Friday, April 29, 2022

I have self-published The Last War: Book One of the Cynnahu Saga

The red ship has landed! The crimson-eyed captain reveals himself! All my life I have been a Fantasy reader, and since 2016 a Fantasy blogger. Hence my excitement in announcing that today I join the hallowed ranks of Fantasy authors for, dear readers, IT IS OUT! The first book of the Fantasy series I wrote can be found and bought on Amazon; just search for The Last War: Book One of the Cynnahu Saga.

A scream cut across the sky...

Long ago a horrific war was fought between the native Dragonkin and invading humanity, a war that shattered into islands the continent on which they struggled. Now the descendants of the victorious humans must face a different yet still very old threat as the mireborn Naga, the snake-folk of Nag Isle, are again amassing their Black Fleet to send against them. An ancient prophecy speaks of a time when the Archipelago of Cynnahu must fight its Last War against the Naga, a time when five individuals – Traveler, Orphan, Survivor, Student, and Lord – will set sail to rediscover the secret of the Elder Song.

Myrriden, the footsore mage and single father.
Sakura, an orphaned and homeless girl seeking vengeance.
Volcan Darkrod, the enigmatic Fire Mage.
Emrys, Myrriden’s nervous son.
Archmage Hoth, the unflappable Leader of the Cynnahu folk.

Guided by an ancient riddle recently uncovered by the famed Loremaster Aneirin, these chosen five must a run a race of swords, spells, and dusty scrolls - for while the Elder Song was crafted to summon the primeval power of the Dragonkin, it has, down to its very name, been forgotten. Will the courage and wits of two eleven-year-olds and three vastly different mages be enough to free purposefully hidden secrets from forces older than the Isles themselves and reunite the scattered Song while fighting a desperate war on land and sea? Only one thing is certain: humanity stands at doom’s edge and time is against them.
This book has been a long time coming, its seeds first planted when I read Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea Cycle as a child and first sprouted as unremarkable writing exercises in my high school's Creative Writing Club (which I eventually became President of). Honestly, I did not even intend for them to become a book. I just liked the character and enemy I created on the spot that first CWC meeting of my Sophmore year and stuck too it until the other club members became familiar with the world I had accidentally created and asked me if I was going to write a book. Well, as they say, the rest is history.

For several reasons - each of which is too long to get into now - I chose to self-publish. So PLEASE, I beg you, write good Amazon reviews for The Last War once you finish it. Also, Would you all believe I got the cover custom made for only $35 and from a Ukrainian company no less.

I hope you all enjoy it (and again write good reviews)!

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

My father and I just finished In the Serpent's Wake by Rachel Hartman, sequel to Tess of the Road.

My father and I just finished In the Serpent's Wake by Rachel Hartman, sequel to Tess of the Road.
A classic Hartman book is, by definition now, simply a classic. The first two Seraphina books put racial tensions and religion on center-stage alongside love, self-acceptance, and roots and results of hatred to save the world and bring peace to humans and Dragons. Tess of the Road was a journey out of choking self-despair born from rape and fought uphill against religious-based oppression of women and mental manipulation, a journey not only the World Serpent of legend but also, without knowing it, a way to face her demons and love herself again while being herself.
In the Serpent's Wake continued Tess' journey and, like spark to tinder, she set the fires of truth ablaze (in addition to some actual fires) by doing what is right instead of what is easy while sailing archipelagos suffering colonization and all the oppression that implies. A journey of facing down the last of her demons, seeking forgiveness when necessary, showing those blind to the truth that comfortable neutrality and denial allows human evils to flourish; and, of course, finding the Polar Serpent to save a friend.
Farewell and lots of love to Tess and Seraphina Dombegh, Pathka, Kikiu, Jacomo & Marga, Hami & Spira, and all of native nations of the archipelagos. Luck to you as you continue your own stories.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

A second chance for Tiger and Del

He was Tiger, born of the desert winds. She was Del, born of ice and storm.

I rarely make mistakes regarding Fantasy books as nearly two decades of reading little else has given me what I like to call "my Fantasy instinct." Like anyone I read the back/inside cover and from that judge whether or not I think I would really like the book, but my Fantasy instinct allows me to feel the book in question, to sense its aura one might say. Call it esoteric if you will, call it a sixth sense/instinct born from long experience, but, regardless of name, the result is that 99% of the time I am correct. There is a reason, after all, why I can count the Fantasies I have quit using my fingers and still have some leftover. That said, and as the above statement affirms, I can be wrong and have quit books; rarely, rare enough as to be almost never, but it does happen and, alas, with increasing frequency since the grimdark (such as GRRM's and Kearney's) can fool my Fantasy instinct. Hence when I do stop a book I never look back, having quit only after long and deliberate thought. Naturally I remember them, but I never regret or second guess my choice to quit.

