Tag Archives: fantasy

Are you lucky if you have a warrior monk as a mentor?

I’m so happy to invite C. S. Boyack to my blog today. I’ve visited his blog many times: https://www.facebook.com/ColdhandBoyack and consider him a friend, even though we’ve never met. He’s recently released a new novel, SERANG, and I’m halfway through it right now. I loved SERANG in the novel, VOYAGE OF THE LANGERNFISH, a fantasy/pirate/adventure novel, and I’ve been waiting for this prequel that tells her beginning story.

He hasn’t disappointed. The daughter of a fisherman, when her father dies on his ship, her mother can’t support her and takes her to a temple to be raised by warrior monks. If you haven’t read VOYAGE OF THE LANTERNFISH, no problem. This story can easily stand alone.

  1. Welcome, Craig. And now that I have you here, I’m curious. How did you decide on the life lessons Serang must learn to develop into her full potential? And how did you develop a wise tone and philosophy for your various masters?

First of all, thank you for the invitation, and I consider my online connections to be true friends. We may never meet in person, but I have many online friends.

Serang is a child when the story begins, and she’s about to embark upon training that takes a lifetime to master. This isn’t just a physical skill, but emotional and spiritual as well. She comes pre-packaged with her own problems, and a child would dwell upon those issues. I focused upon her issues as a point for her growth.

Serang’s masters are older, more mature versions of herself. They all have a tragic history, but rose above that to find a quality of life beyond the traditional orphan or beggar. Basically, I took a wise man/woman character, then pointed that character at Serang’s problems.

 

  1. I’m enjoying the character of Yong, who eventually becomes her master. Why does he befriend a rat? Is it perhaps because you, like me, were born in a year of the Chinese rat?

Ha! That could be part of it, and I am really focusing on that in a completely different book. It will come out in the Spring sometime. This is about Serang, so I’ll concentrate on her.

Master Yong is a wandering monk. This means he is a complete package, and an older reflection of what Serang is expected to become. In my mind, monks do not hold anything in particular in reverence or disdain. They seek to understand it, and its place in the world.

As a “wandering” monk, the wilderness can be lonely at times. It made sense for Yong to adopt a pet. The rat is portable, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t choose him from the Chinese Zodiac.

 

  1. What gave you the idea for the giant catfish that can kill a person while he/she tries to reel it in for supper?

The goonch catfish is an actual creature swimming in Asian waters today. He has a reputation for taking the occasional child swimmer.

This is a fantasy, and while reality is a good start, I ramped him up a bit.

It’s rather amazing, but this story uses a lot of actual creatures. There are actual orchid mantises, camel spiders, and saiga antelope. In some instances, I used them as they are, in others I powered them up as needed.

 

  1. This is, essentially, a fantasy coming-of-age story. What made you choose to write about a kick-ass female protagonist? (And I have to say, so far, all of the women in this book are intelligent and strong.)

I’ve been told I write good female characters. (I hope I do justice to my male characters, too.) Serang was pure dumb luck, if I’m to be completely honest.

When I wrote Voyage of the Lanternfish, I wanted an international cast to make up my crew. My vision was a grouping of society’s downtrodden people taking the world into their own hands.

Serang walked down the dock and joined the crew. At this time, she was fully formed and came with her own baggage, even a minor addiction to alcohol. Fleshing those things out in small doses, led me to the idea that she deserved her own story.

 

  1. You write a few different genres. What are some of your other ones?

I refer to myself as a writer of speculative fiction. This is a big field, and includes science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, and all the sub-genres of those.

You could find any of those genres in my back-catalog. What I try to do is include that speculative element in all my stories.

Sometimes that element is fairly strong, like in my stories about Lizzie and The Hat. Other times, it’s present, but in a lesser form. Serang kind of fits that style. This isn’t to say there aren’t fantasy creatures and magical elements in this story, but it’s more about her personal growth.

