Monday, August 7, 2017

Ten of the Most Beautiful Places I've Ever Seen

This blog post is an encomium to the beauty of the natural world. Too often do I fall into the trap of gloom and doom, the rhetoric of "this world is being ruined and humans are in the driver's seat of the destruction." True or not, this pessimist's cynicism does little for my health or mood. Sometimes I have to force myself to step back and let things fall into perspective. There is only so much burden any one back can bear.

Today, I'm in the mood to celebrate some of the amazing places I've seen and share them here with you!

NOTE: There are so many places in the world I haven't seen. I can't imagine what this list would look like if I'd seen even half of it. Someday I hope to visit as many parts of this incredible planet as my relatively short life allows, but sadly there just isn't enough years in a human lifespan to see it all.

So without further ado, here are ten of the most beautiful places I've ever seen in no particular order.

1. The Grand Canyon
There is no doubt that Arizona's Grand Canyon is one of the most spectacular sights in the United States. The sheer scale of it is hard to comprehend when standing on the rim. At 280 miles in length, up to 18 miles across and over a mile deep, the Grand Canon truly lives up to its name. I have had the fortune of visiting it numerous times, including an 18-day kayaking trip in 2005, a memory that remains one of the highlights of my life.

Deer Creek Overlook, Grand Canyon
2. The Wind River Range
Wyoming's Wind River Range ranks as one of the more spectacular ranges in the Rocky Mountains. This rugged collection of Wyoming's tallest and most remote mountains offers dense solitude and the largest concentration of glaciers in the contiguous United States (i.e. outside of Alaska.) My backpacking trip to the Winds in 2011 was one of the great outdoor experiences in my adult life.

Island Lake, Wind River Range. Fremont Peak top right is Wyoming's third tallest mountain
 3.  Zion National Park
Of Utah's "Big 5" national parks (Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Arches) my personal favorite has to be Zion. This rugged place staggers the imagination with vertical cliffs over 1,000 feet tall and hidden slot canyons concealing surprisingly verdant streams. My wife and I spent a week in Zion in 2015 and barely scratched the surface of possible sights.

Exploring Zion River Narrows in Zion National Park, one of the most unique hikes anywhere
4. The Belize Barrier Reef
The Caribbean is one of the world's premier tropical destinations. One could lose themselves forever in the coral reefs, the thousands of dreamy islands, and the warm, aquamarine waters. One of its many amazing features is the Belize Barrier Reef, the second longest barrier reef in the world. When people think of paradise, they often envisage somewhere like this. After spending over two weeks in Belize in 2016, I was transformed. Some of these islands could very well tempt me to leave my cherished mountains.
Tobacco Caye in Belize is a true tropical island paradise
5.  The Sawtooth Mountains
Idaho's rugged Sawtooth Mountains are some of the best kept secrets in the Rocky Mountains. Serrated and formidable, the Sawtooths are so isolated it does not take long to find a place among them seldom visited by people. I had the pleasure of living near the Sawtooths for a few months in 2016 and was shocked I hadn't heard much about them before.

The Sawtooth Mountains near Redfish Lake humbled and overwhelmed me
6. Alaska's Kenai Peninsula
Alaska is one of the world's most rugged landscapes and one of the few true wildernesses left on the planet. The Kenai Peninsula on the southern coastal region of the state is one of its gemstones. This incredible place is resplendent with glaciers, towering mountains, wildlife, and ambrosial forests. I've been visiting the Kenai Peninsula since 2007 and now call Seward, Alaska home.
Glacier wonderland in Kenai Fjords National Park, a place accessible almost exclusively by boat
7. The Elk Mountains of Colorado
The Elk Range of Colorado is one of the most impressive parts of this mountainous state. They include some of Colorado's most rugged and formidable ramparts, such as Capitol Peak, Snowmass Mountain, and the Maroon Bells. Living at the foot of the Elks in Colorado's Roaring Fork Valley for almost 20 years allowed me to explore this amazing range extensively.
The Maroon Bells in Colorado's Elk Mountain Range. This is about 45 minutes drive from the place I still call home
8. The Ecuadorian Jungle
Ecuador is a lush, jungle wonderland. It is also a highly mountainous and dramatic slice of the Andes Mountains, quite possible the world's most impressive mountain range outside the Himalayas. My trip to Ecuador in 2001 was life changing. My only regret is the lack of photographic skill I possessed at the time.

Kayaking the Rio Jondachi in the Ecuadorian mountains. This little gem was exciting and so beautiful
9. The Oregon Coast
Formidable amounts of rainfall combined with a sharp, angular coast makes for one stunning vista. The Oregon coast is one of the gems of the American collision with the Pacific Ocean. Spotted with quaint towns, massive sea stacks, and copious wildlife, it is hard to imagine a more beautiful place. My wife and I spent a week exploring the Oregon coast earlier this year and I look forward to the chance to return.

