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Spain for Six – History in a Day

Author & Historian Ryan King on the wall of Saguntum

Planning your summer vacation when living in Europe for a limited time can be challenging. We try to visit places most the children have never seen, work in some history, activity, food and relaxing. Hence our first day in Spain took us to the Saguntum fortress ruins.

It was the siege heard round the world–or at least the Mediterranean world. The year was 219 B.C. and Hannibal (of crossing the Alps with elephants fame) was about to set off the 2nd Punic War by taking Roman cities across Spain. In spite of the blazing heat that had them ducking into every bit of shade, our four sons had a great time hiking, climbing, and clambering through prickly pear cacti over the ruins billed in Spain as Castell de Sagunt, north of Valencia (pronounced Balenthia). We walked through time and history in one place that was first Roman, then Carthaginian, Roman again, Moorish, European medieval, and I even stood in modern cannon openings on one section of wall.

You can see from the photo I made at one end of the complex how distant the furthest parts of the fortification were (back left of image). Feral cats kept their distance as my eldest made an approach. Our youngest discovered pocked marble poking out from beneath a more recent addition. Our 2nd son tried to pick and eat a prickly pear which we learned was a recent addition supposedly brought back from the New World by Christopher Columbus to Spain. Experiential learning from 219 B. C. to 1492 left us hungry and longing for the AC in the car not to mentiona dip in the fabulous pool at our hotel (La Pinada -family apartment for 90 euro). You may prefer to stay near the Spanish castle or bridge used in Game of Thrones, but for our crew of active kids with education focused parents, Sagunto was well worth the visit.

–Kristin

Waiting for our youngest at the hotel's water slides.

Waiting for our youngest at the hotel’s water slides.

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2016 in Travel

 

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Historic Fiction Review – The Frontiersmen

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Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Series

Allan W. Eckert’s The Frontiersmen is the best historical fiction book about early American frontier life I have ever read. The book is closely based on real events and Eckert researched the characters and story for seven years before he began writing. Even historians of this era, a notably difficult breed to impress, have few criticisms of Eckert’s works. A naturalist who wrote 225 Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom episodes and a dedicated amateur historian, Eckert’s narrative history style was before its time and much copied today.

The book centers on the life of Simon Kenton whose real name was Simon Girty. Kenton fled North Carolina after believing he had murdered his single mother’s oppressive landlord. Years later he learned the man had survived and Kenton felt free to again assume his true name. The story of Kenton focuses on the wild and unspoiled land to the west of the Appalachians when most of the European settlements were within twenty-five miles of the Atlantic Ocean. The timeline of the story begins just before the French and Indian War and proceeds through the American Revolutionary War and the chaotic period that followed. In this vast untamed wilderness, Kenton played a key role in opening the area to American settlers and was close personal friends with men such as Daniel Boone, George Rogers Clark, Anthony Wayne, and William Henry Harrison.

The other main character and storyline of the book revolves around Tecumseh, the leader of the Shawnee Indians in the Ohio Valley. Tecumseh and the Shawnee initially fight with the British against the French and then with the Americans against the British, but when it becomes apparent that the flow of settlers will not stop, Tecumseh forges an impressive Indian Confederation to counter the incursions. The final conflict between Tecumseh and the new American settlers sets the stage for the settlement of American to the Mississippi River.

The Frontiersmen is among the best historical fiction books I’ve ever read. It is certainly tops for covering the early American era and suitable for both adult and high school students. Very highly recommend.

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Ryan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has lived, worked, and traveled throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2014 in Author Guest Blogs, Book Reviews, Reviews

 

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Post Apocalyptic Review – Into the Forest

Cover Evolution

Cover Evolution

Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy

I have learned that when it comes to post-apocalyptic fiction, I want the books to teach me something. I want to gain valuable information that I might use if I ever found myself in an end-of-the-world situation. Although the likelihood of ever needing said knowledge is admittedly slim, it feeds my sense of self-improvement. I also like to be prepared.

