I’m overdue for an update. Usually, I have ideas and themes all worked out (and ebook giveaways all set), but this time it’s different. I still have books to give out, but the main theme of this “sharing” eludes me. So I’m going to write about a few issues that I found interesting in my last month of reading, editing, and watching the news.
Last year, I finally bit the bullet and started reading Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time” series. I’m on book 11 now…
Robert Jordan (this is a pen name of James Oliver Rigney Jr.) began writing the first book in these series, “The Eye of The World” in 1984 and only published it 1990. Considering just how popular and influential these series were/are, it gives hope for writers like me…
I love the world created in these books. It’s very complex and deep (and wide). But I kept finding similarities to other fantasy series I’ve read. Of course, there’s the homage to Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” series. But I expected that — those were really the founding high fantasy series that gave birth to all the rest. But there was also more than a passing similarity to George R. R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” and J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter.” And by “more than a passing similarity” I mean there’s A LOT! Sure George made the phrase “Game of Thrones” a household meme, but almost a decade before, Robert Jordan introduced “The Game of Houses” in his series. He defines it as the political cut-throat “dance” that the lesser nobles play to win favor with their kings and queens and justle each other for position. Sounds familiar? Painfully so…
When I read “The Games of Thrones” a few years ago, I was impressed by the grittiness and level of detail (although at times it was tiring). That story felt like I was skimming the surface of that world, getting just the reflection of its depth. But with “The Wheel of Time” there is sooo much more. The many storylines woven into that narrative are very integrated (even if spread over many thousands of pages) — there is a strong sense of deep time and extended history of how that world evolved before the events captured in these books. And just like with the worlds created by J. K. Rowling in “Harry Potter” and R. R. Martin, it is easy to see the endless possibilities of spinoffs and additional stories that could be written using that setting, that geography, that magic system. I think that’s one of the hallmarks of a great high fantasy — the ability to create an endless number of stories in that universe (just like we can have an unlimited number of stories in our own world). Spells, magic systems, wild beasts, court intrigue, hero stories galore…an endless world of possibilities.
As I’m reading “The Wheel of Time,” it continuously bothers me just how much “borrowing” there is between these three series. But who came first? Robert Jordan started writing in 1984 and published the first book in his series in 1990. R. R. Martin started “The Game of Thrones” in 1991 and published the first book in 1996. J. K. Rowling came out with the first volume of “Harry Potter” in 1997. And all I can say is that “The Wheel of Time” is surprisingly richer than the other two worlds. So if you have the time and if you love high fantasy…
That said, I’ve almost stopped reading “The Wheel of Time” some time during book four! I just couldn’t take the relentlessness of one horrible thing happening after another to the main characters. I wrote about something similar with my own writing (“Searching for a story…”) — can’t the good guys get a break for once? In most fiction, the reader is propelled through the story by one disaster after another. I call it the Peril Loop — a continuous series of bad events that happen to the main character in a story. And as a reader, I get tired and frustrated by all the misfortune. I call this the Peril Loop Fatigue effect — it’s how the reader feels when too many improbable bad events happen to the main characters in the story they are reading. I get exhausted. And after a few books in a series, I lose interest. I’ve managed to pull through and I’m just a few more books away from the end and I’m enjoying the story. But I can easily see myself giving up — oh let them just have one good moment, for goodness sake!
All three of these series — “Harry Potter,” “Game of Thrones,” and “The Wheel of Time” — suffer from Peril Loop Fatigue. Part of being a good writer might be knowing when you go too far…
I’m several edits away from finishing two novels: “The God of Small Affairs” and “Gardners.” These couldn’t be more different…and yet there a strong similarity. Both have a touch of horror about them. Both deal with deep time — “Gardeners” measures time in billions of years in addition to a few months; “God of Small Affairs” deals in spans of many thousands and just a few days of narrative.
For the last month, I focused my attention on “Gardeners.” And the things that one discovers in editing…yes, there were a ton of missing words (it is easy to slide one’s eyes over “on” and “at” and other prepositions), but there were a few other surprises. I wrote about a mesmerizing Saturn rising — first the majestic rings, then the swirling lightening-filled clouds of the gas giant rising above the crater mountain tops — from the surface of its little, frozen moon Mimas. Well, about that… Mimas is tidally locked to Saturn — no Saturn rises! Of course, this was after my editor scraped through my book twice; after my writing partner edited it; and after I went through the story at least ten times… I’m sure that when the book finally comes out, it will still have typos! Such is the nature of writing — there is always a better way of saying something, and always something that was missed in editing. I’m finding that this is true for every book (and article) I read! I now always find typos…everywhere…
It’s too early to share a chapter or two from my most recent stories, but I’ve created visual mood boards for these novels and made them available on Pinterest. Here are some links:
“Fresh Seed” — a short story prequel to “Gardeners,” free download
There is a well-documented phenomenon called “Blackout Babies.” Basically, when the lights go out, people find ways of entertaining themselves that lead all the local hospitals to staff-up nine months later — there are mini baby booms after each blackout. I predict something similar will happen with the Government Shutdown. There are a lot of married people who work for the government and who suddenly find a lot of extra time in each other’s company. Such enforced togetherness can have two consequences: a baby boom or a higher rate of divorce. I predict both.
…and as I’ve searched for evidence, here’s what happened in DC during 2013th shutdown: CBS News
After a while, subscribers to my email list have gotten all of the books I have to giveaway for free. But some of my readers might want to get a book or two free while I’m feverishly writing away on my next story. So please consider downloading some of these books:
Thank you for reading!