Oregon Coastal vantage. What isn't readily apparent in the photo are the dozens of seals in the lower right corner

10. The California Redwoods
The first few times I entered the Redwood Forest, I was humbled nearly to tears by the sheer scope of these living creatures. It is not just the massive height of the world's tallest trees but their age that plucks at the heartstrings, as some of them can be 2,000 years old or more. It is incredible to imagine these trees standing for so many lives of men, keeping a silent watch over the changing world. I had the pleasure of living among these real-life giants for three months and still feel small every time I think about it.

Giant Redwoods just off the Avenue of Giants. These trees humbled me nearly to tears the
first time I saw them
No photo can do these places justice. They must be experienced for yourself. I should have gone online and stolen photographs by much better photographers to give a better sense of these wonderlands, but alas I decided to abide copyright law and stick to my own pictures.

I would love to hear about some of your favorite places so I can add them to my bucket-list of must-see places, a list that grows far faster than I can check it off. Also, I would be interested to hear which of my above photos you liked best.
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All writing is the original work of Brian Wright and may not be copied, distributed, re-printed or used any form without express written consent of the author. Find out here how to CONTACT me with publishing and/or use questions 


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Author Spotlight: Cindy Tomamichel- Druid's Portal

As part of my recent effort to support and bring greater light into the rapidly expanding demographic of Indie/small press writers, today's post is the second in a planned series of spotlights on these less publicized writers whose books I've read and enjoyed.

In this post the spotlight is on Cindy Tomamichel. Her latest novel is Druid's Portal, a time-traveling romance that takes place alternately between modern times and 2,000 years ago during the clash of the Roman Empire with the Celtic Druids. Druid's Portal was published on May 17, 2017 by Soul Mate Publishing. I sent her a list of questions to which she was kind enough to supply answers.

Tell me a little about yourself. What is your background? What made you want to become a writer?

Thanks for having me on your blog, I read your adventures in Alaska with great interest. 

I am from Australia, and have lived and worked in both remote mining towns and in the inner city. I have changed careers several times, starting as an underground mine geologist, working in mines in far north Queensland, Tasmania and New South Wales. I did some more study, and moved into environmental science with the EPA, with a focus on contaminated soils and groundwater, mostly from historical industrial sites. 

I left full time work for family reasons, and started writing my first novel - a scifi action adventure. The idea came to me while I was trying to stay awake in some computer training, and I filled pages with seemingly industrious notes on an entirely different topic!  This was the more official start to writing, but I had been writing terrible poetry and bits and pieces of stories since a teenager.

 Have you had any other works published? Where?

I have a list of my other work on my website, but I have had short stories and poems in three of the anthologies from Rhetoric Askew, and a short story coming up in a scifi anthology. I also had two monologues presented onstage with Madwomen Monologues, which was exciting to see.

Your book was a bit reminiscent of Outlander, though I thought you avoided straying into the realm of becoming merely a copycat nicely. It seems impossible, of course, to write a completely original novel these days. Who would you say are your primary literary influences?

I haven’t actually read any of the Outlander books, nor have I watched the series. I find too much politics and intricate personal motivations (such as in high fantasy novels) very hard to read myself. 
I do read at random to find new authors, but favour action adventure, scifi and sword and sorcery. I expect this shows in my writing, as I try to keep a fast action plot going. So RE Howard, ER Burroughs, Peter O’Donnell (Modesty Blaise), Matthew Reilly and Andy McDermott in the action adventure genre.  Tolkien and CS Lewis for fantasy. and Heinlein, Harrison and Andre Norton for scifi. I do enjoy a lot of pulp fiction from the 1930’s- 50’s such as Leslie Charteris (The Saint), Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler.

Tell me about the moment of inspiration for Druid’s Portal? How did the tale come to be?

I came up with the idea in about 2002, so I actually have only a vague memory. I had heard of time travel romance and wanted to see if I could write something in the genre that might be acceptable to a publisher. So I worked out what sort of time period felt the most interesting, and included my love of archaeology in the main character of Janet.

One of the things I love about fiction, and historical fiction in particular, is how it conveys a time and place. While history books can give you the facts, fiction gives a feel of a place and time. In that sense it is “truer than truth.” It also lays a burden of responsibility on the author to convey history accurately. Can you talk a bit about the historical nature of your novel?

It has been interesting given the time difference between when I started to now- the explosion of information and photos and google maps on the internet makes research much easier. But in some ways it is also harder – how much detail, and how much can I assume? So my focus was on giving more of a flavour of the time, and focusing on personalities and issues that are timeless.

The time itself is an interesting one – two barbarian cultures clashed, and the ancient druid religion was destroyed. The Romans were so different to the existing Celts, but they were just as brutal in battle. The area of Hadrian’s Wall was the line in the sand between these cultures. Excavation is still continuing in the forts along the Wall, and new discoveries are made all the time. For instance, I used the abundance of leather sandals found at Vindolanda to give Janet a bit of an obsession with Roman soldier sandals. 

In my experience, one of the hardest things about writing a novel is the editing process. It takes far longer than the actual writing. What can you reveal about your editing methodology? Did you use so-called “beta readers”? Did you work with a professional editor?

