Dan "Bear" Kelley's Style


Years ago, I was alone in a seedy one-bedroom apartment in Colorado, while my wife was selling our house in Arlington, Texas. As we were making both a house payment and an apartment rent payment, funds were rather short. But I splurged and bought a fantasy fiction novel about a character I appreciated. It was one of the most dreadful books I have ever read. There were so many things wrong with it, I could not believe it had been published. I said to myself "I can write better than that!" As soon as I said that, I said, "That was a boast. Prove it." I literally stood from where I had been reading, fired up my PC and began to string words together. I have been writing ever since. I now write for the sheer joy of writing. If I never am published, I will be disappointed but I will not stop writing.

My Goal

My goal in working so hard on the craft of writing is to create works where the very act of reading is itself a pleasure.

I prefer an older, more formal style of literature. Just as I prefer older automobiles, older furniture and older homes. I would love someday to own a 1957 Desoto convertible, as I will never be able to afford a 1932 Chrysler Dual Cowl Phaeton. My cousin Mickey's four-square-style home in Manitowoc, Wisconsin is to me a perfect example of "THE" classic American home. I take pleasure in art deco and precisionism. I see the ultimate library as a place filled with overstuffed wing-back and club chairs, with thick carpet into which shoes sink deeply, and with the readers surrounded by smells of old leather bindings, cigars and pipe tobacco. (Even though I do not smoke.) Such a place would be incomplete without a set of decanters for 20-year-old port (Porto Barro, Sandeman, Harvey's Director's Bin), sherry (ugh, I don't care for it) and 18-year-old scotch whiskey (The Glenlivet), and of course a genuine soda siphon. It is no accident that my writing space, "The Bear Cave," has in it a huge roll-top desk and many book shelves. It is a place in which I can take pleasure in the act of writing. Similarly, I want my readers to be able to take pleasure in the act of reading. Mine are not books to rush through, but instead are to be savored. I envision one of my readers settling into a comfortable old club chair beside a nicely crackling fire, wearing a comfortable robe and slippers. He or she has taken the entire evening to indulge themselves in the act of reading.

A Question of Style

My works are not "easy reads," nor are they intended to be. There are plenty of fantasy fiction authors who write the "easy reads," and I am discounting neither the sales potential nor the fun of such books. However, it has been my opinion that there is a definite need for fantasy fiction works with more meat or (dare I say it) more gristle. I believe that fantasy fiction is discounted in the literary industry because of the lack of such books. Funny, because science fiction and fantasy account for a serious percentage of sales, as witnessed by the Harry Potter series--and the industry still pooh-poohs them.

The main reason I am not an "easy read" is my writing style. I work constantly at refining it. I seek elegance. I originally decided to work on my style so that editors will have less menial tasks to perform with my works, giving me a greater chance of being published. I wanted to separate myself from the hacks who plague fantasy fiction, the hacks who manage to get published regardless of how horrible their works are, the hacks who write fan fiction and somehow happen to get published. And too, I had the desire to enjoy more meaty fantasy fiction. I reasoned if someone could get one or two meaty books into the market, publishers may take the chance with other such authors as well.

I am not where I wish to be in refining my style, but I am reminded of Ansel Adams, who single-handedly revolutionized the photographic art. He refined his photographic skills until the day he died, but to live, he had to sell the works he had already created. He knew they were not the best he could do, but he had to eat. There possibly is a perceived arrogance to comparing oneself to Ansel Adams and I do not wish to be arrogant. It is only that one cannot get better at any art by comparing oneself to hacks. I want to continue to improve my writing, and the difference between my works and (say) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works is stark--very stark. By working to reduce the differences in quality, I improve my writing style--and I have no illusions that I will ever be as great as Sir Arthur.

Developing a Style

Some may ask why should I work toward being a "hard read?" The answer is that I do not wish to be a hard read at all. J.R.R.Tolkien is not an easy read, but his works are so well written that they are not "hard reads" either. The Hobbit was given to my sister when she was in grade school (5th or 6th grade), and she devoured it. I grant you that even in elementary school, my sister (the lawyer) was an above average reader. Consider also Shogun and Noble House, both by James Clavell. Both of those books are very difficult to begin, but once into them, you wish them never to end. The first few chapters of Shogun are particularly painful to endure, but the succeeding days of readers' joy are worth the pain. I dearly hope I will progress in my style such that I do not create painful chapters. And I hope I write well enough not to be a difficult read.

