Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Inspiration - part two - Nature #OurAuthorGang

When I struggle to find something to write about, my inspiration often comes from the visual side of life. As a photographer, I suppose that is only natural. Nature has always inspired me. I live in the Suffolk countryside and am surrounded by fields and wildlife. I only need to look out of a window to see or hear something fascinating and beautiful.

One of my short stories, Scarecrow, from the anthology, Glimmer, was based on a rundown smallholding I went to look at when searching for a new house. The dilapidated interior, weathered outbuildings, and surrounding fields gave me an idea for what became a tale of a runaway girl and a lonely old man.

“Stumbling and falling, she headed towards a low privet hedge at the end of an overgrown meadow. When she reached it, she stopped and peered over the picket fence. The girl saw a house half hidden behind two large fir trees. The garden was overgrown, and the lawn strewn with rusty barrels, ripped tarpaulins, and dented oil drums. She climbed over the fence and looked around. There was a dilapidated outbuilding a few feet away with a large stack of wood propped up against it. The girl ran towards the building and ducked down behind a water butt attached to a cracked drainpipe.
When her breathing slowed and the pounding in her chest eased, she tilted her head to one side and listened. A strange shuffling noise like someone brushing up dead leaves made the girl hold her breath. It was not leaves, though, but footsteps heading her way.”

Once, I found a complete skeleton of a bird. I took a picture of it and the skull became the cover for my second anthology of short stories - Crow Bones. It didn’t inspire a poem or a piece of prose, but it did give me an eye-catching book cover.

The moon has been a favourite with writers for years. Whether in poetry or prose, it has a special meaning and been the subject of folklore, superstitions, and female empowerment. Apparently, it can even drive you mad or turn you into a werewolf. Not surprising it is used frequently in literature. Indeed, our beautiful celestial orb has given  authors something to write about for thousands of years.  One of my favourite moon quotes is by the 17th Century Japanese poet, Matsuo Basho: 

"The moon lives in the lining of your skin."   

It has a strange face that seems to stare at us in wonder at what the heck we humans will do next. Does she judge us from afar? Or merely condemn us with her round-mouthed, wide-eyed look?

In my Dystopian novel, A Silence Heard, the moon is a source of inspiration for the heroine, guiding her with its light, and giving her hope that she will win the battle ahead:

“The moon shone bright. A shock-faced ball in the black sky that looked down on the three of us as if to shout, “Prevail. Stand steady.” The wind whipped around our feet and legs and a swirl of ash and dry earth spiralled up before us. I coughed and spat out the filthy soil that bore the taste of Agro boot.”

But it’s not just the moon that inspires me. Recently, a herd of red deer stumbled into the field opposite my house. They stayed there for about an hour just staring at the cars that went past. They didn’t move until the alpha stag raised his head and let out a hoarse-like moo sound, and as quick as a blink, they were gone leaving heart-shaped indents in the churned up earth. Now, there has to be a story in that.

To end this post on Inspiration, a photograph of my cat Storm, because his beauty, grace, and quirky face will always give me pause for thought.

If you want to know more about my work, please visit my Amazon page:

All photographs are by Nicola McDonagh.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Grande Dames of Classic Science Fiction

By Ruth de Jauregui

While there are many wonderful women writers in speculative fiction, the Grande Dames remain the classic science fiction writers Andre Norton and Octavia Butler. Both, sadly, have left the building, but their wildly imaginative worlds remain for us to read and reread.

Norton had been a huge influence on my reading and writing. Honestly, I can't remember which book I read first, I just know I was hooked from day one. Today her books would be considered YA, and what a great start for any reader!

Norton wrote wonderful coming of age stories of intrepid characters, including Dane Thorson as he blasts off into adventure on the Solar Queen; Troy Horan, who escapes the slum of the Dipple with his enhanced animal companions; Murdoc Jern, whose life spins into chaos when his mentor is killed and he meets the mutant alien Eet; and Simsa, who was unique amid the inhabitants of the Burrows and found her truths in the unknown ruins hidden in the wastelands of her world. In addition, Norton's Witch World series is the archetype of the modern fantasy novel.

