Hi, there! I’m Lord Reesh, the villain in the first four Bell Mountain books–and, if I do say so myself, a jolly good one! Oh, boy, wait’ll you see me get what’s coming to me!
Ah, but you can’t see that unless you read the books. And it’s only nine days till Christmas. Do you catch my drift?
These books, especially the ones with me in them, make fantastic presents for friends and family. And they’re so easy to get, even those simpletons on the Obann High Council could do it. Just click “Books” at the top of the page, and you can order any title either directly from the publisher or via amazon.com. Whatever that is. We don’t have it, where I come from.
If we were all in Obann, I could simply order you all to buy the books and sic Judge Tombo on you if you didn’t. You don’t want anything like that to happen!
I’m often asked, “Where do your books come from?” Well, I could say “New Jersey,” but what they really want to know is how a book gets started.
I can’t answer that, because there are as many starts as there are books. But I can tell you how one of my books, The Thunder King (Bell Mountain No. 3) got started.
It started with an image that popped into my head, a small boy riding a Baluchitherium, the largest land mammal that ever existed. This was very vivid to me, and served as the germ of the story. How was I to get the boy onto the Baluchitherium, and why did I want him there in the first place? What were the two of them going to do, and how would they do it?
Next, a new character showed herself: an old woman living in the city of Obann, not doing much of anything until she becomes a vessel of prophecy. And next thing I knew, I imagined her standing in the rain, soaked to the skin, white hair blowing in the wind, and crying out, like Moses, “Now see the salvation of the Lord!”
When I put those two images together–the boy on the Baluchitherium, and the old woman in the storm–they became the ingredients of a climax for a new book. And all I had to do was figure out how to get there. So I had the ending of the story first, instead of the beginning. That was The Thunder King.
Even now, I find the hardest thing to do is to wait for God to send me something that I can work with. The weather’s getting nice and I’m eager to get started on a new book, but I’ve learned it doesn’t work that way. I can’t command it to happen. I can only wait–and I know by now that whatever I’m given, it’ll come as a surprise.
To be a writer, you have to be a reader first. And don’t stop reading, either.
The books that capture your imagination early in life will always be with you. What you want to read about will shape what you choose to write about.
All About Strange Beasts of the Past flicked my imagination switch. I was only seven years old when it came out, and nine or ten years old when I read it. Roy Chapman Andrews, the explorer who first found dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, wrote several of these Allabout Books. His All About Dinosaurs I read over and over again until it fell apart. Strange Beasts I kept checking out of the library.
Andrews had a gift for making prehistoric worlds come alive. In practical terms, he used this gift whenever he had to schmooze J.P. Morgan into funding another expedition. When he wrote for children–well, as far as I was concerned, it was just like being there.
Everybody knows about dinosaurs, but I got really into prehistoric mammals, especially the gigantic hairy ones. Strange Beasts introduced me to creatures that have inhabited my dreams ever since; some of them now inhabit my own Bell Mountain books. Andrews’ “Beast of Baluchistan” appears in The Thunder King just in time to rescue the city of Obann from being sacked by the Heathen host. The saber-toothed cat, seen on the cover of Strange Beasts, features in the climax of The Last Banquet. The saber-tooth’s prey, the giant ground sloth, makes cameo appearances in several of my books. I haven’t yet found a place for the spectacular “Shovel-tusked Mastodon” of Strange Beasts, but I expect I will.
Books were a big deal in our house. My mother was a reader, and filled several large bookshelves with her favorites. I took after her in that department: I just could never get my fill of stories! History and science, in my view, also counted as stories.
But nothing could ever top the creatures I met in Roy Chapman Andrews’ books.
P.S.: Andrews was widely believed to have been the real-life model for Indiana Jones. To that I must say “Pshaw!” Andrews’ adventures were real.
P.P.S.: For some reason which I can’t remember, as a very young child, I formed the expectation that my Aunt Betty, a nun, would somehow provide me, someday, with my own woolly mammoth. Please don’t ask me to explain this. She did try–gave me a vaguely mammoth-shaped little furry something which, I am sorry to say, did not quite live up to my expectations. But she did try, and for that she gets full marks.
If you’ve been reading my Bell Mountain books, you know that Ryons, the boy king who was born a slave, has a guardian who never leaves his side: Cavall, the hound.
This is a picture of a dog who looks enough like Cavall to be him.
In The Thunder King, the hermit, Merry Mary, knowing that she will die soon, commands her dog to stay with the boy and protect him. A child wandering all alone in Lintum Forest needs a wise and valiant dog. Cavall has been with him ever since–to the rescue of the city of Obann, and all the way out to King Thunder’s fortress and back.
At this point I don’t know where they’ll be going next; but wherever it may be, they’ll go together.
This comes from O.P. in Australia, originally posted on my “Playground Player” chess forum on http://www.chessgames.com . I have his permission to post it here. I have edited it slightly, only because it’s so long. Here goes:
I’ve finished “The Last Banquet” and found this fourth installment to be a most enjoyable read, just as I did the first three!… You continue to come up with fascinating new characters and the further development of your existing characters from the previous books is ingenious.
The obsession of Lord Reesh with the past Empire is an intriguing sub-theme throughout the series.
“But to be free, we must have power. Power to feed ourselves, regardless of the vagaries of rain and drought and frost. Power to go where we wish to go, when we please, regardless of how far away the destination, regardless of the weather. Power to channel human labor, and direct it. The men of the Empire had such power. So must we.”
I wonder to what extent the old Empire, and its demise, is a commentary on our own society.
Orth is an interesting counter-point.
