Monday, December 20, 2010

20 Heroes: Yelena (part two)

The nineteenth of my "20 Heroes in 2010" is now up at This is the conclusion of "Love & Winter," my story that placed in the finals of the Writers of the Future Contest. (Dmitri and Ivanir should be counted with Yelena as heroes in this tale, so there are actually three heroes in the last two postings.)


Friday, December 17, 2010

2010 - retrospective

As we get older, time acquires the illusion of acceleration. A single year is 12-1/2% of an 8-year-old's life, but only 2-1/2% of a 40-year-old's. (I have a couple more years before turning forty, but it's an easier number for an English major to manipulate.)

2010 was one of the fastest years yet from my perspective. And while it was a challenging one in terms of my day job as a government attorney, it was a productive one for my nascent writing career. The highlights:

* In April, I had the honor of interviewing my favorite author, Guy Gavriel Kay, in conjunction with the release of his magnificent new novel, Under Heaven.

* In July, my essay "Servants of the Secret Fire: Why Fantasy & Science Fiction Matter" won second-place in Pyr's 5th anniversary essay contest.

* Also in July, I again had the pleasure of presenting at Wofford College's Shared Worlds creative writing camp for high school students.

* In October, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly published my story "The Sea Wasp."

* And throughout the year,, which has become a go-to source for spot-on book reviews and other hot, buttery goodness, published my original character sketches in the ongoing series "20 Heroes in 2010."

As for the works of art I most enjoyed this year:

* Book: Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay. I didn't read quite as many books this year as I usually do, but this one stands alone. My review is HERE.

* Album: The Suburbs by Arcade Fire

* Film: Up and The Secret in Their Eyes (Argentina)

* TV Series: Burn Notice, Nikita, and the new Sherlock Holmes series on PBS. All three are secretly sword-and-sorcery tales in that they feature talented rogues who, with only a handful of allies, match weapons and wits against mysterious or (in theory) superior forces.

Looking ahead to 2011, I have two projects planned: (1) a short story set in my hometown of New Orleans--let me give one more shout-out to the 2010 Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints! Who dat!--and (2) a novel. Our children are (usually) sleeping through the night now; the time has finally come to realize a long-deferred dream and write a great novel ... one word at a time.

In the year to come, may you realize all of your good and beautiful dreams.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

20 Heroes: Yelena

The eighteenth of my "20 Heroes in 2010" is now up at This is part one of "Love & Winter," my story that placed in the finals of the Writers of the Future Contest.


Friday, October 1, 2010


A pleasant Friday and fair October to all! My story "The Sea Wasp" has just set sail at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. Read it HERE.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010


I'm pleased to announce the sale of a short story to the excellent e-zine Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. In light of today's brutal short fiction market, this one feels really good. More details to follow, but it should be published in the October 1st issue.


20 Heroes: Takhara and Caterina

The fifteenth and sixteenth of my '20 Heroes in 2010' are now up at

In light of a much busier fall than I'd anticipated, and an approaching story deadline, I'm reducing the number of heroes in the series from 25 to 20.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

Servants of the Secret Fire: Why Fantasy & Science Fiction Matter

Pyr has posted my second-place winning essay HERE.

For your reading convenience, and pleasure I hope, the full text follows.

* * *

The Balrog reached the bridge. Gandalf stood in the middle of the span, leaning on the staff in his left hand, but in his other hand Glamdring gleamed, cold and white. …
"You cannot pass," he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass."
--J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

When I was seven years old, my grandparents gave me a Dungeons & Dragons boxed set, the basic edition with an Erol Otus cover on which a spear-wielding fighter in purple armor and a fireball-hurling magic-user, one leg outthrust from her scarlet robes, confront a green dragon on the edge of a subterranean lake. The box contained the rule book, The Keep on the Borderlands adventure module, and six polyhedral dice the color—depending on your light source and mood—of either wet sandstone or cat vomit. It was the most influential gift of my life.

In concert with the original Star Wars trilogy and a variety of superhero comic books, D&D kindled in me an abiding love of heroism and an enchantment with other worlds. Years later, having assumed the responsibilities of husband, father and citizen, I still count fantasy and science fiction ("speculative fiction" or "F&SF") as my go-to genres in literature and film. Well-executed F&SF can create excitement, escapism, and pathos as effectively as any other genre; and in the past nine years, during which I've spent thousands of hours prosecuting criminals and protecting abused children, this quality of F&SF has helped shield me from burnout. But in this era, as we struggle with the transition from a natural order minimally impacted by human activity to one markedly transformed, F&SF serve us in several other ways.

