Tag Archives: High / Epic Fantasy

Feedback on THE KINGS OF CARNIN: Rise of Ari by Dan Croutch

Posted by July 23rd, 2014

THE KINGS OF CARNINDan Croutch has been a Book Country member since finding us during NaNoWriMo 2013. Always a helpful and supportive community member, Dan can often be found on the Book Country discussion boards or chatting with us on Twitter.

In April I wrote to all of the Book Country newsletter subscribers that I would read anyone’s book who wanted me to. The only catch was that the member had to have done a significant revision and reuploaded a new draft for me to read. Dan took me up on my feedback offer for his High/Epic Fantasy novel THE KINGS OF CARNIN: Rise of Ari.

THE KINGS OF CARNIN stars a young blacksmith named Ari. The son of the king’s foremost weapons maker, Ari is granted an audience with the king after his father’s death. During this meeting, he’s compelled to fight an emissary named Raden to the death. Unexpectedly defeating Raden means that Ari is transformed from a civilian artisan to a commander in the army overnight.

What’s working:

Dan’s prose is varied and flows easily–this was my favorite part about reading THE KINGS OF CARNIN. You can tell he is taking time to begin his sentences in different places, crafting each paragraph so that it avoids repetition and redundancy.

I am appreciative of the straightforwardness of KINGS OF CARNIN. It’s good old-fashioned storytelling that doesn’t confuse or alienate the reader. The linear way he has structured his book is appealing and will be accessible to readers of all ages. Furthermore, I think that fantasy often benefits from a straightforward narrative like this one: It makes the reader’s passage into the fantastical realm much more seamless, and it highlights the innovative details Dan has created as part of the worldbuilding process. Continue reading

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How to Write an Effective Battle Scene by Epic Fantasy Author Anthony Ryan

Posted by January 8th, 2014

blood_song_anthony_ryanBattle scenes in fiction are a serious affair. They require a lot of research but also careful craftsmanship. The author needs to relay vivid sensory detail and paint a picture of the battle’s development, then filter all that through the perspective of the book’s key character(s) in an engrossing way. A good battle scene is like a beautifully choreographed dance–equally pleasing to military history acolytes and laymen. 

Today we’re excited to welcome author Anthony Ryan, who’s written the much touted epic fantasy BLOOD SONG–he knows a thing or two about writing gripping battle sequences.


A battle scene is a depiction of armed conflict between multiple participants. Or, more simply, a bunch of people fighting, usually in a field if we’re talking about epic fantasy. But, of course, there is no one type of battle scene, as there is no one type of book. There are land battles, sea battles and space battles. There are sieges, ambushes and skirmishes. Then we have shoot-outs, sword-fights, dog-fights and an endless inter-mingling of just about every form of combat real or imagined. My point is that the battle scene is not limited to one genre or period of history. However, for a battle scene to work, a savvy writer would be wise to include, or at least address, certain key elements.

Continue reading

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Member Spotlight: Meet Writer Marshall Maresca

Posted by June 10th, 2013

Science fiction and fantasy have always captured my imagination—they offer endless possibilities.

Marshall Maresca is a Book Country member from Austin who primarily writes city-based traditional fantasy—a place where urban, epic, and traditional fantasy stories coalesce. On his blog, he lets readers look under the hood and see maps from his fantasy worlds. For the member spotlight, we chat with Marshall about his books, fantasy worldbuilding, and writing villains. 

Nevena: Thanks for joining us. Let’s get to brass tacks: when did you start writing and what inspires you to carry on?

Marshall: I was dabbling for quite a while, more talking about what I wanted to write instead of actually writing it. In 2007, though, I went through a bit of a crisis of vocation—I had been saying I wanted to be a writer, but what was I really doing about it? So that’s when I put my nose to the grindstone to really get projects done. And, now, with three novels out shopping with my agent, and a fourth about to go out, I’ve come too far to give up! Continue reading

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Meet Writer Rebecca Blain

Posted by May 13th, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A


“I like the idea of leaving behind the mundane for other worlds.”

Rebecca Blain is a fantasy writer from Montreal, Canada; she’s also a speed-reader, freelance editor, artist, and fantasy fan girl. Rebecca has been a Book Country member since we launched, and we always recommend her wonderful how-to guide for new members. We wanted to catch up with Rebecca and find about her debut novelThe Eye of God.

Nevena: Thanks for joining us, Rebecca. The Eye of God will be released in July. Congrats! Tell us more about the story.

Rebecca: Thanks for having me.

The Eye of God is the story of Terin and Blaise. Terin’s a slave in a world that’s reminiscent of ancient Rome, and Blaise is someone—something—that has been watching over the world and a few of its more interesting denizens for a long, long time. When the balance of power in the empire is shattered, it falls to the two of them to restore order before everyone close to them has their souls devoured.