Jean Hegland’s Into the Forest is packed full of practical knowledge. From healing qualities of certain plants to the nutritional value of acorns, I found the knowledge fascinating. The author’s debut novel is eerily subtle as far as ends go. Living in a cabin in a northern California redwood forest, thirty miles from the nearest town, the apocalypse that destroys the world comes slowly and in fragments to the sisters Nell and Eva. There are rumors of war, upheaval, and plague, but details are hard to come by. When the sisters’ parents die, they are left to fend for themselves in a lonely world come unhinged and floating along outside law or society. They slowly learn how to survive in the forest and that real danger is hovering nearby.

Into the Forest is a story of survival that stresses throughout the importance of family. The two naive sisters have only each other initially and must make hard choices when unexpected options arise. These difficult choices seem all the more gut wrenching for their believability and realism. Filled with vivid scenery, you can almost smell and hear the vast primeval forest while reading this book.

Although this is one of my favorite books in this genre, it is not for those who look for fast-paced action. This story is about the sisters and how they survive and sacrifice in a cruel and unforgiving land that thrust them into adulthood far too early. These young girls are certainly not prepared for the challenges that they face, but they end up surprising themselves and the reader.

An excellent book that I highly recommend and hope you enjoy.

 

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Putting My $$$ Where My Literary Mouth Is

Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 8.53.50 PMOn the heels of George R. R. Martin’s Wolf Sanctuary Fundraiser ‘Got $20,000? Then you too can die in a Game of Thrones Book’ my in house guest blogger launches a challenge that 1) every reader can afford and that 2) oddly enough benefits poor and underprivileged people. Check it out. –Kristin King

Write a Review – Save the World (Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy)

Wait…what? Yes, fine respectable readers, it can be done. Let me explain the what first and then the how.

Several years ago my wife and I lived in Belgium where we met a wonderful young Congolese woman named Bintu. Her family had sent her to Belgium to obtain her degree and  get her away from the war going on near her home in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Bintu lived with us for a while and became obsessed with using her God-given skills and talents to try and help her country and its peoples. More specifically, she wanted to help women and young girls in eastern DRC who had been abused, abandoned, and generally disregarded in many cases. She seeks to help them and other students through education, kindness and general support. The fruits of her struggle and efforts is a non-profit organization called Future Hope Africa http://www.futurehopeafrica.com.

To date Future Hope Africa has helped and educated hundreds of young people by providing them a skill and convincing them of their genuine worth. My wife and I support this organization as much as we can. She is actually traveling to eastern DRC is a few months to assist Bintu in this endeavor.

So what does this have to do with book reviews? I’m glad you asked. I’m sure most people are familiar with a pledge system. People come door to door and ask you to pledge one dollar for every mile they run or car they wash or something of the like. Well, this is a reverse pledge system. I pledge to donate $10 of my own money for every Amazon review of one of my books or stories you write in the month of July. I will do this regardless of whether the review is in response to this blog, whether it be good or bad, or how long the review happens to be. At the end of the month I will post the results.

In order to help kick this off, I will even make four of my works free during the month of July and reviews of these free works certainly count.

2-6 July: The Protectors (Dystopian) – http://www.amazon.com/Protectors-Ryan-King-ebook/dp/B00HFGSMF2

9-13 July: Best Interests – http://www.amazon.com/Best-Interests-ebook/dp/B007X7WOPM

16-20 July: Better Off Dead – http://www.amazon.com/Better-Off-Dead-ebook/dp/B00DQ0ZS62

23-27 July: Mask of Mitwaba (Paranormal) – http://www.amazon.com/Mask-of-Mitwaba-ebook/dp/B00C3RZQ0W

 

Here are links to some of my others works if you wish to write a review of one of them.

 

Glimmer of Hope (Post Apocalyptic) – http://www.amazon.com/Glimmer-Hope-Ryan-King/dp/147931207X

Children of Wrath – http://www.amazon.com/Children-Wrath-Land-Tomorrow-ebook/dp/B00GAXHPDG/

Dead World Voices: Post Apocalyptic Boxed Set – http://www.amazon.com/Dead-World-Voices-Apocalyptic-Boxed-ebook/dp/B00KK1GYLI

