Words With Whit McClendon, author of "Mage's Burden"

Tell us a little about yourself. 

I am 45 years old, was born on Halloween, and grew up in Angleton, Texas. I now live in Katy, Tx with my wife and son and two ridiculous pugs. I started training in Kung Fu when I was 12 and, after surviving several years as a CAD drafter in the petrochemical industry, now own and run Jade Mountain Martial Arts here in Katy. I also play lacrosse and enjoy running Tough Mudders. Hey, it’s fun stuff!

Tell us about your books.

Mage’s Burden is the first in a heroic fantasy trilogy. When the evil sorcerer, Mordak, escapes, it is up to Brunar the Mage to gather the Guardians and oppose him. Using the ancient magick of the Jidaan, six powerful spear-like weapons, Brunar must find the men and women who are uniquely bound to each weapon, and train them to use their extraordinary powers to defeat the vile wizard. Not all of the Guardians accept their destiny, and Mage’s Burden tells of Brunar’s struggle to prepare his students for battle, and of the rise to power of the evil Mordak.

What are your influences in the fantasy genre? 

Dennis L. McKiernan is my favorite fantasy author, hands down. I really love the atmosphere, culture, and characters that make up his world. David Gemmell is also a favorite of mine, he has such heroic characters, and has a gritty, rough way with fantasy that brings a certain realism to otherwise fantastic stories.

Please give us your views on the influence of fantasy in modern society? 

I think that fantasy is simply another way to tell archetypal stories that inspire. Larger than life characters can often be great motivators, and the stories can lend insight to any number of real life situations.

Do you think fantasy still has lessons to teach us about who we are and the human condition?

Absolutely. I think it’s a fabulous medium for lots of commentary on such things.

Tell us your views on authors using violence and/or sex in their writing?

Every fantasy I’ve ever read has violence throughout. It seems like the story doesn’t really get started until someone ends up with a sword in his guts. Some authors are more explicit than others in the descriptions, and that’s their choice, their expression of their story. Folks are free to like it or not. Explicit sex isn’t nearly as prevalent in the stories I’ve read. It’s more often implied rather than clearly detailed, but it’s there as well.

Is this part of the heroic tradition in your view

Oh, I think so. Violence and sex are part of life, and heroic fantasies are bigger-than-life, so it’s no surprise to me to see those topics explored in the stories.

What are your definitions of a ‘hero’? 

A hero is someone who puts the welfare of others before their own well-being, especially in the face of certain danger.

Do you use ‘anti-heroes’ in your books? 

I actually hadn’t planned to, but ended up with one, nonetheless. He just showed up that way, and I was hard-pressed to like the guy for a long time.

Who is your favorite fantasy/mythic hero? 

 McKiernan’s Aravan and Gemmell’s Druss the Legend.

Why do you think fantasy continues to be so popular? 

Well, because it’s awesome! It’s easy to get bogged down in the everyday grind and feel oppressed by the mundane world. Fantasy is an antidote to that weariness. It can be scary, funny, exciting, and inspiring, and can awaken the imagination like few other kinds of literature can.

Tell us about one (or more) of your fantasy characters - what makes him or her different/important/heroic? 

Brunar is the noble Mage, leader of the Guardians. Over 2000 years old, he is the wise and powerful teacher to the six newly Chosen warriors. Though he is well-versed in magick, as one would expect, he is also highly skilled in physical combat. His entire life is devoted to the defense of the Realm. And he’s an amazing dancer.

What fantasy creatures/races do you use in your worlds? 

Humans, Weya (elvish folk), Augenan (massive, intelligent gorillas), Gholans (vicious, goblin-like creatures), and Krell, (cannibalistic humanoids) make up the bulk of the people in Talwynn.

Why did you choose these? 

To be honest, I didn’t exactly choose these. They simply showed up in the story as I was writing. I “see” parts of the story and then figure out who and what is involved afterward.

How much research do you do for your books? What sources do you prefer? 

 I don’t have any special “go-to” references, if I need to find something that needs some back-up information, I scour the internet until I’m reasonably certain I’ve found what works for me.

