Saturday, August 23, 2014

Late Summer in the Land of the Drought


I read reviews. It's ridiculous not to. You should know how your work is both received and perceived. The trick is to not let the inconsistent and unintelligent reviews get to you.

I once went off on a passive-aggressive review which opened the door for charges of being 'thin-skinned' (code words for 'why won't you let us unjustly kick you without you responding?). The passive-aggressive review said in essence 'this book is good for fantasy, which I never read, which is not really literature'. So you could see how that got me wound up.

I have learned since then to not feed the trolls.


But...

There is an interesting trend in recent reviews of my novels. And, I'm going to share my insights as well as explain something that that insight informs.

First let me confess: My first novel, The Last Elf of Lanis needs some work. Not a lot of work. But some. It was my first novel and came from a place of desperation in my soul.

That being said, I assert that it is damn good, even with its faults.

...which brings us to my insight into the majority of recent reviews. There seems to be a consensus that The Last Elf of Lanis is a novel every fan of fantasy should read. I don't advertise and yet I still sell a lot of books every day. So people are talking about it. Many people love the book. And why not? It has important themes set in an entertaining world with high emotional stakes. 


So the majority of recent reviews are either 5 stars-love it, or a begrudging four stars. "Yes, it's good, but I don't really like it."

HA!

That of course is okay. Nobody has to like anything. The real humor comes when a four star reviewer really reaches to find something to express their dissatisfaction with the novel. One said the book 'had too many commas' ! 

aghahahahaha. *cough cough* Sorry.

The four star reviews are usually of the vein "I know I should like this book. All my friends like this book. But, I don't, and I can't coherently tell you why."

Yes. Well. First let me say. It was my first book and I am the first to admit that it is a little clunky. I was still learning to write. Should I have put it out for general consumption by the reading community? Probably not. But I did, as I said before, because of a desperate need to express myself in some kind- any kind of forum.

And here is where I made a pretty huge mistake...

I wasn't writing to please the fantasy-literature consuming public. I didn't even consider that there was some kind of generally accepted form. I wrote the kind of novel I wanted to read: Complex narrative structure, bursting full of characters, challenging in perspective, fun with lots of action, filled with difficult emotions, in a completely immersible, fictitious world. 

Readers who read genres other than fantasy have expressed surprise that I didn't follow the general formula for fantasy (although there are plenty of the elements, the poor boy/king, the hidden sword, heck, let's be honest, I borrowed heavily from Arthurian mythology). 

But, mostly The Last Elf of Lanis is structured like something you might read from the syllabus of a Lit 101 course, and not the average fantasy novel that gluts the market.

And, the readers expecting something like everything else have been disappointed. So why did I write a book so divergent from the accepted, expected mainstream of fantasy literature?

Because I like complex, challenging books, and initially I was writing only for me!


Does that mean I should have kept it to myself? No way, judging by some of the passionate fans of the series. Should I have kept it back until it was perfect? Maybe, but as I mentioned before, I was in a place where, after nearly a lifetime of being denied entry, I had to express something- anything.

Will I keep it as it is with its few flaws? No. I am going to rewrite the novel and make it shine like a glittering diamond, specially now that I have some pretty awesome writing skills, but not this year. Maybe not even next year. A massive structure of interlocking novels is bursting to come out of my head, and, judging by sales, the readers want that more than me polishing my slightly flawed first gem.

Sarcasm to follow~~


So to those frustrated in understanding why you don't like the book, but give it four stars because you think you should: Don't. Be brave. Don't follow the herd of readers with more taste and intelligence than you.

The fact that you don't want to put on your big-boy pants and read something a little more advanced than a Jr. High School level novel is okay. Be yourself.

~~ Sarcasm end.

No, but really. It's okay if you don't like my book. Not everyone will. If there is a book that everyone likes, it's probably not very interesting.


So the obvious question is: If you wanted to write a novel that is full of advanced structure and ideas, why did you pick the fantasy genre? To which I respond: Why not? Why does a fantasy novel have to be simplistic, with shallow characters who follow a flat (boring) linear narrative path?

My answer is that the readers of fantasy are smarter than the market supposes. And I know this because The Last Elf of Lanis, without any kind of marketing or advertising continues to sell well every day.

***

Lastly, a thought about the complaint about the names I used. I think the initial complaint is generally when someone can't put their finger on the fact that they had to think a little and were challenged while reading a fantasy novel. "Oh, it's the names! That's why I didn't like this! The names!"

...yeah... No.

