Pet Peeves about Fantasy Writing by KJ Taylor – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. KJ will be awarding an eCopy of Wind to 3 randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Pet Peeves

I’m a very opinionated person, and tend to get a bit steamed up over certain topics – this one included. But I thought I would pick it anyway because at least I’ll have plenty to say.

I tend to be very critical toward a lot of fantasy writing, and I may as well say so openly because it’s not exactly a secret among the people who know me. In fact people I’ve spoken to at cons find it pretty amusing when I go off on a rant about a lousy book I’ve read, or a stupid mistake I’m sick of seeing.

One thing that annoys me in a lot of books is failed attempts at grandiose or archaic language – especially when it’s blindingly obvious that the author is trying (and failing) to sound like Tolkien (it doesn’t help that I dislike Tolkien to begin with). Using “ever” instead of “always” is guaranteed to put my teeth on edge every time. Using fancy words in general that don’t fit and aren’t necessary is very aggravating to me; I once encountered a particularly overblown example in the form of a book in which the author could never say “shiny” – it had to be “opalescent”. And a thing could never be red – no, it always had to be “ruby”. This sort of thing leads to painful purple prose very quickly indeed, and is just plain distracting to read.

The thing is, archaic language and fancy words can be used, but not everyone has the talent needed to pull it off. Tolkein, gods bless him, had the skill to make archaic prose and dialect work. H.P.Lovecraft wrote incredibly purple prose but somehow managed to make it work.

But you, mid-level fantasy author, are not Tolkein or Lovecraft and you don’t live in the same age as they did. Use the words that work for you, and write in your own voice. Trying to make yourself sound like someone else is not going to work, and it’s going to make your prose clunky. And it will probably make you look like you’re trying too hard.

Lest I come across as arrogant here, I consider myself to be a mid-level fantasy author and I take this approach myself. In the foreword of one of my own books I said that I took my inspiration from George R R Martin, and some people took this to mean that I was an conceited twerp with the stones to suggest she was on his level. My answer to that is absolutely not – he inspired me but I have no interest in trying to write like him, and nor do I believe I have anywhere near his level of skill. The world already has one GRRM, and it doesn’t need another one. Likewise it only has one K.J.Taylor, and intent to write like K.J.Taylor – no-one else.

MediaKit_BookCover_WindWendland is a land of dragons, and of magic. The mysterious Drachengott grants magic to his worshippers – but is he truly a god? Rutger von Gothendorf is only a simple furrier, but he has become his village’s local eccentric, thanks to his obsession with the murder of his brother by the Drachengott’s servants. He holds onto the vague hope that he will one day have the chance to fight back against them – until one day a mysterious and beautiful woman named Swanhild comes into his life. Rutger is instantly smitten – but Swanhild knows more than she says, and a web of lies and deceit threatens to sour the love beginning to grow between them.

And all the while, the Drachengott waits …

Enjoy an excerpt:

The wind whistled through the darkness, shaking the branches all about and putting a chill into the air. It carried a scent with it, straight to Rutger’s nose. He took it in and immediately tensed.

‘Did you smell that, Horst?’ he hissed, snatching his older brother by the arm.

Horst shook him off. ‘Not now, Rut — we’re in enough trouble without worrying about funny smells.’

‘But it smells like rotting meat!’ Rutger insisted. He paused, ignoring Horst’s impatient look, and breathed in deeply. The smell hit him again — worse, this time. He retched slightly. ‘Can’t you smell it?’

Horst, big and muscular, turned his head in the gloom and sniffed. A moment later, he grimaced. ‘You’re right: something’s dead out there. Come on, let’s move on before we find out what.’

He strode off, Rutger hurrying after him. ‘You don’t think it’s spiders, do you?’

‘Could be,’ Horst said shortly. ‘Keep your eyes open.’

Rutger swallowed and put a hand on the hilt of the long dagger looped through his belt. He had never seen a giant spider before, and he wanted to keep it that way. Silently, he wished he had never asked to come out here into the forest with Horst. But it had all seemed so harmless — just a quick stroll through the forest to check Horst’s mink traps. But then they hadn’t been able to find the last trap, and now they were lost.

I really am the unlucky seventh son, he thought glumly.

If Horst was as worried as his brother, he didn’t show it. He walked slightly ahead, dead mink swinging from his belt. A big old woodaxe hung on his back, brought along for protection. Night was falling now, and the sooner they got out of here the better.

The forest all around was dense and looked threatening, its spiky pine needles sighing in the relentless wind. Night always seemed to come early here. But at least the putrid smell had gone away.

‘How close do you think we are now?’ Rutger asked in a low voice.

Horst shook his head. ‘Not sure — I think there’s a clearing up ahead, though.’

Rutger came to his brother’s side, and the two of them climbed a small rise into the clearing. The instant Rutger left the shelter of the trees, it hit him again: the hideous stench of rotting meat slamming into his nose, so powerfully that his eyes watered. Beside him, Horst had stopped. Rutger heard him swear softly. He looked up, intending to tell his brother that they should go — and then he saw it.

Ahead, in the clearing, a faint light began to glow. It shone on the dark, lumpy shapes which hung from the trees at the far side. Some could have been animal corpses, but the rest . . .

Horst wrenched the axe down off his back. ‘Get behind me, Rut,’ he said sharply. ‘Get out of here. Now.’

‘What—?’ Rutger started to say — but too late.

As the light brightened, two of the hanging shapes dropped to the ground and stepped forward. They wore rough leather tunics with hoods which covered their heads, but on each of their chests was a pair of red gemstones, set into an amulet. They glowed faintly in the light, making a halo over each of the two men, like a pair of glowering eyes.

‘Jüngen!’ Rutger heard himself say.

One of the pair pointed accusingly at them. ‘How dare you enter this sacred grove?’

Horst started to back away, axe raised.

The two Jüngen joined hands, and the light around them intensified as their linked hands rose. An instant later, a great flash blinded Rutger. He cried out as he fell back, but his voice was drowned out by a screeching roar from above.

A pitch-black dragon was hovering over the Jüngen’s heads, its eyes glowing red. Light crackled over its wings, and it roared again.

The Jüngen let go of each other, and the second of the two spoke to the dragon. His words were a short, cold command.

‘Kill them.’

About the Author:MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_WindK.J.Taylor was born in Australia in 1986 and plans to stay alive for as long as possible. She went to Radford College and achieved a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications at the University of Canberra, where she is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Information Studies.

She published her first work, The Land of Bad Fantasy through Scholastic when she was just 18, and went on to publish The Dark Griffin in Australia and New Zealand five years later. The Griffin’s Flight and The Griffin’s War followed in the same year, and were released in America and Canada in 2011. At the moment, she is working on the third set of books in the series, while publishing the second.

K.J.Taylor’s real first name is Katie, but not many people know what the J stands for. She collects movie soundtracks and keeps pet rats, and isn’t quite as angst-ridden as her books might suggest.


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  1. Thanks for hosting!

  2. If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

  3. Confusedcious says:

    I will be looking forward to this. I am trying to explore Australian fantasy more but am finding my selections very hit and miss…for much yhe reason you express above

    • Confusedcious?? OMGs, is that really you? Don’t you remember me? You used to comment on my LiveJournal! I wrote The Dark Griffin! It’s so good to see you again! (So to speak)


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