My writing style was developed through the deliberate application of elements I discovered while reading. In developing my writing style, I was guided by the authors I enjoy the most. Make no mistake, developing a writing style should be a conscious, thoughtful process. It was and is for me. I am reminded of Star Trek: The Next Generation, wherein Commander Data develops his musical style on the violin by emulating elements from various virtuosos.

Critique of Style

One very important aspect of developing a style is stepping back and trying very hard to objectively critique that style. It does one absolutely no good to randomly string bits of various authors' styles together, unless one steps back and looks at the effects created by making the change. Authors must constantly ask themselves "Did I take this too far? Did I not take this far enough? What is the overall feel of the work?" I believe my background in photography and critique of film have helped me. I divide my works into pieces and examine the individual pieces, then I critique the whole. You can gain a feel for my critique process by reading the descriptions I give for the various authors (below) and for my own works.

Sometimes, though, an author needs an outside opinion. I have had problems finding people to critique my work. The folk who are interested in fantasy fiction expect the light, fast reads that are on the market today. The folk who are interested in heavier works, such as the novels of James Clavell, are not interested in fantasy fiction. Neither group likes my work, and cannot get past that fact to constructive criticism. (This raises a problem for sales of my work, because I am hoping for a cross-over between serious fiction and fantasy fiction. I will need a particularly skilled agent to sell my works and a particularly astute publisher to market them right.) I am extremely lucky in that I have a very literary family, folk who are not afraid to objectively and constructively criticize. It is very important to make a distinction between simply proofreading a work and critizing a work. The point of the review is not to add, move and subtract commas and the like (although that can be helpful). When I send a work out for review, I need to know what works and what doesn't work. Do I go too far in describing something? Could something use some more description? Do I bog the reader down with too much character introspection? I do much of this kind of criticism myself, but sometimes I am too close to the work to see what is obvious to an outsider.

One thing I have discovered about myself is that I am not thin-skinned when it comes to getting feedback about my work. Absolutely, it is irksome to have one's work criticized, but I have had years of horrible feedback from Government reviewers of technical documents. I have also gotten used to rewrites. I can revisit a chapter as many times as an editor needs. It is my goal to get published in a hardbound edition first. If another rewrite moves my work higher in quality towards a hardbound publication, I will do another rewrite. I do not want a publisher who simply wants to publish my work as a trade paperback. I am not in a hurry to be published, and I do not want to release something inferior on the public. I wish for good, steady sales for a number of years, not a "here today, gone tomorrow" trade paperback. I wish for a work that crosses-over from fantasy fiction to the "serious fiction" world. The ultimate, of course, would be to have my work published in a boxed hardcover edition with faux leather binding.

The List of Authors

As I said, I have developed my writing style by taking elements from my favorite authors and combining them. I list those authors below and try to explain what I stole from each. If I am a tenth-part as successful as these authors in the publication of my novels, I will consider myself very blessed. I find it very interesting that all the authors at the top of my list are British. I am a bit of an Anglophile, so this should not surprise me--but it did. I also find it interesting that the list does not include an author who has had a new work published in the last 20 years--well, almost 20 years. James Clavell published his last work in 1988, and the real exception, Ellis Peters, published her last work in 1995. Then again, Ellis Peters was exceptional in many ways.

I also list (below a break) other authors whose works I enjoy, even if I have stolen no style elements from him or her. I have a very short list of authors I enjoy, and I am not hesitant in sharing it. Conversely, I have stacks of books from authors who are not on this list, and the reason they are not on the list is because I cannot recommend him or her in any way for any reason. Some widely published names are on that list. I very rarely resell books, even books I dislike. I have a very odd habit of remembering a passage, even from a bad book, and wanting to reread it. So, I do indeed have stacks of books I dislike.

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J.R.R. Tolkien

Mr. Tolkien is the only fantasy fiction author "above the break" in this list. I find that rather telling. Of all the fantasy fiction books in my bookshelves, Mr. Tolkien's are the only ones with style elements I want to emulate. This simply confirms my thought that there is room in the fantasy fiction market work meatier books, for better written books.

