Tag Archives: epic fantasy

Author Interview: Joseph Malik

Author Joseph Malik writes fantasy thrillers at a level of detail and accuracy that has readers asking him how to get there. He is a member of SFWA. Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.

Author Joseph MalikMy name is Joseph Malik. I’m a fantasy author and a soldier in the United States Army. I was raised on the Blackfeet Reservation in northern Montana. I live in Washington State. I’m married, no kids, two dogs.

When and why did you begin writing?

My mother wrote romance novels on contract for one of the big publishing houses when I was a kid. I think I started writing stories when I was five or six. I wrote my first full-length novel in high school, about 400 pages.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I don’t think there was ever a point when I didn’t consider myself a writer. I used to write short stories in the margins of my textbooks in grade school during class.

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

My current book is called The New Magic. It’s the sequel to my debut novel, Dragon’s Trail, which exploded last year. It was a Kindle Top 100 bestseller in four countries last year and has sold over 10,000 copies, receiving mainstream critical acclaim.

The books are fantasy technothrillers, epic fantasy novels whose plots hinge on intensely researched technical details. Think The Hunt for Red October but for knights in armor instead of nuclear submarines. The New Magic introduces a theme that we see in a lot of technothrillers, using our humanity to overcome a looming technological disaster. The New Magic is a sequel, but I wrote it to stand alone, with the first book functioning as a prequel/origin story if readers discover them that way.

The New Magic is a gritty fantasy written for adults, with graphic violence, sex, and profanity, but there are no scenes of sexual violence and no sexual violence in any of the female characters’ backstories. I engineered it out of the society when I did my worldbuilding. The rape trope is lazy writing, it’s dismissive, and it needs to be culled from fantasy.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Most definitely. My books are epic fantasy but written in the style of modern action thrillers. I write in omniscient third with a moderately opaque narrator. It’s an older style that hardly anyone uses anymore, but I love the way it tells the story. It marries up with fantasy beautifully.

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

“The New Magic” is a reference from the previous book; these books are portal fantasies featuring people from Earth who end up in another world. “The New Magic” is the locals’ name for technology.

Also, in The New Magic, a sorceress resorts to very old, forbidden magic in order to combat the influx of technology and level the field; the old magic is so old that it’s been forgotten, so it’s effectively new again. The further I get into the series, the more self-referential the titles become.

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

Almost everything is based on events in my own life.

I did the majority of the worldbuilding for these books hands-on, taking several years while I was learning how to write to also learn swordsmanship (foil and saber in college, then rapier and eventually greatsword), horsemanship, blacksmithing, martial arts (boxing and judo), mountaineering, traditional archery. I built a fully-functional conlang (constructed language) and taught myself to speak and write it, I traveled to Europe to pace off castles and ruins, and much more. I served in Special Operations in the U.S. military, which afforded me the opportunity to learn a lot of really cool things that most other authors just don’t get their hands on: austere medicine, improvised weapons, how to track a man through the desert.

I think one reason that Dragon’s Trail sold so well, and why there’s such a buzz about The New Magic, is that nearly all of the mundane details in the fantasy world of this series are functional. They may not be historically accurate—the heroes didn’t travel in time, after all—but they all make sense and nothing is hand-waved; everything short of the magic would really work, from the phases of the moon, to the economy, to the splinters in the floors. This level of authenticity and believability appeals to the fantasy reader who has a level of knowledge about some type of arcana resident in fantasy tropes; say, a reader who competes in fencing, or studied medieval history, or owns a horse.

The flip side to this, though, is that the unprecedented level of technical accuracy, coupled with my background in Special Operations and intelligence, has spawned emails and messages from readers who seem convinced that I was part of some kind of Black Ops program that explores other worlds. My inbox is an adventure. There is such a thing as being too accurate with your worldbuilding. I get asked where the portal is more often than you’d think.

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

Harlan Ellison and his entire raised-middle-finger attitude. I think that, especially now that I’ve been at this for a while, I enjoy the stories about him more than his actual writing. Tom Clancy, for getting things so right that he got in trouble for it. Douglas Adams, whose Hitchhiker’s Guide series transformed my way of looking at the world when I was younger.

