I just read: Dawn of Wonder

As I am currently attempting to write a fantasy series, I’m want to read as many types of fantasy as I can. Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw was free through Amazon Prime Reading, so I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did!

As with any epic fantasy book, this one is going to draw comparisons to Song of Ice and Fire. It definitely has the same, ‘nooks and crannies,’ ‘no particular hurry’ feel to it that you find in George R.R. Martin’s books. And just like the Game of Thrones books, you might get hypnotized by a passage about arrow-fletching, snap to attention, and then suddenly realize that the entire status-quo of the story has changed, and you didn’t even notice. Dawn of Wonder goes through several ‘phases’ in the narrative, and that adds to the epic feel, and keeps the plot moving steadily downstream along, even if some passages diverge into the occasional tributary or lagoon.

Unlike ASOIAF, the 3rd-person narration follows one character through the book’s 800 pages. Aedan is an incredibly smart, brave boy. Poor but with a bright future. HIs one weakness is that he suffers from a severe case of PTSD, brought on my childhood abuse from his father. Can’t say that I’ve ever read a fantasy book that explores PTSD in a medieval setting, but it works pretty well here. And Renshaw does a great job of showing how his protagonist can be exceptionally brave while still suffering from a sudden PTSD-induced panic attack, if the situation hits him just right.

As I mentioned, the story travels through several ‘phases’ as we watch Aedan come of age. We see his pastoral childhood, which ends with a tragic loss. A fugitive period with his family. Then Aedan’s enrollment in a rigorous military academy. This to me was really where the book found its voice, its purpose and differentiated itself from other epic fantasies I have read. Renshaw obviously knows a lot about medieval techniques of warfare. At the same time, Aedan befriends a ragtag cast of recruits, and shows off some really cool out-of-the-box innovations, that add color to his training. This part of the book is sort of a medieval Ender’s Game.

Not only that, but Renshaw even inserts a depressingly realistic portrayal of middle-school romance. This is just another way that the book shows itself to be grounded in interesting ways.

So what is the Dawn of Wonders, you ask? Eventually, Aedan’s brilliance and his brash curiosity get him caught up in palace intrigue. (Yes, this is another phase of the book.) Aedan finds himself pulled into a mission to a mysterious castle—and, yes indeed, this is where the book goes supernatural. Aedan and his adult allies face a unique threat, but to me the fanatical conflict isn’t quite as interesting as Aedan’s drama back at school.

All the plot points and intrigues are not entirely wrapped up by the time Aedan’s mission ends. And the last fifty pages or so are dedicated to gearing up to the next mission that will consume Book 2 in the series. So if you hate cliffhangers, be warned. For me, I kind of like unresolved endings (after all, all of G.R.R. Martin’s book end that way), and I’ll be on the look out for when Renshaw’s sequel hits the electronic shelves!

State of my writing: Oct 2017

It’s been five months since I started Book 1 of my new fantasy series, and I’m currently making my way through a nearly-final edits. But at the same time, I’m working through the first draft of Book 2!

Way back in 2014 I posted about my method for ‘gap-writing’ a first draft. But with these two books, I’ve been experimenting with dictating the draft into my phone. I’ve been hearing more and more about the pros and cons of dictating technology. I don’t really do anything special with. I just turn on my ‘Notes’ app and click the mic button. There’s LOTS of correcting afterward, but I think it’s worth it to be able to freely record my ideas and lines while I’m feeling creative.

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I’ve been enjoying so much, that during a recent weekend trip to Jekyll Island, I spent a good deal of time roaming the beach and dictating passages into my phone. I’m sure any other beach-goers thought I was a little silly. Or a workaholic using his phone  to take care of business on the beach. And they were probably right.

Jekyll suffered some damage from Hurricane Irma this September. It barreled through and scraped some of the sand from the beach, took out at least one boardwalk, and excavated another old one. (See the pic below.) The weather was a bit overcast, so overall, it made for a bit of a post-apocalyptic feel (if you happened to be in a particularly imaginative frame of mind). Which leads me to one other ‘pro’ to dictating: It unshackles you from writing in your office or your living room. Getting into a wide open space and doing some storytelling in a natural setting was really fun, and it really got my creative juices flowing!

