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Posts Tagged ‘fantasy fiction’

January 3rd is J. R. R. Tolkien’s birthday. Yes, yes, I know that is tomorrow–but if you are to celebrate properly, you must prepare.

I say, look for a birthday tree and make certain to sit beneath it on January 3rd with The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, or another book by Tolkien. Read a chapter or two, and allow the magic of Middle-earth to brighten this everyday world for a few minutes. Laugh at Bilbo’s reluctance to embrace adventure. Smile at the antics of Pip and Merry. Wish for a friend as faithful as Sam.

I recently read an interesting post at The Writing Cooperative about Tolkien by Hunter Liguore, The Tolkien Toast, which you might enjoy.

So when tomorrow arrives, lift a glass to one of the giants of fantasy literature–for as Tolkien wrote: “It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.”

 

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carolemcd300pixels Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Carole McDonnell. Carole McDonnell is a writer of Christian, supernatural, and ethnic stories. She writes fiction, non-fiction, poetry and reviews. Her writings appear in various anthologies, including Griots, Steamfunk, So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonialism in Science Fiction, Jigsaw Nation, and Life Spices from Seasoned Sistahs: Writings by Mature Women of Color among others. Her reviews appear at various online sites. Her story collections are Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction by Carole McDonnell and Turn Back O Time and other stories of the fae of Malku and her stand alone novels are: Wind Follower, My Life as an Onion, The Constant Tower, and Who Gave Sleep and Who Has Taken It Away?

Her novels also include books in the following series: The Brothers Worth Series: Black Girls Have Always Loved Cowboys, A Town for Timothy, A Year and A Day; The Nephilim Dystopia Series: The Daughters of Men, The Chimeran Queen; and Novels of the Malku Universe: The Charcoal Bride, SeaWalker, How Skall Dragonrider Won His Three Wives. Her Bible studies include: Seeds of Bible Study, Scapegoats and Sacred Cows of Bible Study, Blogging the Psalms, A Fool’s Journey Through Proverbs, Great Sufferers of the Bible, and The Christian Laws of Attraction. Her book of poetry is: The King’s Journal of Lost and Secret Things.

She lives in New York with her husband, two sons, and their pets.

Carole McDonnell’s latest book, The Charcoal Bride, is a fantasy story set in an unique world. A quick summary for my readers: The Malku universe, which is the setting for this novel, is a world where fae, merfolk, and humans live together in varying degrees of harmony. In some continents, the faes are honored. In other continents or worlds, the faes and their descendants are treated casually. But wherever they happen to be, they are feared because no one wants to get on the bad side of a fae. The merfolk live in streams, rivers, and oceans, and they have different species as do the humans and the faes. However, in some areas, they are treated badly.

charcoal b In The Charcoal Bride, the first book of this trilogy, a war is set in motion because a prince reneged on a vengeance oath he had made to the God of War. Because of this war, wars with the fae. The fae ally themselves with his son and conquer the prince, setting up his only son as king. This son, Skall, has no desire to be king. He is a stranger to Hanrisor and would rather be back home on his little island home. In addition, his being king doesn’t sit well with the aristocrats and peasants of Hanrisor. The fae determine that he must travel the kingdom in order to understand and love the nation he is to rule over.

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, The Charcoal Bride?
Well, I’ve always liked quests stories and road movies so when I was thinking of what the second book of the Malku trilogy would be, I thought, “It would be great if the king and his friend had to tour this new country the king has begun to rule over.”

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?
Skall’s friend is Nohay. Nohay is the SeaWalker. Nohay was disabled as a child and lived alone under the care of a maid his sea-farer father hired for him. But when Nohay grew older, a fae–Prince Hark—took interest in him and mentored him. Nohay stayed with Prince Hark until Hark gave him as a friend to Skall. Nohay is about thirty years old and Skall is about seventeen. Neither of them are worldly but Skall is decidedly more “of the world” than Nohay is. They both have different things to learn and being among the common folk.

