Words with Tom Fallwell author of "A Whisper in the Shadows"

Can you tell us a little bit about A Whisper In The Shadows?

The series, Rangers of Laerean, is about a group of heroes that are renowned throughout the fantasy world which I have created. A Whisper In The Shadows is the first book in that series, and also part 1 of a 3 part story within that series. So it is also the first book in a trilogy that introduces the reader to the fantasy world of Hir. The story is a heroic tale of one of the best of the Rangers, a man called Baric, who will be a prominent figure in most of the books in the series as whole. Readers will learn much about the history and lore of Hir and about the character of the Rangers.

What's your background with writing?

I am very new to writing, but not to the creation of stories and characters. I always wanted to write, but as a software developer, I never had much time to pursue it. My background is basically as a GM, or Game Master, playing table-top, pen and paper role playing games. I created adventures and stories for players to experience and enjoy with their own created characters. I love story-telling, and now that I am retired from computer programming, I have the time to pursue what I always wanted. I started writing just last year, and will continue to do so, regardless of whether or not I am considered successful. I have so many stories inside me. I feel compelled to write them down.

Who are your inspirations/influences?

My biggest influence would be J.R.R. Tolkien, without a doubt. The fantastic world he created has been a leading inspiration for me for decades. I was a young man when I first read The Hobbit, then Lord of the Rings. I even went on to read the Silmarillion. I was completely amazed at how he created a whole world with social, political and elements of economy and language, varied races and professions. I have always desired to do that kind of world building, and though I would never put myself at the same level as Tolkien, I hope to build a world rich in history and lore, just as he did.

Who was responsible for the cover/book design?

I am not an artist, so I found an image online that, in my mind, was the spitting image of Baric, the main antagonist in my book. It was the perfect image, so I purchased it and created my own book cover with it. For the next book in the series, I have engaged a professional artist.

What are you doing in terms of marketing/publicity?

I have been active in social media mostly, and learning how to market myself and my books. I have only been at this a few months, but have learned a lot and plan to setup some book signings with local bookstores to start. I am also looking at finding events to attend. Since I am just getting started, I have been active on Facebook and Twitter, and on Goodreads, plus a few other sites that feature books and authors.

Do you have any stories from book signings/radio interviews/etc.?

I have submitted a couple of interviews in the past month or two, but they have not yet been published. I am sure I will get some interesting anecdotes or tales down the road. In fact, I look forward to the future and expect funny and sad things to happen, eventually.

What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there?

I am actively running two blogs, one as an author, and one as a book reviewer. Both are located on my website at TomFallwell.com. My official author blog is located here, and is called, Tom’s Blog.

What projects do you have planned for the future?

I am working currently on book #2 of the Rangers of Laerean series, which will be entitled, Where Shadows Fall. The story that begins in A Whisper In The Shadows will be wrapped up in a third book, untitled as yet. Future books, beyond that, in the series will feature different antagonists from among the Rangers introduced in this initial trilogy, as well as more about Baric. I also have plans for some short stories and novellas also based in the world of Hir.

Is there anything else about you we should know?

You should know that I am a great fan of heroic fantasy and will always endeavor to tell stories that I think such fans will enjoy. I do not intend to be an elusive author and welcome meeting other authors and readers, especially those with interests in fantasy fiction. I have a Facebook page and can be found on Twitter as @RhemaTom. I am also active on Goodreads. It would be my pleasure to meet with my readers and listen to them, discuss with them, and share with them.

Book Review: Truck Stop Earth

Truck Stop Earth

Now, here's a book that stands up and demands to be noticed! There's something very refreshing about a novel written in the first person in an extremely colloquial narrative voice. Our hero is a refreshing indigent man who goes by the name of Jimmo. He's the type of character you'd make the mistake of saying “hello” to over morning coffee, and you wouldn't be able to get away from until midnight. Jimmo has survived several alien abductions, and he's always got his eye out for agents of the extraterrestrial forces that have been ruining everything (global warming is on them for example) in recent memory. However, apart from the belief in aliens, Jimmo seems pretty normal. Most of the folks who believe in alien conspiracies believe in other, less socially acceptable conspiracies, but Jimmo is not among their number, which makes you almost want to believe him.

This is a not easily categorized novel, like all the great ones are. The alien talk makes it science fiction, but I couldn't help wondering the whole time if maybe Jimmo was just pleasantly crazy. Oddly, I found myself reminded of “Into the Wild” a little bit, as Jimmo makes his way to Alaska hitchhiking and pontificating on human nature. Along the way he manages to score a few pleasant trysts with the characters he meets on the road. These played out like scenes from Charles Bukowski's “Women.” I'm willing to bet there are no other science fiction novels listed on Amazon that evoke reflections on those two particular titles.

I think I liked the survivor component of Jimmo's story the most. This was a guy without a penny to his name as happy to live in a tent as sleep in the dirt or a five star hotel. He goes from job to job and knows what regulations he has to obey and which ones he can push a little bit. This is the type of person you might make the mistake of dismissing, but these people have their doctorates in human nature and that comes across loud and clear in 'Truck Stop Earth.' Also, I think if there are aliens on earth and there are people who get abducted, the exact type of character to put a stop to it all is a guy like Jimmo.

