Category Archives: fantasy

Like Fire is a Medium Novel: Where I’ve Been

Asta_Kirbi_Fagan

It’s not like I quit writing or anything. I have spent the past two years, and most intensively, the last year, learning how to most-effectively use Medium. You can find me on Medium here. I am using it because of its ease of access to any and all readers on any device.

Why am I publishing the work I most believe in for free on Medium first?

Many reasons.

First, because everything published on Medium can be read on any device at any time. It also looks great on any device.

Second, because the recently-completed U.S. election has made it crystal clear that money is not the answer to anything.

And third, because we already know that many people are shut out of the careers, education or jobs they would like to do because of racism, gender bias and class bias. This book is what I most want to do, have most wanted to do, and believe in with 100% of my mind, body and soul.

It’s who I am, and it’s what I did. As I recently commented on Medium regarding a person’s unwarranted criticism of writing by a diverse author, “I don’t care if only one person reads my work here on Medium. It is what I believe in, it is what I want to do, and I know it is the right path for me.”

As recently as early 2015, I believed that if I just worked hard enough, I would have sufficient opportunity to pay my basic bills and earn a basic living as a writer. In the past, I have absolutely paid my basic bills and provided many things for my daughter through my writing. I believed that the self-publishing revolution was a good thing, and that it enabled people to reach an audience. I knew there were some problems; for example — I could see that self-publishing worked best for people who were writing a type of already-recognized or popular fiction. I saw that the “successes” were those associated with established fan or other types of internet communities.

If you think “Mainstream Media” is messed up and not working, reporting only what corporations or the wealthy .00001% want the rest of us to see and hear, the same is true of popular “Entertainment” from books to television to movies. And then some.

Up until this past year, I spent my entire life thinking if I just worked harder and “got good enough” I could be “successful” like other writers I knew who had $20,000 book contracts, or who had large empires “selling” instructional material, newsletters, e-book omnibus editions, and so-on. I had stopped believing the common wisdom that “getting good enough” was a matter of copying other writers’ work or known formulas years ago.

Is She Available HardcoverI built a whole publishing company and motivated others. Years ago, I agitated with my writing friends that we could combat the collapse of the midlist writer and other egregious problems in the publishing industry that seem quaint in hindsight, and was a co-founder of Book View Cafe (I am still the treasurer). I convinced Igor Goldkind that his poems were good and motivated him to get all of his friends, the best comic artists of their generation, and unbelievably gifted fine artists like Mario Torero together to make the beautiful, groundbreaking e-book Is She AvailableIgor and his friend Addie printed a fantastic hardcover version and had two big presentations at the San Diego ComicCon.

I did everything humanly possible to send Igor’s legitimately spectacular, groundbreaking book out to reviewers. Two major publications reviewed the e-book, both in Chicago. Igor got mentions from various others in the comic industry. Nobody reviewed the hardcover. The Washington Post was among many publications to sell the hardcover to used book dealers. Igor is a new poet, but the art is by Eisner-winning artists, one of the founding members of the Chicano movement in America, and the e-book had music by a British album of the year Jazz artist. It wasn’t an unprofessional “self published” book.

It was new, different, unusual, represented a man’s voice and journey that didn’t include war, death and destruction but love for family, heritage and history (and there is an anti-war, gorgeous comic panel in it).

So it was sold to used book dealers and not even looked at. I have two downloads of the e-book by reviewers and I know who each of them are. Joe Wikert featured us on his industry blog. Other than that? Jack Diddley. If you are reading this as a second-language speaker, this means “nothing” happened.

We do learn more from our failures because instead of my best work and Igor’s best work, and the best work of award-winning, influential artists who have made millions for their corporate masters, but whose own work of their heart is hidden in back of their studios or must be given away free –

We have this.

Kindle Worlds

The whole system is broken. Book sales were down by 4% during the recent U.S. election not because of the election directly, but because of this picture I show above. This type of repetitive, derivative, unoriginal material that purposely encourages UNORIGINALITY for a quick buck isn’t going to bring new customers through the door.

As I pointed out previously in articles read by no more than 1,000 people, and to audiences at writing events numbering no more than 500 people total, 20% of North Americans regularly buy and read books. 80% do not, yet 100% of people are literate, and can read, and DO consume written content on their mobile devices. Before you Corporate Media Troll me, everything I learned about that I did through independent market research, relying primarily on the Pew Center. People also discuss and interact with each other through, primarily the written word, on social media. There are more texts sent than voice or video calls.

