R.S. Hunter

Science Fiction & Fantasy Author

Tag: fantasy (page 2 of 3)

Interview with Fantasy Author Rachel Hunter

Empyreal Fate

This Friday, I’m lucky to have fantasy writer Rachel Hunter, author of Empyreal Fate (A Llathalan Annal), as a guest on my website. Being the busy writer and student that she is, I was only able to get in a quick interview with her.

Let’s learn more about Rachel Hunter!
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Official Cover Art for Steampunk Novel “The Exile’s Violin”

I teased it and hinted at it over the past couple of days, but now it’s finally here. Here is the official final cover art for my debut steampunk fantasy novel, The Exile’s Violin. I’m incredibly happy with the cover. What do you guys think? Does it capture that steampunk feel?

I love how the cover art features a very steampunk airship/battleship. It’s actually based on one of my very, very rough sketches. I also love how Enggar was able to capture the “look” of main character, Jacquie Renairre. And now for a quick blurb about the novel itself:

Why hire mercenaries to kill an innocent family just to obtain one little key? That question haunts Jacquie Renairre for six years as she hunts down the people responsible for murdering her parents.

Not even accepting an assignment to investigate a conspiracy that aims to start a war can keep her from searching for the key. Armed with her father’s guns and socialite Clay Baneport, she continues her quest for answers abroad.

With the world edging closer to disaster, Jacquie is running out of time to figure out how the war, the key, and ancient legend are intertwined. The fate of the world hinges on her ability to unravel both mysteries before it’s too late.

Look for The Exile’s Violin on Amazon in ebook and trade paperback later next month. For now, check back here for more details and be sure to stop by Hydra Publications and check out all their great titles.

The Exile's Violin

The Exile’s Violin Cover Art Teaser

If you like steampunk, then here’s a little bit of a treat: a rough draft version of the cover art for my upcoming novel The Exile’s Violin. The talented Enggar Adirasa is handling the art for this one. You might recognize his work from Gwen Perkins’ The Universal Mirror. That’s where I first saw Enggar’s art, and I knew the style would be perfect for my book.

So far I’m really happy with how this is turning out. The only big change that’s going to happen between this draft and the final copy is that Jacquie (my main character) is going to turn around and “face the camera.” She’s a standout character, and I think the reader will benefit from getting to see her face. So what do you guys think? Is this steampunk enough? Would it catch your eye on a Barnes & Noble shelf? The Exile’s Violin will be published by Hydra Publications this September.

The Exile's Violin cover draft

Creating the Right Voice in Fantasy Novels

I think we’re all a little sick of feudal, semi-medieval fantasy settings based loosely on Western Europe, right? I am. But I’m also on a big sword and sorcery kick right now, so I’ll read almost anything in the genre, even if it has a semi-medieval standard fantasy setting.

Alex Bledsoe’s Eddie LaCThe Sword-Edged Blonde cover artrosse novels came highly recommended, so I gave the first one, The Sword-Edged Blonde, a try. I’m about a third of the way through the book, and already the book is both entertaining me and rubbing me the wrong way.

I can’t get around the very modern, very anachronistic voice in this book. The book is billed as a mash up of a hard-boiled detective story and a fantasy universe. Sounds cool so far. But then I see characters called Mike and King Phil and little warning signs start to go up in my mind. Then I read a sentence where the main character mentions that he “didn’t have time to comparison shop.” I almost stopped reading there. (But I didn’t!)

In a blog post about keeping a series fresh, Bledsoe specifically mentions the LaCrosse novels’ anachronistic tone as being a staple of the series. So obviously the things that are bothering me about the tone and voice in The Sword-Edged Blonde are intentional.

So that means this comes down to a matter of taste–something that is completely subjective. I find the modern slang and terms incongruous with a sword and sorcery fantasy setting, but others might really enjoy them. I can’t fault Bledsoe for his language choices though. This is a made up fantasy world. There’s no reason for the characters to speak like they’re in Medieval Britain or something because they’re not there. I recognize that, but at the same time, if this is a feudal society then based on the socio-economic model of the land, would terms like “comparison shop” even exist? I have to think that might be stretch, no matter how fictional the setting might be.

