Friday, June 29, 2012
He quickly uncovers that the people in charge of Miralto are gutting the resources of Markazia, enslaving its inhabitants, and lying to the Miralto public about all of it. Guerrilla rebels are constantly attacking the system, and Jak soon falls for their gutsy and attractive female leader Karina. Although some people might dislike how unbelievably stupid Jak is with the rebel leader, this was actually one of my favorite aspects of the novel. Stupid is Jak's specialty, and he quickly performs several dangerous favors for the rebellion and alienates his best friend Baxter. My husband also read Jak Phoenix 2 and he summed up Jak's motivation as "anything to get in the panties." I found Jak's behavior very endearing because it was so genuine. People do blockheaded things because of pesky physical attractions all the time. Someone is doing it right now.
Overall, Jak Phoenix 2 is an emotionally driven action-packed adventure. Jak is tested hard by his falling out with Baxter, and he suffers some very bad consequences for his spring break attitude with the rebel leader.
The novel was tightly plotted and the characters were vivid and believable. Compared to the first novel, I am forced to say that it was not as laugh out loud funny. It still was humorous but the story was anchored more by its serious aspects than a desire to be funny.
Jak Phoenix 2 is an exciting read that diverted me from the cares of my life. There is always something going on: explosions, fist fights, crashes, and high speed chases. Jak sorely regrets his foray into gainful employment, and I suspect that he will be gratefully pursuing freelance salvage work in his next adventure.
Enter the Jak Phoenix Universe if you want to fly through space with Jak.
Related post: Space Opera author reflects on his hero Jak Phoenix
Monday, June 25, 2012
|European and American Amazon shoppers can now get Rys Rising in paperback|
I produced the paperback through the print-on-demand company Createspace.
I can also hope that its presence in the European Amazon stores will allow it to be discovered by overseas readers who still prefer books over ebooks.
In the United States get the paperback at:
Excerpt from the epic fantasy Rys Rising:
When the Shamaness Loxane threw off her cape, people cried out with reverence and joy. She was naked and her wonderful body, both strong and soft, glistened in the torchlight. Tattoos of green and blue adorned her body, bright upon her exceptionally light skin. Her hair was long and curly and the most amazing color that Amar had ever seen. Red it was, like copper made soft and inviting. The enticing locks flowed over her shoulders but did not cover her full breasts that displayed her femininity unabashedly.
A sunburst tattoo encircled her navel and tattooed eagles adorned her thighs and perched on her knees. Snake tattoos coiled around her arms and their heads were drawn onto the backs of her hands with forked tongues going down her middle fingers. When she turned, Amar saw an elk tattoo on her back. Its great rack of antlers spread over her shoulder blades and its snout reached to the small of her back. The animal had starbursts in place of eyes, and when Loxane began to sway her body, the elk looked to be shaking its head.
Loxane began to move more of her body, limb by limb. Her hands rotated and then her arms lifted and her shoulders circled. Her torso circled with ever-increasing exaggeration of movement and her pelvis gyrated. Her buttocks lifted and squatted, glorious in their curvaceous smoothness.
The Shamaness Loxane danced naked in front of the gathered rogues and lawless wanderers, and she had no shame. Amar watched every move of her body, only blinking when he consciously thought to do it. Never had he seen, nor imagined, a woman making such a display of herself. And never had he imagined that a woman could be so beautiful, so powerful, but so wicked.
People were playing drums for her. First one drummer, and then three, and then dozens pounded a beat that was all life and no judgment. Their rhythms guided her and coaxed her to move faster. Her body joined with the beating of the drums, until the drummers seemed to respond to her movement as much as she responded to them.
Loxane moved to the edge of the semi-circle of torches and began to dance around the edge. People reached out to her but did not touch. She arched and swayed just beneath the fingertips of her admirers.
The crowd pressed hard against Amar and Gadoh as Loxane came closer to their position. Like all the others, Amar had no intention of giving up his spot. He turned sideways so that two more men could squeeze in next to him. Behind him, Gadoh giggled.
