My Spec-Fic Faves for 2018


2018 was a great year for reading. I smashed my Goodreads Reader’s Challenge goal and just scrapped to finishing the 2018 Popsugar Challenge. Once again this year, my reading included a selection from the classics, big names and several indie authors. While not all are 5 star reads, each of the books chosen for my 15 picks intrigued me and/or left me thinking about the characters, the plot or the world long after I’d put the book down.

 

What were my best spec-fic reads for 2018?

1. The Bright Empires series by Stephen Lawhead

This science-fantasy series by Stephen Lawhead consists of five book: The Skin Map, The Bone House, The Spirit Well, The Shadow Lamp, The Fatal Tree.   The series follows the adventures of 17th century Arthur Flinders-Petrie, present day Kit Livingston, his erstwhile girl friend Mina, and the villainous Lord Burleigh, as they each seek to explore the mysteries of ley travel between an expanding number of alternative earths.  Each transfer to an alternative world is at a different time as well as place – from 17th century London and Prague, to China, to both Middle Kingdom and early twentieth century Egypt, ancient Tuscany, the paleolithic, early twentieth century Jordan, or north American desert.  Like the Doctor and Riversong – people can met out of synch with each other which results in some interesting plot points. New characters are added along the way and the stakes grow more serious with each book until it encompasses the whole cosmos. And while the final book didn’t quite live up to the rest,  I enjoyed the complexity of the plot, the immersive and detailed nature of each setting, the interplay of the characters, the redemptive arc and transcendence in this brilliant series.

 

2. Children of the Furnace by Brin Murray

Children of the Furnace is a YA dystopia set in a world devastated by global warming, with only the polar regions suitable for human habitation. Will, brought up by his step-father in Sekkerland (Greenland) is sheltered from the realities of the world until he is discovered by the Revouts and sent to Ferule – a re-education camp for boys – as a hated Heater.  The book is narrated by both Will and Leah (a girl from the south) with strong world-building and characterisation. Though, at times I found the violence quite harrowing and was disappointed the trope of religious fanaticism, I really did like the originality of setting and that Will seeks another way than ‘the way of the strong’.   Here’s my full review.

 

3. Grounded: A Dragon’s Tale  by Gloria Piper

Grounded: A Dragon’s Tale is another book with an original setting that intrigued me.

The story inter-leaves the narrative from the dragon Many Colours (aka Rumplewing) in first person with sections from the Watchers (scientific observers) and the enigmatic Baaden in third person. Through Rumplewing, we are introduced to dragon society and to their terraformed planet with a multitude of different wildlife, including unicorns and griffons. Each dragon has a groombug bonded at hatching and cannot live without this lifelong smaller companion.  Piper interweaves both personal challenges of young Rumplewing and sixteen year old Hote (one of the Watchers) with grave threats to the existence of the dragons and to the wellbeing of the whole planet, culminating in an exciting showdown. Here is my review.

4. Ted Dekker’s  Eyes Wide Open & Hacker

Ted Dekker’s Outlaw series are modern spiritual allegories. Each book is loosely connected to the other but stand on their own merits.

I found Eyes Wide Open a gripping read. Christy Snow is trapped in a concrete hollow below the unfinished and supposably empty hospital and has just enough mobile battery to call her friend Austin for help. What follows is a mind-stretching psychological play where neither Christy or Austin knows what is illusion and what is fact, until the appearance of Outlaw.

In Hacker, Nyah Parkes is desperate to provide revolutionary brain-restoring therapy for her comatose mother. When she asks her friend Austin for the money, he suggest his experiments with hacking the mind (in order to cure his inoperable brain tumour) provide a better chance of saving her mom. Both Nyah and Austin push the limits, ripping through the envelope of normal reality to find a greater truth beyond the layers. Will they grasp it in time before her mother dies or Nyah’s past mistakes come to destroy them both?

I’ve yet to read the second in the series, Water Walker and the origin story, Outlaw, but both the books I have read were gripping psychological thrillers with action and thought-provoking scenarios that kept me turning the pages. My review of Hacker here.

 

5. Artemis by Andy Weir

Andy Weir’s second book Artemis (following The Martian) is set in the near future on Artemis moon base established by the Kenyan space agency. Jaz (Jasmine Bashara), who grew up on the Moon, makes a living by carrying messages supplemented by some low level smuggling. That is until she is offered a job with an impossible-to-refuse bonus. When things go spectacularly wrong and killers are hunting her down, she has to decide what is worth dying for. This science fiction heist thriller is fast-paced, full of Weir’s trademark maths, with a feisty smart-mouthed heroine. A fun read and I particularly enjoyed the interplay between Jaz and her dad. See my review here.

 

6. Clara’s Diary by Angelique Anderson

Clara’s Diary is a fast-paced mystery novel in a uniquely steampunk New York setting. It is set in an alternative history, in 1906, in which Octilunes, half-human, half-octopus children of the gods, have emerged from the oceans to live among humans. Detective Joseph (Joe) Desmond is determined to find who murmured his beloved daughter, especially after a look-alike Octilune is also murdered. He investigates both crimes with the help of stunning Octilune shop owner, Sadie, finding himself in danger at every turn. A big clunky at times, it’s a fun read with a world filled with fantastic gismos, memorable characters and a good dash of humour. See my review here.

 

7. Hunters’ Quest by Kasper Beaumont

Hunters’ Quest is the second book in Kasper Beaumont’s Hunters of Reloria series. It picks up from where Elven Jewel finishes as a group of hobbits and their halflings, dwarves, an elf, and a knight and a dragon-shifter travel across Reloria to warn the people of the coming invasion of reptilian monsters and gigantic cyclops, to ensure the shields are maintained and to look for a mage to help them rescue the Elven princess Shari-Rose.  Hunters’ Quest is a middle-grade to young adult fantasy adventure with a wealth of different fantasy creatures, packed full of action, some romance and humour as well as moments of pathos. It ends on a cliff-hanger leading to A Dragon’s RevengeMy full review here.


