Tag Archives: epic fantasy

Really epic Epic Fantasy

lotr posterI love epic fantasy. It’s always been one of my favorite genres to read, and of course the very first book I tried to write was epic fantasy. Didn’t go so well, but I have an epic fantasy series I plan to release eventually, so I’ll get there.

What makes epic fantasy so, well, epic?

The best epic fantasy, whether they’re a Tolkien spin-off or some other giant, multi-volume series of tomes big enough to prop up the sagging foundation of a house, there are some common elements that make great epic fantasy work.

Think Tolkien. He was really the father of epic fantasy, and a big ingredient in his special sauce was the world he created. Many other successful fantasies leveraged that world and resonated with the work Tolkien did. World-building is a huge element to most epic fantasy, and few authors do it so well.

The Name of the WindOne who does is Patrick Rothfuss. In The Name of the Wind, he creates a vibrant world, full of magic and music and poetry that does an unrivaled job at transporting readers into another world. Fans want to explore the world with the hero, linger there, and wallow in the depth of the vibrant cultures he creates.

George R.R. Martin takes a different approach. His political intrigue and huge cast of characters who get killed off more than just about any other series, transports readers in a very different way. The intricate plot, warring families, and intense action has captured an entire generation of readers.

Usually when we think of epic fantasy, we think magic, and the king of awesome magic systems is Brandon Sanderson. Whether the dark, gritty world of Mistborn or the hugely epic Stormlight Archives, Brandon always delivers intricate magic systems and unexpected twists and turns that keep readers clamoring for more.

There are many other great examples of epic fantasy, but these are enough to get a sense of the challenge facing authors trying to break into the epic fantasy world. The stories really need to be epic, usually there’s a large cast of characters, the stakes are as high as they can get, and the magic can be in a powerful magic system, an intricate political world, or a setting so majestic people don’t want to leave.

So what are your favorite epic fantasies, and why?

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank Morin
Rune Warrior coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers Urban Fantasy/Historical thrillers, check his website: www.frankmorin.org

Meet the Fictorians: Dave Heyman

“Come in, — come in! and know me better, man!” -Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

We’d love for you, our wonderful readers, to get to know us better. That’s why, each month, Kristin Luna will interview a member of The Fictorians. We’ll learn more about each member, such as their writing processes, their work, where they live, and what they prefer to drink on a warm summer’s day. We hope you enjoy this monthly installment of Meet the Fictorians.

Meet the Fictorians:

Dave Heyman

Kristin Luna (KL): Hi Dave! How are you and what are you drinking?

Dave Heyman (DH): I’m doing great! I’m drinking my one and only vice, which is coffee. I prefer instant to brewed. Blasphemy, I know, but it’s easier on my stomach. When traveling I prefer Dunkin’ to Starbucks, and love that I can just say “Medium hot, 3 and 3” at the counter and get what I want. It’s a New England thing.

Coffee. Love it.

KL: I actually prefer instant as well! I don’t speak that out loud, of course, and it sounds like you know exactly why. If you don’t mind me sharing, you live in Maine. Tell us a little about that.

DH: I’ve been a New Englander most of my life. I was stationed in Maine during one of my Navy tours and after that I knew I would be back. We raised our kids in New Hampshire but the plan was always to move back to Maine and I’m thrilled we’ve executed on that plan.

To me, Maine is New England in its most concentrated form. I love the climate, I love the ocean views and the foliage and I love the people. There’s nowhere else like it on earth. There’s just a hundred places you can go in Maine and just soak in the beauty.

KL: Do you find that a little bit of Maine comes through in your writing from time to time?

DH: More than a little. My stories often have a strong seafaring component to them, that’s influenced by my Navy career but also by Maine. Earlier this year I wrote a complete fantasy short story set in Maine that I’m making the submission rounds with right now. I also have a pair of lighthouse-related stories that have a lot of Maine wrapped up in them.

KL: You’ve completed a couple of novels. Tell us more about those, what they’re about and what your plans are for them.

DH: The first novel I completed was called ‘Ash Princess’, which I started during Nanowrimo of 2013. It’s an epic fantasy, the first draft clocks in at about 130,000 words. It the novel I carried around in my head for twenty years, always with the plan of writing it “someday”. After a close friend had a brush with death, I realized “someday” needed to become “now” and got busy. It took me about six months and writing it was a great learning experience. I have no intention of publishing it, but I pull it out to look at every now and then. It’s… not awful.