Closer she came to Amar, and his breath quickened and his eyes widened. The absolute scandal of her brazen nudity and erotic dancing pounded against all that his culture had ingrained in him about the modesty of women. Far back in his mind, his sensibilities railed against her outrageousness. She was the worst of the worst, criminal beyond the most wanton whore, but Amar paid less attention to the dogma of his upbringing the closer she danced to him. Indeed, as Gadoh had said, Loxane was among the greatest of wonders.
Although enthralled by her provocative display, Amar did not reach out to her when she danced before him. The fellows alongside him spread out their hands toward her, just barely missing her skin, but Amar only looked. His eyes went up and down her body, and he was truly awed by her lovely strength that went past simple maddening sexuality. His eyes traveled up her naked body, pausing at her breasts that glistened with the sweat of her dance, and then he looked at her face. Loxane’s eyes were half rolled back. The trance of her dance was deep upon her. Her lips hung open as if she would cry out with ecstasy at any moment.
Amar envied the oblivion on her face, doubting he could ever experience such inner peace.
Loxane’s eyes snapped into focus. The men reaching for her withdrew their hands, each gasping as if the snakes on her arms had come to life with venomous anger. She stopped dancing and lowered her arms. Her chest heaved with hard breathing and she stared intently at Amar.
In the United States get the paperback at:
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Like many fantasy fans, the novels by J.R.R. Tolkien made me fall in love with the genre. This love led me to become a writer. My fantasy novels are not really like The Lord of the Rings, but the river of inspiration that gushes from Tolkien's writing certainly waters the fields of my imagination.
The greatest stories trigger our emotions and our intellects at the same time. The following scenes are those that I find especially moving and thought provoking in The Lord of the Rings.
The Temptation of Boromir
In The Fellowship of the Ring Boromir said, "It is a gift, I say; a gift to the foes of Mordor. It is mad not to use it, to use the power of the Enemy against him. The fearless, the ruthless, these alone will achieve victory."
Boromir has always been one of my favorite characters. Even when I first read this story as an adolescent, the pressures acting upon Boromir immediately gained my sympathy. He had been fighting Mordor for a long time. He knew what the stakes were. He was committed to doing anything to defend the good peoples of the world. Unlike some readers who prefer to revile Boromir, I forgave him instantly for his attempt to take the Ring from Frodo. Boromir's good heart had led him astray. His intentions were pure and his reasoning was right. To walk the Ring into Mordor was madness. The sound mind of this stout warrior could not reject the temptation. He could only see how evil had tricked him when he saw the horror on Frodo's face.
Eowyn kills the Lord of the Nazgul
From The Return of the King: "Still she did not blench: maiden of the Rohirrim, child of Kings, slender but as a steel-blade, fair yet terrible."
This is the part in the trilogy that makes all the girls cheer. There is no denying that The Lord of the Rings is quite male-centric, which is fine, but the story needed a good shield maiden to thin the testosterone a little. Her devotion to her Uncle Theoden and fearlessness in the face of the Lord of the Nazgul when all the other warriors could not face him were inspiring. She also serves as a metaphor for the strength of women and how they face evil just as often as men do. With help from the hobbit Merry, she slays the Nazgul Lord and contributes greatly to the victory.
Samwise resists the power of the Ring
From The Return of the King: "And then all the clouds rolled away, and the white sun shone, and at his command the vale of Gorgoroth became a garden of flowers and trees and brought forth fruit."
True to his character, Sam's delusions of grandeur inevitably turn to agriculture. When he uses the Ring while rescuing Frodo from the Tower of Cirith Ungol, he is afflicted with fantasies of becoming the Lord of the Ring and setting things right in the world, but his natural "hobbit-sense" helps him overcome the evil temptations to keep the Ring. He realizes that its power is trying to trick him. He knows that he is just a regular guy who could never actually be king of the world. The power would corrupt him and consume him.