Yes, I find editing hard. For me the hardest part is stepping back and reading with fresh eyes. I have written most of my novels during NaNoWriMo (Write a novel in a month) so once the draft is finished I leave it for a while, then correct for spelling and read through before I print it. Then it gets covered in notes, and I read sections out loud, particularly dialogue. I also have a few writing issues such as staying in point of view that I make an extra effort to pick up.

I worked with an editor provided by Soul Mate, Sharon Roe. She is amazing, and I think really made the book shine.

I never used beta readers. I have since found that arguing about my characters and why I did that with the plot makes me homicidal with rage. 

How did you become connected with Soul Mate Publishing? Did you query agents first or did you approach them directly?

I approached them directly – they are always open for submissions, and encourage cross genre books. It has been a pleasure to work with them. I think I had about half a dozen rejections before that.

You mentioned in the “About the Author” at the end of your novel that you are working on a sequel. How is that coming along? Some authors find it challenging to make sequels fresh, original and still as engaging as the first novel. Conversely, I find many readers complain about them too. What has your experience been?

I actually wrote the sequel some time ago in a NaNoWriMo so it is well under way. While Janet and Trajan are in it, they are not the main characters, and I have given it a twist with some alternate history with a different timeline. So yes, I think a sequel can be difficult, but it feels like a new book with new problems – and more action and adventure!

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and best of luck in all future endeavors!

You can view Cindy's work and connect with her via her website, Twitter page, Facebook author page, Goodreads page, Amazon author page, and/or Google+
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This is the second in a series of spotlights on indie/small press writers who deserve your attention. If you enjoyed it, consider signing up for my mailing list. I also blog about all sorts of crazy, educational, entertaining, and occasionally funny topics from what makes an effective first paragraph in a novel to giant redwoodsmedieval sailboats, the ancient Mayans and more. If you do sign up, you will get a once-a-week update on my posts and NOTHING ELSE! No spam, no selling your email to third parties. Okay, if I ever get around to publishing one of these works in progress that are constantly haunting me, I might send out an email letting you know. In the meantime thanks for reading.

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All writing is the original work of Brian Wright and may not be copied, distributed, re-printed or used any form without express written consent of the author. Find out here how to CONTACT me with publishing and/or use questions 


Saturday, July 22, 2017

An Ode to the Burden of Journalism

90th annual Mount Marathon Race
Racers work their way up Mount Marathon with Seward
and Resurrection Bay in the background
Every Fourth of July, thousands of people converge on a tiny Alaska town to participate in one of the world's oldest and most challenging mountain races. As the Land of the Midnight Sun is bathed in perpetual light, a bevy of athletes queues across the main drag of Seward, Alaska awaiting the pop of a starting gun to send them up the broken face of Mount Marathon.

The history of this race has become a thing of legend among both Alaskans and the international mountain running community. There may be many imitators but there is still none quite like the Mount Marathon Race. The hype alone has reached feverish proportions, complete with helicopters, drones, television crews and throngs of writers crowding around the course for a whiff of the action.

As it turned out, for this year's event, I was one such writer.

The Setting

Our helicopter rocketed upward off a rocky Alaska beach. Somewhere 3,022 feet above the top of Mount Marathon and the turnaround point for the up-and-down race was hidden in the fog.

I pressed my iphone against the glass, trying to film the immense setting. The aquamarine waters of Resurrection Bay arched towards the Gulf of Alaska in an elongated hook, and the tiny motes of ships motoring in and out of the harbor gradually shrunk as we ascended.

The helicopter cut back and forth across the sky. With each change in heading a new vantage was unveiled: a wilderness of mountains, a choppy northern ocean. 

It was a breezy morning, and our four-seater helicopter tossed and lurched in the orographic currents.

The mountain swelled in our window, and I spotted our landing: a minuscule platform on the peak's shoulder some two-hundred vertical feet from the top.

The skids plopped down lightly.


"Always walk towards the front," the pilot reminded us as we shrugged on our backpacks.

"Why?" I almost asked. Oh yeah, the tail rotor would eviscerate me like a butcher knife through butter.

Moments later our feet were on terra firma and the helicopter was carving skyward. When the thunder had faded, all seemed terribly quiet. The only sounds were the hiss of the wind between boulders and the crunch of our feet in the alpine gravel.

But just up the slope, a crowd of cameramen and journalists were preparing to spectate the famous race.

Drowning in History

What responsibility does a journalist owe to history when asked to document such an event? I was a newcomer, a Johnny-come-lately, stepping into the middle of a conversation that had been going on for nearly a century. They expected me to have something important to say. All eyes would be on me, all ears tuned to my every word. I couldn't shoulder such responsibility lightly.

My solution was to plunge into the deep waters of Mount Marathon Race history wholeheartedly. I delved into news clippings from years past, watched scores of documentary films, and interviewed a half-dozen well-known racers. For several weeks I was enveloped in the spectacle. To do the history justice I had to sink beneath the surface, relax and breathe it in.

