Is a fantasy novel truly complete without a map?

The Kingdoms of Valendo, Emiria and Nearhon

[Post updated November 22nd, 2016]
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The General’s Legacy story opens with the prolog where the old general is lying on a rock ledge above Beldon Valley just north of Dendra Castle that you can see in the center of this map.

I have ambitions to produce a colour version for this website that covers a larger area of the world than this map. It has been cropped from the original drawing so that it is the right size for a Kindle / Kobo / Nook / Tablet screen with text labels still readable.

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The General’s Legacy Part One: Inheritance book cover

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When the years of writing and editing are finally done, there is one thing more needed for a book to finally feel real. Answer the question – what does it look like? A book cover design is the answer and here is what my designer came up with. Click on the image and a large version will open up and you will be able to read the message written on the note wrapped around the sword’s grip (you might need to zoom in a bit). It’s a message from the old general to his grandson, Prince Cory.

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My Top 5 Gateway to Fantasy Books

Goodreads.com has a multitude of groups you can join for every imaginable genre and angle on books. This week the Top 5 Wednesday Group are looking for top 5 gateway books to your favorite genre. Here are my top 5 gateway books to fantasy. Keep in mind I read some of these in my teens, they were my gateway into fantasy, so some are on the “young adult” side.

Number 5: The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

I first attempted to read The Hobbit when I was nine years old and found it heavy going. When I was about thirteen I tore through it in a matter of days. This was my introduction to fantasy worlds populated by something other than humans, with magic and dragons to boot.
One of only two fiction books I have ever read twice.

Number 4: Pawn of Prophecy (The Belgariad Book 1) by David Eddings

I re-read the beginning of this book recently and I was reminded that this is more a young adult book and a somewhat conventional farm boy marches off to fight the dark lord type story. When you are young and have not read the like before it works. My memory of characters like Belgarath the Sorcerer and his daughter Polgara is warm, but I dare not read the books again now lest these old memories be spoiled.

Number 3: Magic Kingdom For Sale Sold! by Terry Brooks

This is the other fiction book I have read twice.
A portal story. Ben Holiday, a lawyer and widower is seeking meaning to his life and purchases a Magic Kingdom from the gift catalog for the wealthy. Once he crosses through the portal into this Magic Kingdom he soon realizes he is not the first new King of Landover to try and rule. The others were dispatched by the Mark – lord of Abaddon. Can Ben’s alter-ego, the Paladin, save him? For Ben and the Paladin are one and the same when he wears the medallion.
This is a light hearted fantasy come fairy tale featuring humorous characters such as a court wizard whose level of competence with magic resulted in turning the courrt scribe into a dog – that can still talk and walk on two legs. And then Ben gets a girlfriend who is sometimes a tree. Her name is Willow. Can you guess what kind of tree she sometimes turns into?

Number 2: Legend by David Gemmell

Take one old man with a mean axe (or is that a mean man with an old axe?), stick him in a castle under siege by an enemy army so large the odds are impossible and you get an amazingly compelling story when David Gemmell tells it. Hard to believe such a simple dramatic concept produced a story that is so good the title sums up my impression of the book – legendary. I’m not quite sure what made me put this second place to my number one choice…

Number 1: Magician by Raymond E Feist

Raymond says he knew nothing about producing a novel when he wrote this monster. If he did know what the was doing, he would have produced something smaller. But sometimes a story will be as long as it needs to be and an epic tale begins here.
Pug is a kitchen boy who can’t even bring a basket of muscles home from the beach. One day he will be the most powerful magician in two worlds connected a rift and he will save them both from each other, themselves and many other external threats… but I get ahead of myself. Magician is about the beginning of a war between Midkemia – Pug’s home world – and Kelewan – a world modeled on Japanese culture that invades through the rift. The opening to Magician is also a beautiful read – go find Pug on the beach and join him.

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The General’s Legacy – Editing progress

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Back in June 2016 I posted about The General’s Legacy – first editing feedback where I included a quote “A lady author once wrote on her blog that having your first novel edited is more painful than childbirth – and you soon forget the pain of childbirth.”
The editing of The General’s Legacy has come a long way since then.  As some will know the story is split into Part 1: Inheritance due November 2016  followed by Part 2: Whiteland King soon after (February 2017 is the target).  This has been done so that my first published book (Part 1) can be produced at a low enough price that readers will be more prepared to take a chance on from an author they do not know.
One of the followers of this blog, an author himself, commented: “The editor for my novel was more like a comrade-in-arms—worked with me—explained things well…”.  I’m delighted to say this has turned out to be my experience.  Part 1: Inheritance is close to completion for editing and proofreading.  The professionally designed book cover should be available early September.  Editing for Part 2: Whiteland King is also well underway.
I keep the Books page of this site up to date with progress indicators.I have had more time on my hands recently and managed to catch up on providing feedback to my editor.  That means I have finally got some time to continue planning and outlining four more stories in The General of Valendo series.  I aim to start drafting the next book by the beginning of National Novel Writing Month.  This is an annual event in November that challenges authors to write 50,000 words within one month – get that first draft down faster.  I doubt I can make the time for 50,000 words, but I intend to see how close I can get.