8. Guardian of Ajalon

 

Guardian of Ajalon is the third and final book of the Joan Campbell’s Poison Path trilogy though it reads well as a stand alone with events of the previous two book introduced as back story. The book follows the adventures and fortunes of Shara’s journey through the dangerous Ri’twine to the fabled kingdom of Ajalon, her friend Nicco’s preparing against attack in the hidden Grotto, and Queen Nya’s decision to go to the aid of the Grotto to save Tirragyl from destruction; each in their way countering the scheming of Lord Lucian and the riftfiends. Intertwined is the story of Prince ‘Eshua, son of Ab’El who enters Tirragyly to save Shara and the people of Tirragyl with clear redemptive analogies. I especially liked the concept of two kingdoms divided by a curse and time-shift, the poison-tree analogy and depictions of Ab’El, ‘Eshua and the Goldbreast.  My full review here.

 

9. Quench the Day by Shari Branning

I loved Shari Branning’s Quench the Day.  Set in a wild west alternative world with shapeshifting, it has the feel of a fairy-tale retelling of star-crossed lovers, Rowen and Aaro, separated and cursed by Aaro’s ruthless cousin, Ormond, and their own inability to see past their anger and grief.  Branning conveys both setting and the emotional struggles of the main characters in an evocative, gripping way. This is a book that embodies the saying, don’t judge a book by it’s cover.  See my full review here.

 

10. Ready Player One by Ernest Kline

Inspired to read the book after watching the movie, I enjoyed both. Though there are significant changes between the two (especially the actual quest challenges and how Wayne finds the first key), at it’s essence the movie keeps true to the story. It is both an interesting celebration of 80s culture and the online world, while also critiquing over-immersion in that world and corporate greed that can control it.  My full review here. 

 

11. Amazing Grace by S. E. Saski

Again, Amazing Grace is book 3 in a series. Set on a huge medical space station (The Nelson Mandela), it is a glorious romp full of humour, larger-than-life characters, a sweet romance and spine-chilling adventure with devastating stakes, some really nasty villains and a high body count. Following the aftermath of previous devastating threats to the station, things soon spin out of control as old threats take on new, deadlier forms.

As a new reader to the series, I had no problem catching up with events. If anything, the first third of the book dealt with the aftermath of the previous two books in such depth it slowed the pace a bit, but once the real action started, I was totally hooked. My full review here.

 

12. Warcross by Marie Lu

Warcross is a YA cyberpunk novel with a feisty young heroine (Emika Chen). After the almost penniless bounty hunter Emika glitches into the Opening Ceremony game of Warcross, its creator, Hideo Tanaka, adds her to the draft as one of the undercover ‘hunters’ tracking down the mysterious Zero.

Overall, Warcross was a pleasure to read, with some great worldbuilding (both in the virtual world, the dark net, and future Tokyo), fast-paced (mostly) and intriguing plot. And while the identity and motivations of Zero confirmed my guesses, I still found the finale a strong and satisfying finish with an impossible dilemma and room for a sequel. My full review here.

 

My Publishing Year

As for the publishing year – not as many books and stories as in 2018, but I did have a few new releases in the world of Nardva.

Ruhanna’s Flight and Other Stories is a selection of my short stories, mostly published in anthologies, or on the webpage, a couple unpublished, and one “Before the Wind” I wrote specifically for the collection.  I also published Ruhanna’s Flight as a stand alone short story.

 

Stone of the Sea: a novella – the third novella in the Under the Mountain series (following Heart of the Mountain & Blood Crystal) was published at the end of October.

Plus Heart of the Mountain is included in the Book Bundle – Limited Horizon, 12 books of speculative fiction with low technology available for a fantastic price.

And for 2019 – once again I’ve taken up the Goodreads Challenge (70 books) and the Popsugar Reading Challenge.

Shadow Crystals, novella 4 in the Under the Mountain series is slated to be published this month (January). With the final novella Caverns of the Deep in a couple of months time.

My apologies for the delay in getting Rasel’s Song (sequel to Akrad’s Children) ready. I’m making it a priority to get it released in the first half of this year.

Full Moon Rises: a short story will be available released on February 14.

 

 

Wishing you happy reading for 2019.  What were your favourite Spec Fic books in 2018? And which (if any) is your favourite story or book set in the world of Nardva? I’d love to know 🙂

Jeanette   January 2019

Interview – Adam David Collings

 


 

In today’s post, I speak with sci-fi author Adam David Collings. Adam has stories published in Medieval Mars and Victorian Venus anthologies, as well as in Glimpses of Light and Superheroes: The Crossover Alliance Anthology V3. Last year Adam published the first episode of his Space Opera series, Jewel of the Stars (you can read my review here.)

I asked Adam a number of questions about his writing process and plans earlier this year.

 

Jeanette: Share three things that people may not already know about you.

 

Adam:

1)      My favourite thing to eat, in the world, is chicken schnitzel, served with chips and gravy.

2)      I’m both an author and a computer programmer, and I’ve managed to make it 18 years into my career without becoming a coffee drinker. I just don’t like the taste.

3)      In my late teens and early twenties, I was toying between being a writer and being an amateur film-maker, as my primary hobby. (It never occurred to me that either could be an actual career.) I settled on writing prose because it’s easier to achieve as a ‘one-man-band’. Either way, storytelling has always been in my blood. I ended up expressing the film-making desire through my Vlogging. What would I have done had YouTube not been invented?

Jeanette: That’s a good question.  What were your favourite books, movies and TV shows as you were growing up, and how have they influenced your writing?

Adam:  I loved the Cooper Kids Adventure Series by Frank Peretti growing up. Peretti taught me a lot about bringing plot threads together in an exciting climax.

