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Posts Tagged ‘speculative fiction’

I must admit, Stephen King’s stories (whether novel-length or short story) scary me. Not just a little heart-beating-faster kind of scare, but a can-barely-breathe-looking-over-my-shoulder-and-shaky kind of scare. Which is just what a reader wants, and a horror writer strives to create.

I own, and recommend, King’s book, On Writing. Not your classic “how-to” writing book, it nevertheless is filled with information that writers will find useful. And it is in that spirit of learning that I share a wonderful article from The Guardian by James Smyth, “Ten things I learned about writing from Stephen King.”

In this article, and elsewhere, you’ll find announced a new short story contest (deadline December 18) to be judged by the master of horror writing, Stephen King himself. Interested? Here’s the link for the Stephen King Short Fiction Competition.

Good luck and keep writing!

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0061-eWomenNetwork Thanks to author Gail Z. Martin for stopping by and sharing tips on how to make epic fantasy epic. And lots of links to free reads. Enjoy!

Making Epic Fantasy Epically Epic By Gail Z. Martin

By definition, ‘epic fantasy’ deals with sweeping storylines, plots that involve the rise and fall of kingdoms and dynasties, the fates of empires and massive battles. There are a lot of moving parts in a good epic fantasy, but if you do it right, it purrs along like a race car, taking you on a breathless journey.

That requires a lot of engineering under the hood—or between the covers, as the case may be. I’ve written two sprawling epic fantasy series (The Chronicles of the Necromancer/Fallen Kings Cycle and The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga). They involve a large cast of characters, a big map, lots of battles, and complicated magic—which is a lot for an author to keep straight!

Shadow and Flame, the fourth (and final) book in the Ascendant Kingdoms series comes out in 2016, wrapping up that series. I found in this book that it’s as complex to wind down an epic series as it is to ramp it up. (I didn’t have quite that challenge with The Dread, the last book–for now–in the Chronicles series, because in my head, it’s not really the last book. There’s a seventeen year break in the action where the characters get to rest up and drink some beer, and then there’s more action coming their way in six more books I haven’t written yet. But since it’s not over for me, it’s not over. )

DEADLY CURIOSITIES-VENDETTA Which got me thinking about how epic fantasy works under the hood. No matter how big and sprawling your series will be, in your first book you’ve got to get people to care about your main characters or they won’t get to the truly epic part. It usually starts in one of two ways (or you can combine them if you’re tricky!) Either a person has a big problem, or a person has the chance to go on an adventure. Let’s look at both.

Sometimes it all begins with one person who has a big problem. If that problem could have been dealt with before it got out of hand, the world might have been able to stay as it was. But because the main character has to do something dangerous or brave or reckless because of the problem, the wheels begin turning and nothing will ever be the same again. Only of course, at this point, he/she doesn’t know everything’s about to change. Your protagonist only knows that he/she’s gone from having a big problem to having an even worse problem with no resolution in sight.

In hindsight, once everything blows up, you see that had the powers-that-be been a bit more fair, a tad less heavy-handed, a smidge less ruthless or greedy, they might have gotten to hang on to their status quo. But no, they had to piss off the wrong man (or woman) who then sets in motion the events that lead to the fall of the bad guy’s power base. That’s because whatever it was that cheesed off the hero, it wasn’t really an isolated problem. It was part of a larger, systemic rot that had been going on for a long time, getting more and more out of control, in a system unable or unwilling to reign in its abuses. And finally, they screw over the wrong person, who decides that he’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore. Cue epic movie score.

Martin_WarOfShadows-TP[1] In other cases, the protagonist gets sent on a journey. It’ll be fun, they said. You’ll see new things and meet new people, they said. Instead, something goes wrong. The simple journey ends up drawing the protagonist into bigger issues that have their own ramifications. Things go from bad to worse, usually involving magic or soldiers. Companions are found along the way with the skills to get out of one jam, but those same companions often create the next dangerous situation. And all the while, the protagonist is being drawn into a funnel of events whose scope and ramifications just get bigger and bigger until the young person who was sent to market to sell a goat ends up fighting off the armies of evil or winning the throne.