It is about the content. It’s about what is provided.  Sales are down because the content doesn’t meet the needs of the people who currently buy and read books who are good with the corporate media slant: violence, certain types of sex, certain types of “addictive” content, and simply reinforcing the current status quo in any imaginable way.

The current publishing system cannot create books to meet the interests and needs of the 80% of people who don’t regularly buy and read books; it is increasingly failing the 20% who do.

I’m not telling you “I am the content provider.” As I said; I am happy if only one person reads what I have written for free on Medium and enjoys it.

I’m telling you that I, who have written under the “old system” for a lifetime, who believed in it, who did everything “right” –

  • I have a BA in Literature from Scripps College, where I won the Claremont College writing prize not once, but twice, a blind-judged contest.
  • I was admitted to, but chose not to attend, the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and the UC Irvine MFA program.
  • For reasons of time, cost, and wanting to be a sci-fi writer, I applied to, was admitted to, and successfully completed the Clarion Sci Fi Writers Workshop in 1984.
  • I gave up writing as “impractical” about two years after that. I did not write for another eight years.
  • I returned to writing in 1996, and applied to and attended the nearest MFA program to my home (Chapman University in Orange, CA). I completed this program in 1999.
  • I published my first sci fi story professionally in 1996 (“Jonny Punkinhead, F & SF).
  • I did the usual drill with short science fiction and published my first novel in 2001.
  • I was also nominated for a Nebula Award that year.
  • Now – where I am today is related to my not going the route of $5,000 novel “advances” and selling 4,000 to 6,000 books and so-on.
  • I worked with Alan Rodgers as he established Alan Rodgers Books (and there wouldn’t be Chameleon Publishing if Alan hadn’t spent the last 10 years of his life doing that).
  • I worked with the others to set up Book View Cafe, the largest author publishing cooperative.
  • In between all the rest of that I am sure I’ve published well over 2 million words, about 75% of it nonfiction.

A troll on Twitter said, “anybody can publish a book these days.”

Until we can somehow reinvent the system of publishing as it stands, an unhealthy, struggling system, the books will be selected and published for that ever-dwindling 20% of readers and never, never will get beyond that. And above all, they won’t be written by people who are generally willing to say and do what I have:

I do not care if only one person ever reads what I’ve written. That is enough for me because I have done what I believed was right, what was right for me, and what is the best path for me and best work I can do.

That person has read what I have written. Others I am close to also have read it. I am okay. I know I have done my best.

It shouldn’t have to be that hard. People shouldn’t have to work for free for a lifetime just to express a story with emotional truth, of meaning and worth to at least one other person.

Storytelling is important to people at a level beyond money and more than momentary “entertainment.” It helps us imagine our world and future. It helps us to make choices about ourselves, and it helps us to understand people who are different from us.

Our society and economy has now made it so it is the province of a very limited group of people.

And — it’s creating things like this:

Kindle Worlds

I’m not saying there is not a place for commercial genre fiction, fan fiction or related work. Of course there is. Just not to the exclusion of there being something new, different, and individual or expressive of individual human creation and nature. The majority of what is out there right now is similar to these “Kindle Worlds,” not to things like Alice in WonderlandDavid Copperfield, or War & Peace. Of these three books, each author was male, each author was white — in Dickens’ case, he was a poor boy and self-made man. The other two: they had some money. Leo Tolstoy was Russian nobility.

Imagine what stories the young woman who did his laundry may have told.

This is what I’m saying and as I have in the past few months told others “I was at some time, the one who did the laundry.” And as she told her friends, so now I tell others.

You can start reading Like Fire for free here. (Medium Publication with additional information and links to all chapters – I will also be putting some short fiction suitable for kids and young adults by request).

Direct link to Chapter One is here.

If you like it you can join Medium and follow the publication. Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, got me on that damn thing in the first place.

Writers and Illustrators of the Future

Tom Doherty Writers of the Future 2015Last evening at the Wilshire Ebell theater in Los Angeles, Tor Books president Tom Doherty gave a gracious, eloquent acceptance speech for the Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Writers of the Future organization.

Tom briefly covered his history bringing the best, most visionary, entertaining science fiction and fantasy authors and books to the public. With humbleness and humor, he spoke of the days before writers like Orson Scott Card, Anne McCaffrey, Frank Herbert and Andre Norton were household names. Those long-ago days were times when a fraction of books that are published today were put out to the public. They were days in which the raw numbers of people who regularly bought and read books was much smaller than the current 20 percent of the adult population in North America or 75 million people who buy and read books.

