Tag Archives: fantasy

Author Interview: Mirren Hogan

When I asked Author Mirren Hogan what she likes best around writing, she replied,  “What can I say, writing keeps me sane!”  Now that is a sentence most writers can relate to!  Please welcome her here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Mirren HoganMy name is Mirren Hogan. I live on the NSW south coast, Australia. I have a dog, cat, rabbits, chickens and too many parrots to count. For relaxation, I walk the dog in the forest behind our house.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve been writing ever since primary school. At first it was just in my head, usually at night, but eventually, I started to put things down on paper. The invention of the word processor and computer helped push things along a little bit too.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t consider myself a writer. I didn’t consider myself an author until my first book came out last October, in spite of several short stories having been published before that.

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

There are so many current books, but I’ll focus on the first one, Crimson Fire. It’s a fantasy set in a world based on Africa. The main character is a young woman named Tabia who is sold into slavery to pay her father’s debts. She discovers that she has the innate ability to use magic, and her new mistress lets her train to use it correctly because it’ll increase her value and usefulness. Tabia is caught up in a savage coup and sent far from her home country. She struggles to find safety, security, and freedom.

What inspired you to write this book?

Initially, it was the glut of euro-centric fantasy in the market at the time. I love that kind of fantasy, but there’s a world of unique cultures (literally) out there which would make interesting settings or inspiration. I like to look at what others have done and do something different.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I think most readers who describe is as loose and easy to read. I’m not out to write literary classics, I’ll leave those to other writers. I prefer to write work which is more inclusive and available to readers of all levels, which can be enjoyed in a relaxed way.

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

The book had several titles during the writing and editing process, but I wasn’t happy with any of them. I scanned the text for something eye catching literally as I was preparing the submission for the publisher, knowing they’d change it if they didn’t like it. It stuck.

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

I can’t say that I deliberately put in a message, but the main character is lesbian, and has dark skin. The book isn’t ABOUT either of these things, those are just aspects of Tabia. I’d like readers to see HER first and the rest afterward, because that’s how I believe all people should be viewed.

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

There are aspects of Tabia’s insecurities which certainly come from me. Also, her desire to read, read, read, and learn are from me!

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

Jennifer Fallon and Anne McCaffrey mostly. They have female characters who kick ass, but their work is unique. I love unique. Being different has always been something I strive for. If something was trendy, I never wanted it. Life is too short to be a clone!

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

Every writer is a mentor. Every book I’ve ever read or didn’t finish reading gave me insight into how to be a better writer and storyteller. What not to do is just as important as what to do.

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

The amazing Druscilla Morgan. She designed the cover for an anthology I edited for Plan Australia, called Like a Girl. Her work is phenomenal.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Read. Read, read, read. Think about what you liked or didn’t like about a story, it’ll tell you a lot about your strengths as a writer and the direction you’d like to go. Also, don’t be stuck worrying about genre. Write the story, figure the rest out later, and make your characters interested and flawed. Flaws are your friend.

Crimson Fire Book CoverMirren Hogan
Batemans Bay NSW, Australia

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Crimson Fire

Cover Artist: Druscilla Morgan

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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: Erin Michelle Sky & Steven Brown

Erin Michelle Sky & Steven Brown live and write in rural Georgia. Together, they are the writing team known as Dragon Authors, writing fantasy and science fiction for teens and adults. Please welcome them both to No Wasted Ink.

Author Erin Michelle SkyWe are Erin Michelle Sky & Steven Brown. We live in rural Georgia on a couple of small farms, we both love writing, and neither one of us can resist a good story! Together, we are the writing team known as Dragon Authors, writing fantasy and science fiction novels for teens and adults.

When and why did you two begin writing?

When Steven was nine, he started writing stories for his younger brothers. They got to be the main characters and had grand adventures! Eventually, he turned these stories into plays, which they put on for the neighborhood kids, charging a quarter each to fund future productions.

Erin always loved books, but she didn’t start writing until she read Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. Devastated that she couldn’t grow up to be a dragon rider, she decided to be an author instead, which seemed like the next best thing.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Everyone is a writer. Telling a story about your day or about your childhood, whether to entertain, to share, or to inspire—that’s writing!

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

Definitely! The Intuitives is a story about six vastly different teens (well, five teens and one tween) who are recruited by Homeland Security to attend a summer program in an isolated lodge in Wyoming. But the program isn’t what it appears to be, and they have to band together to figure out what they’re really doing there. The thing that stands out to us about writing it is how real the characters felt. It was almost as though they wrote the story themselves.

What inspired you to write this book?

