Category Archives: A Bit of Soul Baring

A Bit of Soul Baring: or Glimpses of an Adventurous Life. There are many ways to adventure! It’s always popping up in the most unexpected places.

Feel free to share or post these blogs. Just tweak the content, except for fair use chunks, and link back to my site. Thanks!

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150 – 175 Best Fantasy Books or Your 2017 Guide to Epic Fantasy: Post 1

Fantasy and the 7 Senses

You know the five senses that we all use.

And we explore fantasy adventure with all of them: Sight, scent, taste, hearing, touch. (Inside our minds, of course.) And of course intuition, the 6th sense, is never far from reach in a great fantasy story.

But I think there is one more sense.

Fantasy brings together the six senses into a whole and creates a 7th. The seventh sense is one you can discover often if you dive deep into fantasy realms and keep your eyes open.

The greatest fantasies create at moments a unique experience, a kind of sense not to be found anywhere else in the universe we can see. Except in bits and pieces; a kind of joy-filled truth caught in goodness or day dreams or dreams of the night, where odd things that strangely fit are often found.

This 7th sense grasps gleaming facets of truth that we could not see before. It touches them, tastes them. Not first examined by our reason, but felt deep in the actions and reactions you experience while captured within fantasy characters. Inside the kind, the evil, the young and the old, the weak and strong men and women and creatures of fantasy. It happens without your noticing it, while you are enthralled by the hero or heroine you find in many hearts, sometimes growing from a single weak seed. It makes you revolt against evil, also often growing unseen, battling within.

We are so often blinded by our familiar world it usually takes a moving deed, a circumstance, or a state of being in an unfamiliar setting or against a stark backdrop for us to see truth clearly. Such clearness can be startling.

Such was the case for me. Not long ago, I was moaning that there were not very many good fantasy fiction books from the faith sector of our world. Not that I dislike general fantasy, far from it, I admire their authors’ skill very much. I only wish more of us imitated the high bar of storytelling without deserting high moral quality.

I was shown how wrong I was to moan. Patrick Carr’s Shock of Night, Anna Thayer’s Knight of Eldaran Trilogy, Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga, C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters (a novel delightfully re-read) all kept me up late into the night. Sure, there is definitely room for more faith-based fantasy where adventure is never sacrificed, but I’ve discovered treasures everywhere over the long years—from epic fantasy to dieselpunk and beyond. If your heart is hungry . . . 

I want to share my otherworldly discoveries on my lifelong venture into best fantasy novels with you.

Join the quest, and find your next adventure! There will be at least 70 posts in this series, and who knows what we may find?

If you don’t want to miss a single grand adventure, sign up in the side bar, where special treasures are reserved for those who seek them.

We’ll venture into worlds unseen where your heart will beat fast at necessary sacrifice, thrill with the triumph of downtrodden hearts against overwhelming odds, and draw lines of right and wrong in blood. You will laugh in side-splitting humor, cry with loss, fight against evil and rage against its seeming victory. But in the end you will come back to peace, hugging gems to your breast. And for those who can see, there is a light going before you.

Follow it.

Let no wall of ignorance, busyness, or other unworthy reason bar you from your next journey to unearth . . .  what, I cannot tell. Prepare to use your seven senses.

Crossover: find the Eternal, the Adventure.

 

Here’s a minute taste of one journey waiting for us on my best books shelf, seeking its place in future posts like The Romance – Exploring Treachery and Trust.

From Victoria Hanley’s The Seer and the Sword:

Torina looked at the boy, at his heavy curling hair and remote, wild eyes.

“If he is my slave,” she asked, “does that make him my own?”

“All your own.”

“I can do whatever I want with him?”

The king nodded.

The princess shivered. “What is your name, son of a king?” she asked.

“Landen.” The boy’s manner, still that of a prince, contrasted oddly with his dusty rags and bruises.

“Vesputo,” Torina said.

“Princess?”

“Cut his ropes, please.”

