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Benevolence Archives review–it’s free this weekend!

Free this weekend!

Jedi by Knight

ba-cover-tiny

“What if Star Wars had been about Han and Chewie instead of Luke?”

This is the idea behind The Benevolence Archives, a collection of six short stories by Luther M. Siler–I found BA through his blog Infinitefreetime, which is a riot and a half.  I enjoy his blog so much, I figured I’d give his actual writing a shot, and I must say I did not regret it.

This collection is available for Kindle from Amazon, and you can get it for free this weekend!

The BA stories follow a team of spacers for hire: half-ogre Grond, whose murky backstory involves time spent in a brutal gladiator arena, and gnome Brazel, whose wife Rhundi acts as the team’s legit front and sometimes fence.  These two have really fun chemistry; throw in a couple interesting side characters and a snarky ship and you have a really enjoyable cast.

You could…

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An Intro to the World of Thornwall

As an avid reader of fantasy and a burgeoning author into the genre, I understand how important the world building is to the reader. Readers engage with the fantasy genre because of the wondrous worlds, characters, myth, creatures, and magic that these stories allow us to experience. So if you are looking for a new book to get lost in, I’d be honored to introduce you to the world of Thornwall in my upcoming epic fantasy novel, The Soul Smith, the first installment of The Blacksmiths series.

The Soul Smith Front CoverIt begins during the Time of the True Gods when civilized man became their crowning achievement. The Gods watched as man built roads, castles, walls, swords and shields and the Gods grew ever curious as to what man could build if given their power. So the Gods summoned forth the 8 best blacksmiths in the land and gave them each a forging hammer imbued with their power (and granting its wielder unnatural long life). But to their dismay, man did not use the power as the Gods had expected, so the Gods abandoned them. In their absence, the blacksmiths took reign as the new pantheon of demi-gods, demonstrating their godly power and imposing their will.

Now, over thousands of years, the world of Thornwall has been reshaped to their design. The rain drops are enlarged by the Flood Smith to be the size of apples; the Radiant Smith alters the color of the sun; the Soul Smith forges new creatures from the skeletons of old; the Gaia Smith crafts new scavenger plant life that eat the recently deceased; the Onyx Smith molds mountains and is the lord over shadow; the Sky Smith controls the weather and fuses new storms; the Scorch Smith sparks the desert sands with flame and makes rivers flow red with lava; and the Chromium Smith creates metallic gollums.

The life that populates Thornwall is part original creation of the True Gods, and part creatures forged by the Soul Smith. Entirely new races of creatures have taken hold across the unforgiving realm, developing entirely new societies, culture, and weapons. Some of the races that you’ll encounter such as elkin (men with antlers) as you can see depicted on The Soul Smith cover art, avians (hawks the size of men), torgers (short, bulky men with rhinoceros heads), keratin (sickly men with fingernails as scales covering their body), and much more.

Much of the magic that permeates throughout the world comes from the forgotten language of the True Gods. Speaking the words aloud conjures forth the will of the word’s essence. Very few people in the world can even remember this ancient language, and no more than just a handful of words.

Without giving away all the details, I’d like to invite you to explore my world. You can read my Sample Chapter for free or enjoy my short story The Ravenous Flock that preludes my novel. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Writing a Coming of Age Novel

coming of age, novel, young adultMany coming of age novels span across target segments by appealing to both the teen fiction (10-15) and young adult (16-25) audience because the characters are usually close to the same age as the reader. Instinctually, people will connect to others better (even if its a fictional character) when they are of similar age. My novel, The Soul Smith, is a coming of age novel, but the protagonist is 19 and turns 20 during the course of the story (as opposed to the more popular age range of 15 or 16). Setting my character at this age means that the teen fiction target segment might potentially be alienated as a result. But is that truly the case?

I chose to make my main character 19 for two reasons. 1) I wanted his society to determine adulthood by a different age than our own. Their society deems those that turn 20 to now be an adult. 2) I knew my story would have a love scene (nothing graphic), and that the female would be slightly younger than the male. Since our society deems 18 year olds to be adults, I wanted the characters in the love scene to at least meet our society’s standards so that no one would balk when they read the scene. Otherwise, how would the masses have reacted if I wrote the scene with a 16 year old and a 15 year old? I can only believe that it wouldn’t have been well received.

In addition, I’ve had a literary agency suggest that because my protagonist is 20, that it should be more of an adult fantasy. Then the reviewer from the agency even added that alternatively, I could make him younger. To me, it’s strange that the age of the main character is the single determining factor for how the book is marketed/categorized. In my mind, regardless of his age (which is just a number), my character still goes through all the frustrations of being treated like a child, just the same as any other coming-of-age novel. You would think that the teen fiction and young adult segments could relate to the character’s experiences regardless of the age.

What are your thoughts? Would you read a novel with a character that turns 20?