The Hanging of Hard Barnes (Historical Fiction – LA Noir) –

http://www.amazon.com/Hanging-Hard-Barnes-Ryan-King/dp/1479235296

The Last Man – http://www.amazon.com/The-Last-Man-Ryan-King/dp/1479235490

No Kinda Life – http://www.amazon.com/No-Kinda-Life-Ryan-King/dp/1479235067

Kentucky Feud – http://www.amazon.com/Kentucky-Feud-ebook/dp/B00BKQMX44

The Darkside of Down Home – http://www.amazon.com/The-Darkside-Down-Home-Secret/dp/1479319694

The Other Side of Down Home – http://www.amazon.com/Other-Side-Down-Home-Storytelling-ebook/dp/B00FG3GJGU

 

Is this proposal on my part completely selfless? Of course not, I want more reviews of my books. But I also want to draw attention to this wonderful organization that is trying to help people and in some small way make our world better. In short, I’m putting my money where my literary mouth is.

Will you help me?

–Ryan King

 

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Top Ten Best Fathers in Fiction

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Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy

Growing up without a stable father figure, I learned most of what I could about manhood from books. It was where I could see their decisions and consequences and sift through the base and cowardly to embrace the noble and selfless behavior of a good man. This caused me to wonder about fathers in fiction. There are plenty of father figures (i.e. Gandalf for Bilbo and Frodo), but not that many characters we would call admirable fathers. Books are filled with exceptional mothers, but truly good fathers are hard to find. I believe they are so rare in fiction because they are so rare in true life…at least to authors.

With that said, I was able to compose my top ten list of best fathers in fiction.

1. Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus is a widower in a small town rocked by social change. He provides for his children and not only teaches them wisdom, but lives an admirable life and stands for true and justice.

2. Frank Gilbreth, Sr. from Frank Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Carey’s Cheaper by the Dozen. This book and its sequel are true stories written by Gilbreth about his childhood and his unique parents. Frank Gilbreth, Sr. is an extraordinary figure filled with ingenuity, humor, and eternal optimism that pervades his children’s early lives.

3. Pa Ingalls from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series of books. Like Cheaper by the Dozen, Wilder’s book is based on true accounts from her childhood. She grew up on an isolated farm and often knew hardship and difficulty. Throughout, her father was a rock of strength and goodness based on an eternal faith in God.

4. Mr. Bennett from Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Bennett is the father of five willful girls and husband to an energetic and often misguided wife. They all love nothing more than to intrude on his peace. Mr. Bennett is the epitome of practicality and patience, loving his daughters and guiding them as best he can without crushing their spirits.

5. Unnamed father from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. In this brutal post-apocalyptic nightmare story, a widower father’s entire existence is consumed with protecting his son. The father is eternally patient and never blames his son even in the privacy of his own thoughts for the son’s actions that cause them both to suffer. The father even pushes himself to the point of death for his son and sacrifices everything for this unconditional love.

6. Samuel Hamilton from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. Steinbeck supposedly modeled this character and his circumstances after his real-life maternal grandfather Samuel Hamilton. Samuel is a generous, warm, intelligent inventor/farmer from Ireland who has the heart of a poet. Universally admired by friends and neighbors, Samuel never achieves material success for himself, but lives his life in such a way that most of his children find it readily.

7. Andy McGee from Stephen King’s Firestarter. Andy is one of three widowers on this list and is desperately trying to keep his daughter safe from those who would harm her. Andy seeks to allow his daughter to be a little girl and protect her from a world that he is willing to destroy if need be. In the end, Andy sacrifices himself to save his child.

8. Ned Stark from George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. Ned is a genuine character in a world filled with hypocrisy. His love and care of his children, even the bastard John Snow, is in striking contrast to the lack of care shown by Tywin Lannister and Robert Baratheon for their own offspring.

9. Don Vito Corleone from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. Vito Corleone is a unique figure in that he holds immense power, yet seeks to reason with people. He does not force other people’s hands except as a last resort. Vito even extends this view to his children and let’s them find their own way when they defy him and they end up loving and respecting him all the more for it.

10. Leto Atreides from Frank Herbert’s Dune. Duke Leto Atreides is a powerful man in violent and dangerous universe. His young son Paul will one day be duke in his stead. Leto does everything he can to prepare his son for the dangers ahead of him.

 

What other books can you think of with good father’s in them (not father figures)? Hope you have a Happy Father’s Day.

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Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 9.39.52 PMRyan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has four sons and writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.