The commander looked to his king, who inclined his head. A blade was drawn. Vesputo severed the ropes carelessly, trailing fresh blood. Landen rubbed his wrists as Torina stepped closer to him.

“My father fought your father.” She said it very softly, speaking as if no king or soldiers looked on. For her, they must have been forgotten.

Landen looked at the ground. A pulse in his neck beat, like the heart of a newly hatched bird.

“Landen,” she whispered. “I never had a slave.”

The boy stood quietly.

“And I never will,” she continued, lifting her chin. “Papa,” her voice rose. “You gave him to me. I set him free.” . . .

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blog to book-1332161

75-100 Best Fantasy Experiences Blog-to-Book Overview

Shelley Hitz of Author Audience Academy suggested in a FB session that I post this question about my blog-to-book plan for 2017-2018 and ask your opinion. I decided to include the whole layout, so you can get a general idea what I’m planning to share with you. And you can tell me if it’s something you’d love.

So thank you for your opinion, if you’d give it at the end!

I decided to come up with some serial blog posts/stories with lasting meaning for readers, not for writers. Not because I have anything against writers, (I’m one) only because most of you are YA, fantasy, and speculative fiction buffs. And so am I, and this is something I treasure. I’d love to make a book with you!

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Intrigue

Turning Point 2017 New Year Breakthrough

I decided to be transparent, bite the bullet, and bare my soul. 

These are the kinds of books I love: the ones that pull you deep into a a story world you wish didn’t have to end. The poetic painting of a place where you sense loyalty, love, and goodness rising to do battle against deception, despair,  and hate. From the little things like the ups and downs between companions on a great journey, to the soul-tearing decisions of romance, or the life-threatening choices before you, as the hero or heroine.

A world where conflicts are fought within and without. In the intricate vales of the human spirit; in the broad ‘scapes of the land, terrible, beautiful, or engagingly homey; and most of all, in the battle between soul and soul, where the conflicting desires of a villain or villaness (if I can coin the word) and the hero or heroine, drive everything from large armies to their companions, sycophants, or honest followers. What they see and how they react decides their impact on their world, whether they spread darkness or light.   

Besides the tried and true we all know, like Tolkien and Lewis, Anna Thayer’s The Knight of Eldaran trilogy, CJ Cherryth’s Fortress in the Eye of Time, Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword, Sherwood Smith’s Crown Duel, Dennis McKiernan’s The Iron Tower trilogy and The Silver Call duology, Patrick Carr’s The Shock of Night: these types of stories all draw me like a lodestone. In the good conflict contained within them, I glimpse the Morning Star. 

This is the very reason I began to write, for those glimpses of joy, beauty, and adventure. And I have feared letting other people know how very much I like poetic, deep themed, character and conflict driven fantasy: historical fantasy, and every other kind of fantasy. Even to other genres. Except for horror and dark. 

Because there is darkness enough in our world, enough emptiness, enough despair. What some call realism–the idea that we exist by chance, (which means we have no purpose, no part to play) is actually despair, not the true state of affairs in our world.

Part of Webster’s dictionary definition of despair is “without hope.” And a definition of hope is “to…hope with the expectation of attainment.” If you have no hope of attainment, (which holds solid meaning in its very definition) why do anything? What’s the point? Or why not do whatever you feel like? Tomorrow we die, with less impact than a grain of sand.

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When I was a teen, despair almost ate me alive. Partially it was because I was sick, which tends to make everything look black or grey, and partially it was the horrible things I began to see in myself, in life, and in the books I was reading. Where I looked for joy and beauty I began to see betrayal, which brought unhappiness and ugliness. (Fantasy has a strange way of highlighting whatever it portrays, whether darkness or light.)

Suffice it to say, I was learning. But also absorbing what was around me without perspective. I saw a picture in my mind of dominant, rampant evil smothering good, and of despair, a kind of creeping death drawing its shadow over the world. The younger, happy me I used to be was gone, without return.

Then I began to realize, without knowing it at first, that there was more. All who follow good must fight evil, or we will be overcome. And goodness often exists, apparently overcome, but triumphant in the end.

