Friday, June 22, 2012

Guest Blog and Excerpt from SHADOWS OF KINGS

The Fears of Comparison

On various sites I've seen posts where aspiring authors cringe when someone else compares their work to an established author/icon. As a matter of fact…the trepidation is also with established authors.  Is comparison a bad thing? I guess that would depend on who is doing it, and if there is a level of malice associated with the comparison. However, comparison  - in general, is truly harmless. Below  is a scenario I concocted.

Roger has been working on a novel. He explains that it's a sci-fi piece that focuses on a group of
freedom fighters trying to overthrow a tyrannical regime.

Sarah naturally responds, " it's like Star Wars?

So now Roger is really miffed that his countless hours of hard work can be summarized into, "So it's like Star Wars?" This form of identification appears to be a relevant concern among aspiring authors. When I've seen these posts, I've tried to emphasize that such a comparison is not an intentional insult. (unless maliciously orchestrated as I’ve mentioned  above)

For the most part, when anyone pitches a book idea in conversation, you will generally receive a broad comparison to something else. This is simple identification. It's the listener's way of validating that he/she heard what you said. Putting a label on it is just a way of showing that he/she understands your topic. It's more of a unconscious defense mechanism to save face than anything else. After all, the person you're talking to doesn't want you to think he/she is indifferent, stupid, or wasn't listening. And if they have perused some of your pages, the identification mechanism is still in place.

When the buzz was first humming for Shadows of Kings, I was often asked, "What's your book about?" I generally offer a condensed blurb akin to what you read at the back of the book. Surprisingly, the feedback I've received differed between male and female, and can be categorized into two responses.

Women: "Is it like Lord of the Rings?"

And my answer: "Sure, something like that, but a little more gritty."
Let's face it. Tolkien is the Grandfather of contemporary fantasy. If
you play with this genre, his name will always comes up. And that's

Men: Kinda like Harry Potter, with magic n' stuff?

And my answer: Not exactly. Shadows of Kings has magic, but the story also includes epic battles, kingdoms, and is more violent than a young adult novel.

Women: it's like Game of Thrones?

And my answer: Will you marry me and have my children?

Martin is the reigning King of gritty, medieval fantasy. His work is technically dark fantasy, but he's so popular no one dares label him anything other than fantasy. (as if dark fantasy is a bad word)

Men: So it's like King Arthur?

And my answer: Shadows of Kings has a medieval feel, but much different.
As much as I've tried to encourage other authors, the angst is still out there.
Unfortunately, you are going up against years of conditioning that began with
simple identification exercises when you were a child. My take is to have such
occurrences inspire you instead of feeling insulted or frustrated.

Just remember - There is a story within all of us. Granted, having it come to life can be a little tricky, but the emphasis should be the DOING! What is DOING? Sitting down and committing yourself to putting thoughts on paper.  Don’t let the fear of comparison paralyze you. There will be criticisms and many will try to label your effort. 

Do not get discouraged. Be proud of your work…and allow the world to see it.


"Great Dragon, be with me. Let your strength be my own. Let your countenance…"

Her prayer was cut short by the sound of air whistling around her. Arrows rained upon the Harhn from a group of archers approaching from her left. The arrows slew all the Wargunds, but the sorcerer had deflected their lethal intent while catching some of them in midflight. With a force of will, he suspended the shafts momentarily before hurling them at Lucia. Five arrows were deflected by her magic, but one got through, striking her left shoulder. She cried out from the pain, instinctively favoring the wound with her right hand. The act did not dispel the magical shield erected around Narvauth, but its intensity had lessened. She refocused all her remaining strength at him, disregarding her own protection. 

The next attack was directed at the necromancer, but was easily deflected from the Harhn’s waning strength. The Horgund followed up with another attack directed at Lucia. Every hair rose on her body from the impending attack. When the lightning struck, it sucked all the air from her lungs and singed the cloak wrapped around her body. The assault knocked her to the ground and caused her muscles to mildly spasm. Seconds that felt like hours elapsed before she could catch her breath and regain her faculties. Once she willed herself into an upright position, the air escaped her lungs again. 

She clutched her throat, but her mortal hands gave no relief to the unseen grip squeezing her esophagus. Her head ached and spun. Rivulets of blood began to flow from her nose from the concentration she exerted to dispel the assault. 

The more she focused, the more the pounding in her skull intensified. The Horgund slowly advanced, his magically imbued grip still firmly around her throat. The spell would have crushed her throat by now if it were not for the energy she instinctively allocated before the assault. But her mind began to strain as unconsciousness tried to claim her. Lucia fell sideways, her lungs still desperately attempting to capture some of the night air. Then she heard a deep voice say, "It is done."

