Welcome to the blog of Ron Leighton, Fantasy Author

Join me in the Shining Lands where gods, giants, werewolves, vampires and bears are real. (Oh, and I may share my art once in awhile so it doesn't get lonely in the portfolio.)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Read the Reviews

'Child of Chaos' reviews

(Posted at Goodreads)

Dec 13, 2011 Carine Engelbrecht rated it 4/5 stars  
In an intense segment that draws the reader right into the action of the story, Ron Leighton introduces the world of 'Belt of the Wolf: A Tale of the Shining Lands'. Although short, the story is both memorable and thought-provoking.

Dec 19, 2011 Jack D. Albrecht Jr. And Ashley Delay rated it 5/5 stars  
It was a delightful short story. Well as delightful as a dark monster filled short story can be. I am eager to read more from this author!

Dec 12, 2011 S.J. Wist rated it 5/5 stars  
When Kenhesho and his men find a monster-like thief in their midst, a hasty decision of what to do with it will have its costs. A well-written, entertaining short story that is an excellent teaser to the upcoming 'Belt of the Wolf: A Tale of the Shining Lands' novel.

(Posted at Smashwords)

Nov. 11, 2011 Daniel Swensen rated it 4/5 stars    
A concise, gruesome little story with a stark twist at the end. A perfect short read.

Oct. 17, 2011 Tessa Jones rated it 5/5 stars     
From the first page, you are dropped immediately into Leighton's dark, starkly painted world. There's no room here for purple prose. Child of Chaos is short, to the point, and delightfully twisted, a tale of perception and power misused. The pacing was spot on, and the ending satisfying. Highly recommended!

Oct. 12, 2011 Maureen Hovermale rated it 5/5 stars     
A masterfully crafted short story. The author knows how to create vivid characters that reach into the readers' minds and live. This knocked me back with the intricacies expressed in such a short amount of time. I would buy anything he writes after a sample like this.

Oct. 06, 2011 Ron Knight rated it 5/5 stars    
This is an absolutely terrific and entertaining story.

Oct. 05, 2011 Mackenzie Brown rated it 5/5 stars
A well written and compelling tale set in the fantasy world Ron has painstakingly created. The characters are well drawn and their stark existence beautifully portrayed. The story also had a nice pace and like all great short stories you are right in the centre of everything from the first word, right up until the nicely works twist. Well done Ron, highly commended.

Oct. 05, 2011 Darryl Ellrott rated it 3/5 stars  
I’ve never made it a secret that I’m a comic reader from way back. I preferred the superhero genre, but I was also partial to the horror and mystery comics as well. Instead of the multi-issue story arcs so popular with the former, titles like House of Secrets, The Witching Hour, and Tales of the Unexpected dealt with shorter, more compact morality tales. These magazines were the watered-down 1970’s descendants of the famous EC Horror yarns of the 1950’s, the ones that almost got the comics industry run out of business. Even though these titles lacked much of the graphic violence of their predecessors, they still packed some punch with their twist endings, many of which involved grim supernatural justice being done on some wrongdoer.

Ron Leighton’s short story “Child of Chaos” simultaneously evokes Abercrombie, Jackson, and Gaines. As in Joe Abercrombie of First Law fame for the setting and characters, horror icon Shirley Jackson of “The Lottery” for plot and theme, and William Gaines, publisher of EC comics for the ending. The story deals with a group of iron-age villagers who must decide how to deal with an unwelcome visitor to the town’s granary. The village elders argue amongst themselves about whether the stunted and deformed creature they’ve captured, the “Child of Chaos,” is truly a monster. Should it be killed or released? Has the town’s food supply been defiled by the touch of a demon, or should the creature be treated like any other trespassing animal?

First let me say that Ron Leighton can write. He’s got pro level skills. The time, place, and setting are all painted in deft strokes. There’s none of the purple similes and overdone description of fantasy novices who are trying too hard. This little one-act is primarily a dialogue piece, and Leighton’s exchanges are spot-on and snappy. These are real villagers arguing among themselves. The clichés are kept to an absolute minimum. Like Jackson’s famous “Lottery,” “Child of Chaos” is all about the conflict between Society and the Outsider. There’s even a little bit of Dogma vs. Reason thrown in. As for the ending (which I will not give away,) well, as the Crypt Keeper would say, “Heh, heh, heh!” “Child of Chaos” is very short, but well worth reading ‘cause it’s so well written. I’d give it 3 ½ stars out of five. See you soon!

'A Cheerful Smoke for the Dead' reviews

Nov. 15, 2011 Daniel Swensen rated it 3/5 stars
A macabre story reminiscent of somewhere between a Hammer film and the old E.C. comics. Dark divinity, gruesome mystery -- what more could you want from a monster story?

Oct. 19, 2011 Mackenzie Brown rated it 5/5 stars
A skilful slant on the ageless vampire theme. Cleverly plotted and carefully crafted, you can almost feel the hunger of the careworn characters, whether it is food or blood they crave. Ron Leighton is a master at creating a world none of us would wish to inhabit and wringing every drop of plot out of the short story framework. This is a writer who I predict will transfer his work with great skill and style to the broader canvass of a novel.