Over the years the Mount Marathon Race has spawned a thousand storylines. Heroes who set records that stood for decades. Villains who swooped in from across the ocean and broke them. Legends who returned to the mountain for almost five decades without ever missing an event. There were even mysteries and tragedies, like the racer in 2012 who vanished somewhere near the summit never to be seen again.

In 700 words I was supposed to capture this immensity and somehow pen a new chapter. As I set up my camera, re-checked the battery life and remaining gigabytes on my memory card, I was already building the narrative in my mind.

The Race

Seward, Alaska's 2017 Mount Marathon race
Racers plunge down the downhill in
the Mount Marathon Race
When the leaders of the women's event first came into view, it was 20-year-old Alaskan hero Allison Ostrander of nearby Soldotna who was far ahead, showering the pursuit in a proverbial and literal cloud of dust. 

As a junior, Ostrander won the MMR (Mount Marathon Race) a record six years in a row, and would have won the adult division her first year as an 18-year-old were it not for the appearance of international mountain-running legend Emelie Forsberg of Norway. That year Forsberg and her even more famous boyfriend, Kilian Jornet, broke both the men's and women's records, a feat that upset some longtime locals. Ostrander would also have broke the record that year were her time not eclipsed by almost two minutes by the European phenom. 

As Ostrander burst onto the summit, rounded the turnaround boulder and blasted onto the descent route at a full sprint, it seemed inevitable she would claim her first MMR title. Fifteen minutes later and far below in town, the PA confirmed she had done it. 

The men's event was an even bigger blowout. The winner, a Nordic ski racer from Anchorage with Olympic hopes in 2018, stunned the competition with a nearly three-minute lead at the summit. When he crossed the finish line in first place, the Alaskan sweep of the podium was complete.

The Story

Some hours later, at a bar in downtown Seward, we clanked ale-filled mugs in toast and swapped stories at the end of a long day. Four-hours on the summit and one treacherous slog down the steep ridge had led to aching knees, burning calves and an icing of Mount Marathon mud up to my calves. 

But ahead was an even more daunting task than the mountain itself: the story

How could I write such a piece? The new kid in town summarizing an event older than his grandparents? But as alcohol corroded my fear and inhibitions, I began to feel something different: excitement. 

I am a wordsmith. Telling stories is what I do.

To read my recap story, visit the following link. Here is also a lead-up story that profiled some of the important participants in this year's event.
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All writing is the original work of Brian Wright and may not be copied, distributed, re-printed or used any form without express written consent of the author. Find out here how to CONTACT me with publishing and/or use questions


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Not Conquerors, Merely Survivors

by Brian Wright

(Note: The following is a piece of creative non-fiction originally published in Our Backyard (July 2017 issue), a regional, outdoors publication)

The Elk Range holds some of the deadliest mountains in Colorado
The Maroon Bells, Snowmass Mountain, and Capitol
as seen from the summit of Pyramid Peak

The broken faces of the Maroon Bells and their sister mountain, Pyramid Peak, towered over us as we wended up the serpentine trail. It was a brisk early morning, the first glance of the sun was just edging the tips of the three 14,000-foot peaks. The skies were clear, however, and the wind was still. It seemed like a perfect day to climb one of Colorado’s most difficult and dangerous mountains. 

“Where climbers fear to tread,” a sign had warned us at the trailhead. “The Deadly Bells, and their neighbor Pyramid Peak, have claimed many lives in the past few years.” Chilling words to read while gearing up to defy the very advice given. “Expert climbers who did not know the proper routes have died on these peaks. Don’t repeat their mistakes, for only rarely have these mountains given a second chance,” the sign concludes.

After staggering up the winding approach through the early hours of morning, dodging audacious mountain goats and the occasional stray mosquito, we ascended at last into a dramatic basin at the skirt of Pyramid Peak’s nearly vertical North Face. My wife, Ella, and I gaped at the full majesty of the mountain: its shattered fissures and serrated crenellations, it's foreboding ramparts and pointed summit. An ominous silence loomed over everything. All of the words and warnings about this infamous mountain echoed in my mind.

“What do you think?” Ella asked, feeling the need to whisper in the inhuman silence. Her forehead was furrowed with wariness.

“I think it’s going to be...exciting.” 

We selected a flat rock for a few moments’ rest and choked down a mouthful of trail mix. I picked the first section of our intended line from the slopes and gullies above us. It was brutally steep and broken. My mouth became nearly too dry to swallow. 

“We should get started,” said Ella after too many minutes of nervous snacking. She is always my crutch of courage and I lean on her extensively.

“Yes,” I said tentatively. “We should.”

*          *          *

Pyramid Peak a 14er in Colorado's Elk Range
A mountain goat perched precariously near the summit of
Pyramid Peak
On a windy, numbingly cold morning in early March 2017, a pair of bicyclists cruising up Maroon Creek Road to enjoy the late-winter beauty of these same peaks happened upon a most alarming sight: a man—frostbitten, pelvis broken, dislocated elbow—staggering down the road away from the snowclad summit of Pyramid Peak. Ryan Montoya, a 23-year-old mountaineer from Arvada, Colorado who’d been missing for two days, had been found. 

