Sunday, July 23, 2017

Fantasy Books I'd recommend

Just back from a convention In this case the New England Writers' Conference, also called Camp Necon. Necon is a delightfully mellow convention where I always manage to get work done. I love that combination

Jeffe write about a recommended list of romantic fantasies. I don't do those, so here's my compromise.

A list of Fantasy novels

First, for dark and grim and gritty, you don't get much better than Joe Abercrombie. His trilogy THE FIRST LAW is powerful stuff and I recommend it.

Obviously no fantasy list is complete without J.R.R. Tolkien's THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.

Just as fine in my eyes are the CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN, by Lloyd Alexander.

Gather up your original Robert E. Howard CONAN books. Learn why the character remains so popular after closing in on a century in print.

Fritz Leiber's FAFHRD AND THE GREY MOUSER series is wonderful fun and hold in the collected volumes a great deal of the powerful prose that was often imitated as Sword and Sorcery fiction took off.

Jirel of Joirie by C.L. Moore is another treasure trove of almost forgotten fiction that is readily available and should be savored.

The CHRONICLES OF NARNIA by C.S. Lewis. Enough said.

The CHRONICLES OF AMBER by Roger Zelazny.

The THIEVES WORLD anthologies edited by Robert Aspirin and written by a plethora of talents.

All great for very different reasons, and all recommended.

Give them a try for a slightly different take on fantasy.

Fantasy Romance Recommended Reads

It's Hot & Muggy Flash Fiction week here at the SFF Seven. In beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico, it's never muggy and rarely all that hot. Perfect weather for drinks on the patio! Likewise, I'm not participating in the Flash Fiction, as it always feels like a diversion from what I'm writing.

At the moment, that's my contribution to Amid the Winter Snow, a holiday anthology with Thea Harrison, Grace Draven, and Elizabeth Hunter. The story is tentatively called THE SNOWS OF WINDROVEN. Turns out Ash and Ami have a lot of unresolved issues. Until I delved back into it - and from Ash's point of view - I hadn't realized how tentative their happy-ever-after was. It was really a happy-for-now. Nothing like being snowbound in a castle built into a formerly-dormant-now-rumbling volcano with shapeshifting toddlers to bring relationship issues to a head!

And, speaking of heads, I just got mine into this story. I'm not thinking about hot and muggy anything.

Instead I'll share a post I wrote on the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) blog. It went up on May 1 and I totally missed it. But many of you will likely recall when I posted to Facebook about compiling a list of Fantasy Romance Recommended Reads. SFWA asked me for a list of ten authors, so they could also be put on bookmarks. In culling all the terrific recommendations down to ten, I found myself having to take a hard look at how I define the subgenre of Fantasy Romance, so that's part of this article, too. You can read it here.

For some reason the comments on SFWA blog aren't allowed, but I know you all will have additional authors to recommend - and possibly arguments with my definitions. Please feel free to comment here! I wish I could have included everyone, but the whittling down to ten made for an interesting exercise.

Also, check out my local chapter's contest for unpublished manuscripts! I'll be the final judge for Paranormal Romance/Fantasy Romance/Urban Fantasy/Science Fiction Romance. That means I'll mentor my winner and provide promotion support. The overall winner will receive support from the entire chapter! Check it out here!

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Writer's Filter - Piecing Together Real Life

 This week's question - the use of real life events/people/places in fiction echoes a very similar question in acting. Do you mine your life to feed your body of work? 

Uhm. Yeah. Of course. Because what other frame of reference do I have? You think I'm using someone else's life? Oh. Wait. I've done that. But even then, the only way to put that on a page (or into performance) is to internalize the experience set even if I did not have it and present it through the lens of what if I had? 

Right? I mean, the only system any of us has for feeling and conveying that feeling is via our own body/mind/emotions - which represents the sum total of everything we've ever experienced. Granted, I get that we're talking about whether or not I'm writing about Aunt Edna's false teeth falling into her glass of milk during my sixth birthday party.