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Random thoughts about writing…

Watch out now, quick takes!

I’ve been proofing for the last week, and I realized I hate any time I use the word ‘had.’
He had a smile on his face.
He had to go to the store.
He had liked cartoons when he was younger.
What is it about any use of that word that feels awkward or almost amateurish when I hear it? Maybe I’m focusing on it too much. I’m sure most readers breeze right past the word.

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Writing a fantasy series, I’ve realized that lighting can be a major problem! My characters keep wandering into caves or abandoned dungeons—how are they supposed to see where they’re going? Even a scene outdoors at night can be a major issue. Yes, I know that I can give my characters torches. But those seem awfully smoky and hot and drippy—and just generally unpleasant. Plus—how long does a medieval torch last? I’m sure if I went back to old episodes of Xena or some other just-for-fun sword and sorcery show, there would be scenes where characters walk through moodily lit caves without addressing the fact that no one should be able to see anything.

September TV

September was a busy month for TV, with several shows vying for time to distract me from writing.First and foremost, there’s a new season of ‘Rick and Morty’ on Adult Swim. This might be might favorite show, period. It’s a cartoon, a family comedy, and a sci-fi adventure with enough mind-blowing ideas to make Doctor Who jealous. This season has featured some more introspective themes. What makes Rick tick? How is his megalomania affecting his family? Most of the episodes are self-contained, so you can jump aboard with just about any episode you want and get a complete, understandable story.

Earlier this month, Big Brother ended it’s polarizing, predictable 19th season with a polarizing, un-predictable finale. Personally, I was ‘Team Paul.’ Sure, he was maybe a little more manipulative than he needed to be (although this is Big Brother we’re talking about), but how can you not give props to a guy who, through separate plots, convinced every player to purposely lose a racing competition, so that a woman with a broken foot could end up winning it?

After Big Brother ended, Ozark (on Netflix) entered my life with a blistering first episode. Yikes! It’s fascinating to see Jason Bateman’s character be the financial planner/money launderer using his nerdy bookkeeping skills to hold off hitmen and thugs and drug dealers, episode after episode. The writers of Ozark definitely seem to be asking, ‘How can we add another problem to make this show even more dramatic?’ I was a little over halfway through the season when all the problems piled up had started to make me feel too stressed. So I’m taking a break from the show right now.

Also binged the first season of the Good Place. A very witty show. In between, I watched as many episodes of 30 Rock as I could. (It left Netflix on Septmber 30th). I enjoyed the first ep of American Horror Story: Cult, so I will probably watch more of that. Although a lot of times I don’t end up making it all the way through the AHS seasons.

How about you? What shows are you watching or looking forward to watching now that the summer TV season has ended and the fall season is starting up?

Progress report

Today I finished the third draft of my latest manuscript! Woot woot! Still a good bit of proof-reading left to go, but I’m definitely in the final approach. The book is a little over 40K words long, but I’m thinking now I might not release it until I have Book 2 in the series ready. I’ve heard that it’s a good idea for independent authors to launch more than one book of a series at a time, because the best way to take advantage of a launch it to have another product out there, ready for new readers to buy.

It’s a tough decision, because I’m excited about getting this book out there. It’s been a blast to write! And quick too! (Six months, which is turbo-fast for me.) I’m feeling impatient about sharing it. But also, Book 1 has shaped up to be a ‘getting-the-gang-together’ sort of adventure, and I think the epic, world-ending threat that drives the undercurrent of the series isn’t really revealed until Book 2. So in that case, it makes sense to release both books together, to help establish what will be the ultimate quest of my Fantasy series.

So what are the tentative titles of my next two books?

Book 1:

 

& Book 2:

 

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Nevada and Utah trip

Earlier this year, we took a trip out west to explore Las Vegas and Zion National Park, and a few points in between.

Examples of Tafoni in the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.

 

Near the Rainbow Vista in the Valley of Fire.

 

4000-year-old petroglyphs on Atlatl Rock.

 

Inside Zion National Park.

 

Looking down into Zion National Park.

 

A shot above the Virgin River.

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