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

The cover for The New Magic was designed by Lynn Stevenson. She was a colleague of my wife’s; my wife is a business development consultant for tech firms. I originally bought a pre-made cover for Dragon’s Trail that needed some tweaking, and my wife recommended Lynn, who did a masterful job. When I wanted to use elements of the Dragon’s Trail cover as a series brand, I went back to Lynn, and she put together the cover for The New Magic.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Craft trumps everything. Nothing else will do as much for you as time behind the keyboard or with your nose in a book, tearing words apart late into the night to see how they work.

My debut novel sold spectacularly and continues to sell well, but I’d been writing fantasy novels for the better part of 30 years, trying to get traditionally published, before I released it. It was probably my tenth or twelfth completed novel, and none of the others would have done nearly as well. Most of them were terrible. And the early things you write are going to be terrible. They just are. It takes years and sometimes decades to find your voice. That’s hard to hear, especially for young writers in this day and age of instant gratification and becoming YouTube famous; everybody wants to be a successful author and get an Oprah Book Club sticker the day after they type THE END for the first time, but that’s not how this works. You don’t go buy a violin and then audition for an orchestra in six months. This is that. Study. Practice. It will pay off, but it takes longer than you think.

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

Thank you. Every one of you. This has been amazing, and there’s much more to come.
TNM R SMJoseph Malik
Tacoma, WA


The New Magic

Cover artist: Lynn Stevenson
Published by Oxblood Books

Images, excerpts, and novel aesthetics: #TheNewMagic

Author Interview: Tiger Hebert

When I asked Author Tiger Hebert to describe his writing, he replied, “I write dark, epic fantasy that dares to hope.”  Don’t we need more hope in the world?  I think so!  Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.

Author Tiger HebertHello, my name is Tiger Hebert. I am a Christian, husband, father of three children, and a veteran. I have a BA in Communications, and I work in the Quality and Training fields. I was born and raised in Maine, but I now live in North Carolina with my family. I love the outdoors and I am passionate about football, food, family, and faith.

When and why did you begin writing?

When I was a kid, I guess I had a knack for creative writing. The teachers really encouraged it, but I never did anything with it outside of school assignments. As I went through middles school and high school, I started getting into a variety of gaming ranging from Magic TCG to Hero Quest to Diablo. This really piqued my interest in writing fantasy, and I knew that one day I wanted to write something, but I never did anything about it.

Several years later, when I was in the military I began writing poetry and lyrics as an outlet. I didn’t really think I’d do much of anything with it until a friend told me that it was actually good. I dabbled in that type of writing for a few years, but never took the plunge into attempting fiction. Until one day, right around Christmas of 2011, I couldn’t wait anymore. So I created a blog for my “dragon” story, and I just began writing. I didn’t outline, plot, or worldbuild. I just started writing. After a few weeks, I realized I had something, and I needed to take it more seriously. That pet project turned out to be my first published novel, Dragon’s Fire.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

After I had written my sixth or seventh chapter of Dragon’s Fire, I was kind of blown away at how quickly it was coming together. The early reader feedback on those raw, and unedited chapters was incredible, and it gave me the encouragement I needed to finish the project. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but I felt that it was actually something that I could, and should do.

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

I am currently working on The Halls of the Fallen King. It is my third book and is the next book in the series. I am hoping to finish up the 2nd draft and get it to beta readers sometime in May. The book follows our heroes from Dragon’s Fire, into the subterranean ruins of mysteriously abandoned dwarven ruins.

No one truly knows how or why an entire civilization just disappeared, but as waves of magical energy continue to radiate out from the ruins, it’s time to investigate.

What inspired you to write this book?

When I wrote Dragon’s Fire, I thought it would be a standalone tale, and it does stand on its own two feet quite well. However, there was so much more in the world to explore, including a much large story arc.

Then as I wrote Dragon’s Fire, I just really fell in love with the dwarfs and their culture, and I wanted to explore it further. The idea of diving deep, literally, underground into a mysterious dwarven kingdom sounded too fun to pass up.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I’m sure I do, and maybe someone else can articulate it better than me. I don’t have any fancy ten dollar words to describe their style. I generally say that I write dark, epic fantasy that dares to hope. I really strive to provide vivid imagery to really help the reader immerse themselves. I also work hard to maintain a healthy balance when it comes to the pacing because I’m not a huge fan of books that are slow.

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

The Halls of the Fallen King sort of fell into my lap if you will. It was a line from Dragon’s Fire describing the forgotten kingdom in a tiny dose of foreshadowing. Which interestingly enough, happened without me being the wiser. The line itself is based on the speculation of the Dwarven King’s fate and that connection to his kingdom’s sudden abandonment (or so it seems). Did the king die, did he go mad?