Pick it up for your sci-fi (I've learned some hate that term) loving friends, but also give this book to your students of human nature. This is a great story for travel, because unlike the crazy guy at the coffee shop, you can close the covers when you need a break...then again, my bet is that you won't want to.

Grab a copy on Amazon here.
Check out Perseid Press here.

Janet Morris Discusses Heroic Fantasy, GOT, and More

Your upcoming presentation at the Library of Congress is titled “Social Reconstruction through Heroic Fiction.” What is advantageous about heroic fiction in pursuit of this goal as opposed to writing in other genres?

Heroic fiction is one of the earliest forms of fiction known to humanity. Broadly referred to as myth, heroic fiction allowed our ancestors to transmit values important to culture from one generation to the next while telling a memorable story. From the earliest stories of Gilgamesh and the Flood, heroic behavior has been taught through story, including self-sacrifice, the concept of putting oneself in service to an ideal, and the value of honor, ethos, and personal struggle. Writing heroic fiction allows the modern writer to tap into the timeless energy provided by ideas of heroism, courage, and moral struggle, showing how these matter to us today. And these ideals do matter, in a time where other genres laud anti-heroes and chicanery and the supremacy of gadgetry and those who triumph through being the worst they can be. In a market where fiction editors tell writers they must put blood on every page, the writer of mythic or heroic fiction may still do that, but the battle fought will be a battle on many levels and the hero will suffer pangs of conscience and make ethical decisions as a role model; without the transmission of these values, any society is doomed by its own excesses.

Although the works of Homer are canonical, modern science-fiction and fantasy is sometimes considered “unworthy” of advanced study. What are your thoughts on supposedly educated people maintaining a dismissive attitude of entire genres? 

Great mythic storytellers are never classed with “genre” writers: From Homer and Hesiod and Virgil, through Shakespeare and Marlowe and Milton; including Mary Shelley, Kipling, Melville, and C.S. Lewis, to the best writers of our day, if the work has literary merit it is never classed as fantasy, or science fiction, or horror: if it is “good” it is called literature. So many of the formative works of heroic fiction are never labeled as what they are – but still read, still taught, still enjoyed, because good stories are timeless, and a good story is always one that teaches us something about the human condition and our own selves.

Do you think that the popularity of “Game of Thrones” is hurtful or helpful to the reputation of Heroic Fantasy as a genre? 

Game of Thrones is a series, to my mind, which is firmly based in anti-heroism, the situational ethics of the late 20th century, and purposely so. Its characters have no moral compass beyond their allegiance to their family or even personal ambition; no higher cause; no gods or ethos drives them. So, although it is not the violence or sex that makes me say The Game of Thrones is not heroic fiction and can never be so defined, I say it because GOT sneers at the shared ethos of humanity, often called the “monomyth” because so many cultures share its tenets, and those characters which thrive do so not out ethical superiority, but unmitigated appetites, cunning and viciousness.

Speaking of GOT, there was recently a social outcry when a rape was depicted on the show. However, in previous shows a man had his genitals mutilated and there was no social outcry. As a male, I thought this social response was highly hypocritical. Can you offer us a perspective on this inconsistent social response? 

The lack of concern about the castration of an anti-hero on a show full of graphic violence surprised me; the sudden concern about one rape out of many, which rape happened to be by a male of a female, also surprised me, but women have organized to impose a political correctness that they believe is important; this thirst for correctness is fine in politics, but dangerous ground when politics dictates what artists may do or say. Despite all attempts to rewrite history, reality remains in full force. Men are aggressive; women are territorial; genetics predetermines this and no amount of political pressure can do more than create a fantastical fa├žade over reality, which helps no one if understanding one another is our goal. Penetration has, since ancient times, been dominance behavior on the planet Earth: as often as not, men as well as women were penetrated by their conquerors. The term “sack and pillage” was socially modified from the earlier and more direct “rape and pillage” but the two terms denote the same behaviors. Rape of females now, in the 21st century, is a political issue; and this series which in every episode has the most flagrant abuse of people by other people, hit a sore spot in this particular episode. Not, interestingly enough, because of the treatment of children, which it might have, but in a particular rape of a woman whose own behavior through the series has been reprehensible. In response to an outcry about this particular rape in a story not set on Earth or subject to any Earthly ethics or morality, the creators purport to justify its violence as ‘historical.’ In our greatest myths, including the Iliad and the Odyssey, men and women enslaved one another, seduced one another, sacrificed one another, killed one another – but did so within the acceptable norms of their culture, and for reasons often precipitated by their gods. So to compare GOT to mythic, Homeric, or any other heroic fiction is to compare apples and oranges: members of a morally bankrupt culture such as the families of Game of Thrones would in a heroic fiction eventually be destroyed by affronted gods or heroes sent to end their reign of terror; in that series, so far as I know, the destruction of these characters by one another is simply another opportunity for gruesome special effects.