I also devoured the novels of Stephen R. Lawhead. Sci-fi, Fantasy and historical fiction. One thing was common among all three. Epicness. Epicocity. Uh…they were epic.

I watched a lot of Star Trek, starting with the original series, then TNG, DS9 etc. Star Trek had a major impact on my writing, which is still very evident today in Jewel of The Stars. I learned about character development, incorporating theme into story, and how to manage an ensemble cast.

I loved a show called the Mysterious Cities of Gold when I was little. Its influence will be seen in a future season of Jewel of The Stars.

In my late teens, I was mesmerised by Babylon 5. From this, my eyes were opened to the wonders of long-form story arcs. I’m still learning to reproduce what J. Michael Straczynski did in that show.

Jeanette: I loved Babylon 5 though Star Trek and Lawhead are also favourites. Which (perhaps little-known) authors were your best reads in the last couple of years?

Adam: A little-known author I really enjoyed in the last few years was P A Baines. His Alpha series reads like classic science fiction. It’s clever, moving and entertaining. The books deserve to be much more widely known than they are.


For All Time by Meredith Resce was a fun time travel story, which explored the cultural differences between our present, and medieval times. It also had an interesting twist on romance.

Allan and Aaron Reini are a father and son team who wrote a military sci-fi thriller called Flight of The Angels. It’s something of a cross between Battlestar Galactica and The Terminator, exploring the theme of religious persecution. I’m eagerly waiting for them to release a second book in the series.

 

Jeanette:  I enjoyed For All Time. I can see my TBR pile expanding. Flight of the Angels sounds intriguing.

You have several Sci-Fi stories published now. Is this your favourite genre to write? What do you like about it? And have you ever considered exploring another genre?

Adam: I think it’s fair to say that sci-fi is my favourite genre. I have a pretty broad definition of sci-fi, and I love it all, but my favourite sub-genre is space opera.  I love the sense of wonder that sci-fi evokes. It opens our eyes, and our imaginations, to the wonders of creation. It’s also a great vehicle for exploring themes that really matter.

I’m going to paraphrase something Brandon Sanderson has been known to say.

“The reason I love fantasy is that you can do all the things that you can in every other genre. Plus, you can have dragons.”

This is how I feel about science fiction. You can have a murder mystery, a romance, a buddy-cop comedy, and you can add aliens and spaceships. Sci-fi can blend with pretty much anything, and make it even cooler.

I’m a lover of speculative fiction in general, which includes fantasy. I dabbled in fantasy (with a sci-fi setting) in my Medieval Mars story, Lynessa’s Curse. I can see myself writing more fantasy in the future (in fact, I have a project in mind).

I can’t see myself ever writing straight fiction without any speculative elements. I do have an interest in history, particularly Tasmanian History, which could lend itself to a story, but even then, it would be a time-travel story, not just straight historical fiction.

Outside of fiction, my Mum and I have discussed the idea of writing some creative non-fiction about our ancestor, John Herbert, who was a convict in the first fleet.


 

Jeanette: I love that Sanderson quote.

How did you come up with the idea of Jewel of the Stars? What have been the joys and challenges in writing the series?

Adam: As a child, and a teenager, I consumed a lot of Star Trek. Since the Trek world is modelled after naval traditions, and in particular, the US Navy, I found that a lot of real-world naval terms were familiar to me. Bridge, First officer etc. Ever since, whenever I encounter anything remotely nautical, my mind goes straight to space. A naval warship? What about a warship in space. A fishing boat? What about fishing for space-dwelling animals. When my parents went on their first cruise, my mind immediately said, “What about a cruise ship in space?” That idea wouldn’t let me go.

The story of a cruise ship in space would clearly be a large ensemble story. At least, that’s how I pictured it. Originally, I envisaged it as a giant epic novel. I was convinced I didn’t yet have the skill to write something like that, so I put it on the shelf for later. When I first discovered the episodic storytelling of Sean Platt and Johnny B Truant, I realised there was another option.

I’m a child of the TV generation. I’ve always thought of stories in terms of episodes and seasons. I wrote a lot of serial web fiction when I was at university, but didn’t think there was a serious market for that type of thing. The eBook and self-publishing revolutions changed that. Episodic fiction was perfectly suited to this new medium. Platt and Truant had proven with their series, The Beam, that there was a market for it. Once I re-framed my cruise ship story as an ongoing series, structured like a modern TV show, I knew I was ready to launch into it.

The joys of writing it come from the creative process. I’m a big-picture storyteller. I delight in dreaming up long-term story arcs, with all the twists and turns that will take place over the years. Jewel of The Stars gave me great scope for this. I’m already thinking about ideas for spin-off series.

The biggest challenge comes out of the same place. If I wanted to tell these grand stories, I had to get my head out of the clouds and focus on the details. Editing is something I must really push myself through. After all, who wants to be inserting commas and tweaking sentence structure when you could be dreaming up the plot arc for next season?

Jeanette:  You went on a family cruise last year. Some of those ships are enormous (we recently saw one that seemed to compete with the Sydney skyscrapers). In what ways did experiencing an ocean-going cruise affect your ideas about a space-going cruise ship?

Adam: The main thing was that it gave me some real-world experience of what it’s like to be on a cruise. Until then, my idea of a cruise was shaped by the movie Titanic, and travelling on the Spirit of Tasmania (both of which are technically classed as a ferries, not a cruises).

Now I have a good sense of what a modern cruise is like. I learned some of the lingo, which I was able to insert into the story. It also helped me to picture what my ship would be like inside. My shore visits to New Caledonia gave me a tiny taste of what it’s like to step into a new place, and interact with a culture that is not your own. For the first time in my life, I was the outsider. I was the foreigner. It was a strange feeling.

I documented the entire cruise on my youTube channel. If you’re interested, you can watch the adventure at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLOlU7c71yrfTBqrVJNzhirdp42kPll4Kx

Of course, in space, you have to think about the different practicalities.