First, F&SF recapture who we were. Time-travel tales and historical fantasies remind those of us in industrialized regions that, before we soared above clouds and sped along graded roads in metal capsules, we ran and rode horses and endured the seas' inexorable winds and waves. Instead of staring into the magic mirrors of our televisions and computers each night, we gathered with our communities to tell stories and make music in taverns or courts, or around bonfires beneath the stars. Nor did we dismiss the stars as distant balls of flaming gas; instead we scrutinized them as entities or harbingers whose arcs could alter the fates of all who walked the mysterious, motionless earth.

While stories set in pre-industrial times reveal that our bond with the natural world was often more visceral and intense, they also remind us of the difficulties inherent in living without refrigeration, long-distance communication, anesthesia—to say nothing of increased rights and protections for many women, children, and minorities. The reader of such a story will inevitably compare the characteristics of its societies with those of his own and form his own opinions as to which are desirable and undesirable.

Similarly, F&SF contemplate who we will be. Science fiction, in particular, operates as the shadow that precedes the imprint of technology's cutting edge upon reality. The most thoughtful stories foresee the practical and ethical issues inherent in developments such as cloning, prenatal genetic modification, artificial intelligence, and cybernetic implants—in addition to more epic possibilities, such as nuclear holocaust and alien contact. Through such imaginative consideration, we can more comprehensively debate which laws should govern technological developments, or whether certain technologies should be developed at all.

Realistic, non-speculative literature also can depict the past and future; however, F&SF evoke a sense of otherness. Through the imaginations of its authors, speculative fiction has emerged as the genre that most consistently introduces places and situations beyond the scope of our available experience. This is important not only for the sake of entertainment, but also for intellectual and emotional renewal. Although children may wonderfully imagine what exists in a nearby forest or beyond and beneath snow-crowned mountains, adults risk the paralysis of bored cynicism when they realize that the habitable world has been exhaustively mapped and that no relationship or community is flawless. The spirit of manifest destiny, the romantic dream that pristine lands await us on the horizon, is dead. F&SF reassure us, though, that we aren't helplessly trapped and, on the contrary, the horizons of the mind are infinite.

In the same way, F&SF preserve the heroic tradition. (This does not diminish the artistry or importance of "dark" works that explore our ambiguities, contradictions and failures. Antiheroes and villains can still, after all, be the focal points of truths and consequences.) Unlike most modern fiction, F&SF, particularly F&SF for young readers, often transport us into realms where clearly identified and tangible evils threaten all goodness, beauty, and freedom. But if an evil is known and tangible, it is also vulnerable to a protagonist's will and courage. To those disheartened by the pace of desired change, whether adults frustrated by bureaucracy or youths by the rules of their homes and schools, the shining thrust of a sword—Éowyn smiting the Witch-King—is a glorious release. Hope endures in the blackest pit; darkness will never extinguish our light. Through the repetition of these truths in story, the eternal flame of heroism is passed from one generation to the next.

In "The Fantasy Writer's Assistant," a story by award-winning author Jeffrey Ford, the writer Ashmolean asks, "What good is the illusion of fiction if it cannot show us a way to become the people we need to be?". This concern, as evidenced by the previous observations, is almost universal in F&SF, no less than in heroic literature of the past: The Iliad, Beowulf, The Three Musketeers, To Kill a Mockingbird. In their finest hours, F&SF reveal who we are and should be in our finest hours. The authors and readers of F&SF are students of the past, architects of the future, dreamers of the other. They are torchbearers of heroism, and because of these vocations, they have both the willingness to be inspired and the vision to inspire. As President John F. Kennedy said, "The problems of the world cannot be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were."

It hardly matters, then, whether devotees of F&SF possess the martial skill or charisma of Aragorn, Ellen Ripley, or William Adama. When we create and share in others' inspiring creations, we perpetuate the energy unleashed at the dawn of time. We become servants of the Secret Fire, with the power to bring truth and hope into the dark places around us. We remember that words and stories, even of those who are distant or dead, contain the power to unite and encourage, heal and transform.

Our words, and the stories of our lives, can resonate with this power. For each of us, there is a bridge between who we are and who we should be, and we do not have forever to cross it. We need not cross it alone, however, but with our brethren and the Secret Fire, the flame that still burns in fantasy and science fiction, to guide us.

Through the shadows of our journey, the wizard's voice spurs us on: "Fly, you fools!"

Friday, July 16, 2010

Breaking News: Pyr Essay Contest

I've learned that my essay "Servants of the Secret Fire: Why Fantasy & Science Fiction Matter" won Second-Place in the Pyr Essay Contest. The official announcement is HERE.

Thank you to Pyr and editor Lou Anders for the honor.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

25 Heroes: Emilian IV

The eighth of my '25 Heroes in 2010' is now up at Readers who leave a comment there can win a free book.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

25 Heroes in 2010: It Begins

The first of my 25 Heroes in 2010 is now up at

Siltanen may very well be my favorite character (in my portfolio). I certainly won't tell the others, though.