My Top Four Favorite Fantasy Authors

I like to make lists. Here are my top four favorite fantasy authors. You may notice that two are young adult authors and two are classic fantasy authors from the mid 1900s. It’s funny that they’re so different, but I love their fiction equally!

JK Rowling

The Harry Potter series will probably always be my favorite series. Sometimes I read the earlier books and see a lot of the things that we as writers are warned against (adverbs galore, dialogue tags other than ‘said’, telling instead of showing), and it is really interesting to see how her writing progressed through the series. These seven books showcase amazing plotting, characterization, and setting. She weaves together magic, humor, lovable characters, and themes such as courage, loyalty, and love into a truly remarkable series. This series is the main reason I am the writer and reader I am today.

Samantha Young

Samantha Young writes a variety of YA/Paranormal/Urban Fantasy books. Her books are addicting! She has interesting, unique plots with lots of romantic tension, great character building, and a good dose of humor. She’s an author I’ve discovered only in the last few years, so she’s the newest of this list.

JRR Tolkien

I’m sure you’ve heard of this author 😉 I’ll be honest: I’ve only read the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, so I don’t have much experience with his other works. But those four books are full of imaginative world-building and epic plots. I love his sense of humor and how much detail he put into his creative worlds. These are books I read after seeing the movie (except for the third book — I read that one before the third movie came out), and I seriously love both forms of the story.

CS Lewis

The Chronicles of Narnia are some of the earliest fantasy books I remember reading. I got my very own set when I was really young (same as the picture! I love the art), and I read them to my sister before we went to bed. We watched the old BBC version and eagerly awaited the new ones. My favorite of the series is the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but the movie was just all right (to me). I loved the first two, though. This series is so great, though. Nostalgic, imaginative, plus I love the religious allegories. Again, they’re the only fantasy works I’ve read by Lewis, so I can’t judge his Space Trilogy or other works.

Four might seem like a strange number, but honestly, I had five but I couldn’t decide on the fifth author. Susan Bischoff, Brigid Kemmerer, Kelley Armstrong, Michael Sullivan, Walter Moers — they all tied and I seriously couldn’t choose. So I decided to go with four since they are definitely my TOP four. They’ve influenced my reading habits, my own writing, and in some cases, my life.

So, reader, who are your top four fantasy authors? Or top five or ten or twenty?

What Do Writers Want?

Tami did a post last week she called “What Do Readers Want?” and it got me to thinking about the other side of the coin: What Do Writers Want?

I’m not talking about a spot on the best sellers list, fame and fortune, etc.; that goes without saying. No, the gist of Tami’s post was what does a reader want from a writer? What are their expectations? I did a post a little while back about one of the things writers want from readers: reviews. If you liked what you read, leave a review so other readers can find us, too. But there’s more. With independent electronic publishing, the chasm between the writer and the reader has become more of an easily crossed ditch. Readers have the unprecedented ability to reach out and connect with their favourite author like never before. I couldn’t have imagined dropping Stephen King a line after being blown away by Cujo or The Shining, much less letting him know how disappointed I was with Tommyknockers (sorry, Mr. King, you should have edited that sucker down considerably).

I’ve gotten some great reviews for my novels, but every once in a while, someone reaches out on Facebook, or Twitter, or sends a personal email. That’s special. And it’s wanted. One of the ways we can improve as writers is by getting feedback from the people who are reading our books. A friend of mine who lives in Mexico is currently reading On Unfaithful Wings, and she messaged me on Facebook to let me know she had found a typo on page 28. The beautiful thing is, I can correct it, re-upload it, and no one else will be the wiser. Chances are good that, if a misspelled word got by Stephen King’s editors, they weren’t going to run around to all the bookstores with a bottle of liquid paper and make the corrections.

And do you realize you can potentially have some input into how a series goes? Mega-selling indie author John Locke claims he dropped a whole storyline from his series because of negative reader feedback. How’s that for power?

