Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Guest Post - Jim Melvin

I first became aware of Jim before I started Fantasy Debut, at the Absolute Write Water Cooler (although he probably does not remember me from those days). He later initiated contact with me shortly after I started Fantasy Debut. We have been in sporadic contact ever since, and I recently asked him to write a guest post. Jim has always behaved with class and professionalism. I was interested in hearing Jim's story because I knew from various interviews that his writing this series was his lifelong dream and I was curious to hear how it came about.

Here is his bio and guest post.

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Jim Melvin is author of The Death Wizard Chronicles, a six-book-epic fantasy. Book One (The Pit) was released in September 2007 by Rain Publishing, followed by Book Two (Moon Goddess) in October, Book Three (Eve of War) in November. Book Four (World on Fire) will be released in December, Book Five (Sun God) in January and Book Six (Death-Know) in February. The series is available for purchase at www.rainbooks.com or www.amazon.com. The first shipments to Amazon have sold out, but more are on the way. Jim, 50, is married with five daughters and currently lives in Clemson, S.C. He welcomes personal emails at jsmhimes@yahoo.com

Though I wrote The Death Wizard Chronicles in three years, the six-book series was almost thirty years in the making. I was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., but I moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., when I was 5 years old and was raised on an island that jutted into Tampa Bay. I was lucky to grow up on a street on the waterfront that had about ten other boys my age, and we hung out morning, noon, and night. We played all the usual sports that young boys love: football, baseball, basketball, “kill the carrier,” etc. But we also, as a group, were obsessed with fantastical games that contained magic, monsters, and super heroes. We played games based off popular TV shows of that era (the late 1960s) such as Lost in Space and The Man from Uncle.

When I was a boy, I had white-blond hair, but I became a big fan of Robert Vaughn, who played Napoleon Solo in The Man from Uncle. Vaughn, of course, has brown hair, and one summer I convinced my mom to dye my hair brown. Being a smart mom, she chose to use cheap hair dye, and within a couple of days my hair changed colors and I spent the rest of the summer with green hair. That wouldn’t seem so unusual today, but back then I was the talk of the island. Anyway, my love and fascination for magic and monsters stayed with me into adulthood.

When I was a junior in high school, I boldly decided that I wanted to become a best-selling novelist, and I went around telling everyone I knew that I was going to make $75-million. Keep in mind this was the mid-1970s, so that’s probably around $300-million, if you figure in thirty years of inflation.

I wrote my first novel when I was 20 years old. It was a Stephen King-like horror novel entitled Sarah’s Curse. An agent who was a family friend shopped it around, and though it received some nice responses, it never found a publisher. But I wasn’t overly concerned because I believed my second novel would be the one to hit it big. In the meantime, I started my career as a journalist at the St. Petersburg Times in Florida. For me, the rat race officially began. Soon I was working 50-hour weeks and raising a family – and there never was a second book. Twenty-five years later, I was fortunate enough to be able to semi-retire. In September 2004, I wrote the first word of Book One of The Death Wizard Chronicles. Seven-hundred-thousand words later, I’m in the final revision process of Book Six.

Life has an unusual sense of humor, and for a quarter-century my dreams were put on hold. That said, those 25 years ended up serving a valuable purpose. As a reporter and editor, I learned the craft of writing and met a lot of interesting people, significantly expanding my worldview and talents. When I finally began writing my epic fantasy series, I realized that work and family weren’t to blame for all those lost years. Instead, I wasn’t simply had not been ready as a writer. Finally, it all jelled. This is my time.

I describe my series as a cross between J.R.R. Tolkien and Stephen King – Tolkien because it contains many aspects of epic fantasy, King because it’s pretty darn scary and rough. The Death Wizard Chronicles is a classic tale of good versus evil, with lots of action, monsters, and magic. It also contains a very compelling love story. But what separates my series from most others is that I am an active student of Eastern philosophy, which fuels my world view. The concept of karma and the art of meditation play key roles in the symbolic aspects of my work. While deep in meditation, Buddhist monks have had recorded heart rates of less than 10 beats per minute. My main character takes this to the extreme. In an original twist never before seen in this genre, the Death Wizard is able to enter the realm of death during a “temporary suicide.” Through intense concentrative meditation, he stops his heartbeat briefly and feeds on death energy, which provides him with an array of magical powers.

My first wife and I divorced about 15 years ago, and I then remarried. My second wife is a Western-convert Buddhist in the Theravada tradition, and she introduced me to Buddhism. The philosophical aspects of Eastern philosophy really rang true for me and helped to further shape the person I have become. My series contains an ancient language that is directly translated from Pali, a dialect closely related to Sanskrit but not extinct as a spoken language. When translated to English, it is beautiful and erotic.

A wise man once said:
“In the end
these things matter most:
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?”

I live life this way. Or at least I try.

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Thank you, Jim!

3 comments:

Jim Melvin said...

Dear Tia:

A Google alert came into my Yahoo account about this posting, so I zipped over to check it out. Thanks so much for all of your help, and I'm honored to have been mentioned, in any fashion, on Fantasy Debut. As for AW, have I forgotten some memorable exchanges between us? I hope I behaved myself!

Erin said...

Sorry I didn't know where else to put this, but I got the art from ISTockphoto and created the buttons with cooltext. Glad you enjoyed the new layout :)

Tia Nevitt said...

Jim, yes, I'm sure you behaved yourself! I think you were offering help in the Share Your Work forum. Or maybe it was the Accomplishments board.

Erin, I didn't realize that Cooltext was still around!