I wanted names that were unique. And I scoured the internet to make sure they were. But here's the thing, they really are not that unique. Most of the names come from European history. Most of the names I use are amalgams of very common historical names. I appropriated some of the names right out of Beowulf, just like Tolkien did when he grabbed a bunch of names out of the very first fantasy novel ever written.

Kellabald - Kell uh bald... really? that's hard?

Arnwylf - Arn wylf (wolf) ...Arn wolf ... that's hard to read?

Wynnfrith - win frith

Alrhett - all ret

Yulenth - you lenth

Ronenth - ro nenth

hard?

No. ...lazy reader who wants Jim, Bob, or Mary.

I will admit that Haerreth and Haergill were confusing. I shouldn't have used two such similar names. But look:

Haergill - Haer gill - higher gill.

Haerreth - Haer reth - higher reth

It looks very simplistic actually. The names are mostly old norse, old germanic, the root cultures of fantasy literature. And I wanted a feeling of distance in time and space. Get over the complaint about the names. They are easy and wonderful.

The elf names - well I had to create something alien. You really only have to deal with Iounelle for most of the series.

Iounelle - Eye un el


now a cool person will put a little 'ou' in that, but don't worry about it.

Enough about names. If your main complaint is about the names, I think we all know that you just wanted a simpler book to read. Check the YA section next time.

ok. 

That's it.

I don't blog much because I think my time is best served writing novels and not writing blogs.

Oh.

I am nearing a final, polished draft of Magic and Mathematics Book One: Ancient Science.

This new book starts a new series that I am very excited about. And this new novel has turned out to be nothing short of wonderful. 


In this book, Iounelle travels through Egypt as the Great Pyramid is being built; chases a psychopath through Hellenistic Athens; and is witness to the Roman siege of Sicilian Syracuse. It's a pretty kick-ass book. Just as deep as anything I have ever written, probably deeper. It's pretty damn outstanding, if I do say so myself.

I promise that once you have read it, you will be grabbing friends by the collar, saying 'you must read this!' It's that good.

It's coming soon. 


so.

That's it.

That's all I had to say.

Starting September 1st, 2014 I will begin writing Berand Brave, the sequel to Berand Fool. and maaaann.... Berand Brave is going to be soooo good.


so. 

Lot's to look forward to.

cheers,

Kurt


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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

pending release from K. J. Hargan

If you haven't heard yet from my twitter or facebook feed...

The first draft of Magic and Mathematics Book One: Ancient Science is completed today!

Iounelle Wendralorn, the last elf of lanis is back. Her pursuit of The Two, the seeming immortal Mót and his strange protégé, takes her to Egypt as the great Pyramid nears completion, then to Athens at the height of the Hellenistic period, and finally to the last days of Syracuse under the Roman siege by Marcellus.

A novel spanning two thousand years of history becomes a battleground for secret cults and dark magics as the wonders of human science and technology are on the rise.


Don't miss this exciting, new adventure.


Iounelle lives!


cheers,

Kurt

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

You smart ones.

It's made my heart quite happy to see an uptick in folks who are buying the fourth book of the Wealdland Stories.

Those who have read Legends of Haergill and Conniker's Tale will appreciate the upcoming release so much more than those who have not.

There are patterns in the soon to be released Magic and Mathematics Book One: Ancient Science that will only be apparent to readers of Legends of Haergill...

There are things I have set up since the first book that are paid off in Ancient Science. I'm a chapter and a half from a first draft and I am very excited to get the book to you.

The conclusion of the whole network of books will be years off, but until then we will explore the adventure together.

cheers


Kurt

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Coming up

I don't blog nearly enough.

I feel that if I'm going to write something, it should be whatever I'm working on. so...

Currently, the novel I am very close to completing the first draft of is Magic and Mathematics - Book One: Ancient Science.

Yeah. What a mouthful. But. I'll tell you what. I really think this is the finest thing I've ever written. This book approaches actually literature, transcending the fantasy genre. It's that good.

What's it about?

Iounelle!

Yep. That's right. It's the last elf. We really get into her head and what it's like to be the last of your kind and how her mind and life has evolved as she has chased Mót and his protégé across the centuries. (You'll understand what that means if you've read Legends of Haergill and Conniker's Tale. Ancient Science picks up where that book left off.)


Here's the thing... I am very close to that first draft... like days away. I'll go into second and third drafts right away, and a trusted friend gets to read the early drafts as my second set of eyes.