When Norton began writing science fiction, the science fiction magazines were considered trashy. The field was dominated by men, so Norton used pen names Andre Norton and Andrew North. (Though among her favorite authors were Leigh Brackett and C.L. Moore.)

The publishing business changed dramatically during her career. Once writers took a smaller advance and received royalties for years. Later, books were barely on the shelves before they were remaindered and new books took their place, which pretty much devastated the mid-list market.

In a 1996 interview with John L. Coker III for Tangent Magazine, she said, "Getting published depends a great deal on luck. It involves getting the right type of book to the right editor at the right time. I lost out on sales twice because they had already bought a book on the same subject. It also depends on networking. When one hears that a company is interested in certain kind of books, you can try your book out there, since since you know that the editor would read it. If you offered it to an editor who was not in favor of that type of book, no matter how well it was written, it wouldn't go. They don't bring out books just because they are well written, it's all about how much money they can make."

She also foresaw today's market, saying, "A good way to start these days, if you want to sell, is to write in the Young Adult field. It's not as crowded. I also think that the small press today provides a chance for writers to get started."

I would tell any new author that's focused on the speculative fiction market to read Norton's works (not the ones written with other authors – stick to her earlier works) and peruse the estate-authorized website, Andre Norton Books. Fortunately, some of her books that are out of print are available as ebooks or bindups through Baen.

In addition, yes, go ahead and submit to Tor, Baen and other publishers, but if you can't get a foot in the door, hire an editor, formatter and a cover designer and go indie.

Next time, I'm going to focus on the other Grande Dame of Science Fiction, Octavia Butler.

Norton's full interview: http://andre-norton-books.com/index.php/18-biography/interviews-with-a-lady/6-days-of-wonder

Norton's books on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Andre-Norton/e/B000APZD0M

#AndreNorton  #GrandeDameOfScienceFiction  #OurAuthorGang  #ASmallGangOfAuthors  #RuthDJ

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Our Guest today is author Melanie James

Welcome, Melanie! So glad you could join us.

NYT and USA Today best-selling author, Melanie James writes steamy paranormal romances, paranormal comedy, and contemporary romance books. Her laugh-out-loud romantic comedies will keep you coming back for each new book in a series, and her erotic contemporary romances will have you reaching for the ice.

With over twenty-five books to choose from, you are sure to find many additions to your romance library.

Melanie is married to a wonderful man who supports her dreams and goals. She has two children, three step-children, a beautiful daughter-in-law, and an adorable grand baby.

Melanie's novels are for mature readers 18 years of age and older. She loves hearing from her fans and can be reached at:

This is a Kindle Worlds Book and available only through Amazon

Bailey  Jones is quite content living the big city life she'd always dreamed of, or so she thought. When a weekend road trip with Gerri Wilder turns out to be an elaborate set-up, Bailey has to decide between her one true mate and the life she'd worked hard at building. Can she say goodbye to everyone and everything for a shot at true love?

Gavin Neely was tired of being a loner. With the help of a little ancient majik, he concealed his true nature from the wolf pack that could offer him the life he had always wanted. All that was about to change when he caught the exotic scent of his true mate. Will the wolves he's been hiding among turn on him, or accept him for who he really is?

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Our Guest Author Today is Walter Rhein #OurAuthorGang

Welcome aboard, Walter!

Is Kindle Scout Worth Considering?
Walter Rhein

(Book cover by Walter Rhein)

About a year and a half ago, my friend Dan Woll, who is the author of ‘North of Highway 8’ approached me with a manuscript.

“I’ve been working on this for years,” he said. “It needs a doctor. I tell you what, spend a year on it, and if you can make it go we’ll call it a co-authorship.”

I was a little skeptical because this sounded more like an editing job than a co-writing job, but I agreed to have a look at the manuscript. Dan is a great writer, and I’ve enjoyed many of his articles and novels throughout the years, so I was ready to get going. At that point, the manuscript had the working title ‘Fortune’s Fools’ and I quickly found myself hooked by the narrative. At the same time, I saw things that I could add to make the story go a little more smoothly, so I started re-writing chapters and adding scenes. I sent these off to Dan and he approved of my comments, so pretty soon a partnership was born.

I did my first re-writes before completely reading the novel.