The highly syndicated effort to locate Montoya had involved a large number of rescuers and a great deal of publicity. Frigid temperatures coupled with nearly 100-mph winds had quickly drained the hopes of a happy ending to this missing climber story. Against all odds, however, here he was, battered and frozen but alive.

Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells have developed a fearsome reputation over the years and for good reason. For decades, they have terrorized the mountaineering community, claiming an inordinate number of lives and filling the media with stories of woe and tragedy. They are not the steepest nor the most technically difficult of Colorado’s many mountains, but over the years the “Deadly Bells” have lived up to their infamous moniker. Hardly a year passes without at least one tragedy unfolding on their slopes. The stark beauty of these mountains conceals an ugly truth, these three peaks own some of the most treacherous, loose rock in the state of Colorado. Too broken and unstable to use ropes safely, these mountains force climbers to rely on deft movement, their skills with route-finding, and a good stroke of luck to ascend them successfully.

The story of Ryan Montoya is one of the most engaging and inspirational survival narratives in modern 14er history. After a 2,000-foot tumble down the precipitous slopes of Pyramid Peak and two nights spent exposed to the elements making snail-like progress out of the frozen wilderness, Montoya was miraculously rescued, and expected to make a full recovery. 

Not all Maroon Bells-Pyramid Peak incidents turn out so well, however. Since 2010, at least seven people have lost their lives trying to climb these peaks, that’s an average of one per year. Only the far more popular Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park has seen more fatal accidents in that same period. As some of the most photographed peaks in the state, these mountains’ picturesque beauty beckons like the call of a siren to many, luring them into what can prove for some to be a nightmare. 

On September 20, 2016, Dave Cook, a mountaineer from Corrales, New Mexico, went missing while on a solo trip with the intent of climbing the Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak. His story, which starts similarly to Ryan Montoya’s, ends with a vastly different and far-more-tragic conclusion. After an exhaustive eight-day search by ground and by helicopter, the rescue effort was called off. Dave Cook was never found, and what happened to him in those deadly mountains remains a mystery.

*          *          *

The author on top of Pyramid Peak in Colorado's Elk Range
We hauled ourselves up the final, broken ledges and collapsed ecstatically on the summit of Pyramid Peak. For a few breathless minutes, we indulged our pride in the accomplishment. A sea of beauty surrounded us. The twin fangs of North and South Maroon Peaks rose up to the north. The distant spires of Capitol Peak and Snowmass Mountain loomed behind them in the distance. Without question, we had reached one of the roofs in the heart of Colorado’s central mountains. 

“We made it!” Ella proclaimed and we shared an embrace. 

Moments like these are the fruits of life. No greater metaphor for life’s challenges exists than scaling mountains: hard work endured, exhaustion overcome, obstacles bested, and at the conclusion, the stunning view from the top. 

Ella and I never fall into the trap of saying we “conquered” the mountain. These peaks were here long before us, and they will remain for millions of years after we are gone. We are but miniscule grains that manage to survive the harsh lessons of these great peaks for a geologic blink. Our time on top makes us not conquerors but lucky survivors. Luck that not everyone who sets out with our goals shares. It is hard not to think of those who ventured into these mountains in the hope of finding something but instead lost everything. 

As we backtrack carefully down the ridge and the summit recedes behind us, we put our backs to one of Colorado’s most breathtaking places. Finally, at the parking lot some hours later, we gaze back in exhausted wonder as the afternoon light bathes the Elk Mountains in a dazzling glow. I salute these mighty peaks in reverence, and thank them for letting us pass once again. 

NOTE: This article originally appeared in Our Backyard, July 2017 issue. The link to the digital version can be found here
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All writing is the original work of Brian Wright and may not be copied, distributed, re-printed or used any form without express written consent of the author. Find out here how to CONTACT me with publishing and/or use questions


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Indie Spotlight: Fergal F. Nally- Aes Sidhe

As part of my recent effort to support and bring greater light into the rapidly expanding demographic of Indie writers/publishers, today's post is the first in a planned series of spotlights on independent, self-published writers whose books I've read and enjoyed.

Recent years have seen a rapid transition in the publishing industry and now far more books are published independently than by traditional publishers. This exploding market, however, coupled with the ease of self-publishing, has led to an explosion in the numbers of “published” authors in the market, making standing out more difficult than ever.

In this post the spotlight is on Fergal F. Nally. His latest novel, Aes Sidhewas published on June 6, 2017. I sent him a list of questions to which he was kind enough to supply answers.

Tell us a little about yourself. What is your background? What made you want to become a writer?

I was born in Dublin and left to live just outside London at age four. Our house was full of books and music. Listening to Radio Luxembourg and the BBC on the radio (John Peel) become a treasured habit. I lived near the countryside, and the area we lived in was rich with Roman archaeology. This was fascinating to me as a young boy as was the history of World War II. 

