Welcome Text

Welcome! Books, movies, music, original stories, interviews, writing, libraries, literacy, humor –all with the YA reader in mind, are just a few of the topics you’ll find here. New to the blog? Say hi! Like it? Follow away! Thanks for visiting.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Origins of Fantasy -where did it all begin?

By J. R. Wagner


What are its origins? Who wrote the first fantasy novel?
These are questions both budding and existing fantasy authors should know.

First I think we need ta solid definition

I like this definition despite its source -The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979) -yes, the Soviets.  I've broken it into two parts because the first part is more or less the definition and the second speaks of its origins (albeit a wordy piece of writing).
Fantasy: a type of fiction that ideologically and aesthetically subordinates reality to imagination by depicting a world of marvels that is contrasted to everyday reality and to accepted views of what is credible.
Fantasy literature originated in popular myths, as expressed in the fairy tale and the heroic epic. It is the product of many centuries of popular literary creativity. At the same time, fantasy literature is a continuation of that creativity, utilizing and renewing traditional mythological and fairy-tale characters, themes, and plots and combining them with elements from history and contemporary life. The result is a series of archetypes that combine fantasy and verisimilitude, that conform to the moral and aesthetic principles of an imaginary universe, and that constitute a continuously developing literary mosaic.

Based upon this definition, the fantasy genre is rather wide open.  We could speak of Celtic, Roman, Greek(641BC-331AD) and Egyptian(2686-2181 BC) stories containing creatures that contrast everyday reality.

I often think of the Iliad and Odyssey as early fantasy writing.

The Iliad dates back to 650 BC and its counterpart the Odyssey dates to 630 BC according to Andrew Dalby, author of Rediscovering Homer.  

This is an excellent excerpt about the genre from FindMeAnAuthor.com

"Though the genre in its modern sense is less than two centuries old, its precedents have a long and distinguished history. Fantasy Fiction has a rich history of inspirations for critics to dissect and apply to the modern genre. It is often examined as the modern counterpart to mythology, but whether one of these practices inspired the other, and which inspired which, is hotly debated.

With its roots in myth and legend, fantasy is the most elemental of all the genres. It is certainly interesting that many people for many generations believed in myth and legend in a way that dramatically affected their life and their culture.

One thing is certain: there is something timeless about stories that pit motivating heroes who face long odds against dynamic villains. (It could also be argued that this is the elementary basis of most commercial fiction genres.) Good is good and evil is evil. Eventually there is often a happy ending although important secondary characters may have been killed.

Stories of the Odyssey, Arthur, and the like have influenced and shaped culture for centuries. Heroic fantasy yearns for a time of rigid class distinction, when good and evil were a part of breeding. When the strong ruled the weak and weak lived happily - providing rustic atmosphere in the way good peasants should. In fantasy, the reader may return to a simpler time - the world as we wish it might be."

 One non-modern era publication that cannot be ignored is this Kinder- und Hausmärchen (German for Children's and Household Tales) commonly known today as Grimms Märchen: Grimms' Fairy Tales published in 1812. These stories have influenced writers of all genres for generations.  Even today stories and films based upon these tales.

 A Final non-modern era publication that has influenced many, many authors is titled Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by-Charles Lutwidge Dodgson better known as Lewis Caroll. The story is better known as Alice in Wonderland published in 1865. Many spin-off books and films have come as a result of this novel as well.

The Modern Era of Fantasy

Looking forward 60 years we come to the first fantasy novel in the modern era.  Over and over again I hear the name George MacDonald as the first author to publish a fantasy novel in the modern era.

Amazon blurb:  

One of the most successful and beloved of Victorian fairy tales, George Macdonald’s The Princess and the Goblin tells the story of young Princess Irene and her friend Curdie, who must outwit the threatening goblins who live in caves beneath her mountain home. Macdonald’s pioneering use of fanstasy as a literary medium had a great influence on Lewis Carroll (his later works, I'm assuming), J. R. R. Tolkien, and Madeleine L’Engle, all great admirers of his work, which has remained popular to this day. "I write, not for children," he wrote, "but for the child-like, whether they be of five, or fifty, or seventy-five."

Others say the first true fantasy novel published in the modern era was written by  
William Morris.

