Book Review for Michael J. Sullivan’s “The Age of Myth”

On a personal note, I must mention a few things before I get into what I think about “The Age of Myth”. As an aspiring author, there exist many bridges I have yet to cross. When people read my work they often mention they enjoy it, such success is what I can be happy with, for now, as I have yet to sell over a dozen copies of my first novel and am still working on its re-write and my next one (a fantasy novel). I critique literature all the time, for an annual story contest, and enjoy analyzing stories’ plot structure, character and scene development, over all delivery, literary techniques.

I think I first came across Mr. Sullivan when searching for fantasy titles on Amazon, however it may have been when I read an article he wrote for Writer’s Digest. Within the article he mentioned several great tips for authors and explained a few things writers can benefit from with Goodreads. He also mentioned his blog and I checked it out. I even dropped him a few lines and he communicated with me, to my surprise.

Since then he shared “The Jester” with me, which I read and gave him some feedback on, not that the story was in dire need of a grammatical redo. I purchased “Theft of Swords” and read, maybe, the first fourteen pages, and liked it. He accepted my friend’s invite on Goodreads and since then I have promised myself that I will impress Mr. Sullivan (as well as others) with my fantasy novel, by the end of 2016. He answered a few of my e-mails and even gave me advice from time to time on writing, so I appreciated the communication. He is and will remain one of my top five favorite authors; I like a lot of published authors, living and gone, so narrowing down my favorites is not always easy.

As I do what I can to learn what I want to know, in the real world, with science, and as I read, study writing techniques, write stories, and work a job which does not involve writing or any varied form of erudition whatsoever, my hobbies are important to me and keep me busy. Like many, I have my reasons for my own goals. These things being said, time continued to fly by during the last parts of 2015 and the first of 2016, and I really wanted to read and review a book written by Mr. Sullivan.

Already owning one or two of his books, they were the e-book editions, and I realized that I usually read physical books with much more fervor than e-books. I inquired as to which book would be  a good start to read out of the books Mr. Sullivan has written, and he let me know that he was working on a set of five books, the first one being a good one to read, as it was a stand alone novel of sorts. From what I understand, there may also be a sixth book of this series on the way, according to wiki.

Excited, I decided to get my very own copy of “The Age of Myth”, pre-ordered a signed copy for myself  and another copy for my alpha reader weeks before the book’s release date. I simply could not wait to get my hands on that book – June the 27th just could not have come any sooner. Low and behold, however, June the 27th did come, and I received the two books I ordered within good time.

I gave my buddy her copy and began reading mine, could not really put it down without at least finishing the chapter I was on. One thing I liked about “The Age of Myth” was the chapter setup. Each chapter was not too long yet usually nearly a story all its own. I am no speed reader, so to have already finished the book within a 6-month time frame is somewhat of an accomplishment, for me. I think I read about a chapter a night and maybe two chapters on some days.

Usually, when I do a book review, or when I read a book I know I am going to want to do a review on or for, I take notes while I am reading the text. Often times this is because of independent author books which can easily contain many stylistic and ‘flow of story’ questions. Knowing that this is Mr. Sullivan’s first book published by a major publisher, and congratulations to him for that, for we as fans are all happy for he and his wife’s success, I could not wait to see whether I would have much to say about the writing style or story structure.

Little did I know, beta readers read pre-release manuscripts and the publishing team considered their opinion before the book’s publication. It was not simply critiqued by an editor, re-written, and thrown on the shelves with a price tag; a great deal of work went into the final published manuscript of “The Age of Myth”.

I took notes, anyway, and they only spoil the story, which in many regards, impresses me. I found close to nothing at all that I would change within the confines of the book’s cover, and resorted to keeping a summary of events chapter by chapter. Awesome cover. The book painted a real world in my imagination, as if these events actually occurred during some time frame in geologic history. The sole thing I would mention on the text if I were a beta reader would be the double mention of the straw hat – I am not sure, yet I think we heard of the same hat twice or more, and the second time it could have been mentioned in a revised way.

Other book reviewers mention the impressive  ending – I could not wait to experience what they were talking about. I did. For me, the conclusion was like a grand finale in an action film. Magic meets science fiction with nature. Characters which are godlike and can weld the forces of nature go to war with each other, standing for and against the political demands of a ruler. Michael J. Sullivan uses beautifully created characters; the book presents many conflicts and dilemmas, all finding satisfactory solutions. The ending was very impressive, and I am amazed with the gifted talent and creativity of Mr. Sullivan.

One thing I enjoyed about “The Age of Myth” was the way the ‘good side’ won within nearly every conflict. Characters do incur tragic deaths, and there are things that happen or happened to innocent people, however as I clung to my favorite characters within the stories, they usually survived, after all.

One thing I did not see the book portray was an in-depth relation to Old English or rhunic-like writing, and not too many poems. The hard, honest truth has been, and probably will be, that close to no one will ever actually ‘out do’ professor Tolkien, his studies with the origins of English, his historical contributions to fantasy which has inspired us all for decades.

A more positive look upon this work has to do with its readability. If you enjoy the writing style of John Grisham, you will absolutely love this book (given you are wanting to read about magical gods and prehistoric survival stories as well as court-room thrillers). It was simple and straight-forward enough for reading within a small amount of time, while still being able to present an intriguing world with life-like characters.