I understand that “Beyond Sanctuary” generated some controversy on its release due to a torture scene. How is the modern public different in what it reacts to and how it reacts, than the public of ten or twenty years ago? 

The torture scene in Beyond Sanctuary is but a few sentences long: to make one character reveal what he knows, his friend is staked out over an animal’s den and the animal is smoked out. The scene is not graphic in today’s terms, but the words are clear; the torture is worse for the man not being harmed, who tries to tell his torturers anything to save his friend, and cannot. I’ve heard that this torture technique, a venerable one, spread from there to many other books and perhaps films, but I don’t know for certain. There is sack and pillage in the Sacred Band of Stepsons series and the Beyond Sanctuary trilogy: these are ancient war-fighters, not choir boys and girls. There are prostitutes and drug dealers and slave traders, as well, and traitors and vengeful deities. The realism in the Sacred Band series may disturb some people; the treatment of women by men, and of men by women, is often disturbing, and meant to be so. A hero needs to struggle against heinous malfeasance, against tremendous odds. Ours do, and sometimes they fall from grace. They struggle most with conscience; some have the equivalent of post-traumatic stress; above all they strive to adhere to the ethos that drives the series, honor, loyalty, and love for one another.

You are very active with social media such as Facebook. How has social media helped or hurt your career?

I still don’t know if participating in social media is worth the time it takes away from writing, but I am experimenting with it. And through it, I am gaining insights into the readership, and into the ongoing fragmentation and recasting of cultural norms as we become a world culture; in this homogenized future, where tolerance must prevail, heroic fiction may once again take its rightful place as the glue which allows societies to understand one another better and cooperate effectively for the greater good. After all, the monomyth has obtained in nearly every culture around the globe, and its resonances still live in every heart among our nearly eight billion souls..

Lastly, is there anything upcoming that you would like to mention or promote?

We are doing the Library of Congresstalk, of course, on June 25, 2014. The next event for us is the release of our 2014 Heroes in Hell volume, Poets in Hell, the most ambitious yet in this long-lived shared-world series. We are publishing some new writers, and writing new books ourselves. We have recently released The Reader of Acheron, the first in Walter Rhein’s series, a dystopian heroic fiction which has fascinating possibilities. We’re writing a book about Rhesos of Thrace, one of the most overlooked heroes of the Iliad, and planning both a new series of anthologies of heroic short stories called Heroica, featuring many newer writers, and a new volume in the Sacred Band of Stepsons series, tentatively called “Sciamachy” and centering on precisely that: a sciamachy, which is a war with shadows, and probably the most exciting Sacred Band novel yet.

Beyond that, we hope to publish the audiobook of The Sacred Band this year with Auidble.com, narrated by Chris Morris, close to twenty-three hours long and truly outstanding. And we continue to search out new and exciting writers for our micro-publisher, Perseid Press, providing books worth reading for the experienced reader.

And, alongside all that, we’re continuing our reissue and “Author’s Cut” program, republishing expanded and revised versions of our favorite works from the 20th century.

Thank you for this opportunity to tell your readers about our current and future projects. As the heroes of the Sacred Band say, life to you all, and everlasting glory. – Janet Morris for Janet Morris and Chris Morris

Just Books: The Captives by Cas Peace

Just Books: The Captives by Cas Peace: Let's get to know the Author before we take a look inside this book. Cas lives in the lovely county of Hampshire, southern UK, wh...

The First Honest Review of Batman V Superman

I’m a little bit troubled by what I feel to be a lack of legitimate reviews on this movie. There is a very well established network of print and social media where the general public should be able to trust professional and well-educated individuals to share their honest assessment of art, literature and film without promoting a non-related agenda. Art is one of the cornerstones of civilized society, and it’s important that every artist, no matter how big or small, have their contribution judged on its own merits. I has been disturbed to witness the negative social media campaign aimed at Batman v Superman since the film’s production was announced. Most of the criticisms I have read on this film have not been of a scholarly variety, and although I do not think this film is a “masterpiece” by any means, it is not a bad film, in fact I found it very interesting and thought provoking.

If “Batman v Superman” is only worthy of a 29% approval rating on Rottentomatoes.com, why is the viewer assessment of this film sitting at 7.2/10 on IMDB.com? Furthermore, the box office has been tremendous. There are indications that this film has fans, but according to my Facebook news feed, most media sources list this as a “disappointment” or a “train-wreck,” but, again, they do not provide scholarly arguments and rely instead on hysterical generalizations. It’s almost as if these reviews come from media sources that are owned by a corporation that produces its own rival super hero films.

But let’s focus on BvS instead of conspiracies. By far the best part of this movie is Affleck as Batman. There has never been a Batman on screen quite like this. Affleck’s version is the grittiest and nastiest Batman we’ve ever seen. BvS introduces Batman as a figure terrifying to both police and criminals. The first time we see him, he’s hiding from a police officer in a ceiling (very much the physical representation of a bat). When the officer happens to see Batman, he’s so scared that he fires a couple shots as Batman scurries away.