Amazon blurb

The Wood Beyond the World was first published in 1894 and its author, William Morris is often considered one of the authors who aided in the growth of fantasy, utopian literature, and science fiction. C.S. Lewis cites William Morris as one of his favorite authors and J.R.R. Tolkein admits to being influenced greatly by Morris' fantasies. The hero of this romance is named Golden Walter, son of Bartholomew Golden, a great merchant in the town of Langton on Holm. Tired of his mundane life, Walter sets out on a sea voyage, anxious to see and learn more of the outside world, eventually winning for himself the kingdom of Stark-Wall and the love of a beautiful maiden. 

A seldom mentioned story when referring to fantasy that actually cut its teeth as a play in 1904 and was soon adapted and expanded to a novel in 1911.  It was written by J. M. Barrie. The title: Peter and Wendy (now known as Peter Pan).

 Peter Pan fits the definition of a fantasy novel as well as any other and I'm sure has provided countless writers with inspiration. 

There are over 30 published works based on Peter Pan as well as over a dozen films including my favorite simply called; Peter Pan.

A Voyage to Arcturus, David Lindsay-1920

A Voyage to Arcturus is a novel by Scottish writer David Lindsay, first published in 1920. It combines fantasy, philosophy, and science fiction in an exploration of the nature of good and evil and their relationship with existence. It has been described by critic and philosopher Colin Wilson as the "greatest novel of the twentieth century", and was a central influence on C. S. Lewis's Space Trilogy.Also J. R. R. Tolkien said he read the book "with avidity", and praised it as a work of philosophy, religion, and morality.

 Why is this particular book important?  Well, there are two names cited as being influenced by this novel that may be familiar.  C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien; two of the biggest names in modern fantasy.


  I have personally read this book over a dozen times -most of them as an early teen.  To many, The Hobbit is the bible of fantasy. The Hobbit launched the fantasy genre into the mainstream and influenced thousands of writers, artists and filmmakers. Tolkien's follow-up novels -The Lord of The Rings trilogy are similarly influential and monumental.






 It is a well known fact that C.S. Lewis and Tolkien were friends during their writing career.  The Chronicles of Narnia includes some phenomenal pieces of writing and some not so phenomenal.  The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe being the most well known of the series.  Despite the ebbing and flowing of the popularity within the series, one cannot question the influence his storytelling has had on generations of readers.




 I realize one could just as easily call this novel science-fiction as they could fantasy, however I believe it should be included mostly due to its influence on future works. This novel touches on complex concepts in a way that still enables young readers to enjoy the story.  After reading A Wrinkle in Time as an adult, I was amazed at how truly rich a story it is.




Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Excellent Book Trailer!

Hey everyone,

Please check out this super-cool trailer for her upcoming book,  Heart Search.

Carlie is a regular guest-poster on my blog and I am very excited for her debut release.

Heart Search by Carlie M. A. Cullen 

Available October 8th

One bite starts it all . . .

When Joshua Grant vanishes days before his wedding his fiancée Remy is left with only
bruises, scratch marks and a hastily written note. Heartbroken, she sets off alone to find him
and begins a long journey where strange things begin to happen.

As Joshua descends into his new immortal life he indulges his thirst for blood and explores
his superhuman strength and amazing new talents while becoming embroiled in coven
politics which threaten to destroy him. But Remy discovers a strength of her own on her
quest to bring Joshua home.

Fate toys with mortals and immortals alike, as two hearts torn apart by darkness face ordeals
which test them to their limits.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Top five movies for teen boys

By J. R. Wagner

I was a boy once.

There are many people who will argue the case that I still act like one.

My list is based upon two things. First, it was a film I saw when I was still considered a boy. Second, after the movie ended, thoughts of the film resonated with me for years -actually in all of these cases, they still resonate with me.

Here is the list:

5: Raiders of the Lost Ark

I spent my childhood seeking adventure. I would spend hours in the woods behind my home building forts, climbing trees, making zip-lines out of garden hoses 60' off the ground (yes, I realize I'm lucky to be alive).

Indiana Jones was exactly who I wanted to be.  Every time I watched, I was immersed in the world created by Stephen Spielberg, Lawrence Kasdan and Phillip Kaufman.

Most importantly, I was inspired to get out of the house -to do something, anything outside where the adventures were waiting for me. It was this foundation of activity and imagination that can be credited for the man I am today -still active, still imaginative.

What boy doesn't want to be Indiana Jones?

