted in awhile because I and then my son got sick. I read a lot while I was trying to get better and realized how bored I am with certain fantasy novels. I remember being younger and willing to read everything that came out. But now that I'm older I am much more selective. Writers - and I'm one of them - need to continue to read, however, to ensure that we are not rehashing the same old story. This happens a lot - a quest, a boy, a sword (or ring or artifact), a companion, a hardship (or 2 or 3), a love interest, a big battle, and success. I've just told the plot of many, many stories I've read through the years.

It's easy as a writer to write the story I mentioned above. Sometimes our first fantasy novel love was a story just like that and of course we want to LIVE the story through writing it. I've been there and done it. It was never published - now that I'm older I can see why though at the time I thought I had written the book to end all books. ;-)

Writing something new is not easy. However, there is inspiration all around us. The news is ripe with story lines that could be translated into a fantasy realm. Heck, some public figures already act like characters out of a story. Seriously, though, to keep the genre alive we must come up with new topics, new ideas, new stories.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Raistlin vs. Snape

Why is it that as I read Dragonlance I always wanted Raistlin to be good? And when I read Harry Potter I wanted Snape to end up good? I guess it's just my nature to always hope that people are not beyond saving.

Raistlin was changed after his experience becoming a mage - though he had the beginnings of arrogance before he went in. His brother was unfailingly solicitous - even going beyond to save Raist. And Raist held it against him - hating to have to rely on someone beneath him. It was only Caramon's love that got Raist to change at the last.

Snape was arrogant from the start too. He loved Lily and the only reason why he did not allow Voldemort to win was because he loved Lily - no one but her.

Sure the common theme is Love. But Raist started from wanting to help - not realizing the pitfall that absolute power always brings. Snape was always arrogant, proud, rude, and mean. While Raist was saved - was Snape? According to J.K. Rowling when she was asked about Snape finally proving he was good - she was shocked. She said that she never wrote him to be good. And she also said that without Lily to spur him on, Snape would not have cared one whit about Harry Potter.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

My First Fantasy Novel...

Many people remember things like their first kiss, their first home run, their first date.... While I remember those too, I think that one of the firsts that really stands out in my life was my first fantasy novel. It was, *drum roll*, Dragons of Autumn Twilight - of the Dragonlance series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Man, was I blown away. I had just been introduced to Led Zeppelin - not the headbanging Led Zeppelin, but the thoughtful myth-oriented Led Zeppelin. I had my walkman on and late into the night I read fist Autumn Twilight and then the other two in succession - crying when Sturm died, laughing with and at Tasselhoff. Wow, those were amazing times. I never realized there was literature out there like that. And I began reading everything like it that I could get my hands on.

There have been certain books that I remember so strongly - and others that just fade into nothingness. But there is nothing like the first. What was yours?


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Who should live and who should die?

As I read fantasy novels, I find that my mind is divided between enjoying the stories and looking at the craft of the authors. One fascinating thing that I always consider is who the author chooses to kill during their stories and why. I personally have a real problem with an author who kills someone for effect without moving the story forward. For example, I've read stories where it is apparent to me that the author is trying to manipulate my emotions for no greater purpose than to see if they can do it. The effect of the death within the story is minimal. It doesn't advance the story one bit.

The author I'm thinking of as I write this is Katherine Kurtz. She tells an amazingly detailed tale in her Deryni stories. I love the way that she makes her characters come to life. But at the same time, many of the deaths that she throws the reader's way to me seem contrived. Now I know that Zan will disagree with me but he is out of town today as I write this so I get to have my say without him. Yippee!

Seriously though, I have a hard time reading her novels because I do feel manipulated. When a reader invests a lot into a character, if their death does not serve a greater purpose or at least move the story forward then it feels contrived.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Knee Deep in Harry Potter

No - I'm not giving anything away. I know that people are reading feverishly to find out who lives and who dies. I am one of them. I do want to make an important point, though, as I take a break from the book. I was at a Barnes and Noble with over 2,000 other souls on Friday night just waiting for the stroke of midnight and my turn to purchase "the book." When midnight came, I with my husband, two nieces, and a nephew, were about 200 people back, but still luckily in the cool store (unlike the other 1500 who were outside in the heat.) When the first book was sold, buzzers went off and people began cheering. Each time someone walked by with a book in their hand, everyone was cheering and clapping. It was an amazing sight. Now I ask you - when have you ever, EVER heard people cheering for a book? I do not think I have ever heard it happen. What an amazing phenomenon. And it's all over....

