Today, I'm pleased to have a wonderful guest--A.C. Birdsong. He's sharing about his first favorite fantasy novel and also his second favorite--his own new release, Inside the Tall, Thick Book of Tales. This sounds like a fascinating book!
My first favorite fantasy novel
by A.C. Birdsong
My first favorite fantasy novel was pretty short. The writing was clean and terse. It left a lot to the imagination but looking back on it that seems okay now.
My first favorite fantasy novel started out with the protagonist taking charge of his destiny. He discovers and takes possession of a great magical power, which he spends the rest of the book trying to master.
My first favorite fantasy novel throws obstacle after obstacle in front of the protagonist. Some obstacles are caused by his tentativeness in wielding his new power, some are a by product of his imagination, and some seem to derive from the great power itself.
My first favorite fantasy novel shows the protagonist encountering great hazards and terrifying creatures. He has to put himself in even more danger to escape them, but he overcomes his fears, steels his courage, plies his wits, and reaches the end of the book safely.
My first favorite fantasy novel is Harold and the Purple Crayon. I love it even to this day.
Okay, I can hear you now saying, "The way you were going, I figured you were going to pull a fast one." But is it? As I dissect it, it seems to be a nearly perfect blueprint for a fantastical thriller rolled into a coming of age story. What's missing is sinister pursuit, though as Jayme Johnson notes, we can find that in Harold's own imagination.
I'm not saying that every true fantasy must contain the elements listed here, but I do assert you could write any number of great fantasy stories starting with them in mind.
When I wrote the first words of Inside the Tall, Thick Book of Tales, I had no idea how things would proceed or how they would turn out. I didn't know that Palmer would become such a manipulative user, that Jacob would experience such doubt, or that the whole town of normal people would be affected by their otherwise private conflicts. My core idea was that I knew I had to get my wizard Jacob trapped in an enchanted book somehow. But that was all that I knew. In that time of my life I was fortunate in that I had the luxury of starting a story that basically drafted itself. I've long since realized things go much better if I plan the story out much more. I don't want to leave things to chance. (I've written a small bit about this recently).
Over the last year while preparing Inside the Tall, Thick Book of Tales for release, I've written a hundred pages of improvements, clarifications, and enhancements; suffered though several edits and proof readings; cracked through a layout and an eBook build; and done more proof readings. I paid pros to do final passes afterwards, which required some edits and yet more re-readings on my part. All told in the past 8 months I've probably read Inside the Tall, Thick Book of Tales over two dozen times.
And as I reflect on how the story has ended up, I know things could have gone a lot differently - with the first draft the slightest change in my situation could have piloted the story in a different direction. But as it is, I tried to have clean prose, present the characters with conflict, frustration, and a little hope, give them powers they don't really understand, and pit them against each other. Looking at it that way, I think that that the main character Jacob shares more than just a little with Harold. And I think that's a good thing, because for now, what I've written has turned out to be my second-favorite fantasy. ;)
About The Book
Title: Inside the Tall, Thick Book of Tales
Author: A.C. Birdsong
On a small farm just outside of a tiny town lives Jacob, the last in a long line of Caretakers of Magic. His mission in life as the world’s only magician (in fact the only person who knows magic is possible) is to preserve magical skill in preparation for the day when magic is needed in the world. Other than what is required to train an apprentice, Caretakers aren’t to be practitioners, a tenet Jacob adheres to religiously.
Jacob has been teaching an apprentice, Palmer, for eight years. As a student, Palmer is a dismal failure, but thisdoes not stop him from experimenting. Feeling that the pace of his instruction is unnecessarily slow, Palmer takes the little magic he knows, twists it, and uses it to trap Jacob and a young neighbor Lucy inside an old book of fairy tales (The Tall, Thick Book of Tales). Palmer refuses to release them unless Jacob imparts all magical knowledge to him in an instantaneous way.
From the moment of Jacob’s entrapment, Birdsong creates three interwoven storylines: Palmer’s dealings with the townspeople, who are searching for Lucy and quickly suspect Palmer for her disappearance; Jacob’s journey to escape, which takes him through scenes written into the book by Palmer, designed to harass Jacob and to speed his compliance along; and Lucy’s interaction with the book’s original characters, all magical themselves, trapped within the margins by Palmer’s spell, and are united in their desire to expel the intruders. Added to this mix are an enchanted bookworm and the fairy tales’ narrator, who have objectives of their own.
Readers will enjoy Inside the Tall, Thick Book of Tales. Birdsong skillfully mixes the real and the imaginary worlds with a lean and fast-paced style. A well-crafted and fun novel with colorful characters and great dialogue written for any fan of adult fiction, and suitable for young adults and older adolescents as well.
A.C. Birdsong wrote the first draft of Inside the Tall, Thick Book of Tales during an unseasonably cold winter in Athens, Greece. “I spent all my time either writing the story or searching for a reasonably warm and cheap place to write it. Often this left me huddled near tepid steam heaters in dingy hotel rooms, and drinking endless cups of weak Nesto fight the cold. Eventually the weather turned, which was not only fortunate for me, but for Jacob and Palmer as well, because they probably would still be fighting it out inside that book otherwise.”
A.C. lives in Seattle, where people voluntarily allow themselves to be trapped in books on a regular basis. This is his first novel.
Palmer Finds the Book
The shop has the peculiar smell of discarded old books. Palmer, the only customer, waddles his way along the tight spaces, unobstructed. Arriving at the rear of the store, he scans the shelves and finds the section marked Automobiles. It’s well above his reach. He sighs and retrieves one of the step stools from another aisle. Setting it before the Automobiles section, he steps up gingerly, using the shelf to steady himself.
With his left hand still grasping the shelf, he uses the index finger of his right to pick out the books there. “Let’s see, Ford, Thunderbird,” he mumbles to himself. “Nineteen eighty-four, ah, here it is, 1985. Hmm. . .what’s this?” One book, much larger than the rest on the shelf, is placed with its binder toward the ceiling. Curious, Palmer tilts the volume to read the title. The book is so massive, it quickly tips and falls to the floor with a loud thump, producing a surprisingly large cloud of dust.
The bored clerk from the front of the shop speaks up. “Everything all right back there?” The tone of voice is flat and unconcerned.
“Yeah, no problem.” He takes the 1985 Thunderbird manual from the shelf and descends the step stool carefully. Sticking the repair book under his arm and bending forward, he picks up the fallen book with a grunt. “Sucker’s huge,” he says to himself.
The book is as large as an old dictionary, leather bound and with gold edging on its pages. The title on the front in embossed script reads The Tall, Thick Book of Tales. A large colorful plate depicting a knight battling a dragon takes up most of the front cover.
Palmer hefts the book and opens it, exposing thin pages like stiff parchment printed with fading black ink. The copyright page reveals it to be a 1925 fifth edition. Palmer flips through the pages, reading none of them and examining the overall condition of the book.
Steps sound along the wall of shelves. Palmer looks up. It’s the clerk. “Find the one you’re looking for?”
Palmer closes the book and rubs the cover. A look of excitement begins to shine in his eyes. “Yes,” he says slowly. He hands the book to the clerk. “Yes, I have. I’ll take this one.”
The clerk reads the title, looks at Palmer, looks back at the title, shrugs, turns, and carries the book to the front. Palmer starts to follow, pauses, and taking the repair manual from under his arm, looks at it, snorts, and tosses it onto the step stool. “To hell with that,” he says to himself, following the clerk. “I’m buying a new car.”