Until now. One series has haunted me for years, one I stopped shortly before starting this more or less humble blog back in 2016. One whose story and characters lingered, one I have been tempted to give a second chance. A temptation I now yield to, for I just restarted Sword-Maker, volume three of the Novels of Tiger and Del by Jennifer Roberson. Time to step back into the circle. Time to find out what wretched wizard is sending fell hounds after people and what the deal is with Tiger and that blooding-blade Samiel.

Time to determine once and for all if this series will have a place on my bookshelf.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

How to become a Riddle-maker

Point of order, even Wizards of the Coast
acknowledged my skill once.

How does one become a Master Riddle-maker? By making riddles, naturally, and I will do my best to impart the lessons I give my students verbally here in written text. Unsurprisingly, the process begins with quote followed by two riddles of my own:

"Good riddles do, in general, provide us with satisfactory metaphors; for metaphors imply riddles, and therefore a good riddle can furnish a good metaphor." - Aristotle

What plays with words and logic, yet never tells a lie = ?

It can either be found by, or given to you, when found you understand it, when given you might not = ?

The answers are respectively "a riddle" and "the answer," the wording of each, plus the quote, describing how riddles work. Indeed, I use these riddles to teach prospective Makers and the point has never failed to get across. That said, I often tell my students that to make a riddle is to "describe something without really describing it, yet in such a way that it only perfectly fits a single answer." I will now walk you through the process.

  1. The first step in riddle-making is thinking of the answer. Look around and pick some common thing everyone knows about, for the best riddles have obvious answers. As Patricia A. McKillip says, "A riddle is a tale so familiar you no longer recognize it." Let us settle with a chair.
  2. Making the riddle involves describing it without being so obvious that a person will get it right away. For example "Something people sit in" is a bad chair riddle for two reasons: firstly, its is to obvious, and secondly it has several answers - such as a stool. So let us begin with "What has four legs yet never walks."
  3. Not a bad riddle on the face of it, until you realize it could fit a table as well as a chair. A couch too, perhaps, but that is close enough as makes no matter, being honestly a very wide chair meant for several people and/or napping. Remember, a riddle can only have ONE answer. Thus we must change the riddle. So what does a chair have that a table does not? A back. Thus our chair riddle becomes: Four legs that don’t walk, a back with no spine, weight gives it strain, yet it feels no pain = a chair. A solid riddle, and one that rhymes no less.
  4. Test the riddle. Give it to others to make sure it is solvable and ascertain its level of difficulty. The chair riddle here is not terribly difficult, yet is still a stolid Lower Middle-ranking riddle.

However, we only got the chair riddle after changing it, and that is a critical part of riddle-making. I do not bold this idly. So many times have kids come to me with a riddle they created and love one that even rhymes! and are so proud of. Until I point out that the riddle has more than one possible answer. At this point they have one of two reactions: they either dig in, stubbornly trying to assert that there is only one perfect answer because they do not want the change the riddle they worked so hard on since if they change it then it will not sound as good. Or they, while disappointed, accept it and work to reword/adjust the riddle until it has only one perfect answer. The final reaction is the mark of a true Riddle Master. As I often tell my students, riddles do not have to rhyme. Yes rhymes are fun and can add a special flare to the riddle in question, which is why I try to make mine rhyme when possible, but they are not necessary. Indeed, many of my finest and favorite riddles (such as the Grandmaster) do not rhyme.

Sometimes you even have to start making the riddle all over again from scratch.“Kill your darlings” is a common piece of advice given by experienced writers, meaning that one must sometimes remove characters, sentences, or entire subplots one has worked hard to create yet that must be removed for the sake of your overall story. Well, the same applies to riddle-making. Better a non-rhyming riddle that may not even role off the tongue that well yet works than a smooth rhyming one that does not. Believe me when I say that it pays to do the work, because if you do not then those you give the riddle to will point out the flaw by coming up with the other possible answer while trying to solve it and then explain why their other answer works when you say it is not the correct answer. Trust me, I learned this lesson the hard way and, besides from not being fun, it undermines your credibility as a Riddle Master. Today it is rare for my riddles to have flaws, but when one is pointed out, typically by someone trying to answer it and coming up with a workable answer I had not thought of, I thank them and vow to rework the riddle in question. Bottom line? Like a piece of writing, a riddle typically goes through multiple drafts (at least two) before it is ready. Remember that most if not all things are easier said than done and riddle-making is the opposite of the exception. Myself and the few Master Makers I have successfully trained can make solid riddles at will only after long practice. It, like lifting weights or doing any sport or test of skill, is challenging at first, but once you get the hang of it, after months of practice, it becomes second nature.

Luck to you, and happy riddle-making!