 

  1. On the blog Story Empire and your own blog, you’ve talked about how you develop your novels. You use a storyboard. Can you give a brief idea how that works?

I don’t know how brief I can be, but it’s worth a shot. I like a good challenge.

I use an app, but it’s basically just a cork board. Someone could tape things to the garage wall and do the same thing. I make one index card for the theme, almost like a mission statement. Then I make four columns to divide the three act structure of my story. (Act two gets two columns.) The tops and bottoms are major turning points in a story.

I fill out cards to mark all of those turning points, then give it some time. I add index cards to the board depending on each column, but aiming from the top of the column to the bottom. Think of it like driving from one town to another, but there are several routes to choose from. As long as you get where you’re going it works.

While the turning points keep my acts in order, the entire board keeps my writing in order. I free-write from card to card, and it tends to work for me.

I used to add photos and even checklists with things I want to include. Pinterest has replaced part of this for me, but sticky notes and checklists are part of the equation. As an example, I had a character once who had to go through the stages of grieving. I made a checklist and marked them off as he moved from step to step.

I still prepare a storyboard for each book, but they are getting more minimal with each outing. Maybe that comes from experience. One real advantage is I have half-a-dozen of them going at any given time. It isn’t hard to end one story and dive right into the next one. As ideas pop up, I add a card to that board.

 

Thanks so much for visiting. Before you leave, would you share a short excerpt from your book? And any other information you’d care to share with us?

Hmm, a short excerpt:

“I haven’t seen a single river monster. No crocodiles, gigantic snakes, nothing. I’m supposed to be exercising, so I’m going for a swim. The current is slow and steady here. If it works, you can try it, too.” She stripped off her hat, boots, and leggings, then dove over the side.

By swimming hard, she was able to keep pace with the boat. It had more area for the river to push, so she had to work to keep up. Eventually she fell behind, so she veered toward the rope and kept swimming.

“You’ll have to stop before you run out of rope,” Yong yelled.

“I know… but it feels good… to move lazy muscles,” she puffed between the words.

An extra puff sounded off to her left, and a strong odor of fish drifted over her. Another sounded off to her right. A series of rapid clicks were answered on the opposite side. A large grey fin broke the surface beside her.

Serang redoubled her efforts and gained slightly on the boat. A bulbous grey head broke the surface on her right. It had a long snout with a row of peg-like teeth the size of her little finger. She grabbed the rope and started pulling herself toward the boat. “Help me, Master.”

Yong laughed hysterically. “Hurry, before they eat you.”

How could her master be so cruel? The creature on her left passed underneath to join the other one. The clicking increased. More of the creatures surrounded her until there were a dozen or more. They started jumping, splashing water over her head. It sounded as if they were laughing at her.

Hand over hand, she finally reached the rope. Her muscles burned as she pulled herself above the water then groped for the railing.

Yong caught her wrist, pulled her onto the deck, then dropped her like a wet sack. “Thank you, Master. They could have killed me.”

“No doubt, but they never would.” One of the creatures leaped high above the water and looked at her. “These are river dolphins. They are benevolent creatures. Sometimes they help downing boatmen. They were checking to see if you needed help.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because it was too funny.” He pushed his hat toward her. “Take the tiller. My turn.” He dove over the side.

***

Monastic life is all about duty, service, harmony. For Serang, a young girl abandoned at the temple by her mother after the death of her father, that life becomes all she knows. The monks give her purpose, and become her new family.

 

When political upheaval causes chaos throughout the land, Serang again loses everything and everyone she loves. Alone, she struggles to survive. She convinces a wandering monk to take her under his wing and complete her training. Thus begin her adventures through strange lands and her trials to become a confident, capable, independent adult.

 

This is a coming of age story set in a fantasy world. It’s filled with monsters and martial arts, difficulties and dangers. The serious situations preclude the story from the levity of its predecessor, Voyage of the Lanternfish, but it provides a compelling look at the origin of one of the saga’s most fascinating characters.

