Dogs and cats! Living together! Mass hysteria!

Do you live in an alternate reality?

In a recent New York Times article radio astronomers reported they had seen the markers of the beginning of the Big Bang, The article reminded of one of physicist Dr. Guth’s other ideas: parallel universes.

Spock from the Mirror Universe

Spock from the Mirror Universe

I won’t go into the physics, which entails inflation theory. Needless to say, the implications are manifold.

From what I understand of the idea the physics must be consistent across the universes because the particles from which the universes began are all the same. Balls will not fall up and Hogwarts does not exist.

Or could it exist?

Hogwarts Castle--Under the Cover of the Universe?

Hogwarts Castle–Under the Cover of the Universe?

A different roll of the evolutionary dice and humans or human-like creatures could evolve to have the ability to manipulate matter, or maybe they develop cybernetic implant technology that gives them the ability to shape the world around them. No wands needed.

Maybe your mirror universe self has mastered the powers of creation?

Let’s say these alternate universes exist. Alan Guth was spot on about the cosmic background ripples after all. Let’s say the alternate realities are there under the blanket of the universe. How do we travel to these alternate realities?



Sliders delved into the idea of alternate earths (the first season was wicked awesome. After season two I couldn’t stand to watch it). They traveled to these alternate realities via a wormhole.

Maybe travel to an alternate reality or universe is possible through a simple change in your state of mind as was used by Christopher Reeve’s character to travel back in time in the movie, Somewhere in Time.

Somewhere in Time

Maybe Stephen Lawhead had the right idea? In The Song of Albion Trilogy Lewis Gillies, a student at Oxford, finds his way to the Celtic Otherworld of Albion. He travels there by circling a Celtic cairn at just the right time of day.

Maybe there is a village, like Wall in Neil Gaiman‘s Stardust, where on the other side lies the faerie realm?

Maybe my own Tir Alaind is real? Maybe Hogwarts is real? Maybe Patrick Rothfuss’s Four Corners of Civilization is real?

Maybe our minds aren’t imagining these alternate realities? Maybe our minds are simply peeking under the blanket of the universe and seeing what our eyes cannot see.

A Review of The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

From the book description courtesy of Goodreads:

The False Prince

THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.

In a discontented kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point — he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.

As with all of my reviews, no spoilers.

The False Prince is a fun book with a twisty ending that might cause sleep deprivation if reading before bed is your habit. I have a set time I go to bed because I wake up early to write. Jennifer Nielsen’s The False Prince foiled me three times last week, keeping me up way past my bedtime.

What kept me reading were the mysteries that were added with each chapter. Question upon question. Not only was there the overarching question of who would become the next prince, but you come to wonder what happened to the previous prince? The royal family? Then there are other questions. Who are these boys Conner has chosen? What’s Conner’s motivation? All of these questions are layered on chapter by chapter.

Still, the mark of a good story is how you come to feel about the characters. In The False Prince you come to care for Sage and the other boys who are recruited to play the role of prince. Their lives do not improve after leaving the orphanage, because while they have better food and clothing, the possibility of death hangs over them all. The supporting cast charms you as well, propelling interest towards the next book, The Runaway King.

The real find, in my opinion, is the protagonist, Sage,  a witty, funny boy, with a depth that unfolds over the course of the story, and though you might think you know how the story will end, you will be surprised. At least I was.

For me, characters make the story. I don’t think we’d care much about Hogwarts or Diagon Alley if Harry, Ron and Hermione had been written as flat and uninteresting. Jennifer Nielsen has created characters you will come to enjoy (or loathe).

In fact, Jennifer Nielsen’s writing reminds me of JK Rowland’s in that the only details given are those needed to advance the story. Her characters shine through. That’s the strength of her writing, in my opinion.

The False Prince is a fun book for all ages. I say if you like Harry Potter, give The False Prince a try. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Why only 4 stars? I was left wanting to know more about the world Jennifer Nielsen has created. She gives just enough to get us through the story, but I wanted to know more. I come from reading novels by Patrick Rothfuss, Terry Goodkind, and Raymond Feist, where maybe too much meat is given. It’s a hard balance to strike, and I think Jennifer almost got there. I imagine more holes will be filled in with The Runaway King.

