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Book Review: ‘River of Stars’ A sweeping saga of a swordsman and a poetess

Friends,

ROSOccasionally, I come across a book review written so well, that it causes a curiosity within me so strong, that I must let my fingers do the “walking” to my favorite website & purchase the novel & read it immediately.(Note that such a review need not be favorable to be well-written per se, although this one is.) Author, editor & book reviewer for the Seattle Times Nisi Shawl has written such a review and I wanted to share it with you all. I have shared here, on my website & throughout social media my thoughts on the importance of book reviews, so I’m always excited to share great ones, as I look for new books to spend my hard-earned money on & read.

This book’s plot is fascinating to me because I love the overall fantasy genre but get tired of the same old archetypes. I’m always looking for books to read, that don’t have elves, a dark lord, a farm boy who doesn’t realize he’s “the one” or talking non-human characters, so I am so looking forward to this. The review is of Guy Gavriel Kay’s RIVER OF STARSGuy Gavriel Kay is a Canadian author of fantasy fiction. Many of his novels are set in fictional realms that resemble real places during real historical periods. Kay has written over 10 novels and numerous shorter works. His works have been translated into 22 languages, and have sold over two million copies. Nisi Shawl has been reviewing fiction for the Seattle Times for nearly 12 years & I thoroughly enjoy her erudite analysis of the works of so many authors. Here is the review:

Why would a white man want to write an epic fantasy based on Chinese history? Why would he do so twice?

In the case of award-winning Toronto author Guy Gavriel Kay, the answer could be, “Because he can.” “River of Stars,” (Roc, 576 pp., $26.95), the follow-up to Kay’s acclaimed “Under Heaven,” takes place in Kitai, a land closely modeled on China. Set during a period mirroring the centuries-long Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE, as “Under Heaven” mirrored the Tang Dynasty of 618-907 CE), “River of Stars” tells the intertwining stories of a swordsman and a poetess. Not the most iconoclastic pairing for this milieu, but Ren Daiyan and Lin Shan are fully realized characters rather than the shadows those labels suggest.

Beginning with Ren’s sudden understanding that the bandits he confronts as a boy may hold the key to his future — that he needs to live in their midst rather than fight against them — the novel takes several surprising turns. Yet though the plot is blessedly unpredictable, its hero is no inscrutable warrior type: Ren is motivated by understandable emotions born of a culture well described. Brilliant, stubborn, loyal, daring, he does what he must. But his tasks are often determined by chance and other elements beyond his control, elements he as a character and we as readers recognize only in hindsight.

Lin Shan is a woman brought up by her idealistic father to break the far-too-­restrictive mold defining her sex. Through his characters’ unobtrusive reflections, Kay carefully differentiates the ways changing eras affect the roles of upper-class women. Whether she and her father travel to take part in a far city’s celebrated peony festival or to visit a country gentleman, the mores of the Song Dynasty dictate that Lin must stay in their destination’s women’s quarters; she must dress so as not to incite lust, must remain virgin till her wedding night and so on. Her literacy, while not forbidden, is viewed as eccentric.

To continue reading this review, please click HERE.

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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Book Reviews, Fictional Writing

 

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If I Could Give New Writers Advice, I’d Start With…

I’ll cut to the chase:

1. READ, READ, READ – You learn from the great writers. For dialogue I learned from Hemingway, figurative language from Richard Wright & to name a contemporary author, Janet Fitch. The point is that certain authors have certain strengths & you can learn from them by reading, from Shakespeare to The Odyssey to Zora Neale Hurston. READ!

2. WRITE, WRITE, WRITE – I have observed many writers focusing on marketing, discussions on social media about writing, illustrations, maps, plot synopsis (over & over again) – just write the book already. Write it without continuously editing it as you write (even I have trouble with this). Get it out of you, then worry about other things. Marketing is meaningless if you wrote & published a crappy book.

3. Find a great, supportive but honest critique group. Develop thick skin. If you put out a sample chapter for people to read be ready for any level of criticism. Do you want people to lie to you & pat you on the back or help you make it better? Decide. If you want the lie, please don’t ever ask me to critique your work. Also, give & take in critique groups. In other words, you should not be receiving more critiques than you give. It should be balanced.  Nothing annoys me more in critique groups than members who always want others to read/critique their work but never do the same for others.  The basic Golden Rule principle comes to mind here. Scribophile is a wonderful site for having your excerpts critiqued because they work on a karma point system & you can’t present your work to others unless you first gain karma points by helping other writers first.

