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Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

Version 3 Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, K.G. Anderson. K.G. Anderson writes short fiction—urban fantasy, space opera, alternate history, Weird West tales, near-future science fiction, poetry, and mystery. Her stories appear in more than a dozen magazines and anthologies, as well on online at sites including Every Day Fiction and the podcast Far Fetched Fables. She’s done narration for Star Ship Sofa.

She has degrees in psychology and journalism, and attended the Viable Paradise and Taos Toolbox writing workshops. Her career as a journalist, arts reviewer and technology writer includes six years at Apple, where she worked on the launch of the iTunes Music Store.

Born in Washington, D.C., she has lived in Northern Virginia, Southern Connecticut, and Genoa, Italy. She currently makes her home in Seattle with her partner, Tom Whitmore, and slightly more than the local limit of cats.

terra tara terror cover kg anderson K.G. Anderson’s latest published story, “Captain Carthy’s Bride,” appears in Terra! Tara! Terror! edited by Juliana Rew (Third Flatiron, 2018). A quick summary for my readers:
“Captain Carthy’s Bride” opens on a rocky shore where Sheila O’Farrell lies naked, a selkie’s coat spread on the rocks nearby. Will Carthy, a World War I war hero and now the captain of a merchant ship, is vacationing at the hotel where Sheila works. Her plan is to have him mistake her for a selkie and take her as his bride to the big city. At first, the plan succeeds. As Carthy’s selkie bride (he renames her Moira), she acquires a loving husband, a large home, and two healthy children. But after the children grow up and leave home, trouble appears and Sheila realizes she must pay a terrible price for the selkie’s coat.

Where did the idea come from for your latest published story, “Captain Carthy’s Bride”?

I’m a reactionary writer — I often read a story or a novel and I think “no! no! no!” and write my own, contrarian, view of how the story should have gone. “Captain Carthy’s Bride” was written in reaction to two other stories. The first was yet another re-telling of the classic selkie tale: the selkie is captured by the fisherman who, by hiding her coat from her, is able to keep her captive, leading to much unhappiness and tragedy all around. I was frustrated because I saw nothing new in the story. The second story was Manny Frishberg’s “The Fisherman’s Wife,” published in Triangulation: Beneath the Surface. Manny cleverly flipped the classic story by giving the selkie a choice. While the first story had frustrated me, Manny’s story inspired me to break the selkie trope even further. This resulted in “Captain Carthy’s Bride,” a story in which an ambitious hotel chambermaid pretends to be a selkie in order to attract a wealthy sea captain who will “capture” her.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

The chambermaid’s mother, Mrs. O’Farrell. For many years, the Widow O’Farrell believes that her daughter Sheila drowned in the sea. She’s initially pleased when Sheila reappears, now the wife of an affluent man, but her approval turns to horror as she realizes the price her daughter will pay for stealing a selkie’s coat. The Widow O’Farrell is my favorite character because she’s the one most attuned to the dreadful power of the sea and the selkies.

How do you find your markets—what factors make you choose one market over another?

I could go one for hours on the topic of markets! I teach a seminar called “Strategies for Submitting Short Fiction” that explores the many, many factors that you have to balance when submitting fiction.

Every successful short story author I know uses a definite strategy, and that strategy is likely to change as their career evolves. The important thing is to create a strategy and to stick with it. I find that using a tool like the Submission Grinder makes it easy to track whatever factors are important to you, such as a publication’s payment level, speed of response, and the percentage of submissions a publication accepts.

The two most important factors for me are these:
–The market must pay (even if it’s only a token payment).
–The editor must be reputable (experienced is good, too, but reputable is essential). When I was first submitting stories, I had one accepted somewhere that I later discovered was not well regarded. I was crushed. The story didn’t look good, and the magazine didn’t look good, and I didn’t want to show the publication to anyone. Fortunately, that story later saw the light of day as a reprint.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I’m a trancer. I get an idea, usually in the morning, and I sit down at the computer and the first few pages of the story appear as if by magic. Initially this was a problem for me because I’d return to the story a few days later and have no idea where it was going. Some of those stories just died on the page. Now I have learned to force myself, even before I sit down at the computer to write, to envision an ending for the story. It might not be the eventual ending, but having an ending in mind turned out to be crucial to my ability to finish the story — to push the project from “great idea” to “great story.” So, in that sense, I’m a big-picture planner.