Yeah, nobody buys and reads books any more. An article of this nature is published just about every week in a major news or commentary magazine. In January, Atlantic author Jordan Weissman tried to put a good spin on some numbers that show in general, the number of people who totally do not read has been on the rise over the past 20 years. If I had a buck for every time I heard, “Nobody reads any more,” I would not be doing Chameleon.

For example – this chart prepared by the NEA details national reading surveys. It represents, by all adults and young adults, respectively, a 6 and 7 percent decline in the raw numbers of Americans who state they read one book for pleasure a year over the previous two decades.

Pew Reading Stats

Correlation is not causation. In media reports and most education-related circles, this “decline” is almost universally attributed to the rise of “competing media” including games (all platforms), television (certainly present in 1992), social media, film, and new media in all its forms.

Yet other social trends are on the rise — trends not fully-encompassed by either traditional publishing or alternatives, including self-publishing. Weissman notes increasing college graduation rates. This past year, the U.S. high school graduation rate hit an all-time high of 85 percent. In 2014, 30% of U.S. adults had a college degree, and 10.9 percent had a graduate degree. More women than men have been enrolling in and successfully graduating from college in the U.S. for the past five years; this has been the case in Canada for the past 15 years. By 2025, UNESCO projects that more women than men will attend and graduate from college in all but a handful of nations worldwide. Students in historically under-served categories, including Latino, African-American and immigrant students whose first language is not English, are making huge gains in college attendance, and graduation rates. I can make a correlation, and perhaps a stronger correlation, between the rising numbers of these graduates and the declining percentage of regular readers, than can be made by assuming that “people are playing games and watching YouTube and following Twitter, not reading.” I’ve done this approximately 20 times by copying the top six or seven books on the NY Times bestseller list and asking, “Which of these would most interest a young Latino medical student, a young Iranian-American engineer, or a young African-American design major?” Or – my daughter and her friends. Just kids from South Orange County. The gap between who people are, and who most publishers and Amazon’s algorithms think they are, could not be more vivid.

As an individual writer, I can only speak about the woman’s perspective as far as what I personally enjoy reading or am interested in and able to write. I was certainly cut out of lucrative writing opportunities over the years due to my inability to write a convincing romance narrative. My interests as a science fiction writer were an odd fit with the common trends in sci-fi publishing in previous decades. Some stereotypes go like this: women are poor at following driving directions; they aren’t so hot at following typical sci-fi narrative conventions, either.

As a teacher, I do have some input regarding the group which is more than capable of regularly buying and reading books — but who do not typically do so. I know from experience that when they are presented with a book that interests and engages them, they eagerly read it, and are hungry for more. Students, whatever their ethnicity or first (or second, or third) language, are interested in something interesting. They respond to the same things Aristotle indicated thousands of years ago were the most important values in storytelling: to entertain, to educate, and to delight.

When people hear or see the same-old, same-old over and over again, of course they tune it out. And books have never been about the “least common denominator,” any more than people are about that, Atlantic articles or sad Victor Davis Hanson musings on the decline of Western civilization aside. Remember when people used to think “writers were special?” That’s because — like anyone with a skill or gift in any area — they kind of are. Writers like Truman Capote, who were on television all the time when I was growing up, were unique characters with their own perspective. Only Capote could have written In Cold Blood. Only he saw things that way, to give one small example. Only Frank Herbert could have written Dune.

Tom Doherty established his company against the strict literary conventions of the late 1960s and early 70s, conventions which declared that sci fi and fantasy was trash. Sci fi and fantasy are now the reality of our lives and currency of much of our popular entertainment across all platforms. Tom saw that there was something worthwhile in great science fiction, and great fantasy as well. He saw that a vision of a better future, big stories, and encompassing ideas, were very much needed. He saw there was a market for these types of stories, and the world we live in today, was in no small part, shaped by them. In his speech, he recalled Andre Norton’s work — she on her own influenced a whole generation of younger writers, and her work inspired and delighted and continues to delight young readers. He spoke of Anne McCaffrey, and Frank Herbert’s Dune books. He mentioned Orson Scott Card, whose Ender’s Game delighted young and not-so-young readers with a thought-provoking, impossible to put-down story about a young boy with responsibilities far beyond his years, a story that asked questions about the nature of war and conflict itself.

Let us imagine a story about a young boy who has exceptional talent for playing a game that involves killing distant aliens in the millions, and this game is real, but for most of the story, the boy doesn’t know that.