In regards to the characters, as said, they seemed real. The book uses three main groups of characters including people (Rhunes), god-like people (Fhrey), and god-like people who weld the forces of nature with magic (Fhrey which are Miralyith). These three groups do not always get along, due to territory and social reasons, yet witnessing their interactions was a fun and enjoyable experience.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone wanting to read a fantasy novel. As far as comparing it to other fantasy tales goes, I hope people read it for what it is and appreciate it for the value it holds individually. I think of it as separate from other fantasy stories and I like it that way. I also enjoy the works of Margaret Wise and Tracy Hickman and plenty of other famous authors, however I like to think of “The Age of Myth” as separate from other works and styles. I like it for what it is, all by itself, and cannot wait to read the next four or five books in the series when possible.

The map in the first book is somehow helpful to visualize where the humans and gods travel. The book also includes an Author’s Note before the first chapter and a Glossary of Terms before the Acknowledgements section in the back of the book. The glossary is helpful and worth reading before reading the book, as the characters and places are easier to understand with even more ease that way.

Without further ado, I will share my chapter by chapter summary of the book’s entire text. If you are planning on reading “The Age of Myth” and do not want to spoil the story, skip over the blue text. If you have already read the book and want to read a quick summary of events before reading the next book during the summer of 2017, come back and read the blue text (all hypertext in this review, burgundy). I may do such a thing, too.

Chapter 1, “Of Gods and Men”

Incredible. A father and son duo are presented with a dilemma and tread on forbidden soil to find better ground for hunting and farming and are found by a group of characters. The son is Raithe, and his father is Herkimer. A god, a Fhrey, sees the two men, or what the Fhrey call Rhunes, and order them to drop their weapons. There are two slaves with the Fhrey. Herkimer would not drop is sword even after pleading to leave, and one of the Fhrey kills him. Raithe attempts to avenge his father and is able to do so when one of the slaves, Malcolm, bonks the Fhrey over the head with a big rock. The other slave leaves with the dead Fhrey’s horse to go speak of these events to his brethren, so Malcolm and Raithe now have met and will endure many adventures together. They spend the rest of the day giving Herkimer a proper burial and flee by swimming across a cold river to hike through a dark forest.

Chapter 2, “The Mystic”

The story introduces Surri, the mystic, and Minna, her large white female wolf. Surri meets Persephone, a major character in the tale. Surri informs “Seph” (Persephone) that a wave of death of sorts is on the way. The reason Surri traveled to Dahl Rhen, a Rhune village surrounded by a large wall, was to relate this information. When Seph asks of Tura, the ancient mystic, Surri informs her that Tura is no longer living, that by Turra’s request Surri cremated her.

Chapter 3, “The God Killer”

When Raithe avenged his father, killing Shegon, word spread and he was known as the God Killer. He and the ex-slave, Malcolm, travel through the dark forest living off of bugs and tree bark or the occasional rabbit. After a week or so, while starving in front of a fire, the two hear noises far into the woods. Somewhat alarmed, they search out the noises, thinking it could be leshies (forest spirits). They find a travelers’ lodge and smell cooked food. Of course they would take their risks – they were hungry. In the lodge, Raithe admits to avenging his father and Malcolm tells a fancy story. A large man challenges Raithe. Raithe wins the fight, and he and Malcolm eat cooked food.

Chapter 4, “The New Chieftain”

Within Dahl Rhen, a man named Konniger challenges Seph’s husband, Reglan, the current Chieftain of the Dahl, and wins, killing the man. In doing so, Konniger disappoints Padera, the oldest woman of the Dahl.

Chapter 5, “Before the Door”

Fhrey which practice magic are Miralyith who learn the Art. In this chapter, Nyree, a Miralyith, speaks with her daughter, Arion, also a Miralyith. Students of the art play a prank, flooding a celebration with a great deal of water. Arion is to train the son of the Fane, prince Mawyndulë, in the ways of the Art. It is a prestigious invitation for her to do so. Upon her departure she meets Trilos and converses of the door to a garden which protects the oldest tree. We learn later that Trilos has a special connection with those whom can use the Art.

Chapter 6, “Rumors”

Seph talks with Surri about speaking with Magda, the large oak, on the cover of the book (again, nice illustration), for advice. The Fhrey have supposedly attacked and burned two other Rhune villages; Konniger decides to keep the inhabitants of Dahl Rhen there.

Chapter 7, “The Black Tree”

Seph, Surri and Minna trek to Magda. Raithe and Malcolm hiked through the forest and found Dahl Rhen. Seph and Surri were found and attacked on a steep, slippery waterfall by three men from the Dahl. Raithe and Malcolm defend the women; two of three men die; and the last one returns to the Dahl.

Chapter 8, “Asking the Oak”

Seph, Minna, Surri, Malcolm, and Raithe make it to Magda. Surri says the tree says three things. They are to follow the wolf, heal the injured, and welcome the gods.

Chapter 9, “Tight Places”

After leaving Magda, Surri and Minna leave the others to go home. Seph, Raithe, and Malcolm attempt to follow a ridge back to the Dahl and get lost and attacked by a pack of black wolves. Surri and Minna come back and help fight off the wolves and lead the other three to a big water fall where all five leap. They find an old Dherg cave with a hard-to-open door and stay there. The wolves find the door but cannot get inside. The big bear, Grin, a possible demon or symbol of Death, tears three of the big wolves apart, including the pack’s leader, which Surri seemed to know, Char, and leaves. The cave includes Dherg writing and a glowing emerald, along with an old shield Raithe trades for the one he had. Raithe continues to carry the sword he attained from avenging his father, made by Fhrey, as well as the halved copper sword of his dad.