Great start to a trilogy.

DNF: The Last Death of Tev Chrisini by Jennifer Bresnick

To improve my writing and to help other authors, I am reviewing novels by independent authors in addition to novels by popular authors.

I have been reading The Last Death of Tev Chrisini by Jennifer Bresnisk, but, with reluctance, I am setting it aside. I will not rate the story, because I did not finish (DNF) the book.

Let me explain why I did not, could not, finish the story.

last death

From Goodreads:

Tev Chrisini is a soldier who can’t die, caught in the middle of a war that won’t end. Unable to discover the cause of his unique and puzzling condition, Tev has spent the last five hundred years avoiding the notice of the two rival powers that dominate the bitterly divided political landscape.

After a crushing defeat and an unexpected truce with an age-old enemy, he and his friend Lerien, an intelligence agent with a grim past, are sent on a seemingly simple mission with a delegation of peace.

Their errand takes a turn for the worse when Cerawen, a calculating young woman with her own agenda traveling under their protection, flees their care with the man who murders Lerien’s cousin.

Her defection irreversibly sets them on an increasingly perilous path into strange and unfriendly lands, on a race against dark forces, to find a weapon capable of unparalleled destruction that could bring about the end of the war and unlock the secrets of Tev’s past: the legendary Book of Jh’taith.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? The book has received good reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. If you are into fantasy I encourage you to check out a sample. See what you think.

I hem and hawed about posting anything at all given that I did not finish the story, but given that I plan to review other independent authors, I wanted to establish a baseline for my reviews.

To be fair to Jennifer Bresnick, the books I have not been able to finish number many and some are authored by legends. The books I can remember off the top of my head that I did not finish are Weaveworld by Clive Barker, Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan, and The Pillars of Creation by Terry Goodkind.

Cover of "The Sword of Shannara"

Cover of The Sword of Shannara

What undid me with The Last Death of Tev Chrisini is the same phenomenon that undid me with the other books. I became too bogged down in the names, places, and politics. Halfway through the book I found I didn’t care about the characters. Tev was brooding. Dark. Mysterious. He had the patience of a man who’s immortal. His personality fit. There was nothing wrong with the supporting cast. I just didn’t care if they died or disappeared.

In addition, there were half a dozen typos in the manuscript that broke the illusion of the world. The manuscript could use a copyedit or professional proofreader, because if I saw half a dozen undoubtedly there are more.

A positive is that the world Jennifer Bresnick created is rich. Detailed. I would put it up there with most fantasy settings.

In the end though I felt that maybe I wasn’t the target audience. Throughout high school I had friends who flew through Terry Brooks and Robert Jordan, but those books could never hook me and reel me in.

You may ask, “Why are you writing a fantasy, then?”

The Worlds Within is not a fantasy story, it’s just set in a fantasy world, but more on that another time.

Like The Sword of Shannara, which people say I just have to get through so I can read The Elf Stones of Shannara, maybe I will come back to The Last Death of Tev Chrisini, but for now the novel will sit on my DNF shelf, but if you are a fan of fantasy I encourage you to check out Jennifer Bresnick’s website, read a sample. See for yourself.

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Map of The Nyre Lands

Throughout the writing of the first half of The Worlds Within I refused to re-draw the map of The Nyre Lands that I thought I had lost. For sure I will find it, I thought. Sure enough, I was going through a stack of stories I wrote in the late 1990s and for some reason there was the map.

Also stacked with the map were my first musings on Faerie lore written long before I read the book Faeries by Brian Foud and Alan Lee. Once edited I will be adding those to the lore section under The Worlds Within and The Nyre Lands.

Would you go to another dimension, another reality, to help if asked?

The Worlds Within started with a simple musing on my part, probably influenced by Harry Potter and Neverwhere. What if someone from another dimension, a parallel universe, came to me and needed help? What if I could never return? Would I go? Would you go?