We both love writing stories, so that’s always inspirational! But for this particular book, we wanted the story to reflect the tremendous value we see in teamwork—and also to show that no matter how different you might think you are from someone else, that doesn’t have to stop you from being friends and maybe even accomplishing something amazing together. Neither one of us could have written any of our books without the other. We write as a team because our stories are much stronger when we bring our skills, experiences, and perspectives together.

Do you have a specific writing style?

That depends so much on what we’re writing! We have a young adult rewrite of Peter Pan on Patreon. It’s set in 1790 England with Wendy as the hero. The writing is lighthearted and playful, with elements of action and danger and romance for tension. The Intuitives, on the other hand, is written in a modern, straightforward style, with hints of a more lyrical influence. And we have a few projects we can’t talk about yet that are entirely different again. Each story provides the reader with a unique experience, and we want the voice of each book to match that experience.

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

Intuitively! But seriously, all six of the kids in the book are highly intuitive, each in his or her own way. The team is the most important thing, rather than any individual character, and the title spoke to us because it captured that essence. As a bit of trivia, the book originally had a subtitle, but we decided it was too much of a spoiler so we cut it at the last minute. We’d tell you what it was, but we hate spoilers!

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

First and foremost, we hope The Intuitives will be a fun and entertaining read. That’s always our main goal! But it’s also a story about how people can work together to accomplish something much bigger than anyone could have done alone. We hope it inspires readers to realize that no matter how small anyone’s role on a team might feel, every single one of those roles matters. What you bring to the world matters. What every single person brings to the world matters.

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

Of course! And at the same time, emphatically no. All good writing borrows from your own life. A sarcastic comment might remind you of a sarcastic friend, a bubbly outburst might remind you of your bubbly cousin, etc. And yes, a few of the specific things in the novel were taken from our own lives, but you’ll have to guess which ones!

At the same time, none of the characters in The Intuitives is based on any particular person. They are all very much their own individuals, and we can’t help but feel it was the characters themselves who came together to write the story.

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

For Steven, J.R.R. Tolkein, R.A. Salvatore, Terry Brooks, and Margaret & H.A. Rey, the creators of Curious George. They all sparked his imagination with magic and adventure, fueling his love of fantasy. For Erin, Anne McCaffrey set her on the path to becoming an author, and Janet Burroway, author of The Truck on the Track, showed her how much fun playing with language could be.

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

We mentor each other. It’s one of the best things about being a writing team! Steven says he learns a lot from Erin about making a fictional universe feel real. Erin says she learns a lot from Steven about capturing the reader’s attention and building that tension throughout the novel.

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

We held a contest on 99designs.com for original cover art, and the winning design came from an artist named Eugen Zhuravel. We felt that it best captured the essence of the novel, with a sense of magic and ancient mystery.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Find people who are positive about your writing, support each other, and don’t give up. They don’t even have to be writers! Create your own group of intuitives, and decide together to accomplish your dreams, whatever they may be. Don’t try to do it. Decide to do it. Then work together to make it happen!

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

Thank you! You’d be surprised how big a part YOU play in the creation of any book, and no author ever made a living at writing without readers. Every single one of you matters, and we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts!

Intuitives Book CoverErin Michelle Sky & Steven Brown
Georgia farm country, USA

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The Intuitives

Cover Artist: Eugen Zhuravel
Publisher: Trash Dogs Media LLC

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Book Review: The Last Unicorn

Book Name: The Last Unicorn
Author: Peter S. Beagle
First Published: 1968

Peter S. Beagle was born and raised in New York City. He was a heavy reader from an early age and was encouraged by his parents to pursue his interests in becoming a writer. He was a contributor to his high school literary magazine and his work there caught the interest of the fiction editor of Seventeen Magazine. Beagle entered a poem into this magazine’s Scholastic Writing Awards Contest and took first place. The prize was a college scholarship that sent him to the creative writing program at the University of Pittsburgh.

Beagle continued to create, prolifically turning out stories such as A Fine and Private Place and took first place at Seventeen Magazine’s short story contest with a tale called Telephone Call. He graduated with a degree in creative writing, a minor in Spanish language, and retained his passion for writing.

After a year abroad, he returned to the States and enrolled in a writing workshop at Stanford University where he met Enid, whom he would later marry. When the workshop ended, he bummed around the Eastern United States until he realized he would rather be with Enid who lived in California. He and a friend began a cross-country motorscooter journey that he would chronicle in his memoir I See By My Outfit. He and Enid moved in together and married. To support himself and his new family, Beagle wrote more short stories and novels, including his popular book The Last Unicorn.