Apart from fantasy what do you like to read? 

I really enjoy Dean Koontz paranormal thrillers, Lincoln and Child’s Pendergast series, and Robert B. Parker detective stories.

What was the last book you read and what did you think of it? 

I recently read the Drenai series from David Gemmell and loved it. I read it long ago, and thoroughly enjoyed revisiting that world and seeing those characters fighting their way through their challenges.

Can you remember the first fantasy book you ever read? 

 I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was 12, and that started everything for me. I wrote of that reading in my journal at the time, and I was quite taken with it.

Do you watch fantasy films/play fantasy based PC games? Do you think these reflect the fantasy genre adequately? 

I don’t play PC games, but love fantasy films. Peter Jackson’s work on the Lord of the Rings was amazing. I think fantasy books are so much more rich and detailed, but special effects these days have really brought some great things to life.

Tell us about how you promote your work. Which strategies do you find useful? Which do you think are least effective? 

 I’m pretty new at the marketing aspect, having only published my book this month. I’ve been posting on my personal Facebook page and on another that I created strictly for the book series, as well as on my personal blog. I’m still learning on the job as far as getting my work out there goes.

What are your opinions on authors commenting on reviews? 

To be honest, I haven’t thought about it. I likely won’t comment on reviews on sites like Amazon, just because nothing I would say would really matter. Some folks will give honest reviews, some won’t. Some will be hugely positive, others will say that my work is junk. There’s no sense in arguing against a bad review when it’s just the opinion of one person, and I’m happy to let good reviews stand on their own.

Do you have any advice for other writers? 

Don’t be afraid, just write. Write a ton, then go back and edit it later. Just get a lot of words on the page, let it flow, THEN go back and work on it. When you think it’s looking good, READ IT ALOUD. The mistakes that turn up during that part of the process will surprise you, and then you can fix them.

Thanks for the interview!  You can learn more about Whit McClendon at the following sites:

Author Bio: 

Whit McClendon was born on October 31, 1969 in Freeport, Tx. He grew up in Angleton Texas and was active in martial arts, track and field, and playing the clarinet in band. One year at Texas A & M proved that lacrosse was far more fun than electrical engineering, and he eventually graduated with a degree in Engineering Design Graphics from Brazosport College. After working in the petrochemical field as a CAD drafter for many years, Whit finally realized his life’s dream of becoming a full-time martial arts instructor. He now lives with his family in Katy, Texas, plays lacrosse as often as possible, and runs Jade Mountain Martial Arts. He laughs a lot more now than he did when he worked at the engineering firm.

Interview with Author Alexandra Butcher

What made you want to become an author?

I’ve always been a writer; short stories, poems, fanfic and the like even when I was little. I usually ended being the one who wrote the class poem for the display.
Being an author – now that is another matter. I used to write adventures for fantasy role play games, such as Warhammer, Dragon Ages, Star Trek and World of Darkness and really it stemmed from there as a few people told me I should write out my ideas as more than just adventures for friends. I’d had an idea I was half-working on so that was that.

What do you find contradictory about being an author?

People expect you just to be able to come up with a story on the spur of the moment.  They also think it pays well, which mostly isn’t the case.
I tend to spot weak plots a lot more, whereas before I might have persevered with a book I wasn’t getting into now I’ll just give it up. That said I see more in a book if it is good, I’ll appreciate a great story for being a great story, well-crafted and well designed.  I think I probably see weak research now too. Suspension of disbelief only goes so far.

How important do you find social media is for the author these days?

Absolutely vital. We live in an international and digital world and this allows us to communicate with people, who even 50 years ago we would have no chance of exchanging words with. Most authors publish e-books these days and so the market is there to promote, network and sell books via social media.  Not only that many authors have blog followers, websites, author pages and the like. It is a great way to learn more about someone, to keep up with what an author might be writing, or planning and even just hanging out. I met my best friend online, through a social media site, plus several other people who have enriched my life. There is a great author community online, which is usually very supportive. It is great way to find new readers. As a reader I now find the majority of my books via Good Reads and Facebook and I read in a far wider spectrum than I ever used to.