I’d say it’s Nohay. There is a sweetness about him. He is totally human but he has never lived with humans. He only knows how faes and merfolk behave, but is utterly lacking in any experiential knowledge of human culture and behavior. It’s the kind of character that makes a writer have to think about what such a person would be like.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?
It is self-published. My previous books, Wind Follower and The Constant Tower, were–are—both traditionally published. They were critically well-received, but they didn’t sell well. I think the advantage of traditional publishing has to do with one’s publisher having the finances to push your books. When you’re self-published, you have to market yourself more. The advantage of being self-published is that a writer can be more fully herself.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?
I’m definitely not an architect but I’m not much of a gardener either. I write notes to myself about what the next chapter should contain. Not much, just certain things that are necessary. When I write, I just sit down and write and let whatever comes comes. If I hear something in the news or hear a song, then that might end up in the story as well. I tend to write without caring how it all comes out and I totally trust that it will all come out perfectly in the end. This makes my books somewhat unpredictable because I didn’t know what was coming. Only my fingers, fate, and coincidence did. I often look at my stories and think, “Wow, this is amazing. How did I do that? Did I write this book? If I had planned this, I could never have written it.”

What was your favorite book as a child?
I loved poetry and the Bible, especially all the tragic princes like Shechem, Jonathon, Absalom, and of course, Jesus Christ. So all I did was read a lot of poetry. I also loved Shakespeare, and was madly in love with Hamlet, Edmond, and all those tragic princes as well. So those really had an effect on me. I’m a black woman, but so many of my main characters are young males, and several of them have been white. So I think they affected my consciousness. I also loved anthropology. I’d watch tons of programs on PBS and read my mother’s anthropology and archaeology books. So that is where I got my fascination with clans, tribes, rituals, and culture. My books and short stories are always about different clans living together with their cultures rubbing off on each other.

What writing project are you currently working on?
I’m going through the editing on SeaWalker now, and am currently writing The Chimeran Queen, which is the second part of the Nephilim Dystopian trilogy. The first book in the trilogy was Daughters of Men. This story is about yet another world with various kinds of humans. In this case, there are chimera, Nephilim, clones, and standard-issue humans. There are also different religious ideas. The Chimeran Queen is Medusa. She doesn’t have snakes for hair, but because she is chimeran she has worms in and around and through her body. She is horrendous to behold, but she is the queen of the chimeran world, Otaura.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
That was Will Horner. He was critiquing a story he had accepted for one of his anthologies – Black is the color of my true love’s hair– and he said two things which I often find myself repeating to other writers. The first was: “This sentence is doing too much work.” And the second was, “This is redundant. You already said that.”

Want to learn more about Carole McDonnell and The Charcoal Bride? Check out her :
Website & Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Twitter 2, and Amazon page. Still want more? Check out her YouTube channel and Wattpad page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of The Charcoal Bride.

Thanks to author Carole McDonnell for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Lana Hechtman Ayers on January 3, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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dianna sanchez Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Dianna Sanchez. Dianna Sanchez is the not-so-secret identity of Jenise Aminoff, whose superpower is cooking with small children. She is an MIT alumna, graduate of the 1995 Clarion Workshop, frequent participant in Odyssey Online, active member of SCBWI, the Author’s Guild, Broad Universe, and New England Speculative Writers, and former editor at New Myths magazine. Aside from 18 years as a technical and science writer, she has taught science in Boston Public Schools, developed curricula for STEM education, and taught Preschool Chef, a cooking class for children ages 3-5. A Latina geek originally from New Mexico, she now lives in the Boston area with her husband and two children.

Dianna has published one novel, A Witch’s Kitchen (Dreaming Robot Press, September 2016), and the sequel, A Pixie’s Promise (September 2018). Her short fiction appears in the 2017 and 2018 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guides.

sanchez book Dianna Sanchez’s latest book, A Pixie’s Promise, is a fun middle grade read (ages 8 – 12). A quick summary for my readers: Petunia’s tired of being overlooked just because she’s six inches tall. She gets lost at home among her gazillion brothers, sisters, and cousins, and her own parents don’t remember her name. When her best friend, Millie, offers a vacation at her house, Petunia jumps at the chance. Cooking for Millie’s witch of a mother and babysitting a tree should be easy, right? But when an epidemic of spickle pox hits the Enchanted Forest, and Millie’s mother comes down with a mysterious illness, Petunia must pitch in to brew cures as quickly as she can, even if that means using up all her pixie dust. It’s a good thing she has friends to help.

