Book Editorial, Books, Editorials

Featured author week: Tessa Gratton (The Lost Sun) talks Norse mythology

For this week’s author guest post Tessa Gratton (author of The Lost Sun) delved into what exactly makes Norse mythology interesting to her. For those of you who haven’t read The Lost Sun, it is set in a world where the Norse gods still roam and are worshipped. Tessa lets us into her thought processes and passions regarding this ancient and interesting religion, and we can see how it influences her work. Enjoy!

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There are so many tiny little things that brought me to Norse mythology: my dad reading  me a passage from Beowulf , an early interest in Vikings because of my Nordic grandfather, a love of poetry and humor, the desire to look into gods that I didn’t grow up knowing anything about, and even the simple fact that halfway through my graduate program I realized I didn’t want to keep pursuing it.

thCAMCEPE7But one thing has kept me immersed in Norse mythology: Odin.

Odin is a god of war and trickery, magic, disguise, danger, death, and… poetry.

In 2007 while researching ancient Nordic beliefs (ancient as in Iron Age and Migration Period, long before the actual Viking era) for a historical novel I was writing (that has never been and may never be published), I read H. R. Ellis Davidson’s Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe. It’s a book I highly recommend (along with her Gods and Myths of Northern Europe for a more strictly Norse subject matter) that first introduced me to the idea that Odin, primarily remembered and prayed to as a god of war, also created poetry.

It struck a chord in me, the divine connection between violence and poetry. We often talk about writing (and revising) in destructive, bloody terms: we use a cleaver or a scalpel to edit, we burn scenes down, we drag words from our twisted intestines, we bleed onto the page. It’s nothing strange or new to me, to think of writing and violence in the same breath, but the Norse – they tied them into the definition of the same god.

tessaThat captured my imagination and I read everything I could about Odin. He’s a mysterious god, despite being the “king” of the gods, the “Alfather.” It wasn’t until late in his history that he became so – other gods, Tyr and Freyr and Thor held the same leadership positions, sometimes sharing them, sometimes apparently vying for the supreme position in the eyes of their people. At first, Odin was a mysterious death god, known for magic and playing tricks, for riddling and mayhem. Then he became the dishonorable king, the tricky one, who manipulated people and used magic, which was considered to be a womanly art. Freya taught it to him, and in some stories, she only did so after he lived as a woman. There are some scholars who believe fifteen hundred years ago Odin and Loki were the same god, but when the Christian influence required a stricter division between Good and Evil, they were separated so that Loki could become the counterpart to Satan.

Probably it was more subtle and complicated than that.

To me, Odin is a great antihero, a fascinating, gray character shifting meaning and loyalty – one of the names of him is even “Gray One” or “Wanderer” (a la Gandalf the Gray, who was based on one of Odin’s personalities). So although Norse mythology has everything I love, everything that makes up the human experience – death, sex, magic, love, and humor – it has always been Odin the Poet, the Mad God, the Magician, who drew me in. And I suspect it will take years and a few more books before I’m finished dancing with him.

Book Editorial, Book Events, Book Interviews, Book Reviews, Books, Editorials, Events, Interviews, Reviews

Featured Author Week: Tessa Gratton (The Lost Sun) visits Lytherus!

tessaTessa Gratton, author of The Lost Sun, will be joining us this week for reviews, a guest post, an interview, and an exciting giveaway!

In addition to copies of her newest book to giveaway, this week we’ll be featuring Tessa with an exclusive interview and a guest post later in the week. If you’re curious what it’s about, here’s Amazon’s summary of The Lost Sun:

Fans of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Holly Black’s The Curse
Workers
will embrace this richly drawn, Norse-mythology-infused alternate
world: the United States of Asgard. Seventeen-year-old Soren Bearskin is trying to escape the past. His father, a famed warrior, lost himself to the battle-frenzy and killed thirteen innocent people.Soren cannot deny that berserking is in his blood–the fevers, insomnia, and occasional feelings of uncontrollable rage haunt him. So he tries to remain calm and detached from everyone at Sanctus Sigurd’s Academy. But that’s hard to do when a popular, beautiful girl like Astrid Glyn tells Soren she dreams of him. That’s not all
Astrid dreams of–the daughter of a renowned prophetess, Astrid is coming into her own inherited abilities.