I find Sam's fortitude in the face of ultimate temptations to be a beautiful thing. It's like he throws away a winning lotto ticket because he knows that his new riches will turn him into a degenerate gambling addict. His ordinary goodness is not entirely above temptation, but it certainly helps insulate him from it. Unlike Icarus who flew too close to the sun and perished, Sam stays the course and prevails.
The many inspiring and touching moments presented by the characters in Tolkien's classic trilogy are what induce love among its readers. Good literature helps us see the temptations and heroics in our own lives.
I invite readers of this article to leave comments about their favorite scenes in this epic. How do these stories help you? I know that more than once I've bolstered my courage by thinking about how Sam and Frodo walked alone in Mordor.
Monday, June 18, 2012
My blog is about traveling the media landscape and I recently watched a very compelling talk about human evolution that presented an entirely new idea to me. Elder scientist Elaine Morgan is a defender of the aquatic ape theory for human evolution. This approach challenges the human origin theory that we became upright walking hunter gatherers on the tree-dotted savanahs of Africa. Instead the aquatic ape theory explains our unique primate characteristics by proposing that our distant ancestors lived in a wet environment and spent a lot of time in water.
This watery origin is a strong explanation for our relative lack of hair of fur. Most mammals that have little or no hair are largely aquatic like dolphins and manitees. Another bare skin species is the elephant that has established roots in an aquatic environment. This does not mean that all aquatic animals lack hair or fur, but hairlessness is a trait specific to aquatic mammals.
She also said that moving in water would have encouraged our upright walking, citing the fact that land apes will walk upright in water.
Another point was our ability to regulate our breathing. She said that most animals just breath and cannot have precise control unless they are aquatically adapted. Morgan also said that control of breath could have lead to our speech capabilities.
She also said that fossil evidence repeatedly indicates aquatic flora in the presence of early hominids.
In the included video courtesy of TED, Elaine Morgan explains all this very convincingly and challenges the entrenched view of academia that insists the aquatic ape theory is "lunatic fringe" science. I found her arguments very convincing if for no other reason than I love being in water. Taking a dip is my preferred method for cooling off on a hot day. I've even joked that if I were given a million years I would evolve into an otter. Perhaps that all already happened the other way around.
The aquatic ape human evolutionary theory does not deny that early hominids progressed into other environments, including savanahs, but it explains the beginnings of our unique traits and abilities.
The increasingly famous TED talks were my source for this information. I recommend TED to anyone with an inquisitive mind who is able to think about things (I know not everyone qualifies). TED covers more subjects than I am even aware of. Organizations like these give me a little hope for humanity.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
|The best success is revenge. The outlaw main character of Rys Rising knows the path to power is not made of good deeds.|
Of course the movie didn’t take that direction, but wouldn’t it have been interesting if it had? I know fantasy is supposed to be about good prevailing over evil, and that makes a great story, but is it the only way? As a writer, I decided with my newest fantasy series to enter the dark woods where the bad guy holds his revels free of guilt.
The novel Rys Rising has a main character named Amar who murders, steals, generally kicks ass, and serves a magical rys who just might be the worst soul ever born even though her enemies certainly deserve her hatred.
What’s it like writing a novel heavy on the bad guy action? It’s a lot of fun. It means he gets to win a lot because, if you really look at reality, horrible people get away with unconscionable deeds all the time.
Does Rys Rising have a hero? It sure does. His name is Cruce Chenomet. He’s young, and rich, and good looking and I love him very much. He’s strong and brave and fights for more than his own ambitions, like protecting women and children. He’s flawed of course but hopefully that makes for interesting reading.
Rys Rising is actually the fifth novel I’ve written. My first series The Rys Chronicles has been completely published since 2007 and the new Rys Rising series delves into the ancient past of the fantasy world in my first series. I’ve worked tremendously hard to create the historical events alluded to in The Rys Chronicles, and I’ve had an inspiring journey as a writer developing new cultures both civilized and primitive.