 Great scene!

4. Ghostbusters

This may seem like an odd addition when compared to the others on the list but for me, this film was monumental for several reasons.

First, Ghostbusters is a mixture of action, humor and paranormal that most teenagers don't find in a single film -at least, not one worth sitting through. I was laughing my butt off while imagining there were ghosts waiting for me in my closet and running around the house with a black spray painted cardboard box and paper towel tube as my make-shift proton-pack.  Yes, I was bad ass.

Second, I believe the paranormal holds a special appeal for teen boys simply because it is out of the realm of possibility for most adults.  It is the nature of teens to gravitate toward things that adults find impossible, ridiculous or plain old stupid.

Finally, this is a fun movie. From start to finish it is fun.  There are no deep underlying themes. It is what it is -a great film.

One of the funniest scenes in this movie

3. Big


This movie can be enjoyed by adults and teens alike. A young Tom Hanks plays the main character who makes the wish at a carnival fortune machine called Zoltar and wakes up in Tom Hanks' body.

Big is funny from start to finish.  Most importantly, it reminds us that being a kid (or at least acting like one sometimes) is a great and powerful thing.  Getting caught up in the real world and never taking the time to have fun and enjoy yourself is a shallow life indeed.

The Zoltar machine

Hanks in his younger years

A great scene from Big

2. Rocky

I know...stop rolling your eyes because I threw a Sylvester Stallone movie in here.  FYI in 1977 Rocky won three academy awards including best picture, best director and best film editing AND Stallone himself was nominated for best actor among.  Several other actors were also nominated.

Anyway, this is not why this film is on the list at number two. It is on the list because it is a great film with a great story.  In essence, Rocky is the great American success story; if you work hard -really hard, you can see your dreams come to fruition.

Like most people, Rocky (the character) is filled with self-doubt and insecurity but, with the help of his support group who believe in him, he pushes through the doubt, works his butt off and gets his shot at the world championship. I used to watch this movie all the time.  I became interested in exercise and working out at a young age because of Rocky.  Any time I need a lift, I watch one of several training scenes from Rocky and my spirits are lifted, my determination hardened.  I know, it sounds corny...but it's true!  Below is the original training scene from Rocky.

I remember when I was a young teenager my dad pulled me aside because I wasn't doing well in school. He said, Josh, you have a choice in life -just like everyone.  You can choose to be the guys who stand on the corner singing over the trash can fire (you need to see the movie to understand who these guys are) wasting their lives away, blaming others for their situation OR you can work hard -harder than you ever thought you could, take control of your life and be like Rocky.   I've never forgotten that speech he gave me -and I don't believe I ever will.



The original Rocky Training scene

1. Glory

Glory is a great film -a superior film, for many, many reasons.  The acting is phenomenal.  This was Denzel Washington's break out role and he was absolutely superb. He won an Oscar for best supporting actor.

I gravitated toward glory for several reasons. First was the brotherhood of men that evolved throughout the course of the film.  Despite everything -the country, history, how they were raised, these men came together and united as one group -one lethal fighting force to overthrow the south.

It is a civil war film that centers around the first all black volunteer company. If follows this company through its trials and tribulations as the men resist uniting with each other until finally they come together. I didn't have a large group of friends when I was a teen.  I suppose I liked this film because it was a dream of mine to have a tight knit group of friends like the men in glory. I also felt an affinity for the cause these men were fighting for. I never stood for the maltreatment of any man and Glory personifies the beginning of a generation-long battle slaves brought to America from Africa would have to endure.  This isn't going to war for the sake of war. This is going to war for their very freedom.  This company, more than any other in the Union army at the time, had a reason to engage the enemy.   

Saturday, September 15, 2012

October Writing Contest details

It's that time again!

 Get out your pens and get writing!  Great prizes await (and it is free to enter!)

October 2012 short story contest
Contest:                   Short Story
Type:  Fan Fiction Short Story (Chapter .5)
Deadline:   October 10 
Entry fee: $0.00 (FREE!)


Word count Maximum: 1000
Prompt: Write your version of what happened BEFORE the first chapter of Exiled.  I want to see your version if there were a chapter BEFORE chapter one. If you don't have a copy of Exiled, chapter one is available for free below. You can also listen to the audio version of chapter one HERE.

