All posts by Wendy Van Camp

Writer. Gemologist. Artisan Jeweler.

Book Review: Nine Princes In Amber

Book Name: Nine Princes in Amber
Author: Roger Zelazny
First Published: 1970

Roger Zelazny was born in Euclid, Ohio, the son of of Polish immigrant. He had a typical childhood and showed an early interest in writing. In 1955 he earned a B.A. in English from Western Reserve University and went on to earn an M.A. in Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama from Columbia University in 1959. After graduation, he worked for the Social Security Administration by day and wrote science fiction by night. Zelazny wrote short stories at first, progressed to novellas and finally moved on to novel-length works. In 1969 he quit his day job and became a full time writer. Zelazny was an active member of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. He was also a member of the Swordsmen and Sorcerers’ Guild of America (SAGA), a group of heroic fantasy authors from the 1960s, much of their work was published in Lin Carter’s Flashing Swords! Anthologies.

Zelazny was married Sharon Steberl in 1964 and later they divorced. Two years later he married Judith Callahan. They had two sons and a daughter. The author died of cancer in 1995, at the age of 58.

While Zelazny is best known for his Chronicles of Amber series, of which Nine Princes in Amber is the first book, he has won 6 Hugo Awards, 3 Nebula Awards, 2 Locus Awards, 2 Seiun Awards, 2 Balrog Awards and 1 Prix Tour-Apollo Award. Many years, Zelazny’s work competed with each other for the same award.

In 2010, Roger Zelazny was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

“I like libraries. It makes me feel comfortable and secure to have walls of words, beautiful and wise, all around me. I always feel better when I can see that there is something to hold back the shadows.” -Roger Zelazy from Nine Princes in Amber

Nine Princes in Amber begins when Carl Corey wakes up in a hospital and has no idea how he arrived or even who he is. He is suspicious of the circumstances of his stay and escapes the room, only to learn that he is recovering from a car accident and his hospital care is being paid for by his sister.

When Carl flees the hospital, he goes to his sister’s house, wishing to learn more about his unknown identity. There he is called Corwin and his sister refers to herself as Flora. In Flora’s library, Corwin finds a set of customized Tarot cards, the trumps of the Major Arcana are all replaced with portraits of members of his family. There are nine brothers, including Corwin and four sisters. While at Flora’s house, his younger brother Random contacts him on the phone. When Random arrives, he is being chased by strange humanoid creatures, which are defeated in concert by Corwin, Flora and Random. Corwin realizes that strange forces are at work that have little to do with how he thinks Earth should be.

Random asks Corwin if he is going to return to Amber and offers to “hellride” with him there. As the two brothers travel, Random subtly shifts the world around him using an innate ability that fascinates his elder brother. They arrive in Amber, a place of sublime beauty and order from which the entire universe takes its form.

In Amber they meet with another of their brothers, Julian. They battle and Corwin manages to unhorse Julian from his steed and take him prisoner. Corwin is learning that the nine princes of Amber are all at battle because their father has been missing for centuries and is presumed dead. When one of Corwin’s sisters arrives, fleeing from yet another brother named Eric, Corwin is moved to confess to Deirdre about his amnesia. Deirdre tells Corwin of the Pattern, from where the power of the royal family to manipulate worlds springs from. It is Deirdre’s opinion that if Corwin “walks the pattern” again, it would restore his memory.

Corwin, Random and Deirdre leave Amber and travel to a nearby reflection world called Rebma. It is an underwater city and ruled by their sister Moire. Since Rebma is close to the original Amber, it also contains a near perfect reflection of the Pattern. Moire grants Corwin permission to walk the Pattern because she believes that the three of them will support her in the defeat of Eric, their brother who holds the royal castle in Amber and is amassing a huge army. There is a price: Random must stay behind in Rebma and marry a blind girl named Vialle. Corwin walks the Pattern and his memory is indeed restored. He is a true prince of Amber and remembers a long life of centuries along with the powers which the Pattern give him: the power to walk through “shadow” and to pronounce a curse before dying. Walking the Pattern also grants him the power to project himself through space and he does so, going to the Castle of Amber where he finds a safe location to rest and think about what he has learned.

In the castle, Corwin searches the library and finds another pack of Trumps, tarot like cards that allow him to create shortcuts through “shadow” and travel to other worlds. He now knows how to use them. Corwin is discovered by Eric and they duel. Corwin doesn’t fair well in the battle and he uses the Trumps to escape.