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, A Pixie’s Promise?
The protagonist, Petunia, was a supporting character in my first novel, A Witch’s Kitchen, and I really wanted to spend more time exploring her character and giving her the spotlight she so desperately craves. Petunia’s a six-inch-tall pixie from a large family with twelve or so siblings and an exponential number of cousins. I was inspired by my own large extended family and my abuela, who can never keep all our names straight. Petunia feels lost and overlooked, both within her family and in the culture of the Enchanted Forest where she lives, and she’s always trying to find ways to gain attention. She gets into fights and tells really bad jokes, but she’s also fiercely loyal and deeply determined to succeed.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?
That’s a terrible question! That’s like asking which of my children is my favorite! Even though Petunia is the focus of this book, I still have a soft spot for Millie, the protagonist of A Witch’s Kitchen, and a deep fondness for Millie’s half-brother, Max. I love pushing the boundaries on Millie’s prickly mother, Bogdana, and I really enjoyed playing with their house ghost, Horace. I even love my villain, Cretacia! That’s one of the reasons why I choose a different protagonist for each book. Sagara, a math-loving elf, will be the protagonist of book three, An Elf’s Equations, and Max will star in book four.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?
I’m indie-published by Dreaming Robot Press, an awesome little publisher that specializes in science fiction and fantasy for middle grade readers. I love the flexibility of working with a small press. They allowed me to design the cover for my first novel and used a sketch by my then-ten-year-old daughter as the basis for the cover of A Pixie’s Promise. They Kickstart each novel and anthology they publish, which is a lot of fun and a great way to connect with my readers. The disadvantage, of course, is that I have to fight to have my book carried in bookstores and rely heavily on social media to promote my books, which eats into my writing time.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?
I’m a hybrid, actually. I usually start with a basic plot outline and a well-fixed beginning and ending. Then, as I write, the story begins to change and grow organically. I have a bad tendency to kitchen sink my novels, throwing in ideas as they occur to me. That leads me to a lengthy revision process, when I have to significantly prune and reshape my work. I suppose you could call this a sculptor’s process. I start with a wire frame, spend my first draft throwing clay at it, and then carve and smooth and refine until I have the final manuscript.

What was your favorite book as a child?
That’s almost as bad as asking which character is my favorite! I devoured books as a child and worked my way alphabetically through the SFF section of my local library. The books that I came back to over and over were Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders and Harper Hall series, and a little-known book called Windhaven by George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle. I think what drew me to these particular books was the common themes of determination and personal transformation. Schmendrick perseveres and finds his magic. Frodo and Sam persevere all the way to Mordor to destroy the One Ring. Lessa goes from downtrodden scullery maid to leader of a weyr of dragonriders. Maris, the protagonist of Windhaven, changes all the rules of succession so that she can become a flyer. This last, in particular, inspired me to push my way out of the various boxes society tries to place me in. There were very few women (about 25% my freshman year) and even fewer Hispanic women at MIT, but I refused to let those labels define me or prevent me from succeeding.

What writing project are you currently working on?
I’m working on An Elf’s Equations, which is proving to be quite tricky. Originally, it was the second half of A Pixie’s Promise, but my publisher cried foul when I turned it in to them because there was entirely too much packed into one novel, and Sagara had largely taken over that second half even though Petunia was the protagonist. I’m now revising with Sagara as the viewpoint character, which has been slow going because I hadn’t done any of my usual character arc workup. All I knew was that she loved math and was something of a misfit among the elves because of it. But a lot of deep work on Sagara plus a very inspiring trip to Sweden and Finland have got me chugging along again.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
Daniel José Older has a wonderful essay refuting the standard advice that you must write every day. Certainly, that would be lovely, but like most people who don’t live in a monastery or on a desert island, I have a complicated life, and much of my time is devoted to my family. I can’t have a set work schedule because I never know from day to day whether someone will be home sick or has a doctor/dentist/orthodontist appointment or desperately needs silk roses for a school project, or the car gets sideswiped and needs repair, or both heating valves in our house break… all the tiny emergencies of daily life that I must cope with. Thanks to Older, I refuse to feel guilty for the days when I get no writing done, and this makes me far less anxious and more able to work when I do find the time.