I’m styling Rys Rising and the novels that follow it as a complex epic told from many angles. The story has dozens of characters and multiple civilizations. I hope that readers find Amar compelling and decide that his badness rewards them like a guilty pleasure. I hope that Cruce serves as a relatable young man whose hopes and trials draw you into the heart of the story and help you reflect on the best in humanity.
Now let’s read an excerpt and meet Amar. Will you love to hate him or will you love him even though you know he’s bad for you?
From Rys Rising: Book I
“What was that noise? Watch out, Zoodeba. Must be big mice,” commented an elderly male who spoke to his pet in a tender tone.
The man came down from the roof slowly, gripping the wooden rail that wound around the stairs. Amar rushed around the edge of the room and navigated tables and shelves until he was underneath the spiral stair. The cat hissed at him.
“What’s that?” the man said. He swung the lantern around various points in the room but obviously had no idea where Amar was.
Amar froze inside the shadows and tried to decide if he should kill the old scholar.
The old man was drawn to the disturbed bookshelf and bent down slowly to start setting the scrolls back in place. The cat jumped onto the top shelf and supervised his progress while he commented to the cat about how he was surprised that pile had stayed in place so long.
Amar began to think that he might be able to go about his business undetected. His presence seemed so painfully obvious though. He was surprised that the old man did not smell him. Or perhaps his body odor just seemed so strong because of the unfamiliar sweat of a stranger that permeated his stolen clothes.
While the man was on all fours collecting scrolls and the lantern was on the floor, Amar dashed up to the roof.
The wind hit him when he emerged onto the platform. It was stronger at this height and Amar had a sudden chill as his sweat cooled his skin. He was sweating more than he had realized. Thrilling fear coursed through his veins. His reckless and improvised plan to infiltrate Wayndo’s inner chambers made his existence so achingly real. At this moment, Amar could savor life. In danger he could find joy.
He removed the rope from his pack and shook out its coils. He looked for a place to tie it. A sturdy timber flag pole presented itself. Wayndo’s senshal banner snapped above Amar as he secured his rope.
His hands moved urgently. Between gusts of wind he could hear the old man chatting to his cat. Amar warned himself to go kill the old man, but his heart yet had some mercy in it, and Amar would gamble that the man would not discover the rope. He had already missed Amar practically walking by him.
Taking up the rope, Amar mounted the parapet above the window that he had entered mentally with Onja. A waning moon had just broken the horizon and dappled the scattered clouds with light. Stars glittered in the heavens, and the hills jutting above the dark fields were silvery and silent.
As Amar wrapped the rope about his torso and gripped it fiercely, he paused to take in the splendor of the night. It was good to see beauty and have it touch him. He needed this moment of blessing before he committed cold murder.
I invite readers to discover my epic fantasy. I am the author of two series: The Rys Chronicles and Rys Rising.
Free samples at Brave Luck Books
Rys Rising: Book I
Union of Renegades: The Rys Chronicles Book I
Also see all my titles at these retailers:
Barnes & Noble
Sony Reader Store
Saturday, June 16, 2012
Like Prometheus being condemned for bringing fire to humans, producers of Hollywood special effects supposed blockbusters must fear eternal torture if they use a script.
I recently went to see Prometheus and was underwhelmed by its lack of story. There were no good lines. A few mysteries were posed but NOTHING was explained at the end. No satisfaction was given whatsoever. And to add to the disappointment several scenes were excessively stupid.
The worst offense was the under use of Charlize Theron, who is one of my favorite actors and very talented. She did not have any good lines or good scenes. She did not even battle any aliens that I can recall. It's not that she did a bad job. She did a very good job standing around doing nothing. She was supposed to be the evil corporate boss but the concept did not really go anywhere.
Mostly the movie consisted of people doing stupid things and being killed quickly. There was no suspense. Also many parts of the movie were totally ridiculous. The main female character had an alien surgically removed from her uterus and she was running and jumping around immediately after having her stomach cut open and stapled. I did not appreciate this complete disregard for my modest intelligence.