Corwin begins to use the Trumps to contact his siblings. He makes deals with the various princes of Amber, learning who is aligned with whom and gaining an understanding of where he stands in the royal intrigue. His car accident was no accident after all, but part of the intrigue for the throne of Amber. He joins forces with his brother Bleys and together they command a navy to take Amber from Eric. In the end, Corwin and Bleys are not successful. Bleys falls over a cliff and Corwin is captured and thrown in chains. Eric sentences his defeated brother to be imprisoned and his eyes burned out. Eric crowns himself King of the one true world.

Corwin endures years in prison, blind and helpless. Although he is visited by occasional friends, no one can help him due to their fear of King Eric. As time goes by, Corwin’s eyes begin to regenerate and he begins a futile escape attempt with the use of a spoon. It is during this time, that the former keeper of the Pattern, appears out of nowhere. Dworkin Barimen is insane and has been imprisoned for a long time. He explains that he has come to Corwin by drawing a picture on his own dungeon wall, creating a Trump to travel. Corwin asks Dworkin to draw a picture of the Lighthouse of Cabra, a place he considers a safe haven. Once Dworkin completes the drawing, Corwin projects himself out of prison.

Roger Zelazny has been one of my favorite science fiction and fantasy authors. Nine Princes in Amber was my introduction to his work, but it certainly wasn’t the last book of his that I read. One of the common themes of his writing is that there exists an infinite number of worlds and that every world that can be imagined must exist somewhere. The powerful characters in his books usually have the ability to travel to these different worlds in some manner. The idea that the characters are never sure if they are creating these special places or are simply finding them is the metaphysical question that they ask themselves and never quite answer.

Sometimes his stories are pure fantasy, and others they combine science fiction and fantasy together. Either way, a Zelazny novel was always something unique and wonderful to read. I highly recommend the Chronicles of Amber. The books might be a bit old, but they hold up well and are still an entertaining read.

Nine Princes in Amber Book Cover


The Chronicles of Amber:

The first five novels feature Corwin, Prince of Amber.

1970 Nine Princes in Amber
1972 The Guns of Avalon
1975 Sign of the Unicorn
1976 The Hand of Oberon
1978 The Courts of Chaos

The next five novels feature Merlin, Corwin’s son.

1985 Trumps of Doom – Locus Fantasy Award winner, 1986
1986 Blood of Amber – Locus Fantasy Award nominee, 1987
1987 Sign of Chaos – Locus Fantasy Award nominee, 1988
1989 Knight of Shadows
1991 Prince of Chaos

Zelazny also wrote seven short stories set in Amber. The last five of these stories form one tale set after Prince of Chaos, the final novel.

2005 “A Secret of Amber”
1985 “Prolog to Trumps of Doom”
1994 “The Salesman’s Tale”
1995 “Blue Horse, Dancing Mountains”
1994 “The Shroudling and The Guisel”
1995 “Coming to a Cord”
1996 “Hall of Mirrors”

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

writers-linksNo Wasted Ink proudly presents another Monday filled with articles about the writing process. I hope you enjoy my hand picked list of links! Enjoy.

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Guest Post: How Far Do You Stretch It? by Raymond Bolton

Fantasy Ship

Raymond Bolton is an up and coming Fantasy Writer who has been gracious enough to grant No Wasted Ink an interview about his new book Awakenings. I’ve asked Raymond to return and give us his thoughts on writing in the fantasy genre.

One of the more important tasks of writing fantasy is that of world building, in other words, helping the reader see those elements of the story’s setting that have heretofore existed only in the author’s imagination. Dropping the reader into this world, if properly executed, becomes an immersion process and the reader soon finds himself at home in an unfamiliar universe. When the author fails at this—and there are many ways to fall short—she leaves the reader hovering outside the story, viewing everything as a spectator rather than as a participant.

Recently, I was talking to two individuals who were considering a maiden fantasy project. They were debating about how bizarre they should make their world. They wanted to create fantastic creatures doing unsettling things and speaking in an unearthly manner to the point nothing would remain recognizable. I disagreed with their intended approach.