“How are you doing this?” Dan asked. “If you don’t know how the novel ends, how is it possible you can make these effective changes?”

“I’m working off the cues you put in, based on those, I can guess where the book has to go.”

All was going well until I hit the last third of the novel and the book took a ‘Huckleberry Finn’ like turn.

“Uh, Dan,” I said, “we’ve got to change the ending.”

“Like I said,” Dan replied, “I asked for help because I thought the book needed it. Do what you think is right.”

So I rewrote the last third of the book, plucking paragraphs from Dan’s original manuscript whenever I could. Then I went back and started over from the beginning, writing new chapters as necessary. By the time the dust had settled, I knew I had written about half of the manuscript and felt I’d earned the co-authorship.

Dan sent the book around to some friends and got some really nice feedback from one associate who is a Hollywood agent (no movie deal unfortunately). We were encouraged that we had a viable novel, but the submission process is always a ten year “wait and see.” Dan has been working on this novel longer than I have, and we’re both ready to have it birthed to the world and accessible to the hands of readers. Neither of us was particularly interested in going through a lengthy submission/waiting process.

“What about Kindle Scout?” I suggested finally.

Kindle Scout is Amazon’s publishing program. Novels are submitted and evaluated and those that are chosen receive a $1500 advance and access to Amazon’s promotions program.

When I started doing research on Kindle Scout, I found an article by a very pompous “writer” who spoke of the program in a derogatory manner. To paraphrase, he said, “wannabe authors essentially self-publish and then think they’re ‘real writers’ because they get the $1500 advance.” Unfortunately, this type of attitude is prevalent in today’s literary culture, but what it fails to understand is that Amazon basically controls modern publishing. How can it be harmful to have your work promoted by Amazon? Also, I’ve never been one to sniff my nose at any kind of advance. To dismiss anyone as not a “real writer” when they are getting advances for their manuscripts is entitled lunacy at the highest level. Perhaps this criticism came from an author who failed in his own pursuit at a Kindle Scout contract.

The downside of Kindle Scout is that you have to supply an edited manuscript, and you have to provide a cover. It’s a pretty fair criticism to say that these are normally required from the publisher, and authors can go to great expense to get their work in publishable shape. However, Dan and I have worked with other publishers on multiple projects, and we were able to create a very attractive package at almost no-expense (I did the cover myself).

Once you have a book ready, you submit it to Kindle Scout, and this is where things become tricky. There is no fee to submit, and once our book went live I started receiving emails from other writers who follow the Kindle Scout trending board. At the very least, dabbling in Kindle Scout drove some people to my web page and Amazon author profile.

Our book made the “hot” list in the first few hours, and at this point I started getting messages from people telling me how critical it was for the book to stay on that list for the full 30 day evaluation. The book qualifies as “hot” if it receives multiple nominations. To read about that process (and to nominate our book) click here. However, just because your book remains on the hot list doesn’t guarantee it will be accepted for publication. At the end of the book’s campaign, the manuscript will be evaluated by the folks over at Amazon before a decision is made on whether or not a contract is offered.

As I write this, we’re two days into our campaign, and I’m already somewhat bored with keeping my book on the hot list. I know it’s a strong product and the social media manipulation part of this process is kind of irritating. It will be kind of interesting to watch this play out, but you should go into any publishing endeavor with the assumption that your book isn’t going to be picked.

If our novel is accepted to Kindle Scout, I’ll be happy. If not, I’ll find some other place for it. To some extent, a social media campaign for a novel prior to publication makes a lot of sense. My only hang up is the uncertainty of publication. What’s the point in making all the effort, if a massive campaign doesn’t guarantee success? For now though, I’m happy to have a polished manuscript and a good cover. I’ll check back in at the end of the campaign, and let you know how it worked out. In the meantime, please share this article. If you have an amazon account, please help out my book with a nomination. Thanks!

About the Author:
Walter Rhein maintains a blog about Peru at StreetsOfLima.com, and contributes regularly to Silent Sports Magazine. His novels The Reader of Acheron and Reckless Traveler were published with Perseid Press. His novel, Beyond Birkie Fever, was originally published by Rhemalda Press. He can be reached for questions or comments at: WalterRhein@gmail.com.

