Endless Possibilities Blog Tour 2014: Tamela J. Ritter Asks What She Should Be Reading

Good morning, everybody. Welcome back to the Endless Possibilities Blog Tour. Two weeks remain, and today I’m so happy to welcome to my corner of the Interwebz Tamela J. Ritter. Tamela came to me and asked what I’d like to feature on my blog, and of course I mentioned Science Fiction and Fantasy. Turns out that Tamela is on the lookout for something new to read, and is asking you for some suggestions with an emphasis on characters and character development.

You know, Tamela—I can recommend a pair of secret agents set in a steampunk world

Hi, my name is Tamela J. Ritter and I am a sci-fi/fantasy n00b. 

Lavery_Maiss_Auras--What I Imagine I look like readingI was supposed to come here and talk about writing, about creating and producing fiction. Instead, if Tee doesn’t mind, I’d like to use this space to talk about reading and consuming fiction. And also, hopefully gather some recommendations from you all.

In my writing life, the genre of fiction I write is literary fiction. For me, in both writing and reading, it is all about the character. And like the worst stereotype of my genre, I turned up my nose to sci-fi/fantasy because I didn’t think they cared as much about character as I did. I thought it was all world building, gadgets and exploration. I, erroneously, thought the few sci-fi/fantasy works I enjoyed (The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Slaughterhouse Five and The Sparrow) were exceptions to the rules and not, in essence, mere examples of what sci-fi and fantasy does really well. Tell compelling stories about interesting, flawed and very real people.

So, I’ve seen the error of my ways and very humbly beg forgiveness.

That being said, I’m sad to admit that most of the sci-fi and fantasy that I have consumed and become a (rather huge) fan of, has been either children’s fiction (I first got into these genres legitimately when I started taking care of children and fantasy in children’s and Young Adult fiction is HUGE!) or on screen, in both movies and television (Han Solo was my first crush, Star Trek: The Next Generation is one of my fave go-to re-watches, Malcolm Reynolds is my spirit animal and I have, just recently, become a VERY reluctant Whovian.)

What I’d like from all of you dear readers is a recommendation or two of what to read, where to start, what is (in your opinion) the best in the genres and subgenres of science fiction and fantasy.

First, a bit about my taste–I’ve given you most of what I’m looking for. CHARACTER. Plan and simple. I like humor, angst, romance and adventure. I like people figuring things out as they sort themselves and I really love sidekicks being awesome and also not dying.

IMG-20130304-00624And finally a few caveats that I hope won’t offend anyone. I just know myself and know what will very likely not interest me. I also know the things I have already tried and decided (no matter how amazing they might be) were just Not For Me. While I love characters, give me too many and I’ll zone out before getting invested in any of them (I’m looking at you A Song of Fire and Ice).

Also, and this is mostly just because I’m lazy, I probably won’t read in novels based on movie or television series. I’ve been told by my geektastic niece that the Star Wars movies are NEVER going to be as good as the books, but for me, the movies are just fine, and also easy to consume.

My only other one no thanks is Orson Scott Card. Sorry, just not going to read his work. I could go into all the reasons why, but I fear that’s an entirely different blog post. (Editor’s Note: Let me take a gander…)

So, what say you? What should I be reading?


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0055_IMG_9539Tamela J. Ritter was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, her debut novel From These Ashes was published in March 2013 by Battered Suitcase Press. She now lives and works in Haymarket, Va. You can find her on Twitter or on Facebook.




  1. I’m going to not only recommend our Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, but I’d also encourage you to take a look at Pip’s Books of the Order series. Start with Geist and then move forward. Another good character study which is extremely funny is John Scalzi’s Redshirts. Fantastic read.


    1. Thanks! For both hosting me and the recommendations! A friend just last weekend loaned my Redshirts as I’ve been a fan of Scalzi’s blog FOREVER and have yet to read any of his books. *iz lame*

      I have also just ordered your first Ministry book and look forward to reading it. I don’t think I’ve ever actually read steampunk, but I am very intrigued!