 

Purchase Link http://mybook.to/Serang

Serang cover

 

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C.S. bio & blog

 

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I Should Have Written A Cookbook

I’ve never been particularly brilliant about what I decide to write.  If an idea comes to me, and it won’t leave my head, I’ll probably try to write it.  Not the best market strategy.  My wonderful agent, bless her heart, took me on because she liked my writing.  I was working on urban fantasies back then.  She liked Fabric of Life and sent it out into the world of editors and publishers.  But Fabric of Life was a blend of fantasy, ghosts, and family relationships.  Editors turned it down because cross-genre, especially a combo of myths, ghosts, and Fates, couldn’t be stuck in any specific genre.  I read their comments and tried again.

My agent liked Fallen Angels, but sent LOTS of comments.  I rewrote it–over and over again.  It went from single POV to multiple POV until finally, she really liked it.  Off it went, and this time, editors wrote that it wasn’t true urban fantasy because I’d included a mortal, mystery plot with fallen angels and vampires, so no deal.  When I finally wrote a pure urban fantasy, Wolf’s Bane, too much time had passed.  This g0-round, they wrote that they liked the book, but they’d already bought too many urban fantasies and the market was glutted.   So…my agent let me put the books online.  Where they faced stiff competition, because there are a LOT of urban fantasies out there. Did I learn my lesson?  No.  I thought I’d throw myths in the mix, and that might appeal to readers.  Thus, Empty Altars and Spinners of Misfortune went online. Finally, my kind and patient agent said, “Enough’s enough already.  Try a romance.”  Okay, not in those exact words, but that exact sentiment.  And she was right.  (She’s always right).  And guess what?  It sold, and I got a three book deal with Kensington.

My point?  Lots of people told me to write what I love.  And that’s good advice.  I learned a lot and became a better writer.  But what I loved didn’t sell.  Writers told me that if I wrote a good enough book, I’d find a publisher.  I did write good books.  At least, my agent thought so, and she knows her stuff.  They didn’t sell.  Why?  Because markets do matter. I’m not telling you to write for a trend.  First of all, it usually doesn’t work.  By the time you notice the trend, it takes a while to write your book, and then it takes longer to market it, and by the time you do that, the trend has often passed.  Secondly, I still believe you have to be attached to what you write.  It has to appeal to you.  If you force yourself to write something you don’t like, readers can tell.  Another thing I’ve come to learn–what you love isn’t always what you’re best at.  Every writer has strengths and weaknesses.  You have to find your niche–the genre that makes your writing shine.  Working on romances made me think about developing characters and their relationships.  I added humor and found that I enjoyed it.  Romances made me grow as a writer.

All that said, I should have written cookbooks.  My dirty, little secret is that I sleep in every Saturday morning, then pad into the living room and watch the new, foodtv cooking shows until noon.  Yes, noon.  I sip coffee and eat donuts–Saturday is not about being healthy. And no, I don’t feel guilty about it.  Because I love cooking, and I love trying new recipes. My husband loves to eat, and he isn’t fond of repetition:)  Like me, he gets bored with the same-old, same-old.  So, I scribble on every recipe I’ve ever made, tweaking it to what we like.  If a recipe doesn’t have scribbles, I never used it.  And I have a file full of recipes that we consider keepers.

Cookbooks sell.  Every time I watch In The Kitchen With David on QVC, he has a cookbook author on his show, pitching her new book.  And people buy them, LOTS of them. *Sigh*  If only I’d known.  Instead of worrying about plotting and pacing, word choice and characterization, I should have been fretting about which herb to use and what ingredients blend best.

Oh well, I have more fun creating my own worlds than wrestling souffles, so I think I’ll stick to shifters and love interests.  Happy Writing!