Clearly, the point of fantasy is to remove the reader from his every day world and transport him to a place he’s never been. Whether the intent of the author is merely to provide an adventure into places unknown, or to provoke questions about the “reality” the reader confronts daily via contrast with this super normal world, the story’s other-worldly setting provides a dreamscape on which to hang the content. And while dreams are part of our everyday existence—the flip side of our waking life—I cautioned against crafting a world so far removed from what the reader is accustomed unless they possessed the story telling mastery of, say, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

They complained that I was suggesting they stifle the creative process and one of them cited an obscure work where he felt this had been done successfully. In turn, I argued it was probably one of the reasons the work he cited was obscure and suggested they consider how masters of the genre deal with this issue.
Anne McCafferey’s Dragonriders of Pern is a story of knights errant, familiar in most regards except for the fact that her knights ride dragons instead of horses. While J. R. R. Tolkien’s Gollum is far from human, the creature is the embodiment of all human failings and the world he inhabits, while very alien to the one we in which we abide, is nonetheless a land where men go to war and gather in inns to escape the night’s perils. When Lucy, Edmund, Peter and Susan emerge from the wardrobe into C. S. Lewis’s Narnia, they do step into a land dominated by animals and monsters, but the conflicts are nonetheless familiar. Even when Lewis Carol drops Alice through a rabbit hole into a world so surreal it is best depicted visually in a Disney cartoon, the royalty and other institutions he parodied are at once recognizable.

The question then becomes, for whom do you write? If it is only yourself or perhaps a few others, then discard convention to your heart’s content. If, on the other hand, you want to entice as many as possible into the world you create, then you will have to draw a balance between the unworldly and the familiar.
I am of the opinion that depicting the surreal is best handled by placing it in a recognizable context. The contrast thus created amplifies the difference. Paint the sky green and hang two suns in it, if you will—I do—but rather than labor to point out the incredible, handling the unbelievable as if it were to be expected is subtler and won’t alienate the audience. In fact, if the writer’s primary purpose is to entertain, he should endeavor to make the read as effortless as possible. Many readers balk when they have to work too hard to understand what the author has created.

The masters achieve their goal by relating the other-worldly as an everyday experience. Let the protagonist, rather than the reader, protest any departure from reality, as Richard Mayhew does, in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, when he demands to have his life back, or as Alice does when she argues with the Mad Hatter. After all, the fantastic is less the point of the tale than the context in which the underlying story is set.

Author Raymond BoltonRaymond’s goal is to craft gripping stories about the human condition, whether they are set here or another world. He has written award-winning poetry and four novels. Two are explorations in fantasy: Awakening, an epic, released in January, 2014, and Thought Gazer, an adventure and first volume of a prequel trilogy, which will be released on January 1, 2015. Under its working title, Renunciation, Awakening was one of eight finalists among 950 entries from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Europe and Australia in the Pacific Northwest Writers Associations Literary Contest. Hailed on BookViral.com as “a grand debut… [that] breathes originality into the genre”, Awakening has received almost all five star reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads.

Awakening 4x6-seal-Amazon ThoughtGazer 4x6

Author Interview: Eileen Schuh

I asked Eileen how she might describe herself as a writer. Her response was: I am a writer of powerful psychological thrillers, luring readers into the action and then compelling them to ponder. Please welcome science fiction author Eileen Schuh to No Wasted Ink.

Author Eileen SchuhI was born Eileen Fairbrother in the small prairie town of Tofield, Alberta Canada. I now live in the County of St. Paul in Alberta’s northern boreal forests and write under my married name, Eileen Schuh.

At the age when most are planning their retirement, I launched my writing career with my debut novel, THE TRAZ, the first in my young adult BackTracker series. Flicking through the pages of a book with my name on the cover as the author, was the fulfillment of a life-long dream. With half a century of stories pent up inside me, THE TRAZ was quickly followed by my first adult Sci-Fi and just 4 short years later, I have 6 published books to my credit.

When and why did you begin writing?

I wanted to write novels since I learned to read, which was before I started school. I was raised on a small dirt farm with no conveniences and little entertainment. Reading opened the world to me; I was mesmerized by the magic of the written word and by the power stories had over me. I wanted to wield that power.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I’ve been a writer since the age of four. I have letters I wrote to my mom when I was in Grade I. I was very homesick when I was sent off to school (which was about a two-hour bus ride each day, one way). Mom told me when I got homesick to write her a letter. She kept some of them. Throughout my school years, I excelled at reading and writing and won many competitions. When I was in Grade 8, one of my short stories was published in the Wee Wisdom Magazine for Children.

I eventually got my Journalism Diploma and off-and-on throughout my child-rearing years, I plied my trade as a journalist, editor and feature writer. I also dabbled a bit in creative writing. However, with little uninterrupted time to hone my skills, I was never able to bring those early stories to fruition.