First of all, you can’t go up on deck. How do you deal with the swimming pool. I chose to have “magic” artificial gravity, like on Star Trek, but you have to make these decisions.


Jeanette: My family twice travelled from Melbourne to Durban by ship. The swimming pool could have done with some artificial gravity or at least inertial dampening.

So, what else are you working on at the moment?

Adam: I have a completed draft for a superhero novella, set in Australia. There’s a small press which I think might be a good fit for the story, so after I finish revising, I’m considering submitting it. It could be a good way to get another work out in the world, without having to finance the editing and publication costs myself.

I also have a co-writing project simmering in the back of my mind – the fantasy story I mentioned above. My plan is to write the first instalment, and then invite others to join me.

Right now, though, my primary focus is on Jewel of The Stars. I’m making good progress revising episode 2 (which has been the most challenging to beat into shape). I have episodes 3 and 4 already drafted. I’ll have all 6 episodes of season one drafted by the end of the year.

Jeanette: Yay, I’m looking forward to reading Episode 2, especially after a sneak peak of the first couple of chapters.  The first episode, Jewel of The Stars: Earth’s Remnant was an exciting read. I know you made some great progress in NaNoWriMo this month. Your other projects sound intriguing too.

Thanks Adam for taking the time to talk with us.

Jeanette

Memorable Fathers in Spec Fic

On Sunday it’s Father’s Day in Australia. It’s also three months since my father passed away. He’d lived a long and good life and is now with God, though I miss the twinkle in his eye, his warm hugs and smile.  He was my hero growing up and, though like us all, he had his quirks, he left me a wonderful legacy, including a love for books, for science-fiction and fantasy.

As a tribute to my dad I thought I’d ponder some memorable fathers (or father-figures) in speculative fiction, including in the Nardva World.  One thing that strikes me is their rarity. Fathers, especially in children’s/YA literature/books, often seem absent, whether dead (like Harry Potter’s dad or Eragon’s or Catniss Everdeen’s) or distant (the Pevensey kids’ parents) or hidden (Luke Skywalker’s dad). Even when they are alive at the beginning of the book, they often don’t make it alive (Tris’ parents, for example). No doubt, this is allows the hero or heroine to come into their own.

Not all the dads are great role models. Some we love, some are doing their best, while others need a few lessons on being a great father. Warning – possible SPOILERS ahead.

 

Professor Kirby in Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Professor Kirby is a father or grandfatherly figure to the Pevensie kids in C S Lewis’ The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Peter, Susan, Edmond and Lucy have been shipped to the countryside during the bombing of London in World War II.  The Professor mostly allows his housekeeper to care for the children, but when Lucy begins talking about Narnia and Edmond teases her mercilessly, it’s Professor Kirby Peter and Susan turn to. Much to their surprise, he doesn’t discount Lucy’s story and gives them some sage if enigmatic advice. What makes this even better to my mind, is that we later find out that the Prof has travelled to Narnia in his youth (recounted in The Magician’s Nephew).

 

Théoden and Denethor in Lord of the Rings

For such a sweeping saga, there are not a lot of living fathers in Lord of the Rings.  Two that come to mind are not the best of examples – Théoden King of  Eodras and Denethor Steward of Gondor.

Théoden allows himself to be enthralled by Grima Wormtongue and becomes so embittered by grief at the loss of his only son, that he ignores the plight of his loyal niece Eowyn and drives away his nephew Eomer.  Only the dramatic intervention of Gandalf breaks Wormtongues’ hold, and Théoden is restored to his senses and show both courage and heroism in protecting his people and coming to the aid of Gondor. He heroically dies in battle with the Witch King of Angmar, who Eowyn then slays.

Denethor is ensared by his own despair and pride. He sees the darkness coming out of Mordor. He knows that Aragorn will claim his rightful place as King, making him and his house redundant. I’m not sure which he fears the most. But his most egregious fault as a father is his blatant favouritism of one son over the other. He admires and loves Boromir’s stalwart military prowess, while despising Faramir’s more thoughtful approach. In his grief for Boromir’s death, he sends Faramir to certain death in defending Osgiliath, and in bitter regret almost burns himself along with his still living son on a funeral pyre. In Denethor’s case, Gandalf’s intervention and advice is denied and one cannot help but wonder whether Boromir’s downfall was in part seeded by his father’s unwise favouritism.

 

Anakin Skywalker

Who could forget Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back ‘I am your father.’ Yes, but in name only. Consumed with an unreasonable fear of losing the great love of his live, Padme, Anakin is seduced to the dark side, cemented by his unspeakable act of killing the younglings in the Jedi Temple. His turn to the dark side, rather than saving Padme, brings about her death as she gives birth to twins, Leila and Luke. The babies are whisked off and hidden from their father (perhaps not all that well in Luke’s case, with his uncle and aunt on Tatoonie). When they do finally meet, Darth Vader oscillates between trying to kill Luke and his friends, to seducing him to the dark side to serve the Emperor.  It’s a pretty sad track record (perhaps as sad a John Lock’s conman father in Lost). But in the end, the father’s love in Anakin wins out, and rather than see his son killed, he turns on the Emperor, a final redemptive act.

This is reversed in the next generation with Han and Ben Solo (Return of the Jedi and Last Jedi). Han is not a perfect father, perhaps often away, yet there is no doubt he loves his son. Yet Ben turns to the dark side, as Kylo Ren, worships his grandfather Darth Vada and kills his own father so he will not be tempted by the weakness of love. We don’t know how it will turn out for Ben but I’m thinking not good.

On a side note, I chuckle at Jeffrey Brown’s take on  Dad moments between Darth Vader and his kids.

