Reading: For Fun, or Learning?

When I look at my bookshelf, I see two types of books: those that are fun, and those that are enlightening.  There are those that bridge the gaps, of course: books like 1984 and a lot of the stuff from Chesterton and Lewis.

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Just a sampling.  And Snoopy!

But then there’s Conan the Barbarian here, and Bushido: Soul of the Samurai there.  While any good book should also be to some extent enlightening, certainly Inazo’s Nitobe’s work will give a little more direct insight into the warrior mentality.

How do you choose?  Admittedly, I don’t have a perfect answer for that.  For a while it was oddly stressful, and then I realized I was getting nowhere with my reading–not unlike my writing.  It was time to sit down and just read.

Without stressing the numbers or the specific titles, I now try to keep a balance between the two: a few for fun, and then something a little more challenging and enlightening.  And, sometimes, the middle-grounders (I’ve got Dune on my short-list).

I’m getting a lot more reading done and I’m learning more.  If your shelves are full of stuff you picked up because you probably would like it anyway, don’t stress it, just read it!

 

Fantasy Adventures Volume 1: Five Short Stories of Humor, Love, and War is out now for 99¢!

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Start Small, or Think Big?

One of the many challenges of writing is deciding just how to go about it.

I have two novels that are a few drafts in each, but I just can’t quite finish them off.  Instead, I published a short story collection as my first release.  They’re fun stories that I enjoyed writing.  It was a great learning experience.

All the same, I wonder if I should have taken a shot at something bigger, deeper, and more meaningful.  It’s not that I attempted to make something vapid with the short stories: I quite tried to do what I could with 5-7k words a story.

But isn’t it the bigger stuff that leaves the biggest impact?  That stuff that can really bring readers into new worlds and make them attached to the characters?

With that, I wonder if a trilogy is in order: something where I can really reach for the moon.  Flesh out a world, follow characters through ups and downs, have some real world-shattering events, and explore their aftermaths.

The more I talk about it, the more fun it sounds!

Even so, maybe I should finish up one of those two existing ones.  I quite like them, but I do need to learn to let go!

The trials and tribulations of the author.

 

Fantasy Adventures Volume 1: Five Short Stories of Humor, Love, and War is out now for 99¢!

The Devil’s Armor Review

The second tome in The Bronze Knight series is under my belt.

As with The Eyes of GodThe Devil’s Armor is adult fantasy, but without becoming too adult.  There’s a risque moment or two, and the violence isn’t to be scoffed at, but it’s not drenched with either like a Game of Thrones.

It’s also a more brisk read than it’s predecessor: The Devil’s Armor clocks in at about 100 pages less.  And with the (necessary) world building already taken care of, it’s 680 (at least in hardcover format) pages of story.  There’s rarely a dull moment.

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Gaspode is clearly a fan!

The Devil’s Armor does focus on a few characters only briefly touched upon in The Eyes of God.  It’s always a gamble to mess with an existing cast, especially when it’s already as large as it is.  Oftentimes I’m frustrated by stories with a focus that jumps all around the world, sometimes leading to chapters and chapters of characters who are significantly less intriguing than the protagonist, or maybe even outright dull.  To my surprise, in The Bronze Knight series I find myself interested in most of the major players, not just the Lukien (the series’s namesake).

Marco gives every character a purpose and a surprising amount of depth.  Without giving spoilers, perhaps the most intriguing character in The Devil’s Armor is one who was only a minor player in the previous work.  Initially, it’s hard to believe they’re any sort of appealing, but their growth becomes one of the strongest aspects of the novel.  I relished the their sections almost as much as Lukien’s.

Whereas The Eyes of God suffered from the usual world-building hurdle of the first book in a trilogy, The Devil’s Armor faces challenges of being the second in any trilogy: it’s a bridge toward the conclusion.  But in this case, the ride across the bridge is meaningful, tense, and a powerful part of the journey.

The Devil’s Armor is a worthy sequel and a smoother read than The Eyes of God, and it has set the stage for what should be a thrilling conclusion in The Sword of Angels.

 

Fantasy Adventures Volume 1: Five Short Stories of Humor, Love, and War is out now for 99¢!

