Below are the most recent posts on NedMarcus.com.
A new YouTube channel, Fantasy Storytellers, has just published an audio version of my story The Boatmen. Overall, I'm very happy with it.
Listen on YouTube, like and subscribe. Let's help them grow!
I've recently finished a short story—I Met a Bishop Wandering in Hell—which is now doing the rounds with fantasy magazines.
A man falls through the cracks in the world and ends up in Hell, where he meets a C of E bishop wandering with his flock. They discuss the nature of truth.
Here's the image I created using the title as a prompt on Starry AI.
The Darkling Odyssey and Blue Prometheus are both on sale on Kobo CAN/US/UK/AUS/NZ. Link is to the general Kobo March Sale page. 30% off! Enter promo code MAR30 when buying.
I almost never put the second or third book in a series on sale, so it's a good opportunity to buy.
Continue reading "The Darkling Odyssey & Blue Prometheus On Sale!"
The Orange Witch paperbacks have arrived. Can you see the difference between the two? The one on the left is the cover from Ingram Spark (this is the version you'll get if you order from a physical bookshop). The one on the right is from Amazon.
I'm pleased with both, but prefer the more natural colours of the one on the left. I'm still waiting to see the hardcover version.
The Blue Prometheus series is now for sale for around $4 per paperback on Amazon. A good opportunity for those who prefer reading physical books!
Would you be interested in buying a paperback version of Young Aina? It would be short—around 38 pages. Let me know in the comments below or via the contact button above. Here's more about Young Aina...
Both my series starters (Blue Prometheus and Orange Storm) are on sale at Smashwords. 50% off each!
It's a good opportunity to begin a new series.
My first science fiction story is due to be published at the end of this year or the beginning of next. I'll link to it once published.
The story's called Warriors With Sheathed Swords. Two warriors, one human, one AI space pod, from opposite sides of a conflict, realise the ongoing war doesn't benefit them. Their strength allows them to live. Their restraint allows them to change their destiny.
Charm is one of the types of natural magic that Lucy employs in The Orange Witch. It's one that many people have but don't know how to use. She works it very well.
The prompt for the image came from Lucy: "Charm is one of the most enjoyable types of magic."
The Orange Witch is now available at all major online booksellers.
Lucy has returned to Earth!
For all links, click below to visit my books page.
The Orange Witch is now on pre-release on Kobo. It will be released on the 28th February on all platforms.
Clarkesworld—an SF magazine that rejects my short stories faster than any other—has closed its doors to new submissions, which is something it rarely does, after being flooded by AI-generated stories.
Apparently, influencers have been promoting the idea of submitting AI-generated short stories as a get-rich-quick scheme. Good luck with that!
For anyone who doesn't know, SFF magazine are not known to be high-paying. Nor do they have the ability to publish more than a few of the many stories they receive.
The Blue Prometheus boxset is on sale at Kobo. 25% off. The link is to the sales page. You need to add the promo code: FEB25 at checkout.
Here are the opening lines from the novel, The Orange Witch.
"A bell tolled in the ruined church as magic forced its way into the world. Inside, a door formed in the air; it could only be seen by the line of flames flickering around its edges. It opened, and a bright, fiery figure stepped through..."
This AI-generated art had the prompt "the orange witch." Actually, I have several. This one is a bit younger than the character, but I quite like it.
The Orange Witch is nearing completion. Over the past week, I've been reading and re-reading the novel and am now finding hardly anything to change. More on this soon.
After 2.5 years of submitting my story Hobs n' Dogs to 32 fantasy magazines—and twice getting shortlisted for acceptance with other magazines—the story has finally found a home.
Illustrated Worlds Magazine will publish Hobs n' Dogs in their fall edition.
I'll link to the story and give more details when it's published, probably some time in September.
For those of you who don't know, hobs are small household or farming spirits. Like small elves. In my story they live outside and help protect animals and the natural environment, but they also help like-minded humans.
I've pushed back the release of The Orange Witch. Things have happened to delay me, but I'll still be releasing the novel in February, just a little later than I'd originally hoped for.
"The future is indicated not predetermined." The words of the ancient mariner—the last of his species—when asked about the likely outcome of the adventure Thomas and Lucy embark on.
I've created an image of the house where this flash fiction story takes place. It's a 400 word read. Sadly, by mistake, I deleted the few reviews I had. If you like it, I'd appreciate a short review to help other people find the story.
This is an image I created for my short story The Boatmen. It begins with an act of injustice when the politician and banker fire homes of poor people in an attempt to possess their land.
Near the beginning of The Darkling Odyssey, Thomas has a lucid dream. In the middle of a dark forest a dragon visits him. He wants to be left alone, but it insists he journey to the centre of the planet.