Yes, there is darkness, and fear, and despair, and hate in us and in our world. There is also beauty and joy and hope. Because we were sent here, particular in every area of our being, of time and place, and our every step resounds through the fabric of time, and beyond.

Does this sound like a sci-fi or fantasy story? 

It is. And this story is true. Because it’s true, it’s quite natural we find it reflected in many books, the great conflict between dark and light. Not always portrayed clearly or truthfully, but still glaringly there.

With God, all is hope, however we feel about it, for he works all things (even the things that hurt) to our good when we walk with the great dance of his universe, not following the destructive road of the great rebellion. The difference between books of despairing realism and those of hopeful adventure are created when we who write them see the real world, the true story, reality, as we name it, through what we believe. Here it gets tricky. You have to pay attention.

What is true, is true, whoever sees it. But the person who sees the clearest will see the most truth. God is absolute truth, and in his light, we see light. I don’t mean here that we ever see the complete truth, for we see dimly, but we can point to him, who promises to teach us.

So, what fits the world we see, and our experience, best? 

That intricate and full of life as we are and our world is, all is for nothing? And consequently there is no good, and no evil? No purpose? Not even for a grain of sand?

Or that someone made all this, and us, and we can find joy and beauty and adventure in him? That we can fight evil, and it will mean something in the end, we can really save something or someone? We can really be a hero or heroine?

These opposing beliefs determine whether you see a grey world, or a world alight with its true splendor, a glory of golds and blues and greens, silver and brown and white as snow–and blackness, dark as the pit. That is not gone, just because we see the good. In fact, it becomes all the darker, revealed by the light.

As many others have said, truth makes stories possible. Truth shows good and evil as they are, opposed; shows the mixture of good and evil motives we often are, and the two roads we are torn between. Truth reveals, moment to moment, which road we are on.

I write my fantasy adventures, historical and otherwise, for teens and up, for those disillusioned or discouraged with the rampant ugliness in our world, so often showcased in books. I write for people who yearn for hope, joy, and beauty, wrapped in the clarion call of adventure. 

I hope this post, my turning point in 2017, helps you. That my breakthrough, that I had a wall of my own to overcome, namely fear of you, gives you courage to cross over whatever life-changing wall looms over you this coming New Year.  

Crossover: Find the Eternal, the Adventure

Yes, start this very moment.

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Define good and evil, and continue your journey with truth. Make a great impact on your world. 

I will feel it from here! Let me know in the comments about your wall, and how you will overcome it.

All the best,

 

Azalea Dabill

Editor and Author

Crossover: Find the Eternal, the Adventure

 

 

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A Bit of Soul Baring – Hunting Adventures

You never know what you’re going to find out in the woods, or see. Hunting is no exception. Here’s my story in pictures. I didn’t get the elk or bear meat I was after, but I got something greater. A glimpse of the vast beauty of our created world.

You never know what you're going to come across in the woods.

You never know what you’re going to come across in the woods.

An unusual arrangement of fungi . . .

An unusual arrangement of fungi . . .

Last night's snow . . .

Last night’s snow . . .

Or a bear crossing your track within ten minutes of you.

Or a bear crossing your track within ten minutes of you.

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Anticipation

A Young Reader or Naked as Ducklings

In Klamath Falls library I met one of my first fans. I was looking at books in the young adult section (my current favorite) when I heard someone call “Azalea!” I turned. Continue reading

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The Traitor's Heir

10 epic fantasy quotes for young adults

Click on any of these books for their descriptions or sales page on Amazon.

 Queen's poisoner The Queen’s Poisoner by Jeff Wheeler

“Courage isn’t the absence of fear, Owen. Courage is moving forward even when you’re afraid.” (Check out Jeff’s article on Virtue. A great read! So encouraging.) Continue reading

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The YA Fantasy Reader’s Oath

YA fantasy, adventure, reader's oath

Adventure into new worlds . . .
Steal this graphic I made with a free photo from Unsplash–just link back–thanks!

