Another day, another release from a fellow Magical Words writer.  Today is the 40th birthday of my good friend Stuart Jaffe, and to mark the occasion he is launching a new e-book project:  a collection of some of his best short stories. The collection is called 10 Bits of My Brain, and it includes an introduction from yours truly.  You can buy the book in Kindle format or Nook format, and you can read more about it from the man himself here.  I hope you’ll check it out.

My good friend A.J. Hartley, who writes with me at the Magical Words blogsite, and who is a world-renowned Shakespearean scholar when he’s not writing excellent fantasy books, has a new project out today.  With author extraordinaire David Hewson, he has written a novelization of MacBeth and released it as an audiobook utilizing the vast talents of actor Alan Cumming.  You can learn more about the project here.  I hope you’ll check it out.

A Post About Pacing

June 27, 2011

Today’s post can be found at http://magicalwords.net, the group blog on the business and craft of writing fantasy that I maintain with fellow authors Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, A.J. Hartley, Stuart Jaffe, and Edmund Schubert, among others. The post is called “Basics of Writing, part X: Pacing Your Novel Musically,” and it’s another installment in my “Basics of Writing” series. I hope you enjoy it.

Some time back — several months, actually, which is a little embarrassing — I received an e-copy of a book by Stephen Leigh called The Woods.  The book sat on my computer desktop for a long time, in its own virtual To Be Read pile.  As eager as I was to read the book, I don’t like reading books on my computer, and so I kept putting it off.  Then, a little over a week ago, I received a message from Apple on my iPod asking me if I wanted to download a free copy of Apple Books.  I did, and immediately put The Woods on the device in .pdf format.  Five days later I had finished reading it.

Let me pause here and say, in the spirit of full disclosure, that Stephen Leigh, the author of more novels than I can name, who also writes epic fantasy as S.L. Farrell, is a good friend and one of my favorite people in the world.  I wanted to like this book.  I would never deny that.  But I assure you that if I hadn’t liked it, I would have set it aside and never mentioned it again.

The fact is, I was blown away by The Woods.  It is billed as a dark fantasy, and it is that.  The magic in this story is both beautiful and disturbing.  The narrative is gripping; deceptively simple in its setup and satisfyingly complex in its execution.  And yet, while “Dark Fantasy,” may begin to describe The Woods, it does not do the book justice.  This is a deeply moving, literary novel, a reflection on adolescence that delves into the raw emotions of youth with the poetic insight of John Knowles (A Separate Peace) and the power of the underrated James Kirkwood (Good Times, Bad Times).

We begin in the mind of Rob, our main character, who returns to the home of his youth, and looks upon the woods he prowled with his best friend, Mark.

Then the water thrashing between rocks had been sparkling and alive, its source a deep, cold spring just beyond the subdivisions. Then, Cooper Creek—so named because for the longest part of its winding path it parallels the equally winding Cooper Road—was well populated with red-backed salamanders, crawdads, and tadpoles. Minnows glittered: silver sparks in the shallows of the rocky pools, while water striders skated serenely above, and if you were careful and quiet, you might even come upon a fox lapping the water from the bank.

Of course, part of that may simply be memory embellished with the artificial glow of time. Truth is as elusive as a minnow darting under a rock. Perhaps, if you’ll permit a poor pun, I worship a false idyll.

Humor, melancholy, nostalgia, and beneath it all a compelling honesty that makes this work of fiction read almost like memoir.  Leigh’s prose is elegant, his plotting tight, his character work outstanding.  But it is the voice of his protagonist that drives this story, that gives the book it’s emotional weight and power.

I’m not going to delve into plot summary or anything else that might give away the many surprises that await you in The Woods.  The book is not very long — 60,000 words or so — and as I mentioned above, it is a very quick read.  You can learn more about Steve and his other books here.   And you can buy an e-copy of The Woods through his website here.  At $3.99, I guarantee you that it will be the best deal you get all summer.

Today’s post can be found at http://www.sfnovelists.com, the group blog on speculative fiction that I maintain along with a group of over one hundred published authors of fantasy and science fiction.  It is called “Finishing A Puzzle,” and it explains why I have not been posting much in recent days, as well as why this particular post went up late…  I hope you enjoy it.

Today’s post can be found at http://magicalwords.net, the group blog on the business and craft of writing fantasy that I maintain with fellow authors Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, A.J. Hartley, Stuart Jaffe, and Edmund Schubert, among others. The post is called “This Post is About SEX and VIOLENCE,” and it’s well, pretty much self-explanatory… I hope you enjoy it.

The Basics of Revision

June 13, 2011

Today’s post can be found at http://magicalwords.net, the group blog on the business and craft of writing fantasy that I maintain with fellow authors Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, A.J. Hartley, Stuart Jaffe, and Edmund Schubert, among others. The post is called “Basics of Writing, part IX: How to Revise a Manuscript or Story,” and it’s a continuation of my “Basics” series on various aspects of the writing process. I hope you enjoy it.

Magical Words Review

June 10, 2011

A big shout-out and thank you to my friend and fellow writer Lauren Scribe Harris, who has just reviewed the Magical Words How-to book, How to Write Magical Words:  A Writer’s Companion.  It’s a lovely review, and I hope you’ll check it out.  Here’s the link.  And while you’re there, you should check out her other posts.  She’s got a terrific blog:

http://lscribeharris.blogspot.com/2011/06/magical-motivation.html

A.J. Hartley, my good friend and fellow contributor at the Magical Words blogsite, is launching a new project today.  In addition to being a bestselling author — he’s written thrillers, fantasies, and is now working on a new middle reader series — A.J. is also known and respected throughout the academic world as one of our foremost Shakespearean scholars.  He has just embarked on a new project — a novelization of MacBeth in audio book format — that combines these two halves of his professional life.  Here is A.J.’s post about the project.

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