Of Weft and Weave-Review & Author Interview

Series Cover 700x976

As you can see from the series image cover,  The Realm of Dica Series is rich, complex and vast. The covers and artwork are all done by the author Clive S. Johnson. In fact, throughout the print books he has scattered beautiful pencil drawings of his own. Ever since I read and reviewed the first book in this series, Leiyatel’s Embrace, I’ve been wanting to ask Mr. Johnson some questions. So stick around because after my Of Weft and Weave review are some answers I think you’ll find fascinating.

Five Stars for Of Weft and Weave

 

CoverClive S. Johnson’s second installment in the Dica series is a delight. It is more fast-paced than Leiyatel’s Embrace with many of the cast of characters of the first novel returning in an attempt to figure out what the heck is going on in their land and is there a way to fix it. Let me state right at the beginning that my heart goes out to Lord Nephril, the long-lived Master of Ceremonies to the many kings of Dica. The journey that takes him from his solitary existence atop the Graywyse Defence Wall to another world in The Lost Northern Way is almost as fascinating as the inner transformation that occurs to him in the process.

 The story opens with the ever faithful and a touch more worldly (at least more so than other inhabitants of Galgaverre) Pettar delivering a mysterious message to Nephril. Mysterious because it is written in the old language, which the aged Nephril can’t recall. In an attempt to decipher it, they cross paths with Steward Melkin. The scene early on with Melkin, and his mind for mechanization, is not only interesting but appears to set a major theme for the novel. When I read it my first thought was, “This is steampunk before steampunk was cool.”

The plot clothes itself in the attire of the expedition. Tolkien springs to mind, though Nephril is neither Bilbo Baggins nor Gandalf, even though I caught myself seeing shades of both from the corners of my eyes. Nonetheless, the adage “the joy is in the journey” certainly applies in this case, particularly with supporting characters with names such as Storbanther, King Namweed, Lady Lambsplitter, Dialwatcher, Breadgrinder, Lord Que’Devit, Steermaster Sconner . . . and the list goes on. In addition to Nephril and Pettar, I have a soft spot for Phaylan and Penolith and, as a wordsmith, appreciate how the soft sound of their names fit their characters.

Some of the plot twists I saw coming, and others I did not, the balance of which made the reading experience even more enjoyable. Speaking of balance, I questioned in my review of Leiyatel’s Embrace how much the author intended the novel to be allegorical. After reading Of Weft and Weave I am further convinced of its allegorical nature given the themes of balance and imbalance, political corruption, death and rebirth, and its apparent nod to the industrial revolution.

It was said of E.B. White that he couldn’t write a bad sentence. Mr. Johnson is one of the few writers I would also put in that category. His flair for detail and description is exemplary. “Like polished slate seen through muslin veils, faint glimpses of torpid sea floated in and out of sight as the swirling mist slowly billowed inshore,” and “He realised she smelt of rose petals and sandalwood, that her skin had a lustre all its own, and her voice a lulling depth that drew tingles to the spine” are but a couple examples (the spelling of realised and lustre being the Brit style, of course).

 If you enjoy literary fantasy—and Of Weft and Weave is fantasy, as the limb of Leiyatel would attest—this is the book and series for you. In fact, I purchased the paperback edition and was rewarded, as mentioned earlier, with Mr. Johnson’s fine sketches as well. Of Weft and Weave is a marvelously rich experience that I most highly recommend.  

Now an Interview with the author Clive S. Johnson

Author book image

Thank you, Clive, for agreeing to this short interview. Let’s begin by talking about the title, Of Weft and Weave, and in particular how it relates to Nephril. Not wanting to give away too much of the plot, at one point I was reminded of the shaman’s or wizard’s death. Clearly Nephril is not a wizard, yet to quote Studman, “Father always said [he] created [his] own fair wind. Said it seemed to follow [him] around like a tame bear.”

 

“No, thank you for asking, Tim.