Air abruptly entered Lucia’s lungs, forcing a fit of gagging. Her eyes drifted to the necromancer. His staff was pointed at the Harhn sorcerer; the ruby at its head glowing with an infernal red glimmer.

The Horgund was paralyzed as Narvauth’s spell lifted him off the ground. The necromancer was uttering a new incantation that differed from the deep monotone chant used for awakening the dead. His mouth stretched open as if muscle and bone could not restrain his jaw. Lucia covered her nose and mouth as the stench of rotting flesh filled her nostrils beyond anything she had experienced while in the necromancer’s presence. A black fog poured from Narvauth’s mouth engulfing the Harhn in darkness. 

The shroud of death entered into every cavity, causing the Horgund to spasm and gurgle with unsettling shrieks. She still lay upon the ground, her eyes glued on the horror being unleashed upon their adversary. When she caught her breath and fully regained her senses, she realized the black fog was not fog at all. Her eyes widened in fright and awe as the swarm of insect-like apparitions invaded the Harhn’s body. When his struggling ceased, Narvauth released his grip, allowing the limp body to plummet to the ground.

Lucia rolled on her back and gave a quick prayer of thanks, enjoying the air flowing freely through her lungs despite the stench of decay that shared every inhale. She stared at the stars twinkling in the clear sky, and aside from being drenched with the smell of the graveyard, she felt at peace. She had fulfilled her role, lifting a heavy burden that sat so heavily upon her shoulders. But regardless of her moment of satisfaction, she knew there was more to do.

Lucia was startled when Narvauth approached. His skin was paler, almost glowing underneath the moonlight.

"My lady," he said, extending his bony hand to her.

She took it, surprised at the strength hoisting her from the ground. The gaping jaw that released the swarm from the abyss had returned to normal, but she could still feel the residue of his craft emanating from his person.

"Well?" she asked as she applied sorcery to the wound on her shoulder.

"The fullness of the spell has been cast and cannot be undone until I will it so…or negated by means far grander than my own, which is unlikely," Narvauth said with a near smug tone.

"It appears to be working," Lucia said, observing the host of knights as they charged into the panicked mob.

"Of course it’s working," he said, admiring his handiwork before turning to Lucia. "You did well, Viscountess. I trust you are all right?"

Lucia caught his eyes peering at her nose. She became self-conscious, wiping the blood away with her sleeve. "Yes…I’m fine. What now?"

"I shall have my share of ale before retiring for the evening. Then…I shall make for Verslund upon the dawn."

"But there is another Horde at Yalveth. There is still much to be done," she said.

"Indeed. But I must answer to my master just as you must answer those within the Order," he said calmly.

"But…the army needs you," she said, surprised how the words flowed so freely from her tongue. Just minutes before she had loathed his presence, but now she despaired from the thought of his absence.

The necromancer chuckled, his pale fingers moving a straying strand of hair from her face. "The army is in good hands, my lady. They have you."


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Steel and sorcery clash as the Harhn incursion sweeps through the Hugue. Mankind faces its greatest peril without the Order Knights of legend to defend them. Crusading deep in the frontier, the Order is unaware of the savage beasts threatening their homeland as the Hugue realms muster their armies for war.

Between a cunning Harhn sorcerer, and an alliance forged with the decadent Darkfey, the horde threatens to extinguish the domains of men. Only Lord Baudouin and Lady Lucia, a Dragon Maiden from the Order, stand in the enemy’s path. One must find the strength to unify the realms. The other must discover the strength within her, while coming to terms with the agendas of her Order. But only together will there be any hope to repel the onslaught, and preserve the future for a mysterious girl they do not know. 

Author Bio:

Jack Whitsel is a native Californian, but has made Oregon his home since 1982. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree of Finance from Portland State University, but studies medieval history in his spare time.  His favorite genres are fantasy and historical fiction with a medieval emphasis. Shadows of Kings, the first novel of the Dragon Rising Series is the love child born of these two passions.

“I love the elements of fantasy when mixed with the gritty aspects of a medieval society,” states the author.

1 comment:

jwhitsel said...

A big THANKS Fangtastic Books, and Bewitching Tours for sharing the news about SHADOWS OF KINGS. Just to let you know, there is a publisher promo going on for Kindle/Nook lovers. For a limited time, you can snag SHADOWS OF KINGS FOR $3.25.

That said...if there is anyone who has questions about the DRAGON RISING series or writing in general, don't be afraid to ask.

Oceans of Love,