Ned Stark versus Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones

Ned Stark is a man of integrity in a world of gutter politics. He is stern and at times tough with his children, but there is no doubt he loves both them and their mother. His interactions with Rob, Sansa, Arya, Bran and others, shows that he understands their strengths and weakness, and wishes to bring out the best in each of his children. Yet in the end it is his integrity, his drive to do what is right, and his compassion for the children of his enemy that is his undoing. He pre-warns Cersei of his plans to reveal her incest and the illegitimacy of her children, so that she might get them to safety, Instead, she strikes back, bringing him down and leaving his own children exposed and in a mammoth struggle to survive in a predatory world.

Tywin in contrast pushes his children and shows only scorn for his youngest son Tyrion because of his dwarfism. His cold calculating drive brings out only the worst in Jamie and Cersei in particular.

Lief’s Dad in Deltora’s Quest

In Deltora’s Quest, Lief’s father gives him the task to collect the seven stones of Deltora and add them to the Belt of Aidan, so that the true heir of the realm might be returned and the Shadow Lord defeated. Lief’s father, a blacksmith, seems gentle and almost mild. What Lief doesn’t know is that , through arrogance and trust the wrong people, his father allowed a great wrong, which he now greatly regrets. He teaches Lief not only to be a blacksmith but strong values and integrity, things Lief needs on his quest. And he must face his own judgement of his father’s failings, before he can come into his own.

Harry Potter in The Cursed Child

Harry Potter (another orphan) finds it hard to relate to his younger son Albus. They are different personalities and Albus makes friends with Scorpios Malfoy and is sorted in the Slytherin, the group that opposed Harry in the past.  I think Albus reminds Harry of his own failings and temptations. Albus feels the weight of these fears and expectations and travels into the past to rectify what he sees as his fathers mistakes. The results are catastrophic and by the end both Harry and Albus make peace with each other.

King Caspian in The Silver Chair

Caspian’s own father died when he was a child and he is brought up by his murderous scheming Uncle, though it is his nurse and then his tutor that form his character and teach him of the Old Narnia. Caspian marries a star’s daughter, but she is killed by a snake when their son is a young man. Both Caspian and his son are grief-stricken and then his son disappears, only to be returned to Narnia ten years later some months after Caspian dies. It seems Caspian was a good father, but is unable to help his son when tragedy strikes, perhaps because of his own grief. He longs for his son return and does everything he can to find him. Tragic as this seems, Lewis pulls back the curtain in Aslan’s Land and shows Caspian restored, with the sorrows of his life transformed, showing his suffering is not permanent (a theme in explores in more detail in The Last Battle).

 

I’ve also written some fathers good and bad in the tales of Nardva.

 

Korak in the Under the Mountain series

Korak is Zadeki’s father, one of the shapeshifting Forest Folk. We first meet him in Blood Crystal though he probably doesn’t come to the fore in Stone of the Sea (planned release date September). He also makes a cameo appearance in Akrad’s Children. Korak is a more relaxed father, perhaps in part because the Forest Folk take to heart ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, but also because he remembers what it’s like to be young, impetuous and constantly in trouble. He provides Zadeki with direction and restraint when needed or shares a joke or the adventure, giving Zadeki a strong sense of acceptance and value.

Rokkan in Akrad’s Children

Rokkan is both a good and a bad father. He had a fraught relationship with his own father, Martal. Martal showed marked favouritism for his younger son, Naetok, and held Rokkan to an almost impossible standard.  Rokkan wants to be a good father, and guides his son, Prince Mannok with more tolerance and warmth. Even so, Mannok often feels he does live up to his talented father. But it is Rokkan complicated past relationship with Kiprissa Gaia and the need to juggle the uncertain balance between clan loyalties and outwit his cousin, Haka’s, ambition for the throne, and his fears of Akrad’s ongoing influence, that means he treats the children of his former marriage, Dinis and Ista, with far less justice and compassion.

Zander in Withered Seeds

Zander’s ambition to leave the poverty and shame of his childhood behind, leads him to make an irreversible deed (as told in Moonflame). He achieves the wealth and acclaim he desired, but find himself in a loveless marriage and treated with disdain. In reaction, he becomes in many ways an uninvolved father, not giving the input and concern he perhaps should. It is only when his youngest daughter insists on coming with him on his last trip, that the opportunity arises to rectify the mistakes of the past.

 


As I said at my own dad’s memorial service .   No father, except our heavenly father, is perfect. Yet being a parent is one of the greatest privileges, sometimes ignored for what are fleeting goals (wealth, power, prestige, status). The best fathers are not necessarily perfect or strong, but warm, fair and prepared to acknowledge mistakes and learn from them.

Who are your favourite fathers (or father-figures) in fiction? What makes them a great, or at least, lovable fathers.

Jeanette

 

 

The latest release in the Tales of Nardva: Ruhanna’s Flight and Other Stories includes Ruhanna’s Flight, Before the Wind, The Herbalist’s Daughter, Heart of the Mountain, Moonflame, Withered Seeds, Stasia’s Stand and more. It’s a great way to dip into a world of Nardva for engaging heroes and heroines and thrilling adventures.

My Spec Fic Reads for 2015 Part One

What where your favourite fantasy and science-fiction books and movies for 2015?  Here are a few of mine.

Star Wars 7 The Force Awakens

ReyForceAwakensReviewx300With all the hype and the long wait since the release of the last trilogy, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one.  My daughter and I saw it together on our trip to Melbourne in December after a day of looking at art galleries, graffiti lanes and traveling on the trams.

Star Wars 7, directed by J J Abrams, takes up the story twenty or more years after the end of Return of the Jedi. A new dark force, the First Order and dark user of the force, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), are out to destroy the Republic. Hans Solo and the Resistance are searching for a map fragment which will reveal location of the last Jedi, Luke Skywalker.