Now, that is a very interesting scene and it establishes the kind of universe we’re dealing with here. In virtually every other Batman film, Batman is an aid to the police. Sometimes they work together directly, sometimes they have a kind of gentleman’s agreement. However, in BvS, Batman is clearly a vigilante that the cops are concerned about.

This is a theme that hasn’t been addressed in other comic book films. Are super heroes actually heroes, or are they entities with too much power that threaten to infringe on civil liberties? I find this question interesting because it has corollaries in real life. Obviously there are no super heroes, but there are entities with power that claim to be “protecting you” while arguably working towards your enslavement. How much leeway do you give entities like that? Do you let them gain power to the point where you’re essentially committing suicide simply by opposing them?

Batman begins to view Superman as a threat. During the course of the film, this assessment is mainly due to the manipulation of Lex Luthor, but it remains a fascinating dynamic. Honestly, in all the negative reviews you’ve read of BvS, how many have complained that Batman wasn’t portrayed as “tough enough” to handle Superman? I’ve actually seen the film, and I think the battle is quite convincing. Both Affleck and Cavill bring an almost super-human physicality to their roles.

Batman comes to view his fight with Superman as his “legacy” fight. He reveals this in a conversation with Alfred, played to perfection by Jeremy Irons. In another discussion with Alfred (these discussions are also a highlight) Batman acknowledges that he and Alfred are “Criminals,” which, to me, makes him a more sympathetic Batman than others we’ve seen. One of the main criticisms of Snyder’s vision of this comic book universe is an apparent willingness for his super heroes to shed the blood of their victims. I attribute this anger to a kind of “innocence fallacy” where these fans think Batman is justified in performing his acts of vigilantism as long as he does so non-lethally. The question becomes: what attacks and defenses is Batman allowed to use to appease this need? A punch to the chest can be a lethal attack, yet most fans are content to watch their superhero smash villains repeatedly. Is the line at breaking the skin? A punch to the face with draw blood from the nose, eyes, and mouth. If a villain attempts to stab Batman, can he turn the knife back on the attacker? Is Batman not allowed to shoot somebody, even if that person is about to kill an innocent party?

There is always a cry to “take comic books more seriously,” to “perceive them as art,” to “perceive them as adult.” That’s fine, but there have been dozens of comic book movies now and sooner or later some filmmaker had to amp up the realism to the point where audiences start to squirm. Snyder has given us a Batman who is aware he is a criminal, but continues on in the name of justice. Why is that an issue? Although this Batman does appear to be willing to kill his enemies, this isn’t overtly portrayed in the movie. Actually, after the backlash to “Man of Steel” there is a lot of dialogue about how certain fights are happening in “uninhabited areas.”

Personally, I find the cartoon nature of the Avengers films to be boring. “Batman V Superman” has a lot more I can sink my teeth into. Yes, there are some problems with this film, I wasn’t a big fan of Jesse Eisenberg’s performance for example. He lacked the physicality of the other leads, and had a propensity for repeating his lines off into silence (blame the director and writers there). Actually there are a couple little narrative quirks like that which plague the film. Dream sequences are used too frequently. The first scene of Wayne being lifted up by bats is a divergence from the realism Snyder is otherwise determinedly pursuing. I did like the other sequence, however, featuring Superman and Batman soldiers. My other issue was the prevalence of cryptic messages scrawled or painted on: Superman’s statue, Robin’s suit, Newspaper clippings, and returned checks (all in the same handwriting more or less).

Overall, however, I thought this was an artistic film which was both ambitious and well-realized. It’s fun to watch Luthor brainwash the two combatants. Also, this is the first Batman film where Wayne gets a role as super detective (when he sneaks around in Luthor’s mansion). I’m not sure who the figure was leaning out of the computer monitor at him (at the end of the future soldier sequence), but I think that scene suggests some of Batman’s rage against Superman was the result of psychic manipulation on the part of another meta human. The denouement the Batman/Superman battle was well conceived. Wonder Woman was also exceptionally well realized, and brought a shot of life (and humor) into the movie.

The long and short of it is that there is plenty in Batman V Superman that is worthy of sincere critical discussion. I’m disappointed to think we live in a society where all reviews are bought and paid for and serve only the purpose of corporate agenda instead of overall greater human awareness and understanding as sometimes seems to be the case.

Why I Don't Trust Batman v Superman Reviews

Wouldn't it be nice, for once, if somebody expressed their honest opinion of something on the internet? 

Ever since Batman v Superman was first mentioned, people have hated this film. All through production, there have been all these articles about how "troubled" the production was. It has gotten to the point where anytime I see a picture of any of the titular characters leading an article, I know the article will be negative.

Now that the film has been released, the floodgates have opened. Doom and destruction is raining down my Facebook feed as everybody and their step-sister gets in line to dump on BvS. But is the film really that bad? Does it deserve a Tomatometer rating lower than "The Room"?