 Well, the title, Of Weft and Weave, has a number of facets, but in the case of Nephril, it refers to the alteration to his structure that was carried out in Leigarre Perfinn, as touched upon in Leiyatel’s Embrace, and from which he gained his immortality, some two thousand years earlier. This alteration gave him a kindred affinity with the preserving power known as Leiyatel, made him a part of her—I can say little more without giving too much away, I’m afraid—and hence why he experiences a “shaman’s death”, as you term it, when he travels beyond her embrace. The protection it has given him up until reaching the Gray Mountains is what was noted by Studman as his father’s reported comment. It may help if I quote from Leiyatel’s Embrace, where Storbanther tells Nephril, in chapter 40 : “You see, Nephril, your having weft and weave of Leiyatel, for your own protection, unbalances everything”.

Of Weft and Weave is also appropriate in the sense of everything being interrelated, co-dependent, that no one part of a world can be altered without affecting the whole fabric, another major and recurring theme of the novel.”

Clive, There’s an interesting exchange between Dialwatcher and Breadgrinder concerning imbalance. Since I refer to the theme of balance and imbalance in my review, would you elaborate on this? After all, Dialwatcher and Breadgrinder appear to live in a very ordered world, one that perhaps once reflected Dica itself?

“You’re right: their small world of Nouwelm is indeed very ordered, and yes, it does reflect what Dica once was long before Nephril was born. The balance referred to is quite simply their taking from Grunstaan—their own smaller version of Leiyatel—no more than what Grunstaan itself can supply in the way of preservation. It’s analogous to our own world’s balance: that we should take no more than can be afforded by the Sun, our own Leiyatel.”

I wrote The Wastelanders out of my concern about the environment. Your work also speaks to me of environmental concerns. Please share why you initially wrote, and continue to write, the Dica series. Was there, or is there, anything in general that spurs you on?

“You’re right to be concerned, as we all should be. But that’s not the nature of our species, nor of life in general—something I address in more detail in the later volumes. As an engineer and a scientist, I’ve known since the ‘70s what course we were set upon, but I also knew that it was something people didn’t want to hear. So it was frustration, really, more than anything, that kept me engrossed in searching out the story of Dica. What every reader says is that “It’s a vividly real place to them”, and that’s because it’s our own world seen through different and perhaps fresher eyes.

 On a purely selfish level, that the message hasn’t overpowered the story has given me so much creative satisfaction. In fact, many readers don’t even notice it, which is fine, because a book’s prime justification must be that it’s a damned good read—what all fiction should be. For those who do come away from it with an awareness of its underlying message, I reckon they do so more receptively, not having had it “pushed down their throat”.

What this and my later volumes have allowed me to do, and why there are finally six in the series, is explore the complexities, the contradictions and confusions, the entrenched views and misplaced sentiments surrounding this issue. All the stuff that makes for the messy and confusing reality we now find ourselves in, and for which I’m honest in showing that there aren’t any easy answers—if any at all.”

Readers often see things in a novel the writer may not have realized were in there, Clive. In other words, subconscious messages or themes make their way into a work. I wonder if my interpretation of the Dica series as being allegorical is intentional on your behalf. The reader is seeing a world in transition where the natural and mechanized are melding. What are your thoughts on Of Weft and Weave (and Leiyatel’s Embrace, for that matter) as allegory?

 “I’m sure you’re right. I have always tried to be honest in my writing, to explore both weaknesses and strengths both in myself and the world as I see it, sometimes overtly, but I’m sure, often without realising. There’s certainly intentional allegory: my need to express my own views, but also much of my own observations of how our world works—or doesn’t. I think, in many ways, that’s why I relish the created-world genre. It gives so much more scope to come at familiar things from totally unexpected angles, to give a fresh spin on them. And yes, the resurgence of a mechanized world is intentional allegory, but you need to read the next volume, An Artist’s Eye, for more on this.”

Allow me to end this interview on a lighter note, my friend. You are that rare mix, the scientific-artist/artistic-scientist, which brings to mind writers such as Issac Asimov and Alan Lightman. For you, how does the scientist influence the artist? And if you produced a book cover that resembled the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s album, who would I see in that montage?

“Ha, thanks, and I suppose I am indeed an unfortunately rare specimen in our increasingly specialized world, which has largely lost the Renaissance Man. Leonardo Da Vinci must be spinning in his grave.