Now of course the special effects were good and the movie was well made in regards to costumes, sets, props, and design. But how am I supposed to enjoy it without any story? Nothing made much sense. Nothing was very interesting. Nothing was explained. The supposed climax was completely lacking. And the one surviving humanoid alien that was of a race that had engineered humans never spoke. He was just a grunting and killing brute. I thought there was going to be some kind of illuminating conversation but there was not one word.
I can't fathom why such a high budget movie would not bother using anything approaching a coherent or interesting script. I'm sure there are many imaginative writers out there who would do a great job. And considering the value the world places on writers, I'm sure that obtaining a decent script would be the cheapest part of the production.
Another glaring example of a missed opportunity for a story was the movie Avatar. This could have been the most awesome movie ever, but there was no character development and nothing but the most basic and uninspired dialogue. The story had good concepts but no one seemed inclined to develop them beyond some cursory notes on a napkin. Avatar did not even have one line of technobabble explaining how the avatar thing actually worked.
It seems that movie producers think that a big special effects production doesn't need a story. They seem to think that their audience just wants a bunch of impressive spectacles without any story. Why don't they just make long music videos instead? That would probably be better.
When movies ignore the necessity of a story, it is a terrible mistake because when the high art of special effects is married with a good story wonderful things are achieved like the Lord of the Rings movies.
What do you think? Are there any movies you were looking forward to that fell flat in the story department?
Thursday, June 14, 2012
I'll admit that I really struggle with cover art for my novels. I'm no art director even when I have to be.
If anyone who has been reading the series has any suggestions, I'll certainly consider them. I'm leaning toward putting Dacian on this final book in the Rys Rising series, but there are other options. My epics have a large cast of characters and I wish I could show everybody. It's so hard to pick an image that conveys something important about the novel, but I'll have to make a decision on the concept by the end of this month.
Friday, June 8, 2012
|With two novels and a short story to his name (and a few good reviews) Canadian indie author Matt D. Williams reveals what he likes about his low-achiever hero Jak Phoenix and his writing goals.|
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been attracted to sprawling space opera-type tales with an inherent lighter tone. There is just something about an action packed pulp story told on a grand scale that gets my heart pumping and my mind racing. The big heroes, the diabolical villains, the explosions, the space pistols - fun stuff.
There are many very talented authors out there who are doing exceptional work with harder technical sci-fi. They would flatten me in a second if I attempted to join that game, but that type of story just doesn’t suit my personality. I set out to make a series of books you could pull out of your back pocket on a rainy Sunday afternoon and be quickly lost in a fun escapist adventure. Like life, the Jak Phoenix series will grow a little darker as it matures, but I will always be sure to remember where this tale came from.
All in all I set out to write a book I would enjoy as a kid, a teen, or an adult. Something a “regular” person could enjoy, even if he or she were oblivious to most science fiction. I wanted to read something that would make me feel the way I felt the first time I saw Luke and Han arguing over a princess while trying to blast their way out of an evil space station.
2. What are your writing habits like?
I’d love to be able to tell you I live by a strict regimen of writing 1000 words per day, but instead I’ll be the first to admit I don’t write nearly as much as I would like to. That being said, I just finished a small renovation on my office and set up a nice recliner in the corner beside my book shelf. My productivity has already skyrocketed.
Luckily, I am able to crack down when it’s needed. While writing the first draft of the second half of Jak Phoenix 2, I actually started to develop a pretty strict routine, trapping myself in the basement and coming up only after a minimum of two pages of (MS word) text were complete. During the first editing phase, I was finishing roughly a chapter every two days. Through the next editing phase I was cleaning up a chapter a night.
Of course I have a new set of challenges to keep me away from writing this year, but I just started putting some ideas down on paper for Jak Phoenix 3 and the ideas are already flowing nicely.
3. Your hero Jak Phoenix is a sobriety-challenged slacker who has problems with authority. What characteristics of Jak do you like the most?
I like the fact that Jak Phoenix is a flawed character, to say the least. He isn’t shy and doesn’t care what people think of him and I envy that trait. He’s able to walk that fine line between complete disaster and success. He’s the bad boy without being mean spirited. His hesitation to do much for anyone else is from being burned too many times in his past. He has put up a shield of sorts.