Want to learn more about Dianna Sanchez and A Pixie’s Promise? Check out her :
Website & Blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of A Pixie’s Promise.

Thanks to author Dianna Sanchez for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Carole McDonnell on January 1, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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One lesson I’ve learned through years of having books published by Indie presses is: It’s easier to create a book than to get into the hands of readers.

Wait, you say, doesn’t it take years to write a book? Often it does take years.

Doesn’t it take years to find a publisher (Indie or bigger) interested in publishing your book? Indeed, if usually does.

Once the book is accepted, aren’t there months if not years before the book actually hits the bookshelves? Yes, that’s true.

But the problem remains, once you’ve written a book, found a publisher, and gone through the process – you need to get word out about your book and help potentially interested readers discover it.

So what’s the solution? Good promotion and a little luck. And by good promotion, I don’t mean constantly Facebooking every acquaintance you’ve ever met with “buy my book” notes!

Some great tips can be found in the article How To Promote Your Science Fiction Book,  found on BookBaby Blog.

If you’ve got other tips, please feel free to share them.

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For those of you who like dark faeries and convoluted legends, here’s the link to Cast of Wonders, Episode 202, my story Henkie’s Fiddle. It’s brilliantly read by Andrew Reid (in a lovely Scottish accent). This Faerie justice tale features two lesser known dark faeries: a trow and a buggane – and a young gravedigger, an unmarked grave, a flock of crows…

Henkie’s Fiddle originally appeared in print in Alban Lake Publishing’s Potter’s Field 4. You can also read it in my story collection, Owl Light.

But for today, enjoy a wonderful reading of Henkie’s Fiddle.

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“A world in which there are monsters, and ghosts, and things that want to steal your heart is a world in which there are angels and dreams, and a world in which there is hope.” – Neil Gaiman

And this is the kind of world Neil Gaiman sets his stories in — and the kind of world most speculative writers try to set the stories in. Me, included.

Neverwhere was the first Gaiman novel I read — I’ve been a fan of his writing ever since. Neverwhere is set in the subways and underground world of London. In my mind’s eye, I imagined all the stations mentioned and districts of London. I imagined the smells, sights, and sounds of the London, England above and below. I thought I heard the distinct British accent of the characters, also.

I had the good fortune to visit London this summer — using the subways (or The Tube, as most everyone I met referred to it) for transportation. London above and below was an experience I’ll not soon forget. And as good as my imagination is, I didn’t get the location of Neverwhere quite right.

Neil Gaiman does a great job of creating his Neverwhere world (complete with monsters, ghost, things that want to steal your heart, angels and dreams). And now, I’m re-reading the novel to add my experiences in the locations mentioned to the book experience.

That said, I think there might be room for me to use a few of the quirky things and people I saw in London above and below to create my own London story — with monsters, ghosts, angels, dreams…and hope.

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“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R. R. Martin, A Storm of Swords (Jojen Reed)

Still re-reading the Game of Thrones books, so I thiought I’d use another George R.R. Martin quote. Both the reader and writer in me loves this quote. As a writer, you build your world and live in that world through the characters you create. As a reader, you have the opportunity to live the many lives of the many characters of the many authors you read.

What a wonderful gift books are to anyone willing to open them and begin to read. I, for one, hope to live a thousand lives (or more) as I discover the many characters residing between the pages of books. And I invite each of you to buy one of my books and discover some of the characters I’ve created.

Happy reading!

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