When Baldur, son of Odin and one of the most popular gods in the country, goes missing, Astrid sees where he is and convinces Soren to join her on a road trip that will take them to find not only
a lost god, but also who they are beyond the legacy of their parents and everything they’ve been told they have to be.

 

Here’s a breakdown of this week’s featured author articles:

  • Introduction to the Tessa Gratton Featured Author Week
  • Review of The Lost Sun
  • Giveaway of the book!
  •  A guest post written by Tessa Gratton
  •  An exclusive interview with Tessa Gratton

Looking for more to read? View our past archive of featured authors, with a stellar lineup including Lev Grossman, Stefan Bachmann, Colleen Houck, and more!

Book Editorial, Books, Editorials

A Love Letter to ‘The Dresden Files’

I could kiss Patrick Rothfuss.

Let me explain. When I was traveling around in February getting all the author measurements for the fantasy charity calendar, Pat was the first stop. At dinner we started talking about writing. He mentioned Jim Butcher and The Dresden Files, and I confessed I hadn’t read anything by him. Pat said, “You know, I have all those books on CD, and you’re on a month long road trip, I’m going to lend them to you.” I shrugged and thought, what the heck, it couldn’t hurt to check them out. So I left Wisconsin with a bulging binder filled to the brim with CDs, labeled with titles like Fool Moon and Summer Knight.

Jim-Butcher-2010-profile_book-jacket-205x300
Jim Butcher

What’s the series about? A PI Wizard living in Chicago, in the simplest of definitions. When Pat mentioned this, I internally eyerolled. I hate urban fantasy as a general rule. It all feels the same to me, and it almost always involves some werewolf/wizard/vampire/supernatural who turns into a paranormal investigator. But when a world-famous author gushes about a series that is one of his absolute favorites, you take heed and ignore your usual prejudices.

I entered the world of Harry Dresden with an open mind, and with the charming voice of James Marsters narrating (yes, that James Marsters, AKA Spike from Buffy, sans British accent), I was drawn into a series that would quickly become one of the biggest literary forces I’ve ever encountered in my lifetime of being a book lover.

I am a voracious reader, and I have a lot of series I absolutely love. So why is this one suddenly ahead of the pack? What about this series makes it worth the time investment (there are going to be a total of 20ish books by the time the series is done)? It is one of the most cleverly layered, thought-out, hilarious, honest, deep, and fantastical series I have ever encountered. Jim Butcher has blown me away with his plotting. Seriously, I can’t wait to meet the guy because I have to know about that outline. Things that happened in book one were discussed in book thirteen. This series is the biggest onion I’ve ever encountered, and as the layers peeled back my jaw repeatedly hit the floor. Book after book I was surprised that I could be shocked as much as I was, that such huge revelations could be happening with each story. Jim Butcher is a master storyteller at his best, and the weaving of this epic tale is the finest I’ve ever encountered in regards to breadth.

cdcover_lgIt was also interesting talking to other authors about this series. As I traversed the countryside, gathering up busts for the costumes, I’d mention The Dresden Files, curious as to whom had read it. My favorite conversation was with Holly Black, who, after some shared gushing over the awesomeness that is the series, asked me if I’d read Changes yet (book number twelve). When I said no she just burst out laughing and warned me that big things were coming. And she was right. Twelve books into the series the author managed to make me gasp and verbally exclaim in shock literally from the start of that book to the end of that book. And the surprises didn’t end there. I’m sure I looked like a crazy person this afternoon, driving around in my car yelling “Oh Shit!” over and over again as I listened to the secrets revealed during the climax of Cold Days (book fourteen).