I think it’s given me a thirst for knowledge and understanding irrespective of the perceived widely separated camps of artist and scientist. I’m just as fascinated by what a work of art tells me, or a beautiful or ugly view, as I am by a law of physics, and have never been able to see them as different. It’s meant that, for the Realm of Dica series, there’s no traditional fantasy genre magic involved, no wizards and warlocks; everything in the world of Dica is predicated on science—so there’s no convenient plot or narrative get-outs used. It’s all good old Newtonian mechanics with a fair bit of cutting edge quantum physics thrown in, and the whole tale follows a logical progression.

 But more importantly, as far as most readers will be concerned, I hope it’s vividly brought alive by my artistic vision, and my artist’s observations. The folk of Dica feel as real as you or me because they’re the product of a lifetime of distilled people watching. And for fiction, that’s what really makes the difference.

 As for your last question, well, it would end up being overcrowded, so there’d have to be a cull for the final cover artwork. People who would certainly remain would be—in no particular order—James Lovelock, the originator of the Gaia hypothesis, Mervyn Peake for his superlative Gormenghast trilogy, Gerard Manley Hopkins for his staggering poetry, to whom I’d have to add Shelley, Keats, Browning, Walter de la Mare and a whole host of others, oh, and Emily and Charlotte Bronte, Richmal Crompton of the Just William series, SF authors like Vincent King, Olaf Stapledon, then William Morris, Lewis Carroll, E R Eddison, David Hockney, Ernest Rutherford, Erwin Schrodinger, Thomas Malory, Dickens, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, William Hope Hodgson, Hermann Hesse, Salvador Dali, Hieronymus Bosch, Albrecht Durer, Tolstoy, Stephen King, Tolkien… Oh, damn; think I’m going to have to start culling again, aren’t I?”

Thank you for allowing us a glimpse into your creative process and creation of The Realm of Dica Series. I look forward to reading more.

And now for all of you who would like to join me in this most intriguing series, here are Clive’s links.

Clive’s website’sBuypage, which has all the outlet links.

Twitter @Clive_SJohnson

Facebook page

Amazon author page US

Amazon author page UK

Goodreads author page

Clive’s blog

Clive’s website

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A Royal Release for Lizabeth Scott

Thursday, January 7th was a special day for a good friend of mine. I met Lizabeth Scott on Twitter last year. I don’t remember the exact day, or even month, but I do remember that the day I befriended her we had a riotous conversation. I was impressed with her charm and intelligence, but especially her sharp wit. Since then we’ve started following each other on Facebook and although she writes in a very different genre than myself, her writing is crisp and intelligent. She joined in on our Holiday Story Hop and I truly enjoyed her story, Christmas Dreams.

Liz Scott Profile Pic

Who exactly is Lizabeth Scott?

In her own words, Lizabeth is a voracious reader, full-time romance writer, wife, mother, and PA to two terrier terrors. Liz is the author of The Royal Vow and Hearts of Gold Series, and she’s a Carolina girl who loves sand between her toes as frequently as possible.  She’s also known as GumShoeMom on the Geo Caching circuit.

Today I’d like to help her celebrate the newest release, the fifth book in her Royal Vow Series, Sweet Temptations. Congratulations Liz!

 

SweetTemptCover

Giving in to one simply divine temptation changed the course of her life forever. Chellie’s world spiraled out of control, and she had no one to blame, but the one man who lied and betrayed her. Her one night of unrivaled passion became the worst and most cherished moment of her life.

Prince Siran SuMartra stood fourth in line for the throne. Nothing was expected of him, and that’s exactly what he delivered. The image he put forth to the public was becoming tiresome to maintain. When he woke disorientated in yet another strange bed, with a woman he couldn’t remember, he knew it was time to change and take his place beside his brothers.

Years later, two very different people come together and discover they’re bound through a common bond. Prince Siran sets out to make amends. Chellie knows putting her trust in him again would only lead to another sweet temptation.

“One night of simply divine temptation changed everything.”