4. DO NOT under ANY circumstances, publish a book that has only been edited by you, no matter how good you think you are. You’ll never catch all of your own errors.Some editors don’t catch every single error. Hire a good editor who is able to give you references & is familiar with your genre. It is my personal opinion that editing speculative fiction (for example) is different from other genres, so I advise getting an editor who has worked with authors in the genre you are writing in. Everyone may not agree with that and yet, the world turns. Don’t go for the “full editorial services for $99-$199” type of people – no serious, credible editor will edit an entire manuscript for so little money because it’s not worth their time – it’s a scam that too many writers fall for. Real editors don’t troll & spam potential clients to the point of ad nauseam, clients come to them.For those cheap prices, they’ll do little more than a spell check, which you can do yourself.

5. If you don’t have the money to pay for editing, wait until you do to publish the book or present it to literary agents and/or publishers. The same can be applied to self-publishing.Now some will disagree with that, citing the fact that an agent or publisher could see potential & offer a contract, even if the manuscript is not perfect. While they might have a point, I say, if you care about your work, you invest in it to polish it as if you only have one shot. If you are in the one percent of querying writers whose partial and/or full manuscript is requested (keywords: one percent), it needs to be error free as much as possible.  Why would an agent or publisher choose your story with errors when Jane Doe submitted a story in the same genre with an equally compelling plot & proper editing? You are competing with every other writer for the coveted 1%. It amazes me how many writers think that if they just put the book out there without professional editing (usually for .99) it will catch on. They think it will sell enough copies to pay for the editing for the sequel or make them rich. Shullbit. Amanda Hocking’s story is rare & most .99 books don’t turn writers into millionaires. Most regularly priced books don’t turn writers into millionaires.Get an extra job, ask your family for the money, sell an egg…or sperm, start cutting grass for $$$. Don’t sell crystal meth in a basement lab in your home. Or, do what I did – I raised money via Indiegogo. Fellow writer Dianne Gardner is doing the same via Kickstarter now. It’s worth the wait.

I’ll be back next week with more advice for writers.

#myrantfortheday

Consevative blogger Talitha McEachin

Talitha “TK” McEachin

TK McEachin is a political/cultural blogger and up & coming writer of fiction. Her first novel, THE ELEMENTS is the first in an epic fantasy series.To learn more about her fictional projects visit www.theelementsbooks.com. You may donate to her campaign on the home page as well, if you missed the deadline for her fundraising campaign.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2013 in Fictional Writing

 

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Toni Morrison Becomes the 1st Author to Host a Digital Book Signing

Toni MorrisonToni Morrison once again makes history, this time as being the first author to host a digital book signing via Google Hangout. She is the author of novels such as The Bluest Eye, BelovedJazz and many others, including her newest book, Home. The award winning author has received such honors as the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the coveted Nobel Prize for Literature. Additionally, she is currently the last American to date, to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Ms. Morrison was live from the New York Google office to talk with fans about her latest novel, Home. Her latest novel tells the story of Frank Money, a 24-year-old African-American veteran of the Korean War, and his journey home a year after being discharged from an integrated Army, into a segregated homeland. A few lucky fans got the privilege of speaking directly with the author via live video streaming, asking a question they submit ahead of time, selected by Google. The questions were wonderful and her answers even better. I especially liked the question regarding banned books of hers. Ms. Morrison also literally digitally signed the e-books of those who joined her on the panel using the Google technology. It was a delight to see her & hear her poignant answers to questions. I look forward to seeing more authors using this technology via the Google Hangout. Here is the video (the event lasted only 23 minutes) if you missed it:

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Fictional Writing

 

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Writing: Author Dianne Gardner on “Magic” in Fiction

Dragon ShieldMagic!
Fantasy stories have magic and so do mine.
But what exactly is magic?

Dictionary definitions
the art of producing illusions as entertainment by the use of sleight of hand, deceptive devices, etc.;legerdemain; conjuring: to pull a rabbit out of a hat by magic.

