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The Best Book You’ve Never Heard Of

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 9.30.57 PMGuest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy

The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson has got to be the best historical fiction book I’ve never heard of. I saw this novel on a free shelf and picked it up by chance and I’m lucky I did. The book was originally published in Swedish in 1945, but has since been translated into 23 languages and even adapted into a British movie of the same name in 1964 starring Richard Widmark and Sidney Poiter.

The Long Ships is an terrifically well-written historical novel about a group of Vikings in 10th Century Europe. Filled with likeable anti-heroes the story primarily focuses on Orm Tostesson the son of a Viking chieftain. The boy’s mother is protective and conceives of elaborate plans to keep him at home while her husband and other sons go a-viking, but Orm is actually abducted by a group of raiders one night setting off a long series of adventures.

The book itself is grand in scale both in geography and time. From the Norse Sea and Scandinavia the characters travel to Spain and the Mediterranean before returning home years later as rich and experienced men. Other voyages take then to England, Ireland, France, the Baltic States, and Kiev.

The Long Ships is incredibly entertaining and filled with fantastic dialogue, unique characters, and fascinating plot lines. If you are a fan of historical fiction, this is a must read.

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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 July 26, 2014 in Other

 

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Dystopian Monthly – The Diamond Age Review

My copy's cover vs. the new edition

My copy’s cover vs. the new edition

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

Over the past few years Neal Stephenson has become one of my favorite authors. His Baroque Cycle Series is pure genius and Anathem and Cryptonomicon are exceptional. Stephenson’s works are difficult to describe or place into any one genre as they borrow from so many different literary elements and do not cleanly rest within any category.

The Diamond Age is no different. Although at first it may come across as a simple futuristic science fiction story set within a stumbling world of sub-cultures, it is actually much more complex. The main character Nell is a poor young girl who has little going for her but a very protective older brother who one day brings her a book he has stolen. But this is not just any book, it was meant as an illustrated primer for one of the wealthiest girl’s in the world.

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 10.41.44 PMThe book is supremely special and meant to raise a girl to be an exceptional creature of strength, daring and grace. From the moment the book falls into little Nell’s hands, it initiates a series of events that cannot be predicted and eventually changes this strange world forever.

In a chaotic world ruled by various tribes, nanotechnology has advanced to the point that certain things seem on the verge of magical. The tale itself merges science fiction, fantasy, and even a dark fairy tale. Relying heavily upon Confucian Chinese, Victorian English, and Rebellious American background and culture it manages to skillfully weave these elements together over three continents and several decades.

This story, like all of Stephenson’s, is unpredictable. There are several places in the story where the reader will likely have to go back and reread portions after they say, “Did that really just happen?” It did. Although I have grown used to having to read several chapters of Stephenson’s books before the plot really gets going, I always do it knowing the read is well worth it. The Diamond Age is different. From the very start the story pulls the reader into a strange and dark world where it seems anything is possible.

Alternate Cover Art

Alternate Cover Art

The Diamond Age is filled with subtle yet rich humor, complex plots and descriptions, and imaginative characters. I give it a strong recommendation and would loan you my copy if it wasn’t already in another reader’s hands.

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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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Memorial Day Moment and Poem

Guest post by Ryan King, author of the post-apocalyptic Land of Tomorrow Trilogy.Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 10.18.10 AM

Happy Memorial Day! I love history, so I decided to conduct a little research on the holiday. Here is what I discovered:

Memorial Day is a day to remember those who have died in military service to our country. It did not officially become a national holiday until 1967 when President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law. Before that time it was commonly known as Decoration Day and celebrated widely on 1 or 30 May. Originally it was a day to tidy up and decorate graves of military fallen. In earlier times family members had to maintain the upkeep of their own family member’s graves

Decoration Day started after the Civil War. The origin of the practice is widely tied to 1 May 1865 in Charleston, SC at the Charleston Race Course. This race course was used as a POW camp for Union troops during the war. Many died there of malnutrition and disease and were buried in hasty and unmarked graves. On 1 May 1865, about 10,000 people gathered there to repair the graveyard, tidy up graves, and build a wall around the site. Most of the 10,000 were newly freed and liberated slaves and it took some courage to do this act given the environment in the newly defeated confederacy. The practice grew steadily in the north and south until it was officially recognized in 1967 and in its present form that we celebrate today.

