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Posts Tagged ‘Harry Potter’

“Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.” — Woodrow T. Wilson

Friends are on my mind today. Two of my good friends, Karen and Wendy, have birthdays this week. Just last week, I had the opportunity to spend several hours (including lunch) with Patti, a friend who I haven’t had a chance to visit with in-person for two years. I chatted with dear friend Kelly on the phone just the other day. And I’m looking forward to spending time with more friends this summer.

Besides family, I think friends and their friendship are the most important thing holding my world together–which is why friendship often plays such an important role in my stories and books.

BeyondSheercliffs_Balticon Like the unlikely group pulled together in JRR Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, sometimes the friendships we forge because of a common goal turn out to be the most meaningful. At their core, Star Wars and Star Trek, are also about unlikely friendships. As is JK Rowling’s Harry Potter. For “Things are never quite as scary when you’ve got a best friend.” [Bill Watterson].

The concept of friendship growing from a common goal (and enemy) led me to cobble together several groups of seemingly dissimilar individuals in my epic fantasy novel, The Enchanted Dagger (Book 1 of The Chronicles of Lifthrasir). And the idea of friendship is also playing an important role in my current work-in-progress novel, Beyond the Sheercliffs (Book 1.5 of The Chronicles of Lifthrasir). 

The fight against evil; the quest for an item or person of great value; shared hunger, thirst, and danger; a common goal; and unexpected circumstances that link characters together are all wonderful devices in storytelling that can be the seeds of friendship. And best of all, readers understand friendship. It is something we all have in common.

A great majority of us desire strong friendships. We all have known the pain of a friendship that has ended. Many of us have watched a friend grown apart from us or change in a way that makes them a different person–and one which we no longer want to be friends with. Most of us remember the joyful feelings of realizing someone has moved from friendly acquaintance to friend. And we embrace the truth of Helen Keller’s sentiment: “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”

And so, as I shape and polish the various friendships in Beyond the Sheercliffs, I urge you to reach out to your friends. Take the time to phone, message, or better yet, visit with your friends. Or maybe, make the effort to develop a friendly acquaintance into a friend. Because “A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out” [Walter Winchell], and we could all use more of those sorts of people in our lives.

 

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I won’t support myself or become rich from writing. Most writers I know won’t make a living from writing or become rich. But sometimes I think the public believes writers make lots of money. Wrong!

Stephen King (It, Carrie, Cujo, Thinner, etc.) makes lots of money (but remember, some of that is from television and movies, not just books). JK Rowling, of Harry Potter fame, makes lots of money (some of that is from movies and merchandise). And a few other writers are doing very well financially with their books and television, films, and merchandise based on their books. They are the exceptions.

For every George R.R. Martin, of A Game of Thrones fame, there are thousands of writers who won’t make $100 per year from their writing. Especially if an author is self-published or published by a small independent press, he or she will likely make little more than the price of Happy Meal or two. Which is why most authors write because they love the written word, they love books, and/or they’re looking for a vehicle to tell the stories rattling around in their heads.

Here’s the link to an interesting blog post from Steve Laube (of The Steve Laube Agency) which explores: Most Writers Don’t Make A Lot of Money.

And if you’re motivated to support this author, here’s the link to my Amazon page. 🙂

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“It is our choices that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – Albus Dumbledore (character), Harry Potter by JK Rowling

And there is the truth of the matter, from none other than JKRowling.

Our true character is revealed not in our words, not in our abilities, and not in our paycheck. Our choices show others who we are. And the reward for our choices are consequences. Usually, good choices result in good consequences. And quite often, bad choices result in bad consequences.

My motto has always been: Always choose kindness. And in making that choice as often as possible, I hope I show others who I am.

The characters in my stories have different mottos and creeds, and the consequences of the choices they make in my fiction are what makes the narrative. My readers don’t want to read about perfect characters making perfect choices, they want to read about complicated characters making good and bad choices – then, dealing with the consequences.

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After skimming this article, I discovered I hadn’t read all of the books mentioned, so I’ve added a few novels to my “To Read” list. Most of the books on the list I’ve read. I agree with the article’s authors – The Lord of the Rings, War of the Worlds, Dune, A Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, Foundation, The Martian Chronicles, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, etc. have changed science fiction and fantasy, and added to the genre.

There are other authors who’ve changed my perception of Science Fiction and Fantasy, but the writings of JRR Tolkien, Jules Verne, HG Wells, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, George RR Martin, Suzanne Collins, JK Rowling, Frank Herbert, Ursula K. LeGuin, Douglas Adams, and the other authors listed in this aricle stand out.