Nevena: How has the novel evolved over time? What was it like working with an editor and a cover designer? (The cover is gorgeous, by the way.)

RebeccaThe Eye of God is the novel in which I really figured out how to write. “Showing versus telling” clicked for me, and I got a much better grasp of immediacy and limited third point of view. My developmental editor loved the story—the characters, the plot, and the general arcs, but it didn’t have the base writing of my other WIP, Storm without End.

My marching orders were simple: Rewrite the book from the ground up, but recapture the same plot and characters.

Working with my editor is a lot of fun. She’s a great sounding board for me, and she isn’t afraid to tell me when something just isn’t working. And, she deals very well with me when I’m bullheaded and don’t want to make changes I need to make, which is exactly what I need in an editor.

As for the cover art, this was my favorite bit of the process. I met the cover artist, Chris Howard, through one of my editorial clients. We hit it off right away, and I hired him. I told him a little about the world and about Terin, and he started sketching over his lunch break.

The sketch of the cover came back almost perfect; I asked him to change the style of shirt and make Terin’s hair a bit longer. The rest is history. A very short time later, I had cover art that I am really, really proud to have on my book.


Nevena: So you have a great team helping you! The book you’re currently working on, Songbird, is a romantic fantasy, which is a new direction for you as a writer. What’s been the most challenging part of the writing process so far?

Rebecca: Writing the female perspective. The vast majority of my books have male points of view. Writing Kara has been a huge challenge. Ranik, the main male character, comes a lot more naturally to me than Kara.

Nevena: To say that you’re a huge fantasy buff wouldn’t be an overstatement. What draws you to it?

Rebecca: I like the idea of leaving behind the mundane for other worlds, for things that make me ask questions, and that make me see a little bit of magic in our own world.

Nevena: That’s quite poetic. Are there any fantasy conventions or clichés you’d like to see disappear?

No. Even the most boring cliché can be turned to magic in the hands of a skilled writer. When I encounter a cliché in my clients’ works, I don’t tell them to remove it—I tell them to enhance it so that it becomes original to them. If they can’t do that, then they should consider cutting it out.

A cliché or convention exists because many people love the same thing. It isn’t that you use them that matters it’s how you use them.

A perfect example is Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris. I didn’t realize it included zombies until he told me when we met at World Fantasy Con. That is skill, and turning something old into something new.

Nevena: Let’s switch gears. Tell us more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

Rebecca: Me? I’m boring—okay, well, maybe not. I am a natural-born punster. (You got off the hook this time.) I have a spouse and four cats. I turn thirty on the 16th, and I’m really excited about it!

As for what started me wanting to be a writer, I blame Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon. The Black Gryphon nailed the coffin closed for me. Valdemar just ensured I’d never leave the Science Fiction / Fantasy section of the bookstore ever again…

Nevena: Happy birthday! You work as a freelance editor and writer. How do you manage to fit your own writing into the mix?

Rebecca: A lot of dedication, discipline, effort, and heartbreak. That, plus 12-14 hour days.

Nevena: What’s your Book Country story? How has it helped you grow as a writer?

Rebecca: I came to Book Country with one of the waves of beta fishes. I’d followed Colleen because I wanted to query her when I was ready, but then she upped and changed career paths! Still, it worked out for the better. I think Book Country has been a huge influence on me in terms of honing my writing skills.

I regret nothing!

Nevena: That’s awesome! You’ve written a couple of amazing pieces—on the forums and on your website—about how to use Book Country. What is the #1 thing you think new members should know about the peer review process?

Rebecca: Thank you!

All I can say is this: pour your heart and soul into the peer review process. Sure, your help doesn’t make your book immediately better, but it’ll help you open your eyes to your own writing with time. The more you help others with their writing, the more you will be helped. It’s true—it’s really, really true.

Let me say this again: Give your honesty, your integrity, and your professionalism to others. Pour everything you have into it. Give it your absolute all. Sure, you may not get a review out of it, or a publishing contract, or a job as an editor, or even a thank you, or some form of gratification, but you will learn. That learning will help you find the problems in your own writing.

Nevena: Amen. Is there anything else you want to share with the community?

Rebecca: Writing is hard. Don’t give up—good things happen to those who put in the effort and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and their fingers bloodied making their stories come to life.

Nevena: Thanks for chatting with me, Rebecca. Good luck with The Eye of God!

Connect with Rebecca on Book Country and follow her on Twitter at @rebeccablain. Visit her on the web at her website. Oh, and Rebecca has graciously invited everybody to help themselves to a copy of the wallpaper of The Eye of God’s cover art.

*Cover art by Chris Howard

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Meet Writer Nicholas Kotar

Posted by April 22nd, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A


“Writing is an apprenticeship.” –Nicholas Kotar

Nicholas Kotar is a Book Country member and a full-time theology student in the seminary. He comes from a Russian family, who didn’t teach him to speak English until he figured it out for himself around age four. In his free time, he leads choirs in Orthodox chant. When he’s not studying, he’s out traveling somewhere—looking for the Siren who came to him once, and sang the beginning of his first novel, Raven Son.