Sometimes I do. I subscribe to the notion that anytime I experience high emotion (whether pleasant or unpleasant) it has some use in a current WIP. There was one case where a major bad guy was modeled on someone and an awful situation I'd known. It involved restraining orders and threats of violence. Rough several months. Perfect bad guy fodder, but you bet I made darned sure neither the person nor the situation were recognizable by anyone but me. (Also, I don't have an Aunt Edna, so forget about the teeth and the milk.) So yes. Everything I write, every character I create, every play I perform, it all comes through me, and so is indelibly colored by my experiences. Some times situations or people directly influence character or plot development, but not often and never undisguised. The rest of the time, it's subtler than that - more a case of tone and filter. My life and my mental state (such as it is) set my tone and create the filter through which all story passes. Add into that that every place I've been speaks story to me. The shot of the corner shop at top is the local tea shop. I turned it into a main character's tattoo shop in Nightmare Ink. The pyramid played into that same character's story in Bound By Ink. The dragon toothed cave hasn't shown up yet, but it will.  And the stairs - same thing. There's a story there. Who or what comes down those steps? Why? 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Scrapbooking for Real Inspiration

I don't tend to-- consciously any way-- mine too much of real life into my novels.  Obviously there's bits and pieces, some of it more overt than others.  Well, there are two minor characters in Lady Henterman's Wardrobe who are, in fact, very real-life inspired, but I think I'm going to keep the details of that close to the chest for now.  Have to save something for the memoirs.

Now, one thing I do like to do is draw inspiration from places I've been.  A lot of how the city of Maradaine looks in my head comes from places like Mexico City (specifically Coyoacan), Montreal (specifically Old Town) and Boston.  I don't know if I necessarily do a perfect job getting those inspirations across, but it's what I strive for.

 Image result for coyoacan church
In other news, I'm going to be at ArmadilloCon here in Austin from August 4th-6th.  If you're in the area, stop by and say hello.  There might even be a shiny ARC of The Imposters of Aventil in it for you.  More details on that to come.
Now back to the word mines.  Plenty of work to do.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Real Life as Subplots in the Persephone Alcmedi Series

Back in the summer of 2009, the first Persephone Alcmedi novel VICIOUS CIRCLE hit the shelves. 

It doesn't seem like that long ago, and yet...we've come a long way since then. Most of my plotting revloves around Persephone and the intracasies of the witch council and Seph's own destiny, but there are many vampire and waerewolf characters in the mix.

When I learned about local Cleveland authorities planning to demolish one of the predominant buildings I used in the story, it seemed appropriate to include it.


     Todd was blathering on about a meeting they’d just had with the Ohio Department of Transportation.
     ODOT had put a new compensation package on the table concerning their bid to buy and tear down the Cleveland Cold Storage building for the new I-90 project.   

I figured it was a great way to show that humans had their own notions and goals that had nothing to do with the non-humans. Yet at the same time, this allowed me to show their bias and hate by having the humans be snidely pleased that it was impacting the non-humans in a negative way. It also served as a mechanism to further explore and develop the heirarchy of waerewolves, as the big-wigs sent someone to negotiate for another prime location in Cleveland. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Real World Events, Gewgaws, Ribbons, & Hot Glue: Fictitious Scrapbooks

Taking real world non-fiction events and twisting them into a scene in a fantasy novel? Who does that?

Me. Totally me.

It's the twisting that's the fun part, then taking a hot glue gun to make little plastic bridges between the twists, and hoping the adhesive holds well enough that the whole story doesn't unravel. A little Modge Podge to seal it. A fashionable ribbon here. A pop-culture sticker there. Yep. Pretty much summarizes my writing process.

Yes. I absolutely burn my fingers on the glue. Yes, my hair, dog hair, and last week's mystery crumbs end up embedded in the scrapbook too. There's inevitably a ghosting fingerprint or twelve that'll identify me to the Thought Police.

In my defense, I try not to spill the bourbon on the scrapbook, 'cause that'd be alcohol abuse...and it eats through the glue. Though, it does make a great editing assistant and accidents happen.

