Underappreciated AuthorsBy: Patty Nov 19, 2013
Writers, most of us, read. We read a lot. People ask me who my favorite author is, I can spout ten or twenty off the top of my head. Most of them would surprise no one. Someday I would love to write half as well as Lois McMaster Bujold does on an off day.
I love books. You might remember when Mike posted a photo of the lone overwhelmed bookcase in our closet. ĎNuff said. Over the years Iíve discovered some favorites that you might not have heard of.I discovered Nicholas Stuart Gray in my elementary school library (where my mother was the librarian). He was an actor and playwright who also wrote children's books and short stories. The first book I read is still my favorite: Grimboldís Other World. Grimbold is a cat who involves himself in the life of Muffler, a shepherd boy who was a found as a baby wrapped in a muffler (hence his odd name) and adopted by a whole village. Among the personalities who populate this delightful childrenís book (which adults will also enjoy) are Mufflerís goats, the two farm horses, an evil sorcerer and a lost prince or two. Unexpected and charming, Grimboldís Other World is a collection of short stories masquerading as chapters, that build gradually into a single narrative.
Perhaps Nicholas Stuart Gray is better known in his native UK, but in the US, I havenít met very many other people who have read him. The next two writers are (as far as I know) both US writers.
There are a lot of unfinished trilogies published the last fifty years. Ever since Tolkienís book was divided for economic reasons, trilogy has become a popular way to tell a big story in multiple volumes. Sometimes it is because the author died: Louis Líamour started three trilogies shortly before his death, one I didnít care for. But The Walking Drum and Last of the Breed deserved books 2 and 3. But I digress since Louis Líamour is very well known, and thus not eligible for this blog post.
In the current marketplace, beginning your writing career with a trilogy is dangerous. If book 1 or 2 donít catch on, there might not be a book three. Another problem with having the first published novel be the first part of a trilogy is that for a lot of writers finishing the story can be difficult. Finishing a trilogy is harder than finishing a one-book story because the build up is so much bigger. The upshot is, then, that I have read a number of trilogies where there were only one or two books ever published. Only one of those do I read over and over again.
Those two books, the incomplete story of The Song of Naga Teot, are Heather Gladneyís Teotís War and Bloodstorm. Published in the late eighties, these are first books and they show it. They suffer from confusing scene changes, some odd pacing, and at least one character whose personality totally shifts affiliations between the first book and the second without explanation — beyond the obvious one of the author forgot that that particular character was supposed to be a good guy. Even so. Even so. I read them every year or so and have since I first bought Teotís War. Gladney has a gift for characterization combined with incredibly good actions sequences and powerful scene writing. Good stuff.
The third author, I have to confess, I didnít read the first or even the tenth time I saw her books at a bookstore. Doorstopper fantasies are not my favorite, mostly because I usually want to cut about half the book and it makes me cranky and her fantasy novels are huge. I do read SF, but outside of a few favorite authors, I generally read ten or eleven in a row —and then not again for a year or so. I just didnít run into her SF when I was reading SF.
So when I met Jane Fancher a number of years ago at an SF Convention, I knew her name, but had not read her books. I was so impressed by her enthusiasm, I picked up a few of her books in the dealerís room. This is something that is not uncommon for me. When we drove home I needed to relax before going to bed and pulled out one of Janeís books. That isnít unusual for me either. What was unusual is that I finished the first book about two in the morning and instead of going to bed, I started the next one. Her SF reads like fantasy and her fantasy reads like SF. When I finished the first doorstopper fantasy, instead of wishing I could cut pages, I couldnít believe I was done already. Fancherís writing is like dark chocolate — I never get enough. I am a character reader and her characters live and breathe — and ooze sexual tension while they do so. Yumm.
Nicholas Stuart Grayís and Heather Gladneyís books are available only on the secondary market. You can try ABE.com or Half.com. I am hoping that the rise in self-publishing opportunities will entice Gladney into publishing that third book — there have been Internet rumors for years that it is written. Jane Fancher is self-publishing now — since her writing partner is C.J. Cherryh the editing on her new books has not slipped. You can find her books as ebooks at http://www.closed-circle.net/ or you can find them on Amazon.com and pay a little more for them. As a bonus, Closed Circle also publishes Lynn Abbey and C. J. Cherryh.
You can thank me later.