 

 

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Book Review of The Last Ship Novel (Now a TV Show)

Post-Apocalyptic Review Series by Guest Blogger, Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy.

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One of the more interesting characteristics of some post-apocalyptic tales is the sense of total isolation. The world has been destroyed in whole or part and survivors are few and uncertain. William Brinkley’s The Last Ship is a tale of a fictional Navy ship call the USS Nathan James and it is hard to imagine any group of people being more isolated.

The story begins almost immediately after the Nathan James has launched her nuclear tipped tomahawk missiles from the Arctic Circle at Orel, Russia completely obliterating that city and its people. It quickly becomes apparent that this is but a small portion of a much larger world-wide nuclear exchange that ravages the planet.

The Last Ship is a fantastic post-apocalyptic story that is fresh and unique. I cannot think of another story that is similar. The tale is believable and well told. The characters are fully developed and complex. The only criticism I have of the book is that there was a point when the story seemed to take a hard left. Throughout the book, discipline and order were stressed to keep panic and despair in check. Yet, at one point the crew seems to at least partially abandon these tenants which had kept them safe and turn into sex-crazed caricatures who willingly accept a system of forced mass polygamy. This abrupt twist seemed to go against the entire theme of the story and appeared almost as an intentional shock for the reader. Despite this minor criticism, I very highly recommend this book and intend to watch the upcoming mini-series. Read on if you want more of the plot twists.

 

(SPOILER ALERT) Thomas, the ship’s captain, seeks to keep his crew together as they search for answers. All radio and satellite transmissions are non-existent and as the ship’s nuclear fuel runs low, they search for a habitable port. Some crew members however wish to return to America despite the almost certain death and destruction they will encounter there. A group leads a successful mutiny and one-third of the crew leaves the Nathan James in smaller ships to head across the Atlantic against all logic.

The ship continues through the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, and the Straits of Acheron. All along the way they find nothing but death, heavy radiation, and nuclear winter. It quickly becomes apparent that, with the exception of a Russian nuclear submarine they encountered earlier, they may be the only humans left alive on the planet. The crew finally make their way into the South Pacific and by chance find a habitable island where they begin growing crops and attempting to continue the human race through a selective breeding program. Things quickly go wrong on a number of levels.

There are so many directions the tv series can go. I hope it hits the mark for a post-apocalyptic show.

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Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 9.39.52 PMRyan King launched his indie author career in 2012 while keeping his day job with the US Army. Watch for his upcoming guest spot here featuring monthly reviews of post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian fiction. For more information about Ryan and his writing visit the link here.

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2014 in Book Reviews

 

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Are Book Reviews Important to Sales?

Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy

Dead World Voices: Post Apocalyptic Boxed Set  On Sale  $3.99 13 Reviews--4.5 Stars

Dead World Voices: Post Apocalyptic Boxed Set
On Sale $3.99
13 Reviews–4.5 Stars

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about reviews, as well as bemoaning my general lack of them. Conventional wisdom says that the more reviews your book has, the more copies it will sell. Although this may be true, it appears to be circular logic. It seems more plausible that a book has more reviews because it has sold more copies and has more people who are willing to review the book.

But I wanted to conduct a little cursory research on this topic and examined the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller List for all Kindle Books. It’s important to recognize before examining the list that all of the below books certainly sell thousands of copies a day (a personal friend of mine has a book sitting around position 500 in the below list and it sells over 600 copies a day).

Below is the current number of reviews for the top 20 books:

#1 – 16,334

#2 – 449

#3 – 83

#4 – 762

#5 – 8,854

#6 – 572

#7 – 896

#8 – 122

#9 – 97

#10 – 1,824

#11 – 84

#12 – 277

#13 – 8,542

#14 – 11,661

#15 – 9,340

#16 – 83

#17 – 491

#18 – 69

#19 – 5,526

#20 – 1,101

 

So what does this tell us?