      1. Thank you, Tamela. I must admit, you are making quite a splash on my blog this week so well done! Well done!

        I think you will be very happy with Redshirts. It’s an absolute blast. As for giving Phoenix Rising a go, Pip and I hope to be a solid gateway to steampunk. If you need to read up on what to expect, you might want to pay a visit to this page on the Ministry’s site. It’ll get you ready for our little adventure in Victorian England.


  2. I just gave you Redshirts, so I’m not really seconding that one.

    Peirs Anthony is interesting, in the Fantasy category, but you have to like zany and prepare yourself for a lot of puns. Mists of Avalon is sort of fantasy, but it’s very very very long and I want to strangle Gwenhwyfar with every fiber of my being.

    One that’s sci-fi and fantasy that I’d heavily recommend is The Princess of Mars. John Carter was an alright movie, but they stripped absolutely everything I liked out of the book.


    1. I will add Peirs Anthony to my list, I do love me some zany (and am rather a sucker for puns, not gonna lie). I have forgotten Mists of Avalon! I loved that book! For me, it was all about the Morgaine.


  3. “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood and “Kafka on the Shore” by Haruki Murakami


    1. Ah, thanks for the reminder. I’ve had “The Handmaid’s Tale” on my TBR pile for ages now. I will bump it up. And I’ve also been meaning to read some Murakami as I have a handful of friends who will Not Shut Up About Him!


  4. If you like your fantasy funny, I’d go with the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels, or the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Jeff Strand’s Andrew Mayhem books are a laugh riot, too.


  5. Obviously Tee’s or Pip’s work. But outside of their work, I’m going old school here with:

    1.) Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis’ “DragonLance” series (“Dragons of Autumn Twilight” is the first one). They also wrote a fantastic series “DeathGate Cycle”

    2.) Raymond Feist’s work (start with “Magician: Apprentice” and go from there)

    3.) Stephen R. Donaldson’s “Chronicles of Thomas Covenant” (the first and 2nd books literally came alive to me as I read them and after that I was hooked)

    I’ve read tons of SF/F and still have a stack of books to read from other authors. But right now, those 3 really are heads above the others (outside of our intrepid duo Tee & Pip)


    1. w0w. Thanks. Those are 3 people I’ve never heard of. Yay! New (to me) writers!


  6. My favorite book of all time, which happens to be a fantasy novel, is “Good Omens”, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It’s a comedy about Armageddon; among the characters are an angel and a demon who team up to stop it, a modern-day witchfinder, and the Antichrist (who was accidentally switched at birth and raised by a normal family).

    Both authors are worth reading on their own; I especially enjoyed Gaiman’s “Neverwhere” and “American Gods”; and Pratchett’s humorous Discworld series, which starts out in the first couple of books as a parodic pastiche of several well-known fantasy works, then blossoms into a rich tapestry of interconnected stories (though the individual novels should work on their own, I think).

    Science fiction-wise, one of my favorites is “Dragon’s Egg” by Robert L. Forward (and its sequel, “Starquake”), about humanity’s discovery of an alien civilization living on the surface of a neutron star. Though it’s “hard SF”, being driven by a scientific hypothesis of what such life might be like (Forward was a physicist), it’s very character-driven (though since the “cheela” have lifespans of about forty minutes, it is hard to get invested in their characters).

    I’m a huge fan of both John Scalzi (honestly, I can’t think of a book of his that I *wouldn’t* recommend) and Neal Stephenson (“Anathem” is my particular favorite work of his; it’s impossible for me to describe it adequately, but it’s a highly philosophical, character-driven book that ended up in a place I never expected it to go).

    Alastair Reynolds is another of my favorite SF authors; while most of his books are interconnected in some way, they too work well as standalones. “Century Rain” is one that isn’t connected to the rest of his universe, which I particularly enjoyed (a 23rd-century archaeologist is sent back through an alien portal to an alternate-history version of 1959 Earth).

    (And, of course, Tee’s and Pip’s works.)


    1. I have just restarted Good Omens. I read a good chunk of it last summer and LOVED IT, but for some reason put it down, and then when I just picked it back up, I realized I needed to start over. Not a huge loss as it is just as good on second read. After that, I will read Scalzi’s “Redshirts” as it was just loaned to me.

      After that, I will check out some of those recommendations of yours. Thanks!


