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Friday, June 29, 2012

Guest Post and Giveaway with Stephen Zimmer, author of Spirit of Fire

Hi, everyone!

I am pleased to participate in Stephen Zimmer's Spirit of Fire Blog Tour hosted by Seventh Star Press.

About Stephen:

Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker, whose literary works include the epic urban fantasy series The Rising Dawn Saga, as well as the epic medieval fantasy Fires in Eden Series.

The Exodus Gate, Book One of the Rising Dawn Saga, was Stephen's debut novel.  It was released in the spring of 2009, with The Storm Guardians following in 2010, and The Seventh Throne in August of 2011.

Crown of Vengeance, Book One of the Fires in Eden Series, was released in the fall of 2009, with Book Two, Dream of Legends, following in December of 2010.  Crown of Vengeance received a 2010 Pluto Award for Best Novel in Small Press.

Stephen’s short fiction includes the Harvey and Solomon steampunk stories included in the Dreams of Steam and Dreams of Steam II: Bolts and Brass anthologies from Kerlak Publishing.

As a filmmaker, Stephen's film credits include the supernatural thriller feature Shadows Light, the horror short film The Sirens, and the recent Swordbearer, a medieval fantasy short film based upon the H. David Blalock novel Ascendant.


Welcome back to Darlene's Book Nook, Stephen!

Stephen has written a guest post, so I will now turn the floor over to him.

Epic Fantasy is Far More Than Just World-Building:
A Few Thoughts on Character Development
by Stephen Zimmer

Good character development is what makes a story come alive, and great character development makes a story thrive.  We can all cite many examples from novels we enjoy, where a well-rounded character, with a range of strengths and flaws, has grabbed our affinity and interest. 

When it comes to epic fantasy, or any type of epic-scale story, it is not uncommon for people to immediately start talking about world-building or plot.  It is true that epic fantasy is fertile ground for rich world building and layered plots, but that is not enough for a good story.  You can have the most interesting world in all of literature, but if it is not populated with compelling characters then you are not going to interest the reader.

A stereotypical, or two-dimensional character tends to be completely predictable, while there is a dynamic aspect to a well-rounded one.  I have always found it interesting that readers and writers, and this is just my own observation, put a heavier weight on flaws when it comes to assessing whether a character is well-developed or not.  While nearly all characters are going to have flaws, short of depicting the Divine, I believe strengths are just as important in terms of attributes that lead to a good character arc. 

My own writing, when it comes to my two epic-scale series, The Rising Dawn Saga and the Fires in Eden Series, involve ensemble casts.  As a writer, this presents a particular kind of challenge, as I must develop a range of compelling characters instead of being able to focus all my attention on a handful.   The characters in the ensemble have to have some distinct differences from each other and they cannot be mirror images.  Also, because they are not going to have the center stage a majority of the time, it is important that they come alive quickly for the reader. 

For good character development, some kind of individual growth should be reflected over the course of the story.  It doesn’t have to be in a positive direction, as a character certainly can take a turn for the worse, but the character should not be static in such a way that they are exactly the same at the end as they are at the beginning.  They should have learned and experienced new things that have had an impact on them one way or another. 

I am not just speaking of a younger character coming of age (which makes for a good character arc, which is why it is used so often by writers), but also of characters who would be considered fully “matured” at the outset.  I personally believe that taking a character that is largely set in their ways at the outset of a story, and making that character dynamic, can be a really enjoyable exploration for an author.  It is the kind of journey that goes deeper into what it means to be who we are; as works in progress rather than static monoliths.      

The good thing about a story such as mine in the Fires in Eden series is that the plot becomes a good ally in terms of driving character development.  In Crown of Vengeance, the first novel of the series, we meet eleven individuals, ranging from the owner of a Chinese restaurant, Lee, to Derek, an Iraq war veteran, to a college student named Erika.  They find themselves shrouded in a thick mist one night, which parts to reveal that they are in another entire world, which the reader learns is named Ave.  The eleven otherworlders find themselves in two lands that are on the brink of being invaded by forces carrying out the will of an enigmatic figure called the Unifier.

As you can see, the plot aspects of this situation are rich ground for cultivating growth and change in characters.  With all of their different personalities, strengths, and flaws, they are cast into another world suddenly, and forced to come to grips with that unavoidable reality in one way or another.  There is no time for calm reflection either, as they are right in the pathway of a major war. 

As the series evolves, based on the strengths and flaws of the characters, you do see the ways in which they choose to handle the situation and react to things, whether for better or worse.  There is a process of adaptation, as well as temptation, and a testing of the self.  All of this equates to dynamic character arcs that, while they will move faster for some of the characters than others, will be very clear to the reader by the end of the series. 

The plot can be very helpful for the character development of the inhabitants of Ave as well.  In my series are a race of beings called Trogens, who are tall and strong with dog-like faces.


They have an honor code that is being tested by their involvement in the ongoing war on behalf of the Unifier, who has promised to help them in an ages-old struggle against an Elven power that has oppressed Trogen lands relentlessly and even enslaved a population of them. 