You can purchase a hard copy of Exiled
You can purchase the eBook for your Kindle HERE

PLEASE read the contest rules

I STRONGLY RECOMMEND reading the scoring rubric (found in the contest rules). It will tell you exactly how each submission will be scored.


First place:
$25 Amazon gift card, One signed copy of Exiled, $30 to spend at The Never Chronicles store

Second place
: $20 Amazon gift card, One signed copy of Exiled, one signed Exiled poster

Most potential award:
One signed copy of Exiled

Contest rules:

  • Entries must be emailed to josh@theneverchronicles.com
  • All entries must be submitted by midnight on the deadline date
  • Entries must be pasted into the body of an email. NO ATTACHMENTS
  • 12pt font double spaced -normal font (courier new, arial, default email font)
  • No submission limit
  • Early submissions appreciated
  • Your short story MUST be based upon the events you believe preceded chapter one of Exiled.  No other topic will be considered.
  • 1000 word Maximum word count
  • Spelling and grammar taken into consideration
  • PG13 stories only please
  • No previously published works (unless self-published)
  • By submitting an entry, you are giving permission for your story to be posted on this website, the J. R. Wagner author blog and the J. R. Wagner author facebook page. If and when they appear in the aforementioned locations, the author(you) will be credited and have the opportunity to provide links to the author's (your) external sites. (websites, blogs, facebook pages etc.)
  • All works are the sole property of the authors.  Reproduction of any kind, without the permission of the author as well as proper citation is strictly prohibited.
  • Scoring rubric can be found HERE each category is worth ten points.

Friday, September 14, 2012

201'st post give-away

By J.R. Wagner

Everyone else does it...so why not me??

So, I've broken the 200th blog post mark! Woo-hoo!

Here is the deal...

Answer the questions below by posting it as a comment, win a prize.  Simple, right?

What is the prize, you ask?

The prize!
Well, I am a writer so the prize will be a signed copy of my book (If you live in the US) or a digital copy of my book (if you live outside the US) If you win a digital copy, I can email you a digital copy of my signature that you can upload onto your eReader and keep for ever and ever!



The question: (I'm actually going to ask 2 questions.

1. What is the name of the actor who played Quint in the greatest film ever, Jaws?

Yes, this guy.

2. What is the name of the person who read chapter one of Exiled?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Oh, the stubbornness of me!

By J.R. Wagner

Mid-August while playing paintball (what? it's fun!)

I managed to dislocate my shoulder (for the second time ever).

Ouch! It wasn't fun.

Anyway, I've been signed up to do a triathlon this month, which involves...
Crazy open water swimming

and Running (no, that isn't me)

and because of the dislocation, I haven't been in the water doing much swim training. AND because of the bunch swim, there is a chance I could re-dislocate so I'm going to have to adapt my swim to a different (and slower stroke).

The problem is, I am Mr. Competitive (even though I haven't been training nearly as much as I should) and, against the recommendation of my Dr. I am going to race. Why?  Because I'm a little crazy, a lot competitive and I do love the sport.  Oh and there is one other small reason...

That's me! ...really!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Baltimore Book Festival

By J.R. Wagner

I am fortunate this year to have been chosen to sit on several author panels at The Baltimore Book Festival.

From the website:

New to the East Park this year, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) present a full weekend of programming by their member authors and special guests!


Stage: Mount Vernon Place, 600 block of North Charles Street, East Park (39.296795,-76.61579)
 Click HERE for a map or scroll down

Click HERE for the directions page

A complete listing of all the SFWA events can be found HERE

More importantly (ha ha) are the events I will be participating in.

Flavors of Fantasy

Date: Friday, September 28, 2012

Join three expert panelists to explore the roots of fantasy from ancient myths into the new millennium. It isn’t only Tolkien and Harry Potter; enough flavors of fantasy exist to tempt any reader. Panelists include: J. R. Wagner, Aly Parsons and Diana Peterfreund.

Series in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Date: Friday, September 28, 2012
Time: 5pm

Series form some of the most successful science fiction and fantasy stories. What are the advantages, drawbacks, and pleasures of series fiction, both for the writer and the reader? Panelists include: J. R. Wagner, Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Brandie Tarvin.