Everyone has already said all the positive things about Mr. Tolkien that I would say. However, I do have a criticism of Mr. Tolkien that I have not heard mentioned anywhere. There is an aspect of the battle scenes that does not ring true (sorry about the pun). The race between Gimli and Legolas in killing Orcs seems . . . almost flippant. In battles on the scale of Helm's Deep and greater, where there are two more enemy to kill for every one you kill, where hundreds of your comrades are dying beside you, I cannot believe it would be possible to be so light hearted. In taverns, years after the event, the tales could be recounted with a light heart, possibly. As it was happening, no. In fact, I seldom hear the tales of a warrior told by that warrior light heartedly. To be fair to Mr. Tolkien, though: as a work of art, I must place The Lord of the Rings in the context of its time. When World War was raging all through Europe (The Fellowship of the Ring was published in 1954 and was written to a large extent during the war), the last thing anyone would want to read would be a book about war, wherein war was portrayed with realism. With a son in the Army, I doubt Mr. Tolkien would have wanted to write such a book, either.

For my part, I do not wish to glorify war nor make it a flippant contest. So, I tend to err on the side of highly graphic violence. My sister, Marilyn, the college textbook editor, was greatly disturbed by some of this writing, and I have since worked to tone it down. Terry Goodkind is too graphic in his depictions of violence, and I can no longer read his works, despite the fact that I enjoy his style. So, I can sympathize with my sister's viewpoint. This is a balance. I will forever err on the side of the graphic, because I refuse to discount my loathing for violence. It should be an abhorrent thing. I just will try not to get so carried away by it.

One aspect of Tolkien's style that I have tried to emulate is his use of foreign words and his development of differing cultures. The book The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary, by Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall and Edmund Weiner (Oxford University Press, USA, ISBN-10: 0198610696 ISBN-13: 978-0198610694) was a true eye-opener for me. Suddenly, I looked on Mr. Tolkien's works with an entirely different mindset. I realized that in my fiction, everyone automatically spoke the same language and it was easy for them to communicate. By incorporating different languages, Mr. Tolkien added a richness and dimension--not only to the characters but also to the cultures from which the characters originated. Mr. Tolkien also used perfectly good English language words that had been forgotten. I love the word "amidmost," for example. He used constructs that were unique. I still struggle with these techniques in my writing. For example, when I wrote the spoken word and tried to emulate the problems of communicating across languages, one critic of my work said that the character sounded stupid and illiterate. This was a very astute observation. So, my challenge is how to create vernacular that sounded as if a person was unfamiliar with a language, and still get the point across to the reader that the character was intelligent--and do all that without making the whole thing too intrusive to the act of reading! This will be a continuing and daunting challenge for the foreseeable future.

One thing I dread is battling editors, as Mr. Tolkien did. Long after Mr. Tolkien's death, his son was still battling corrections into various editions of The Lord of the Rings. I am amused by a letter wherein Mr. Tolkien laments that "dwarves" was changed to "dwarfs," "Elvish" was changed to "Elfish" and "Elven" was changed to "Elfin." My case is the opposite. I use "thiefs" and fully expect my editors to try to foist "thieves" upon me, which is quite the opposite of Mr. Tolkien's fight. Perhaps, he won after all, or perhaps this is simply the Americanization of the words. In the "Joan Hickson" adaptation of Agatha Christie's At Bertram's Hotel, Miss Marple says, "The Americans have a lot to answer for." No doubt, we do. (Notice I include no Americans in my short list "above the break.") I will probably have more problems, should I be lucky enough to get published in Great Britain. Thank God for computerized publishing!--or in reference to publication in Great Britain, should I say "computerised publishing?"

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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

As with Mr. Tolkien, almost all the positive things have already been said about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Except, I have a slightly different slant to his works. I agree with the masses that the logic displayed by Sherlock Holmes is, was and always will be extraordinary. And of course, Victorian England comes alive for me through the pages of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series. However, it is Sir Arthur's writing style that intrigues me the most. Sir Arthur had absolute command over the English language and used it to bring fiction alive. One memorable sentence runs for an entire paragraph, and yet is perfectly clear and absolutely readable. It is an honest pleasure to read the words crafted by Sir Arthur. The act of reading becomes pleasurable itself. This thought continues with . . .

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Dorothy L. Sayers

Dorothy Sayers has a way of building sentences and paragraphs that is so artful that it is scary to me. In many ways, her works are the genius blending of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dame Agatha Christie. In other ways, her works are very distinct from those of either author. It is difficult for me to describe. Suffice it to say that she, along with Sir Arthur, inspired me to write more precisely and (hopefully) more beautifully.