OR

the art of producing a desired effect or result through the use of incantation or various other techniques that presumably assure human control of supernatural agencies or the forces of nature. Compare contagious magic, imitative magic, sympathetic magic. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/magic?s=t
Human control of supernatural agencies or forces of nature…exactly what the Dragon Shield does for its bearers. If you’ve read my short stories A Tale of the Four Wizards, especially about the Wizard Kaempie, you know that the young conjurer gave up certain powers that he possessed to The Northern Winds as a sacrifice so that the wicked queen Hacatine, who had been seeking to strip him of his power, could not destroy the peoples of the Realm.

Say’s the young conjurer,

If I relinquish my magic to the one force that she cannot conquer, then she’ll never possess it. Never. It will always work against her. –Kaempie A Tale of the Four Wizards

The Wind, being a power of great good, used Kaempie’s contribution to create The Songs of Wisdom. It’s these songs that the children sing which activates the power of the Dragon Shield.

It’s not something the tribal people learn overnight. They must experience some tragic mistakes, sit down and listen to the elders, and accept their people’s tradition before they can take advantage of the benefits of this magic.

In the Dragon Shield, Ian finds himself in the midst of that learning curve, and he too becomes wiser for it.

Where did I get all this besides from my insanely busy imagination?

Well, I don’t really like to think about my stories as being allegories. But on the other hand, I’m a Christian and I believe in a loving Creator that gave mankind a redeeming power (his Son) that, when called on, can save him from any evil the devil (or the world) would thrust at us.

So the Songs of Wisdom and the melody of the Dragon Shield, which is sung by innocent children, creates an aura that keep darkness at bay, and has the power to heal.

Magic, yes. But it could, if you’re looking for it, speak of something more phenomenal.

Dgardner

 

 

 

 
The second installment of the Ian’s Realm Saga The Dragon Shield expounds on the magic of the Realm. For readers wanting to know more, the short stories The Dragon Shield shows us how the native people use that magic as a form of protection.

 

Follow Dianne Gardner on her website & throughout social media:

Publisher’s website: http://www.hydrapublications.com/shop/deception-peak/

Official book blog: http://dragontargeseries.blogspot.com/

Dragon Shield Trailer 

website http://gardnersart.com

Facebook :Dianne Gardner

Twitter @DianneGardner

Author Central on Amazon

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2013 in Featured Guest blogs, Fictional Writing

 

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J.K. Rowling Enters Adult Fiction: The “Type-Casting” Has Begun

J.K. Rowling Enters Adult Fiction: The “Type-Casting” Has Begun

It’s no secret to those who know me that I am not a huge fan of the Harry Potter novels. I have all of them except the last two on my shelf but couldn’t/didn’t read past Book II. Since so many hailed the novels as children’s books that adults can enjoy too, I decided to give them a read years ago,because I love the fantasy genre so much. Then later after the first couple of movies I decided to watch the first, I fell asleep. That was the end of my effort to try and like Harry Potter. Needless to say, if the novels encourage reading in children, that alone is reason enough to throw some admiration JK Rowling’s way. So yesterday, JK Rowling enters the adult fiction genre with her latest book, The Casual Vacancy. I am going to read it so I can write a review and since I was never a fan of the Harry Potter books, I might actually like this one, we’ll see. After reading all of the “professional critics” reviews I must agree with a person who criticized the critics in the comments section of a blog saying:

“These reviewers have just made themselves look stupid. I imagine a 10-year-old HP fan would would have a similar reaction. “Where is Harry? What about Dumbledore?” They are professional critics who should be reviewing the book for what it is, not what it isn’t.”
Some of the reviews include:
“And forget trying to find a ­character resembling Harry or Hermione.” —Henry Sutton, the Mirror

“It’s that the characters in The Casual Vacancy feel so much less fully imagined than the ones in the Harry Potter epic.” —Michiko Kakutani, the New YorkTimes
 
