The Next Big Thing

I was quite honored to be tagged by Jackie Hames at The Spidereen Frigate for a blog chain called “The Next Big Thing,” which gives readers a snapshot of your own work-in-progress.

I’ll give it my best shot. Hope you enjoy!

What is the Working Title of Your Book?

The Wolfglen Legacy: Revived

Where Did Your Idea for the Book Come From?

I started drawing maps in 2004 of a fantasy world I wanted to create, and that eventually morphed into a couple of projects, including The Wolfglen Legacy. After watching a lot of movies like the Star Wars prequels, Lord of the Rings, and Pirates of the Caribbean, I wanted to tell a big, adventurous, save-the-world kind of story. Plus, I wanted to try giving new(ish) versions of various fantasy cliches like elves, dragons, wizards, dark lords, and see if I could set them up in a somewhat original framework.

What Genre Does Your Book Fall Under?

Primarily epic fantasy, with some tones of dark fantasy, adventure fantasy, and a dash of science fiction.

If Your Book Became a Movie, Which Actors Would You Pick?

I have a large cast in mind for this

Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian) as Morent Wolfglen. He’d do a good job of looking ferocious and desperate, playing the conflicted wizard who is trying to save his family while keeping his conscience intact.

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Jennifer Lawrence would be terrific to play Princess Sathra Wolfglen. She excelled as Mystique and Katniss Everdeen, and I’d like to see her play the role of a vulnerable young woman who learns how to become stronger and more in control.

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Andrew Garfield really impressed me with his interpretation of Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man, so I wouldn’t mind seeing him in the role of Josh Kingston, a young man from another time who is awakened from stasis into a distant future ruled by magic and wars, and is catapulted into one of the most dangerous conflicts Earth has ever faced, all while trying to learn his new surroundings and run from mistakes and tragedy in his past.

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Those are the three main characters. But I did have a couple of others in mind. I tend to dream big.

Christian Bale as King Rishtal Wolfglen, brother to Morent and father to Sathra.

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Rachel Weisz as Empress Kilfira Lundill, an ally of the Wolfglen family.

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Sam Neill as General Streynel Halthrin, and David Tennant as Myrickin Schtahl, both of them people who have different goals than everyone thinks they do.

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Okay, I could go on, but I think that’s enough of my pipe dream. For now. 🙂

What is Your Book’s One-Sentence Synopsis?

A young man outrunning his past, a princess trying to go on after her mother’s death, and a wizard desperate to save his family all find themselves caught up in a secret war against their country, driven by an ancient supernatural enemy.

Will Your Book be Self-Published or Represented By an Agency?

I’m definitely going to try traditional publishing first. More than that, I want to see how high I can go with this series. If Random House or Tor or HarperCollins picks it up, terrific! If not, that’s perfectly okay. I still want to try it because I don’t want to spend my days wondering how far up the publishing ladder it could have gone.

How Long Did it Take You to Write the First Draft?

After writing off and on while trying to balance school and work with my writing goals, it took me about five years to finally have a complete first draft. Now that I’m graduated, though, it won’t take nearly as long to write the series’s next book (there will be four Wolfglen books in total).

What Other Books in Your Genre Would You Compare Your Novel To?

Hmm. Kind of stumped on this one. Maybe it would be a good fit for readers of Brandon Sanderson (Elantris, Mistborn, the latest Wheel of Time books), James Gurney (Dinotopia), Christopher Paolini (The Inheritance Cycle), George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones), and Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game).

Who or What Inspired You To Write This Book?

In December 2003, as I left the theater after watching Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, I was blown away by the story I had just witnessed. Given the staggering quality of Peter Jackson’s trilogy and how it affected my emotions and imagination, I knew one thing for certain stepping out of that theater: I wanted to be a fantasy writer.

From there I pieced together bits of worldbuilding, character development, and the clockwork of a plot, and the most developed result is The Wolfglen Legacy.

What Else Might Pique a Reader’s Interest in Your Book?

Possibly the ways I have revamped given fantasy cliches (elves with flintlocks instead of bows, a villain driven by his conscience instead of evil for its own sake, etc.).

Moral complexity is one of the big goals I have in mind for this series. I am striving to get a good balance between the black-and-white conflict in Harry Potter, and the frustrating ambiguity in Game of Thrones.

Dinosaurs join the book’s dragons to give my world plenty of big scaly beasties. When was the last time you saw a Triceratops in a fantasy novel? Seriously, they could instantly improve a lot of books.

And I am working hard to make the story satisfying on all fronts, not only attractive for its worldbuilding or characters or descriptions.