Sir Arthur and Dorothy Sayers both led me to work on a more formal style in my writing. They wrote so beautifully, I challenged myself to do the same. Now, if that is not an arrogant challenge, I don't know what an arrogant challenge would be! Still, one cannot hope to become a better writer, unless one challenges oneself to do so. If I am one-tenth as good a writer as these two, I will be very happy, indeed, with my works.

One example of the tricks I used to become a better writer, a more formal writer, was to eliminate contractions. "I've got to go fishing," became "I have got to go fishing," which is a bit awkward. When I fixed the graceless nature of that second sentence, I get "I must go fishing," or "Fishing calls to me," or, or, or. Any one of those latter sentences is more powerful and more interesting than "I've got to go fishing." So, the elimination of contractions led directly to the strengthening of my writing skills. Of course, another challenge then arises. How do I add more power to my words, without tiring the reader, and while making the words flow from sentence to sentence and paragraph to paragraph? I will readily admit that my works are not easy reading, and I doubt they ever will be. Still, easy-reading books are frequently off the bookstore shelves in a few months, never to be seen again. Well written books stay on the shelves year after year. That is what I desire, longevity in the market.

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James Clavell

If I were to pick one master author to emulate in my work, it would be James Clavell, the only "serious fiction" author on my short list. Looking at the fantasy fiction genre, there is no author remotely comparable to him--not even J.R.R.Tolkien--especially for character development. What really drives a James Clavell book is the characters and their evolution, and I long to see this in fantasy fiction. Yes, Frodo Baggins found the courage within himself to succeed, and yes, he could never go back to being happy in the Shire. But Captain John Blackthorn and Anjin-san in Shogun were two markedly different people. The former became the latter, and the transformation and the differences were profound--and were the whole point of the book! By comparison, the whole point of The Lord of the Rings was the defeat of the Dark Lord. In the Shannara series and in The Belgariad series, the action was the focus, not the people. And in those works, the main characters end much the same way as they began. They always had strength of character in them, and just did not know it. In other words, they really did not change.

If you have read Shogun and look back on that great work, you may notice that not much really happens. People get together and talk. People do normal daily things. Incidental, unexpected and unconnected actions happen, such as earthquakes and ninja raids, but these events are not part of a singular chain of events. Instead, they effect the way the characters interact. For example, when John Blackthorn saves the life of Toronaga-sama in the earthquake, the relationships between Captain Blackthorn and everyone else change. The earthquake has no purpose in the book, other than to change the way the characters interact, to change the perceptions of the various characters with regards to Captain Blackthorn. It connects to no other major action in the book; it doesn't directly affect anyone's plans. By contrast, in The Belgariad, all the principle characters treat Garion in essentially the same way from the beginning to the end. He is the little boy who grew up. The challenge, and where Mr. Clavell shows his mastery, is in making the characters progress through many different perceptions and many different phases of relationships, while maintaining the internal consistency of the character.

This is one aspect I am fighting in my works. I will continue to fight it until the day I die, I am sure. I want very much to create fantasy fiction, where the characters are not "cardboard." I want characters that grow and develop. I want characters with histories to them, and with futures to them. Even if the character dies in the book, he or she would have had a future of some kind. And in fantasy fiction, just because a character dies does not necessarily mean he or she does not have a future. There is always the afterlife. This facet of writing is a balancing act. I want to reveal to the readers the motives behind the characters' actions, but I don't want to bore the reader with too many details. James Clavell was a master of this balance. In the craft of writing, I must consciously note that this balance must be made, and I must work and rework my stories to make that balance. I have noted that I tend to overdo the paragraphs of thoughts, feelings and motivations for the characters. (Boring!) So, I find it easiest to "walk away" from a chapter for a considerable time, and then go back to that section fresh. I can then more easily identify and delete those sentences and paragraphs that gibber and do not progress the character development.