“Harry Potter fans may long for a few more unicorns, though.” —David Sexton, the Evening Standard
I may not have liked the Harry Potter books that I read (or movies I attempted to watch) but at least I have the sense enough to start reading it knowing full well that it’s not a children’s book & that it is in no any way related to Harry Potter. Surely, the famed, erudite book critics of the New York TimesLA Times or  New York Daily News received the memo that The Casual Vacancy  was not Harry Potter Book VIII, right? What were these reviewers thinking?  Many of the reviews are simply unfair. This book has to be read with a fresh set of unbiased, non- Harry Potter spectacles and evaluated on it’s own merits. If the writing is dull or characters under or over developed fine but references to the Harry Potter world are ludicrous. I can completely understand those who simply don’t like this book, for reasons unrelated to the Harry Potter series, but when I see reviews replete with statements about hogwarts, magic & wizards it’s more than disappointing from a professional reviewer. You just can’t compare The Casual Vacancy to Harry Potter because there is no comparison. Last I checked…that’s called comparing apples & oranges. Now obviously, this is not the case for every review, but many of them have this bias. I’m going to read this new adult novel from J.K. Rowling, but you better believe, that if I don’t like it, it will be simply because it’s not a good book, not because a lingering  nostalgia & appetite left over from Harry Potter needs to be fed. Ijs…
 
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Posted by on September 28, 2012 in Fictional Writing, In The News, Pop Culture

 

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Introduction to The Elements

Introduction to The Elements

Some of you who have only followed my political & social writings may not know this, but I am writing a fictional (fantasy) series consisting of four books (so far that’s the plan) entitled The Elements. I started writing it in 2003 and Book I is due for publication in early 2013. When Kgosi, ruler of the Kishnu people refuses to halt his invasion of the neighboring villages of the Lungi people, and Nkosana, ruler of the Lungi people has ordered an act which unintentionally offends a foe that neither ruler could possibly defeat, Baba, the elder Kishnu sangoma or diviner takes drastic measures to preserve both indigenous tribes of the Earth.

The Elements is a story that takes place millions of years ago on Nchiyamolekuli or as we call it in modern times, Pangea, the massive land mass on earth before the division into seven continents. After a major battle in which many lives are lost and the environment is devastated, Baba, the wisest and most trusted adviser to King Kgosi, first exhausts diplomatic means then urges both rulers to leave their lands to seek refuge elsewhere. Baba has learned that the angered foe is Paytah, leader of the Nootau – One of the four elements (Earth-the Onatahi, Wind-the Makani, Water-the Iscindri & Fire-the Nootau) who live within their respective elements on the Earth and at times among the people disguised as human.

After months of failed crops and fishing expeditions do not produce enough food for the people on both sides; they are forced to follow Baba’s recommendation to leave for Kisiwachamani, a large distant island whose indigenous people may be helpful in supplying the people with food as well as medicine and shelter. In both the Kishnu and Lungi mythology, the island and the body of water between it and Nchiyamolekuli is the resting place for all souls before they are judged and returned to this life through the womb of a woman or animal, depending on their favor or lack of it with the ancestors. Warnings not to go into the waters or visit the island have been passed down for generations but; with the barrenness of their lands and the danger of attack from the Nootau known only to Baba, they are left with no choice.Once there, the Mwilimmoja – the island’s only inhabitants led by Nangaza and his wife Ina, agree to aid the Kishnu and Lungi. They only require that the Kishnu and Lungi follow their strict dietary laws and agree to be “prepared”. Nangaza explains that this involves drinking ugolo, a fermented beverage made from the forbidden waters, which will remove all illnesses from the people, thereby preventing the spread of illness to the island’s inhabitants. This is only partially true as the “preparation”also links all of the Lungi & Kishnu people physically in a symbiotic manner causing everything done by individuals to affect the whole population, regardless of their tribes. The Mwilimmoja after hearing about the war from Baba, which drove the people to the island in the first place, unanimously decide this must be done as they have done to themselves for centuries to prevent violent wars and maintain a peaceful society.The two kings and their people are so desperate that they agree without question, not having full knowledge of what preparation really is, nor the freedom or bondage that comes along with it. In Book I we follow this story from the invasion of Lungizwe, the main village of the Lungi, by the Kishnu, to the initial encounter with the Mwilimmoja of Kisiwachamani.

As I approach the publication date I will be posting updates and excerpts from Book I of my series. The irony is that I started writing fiction long before I started writing about the current political climate, from a Conservative Libertarian perspective, so it’s my first love. Writing & Reading great fiction is a passion of mine and I look forward to introducing you all, as well as the entire world with this beautiful story about peace & human nature. Please feel free to send me your name as well as your email address to be added to my mailing list for The Elements here.
From The Elements Book I Copyright 2012 All Rights Reserved
 
 

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