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

I can’t say too much, but one of the themes that deal with a combination of guilt, sorrow, and depression.

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

Tolkien and CS Lewis are huge to me. I was exposed to the splendor of Middle-Earth as a child, and the wonder never left me. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are timeless classics that never have never lost their luster to me. Ironically, I didn’t become familiar with CS Lewis’ works until I was an adult, despite them being children’s tales. Now, even as an adult, I can really appreciate the stories and all the messages they convey.

Among our contemporaries, I am a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson and Steven Erikson. There are a great number of things that each of them does quite well. They are both fantastic world builders. They touch on everything from history to religion to art to society. The depth that they bring to their fictional worlds is unparalleled in my opinion.

I also have an immense respect for Brandon Sanderson’s work ethic. His product is off the charts. I would love to churn out books at the same rate he does, while still maintaining such a high standard of quality.

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

No, and perhaps that is silly of me. I find that I try to learn from a wide variety of other writers. I have found value from reading articles and blogs of bestselling, traditional authors. I’ve found value in learning from other self-published authors who have carved out a nice little spot for themselves, but I’ve also found tremendous value in learning from other people who have not yet had success. I think learning from each other’s experiences is invaluable.

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

(This cover is not yet finished released, but it should be in the next couple weeks)
Stefan Celic did the cover art for The Halls of the Fallen King. I started looking for a new cover artist well over a year ago, and a few people mention working with Stefan. The style of their covers was slightly different from what I was looking for, but when I looked through his portfolio, I saw that he had a diverse array of skill and style.

So I put out some feelers, seeing if he felt he could pull off the vision I had. He was not only confident he could, but he actually sounded excited to take on the project. My progress on the book hit a few snags so everything was delayed, so we never moved forward. Fast forward to this year, I reached out to him again to see if he was still interested. He was, so once his schedule opened up, I commissioned him.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write now, and write often. I think those are the two things that the best and most successful authors have in common. They don’t wait for “someday” to write that book, they just get started. Then they develop good writing habits, to make consistent progress.

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

Thank you! Thank you for your time and your patience. It will be rewarded.

hall of the fallen kingTiger Hebert
Whitsett, NC


The Halls of the Fallen King

Cover Artist: Stefan Celic
Publisher: Brightblade Press


Book Review: Pawn of Prophecy

Book Name: Pawn of Prophecy
Author: David Eddings
First Published: 1982

Author David Eddings grew up in Snohomish, Washington, a small town near Seattle. He displayed a talent for drama and literature, winning a national oratorical contest and acting in lead roles in junior college plays. He graduated from Reed College of Portland, Oregon in 1954. He was working on a novel that he thought would be his thesis for the university when he was drafted into the US. Army. He served his country until 1956 and moved on to graduate school at the University of Washington in Seattle. He gained his MA in 1961 and moved on to a job in purchasing at Boeing Aircraft, a large company in the area. It is there that he met his wife Judith Leigh Schall and he and Leigh would remain married for 45 years until a stroke took her life.

Eddings moved on from Boeing to become a tenured college professor for seven years, but in a fit of frustration, he quit his job due to a lack of a pay raise. He and his wife moved to Denver, Colorado where he took a job at a grocery store to make a living. It was during this time that he turned to writing and began work on a series of novels. After a time in Denver, he moved back to Washington, this time to Spokane. It is here where Eddings turned his attention to writing in earnest.

In Spokane, Eddings came across a copy of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in a bookstore. He realized that the book was in its 78th printing and this fact made him sit up and re-evaluate his writing. He realized that there could be a larger market for fantasy novels than the coming of age books he had previously written. He pulled out an old doodle of a map he had scribbled a few years ago and this became the basis for the fantasy world of Aloria, the setting of the Belgariad Series.

The Belgariad is the first of Edding’s epic fantasy series. It has five volumes, each title a combination of a fantasy term and a chess term. Pawn of Prophecy is the first book. With the success of The Belgariad Series, Eddings went on to write another five volume sequel series called The Malloreon. Both series proved to be wildly popular and helped to shape the trope of epic fantasy that holds today.

Leigh Eddings is credited with being a co-author in the later novels concerning the Sorceress Polgara, but according to David Eddings, his wife was active as a co-author in all of his fantasy novels. He used her guidance with the female characters to make them more believable. He would have credited her sooner for her work, but Lester Del Rey allegedly did not like the idea, believing that a single author’s name on the books was a better selling point.