The General’s Legacy – first editing feedback

A lady author once wrote on her blog that having your first novel edited is more painful than child birth – and you soon forget the pain of child birth.

Was she trying to say you never forget the pain of receiving editing feedback on your first book?

I am about to find out as I have received editing feedback for the first quarter of The General’s Legacy. Wish me luck…

6 reasons why we love fantasy fiction

An updated version of this blog post based on a 2017 survey can be found here.

Those of us who love reading fantasy fiction get lost in what our imaginations conjure from the words we read. The train journey passes in but a moment. Our eyes droop as we set aside the book, too exhausted to read on into the night. Our families become widows and orphans to our reading.

“Can you name six things you love about fantasy fiction?”

I asked myself this question and shared the answer to see what other readers, and in some cases authors, loved about the genre.

The responses were a mix of the expected with a couple of surprises. One surprise was the the runaway success the number one reason most people give for their love of fantasy.
Here are the reasons in descending order with a star rating and a few honourable mentions at the end.

6. Heroics

2 stars
We love heroic deeds done by hero or heroine. It’s about triumph over adversity during an adventure. It’s do or die against insurmountable odds. In what other genre do mortals to take on the gods themselves?

5. Monsters, alien races, and magical creatures

3 stars
“As soon as you put a dragon in a story, it’s a fantasy.”
You would think that with so many stories out there featuring dragons the market would be saturated. But dragons appear to be as popular as ever and Anne McCaffrey can hardly be disputed as the queen of dragons with her Dragonriders of Pern series. It’s not just about dragons. We want different versions of mythical creatures, alien races – not just elves but something else with strange behaviours, appearance, and customs different from our own to explore and understand.

4. Magic

3 stars
Tastes vary among fantasy readers on this one. Some people want magic to be in the background, the way George R R Martin does it in his A Song Of Fire and Ice series. Others want magic to be something mysterious and unknown, the way J R R Tolkien does it with Gandalf. Some people want to know how magic works. What the rules are. This is how Brandon Sanderson portrays magic in the Mistborne series with “Allomancy” as as an example. The term “Magic” could extend to superheroes and their powers and we can hardly ignore “The Force”. Almost no one needs telling where that comes from. When it comes to it, the powers or magic of the superhero is the defining dramatic concept of the superhero story itself.
However you like your magic, exploring characters with supernatural abilities making the impossible seem possible, and even fantasizing about having the same abilities yourself is all part of the charm of fantasy stories.

3. Characters

4 stars
Perhaps it is because, in the realms of the unbelievable that exists in fantasy fiction, there is a need for characters to be portrayed “realistically” and deeply. This applies even if they are a centaur, elf or dragon, to help readers suspend disbelief. Fantasy readers demand exotic worlds populated by equally exotic and diverse characters. They can flourish in this genre like no other. When characters are relatable, their faults can be forgiven. Readers want to root for the character. Personally, I don’t think that last point is specific to fantasy, more genre fiction in general, and we must be talking about the protagonist(s) here.
I like this next quote: “Anyone can write a fight between wizards, but how many make the reader care about who wins?”
It illustrates the desire to root for the hero very well.
The villains of fantasy are not forgotten here. Rendering the villain in words in all their glory as intricately as the hero is every bit as essential. What is the first character that comes to mind for Star Wars? I’m betting it’s not Luke Skywalker.

2. Imagination and creativity

8 stars
Two words feature high here. “No limits.”
The only thing limiting what goes into a fantasy story is the imagination and creativity of the author and their ability to make the fantastic feel real and believable.
“Anything is possible.”
“Every restriction is lifted.”
“Make the impossible seem possible.”
“Only bound by rules the author invents.”
In fantasy, everything is bigger and grander. Authors are not limited by real world rules.
The message to fantasy authors is, go crazy, be inventive and don’t play safe.

1. Escapism into a strange new world

10 stars
It could be a castle at the top of a beanstalk, a world made of water, a world similar to our own but full of surprises, heaven, some other plane of existence or a city suspended by chains over the pit of hell (that one has been done).
Whatever it is, it is the setting, the world building or
“worlds unlike our own”.
The number one attraction of fantasy fiction is escapism into previously unexplored and unknown worlds. In all honesty, I thought it would be ahead of the pack by a bigger margin than it is.
The setting is the large part of the vicarious experience the fantasy reader is looking for. Readers want to leave behind the mundane world they already know and enter fully realized imaginary worlds brought to life in writing. Humans have a desire to explore places they have never been before and a fantasy fiction world is a place that desire can be satisfied. It’s about rediscovering that childhood sense of wonder at the world about us that we lose (or feel we lose) as adults.
Readers say they want a land that is exotic, magical and fascinating. Done well, the depth and richness of made up history and traditions can be breathtaking.

Honourable mentions

1 star
A few other terms that came up that don’t fit within those in the top six were:

  • Learning about humanity through a different world
  • Characters doing the impossible
  • Some form of conflict a must
  • Sense of wonder
  • Adventure

Then there is the biggest surprise to me. The plot – the actual story, barely gets a mention in the responses to “Why do we love fantasy?”
Perhaps because it’s like the air we breathe. We don’t think about it, or notice it and we take it for granted until it is not there or bad.

Did we miss anything you love about fantasy?

Disagree with the rankings above?

Please share a comment below.

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