The Orange Witch, the final novel in my latest series, is finished. I’m just waiting for the hardback cover, which will be with me later in January.
I plan to publish it in February (I've just pushed back the time a bit). Although it's the second of a duology, it’s almost a standalone novel. Lucy returns from the planet of Blue Prometheus. It’s a mixture of contemporary fantasy, science fantasy, and exotic world coming together.
No More Series
I don’t plan to write any more series. At least, not in the way I have before.
The stories I’m writing for 2023 will touch on themes from psychology and religion in a way I’ve not before.
I’ve just finished a novelette set in seventh century England. It’s about a girl who must choose between the old ways and the new religion of Christianity, which was being introduced to England at that time.
Another story, I’ve jut finished is about a man who falls into hell by mistake and finds a bishop with a procession of his followers who are going to attempt to convert one of the demon lords.
I’ll be attempting to get both these stories (and others I’m working on) published in fantasy magazines first.
A New Fantasy World
After I’ve written four or five more novelettes and short stories, I plan to write standalone fantasy novels set in a new world I’m creating. The stories will be independent but some of the countries, cities, and troubles facing the people there will be revisited in the novels. Some characters may resurface from time to time. I’m still in the early stages of planning this world.
You're welcome to join me.
Read the A-Z of fantasy. A is for the author you've read most, B is for best standalone fantasy, C is for...
Fantasy and SF—Read the best of Ned Marcus blog posts from 2022
I've had to stop this challenge because I have too many unfinished short stories. Now it's time to develop them.
I wish all my readers a happy new year for 2023. I hope your plans and dreams come true.
This is one of a series of (at present) 100 AI-generated images that will form a pictorial guide to The Darkling Odyssey.
This image is of Tu—a very special cat with a touch of magic. He was discovered floating on a wooden map in another world.
Another AI-generated image using the prompt 'the darkling odyssey in the fiery planet core.'
This one creates the atmosphere of the journey to the centre of the planet, and the image could represent one of the ghostlike entities they encountered on the way.
adventure, alien attack. alien dragons, alien panther, alien species, ancient forest, crystal forest, dark sorcerer, distant planet, dragon, elemental fire, exotic aliens, forest planet, intelligent species, lizard aliens, magic, metaphysical, mystic journey, natural magic, nature fantasy, orange witch, planetary romance, psychic power, space dragons, space fantasy, stone forest, subterranean, telepathy, urban fantasy
The annual Smashwords sale is on now. Many fantasy and science fiction titles are on sale. My books too.
Blue Prometheus is half price, and The Darkling Odyssey and Orange Storm are reduced by 25%.
I've been creating a series of AI-generated art based on my fantasy series. The Darkling Odyssey in the fiery core was the prompt for this one. Of the four images I generated for The Darkling Odyssey, this is my favourite. I like the colours used.
Eventually, I'll put them all together, showing parts of the Blue Prometheus and Orange Storm stories through AI art and captions.
There are creatures something like this in the novel—but not exactly the same.
What do you think?
I've revised my opinion of StarryAI. It was my lack of experience that was the problem. I'm starting to build a collection of great images—even though some of them are really weird interpretations of the prompts.
I'll be sharing many of these over the coming weeks and months + giving a review of the app.
Spoiler Alert—I think it's well worth a try.
Although I really want to explore Midjourney (and some other more sophisticated AI-art generators), I’ve been too busy to devote much time to it, so I started with a relatively simple AI generator. StarryAI is for phones only, which I don’t like as much because of the smaller screen size.
So far, it’s not been very successful. Actually, a disaster for the most part. Below is only one of two that I quite like, but none of them were anything like what I’d expected. The prompt was fantasy sailor on a sailing ship. Not specific, I guess.
Still, the app is free (for 5 goes a day—each go produces 4 images).
I've been writing short stories most days. Despite being really busy, I can usually fit in 20-30 minutes to write whatever story comes to me. I've not had to use prompts (although I think they can be good) because stories have just come to me. So far, at least.
A few days ago, I wrote a complete fantasy flash fiction story on the bus. It needs polishing, of course, but I'm quite pleased with it, and it feels good to finish writing a story in one sitting, especially after spending so long on each novel.
Thank you to everyone who wrote in to help me choose which cover version to pick.
Twice as many people went for version B. This was my choice too, although I like some parts of A. It's good to know that my choice is the most popular one.
I've suggested several alterations to the designer and will post the updated covers as they come in.
And here's the other version. Which do you prefer? I need to choose one. Then I can have minor alterations until I'm happy with it. Let me know in the comments, contact, or click on any of my newsletters and email me.
What do you think of this preliminary version of the new Orange Witch cover (1A)
I recently read The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. I was surprised.
First that I enjoyed it. I'd expected it to be a hard read.