Some of my students survived a “game” that was real, and no game. Bombs dropped on their houses, brothers returning home without limbs, cousins killed by poison gas. Nightly fear of men with guns coming to their houses to take them away. Fear of a bullet in the back of the head in the black of the night.

They would find more relevance in Ender’s Game than they would in 50 Shades of Gray; they also do not much desire to read “realistic stories of being oppressed by oppressing oppressors.”

The favorite poet of many of my students (and indeed, the top-selling poet in America right now) is Rumi. He was both an eloquent, and a very wise man.

“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” – Rumi

That is our frontier right now. We know what “a good story, well-told” is. But we have heretofore as a society, only accepted and promoted a few such models of “myth.” The many myths out there, are as varied as Rumi says. Because there are 7 billion people in the world now. To pretend that the only stories worth telling, worth publishing, worth putting out to the public are based in strict ideas held by a few people based in their personal tastes — is madness.

I think often that no one listens to me. I think not a soul has ever read a thing I have ever written. I sometimes think I have, unlike Tom Doherty’s life well-spent, wasted my time on this planet. I have said that when I come to the end of my life, I want to be able to say that I leave the world a better place than I found it.

Last evening, talking at the Writers of the Future Awards with Eric James Stone and Tina Gower, who won the grand prize at the event two years ago, Tina said, “I read your essay about entering the contest.” She said it helped to inspire her to keep writing when she was tempted to give up. Jordan Lapp has also said this to me. So has Brad Torgersen. It was what I wrote, about being ready to give up writing – again – and receiving not an award from the Writers of the Future Contest, but a rejection. But the rejection contained two letters, one from Dave Wolverton, then (and now) the contest judge, and Frederik Pohl. a great writer and editor (for Galaxy). Each of the letters instructed me not to quit. So, I did not. What I’m saying right now is today’s version of that small idea that started back then. It’s the same concept, only it’s not just me. It’s everyone.

I knew beforehand, but was even more struck last evening at the Writers of the Future Awards, that self-publishing in the absence of an organized structure and team, was no answer to the limited nature and voices found permissible in traditional publishing. Only one of the many winners on the stage had won with a first, or early, story they had written. One winner had been writing and entering the contest for 25 years. Yet also, for writers to have to work against extreme opposition, is also counterproductive.

Eric Stone mentioned the story of a writer who’d written an interesting book, but who’d been told by a publisher, “Our marketing team can’t sell it.”

As noted, there are approximately 75 million adults in the U.S. and Canada alone who regularly buy and read books. Approximately 95 million U.S. adults are college graduates, and another 35 million have graduate degrees. That is assuming that only college-educated or higher adults buy and read books in this part of the world. That is of course, a false assumption. Everyone who can read is a potential book buyer and reader – hundreds of millions, not 75 million. Billions, worldwide. The marketing team for any book must consider this. For every good story well-told, there are enough readers to make its publication financially feasible.

Look at the assumptions behind all of the commonly-held “wisdom.” Only certain people buy and read books. There are only certain types of books they’d be interested in. Fine points of detail (i.e. this female protagonist is over age 25; this protagonist is a mixed-race young woman; this story doesn’t follow the expected model) are disqualifiers. And as to the self-published, they are all formatting and modeling their work after books or authors that have sold to the existing readership in the past. How to break out of this? Notoriety. Controversy. Say something shocking! Write some mommy porn, like bestselling two-striker 50 Shades of Gray (shocking – and originally based in fan fiction written for a large community of enthusiasts for the Twilight books). Copy others. Fit the format. Follow the formula.

Yes, all of these thoughts about what readers would accept and what would be a “bestseller” were in Mark Twain’s mind in 1889 when he published A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. There was a well-known, established internet fan community for wise-cracking Yankee engineers time-traveling back to medieval England and challenging Catholic orthodoxy while sending up notions of “magic” and chivalry. The book has been called not only Twain’s best, which is saying something, but also “Mark Twain’s best lesson in democracy.”

Twain was born to be what he was. World population when he was born in 1835 was a little over 1 billion. Literacy rates in the U.S. at the time varied from high levels in New England to less than 10 percent in many areas; many women, many farm children, and only a tiny number of African-Americans (to my students of today – in 1835 there were still millions of slaves) could read.

Today, what a different world we live in. And overall, we are less-brave than Twain, not moreso. Would A Connecticut Yankee be able to be published and widely read today? That is an interesting question. If we can say “yes,” then, we will succeed.