Chapter 10, “The Galantians”

Seph, Raithe, and Malcolm make their way back to the Dahl to answer questions about the two dead men on the waterfall slope, and the Galantians, a rebel group of Instarya Fhrey, come to the Dahl in search of the God Killer. Raithe explains to their leader, Nyphron, that he avenged his father. He and Nyphron have a sword fight, and one of the Fhrey puts a stop to it. Seph welcomes the gods.

Chapter 11, “The Tutor”

Arion tutors prince Mawyandulë with juggling rocks to teach him the Art. He seems to miss the point as he has trouble juggling them even when he can command them with the Art. Gryndal, a pompous Miralyith, is introduced. Lothian, the Fane, sends Arion to retrieve Nyphron, and he sends Gryndal with the prince to secure the frontier, eventually.

Chapter 12, “Gods Among Us”

This chapter is where I had the ‘hat question.’ On page 176, ‘a big’ could have been ‘the big,’ if the straw hat was the same hat as mentioned before. Nyphron and the Galantians are in the Dahl with Surri, Minna, Raithe, Malcolm, and Seph. Seph speaks with Konniger in a lodge meeting. Seph tries to give good advice and Tressa, Konniger’s wife, and others, think Seph is trying to take over. Seph denies the orders of the Chieftain to ask the Galantians to leave.

Chapter 13, “The Bones”

An important chapter, woman speak about the politics of the Dahl together in a round house. Raithe and Malcolm are there, as well as Surri, and all are sewing wool. Surri asks for bones of a chicken to attempt to predict what may happen. She burns them at dusk and reads them. The bones seem to indicate that a wave of death is on the way. Surri thinks Grin is coming to kill off the Dahl, or maybe worse. She hears a big bear scare a flock of birds.

Chapter 14, “Into the West”

Arion travels with Thyme from Estramnadon to Alon Rhist. Thyme is her guide to get there. She, at one point, falls off her horse into a pool of water, proving that even a Miralyith can experience physical harm. Thyme stays there and Arion departs alone with no soldiers, as she has mastered the Art. She burns a lock of Nyphron’s hair to find is local and soon finds Dahl Rhen.

Chapter 15, “The Lost One”

Women organize to go to the well in the Dahl, as Galantians camp out near the water. The sexy, well-endowed Moya meets Nyphron. More Fhrey arrive in search of the God Killer; Nyphron sends them north. The Fhrey let Nyphron know Arion is on her way to retrieve him. Surri enters the lodge to ask Konniger about Grin, as she intends on performing an exorcism to release a Morvyn (evil demon). Surri is told to leave before she has a chance to speak with Konniger.

Chapter 16, “Miralyith”

Arion travels to Dahl Rhen. She finds Nyphron and he will not return with her to the Fane. Arion bonks other Galantians into an invisible wall and binds Nyphron with the Art to bring him to the Fane. Malcolm bonks her head with a large rock from behind and she falls to the ground bleeding. Seph tells Nyphron not to let his giant kill the Miralyith (heal the injured). People bring Arion to a bed to heal in the lodge. Surri bandages Arion’s head while Arion is sleeping.

Chapter 17, “The Boulder”

Imaly speaks with Fane about Fhrey upheval. Fane sends Gryndal and the prince on a quest to secure the frontier. Gryndal speaks with Trilos about the Art, the door, and a boulder.

Chapter 18, “Healing the Injured”

Arion awakens in bed to learn of the woman caring for her and has lost her powers with the Art. The women care for Arion in shifts. Arion holds conversations with Surri.

Chapter 19, “Waiting on the Moon”

Gifford, the cripled man, gives Roan a nice clay jar. Moya, not wanting to marry a certain man, tries to convince Seph to become Chieftain. By the rules, a woman can become Chieftain so long as a man can represent her for battle. The woman have a long conversation and Raithe and Malcolm learn more about sewing wool. Raithe goes to the forest to chop down a tree, and the Instarya Fhrey, Sebek, challenges him to a sword fight. Sebek uses two swords in combat. Sebek won the sword fight three times, leaving Raithe alive. Raithe goes back to working on the tree with a real axe, something he had yet to use before, as back in Dureya Rhunes only had sticks with rocks on them for felling trees.

Chapter 20, “The Prince”

Gryndal and Mawyndulë set out on the frontier. They discuss politics and the practice of the Art. Gryndal speaks of Mawyndulë’s father, the current Fane, Lothian, and speaks of his possible assassination. Upon finding the extinguished grounds of a Rhune Dahl, the two discover a few men and a woman, hiding under some boards. Gryndal uses the Art to knock the boards away and snaps his fingers, exploding and killing what was left of that Dahl’s clan. Gryndal and Mawyndulë travel on toward Dahl Rhen.

Chapter 21, “The Full Moon”

Surri and Arion talk about Grin. Arion sees Surri light a candle with the Art, something Arion thought was impossible for a Rhune to do. Surri leaves Minna with Arion and departs to perform an exorcism on Grin, to remove the morvyn from the bear.

Chapter 22, “Curse of the Brown Bear”

Surri and The Keeper of Ways, Maeve, set out to find Grin. Konniger and Seph have a long conversation on Maeve’s daughter with Reglan, Seph’s deceased husband. Later we figure that Maeve’s daughter was probably Surri; Seph had no knowledge of her husband’s being unfaithful. Therein lied the reason the baby was left in the forest; people thought the baby may have turned into a bear. Maeve had previously taken dead bodies to the bear, as people died during a hard winter. Seph, Raithe, and Malcolm follow Minna towards the cave to try to save Surri and Maeve.