Or a Manifesto of Ten Things YA Fantasy Readers Do Know

  1. We will never give up our loyalty to a good story well told
  2. We will not agree Fantasy is evil. A good fantasy is a breath of life. (In it I see things I see nowhere else. Not that facet of truth, that piercing beauty that tells me there is more beyond)

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2016 March YA Fantasy Blog Letter

Well, I’m getting on to adventure.

Journey beginning . . .

Journey beginning . . .

First, a bit of news:

I’m excited and just wanted to encourage you all that our fans really appreciate us taking time to talk to them.

Yesterday I emailed Rachel Neumeier of the Griffin Mage trilogy, The Floating Islands, etc., asking to order a signed copy of her new book Keeper of the Mist that is coming out for my book giveaway that Derek is helping me set up. *Giveaway coming soon.*

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Ranger’s Apprentice or Jedi Knight?

Contrasts

Contrasts

Who would you like to rescue you from a bad situation?

It depends on who is talking, and what is in their heart. Do their actions really add up to their words? The actions of the heroes of Star Wars were better than their beliefs. (Heroes includes heroines.)

Right now, I think I’d take Flanagan’s Halt, Apprentice Will, or any of his good characters over Luke or those who followed him. They have a clearer idea what they’re fighting for and they don’t lean on sex appeal, as the original Star Wars does with Leia. (But that’s another post. There’s good and bad sex appeal; it’s a wonderful part of life.) I can’t say if the new Star Wars does; I haven’t seen it yet. I mean to remedy that. :) 

Here’s some thoughts further along the same vein, from an email to a friend who had questions about story characters and whether suffering grows empathy or hardness in them.  

Be sure to give me your thoughts, too.

How we respond to suffering really depends on our hearts, our openness to God, and our openness to people. Often we all go through stages of learning through suffering, along the way to gaining empathy. We might have a pity party one day, feel angry and bitter the next, want to fix someone’s life the next . . .  

Sometimes we choose wrong, and sometimes we choose right. I’ve think you’ve done a good job portraying this in your books, Terri. (The Kayndo Series, by Terri Luckey.) Dayvee is the one I specifically remember going through these things. And people can also gain empathy (feeling with another person) and decide not to be compassionate. The moral war is big right here. Our innate selfishness warring with another’s need. Lots of food for thought and for stories. :)

 As Tim mentions, (another crit group friend) that’s one thing I dislike about some books now, they try to justify some of the villain’s actions or the villain himself, and often do not present truth. At any given moment we are either doing what is right or doing what is wrong. And some writers are trying to blur that distinction, to say there is excuse for wrongdoing, that it is not actually wrong. 

 I’m not saying there’s not a place for sympathy, like when a thief steals because he’s hungry, or someone turns bitter after someone kills their family or any other horrible, hard-to-get-through thing. I’d feel very much for them (and also for their bitterness and anger because it kills the heart) but it doesn’t let any of us off the hook. Humanizing a villain doesn’t mean we water down truth. The evil they did is still wrong and it still must be paid for.

Mercy does triumph over justice (if we accept it), but for that to happen, the wrong involved has to be acknowledged. If there isn’t wrong, there isn’t mercy or justice; those words mean nothing. We’re just trying to make someone feel better after something that hurts. (And there’s no real grounds for even that, since it’s not wrong, it’s not right, it’s just pain. Relativism even begins to take the meaning from the word “pain.”) Relativism kills truth, meaning, and purpose in your story. Don’t let it into your books! :) Not that I think you will. LOL

Who would you choose? Would you pick someone entirely different? Why? What do they mean to you? Please leave me your thoughts in the comments. Thanks.

Be sure and check out the below if you want more info to fuel your investigation. The blog post on this site is excellent about the Jedi, relativism, and story. It’s so good I printed and saved it. Moral Absolutes are Essential to Good Storytelling. 

http://mikeduran.com/2015/11/moral-absolutes-are-essential-to-good-storytelling/

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