eyE[before]Charles

Thcharles-yallowitzis week, I interviewed a regular fixture within the blogging community; the very talented Charles Edward Yallowitz. Though I have been all too certain Charles and I would cross paths eventually due to our mutual love of the fantasy genre, the chance to finally grill him is an exciting one. Charles is a fantasy author from Long Island who published the first book in his Legends of Windemere series at the start of this year, ‘Beginning of a Hero‘, which I am happy to say I recently added to my Kindle reading list. Charles also maintains a dedicated blog, featuring updates on the Legends of Windemere series aswell as tales about his trials and tribulations as an author.

A gifted story-teller, enigmatic blogger and esoteric imaginator; here are a few words from the fantastic Mr. Charles Yallowitz.


What first made you want to become a writer?

“At the age of 7, it sounded like it would help get women and free drinks. Seriously though, it really was a spontaneous spark that I couldn’t get out of my head. I still haven’t got it out of my head. I was 15 and I had just finished reading the first volume of Fred Saberhagen’s ‘Book of Lost Swords’. The idea that I could write popped into my head and I started designing characters for a book. I began writing short stories and excerpts for my English classes which got praise and it kept rolling from there.

“I think… it just kind of happened, and I found that it made me very happy. The idea of entertaining and inspiring someone with a story really connects with me. I’ve escaped into books since I was a child, so maybe part of me thinks this is a way to continue that tradition… the spark got set off in my brain and took over.”

Why appeals to you most about fantasy as a genre?

“The fantasy genre has a lot of standards, but a lot of flexibility. There are the traditions of swords, magic, dragons, and various other races. It’s a very time-tested genre. Yet, you can get away with more awe-inspiring moments than in other genres. A character diving into shadows as a mode of transportation is easier to explain through magic than technology. We have technology in our world, so you have people trying to figure out the physics. When you use magic, people are more willing to suspend disbelief.

“In terms of the flexibility, you can get away with changing the standards. In my world, I made orcs different than the wild marauders that most worlds use them for. They’re civilized even though they live in the wild and their species has a beauty and the beast thing going on. The males are ugly, brutish, powerful beings and their women are gorgeous Valkyrie-like beings. In a fantasy world, you can get away with altering stuff like this because there is nothing in the real-world for people to compare it to. If you try to have a human fly around space without a suit then you need to know your science and explain everything. People are a lot more critical of genres that take place anywhere near our reality.”

What do you think is the most important or defining aspect of a good fantasy novel?

“I’ve actually written and deleted so many things here because I can’t think of a defining aspect of fantasy. Typically, fantasy is a story that takes place with magic, or at least in a medieval-type setting. When you get into the future and technology, it becomes science-fiction. Unless it’s Star Wars, because the Force (essentially) turns that into fantasy… but (truthfully), I think it’s just in a genre all its own.

“I think the sign of a good fantasy novel are the heroes. Not so much that the heroes are brave and noble, but believable. A pitfall of fantasy is that you’re working in the genre that is the farthest removed from our reality. The heroes are the bridge between the reader and the world you’ve created. They need to feel relatable to the reader or you won’t draw them into the world. This can be done with flaws, quirks, and anything that makes the character more human. For example, Luke Callindor is cocky and brave, which makes sense for a new hero. To make him believable, I rarely let him get out of a situation unscathed. He screws up a lot, which has led to many readers telling me that he’s a character they can stand behind. The hero doesn’t have to be infallible for the story to be good. In fact, a character like that tends to hurt the story because the reader feels like there’s no risk of failure, so the ending is predetermined.”

As genre definitions continue to blur together, and it becomes increasingly popular to blend traditional fiction categories together (such as science fiction and horror, etc), where do you see the future of the fantasy genre heading?

“Fantasy has blurred with other genres for a long time, so I think it’s going to stay the course. You already see a lot of technology slipping into fantasy with the use of airships and lanterns appearing. The alteration of these objects is that they are powered by magic, so it’s more of a magi-tech society. It could lead to a sub-genre of magi-tech books within the overall genre. The sub-genre trend is probably going to be the big change.  Some people don’t even realize when they’re crossing genres now. For example, having a cowboy in a fantasy setting isn’t far-fetched thanks to Stephen King’sDark Tower. The same is going for zombies appearing in fantasy.”

You have to fight Luke Callindor (the main character from the ‘Legends of Windemere’ series) to the death, armed only with whatever you have in your pockets right now. Go.

“*looks down at pajamas* Well . . . I guess I’d run until I could find something to fight back with. Luke’s dual saber, flipping, jumping style isn’t easy to predict, so I’d probably keep tossing stuff at him. Try to keep him on the defensive with whatever I could get my hands on. I could throw him off his game by yelling secrets or see if I can rework him in my head to change him. You know, get rid of a leg or turn his swords into a pair of live eels that slip away. I wouldn’t win, but I’d like to think the moment Luke kills me, he’d blink out of existence too. Kill your creator and you go down with him.”


