There is a D-list actor that has moved in across the way. I live in a quaint (meaning old) apartment building in Los Angeles County. I like to have the windows open to get fresh air while I work. The D-list actor moved in about four months ago, and man has this guy got the MOST annoying voice in the history of speaking humans. Is this how to get acting work? Because, his list of jobs is pretty extensive, although not impressive. I'm not going to tell you his name, because actors thrive on notoriety, good or bad, and I want this ham sandwich to wilt, and blow away. Because of the structure of the building, our living room windows are about six feet apart. He lives right across the walkway. And Mr. Sandwich has nothing in his unit to soften his shrill, obnoxious, nasal voice. So, it ECHOES like he's got the reverb Elvis used.
And best of all, he has set up his home office, with desk and chair, where he can bellow at agents and producers for his late royalty checks right at his window. So it sounds as if he is screaming right in my living room, and usually at my shoulder.
Now I shouldn't have to close my windows. But, when I have, it has made no difference.
Yet... Have I told you about my sound system? It's AWESOME. Theatre quality sound. Dolby surround, with an amplifier. heh heh heh. When he first moved in, I cranked that baby until he shut his windows and it smelled like victory.
But my son, being the good person he is, and not wanting to endure the Norse-god like power of our system said I should go talk to him.
So I did. Bringing him along to show that I was willing to compromise and be a good human being.
Well, what do you know. It worked. He toned down his voice and we all got along. For a while...
He's an actor and so oblivious to other people. His whole world exists in his tiny, bellowing mind, and he started to get progressively louder over the ensuing weeks, until today he was right back to his old volume.
That is when Carole King came to my rescue. I have always liked Tapestry. It is one of those albums that everyone should own. Today as the music filled my home, and drowned out the Ham Sandwich (he got the message) I really took note of King's soulful singing. I mean she sounds like she is tearing those notes right out of the core of her being. And yet, the music jumps and grooves. She sings some old standards that I had never realized she authored. The whole album is really beautifully crafted with the list of songs wonderfully moving from one theme to the next.
I looked down at the cover of the CD and was curious about the cat. Call me a dope. I just wanted to know. So three clicks later, I found this pretty good article: Carole King Interview The cat's name was Telemachus. cool. So. That's it. Tapestry saved my sanity today. If you haven't heard the album here it is: Tapestry But you really should own a copy. cheers, Kurt .
To say that I'm on an Ursula K. Le Guin kick right now is laughable. I am spellbound, entranced, enchanted, enthralled. Let me back up... I was between writing Ancient Science and Berand Brave and thought I would pick out something to read from my personal library. I am a sucker for book sales, library sell offs, you name it. At yard sales I immediately go for the book boxes. Thrift stores are all about the shelves of books in the back for me. So you could say I got a few books at home... About a year ago I picked up a reissue of the first paperback publishing of A Wizard of Earthsea with the subsequent books in the trilogy. The cover art, by Yvonne Gilbert (whose art absolutely delights me) that interlocks between the three books is what attracted me to the series initially. And so I got the chance to buy the editions I loved as a teen. I first read the trilogy back in High School in the 1970's. I thought it was great, but all that resided in my memory banks from thirty years back was the cheesy, awful television series based on the books. So, with trepidation I picked up the first one. I devoured it. I had forgotten how nuanced and deep the book was. With pleasure I dove into the remaining two of the trilogy. I had just started writing Berand Brave, but wanted to continue to read at night. I had put reading for pleasure aside in favor of reading for research for Ancient Science. (You'll understand when you read it. I tried to make the ancient world come authentically alive, but with entertainment and color.) So after I had licked my chops, finishing the Earthsea trilogy I looked at The Left Hand of Darkness by Ms. Le Guin sitting up on my shelf. The copy I owned had been up there for over a decade. I just couldn't bring myself to read it. Something about the cover and all the awards just turned me off. Now here's something about me: I'm a contrarian. If everybody loves it, I probably won't. If something is a limping, orphaned mutant, I will probably adore it. The Left Hand of Darkness swept the Hugos and Nebulas when it was published. People raved. People recommended. I hesitated. But I had just gone face first like a feeding hog into the Earthsea books, finding things I had missed before, style and form that meant so much more to me. A mature, studied, yet easy structure that resonated like a Beethoven symphony. Just beauty, sheer beauty. So... I opened up the book. ...oh my gosh... To say I was blown away would be an understatement. The book is darn near perfect. The author creates a full, truly alien world set against a Terran sensibility. The plot points and twists were so refreshing and gripping. The characters textured and heartbreaking. I came away from The Left Hand of Darkness changed. But more than that... Now. Please forgive me, this is going to sound egotistical, but I saw a similarity between my writing and Ms. Le Guin's. I have never compared my style and work with anybody else before, so this is something. Of course I don't assert that I am at her level, but the desire to write a certain way is shared between us. And, something opened up in my mind. I tell you, Ancient Science is good, if not great, and I'm trying to be utterly objective. But, after diving into Ursula's work and the effect it has had, I am now hyper-aware of the shape and flow of my writing as never before. Her work has opened doors for me that I never knew were always there. You know, I will take the flak and criticism, but I think Berand Brave, because of this epiphany, is shaping up to be something really, really special. And I owe it all, and really mean it, to Ursula K. Le Guin.
I have since gone on to read The Word For World is Forest in Harlen Ellison's excellent anthology Again Dangerous Visions vol. 1. And then, Rocannon's World. All of these books by Ms. Le Guin in less than a month... I am hooked in the worst way.
If you had asked me who was the best living SciFi/Fantasy writer two months ago, I would have said without hesitation: William Gibson, whom I still love and eagerly await his pending book The Peripheral (due Nov. 2014).
But today I will shout from the rooftops that the title of The Best belongs to Ms. Le Guin. Go get some and see for yourself. cheers. Kurt http://www.yvonnegilbert.com/
Birds sang of him,
breathlessly from every treetop, darting on the wing, perching on eaves,
knowing the People of Light craved to know if and when he would return.
Sentries ran all day, skipping across rivers on light boats, and then more
tireless sprinting to the capital. Refusing water, the messengers pushed their
way into the Yel Rakinne to tell, before the council, between gasps for air, of
the news of his return.
They told how a corsair ship,
with three enormous red sails, coming from the west of the Mere Lanis, had
pulled into the narrow bight made by the Flume of Rith. The leethan soldiers at
Gillalliath, protecting the gigantic battleships being built there, had warned
the corsair vessel to sail away with loud shouts using the Voice and waving
their spears and swords.
A single individual dropped
over the side of the ship with the billowing red sails. As he swam for the
port, Merebroder had played about him, leaping and sporting in the water,
blowing happy spouts from the holes in the tops of their sleek heads. The
swimmer seemed to be clutching a long staff as he thrashed the water towards
the pier of Gillalliath.
The corsair ship came about
and pulled out onto the shimmering horizon of the Mere, disappearing into the
glare of the golden, setting sun.
“And then? And then?” The
eldest of the leethan council asked, clutching his white beard.
“It was him.”
The elders of the Yel
Rakinne fell together furiously whispering until a tall leethan wearing a large
sword at his side entered the chamber. He strode to the messengers.
“It is true?”
“He has returned.”
The tall leeth put his
strong hand to his mouth and quietly thought, and then he looked up. Was that a
tear in his eye that he would not let fall? “Let no one hinder the progress of
Berand Brave,” said Kelasael, first general of the leethan armies.
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
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
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 .
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 .