Memorial Day is often about family reunions, cook-outs, and relaxation, but it is more. I want to give you some numbers to consider:

Over 25,000 – Revolutionary War (out of a total population of about 2.5 million)
Over 15,000 – War of 1812
Over 13,000 – Mexican-American War
Nearly 750,000 – Civil War (represents 1 in 50 Americans at the time)
Nearly 7,000 – Spanish-American and Philippine Wars
Over 116,000 – WWI (in a little over one year of fighting)
Over 406,000 – WWII
Nearly 37,000 – Korean War (in a little over a year of fighting)
Over 58,000 – Vietnam War
Nearly 4,500 – Iraq
Over 2,200 in Afghanistan to date

These are number of American fallen not counting those lose in countless smaller skirmishes and conflicts. In all about 1.5 million Americans have died for their country in uniform.

These are numbers, but that’s not all they are. Each number represents someone’s father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, wife, or friend. I’m sure many of them are known by people reading this blog. The loss felt by the families and friends of those fallen is sometimes overlooked, but one of the greatest sources of grief. I recently read a poem that put me in mind of such lasting loss.

Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling into at night. I miss you like hell. – Edna St. Vincent Millay

We say they are “gone but not forgotten.” Let that be our honor to them and their sacrifice.

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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 May 26, 2014 in Moments

 

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The Rejection New Authors Aren’t Ready For

Click image for more from Lacrae.

Click image for more from Lacrae.

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

Every new author dreams in their heart that as soon as their first completed work gets in the hands of an agent or publisher, that gatekeeper will just faint at its brilliance. None would dare admit this openly for fear of seeming arrogant or pretentious, but it is a real hope.

For most authors, rejection letters/emails become a regular form of torture. You send off an inquiry, hope for the best, and then open the response with your heart racing at the same time trying to protect yourself from dashed aspirations. To me the most difficult thing about the whole process was not the rejection of my work, but the rejection of the idea of my work. You see, I sent nearly one hundred query letters or emails to agents or publishers. Only three of them wanted to see even a sample of my novel and that simply a few pages.

Eventually you get used to this. It’s not personal and these people don’t know you. The process is the process. Rejection is disappointing, but something you get over.

I personally have found, and other authors have echoed these sentiments, that what is worse is the outright rejection of friends and family. They actually do know us and that is the problem.

If you are an author I’m sure this is nothing new to you. That look of embarrassment you get when you tell a friend or family member that you are writing a book. They are embarrassed for you, that you would even think of such a thing. Or maybe it’s the fellow-avid reader who can never find time to even crack open one of your books. They may even be openly supportive in a condescending sort of awkward way with false encouragement that is only a millimeter deep.

It’s easy to spot because it’s those people very close to you who never ask about the writing because it’s too strange. Like, “Tony, how’s that heroin habit going?” or “Abby, how’s your life as a porn star?” Just doesn’t come up in polite society because the asker is embarrassed for you. You would think they would be eager to see your finished work if it’s such a big deal, but again the problem is they know you.

The world has a strange ideal of authors. People who write for a living are viewed as riding unicorns, dreaming in iambic pentameter, and when they flatulate (which is exceedingly rare) it can be seen by the naked eye in rainbow colors and smells vaguely of frankincense. How can Little Jimmy whose diapers I changed write a book? How can that girl who lived down the street be an author? It is simply inconceivable. No, they are simply delusional. So sad.

Not all friends and relatives are like this, but enough are that it pains. I’ve learned you can’t take it personally. Although it feels like a rejection of you and a lack of faith, in reality it is a false image of what an author is. None can live up to that fantasy. It also makes you really appreciate the friends and family who are genuinely supportive. They are the ones who really believe in you, even knowing you as they do.

The good news is you can get back at all these close friends and family who don’t believe in you by writing them into your stories. Place them in embarrassing and compromising positions. Make them seem unflattering or really ashamed. Go ahead, have some fun with it.