Chapter 23, “The Cave”

Surri and Mauve make it to the cave.  They wait for him, and Surri puts salt on the ground to deflect the demon. Arion wakes to exit the lodge and is sore. She finds Nyphron and bargains with him, forgiving him for her head injury, sending him and the other Galantians to save Surri and Maeve from Grin. The Galantians agree to go, as it will keep Arion from trying to bring them back to the Fane.

Chapter 24, “Demons in the Forest”

Maeve and Surri wait in the cave for Grin. Maeve thinks Surri is her daughter. They talk about the hard winter and continue to wait for Grin.

Chapter 25, “Trapped”

A great deal of action occurs in this chapter. As Seph, Malcolm, and Raithe are running through the night, Minna breaks free and runs to the cave. Konniger and a bunch of his drunk men ambush and surround the other three. ‘Stuby’ tries to save Seph and Konniger kills him. During the attack, Malcolm delivers a blow to Konniger with a shield, and Seph flees by Raithe’s recommendation to the waterfall cave. Konniger chases her all the way there in the darkness.

As Malcolm and Raithe fight off the attacking men, the Galantians enter the scene and annihilate the attacking Rhunes only to travel down a path to Grin’s cave. In the cave, Grin knocks Maeve into a wall hard. The bear tries to get Surri but she is too close to the wall. Minna enters the cave and bites the huge bear in the rump; Surri calls the fire spirits with a clap of her hands, setting Grin on fire. The bear flees; we eventually learn that she jumps off the waterfall burnt and stinky.

Once the Galantians get to Grin’s cave, Maeve is for sure deceased and Surri and Minna are okay. Malcolm and Raithe try to find Seph in the waterfall cave. The chapter ends with only Seph and Konniger behind the waterfall in the darkness, him trying to find her while she is both exhausted and terrified.

Chapter 26 “Beneath the Falls”

Surri and Minna check on Maeve who speaks and dies. Raithe, Malcolm, and the Galantians find Surri who agrees to lead them to the Dherg cave to attempt saving Seph. Grin finds Konniger and tears him to pieces. She tries to enter the door of the cave. Seph finally figured out how to open the cave’s stone door, and Grin gets trapped in the door as it is closing. The huge bear would have been able to open the stone door, however Seph beat the bear repeatedly with a shield. Grin died, staring into the emerald of the Dherg cave. Seph sleeps on the shield.

The Galantians, Raithe, and Malcolm find Seph. Raithe finds Seph sleeping on the shield and thinks she is not alive, kisses her on the forehead waking her up. Nyphron and the other Galantians marvel at the inscriptions in the cave and their small goblin creature acknowledges the markings as old Dherg inscriptions.

Chapter 27, “When Gods Collide”

The grand finale of the book is within this chapter. The final events take place in Dahl Rhen. Seph, Malcolm, Raithe, and the Galantians return to the Dahl to find the Rhunes organized in a group in front of the lodge dismally. Gryndal steps out with  Mawyndulë to face Arion and the Galantians. Gryndal brings Nyphron to his knees with the Art and orders the Galantians to slay the rhunes. Arion uses the Art to protect Seph and the others. Gryndal uses the Art to kill the Nyphron’s small goblin creature. Gryndal and Arion battle each other with the forces of nature. Surri catches Gryndal on fire, which distracts him. Minna attacks Gryndal, tearing his facial piercings, distracting him more. Raithe saves Minna from Gryndal’s ‘ground magic’ move. Gryndal attempts to strike Raithe with a bolt of magic from the sky; Raithe deflects the bolt with his shield, directing it to Gryndal. The bolt paralyzes Gryndal, and Raithe chops of Gryndal’s head. Arion forces Mawyndulë and his troops to return to Estramnadon. Nyphron’s giant was placed in a magic bubble and Arion had forgotten to release him. After Gryndal was dead, Arion released the giant. Malcolm had thrown a spear towards the prince which stuck into the front of the lodge. Surri thanks Raithe for saving Minna and Seph hugs Raithe.

Chapter 28, “The First Chair”

The inhabitants of Dahl Rhen were without a Chieftain, Shield, or Keeper of Ways. Persephone (Seph) declares herself Chieftain to the crowd, which approves, and Raithe as her spokesperson for battle. Seph announces Brin as the Keeper of Ways, Raithe as the shield, and grants Malcolm full citizenship of Dahl Rhen. Seph declares Surri the Mystic of Dahl Rhen. Seph requests the Galantians to stay in Dahl Rhen, as well as Arion, once she was awake. Malcolm was the slave of Nyphron’s father, Shegon, who Raithe killed. Malcolm admits to Nyphron in the conclusion of the book that he attempted to throw the spear into the lodge five feet to the right of the prince – the spear jabbed into the lodge a foot to the left of Mawyndulë.

Chapter 1 of the “Age of Swords”, book two of “The Legends of the First Empire”, “Broken”

This chapter contains the bonus text from the book to be released in the summer of 2017. Roan tries to make a brace for Gifford’s week leg. It fails and he falls. A terrible storm comes to the Dahl and people hide in the food storage. Seph, Arion, and Surri had traveled to Magda for advice. The storm passes and people come out of the storage hole. Something outside of the Dahl is bombarding the barricade/front door.

The people involved with the publication of the final draft of “The Age of Myth” clearly passed the ‘high bar,’ they set for themselves in regards to the book’s publication. A wonderful book, I could not put it down while reading page after page, chapter after chapter, of events involving conflicts with Fhrey, Rhunes, and other characters.