#streetsoflima #thereaderofacheron #recklesstraveler #perseidpress

Friday, February 16, 2018

When the World was New #OurAuthorGang

Rich Feitelberg

In order to understand a little about my fantasy world and the kingdom of Thalacia, you need a little background. So I’m going to begin with the early history. I can’t possible cover all of it in one blog post because there are many races and each has it’s own history so I’m going to highlight the most important events and dates.

The beginning of the world is a time referred to as, When the World was New. I like this better than the First Age, which sounds like something from Tolkien. It is the time from the start of the world until the death of the first elven king, King Argol.

How the world started is left vague because each race has its own mythology and thoughts on this, but there are nine races that are present at the start of the world:
  • Dragons 
  • Elves 
  • Dwarves 
  • Merfolk — Mermen and women 
  • Winged folk — golden-haired people who look like humans with wings; it is where stories of angels come from 
  • Bogger — a swamp monster 
  • Kware sand — a sand creature 
  • Plozark — an ice monster 
  • Cloax — a rock eating creature 
Notice some of these are standard fantasy races and some are of my own invention. Winged folk are straight of out Flash Gordon, I believe. Notice that humans are not on the list. That’s intentional. They come later and cause trouble.

Some of these races don’t survive into the time in which my novels are based. They are purely for flavoring the background. Others are major races, like the elves. In fact the elves pretty much control the world, even though the humans think otherwise.

Also notice each race has its own terrain in which it lives. The elves are in the forest. The dwarves are in the mountains. Winged folk live in the clouds and in early years had to deal with dragons, until they went extinct.

Cloax and dwarves also interacted and dragons threaten all races but rarely attacked unless cornered.

So the history starts when other races, like giants, ogres, orcs, goblins, lizard men, and humans begin to thrive. Where did these races come from? I’ve cover that and their impact on the nine races next time.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Love of my Life #OurAuthorGang

First I just want to say Happy Valentine’s Day from Everyone here at Our Author Gang

Originally when I took this slot, I intended to write a romantic flash fiction piece. Then my husband inspired me to do something a little different. He asked me if he was in my books. The answer is yes. But he is never one specific character.

To help you understand I’ll give you a little background on us. My husband and I are high school sweethearts. We met when I was 17, and he was 18. We married four years later. This August will be our 17th wedding anniversary. Please don’t do the math.

We’ve been through thick and thin, together. He’s seen me at my worst and my best. My husband stuck by when I battled depression twice and never complained. We’ve survived two spans of long distance relationships totaling six years. When people ask how we did it, I always tell them we are in it for the long haul what’s a few years compared to the rest of your life.  

If you read my fantasy series Chronicles of the Coranydas, you’ll see him as the best friend turned lover and husband in Mara’s love interest. In For Their Sins, his bad boy nature comes out just a little in Alexandria’s love. In Neutral Space, I needed a strong, dependable man for the lead, and that’s my husband to a tee. In Dragon’s of the North, I see him the most in Hayden. He’s funny and charming, yet so in love, it makes him vulnerable.
R Tran Books

My husband is present in everything I do. How could he not be? He’s the love of my life.

Below is a very brief story of how we got engaged. (After 17 years the words might not be exact but you'll get the idea).

I waited anxiously, all week to see Isaac. He said he wanted to go to a nice restaurant when he got into town. Why? He never wanted to go out when he came. He was going to dump me. Ran through

my head. Yep at a public place so I can’t get upset. I pushed the thought aside as I checked the time once more. He should be here by now. It was cold and rainy traffic was probably bad. I told myself for the third time.
Finally, there was a knock on the door. Isaac waited there shivering in the cold. It was misting slightly. “Can you help me with something in the car?”

I was suspicious. He only ever brought one bag. He was going to break up with me here instead of the restaurant and drive home. It was an irrational thought, I knew. Why would he drive two hours only to break up with me then go straight home? I put on my coat and followed him to the car.

Isaac unlocked the door and reached in, but didn’t get his bag. What was he up to now? He turned around and had a small grey velvet box in his hand. “Becky, you know I love you. Will you marry me?”

I put the ring on my finger as I said yes. We kissed, and the rest was history.