I discovered fantasy writing when I read C.S. Lewis’s The Lion the Witch & the Wardrobe and then graduated on to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, which totally blew my mind. Then followed Stephen R. Donaldson, Terry Brooks and others. 

Hanging out with my friends playing Dungeons & Dragons was an escape from school (all this before computers and the internet). Growing up close to London in the 1970’s and early 1980’s was an experience, especially with the explosion that was punk rock. The excitement of the music scene at that time was extraordinary and something I will never forget. Other artists that held my attention were David Bowie and Kate Bush, amongst others. Then I returned to Dublin and my Celtic roots at age 12 and made a whole set of new friends immersing myself in sport, literature and exams. Then university and a medical career and well… life took over. 

I always had an interest in creative writing and had experimented with it over the years. I wrote my first book, Runestane, in 2003 and enjoyed the experience. It languished in a drawer for years whilst I followed my other passion: mountaineering. Adventures in mountain ranges all over the world kept me busy for years...great memories. Then, the writing itch returned and stayed. I rewrote Runestane and self-published, which was fun so I did it again and then again and again. Writing is a hobby and I never bothered with promotion, so when each story was finished I would move on to the next. Ideas kept coming thick and fast. 

Do you have other novels/stories/poems published? Where?

I have six books out on Amazon and am currently editing my next book, part one of a dystopian trilogy, which I am excited about. You can find them here.

Where did find the inspiration for Aes Sidhe?

This came from a trip to Orkney in 2015. Orkney is rich in archaeology, and I visited some stunning sights such as the Ring of Brodgar (Stenness) and Maeshowe Chambered Cairn (with its Viking rune graffiti!) and, of course, Skara Brae. Just amazing. I came across some Orcadian folklore; the vanishing islands (Eynhallow and Hether Blether). This together with my love of Celtic and Norse legend triggered the adventure that is Aes Sidhe. I grew up surrounded by Celtic art (standing stones and ancient remains) but also Celtic inspired art from artists like Jim Fitzpatrick (who designed the album covers for Thin Lizzy) and the great Irish stained glass artist, Harry Clarke, amongst others. This, fused with my love for the purity and strength of the Arthurian legend, led me to blend these ingredients like a recipe. The result is Aes Sidhe, my tribute to all those wonderful influences.

There are some clear parallels to Arthurian Legend in your novel, i.e. with “Scalibur” and such. How deeply did the Arthurian tales play into your inspiration and how deep do the parallels go?

The Arthurian parallels are real but reforged in the world of the Erthe. Aes Sidhe is the sixth of my Erthe novels (all individual, stand-alone stories) based in the fantasy world that is the Erthe. Orcadian, Celtic, Norse, Pictish and Arthurian elements are fused together in Aes Sidhe (e.g. the mythological Kelpies, Dal Riata the ancient Gaelic kingdom of Scotland & Ireland and, of course, the ancient mystical race of the Aes Sidhe from Irish folklore).

Who are some of your primary influences and favorite authors/books?

Many and varied but influences are J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Nicholas Evans, Douglas Kennedy, Sebastian Faulks, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Allan Poe, John Keats, Lord Byron, Michael Crichton.

What made you decide to go with the self-publishing method? Did you pursue a more traditional venue first or did you know from the beginning that this was going to be your method?

I write for fun. For me it’s a joy. In the past I’ve not bothered much with promotion and when one story was finished I’d just start another. The ideas always seem to come thick and fast. I read about what writers should do using the traditional model (i.e. secure the services of an agent) which I did at one point. However, the experience was not positive and I saw the Amazon self-publishing model and knew it was for me. I tried it and found it so easy. I haven’t looked back since.

Tell me a bit about your editing methodology. Did you utilize “beta” readers? Did you enlist a professional editor for your novel?

Typically I finish the story and park it for a while before returning for the first run through. I tend to edit slowly and find it takes more energy than actual writing. Usually I go through the whole story four or five times with a fine tooth comb, correcting plot holes, grammar, spelling and inconsistencies. It’s quite therapeutic seeing this fully formed story emerging out of the clay— I love it! Aes Sidhe was formatted professionally, and once accepted for publishing by Kindle Press it was professionally edited as part of the publishing process. I did not have any “beta” readers.

Are you planning a sequel for Aes Sidhe? You’ve mentioned working on a dystopian novel. What can you tell me about your works-in-progress?

A sequel for Aes Sidhe? Who knows? Nothing planned at present but those characters may call me back, there is always unfinished business!

I am excited about my current dystopian story. I have just finished the first book and am editing it at present. I have jumped ship to this new genre which is liberating and energizing. I envisage this as part one of a dystopian trilogy. There is a strong female lead and again the characters have dragged me through this adventure at a rip-roaring pace. I have just had the cover completed and am very pleased with the result. I hope to release this new tale on the world in the autumn of this year. There’s always something to look forwards to when you’re a writer!

Thanks for your time. I wish you the best of luck in this and upcoming projects!