Sweet Temptation buy links:

iBooks

Amazon

Kobo

GooglePlay

Connect with Liz Scott:

Twitter: @LScottBooks

Facebook: facebook.com/LizabethScottAuthor

Website: lizabethscottbooks.com

Email: Lizabeth@LizabethScottBooks.com

Subscribe to Liz Scott: http://tinyurl.com/Subscribe2LizScott

Blog: http://lizabethscottauthor.blogspot.com/

Let The Christmas Story Hop Begin

HolidayStoryHop

Funny how the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. After rounding the corner at Thanksgiving to head into the Christmas season, my plans did a complete one-eighty and nothing has gone as I thought it would. This unexpected turn of events in the form of a family emergency did two things. First, I have a half-written Christmas story that remains half-written. I’d intended to share it in the blog. Maybe next year. And second, like most people during this season, I grow pensive, reflecting not only on my current circumstances but also how I arrived at them. Perhaps this year I’ve been a bit more contemplative than usual.

What better time to ponder life’s persistent problems than while running? Well, for me anyway. Today while logging my five and mulling over this blog it struck me how many young families have moved into the area. I saw toy and diaper boxes set out for Saturday morning recycling, and I wondered what Christmas morning was going to be like at that house or that one. Tired parents from staying up late to finish wrapping gifts and stuffing stockings? Wide-eyed, over-anxious kids ready for the day to begin at 5AM? Yes, that’s the way it was for Valerie and me when our children were young.

I also thought today about my own childhood, and one particular Christmas came to mind. To set the scene, I grew up in a small New England town where we didn’t lock the doors at night. The milkman still made deliveries, and if we weren’t home he would open the kitchen door, walk in, and put the milk in the refrigerator. So it sounded perfectly reasonable to me that Santa used our front door, since we didn’t have a fireplace.

On this Christmas Eve I was about five or six. My brother and I were in the habit of following my father around when he finished work, keeping him company when he changed from his work clothes. This night was no different, as he encouraged us to go upstairs with him, except that lo and behold when we came back downstairs, the front door was wide open to the frosty winter night. My mother came in from the kitchen where she’d been making dinner and asked what all the commotion had been. Wouldn’t you know, Santa had already visited us. My brother and I were flabbergasted. Santa came to us first? Wow!

When I was older I learned that my father’s family celebrated on Christmas Eve, and while my mother was a traditional Christmas Day person, he’d talked her into having stockings, gifts, and a big dinner on Christmas Eve that year. A small thing, but isn’t it the small things that make the big events special? And this year, despite all the unpreparedness, will be special too.

Merry Christmas, y’all. Now go read some good stories!

Terry West ~ Cecil and Bubba Meet Santa

Denice Garreau ~ Solstice Moon Spell

K.K. Allen ~ Arctic Winter Masquerade Ball (an excerpt from The Descendants, a Summer Solstice Novel by K.K. Allen)

John TM Herres ~ The Slaying Song

Ann Swann ~ Winter

JMD Reid – The Grotesque’s Favorite Season

EM Kaplan ~ Slay bells Ring, A Josie Tucker Story

Lizabeth Scott ~ Christmas Dreams

Lynette Creswell ~ Skullduggery in Elftown

Chess Desalls ~ Yellow Snow Cones

Merritt Kelly ~ Dani’s Prayer

JV Carr ~ Everyday Miracles

 

The Other Amazon

NPRlink

Writers are obsessed with Amazon–sales, ranking, review policy, whatever. If only we had the same obsession for the Amazon that matters most.

You’ve probably heard of the other Amazon, the lungs of the world, over two million square miles of forest in South America, most of it in Brazil. Well, we’re losing 2,000 square miles of rain forest every year. The Brazilian government claims it has reduced deforestation, and on one hand that’s true. Trusting their information, deforestation is down over 80% from what it had been in 2004. That’s good news. But the problem is obvious. The pie is still getting smaller, and that will affect all of us. All of us.

To combat the effects of global warming and drought, deforestation needs to completely stop. Not only that, an area roughly the size of Texas needs to be reclaimed.

Those are the facts. Here’s where it gets complicated. It involves criminals, the poor and politicians.

Criminals are the illegal loggers who steal protected wood from the forest. The police are understaffed, underpaid, and unable to do much about it. Groups such as the rubber tappers have taken it into their hands to be the guardians of the forest. Rubber tappers are just that; they take the sap from rubber trees in order to scrape out a living. If there’s such a thing as honorable vigilantes, they’re it. Unfortunately it reminds me of the Finns throwing Molotov cocktails at Russian tanks in WWII, a losing cause.

