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Reviewed by Charles Remington for Readers' Favorite
Richie Billing has managed to cram a huge amount of useful information into A Fantasy Writers' Handbook. Perhaps the main strength of the book is the fact that the information provided has been canvassed from industry professionals. Reviewers and editors were asked for their opinions, and books or essays on the craft of writing by well-known authors from George Orwell to Stephen King form the backbone of the guidance given. In this volume, you will find advice, guidance, and resources on characterization and plot development. The various fantasy genres are described along with advice on naming characters and places, developing creatures and monsters, mapping your imagined kingdom or planet, and handling religious beliefs. There are also very useful chapters which describe the function and use, along with the names of the individual parts, of a bow and arrow, broadsword, a suit of armor or a crossbow.
The rich sources of information and inspiration for the fantasy author from our own Middle Ages are explored by outlining the typical lifestyle of a peasant, lord, baron or king. Descriptions of their habitation from hut to castle, together with some notes on the economy of the time as a whole, provide a rich mine of raw data. The final section of this peerless work outlines important information on creating an author website, blogging, online fantasy/sci-fi writers’ groups, useful publications such as Duotrope, and how to go about getting your work reviewed. There are also links to short story and novel publishers, together with guidance on formatting and presentation.
I found A Fantasy Writers' Handbook engaging and, more importantly, useful. It has prompted me to get to work on that website I have been meaning to attend to for years now and has provided much good advice about marketing and getting feedback on one’s work. Any writer working in the fantasy genre should have this book at their elbow. Richie Billing is a talented author and by using a light touch and a conversational style has probably produced the seminal work on the subject.