By the end of the second novel you can see that he might have the potential to become a little bit unhinged. When he goes out on a limb and things blow up in his face you start to get a sense that despite his reckless exterior, he is breakable.
In the teaser for this interview on your site you had a really funny comment about Jak’s name. There is something about that coming up in a future story. I can’t tell you now, but I think you’ll be entertained by a little snippet of backstory on the origin of his name.
4. How does it feel to be an indie writer?
I love the freedom to be able to work when I want, for as long as I want. (I’d love that in my career life too - Maybe I’m a bit like Jak Phoenix there) My destiny is in my hands...no one else’s. My success or failure is completely dependent on how hard I choose to work, and at least if I don’t succeed I’ll never have the disappointment of a negative outside influence causing problems with the marketing or representation of my work.
I also appreciate the fact that I can work with anyone I choose. For instance, I love the fact that I discovered artist Jeff Thomason from an interview I did on my site. Out of the blue, he sent over some artwork, which I loved so much I promised him he could do the cover of my sequel. A year later, I had the freedom to hire Jeff to do that cover for me. It was all up to me. No interference.
That being said, if a publisher plops down a bucket of money right now and says they can take Jak Phoenix “to the top,” I’ll definitely have something to think about.
5. What other creative activities do you enjoy besides writing?
I have been playing the guitar for at least 16 years and I bang on the drums from time to time. I used to write and record a lot of my own music, but I’ve scaled that back to just jamming with myself, to open up more time for writing.
In the last couple of years, cooking has become one of my favorite hobbies, and really a lifestyle change. I try to make as much of our food as possible with a combination of ideas from recipes and experimentation. I never really appreciated how much creativity is involved in cooking before. It really makes your mind work as you figure out which flavors go well with what and how different cultural dishes come together. I’m a big fan of eating, too.
6. Any additional comments?
Tracy, I can’t thank you enough for all the support you’ve given me over the last year. Please contact me anytime and let me know what you’re up to. Best of luck on everything! I hope you enjoy Jak Phoenix 2!
To everyone reading, here are some places where you can find me on the web:
Main site: http://www.jakphoenix.com/
Here’s an overview of some of the places where you can find my books:
Barnes and Noble NOOKBook
Amazon Kindle Store
Jak Phoenix 2: The Markazian Deception
Barnes and Noble NOOKBook
Amazon Kindle Store
Jak Phoenix: Paid in Full (A FREE short story!)
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
I very much enjoyed the first novel Jak Phoenix. Read my review.
Williams' newest release is Jak Phoenix 2: The Markazian Deception. I'm about halfway through reading it and very much enjoying it.
Soon Williams will reveal his writing habits, what he thinks is cool about Jak Phoenix (a man too lazy to use 4 letters to spell his name), and how he deals with being stalked by paparazzi.
I've been an ebay seller for years, mostly selling paperback copies of The Rys Chronicles fantasy series. But now I have some items from an estate auction my husband went to. The estate evidently belonged to a fantasy fan and we acquired some art prints and calendars. We kept two items for our own decor but I'm selling the other items.
This week I listed on ebay:
Three 8 x 10 art prints by the iconic fantasy artist Boris Vallejo titled Water Nymphs, Winged Beast, and Angel.
1998 Boris Vallejo calendar still in its wrapper.
2002 Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell calendar still in its wrapper.
It was actually quite hard for me not to open these calendars. I really wanted to see the art inside, but I restrained myself. I know some collectors like things to be sealed.
All items are up for auction but also have buy it now prices if you don't want to wait through an auction.
Whatever doesn't sell this week will be relisted.
Monday, June 4, 2012
I'm very happy for her recognition and wish her more success. She sent an email to everyone on her list because she was so excited about these events. People in New York City this week are invited to her signings and readings. She will also be at the Bluestockings Bookstore on Thursday night.
See more information at her Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/events/304220432997885/