Well, I have to admit that I'm not the biggest comic book reader. I've seen pretty much all the comic book movies, and I know enough of the peripheral stuff to have an expectation when a character like "Doomsday" appears in a film (he has to do something very specific...). So, put me at the bottom rung of competent in understanding and appreciating comic books.

Is BvS the greatest super hero movie of all time? No, of course not, it's got some major problems. But it's not a total disaster either. It's way better than the recent Fantastic 4 film, and honestly, I didn't think that movie was all that bad either.

What bothers me is this social media campaign to bury the film without judging its merits. Hey folks, we live in America, everyone deserves a fair trial don't they? What would Superman say?

What strikes me as bizarre is that not only are the reviews negative, but the first hundred or so comments on most of these articles are as well. But don't take that to mean anything. Actually stop for a moment and read the comments. Do this because I'm starting to think that the comments are as phony as the original articles.

Put it this way. Do you remember how when Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out the internet had been virtually scrubbed of negative reviews for this film? Everything was 5 stars or better. But take a second to go to the Amazon page and check out the listing there. That's right, a 3.7 aggregate rating with 155 1-star reviews. Now look, some of these are certainly unfair "haters" but I think enough 1-star reviews exist to derail the thought that "Force Awakens" is a universal, all-time classic.

So why weren't there more critical reviews when the film was actually released?

Well, here's what I think: Many of the positive reviews were fake, or at least planted by Disney.

Amazon has very strict rules about what reviews are allowed. For example, if you have your Facebook account hooked up to your Amazon account and you are an author, Amazon will eliminate reviews from people who are your Facebook friends. Amazon has policies against "review exchanges" and you're even walking a fine line if you send out review copies. Amazon is basically the review gestapo...

But what about when a magazine or newspaper that is owned by Disney reviews a Disney film?

Ooooohhhhhhhhhhhhh, well, that's toooootaaalllllyyy fine as far as Amazon goes.

Well, guess what comic book franchise Disney owns...yup, Marvel.

So do you think I'm crazy to think Disney might be involved in flexing their media influence to create a negative reception for the film of a direct competitor?

What drives me nuts is the superficial way people are attacking BvS. Like I said, the film has its flaws, but I found it a bit more entertaining than the Avengers. But I should disclose that I never really "got" the Avengers. I thought the first half of the first one was boring and none of the Avengers movies are worth repeat viewings. I probably won't sit through a repeat viewing of BvS, but at least it tackled some interesting issues. 

Affleck, is really good as Batman by the way. I will definitely be first in line to see him don the cowl again. And I like the fact that a few baddies apparently meet their end at his hand. Look, you can't tear around major metropolitan areas in a tank at 120 mph and not kill anyone, also, why is it OK to punch people repeatedly in the face, but not shoot them in the shoulder? If somebody the size of Batman punches you, guess what, there's a good chance that's a lethal attack (face or chest).

I think people like to watch this punishment getting doled out and think, "well, it's OK because it's non-lethal." I have two responses to that:

1. It's not non-lethal and never has been
2. You're delighting in the abuse of another human being, so you're not innocent

I'm glad BvS exists because sooner or later comics have to grow up. This is the first step. Give it a chance.

The Shannara Chronicles is Pretty Good

Like many of you, I tend to let TV series play themselves out completely before I allow myself to get hooked. What's the point in watching something if it just gets cancelled after two episodes? Also, there's a particular aversion to watching a nostalgic fantasy novel get ruined, which is probably why I avoided watching "The Shannara Chronicles" until recently.

I remember reading the first Shannara book, "The Sword of Shannara," when I was in about 5th grade. At the time, reading a 600 page volume was a tremendous achievement, and I've always had a kind of affection for the book. It's basically "LOTR Lite" as the plot follows Tolkien's classic almost to the point of being an embarrassment (you can read more about the similarities in this great article on Black Gate).

There was a time when I would have exploded with joy at the idea of a mini-series being made of Brooks's work. However, when news first broke about MTV's project, I could only manage a feeble, "meh." Now that I'm in my 40s, it's pretty clear that there are better works of fantasy out there which are far more deserving of being shared with a wider audience (like the Sacred Band books).

I'd actually forgotten this mini-series existed until a friend of mine mentioned that he caught an episode and wasn't too disappointed with it. I did a quick search and found you can see episodes 1 and 2 on youtube for free:

What's my verdict on these?

Well, of course they aren't great, but hey, it's got decent production value and it's a fantasy series, so why not?

I'm up to about episode 6 and I have to say that I've enjoyed spending the last week burning through one or two of these a night. Sure, there have been a couple cringe-worthy moments, but there is always a higher possibility of that in fantasy adaptations (you find them in Peter Jackson...what makes you think they won't be present in MTV?). I think my biggest gripe is with the "Twilight" inspired love triangle...not the triangle itself but the way it's presented and acted in a kind of "Twilight" way. But then again, heck, I watched "Twilight" too because it had werewolves and vampires in it, so yeah, I'll watch!