I don’t outline, but, as a visual thinker, I often have a sketch of the story’s shape. The sketch is much like a graph, with lines showing where exposition, and plot, and energy rise and fall. This enables me to see if the story has flat spots and to infuse those with more conflict or suspense.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Either The Thurber Carnival (short stories by James Thurber) or E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. Both Thurber and White were frequently in The New Yorker, my dad’s favorite magazine, so it was natural that my parents bought me those books. I loved the humorous situations, the descriptive language, and the eccentric characters. I’ll never forget the worrywart aunt in Charlotte’s Web, who shouted after the children dumb advice like, “Don’t cross the race track when the horses are coming.” Or Thurber’s Aunt Sarah Shoaf. She was convinced that burglars entered her house every night and that the only reason she never lost anything was because she threw shoes at them. “Some nights she threw them all, some nights only a couple of pair.” I wanted to write lines like that, and write scenes that would etch themselves in the reader’s mind.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I’ve recently joined a small critique group, and that is helping me focus on bringing stories from draft form to finished, submittable form. I have a story about cyberpets—inspired by an Orycon panel—that is finished, but which I feel needs quite a bit of tightening. My goal is to be able to send that out to a market in early January.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

Dr. Debra Doyle critiqued my work at the Viable Paradise workshop and told me “Your writing is professional but not very engaging.” So I asked what I could do to make it more engaging. Her advice was, “You need to take your corset off.” I understood immediately—she meant that my years a journalist and a book reviewer had trained me to stand at a distance from my writing. I was telling stories, but they were cold and superficial.

I took her advice to heart, and at the end of the workshop I wrote a story about a grief counselor trying to help a distraught alien ambassador whose symbiotic partner—the only other alien on Earth—had suddenly died. That story was my first sale, to the Canadian anthology Second Contacts—a book that won the Aurora Award.

Want to learn more about K.G. Anderson and her short fiction, including “Captain Carthy’s Bride”? Check out her: Website & Blog, Twitter, and Amazon page.Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Terra! Tara! Terror!

Thanks to author K.G. Anderson for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author MJ Gardner on January 19, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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Andrew 2 Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Andrew McDowell. Andrew McDowell wanted to be a writer since he was a teenager. He studied History and English at St. Mary’s College, and Library & Information Science at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association and an associate nonfiction editor with the literary journal JMWW. Andrew has also written and published poetry and creative nonfiction.

Andrew McDowell’s book, Mystical Greenwood, is a fantasy novel filled with magic and adventure. A quick summary for my readers:

Dermot is a fifteen-year-old boy living in the land of Denú who has always longed for something more in life. His life changes when he encounters a gryphon and a mysterious healer. Drawn into a conflict against one determined to subjugate the kingdom, Dermot and his brother Brian are forced to leave their home.

A legendary coven must now reunite, for they are Denú’s greatest hope. In the course of meeting unicorns and fighting dragons and men in dark armor, Dermot discovers a deep, sacred magic which exists within every greenwood he crosses through, but his own role in this conflict is greater than he suspects. Can he protect those he loves, or will all that’s good be consumed by darkness?