Steampunk watch

Something similar happened when I was subbing my steampunk novel, The Exile’s Violin. It’s set in the made up world of Tethys that doesn’t correspond to Victorian England. In my mind, if I had characters that didn’t necessarily speak like they belonged in the late 19th Century then it didn’t matter. They weren’t part of that century. It’s all a matter of taste. One publisher told me that they liked my submission but it wasn’t “steampunk” enough because the language and tone were too modern for them. They had similar quibbles with my book that I’m having with The Sword-Edged Blonde. It’s all very subjective stuff.

I guess the lesson is: if you have a made up setting, write it how you want. There’s no reason to cling to “historical accuracy” if the setting isn’t based real history. Some people might like your word choice and the slang your characters use, others might not. Don’t let that stop you from creating though.

PS: Aside from the modern tone, I’m enjoying Bledsoe’s book! It definitely feels like a noir fantasy mash up.

A New Way of Looking at Elves in Fantasy Literature & Games

I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy and playing games like The Witcher 2 and Dragon Age: Origins lately, and I find myself focusing on elves. It’s fascinating to see how much Tolkien influenced the depiction of elves in popular culture. Even within this all-encompassing version of elf-ness, there are many different angles that could be explored to create something new within the fantasy literature sphere.

Common depictions of elves

So these games and books got me thinking: elves are always kind of depicted the same way, but even in these similar forms, there are issues that nobody really explores. For example, elves are usually “similar to humans but fairer and wiser, with greater spiritual powers, keener senses, and a closer empathy with nature.” While games like Dragon Age portray them as persecuted, second-class citizens, that wiser/fairer bit is generally accurate. In addition elves are usually immortal or extremely long-lived. This fact is what inspired this post.

If elves live longer than humans, then why is it a common theme in fantasy literature and games for elves to have a smaller population than humans? You commonly see elven characters saying things like, “Humans multiply like insects” or “humans are short-lived people with no connection to nature.” Why is this?

It seems to me that an author could create something really interesting if they explored the underside of “elven culture.” While they are normally serene and harmonious, sometimes authors portray elven society as rigid and socially stratified. There’s so much potential there: a society where you live a long time, but are kept limited in the role you’re able to play.

Elven societies in fantasy literature

Also if men multiply quickly, then why don’t elves? Apparently Tolkien wrote about elven reproduction and sexual norms in “Laws and Customs among the Eldar” in The History of Middle-earth, but I haven’t read it so I can’t elaborate. But still, you’d think because they live for such a long time that elves would be having children like crazy. Do they only have one set of children or something? Why do you rarely see works that focus on elven overpopulation? Think of the social implications of that.

Or if elves don’t have lots of children, is that because they have an extremely low birth-rate where their pregnancies, eggs, larvae–I don’t really know how these made up beings breed–rarely carry to the full term? If that was the case, that low birth-rate would influence almost every level of society.

Imagine if a writer explored these things in a fantasy setting. A stratified society dominated by reproductive issues like a low-birth rate or a high infant mortality rate would at the very least be different from the standard “elves as wise, harmonious nature-lovers” you see so often.

Other fantasy tropes and races

What other fantasy races would you like to see explored from a different angle? Sick of technologically-inclined dwarves that mine for treasure all day? What about blood-thirsty orcs or hungry halflings? Let me know in the comments.

Symbolism, Fate, Fantasy, (And Yes, Star Wars, too)

Today’s guest post comes from fantasy author Rachel Hunter (no relation as far I’m aware). Her novel, Empyreal Fate — Part One of the Llathalan Annal Series, is coming soon from Hydra Publications. Now onto the post!

Greetings!

First of all, a large ‘thank you’ to Mr. Hunter for allowing me to post a little something to his blog. It is an honor to be here, and I am thrilled for the opportunity to post about a topic that intrigues me: Symbolism.

What is it and why do we care? First of all, according to the first definition from Dictionary.com, ‘Symbolism’ is “the practice of representing things by symbols; or of investigating things with a symbolic meaning or character.” Indeed. And most of you are probably thinking along the lines of this:

Symbolism

And yes. Perhaps what authors write is completely random and without deeper purpose. Perhaps there is no other reason that the Weasley family’s hair color is red, Gandalf transitions from “Grey” to “White”, Thomas Covenant starts out with a sour disposition, or a certain stone was left overturned – other than the fact the authors woke up one morning and thought, “Aha! I know the most random details to apply, and apply them I shall!” Well – perhaps it’s the psychologist in me, but I disagree. Although not every detail or characteristic in a work is necessarily crucial to the plot, there generally is something relevant or telling that may be gleaned from it. The interesting part is determining whether or not one is reading into the psyche of the actual characters – or into the author her/himself. Now that’s the fun part to determine.