Dragol is introduced in Crown of Vengeance, and at first he might seem to be one of the non-human minion types that are encountered more often than not in fantasy, like the orcs in Lord of the Rings, who do not stray from the course they are depicted on when you first meet them.  Yet as the story grows, and circumstances change and Dragol becomes isolated, the beginnings of what I envision to be a very rich character arc get underway.   His strengths, rather than his flaws, in my opinion, help drive the changes in him that really bloom at the time of events depicted in Spirit of Fire.

Even the Unifier Himself reflects a dynamic arc, and shows different facets as the story progresses.  Spirit of Fire contains some significant steps for that arc, especially in a particular, very important scene that is as powerful visually as it is revealing in regards to the Unifier.

A large-scale series can certainly be rich in character development, just as much as it can thrive in terms of world-building or plotting.  In my view, the epic fantasy writer should make use of their thoroughly-developed world and layered plots, as those aspects of their work can be major assets in supporting and facilitating strong, engaging character arcs that contribute to bringing the reader a very enjoyable literary experience.    

Thanks so much for joining us today, Stephen!

One lucky winner will win a paperback copy of the third book in Stephen's Fires in Eden series, Spirit of Fire.

Deep Within Everyone, There is a Spirit of Fire...

A maelstrom of war engulfs lands resisting the designs of the Unifier to bring about a new order, of a kind that has never existed within Ave. Battered by a massive invasion force from Gallea, the tribal people of the Five Realms and their Midragardan allies are being driven eastward, towards the sea, while the Saxan lines are wearing down ever thinner on the Plains of Athelney.

Time is running out quickly, as an ancient creature of legend soars through the skies with a brave young Saxan. They carry the desperate hopes of two realms sorely beset by a voracious enemy.
Diabolic entities conduct a great hunt, as a malignant darkness deepens across all of Ave. Exiles from another world must gain refuge, or find themselves ensnared by the long reach of the Unifier. The very nature of creation itself stands in the balance.

It is a time when the honor and fortitude of many are put to the test, and terrible prices are paid for resisting great evils. It is also a time of awakening for many, old and young alike, some of whom may yet discover the spirit of fire that lies within.

The third installment in the Fires in Eden series, Spirit of Fire, is richly imagined epic fantasy with a diverse ensemble of characters that offers a new world to explore for readers who enjoy large-scale tales along the likes of George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, Steven Erikson, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

To enter the giveaway, please fill out the Rafflecopter entry form below. 

This giveaway is open to Canada/US only until 12:01 AM EST on July 6, 2012.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Participants

May 29  Fantasy Book Review

May 30  Ginger Nuts of Horror  

May 31  Mom Cat's Gateway Book Blog  

June 1   Splash of Our Worlds   

June 2   Soliloquy  

June 3   Ritesh Kala's Book Review   

 June 4   Jess Resides Here   

June 5   Reading Away the Days  

June 6   Vilutheril Reviews 

 June 7   A Daydreamer's Thoughts   

 June 8   Red Headed Book Worm   

June 9   Lisa's World of Books   

June 10  Kentucky Geek Girl  

 June 11  Goatfairy Review Blog  

 June 12  Book and Movie Dimension Blog   

June 13  Full Moon Bites   

 June 14  Stuck in Books   

June 15  The Independent Review  

 June 15  Alchemy of Scrawl    

 June 16  Watch Play Read    

 June 17  A Book Vacation   

 June 18  Eva's Sanctuary   

June 19  That Book Place Blog  

June 20  Edi's Book Lighthouse    

 June 21  SpecMusicMuse  

June 22  Once Upon a Time   

June 23  Azure Dwarf Horde of Sci-Fi & Fantasy   

June 24  Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action

June 25  Eden Road Blog      

June 25  Ali's Bookshelf (live podcast)  

 June 26  Workaday Reads  

 June 27  Bookishly Me  

June 28  Earth's Book Nook   

June 29  Darlene's Book Nook   

June 30  The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia  

 July 1     Evie Bookish  

July 2     Urban Fantasy Reviews   

 July 3     The Cabin Goddess  

July 4     TheSci-Fi Guys Book Review   

 July 5     The Speculative Salon   

 July 6     Ali's Bookshelf   

July 7     Bunny's Review   

July 8     Bee's Knees Reviews   

July 9     In the Dark of Night with James Tuck   

 July 10   Eden Road Radio  (live podcast)   

 July 11   A Few Words   

July 12    Bab's Book Bistro   

July 13   Alchemy of Scrawl  (live podcast)  

 July 14    Babs Book Bistro (live podcast)   


  1. There wasn't an extra space to put my goodreads name, but it is Lisa Cox.
    Thanks for the wonderful giveaway

  2. My GoodReads name is Carl R. Scott

  3. Darlene: Thanks for hosting me on this post, I really was happy with how this one turned out.

    Lisa and Carl: Thanks for participating and reading the post! :)

  4. Follow Stephen's Blog and Seventh Star Press on GFC as Anita Yancey.


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