It seems lately that some upcoming releases get caught up in a spiral of "internet boycott." For example, a lot of people have already decided that "Superman V. Batman" is going to be bad, so you see a lot of articles written from the perspective that this is a foregone conclusion. The same was true about the most recent Fantastic 4 movie, and although that movie was bad, it wasn't any worse than any number of other bad movies that have gone on to gross obscene amounts of money (I'll be intentionally vague about what other films I'm referring to because I don't want to get off on a tangent...but there are some widely loved movies that are absolutely TERRIBLE).

I think people get mad about the fact that one subject matter gets a film and another is passed over, but stubbornly avoiding certain shows isn't going to ensure your pet project gets made. If you want to see a film version of "The Sacred Band" or "The Reader of Acheron" you, as a lover of fantasy, have to do what you can to make sure "Shannara" gets a fair shot. 

The studio executives who make these things can't recognize quality, but what they can recognize is profit. If they become convinced that there is large profit to be found in Fantasy, then they'll acquire more properties and make more programs. If "Shannara" tanks...good luck getting the next fantasy series made.

Now, look, I'm not saying you have to like it. But watch the first two episodes free, then put your comments either here, on Facebook, twitter, or your personal blog. Get some buzz, good or bad, and let the executives know what you'd like to see done better. But don't just get angry and decide you hate it without giving the series a chance. 

I'll probably revisit this again after I've watched all of season 1. My short review is that I'm happy it exists and I hope MTV comes back with a season 2 treatment of The Wishsong of Shannara. Based on the fact that they call the series "The Chronicles of Shannara," I assume they started with some sort of plan to continue with more of the books.

Also, I have to admit, my dystopian fantasy "The Reader of Acheron," also set in the crumbling ruins of a future Earth, probably owes something of a debt to "Shannara."  It's good that fantasy of high production value exists. Given another season, the writers working on "Shannara" might start creating a truly noteworthy series. I hope it happens.

Interview with Mary R. Woldering, Author of The Children of Stone Series

Can you tell us a little bit about Children of Stone – the Series? 

This is a series more in the category of Historical Epic Fantasy in that it takes place in the real Earth we know but long ago, and with speculative or fantastic goings on. I have published 2 of a proposed 6 book series. Book 1 is Voices in Crystal. Book 2 is Going Forth By Day. I am working on the third and will publish it sometime in 2016 It will be Opener of the Sky. 

The elevator speech is:

Remnants of an alien race of gods, wizards, shape-shifters, heroic mortals, immortals, slowly transform into the gods of ancient days. Like ancient superheroes, they wander through the reality of legend, RESHAPING myth and history. 

What's your background in writing? 

I’ve always written. From time to time I took Creative Writing classes but never received a degree in it. It’s a lifelong hobby/obsession.

Who are your inspirations/influences? 

Robert E. Howard, Evangeline Walton, Edgar Allan Poe, for writers…My Dad and Joseph Campbell as personal “hero” influencers.

What was it like working with Createspace?

Pretty good. For my first book they were very helpful in setup and design, but expensive. For the second book I had a few arguments about cover design, but they were resolved. The tricky thing is that you want to have everything ready to go before you hit “send” because changes cost money.

Who was responsible for the cover/book design?

Createspace for both covers.

What are you doing in terms of marketing/publicity? 

Anything that works. (Not much does) I have an Author Page which is the closest thing I have to a blog, enter takeovers, advertise daily on Twitter, go to any event that might have a potential buyer, give interviews and make speeches. I also give (for buyers of my print copies) handmade one-of-a-kind made to order bookmarks made of stones, glass, ribbon & copper wire as SWAG.

Do you have any stories from book signings/radio interviews/etc.? 

The strangest one was in August, my spouse announces he’s going to the Hewlett Packard Handheld Calculator Convention in Nashville. I state I would take a few books to sell. I’m then told I would have to give a 30 minute or so talk with slides on self-publishing. I did and here’s the link.

What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there? 

I’m severely technically challenged. At this point I do not have a working blog or website and no e-mail list. I’ve never learned how to create an integrated site that does all that for free (they all cost to be fully active.) One can reach me on my Author Page on Facebook

There people see excerpts, a bit of my writing history and influences, music…links to my clowning around the ‘net and really nice photos/hack sketches.

What projects do you have planned for the future? 

Finishing the series about 1 book per year, working on a Steampunk short story, LEARNING TECH, creating a blog and website that work.

Is there anything else about you we should know? 

I’m a grandmother of 3, a retiree, a crone, and an all around crazy person, just loving my writing. I hope I can sell some books.

Thank You
Mary R. Woldering, Author

Quit Flipping Out About Lack of Rey Toys

I've had enough of the #wheresrey fury. Has everybody forgotten what a cruel and hostile place Facebook was leading up to the release of "The Force Awakens." The only thing you saw on there were memes about how you were going to get force choked if you happened to give away any spoilers. Heck, even posting a SPOILER FREE review of the movie could lead to getting unfriended in droves at best, and swift kicks to the nuts at worst.