Myths Inscribed Grand Re-Opening

Myths Inscribes, fantasy ezine, The Ravenous Flock, short storyMyths Inscribed is the fantasy ezine that is run by the great people at MythicScribes.com. It is also the place that published The Ravenous Flock (my first publication!). Putting my favoritism aside, this is still a great source of highly entertaining fantasy short stories. The quality and strength of the content that they publish shows the height of their standards and the talent of their authors, especially for being a relatively young ezine. But what’s more impressive is the renovation that Myths Inscribed just went through.

In addition to a sleek new user interface, Myths Inscribed is offering features that are virtually unheard of across the industry. Things such as downloadable files of their ezine, fantasy artwork, and a new section where authors/artists can share their fantasy world. Myths Inscribed is really setting the bar for fantasy magazines and is still able to provide its content to you for free. Amazing.

I’m proud to have been an author published by Myths Inscribed.

FREE Fantasy for Spring Break!

The Ravenous Flock is free all day on April 5th and April 6th! Grab you free copy for Kindle here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EC0QHB0/

This short story is a prelude of The Blacksmiths series and takes you on a thrill ride filled with danger, intrigue and magic! With multiple 5 star ratings and a price tag of free, you can’t go wrong! Get it now!The Ravenous Flock new cover

Developing the “Inner-Story” of your Chapter

In the way that I design my stories, I want every chapter to have a purpose, to have its own spotlight, its own conflict and drama. I refer to this as the chapter’s “inner story”. While chapters are the framework of a story, I argue that a chapter is more than just a mechanism of format.

Too many times I’ve read chapters where the only purpose they served was to describe time pass as the protagonist went from A to B. If you find yourself writing a chapter that really lacks a prominent point, then most likely, your readers will think that the pace of your story will slow. This can be prevented if the author focuses on developing the mini-story within each chapter. Sometimes we authors are too close to notice it. Usually, one would have to take a step back from their writing and think like a critic in order to realize it, but I believe I’ve found a better way.

It’s one thing for an author to outline their story from start to finish. But it’s another if the author can take the planning to another level of granularity by architecting the framework of each chapter. Just describe the key story element for each chapter so they each drive toward a distinct purpose that supports the flow of the overall story. I’m convinced that this approach prevents pace & flow issues, generates more memorable qualities throughout your story, and keeps readers engaged. These key story elements can be:

  • Events that motivate your protagonist, such as the 12 steps of a hero’s journey
  • Events that force your characters into a certain decision
  • Chapters that revolve around your theme
  • Critical moments of character maturity (for coming-of-age type stories)
  • A new mini-conflict is introduced (that supports the overall story) and must be resolved

If you interested in giving this a shot, try out this exercise. Review your outline (hopefully it’s structured so you have some idea of what’s happening in each chapter) and write a synopsis of each chapter. Are all of your synopses exciting or intriguing? Do they serve a purpose in your story? If you can’t summarize your chapter by describing its reason for existence in an exciting/intriguing manner, then that chapter should be analyzed until its “inner-story” is found.

Here’s another way to look at it: If the reader could only sum up each chapter with one sentence, what would be the dramatic or exciting key story element that you’d want them to takeaway from it?

How do you outline your story? Do you think this technique could work for you? Let me know your thoughts.

Speed Reading Techniques

I don’t consider myself a fast reader by any means. I am slow, methodical, and like to savor every word. This can become problematic considering the general wisdom that the more an author reads, the better a writer they become; or as Stephen King puts it: If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.. This is compounded especially when you have a busy schedule. I often find myself in a situation where I only have enough time for 1 activity left in the day and I have to ask myself: “Should I read, or should I write?” And that’s not a situation that I want to be in, so I did some digging on speed reading techniques.

  1. Eliminate subvocalization. This is where you say the words aloud inside your head as you read. Your eyes can read faster than your brain can pronounce words. This will take practice, but we conscious of it and force yourself to quit this bad habit.
  2. Read multiple words at a time. As we first learned to read as kids, we read one letter at a time until we could read an entire word at a time. To continue this trend, we must learn to read multiple words at a time. This could be solved by what your vision is limiting you to see. Try holding the book further away from you so that your eyes can see more than a single word at a time.
  3. Avoid rereading. We’ve all done it, where we’ve had to go back and read the passage again. Regardless of the reason, you can try to minimize this bad habit by finding a place to read with very little distractions, and/or visually guiding your eye with either your finger or a pen.

The end-goal is to of course, increase your reading speed, but maintain your reading comprehension. For those that care, the average reader reads at 200-230 wpm and maintains a solid level of comprehension. I just took this free speed reading test and got 207 wpm and a comprehension of 91%. Apparently, the world speed reading champion, Anne Jones, can read 4,700 wpm with a comprehension of 67%. That’s insane! My goal is to try the techniques outlined above and move up to the next level at 300-400 wpm.

What did you score on the test?