Every writer starts out writing for themselves, but as soon as we start to publish, it’s not just about us anymore. It’s about you, dear reader. You are the one that is going to spend you’re hard-earned $3.99 to pick up my latest book, so don’t be afraid to let me know what you think, how you feel. Tell me if there is a typo; let me know if the formatting goes wonky somewhere.

Just be gentle and don’t get personal…I am a sensitive writer, after all.

Bruce Blake is the author of On Unfaithful Wings and All Who Wander Are Lost, the first two Icarus Fell novels. His next release will be Blood of the King, the first book in the Khirro’s Journey epic fantasy due in September.

Find Bruce on Facebook, on Twitter, or drop him an email at bruceblake@hotmail.ca.

Fairytales, Myths and Magic

I’ve always felt like I have karmic luck. For every bit of sunshine, there is usually an equal dose of rain, and vice versa. That’s why I think that out of one of the worst things that ever happened to me, a horrible car accident, came one of the best things, my first inspiration to write.

 
It really was a terrible accident. I’m lucky to be able to walk, I’m lucky to be able to think and do things for myself, and I’m damn lucky to be alive. I experienced some pretty serious head trauma that damaged the part of my brain responsible for motor skills and forced me to learn how to walk again, along with a wedged backbone that made walking more difficult. While trapped in the hospital and later recuperating at home, reading became my best friend, and everyone knows that the most eager writers were at one point in time the most eager readers.

The stories I preferred when I was trapped in my solitude were the most otherworldly, the ones that allowed more of an escape from my mundane world. Along with a British book with stories about garden fairies, I had a giant green book of fairytales that I read from cover to cover – my first introduction to fantasy and one that planted the seed that made me want to write it. It wasn’t just the dragons, giants, unicorns, wizards or witches that captured my imagination, but the premise of the underdog aspiring against all odds and overcoming them. Considering the battle I faced at the time, I needed something that would help me believe that I would overcome my own challenges someday. I always remember being fairly resilient, and I think that’s where it all began.

As I got older, I managed to eventually return to a more normal way of life, but after finding myself outside of my peer group for so long, it was hard to get back in. I still had a crookedness to my walk and had gained weight because of my lack of mobility (I still can’t participate in high impact sports without causing myself great pain.) This, along with my shyness, played fodder for the bullies, and they gave me a new reason to want to escape.

 
While looking for more fairytales, I stumbled across a book of Greek and Roman myths, with some Arabian mythology as well. This was even better than the fairytales, exploring much more of the human condition through the exaggerated acts of the gods. I was hooked. I read everything mythological I could get my hands on, and delved into other cultures: Norse, Egyptian, North American Native, South and Central American, African, and Celtic. I couldn’t get enough of it.

 
With both the fairytales and the myths, I always enjoyed the darker stories the most. I found them cathartic. I was also sucked in by grimmer children’s books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (which I read many times over) and other Roald Dahl novels. I think that’s why I usually lean towards dark fantasy myself. It’s what intrigues me.

 When I finally moved on to adult books, graduating with YA books like Tuck Everlasting, I sourced out my parents bookshelves first. My Mom was not a fantasy fan, but she did have The Lord of the Rings, some Anne McCaffery and a selection of Richard Adams books. Those served as a stepping stone to the adult fantasy section of the local library and I immersed myself in Jack L. Chalker, Tad Williams, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Piers Anthony, Tanith Lee, Guy Gavriel Kay and a myriad of other great fantasy writers. I was definitely addicted to the magic of it all.

This is why, even though I love writing and reading horror and have had several horror stories published, I still consider myself first and foremost a fantasy writer. The inspiration was definitely there, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not grateful for it.

With Apologies…Liked it? Review it!

Okay, I have to admit it. I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this, but desperate times beget desperate measures. I accept 100% of the responsibility; I’ve been a bit behind over the past few weeks with the launch of the new book and a free promo on the old one. I wasn’t paying as close attention as I should have been. And so it was at 10:17pm on Wed., July 25, I noticed the blog post due to go up in precisely one hour and forty-four minutes wasn’t in the queue.