A lot has been said about epic fantasy embodying Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, and that is at the heart of many stories, with plenty of twists and embellishments. But I think that’s because Campbell really described a process that happens in real life—at least, in a life where someone is seeking something better, maybe even enlightenment. We all in our heart of hearts want to go on an adventure that awakens greatness within us, connects us with people who are loyal friends, triumph over adversity and return home victorious, wealthier and wiser.

Two of the other pieces that need to come together include imagining the villains and the problems that confront the hero. Usually, the hero doesn’t start out intending to fight the Ultimate Bad Nasty of Evility. It starts with a corrupt guard, a thief, a garden-variety bully. But as the hero gets more enmeshed in the situation, the stakes rise. Larger and more dangerous villains appear. That means the author has to plan the story to escalate, envisioning how and why the small problems become big ones, how the small bad guys become big villains, how the forces against the hero and the forces on the hero’s side coalesce.

There’s a lot more that goes into making an epic fantasy epically epic, but these are a few of the big pieces. The next time you read epic fantasy, ask yourself ‘what’s going on under the hood and how did the author do that?’ You’ll have double the fun!

Print My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here: www.AscendantKingdoms.com

And now, readers, the good stuff:

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! Grab your envelope of book swag awesomeness from me & 10 authors before 11/1!

Trick or Treat! Excerpt from my new urban fantasy novel Vendetta set in my Deadly Curiosities world. Launches Dec. 29

More Treats! Read an excerpt from Bounty Hunter a Jonmarc Vahanian Adventure.

Epically epic treats! Here’s an excerpt from The Summoner.

Lots of Tricks! New Blaine McFadden (Ascendant Kingdoms) short story set in Velant Prison No Reprieve.

Trick Or Treat with an excerpt from The Raven’s War.

Treats not Tricks! Excerpt from Creiton’s Sword.

About the Author:

Gail Z. Martin is the author of the upcoming novel Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Dec. 2015, Solaris Books) as well as the epic fantasy novel Shadow and Flame (March, 2016 Orbit Books) which is the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. Shadowed Path, an anthology of Jonmarc Vahanian short stories set in the world of The Summoner, debuts from Solaris books in June, 2016.

Other books include The Jake Desmet Adventures a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin as well as Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) from Orbit Books and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities from Solaris Books.

Gail writes four series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures, The King’s Convicts series, and together with Larry N. Martin, The Storm and Fury Adventures. Her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Realms of Imagination, Heroes, With Great Power, and (co-authored with Larry N. Martin) Space, Contact Light, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens.

Thanks again to Gail Z. Martin for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, Quotable Wednesdays, blogs from me, and more. Have an epic day! – Vonnie

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I love anthologies! I enjoy reading them because I get to sample the writing of lots of different writers. Usually, I find a new voice or two which appeal to me as a reader – then, I go looking for more of that writer’s work.

As a writer, I enjoy discovering anthologies that are looking for work, and writing a story (or poem) which fits the theme. Whether I complete the piece of writing in time to make the deadline is not important. Often, the themes aren’t subjects I’d have chosen on my own to write about, so I’m “stretched” as a writer. I “win” whether the piece makes it into the anthology or not.

A few times, I’ve been actually asked for a submission to an anthology. This is both cool and challenging. You don’t want to let down an editor who has requested your work.

Plus, I’ve been involved in editing several anthologies. Currently, I’m finishing up my editorial duties on Pole to Pole Publishing’s speculative short story anthology, Hides the Dark Tower. (And by the way, really proud of the quality of stories Kelly A. Harmon and I were able to put together for this collection).

As the editor (or co-editor), you have the opportunity to read lots of stories which hopefully fit the theme of the anthology, and select the best group of stories. Notice, I said: 1- fit the theme (writers take pay attention, if it doesn’t fit the theme, it won’t be accepted into the antho) 2- best group of stories (yes, when putting together an anthology, you need not only to think of which stories are best — but which stories fit together to create the best group of tales). Of course, there’s all the bad grammar, typos, and sloppy writing that can mar even the best story. Then, it’s up to the editor/editors to decide if they’re willing to fight their way through the manuscript and deal with all the corrections. (Most times, the answer is, “No.”)