Thursday, July 19, 2007

True Confession: How I Fell for Fantasy

Okay. So I'm a young kid - 10 I believe. And my Mom and Dad decide to buy me a new "game" for Christmas. Little did they know what they had begun. I opened the box to Dungeons and Dragons and a new world seemed to open to me like nothing I'd heard of but like I always wanted to exist.

My brother had played. He was home from college. He decided that he would try and play with his kid sister and his parents. Needless to say, it didn't work. I bought in, but they never did.

He left and I was left with the basic rules and adventure. I knew it back and forward.

And then my parents heard rumors and news stories about someone who had taken the game too seriously and kids who got killed. That put an end to their acceptance of fantasy.

But what's ironic is that when I look back to the very beginning I realize that one of the main reasons I loved fantasy at all was because of my Mom who became the most adamant against fantasy. She was the one who loved Camelot and all things King Arthur. She was also one of the greatest readers I've ever known.

In the end, my love for fantasy could not die. More on that later....


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The 5 Most Influential Women Writers of Epic Fantasy

Following is an article by Will Kalif that talks about five influential women writers of fantasy. We would both have to say we agree. We are both fans of the last four authors on the list and have read many of their books. Enjoy! - Lis and Zan

Epic Fantasy is a very wide genre and it encompasses a lot of work that has been defined in a lot of different ways from fantasy to childrens fantasy to high fantasy. Women writers have been breaking new ground and exploring new ideas and concepts in this genre since its inception. Here are some of the pioneering women writers of the genre of epic fantasy.

Edith Nesbit
She was born in 1858 and was a prolific writer who is generally considered to be the creator of the genre of the childrens fantasy novel. She created the whole idea of several children who embark on a grand magical adventure. This is a theme and tool that still stands very strong to this day with works like The Chronicles of Narnia. Some of her most famous works include Five Children and It (1902) and The Story of the Amulet (1905). Her work has fallen into the public domain so you can get copies and read her work for free.

Ursula K. LeGuin
LeGuin is a prolific writer who rose to fame in the sixties and seventies with a series of books that crossed genres between science fiction and fantasy. Her mark was made on the epic fantasy genre with the publication of her novel entitled A Wizard of Earthsea which is the first book of a quartet that takes place in a world (Earthsea) that she is still writing about today. The main story line of this first Earthsea book is about a young boy who has magical powers and sets off to magic school. Sound familiar? This is a beautiful series of books that take place in a masterfully crafted world complete with wizards and dragons.

Marion Zimmer Bradley
She was another prolific author who wrote some science fiction but focused mostly on fantasy. Her most famous work is a signature piece in the whole realm of fantasy called The Mists of Avalon (1979) and it is a retelling of the Camelot Tales from the point of view of the women Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar. Bradley and her series of Avalon books has been a major force in the development of a whole generation of woman writers. And the Avalon books are a triumphant addition to the whole sub genre of Arthurian writing.

Anne McCaffrey
McCaffrey is an author in the realm of fantasy that formulated and created much of what the modern epic fantasy saga is all about. She is one of the originators of the template that writers follow to this day. She has done this with her nineteen volume Dragon Riders of Pern books. Pern is a fully realized world with a fully developed history, society and economy. The world of Pern has inspired many different media offshoots including a vibrant fan community, a video game and an upcoming major motion picture. This is pure epic fantasy at its best.

J. K. Rowling
Is there anything I can say about the Harry Potter phenomenon that hasn’t already been said? Her books are wonderful and wildly successful but I believe that her real gift to the genre is the bridge she has built between the past and the future. She, single-handedly, has had a tremendous impact on the genre of fantasy. And she will no doubt be seen as the inspiration for a whole new generation of writers over the course of the next several decades who will add to and grow the genre of epic fantasy in wonderful and new ways.

Epic fantasy is a genre of writing that has been profoundly impacted and grown by women writers and there are literally hundreds of great writers that I could have discussed in this article. These five are just who I consider to be among some of the most influential and important when looking at the development of the genre as a whole.

Will Kalif is the author of two epic fantasy novels and a big fan of all things epic fantasy. If you want to learn more about the genre visit his website epic-fantasy.com

For a daily dose of Medieval and Fantasy things visit his popular blog:Heroic Dreams – Never Give A Sword to A Man Who Can’t Dance

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