One thing I would like to mention before concluding this review are the quotes preceding each chapter from “The Book of Brin”, written by the character Brin, who has historical insight throughout the tale. She learned many things from a woman and possesses a notable memory. They offer intriguing insight on events and are a wonderful addition to the beginning of each chapter, as readers try to consider what is going to happen next. Each quote is like a deep thought or maxim, and I looked forward to reading each one. Also, there is a note about Mr. Sullivan and his family in the back of the book, with information on how to contact him on the web. His blog is here. E-mail Michael J. Sullivan at michael.sullivan.dc@gmail.com. Find him on facebook at author.michael.sullivan and on twitter via @author_sullivan.

All in all I give this book five of five stars, as nine out of ten readers probably will or already have. I cannot imagine the amount of work that went into its final presentation. I am happy I read it and will enjoy thinking about the exciting story for a long, long time. I am happy Mr. Sullivan has achieved his goals and hope he continues to find success, am sure he will. Amazing. Awesome. I am very impressed.

Shawn Before Dawn, A Story

I rolled over and looked at the alarm clock – it was 4:58 AM. “Today is an important day,” I remembered. I turned off the alarm before it sounded and slammed the four fluid ounces of coffee I sat by it the night before. I went to the restroom, shaved, showered, got ready as quickly as possible making sure I did not forget anything I considered the previous day. Today is important. My boss is buying me lunch and may even further explain why his daughter left me.

The sun was not yet up and the traffic still sparse. I pulled into the gravel drive, as always, and parked in a familiar place. In only fourteen short months I had moved up in the construction company my boss owns and runs from Laborman to Crew Leader Assistant to Crew Leader. My crews always operated in an efficient and timely manner. They ate my egg burritos like Pavlovian study dogs. Recently I was given the responsibility of an entire project and am currently over three crews in the process of demolition and reconstruction of an entire wing of a colossal warehouse facility.

I am minutes early and I know it. I make a habit of it and no one complains or is ever surprised. For this reason I have the key to the trailer office, our companies temporary onsite headquarters. Today would not be so bad. My crew knows how to do what they do well, and we have our goals to meet by the end of the day. I turn the key to open the trailer and it breaks off inside the keyhole. Just what I need. Closed to half an hour until I see a living human and I am stranded with a sack of egg burritos.

I sat on the wooden steps and watched the dark blueish purple misty sky fade into the orange of dawn behind scattered clouds of thin fog. I thought back. Not too long ago I decided to give college a rest for a while and move back in with parents until I found work. I found work and met Mallen. She and I worked for a small restaurant which sold pizza and tacos; she mentioned her dad owned a construction company.

“Damn,” I thought, “Just when there was no chance of moving out.” I enquired of the difficulty or chances of my working for her father and she said I could probably hire in as labor with no experience, that he was hiring about a dozen workers during the next four weeks.

I am not the kind of guy that ignores the chance of love. This time it did not work out, yet I at least gave the woman no cold shoulder. Mallen mentioned she was in nearly my same situation as she was living with her parents and wanted to find a place. She would starve and die before working for her dad, even though he was probably the single most powerful contractor in our city of over 4,000,000 people.

I got a newspaper and road around with Mallen a few afternoons in a row and we found an inexpensive flat and signed a 3-month form. I went to work for her dad and ‘kicked as much ass as possible,’ so to speak, always being on time and getting as much physical labor accomplished as humanly conceivable. I thought she and I got along fine. I never really noticed how intelligent Mallen really was, nor did I notice that she did not speak her thoughts very often.

Our place was fine and included two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a study room, four closets, and a small television room with two couches. She moved plenty of stuff in there including kitchenware and plenty of personal belongings. I kept my work clothes, an old radio, an alarm clock, and a few changes of clothes, only. We were never more than companions, if that.

Still on the wooden steps, I cannot help but remember the night Mallen changed the locks. After work I went to a local bookstore and got a coffee and a best seller. Gotta love that John Grisham. It was late in the evening and I went to a bar. I don’t drink, but the sandwiches there are great and only cost a few dollars a piece. The bartender had no problem telling me of his life’s career, and I had no problem eating five sandwiches and enjoying four complimentary iced apple sodas.

It was 1Am by the time I headed back to the flat. I knew Mallen had been looking for a new job and was interviewing with the airport. When I got back, the locks were changed and there was a note on the door: “Got the job – Mallen.” I was confused.

Sleeping in my truck that night to go to work on Saturday morning was no big deal for me. It was the surprise. Was she okay? Did we not even have a chance at this thing called love? Surely there could have been a spark. If nothing else, I could have grown to like her more.

It did not take me but a few days to find a new place. My crew leader at the time helped me find a one-bedroom flat and I signed another form. Then I had no distractions. I could work, work, work, then sleep, eat, and work some more. As happy as I was, I was still confused with Mallen. Again, I just thought we may have been able to grow closer together, somehow.

Only seconds had gone by and I saw my boss pulling up in the glowing dawn of the morning. Before, he simply said, “Like she said, Shawn, she got the job.” Knowing that is all he would probably say again, today, at least I’ll get a nice lunch and a chance to thank the man.

“Good morning Shawn!” hollered Mr. Bruno, “Sleeping on the job?” “I am sorry, sir. I broke my key in the lock.” I stood and removed the broken piece from the lock and he unlocked it. “Just there for a second I bet you thought my daughter got another job,” chuckled Mr. Bruno, and it was hard not to laugh.

We went about our normal routine and my crew got a great deal of work done that day. Noon was approaching. I gave them the burritos and went to find Mr. Bruno. We made our way to a Deli and he got us both a couple of roast beef sandwiches with smoked parmesan and sautéed peppers. Good stuff.

“My apologies for my confusion, Mr. Bruno. Thank you for buying me lunch and, as always, I know you know I am grateful to be able to work for you.”