You can find Fergal F. Nally's on Facebook, Twitter, and on Goodreads. His most recent work, Aes Sidhe, is available for purchase on Amazon.com.

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This is the first in a planned series of spotlights on indie writers who deserve your attention. If you enjoyed it, consider signing up for my mailing list. I also blog about all sorts of crazy, educational, entertaining, and occasionally funny topics from what makes an effective first paragraph in a novel to giant redwoodsmedieval sailboats, the ancient Mayans and more. If you do sign up, you will get a once-a-week update on my posts and NOTHING ELSE! No spam, no selling your email to third parties. Okay, if I ever get around to publishing one of these works in progress that are constantly haunting me, I might send out an email letting you know. In the meantime thanks for reading.

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All writing is the original work of Brian Wright and may not be copied, distributed, re-printed or used any form without express written consent of the author. Find out here how to CONTACT me with publishing and/or use questions


Monday, July 3, 2017

Hamilton and Kvothe: the Lin-Manuel Miranda Connection

There is something pleasing about merging hip hop with the Colonial times. The juxtaposition between the distinctly modern, inner-city nature of rap and the archaic white-powdered-wigs of America's founding fathers is at once outrageous yet distinctly fitting. The life and times of people like George Washington, Andrew Hamilton and Aaron Burr was shockingly raw, even violent. It was an unrestrained, uncensored era which, surprisingly, fits neatly into the freeform yet eloquent movement of rap and hip hop.

This is probably why the 2015 Broadway musical Hamilton has become something like the smash hit theatrical performance of the 21st century.

Hamilton creator will be involved in Patrick Rothfuss's Kingkiller Chronicles
The 2015 Broadway musical Hamilton was an instant-classic
of modern theater 
When Hamilton first erupted into the scene, it took Broadway by storm, becoming nominated for a record-shattering 16 Tony awards (winning 11) and making its creator, lead writer and star actor, Lin-Manuel Miranda, a household name. With its innovative approach to history and its highly literate yet street-smart lyricism, Hamilton was just the sort of play needed to breathe life into the desiccated Broadway scene and introduce stage performance to a whole new demographic.

Unfortunately, since it is so popular, most of us will probably never be able to afford the much-sought-after tickets....

First of all, for those of you who might not be familiar with the play Hamilton, here is a little taste of the music that made it famous. I wanted to find a song with video of the stage performance, but alas, copyright law has relegated available public media to lyrics and music alone.

Here is the song "The Room Where it Happens" from the official soundtrack, a song in which Aaron Burr laments not being a part of the closed-door discussions where founding fathers such as Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison make crucial decisions for the upstart nation of the United States. The envy felt by Burr is part of the animosity that leads ultimately to his famous duel with Hamilton which ends in Hamilton's untimely death.



So how does this all tie in with Kvothe? Or, to step back, who the heck is Kvothe anyway?

As those of you who have followed my blog might be aware, one of my favorite fantasy series of all time is The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. In my opinion, Rothfuss's creation is one of the most beautifully written and literary fantasy epics in modern history. 

A New York Times #1 Bestseller which has sold over 10 million copies, The Kingkiller Chronicles unfolds the story of Kvothe, a prodigious young member of a troop of travelling Edema Ruh (essentially gypsies) whose life revolves around his music, his studies at a prestigious university, and his love of a mysterious and strikingly beautiful girl who calls herself Denna. 

When I heard the series was undergoing a film and television adaptation, I was skeptical as usual when one of my favorite books is tortured into the watered-down medium that is the big screen. A recent announcement, however, piqued my interest about the film project in a new and exciting way.

Hired to be the creative and musical mastermind of The Kingkiller Chronicle's film and television adaptation was none other than Lin-Manuel Miranda.

NYT Bestseller The Name of the Wind
is one of the most innovative fantasy epics
in the modern canon
Yes the genius that brought us the innovative, endlessly entertaining, Pulitzer-and-multiple-Tony-winning production of Hamilton will be behind the steering wheel of bringing one of my favorite books to life on the screen.

Miranda explained his reasoning for being a part of the production in an interview: 

“Pat Rothfuss’ ‘Kingkiller’ books are among the most read and re-read in our home. It’s a world you want to spend lifetimes in, as his many fans will attest. Pat also writes about the act of making music more beautifully than any novelist I’ve ever read. I can’t wait to play a part in bringing this world to life onscreen.”  

As a musician myself, I wholeheartedly agree. It was, in fact, Rothfuss's description of music that largely drew me to the novel series in the first place. In literature music rarely plays such a crucial and beautifully rendered role as it does in Rothfuss's novels. I can't imagine anyone better to bring that magic to life than Miranda.

Almost always, I find myself bitterly disappointed in screen adaptations of my favorite novels. With misguided desires to "action up" everything, Hollywood tends to snip much of the color that makes a book special in lieu of action sequences and chase scenes. This bit of news, however, that two writers whom I greatly respect will be coming together for this project, has made me almost giddy with excitement.
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If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for my mailing list. I blog about all sorts of crazy, educational, entertaining, and occasionally funny topics from what makes an effective first paragraph in a novel to giant redwoodsmedieval sailboats, the ancient Mayans and more. If you do sign up, you will get a once-a-week update on my posts and NOTHING ELSE! No spam, no selling your email to third parties. Okay, if I ever get around to publishing one of these works in progress that are constantly haunting me, I might send out an email letting you know. In the meantime thanks for reading.