Not a thing that I can tell. The spread on number of reviews is fairly large, although all the books have at least 60 reviews. When you look at the books sitting at the 21-100 spots, you see some books with a fairly low number of reviews (and I left out the big name books that likely get on the top 100 because of the popularity of the author or previous wildly successful books in the series):

#22 – 35

#29 – 37

#49 – 34

#50 – 43

#69 – 35

#70 – 44

#71 – 28

#77 – 30

#80 – 14

#100 – 24

This made me think that number of reviews may not matter as much as we believe. Then I thought that maybe it was a matter of the number of average stars or rating the book received. After reviewing the list, I saw that nearly all of the books had between a 4 and 5 star average, but not all of them did. #8 on the list had an average rating of 3.6. #30 of 3.5 and the lowest rating on the entire Top 100 list sat at #14 on Bestseller List with an average rating of 3.3. Now I should say this book is part of the Divergent Series and may get negative reviews from rabid fans wanting more, but I think the point still stands.

So, do reviews matter?

To readers they probably do. My father-in-law says he does not even consider buying a book that doesn’t at least have a 4 star average, but he doesn’t necessarily care about the number of reviews. And honestly we all know that reviews are not always fair. Robert Jordan’s final book in his Wheel of Time series had almost 200 one star reviews before it was even released because fans were upset with the delay in putting out the kindle version.

Should reviews matter to authors if they do not necessarily translate into sales?

I say yes. New authors hear from seasoned silverback writers never to read reviews or check their sales. Does anyone really adhere to this advice? I certainly can’t. It’s just too darn exciting that someone would actually pay money for something I made up in my head. I have learned to look at the overall rating of a review and if it is a low one, I do not read it. Although the criticism may be justified in some cases, I simply find that it sucks the energy right out of my creative impulse.

Now the good reviews are another matter.

I think there is a part inside most of us that appreciates the appreciation of others. This is especially true when it comes to something we create ourselves. My grandmother used to love compliments on her cooking — which she richly deserved by the way. When I get superior service at a restaurant I want to thank the cook or leave a good tip. When I see excellence in anything, I want to recognize it. As a matter of fact, it’s hard not to recognize excellence.

In writing, for others to recognize when we have done something special is like fuel for the engine. It is so easy for doubt or lethargy or inertia to seep into the creative process, but positive feedback and recognition has a way of blowing this away. This is especially true when it comes from total strangers who don’t owe you a thing except the truth.

Reviews are a form of recognition, feedback, and appreciation that writers need, especially those who are new and aren’t already convinced of their writing prowess or reinforced by extravagant wealth, multiple Pulitzer Prizes, or legions of fans.

It’s not shallow to need encouragement. It’s human, and its part of the creative process.

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Links of Interest:Why Kindle Book Reviews Are So Important to Sales by A Reading Place,  Book Reviews–Are They Important? by The Writer’s Guide to Publishing, and How Important Are Book Reviews by Derek Haines.

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Ryan King launched his indie author career in 2012 while keeping his day job with the US Army. Watch for his upcoming guest spot here featuring monthly reviews of post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian fiction. For more information about Ryan and his writing visit the link here

 

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T is for Top Fiction of the Twentieth Century

Guest Post by Ryan King for A to Z A Blog Challenge

Alternate Title: How to Write a Bestseller

Ryan King Takes Aim at Bestsellers

Ryan King Takes Aim at Bestsellers

I recently finished reading James W. Hall’s Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century’s Biggest Bestsellers. This is an interesting attempt to identify what books are fabulously popular with readers and what common threads they all share. James Hall is a literature professor at a university in Florida.

With that said, he is no dry academic. He has written seventeen mystery and crime novels of his own, several of which have ended up on the New York Times Bestseller lists. Hall explains that his efforts to examine these books were primarily in order to find out what about them appealed to people. He claims that what he found helped him make his own works of fiction better and was often counterintuitive and contrary to what he had been taught in literature classes.

As part of his examination, Hall chooses twelve books from the twentieth century. These are not just any bestseller sitting at the top of a list for a few weeks. These were mega bestsellers and often the biggest selling books of their respective decade. These books in many ways changed how certain generations thought, and all have withstood the test of time. The examined books are:

  • Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell, 1936
  • Peyton Place – Grace Metalious, 1956
  • To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee, 1960
  • Valley of the Dolls – Jacqueline Susann, 1966
  • The Godfather – Mario Puzo, 1969
  • The Exorcist – William Peter Blatty, 1971
  • Jaws – Peter Benchley, 1974
  • The Dead Zone – Stephen King, 1979
  • The Hunt For Red October- Tom Clancy, 1984
  • The Firm – John Grisham, 1991
  • The Bridges of Madison County – Robert James Waller, 1992
  • The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown, 2003

You’ll have to forgive Hall for getting his toes wet on this list and including Dan Brown’s work from the twenty-first century, but he evidently couldn’t resist.