Normally, I’d just whip off a new, original post, but my day started at 6am and isn’t quite over yet. So I’m copping out and stealing an old post from my personal blog. If you’ve already read it, I apologize. If you haven’t seen it before…forget everything you just read.

Me looking shame-faced at my oversight

Making decisions is something most of us don’t relish. I’m not talking about the big decisions here — buying a house or car, getting married, moving, having children (not always a decision!) — I’m talking about the little things. We’ve all had this conversation while driving or walking along with our significant other:

“Where do you want to eat?”

“I don’t know. Where do you want to eat?”

“I’m not sure. You pick.”

“I picked last time. It’s your turn.”

“No. I chose the last restaurant. You pick.”

“No, you.”

“No, you.”

Sometimes a squabble ensues; often the decision ends up being the same old place you always go, or nowhere at all. But how much does that discussion change if one of you read a restaurant review in the local paper?

“Where do you want to eat?”

“I just read a review of this place, ‘Joe’s Eats’. The reviewer said it was good. Let’s try that.”

“Okay.”

Much easier, right? You could substitute choosing a movie, going to see a band, or a host of other similar situations and the conversation remains essentially the same. The problem is that we don’t want to take responsiblity for a choice and end up disappointed. Then it’s our fault. But if the reviewer or a friend told you it was good, and it turns out they were wrong, you have someone else to blame.

Here’s another example.

In my family, we don’t have cable (by choice — there’s too much time-wasting, soul-destroying crap on TV) and we used to spend a lot of money renting DVDs every month (probably more than we would have spent on cable). When Netflix came along, we remedied that situation. How is that an example? Those of you who follow my blog will remember I am Canadian, and our version of Netflix has had some problems with different studios. While I can watch Thor or Transformers 3, I went looking for Blade Runner the other day and it wasn’t there. Given the lack of selection, we are left with one way to sort through the myriad of movies we often have never heard of: the star ratings. We don’t know who rated them, but that doesn’t matter. It gives us a guide as well as an out. If we start watching a movie and it’s crap, we can still say, ‘but it had a 4.5 star rating. It’s not my fault!’ (we tend to avoid most rated less than 4 stars). More often, we discover hidden gems we would otherwise never have known about because other people who watched and enjoyed took the time to make sure we knew it was worth it.

See where I’m going?

There are literally millions of books available through Amazon. Suzanne Collins, Stephen King, James Patterson, etc., have no problem finding readers, because the readers will go looking for them. But why, with all those books to choose from, would someone in Montreal, or Dallas, or Albuquerque, bother to buy a book by some guy named Bruce Blake (insert your name here, indie authors) who they’ve never heard of?

“Well, it’s urban fantasy, I like urban fantasy — that’s good. But it’s self-published, and the last self-published book I bought was crap. But it’s only $2.99, that’s not too bad. At least if it sucks, I didn’t waste too much money. ‘On Unfaithful Wings’? Interesting title. Kind of a cool looking cover. Geez, I’m not sure; I’ve already got so many books on my Kindle. I should just get it. No, I shouldn’t. Yes, I should. No, I– Oh wait, it’s rated 4.6 stars. That’s pretty good. Hmm. Oh, what the hell. I’ll take a chance.”

Click.

Thank you.

The moral of the story is, gentle readers, if you liked it, leave a review. Let others know how much you enjoyed it. I’m not talking about ‘The Hunger Games’ here — Ms. Collins already has almost 6000 reviews on Kindle (and a movie, which doesn’t hurt sales). I’m talking about myself and all the other independent authors out there who need your help: the ones you know and got their book as a favour (see? Canadian!), the ones you picked up free during a promo, the ones you bought (usually for $3.99 or less). Don’t be nervous — no one’s expecting Ernest Hemingway to write the review. If all you’ve got is “I liked the book. You should read it”, that’ll do. I would love to have that review.

And, if I may speak on behalf of independent authors everywhere: thank you from the bottom of my heart, not only for buying my book and taking the time out of your busy life to read it (who has time for reading when it takes so long to choose a restaurant?), but also for caring enough to let other people know how much you liked it.

Thank you. Now go review someone’s book.