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All writing is the original work of Brian Wright and may not be copied, distributed, re-printed or used any form without express written consent of the author. Find out here how to CONTACT me with publishing and/or use questions


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Thou Beef-Witted Deformity!: Fun With the Shakespearean Insult Generator

Let's face, creatively insulting someone is one of the most important skills a writer (and a human) can possess. There's nothing worse than sinking to an overused, cliche invective to slam your hated rival. Such times demand a fresh blade of words to cut deepest.

Enter, the Shakespearean insult generator and the Shakespeare insult kit, a neat pair of internet toys that allow you (in a sort of mad lib-esque way) to generate Elizabethan insults that are sure to draw blood from your foes.

As a writer, the Shakespearean insult generator is also useful to infuse a little verisimilitude into your medieval characters' diction. While many fantasy writers employ modern curse words, mixing in a few authentic-sounding taunts will help you suspend your audience's disbelief .

So let's take a look at a few randomly generated Shakespearean insults and ponder their meanings:

The Shakespearean insult kit
William Shakespeare, the ultimate insultist
Beef-witted deformity
A personal favorite. No need to ponder the meaning of this one, it seems rather appropriate for any number of idle-headed lewdsters I've seen waltzing the thoroughfares of my hometown.

Lumpish milk-livered joithead
A more advanced Elizabethan insult, reserved for those fly-bitten giglets you really want to curse. Mostly nonsensical, this should be reserved for the blobby, lump-resembling pumpions whose brainless antics entice such vile cruelty.

Pribbling half-faced puttock
A perfect one for those brainless oaf types. To pribble means to speak nonsensically and a puttock is defined as "a person likened to a bird of prey in being considered greedy, grasping, or rapacious."

Fensucked fustilarian
You have to love these alliterative insults; they roll off the tongue like bitter honey. This excellent affront for the clay-brained coxcomb of your family, translates to modern speak as essentially a low-ranked sluggard who was reared in a marsh.

Gorbellied sheep-biting skainsmate
This libelous invective has a good deal going on within its four words. Gorbellied means, in essence, "bog bellied" or round bellied. Corpulent might be a good synonym. Sheep biting, while generating a rather humorous and vivid image, requires little explanation. Skainsmate literally translates to "companion in arms" but apparently (according to one source) had implications of prostitution in Shakespeare's time.

Spleeny canker blossom
Another to-the-point bit of scorn that is sure to off-seat your foes. Someone who is spleeny is one "displays too much spleen," which in Elizabethan times meant apparently "fretful, nervous, and not wholesome to one's cause." A canker blossom, on the other hand, has a lovely double-meaning which displays just why Shakespearean language is so effective. First, it refers to literally a flower that has been eaten by canker worms, but also refers to the open sores of an infectious skin disease (often venereal in origin) that resemble these rotting, half-eaten flowers.

Ruttish elf-skinned moldwarp
This slight is excellently thorough. The word ruttish implies an over-tendency towards sexual arousal (perhaps you have heard of elk or deer being in "the rut), elf-skinned implies a shrunken, pale appearance, and moldwarp is just an archaic term for an earth-dwelling creature, particularly a mole.

Earth-vexing dewberry
A less-vicious attack suitable perhaps to insult someone you might usually enjoy but for some reason has earned a moment of ingratitude. Someone who is "earth-vexing" is one who stands in the way of the progress of man and his world. A dewberry is literally a berry, closely related to the blackberry. A diminutive insult even if the object it evokes is rather delicious.

Odiferous cacodemon
A straight-forward insult that embraces a deeper sense of brevity than most on this list. Odiferous means (obviously) smelly, and a cacodemon is a malevolent spirit or person.

Sodden-witted toad
Another concise insult that begs little explanation. Vex your enemies by insulting their intelligence and appearance!

No you have the tools necessary not only to carve up your rivals with words but to sound supremely more intelligent in the process!

Generated your own frothy, flapmouthed insults:

-The Shakespearean insult kit
-Insult Dream's Shakespearean Insult Generator
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When not dreaming up ways to creatively insult people, Brian occasionally writes about other, sometimes more serious, topics like the consequences of building fences between us and our neighbors, or the potentially damaging effects of social media on our culture. He is also a news reporter, essayist and spends as much of his free time as possible working on one or more of his unfinished novel projects which he hopes to one day see on your bookshelf. You can sign up for his mailing list and expect the full expression of his gratitude. Don't worry, all you will get is a weekly email updating you on his most recent musings.

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All writing is the original work of Brian Wright and may not be copied, distributed, re-printed or used any form without express written consent of the author. Find out here how to CONTACT me with publishing and/or use questions