So, scrapbooking in the figurative sense, I am a big fan.

Scrapbooking in the literal sense? Not it. No, that's wholly different talent.

Monday, July 17, 2017


I suspect that every author is guilty of this to one level or another Scrapbooking is the fine art of using real life events (yours or someone else's) and incorporating them into a tale.

In my case the one case where I can consciously say I did this revolves around a story of mine called "Burden of Guilt: my Brother's Keeper." In the story I twins who are psychically linked. The catch is, one of them is a serial killer who keeps his brother in check via emotional blackmail.

The story came to me full blown when I was watching the eleven o'clock news and saw a piece n twin brothers who'd broken the rules, climbed the fence for a pool that was closed and, sadly, managed to get themselves drowned for their efforts. '

There isn't that much in common, really, but it was enough to get the creative juices flowing.

I looked at my wife, wished her a good night and wrote the 8,000 word story in one sitting.

For me it's a rarity that I use real life as a springboard and it's almost always accidental in that I don't seek the stories out but run across them.

But the process does make for interesting tales and I know several authors who are almost universally writing stories based on actual events that simply haunt them until they work out the details in their stories and novels.

What Blender Setting Do You Go For?

We've been on a long road trip this last week, seeing all kinds of family. And leaving the cats behind, like the monsters we are. Here is Jackson showing off his best Pitiful Abandoned Kitty face.

Thus, I'm late posting today. But so it goes!

I've shared this news elsewhere, but I'm happy to share again here! Many of you have asked what I'm up to with various writing projects, including a few delayed ones. (Yes, the next Sorcerous Moons books are coming - I promise!) Basically what happened is that I changed agents back in February/March. And then I worked up something entirely fresh for New Agent Sarah Younger. Basically I gave her a list of ideas, we debated them, and I wrote 100 pages of one of her top three choices - the one I loved best. We went back and forth on it with several revisions. That's a great benefit of working with an agent as sharp as Sarah. She gave me great feedback on the book, tightening it up and making it the best it could be. Basically we spent three months working on this.

Which meant I kept setting aside other writing projects to work on the next round of THRONE OF FLOWERS, THRONE OF ASH. Thus my entire schedule getting delayed and shuffled. The beautiful part is, when Sarah took this out on submission, we had tons of interest, multiple offers, and a sale two weeks later. And here it is!!

These books won't start coming out until 2019, so now I can go back to a regular schedule. Which absolutely means finishing both the Sorcerous Moons and Missed Connections series. The other thing that happened is that Kensington, who published my Twelve Kingdoms and Uncharted Realms books, started up a new SFF (Science Fiction and Fantasy) imprint called Rebel Base Books. They wanted to publish THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE, but that would have delayed its release until March of 2018 and I knew you all would have fits. (See? I do love you and want you to be happy. I really do!)

So, we said no on that, but they really wanted me to be part of this new imprint, so we settled on me writing a trilogy for them set in the Twelve Kingdoms world. It will be high fantasy, which means less of a romance arc. BUT, I'm pretty sure it will be Jenna's story. For those of you who know what that means! We finished talking about that right before the other submission, so that got announced at the same time.

All that taken care of, our topic this week is Scrapbooking—taking stories from real life as the springboard for your stories and subplots. I'm going to keep this short, mostly to kick off the topic. I love Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman's thoughts on "blender settings." Basically they say that all creative types take our real life experiences and metaphorically put them in a blender which produces the smoothie of our art. The big difference is what "setting" we put the blender on.

They've had to figure this out in their marriage, because they have such different blender settings. Amanda, a singer/songwriter and performance artist, has a very low blender setting. What she experiences, she turns around and shares in big chunks that are recognizably her art. Neil, as a writer of fantasy, has a very high setting - you almost can't recognize his real life in the final stories.

Neither is right or wrong - both of them are accomplished artists - but it took some doing for them to come to terms with how they each processed experiences. Especially for him with her putting so much of her - now their - personal life out there as part of her art.

What's most important is to find what works for you. My standard advice: discover your process and own it!