By the way, the artwork featured in the post is nice, too.

What do you think of 21 Books That Changed Science Fiction and Fantasy Forever? Were your favorites named?

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13 Owl Flying extra This is the fifteenth blog in a series of owl-focused posts to promote Owl Light, my new YA-friendly collection of stories featuring owls. Each post features a mix of owl art, facts, folklore, quotes, and links to owlish sites. If you’re a fan of owls, or know someone whooo is, follow my blog, buy my book, and be kind to these beautiful birds.

Owl art: One of my owl pen and ink sketches from Owl Light.

Owl fact: “Whitewash” is the polite name for the white, paint-like splashes of owl poop that cover the ground, lower branches, base of a tree, or anything else below an owl roost.

Owl folklore: In the Hindu communities of Bangladesh and the Indian state of Orissa, the goddess Lakshimi is associated with the white owl – which is felt to be as an omen of good luck and prosperity.

Owl quote: “I think I’m a tiny bit like Harry ‘cos I’d like to have an owl. Yeah, that’s the tiny bit, actually.” – Daniel Radcliffe

Owl link: Lots of great owl info at the World Owl Trust site.

And, of course, here’s a buy link for Owl Light.  Or buy it from The Owl Pages and help out owls.

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Vonnie Today, you’re expecting a guest post – and here’s a link to one written by me at Bitten By Books.

First, thanks to Rachel Smith for inviting me to participate in the Urban Fantasy series of guest posts. I write about “The Cityscape of Fantasy.”

I’ve been following the series, and it’s been fun reading what different authors have had to say about this little corner of the fantasy world. But it’s a great (and sometimes spooky) corner for books, movies, and television shows.

The original Beauty and the Beast television series which starred Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman, has that dark, city vibe. Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley fits the Urban Fantasy feel. And let’s not forget the Grimm television series. (At the moment, one of my favorite tv shows).

I know you can think of many other Urban Fantasy stories, flicks, and tv shows. I love the genre so much that I included stories that would slip into the corners of Urban Fantasy in both my story collections, Owl Light and The Greener Forest. And though my novel, The Enchanted Skean, is an epic fantasy, there are chapters set in the cities and towns that are filled with the twisting streets, moonlit atmosphere, and threatening evil of an Urban Fantasy.

Please visit Bitten by Books and comment on “The Cityscape of Fantasy.”

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On July 31, 1965, English author, JK Rowling, was born in Yate, Gloucestershire, England. By now, most of us have read at least one of her Harry Potter novels (or for those “I’d rather see the movie instead” folks – have seen one or more of the films based on her books). And many of us have heard about her journey from a barely-getting-by single parent to one of the most successful children’s writers of our time.

I won’t share the inspiring story of JK Rowling’s writing career here, but encourage the curious to visit her website: www.jkrowling.com and discover the details for themselves. What I will share is my gratitude to a writer whose fantasy series about a boy wizard, his friends, and their adventures encouraged many young people to pick up a book (or seven), and read.

Some books take readers on journeys whose destinations can only be reached in the imagination. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter novels are those kinds of books. I thank her for the sharing her magical world and for inspiring me to write my fantasy novel, The Enchanted Skean. And I wish her the Happiest of Birthdays!

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Thanks to author Cindy Young-Turner for stopping by and sharing another point of view on the darkness in fantasy literature and film.

Finding Hope in Fantasy by Cindy Young-Turner

cyt_photo “A guest blogger here recently commented on the dark themes in YA novels these days. I like the fact that YA literature isn’t afraid to deal with serious issues. I’ve been reading a discussion in one of the fantasy groups on Goodreads about the current trend toward darkness in fantasy. It does seem like many of the popular fantasy books are very grim and very graphic. In fact, that could be said for a lot of media, whether it’s books, movies, even music. I’m not sure what the reason might be. Maybe it’s the 24/7 coverage of crisis after crisis or the recession and fears of global instability. Darkness does appear to be all around us. Perhaps the new trend of anti-heroes in a world where there is no right or wrong is simply a reflection of our times.

I don’t mind a bit of darkness in my fantasy. I like realism and characters with shades of gray. I like the answers to be difficult to obtain, and a book that makes the reader think about the fine line between the perception of what’s right and wrong. But as I’m currently working my way through G.R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (please, no spoilers, I’ve only finished books 1 and 2), I’m noticing that the grimness can be overpowering. Slogging through 800+ pages of the brutal effects of war on a populace and following a huge cast of characters, most of whom are pretty despicable, with the ones you actually like having little chance for happiness, makes me want to take a break and read something lighter before I tackle book 3.