andrew's book Where did the idea come from for your book, Mystical Greenwood?
It started out as a horror story actually, which I began writing by hand before I took a keyboarding class my freshman year in high school. However as I continued to develop the story, especially once I was able to type, I realized it was leaning towards fantasy. So I went with it. Later on, I was searching for an overarching theme and I remembered my childhood love of wild animals and my respect for the environment. So I conducted research into natural magic and earth/Nature-based spirituality and faiths as well as Irish and Celtic myth and folklore.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?
Dermot and Saershe tie for the spot of my favorite character. I see Dermot as the nature lover in me. Saershe is ultimately an embodiment of Mother Nature, and I’m glad to have her as the mentor who takes Dermot and his brother Brian on their journey.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?
Mystical Greenwood was published by Mockingbird Lane Press, an independent press based in Arkansas. I was able to query them directly without an agent. Previously I had queried agents, and those who responded always said no. Mockingbird Lane Press was the first to offer me a contract. I was able to work directly with them during the editing process, and they developed the cover art and a book trailer. The book is print on-demand, and available in paperback, Kindle, and Nook, but it’s non-returnable. The marketing is on me.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?
I’m far more of a pantser than a planner. I do try to keep some plot notes and points in my head, but it’s much easier for me to write as I go, so that I don’t contain myself and at times can enjoy surprises when they come and help build the story.

What was your favorite book as a child?
This was a hard question because I liked so many books when I was little. Goodnight Moon was one. My love for it made my Dad buy it as a baby book for others. I also enjoyed the stories of Dr. Seuss and Beatrix Potter (according to my parents I could recite The Cat in the Hat). One nonfiction book that did have a huge impact on me as a child was A Whale is Not a Fish and Other Animal Mix-ups by Melvin Berger—it spurred my interest in learning about wild animals.

What writing project are you currently working on?
I’m working on a couple different projects at the moment. One is the sequel to Mystical Greenwood. Another is a book I started in college about abused and neglected dogs. In addition, I have a number of smaller unpublished materials, including poetry, essays, and short stories.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
That would be the advice my Dad gave me early on: the important thing to remember is to tell a story well.

Want to learn more about Andrew McDowell and Mystical Greenwood? Check out his: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, YouTube, Google+, and Tumblr.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Mystical Greenwood.

Thanks to author Andrew McDowell for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Rebecca Buchanan on January 10, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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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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Grue Magazine 7 Yesterday, I wrote about some of my early Science Fiction and Fantasy publications in the SF Spectrum Publications in the United Kingdom.

Today, I want to mention a few of the SF and F magazines which included my speculative work very early in my writing career. Again, I want to thank these editors who not only devoted time and talents to sharing their love of science fiction, fantasy, and horror — but who often put in their own money.

Worlds of Wonder Oct 87 I am not the only writer who benefited from their efforts. Everyone begins somewhere, and many writers and illustrators whose names are now recognizable began on the pages of these (or similar) Indie publications.

Thank you to Gary William Crawford of Supernatural Poetry who published my poem, “Driftwood,” and Robert E. Cooke of Worlds of Wonder who published three of my poems.

Supernatural Poetry One Also thanks to John Postovit of Alpha Adventures: Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine for publishing my poem, “A Circle of Pillars,” Janet Fox of Scavenger’s Newsletter for publishing my poem, “A Robot’s Question,” and Peggy Nadramia of Grue Magazine for publishing the original version of my poem, “Not Seen.”

And lastly, thank you to Donald L. Miller of The Nightmare Express for publishing one of my poems, and Charles M. Saplak of Celestial Shadows for publishing my prose piece, “Fish Story.”

Alpha Adventures Sept 85 By publishing my work and the work of other speculative writers in these labor-intensive Indie magazines, these editors introduced a new crop of storytellers to readers. Their hard work is why many successful writers of today have a reader base.

For example, I share the Table of Contents in the issue of Grue Magazine mentioned above with Wayne Allen Sallee, Keith Allen Daniels, Elizabeth Massie, Mort Castle, John Maclay, Kevin J. Anderson, J.N. Williamson, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Mark Rich, and other wonderful writers. I feel lucky!

So while I’d love to have you purchase books from the “big” publishers, don’t forget to support the Indie publishers. – Vonnie

Scavengers Jan 87

Celestial Shadows 92Nightmare Express May 87

 

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SF Spectrum 9 Among my early Science Fiction and Fantasy publications, were poetry, art, and fiction in SF Spectrum and Macabre, both from SF Spectrum Publications, Nottingham, United Kingdom.

Editor, Wieslaw Tumulka, included my work in 8 issues of his magazines. For a woman from the USA, it was quite exciting to know her words and images were reaching a few readers across the Atlantic.