Symbolism can take many forms: colors, shapes, characters, personalities, seasons, events, creatures… even the direction the wind blows or the way a lake ripples in a breeze. But what does it mean? That, my friends, is up to you. The reader – whomever you may be. And that is usually the part I find contention with regarding English teachers and their crticial analysis of various works: it is not that something is supposed to mean one thing or another; rather, it’s the importance of what the symbol means to the reader. The reader is the one who takes the meaning out of a work and carries that meaning inside of her/himself: however great or small the impact. But it is interesting to note the generalizations of certain symbols and the meanings they indeed carry. For example, some common interpretations of symbols are as follows:

  • Seasons:
  • Spring: birth/renewal/“awakening”
  • Summer: maturity/growth
  • Winter: death/stagnation
  • Fall: aging/decline
  • Colors:
  • Purple: royalty/confidence
  • Blue: calm/serene/detached
  • Green: hope/growth/renewal
  • Red: emotion/passion/bravery
  • White: purity/innocence
  • Nature:
  • Water: regeneration/cleansing/renewal
  • Sun: vitality/strength
  • Cavern: womblike/secretive/mysterious
  • Direction:
  • North: hostility/alienation
  • South: warmth/expression
  • East: youth/renewal
  • West: old age/decline

Of coure, there are far more generalizations than that – and those are merely simple observations. It is another thing altogether to delve into the “whys” of particular actions and/or events. Or – “What does (insert object/person/event) signify?”

Throughout my readings, I have identified several symbols that hold particular meaning to me. But, again, the interpretations of one may be completely opposite in meaning to another. As an example, I would like to share a few interpretations of others relating to various works that I have found quite thought-provoking:

Mark Murdoch interprets the ‘Eye of Sauron’ (as found in JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series) quite interestingly. Here is what he has to say:

“Sauron lacks corporeal form and is depicted as an all-seeing eye at the top of an obelisk-like structure. The all-seeing eye is an ancient Egyptian symbol traced back to the solar cult of Aton and is commonly associated with power groups like the Illuminati and the Freemasons. Note, too, another Egyptian connection: Egypt was known as the black land, and Mordor is also the black land.

Sauron then can represent the dark force behind the power elite who have ruled civilization throughout history. The Freemasons use the eye to depict The Great Architect of the Universe, the demiurge or, as the Gnostics refer to him, Ialdaboth, the false god.

As the all-seeing eye, Sauron sweeps the land in search of the ring and in search of knowledge. Here is another clue. For as Freemason Francis Bacon stated: knowledge is power. The all-seeing eye seeks power, seeks to control and dominate all it beholds.

All of this — the dark lord, the false god, the power-seeking ruler — leads us back into ego territory again: the all-seeing eye or all-seeing “I”? Even the phallic obelisk on which the eye is perched is representative of the pronoun “I.”

Yet Sauron is not just another representation of the ego. Sauron represents the capstone eye to a pyramid of power. For as Tolkien tells us of the power of the One Ring, no matter who believes themselves to wield it, it is ultimately Sauron who is in control. All of the magical rings were bound to his One Ring.

This suggests that all of our individual ego strivings towards power flow upward into a greater network of power from which an elite few can control the many. We see this revealed today. The greatest threat to individual freedom is centralized, corporatized power — the New World Order.

We are all wired into Sauron through our rings, our individual egos.”

Todd McCaffrey – son of Anne McCaffrey (author of Dragonriders of Pern series) – takes note of the various cultural differences and beliefs relating to the dragon. He sums up mans’ general fascination in a brief interview with NPR:

 “I think dragons are a really fundamental embodiment of our wishes and dreams,” McCaffrey says. “They are incredibly powerful,” he adds, “and they embody the best of humans and their aspirations.”

Dragon's Fire

Justin Bruce shares his opinion of religious and historical influences in George Lucas’s Star Wars:

“Although not quite as powerful in Star Wars as the symbolism of religion, I believe that there is a strong historical influence behind many of the scenes in the film.