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Dame Agatha Christie

I have a large collection of Agatha Christie books, over 100 of them. The genius of Dame Agatha was that she could make people in her books so ordinary. Her feel for the everyday was extraordinary. Her works are filled of people who you could meet on the street. Hers is the classic model of putting ordinary people into extraordinary situations. The stories are short enough that one does not expect much character development, so that is not where she shines. Instead, her power is in character definition. In a ridiculously few words, she can describe a character such that the reader can find an acquaintance in his or her experience to match. The amazing thing about that is the breadth of characters she defines! and yet the reader almost always finds a real-life parallel. So, in "a ridiculously few words," Dame Agatha manages to draw the reader into the story. Fascinating. She does the same for settings as well.

I am nowhere near as perceptive as Dame Agatha, and my skills at describing characters are horrible by comparison. As yet, I have had limited success. When minor characters come and go from my stories, should I develop the ability to be so crisp in my descriptions, my readers will be able to picture the characters and scenes much better in their minds. I will continue working on this aspect of my writing.

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Ellis Peters

Any of the Ellis Peters Cadfael books are absolutely delightful to read. What Sir Arthur Conan Doyle does for Victorian England and what Dame Agatha Christie does for 20th Century England, Ellis Peters does for Medieval England. Incredible. Outstanding. Ms. Peters excels in setting the scene, and in giving the feel from the ground up of Medieval times. So, I gained from Ellis Peters in much the same ways I gained from Dame Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Medieval England mimics, in many ways, the settings and feels that are intended in much fantasy fiction, but I have never read anything close to the detail and quality of Medieval imagery that Ellis Peters wrote. The closest is Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn set (aka. The Dragonbone Chair), which is quite extraordinary in its own right and uses the Medieval setting. J.R.R. Tolkien, though he did not use a purely Medieval setting, did not impart as high a quality of feel for the settings as Ellis Peters did. Another amazing thing is that Ellis Peters wrote twenty-some-odd Cadfael books, and they are consistently excellent from the first book to the last.

Ellis Peters gave me appreciations for monastic life, for clerical life and for religion in society. In Medieval times, Christianity was the cornerstone of all lives and all villages. The yearly calendar revolved around the church calendar. The only times commoners got away from their work were church holidays and Sundays. Even the days were regulated by the canonical hours, church services and the church bells. Fantasy fiction often contains various religions and clerics, but until I read Ellis Peters' works, I never really understood how fully involved people were in the church. They never questioned it. They never really discussed it. It just was. I never see that level of church involvement in fantasy fiction, and I think that fact rings untrue. With the levels of society given in fantasy fiction (i.e. Middle Ages and the Medieval period), the gods should be integral parts of the lives of the people. It is as if most fantasy fiction authors are afraid of religion.

I did read a fantasy fiction book recently, where the main character was a Roman Catholic priest. I could not finish it, because the author's aversion to real faith became more apparent the more I read. It was almost as if the author mocked or hated any form of religion. I do not intend to write as if I am enslaved or unquestioningly loyal to a religion. Instead, I want to write like Ellis Peters did, making religion one element of the tapistry of life. I want to write about religion as if they don't question it, as if they simply accept religion as one key part of their daily lives.

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The Break

Tad Williams

I put Tad Williams first "below the break," because of all the active authors, his work is the closest to what I would want for my own works. Memory, Sorrow and Thorn set (aka. The Dragonbone Chair) is one of the absolute best works of fantasy fiction to have been published in the last few decades! (period) Unlike most fantasy fiction, the setting of the whole work is well conceived. The political and economic issues of the realm are very realistic. The verbiage is well crafted. I enjoyed everything about the "Sithi," and wished to learn more of them. I greatly appreciate the amount of religion in the book. In this case, it was a very good balance. In my books, I wish the characters even more involved in it.

I was forced to put Mr. Williams "below the break," because I did not actually steal any elements from his style. The prominance of religion, I stole from Ellis Peters. The foreign word use and alternate cultures, I stole from J.R.R. Tolkien.

Mr. Williams gives me hope, though. His works are of a very high quality. They do not rank with James Clavell, but they are still meatier books than what is commonly published in fantasy fiction today. I wish to see more of this in the market.

I was somewhat disappointed in To Green Angel Tower, part II. In fact the quality of Mr. Williams work seems to slide gradually through the tale. I got the feeling Mr. Williams was facing publisher's deadlines and had to rush to completion. I sincerely hope he is allowed to revise the series--without his publisher's interference--to craft the tale as he had originally intended. I would even wish for an expansion of the tale. I can sympathize with him, should he not want to change anything. Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is an incredibly complex tale, and getting one's nerve up to alter something so successful would be difficult.