The second novel is a fantasy dystopian (is that a thing? I’ve decided that’s a thing) titled ‘Shades of the Sea’. After writing one novel, I wanted to see if I could write a second one without having two decades of prep time. Between the two novels I took a David Farland workshop, and a lot of those techniques paid off with this story. It’s still in its first draft, at about 100k words. It’s a pretty good story, I might pull it out again some day to see if it can be whipped into publishable shape.

Both of those novels were less about being published and more about learning how to be a writer, developing a process that worked for me and finding my voice. I think some aspiring authors can get stuck forever polishing that first novel and never get past it. For me, it was more a case of looking at what I did and saying “Ok, neat. Now what else can I do?”

KL: What writers do you find most influential?

DH: As a kid growing up in the 70s and 80s, I started with Tolkien and Clarke- -they were my primers on fantasy and science fiction. I read some Asimov and Heinlein too, but they never connected with my the way Clarke did. For fantasy, after Tolkien I moved on to Weis & Hickman, Eddings, Anne McCaffery and Katherine Kurtz. I also have a deep and abiding love for the world building in Stephen R. Donaldson’s books, even as I acknowledge the unpleasantness of his main characters. I also read a ton of Stephen King, Clive Barker and Dean Koontz.

As an adult aspiring author, I have been very influenced by some of the people whose workshops I have taken. Influenced by their prose, but more importantly in how they treat their peers and students and the passion with which they speak of the field. David Farland, Jeanne Cavelos, Mary Robinette Kowall, Kevin J. Anderson, Dean Wesley Smith- -all people I have learned a ton from and try to model myself after.

KL: You mentioned you were in the Navy. Do you find that that influences your writing? Military fantasy or sci-fi? If it doesn’t now, would you see yourself incorporating it in your future writing?

DH: I couldn’t be prouder of my time in the Navy. It was an amazing experience, and it does influence my writing, though not in the way you might expect. I didn’t leave the Navy with a love for the hardware of war, even if I love reading a good war book as much as the next person. What struck me the most in the military is the esprit de corps- -the bond that is struck amongst people working together in stressful situations. I have tapped that feeling in most of the things I’ve written, it is a powerful emotion to experience.

I do have a series planned that revolves around a military ship in a fantasy setting, so I’m sure I’ll pull on lots of my Navy times there.

KL: What’s your favorite work you’ve written so far?

DH: I have a novella that is about 75% complete (but 100% plotted) called The Fifth Interdictor. In short, it is a fantasy about a seemingly unstoppable guardian who slowly learns that her whole life has been engineered, with many layers of secrets hidden from her. She pulls the pieces of her true life together, but at the cost of her power- -becoming weaker and more vulnerable the more she truth she uncovers. Strangers become family, allies become enemies and her own identity is questioned. Is she a hero, or a monster?

It is my favorite thing I have written, with both my favorite protagonist and my favorite antagonist. I expect to complete it next year (another project muscled its way to the front of the line) and once it is done I will be finding a way to get it in people’s hands.

KL: What are some of your long-term goals with writing?

DH: Up until about six months ago I was running with no real plan. From 2013 when I got serious about doing this every day I was just focused on writing, writing and writing. Growing, learning, evaluating. I submitted a few short stories here and there, but nothing beyond that. I figured when I was ‘ready’ I would know.

Six months ago I decided I would write a novel that was intended not for growth, but for publication. The novel is a historical fantasy set in Nepal in 1950, titled Under Everest. I am working on it right now, and I expect to complete it in about another two months. I also have the aforementioned Fifth Interdictor, which I intend to compete and publish, as well as a nautical fantasy series I expect to start late this year.

KL: I love that – having projects specifically for growth and some specifically for publication. Do you have any stories available that our readers can buy or read online? Any plans for that in the future?

DH: Nothing out there yet. I am hopeful that 2017 will change all of that.

KL: I know you’re relatively new to the Fictorians, but what is your favorite Fictorians post you’ve written so far?

DH: I’m super excited and honored to be a full time Fictorian! My favorite Fictorians post is the first guest post I did, “Petting the Dog in Space”. I was so taken by the plight of little Philae the comet lander and I was very happy with how the post came out.

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If you have any questions for Dave, please leave a comment below. Thank you for reading!

