29 June 2020

Book Genre Tag: Fantasy

Blend of images by Shot by Cerqueira 
and Alice Alinari on Unsplash
Today's post is inspired by Paper Fury, an excellent book blog and one of the prettiest websites I've ever seen. If you love books and reading, you should check it out! You can also read author C.G.'s original book genre tag post here

When I went to Seton Hill University for their Writing Popular Fiction program, I formally declared two genres: fantasy and horror. These are my favorite genres to read, and while I haven't written straight horror yet, I do let horrific elements creep into the fantasy that I write. 

...But if I had to choose between two of my genre loves, I'd always shoot for fantasy first. It's the genre I've known the longest, staying with me from early childhood all the way up to the present, particularly in the form of fairy tales, myth, and epics. 

Watch me simultaneously idolize and lay waste to my absolute, all-time favorite genre. 



I greatly enjoyed John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things, which to me is a love letter to fairy tales and fantastic stories. The premise: 
'Once upon a time, there was a boy who lost his mother . . .' As twelve-year-old David takes refuge from his grief in the myths and fairytales so beloved of his dead mother, he finds the real world and the fantasy world begin to blend. That is when bad things start to happen. That is when the Crooked Man comes. And David is violently propelled into a land populated by heroes, wolves and monsters, his quest to find the legendary Book of Lost Things.
I remember reading this novel and thinking I absolutely wanted to write something like this, and in a way, my current WIP, Son of the Siren, is also seeking to honor multiple fairy tales and their motifs in a single volume. 

This story haunted me as I read it and I'll always love it. It's an engrossing, dark, beautiful story. 


N.K. Jemisin's The Inheritance Trilogy (consisting of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, and The Kingdom of the Gods) just blew me away. It's all about those gods, especially *swoon* Nahadoth. The premise:
Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.
This book changed how I looked at epic fantasy. I just got sick of that genre for many years -- probably at least a decade -- and I avoided anything that sounded like the stereotypical LOTR-tinged tome. I hadn't read anything that really spoke to me since college, and then when I was assigned to read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms in graduate school years later, and my faith in the genre was completely renewed. I love these books. 


Photo by Louis Maniquet
on Unsplash
I am a sucker for The Journey and The Mentor. 

When it comes to The Journey, I'm not talking about the Hero's Journey specifically, although that makes plotting a story easier. I'm talking about any time a character has to leave their familiar home and venture out into a new, weird, exciting world -- the more fantastical, the better. Maybe it's because I love travelling. Maybe it's because our world is beautiful, diverse, and exciting, and I love seeing that represented in fiction...only with speculative fic, there are no limitations to the types of worlds we can build. Whatever the reason, whenever characters depart the small space they've always known in exchange for a wide one with unlimited possibilities, I fall in love with this trope again and again. 

Going hand and hand with the Journey is the Mentor, and these two often crop up together because the Mentor is usually, though not always, someone the protagonist meets on their journey. Dispenser of helpful information? Check! Imparter of wisdom? Check! Benevolent educator? Check! Doorway to self-actualization? Check! In real life, I've always valued my mentors, most of whom are teachers or role models in the field in which I write. If you've got someone you can look up to and coach you along the way, the long and winding road isn't so lonely, and you learn from them (and learn more about yourself) in the process. I love wise and kind characters who are there to give the protagonist some info and a gentle push. 


Photo by Javier Peñas
on Unsplash
The Generic Fantasy Opening™ gets on my nerves. Because I don’t want to name and shame, and because I see this in countless books anyway, I’m just going to make up something to show you what I mean. 
The cloaked stranger, carrying on his back the sins of twenty-odd summers, one for every cursed year he walked this earth, peered at the dark shadows looming in the forest, feigning disinterest as he silently clutched his jeweled dagger. The corpulent ebony shades reached out to him like wafting tendrils; the branches of the ancient trees clawed upward like crooked fingers; the air hummed with electricity, and the wind whispered, destiny.
I swear, like 80% of the fantasy I’ve seen starts out this way. It takes a lot to get me to keep reading if the book sounds like this. I need a lot of convincing to continue on.

…This is the snobbiest thing about me when it comes to the genre. 😅😭


I remember being unimpressed with Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane. 


Lori M. Lee's Forest of Souls. 


Doorstopper books or series with multiple volumes intimidate me. The one and only series like that that I've gotten through is Harry Potter, and nothing since then. This means I avoid stuff like Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series; Terry Brooks's Shannara books; and George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. I just don't want to devote the time and energy to processing these works. 


Photo by Steve Halama
on Unsplash
I feel like I really need to read a lot more romance. I realized that in my own stories, I always have some sort of romantic element, but I have only read a tiny handful of actual full-blown romance novels. I'd probably stick with historical or fantasy; maybe some paranormal thrown in. But I feel like if I want to write convincing love, compelling relationships, and sexy times, I need to read from the masters and get a handle on readers' expectations from the genre. 