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C.S. Lewis

I hesitated greatly before dropping Mr. Lewis below the break. The only reason I did so was because I have yet to steal any stylistic elements from his works. I must admit that it was only recently that I got 'round to reading The Chronicles of Narnia and further must admit that I have yet to read his other works.

I will also admit that I am rather defensive about The Chronicles of Narnia. One must always remember the context in which something was written, the context in which a film was made, and the context in which the oils were placed on the canvas. Why was opera the supreme theatre event until recently? because opera singers could be heard all the way at the back of the hall in the period when there were no microphones! Perhaps, I should add Gilbert and Sullivan to this list!--But I am not yet "the very model of a modern major novelist."

I have a friend who critiqued the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I doubt he has read the books. He lambasted the starting and ending being in war-torn Europe, which would have been normal to readers when the book was originally published. He excoriated the "rip off" of Jesus' resurrection, not knowing that Mr. Lewis was not really a Christian until he met with J.R.R. Tolkien. Personally, I would rather have a "rip off" of Jesus' resurrection, than some of the garbage that is recycled in present novels. The man had no sensitivity to the context in which The Chronicles were written. (And this man adores B- and even C-grade horror movies!)

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Terry Brooks

Everyone who reads fantasy fiction has seen Terry Brooks' name on the shelves of bookstores. Most have read the Shannara series. I started reading Terry Brooks when someone at my Colorado apartment building left a stack of books in the laundry room with a sign on then "Free, take one." The Wishsong of Shannara was one of those books. Not only was Mr. Brooks wildly successful with his Shannara series, he also wrote book versions of Star Wars stories, and wrote my favorite series' Running with the Demon and Magic Kingdom for Sale / Sold. The breadth of his writing is stunning. Shannara was classic fantasy fiction. Star Wars was classic science fiction. Running with the Demon was dark modern fantasy fiction. Magic Kingdom for Sale / Sold was just pure fun. I cannot wait for the next installment in the Armageddon's Children continuation of the Running with the Demon series.

I put Mr. Brooks below the break. I do not want to disparage Mr. Brooks' works at all, but I put him below the break because I want my works to have more meat than Mr. Brooks' works have. I hope that is not arrogant. Most publishers would probably say I am a fool, that Mr. Brooks' works sell in great volumes and that his works stay on the shelves for reorder after reorder (one of my goals). They would have me write as Mr. Brooks writes. I have received similar advice from several critics. I reject that advice. I believe the copycat is a problem with many industries. Every sedan on the market today looks like every other sedan. Focus groups will never create a runaway best seller, and all they can do is create more mediocrity. It is my opinion that there are too many light, fun fantasy fiction works out there. The market is flooded with them. Yes! Mr. Brooks broke new ground, but that ground has now already been broken.

Do not get me wrong. Terry Brooks' books are on my list of favorites. I just do not want to write in that style. So, I don't believe there is much of his work I can use in developing my own style. If I could provide the meat I want in my books, while maintaining the fun of Terry Brooks' works, I would consider myself a master. Chances of that happening are very slim. Given the choice, I would choose more meat in my works.

Despite all that, I was tempted to put Terry Brooks above the break. The dark quality of the Running with the Demon is extraordinary. It consistently rings true from book to book. I would like very much to have the same feel in my works. And yet, is a "feel" a stylistic element? The point of this web page is to describe how I developed my style. I only included the authors below the break, because I feel they deserve recognition. Terry Brooks has influenced my writing, but I cannot point to any specific stylistic items I have tried to emulate from his works.

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David and Leigh Eddings

Of course, The Belgariad is where I spend the majority of my time with David and Leigh Eddings. The basic set from Pawn of Prophecy through Enchanter's End Game is fascinating enough, but then David and Leigh showed complete brilliance in creating Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress. In how many other cases has the same story been told in three entirely different ways, with all three tellings being compelling, and with all three tellings meshing with and developing each other so well? I would never ever attempt such a thing, and they succeeded where fools (such as I) dare not tread.

I always feel as if something is missing from their works, though. Their characters are quite good. Not quite as good as Dame Agatha Christie's, but how many sorcerers do you know in real life? And don't get me wrong, I enjoy their books. I have kept them, and continue to reread them. Their commercial success is undisputed, well deserved and well earned. However, I want my books to be greatly different in style from what I read in their books. As with Terry Brooks, there is not much in their style I want to emulate in mine. I wish for more character development and more insight into what the characters think and feel.