David Eddings continued to write his fantasy novels until his death of natural causes in 2009. His manuscripts and other written works have been donated to Reed University along with a sizable grant to fund “students and faculty studying languages and literature”.

“But there’s a world beyond what we can see and touch, and that world lives by its own laws. What may be impossible in this very ordinary world is very possible there, and sometimes the boundaries between the two worlds disappear, and then who can say what is possible and impossible?”
― David Eddings, Pawn of Prophecy

Pawn of Prophecy begins with a prologue about the creation of the world Aloria by the seven gods. One of them fashions an orb and puts inside it a “living soul”. The Orb of Aldur is coveted by the god Torak. The Orb is guarded by King Cherek’s family, who have the ability to hold the object.

The story is told via the eyes of young Garion, a farm boy. An old man named Belgarath, nicknamed “the wolf” arrives at Faldor Farm and enlists the help of Garion, his Aunt Pol, and Durnik the blacksmith to go out in search of a missing object. Unknown to Garion, this is the Orb of Aldur, a powerful and magical object lost to the King’s family. The group has many adventures and eventually grows to include a Drasnian Prince, an Algarian Prince, and a Cherek Earl.

During the many trials that Garion experiences, he hears a dry voice in his mind. As time goes on, Garion learns that this is the Voice of Prophecy, or “Necessity”, which is taking action through him. He is but a pawn to its will. Who is Garion? What is his connection to Aunt Pol and to the thief known as Wolf? It seems that there is more to this farmboy than what meets the eye.

Book Cover Pawn of ProphecyBack in my school days, The Belgariad Series was considered one of those “must-reads” of the fantasy genre. Although today we would consider the storyline to be a classic “chosen one” Hero’s Journey with all the cliches of the genre, at the time, it was breaking fresh ground. I remember reading the series in junior high school with pleasure and went on to read the sequel series as well. It reminded me of Tolkien’s Lord of the Kings, but without the heavy literature quality.

I found the young farm boy Garion likable and the story engaging, with a good balance of humor and intricate world building. While Eddings prose is not particularly deep, it is still a good yarn that is clean enough to recommend to younger readers.

In particular, I like that Eddings created a strong female lead in “Aunt Polgara”. Polgara is a powerful sorceress and of good character. She was one of the first strong female lead characters to come out in the 1980s fantasy, but certainly was not the last! I had not realized at the time that Polgara was a particular creation of Edding’s wife since she was not given co-author credit during the 1980s, but her input is certainly felt with Polgara and her viewpoints.

If you are an adult and are considering reading this classic series, I believe that it holds its own for adults looking for a clean fantasy with less gratuitous violence. While more YA in nature, it is a good read for all ages.

The Belgariad Series

Pawn of Prophecy (1982)
Queen of Sorcery (1982)
Magician’s Gambit (1983)
Castle of Wizardry (1984)
Enchanters’ End Game (1984)

Author Interview: Pat Harris

She’s been called a “Dragon Writer” and has learned to embrace it with the heart of a dragon — bold, colorful and a bit mischievous. Pat Harris crafts epic high fantasy/science fiction tales, delving deep into the realm of fantasy while dancing on the blade’s edge of science—passionate, provocative, and faith-based. Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.

Author Pat HarrisMy name is Pat Harris and I hail from Michigan. Besides being an author, I am vice president of my husband’s software development company, Harris Technologies, Inc. http://www.ht-audio.com and http://www.ht-locus.com I have been a presenter at women’s conferences and participated in inner city ministries. My passions are writing, hiking, cycling and toying with photography. I love exploring the outdoors and discovering secret places (and the magical creatures hiding in them). I also enjoy cooking and baking. I have hundreds of cookbooks and have collected thousands of recipes. I’ve even made a number of them. I have a love/hate relationship with gardening. I blame it on gnomes. Currently, I’m attempting to learn Irish Dancing, but it appears I may need to enlist the aid of a leprechaun.

When and why did you begin writing?