In religion, I compared the character of Darth Vader to Satan’s second-in-command, Beelzebub, because Vader takes orders only from the Emperor Palpatine, but is in command of virtually all of the destructive forces operating from the Death Star. Likewise, Beelzebub is in command of Satan’s legions of fallen angels, or more specifically, demons. Since World War II, many have classified the actions of German commander Adolf Hitler as Satan-like due to his extreme evil qualities and persecution of the Jewish. Hitler was effective enough at commanding his forces that most actually enjoyed the horrible acts that they carried out on the prisoners of war in their captivity. Although it is not likely that George Lucas intentionally designed Darth Vader to be perceived in this manner, with the other comparisons between historical events and Star Wars, it is not difficult to place him in this role.

After escaping the Death Star, Luke Skywalker must return to destroy the center of evil operations before it is within range of destroying the rebel encampment. After receiving the initial strike from evil forces at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, that set up World War II, America was forced to retaliate with strikes on the enemy. Just as the Jedi strike on the Death Star was a valiant effort against overwhelming odds, many of the strikes in World War II suffered heavy losses, but were overall successful. The Allied bombing raids on Berlin, Germany, from November 1943 to March 1944 were effective at damaging the city, but almost 600 bombers were lost in the strikes. This is reminiscent of the strike on the Death Star, in which most of the Jedi fighters were destroyed, but the center of Empire operations was annihilated.

The historical aspect of Star Wars that I have found most comparable to the German forces in World War II is the title that Lucas has given to the Empire soldiers. They are known as Imperial Storm Troopers, just as Hitler’s soldiers were called Storm Troopers. I find this far too close to be coincidental, and this strengthens the symbolic link between Adolf Hitler and Darth Vader.

Whether George Lucas intentionally intended these religious and historical allusions in Star Wars is uncertain, but many have felt their presence in the film. This interpretation is probably one reason why Star Wars enjoyed so much success as a science fiction film.”

Enlist Today

At the same time, my novel – Empyreal Fate – has its share of symbolism. Although I shall not spoil anything for you here, I will mention that the Laymeur flower (as depicted on the cover) lends nicely to the concept of ‘Fate’. But again, it’s all perspective. Although readers may find various connections and interpretations that I have not even thought of, I hope that the relationship between the two is readily identifiable on an abstract level. If not, I would be thrilled to discover what readers make of the relationship – what they internalize – as well as what they make of the other ‘hidden’ elements. Just remember: whatever the work and whatever the subject – a symbol attributes meaning through the lenses from which the reader views it. Not all interpretations are the same, and there is no “right” or “wrong”. Rather, the significance of a symbol comes in when once decides for himself: what does it mean to me?

Empyreal Fate - Rachel Hunter

Find Rachel Hunter on the web:

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Starting the Revisions Process

I just got the first round of comments and suggestions back for my debut steampunk novel, The Exile’s Violin. This is super exciting and scary at the same time. On the one hand, the initial feedback I got in the email with the manuscript notes was good. The word “riveting” might have been used in the first sentence. So yes, that’s always positive.

Still I haven’t opened the marked up manuscript file yet. I’m kind of scared to do it. I mean before I read the email, I was afraid that my editor was going to read my manuscript and think, “Bleh, why did the company agree to take this mess on? This isn’t worth publishing.”

I mean that didn’t happen. And besides, if an editor really thought something was that bad, then my manuscript probably wouldn’t have been good enough to get accepted and to this point anyway. So that fear is just irrational. I know.

So why haven’t I opened the file yet? I don’t think I have “Editor-Phobia” as outlined in a guest post by Muffy Morrigan on Christine Rose’s blog. I’m not afraid that my editor is going to completely cut my voice out of the story. No, I think the thing I’m worried about the most is that I have an irrational fear of my own writing.

I don’t like the sound of my own voice on recordings. And similarly, I don’t like rereading things I’ve already written and revised on my own. And finally, despite all the advice that says to do this, I also hate reading my stories out loud. For some reason just thinking about reading things I’ve already written makes me cringe. It’s something I have to get over. If I want to keep growing as a writer, I know I’m going to have to learn to look at my works with a more critical eye.

Well if there was ever a time to toughen up and just get to it, this is it. My book is an actual thing that is being published. It will be a product people can buy and read. But if it’s going to get to that point, I got to take this first step. Who knows, it might end up being fun, and undoubtedly it’s going to make The Exile’s Violin stronger.