Eventually, with my children all successfully reared and on their own and the family business financially secure, I got to pursue the dream of being a novelist,

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My latest release is my second adult Sci-Fi, a little near-future romance, entitled DISPASSIONATE LIES.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’m really worried about the inherent insecurities in the World Wide Web. We seem too dependent on a technology few understand. The internet is a more powerful tool than the atomic bomb, yet we don’t know who is controlling it. I let my imagination run wild as to what might happen in the near future if the web were to collapse, hoping society might take note and do something to strengthen internet security.

I realized that the shortfalls of cyberspace might be a dry topic to most readers so I decided I ought to spice my story up a bit. I had been told sex sells, so my original intention was to make my novel a bit steamy. However, my muses (as they often do) played a trick on me and my young heroine turned out to be a member of what the media in the year 2035 dubbed the ‘eunuch generation’—a generation of females born infertile and without libido.

Of course, the forbidden relationship is always the most alluring and I found a way to get around my muses.

Do you have a specific writing style?

My novels, whether gritty contemporary novels for teens (like my BackTracker Series) or science fiction for adults, are marketed as psychological thrillers. It is my firm belief that the most exciting and interesting things in life occur in people’s minds and hearts. I try to write my novels with a lesson for those readers who want one, and pure adventure and thrills for those seeking entertainment.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

I actually crowd-sourced the title on my facebook author page. Without telling my fans anything about the book, I asked which of four titles (all related to the novel) would make them most likely to pick up a book and read the back cover copy. DISPASSIONATE LIES got the most votes. Dispassion of course refers my heroine’s asexuality and lies…well, you’ll have to read the novel.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I really want people to not only consider the pitfalls of cyberspace, but also the environmental and biological risks inherent in our pharmacology industry. Perhaps the biggest message, though is: We ought to be more worried about who’s developing the quantum computer than who has weapons of mass destruction; quantum computing is where power of unprecedented strength will lie in the near future.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Very much so. I have an entire section at the back of the novel with links to news and science headlines supporting the premises explored in my story. DISPASSIONATE LIES is eerily realistic. Take note.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Jay Williams’ Danny Dunn series of children’s Sci-Fi got me hooked on that genre back in middle grade. Williams took science out of the boring textbooks and classrooms and made it fun and relevant. He made the possibilities for the future intriguing. His stories stayed with me and now I want to make today’s science fun and exciting for adults.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I give much credit of my success to best-selling Canadian author, Cheryl Kaye Tardif, who has helped me immensely for many years, with everything from establishing my website to participating in the social networks, to believing in my work. When the time was right she also, through her company Imajin Books, became one of my publishers. My other publisher, Carol Hightshoe from WolfSinger Publications, is also an author and gave my science fiction dreams their voice.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Lee Barlow Kuruganti is the cover artist for DISPASSIONATE LIES. Sci-Fi covers are notorious distinct with their digital other-world auras. Although the sexy lady on the cover surprised me utterly, I quickly came to accept that Kuruganti had done an excellent job. She incorporated many of my suggestions such as the sodium streetlamp lighting and the code markings. As is somewhat standard in the industry for traditionally published novels, my publisher chose the cover artist but did ask me for input on the design.

Lee Kuruganti’s claim to fame is that she won the competition to design the 2008 Hugo Award statue base. I feel quite honoured to have had her design the cover of my novel.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I frequently lament the decades of writing I lost to raising kids and undertaking other major life adventures but I understand now why that was exactly the right path to follow. I urge all those for whom writing is an obsessive passion to ensure that they sacrifice their keyboards to live fully and abundantly and to not be unhappy doing so. As intriguing as the imaginary world of words is, reality is infinitesimally more rewarding and important. LIVE IT!

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Please, please leave me a review. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just saying if you liked it or not and why. Not only do I thrive on feedback but research shows reviews, good, bad, or indifferent, attract readers and I want everyone in the world to read DISPASSIONATE LIES.

Dispassionate Lies Book CoverEileen Schuh
St. Paul, Alberta, Canada

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DISPASSIONATE LIES

Cover Artist: Lee Barlow Kuruganti
Publisher: WolfSinger Publications

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No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

writers-linksThis week on No Wasted Ink there are articles on writing techniques, marketing and how to handle that 800 pound gorilla, Amazon. I hope you enjoy them!

A bit on Literary Techniques

Describing Setting: An Exercise

Why can’t you be a writer?

How to Handle Rejection like an Actor

Why Amazon Reviews Just Aren’t Enough

25 Must-Read Tips on Plotting from Top Authors and Editors

The Prequel as Bait: How to Hook More Readers

How to Quickly Create an EPUB File From Word (And Then Edit It)

Mordor, We Wrote

BookTrack: Why Soundtracks For Books Are Great For Readers And Authors