The Art of Sincere Flattery

My life is somewhat rough right now. I am moving tomorrow, am waiting to hear back about a position I applied to weeks ago, and am currently ill. I don’t even known if it’s a cold or allergies, but my swollen sinuses have kept me from needed sleep last night.

However, I wanted a quick break from packing. And a discussion worthy thought came to me a few moments ago.

ENSo my friends and I have been discussing certain coming projects and the latest entertainment releases. The UK got to see Avengers: Age of Ultron before the United States did, and I’m thankful for those across the pond who haven’t mentioned any spoilers yet. One of my chums, Alec McQuay, saw the recent release of his novel Emily Nation, which is worth a glance if you’ve time.

Now I’ve been scratching my head, trying to remember who reminded me during our conversations. But someone caused me to recall this peculiar behavior a select few established authors engage in… where they do not read fiction.

In my time, I’ve only come across a single author who publicly admitted to disliking reading novels, despite writing them. This is not to say that this author does not read; they do. But they tend to stick to non-fiction, and there is fair merit to that. It’s easy to forget that scriveners like Robert E. Howard and living legend George R.R. Martin borrowed from the pages of history to spice their work.

Now… this has led me to ponder a few of my own approaches of input versus output in literature. Personally, I enjoy reading creative tales and novels. I tend towards a fairly eclectic blend of genres. In the vein of high fantasy or swords-and-sorcery I have read all the original Conan works from Howard, and everything available from Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Chronicles of Prydain a long time ago.

In the grand scheme of readership, this really isn’t much. I’ve never read anything by Terry Pratchett nor R.A. Salvatore. The first four books of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series rest on my bookshelf, still awaiting my eyes. A Wizard of Earthsea is the only piece amongst the works of Ursula K. Le Guin I’ve finished, and I barely remember it. Scott Lynch had my attention for The Lies of Locke Lamora but I haven’t invested in the rest of his series. The majority of my fantasy reading has actually been in the works of the Black Library’s Warhammer fantasy universe, and those are usually light and often polished off in a weekend. There are probably a dozen other fantasy authors who have at least one story worth studying, but I haven’t found the time yet.

I mention this because, as of late, I have been penning and finishing a growing number of fantasy pieces. It’s part of my efforts to become a “full stack” author, who moves from genre to genre to learn what they can. Perhaps even combining these types, creating new tales from the union. As I’ve set horror down for the time being, fantasy has become my newest focus.

I’ve had successes in horror, some of which are still on going. But I haven’t quite had that one breakout success with fantasy. I feel as though I’m closing in on it but… time will tell. What makes me curious is that compared to fantasy, I’ve read very little horror. I’ve seen many horror films, and the visuals have stuck with me. But not much in the way of reading.

Part of me wonders if the act of “researching” a writing market by reading successes within it kind of poisons the well. On one hand, it does inform the author as to what has already been done before, yet at the same time, can it make us prone to fearing innovation?

About a year back, I was very proud of a tale I wrote. It was swords and sorcery meets Indus Valley Civilization, the area that was proto-India. Compared to European inspired fantasy, there is a tremendous amount of cultural differences to communicate. There was the caste system. There were the different kinds of weapons which we see as exotic, and they see as normal. They have their own pantheon of gods. It’s easy for us to take knowledge of Zeus or Thor for granted, but gods like Agni or Indra may require a little prefacing in English speaking markets.

I was very proud of this story. I still am despite its rejection, if for no other reason than the sheer scholarly effort to try and… just widen the door a crack, hoping for something inspired. I’ve read articles and blog posts about people who are a little tired of European centric tales and I kind of see their point. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that there is so much of it.

Maybe I’ll dust that story off and try again someday, and I’m hoping the wheel is finally turning a little. And if you’re one of those types seeking something new and inspired, try Emily Nation by McQuay.

For me however… back to work.

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