The Last Unicorn took Beagle two years to write and he found it a difficult process. The idea came to him during an artistic retreat in Berkshire Hills after Viking Press had rejected one of his novels. The idea for The Last Unicorn intuitively appeared in his mind, it was inspired by all the fantasy tales he had loved during his childhood and by the book The Colt by Dorothy Lathrop. Beagle also stated that a painting by artist Marcial Rodriguez about unicorns fighting bulls added to the mix. The result was an 85 page manuscript that needed much revision and polish. The original story was set in modern times and the unicorn is accompanied by a two-headed demon named Webster and Azazel. This version is published as a limited edition by Suberranean Press and entitled: The Last Unicorn: The Lost Version. In 2005, Beagle published a sequel called Two Hearts which can be found in the anthology The Line Between. Two Hearts won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novelette.

During the 1970s, Beagle shifted from novels to screenplays and developing an alternate career as a folk singer. He plays guitar and sings in English, Yiddish, French and German. A performance of when he played at The Palms in Davis, CA is available. Between 1973 and 1985 you could find Beagle performing his music at the club L’Oustalou in Santa Cruz, CA almost every weekend. In 1980, his marriage to Enid ended and in 1985, he moved to Seattle, WA for a few years.

Today, Beagle is still writing stories and screenplays. He has remarried to Indian author and artist Padma Hejmadi. They reside in Davis, CA. Beagle is a regular on the university circuit where he gives readings, lectures, and concerts. He conducts writing workshops at the University of Washington and at Clarion West.

“Great heroes need great sorrows and burdens, or half their greatness goes unnoticed. It is all part of the fairy tale.”
― Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

What is the nature of love and mortality? In The Last Unicorn, we explore this idea by following the story of a unicorn who believes she is the last of her species. She decides to go on a quest to discover what happened to the others. Leaving her magical forest, she is dismayed to learn that humans no longer see her as she is, but instead mistake her for a white horse. She is captured by a wandering gypsy and added to the woman’s traveling menagerie of “mythical” beasts. Only the magician Schmendrick, who is employed by the gypsy woman, sees the unicorn for what she truly is. He frees her and joins her quest.

Hints of where the unicorns may be lead to the castle of King Haggard where a monster known as “the red bull” lives. On the way to the castle, the pair are beset by bandits. They come to attention of the bandit’s wife, Molly who laments that she only finds her unicorn when she is middle-aged and no longer innocent. Still, she joins the pair on their quest to Hagsgate.

The trio is then attacked once again, this time by the red bull itself. During the battle, the unicorn is unable to escape, so Schmendrick transforms her into a human to confuse the bull. Thus, the unicorn becomes “Lady Amalthea” and the three ingrate themselves into King Haggar’s court.

As they stay in the castle and try to learn what was the fate of the unicorns, Amalthea undergoes a mental transformation. She forgets that she was once a unicorn and instead allows herself to be romanced by King Haggard’s son, Prince Lir.

What was the fate of the unicorns? Will Amalthea regain her memory in time to save them? Will Prince Lir become the hero he longs to be and capture the fair lady’s heart? You will have to read this classic fantasy tale to find the answers.

Book Cover The Last UnicornMy introduction to The Last Unicorn was the animated feature produced by Rankin/Bass in the 1980’s. Peter Beagle wrote the screenplay himself and the animation was done by Topcraft, a forerunner of Studio Ghibli. It is a wonderful film and stands the test of time. Viewing the movie caused me to seek out the book, which is much richer and subtle than the cartoon and it served as my introduction to the work of this author.

What stays with me is it is not a standard fairytale, but a story that stands traditional tropes on its head. First, the hero is female. Either as a unicorn or a woman, this is Amalthea’s story and transformation. She does not set off on her journey because of a love interest as many female heroines do, but in the noble pursuit of discovering what happened to her people. Her two sidekicks, Magician Schmendrick and Molly McGure, are both well-rounded characters who are far from the typical companions of a hero. Prince Lir, a name taken from a Celtic sea-god and having Shakespearean overtones, is comical as he attempts to play the hero and full fill his destiny, a fate that is far from what he suspects. In this, he is also atypical, a male that plays a secondary role in the story. Although there is a feminist bent to the tale, it is not overt and I believe that anyone who enjoys stories about fantasy or unicorns would enjoy the story. This is a classic tale that should not be missed, not matter if you are young or young at heart.

Author Interview: Katie Taylor

With fifteen professionally produced book titles under her belt, Author Katie J Taylor is an experienced pro.  I am delighted to introduce her here on No Wasted Ink.

Author K.J

My name is Katie J Taylor, and I was born in Canberra, Australia in 1986. I have a Master’s Degree in Information Studies and when I’m not writing I work as an archivist. I love movies and have a ridiculously huge collection of soundtracks, and I also enjoy drawing and various crafts – I sew custom-designed plush toys for fun and occasionally take commissions.