New Acceptance! The Exile’s Violin Contracted by Hydra Publications

Good news, bad news time. Bad news is I got a flat tire on my way to work this morning (Mondays…amirite?) and have to buy some new tire(s). But the good news definitely outweighs that: I get to officially announce that my steampunk, fantasy novel The Exile’s Violin has been accepted by Hydra Publications! Here’s a little description about the novel:

The Exile’s Violin is a steampunk novel set in the fictional world of Tethys. Jacquie Renairre’s life is ordinary up until the night her parents are murdered and two of their prized possessions are stolen: a pair of black and white revolvers and a black key. After spending six years trying to track down the murderers, all she uncovers is a mystery that will take her around the globe in order to stop a war from breaking out. The Exile’s Violin is a story of loss, action, airships, gunfights, and long-buried magic.

So I’ve known about this acceptance for a couple of weeks, but I got the official green light to announce it today. I had to wait until the ink was dry on the publishing contract and all that. Right now The Exile’s Violin is slated for a Summer/Fall 2012 release in electronic and paperback formats. It’s funny up until now I didn’t feel like this was really happening…but it is!

That’s all the information I have for now, but I’ll post updates on the revisions, samples (if I can), cover art (when I see it), and a firm release date (when it’s set). I’m also going to blog about my experiences getting a novel published for the first time. I have a feeling it’s a whole different ballgame than being included in an anthology.

Please contact me if you have more questions or want to set up an author interview or guest post or something! Now I have to go celebrate! (aka get back to my day job)

Five Sci-Fi & Fantasy Wallpapers

I love customizing my desktop background. I have a folder on my computer dedicated to cool wallpapers. Some of my favorites have to be sci-fi, fantasy, or abstract themed. Here’s some of the awesome ones I’ve found this weekend. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so maybe one of these will inspire a new short story, poem, or novel! Click on the pics to be taken to where you can download the full-sized versions.

sun outer space explosion wallpaper

I like this one’s yellow color palette. Plus explosions in space are cool. Ask anyone.

outer space planets wallpaper

Another space-y planet-y type wallpaper. A nice blue contrast to the yellow one up above.

outer space stars planets wallpaper

This one’s called “Rusted” and I think it fits perfectly. So there you have it: space wallpapers based roughly on the primary colors. Now onto a couple of fantasy desktop backgrounds.

fantasy woman warrior with spear wallpaper

I like this one because she’s a fantasy female warrior of some kind, but she’s wearing sensible armor, not a chainmail bikini.

fantasy art landscape wallpaper

This one caught my eye because it could be interpreted as either fantasy or sci-fi. Either way, it’s cool looking.

 

Naming Your Characters

Naming the characters in your short stories and novels can be fun or it can be a huge nightmare. Sometimes you’ll write a character and you’ll already have the perfect name for them. And then sometimes this happens: you finish a chapter or story and it’s filled with characters with placeholder names. It happens to me more often than I’d like to admit. I’ve lost count of how many characters I’ve had to call Guy1, Person McPerson, or Girl3 until I can find more proper names for them. I’m sure it happens to even the most famous writers. Imagine Stephen King writing all of something like The Shining but with placeholder names for Jack, Danny, and Wendy.

But luckily there are tons of resources out there for writers who’ve hit a roadblock when it comes to naming their characters. Here are some of my favorites. Some of them are geared more toward science fiction and fantasy, but others can work for any kind of story.

Seventh Sanctum — This website has a huge collection of name generators. It’s definitely one of my favorite sites. Some of the generators are more humorous than others, but overall it’s usually the first place I turn to.

Squid.org — This website’s random name generator is geared more towards fantasy, but still some of the options are really useful. It can only generate so many names at a time, but its options more than make up for that.

Behind the Name — This website’s name generator is made up of “real” names from around the world. You’re able to choose what countries and cultures you want it to generate names from. Also most of the names have descriptions associated with them so you can find out alternate spellings and meanings.

Ever Changing Book of Names — This isn’t a web-based generator. Instead it’s a program where you can download a free trial version. It contains thousands of different names from all around the world. You can even download different “chapters” that can generate names based on other fantasy works and universes. It’s a great resource for when you’re looking for a very specific type of name.

There are other resources out there, but these are some of my favorites. They’ve definitely saved me from submitting a manuscript full of placeholder characters.

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