Nevena: Thanks for joining us, Nicholas. How did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

Nicholas: I don’t actually remember when I started. I just remember writing. I still have one of my early stories—a terrible Star Wars rip-off called “Duels of Space,” complete with pencil drawings of laser-swords and blasters. Then I read The Lord of the Rings. That was it. I never stopped writing after that.

Nevena: How do you fit writing into your life?

Nicholas: I honestly don’t know. Right now I’m studying full time at a Russian seminary in the middle of gorgeous nowhere, and also conducting the choir for church services, and working as an assistant editor at a small publishing company, and translating a 600-page non-fiction book from Russian to English. But occasionally it’s like Dostoevsky described—the chick starts to peck at its shell, and you can’t keep it in. When that happens, I’ll just put nearly everything else aside until the torrent of words starts running out.

Nevena: The muse just descends upon you! So what draws you to the fantasy genre?

Nicholas: Tolkien and Lewis were my favorite authors in childhood (in English, that is), not only because they tell a good story, but because they write beautiful language. That’s what I look for in fantasy—glimmers of transcendent beauty in the language, the story, the characters. And yes, that does mean that my fantasy reading is limited almost exclusively to Tolkien, Lewis, LeGuin, and Gene Wolfe (he’s a recent discovery).

Nevena: I noticed your fiction is influenced by Russian folklore. What’s unique about it?

Nicholas: I could tell you, if you had about four hours of free time! That’s like asking what’s unique about the Russian people. I think what I find most interesting is how comfortably these stories jump tonally from serious to hilarious to absolutely horrifying and back again. Death is never far from any of the characters, and going through death is sometimes the only way a character can make sure that “God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world,” so to speak. There’s something very compelling about that, I think.

Raven Son is a finished novel. How did you come up with the idea for the book?

Nicholas: I was on my way to Cairo for a month-long trek through Egypt, Sinai, and Israel. I had a thirteen-hour layover in the Amsterdam airport, and for some reason I thought it would be smart to stay awake the whole time. So I drank lots of coffee, opened a notebook, and one of the Syrin—paradise birds whose song has been known to drive people mad—started singing to me. Seriously! I wrote the first scene without lifting my pen from the page. Later, when I got back from the trip, I thought it would be interesting to write down my experiences in the form of a fairy tale. But by page fifty, the story had run away from me. It went wherever it wanted to go, and I had to follow it, trying not to lose it. The next few years were incredibly eventful—traveling on all the continents except Antarctica, spending a winter in a Russian monastery on an island, getting engaged, then un-engaged in the worst possible way, then being brought back to life again by a blue-eyed angel in a small cafe on a St. Petersburg canal. Through it all, Raven Son kept writing itself, while I struggled to follow. It was exhilarating.

Nevena: What have you learned in the course of writing and revising the novel—and having all of those incredible experiences?

Nicholas: The hardest thing to realize was that the elation I feel while writing doesn’t immediately translate to elation while reading. I used to think that since I read a lot, then my writing would automatically reflect the greatness of Dostoyevsky, Austen, Eliot, and Tolkien. Nope! After running into the wall many times, I finally got it. Writing is an apprenticeship. You have to learn how to follow the rules, even if the rules are arbitrary and silly, and depend only on the fluctuating market. If you learn to follow them, then much, much later you can (maybe) start to break them.

Nevena: So what’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Nicholas: “Don’t write about long journeys on foot! You’ve never been on one.” So I went on a walking tour of the Lakes in North England for 10 days. I guess that’s an unusual variant of “write about what you know.”

Nevena: Amazing! Why are you a Book Country member?

Nicholas: Other sites, Authonomy.com for example, are built in such a way that people are afraid to give anything but positive feedback. I don’t want to know my book is good. I can convince myself of that easily enough. Book Country is good in that sense—I’ve heard some very constructive comments that have helped me revise Raven Son several times.

Nevena: I’m glad! Any advice for new members?

Nicholas: New members! Don’t immediately react negatively to people who don’t think your book is the Great American Novel. It really isn’t, honestly. Not yet.

Nevena: Is there anything else you want to share with the community?

Nicholas: Even though all of us could use a healthy dose of humility when it comes to taking harsh criticism, it’s important to know that sometimes people are just wrong. It’s really hard, but I think all of us need to learn how to distinguish between good and bad criticism. Otherwise we might kill our baby before it grows up on its own. Oh, and give Raven Son’s first few pages a read, if you have a few minutes. Thanks!

Nevena: Thanks for joining us! Good luck shopping the book.

Connect with Nicholas aka Voran on Book Country and check out Raven Son’s Facebook page.

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