So just reflect on that state of rage for a minute and then consider the fact that the situation only existed at all because Disney did a tremendous job in keeping the details of the film hidden throughout production. When you look back on it, that is a pretty amazing feat. I mean, it's not as if there weren't journalists, bloggers and fanboys sifting through JJ Abrams trash on daily basis looking for some sort of doodle on a napkin or piece of toilet paper that might give the game away.

Disney clearly had a completely air tight strategy for not allowing spoilers to get out there. Good for them. I didn't know much about the film when I saw it and that's a testament to security.

Part of that strategy was clearly not releasing any Rey figures because after seeing the movie you're going to want a Rey figure equipped with a blue lightsaber. There's no menace here, there's no anti-female agenda (the woman is the lead of the movie after all). All we have is a scenario consistent with airtight security. The conversation probably went something like this:

"So, do we release some Rey figures?"

"WHAT?! With her holding a lightsaber? That will ruin everything, are you nuts? Save them for after release."

"Well, couldn't we have some ready to ship a week or so after the film opens?"

"Are you f#$%ing kidding me? Have you ever talked to a Star Wars fan? Half of them still harbor resentment over the jackass who mentioned Darth Vader was Luke's father. Absolutely not!"

"Well, we can at least get the molds ready and..."

"NO, are you deaf? NO, NO, NO, we are absolutely NOT going to do that unless you proposing burning down the factories afterward and killing everyone who worked there. If you make the molds, somebody is going to talk, if you put the figures in packaging, somebody is going to talk, I haven't taken the absurd, paranoid steps to secrecy for the last 3 years to blow this over an action figure. The secret must remain safe!"

"Well...what about 6 weeks after release?"

"NO, NO, NO! Don't you understand how hard it is to manufacturing the toys, package them, put them on trucks, and have them stocked on store shelves? Once the movie is released, the kids are going to want the toys. They'll wait. It's more important that we don't BLOW THE SECRET!"

So, yeah, I'm sure it went more or less like that. Look, I have two little girls, my favorite part of the film was that the hero is a heroine. It's great my girls have somebody to look up to who kicks ass and keeps her clothes on. And I'm also really happy the truth of Rey's importance wasn't ruined by Facebook or the premature release of any toys. Look, if you're going to demand absolutely secrecy on the internet about a movie, you can't flip out when the production company goes to absurd lengths to provide that secrecy. You can't have it both ways. So can we all just dial down the outrage to about 1? I'm sure there are some kids starving to death somewhere that are much more worthy of your 10 daily memes.

Episode VII is a pro-female film, this is not the injustice you're looking for, you can go about your business, move along...

Review of "Healer's Ruin" by Chris O'Mara

I grabbed this because it was listed at .99 and I was very impressed. In some ways you can tell that Chris O'Mara is a fairly new author, but I always appreciate a kind of raw quality to a book. It's tales like that where the author hasn't quite learned to pull his/her punches yet, and the overall effect is something closer to truth.

"Healer's Ruin" is not your typical sword and sorcery tale with a burly warrior that is basically unstoppable in battle. This book follows a healer or "slinger" named Chalos. Chalos is a powerful healer, but he doesn't possess a lot of offensive magic, so you get a strong sense of vulnerability with him. He is very dependent on the soldiers that surround him, but they are equally dependent on him. It's an interesting dynamic, and sometimes Chalos is forced to do things that he doesn't wish to do.

A novel like this allows you to contemplate deeper issues than the typical "good guy slaughters bad guy" fare. For example, if Chalos is dependent on a group and that group performs some immoral acts, what will the consequences be on Chalos's psyche? I liked being taken to those philosophical drop off points, and I also appreciated how O'Mara let these moments bloom on their own without being forced. There are a few superior scenes in this book, one where Chalos is required to heal some prisoners so that they can get more information beaten out of them stands out.

The world building in this book is very complex, which is both good and bad. I appreciated how well formed it was once I started to grasp the rules, but the first few chapters required a bit more understanding than I had initially. There are getting to be so many fantasy worlds that I'm almost getting to a point of fantasy fatigue. I think a good tactic might be to start things off on a really human level, engage the readers, and then introduce the story elements a little more slowly (you don't know anything about "The Force" in Star Wars until you're well into the movie). However, books like Dune dump you in the deep end and expect you to swim...so maybe my tastes are atypical.

In tone, this book reminded me of Master of the Five Magics (Del Rey Fantasy) which is also about a magic user. It's a little dark and the troop seems doomed from pretty early on. I also kind of was reminded of Aguirre: The Wrath of God (although I think my own cobwebby, foggy thinking brought that to the table more than the book did)...I'd be interested to hear if the author has ever seen that. I think it was just the ominous weight that hangs over the proceedings...its not called "Healer's Happy Time" now is it?

All in all, this book is completely worth your time. If it's still at .99 it's a bargain. Grab it, read it, and let your friends know.