One of the first things that may jump out at you while reviewing the list is that all of them were made into movies. It could be argued that these books were popular because of the exposure film granted them, but Hall contests this. He explains that all of these books were wildly popular and sold multimillions of copies well before they were made into movies. These books were adapted to film because of the success of the written work, not vice versa.

Hall argues that all twelve of these books share certain traits. I’ve identified below the ones I thought were most striking and important.

1. They are entertaining. Some of you might be saying “of course”, but don’t rush past this point too quickly. Sometimes authors and publishers want their books to be works of art. They want them to transcend to the literary heavens and be talked about for hundreds of years. What often happens in these cases is something dry and boring. As Hall tells of a colleague of his who often addresses a roomful of aspiring novelists – “The only place people read books they are not interested in is in college.” These twelve books are fast paced and entertaining. They use simple earthy prose and don’t try to impress scholars with their gymnastic vocabulary. The authors tell their story simply and truthfully and in a manner that appeals to the reader. It is obvious that they weren’t trying to impress anyone, only to tell the tale.

2. They additionally all involve protagonists with a high level of emotional intensity that results in gutsy and surprising deeds. Often the protagonist suffers, is threatened, or terribly conflicted early in the story and at first seems overmatched and unsuitable for the task, challenge, or threat facing them.

3. These characters are often part of a smaller story set against a backdrop of enormous scale and consequences (think the Civil War for Gone With The Wind).

4. Surprisingly, the protagonists in these books have a noticeable lack of introspection. They leave that task to the reader. Also interesting is the fact that many of the main characters of these books could be considered stereotypes which may help the reader relate to them quickly. Our heroes are also often mavericks rejected in part or in whole by the society in which they live.

5. There is minimal to no back-story on any of the characters. Past events, deeds, or mishaps are hinted at, but rarely elaborated upon freeing the reader to wonder and create on their own.

6. Tension and suspense are established early in the books. The pace typically remains fairly fast throughout the tale. Time is often the enemy in the story and something must happen or be defeated or changed in a given amount of time building suspense as the pages turn.

7. Nearly all of these books contain a theme of yearning for something lost. Hall calls it the seeking after a lost Eden and typically involves a loss of innocence. Often this yearning and loss makes the protagonist sympathetic despite their faults and even in the face of the heinous acts they may commit (think of the main characters in The Godfather).

8. All of these works contain an incredible amount of factual information and detail. Hall explains that even in fiction, readers like to go someplace new and learn something or be exposed to information they might not have access to anywhere else.

9. Many of the books involve conspiracies, secret societies, or closely guarded portions of societies. Hall states that this plays on the American paranoia and distrust of secrets which is one reason why they are so popular. We also see a tension between America’s twin traditions of lawful order and rule-breaking independent spirit.

10. An epic journey is frequently involved and sometimes has rural characters traveling to the country or vice versa. These journeys can involve gaining or exposing the American dream or nightmare and frequently show a character’s rise from humble beginnings to power. Additionally, the first sign of tension in these novels is the arrival of a stranger in town or on the scene.

11. They all contain some element of religious undertones and in some cases overtones. Most of these works seek to expose the difference between genuine belief and hypocrisy.

12. Much of the time at least one of the main characters comes from a broken, dysfunctional, or non-traditional family. A missing parent, spouse, or child often drives the main character to some action or behavior. These are the primary elements of commonality that I’ve chosen to highlight from those that Hall identified in his work. He summarizes them all by saying “…They’re fast, emotionally charged. They’re full of familiar character types. They’re fun to read – the opposite of work.”

I think that is the ultimate goal of any writer – to create a story that is enjoyable to read. To be drawn into a world and forget for a few hours that you are actually reading. To instead be part of a secret world that only you have been invited into.

There is magic there and it is real…if we can find it.