Aug. 15, 2011 Pamela Lyn rated it 5/5 stars
I love monsters who behave like...well...monsters. This take on vampires takes you back to the old school creatures that were to be feared. Good, quick and enjoyable read.

July 12, 2011 estruda rated it 5/5 stars
This is a very riveting story you can almost taste the atmosphere you feel as though you are actually in the streets with them, has you on the edge of your seat, i absolutely loved it, beautifully written and very descriptive.

June 24, 2011 Ron Knight rated it 3/5 stars
Excellent flow, descriptions, dialogue, and entertaining storytelling.

June 17, 2011 Tessa Jones rated it 5/5 stars
These vampires definitely do not sparkle! Ron Leighton has given us a gritty, unromantic look at one of the oldest evils to inhabit the earth. I'm still shivering...
Highly recommended.

June 16, 2011 S.J. Wist rated it 5/5 stars
If you're into vampires and want a fresh, but grounded in an older time take on them, this short story will give you a good spook. I'm very interested to see if Ron Leighton's upcoming novel will have the same effect. I will be carrying extra lights around until then.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Welcome! Wilkommen! Bienvenida! Bienvenue! добро пожаловать

Wie einige Fans des Fantasy-vielleicht wissen, gibt es einen literarischen Snobismus, das sagtmehr oder weniger "gut geschriebene Bücher brauchen keine Karten." (Das ist richtig. Ich habe die literarische Snobs ungrammatisch zu sprechen!) Dies ist für mich verrät zwei Dinge: zum einen ein Mangel an Wertschätzung nach dem Grund Fantasy-Autoren erstellen Karten für ihreWelten in erster Linie, und zwei, ein Mangel an Wertschätzung für das, was die Karte bietet dem Leser. Hoffen, dass Sie Englisch lesen!

Como algunos fans de la fantasía puede saber, no es un esnobismo literario que dice, más o menos, "libros bien escritos, no es necesario ningún mapa." (Así es. Hice los snobs literarios hablan agramaticalidad!) Para mí, revela dos cosas: una, la falta de apreciación en cuanto a la razón de los escritores de fantasía para crear mapas de su mundo, en primer lugar, y dos, la falta de aprecio por lo que el mapa se ofrece al lector. Espero que lea Inglés!

Comme certains fans de fantaisie savez peut-être, il ya un snobisme littéraire qui dit, plus ou moins », des livres bien écrits n'ont pas besoin pas de cartes." (C'est vrai. J'ai fait les snobs littéraires parlent ungrammatically!) C'est pour moi révèle deux choses: premièrement, un manque d'appréciation quant à la raison auteurs de fantasy de créer des cartes pour leurs mondes, en premier lieu, et deux, un manque d'appréciation pour ce que la carte permet au lecteur. J'espère que vous lisez l'anglais!

Как некоторые фанаты фантазия может знать, есть литературный снобизм, который говорит, более или менее, "Хорошо написанные книги не нуждаемся ни в карты." (Это правда. Я сделал литературных снобов говорить неправильно!) Для меня это показывает, две вещи: один, недостаточное понимание относительно причины фантазии писателей создавать карты для своих миров, в первую очередь, и два, недостаточное понимание того, что карта дает читателю. Надеюсь, что вы читаете по-английски!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Of Maps and Tongues

Why a Map?

As some fans of fantasy may know, there is a literary snobbery that says, more or less, “Well-written books don’t need no maps.” (That’s right. I made the literary snobs speak ungrammatically!) This to me reveals two things: one, a lack of appreciation as to the reason fantasy writers create maps for their worlds in the first place; and two, a lack of appreciation for what the map provides the reader.

The first assumption is that fantasy writers rely on maps because they have failed to describe the lay of the land in their world well enough. Thus, it is believed, they include a map to save the reader from being confused, lost as it were among the fantastic settings. I would be the first to say that fantasy writers, and any other writers, should avoid insufficient description of the setting. However, it is overly simple to say a fantasy writer is motivated to make up for the lack of setting in the text by providing a map. At best, a fantasy writer creates a map as a part of the overall creation, not because he or she is worried his reader may wander aimlessly without one.

Second, for the reader, a map simply enhances the text the way an illustration would. Do illustrations deserve from the literati the same disrepute as maps? I’ve never heard a hint of such a thing. The urge to map arises from the same place as the urge to illustrate and the love of the map arises from the same place as the love of the illustration!

Short story long: I created a map because I wanted to (with as much lust conveyed in the “want” as possible), not because I had to. I believe most fantasy writers would say the same. I certainly think Tolkien would!

My Map, My World

Some time ago I posted a copy of a map of Farseiyam - aka, the Shining Lands, the world of my stories. I invited readers to peruse the map and find on it locations mentioned in the texts of my stories. However, a reader noticed and gently mentioned something was just not right about the map of Farseiyam! Some of the place names, etc., did not match exactly those in the text.

