Tell me what you’re currently reading.
A special thanks to author David Anthony Durham for stopping by my site last week. I posted a review to his new fantasy novel Acacia: Book One: The War With the Mein, and he so kindly responded to my post. Best of wishes to David on his new novel. It is being well-received, so if you get the chance, I recommend picking it up.
Some friends of mine suggested reading Lion of Ireland by Morgan Llywelyn. It’s a historical fiction novel set in medieval Ireland. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but it’s on the list now. If anyone’s read it, I’d like to hear your thoughts.
Here’s a brief description I pulled off of Google Book Search.
King, warrior, and lover Brian Boru was stronger, braver, and wiser than all other men-the greatest king Ireland has ever known. Out of the mists of the country’s most violent age, he merged to lead his people to the peak of their golden era.His women were as remarkable as his adventures: Fiona, the druidess with mystical powers; Deirdre, beautiful victim of a Norse invader’s brutal lust; Gormlaith, six-foot, read-haired goddess of sensuality.Set against the barbaric splendors of the tenth century, this is a story rich in truth and legend-in which friends become deadly enemies, bedrooms turn into battlefields, and dreams of glory are finally fulfilled. Morgan Llywelyn has written one of the greatest novels of Irish history.
Read an excerpt from the first chapter. – Scroll down the page to find the excerpt.
Lion of Ireland by Morgan Llywelyn
Published 2002 by Tor/Forge
If you haven’t read The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, I highly recommend reading it before the sequel, World Without End, comes out this fall. Follett is a masterful storyteller. His characters are richly developed, and the setting of medieval England is well-researched. A timeless story. Here’s a review from Publishers Weekly:
With this book, Follett risks all and comes out a clear winner, escaping the narrow genre of suspense thrillers to take credit for a historical novel of gripping readability, authentic atmosphere and detail and memorable characterization. Set in 12th-century England, the narrative concerns the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. The ambitions of three men merge, conflict and collide through four decades during which social and political upheaval and the internal politics of the church affect the progress of the cathedral and the fortunes of the protagonists. The insightful portrayals of an idealistic master builder, a pious, dogmatic but compassionate prior and an unscrupulous, ruthless bishop are balanced by those of a trio of independent, resourceful women (one of them quite loathesome) who can stand on their own as memorable characters in any genre. Beginning with a mystery that casts its shadow on ensuing events, the narrative is a seesaw of tension in which circumstances change with shocking but true-to-life unpredictability. Follett’s impeccable pacing builds suspense in a balanced narrative that offers action, intrigue, violence and passion as well as the step-by-step description of an edifice rising in slow stages, its progress tied to the vicissitudes of fortune and the permutations of evolving architectural style. Follett’s depiction of the precarious balance of power between monarchy and religion in the Middle Ages, and of the effects of social upheavals and the forces of nature (storms, famines) on political events; his ability to convey the fine points of architecture so that the cathedral becomes clearly visualized in the reader’s mind; and above all, his portrayals of the enduring human emotions of ambition, greed, bravery, dedication, revenge and love, result in a highly engrossing narrative. Manipulating a complex plot in which the characters interact against a broad canvas of medieval life, Follett has written a novel that entertains, instructs and satisfies on a grand scale. 400,000 first printing; $400,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild main dual selection; author tour.
World Without End will be released October 9th.
Here are just some of the resources I use for information, references, advice, and tips when writing.
A subscription to Writer’s Digest Magazine (www.writersdigest.com). This always keeps me up-to-date on the latest industry news, and it gives me ideas when it comes to the craft of writing or when thinking about getting published. I recommend subscribing to at least one writing magazine. Writers Digest is one. Writer’s Journal is another.
I also recommend the Writer’s Market guides. A new issue is put out every year, so it is always up to date. The Writer’s Market is a comprehensive source for finding publication information in various areas of the writing industry. There are also more specific guides similar to Writer’s Market. There is Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market (I use this one for findng info on short story contests), Guide to Literary Agents, Poet’s Market, Children Writer’s Illustrators Market, and Christian Writer’s Market Guide. I wouldn’t recommend buying these as they are pretty expensive, and they are updated annually. I would just go to your local bookstore, maybe library, and do your research there. Bring a pen and a notepad, grab a coffee and a Writer’s Market guide, and write down all the information.
Lastly. Read a lot. This cannot be stated enough. If you want to be a good writer, you must study the craft, and the best way to do this is by reading lots of novels, short stories, poetry, movie scripts, memoirs, whatever it is you are interested in writing. My focus is on historical fiction and fantasy novels, so I read as much as I can specifically in these genres. I used to read a lot of various authors and genres, but then I thought it would help me more to study the genres that I also write in, and now I read almost solely historical fiction and fantasy and also medieval history non-fiction for research. I still read other genres and styles besides these when I listen to books on tape or CD in my car. That’s another thing I’d recommend. Always have a book on CD in your car. I travel a lot on weekends, so I can read a lot of books this way. And when you’re reading a novel, I would suggest analyzing the characters and how the author develops them, how they interact with each other through dialogue, observe the particular writing style of an author, how he or she uses rhythm in his or her language to pace the story, things like that. By doing this, it takes me longer to read novels, but I also gain a greater understanding of the craft. I also read out loud, most of the time, because that really helps me to hear the rhythm, and rhythm is so important in writing.
