MIND MELD: Our Favorite Dragons in Fantasy

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

With the arrival of The Desolation of Smaug on movie screens, We asked this week’s panelists about the most iconic of fantasy creatures: Dragons.

Q: What makes dragons appealing? How do you use dragons in your own writing? What are your favorite depictions in fantasy?

This is what they said…

Read the rest of this entry

MIND MELD: Books You Eat Like Candy & Books You Savor

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

Many readers have different gears when reading books. Some books are ones in which you luxuriate and spend time with, others are such a ride that you turn the pages rapidly, carried along through them at warp speed.

We asked this week’s panelists about this phenomenon:

Q: What books do you savor? What books do you eat like candy? What makes for you a book that you savor, or speed through?

Here’s what they said…

Sandra Wickham
Sandra Wickham lives in Vancouver, Canada with her husband and two cats. Her friends call her a needle crafting aficionado, health guru and ninja-in-training. Sandra’s short stories have appeared in Evolve: Vampires of the New Undead, Evolve: Vampires of the Future Undead, Chronicles of the Order, Crossed Genres magazine and coming up in The Urban Green Man. She blogs about writing with the Inkpunks, is the Fitness Nerd columnist for the Functional Nerds and slush reads for Lightspeed Magazine.

As a fitness professional, I have a hard time comparing books to popcorn and candy. I’m sorry. It goes against my nature. Is it all right if I call them fruits versus vegetables? Fruit is yummy, quick to eat and always fun. Vegetables can be yummy, are a bit more work to eat but you know they’re extremely good for you.

I always read because I want to be entertained and I admit I don’t always read because I want to learn something, or broaden my mind. Sometimes, I really just want to have fun and read an entertaining book. That’s when I turn to the fruit.

The fruit books I grab for a quick, fun read are urban fantasy. Give me a Kim Harrison, Kelley Armstrong, Diana Rowland, Kat Richardson, Kevin Hearne (the list goes on and on) and I’ll disappear. I’m not saying that urban fantasy can’t be mind expanding or explore important issues, when they’re well done they certainly do that, but I don’t need to rethink my entire life to read them.

I’d also list horror books under this category, though it depends on the author. Some of those are a mix of fruits and vegetables with a side of bloody dip.

My vegetable books tend to be fantasy that take after the Tolkien mold. These are the stories I want to dive fully into, to be immersed in the world the author has created and linger there, enjoying every aspect of the characters, the setting and the story.

I’m interested to see other people’s responses on the books they savor, because I know I need more vegetables in my reading diet.

Read the rest of this entry

Born in Georgia, raised in Virginia, Courtney Schafer dreamed of adventures in the jagged mountains and sweeping deserts of fantasy novels. She escaped the east via Caltech, obtaining a B.S. in Electrical Engineering, while learning to rock climb, backpack, ski, scuba dive, and stack her massive book collection so it wouldn’t crush anyone in an earthquake. Now in the climber’s paradise of Boulder, Colorado, she got her masters in EE at CU Boulder between adventures. She married an Australian scientist, went to work for an aerospace company and took up figure skating, because life was too easy. A voracious reader, she always wished fantasy novels were written faster, until she started writing her own to satisfy the craving . Her first novel, The Whitefire Crossing, released in 2011 from Night Shade Books and her second, The Tainted City, released last Fall. She can be found on Twitter as @cischafer, via her website or on her blog.


SFFWRTCHT: First things first, where’d your interest in science fiction and fantasy come from?

Courtney I. Schafer: I loved science fiction and fantasy from birth, I think! Narnia, Neverland, Alice in Wonderland, Jungle Book, L’Engle, Yolen, Diana Wynne Jones—I jumped right in, and my love of the genre has only grown with age.

