Location, Location…or Things That Never Happened in America

•September 14, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Dunkeld CathedralAs a fantasy writer I like to think that I have an active imagination, yet I find the value of first-hand experience immeasurable. I’ve climbed mountains and forded streams, swam glacial lakes, hiked through ancient forests, narrow gorges, mountain passes and napped in alpine meadows. I’ve shot a bow, swung a sword and thrown an axe, camped in snow, started fires with flint and steel, sailed, canoed and rode (horses) – all in America.

The USA is rich in geological diversity and if you are adventurous enough to seek them out, nature’s gems are not hard to find. I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy many of the experiences I write into my stories, however, despite the wealth of environmental references there is a dearth of urban ones.

Fate conspired to bring me to Edinburgh, Scotland seven years ago, and I’ll be damned if there isn’t a castle right in the centre of town! Not only in Scotland – although I am spoiled for choice here – but the entire UK is awash with the very inspirational sites and ruins that fired the imaginations of every medieval romanticist and revivalist of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

Case-in-point: yesterday, my wife and I hopped a train up to Dunkeld, a town about two hours north of Edinburgh. The small town is a treasure trove of resources, from the ruined cathedral (pictured) to the ancient forest of the Hermitage and beautiful bridge built by Thomas Telford.

My current book is set in a fictionalised Dunkeld, and with so many real-life references, all that is needed is a dash of imagination and the story emerges in vivid detail. This is something that could not happen in America – the country of my birth is too young. As a fantasy author I count myself fortunate to have access to such a wealth of reference material, but all of this is nothing without writing talent – and that is something for readers to judge. If nothing else, at least I’ve shared the experiences of my characters. Now, if I can only find myself an elf…

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The Price of Success

•September 2, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The Eye of the WorldDo you like Robert Jordan‘s Wheel of Time series? I do…to a point…and it highlights a common problem I find in fantasy fiction.

I loved the first three books of the series – they were great, and Jordan pulled out all the stops for the genre. It was like he’d taken a little bit of every element – mythology, gaming, popular fantasy culture, cinema – and piled them into a truly intriguing storyline.

The first book was great, although I was disappointed that by the end we only killed the boss from level one. But hey, there were thirteen more to go – bosses not books! Book two was good and held my attention firmly in place. On book three I started to lag and asked myself, ‘Will this never end?’ The answer was ‘No’. Book four really irritated me and it was apparent that the editors adopted a ‘hands off’ attitude because the writing had become repetitive. Every time a character was mentioned, they would perform the same two-dimensional series of mannerisms and express their previously scripted emotional outbursts. The books at this point could have been cut by a third, trimming the fat of extraneous prose, but Jordan had become too successful.

It’s a shame, because art is subjective. I’ve found several best-sellers to be boring as all get-out, and many pulp novels to be amazing. Creatives often do their best work when being pushed – it gives them something to react to or rebel against. Art created in a vacuum is nothing more than a big creative wank.

After the root canal of book four I stopped reading the series. A few years passed and I thought I’d give it another go – maybe I’m in another place and it’s not as bad as I remembered. Book five annoyed me immediately. All of my previous frustrations as a reader instantly surfaced, but I read on, hoping that book six would prove different. There was enough in the books to pique my interest, but I should have known better. After book three, I dubbed the series the ‘Neverending Story’, and it was then that I should have stopped reading. Instead, it took me until book six. Fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice, shame on me – fool me six times, what the hell is the matter with me?

I know that there are a lot of die-hard Robert Jordan fans out there, so what do you think? Am I way off base here, or do you feel the same way? I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Go ahead. give me a bell.

Edinburgh International Book Festival

•September 1, 2009 • Leave a Comment

EIBF_colour_logo2A book-lovers’ paradise, the Edinburgh International Book Festival is the the place to have a coffee, get a book signed, oh yeah, and see an author speak about their work.

Despite Scotland’s appalling summer weather, it is the ideal place to ruminate and be a sponge. If you love books – genre not withstanding – and you’ve never been, then you are missing out on one of life’s true pleasures.

On my last visit, I attended the workshop Fight for your Rights – an hour of sound advice, administered by prolific author Nicola Morgan and chaired by publisher Keith Charters from Strident Publishing Ltd. What followed was a pleathora of information for authors without agents.

Let’s face it, getting an agent is not easy – especailly if you write non-fiction – but there is help out there! The Society of Authors is a great resource if you’ve been published or have a contract in the works. They will help you (after you become a member of course) avoid being taken advantage of in the whole contract negotiation process. They will ‘vet’ your agreement. How cool is that?!? Also, Nicola created a blog about getting published and getting an agent: www.need2bpublished.blogspot.com.