It turns out he bought the ring on Wednesday. Isaac could never keep a secret. He was bursting to ask me by the time he reached me on Friday. Waiting until we reached the restaurant was simply too long. I’ve never resented my curbside proposal. All that matters is us.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

And They Danced All Night #OurAuthorGang

Photo courtesy of Fine Art America

By Grace Augustine

The chandeliers throughout the ballroom were sparkling. Each crystal had been buffed with the finest cloth, so the light danced through its many facets. Buffet tables lined with silver chafing dishes held delectable choices including roast duck, pheasant in wine sauce, fresh steamed vegetables, and desserts as far as the eye could see. Rows of champagne glasses stood ready for the servers to fill their trays and offer to the guests.

Yes, tonight was a special night. It was Lord Ashworth’s thirtieth birthday. Rumor had it he would make an important announcement mid-way through the evening. This allowed for rampant chatter throughout the community with suspicions ranging from going to war to taking a bride. All hoped for the latter.

Guests arrived hours early to take in the décor and, of course, with hopes of spending time with Lord Ashworth himself. The wait-staff took cloaks and coats and top hats and gloves and hung them on various racks that were in the ante-room just to the left of the grand hall.

Grant Ashworth greeted his parents at the bottom of the spiral oak staircase. He caught the gleam in his mother’s eye and the smile on his father’s face. He marveled at what was accomplished by them to pull off such a soiree.

“Mother, you look stunning! You, too, Father.”

Genevieve took her son’s arm and allowed him to lead her ahead of her husband. She truly was radiant in the ecru lace and satin ballgown. Her silver hair, piled high on her head, was held in place by a sapphire comb—a family heirloom.

“Are you ready for the evening, Grant? There will be many ladies here wanting to dance with you this evening. You will oblige, yes?”

Grant shook his head and smiled. Leave it to his matchmaker of a mother to bring up the fact of the multiple ladies who would be here helping him celebrate.

“Mother, I will, of course, dance with those I so wish to dance with.”

Grant bowed to his mother and father and made his way into the grand ballroom. Before more guests arrived, he grabbed a plate and placed samples of the food on it. No telling when he would have the chance to eat if he was planning to dance the night away.

More and more people arrived, and each couple was announced as they entered the grand ballroom. Grant hurried to finish the last bite of petit four and made sure there were no crumbs clinging to the corners of his mouth. He greeted his guests with the customary nods and hand kisses.

An hour into the festivities, Grant spotted her across the room. The object of his affection. The object of his attention. He’d done his best to keep this secret, even from his parents, for the past few months.

She was a vision of pure beauty. Her light auburn hair was piled in a messy bun on the crown of her head, stray tendrils framing her face. The lavender and white satin ball gown with a ruffled bustle accentuated her small waist and the cut of the bodice revealed her smooth porcelain skin and ample cleavage. A single strand of pearls encircled her neck.

The current dance ended, and Grant made his way across the room. Passion filled his eyes and a broad smile showed off his dimples.

“May I have this dance?” He questioned as he bowed before his lovely lady.

She nodded, and they waltzed across the dance floor, not wanting the music to stop. They gazed at each other, so much unspoken between them. She curtsied when the dance ended, but Grant wasn’t letting go of her that easily. 

“Excuse me. If I may have your attention, please,” Grant began. “Thank you all  for coming to my birthday celebration this evening. There's plenty of food and drink, so make sure to fill your plates and glasses. Before we return to the music, I have a special announcement.”

Grant’s parents and the other couples gathered around where he was standing. He still held onto the hand of his lovely dance partner.

“Most of you know this lovely woman, and if you don’t, it’s time you do,” he stated. He knelt on one knee before her, and placed an emerald and diamond ring on her gloved finger. “Lady Annabelle Cartwright, would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”

Tears streamed down the Lady’s cheeks. She was speechless. The only thing she could do was nod her head yes.

Grant stood up and took her in a head to toe embrace and placed a gentle kiss on her cheek. That was enough to cue the chamber orchestra to play. Grant twirled Annabelle around and caught her close to him again, kissing her soft lips. The couple danced every dance, long into the early morning hours, celebrating their love.