Science fiction intimidates me quite a bit, especially hard science fiction. I like elements that involve robots, androids, aliens, and far-off galaxies, but the minute science fiction gets all technical, weighed down by jargon, exposition, and explanation, I check out. I've read some sci fi, but I feel like the science should be a backdrop to a compelling story with equally compelling characters. The moment the science takes center stage, my eyes glaze over. I also think a lot of stuff goes over my head, a feeling that never went away ever since middle school science classes. 


Readers, what is your favorite genre? What works delight or intimidate you? Let me know in the comments!

27 June 2020

#52writing cards: Prompts from Shaun Levin's Writing Maps - no. 10

A version of this prompt appears on the How to Turn Food into Words Writing Map illustrated by Dilly Boase.

I.  Kitchen Utensil Collective

Our owner is a terrible cook and avoids it when possible. Every time a rare meal is properly prepared, we go into battle with the cookware and appliances. The casualties are numerous. No surface goes unscathed -- oil, grease, and sauces leave their remains for the unfortunate survivors to clean up after they've long gone. Mountains of plates and pans and pots pile high in the sink -- will they be washed today, or will they be left to soak in a perpetual postponing of the inevitable? 

II. Spatula

I had dreams and ambitions once. But alas, all I'm good for is pancakes and burgers. 

III. Fork

The silverware drawer gets crowded with my siblings and me, all stacked and ready to go. Why are there 87 of us, you ask? Could it be because our precious owner doesn't wash dishes fast enough and therefore relies on our abundance to get her through to the next meal? 

IV. Rolling Pin

Alas, I am unpurchased; a well of untapped potential, locked away at the store with my brethren. 

V.  Peeler

The only world I've ever known is the backs of raw carrots. 

VI. Grater

It gets lonely in the store after dark. I wish I could be with my friend, the rolling pin, who is likewise trapped under the weight of untapped potential. 

VII. Epilogue 

Author's Note: Ok, so I am not a cook. I hate cooking and I'm bad at it. I think it's a lot of effort that goes into something where the payoff lasts just a few moments. I also hate that I've generated a large mess (can you tell I hate to do dishes?) that means nothing if the food turns out to be subpar or downright awful. 

Maybe this explains why I have a poor relationship with food, too. If the cooking and preparation is a disaster for me, I don't enjoy what I've made. In general, I don't savor food or enjoy the experience of eating. Eating is an empty square on a checklist of a million things I have to do. Food is meant to be eaten and it's something I just get over with (like a chore) in order to move on to the next task.

This is probably why I'm so unhealthy. I eat way too many prepared and frozen foods just to avoid the hassle of cooking and cleanup. 

...Oh, and I don't own 87 forks. But I do think ten forks for someone living alone, who doesn't entertain others, is kind of a lot. 

26 June 2020

The Writing Genie

Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash

Here's a fun writing prompt that popped into my inbox today:
If only there were a writing genie. Over on The Write Life Facebook community, member Traci S. started a great discussion: “If you could have one wish from the writing genie about your writing, what would that be?!” We’d love to hear your writing wish! Join the community and chime in.
 -- From The Write Life email newsletter, 6/26/2020

I'm going to go ahead and rub the magic lamp and ask the writing genie to help me out with making a plot that I'll actually follow. 

It's not that I don't like the flexibility to change my mind or wander off; the problem is that I meander with no sense of direction and end up five days off course lost in the mountains when I should've followed the road through the woods to Grandmother's house. 

I tend to write based on feelings, and this lets a lot of stuff happen organically, like dialogue and characterization. But when I write based on a hunch or a vibe I get that propels me forward, as exciting as it can be, it often derails the coherent plot I've struggled to plan out. 

I haven't quite figured out how to create a plot outline that allows for safe offroad exploration. My outlines aren't super-detailed but they at least have a checklist of tings that should happen...but when I write in a state of free-for-all, it's so easy to miss the few things I do have to check off. 

Making a plot is hard enough for me, anyway. I come up with characters easily but I don't know what to have them do in between the items on my plot checklist, and that's where the wandering off happens. At best the story goes in a better direction than before, or there's some sort of wondrous epiphany or shiny new idea that propels me forward. At worst, the pacing gets all messed up and the story becomes mud. 

I'm working on Son of the Siren right now and it's the first time I properly plotted out a book. But now that I've started the middle section of the novel, all of a sudden I've created new characters and suddenly I have to give them something to do, and it doesn't fit my outline at all! If there is a way to take these new additions and bend them to fit my plot, I haven't figured this out yet. So I'm going to wish on the writing genie's lamp for help with sticking to my plot and not letting the book run away with itself...because I'd like to finish it soon! 

07 June 2020

Resources & Support for Black Lives and Allies

Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash.

Black lives matter. 

Justice for victims. 

Police reform now. 


Know Your Rights

Important Organizations

Supporting Bail Funds for Protesters

Mental Health 

Supporting Police Reform

Supporting Bookstores

Supporting Writers, Publishers, and Diverse Books