She also briefly discussed copyright. She is not a lawyer, but she pointed out a great website that helps you sort it out. Creative Commons is a website that allows you to create the correct legal language for your needs. It is especially helpful if you have a blog, where most of us are vulnerable. The only reason I haven’t included it on my page is because I’m too lame to figure out how to alter the html for my site. Check it out, I know you will find it useful.

Good luck and happy hunting.

Diablo III…oooooo!

•August 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment

diablo3aThe music…it’s folk, yet modern and vaguely macabre – somewhere between TerraFolk and Nine Inch Nails. The images are rich…and full of Hellspawn and cleavers. Just thinking about the game sends a shiver down my spine. I’ve played it on several different computers that could not cope with the meagre system requirements. Mac and PC, they always seemed to crash at some point but I keep coming back.

Now the third installment is on the horizon and I can’t help myself. I tremble in anticipation and giggle and titter like a little girl with every viewing of the phenomenal cinematic trailer. Will it meet expectations or exceed them? If the tailer were for a film, I would be camping out in line, days in advance, irritating the legitemate business owners flanking the cinema with my unwashed pressence.

In the immortal words of Ray Kinsella, ‘If you build it they will come.’ So please build faster, Blizzard, because I can hardly wait. Maybe my computer spec will be up to scratch this time. If not, then what better reason to get a new one?

RPG vs MMORPG

•August 26, 2009 • 1 Comment

logosThis has been a long standing head-scratcher for me – which is better, RPG or MMORPG? In short, do I prefer to play alone or with others? Laugh all you want, but I can’t seem to make up my mind.

I’ll admit my general ignorance at presuming that World of Warcraft was an online version of the real-time strategy game I learned to hate, but when I discovered that you were actually a single character immersed in a world with like-minded gamers, well, it was D&D all over again! It did Neverwinter Nights one step better, however with one caveat – subscription fees.

I’m a cheap bastard, plain and simple. I’m the guy who waits for all of the hype to die down after a new game release, then goes and buys it for the discounted pseudo-gouging price. I love games and will play them several times as good, evil and neutral characters in different genders, races and classes (although I always seem to settle on Female Rangers – I don’t know why, ask my shrink). I relish in the hours of game play and the subtle nuances of the different approaches and will play them obsessively for a month and then forget about them for three more.

It is this last point that makes it hard for me to swallow the concept of subscription fees. If it were set up to log time spent in game-play rather than paying for a calendar month, I might get on board. Hell, maybe it does and I’m speaking out of my O-ring, but I’m not going to sign up for a month’s worth of a game time that I’ll spend a few hours a week playing.

What’s your opinion? Are MMORPGs worth the dough, or am I just being a curmudgeonly old git? If you love them, tell me why. Please. I want to like them, they are so pretty and have all of that nice animation – Game-on!

The Belgariad, a true masterpiece

•August 24, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Pawn of ProphecyI was fourteen when Pawn of Propecy by David Eddings, the first book in the Belgariad, arrived on bookshelves. The cover art was appealing (good start), it contained maps (a must for me), and it was the first in a series. What more could I want? Also, the final book in the series, Enchanters’ End Game, was published only two short years later – incredible!

In those two years, David Eddings gave us a masterpiece. The Belgariad is a truly iconic work. I forgave Eddings’ occasional sentimental and cheesy prose, because he somehow makes it work and the overall story arc is a gripping tale of farm boy Garion, growing up with blinders on. Eddings’ reminds us males what it’s like to be a boy again.

Rich in characters, gods and magic, the books take us on a journey through foreign lands, often familiar and frightening, and keeps a steady pace that never lags. This is quite an impressive accomplishment considering the series contains five books.

The Belgariad is a must-read for any fan of fantasy – your experience with the genre will simply not be complete otherwise.

Let’s start at the beginning

•August 23, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The Bane of the Black Sword

Hello all, and welcome to Oblivion Rising, a blog for all things having to do with the fantasy genre.

We all have a book that started us off as lovers of fantasy and my lightening bolt was The Bane of the Black Sword by Michael Moorcock. As a child, I literally hated reading before I picked up this book, and it was a fitting introduction to the spectacular world of fantasy fiction. I tore through the pages, my mind afire with images and landscapesnever before experienced. Imagine my unadulterated pleasure at discovering five more books in the series!

After the whirlwind of the Elric series, there was no looking back. I’ll admit it – I was…am an addict.

I present this site as a writer, reader and overall lover of the genre. Let it be the common room where we gather, share an ale or three and regail each other with amusing anecdotes of the best damned genre fiction has to offer!