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Ryan King launched his indie author career in 2011 while keeping his day job with the US Army. Watch for his upcoming guest spot here featuring monthly reviews of post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian fiction.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2014 in Author Guest Blogs, On Writing

 

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R is for Romance – In Every Genre

Kindle version here.

Kindle version here.

Inspired by the A to Z Blog Challenge.

Check out my Goodreads “Read” list and you’ll find a lot of romance. Maybe it’s my favorite genre or at least quick read genre. I do like every book to have a bit in it. While enjoying a sci-fy like Ender’s Game, dystopian like Divergent, or post-apocalyptic like Glimmer of Hope, I can’t help imagining where a romance might be or where the hints of one is going. (Did anyone else think Petra liked Ender? And by “like” I mean like-liked.) 😉

Sometimes I even get to influence the making of romance. While I write Romantic Suspense, my husband’s stories are more graphic Adventure. Glimmer of Hope is the first novel in his Land of Tomorrow series and the main character is married. Nathan loves Bethany…that’s great, BUT they also have two teenage sons. (Spoiler Alert) As the family treks across post-nuclear North American, the sons help rescue a group of female slaves.

Read Divergent here to see what the movie missed.

Read Divergent here to see what the movie missed.

In my mind that is the perfect opportunity for budding romance. Unfortunately, Glimmer of Hope was already huge (2  books in 1 essentially), so the romance had to wait till Book Two, Children of Wrath, and even then it takes a sideline. At least it is there, though.

Then in No Kinda Life, hubby’s Texas Ranger rides into town and finds a beautiful woman under the thumb of the suspect Mayor (kinda Book of Eli-esque), and I see the opportunity for romance. Again, it’s a sideline and doesn’t turn out the way one expects, but somehow I am very proud for encouraging this extra element in the story. The battles he creates are terrific, there is just this one thing that was missing and now isn’t as often.

Visit the post-apocalyptic Republic of Texas.

Visit the post-apocalyptic Republic of Texas.

What I learned when I joined Romance Writers of America is that the genre is defined by the lovers getting together in the end (see RWA genre elements here). But is that the end of the first book or the end of the series? RWA seems to say the end of the book. I can’t quite get on board with that, although I see the importance of drawing the line.

Still I tend to want to see the barest hint of romance in whatever I read, and indeed do see it when it might not even exist. The possibility of romance improves every genre, in my opinion. It is an element that even hard-core action writers should consider including. Why is it important in the larger scheme of life and literature? Check out Wild At Heart to find out.

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Kristin and Ryan King are married authors who hope to someday meld their writing strengths in a zombie romance with great battles.

Click photo to connect with me on Goodreads.

Click photo to connect with me on Goodreads.

 

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P is for Post-Apocalyptic

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 8.44.49 AMGuest Blog Post by Author, Ryan King (my DH) for A to Z Blog Challenge

First of all I want to thank my wife Kristin for allowing me to write a piece for her blog…even if she did ask me to do it while traveling half a world away. She gave me a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Are you a post-apocalyptic fan?

I just recently finished Paths of Righteousness, the third and final book in my post-apocalyptic Land of Tomorrow series and am waiting for edits. I’ve also written three post-apocalyptic short novels and envision that no matter what stories I write in the future, post-apoc will never be far from my thoughts.

Post-apocalyptic fiction is generally considered a sub-genre of science fiction and often lumped together and confused with dystopian or horror. Only recently did Amazon add genres for post-apocalyptic and dystopian years after they had established such obscure genres as Arthurian Legend Fantasy and Short Story – Cats.

Most of the online lists for post-apocalyptic and dystopian are identical, but I do believe there is a difference. Post-apocalyptic stories are about life directly after and/or during the destruction of society – think Book of Eli. Dystopian stories are about a future society or world that has changed drastically, possibly by an apocalyptic event, but not necessarily – think 1984, Hunger Games, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, Wool, Planet of the Apes, or Eternity Road.

One of the key elements of post-apocalyptic fiction is the terrible aching loss that the characters feel when they gaze at the shadow of what was. Each hunger or pain or loss or act of cruelty is highlighted by the backdrop of an enlightened civilized society that is no more. In many ways post-apocalyptic fiction is two stories in one, and often difficult to construct well.