“I understand your confusion. Mallen wrote a letter for me to read to you when I mentioned you showed concern.”

Mr. Bruno read the letter to me and it was mostly about being career oriented, human dominance and all. She said I was a nice, hard-working fellow and was sure I would find the right woman, eventually. She would be working two jobs for a few weeks and then for the airport on a longterm basis if all went well, that plenty of people seek leaders in the world, and we both are surely ‘doyens of our herds.’

“So she did not think I was moving to fast or not fast enough or that I was cheating on her or anything. This abrupt separation was solely career oriented and had mostly to do with us both being headstrong.”

“I think that about sums it up,” said Mr. Bruno, “And I see you shaking in your boots there, fearless ‘doyen.'”

“How so?”

“Are you not concerned of your performance at work?”

“I planned to enquire nonchalantly.”

“Well, I want you to know that you are one of my best. Keep up the good work and you will have less and less to worry of. I gave you the promotion because of your good work and ability to lead others, to get the job done right and make our customers happy when the situation presented itself. Three weeks from now we are signing a new contract. You will be a part of it, just below the head foreman. As for Mallen I think she will be fine and appreciate your understanding. Everything okay?”

“Yes sir, Mr. Bruno and thank you.”

“No problem.”

We went back to work and all went well. A few weeks flew by and I was on the new jobsite in no time and we all did great. Two years went by and I moved up to foreman, and was responsible for over two hundred workers. I had put Mallen out of mind, completely, bought a small house not too far from the city, and all was well.

Then, I happened to see Mr. Bruno and his wife at the grocery store one evening when I went to get a frozen pizza. A world of words could have come from my mouth… the weather, work, anything, and I heard myself say, “So, how is Mallen?” I felt about as brilliant as a broken lightbulb at midnight. Mr. Bruno’s wife grinned and looked to Mr. Bruno. He said, “She worked six and seven days a week for 22 months for the airport and started her own business in our neighboring state. She would not even let me introduce her to anyone.”

Somehow relieved, I asked, “What kind of business did she start?”

Mr. Bruno said, “A construction firm.”

··· Post Story Relations ···

The story above is one I enjoyed writing. When reading about writing, we always hear, “Write what you know.” For me, I like to consider what I do not really know much about, research the topic, and go from there with character, setting, and plot development. This time, though, I went with something I am more familiar with. I may not have included very much fancy description and totally refrained from the absence of the passive voice and broke plenty of grammatical rules (hidden verbs included), however I thought the story was fun and hope you enjoyed reading it. I have always found it a difficult thing to write a story in the present while speaking about the past without the infamous passive voice. At least, I hope, it was fun.

I must mention, though, that I wrote this story from an idea from a writing prompt. The real story I submitted to here, was for the Your Story competition held every eight weeks or so by Writer’s Digest. I always check out the contest and read the winners, yet hardly ever make the time to enter. After all, I am working on another book. It is my first full-blown novel. It has been exciting so far, and I hope it will be fun to read for all ages, fantasy. The Your Story prompt this time really sent my thoughts into other universes. It was almost hard to believe that so few words could inspire so much possibility.

My first thought was to go with a discussion between lawyers, then a receptionist speaking with a disgruntled man, then many others. In the story I submitted, which was to be under 700 words, I stuck with dialogue only. After about 550 words I was done, even though I figured I would really have to trim down a first draft to enter. Surprise surprise. I probably could have been more eloquent with the use of our wonderful language – at least I sent them something. In case you have never heard of the word ‘doyen,’ I found it with a thesaurus. I knew it was a rare word for some, the next best thing to a neologism (like jobsite or colloquialisuhm).

As I am not as refined with dialogue stories as many and surely am not the leading master of this planet’s prose, I wanted to write out the story in a fun and rewarding way for my readers and myself as well. I like to use ‘he said’ and ‘she said;’ call me a third grader, but I dislike nothing more than dialogue which confuses the speakers only seven lines into a thirty some-odd line script we commonly see in best-selling novels.

So, I hope you read and enjoyed “Shawn Before Dawn”, and I also hope you take part in Writer’s Digest competitions such as their annual writing competitions and Your Story, no matter your skill level. I plan to become more involved in the world of literary appreciation/presentation, eventually, will die trying if I never meet my goals. I do appreciate you for reading and please, let me know if you entered the Your Story Competition or others. I love feedback and am always happy to hear of others’ attempts in regards to their efforts. 🙂

Why Check Out Writer’s Digest and Goodreads?

goodreads          writersdigest

Recently, I sent a message on twitter to a famous author named R. A. Salvatore. I plan to read at least one of his books this year, as I somehow have not read any of his work, before. I sent him a friend’s request to communicate with him on goodreads.com. He said he already spends to much time on the web -I cannot imagine how involved an author of his status is with the web.

Nevertheless, I sent him a message recommending he at least check out goodreads.com and writersdigest.com. Goodreads is the platform for discussing books, finding books others have read, sharing discussions on books, and communicating with authors. For people like myself who have a book with sales under 10 copies and are working on writing more books, goodreads is like a double-cheese hamburger to a hungry American. Just ask Michael Sullivan or check out his Writer’s Digest article; he is a ‘Goodreads Master.’ People seeking to learn more about other authors or who are trying to promote their own work somehow should definitely get involved with goodreads.

Writer’s Digest is the source for all authors. The publication includes novel contests, ways to find agents, ways to find market listings for short stories, and books on writing. The books on writing are great for those with and without college degrees in English. Any author who visits writersdigest.com will find something of interest to them. For writers, like myself, who have not yet ‘surpassed the bell curve’ of becoming a full time author as a vocation, Writer’s Digest is a publication we should subscribe to, as its advice and information in regards to the business of writing is always priceless.