Review of "Hell Becomes Her" by R.A. McCandless

R.A. McCandless is a skilled storyteller, and "Hell Becomes Her" is a very good sequel to Tears of Heaven (Flames of Perdition) (Volume 1). These books follow the adventures of Del, a Nephilim assassin who has wandered the earth for centuries and made no small amount of enemies in her long life. In "Hell Becomes Her," a nefarious group makes the mistake of kidnapping her adopted daughter, and very little exists on heaven or earth that can prevent Del from retrieving her charge.

The action is constant and McCandless does a good job of dropping clever lines in to keep the mood light. There's even the occasional Star Wars quote to make you smile. But when things get down to business, McCandless is very good at creating tension. There's a stand-off scene about a third of the way through the book where you get a genuine sense of danger. With as many stand-offs as we are subjected to in novels, film, and television, it's amazing to come across such a scene that brings something new to the table. That scene alone justifies this novel (and it is one of many quality moments).

There's a bit of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in Del, but she's by no means a retread. This is a unique, nuanced character and McCandless does a nice job of providing backstory to his world building. It's always fun to have a fantasy novel which takes place in modern times, with mythical cities hidden in plain sight among the sights and sounds we recognize.

The Biblical connection is minimal. Biblical stories and places are referenced, but only to establish a social hierarchy and to lend weight to the proceedings. The purpose of this book is to be an action-packed joyride with cool characters spraying hails of bullets from twin pistols upon hoards of bad guys. This book stands alone, but I think I'd recommend you read Tears of Heaven (Flames of Perdition) (Volume 1) first. You won't regret giving either of these books a try!

On Hearing Your Own Audiobook

Last night on my way home from work, I took advantage of an hour drive to listen to the audio version of "Heroika: Dragon Eaters." This is a collection of Dragon themed short stories compiled by the great Janet Morris. I'm proud to say the collection features a story of mine, and though I tried to listen to the recording from the beginning, excitement got the better of me and I ended up jumping forward to my contribution. 

This is actually the second professional audiobook featuring my work. The first is a version of Beyond Birkie Fever that Rhemalda put together back in 2012. I've never listened to that one though as I sometimes have a hard time setting aside the editor part in me and just enjoying the work. However, the free sample of Heroika features the first few pages of my story, and I listened to that without initially recognizing the story as mine. I enjoyed hearing the clip, so that broke through my resistance to settle down and listen to the whole thing. It's always nice when you are exposed to something of your own without recognizing it and your honest thought is "hey...that's pretty good!"

It's pretty exciting to have something of yours packaged up and presented in a way that's so polished and professional. The narrator selected for "Heroika" is Rob Goll and his voice is so good I'd pay to hear him read the phone book. Goll inflections are right on, and that was a tremendous relief. It may not sound like much to expect a professional to read, for example, a question as a question, but you'd be surprised. It has always driven me crazy the way Elijah Wood says, "Do they Gandalf?" in the "Fellowship of the Ring"--and Elijah Wood is an actor I respect. 

What you get in "Heroika" is a very sophisticated reading. My story, "Aquila of Oyos", is written in a kind of classic style that isn't particularly easy to read aloud (I know because I read it aloud about fifty times during the course of composition). Goll hits the rhythm perfectly though, which shows he had a deep understanding of the mechanics of how the story functions. Again, you'd think that would be expected from a professional performer, but believe me it's a relief when it's done well. For example, the pause he throws in before the final word creates a wonderful finality. As a writer, I know the reader gets that same sense of finality simply due to the fact that they can see the text is about to end. That doesn't exist for a listener, so it's up to the narrator to indicate the end has arrived (simply stating "The End" would be a disaster...the listener has to know). 

Of course, even though I read this story aloud multiple times, as I listened to Goll perform I realized I could have made his life easier in about a dozen little places. There are three or four pronouns I should have removed, and one descriptive scene goes on about a sentence too long. Sometimes I wonder, though, if my impulse for constant tinkering actually makes a work better after a certain point. None of what I might change now represents a catastrophic error, and I've found that eleventh hour edits sometimes reduces the effectiveness of the story as a whole. 

Listening to Goll really served as a very powerful lesson for me. There is a precision that must be achieved in the final drafts of your work, and that comes from an almost obsessive attention to detail. I knew this already, of course, but it's valuable to have the lesson repackaged and presented again in a new way that further underscores its importance. 

All that being said, I was really happy how well the story worked. When I set out to write a dragon tale, I decided it must include several things: a mound of treasure, a dragon melting something in the most graphic way possible, and a sense of tremendous age. The last one is the hardest, and I feel that I achieved all of these points. I'm looking forward to applying the lessons learned to my next project, and with the very real possibility that somebody as talented as Rob Goll will be performing...well, there's no better source of motivation!

I'm also looking forward to listening to the works of the other very talented authors in this collection. 

Also...an audiobook of this one would be nice! There will be a Goodreads giveaway of that going live shortly, so look for me on Goodreads here.