I started the series around the middle of February. It is now the middle of June. I just finished the last audiobook currently published, book number fourteen, almost four months later. I did them all on audio, and after adding it up that’s 192 hours and 13 minutes of my life spent in this world. That’s eight non-stop days of Dresden if bunched together. And I wouldn’t trade a second of it. Do yourself a favor and check out Storm Front and Fool Moon, the first two books in the series. If you’re not hooked by then, it isn’t for you. But if you, like me, enjoyed enough of the story to want to see what happened in the next book, you’re in for a serious treat. The further into the series you get the more wonderfully complicated the story becomes. And guys, at one point Harry rides around on a necromanced T-rex as it snatches up zombies to eat. Nothing, I repeat, nothing is cooler than that. So thanks Pat. You were right.

 

Book Editorial, Books, Editorials

Featured author week: Sean Benham, author of ‘Blope’, talks about the stress of self-doubt

I’ve read many times artists talking about the original idea. They want to create some thing new and unheard of. But almost all things have been done before in one fashion or another, and almost like clockwork self-doubt will creep in. What do they do in that situation? Sean Benham talks about his personal struggles with feeling like it’s all been done before. This is an interesting read; hope you enjoy!

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It’s all been done

By Sean Benham, author of Blope

The first episode of Breaking Bad scared the hell out of me, and not for the reasons you might surmise.  It wasn’t the tension that did it to me, it was the similarity.  At the time, I was convinced that a large portion of my debut novel, Blope, was nearly identical to that first episode.  Worse yet, I was just about to wrap my novel and it was too far along to change.  I had to suck up those perceived similarities and ultimately, I’m glad I did.

Looking back, having watched all the Breaking Bad there is to watch and having written all the Blope there is to write, my concern seems a little silly.  The two works are wildly different.  But, based on that small, single episode sliver, it seemed like I had copied all of my ideas from Vince Gilligan verbatim.  An older, untrustworthy ‘mentor’ figure?  Check.  Driving a big, unwieldy vehicle?  Check.   Driving it through New Mexico?!?  Check.  The New Mexico angle killed me.  Back then, at least.  Now, when I rewatch the episode, I kick myself just a little for getting too caught up in the ‘purity’ of my ideas.battle royale

This wasn’t the first time self doubt crept in as I wrote.  Blope has been in the works for a long time and it’s undergone a big ol’ list of changes in the process.  One of those changes was the direct result of Fallout 3.  Initially, I had planned on writing about the most exciting combination of wars possible – a civil war, a race war and a nuclear war all rolled into one.  Bad ass, right?  I thought so.  Then I played through Fallout 3.  There was no way I could do the whole ‘irradiated populace’ thing after dealing with the ghouls in Tenpenny Tower.  In my mind, it had been done.  Worse yet, it had been done really, really well.  I changed course and I’m glad I did.  Nuclear war tales haven’t run their course, but I think that without a ‘fun’ twist, they run the risk of feeling… old.  Like 1950s old.  We need to focus on the panic of the day, goddamnit!  Watch for my water fluoridation zombie story coming soon!  (Note – totally a lie.  Zombies are effing lame and water fluoridation gives us strong teeth.)

Ever had a nerd bend your ear about The Hunger Games ripping off Battle Royale?  It sucks.  You nod, you feign disgust that someone would tone down the Japanese original for North American audiences, you bitch about it behind their backs in a blog post years later.  It’s the circle of life.  The wheel unbroken.  Sorry, I had to add that part – I was equal parts impressed and mortified with myself that I remembered those lyrics.

Thing is, that all sort of relates to the very worst form of creative self doubt – the kind that leads to avoiding certain works in order to build up a wall of plausible deniability.  I haven’t read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, even though I’m sure I would like it.  Post apocalyptic horribleness is generally right up my alley, but I feared that The Road might be too thematically similar to Blope.  So, what did I do?  I purposefully avoided it, just in case someone ever says something like “Gee, Blope seems a lot like The Road.”  Then, I can reply “Oh, really?  I wouldn’t know, I haven’t read it.”  That’s horrible, don’t you think?  It’s like writing and recording a heavy metal album without working knowledge of Ride The Lightning.

I’ve made a concerted effort to stop building up that wall of deniability.  It’s stupid and it keeps me from experiencing things I would like.  I’ve accepted that there’s nothing new under the sun.  The trick is spinning what has been done in a direction inventive enough to make it seem original.  At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

Oh, and I still refuse to watch Shutter Island.  It sounds far too similar to a screenplay treatment I wrote and you can’t knock down a wall in a day.