  7. BTW – Stephen R. Donaldson meets your criteria for a main character that is interesting yet flawed in his “Chronicles of Thomas Covenant” series. It is the story of an author who contracted leprosy and is an outcast in this world. He has a darkness about him because of the way he is treated by everyone (because of his leprosy) And then gets (through an accident) transported to a fantasy world where he is no longer an outcast and is revered. He continues to not believe in the world he has been transported to and insists its a dream. And his actions have far reaching consequences as a result of his indiscretions.

    Seriously – like I said before, this was the first SF/F that came to life for me as if I was reading a real life account rather than just a tale of dwarves and elves in a fantasy land.


  8. Wait. We’re discussing strongly character-driven, gripping sci-fi and J. Daniel Sawyer hasn’t come up yet?

    Goodness. I got here just in time.

    Go to : http://www.jdsawyer.net

    You’ll want to start with Predestination, the first book of the Antithesis Progression. It’s a five book series, the first two of which are out. Many people have compared it to George R. R. Martin’s work (strong characters, sometimes not-fun, sticky endings to characters, writing for keeps and not cheating), but his cast is much smaller. Sawyer’s writing style is all about quality over quantity, and it really comes through in the characters he’s crafted.

    A senior intelligence analyst turned ruthless defector-on-the-run, the crime lord of the lunar underworld, the private investigators turned bounty hunters, a former or the U.S. judge trying to play both sides against the middle in the revolution that’s looming on the horizon. . . and then there’s Percy.

    If you like his style, also give Down From Ten a shot. Several artists gathered together in a mansion in the California mountains for ten days for relaxation, rest, creativity, and catching up with all the members in their hand-made family. Take a country house mystery, throw some sci-fi/fantasy ghost story in for flavor, and mix well. It’s worth it just to get to know the people involved.

    If you like detective stories, Clarke Lantham can’t be missed. They aren’t sci-fi in the traditional sense, but they frequently run head-on into places in society and culture that are about to radically change in developments coming within the next few years. Think of them as sci-fi stories about things that aren’t sci-fi anymore. Start with And Then She Was Gone.

    Also, if you like TV, Babylon 5 is another example of “exactly what you’re looking for.” The first season is very clunky if you haven’t seen the show before — the actors and writers were still finding their roles/voices in that time — but after that initial period, it’s a break-neck run through dark places until the final episode. Again, profoundly character driven in its writing. There’s a reason people are still talking about it, 20 years after it aired.

    If you’re wondering why S1 is only clunky if you haven’t seen the show through — the second time, you see all the foreshadowing done in the first year, and it goes from clunky to hair-raisingly creepy.


    1. Awww. Thanks for the recs! Sawyer sounds right up my alley! And I’ll definitely check out the titles you mentioned, especially Down From Ten since I’ve become a sucker for that trope after reading Palahniuk’s “Haunted.”


  9. For Science Fiction I would recommend David Brin’s Uplift books starting with Startide Rising; or Robert Heinlein’s The.Moon is a Harsh Mistress. For Urban Fantasy try Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin books or as was mentioned before Jim Butcher, or Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore. For Space Opera try David Weber’s Honor Harrington on Basilisk Station or the Familias Regnant books by Elizabeth Moon starting with Hunting Party. High Fantasy you might like the Earthsea books by Ursula K LeGuin or to reach even further back Jirel of Joiry by C L Moore. And to make it an even 10 authors, you might want to try the Aahz and Skeeve ( or MythAdventure )books by Robert Aspirin starting with Another Fine Myth…


    1. Great recs, thanks! I’ve loved everything of Christopher Moore’s so I will definitely be reading that one! There were some other people who also sound familiar…

      So many great books out there!


  10. Tamela,

    Have I got a book for you… in June. *sigh*

    Wait, would you like to be a beta reader? I’ve got open slots for a fast paced beta read starting next week.

    It is the story of an eccentric professor and his beautiful assistant, who find they must team up with a young nobleman to find the evil genius who destroyed the State Opera House of Prague in an assassination attempt and stop him before he strikes again. Genre is Steampunk, in an alternate history.

    Interested? Let me know!



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