Read the rest of this entry

BOOK REVEW: The Tainted City by Courtney Schafer

REVIEW SUMMARY: Schafer convincingly adds secondary world cities to her list of well evoked fantasy locales in the second book of the Shattered Sigil.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A threat to the barriers surrounding Alathia bring prisoners Dev and Kiran back to the titular tainted city of Ninavel, and the dangers of being involved with the doings of powerful mages.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Schafer brings the city of Ninavel to as full flower as she did the mountains of The Whitefire Crossing
CONS: A plot device used feels a bit like a reset button. The book could sorely use some maps and a concordance.
BOTTOM LINE: Schafer continues to develop as a writer in her sophomore effort.

In her debut novel The Whitefire Crossing [My SF Signal review here] Courtney Schafer introduced us to The Whitefire Mountains, the perilous mountain border between the Painted Desert, with Ninavel, the city of Mages, and Alathia, a prosperous country with a tight rein on its magic users. The Whitefire Crossing is the story of Dev and Kiran. The latter a mountaineer and caravaners with a love of the mountains who is asked to smuggle a perilous cargo–Kiran, a mage who is fleeing his master. And both men are soon caught in events and plots much larger than they realize.

Read the rest of this entry

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

In writing, point of View matters. So we asked a large handful of authors these questions:

Q: As you see it. What are the strengths and weaknesses, for character, worldbuilding and setting in using 1st or 3rd person (or even 2nd?) Omniscient or limited? And how about the time frame of the tense, past or present or even future?

What kinds of Point of view do you prefer to write in? What types of POV do you like to read?

Note: Due to the large number of responses received, this is Part II of the Mind Meld Part I can be found here.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Jon Courtenay Grimwood is a British science fiction and fantasy author. He was born in Valletta, Malta, grew up in Britain, Southeast Asia and Norway in the 1960s and 1970s. He studied at Kingston College, then worked in publishing and as a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers including The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Independent. He now lives in London and Winchester and is married to the journalist and novelist Sam Baker. He won a British Science Fiction Association award for Felaheen in 2003, was short-listed for the Arthur C Clarke Award for Pashazade the year before, and won the 2006 BSFA award for Best Novel with End of the World Blues. He was short-listed for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 2002 for Pashazade. The Exiled Blade, third and final novel in his Assassini series, after The Fallen Blade and The Outcast Blade, comes out next spring from Orbit books. He recently signed a contract for a literary novel, The Final Banquet, which will be published by Canongate next Summer under the pen name Jonathan Grimwood.

About a decade ago I had a breakfast meeting in New York with a US editor who’d just bought three of my novels and wanted them slightly re-edited them for the American market. There were a couple of politically tricky points (climate change for global warming, etc) but the main request was that I edit a handful of scenes to make them more obviously from the hero’s point of view. Over coffee she told me she just didn’t get why European writers couldn’t do pov; all that going back and forth between the heads of different characters, often in the same chapter and sometimes the same scene was like watching tennis. She seemed slightly disbelieving when I said we liked it like that. It wasn’t incompetence on the part of European writers, as readers we were used to povs that switched… Recently – within genre – the introduction of a combined US/UK edit – which aims for something that works within both markets – has ironed out loose third and almost abolished omnipotent (at least that’s how it looks to me). For the moment first person and tight third rule.

First person grabs the reader from the off and drags her/him through the action at the same pace as the main character. However, the advantage of first is also its disadvantage; the reader can only know what the main character knows. Single character tight third allows us to wander a little from the character’s shoulder, but action happening elsewhere has to be kept to a minimum.
If you’re a great writer like James Lee Burke (changing to a different genre for a second), then you can combine first, with tight third and occasionally slip into omnipotent, as he does with the Dave Robicheaux novels, but you have to be very good indeed. Multiple tight third, which is what had my US editor ordering extra coffee, allows you some of the freedom of an omnipotent pov without actually using omnipotent.

Having just written a historical novel that alternates between first person present and first person past, sometimes on the same page and often within the same section, depending on how deeply the main character is immersed in the story he’s telling, I think tense is down to what works for that particular novel. Sure, there are rules but they get broken. I remember an editor, a very good UK one, saying he couldn’t imagine epic fantasy written in the first person present. I’m pretty sure a number of people are doing that now.

Read the rest of this entry