The movie was fast-paced, with lots of explosions, crashes and fire-fights.  Favourite characters Hans Solo, Chewbacca, Princess (now General) Leia, C3PO, A2D2 all make an appearance and new characters such as Finn (a reformed Storm Trooper) (John Boyega), Rey (an orphan left behind her family on  desert planet of Jaku with an affinity to the force) (Daisy Ridley), the droid BB-8, Maz Kanata and Kylo Ren (the dark ‘jedi’) who works for the mysterious Supreme Leader of the First Order, Snoke.  The plot echoes the past movies with a shocking (though not unpredictable) twist at the end.

We enjoyed the movie. For my son (who saw it with his father), it was ‘the best one yet.’ There was enough excitement, special effects, humour and emotion to keep us on the edge of our seats.  I love the fact that Finn is a person of colour and that Rey is a woman though, for some, this seems to encourage making the emo and conflicted Kylo Ren as the a dark anti-hero despite his terrible nature of his deeds. There are some obvious plot holes and many things left unexplained (how did the First Order arise and gain such devastating power so quickly, who is Snoke, why was Rey abandoned by her family and what is her connection to Luke, why did Luke walk out on the Republic and Resistance (even if his efforts to train more Jedi had disastrously failed)? No doubt some of these things will be revealed in the next couple of movies.

However, the more I think of it, the more I wish that The Force Awakens had deviated more from a recycling of old plot themes and scenarios. I guess it remains to be seen if the next two movies are more adventurous and more ready to risk alienating die-hard fans.

Mocking Jay Part 2

This final film from the Hunger Games trilogy, in which the Rebellion makes a final assault on the Capitol of Panem. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is the face of the resistance but, against orders, she teams up with her closest friends, including Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Finnick (Sam Claflin) to take out President Snow.

Again, I watched this movie with my daughter and thoroughly enjoyed it. It does verge on horror in a number of scenes, but the violence is not glorified. The movie stays faithful to the book and, in some ways, surpasses it. I can remember being very disappointed with the end of Mocking Jay (the book) for a couple of reasons, especially with regard to Prim – but also the death of a number of characters. I’ve had a number of years to think about why Suzanne Collins chose to end the book the way she did and I concluded that what happens to Prim was a necessary motivator for Katnis’ final actions and her realization that tyranny and the misuse of power was not the sole prerogative of Snow. Even so, (as I discuss here) it would be refreshing to see more peaceful and diplomatic means as a way of resolving problems. And while this may seem unrealistic – it can be done without necessarily spoiling the climatic thrill – as, for instance, in How to Train Your Dragon.  Not to quibble though, this was a fantastic movie.TriggerWarningreviex220w

Trigger Warning

Trigger Warning (2005) by Neil Gaiman is a collection of short stories of fantasy, sci-fiction and horror. Some are quite brief and others are longer. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book with it’s effortless prose, great characterizations and storytelling. Gaiman has a quirky view of life in which danger and retribution lurks in unlikely corners. I’ve reviewed it more thoroughly here.

Anansi Boys

I enjoyed Trigger Warning so much, I went looking for another Gaiman book and came across Anansi Boys (2006).  This book has an unlikely hero in Fat Charlie, and touch of romance, and great twist at the end and draws from Caribbean mythology. It was fun read and I really must read more Neil Gaiman. Again I reviewed it here.

Fly by Night

As I loved Frances Hardinge’s A Face Like Glass (2012), I was delighted to discover Fly by Night (2006). Like A Face Like Glass, this is also a Young Adult fantasy novel with a young teen protagonist combined with an intricate and fascinating, almost Baroque world and a complicated and inspired plot. Mosca Mye (named after the common house fly by her absent minded and erudite father) has to flee her village in the company of her goose, Saracen, and the dubious and smooth tongued Eponymous Clent. On arriving at Mandelion, they find themselves in the middle of intrigue, murder and an escalating feud between the Stationer’s Guild and the Locksmiths. This is a book about freedom of thought. And while I found it’s zealous Birdcatcher villains almost predictable in motivation (see a fuller review here), I still enjoyed the twists and turns, idiosyncratic characters and world building. Certainly, there is a need for tolerance and the freedom to discuss and contest different positions and values in a world where opposing points of view are often howled down or ridiculed in social media storm.

FlyByNightReviewx220

Femme

Femme (2014) by Delia Strange is the first book published in the Wanderer of Worlds series (and multiverse). Kaley  has won a scholarship to the almost Utopian paradise of Femme, a matriarchal society in which men are slaves. Kaley is excited about pursing her future tech studies but finds it hard to adjust to the mores and expectations of this rich and beautiful world, especially when she is assigned a personal slave. The world-building in Femme is rich, multi-layered and delicious. There is an underlying romantic tension and social dissonance that gradually builds up a climax and a realistic (and satisfying) conclusion. By turning social stereotypes and traditional gender roles upside down, Femme makes one think.  I reviewed it here.

That’s the first 6 of my 12 picks for 2016.  I’ll continue with the next six in the next post.

I’d love you to tell me, have you watched or read any of these spec fic pieces? What did you think of them? What are your best reads and views for 2016.

Jeanette

Cross-post to Fantasy Trekkers.

Fictional worlds, Series and more

The last couple of months I’ve been flat out with 2 units of study in the Masters of Arts (Writing). This has left little time for writing. However, I will be using Mannok’s Betrayal for my major project in my current unit The Creative Artefact.

In the meantime, I’ve written a couple of guest posts.

Multiplying the Magic

(on writing and reading series)

A good series is a delight to the reader, author and publisher. How many of us remember those series we loved and avidly followed as children – Anne of Green Gables, Biggles, Enid Blyton’s Famous Five or the Faraway Tree, Narnia, Sherlock Holmes – the list goes on. And as we got older maybe we moved on to Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer, Isaac Asimov, Janette Oke, Karen Kingsley or perhaps Stephen Lawhead. Well, you fill in the blanks with your favourite series author.
Series come in different guises depending on authorial choice, genre and reader expectations.