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy/
on twitter: @judypost

Writing and YA

I have three friends who write YA. I love their writing and love their stories, but I don’t know the genre that well, so invited Susan Bahr to be a guest on my blog this week. She reads and writes YA and is generous enough to share her ideas with us. I think they can apply to all good writing. Thanks, Sue!

Thanks for inviting me to share my thoughts on Young Adult fantasy, Judy!
I’ll call this post “The Evolution of Sue, the author.”

It started almost five years ago, when I launched into writing. Oh, those days of blissful ignorance. Genre? Plot structure? Voice? I didn’t even understand POV! But I was on fire, and the words just flowed.
Flash forward about a year and picture brave little Sue prepping for her first agent pitch session at her first writer’s conference. I thought I was prepared, until one of my fellow attendees turned to me and asked, “So, what’s your story’s genre?” Gulp. She must have read the terror in my eyes, because she took pity and helped me figure something out. And I’ll be forever grateful.

Advance another year or two and now I’m batting around writing terms like an old pro. My knowledge has expanded, but one thing has remained consistent: my love for young adult fantasy. Here’s a fun fact: More adults read Young Adult fiction than young adults. A survey in 2012 put the number of adult readers at 55%. As of 2014, it’s 68%!! No more closet reading for old Sue (which is a good thing, as my eyes aren’t what they used to be)

I read YA fantasy. I write YA fantasy. And here are just three reasons why I believe every author can benefit from reading at least one YA fantasy this year.

1. Pacing. No brainer. Young people watch six second clips (Vines), communicate in 140 characters and snap-chat. Long-winded, slow-developing plots just aren’t going to cut it with this crowd. I believe, even if I wasn’t writing YA, that my stories have benefited from understanding this basic rule: Never bore your readers.
2. Strong protagonists. Most seem to be female and what’s wrong with that? These characters have an arc, a goal, and usually some kind of kick-ass quality that sets them apart. They also must grab and hold a young reader, so they need to feel well-rounded.
3. Visual action. Lots and lots of showing, not telling. Fantasy novels must, by definition, set the reader in a well-defined world and THAT requires all the senses. I love stepping into a new place with new rules. I love reading and I love writing fantasy for the world-building.

I now have three completed manuscripts, all in various stages of editing. Each one is unique. Each one is a Young Adult. If you’d like to check out my writing, you can find it at:

http://www.wattpad.com/user/vermontwriter
My author blog can be found at http://www.suebahr.com

Happy reading!
Sue

Sue’s summer reads:
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Sue and I traded blogs this week, so my usual post can be found on her blog. Hope you check it out: https://suebahr.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/passiveactive-voice-explained-finally/

And P.S. My 3rd Wolf’s Bane novel–Magicks Uncaged–is now available on Kindle:

Genre Fine Tuning

Someone recently asked me, “What are the variations of genres?”  We were talking fiction.  Still, I had to stop to think.  I could list the basics:  romance, mystery, fantasy, horror, and sci/fi.  Book stores separate those out for you.  I had to think harder to come up with children’s, erotica, historical fiction, literary fiction, young adult, women’s fiction, and westerns.  But these terms are so broad, there are lots of smaller, specialty niches within each.  I don’t pretend to know what all of these niches are.  I usually wander up and down shelves to find them, but book covers give you a clue.    Cozy novels have cozy covers.  Noir tends to go dark.  But there are finer intricacies to look for.  You’d have to study particular markets to get those right.  But it’s worth making the effort to know what the subgenres are in your favorite.

Certain expectations go along with each genre.  Readers expect particular ingredients to be in each mix.  If you write a romance, you have to deliver a boy meets girl, things get bumpy, boy almost loses girl, and then boy wins girl type of plot.  Harlequin does a great job at this, and it’s no easy thing.    I went to a workshop with Shirley Jump, and she creates character wheels for her heroes and heroines so that their needs and wants bump against each other in the storyline, increasing tension, before attraction finally pulls them together.  But Harlequins are only one type of romance.  There are plenty more.

