Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Which is which?

I've been reading my favorite author's blog.

If you haven't read anything by Ursula K. Le Guin, you must at least read the Earthsea trilogy: A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, and The Farthest Shore. 

Some have criticized the three later books, Tehanu, Tales of Earthsea, and The Other Wind, but I find that they added wonderfully to a deep, resonant, connected epic. Read all six books without pause or diversion and I think you will agree with me. (not all at once, you ninny)

anyway...

She posits in one of her blogs that Homer, of old Hellenic literature, not Mr. Simpson, was the first fantasist and it's hard not to disagree. Having read both the Iliad and the Odyssey, you can't help but smile when the gods take an active role in the narrative.

Ms. Le Guin in her blog breaks down the differences between these first two genre literary works as (my simplification here) The Record, and the Journey. Neither is better, nor worse. Both are just different forms.

And I had to pause.

I certainly didn't mean to, because I had no outward, conscience attempt to make my work so grand, but I realized I have approached my books similarly. 

Simply put, without asking you to guess, The Wealdland Stories are analogous to The Iliad. It is a description of a war, a Record, with the paths of many, varied characters intersecting.

The Chronicles of the Elf Human Wars, featuring Berand, is my Odyssey, The Journey, the story of one individual above all others. Funny that Berand's story is titled 'Wars' when the whole narrative is mostly about his personal journey of self discovery, much like Odysseus'.  

That's it. That's all I have to say.


Kurt


Ursula K. Le Guin's blog: click here

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

milestone

Today my blog went over ten thousand views.

Thank you to those of you interested and curious.

I realize probably fully a third of those clicks were spambots or webcrawlers.

But, still. It's something.



cheers,

Kurt

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Friday, October 10, 2014

A collection of Ricky Gervais' hit

Ricky Gervais was in a band in the 80's.

You're welcome in advance:

Seona Dancing Bitter Heart

Monday, September 29, 2014

Battling the Ham with Tapestry

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


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Thursday, September 25, 2014

What I'm reading right now - 9/25/14

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/



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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Berand Brave Chapter Two Hótei (Returner)

Chapter Two

Hótei
(Returner)

The word had gone ahead of him.
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.

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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