Normally, you'd then get the book once I'd got some cover art together that I like.

But.

A real honest-to-god publisher has said they want to look at it once it's ready.

Exciting? Yeeeeah. But here's the reality: They will accept the draft I feel is the best I can do, and then they will sit on it for probably months.

Not because they are awful people. Quite the contrary, they are wonderful people who have said they would like to consider publishing the book.


Why the delay? Several people at the publishing house will have to read the book and then give it a yea or nay. And let's face it, they almost certainly have a mountain of other books to read and evaluate.

Will it get published by this professional publishing house? Maybe. Maybe not.

What does that mean? I'm a realist. It means that they may actually read it, and it may be the best book in the world, but because of convergent circumstances, they won't publish it.

That's okay. Once I get the rejection slip, that means I can release the book on my own right away, as I have with all my other books up until now.

What does all this mean to you?

It means a delay. It means we all get to wait until I get the thumbs up or thumbs down.

What if the book gets the thumbs up? It will still have to go through their edits and marketing procedures, which means even more delay.

And hey, maybe Ancient Science will get that thumbs up. I'm confident enough to feel that it is a distinct possibility. But when everything is said and done, it all adds up to a delay for you.

I had hoped to have the book out by July 2014, but now it appears as if the earliest you can have it is sometime in the late autumn of 2014. Maybe later if they want to publish it.

I'm sorry. I know. And, I can't release it on my own while they are considering publishing it. If I do that, this publisher will reject it immediately. They've liked my other books, but since I've released those myself, they are scratched off their publication list.

Why? That's not up to me, and I respect that's how they do business.

Who is this mysterious publishing house? I'd rather not say. This way, if things don't work out between us, you won't have to worry about having any hard feelings about them.

so...

I am sorry. Truly sorry. Ancient Science will make the perfect beach book, but it looks like if it is going to be read on the beach, it's going to be in 2015.


cheers,

Kurt


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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March 2014

Hello.

I'm still working and I'm about half finished with Ancient Science: Book One of Mathematics and Magic.

I am really, really happy with how the novel is coming along. It may be my finest writing to date, and I know you're going to enjoy it very much.

This novel is the return of Iounelle and it is really shaping up to be a kind of wonderful.

When will it be ready? You know the drill. I should be done with a first draft mid-April. It then takes a month each for a second and third draft, and a couple of weeks for a polish.

So let's say, between June and July, look for Ancient Science to be available. Just in time for Summer reading season.

Then I will start immediately on Berand Brave, which should be ready by the end of the year. 

Possibly, sometime in the Autumn, The Tiger's Mouth may be released. I worked on that novel last year, writing about half of the first draft. I hit a wall, And realized that I had to write these other books, before I could get to that one.

You will understand why when you read Ancient Science.

Anyhoo.

I'm working. Good stuff is coming.


Kurt

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Monday, June 24, 2013

Berand Fool

Well, the book is out there, going through processing and soon will be available on all publishing platforms.

I have to say that I am feeling very emotional right now. I had no idea how deeply attached to this book I was.

I feel like I'm sending out my baby for you to take into your home.

I am very proud of this novel. It was an immense joy to write. It really meant quite a lot to me.


My wife had said that she thinks that I have written myself into the character of Berand. I don't disagree. A little of me is in every character I create. How could it be otherwise? But, maybe a little more of me is in Berand than any other character.

This book started off as a question I asked myself. Why did Berand Torler create the Sun and Moon swords? Combined with the Lhalíi and the Ar, the four objects create the Heaven's Key, a machine of almost limitless power. Why did he do it? 


The story began to form in my mind and I took a little notebook with me wherever I went. You can ask Annette, I would stop in the middle of the grocery aisle, whip out my pocket sized notebook and start scribbling notes.

Organizing the outline was simple. The story, by the time I had jotted down all my notes, was obvious.


The thing that surprised me was the writing. Characters leapt off the page, and did things that surprised even me! Every day I was filled with an eagerness to get to work and write what I began to suspect was quite a special novel.  

Close to five hundred pages of the first draft were completed in only three months! This novel burst out of me. And the time spent writing it was like a limbo. I would sit down in the morning, look up after what seemed like only five minutes, to find it was nearly time for dinner!

The story of a character who finds courage and direction is timeless. This is my contribution.