How Men Assure Their Posterity

I can no longer remember when I got the image of lifting a rock to find the creeping, twisting multi-legged creatures beneath scrambling to escape the light, nor under what circumstances I realized its analogy to seeing something painful, disgusting and true about human nature and behavior.

I’ve spent the last two or three years on a journey to understand why, although I really am not 100 times worse a writer than David Weber, nobody reads my crap.

Constitutionally, I’m just not capable of writing “the expected.” It only happens “by accident.” I was born a woman, so the things that drive men to tell stories are not what drives me. I now base stories on real people I know, which makes matters worse.

So I lifted that rock this morning. And out squiggled the Genghis Khan creatures, with thousands of legs and hideous, multifaceted, evil red eyes. Out wriggled thick-skinned, pasty earthworms, with open, slime-dripping toothed maws, like Shaka Zulu and Sultan Moulay Ismaïl of Morocco, “The Bloodthirsty,” who reputedly fathered a thousand children from hundreds of wives and concubines.

The greatest number of children any woman has ever had was 69, sets of twins, triplets and quadruplets born to the mind-boggling Mrs. Feodor Vassilyev — first-nameless Vassilyeva delivered babies 27 times to achieve this total.

I wrote about A Song of Ice and Fire, the “Game of Thrones” stories by George R.R. Martin, this a.m. These incredibly popular, addictive stories are as misogynistic as popular storytelling can get. Perversions abound. Sure, everyone “gets it” sooner or later, but the way they portray “humanity” is in its way, worse than any true WWII examination of Nazi psychology or Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. People say “the stories aren’t the writer.” No.

George RR MartinBut George R.R. Martin truly has done “The Sultan of Schwing” (Sultan Ismaïl). In this day and age, he cannot realistically father a thousand children. He cannot manage to ensure that 20% of western Civilization has his DNA, as Genghis Khan seems to have done in his genocidal, pillaging career of conquest and domination hundreds of years ago.

But he has successfully assured his posterity.

Hundreds of babies are now named after “Game of Thrones” characters. There are plenty of Khaleesis, Daenarys’s, Aryas, and even Sandors — for “The Hound,” a true douchebag of a guy. The fact that Sandor Clegane has somewhat of a sympathetic storyline speaks volumes about the relative “humanity” of the Game of Thrones stories. If he were a real guy, he’d be in Pelican Bay.

“Khaleesi’s” little romance with Khal Drogo (portrayed in the TV series by incredibly hot, cool Jason Momoa) is pretty hot unless you “get” that the character herself has just begun to menstruate – Khaleesi herself is played by the beautiful young adult Emilia Clarke. Everyone knows by now that the TV series had to be cast with adult actors, although the books themselves depict children and young teens in the adult situations (murder, mayhem, porn – violent and non-violent). In case you’re wondering, Theon gets his dick cut off by a total perving monster. In real life, that’s Jeffrey Dahmer.

Oh, but Amy — that’s the way it was in the “old days.” Women were traded like chattel and they totally got married or had babies as soon as it was physically possible.

It’s not like that now.

Guys that look like George R.R. Martin just get to have thousands of kids named after their characters ensuring their long-term posterity.

I guess the pen really is mightier than the sword.

Wish I had not lifted that rock. Wish I hadn’t seen what I’d seen. But just like some horrible scene in a show or movie — you can never “unsee” it.

 

 

 

Glamour of the God-Touched: Book 1 of Garrick’s Saga

Friday evening, Bruce and I went to see Richard Shindell at a very small venue: Old Templar’s Hall in Poway, CA (North San Diego County).

richard shindellAfter seeing Carlos Santana the prior weekend at House of Blues in Vegas, I was thinking “Well, we’ve danced through the show of a lifetime …” We were just thinking “a nice evening of music.”

(Hang in there … this is about Ron Collins and his new fantasy series, ultimately).

I could do a couple of paragraphs about the iron wheel-like bodies of the typical attendees at folk concerts like Richard Shindell. But …

In its way, Richard Shindell’s 2 hours of music was the equal of Carlos Santana’s — the show of a lifetime. Carlos isn’t just a musician of course, he’s a life-force. He is a powerful force for good in the world. I spent 3/4 of the show dancing next to his sister, also a bright, fiery spirit whose sidelong glances and smile filled me with joy.