Of course the downsides are there as well. Often someone might say something online and be misinterpreted, or rant and it is recorded forever. If someone misbehaves, everyone will know ;).  Not to mention there are a few individuals who take delight in cyber bullying, fortunately this has never happened to me, but I know a few authors and readers who’ve experienced it.

Could you tell us a bit about The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles-Book I? 

Book I follows the adventure of the elven sorceress Dii. The world of Erana is dark, magic is illegal, and elves are enslaved to the humans so she has no rights and her very existence is forbidden. Elves were blamed for a terrible plague, which almost decimated not only their own race but that of the humans and, to a lesser extent, the trolls.  She runs away from her wicked and abusive master and embarks on a journey to find not only sanctuary but herself. In the mix are a mysterious nobleman, an enigmatic half-elf and a shy, innocent elven huntress who seek a missing child. Of course there are bad guys too;)

It is a book of magic and mayhem, sex and sorcery and romance and revenge. The relationships between the characters are important, but the adventure is even more so. It is a world of light and dark, where the law is immoral and morality lawless.

The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles-Book 1 tells about the Order of the Witch-Hunters. Did you base this particular organization
on anything from real life?

Not especially, although there are elements of the Nazis, such as herding the elves into ghettos. Mostly they are what happens when martial law becomes tyranny and when ignorance and fear are powerful tools with which to rule.

Where can readers purchase Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles-Book I?

Amazon in e-book and print, Barnes and Noble also in e-book and print and I-books. It seems to be for sale on some of the Kobo stores as well, although sadly not in the UK or US at the moment, after Kobo’s over-reaction about indie authors last year. It is also available in large print.

Can you tell the readers a bit about The Shining Citadel - The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles Book II?

Book II follows the same set of characters, plus a couple more, several months after the end of book I. It can be read as a standalone but is probably better if you are already familiar with the world and the characters. In this adventure an elven scholar turns up requesting aid to find a missing family heirloom, but not all is as it seems. There is intrigue, betrayal, and the nature of truth is explored by at least one of the characters. This is a truth which is unwelcome but very real and could rock the status quo.

Of course there is a great adventure, wicked bad guys, romance and a goodly helping of magic.

How does the sorceress Dii'Athella impact the story?

Well certainly book I is her story, and her history continues into book II, when she discovers who she is. Although Archos and the others are important, Dii’s transition from shy and fearful former courtesan, or ‘Kept’ to a rather bolder, braver and more confident woman is wonderful. She is the focus of the series, she is the Light of the title.

Where can readers purchase The Shining Citadel - The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles Book II?

Same places as book I, although just to issues with printing size I haven’t yet sorted out the large print.

Could you tell us a bit about your collection of stories in Tales of Erana: Myths and Legends?

They are set in the same world as the novels, but only one features a character directly related to the novels. The Legend of Oeliana expands on a scene covered in Book II as part of a larger scene. Told as legendary, mythic or life lessons they cover everything from an adaptation of the princess and the toad, a herbalist’s last wisdom, the love of a god for a mortal and the mayhem that brings and what happens when gods become involved with war. They cover the distant past to the future and possible future. They are all different stories, and reviews have commented on the variety of styles and subjects.

What was your favorite story to write?

Honestly I prefer writing longer stories to the shorter ones, as I can really get into a character and events in a novel. They were all fun to write, I’ve had to do quite a bit of research, including herbalism, swamp terrain and flora and fauna, medieval weapons and horses.  I am not sure I have a favourite out of them all, each and every one had its pleasure and it woes.

What was the most difficult story to write?

Hmm that is hard. My work in progress, which is Book III of the series has been a bit of a fight to whip into shape. Of the published ones, book II. I changed the ending, as I released I’d blocked myself in with what I’d planned, this meant changing the ending, the beginning of book III (which I’d planned by then). Also at the time my mother was dying of cancer, and so obviously my mind was elsewhere. 

Any future works you would like to talk about?