“I’ve loved you for so long, Lady Annabelle. What a privilege to know you will be my wife.”

“I’ve loved you, too, Lord Ashworth, most of my life. I’m a lucky lady to have you as my betrothed.”

Monday, February 12, 2018

Love is Made of Dreams #OurAuthorGang

photo courtesy of onmyway8.wordpress.com

by Grace Augustine

     "You're my bestest friend in the whole wide world."
     "You're my bestest friend in the whole wide world."
     They sat in silence for a couple of moments before he reached for a daisy from the bouquet he'd picked for the girl of his dreams. 
     "I picked-ed these, just for you, cuz they're beautiful like you are."
     She closed her eyes and shyly turned her head, bringing the flower to her nose to inhale its fragrance.
     "Thank you."
     He smiled at her gratitude and moved closer so his shoulder touched hers.
     "I want to marry you," he declared confidently.
     "That's silly! We can't get married. We aren't old enough."
     "Will you wait for me 'til we are old enough?"
     She pursed her lips and studied the boy of her dreams. She handed him a flower from the bouquet he'd picked for her.
     "Of course, I will. You're my bestest friend. I don't want to ever be without you."
     He took off his hat, and leaned his head so it touched hers. Just for a moment, not for long. He placed his hat on the head of the girl of his dreams then gently kissed her cheek.
     "I don't ever want to be without you either."
     In silence, they stared at each other. 
     The girl of his dreams. 
     The boy of her dreams. 
     They stared. 
     They smiled. 
     They dreamed.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Our Guest Today is Dawn Sullivan #OurAuthorGang

Let's welcome author Dawn Sullivan to our blog today.

I have a wonderful, supportive husband and three beautiful children. I enjoy spending time with all of them, which normally involves some baseball, shooting hoops, taking walks, watching movies, and reading.

My passion for reading began at a very young age and only grew over time. Whether I was bringing home a book from the library, or sneaking one of my mom's romance novels to read by the light in the hallway when we were supposed to be sleeping, I always had a book.

I read several different genres and sub-genres, but Paranormal Romance and Romantic Suspense are my favorites.

I have always made up my own stories, and finally decided to start sharing them. I hope everyone enjoys reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.

Dawn loves hearing from her readers and may be contacted at:

Amazon:      http://amzn.to/2qfjJRj

Sloane Murphy needed a fresh start.  A new beginning.  She has finally crawled out of the hell her life used to be and moved on, even if it did take several years.  Purchasing a bookstore in the small town of Serenity Springs, Texas is a dream come true for her.  Meeting her best friend’s brother, a man she had heard so much about, was an added bonus.

Creed Caldwell is the Sheriff of Serenity Springs.  His life is centered around his daughter, his family, and his job.  He didn’t think there was room for anyone else in it, until he met Sloane. The attraction is instant, the passion undeniable.  Until someone decides they don’t want Creed and Sloane together. 

Will Creed be able to protect both his family and the woman he is falling for? Will Sloane find the strength to place her trust in another man after her painful past?  Will the fight to not only survive but to forge a future with one another bring them closer together, or be their ultimate demise?  

Friday, February 9, 2018

Cutting My Teeth Beyond the Fields You May Know  #OurAuthorGang

(Painting by Boris Vallejo)

Joe Bonadonna

Maybe it’s just my age. Maybe I’m a dinosaur, out of touch with younger authors, or authors who come from a literary background totally different than my own. But I just can’t imagine any author who writes fantasy not having read or at least tried to read JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings. Nor can I imagine anyone having discovered Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian thru Marvel Comics, and not having read or gone back to read the original stories in paperback form or hardcover. But I think I understand. I try to. It’s all about when we grew up, how we grew up, and often the environment in which we grew up. It’s about what reading material or type of publications we were first exposed to: pulp magazines, comic books, or hardcover and paperback books.

I read quite a few classic children’s books long before I ever read a “superhero” comic book: books such as Babar the Elephant, The Wind in the Willows, Peter Rabbit, The Wizard of Oz, Tom Swift, and so many others. Then I discovered Classics Illustrated, which was a great series of novels like Frankenstein, The Time Machine, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Journey to the Center of the Earth turned into comic book form. And these led me to reading the novels upon which they were based. Thanks to a fantastic grade school library, I found these books, as well as books on Greek and Norse mythology, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and even a hardcover of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles.