** Update** I will be signing books on Saturday, September 29th from 5-6. Stop in and say hi!


SFWA Reception/Autographing: Come Meet Our Authors

 Date: Saturday, September 29, 2012
Time: 6pm

Join SFWA for a reception and autograph session with authors from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Enjoy good conversation, soft live music, and plenty of food and drink.


Other events of note:

Authors' Tent

Bank of America Literary Salon


Children’s Bookstore Stage

A map of the area...

Map of the festival area

So come out, say hi, check out all the cool events going on throughout the weekend.

See ya' there!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Want something done? Give it to a busy person. Heaping more stuff onto my insane schedule...just because My Star Wars Uncut Journey part 1

By J.R. Wagner

My Star Wars Uncut Saga

So there is this project out there called Star Wars Uncut where...well, their website says it best so I'll quote them

Star Wars Uncut is a crazy fan mashup remake of the original Star Wars movies. It is the brainchild of Casey Pugh, a developer dedicated to creating interactive experiences on the web. In 2009, Casey was inspired to use the Internet and an ever-ready pool of passionate Star Wars fans to crowdsource the classic film Star Wars IV: A New Hope. This pet project turned into a labor of love and creativity on a large scale. Nearly a thousand fans came together to participate and the resulting movie is equal parts fun, kooky, and dearly nostalgic.

Anyway, the original is absolutely hilarious. I highly recommend you watch it! Link is HERE

The gist is the entire movie is broken down into 15 second clips and then offered up to fans to re-make in their own way.  The result: brilliance! Funny, creative, intriguing...What a great concept!

They have decide to do the same for The Empire Strikes Back and, of course, I couldn't resist taking a shot at fifteen seconds of the best of the Star Wars films. So, I picked the scene below.

Easy, right?

Except I only have thirty days to complete it (and that began two days ago)

So far, I've broken my fifteen seconds down into shots.

All tolled there are six shots and my fifteen seconds is actually 15.22 seconds but whose counting.
Once I had the shots, I made some crude drawings so I know what kind of set designing will be required.

Here is another thing: I'm only giving myself 30 minutes a day to work on the project (except for the shoot) -yup, I'm one of those old school folks who likes crazy trinkets like an hour glass...but this is a half hour glass so it works perfectly!

So I figure I'd document my journey and see if I can pull this thing off.  I believe my biggest challenge is going to be the set design -yes, I need set design because I'm neurotic like that and also finding a way to have Luke fall through the window...the whole gravity thing.

Here are my shot by shot drawings -remember, I said they were crude!

Look Familiar? Sort of, right.  Time: 0.00-1.11s

Yes, Luke looks a bit like Kermit Time: 1.12-2.28s

Time 2.29-4.09s

Time 4.10-10.1s

Time 10.02-15.03s

Time 15.04-15.22s

Sheesh! A lot of work for fifteen seconds

Stay tuned! The saga continues.............

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Getting teens in the library door

  By J. R. Wagner

Hey everyone,

On Saturday, August 25th I was lucky enough to be at the PAYA festival in West Chester Pennsylvania.

What is PAYA?

From their website:

PAYA is a coalition of Pennsylvania’s young adult authors (over 30), bloggers, librarians, readers, and other book-lovers.  Our mission is two-fold (1) To share the love we have for young adult literature with others in our state and (2) To raise money to support Pennsylvania’s libraries, with a focus on helping build Young Adult library collections and Young Adult services

This is a super-cool event with a great collection of YA authors (see them all HERE) dedicated to helping the cause, which is in desperate need here in Pennsylvania.

One of the unique aspects of this festival is the Librarian only workshop, which I was fortunate enough to be a part of. A.S. King, the keynote speaker, Jennifer Hubbard and Shannon Delany were all on the panel as well (and all wonderful people!).

One of the resources I used in preparation for this panel is a contact I made through the Roanoke County Public Library teen events coordinator, Sara Vaughan. Sara is one of those innovative thinkers that sees the importance of thinking outside the box when it comes to getting teens in the door at the library.

They have a great website HERE

If anyone has any questions for Sara, she was kind enough to offer her email address and would be happy to connect with authors and librarians.

Below I've included the outline I prepared for the panel.

Getting teens in the door

By J. R Wagner

At a book signing in Roanoke, VA a few weeks ago.  On one side sat Kiera Cass, bestselling author of The Selection and on the other Sarah Vaughn –teen coordinator forthe Roanoke County Public Library system.  What a great day that was!