TOHFINAL200x300 While I’m enjoying ASoIF, it’s also made me think about what I like most about reading fantasy, which I haven’t found much of in this series: the element of hope. Fantasy is often written on an epic scale. There might be a dark lord who needs vanquishing, a kingdom to save, an invasion to counter. Somewhere in that desperate situation, a hero will arise. Maybe it’s a hero you least expect. Maybe the hero herself never expected to be in that role, but somehow she carries on. She may stumble along the way. She may take a few wrong turns and make some bad choices, but in the end she gives the reader hope that the darkness can be turned back. Even when things are at their worst, such as Frodo and Sam on their trek through Mordor, or Harry, Hermione, and Ron facing the forces of Voldemort on their own, the reader clings to the hope that somehow the heroes will succeed, despite the odds stacked against them.

There are many things I love about fantasy, such as the amazing world building, the magic that I wish could be real, and the characters I’ve fallen in love with, but ultimately the stories that touch me the most are the ones that leave me with a sense of hope for the future. Although the fantasy worlds aren’t real, one of the great things about writing this genre is that it allows us to explore elements of our world and the human condition in a different venue. A hobbit can stand in for anyone who would rather be home enjoying a book and a pipe by the fire and instead is thrust into an adventure and a quest with grave consequences. And these unsuspecting heroes do the right thing. That gives me hope that any of us might make the choice to do the right thing.

Little Moon_JourneytoHope_CindyYoung_200x300 There’s a wonderful conversation between Frodo and Gandalf in the film version of Fellowship of the Ring that has stuck with me ever since I saw it. Frodo says, “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” And Gandalf responds, “ So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

To me, this sums up the power of fantasy. Even in our darkest hour, we can decide to find the hero within.”

Cindy Young-Turner is the author of Thief of Hope, and a short prequel, Journey to Hope, both published by Crescent Moon Press. Read more about her and her writing at www.cindyyoungturner.com. Thief of Hope is available in paperback and ebook at Amazon,Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Journey to Hope is a $.99 ebook available from Amazon Kindle.

Thanks again to Cindy Young-Turner for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and my new feature, Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a light-filled day.– Vonnie

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Thanks to author Gail Z. Martin for stopping by and sharing her views on the Young Adult market. Enjoy!

0061-eWomenNetwork The View from Outside the YA Fence by Gail Z. Martin

At book signings, I frequently am asked, “What age reader is your book right for?”

That’s a hard one. It depends on the reader. So I ask, “What age is the reader you have in mind?”

Sometimes, the person is concerned that my books might be too adult for a teen or tween. Sometimes, they’re concerned that my books might be too juvenile for an adult.

How do I answer? It depends.

I wrote my Chronicles of the Necromancer and Fallen Kings Cycle series for adults, as I did with my new book, Ice Forged. But frankly, although my mother lived to be 89 years old, I would never have suggested that she read them. They’d have given her nightmares, and she would have feared for the welfare of my soul. They were too dark for her.

On the other hand, I’ve got three teenage children. Each of them was ready for different stuff at different ages. My oldest daughter had a teacher who decreed, in eighth grade, that she could only read college-level books for class credit. While that might have been great to challenge her vocabulary, the teacher seemed to have forgotten that many of those college-level books dealt with themes and world views that were over the head of even a very precocious 13 year-old. We spent that year having a number of “teachable moments”, and still found that there is no way to fully impart understanding to someone who just hasn’t lived long enough to understand certain perspectives. (That teacher remains on my “naughty” list for sheer cluelessness.)

My middle daughter listened in on all those teachable moments, and picked different books that led to different long car discussions. My son wasn’t interested in reading anything too edgy, although we’ve had those “teachable moment” discussions on video games.

As I head back into stores with Ice Forged, a novel where the adventure begins when the world ends, I’m sure I’ll get more people asking, “Who did you write this for?”

So here’s my personal set of questions that I ask of parents when deciding whether or not my books are right for their teen or tween:

–Has he/she read fantasy books with some detailed battles, scary elements and character deaths? (Like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter?)

–Do they like supernatural elements?

–Are they comfortable with more mature themes like death and betrayal?

–Are they OK with some cursing? (Swear words and vulgarities appropriate to the language style of particular characters.)