After all, really, what are the chances they will ever learn what you did by reading about it?Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 10.12.35 PM

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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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Post-Apocalyptic vs. Dystopian Part II – What Is the Difference?

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 10.57.20 PMGuest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy

(In Part I of this post series I discussed whether the difference between post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories matters. Arrow back for that.)

What is the difference between the post-apocalyptic and dystopian genres?

I found some interesting blog posts about this particular subject. Although I don’t agree with all their definitions and examples, these are three of the more helpful and well thought out blogs on the subject. The YA Highway admits to using Dystopian because it’s easier to spell although not accurate (and explains). Julie Kagawa, who authored a “dystopian saga” is emphatic about the differences, and author Rachel Tsoumbakos saw others tagging her book variously and wrote a post to clarify and differentiate based on the books relationship to Horror and target audiences (Adult vs. YA).

So, how do I personally think the categories should be defined? Thank you for asking.

Post-Apocalyptic: A story directly after/during an apocalypse. This should not be a thousand years after, but recently. One of the appealing qualities of true post-apocalyptic stories is the fact that the main characters know how bad things are. They lived before the apocalypse and truly grasp all that has been lost. Their horror is our horror.

Dystopian: A story about a reality/future that is not right. As opposed to a post-apocalyptic story, the main characters typically do not know that something is wrong with their world at first. Part of the appeal of the dystopian story is the characters discovery of how things are wrong and possibly a previous better world. Dystopian stories are frequently tied to something in our world/reality taken to an extreme. Sometimes dystopias emerge from a post-apocalyptic world, but enough time has passed that there are few reliable memories of Before.

Are there stories that fall into both categories? Certainly, but they are fairly rare. Margaret Atwood’s Madd Adam Trilogy comes to mind because the first two books are about a fully developed dystopian world that subsequently endures an apocalypse. It is only in the third book that it transitions into a post-apocalyptic tale.

Both of these fiction categories in my opinion are incredibly rich and difficult to do well. Neither category is considered mainstream, but fans of each are loyal and voracious in their reading. Nearly every reader of these categories could give you a list of the favorites and I also have those that I love best as I’m sure you do.

Keep watching for my guest posts here as I write a post-apocalyptic book review and a dystopian book review each month. I will limit these to books I would recommend others read. I’m always interested in discovering good books in each genre and hope to help others in a similar manner.

You can look over the first post-apocalyptic review here. Until later, keep reading my friends.

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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 May 19, 2014 in Genre Topics

 

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Post-Apocalyptic Book Review – Blindness

Blindness, a post-apocalyptic novel by Jose Saramago

Blindness, a post-apocalyptic novel by Jose Saramago

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

The Nobel Prize winning Portuguese author Saramago himself is a controversial character. He was an avowed communist-pessimist-atheist who spent most of his life as a journalist and only achieved widespread public appeal at the age of sixty. His Gospel According to Jesus Christ was ridiculed by his own government for its anti-Christian views and resulted in his self-imposed exile on a Spanish island until his death in 2010.

Blindness itself is not surprisingly about a mysterious plague called “white blindness” that strikes the people of an unnamed country. The origin of this highly contagious disease is never identified and strikes those it infects within days with total blindness. Unlike normal blindness, those afflicted only see a milky white, even when asleep.

The book is a dark and realistic tale filled with cruelty, base human nature, and depressing scenarios. Despite this, there are some bright spots and victories that prove the survivors have not lost themselves or their humanity.

Saramago writes in his typical style. He uses no quotation marks to signify dialogue, nor does he separate dialogue between different characters by paragraphs. Rarely does he even use periods, simply substituting commas with sentences carrying on for hundreds of words and paragraphs for whole pages. This often makes the reading tedious and difficult. Many times I was confused by who exactly was speaking since the author rarely identifies them.

Even with these downsides, Blindness is a powerful post-apocalyptic novel. For the first time in my life I think I came close to understanding how horrific it would be to be blind. Those in this story were additionally vulnerable due to having no one who could see assist them except for one main character who has to hide her ability for fear of reprisal or being made a slave by the others.