Book III is in progress, and hopefully will be out by the end of the year. I also have some anthology pieces coming up in the Wyrd Worlds sequel, one is a darkly humorous tale about missing socks (it makes sense when you read it – honest) and the other is a story about a god and the little green-blue world he cares for.
The Indie Collaboration has just released Summer Shorts which also has a darkly humorous fairy tale. Hopefully there will also be a charity anthology later in the year.

Where can people find out more about you?


Perseid Press Announces the Release of "Poets in Hell"

Perseid has just gone live with "Poets In Hell" the latest in their shared world series of Hell Books (and currently priced at a devilish $6.66).  The book features stories by Janet Morris, Chris Morris, Nacy Asire, Jack William Finley, Deborah Koren, Matthew Kirshenblatt, Bruce Durham, Larry Atchley Jr., Tom Barczak, and Joe Bonadonna.

Check out the book description from Amazon:

"The best, the worst, and ugliest bards in perdition vie for Satan's favor as poets slam one another, Satan's Fallen Angels smirk up their sleeves, and the illiterati have their day. Find out why the damned deserve their fates as Hell's hacks sink to new poetical depths! 

The first Bible writer drafts a deal with the Devil. Attila the Hun learns his punishment's just begun. Mary Shelley and Victor Frankenstein make a monstrous mistake. Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp get their unjust deserts. Hell's Undertaker goes on holiday. The Damned Poets Society slams away. A nameless soul shows Dorothy Parker that fame is a bitch. 

In the underworlds, injustice always reigns: Join us and our damnedest poets for the crookedest poetry festival in perdition where language comes to die and no rhyme goes unpunished."

Game of Thrones Has Jumped the Shark (Spoilers)

I just watched season 4 Episode 9 “The Watchers on the Wall,” and if you are a fan of the series you know that usually the 9th episode of any given season is the one where somebody you really care about gets slaughtered (usually in the most terrible way imaginable). Until now, I’ve taken great pleasure in those moments because I’ve read the first three books, and I’ve been watching the show with the knowledge of what’s going to happen. It’s fun because I’ve been watching it with my wife, and my foreknowledge allows me to eagerly await her shocked reaction (although I’ve refrained from video taping her in secret and posting it to YouTube because I want to stay married...although it is funny when other people do that).

I learn a lot from my wife’s reaction to the show. She’s a very no-nonsense person and it’s good for a writer to know a person like that since it keeps you on track. I know from experience that if my wife starts to lose interest in something, then the majority of the population is going to start losing interest as well.  Contrary to popular misconception--you are NOT all-powerful as a writer.  You need to obey some rules or people won't read your work.

The main death in 4:9 (spoiler again) is Jon Snow’s Wildling girlfriend Ygritte. They have a mini-reunion as her group of marauders attacks Castle Black. She has Snow dead to rights but finds she doesn't have the heart to fill him full of arrows. He notices her and smiles at her, just as she takes a fatal arrow herself giving them just enough time to embrace for two seconds before she expires.

During this scene, my wife didn’t look at me with the emotion she’d showed when Ned Stark or Robb Stark were killed. This time she just gave me a kind of exasperated look and said, “so I guess nobody gets a chance at happiness in this series.”

I thought that comment summed up the series nicely and was in line with my own thinking on the matter. When I was reading the books, I got to approximately the point where the show is at now, and then lost patience. My biggest problem with Martin’s work is that there doesn’t seem to be a redeeming quality for which you endure all the agony of watching your favorite characters suffer and die. Martin seems to be a one trick pony and the trick is this: get your readers to like a character—kill that character. If you do this kind of thing as a writer, your readers will have patience with it for a while because they expect there to be some kind of grand payoff. But if you go to the well too often, you risk loosing your audience. It happened with me and I sense that it’s happening with my wife as well.