Gail Z Martin Ice Forged As I said in the beginning, I wrote my books for adults, and that’s the target market. At the same time, I’ve picked up readers age 13 and up who had the maturity and the reading experience to enjoy the books. I get letters from readers of all ages who loved the books and the characters. Did my youngest readers pick up on everything I put in the books? Maybe not (but then again, there were probably some adult readers who missed things, too). What matters is that they had a good roller coaster ride of an experience and hopefully left still hungry for more of the genre.

Likewise, well-written YA books rightfully attract large adult readers because they have depth and yet retain their sense of wonder. I’m a big fan of Harry Potter, the Percy Jackson books and other books that I read right along with my kids and loved. And I’ve also questioned and challenged the unrelenting darkness of some YA (and adult) books, because I don’t believe that being “real” is the same as being depressed, cynical and bitter.

So that’s my two-cents. Personally, I think that categories like “YA” are arbitrary designations used mostly to help booksellers and libraries determine where to shelve books. I know that when I was a teen, long before the “YA” designation, I was chomping through some books that would have turned my mom’s hair white had she but known. At the same time, there were a few books I picked up and put back down again because I found them to be too much. (I’ll admit that it was probably a mistake to read Deliverance when I was 10.)

Ultimately, we find those boundaries for ourselves. We delight in sneaking a peek at the “forbidden” books that mom thinks are too much for us (but that we’re actually ready for), and hate some of the books our teachers think are developmental but are just plain despondent. But that’s part of the joy of reading, as we discover uncharted territory and find what speaks to us.

So don’t get too tangled up with categories. Read the books that speak to you, regardless of genre. Don’t worry what other people think about what someone “your age” should be reading. Read what you love, and don’t let people pressure you into reading books that detract from your love of reading. At the same time, stretch yourself occasionally to read something uncomfortable, even upsetting, if the story is worthwhile. A good book can change your life.

Gail Z. Martin’s newest book, Ice Forged: Book One in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), launched in January 2013. Gail is also the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series (Solaris Books) and The Fallen Kings Cycle (Orbit Books). For more about Gail’s books and short stories, visit http://www.AscendantKingdoms.com  Be sure to “like” Gail’s Winter Kingdoms Facebook page, follow her on Twitter @GailZMartin  and join her for frequent discussions on Goodreads.

Read an excerpt from Ice Forged here: http://a.pgtb.me/JvGzTt

Thanks again to Gail Z. Martin. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and another new feature coming in February. Have a magical day! – Vonnie

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I was invited to participate in Darkover this past Thanksgiving weekend in Timonium, Maryland. Wow! What a wonderful con. I was part of several panels including substituting at the last moment on the “Animal Sidekicks” panel for a couple of writers who had planes/rides to catch.

I love adding animal sidekicks in my stories. Per the advice of Dr. John Flynn, who taught “Writing Science Fiction” as part of my Masters in Professional Writing Degree Program & served as my advisor for 2 Independent Studies on writing science fiction & fantasy prose, I try my hardest to avoid cats, dogs, and horses. Now, it’s not because I don’t love cats, dogs, and horses — but rather because they’re the most common animals used.

 So what critters have I used as sidekicks or important characters in my stories? In “Assassins,” I use a singing opossum – it’s genetically altered, hence the singing and glow-in-the-dark eyes. In “Birdling,” a robin is an important character. I must admit to using a one-eyed dog and three-legged cat in “Appleheads,” but they’re really a goblin and bogle, so I’m not sure if that counts. In “Toad,” I use a toad. (That was hard to guess, I know!) In “Henkie’s Fiddle,” a calf-shaped buggane is a sidekick. In “Weathermaker,” a Chinese dragon has a starring role. In a novel I’m pecking away at, I use rats and pigeons as sidekicks. I’m also currently at work on several stories where owls are either a sidekick or necessary character. Then, there’s this tale where telepathic beetles bond with the protagonist…

The advice I gave on the Darkover panel (with a nod to Dr. Flynn) is still good — “Think outside the box.” Cats, dogs, and horses make fabulous sidekicks and characters, but so do spiders (EB White’s “Charlotte’s Web”), cockroaches (Suzanne Collins’ “The Underland Chronicles”), beavers (CS Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia”), polar bears (Philip Pullman’s “The Golden Compass”), snakes (JK Rowling’s “Harry Potter”), and even trees (JRR Tolkien’s Treebeard in “Lord of the Rings”).

I think readers like to read about cats, dogs, and horses — but they probably would like a pinch of emu, lizard, and lion, too.

Till next I blog: Happy reading! Happy writing! And thanks so much to the folks at Darkover for inviting me.

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