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John Britten

John Britten is as yet unpublished. He is the son of a friend of mine, and is an absolutely brilliant writer. As of the time I write this, he is about to graduate High School. I have not tried to emulate any stylistic elements of his, but he puts me to shame in my ability to write dialog as people actually speak. He showed me that I have much to learn in this area. His characters are fresh, and not the same old fantasy fiction retreads. He strives to push the bounds. I sincerely hope he gets published soon, as I want to read more of his work. He is also a gifted photographer, so that is another interest we share.

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Laura E. Reeve

I was priviledged to read and critique some of Laura Reeve's work before publication. Very recently, Laura accepted a book deal with ROC (of the Penguin Putnam Group). I am absolutely thrilled by this fact. This is proof to me that sometimes the good people win!

This book deal is for some of her science fiction, but I dearly hope she gets the opportunity to publish her fantasy fiction as well. I cannot really describe why I wish that, and that fact bothers me. As a critic, I like to know why I like something or dislike something. She writes the kind of fantasy fiction that is very pure. It is not the kind of fantasy fiction I generally buy (unicorns generally turn me off) . . . and yet, if she were to be published, I would buy it as fast as I could. Then, I would set aside everything on my stack of stuff to begin reading it. I predict I will not be able to put it down. There is a spark of something in her work that is absolutely compelling, and yet I cannot identify it. It is like that spark casting directors see in a new person who is destined to become a star.

I generally do not read science fiction, but in Laura's case, I will absolutely make an exception. As soon as her books hit the shelves, I will get one.

Laura is one of the people who has reviewed my work. I value her judgement, and her critique disturbs me. I get the feeling she does not believe in the concept of meatier fantasy fiction, or if you will, a cross-over from fantasy fiction to serious fiction. She might just be right. The market may not exist for heavier fantasy works. It may just be that she just prefers lighter works, and if so, I still have hope.

http://www.ancestralstars.com is where you can find out more about Laura Reeve.

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Laurie J. Marks

Earth Logic and Fire Logic were stunningly good books, but from an unusual aspect. I enjoyed the characters much more than the action. I also enjoyed the fact that I could not predict what was going to happen next. From the character development angle, I really wish these books had been twice as long. Then again, there is the old proverb "Always leave them wishing for more." It was apparent to me that Ms. Marks had to leave much out of the books to get them to fit the publisher's desired size. (By contrast, Shogun is 1152 pages in paperback.) It would be nice if, sometime in the future, revised extended editions were published. Hey, I can dream.

I was rather shocked to read scenes with obvious lesbian sexual content. (I don't know why I was shocked. It seems rather stupid of me, when you think about it. We are, after all, in the 21st Century.) However, these scenes were written with good taste and decorum. I wish other authors would treat sexuality with such care. One thing I am considering for my works is the inclusion of some sexual content. I hope I can treat the subject as well as Ms. Marks does. I am rather hesitant to cover the topic, but to avoid the topic entirely would be to avoid one huge element of Human life. I frequently wonder what my parents would think. And, too, I need a valid plot reason for including it. Novels frequently include gratuitous sex. The sex (lesbian or otherwise) within Earth Logic and Fire Logic did not seem to be included simply for the sake of including it. So, while I placed Ms. Marks' works below the break, there are some things I need to consider for my novels.

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Terry Goodkind

Terry Goodkind books are exceptionally well written. He takes the craft of writing very seriously, and it shows in the quality of his work. I have a problem with Mr. Goodkind's books, though; I can't bring myself to read them. They are so vivid that violent, unpleasant scenes are positively disturbing. I have trouble reading Edgar Allan Poe for the same reason. Yet, that is my problem, not Mr. Goodkind's. Excellence should always be published, even if it evokes feelings of the darker side of the world.

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Piers Anthony

Robert Jordan

I've got a Robert Jordan book on my stack o' stuff. For some reason, though, I aways reach for some other book.

R.A. Salvatore

I've been meaning to read some R.A. Salvatore, but just haven't gotten 'round to it.

Don Pendleton - Of "Mack Bolan" fame.

I have almost all the "original" Mack Bolan books. I need to get 'round to finishing that collection from e-Bay.

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