Modern post apocalyptic fiction is generally believed to have begun with Mary Shelley’s The Last Man (free herewritten in 1826. In many ways the book is amazing for its vision of a world beset by a pandemic that slowly destroys humanity. Nearly a hundred years later in 1912, Jack London wrote his version of a world destroyed by disease with The Scarlet Plague.

Even with these two classics, post-apocalyptic fiction really did not hit its stride until the post-WWII nuclear world. This is not surprising given the real threat of nuclear apocalypse that our parents and grand-parents worried about. A threat that oddly enough is no less real today, simply not as obsessed about as much.

The post-apocalyptic genre is often misunderstood and underappreciated. The lines that categorize this genre blur and warp with popularity and passing time and it has never been truly defined. With that said, there are a surprising number of rabid post-apoc fans who read everything they can on the subject and eagerly await more. I am one of those fans.

So why are post-apocalyptic stories interesting? Is it simply a ghoulish and morbid fascination of what could happen in a dying world? Do we like the heart-racing horror or the depressing destruction? I think not. I believe what draws us to post-apocalyptic is the story of ordinary people fighting to stay alive in a world without civilized society. Everything is destroyed or corrupted, yet everything is also new and different. Any good that is done in this world is entirely due to the pure of heart and not laws or societal pressure. People are who and what they are after the Apocalypse. All masks are pulled away and things in many ways are much simpler.

There is also a freedom in a post-apocalyptic world that does not exist in our civilized society. That ruffian giving your daughter an inappropriate look? Shoot him in the face. You’re unsure about the stranger in your midst. Is he a potential ally or is he just someone who will cut your throat in the night? Why risk it? Just shoot him in the face.

Brutal violence aside, this level of simplicity and straightforward life I think often calls to us. In a world with board meetings and suffocating traffic and overwhelming commercialism we often crave the simplicity of a world where to survive the day is the height of achievement.

Of course none of us would ever really want to live in a world like this. If you are ever convinced otherwise, read Cormac McCarthey’s The Road (much more brutal than the movie), a book which takes the romance right out of post-apocalyptic living.

But fiction is often about imagination and even character empathy. We can conceive of something and fully explore it in our mind without really wanting it. I am in many ways a worrier by nature. If my kids are late from school, I immediately start imagining dozens of horrendous and terrible outcomes. I tell myself all of these are unlikely and silly, but the ‘what ifs’ keep coming. ‘What ifs’ are the product of my very active imagination and the results can be seen in most of my stories. A post-apocalyptic world is the ultimate ‘what if.’

So, why do you like post-apocalyptic stories? What are your favorite post-apocalyptic books in the genre? I cannot resist listing mine which I know will differ from others. (See more of my bookshelf on Shelfari)

1. Alas, Babylon – Pat Frank

2. Earth Abides – George R. Stewart

3. The Road – Cormac McCarthey

4. The Stand – Stephen King

5. The Postman – David Brin

6. Madd Adam Trilogy – Margaret Atwood

7. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand

8. Into the Forest – Jean Hegland

9. I Am Legend – Richard Matterson

10. A Gift Upon the Shore – M.K. Wren

11. Lucifer’s Hammer – Larry Niven

12. Swan Song – Robert McCammon

13. Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham

14. The Passage/The Twelve – Justin Cronin

15. The Last Ship – William Brinkley

I can hear the screams now. What about Canticle For Leibowitz or Blindness or even that classic On The Beach? Good books all, just not my favorites. That’s another wonderful fact about post-apocalyptic fiction, the works seem to resonate more personally in many ways than other works of fiction. We can identify with a scene and character more than someone else because we are thinking of our own ‘what ifs.’

Reading about, thinking about, and imagining a post-apocalyptic world is the ultimate ‘what if.’ Have you ever imagined yourself there? For better or worse, you aren’t alone.

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Ryan King is a bestselling author and career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has lived, worked, and traveled throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. King is married to fellow author Kristin King and they have four young and energetic boys who keep them constantly busy. Ryan King writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.

Ryan King also writes under the pen name of Charles R. King for historical non-fiction. He has published 22 works, primarily covering the Punic Wars and late Roman Republican Era which was the focus of his graduate degree. Five of these works are currently on seven different Amazon bestseller lists. King is also writing a historical fiction series about Hannibal and the Second Punic War.

 

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