Memories in Physical Form: The Power of Reading

As I finished off the middle book of a trilogy (John Marco’s The Devil’s Armor), I found myself feeling a little melancholy.  For more than a week, the hearty hardcover had been a close friend.  I stepped into another world and followed a cast of intriguing characters over the course of several months and several major events in their lives.

I’m not sad about leaving the world behind, because my adventures aren’t actually done yet: I’m already into the third book (and there’s actually a forth book that takes place later).  But putting aside a good friend (an old friend, even: despite our relatively-short time of two weeks together, we lived a year together!) brought up a mixture of emotions: excitement for the future, but a little sadness, looking at the book sitting on the shelf where it will probably sit for years before fingers dance along the pages again.

While TV shows and movies invite us into their worlds, it strikes me that there’s something intimate about a book, a physical connection there that’s absent any medium short of video games.  When we’re deep into the pages of a book, we travel within the pages of the book, but the book also travels with us.  It comes along on car rides, shows up during breaks at work or school, and stays with us until the wee hours of the night.  We hold it, we feel it, we inspect it page-by-page.

That’s part of the power of writing: in a short period, we can live a lifetime–even multiple lives through multiple people.  We might not directly live in their worlds, but words bring us in, and touch unites us with the pages.  When we read, that tome sitting quietly on the shelf becomes a memory, crystallized.

 

Fantasy Adventures Volume 1: Five Short Stories of Humor, Love, and War is out now for 99¢!

Finding Time to Write

Life takes unexpected twists and turns sometimes.  Schedules change, workloads ebb and flow, bank accounts need a little extra help.  It’s hard enough to sit down, focus, and write as it is, so if you’re not paying the bills by writing, how do you find the time?

From what I can tell, the time to write is whenever you can!

Life isn’t going to stop to wait for you to catch up on your dreams.  And writing is a career that doesn’t start off paying the bills: a lot of jobs let you start off at an entry-level position and work your way up.  Consistent paychecks come right off the bat, and you can advance from there.

Writing doesn’t allow for that, at least not easily or in the traditional sense.  It’s like a side-project that needs to be squeezed into the rest of life as it happens.  And, someday, you might wake up and find it pays your bills, and you can indeed quit your day job.

Till then: just keep writing!  Keep that pen flowing, keep tapping those keys, and keep completing those stories!

 

Fantasy Adventures Volume 1: Five Short Stories of Humor, Love, and War is out now for 99¢!

Why Write Fantasy?

Why create worlds of magic and dragons instead of the mundane?

Escapism, maybe.  The everyday world is sometimes sad and lonely.  Magic is around us, but sparing in its appearance.  Fantasy brings us warriors and wizards, heroes on adventures bigger than reality can bring.

Yet maybe it’s more than that.  Even in fantasy worlds, the problems, emotions, and relationships are the same we face in real life.  But fantasy gives us people like us, and gives those people chances at happy endings that are far more rare in the real world.

By taking what’s real–the struggles, the feelings, the desires–and combining it with the fantastic, the two become indistinguishable from one another, and the fantastic becomes that much more real.

Piles and Piles of Legal, Free Classics

Are you aware of Project Gutenberg?  If not, and you have any interest in reading, you probably should be!

Project Gutenberg’s goal is to digitize notable works, particularly those in the public domain.  What that means is that there’s a wealth of free, classic literature out there for writers and readers both to enjoy.

Sherlock Holmes?  Sure, it’s there–but so The White Company, a book Doyle himself regarded higher than the Holmes stories.  Chesterton’s classics are there, from the Father Brown mysteries to The Man Who Was Thursday to his theological works, like Orthodoxy.  Twain, Austen, Poe, Carroll, Dumas, Plato, and Dickens are all there.

Most books come in several formats, allowing you to read them online or download them to tablets computers, like Kindle.

Sure, many of these can be picked up in physical form, and as I look up at my shelf of Chesterton, my impressive volume of Conan, and a nice printing of The Divine Comedy, I can’t say I don’t understand.

But these are free, public-domain works painstaking digitized by volunteers, downloadable and accessible on almost any device.  If you’ve ever dreamed of a giant library consisting of most of the classics but find yourself tens of thousands of dollars short, Project Gutenberg has you covered!

 

Fantasy Adventures Volume 1: Five Short Stories of Humor, Love, and War is out now for 99¢!