If Martin were a bit more talented, he'd have known that he was on the verge of losing people and Ygritte represented a great way to win them back.  She's not a major character, but she's big enough that allowing her a moment of joy would have gone a long way towards regaining the trust of the audience.  They'd think, "ahh...so she's the reason we watched everyone die...so we'd appreciate this!"  In contrast, killing her lacks the punch because of her fringe status.  Personally, I much prefer the "throwing a bone" quality of sparing Ygritte and at least offering the chance of some kind of future for her and Jon Snow, than just slaughtering her for the sake of sending Snow off on a suicidal mission.  Martin's choice in this instance lacks finesse--in fact, it's very sloppy and manipulative writing (and the response is a flat emotional reaction...which is what you don't want).  This choice is also what has lead to this unflattering and very accurate cartoon representation of Martin (it's a play on a speech Tyrion Lannister gave in a previous episode):

I know what’s going to happen in the last episode of this season and it should be a fairly good finale. I expect I’ll watch a couple episodes of season 5 in the hope that Martin does eventually make the decision to have some point to all the chaos he causes. But really, I doubt that’s going to be the case. Still, it’s easier to watch the show than it is to read the books—because frankly the actual writing is pretty pedestrian.

It’s great to have a fantasy series that is realized with such great acting and production quality that it captivates such a wide audience. It’s just too bad that of all the great works out there, HBO had to choose Game of Thrones when there are really far better stories that deserve more exposure.

But then again, I haven’t read the rest of the series, so maybe it redeems itself. Those of you who have read the books, feel free to tell me so if that’s the case (spoilers don’t bother me—I go along for the ride and surprises are just cheap tricks as far as I’m concerned).  Also, feel free to leave me some polite suggestions as to how I'm steering things wrong in my own series which starts with this book.  Hey...I shouldn't dish it out if I can't take it right?

Book Review: "A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court" edited by Scott Sandridge

Fun, Macabre, Urban Fantasy—Great Summer Reading!

I have to admit that I greatly enjoyed this collection. Generally I read straight fantasy novels which I burn through in a couple days, but the texts collected here are rich enough that it’s best to take them in small doses. The stories themselves are linked through the inclusion of some kind of faerie element. In some ways, these faeries are similar, but each author is given free reign to visualize the faeries as s/he desires. I noticed a couple of the reviewers mentioned that this culminated in an “uneven” result, but I wouldn’t say that. I liked the different approaches since it allowed for variance in the collection while still holding to a common theme.

Take note that this is not a children’s book in any sense of the word. The rape scene in “Wormwood” is pretty disturbing, and I’m not entirely sure I was left satisfied by the comeuppance endured by the perpetrator. But this is not a criticism, merely an indication that this is a collection with edge. If Edgar Allan Poe had written faery tales, the result might have been similar to many of the stories in this collection.

I was frequently impressed with the writing as well (although, again, that varied from story to story). Generally speaking editor Scott Sandridge has compiled a very talented group of writers for this collection, and I would be highly interested in examining other works by these writers.

It’s very difficult to include magic in a tale while retaining the involvement of the reader. Introducing a fantastical moment in an otherwise modern/familiar tale requires a certain slight of hand not incorporated in other writing styles. All the stories in this collection walk that fine line admirably. They spend a great amount of effort establishing a realistic ambiance, and then the faery dust is lightly sprinkled just enough to add wonderment and flavor, but not so heavy to ruin the overall composition.

Give it a read, and you might find yourself looking twice at the next fox hole or mushroom circle you see on a nature walk!

By the way, I'd love to see all the writers involved with this join my Heroic Fantasy Facebook Group!  Please authors, do not hesitate to contact me!

Join Janet Morris as She Presents at the Library of Congress

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Renowned fantasy author Janet Morris will be presenting at the Library of Congress on Wednesday, June 25th, 2014. Her talk is titled "Social Reconstruction through Heroic Fiction: The Role of Literature in Envisioning Our Future." Stay after the presentation to have your books autographed and to pick up the most recent editions of Janet Morris's work.

See the flyer to the right for more details. The presentation is at noon. The address is:

Library of Congress
LM-139, Madison Building
101 Independence Ave SE
Washington, DC 20559

Please sign up on the Facebook event page so that Janet has a rough idea as to how many people are coming. Also, please feel free to share the event and invite your friends.

Fantasy and travel writer Walter Rhein will also be present.