SF Spectrum 10 I felt privileged to share the pages with artist Steve Lines and writers J. N. Williamson, T. Winter-Damon, Steve Sneyd, John B. Rosenman, Don Webb, Andrew Darlington, John Haines, George Gott, and Mark Valentine,  and many more talented individuals.

In 1986 and 1987 when my work appeared in SF Spectrum and Macabre, the standard format for small or Indie presses was pieces of letter (or legal) sized paper printed on both sides, then, the stack of pages was folded in half and stapled.

SF Spectrum 12 Not very glamorous compared to many of today’s Indie publications, but this was before the advent of computers.

Tumulka, and other Indie publishers/editors were devoted to publishing and sharing the work of writers and artists whose work they believed their readers would enjoy. And in those days, there weren’t online versions and wide distribution — so a contributor “sold” First British Rights, First North American Rights, First Australian Rights, etc. rather than First World Rights or First English Language Rights.

Macabre 7 So which pieces of my writing and artwork did Wieslaw Tumulka choose to include in issues of his speculative magazines? Here is the complete (I think) list:

Poems: “More than Curiosity,” “Saturn’s Song,” “Snapdragons,” “A Circle of Pillars,” “Aware, After All These Years,” “Surgical Leftovers,” “Right Now,” and “Flies.”

Illustrations: “Skeleton in the Toy Box” and “Blooming Skulls” (a cover illustration shown here).

Prose: “Frycakes and Caruso.”

And so I conclude this visit to my past writing/art appearances with a thank you to Wieslaw Tumulka for selecting and publishing my work. It helped give me confidence to keep on creating. And a thanks to the writers and artists whose work I enjoyed in those long ago issues of SF Spectrum and Macabre.

Keep on reading! – Vonnie

Macabre 8

SF Spectrum 11

Macabre 6

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Ethereal Tales Special Issue All writers start somewhere. I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the magazines which published my writing. A few still exist (in one form or the other), some have fallen into the cracks of speculative publication history, others can still be located with some effort.

Illumen Spring 2015 But no matter the fame or lack thereof of the editors, I am grateful to them for publishing my writing. Their acceptance and subsequent publication of my poems or prose helped me to remember my words had worth, and sent me forward on my writing journey.

Illumen Spring 2010 Ethereal Tales Special Issue (includes my story, “Black Bear”) was published by Morpheus Tales as a farewell to a fine magazine which I had the honor of having had a story in (“The Garden Shop”). Illumen, now published by Alban Lake Publishing, was (along with Scifaikuest) originally published by the now-closed, Sam’s Dot Publishing (I had poems published here).

Scifaikuest Feb 2010 Elektrik Milk Bath Press published both a speculative poetry magazine, Paper Crow, (which included my poetry) and a series of speculative anthologies (which included my fiction). All of the publications were wonderful reads, and I’m hoping their editor, Angela Craig, is able to get healthy and start publishing again.

Paper Crow Fall Winter 2010 Editors of Indie press (it used to be call small press – and I much prefer the new label) publications are a special breed. With little chance of profit, and a great chance of putting lots of their own money into an Indie press to help to stay afloat, they persevere. It is through their efforts that many a writer (and illustrator, I might add) have their first stories, poems, essays, and artwork presented to readers.

Paper Crow Spring Summer 2013 A good example (in my case) were the publications edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson (published by Richard H. Fawcett). Fantasy and Terror and Fantasy Macabre were early appearances on the other side of the USA of my speculative poetry.

Paper Crow Spring Summer 2011 But when I glance around those long ago Table of Contents, I see I’m not the only writer to have had their early work published by Jessica and Richard. Thank goodness for folks like them who encouraged this (and other) new speculative writers to keep on writing.

Fantasy & Terror 10 The last publisher I’ll mention in this post is the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Let’s face it, poetry isn’t at the top of most people’s reading list. Maybe it’s the bad poetry often force-fed to students when they’re young, but many readers grow up not only not caring about poetry – but actually disliking it.