And in his way, so too is Richard Shindell a force for good in the world. If you don’t know who he is, as I did not as recently as a week ago, he is originally from New York, a singer-songwriter who has lived in Buenos Aires for a few years, where he has raised his family (his wife is an Argentinian professor).

So here is how this came about. We enjoyed Santana so much that I thought, “I’ll look at some of the good venues in L.A. and see who’s playing …” McCabe’s Guitar Shop had a sort of uninspiring lineup, except I saw “Richard Shindell” and his description looked good. “No one bad plays at McCabes,” I thought. I listened to his music and it was like “We’re going.” But he was playing the evening before in San Diego area (Poway … the Templar’s Hall) and I thought, this looks like just as small a venue as McCabe’s and we won’t have to struggle with parking in Santa Monica. We won’t have to stand in line on the street …

According to Mike Casil, “Live music is good for your soul.” Yeah.

Listening to Richard Shindell was like attending a Quaker meeting with Jesus Christ playing guitar.

His songs tell stories. He has the eye of a great writer, and the musical gift as well. His songs are poems and stories at the same time. He got a pretty good (5-star) review from the UK Telegraph for his 2011 album 13 Songs You May or May Not Have Heard Before.

According to the reviewer, “Richard Shindell is a master songwriter but has probably escaped the worldwide attention his music deserves because he is about as far from the celebrity circus as you can get as a successful performer.” There’s one comment on the review – from an apparent jazz expert.

I sat there in the Quaker hall amid the iron-backed, immobile folk aficionados, tapping my heel, beside Bruce tapping his big foot and swaying back and forth, and this kinship feeling overtook me. “His songs are like my stories,” I thought. He’s interested in people, just as I am; these stories are not the expected. He sees the people he sings about clearly, flaws and foibles, courage and conviction. He believes in redemption. These songs weave back and forth, bittersweet, funny — a smile here, eyes moistening with tears there.

Glamor of the God TouchedSo my closest writing friend and partner, Ron Collins, has asked me to read his fantasy books in his 8-book series, Saga of the God-Touched Mage. The first book, Glamour of the God-Touched, has just been released.

Ron and I came up together if there’s such a thing in this thing that we do. Ron’s been the Analog guy; I’ve been the F & SF gal. We were at least a decade too late to go the route experienced by my mentors and friends Jim Blaylock and Tim Powers. By the time Ron and I came up, NY publishing was already a mess and it was almost impossible to publish good original science fiction or non-generic fantasy at novel length. If either of us had done what was required to do this, there would be no Glamour of the God-Touched. It would be a different book. Less Ron. More whatever the required flavor he would have been ordered to create would be. He would have done it, too. Ron’s the hardest-working writer I know, with the best heart. If an editor had ordered him to do anything, he would have trusted them. He would have done it. He would have made it “not-Ron.” At least at first.

Something has happened in the past decade, in music and in publishing. Richard Shindell has released his most recent album and CD (for which he is touring), as well as 13 Songs You May or May Not Have Heard Before. He has his own recording studio in Argentina.

Ron is releasing his own books via SkyFox Publishing. I’ve founded Chameleon … someday I might release my own books as well.

Those are the facts. Here’s the feeling. It’s like this song from Richard Shindell.

Ron’s books (Saga of the God-Touched Mage) about Garrick are about a god-touched mage amid a time of great trouble. They’re fast-paced, yet thoughtful. The writing is clean — Garrick a complex character that doesn’t fit in any of the “expected” boxes, though he may remind some readers of anti-hero characters they may have read in “expected” books of the past. Garrick’s magic isn’t clean at all, and it’s out of his control in many ways. To survive, he must do terrible things. He’s a most-unwilling hero.

I’m pretty sure that what I saw on that little Quaker meeting-hall stage: a master musician, singer and songwriter, at the top of his art — a man who would have played for one other person gladly, or no one else at all — is a lot like what Ron is doing.

In the ideal, of course, people who are really incredible at what they do, people with a gift, would be “the most famous,” but the ideal only strikes seldom. Carlos Santana is mad-famous and he is that good and he is that true. He isn’t “better than” Richard Shindell. He’s just had a different life and made different choices.

Ron isn’t putting his books out himself because he isn’t “good enough” to publish conventionally. He’s putting them out himself because they are his own books, in every sense of the word.

I can assure all readers who love fantasy and good stories that they will love the Saga of the God-Touched Mage. The first book is $2.99 right now on Amazon. You won’t get a Frappucino for less than that. And the Starbucks drink won’t enrich your life. It will just expand your waistline.