Read more

Creating Worlds

(on building fictional worlds)

One Hundred Acre Woods, Never Land, Avonlea, Narnia, Hogwarts, Middlearth … these are all places that have delighted countless children – and let’s admit it – adults, filling them with wonder and whimsy.
For me one of the joys of reading is being transported to another place and time.  It might be across the universe in a FTL spaceship or a Blue Police box. It might be back in time to encounter ancient or not so ancient societies and cultures (Victorian, Medieval, Roman, Chinese or Incan) or perhaps to a strange technological or dystopic future. Or it might be the streets of New York or Sydney, the vast Australian Outback or the green hills of England. Books have whisked me away to all these places – and more, many more.

Read more

Jeanette O’Hagan

Blogging about Fantasy

At the end of April I was thrilled to  guest blog on Dyane Forde’s Writing Blog Dropped Pebbles.  I wrote a two part series on Fantasy:

Fantasy and Faith: Part One

“Some day yfantasy1ou will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” C. S. Lewis

Not everyone loves fantasy, not everyone gets it. ‘I prefer reality,’ they say as they look at you slightly askance. The implication, whether stated aloud or not, is that fantasy is escapist entertainment for the childish and less enlightened among us. Even so, I don’t mind admitting that I have not lost my love for fantasy since the day I was introduced to C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series at age 7. In fact, I spend a large part of my days reading fantasy or writing it. So what can we say to the naysayers? Despite the critics, Spec-Fic including fantasy continues to dominate the bestsellers and movie blockbusters. In fact, many people read or watch  fantasy without realising it – Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, for instance, or Disney’s Fantasia. Moreover, fantasy comes in a wide variety of guises – so chances are there is something for everyone.  Read More.

 

 

 

Fantasy and Faith: Part Two

BirdMany skeptics relegated fantasy to the dusty attics of their childhood. In their minds, it is at best escapist entertainment empty of real meaning or at worst mind numbing wish fulfillment that leaves one out of touch with reality. And to be honest, fantasy does explore and extend our most fantastical dreams and plumbs our worst nightmares. But is it escapist? And is that a bad thing? Read More .

My Writing Process – Blog Tour #mywritingprocess

I was asked to join in with this blog tour on My Writing Process by Melissa Gijsbers Khalinsky. You can read her post here.

And here are my answers to the questions given.

1) What am I working on?

I’m working on a few of projects at the moment. My main passion is for my YA/NA fantasy fiction Akrad series. I’ve written three of the books (Book 1, 2 & 4) and am correctly close to finishing Book 3 Mannok’s Betrayal. Pulling all the threads together has been a challenge but one I enjoy. I have started sending out Book 1 Akrad’s Children to publishers and will be soon sending Book 2 Rasel’s Song to my faithful beta-readers.

I am also doing a Masters of Arts (Writing) – two units this term – which involve major writing tasks. Fortunately, I can use what I’m doing with Mannok’s Betrayal as part of my assessment for one of the units.

I participated in Month of Poetry (MoP) in January (the challenge of writing one poem a day) and have continued writing poems as the whim takes me. And I blog both for my own blogs and for a couple of group blogs.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My Akrad series is secondary world fantasy aimed at Young Adult to New Adult (ages 15-24) audiences. The books are set in an imaginary world of Nardva with complex societies, history, geography, literature, mythologies – but they are not high or epic fantasy (i.e. hero saves the universe from total destruction plot). Nevertheless, they are still full of suspense, danger, adventure, intrigue, romance and mystery. The stories are from the point of view of the younger characters (teens to early twenties) but they continue to interact with other generations. Each book can be read on its own but is also part of an overarching plot. There is also a slow reveal of magical elements with ongoing mystery throughout the series.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I love fantasy and I love writing. Fantasy was my favourite genre as a child (and still is). At about 9 I began daydreaming my own fantasy world with lots of characters and stories. This became the world of Nardva. The Five Lands (where the Akrad Series is set) is a part of this world. Writing my own books fires my imagination and keeps me entertained.

4) How does your writing process work?

Well, it starts with day dreaming. Sometimes I compose the whole story  in my head before beginning to write (often a few times with changes and usually with far more than I can use in the book). However, these days I do start the writing process earlier. I usually have a basic structure – the beginning, the climax and turning points and a good idea of the end as well as the main characters in mind before I start writing. Then I fill in the gaps – and I am often surprised at what comes out in the process. It’s definitely a lot of fun.

Here are two of my friends who will be posting the “My Writing Process” blog tour posts on Monday March 17th. Please check out their blogs next week.  

Lynne Stringer –  Lynne has been passionate about writing all her life. She was the editor of a small newspaper (later magazine) for seven years, and currently works as a professional editor and proof reader. Lynne wrote her YA sci-fi romance novel, The Heir, in 2010. The Heir is the first book in the Verindon trilogy. This book was followed by The Crown. The final book, The Reign, will be released in May 2014. You can find Lynne online at  www.lynnestringer.com

Alison Stegert – Ali Stegert is a daytime school counsellor, night time word wrangler. Her first novel, Summer of the Silk Dragon, is making the rounds of publishers, looking for the right home. Ali blogs about books and writing on Spilling Ink, her personal blog, and about cyber-parenting on e-Quipped. (www.e-quipped.com.au) The link to Ali’s personal blog is www.ali-stegert.com

Enjoy!

Jeanette O’Hagan

You can read a hyptertext teaser for Akrad’s Children – called My Sister – here.

Or join me on Facebook here.

 

Writing YA & NA

When I started writing my first novel,  I wrote from the point of view of the two teen protagonists because that was the story. The characters and world expanded and took a life of its own. I knew I was writing fantasy but that was about it. Then life intervened (study, new career, children) and my first novel languished in storage.

Last year I began studying the art and craft of writing again. I dusted off my old manuscript and my notes for sequels and prequels. My passion reignited. Once again I am writing late into the night, in stolen moments, whenever I can.

One thing I’ve learnt is that the age of your hero and/or heroine determines your audience. Without knowing it I had been writing Young Adult (YA) fiction.