This is perfectly true and occurs for a perfectly good reason. The language in which the map of Farseiyam is labeled and the language used to convey certain terms in some of the stories are different yet related. The former is Vyasgalean and the latter, Kuetran. They are as closely related as some dialects of Germanic or Scandinavian. Or, say, Portuguese and Spanish. For instance, what is called Kuetra in ‘A Cheerful Smoke for the Dead,' is called Kuwetra on the map. What is called Artafas in ‘The Advent of Velos’ is called Erdefosas on the map. Gergenon, the name of the town in ‘A Cheerful Smoke for the Dead,’ is Artagoan for ‘oak-strong.’ It sits at the old border between Artago and the Empire. In Kuetran it would be rendered Kerekon. 

In fact, the name of the world reflects this language difference as well. On the map, the name of the world is Farseiyam, while in various other stories and documents it is called Varaeim. Again, the former is Vyasgalean and the latter, Kuetran. Both translate as “man’s time.” This is a reflection of how the peoples of Varaeim conceive of their world. Time trumps place in this conception. It is the time of mankind, rather than, say, the time of the primal chaos, or the rise of the gods, etc., etc. To view it as merely a 'place' seems somehow sacrilegious. (This conception implies a time after man, of course. :( ) I did not invent this time-as-place idea. ‘World’ is a modern rendering of the Old English term ‘were-ald,’ which meant ‘man-age.’

The two main languages of my world, Vyasgalean and Kuetran, represent a divide that shows up in terms of politics, power, geographic setting and culture. Vyasgalean is the main language spoken, the official language certainly, of the people who live in the expansive confines of the Empire of Varšambekon (pronounced var-SHAM-be-con). Kuetran is the older of the two and is the language of the people who inhabit the lands to the east of the Empire. Other languages are related to these two: Birviodish (the language of the folk in ‘Child of Chaos’) is spoken in the Wood of Birviod in the southern part of East Kuetra; Artagoan is spoken in Artago, as well as in Vodo Wood and Cernandea to the north; and, in the south central part of the Empire, Kalkaman predominates among natives.

The map of Farseiyam posted here was drawn by cartographers of the so-called Seerage -- an organization of magicians, wise men, philosophers and just plain sneaks that serve in an advisory and intelligence role to the emperors of Varšambekon -- and reflects the specific world-view of the Vyasgaleans, their Alénoševaraiem, as the Kuetrans would say. Their Weltanschauung, as the Germans would say.

Other maps displaying the world-view of other peoples may be posted in the future.

So, for all the imperfections that may yet to be found in my world-building, the inclusion of a map and/or spelling differences of fantastic place names, are not mistakes!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Call of the Couch

The call of the couch and its dreamy stupor are pitiless. The couch knows, but does not care, that to surrender to its embrace for more than a brief time exacts a cost that even heaven’s highest angels can hardly bear. To allow the dreamy stupor’s active ingredient – the impossible promise of all-curing ease – to seduce, eventually knives one with the realization that the ever-increasing dosages required, as one grows mentally and then physically fat, delivers less and less dreamy and more and more stupor.

The lie of the couch is that, contrary to all evidence, one more moment in its embrace will restore the vigor it has stolen, the happiness it is has eroded, the will it has sapped. The power of the couch is that it always sells this lie with unimaginable ease. It is death by little pillows.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Readers are GODS!

(Author Andy Holloman has a recurring series of guest posts under the title "Why Readers Matter" or something to that effect. What follows is my contribution, slightly edited, and published on his blog last month.The great title is his.)

A well-worn philosophical thought experiment asks, “If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Plain logic tells us such an event certainly creates sound waves. However, if there is no ear drum, human or otherwise, upon which those waves can pound, does the tree-falling event really happen?

Yet, while a tree falling in the forest may be said to happen without an observer, I would argue a book without a reader is suffering an existential crisis of the first order. Though a tree does not exist, nor does it fall, for the sake of an observer (observing a tree is certainly a privilege), a book is incomplete until it has found at least one reader. Readers are to books what the ear is to music, the ass is to rhythm, and the eye to the DaVinci. Books are only a glory when their magic is allowed to flicker in the hearts and minds of readers. A book without a reader is an idea, as ephemeral as a ghost, or worse, a paper-weight.

Granted a reader, a book awakens and its story becomes flesh and bone, it is allowed to breathe! When a reader lets the first few words of a story into his heart, a character is aroused from her imposed slumber and she takes a quick breath and is glad, exultant to be alive. Her heart beats and the blood flows in her veins as the words unfold. A smile crosses her face and her eyes light up. She knows the curse of sleep has been broken. She rises and walks across the land. The reader whispers the prose to himself and a breeze winds through the trees as the sun warms the spreading earth.

And when the book is laid aside once more the character returns to sleep reluctantly, desperate in her netherworld until a reader picks up the thread of her story and lets her sun rise again.

The reader is the final, indispensable god in the creation of the story.