If you promise a paranormal romance, you’d be wise to have something paranormal in your story, along with one heck of a romance plot.  I read Katie MacAlister’s Zen and the Art of Vampires, and she mixed a regular, mortal heroine (a little on the overweight side) with a hot, sexy vampire, and tossed in a dash of humor.   Readers get exactly what they’re looking for–a taste of the unordinary in our ordinary world, mixed with a steamy love/hate relationship that veers toward disaster before romance conquers all.

A friend of mine is working on a historical, Christian romance, so I read A Hope Undaunted, by Julie Lessman–one of her favorite authors–to see what the ingredients are for that type of novel.  Set at the end of the 1920’s, the book captures the flavor and feel of the era.  The heroine wants to be liberated and to have an important career, but then the Depression wipes out her hopes for an expensive education, and she meets a lawyer who cares little for money, but is determined to rescue as many street orphans as he can.  Faith plays a big part in each of the character’s lives.   The time period influences culture and attitudes.  Both elements are necessary for this type of novel.

I could  go on, but suffice it to say that there are many different types of romance–contemporary, Western, Gothic, Regency, historical, the old “bodice rippers,” etc.   The thing is, there are plenty of subgenres for every genre, and for readers to find what they like in a book, that’s a good thing.

I love Georgette Heyer.   I love Touch Not the Cat, by Mary Stewart.   But their moods and tones aren’t the same.  When I want to read a Regency, I want dukes and ladies, not Gothic atmosphere.  That’s where knowing what type of novel you like and where to find it helps.  That’s the purpose of genres and subgenres.  I might grump about them sometimes and long for more crossover books, but the truth is, genres serve a purpose.  And when I pick up a book and think it’s one thing…but it’s not…I’m not happy.  Along with good writing, I want books to deliver the elements I’m in the mood for.

Which Genre Are You?

My patrician friends read weighty, literary tomes.  Or edgy, witty novels.  Or sophisticated skewers of society.  Years, maybe centuries ago, a friend and I went to a writers’ conference at a university.  We signed up for different panels and classes, but both of us had the same experience.  The guest writer started his lecture, asked the participants what they were working on, and informed each of us that writing for a genre was equivalent to writing trash.  Three years later, we returned to the same university for a conference, and genres had come up in the world.  One of the guest speakers wrote and sold lots of horror novels.  Another wrote mysteries.  A third wrote YA.  The publishing world had changed.  Really good writers, with masterful language skills, chose to write genre fiction.

Still, to this day, when I banter books with someone and that person is an afficiondo of literary novels while I’m discussing the latest urban fantasy, I feel outclassed.  I feel like the plebeian of the reading and writing world.   Literary might have fewer sales, but it has more clout.  It’s sort of like being a Woody Allen fan.  I love his movies, but I know better than to admit it to most of my friends.  They just shake their heads.  Even though I think anyone and everyone would fall in love with his latest, Midnight in Paris.

Anyway, the thing is, I read lots of classics in high school and college.  I still read the odd literary now and then.  But the truth is, I’m a genre junkie.  I asked for and read two anthologies of short stories by Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty one Christmas, and I read every single story in each book.  I loved the word choices, the rich imagery, the luscious language that just rolled off the tongue.  But give me one of Ellen Datlow’s anthologies any day, and I’d whiz through it faster.  I like plot.  I like tension.  Character studies are fine and all, but I want something to happen in my stories.  Both southern writers are brilliant, but I like genre better.

The nice thing about genre is that when I pick it up, I know what I’m going to get.  If I’m in the mood to add up clues and wrestle with the question “why?”– I buy a mystery.  If I want a kick-ass heroine, I’ll spring for urban fantasy.  If I’m into world building, I’ll crack open a fantasy.  It’s not that these can’t be written with strong characters and wondrous phrases, those are the authors I keep buying.  But there’s a meeting of expectations when I buy genre.  And I like that.

So what about you?  What’s your favorite genre and why?