My books are about young people dealing with life, solving problems, growing and maturing. The stories are fast paced with action, dialogue and emotional engagement. Like a lot of YA, they crossover between genres – fantasy with elements of mystery, suspense and romance.

I also discovered that unlike my novels, much YA has a compressed timeline, sticks to a familiar setting and has minimal subplots. Books like Harry Potter, Hunger Games and Twilight are set over the course of a year or less and the characters are still teens by the end of the series. My characters start out as teens but are in their early twenties for much of their story arcs.

That’s why I was delighted to stumble upon a new category aimed at readers in their late teens, early twenties – New Adult (NA) Fiction.

So my books straddle the YA/NA divide. I think they will appeal to older teens and twenty-somethings – and older readers who love YA fiction – who want fast paced character driven fiction on a wider stage.

Of course, you will be the ultimate judge.

Jeanette O’Hagan

4 November 2013

 

So what do you think?

Do you only read books with a protagonist your own age or a couple of years older than you?

Do you think YA should always be restricted to a short time period, simple plots and short word counts?

What is Young Adult?

Young Adult category encompasses literature written for teens (often stated as 12-18), generally with teen protagonists and dealing with teen issues and themes (coming of age, identity, relationships etc) and/or read by teens. It became popularised as a category from about 1948 onwards and is often defined in a variety of ways.

Some characteristics of Young Adult:

  • The protagonists or main characters are teens – generally 16 or older (as young readers often like to read about characters 2-4 years older than they are). At the start, Eragon (Eragon) is 15, Katniss (Hunger Games) 16 and Bella (Twilight Saga) is 17. Harry Potter is 12 but J K Rowling’s series begins with middle grade books (8-12) and ends with older YA.
  • Generally face paced with conflict, action and dialogue. YA often employs first person perspective or at least deep third person. It may use present tense (e.g. Hunger Games) rather than the more usual past tense.
  • It is often set in school or teen hang-outs, each books covers a shortish time period (usually not more than a year), is less descriptive, relatively short (50 to 70 thousand words), a limited number of characters and less likely to have subplots. This contrasts with a previous classics – such as Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, Dickens’ Great Expectations or LeGuin’s Earthsea trilogy.
  • It deals with teen concerns and themes like growing up, identity, becoming your own person, friendships, bullying, firsts (first date, first kiss, first job etc) and difficulties teens face (including abuse, discrimination, drugs, alcohol, sex).
  • The teen characters solve their own problems. Adults may be absent or may be present as helpers but take a secondary role.
  • It can include many different genres (adventure, fantasy, sci-fi, detective, historical, contemporary) and often crossover genre lines. It can be innovative and edgy.
  • As much as half of the readers of YA are older than 18. In short, adults enjoy YA too.

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What is  New Adult?

The term New Adult was coined in 2008 but has really only taken off in the last year or so (from 2012) onwards. It is aimed at college-age young adults who are in the transition between adolescence and the roles and responsibilities of older adults.

Some characteristics of New Adult:

  • Protagonists generally are 18-25
  • NA keeps the pacey emotional tone of YA but focuses on issues and life events relevant to college-aged readers. What makes it different from YA and from more general adult fiction is the focus on coming of age themes – first serious relationship, living away from home, first “real” job, maybe getting married and having kids.
  • It is likely to include a heavier emphasis on romance and may include erotica, strong violence and darker themes than YA though this need not be so.
  • While much of New Adult is contemporary romance, it can and does include other genres like fantasy and sci-fi.

Back to Top

 

Like to do more reading? Check out:

Heather Dunlevy-Scheerer, H., (Sep 11, 2009) What Are the Defining Characteristics of Young Adult Literature? In Yahoo Voices, http://voices.yahoo.com/what-defining-characteristics-young-adult-4226787.html?cat=38  [Rather wordy but a reasonably good coverage of Young Adult literature]

O’Hagan, J., (Friday, 18 October 2013) So What is New Adult Fiction and Why Should We Care? In Australasian Christian Writers, http://australasianchristianwriters.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/so-what-is-new-adult-fiction-and-why.html  [Gives my recent overview of New Adult fiction]

Strickland, A., (October 16, 2013) A brief history of young adult literature in CNN, http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/15/living/young-adult-fiction-evolution/  [A potted history of the development of Young Adult Literature]

Wendig, C., (? October 2013) 25 Things You Should Know About Young Adult Fiction in Terrible Minds,  http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/06/04/25-things-you-should-know-about-young-adult-fiction/  [Funny overview of YA fiction, use of colourful language]

Welcome to Nardva and The Five Lands

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Welcome to Jeanette O’Hagan Writes – a compendium of information, imagination and adventure. Please, come in, explore, make yourself at home, stay a while, leave a comment and visit again.

I was on the cusp of turning ten when I took my first tremulous steps in the world of Nardva. Strange lands shrouded in mist, populated with people that over the years became close friends, even allies. Neither wardrobe or blue box was needed to be transported there – all I had to do was imagine – and stories, vistas, histories began to coalesce out of the mist and the world took shape. Some of those stories I have written down, some remain to be told.

This website is a portal into Nardva. Here you can find :

My Books (in Waiting) – glimpses and teasers for the currently three completed manuscripts and another fully plotted and about to be written (as of October 2013).

The Nardva Files – stories, poems, maps, character sketches, artwork, compendiums of flora, fauna, typography and customs.

The Fantasy Files – ramblings, ruminations and reviews about fantasy literature.

News and Events – things I do and markers along my writing and publishing journey as well as announcements (when relevant) about surveys, contests and giveaways.

About Jeanette  – want to know more about who I am? Here I have the perfect excuse to talk about myself 😉

Contact Jeanette – well, I’m sure you can work that one out.

Nardva was not built in a day – and neither is a website. It’s more fun that way.

 

Jeanette O’Hagan

24 October 2013

Brisbane, Australia