Please go and enjoy.

cheers,

Kurt


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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How it happened

   When I wrote the first novel, The Last Elf of Lanis, it was purely for me.
   I wrote for my own pleasure and distraction. I wrote to satisfy a burning need to express myself both artistically and emotionally.
   The book has some flaws, and the structure may be a little more complex than it needs to be. But, I wrote what I like. This is what I enjoy when I am reading: stories with characters that are emotionally invested; story lines that unfold and fold back on themselves; and fantastical, fully realized realms.



    The Archer From Kipleth was for you. I was so surprised by the overwhelming acceptance of the The Last Elf that I knew I had to complete the series. So the Archer was written wholly with the reader in mind.
    That is probably why it is my favorite book. Everything about it is selfless. From page one to the last page, every word was written with a conscious consideration of the reader.



    I wrote the third book, The Lord of Lightning, to compete the task. I knew how the very last scene of the battle would unfold and I knew I had to get it out there. Actual thousands of readers had uploaded the first and second book, and I wrote with an awareness of my responsibility to complete the story for them.


    The fourth book, Legends of Haergill and Conniker's Tale, I wrote for my sanity. As I was completing the first three books, many other stories, related to the principle narrative, came into my mind and needed to be written. Then, the whole began to take shape as a novel of interlocking stories. 
     The ideas were like a haunting. I knew I wouldn't sleep at night unless I exorcised these stories from my mind. Then, when it made up a good novel, I was happily surprised. So in one sense, the fourth novel was similar to the first in that I wrote primarily for myself, but not for pleasure.


    The fifth and soon to be released novel, Berand Fool, is more like the first in every sense. I wrote purely for my own pleasure. But, now I had the framework of a complex world all ready for me. I wrote the rather lengthy novel in just four months because it was such a joy to write. 
    I would get ready at my office at 9am, and then when I looked up, it would be 4pm. I had written thirty pages and it seemed to me that no time at all had elapsed. It was total immersion.
   The difference with Berand Fool from the first four novels is the narrative structure. The plot primarily follows Berand Wendralorn. I wanted to do something different from the other books which split off many character lines. There are one or two chapters that follow other characters in Berand Fool, but the preponderance of the narrative is Berand's.

   It was not a chore to follow this character. I have to tell you, I love Berand. I love everything about him, the way he sees the world, how he reacts, what he does. I truly wish I could hang out with him every day. And, he changes, he grows, he resolves conflicts in his mind and soul. So many characters in books, film and TV are one note, played over and over. Not this guy. I am very excited for you to meet him.

cheers

Kurt

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

meaning

I don't blog nearly enough. But, as we all would agree, my time is best served actually writing my novels. So...

I'm very close to finishing my fifth novel Berand Fool. I am very pleased with it. In many ways I think of it as my first novel. With this book, I have been in control of every aspect, and at the height of my skills. With the first notion: "Why the heck did he make those dangerous swords?"; through months and months of notes; to shaping up the structure; to the fevered months of writing, and then the months of rewarding rewriting, I have arrived with something I feel very happy about.

As some of you may know, I am a pretty good poet. I would go so far as to say that I am a better poet than a novelist. But, what with poetry paying less than actual debt, I don't spend much time at the feet of Erato or Calliope. When fledging poets hear me read, they almost all ask the inevitable "How do I get good at writing poetry?" or the wiser "How can I become better?"


The simple answer is 'work'. No one seems to like that answer, but there it is. The second answer and the one that seems more appealing, but is deceptively much more difficult to master is 'meaning'.

When an artist infuses a work with meaning, it makes all the difference. Often we, as consumers, may not even comprehend the artist's meaning. I could go round and round with the most scholarly about the meaning flooding from Van Gogh's paintings, and both of us could be way off. But it is there. You can't help but feel it.

Meaning is something the human mind senses, even when it doesn't comprehend it. It is like a smell. We know it is there, and we love it when it is something that we savor and need, like the scent of baking bread, it sets us to salivating. 

Rather than go too deeply into an examination of meaning in art, I'd like to pull back the curtain and simply tell you what was my intention, what was my 'meaning' when I wrote my books. 

I think a novelist has an obligation to be clear, much more than any other type of artist. I have been such an adherent of this maxim that the ignorant has constantly accused my writing of being simple. One public reviewer called my work suitable for middle schoolers. Well, okay, but I'm sure that the reviewer meant it as a slight. I don't care.

Clarity is vital to me. Those who know have called me the Hemingway of Fantasy. That tickles me, because I write the least macho characters imaginable, but I think the notion is apt because of the sparseness of the prose. And I accept that idea as highest praise.