Second, that it was fantasy. Okay, I understand that some people may call it magical realism (although it's not all set in the real world—and being set in a realistic location is sometimes one of the criteria given for magical realism). The devil's ball seems to take place in some undetermined magical location, and later they visit one of the nicer regions of hell.
I agree with Terry Pratchett, that magical realism is really a polite way of saying fantasy.
Okay, putting all that aside, The Master and Margarita is fantasy—if written in a literary style.
There are many characters, and each character seems to have two or three names, which means getting into the book takes a little time, but it's worth it.
I won't give away too much of the plot, but basically, the devil visits Moscow during the Soviet era and targets the atheistic authors peddling the communist worldview propagated at that time. He finds fertile ground to work on.
The devil's accompanied by a giant black tomcat that walks on two legs and has a love for fine living, including good cognac. He also likes hanging from chandeliers firing a submachine gun.
When Margarita asked the devil to have mercy on an unfortunate dweller in hell, the devil replied that that was not his department, i.e., God sent the sinner there.
One thing I never knew was that The Master and Margarita influenced the Rolling Stones song, Sympathy for the Devil.
I appreciated the novel more because I've been writing short stories featuring demons on Earth and bishops in hell. The themes have been on my mind.
I read the Ginsberg version. One of the better translations, I think.
I've written almost 10 short story fragments over the past 10 days or so. None are finished (I’m only writing them for 20-30 minutes a day) but some are more complete than I expected.
I wrote the first on a rattling and squealing bus as it bounced its way down from the mountains into Taipei. I was trying to think what the story would be about when I was jolted in my seat. The squeals coming from a worn fan belt (perhaps—I’m not an expert on vehicle mechanics) made me think of basilisks. Don’t ask why. The bus became a carriage. We were trying to escape the basilisks.
The protagonist feared for his life. They were getting closer. I’ve not finished yet. The basilisks will kill, but it won’t be as the poor protagonist expected.
Does anyone here use Substack? Particularly for reading fiction?
Along with my discovery of AI-generated art, I've learnt more about Substack—I've known about it for a while but only recently looked more deeply. I'm thinking about starting my own channel there and serialising some of my fiction. I'd release short chapters weekly with fantasy art attached. It would be free, but with the option of paid subscriptions offering something more.
Would you be interested?
Let me know via the contact form above or by clicking reply to any of my newsletters.
The last time I challenged myself to write a fantasy flash fiction story every day for 30 days, I created a lot of stories. Not all were finished, of course, but since then, I've polished many of them into complete stories.
Now it's time to set myself another challenge. I'm not sure how long I'll continue this time, but I hope to start (and sometimes finish) a lot of new short stories. They won't all be good, of course, but in my experience, some of them will be worth publishing.
I'm devoting 20-30 minutes a day to this, which is outside my regular writing schedule. When I can, I'll work on this challenge when travelling or in the intervals when I'm waiting for something else to happen.
I'll be writing the stories by hand.
A friend created AI-generated images based on the cover of Fire Rising, and this was one of the results. I plan to experiment, too. What do you think?
The zaniest SF book I've read is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. It's just very funny. Actually, I think the radio series (BBC Radio 4) is the best. The book comes second. I'd place the TV series in third place. The worst of the franchise is the film, which I didn't enjoy and didn't finish watching.
I don't normally like comedy in fantasy/SF, but here it works well.
This is a hard choice, but I'm going to pick Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb. It's #1 in the Liveship Traders series. Althea Vestrit is denied her inheritance, a sentient sailing ship. It's a story of family politics and power, one that I didn't think I'd enjoy, but I did.
The rest of the Liveship Traders series is worth reading, too. Other sailing fantasy books I've enjoyed include The King's Buccaneer by Raymond E. Feist, and The Ice Schooner by Michael Moorcock, which is pulp fiction but fun. The Odyssey by Homer is obviously a classic, too.
This one has to be SF. I can't think of any 'x' for fantasy, except perhaps, Xena, warrior princess.
Xenology is the scientific study of alien biology and cultures, and the most enjoyable novel I can think of that involves the study of alien culture is The Interpreter by Brian W. Aldiss. Earth is enslaved by an alien race, and the protagonist is the chief interpreter. He's a person with a deep understanding of the alien race, and he has the chance to help free the planet.
Although I don't rate The Interpreter with Hothouse, one of Alidss's classics, I enjoyed his portrayal of the alien species.
The Old Forest at the edge of the Shire, with Tom Bombadil, and Fangorn, the home of the Treebeard and the ents are still two of my favourites, even though I don't read Tolkien so much nowadays.
Read more in Magic Forests in Fantasy and Myth.
Continue reading "A-Z of Fantasy (W) Favourite Fantasy Woods"
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