So, if you have never become involved with these two sites, at least check them out. Click on the two links to open a new tab in your browser and click on their tabs for at least a few minutes to see what they are all about. Goodreads is free, and writersdigest has plenty of free and interesting content. You learn even more if you subscribe to their publication and receive current articles on what is going on in the world of publishing. If for no other reason, view them to see what other authors are up to. I like to read what editors like Brian Klems and his colleagues have to say about writing and literary techniques. I just do not think the two sites are a waste of time.

Thank you for reading this post. I hope it was beneficial for all who have. To my new followers and those who have recently ‘liked’ a post, “Thank you.” Communicate with me by sending an e-mail to admin@jcm3blog.com. We love feedback here.  🙂

A Review for Christopher Fielden’s Book on Publishing Stories

Book Review for “How to Write a … Story Get Published and Make Money,

by Christopher Fielden,

Over All Book Review

Introduction

Upon receiving a copy of this book I thankfully turned a few pages of it every night before bedtime. Mr. Fielden describes how to write outside of work as one aspires to pursue writing as a career. He holds an annual story contest online, “To Hull and Back,” and lists many web links within the pages of “How to Write… ” for submitting stories to story contests and literary periodicals for publication.

A wonderful read, there are also many story examples Mr. Fielden includes. With each story example, he explains how the story was published, whether he chose to re-write the story; and why and how revisions were necessary for better success with publication. If you are learning to write stories for publication, this is an excellent book to read. It is also straightforward enough to be able to be read in a relatively small amount of time, as opposed to other books of the same nature that are not as down-to-Earth or as easy to understand. I enjoyed reading this book and hope you do, too.

List of Story Titles

  • “Devil’s Crush,” page 26
  • “The Day My Prayers were Answered,” page 55
  • “Troll’s Head,” page 83
  • “The Treasure No Thief Can Steal,” page 101
  • “Smoo Choo the Magic Moo and the Secret of Whispering Wood,” page 119
  • “Mr. Kill,” page 137
  • “The El Passo Phantom Feeder,” page 155
  • “The Cat, the Bull and the Madman,” page 169
  • “Shot in the Head and Left for Dead,” page 189
  • “The Ninja Zombie Knitting Circle,” page 207
  • “Napalm Rising,” page 226
  • “Love is Difficult for Zombies,” page 242
  • “Love of the Dark,” page 245
  • “I am the Warlock,” page 273
  • “Hummingbee Bumblebird Meadow,” page 310
  • “Oleg OG – Cyber Spider,” page 317

Some Thoughts on the Stories

Much to the respect of their author, many of these stories were re-worked into undue perfection. Their quality was enhanced upon their review by other writers, editors, and readers, allowing them to be beneficial examples for use and discussion within the text of Mr. Fielden’s book on writing and publishing stories. I will mention each story and a few thoughts on them, briefly.

“The Devil’s Crush” is the first story in the book and it was an awesome fiction story about a man with no legs and a fire-burning demon. The next story, “The Day My Prayers were Answered,” was about a man in debt, who encountered an Incubus. The story was well written and revised with more than one ending before its final draft and a wonderful story to consider. Every story mentioned within this review was astounding, so I will attempt to not say so in a redundant fashion, even though I enjoyed most of the stories a great deal.

“Trolls Head” was a story about Trolls fighting in an arena much like entertainment in times of Rome. I felt as though more could have been said about the descriptions of the characters during the first of the story, as well as the setting. Such a good idea just seemed to need a few more sentences to further paint the mental images I drew out anyway, in my mind. Some of the characters in this story properly use a limited style of dialogue. I did and did not like the dialogue, however it was well done. I would have also liked a more developed ending, though the conclusion did do a good job of pulling introduced ideas together in efficient summary. All in all the story was a great example of ‘showing’ rather than telling, albeit the idea a cliché obstacle for some.

“The Treasure No Thief Can Steal” was about a man-eating dragon who allowed a female protagonist to live. It was a profound example of a fantasy story. “Smoo Choo the Magic Moo and the Secret of Whispering Wood,” is both a story and a well-written children’s poem. I liked the story so much I re-read it a few times and sang a little song in my head, too… “Smoo Choo the Magic Moo, he flies to save the forest. Smoo Choo, the Magic Moo; he flies to end the forest fires for me and you. Smoo Choo, the Magic Moo, for without him what could we do?” I am sure the poem touches the hearts of all who read it.

“Mr. Kill” is an interesting story that uses what I think of as a ‘looping structure,’ where the story ends with the beginning occurring again. This technique is great, so long as the idea behind the story suffices for its use. Though seemingly complicated, the story was entertaining and thought provocative. It is about a doctor who does not save a worm and becomes a worm. Seemingly boring by the previous statement, the story itself is not.

“The El Passo Phantom Feeder” was a great story about the owner of a bar and his perils on a rainy night with attackers, a pretty young woman, and a man-eating phantom –one of my favorites. “The Cat, the Bull and the Madman” was an excellent story and quit worth the read for those of us who have at some point considered psychology. It was with great skill that this story used ‘imaginery’ characters without explaining why they were there then were not. These notions are covered in the discussion following the story.

“Shot in the Head and Left for Dead,” is a story about a rock and roll singer and includes fantastical beast creatures. As Mr. Fielden knows about rock and roll bands and is a drummer, this story was a good example of how well a story can be done when it is written about something the author knows a great deal of. Plenty of writers advise us to write about what we know about. While true, I usually back up my own ideas with research.