So. The meaning, the clear intention behind my novels is as follows:

The Last Elf of Lanis was about the heart-breaking maturity that comes with loss. I think that is pretty obvious to anyone that didn't just scan the novel.

The Archer From Kipleth is about accepting your situation and doing something about it. Again, simply clear for anyone who bothered to do more than turn the pages.

The Lord of Lightning is a little more complex. This novel is about LOVE. LOVE in capital letters. What does it mean? What are you willing to sacrifice for love? Are you willing to give your life for love? How much love is enough love? All those big ideas. I think I came pretty close to doing a damn good job with that one.

Legends of Haergill and Conniker's Tale is much more difficult to explain. My intention with this novel was to explore the ideas behind cause and effect. A bloodless thesis I admit, unless you approach it under the structure of family, genealogy, and the rise and fall of nations. I personally think I did a fine job with a very elaborate concept that is fraught with many traps. We see where character's lives  came from and where they were going. It was a difficult novel to construct and execute, but I am happy with the results

Now, my upcoming novel:

Berand Fool is about authority, obedience, rebellion and personal responsibility. A really tough concept to write about in fantasy. But, then why should it be? I've had a couple of reviews on Amazon where the reviewer looks down her nose sniffing, "Oh, your books are okay, for fantasy." As if Fantasy Literature was any less a collection of fabrications than plain 'ol Literature with a lonely capital 'L'. Hey lady, all lies are equal. 

Or are they?

Fiction rises and falls with the depth of meaning. What do you take away from this novel? I will admit that much of Fantasy Literature is sword clanging, magic spewing gallantry. Simple diversion from everyday life can be very satisfying, and sometimes necessary. We call it a guilty pleasure as if we somehow should not be reading such shallow fiction.

But, even 'genre' fiction can be much more. Any book can ultimately become a work that changes your life. I have read a few of those kinds of books. I love those kinds of books. I aspire to write those kinds of books. And, I think I have moved ever closer to that kind of book with Berand Fool.

I hope you agree.

cheers,

Kurt

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Last Elf - How many books in the series?


The statistics here at Blogger show the search strings, so I know that someone looked up "The Last Elf - how many books in the series?"

Let me break it down for you.

The Wealdland Stories - this is where it all began for me as a writer.

Book One - The Last Elf of Lanis
Book Two - The Archer From Kipleth
Book Three - The Lord of Lightning
Book Four - Legends of Haergill and Conniker's Tale

now quite honestly, you don't have to read book four. The story of the war for the Heaven's Key wraps up in book three. If that's where you want to leave it, good for you.

But...

Legends of Haergill and Conniker's Tale answers a lot of questions that the reader may have once they've finished The Lord of Lightning.

And...

You will understand much better what is going on once the next series begins, which is -

Mathematics and Magic - this series (yet to be written) follows Iounelle, the last elf, into human history.

Book One - Ancient Science (I hope to have this ready around December 2013)
Book Two - Future Magic
Book Three - Present Horizons
Book Four - A Cold Night in Oslo and Other Unverified Gossip (in which Iounelle takes down Hitler!)

Meanwhile...

The Berand series, also called The Chroncle of the Elf Human Wars, will begin shortly and it is going to be AMAZING, if I do say so myself. In this story the reader will understand how Wealdland came to be as it stands at the beginning of the Last Elf of Lanis.

The Chronicle of the Elf Human Wars - this takes place three thousand years before Iounelle.

Book One - Berand the Fool (I'm working on this one, and hope to have it ready by April 1, 2013)
Book Two - Berand the Brave
Book Three - Berand Torler

In addition...

In the middle of 2013 you will, if all goes well, begin to get the Ostigris Saga. The story of that strange time traveller who shows up in The Lord of Lightning and Conniker's Tale.

The Travels of Ostigris -

Book One - The Tiger's Mouth
Book Two - The Serpent's Venom
Book Three - The Eagle's Talon

On top of all that...

All the story lines and characters will be tied neatly together in a science fiction series I guarantee will be unlike any science fiction you have ever read before, because it is going to blend fantasy with historical fiction. Weird right? I cannot wait to write this series.

The Planets -

Book One - Mars
Book Two - Venus (remember Holdang and Carond?)
Book Three - Mercury
Book Four - The Sun In All Its Glory - this will include many stories from many timelines and take us to Iounelle's eventual departure from this mortal coil.

So eighteen books in all. Four have been written. Hopefully you'll get three a year until the whole intertwined narrative concludes sometime in 2017.


Cripes. I better get to work!

Cheers,

Kurt.