(Spoiler Alert-Skip to Conclusion Option) Initially, only a few people are infected and the government quarantines these individuals in an insane asylum. When there are few internees, the system seems to work, although inefficiently. Once the asylum becomes overcrowded and the guards more and more fearful, chaos and cruelty ensue. The blind come close to losing their humanity and even stop identifying themselves by names as only voices matter is this white cloudy world.

Eventually society itself collapses and the inmates are free to escape, but the city they flee into is not much better than their earlier prison. Groups of blind refugees stumble through streets filled with bodily wastes looking for food. Violence, fear, and apathy towards others rules everyday life and the survivors not only have to watch out for each other, but packs of carnivorous dogs that have not been affected by the disease.

(Conclusion) Although this is not one of my top post apocalyptic novels, Blindness is well worth reading and very interesting.

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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 May 12, 2014 in Book Reviews

 

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Z is for Zombies

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 4.57.02 PMThe A to Z Blog Challenge

Can’t help talking about what I want to write. It’s a danger though to talk about it too much and not be doing. For the final blog of the A to Z Challenge, I offer you an excerpt from my Zombie Romance (Title to be determined). This is the WIP (work in progress) my husband and I are planning to co-author. Hope you like it.

Dean Logan could not tear his eyes away from his supposedly lost and dead wife. He had thought if he ever saw her again, she’d be a walker. There she sat, though, alive and well. The soft waves of her honey brown hair draped across the shoulder, the bright green eyes hooded by heavy dark lashes, the sprinkle of paler than pale freckles across her aquiline nose. How many photos had he taken of those features? It was like a window to the past, to happier times before Kelley began working at the Infection Institute and became obsessed with the cause.

I shouldn’t be surprised to see her so altered, yet again. Impulsive and sure of what she wanted, they’d married within eight weeks of meeting at a presentation he gave for the Institute.  As a prominent local photographer, the Institute had enrolled his expertise to document in photographs the stage by stage progression of the Great Infection. Kelley had been mesmerized by the series of photos of infected wounds time lapsed from months into minutes. But it was the faces of the victims that touched her most. Seeing their humanity fade from infection onset into slackened face muscle, gray eyed monsters. At that first introduction to his work she’d said, “You’ve captured the plight of the victims so perfectly.”

Legally the infected were no longer human beings.  They had no rights and were a walking danger to society. To Kelley they were people sick-unto-death who ought to be treated as such. Her compassion had been part of her allure. It was a tender affection that grew after she got the internship at the Institute and she began documenting the victims’ fall into greedy oblivion. She called them by name, documented when they stopped responding to it, and knew that for a short time beyond remembering their own names they still recognized the sound of her caring voice. But the more she poured herself into her work, the less there had been of her in their home.

She had seemed so changed to him then. It was nothing compared to now. This quiet, shy woman who moved with careful grace touching things and glancing away from him. Completely altered.

He could have helped ease her, made more than monosyllabic conversational responses. He could have. He didn’t. Whether she was a zombie or not, part of him wanted to pick up that gun and shoot her for what she’d put them through. He wanted to shake some sense into her so she wouldn’t run off to help the monsters again. He was so angry with Kelley. He wanted to pour it out on her. How could he do that, though, when he couldn’t find one ounce of who she had been in her manner or attitudes? Could a person’s character be so fundamentally altered by trauma? He wished he was closer to his father-in-law and could have had a man-to-man discussion about finding your wife so changed.

Dean tore himself away and went into the kitchen without a word. Maybe reorganizing the cabinets would be a helpful distraction from the stranger in his living room who was his wife.

Zombie Romance © Copyright 2014 by Kristin King

Adios A to Z, it really has been a challenge.

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Kristin King is an author and publisher. Her top sellers are “Unsinkable Vampire” and “Cain’s Coven,” and her latest novel in the Begotten Bloods Series is Death Taint. Her imprint Three Kings Publishing can be found here. Three Kings is a Mom & Pop publisher of Christian writers (not necessarily Christian books).

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2014 in Story Bites

 

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