“The Ninja Zombie Knitting Circle” is a story well worth its read. If this story was made into a movie, I would be sure to watch it, as plenty of things leave its reader in suspense until its horrifying conclusion. Well done.

“Napalm Rising” is an intense story about a man who interrogates a captive in order to go and rescue his daughter from a dangerous brothel run by armed ex-military criminals. Upon finishing this story, I thought it would be a good idea for the author to write a sequel involving the main character getting caught for his actions when rescuing his daughter. The man could have also been released for reasons due to insanity, as his daughter was in such a tough situation. If a second story is written to follow up with this story in such a manner, I hope it receives publication and that I come across it, somehow.

“Love is Difficult for Zombies” is a story which is only 81 words long. I liked the other stories more, however a story of this nature does take talent and consideration to construct and was well worth its discussion in the book. There exist numerous competitions on the web for stories about 100 words long, and, as with poems, these stories hold their value when they impress their readers (they also hold their value if you win a competition with one).

“Love of the Dark” is an enchanting and story about a woman who escapes a cave with a talking spider. It holds the necessary rules which define a story. It is a pleasant cuddly one.

“I am the Warlock,” was a great example for this book, as its revision was discussed well. I also enjoyed the story itself and the manner in which things occurred. Use of both human characters and those of magical conjuring is impressive, and this story was both fun to read and to consider from a literary, critical point of view.

“Humblebee Bumblebird Meadow,” is a great bedtime story for reading to children and moving, as it paints an emotion invoking sunset. I was near ‘crushed’ with the ending. As powerful as the story was, I wondered if even more description could be added for the sunset scenery.

“Oleg OG Cyber Spider” was a nicely constructed story and a great example. The protagonist suffers a near-death experience, and the story is much like a story within a story. Christopher Fielden is an amazing author, indeed.

Some Notions on Mentioned Techniques

Mr. Fielden includes real advice on useful techniques with getting stories published for payment. He covers such notions as market research, marketing techniques, and conducting the necessary research involved with a specific publication. He even tells us how to communicate with editors or literary publication groups appropriately.

Throughout the text, the author mentions various techniques and how to use them when working with a new story. These techniques and topics, in their near entirety are included in a list as follows:

  • reading, writing practice, market research, story development, story revision for completion, using constructive criticism, story submitting, story publication methods, story marketing, and making money with writing with realistic expectations
  • Christopher Fielden website story contest advice and writing/editing help
  • basic story construction notions
  • writing group advice
  • thoughts on encouragement and finding writing competitions
  • editorial criticism
  • character naming and choice of voice
  • writing advice along with stories
  • subplotting with characters
  • thoughts on the children’s stories market
  • discussion of techniques with proper use of dialogue
  • use of a central character/protagonist
  • use of humor and advice on ending stories well
  • plot twists
  • how to make time for writing
  • submission advice
  • does and don’ts of constructing a beneficial author biography
  • choice of publication opportunities
  • double/multiple publication endeavors
  • advice on healthy living to be productive
  • author website advice and advertising with Google for money
  • links to writing for publication included, including advice for publishing independently
  • entire section attributed by Dr. John Yeoman on winning story competitions

In addition to the links in Mr. Fielden’s book, remember to check out writersdigest.com for many of your needs as an author. The statement is not meant to be an advertisement, but a recommendation for all writers who may or may not have already considered the resources of Writer’s Digest. There, you can find new markets, writing competitions, techniques for writing better, and much more.

Criticism

The stories included, though fun and enjoyable to read, are included for the purpose of learning to publish stories for payment. Some basic notions including literary devices within a simple guideline or discussion of basic story techniques, such as plot, character development, scene development, theme, rising and falling action, climax, narrative hook, and symbol are not covered in an appendix or separate chapter, which I would have liked to have seen. Many literary devices and techniques are discussed within the text, however, which somehow adds to the flow of the book, as mentioned above. Many people who write stories have already learned the reasons to use these various techniques from writing classes or reading, so it is not too big of a deal that some basic notions on writing are not covered in a chapter separate from the rest of the text.

As the book’s purpose is mostly to learn to do better with story contests for publication and payment, the advice Mr. Fielden provides is very beneficial, as it comes entirely from experience. Mr. Fielden resides in the UK, where his writing group is. Many of the links mentioned within his book are United Kingdom based. Some readers in the United States or other countries may have wanted to see more information on the contests outside of the UK, as well as the websites and companies mostly in the US who make publishing stories for payment possible, too. This is not a real major drawback to the book, however, as many of the contests mentioned are online and may not be as impossible to receive publication by as high-volume publications in the US. Google is mentioned, and writers all over the world should not have too much of a problem with publishing via enterprises in the UK.

These things being said, I do recommend the book for anyone who is learning to publish stories or wants some additional hope in regards to writing as a career. The book does contain a uniqueness to it, as Mr. Fielden explains each story and goes into detail about the reasons the stories made it to publication or not, depending on situations. Writing as a career does not come easy for some, and this book uses real world examples of how someone overcame certain challenges to not only to receive publication for payment, but also to share the methods and techniques of doing so with others.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I really enjoyed reading this book. I have plenty of books I am waiting to read, and I simply could not wait to read a few pages of this one every night before bedtime. Some of the stories may not be suitable for children, however they are well-written. As far as how beneficial this book is for people beginning to write and publish stories, it is well worth the time to read it. I enjoyed each story and hope you do, too. Thank you for reading this review; the book can be found here on Amazon, and here on Mr. Fielden’s website.