When and why did you begin writing?

In Primary School, when I was quite young. We were often given class work writing short stories and poems and such, and I took to it right away. I had a fascination with expressing things I’d felt and experienced through little poems and the like. I remember once when I was upset because the bullies had had a go at me, I sat down and wrote a poem about it and that made me feel better. I didn’t start trying to write novels until was about thirteen, though.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I think it was when I was in my mid teens and had decided I wanted to be published more than anything. Then it stopped being a hobby and became a calling and lifelong ambition.

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

The Price of Magic is set in a world where the sick and handicapped have magical powers. The worse the affliction, the more powerful the magic. The protagonist, Pip, is a chirpy undersized boy with a crippled leg. He isn’t particularly powerful, but he has a gift other mages like himself lack: the ability to truly listen to another person. When he meets Seress, one of the most powerful mages in the world, Pip must find a way to help her through her crippling depression in order to save magic from being destroyed forever.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was having a bit of a rough time, suffering from severe anxiety – a problem which troubles me from time to time but had never been so bad before. I did the sensible thing and went to see a therapist, and while I was waiting for my next appointment I started to feel angry and resentful. True, I had the ability to create things many can’t, but why did I have to be such a screwup? It occurred to me then that most artists are screwups or sick in one way or another; some of us suffer from chronic illnesses (myself included), some of us are bipolar, some of us are depressed – the list goes on. I came up with the idea for The Price of Magic right there and then. The magic in the series is analogous for art and creativity, and in some ways this is my most personal work to date.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I write in a very straightforward manner and avoid flowery language or overly elaborate description. I also keep my dialogue relatively straightforward and without any frills – characters only use fancy language when they’re making speeches, which doesn’t happen often, and often not even then. I suspect my style is influenced by a lot of the English novels I read when I was younger.

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

Simple enough! The theme of the story is how art (or magic) always comes with a price. This is one of the rare titles I was able to nail on the first try.

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

I avoid putting overt messages in anything I write, so any messages that are in there emerge naturally and it sometimes takes me a while to figure out what they are. True, I started out with a very definite theme, but I had no particular “lesson” in mind. I deliberately treated all the characters as even-handedly as possible; I have nothing but contempt for the cliché of the “noble retard” or the “inspirational sick/crippled person”. As someone who is mentally, shall we say different from other people, I just want to be treated like a human being and I’m sure the rest of us feel the same. If there is a message here at all, it’s that no matter what your difficulties in life, you still have something to contribute, and you are still a person no matter how strange and abnormal you and others may think.

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

I have Asperger’s Syndrome which wasn’t diagnosed until I was 16, so I’m pretty familiar with feeling like an outsider too weird and “stupid” to fit in. Pip, the protagonist, isn’t an Aspie but he has something of the excitement and curiosity I had about the world around me when I was a child (before I became bitter and cynical, hahah). When it comes to Seress, I drew on experiences I’ve had in dealing with severely depressed people, which is why I didn’t sugercoat it. Having depression is terrible, but it takes almost as much of a toll on the sufferer’s loved ones. Hence Pip is seen slowly succumbing to sadness after trying to cheer Seress up eventually exhausts him. But I wanted to emphasise that Seress isn’t just “the depressed character” – she’s a very nice, kind-hearted and intelligent woman who happens to be sick.

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

William Horwood is a big one. His Duncton Wood series has been a lifelong favourite of mine, and his themes of spirituality, redemption and the mysteries of the past always fascinated me. J.K.Rowling is an inspirational figure to me as a person because in the face of everything she has always stayed classy and has refused to let wealth and success change her. I really enjoyed Harry Potter as well. When I was younger I was a massive Discworld fan, which is where I got my interest in deconstructing and subverting genre tropes.

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

The illustrator and cover design were chosen by the publisher.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I could rattle off a few platitudes about how you should write every day, etc. etc. but instead, I’ll say this: Publishing is hard. Incredibly, ridiculously, painfully, I-want-to-jump-off-a-bridge-in-frustration hard. Therefore, if you want to be happy in your chosen profession, make it about the writing and to heck with money and success, because for most of us there will never be any. If it makes you happy, that’s great. If it makes other people happy as well, that’s even better! After over a decade in the business, it’s all I truly care about now.

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

All I have to say to them is in my books. What I myself have to say in person is really not that important.

Price of Magic CoverK.J.Taylor
Canberra, ACT

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The Price of Magic

Cover Artist: Sabrina RG Raven
Publisher: Black Phoenix

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