In Second Grade, I quickly became disenchanted with our basic reader: ‟See Spot. See Spot jump.” I thought, ‟I can do better than that!” But I didn’t start writing in earnest until High School as a requirement for a College-prep English class, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve written on and off ever since, mainly poetry and essays, but the passion of writing as a career gripped me only a few years ago—and it hasn’t let go since.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I first considered myself a writer while working on my first book, Sheep Tales, What If We Really Were Sheep? Sheep Tales is a collection of short stories based on the parables of the Christian Bible. The book came about as a result of my involvement with an inner-city children’s ministry and was written in response to the difficult and heart-rending questions those precious children ask. Since it’s written for the young—and young-at-heart—I needed to incorporate a lot of humor while dealing with serious topics, which made the writing challenging. But the process was thoroughly enjoyable and inscribed in my mind that I was indeed an author.

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

New Hope Chronicles is an epic fantasy/scifi novel series packed with spaceships that travel the galaxy by song, sorcerers, dragons, castles, mysterious new worlds, and dangerous and beautiful aliens. There are passionate love stories, terrifying alien beasts, good guys with pulse guns and—of course—swords. Book one of the series, Dragon Flame, is the story of Alin, who is desperately trying to escape his dark and dangerous past. He takes a lowly position aboard Earth’s premier starship hoping it will take him to the far side of the galaxy where he can hide forever. But someone knows exactly where he is and gives him a large, mysterious egg. The egg hatches, the bad guys catch up and danger explodes around him. He finds himself ensnared in the thick of things and facing impossible odds at the crux of a brutal war. New Hope, Dragon Flame is full of thrills, chills, tears and laugh-out-loud humor. It’s epic length, faith-based and written for the Young Adult age group. However, young teens to mature adults have enjoyed it.

What inspired you to write this book?

The concept of the New Hope series started as a dream—no, I mean a real dream—and as what my husband, David, and I call, ‟downloads” of inspiration. David is incredibly talented and contributes much to the inspiration and story of New Hope. We have always loved fantasy and science fiction and it seems only right to delve into the mysterious and mystical fantasy/scifi world to share inspiration and excitement with others.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I prefer a conversational style. My characters prefer to win your heart themselves, so I try not to interfere. I also enjoy injecting humor since humor is a ‟window to the soul.” I like big, big books that lure you into the story and coax you into falling in hopeless love with the characters and their magical, dangerous worlds—and never let go. And New Hope Chronicles is exactly that.

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

In the world of New Hope, the premier spaceship of the galaxy is called the Earth Ship (E.S.) New Hope. And as Trekkies say, ‟These are the voyages of…” the E.S. New Hope, chronicled for your enjoyment. Dragon Flame refers to a mysterious prophecy in book 1 that a hero would birth from the flame of a dragon in a blood sky.

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

From one of my promos: When darkness covers the world and deep darkness covers the people, when power resides with evil men and all that is good draws to an end, there is still hope. There is always hope.

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

Heavens no! I’d loathe to endure what I put my characters through. (Grins mischievously.) And, unfortunately, space travel as chronicled in the New Hope series is still some time off. But someday… I believe the color of every character is stippled by the author’s own heart and soul, and that is true of my characters as well.

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

J.K. Rowling, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Mark Twain, Christopher Paolini and Stephanie Meyer. But not the Grimm brothers—they’re freaky creepy. Definitely not the Grimms. Well, okay, and the Grimms. JK has won nearly every writing award there is. I like to study her style, and particularly the way she develops a big story over many pages. I admire Tolkien and Lewis for their unbridled imaginations and imagery; Twain for his humor and style; Paolini for his portrayal of dragons, dwarves Elves, and his use of the English language; and, Meyer for her voice and her portrayal of a ‟dangerous” love story. And the Grimms for their grimness. (Shuddering unabashedly.)

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

My high school English teacher, Helen Rendell, who was also an author, though not well known, was perhaps my most influential mentor. She inspired and encouraged me to start on my writing journey. I learned a lot of the basics from her.

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

David Harris is my illustrator, and my husband. You can see some of his work at our website: http://www.NewHopeChronicles.com More will be forthcoming in the future.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Learn the mechanics of writing well. There’s more to storytelling than crafting a good story idea. Crafting the telling of the story is vital, too. Write your heart and write it well.

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

I am honored to to present New Hope Chronicles to you. I hope it touches your heart, makes you shiver, shudder, laugh and cry—and crave more. Lots more. (wink) And I hope you will come to see that no matter how bad things may become, there truly is hope. There is always hope.

Book Cover Dragon FlamePat Harris
Southwestern Michigan


New Hope Chronicles Book One: Dragon Flame

Cover Artist: David Harris