Editor Gil Bavel posted a link to an interesting article on Eight Ways to Kill an Anthology by Geoff Brown. What do you think?

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“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.” ― Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings

I tell stories with words and paint. And I like to think, like all good storytellers, I leave some things a mystery. I hope I stir my readers’ minds enough that they have questions to think upon.

I thank the wonderful storytellers whose books I’ve enjoyed over the years. You’ve given me questions to think about, and helped me grow as a person. I try to carry on that tradition, and celebrate my fellow writers who tell the stories that matter.

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I’ll be updating my website in the next few weeks. In order to streamline the site while still offering an opportunity for my readers to check out a few free samples, I’ve turned to Wattpad.

Watt-what” a few of you might ask. Wattpad is a site where many writers, some professional and some beginners, post free excerpts and complete stories. There are even some complete books for readers to enjoy.

I think it’s a great site for readers (free reads – need I say more) and writers. For writers, it’s an opportunity to offer a sample of your work to readers who might become fans of your work. If you decide to only offer excerpts, perhaps readers will be intrigued enough to search out the complete story or book. If you own all rights to a story or book, and are so inclined, you can gift your readers with a complete tale. Again, in the hopes those readers will become fans.

Here’s a link to one of my excerpts (over 12,000 words, so it’s a big excerpt) on Wattpad. You can easily find the other free prose I’m offering (including a complete story). If you like my excerpts and complete story, please Follow me, make a comment, favor the tale, and tell your friends.

Happy reading!

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Terry Pratchett is gone. Another sad death for those of us who’ve grown up on science-fiction and fantasy literature and television.

Life was too busy this week for a Wednesday quote, so I’ve decided to share 3 Terry Pratchett quotes today in honor of this wonderful speculative writer who created, among other fabulous places, Discworld.

I always tell writers to read. I encourage them to read inside their genre to see what’s new, but also to read out side of their chosen “type” of book to discover what else is going on in the world of books. It seems Terry Pratchett agreed: “If you are going to write, say, fantasy – stop reading fantasy. You’ve already read too much. Read other things; read westerns, read history, read anything that seems interesting, because if you only read fantasy and then you start to write fantasy, all you’re going to do is recycle the same old stuff and move it around a bit.” — Terry Pratchett

I like his logic for why you need to read out side your genre. I suppose if all you read were tales of super heroes, you’d end up writing a super hero tale that was quite similar to the books you’d read.

Another Terry Pratchett quote: “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.”

Okay, this quote rocks! It could have been written by Stephen King. Again, there’s a strange logic and a feeling of the great power and mystery to the darkness that was here before light, and will be most anywhere before light arrives. Horror and dark fantasy writers should rejoice in the idea. In fact, this is the basis of many a terror-filled tale.

Which goes quite nicely with a Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman quote: “Evil in general does not sleep, and therefore doesn’t see why anyone else should.” Terry Pratchett. Another marvelous quote for writers and readers of dark fiction to consider.

And lastly, I’ll pull another quote from Good Omens, this time from Pratchett’s co-author, Neil Gaiman: “If you want to imagine the future, imagine a boy and his dog and his friends. And a summer that never ends.”

And that is what I wish for Terry Pratchett — perhaps, adding in a cat, a hat, a pen, and an endless supply of paper on which to write.

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Techie Brain The word automaton sounds very futuristic, but these clockwork machines were first built hundreds of years ago. I began my speculative story collection, Owl Light, with a time-travel, steampunk story about an owl automaton. And the builder of my owl machine in “The Clockwork Owl” was officially employed as a clockmaker.

You can imagine my surprise when I stumbled on this video of an automaton, The Writer, built by Pierre Jaquet-Droz, a clockmaker, in Switzerland hundreds of years ago. It is a fascinating machine, but a bit creepy. Perhaps it’s because dolls in general give me the heebie-jeebies, but this little clockwork boy is both amazing and the stuff of my nightmares.

What do you think — is the automaton in this video genius or creepy or both?

 

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