“Folly, Orth thought. You collect bits of rubbish from the ruins of the Empire and treat it like fine jewels, and you delude yourself. If the men of that age were so great, why is there nothing left of their greatness but useless pieces of trash? Why did they perish? You say they flew through the air, and sailed the seas, and spoke to one another over great distances as if they sat across a table from each other–but did any of that save them? Where are they now, First Prester? Why should we try to emulate a civilization that has utterly died out?”
Orth develops into a compelling character. He is pathetic and cowardly, yet retains a residue of conscience, which only emerges when driven by his fear of “the dark angel” with the slaughter weapon. His reaction to the human sacrifice, in contrast to the cynicism of Lord Reesh, is particularly stark.
Your treatment of the various animals throughout the series is particularly heart-warming. Cavall is so reliable and the addition of Angel was a nice touch for Helki, who preferred “the company of hawk and hound”…
Wytt’s importance in this book, as in the first three, cannot be overstated. The little hairy fellow becomes more captivating with each book.
“Wytt leaped out of her arms and chattered loudly. He snatched up his little sharp stick and brandished it over his head and started dancing all around…He made a squeaking noise that was Omah-laughter.”
You really do bring him to life with your remarkable writing.
The finale of this book, as with all of them, is very dramatic! Of course I won’t give anything away, but Chillith’s last stand before the Thunder King, “You are delivered into judgment!” was spine-chilling!
There’s more, but O.P. says he’ll post the whole thing on The Last Banquet amazon.com page. There’s a lot of praise here that is very gratifying to me–but I’ve posted this not to blow my own horn, but in hopes that some of you out there, after reading the review, will want to read the book.
Okay, I have permission; so here’s the cover blurb for The Throne, Book No. 9 of my Bell Mountain series. Most of the editing is finished, we’re waiting for the cover art by Kirk DouPonce, and I hope we can get it published in time for Christmas. But first, the blurb:
The Thunder King has been destroyed–or has he actually reappeared in Obann’s greatest city, to claim it as his prey?
In city and in forest, the boy king’s loyal servants struggle to preserve his throne. But it will be a long journey home for King Ryons and his army, while ambitious and unfaithful men scheme to take away his kingdom.
Nothing in the city of Obann is what it seems to be. Evil masquerades as good, while good must hide behind a semblance of evil. The king’s chief spy poses as the usurper’s trusted adviser–but will he be able to find the help he needs to mount a successful resistance?
For God has chosen Ryons to be king, and Ryons’ people must find friends in unexpected places.
Join the heroes of Bell Mountain as they fight for Ryons’ kingdom!
So there you have it, and I hope it makes you want to read the book when it comes out. And if you’re interested, but haven’t read any of these books yet, start with No. 1, Bell Mountain.
As long as I’m reading The Thunder King, I thought I’d treat you to this video clip from Walking With Prehistoric Beasts, featuring the mountain-sized animal that rescued Ryons from the “death dog,” aka hyaenodon.
Don’t mind them calling it “Indricotherium.” They’re always changing the name. I stick with the old name that it had when I was a boy, “Baluchitherium.” Whatever we call it, this baby was the largest land mammal that ever lived–and the one that Ryons met was the biggest of them all.
Marvel at the work of God’s hands, and rejoice in it.
Come spring, and nice weather, I hope to be sitting outside again, writing a new book. I have to wait until God gives me the germ of something to work with–a scene, a new character, a piece of story-line–but in the meantime, I want to make ready for it when it comes.
So I re-read, in order, all the earlier books in my Bell Mountain series. There being eight of them in print so far, it’s going to take me a while. I’m about halfway through No. 3, The Thunder King.
Now, what kind of nut sits there reading his own books? The kind who has a series to write and doesn’t want to contradict anything he said in the previous books. And really, at least for me, it’s just so easy to forget!
This blog was created to drum up interest in my books, and hopefully inspire folks to read them. That’s another thing that’s easy for me to forget. And, with a shock, I remember it and then I have to do something about it.
Obviously I can’t sit here reviewing my own books, “I give myself five stars for this one!”–but I think I can at least say that reading them is a pleasurable experience. I often find myself wondering, “Did I write that?”
And the answer is, To God be the glory–because I ask Him to give me these stories, and He does, along with the ability and the passion to write them. I had to work hard to acquire such skills as I have–but the whole thing is God’s gift. I am a steward of the resources which He has assigned to me–in this case, the ability to write well, and the desire to write: I find it hard to stop, and if I were prevented from doing it, it would go hard with me–and it’s my job to put them to work for Him.
It’s a little cold this morning, but at least the sun is out. Let me get myself some exercise, and then it’s back to The Thunder King.
I guarantee you won’t be able to sell many fantasy/adventure novels if they’re packaged as books on “Labor & Industrial Relations.” Such has been the fate of the paperback edition of my fantasy novel, The Thunder King, on amazon.com.
How this could have happened is beyond anyone’s power to explain.
But thanks to the two amazon.com reps who helped me this morning, I am overjoyed to report that this problem will soon be taken care of. Sometime next week, The Thunder King, No. 3 in the series, will be categorized as “fiction, science fiction and fantasy, Christian fiction” along with the other seven in my Bell Mountain series.
“I don’t see how you could have sold many copies of this book as ‘Labor & Industrial Relations,'” said the rep at amazon’s Author Central. I think that must be the understatement of the year.
I could tell this error was hurting my sales. With all the other books, the numbers go up and down. But for The Thunder King the numbers never, never changed. It never bettered the rank of 3 million-and-change. Ugh!
Anyway, now it’s going to be fixed, and I pray I finally sell some copies.