When I was a kid in the 1950s and 1960s, my generation was still very close to the “old school,” and many of us grew up reading pulp magazines and books from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. We even read many a novel from the 19th century. There were hundreds of brick and mortar book stores back then, and many of were dedicated to specific genres, like science fiction, fantasy, and horror. And the market for, and the publishing of those particular genres in those days was much smaller than it is today. So we could pretty well keep up with the comic books, magazines, anthologies, and novels that were published each month.  So, having “come up” when I did, the authors and novels that inspired me to write were all written and published roughly before 1975, let’s say, just to pick a particular year. This was before the Big Boom in Heroic Fantasy was heard ‘round the world. So I’m going to share with you some of those novels, which for me really began with The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. And many of the  novels I’m going to mention were published by Ballantine Books, in their Adult Fantasy series, which nowadays has somewhat of a different connotation to it. There were many other “houses” out there publishing fantasy and science fiction, like Ace Books, Lancer Paperbacks, Berkley, and Dell Books, for example. And for Sword & Sorcery, there was Esteban Moroto’s excellent Dax the Warrior (aka Dax the Damned) published in the pages of the classic horror comic, Eerie.

While Fritz Leiber’s The Swords of Lankhmar, and L. Sprague de Camp’s The Tritonian Ring, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Adventurer were the first three Sword & Sorcery novels I ever read, I soon discovered others: John Jakes’ Brak the Barbarian, Gardner Fox’s Kothar the Barbarian, Lin Carter’s Thongor of Lemuria, Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné, Prince Corum, and Dorian Hawkmoon, and Henry Kuttner’s Elak of Atlantis, for example — many of which are still quite popular today. And naturally I was and still am a big fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs, a writer of near limitless imagination and inventiveness. But it’s the novels published by Ballantine Books’ Adult Fantasy series that I’d like to give props to today . . . a list of books and authors I read back in the day when The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings became pop and cultural phenomena, and right before Terry Brook’s The Sword of Shannara, and Stephen R. Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant changed the face of Heroic Fantasy, and even the publishing industry. Some of books I’m going to mention were written and published long before even I was born, in a different time and place, and thus may be slow or difficult reading for some people. Many of these novels are or were considered literary classics, although they’re not as popular in today’s world. But for me, they were well worth the read, and very enriching and rewarding, and I recommend you give them a try. In no particular order they are:

The Worm Ouroboros, Mistress of Mistresses, A Fish Dinner in Memison, and The Mezentian Gate, by E. R. Eddison 

Titus Groan, Gormenghast, and Titus Alone, by Mervyn Peake

A Voyage to Arcturus, by David Lindsay

The King of Elfland’s Daughter, At the Edge of the World, Beyond the Fields We Know, The Charwoman’s Shadow, and Over the Hills and Far Away, by Lord Dunsany

The Wood Beyond the World; The Well at the World's End, Vol. 1; The Well at the World's End, Vol. 2; The Water of the Wondrous Isles, and The Sundering Flood, by William Morris

The Silver Stallion, Figures of Earth, and The High Place, by James Branch Cabell

Lilith, George MacDonald

The Lost Continent, C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne

The Island of the Mighty, The Children of Llyr, The Song of Rhiannon, and Prince of Annwn, by Evangeline Walton

The Broken Sword, and Hrolf Kraki’s Saga, by Poul Anderson

This list is far from complete, and does not include many of the fantasy books I’ve read from Ballantine and other publishers, or the fantastic works of such modern-day authors as: Tanith Lee, Joy Chant, Katherine Kurtz, David Eddings, Guy Gavriel Kay, Karl Edward Wagner, T. C. Rypel, and Janet and Chris Morris.

I also highly recommend the works of two legendary writers: Talbot Mundy, whose wonderful Tros of Samothrace novels, while not really Heroic Fantasy, are definitely in the realms of heroic, historical, and adventure fiction.  And the great H. R. Haggard, whose The Saga of Eric Brighteyes is a must-read for anyone interested in reading and writing Heroic Fantasy.

Thank you!

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