Honoring the Giants

A while ago, I was at a book reading by an intriguing new fantasy author at one of my local bookstores. I’m naturally curious about how ideas originate and evolve, so during the Q & A period I asked him what other authors in the genre influenced him. I had expected a laundry list of the classics of old-Tolkien, LeGuin, Eddison-or at least some mention of today’s bestsellers. But the stammered and confused response I received was along the lines of, “I don’t have any influences, I don’t want to talk about it.” I left the reading feeling a little perplexed and disappointed, yet not fully understanding why.

This wasn’t the first time that I had this kind of response. I’ve heard similar questions fielded at conventions with similar answers given. It’s not something that’s made sense to me-I’m always quick to spout off my favorite authors and the things they do that I think are amazing-and given my inclination for seeking the origins of ideas, I wanted to know why people were refusing to admit that they have been influenced.

Of course, there is the fear that of being called derivative. Many, if not most, authors fear this, myself included. In any genre, but especially in speculative fiction, originality is of paramount importance. After all, isn’t that what writing is? The creation of something new? This is a real, and I think legitimate, fear, but I don’t think it adequately described what I had been seeing with these authors’ reactions, since many authors who fear being labeled as derivative have no problem discussing their influences. Deeper digging was required.

I believe the answer lies with how many people view creativity.

On a superficial level, creativity is the process by which something new comes about. That’s not controversial, but there is dispute about where this new thing comes from.

The common view of creativity is that it is intuitive, that an idea is not truly new unless it plucked from the ether, and not at all associated with anything else in existence. This follows suit with how many of us actually experience a new idea: sometimes it just pops into your head, and you don’t know where it came from.

But if that were true, every new idea would be completely incomprehensible since it would be divorced from any context we could comprehend (which is much the state of nonrepresentational modern visual art, and why it turns so many people off). In order for this new creation to be meaningful to us, it has to have some place in the world as we understand it, and thus it has to relate in some way to the things we have experienced before.

I think that creativity works the same way, but in reverse: the creator takes elements of their experiences and combines them in new ways.

Einstein’s development of the theory of relativity is often considered to be a work of staggering genius and the pinnacle of scientific creativity, and rightly so. Most people have difficulty understanding relativity, and can’t imagine how anyone else could conceive of it. But Einstein certainly didn’t pluck it out of the ether (especially since relativity helped destroy the very concept of the ether); he developed it as an answer to the problems that had been found in Newtonian physics. He combined his knowledge of physics with observed measurements in a way that resulted in a completely new theory. Far from being divorced from reality, his achievement attempted to describe it totally.

Other forms of creativity are no different. The unicorn, for example, is a mythical creature that has permeated cultures throughout the world for hundreds if not thousands of years, and is often a symbol of the fantastic. Yet ultimately, the unicorn is just a horse with a horn on its head and magical powers. It is nothing more than the combination of these attributes, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a completely original creation.

Imagine asking the creator of the unicorn to describe it. “Well,” he would say, “it has a horn, and magical powers, four legs, hooves, a mane and a tail… but it is definitely not a horse or related to horses in any fashion.”

This is akin to what many of these authors are saying about their own works in their frantic scramble to distance them from those of their influences.

Some of the greatest works of literature have clear influences. Tolkien was influenced by mythology (no, he didn’t invent the idea of Elves, though his Elves were nonetheless a remarkable creation), The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan can in many ways be seen as a fusion of Dune and Arthurian legend (the Aviendha/Chani connection), and Steven Erikson proudly declares that he was shaped by Glen Cook’s writing, and a side-by-side read of Gardens of the Moon and The Black Company supports this (can you tell I’m biased toward fantasy?). Despite the fact that their works were influenced by many things, they still stand at the high-water mark of creativity in fantasy fiction.

Now, I’m not at all suggesting that you should become a complete hack. Tolkien already wrote The Lord of the Rings; we don’t need you to write it again. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t let him or anyone else inform your own stories, so long as your stories and the elements that comprise them are your own.

Nor am I trying to diminish your creativity as being unoriginal. Utilizing what exists in the world and combining it in new and fresh ways is really hard work. Just ask Einstein.

So if you find yourself famous someday and asked who influenced you, feel no guilt as you give us your laundry list, and honor those giants upon whose shoulders you stand.

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If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton

P.S. My epic fantasy novelette, Dark Tree: A Tale of the Fourth World, is now available for free on Smashwords! I hope you’ll check it out!