English: Map of Narnian world as described in ...

English: Map of Narnian world as described in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For me it would depend on my situation. When I first conceived of The Nyre Lands my personal situation was far different, but now if Janus Riberin appeared in my room asking for aid I would politely turn him down, because I have a family. I am happy here in this reality. As you read The Worlds Within, I hope you come to understand and feel what Aedinn Finn goes through as he comes to realize, as his memory returns, the consequences of the choice he made.

You will notice in Harry Potter and Neverwhere that the protagonists are in similarly poor personal situations. Harry’s family is horrible to him. His cousin bullies him. Consequently, Harry has a low opinion of himself. Richard Mayhew in Neverwhere has a bossy girlfriend, whom he seems destined to marry, a miserable job and low self esteem–just like Harry. Would they have willingly gone to the other realities had their situations been different? In Harry’s case, yes, of course, but in Richard Mayhew’s case I daresay he might never have seen Door lying there on the sidewalk. His own personal unhappiness is what opened his eyes to Door while other people stepped past her.

Aedinn Finn might never have seen Janus Riberin sitting in that chair, or perhaps Janus Riberin would never have come to Aedinn had Aedinn’s situation been better, because Finn would not have been open to coming with Janus to The Nyre Lands.

Which brings me to my final point. The Worlds Within would not have entered the mind of the person I am today, because my subconscious would have politely turned down the offer. No thank you, I am happy.

Descents Into Madness and Character Turning Points

Recently the main character in The Worlds Within, Aedinn Finn, went through an ordeal that tested his handle on reality. As the author, I knew for a long time that the moment would come. Finn had lost his memory, had lost his true identity, and had woken up in a world unfamiliar to him, but since he didn’t remember a different world, his mind tried to make the one in which he had woken up his own.

But his mind forever fought his reality. His mind knew that The Nyre Lands were wrong, but gaps were missing in his memory. He knew of no other place. Either he tried to exist in The Nyre Lands, or nothing. There was nowhere else to go, as far as he could tell.

But the wrong reality gnawed at him. Ate at his sanity. He saw places. Had waking visions. Heard sounds that were not there. And then an ordeal in the town of Catchwood frays his mind to the point where he starts to see another reality. What he sees makes him doubt his own sanity.

I titled this post Descents Into Madness on purpose. Writing that part of the novel reminded me of two wonderful books, Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman, and 1408 a story in Everything’s Eventual, a short story collection by Stephen King. If you have not read these stories, they are at or near the top of my list, especially Neverwhere. In each story the main character is tested. In each story the main character has their reality challenged. They come through either better or worse for wear. Often I re-read just those parts of the stories. To me the tests of character are that powerful.

My own character, Aedinn Finn, isn’t aware of how the challenge to his reality has changed him. I do hope that it is evident to the reader though.

On Writing and Mood

Like many wanna-be writers, I have read my share of books on writing. The best writing book I have read is On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. Not because the book contains the secret to becoming the next best seller. No. Stephen King talks about his struggles not only in becoming a writer, but also in being a best selling novelist. Interwoven in the story of how he became a writer is how he became a writer. Even he admits that there was a certain amount of luck involved. At the end of the novel though he gives the reader a path forward, if they too want to become a writer. The path is not a guarantee. Of course not. But he ends the novel leaving you with hope.

That said, I don’t remember a specific piece of advice out of his book though I can safely say that every book on writing can be boiled down to one piece of advice: write! That’s it. Save yourself money and shelf space. Just write. Now please send along $14.95.

Another piece of advice, not nearly as important as the $14.95 version is this: watch what you write when you are in certain moods. You know what I’m talking about. Have you ever tried to write when you are angry? What comes out? Does your main character step on a few too many bugs? Punch someone? Kill someone? And then you re-read what you wrote and you say, wait a second, my school marm just killed her cat and punched the mailman in the face.

In the same vein where I marvel at how the mind solves the puzzle that is writing a novel, I also find interesting how my mood affects my writing, and to that end I try to be in an even-keeled state of being whenever I write. Sometimes that’s not possible, but I do what I can.