Fantasy & Terror 9 I, or the other hand, have loved poetry since childhood. It is truly where I began my writing hobby which morphed into a writing career.

In my neck of the woods, nearly forty years ago when I went looking for other writers in the rural part of Maryland where I live, the Harford Poetry Society was it. They graciously helped me grow as a writer and tolerated my strange interest in speculative poetry – and eventually, sf/f/h fiction.

Starline Jan Feb 1987 So you can imagine my delight when I discovered Starline, the newsletter of the SFPA. I felt like shouting “Hooray!” upon discovering that science fiction and fantasy poetry was written and enjoyed by others.

Thanks again to the hard-working and under-paid editors of Indie presses. Though sunlight may have faded a few of the covers, I still treasure the magazines (and books) you produced simply for the love of speculative writing.

And to readers of speculative writing – do both yourself and new genre writers a favor – support Indie presses.

 

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As a writer of speculative fiction, I have to be aware of the spelling and pronunciation of the places and people which are part of the imaginary worlds I build.

A long jumble of letters with a weird pronunciation might seem to be a good way to announce that my story is set in a fantastical world. Bizarre accents and hyphenated names might appear to be an easy way to signal to my readers that the characters aren’t human. But I don’t want to work that hard to figure out (and remember) crazy pronunciations, and neither do my readers.

So what’s a writer of science fiction and fantasy to do? I recommend selecting names that are easy to remember and pronounce – but ones which “fit” your world.

crist-dagger For example, in my epic fantasy novel, The Enchanted Dagger, I used baby name books to select Nordic, Celtic, Old English, Scandinavian, etc. names for some of my characters. Other characters’ names are mixed-up combinations of the names of family members and friends. Each time I began moving the letters around to create a character’s or race’s name, I used the sound of the letter combinations to determine if the result felt like it belonged in Lifthrasir.

Lifthra-what? Lifthrasir (LEEF-thra-seer) is the name of the imaginary world of The Enchanted Dagger and the forthcoming Beyond the Sheercliffs. It is from Norse mythology, and according to Teresa Norman’s book, A World of Baby Names, it means: “She who holds fast to life, desiring life…[Lifthrasir] is considered to be the mother of humanity after all perished at Ragnarok.” Well, what better name for the world I’m creating in which the good folk must fight for their lives, their children’s lives, and control of their world?

An example of my letter-scramble technique, would be Grindee, a particular kind of goblin. A dear friend’s nickname is Dee. She has a marvelous sense of humor, and I thought she’d grin during parts of the book. So why not name a goblin for her and her sense of humor?

Another example: a minor character in The Enchanted Dagger is named Mobree Dug. Mo is the nickname of another friend, and the first 4 letters of her last name are “bree.” Dug is the phonetic spelling of a brother-in-law’s name.

As for the title character, Beck – I have a sister and sister-in-law both named Becky. Plus, the name of the instructor who taught my Writing the Novel graduate course was Mr. Becker. In addition, Beck (again according to Norman’s book) is a Scandinavian name which is the “Transferred use of the surname meaning ‘dweller near the brook.'” In The Enchanted DaggerBeck comes from a seaside town, and water plays an important part in his interaction with magic.

The names of other family members and friends became a warrior race – the Janepar, a race close to nature – the D’Anlo, the wisewomen – the Alywyn Sisterhood, the Wenbo River, the towns of Raystev and Larmik, the country – Dobran, even the gravediggers Nate and Stu, and I could go on and on. (Though I won’t, since by now, you’re quite bored).

But you’ll notice, Grindee, Beck, Lifthrasir and the rest aren’t too difficult to read or pronounce. Believe me when I say your readers will appreciate the effort when you make names easy to pronounce and remember even if you world is far, far away or long, long ago or even beyond our galaxy.

To take a look at The Enchanted Skean, visit https://www.amazon.com/Enchanted-Dagger-Chronicles-Lifthrasir/dp/1941559182/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489363491&sr=8-1

For a totally different take on Pronunciation, here’s the link to writer friend Andrew McDonough’s take on the subject: https://andrewmcdowellauthor.com/2017/03/12/pronunciation

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