I just finished Escape from Falaise, book #5 of the Ranger's Apprentice: The Royal Ranger series by John Flanagan

I just finished Escape from Falaise, book #5 of the Ranger's Apprentice: The Royal Ranger series by John Flanagan.
"Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory," said the great J.R.R. Tolkien, so naturally a book with "escape" in the title that combines a rescue mission with daring escape has high potential for excellence. Make it a Ranger's Apprentice book, and potential becomes a dead-certain guarantee as once again Maddie and Will (with some help) save the day as well as a sniveling, pathetic excuse for a prince. Let's face it, a girl Ranger rescuing a prince-in-peril from a tower is far more exciting than a male knight doing the same for a damsel-in-distress. More realistic too.

Monday, April 18, 2022

There is news on the wind. It will come ere April's end. Will you sail with me on seas uncharted and fly on the fifth wind?

Friday, April 15, 2022

Seasparrow, a new Graceling book

Yep, I might have known. The old book series refuse to end, and thus this November we get yet another adventure with old friends. A new book in Graceling Realm Series, Seasparrow is a direct sequel to Winterkeep and this time we see through Hava's Graceling eyes as the group has a typically trying time getting back to Monsea with what could equally be called a treasure and a deathtrap. Regardless, it will be a deep pleasure seeing Bitterblue, Giddon, Hava, and hopefully Lovisa and Adventure Fox.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, new trailer and new expectations

Well, the new trailer for Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes just took our old assumptions and stabbed them.

Seems like Byleth is our foe this time instead of the player-avatar. Beyond that, I did some digging and learned the following:

  1. That red-eyed white-faced new character at 2:41 is "A mysterious being that appeared in the protagonist's dream. Rescued the protagonist before they were killed by the Ashen Demon and speaks to them as if living in their head. Occasionally acts as if something's missing."
  2. Shez is "A solitary mercenary. He / she sought to become a famed swordsman, but faced Jeralt’s Mercenaries on a mission and was felled by the Ashen Demon. While training to seek revenge, he / she met the Officer’s Academy students in the woods."
  3. Nintendo has updated its official overview of Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes with the latest information, part of which is "Align with a leader to build and command an army in 1 vs. 1,000-style battles and deep strategy. The house you choose will bring you through one of three compelling stories, each with a different outcome."

So, judging from the full cover of the game coupled with what we just learned, I think Sothis may be a foe this time too, and this does not look like a Happy Ending story-route like Revelations was for Fates, but rather a new Warriors version of Three Houses. Not another route, but an alternate version of the game entirely, with Byleth and Sothis on the enemy side and Shez and red-eyed guy on the good. Regardless, I shall stand with Edelgard in the Scarlet Blaze route just as I did her in Crimson Flower.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

There is news on the wind. The crimson-eyed captain knows the Spell of Light, allowing his red ship to approach the shore unnoticed.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

The Dawn Will Come (Dragon Age: Inquisition) – Cover in Ukrainian – Зійде зоря

Shadows fall
And hope has fled
Steel your heart
The dawn will come
The night is long
And the path is dark
Look to the sky
For one day soon
The dawn will come
The Shepard's lost
And his home is far
Keep to the stars
The dawn will come
The night is long
And the path is dark
Look to the sky
For one day soon
The dawn will come
Bare your blade
And raise it high
Stand your ground
The dawn will come
The night is long
And the path is dark
Look to the sky
For one day soon
The dawn will come

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

I just started Escape from Falaise, book #5 of the Ranger's Apprentice: The Royal Ranger series by John Flanagan

I just started Escape from Falaise, book #5 of the Ranger's Apprentice: The Royal Ranger series by John Flanagan.
A prince rescuing the damsel-in-distress from an evil lord's tower is tired old trope, which is why Flanagan is turning it around and upside down here, for the now Princess Ranger Maddie and Will must not only rescue a prince-in-peril from just such a place, but themselves as well. I love rescue mission and daring escapes as a rule, but when the two combine... heh, that promises to be quite the ride.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

I just finished Terciel and Elinor by Garth Nix, prequel to his Abhorsen series

Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?

I just finished Terciel and Elinor by Garth Nix, prequel to his Abhorsen series, telling the tale of Sabriel's parents. To paraphrase Elinor herself, it is the tale of a girl who, though ignorant of her magical heritage and without known family, is swept up onto a path rich in pain and love, loss and hope, until she finds both her place and lasting love in the Old Kingdom with the Abhorsen. A tale that makes the story of their daughter, Sabriel, all the richer. A tale that, in typical Nix fashion, has a heart-stopping climax.
As ever, tis a joy returning to the Old Kingdom, a land that is almost as near to my heart as Middle-earth, for Abhorsens' the never-ending battle to keep the Dead down shaped me in key ways, forming a central crux of what I call the Fantasy morality.
Farewell Terciel & Elinor, Tizanael, Mirelle of the Clayr, and, of course, Mogget. Until next time, for the Ninth Gate no bar to my reading.
Everyone and everything has a time to die.