By the way, according to the US Department of Agriculture, America imported $282 million of tropical hardwood last year, and about a third of it came from Brazil’s Amazon. There is a law against importing poached wood, but how can anyone really tell if it’s legal or not?

Now for the poor. Some of them are the ones who actually cut down the trees for the illegal loggers because they are literally starving. Others have been driven to remote areas of the forest because they have nothing, and they’re burning chunks of the forest down in order to clear land for raising cattle. Roughly two-thirds of Brazil’s deforested land is used for cattle ranching. So why burn the trees? The ash makes the land fertile again.

This brings us to the politicians. I’ll give you one example. There’s a Brazilian senator named Ivo Cassol. He sits on his senate’s environmental committee. Some have called him the founding father of deforestation. He reportedly made all his wealth from logging and cattle ranching. Where? In Rondonia, a state in Brazil, where there used to be, yep, a whole lot of rainforest.

Cassol said in a recent interview on National Public Radio, “Is it fair to ask Brazil to do all the conservation . . . are we to be the slave of other countries? The lungs of the United States? The lungs of other countries? Even though they send us a pittance to pay for conservation? I won’t accept it. No.” Food for thought or to choke on? Both. But it’s the reality of the situation, and as usual it comes down to money.

Geologist Ben van de Pluijm of the University of Michigan makes a good point when he says, “The earth is not in danger. It’s humanity that’s in danger.”

I suggest you check out NPR’s Lourdes Garcia-Navarro’s excellent series on the Amazon, where I drew much of my information.The link is posted above. Simply click on the image.

 

 

Beaumont and Blades

I don’t recall the year, but I do recall that I was late for lunch. Now I’m never late for anything. It goes against my grain. I’m the early bird, the creature of habit. But I was late and forced to go with the flow.

At the encouragement of some friends, I was attending my first writer’s conference. Of all places, it was in Beaumont, Texas. Not to slight Beaumont. I like the town. It has history. Think Spindletop. But I’d always figure when I went to a writer’s conference it’d be in New York, San Francisco, or maybe even Paris. After all, I was the product of a respected university writer’s program. Beaumont? Again, go with the flow.

I wandered into the banquet room that the Holiday Inn was using as a chow hall and found all the seats were taken and the staff was quickly setting up another table. Since I still worked for a high end caterer back then, I almost jumped in and helped them pop the legs of that folding round table into place, cover it with a white linen cloth, and slap down the appropriate flatware, plates, and glasses.

When I took my seat I found myself next to a dapper man, and we engaged in a delightful conversation. The details now escape me, but at one point he asked if I was a writer. I described a truly dreadful literary novel I was working on, though of course I didn’t believe it to be dreadful in my young innocence. I must have sold it well because he told me he was an editor at Ballantine and he would love to give it a read. His name was Joe Blades, and I would soon learn that he had a slew of writers at that division of Random House. Needless to say, I sent the manuscript and, bless his heart, he let me down gently in his rejection of it. However, he also told me to keep him in mind in the future.

Fast-forward a few years and my first Neil Marshall mystery fell into place. I took Joe at his word and sent him the manuscript. Then one Saturday morning while I was fixing a leaky faucet in the kitchen sink, the phone rang. It was Joe wondering if I would consider writing a prequel to the book I’d sent him and he’d make it a two-book deal.

I ended up publishing five mysteries in that series with Ballantine. Joe Blades and I worked closely together on each one of them. In Beaumont, Texas that sunny fall day it really was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Wish it had lasted longer, but that’s another story. As I prepare the Neil Marshall mysteries for republication, I’ve been thinking a lot about Joe. Those books changed my life, and for that I’ll be forever grateful. Funny how things can happen when you least expect it, and in unlikely places.

Sadly, the Beaumont writer’s conference is gone. But there are still buckets full of them out there, and I’m not talking virtual ones on social media.

And you never know. You might just find a New York editor at one. My advice? Be late for lunch.

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Marketing

This is a wealth of information on Marketing. I especially enjoyed the Call To Arms — Book marketing Results post. Check it out. Great job, Nicholas and thanks for the easy to use information, especially the excel Spreadsheet.

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