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Thanks Sean! Curious about the book or the man behind it? Read on!

About Blope:

Son of Satan and Grandson of the Messiah, Billy Lopez was born with a sordid lineage, an ancestry that has been veiled since birth. Now, he’s a wanted man, forced into a harrowing world of extreme plastic surgery, black market pornography and organized religion gone horribly awry. BLOPE is the classic ‘Coming of Age’ story turned on its ear and shoved to the ground.

About the Author:

Sean Benham is a Toronto-based entertainment industry professional who has worked as an art director, graphic animator, writer and producer on everything from Emmy award-winning children’s television programming to heavy metal music videos.

Blope is his first novel, and available for purchase in both paperback and e-book formats via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Lulu, Kobo,iTunes, Sony and Smashwords.    

Website: http://seanbenham.biz / http://www.blopenovel.com

Book Editorial, Books, Editorials

Featured Author Week: Author guest post- Juliet Marillier tackles short vs long fiction

As part of the author feature week Juliet Marillier wrote a lovely guest blog post talking about the differences between long and short fiction. Aspiring writers, this is really interesting, if you’re deciding which route to take.

Take it away, Juliet!

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The Long and the Short of it  (guest blog by Juliet Marillier)

If there’s anything I’ve learned from hanging around with speculative fiction readers, it’s that a high proportion of them are also aspiring writers. This is a post for the writers among you.

One of the questions I’m often asked is this: ‘Should I start with short stories before attempting a novel / trilogy / series?’ The theory behind this, I think, is that short stories are easier to write. Sort of practice for the ‘real thing’.

Short stories are certainly much quicker to write. That’s not the point, though. If you’re serious about writing, you’ll want to make everything you write as fine and good and satisfying as possible. Creating a perfectly written short story may be less time-consuming than writing a good novel, but it’s every bit as challenging.

prickle moonShort stories need attention to balance, form and voice. With short fiction you have a limited number of words in which to convey your message, to touch the reader’s emotions and intellect, to charm or horrify or startle or amuse. In a short story everything must be just right. That takes time – not time spent turning out thousands of words, but time spent thinking, reading your work aloud, cutting and juggling and refining and reworking until you have the perfect assembly of words and sentences and paragraphs in the perfect order. Not a word too many; not a word out of place.

But don’t novels, too, need to be polished? I wish they all could be. I love fantasy novels whose writers combine fine writing craft and compelling storytelling: writers like Eowyn Ivey, Joe Abercrombie and Margo Lanagan, to give some contemporary examples. But many fantasy novels rely more on a fast-moving plot and good world building than on, say, brilliant characterisation, stunning use of language or great depth of meaning, and the average reader is quite happy with that.

So if you are an aspiring novelist with a great idea and heaps of enthusiasm, and you are not a perfectionist, you may as well dive straight into writing your novel. Of course, for that you need another quality: stickability. Writing a novel takes long time, especially if it’s a bug-whomping epic fantasy. You need to keep the faith for all the days, weeks, months and maybe years of writing, while juggling the rest of your life. And then you must revise and rework your manuscript – perhaps not to the gem-like brilliance of a great short story, but at least to a readable standard. Please don’t rush to post it online the moment it’s finished. While Ms Average Reader won’t be as fussy as I am, she’ll prefer your novel if it’s been properly edited, at the very least.

Whether you decide to hone your skills on short fiction or tackle the novel straight up, I recommend that you don’t work in isolation. Join a critique group, either online or face to face – be prepared to try a few before you find one that’s a good fit for you. Study writing. Read great craft books such as those by Donald Maass; consider taking formal classes. Follow good craft-and-business blogs such as Writer Unboxed. Knowing you’re not alone will help you haul yourself through the quagmire of the mid-book. Above all, have faith in yourself. Whether short or long, write the story that’s bursting to get out!

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Thanks Juliet! you can get Shadowfell in stores now, and the sequel, Raven Flight, is due out in July of this year. Want some short stories? Her upcoming short story book, Prickle Moon, is due out in April. Get more info at www.julietmarillier.com.