Tagging

To keep this chain going, I’d like to tag four of the coolest writers I know: Janden Daniel HaleRob “The Brain Hamster” Killam, Aaron Ritchey, and Courtney Schafer. All are terrific storytellers, and I recommend you check them out right away.

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Book Review: “The Way of Shadows” by Brent Weeks

Overall rating: 8 out of 10

Ultra-assassins, corrupt kings, political intrigue, prostitutes and street urchins wishing side-by-side for a better life in a world that refuses to let them gain it…those are just a few of the better trappings of epic fantasy, and this first volume of the Night Angels trilogy is a book that uses them well. The tale of youngster Azoth and trained killer Durzo Blint proves a tantalizing twist on the “precocious youth is taught by a wise old man” trope, jolting it up with moral ambiguity and a tense, hostile relationship between the two of them.

Brent Weeks has begun a trilogy that I look forward to finishing. He had me hooked right from the opening scene. He did a terrific job of fleshing out his characters, and got me to care about them. More than a few scenes and character arcs were emotionally intense, and I appreciated how he gave his protagonists enough hell so their outcomes truly were in doubt. He doesn’t pull a lot of punches, develops this world adequately, and he makes sure we have an investment in the outcome. Even when he indulges in cliches of romance, royalty, prophecies, and mages, Weeks pulls it off so well that you don’t mind reading about the same thing one more time. It’s a gritty world, full of gritty characters, so if you’re tired of squeaky clean epic fantasy and have already devoured A Song of Ice and Fire, this might be a good book for you to grab.

Shadows is not without its weaknesses. Some truly intriguing characters are set up for their own great stories that could have been threaded through the next book, only to be killed in some arbitrary manner, a la George R.R. Martin. Not that that’s always a bad thing. It just made the experience of their deaths incredibly frustrating, rather than an intense part of the story. The quality of the writing itself is uneven. It normally doesn’t have standout description, and oscillates between pedestrian and wordy (something that isn’t as grating when you listen to an audiobook, which I did in this case). And there are one too many viewpoint characters, in my opinion, at least when it comes to the single-chapter minor viewpoints.

Another weakness here is that the villains are cackling cartoons who take delight in their overt wickedness. Even though I cheered whenever one of these evil creatures died, I wished they were characters who saw themselves as heroes and doing what was right or necessary, instead of R-rated versions of the mustache-twirling devils on a vaudeville stage.

My overall impression of this novel is that it gets its strength from the character development, which fortunately makes up for the elements that don’t shine quite as brilliantly. Still, it has to be said that Brent Weeks has kicked open the door and gotten us off to a great start. This is a series that I intend to finish. Thank you, Mr. Weeks. You have done well.

Game of Thrones – Season 2 premiere review

“The night is dark and full of terrors.”

~Melisandre, priestess of the Lord of Light

Peter Dinklage is back as Tyrion Lannister. He earned that Emmy last year for portraying one of the best characters in all of fantasy literature. It's a delight to have him back.

After that delightfully tense, hard-hitting juggernaut of a first season that left millions of people thirsting for more, HBO began their second season of Game of Thrones tonight. Once again, they demonstrate their dedication to the solid storytelling and almost Shakespearean characters that earned George R.R. Martin’s original novels their acclaim.

[Warning: Spoilers of season one follow]

I won’t summarize the situation or world the novels take place in. I did that last year, and you can read it here if you need a crash course on the setup to this series, which is the finest cinematic fantasy since Peter Jackson immersed us in Middle Earth.

So, the war that Robert Baratheon warned us about is cracking wide open. Robert’s dead, Ned Stark has been beheaded, the Lannisters now seem to have a tight grip on the Iron Throne, and self-professing kings have been popping up like dandelions to challenge their claim to said throne. Whether or not you have read the novel season two is based on (A Clash of Kings), you are in for a real treat. Again, HBO is more than willing to adhere faithfully to the beginning of Martin’s novel, while adding some truly awe-inspiring new scenes. I won’t tell you what happens, but if you see the episode, look for the scene where Queen Cersei and four of her guards meet with Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish in a courtyard. By far, that is the strongest scene in the season premiere, brimming and humming with tension. You’ll know what I mean when you see it.

I will tell you only that the last scene might be hard for some people to watch, if you are very uncomfortable with the portrayal of children’s deaths. Otherwise, I’m not going to spoil anything more for you. If you haven’t caught the Game of Thrones bug yet, then what the heck are you doing reading my blog? Go get your hands on the DVDs and watch the first season. Now. Then catch up with the expertly crafted, high-quality premiere I just experienced.

Tonight, HBO has kicked the door back open to the treacherous world of Westeros, and what a reintroduction it is.