Charles’ blog can be found here – Legends of Windemere

And the first book in the Legends of Windemere series is available for purchase here (on sale for $2.99) – Beginning of a Hero – Book 1 of Legends of Windemere

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5 Easy Steps to Channeling the Force

I’m sure we all know by now, but Star Wars – Episode 7 is coming.star-wars-iv-a-new-hope-nei1b

For those of you who have been squatting under rocks, chomping on maggots like Timon and Pumba, Disney bought the rights to the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas a few months back and have set to work breathing fresh life into The Saga.

I’m a pretty big Star Wars fan. Though I was not old enough to see the original trilogy in cinemas, I’ve spent my fair share of time watching poor quality VHS recordings of New Hope whilst making Luke and Han action figures duel to the death with Skeletor. And, like most Star Wars fans, I left ‘Revenge of the Sith’ feeling a little violated.

The wound Lucas has gouged into the Jedi mythology will not be an easy one to heal, of that there is no doubt. And so, philanthropist that I am, I shall list the ways to ensure a successful return to a galaxy far, far away.

Gosh, I’m a good human being.

  1. Cast Returns – there’s a lot of talk about getting the cast from the original trilogy back in, and I’m all about it. Good sequels always hinge on maintaining the link between installments. Replacing or writing around characters has proved to leave gaping holes of dissatisfaction and remorse in the mass consciousness – it don’t work guys, don’t try it! They may be able to get away with missing one, maybe two, of the main actors from the original trilogy, but they really need to get as many of them back as possible for this thing to be a success. Besides, who doesn’t want to see Luke and Leia’s matching trailers in a Tattooine caravan park at the ripe old age of 60? I know I do.
  2. Bigger Isn’t Always Better – a classic big-budget mistake is thinking that if you have cash you should put it to use. There is a culture of one-upsmanship prevalent in action movies these days, and it grows tiresome. Think about the prequel trilogy. The prequels were meant to set the scene for the awesome three movies that followed them. If we see nothing but colossal CG droid fight scenes, expensive and extravagantly budgeted sets, and entirely unnecessary fight scenes between core characters (cough-Emperor-and-Yoda-cough), what’s left to follow? I think the fact that the original trilogy shines so much more so than the polished turd of the prequels tells us that bigger and better are not synonymous. Also, well-made puppets will always look better than the best CG. ‘Nuff said.
  3. Story, Story, Story – this may be the writer in me, but I can’t stress the importance of a good story in film. A good, well-planned story is absolutely key to making it work, especially when you’re making a trilogy (and I’m certain Episodes 8 and 9 will follow all too soon). While it’s true that audiences these days are a bit more sophisticated in what they expect than they were in the 70s and 80s, I think that everyone will be happy with something that matches the tone of the original movies in a well-thought out way. Remember the last rule; bigger isn’t always better. Keep it simple to start with, gently remind us why love this franchise, and lay the foundation for an epic story arc in the last two movies.
  4. Grit – I must confess, the Disney label on this scares me a little. The original trilogy were infamous for some really gritty scenes, like the death of Obi-Wan, Han and Greedo’s shoot-out, Luke losing a hand… Don’t fluff this out too much, Disney. The temptation will be there though, since Star Wars has a ‘cross-generational’ appeal (because fans of the trilogy are now parents who want to share the experience with their kids) and movies that gross the highest tend to be ones that all age brackets want to see. Keeping it light and fluffy ensures a high-grossing movie at the potential cost of artistic integrity. I hate being able to observe decisions that have obviously been made based on production-end meddling, but there it is. Of course, Disney’s influence doesn’t scare me quite as much as my last point…
  5. J.J. Abrahams – is slated to direct Episode 7, and words can’t express how overrated I think this guy is. Now, I’m sure a lot of people will leap to defend him, so lets look at this logically – what has J.J. Abrahams ever done for me? Alias? I enjoyed the first season or two, before it flopped. Lost? Another show that flopped due to lack of planning. Cloverfield? Super 8? Not terrible movies… Not great movies either. Truthfully, the only 2 movies on J.J.’s IMDb profile that I don’t mind are Regarding Henry, which he produced in ’91, and the new Star Trek movie (and even that didn’t have a great plot). Am I missing something? Why do people think this guy’s so great? He’s a modern day Spielberg, sure… But Spielberg’s big-budget, grandiose style have become par for the course in modern cinema. You might as well say Abrahams is a modern day Karl Marx in Communist Russia. But I digress… By the same token, J.J.’s mediocrity hasn’t gone too far against him, so I’ll hold out hope. But in all honesty, I’d rather see Joss Whedon behind this project.

Disney for the win.

Here’s hoping for cybernetic Ewoks.

(image credit to nei1b)