There has been some debate and speculation over whether or not J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter contains Christian themes. I’ve never read any of the books — I plan to at some point — so I can’t weigh in too much with my opinion, but until reading a recent interview with J.K. Rowling, I doubted the claims by some that Christian undertones do exist in the novels. I believe there are clear connections to Christianity in the fantasy series of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, though Tolkien seems to be a bit more subtle in his use of religious symbolism. I like to use Christian symbolism in my writings, and there is indeed some of it in my novel, but I tend to take Tolkien’s approach and keep it subtle.
On the opposite end, there are those religious groups that claim Harry Potter is evil, and children should not be allowed to read it. While the Bible does speak about sorcery and those who practice magic, I’m not sure that a fantasy novel intended solely for entertainment will have that much of a negative influence on children. Children have wonderful imaginations anyway, regardless of whether or not they have read Harry Potter, so I find it difficult to believe that reading these fantasy novels will corrupt their minds.
J.K. Rowling speaks openly about her use of Christian motifs in the Harry Potter series. Read the article from Religious Intelligence.
Links to more articles:
I was in my local bookstore recently, saw the cover to this novel and thought it looked interesting, so I picked it up to read the jacket. I’ve put it on my list for later. Every time I see a book or hear of a book that sounds interesting, I make a note of it, sometimes in my PDA and sometimes in a file on Google Docs if I’m near a computer. I use to make a mental note, but then I would forget, so now I make a point to write it down. Just the other day I was reading a forum about fantasy novels — in particular I think it might have been a George R.R. Martin forum — and someone mentioned a fantasy series that, in his/her opinion, was better than Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. I thought I could remember the name of the author and series, but after only a day or two, I had already forgotten.
Below is a review of Acacia from The Washington Post. If anyone has read the novel, I’d be interested to know how you liked it.
The Akaran royal children in David Anthony Durham’s thrilling Acacia bear a passing resemblance to the scrappy siblings from C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Aliver, heir to the throne of the Known World, worries that he doesn’t have the stuff to be king; Corinn, his sister, is beautiful, deceptively shallow and adept with a bow and arrow; Mena, the younger sister, is courageous and astute; and Dariel, the youngest, tends to wander off where he shouldn’t. But the world that Durham has created for them is far grimmer, and far more sophisticated, than Lewis’s charming Narnia.
From the first pages of Acacia, Durham, a respected historical novelist, demonstrates that he is a master of the fantasy epic. He quickly sets out in broad strokes the corrupt world that these unwitting children have been raised to rule. For 22 generations, the Akarans have presided over the empire of Acacia. And for 22 generations, they’ve sent a yearly shipment of child slaves to mysterious traders beyond their borders, “with no questions asked, no conditions imposed on what they did with them, and no possibility that the children would ever see Acacia again.” In exchange, the Akarans get “mist,” a drug that guarantees their subjects’ “labor and submission.” I give nothing away when I say that this empire is doomed. In the opening pages, an assassin from the Meins — a “bickering people” from the frozen North, “as harsh and prone to callousness as the landscape they inhabited”
— is on his way to the capital city with his sights set on King Leodan, the children’s kind and hapless father. The Akaran children must flee their sumptuous palace for hostile country, with no god-like lion poised to give his life for theirs. The Acacian god, the Giver, has forsaken them. Durham sacrifices nothing — not psychological acuity, not political
complexity, not lyrical phrases — as he drives the plot of this gripping book forward. The names of people and places sound as if they’ve been recalled from a dusty past, not cobbled from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, a far too common practice among fantasy writers. Tropes that sound outlandish — “dream-travel,” for one — are credible in Durham’s telling. And the story always surprises. Characters that seem poised to take center stage are killed abruptly. Evil often triumphs.
The rickety supports that grand empires rest on clearly fascinate Durham — the long-time advisers who have grown resentful, the client states that fake their willing submission, the trading monopoly that sees profit in regime change. And the Akaran aristocracy is deaf to the rumblings beneath them. Hanish, the clear-eyed leader of the Meins and architect of the coming disaster, relishes their complacency: “Better that his coming shock them to the core and leave them reeling and grasping for meaning, too late to recognize the true shape and substance of the world they lorded over.”
When the empire falls, it does so quickly and horrifically. Palace guards and household servants slaughter their masters. The Meinish have allied with the Numrek, “screaming, stomping, mirthful agents of carnage,” who cut a gruesome swath through the land. Plague strikes the Acacian army, and its soldiers sweat blood and “lay prostrate in writhing intimacy with the earth.” The dead are past counting.
But as exciting as all this is, the collapse of the Akaran empire is only the beginning of this grand tale. Aliver, Mena and Dariel, raised anonymously and separately in quiet corners of the fallen empire, become warriors eager to redeem “the rotten heart of Acacia,” while Corinn, a captive in the palace where she grew up, plots bloody revenge from within. How will it all end? If the first volume of this projected series is any indication, in brilliant — and brutal — defiance of fantasy conventions.
Copyright 2007, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.