Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Writer's Life: Haunted by a Story (Rachel)


For most of September, I was feverishly writing the first of two novellas for my new series (clean romantic fantasy novellas featuring elves, gargoyles, and other fantastical creatures). My goal was to finish the first novella before headed out with my family on a road trip for vacation. But, as I typed my last few pages, concluding the story, the characters of the second novella began invading my headspace. So, despite my desire to go on vacation without any work hanging over me, I wrote on my vacation.

One of the joys and trials of a writer’s life is that one must follow the inspiration. True, one needs to be professional, write on a schedule, in season and out, and put the time in while one is inspired or not. However, occasionally a story idea comes along that blows all of your I-am-a-plotter-now plans out of the water. A shadow elf beckoned with an atmospheric flare, and I was off and writing like a pantser again.

So, how does one write while on a family vacation? For me, it was in dribbles and bits. Using my OneNote on my phone, I wrote in the long hours on the road when it wasn’t my turn to drive. I typed in the downtime between activities with the family. Also, I tapped away as I waited for my turn while we played Catan or other games with my siblings. Once, I opened my laptop and sat next to my hubby as he slept because I couldn’t rest because of the scenes parading through my head.

This comes with a caveat, though. Should you do this, don’t be rude. I worked hard to be present when my family was available. My phone disappeared when we played faster games or during conversations. The point of the trip was to be home, spend time with extended family, and enjoy each other. I sat and watched movies with my mom, sisters, brother, and kids. We played board games, video games, and card games. What can I say? We love games. But those down moments when everyone was busy with other conversations or activities, I was typing away on my phone or laptop.

So, did it work? According to my alpha reader, it did. She loves the story. I am less than five thousand words from the second rough draft in two months. All in less than a month despite vacation, homeschooling, and flaring from the trip. Not bad at all. I am very thankful that inspiration struck, though its timing left much to be desired.

How about you? Have you ever been haunted by a story or characters?

Friday, October 15, 2021

Weekend Reads: Gothel and the Maiden Prince (Sarah)

 

I’m a big fan of WR Gingell’s books, particularly the City Between series, so when she shared about a series entitled A Villain’s Ever After it caught my attention. This series of novellas offers reinvented fairy tales with the traditional villains cast as protagonists, written by a variety of authors.

Fairy tales from the perspective of the villain have become more mainstream in recent years, with Disney offering a number of movies and books along these lines, but there’s always room for a new twist on the old tales (or at least that’s my perspective as a fairy tale enthusiast!).

In Gothel and the Maiden Prince, Gingell offers her version of Rapunzel, and as the title suggests Mother Gothel takes center stage. The prince is kind and sensitive, which makes him a good foil to the forceful, wary Gothel. The length constraints of a novella can make it harder to convey character growth, but Gingell achieved a satisfying arc for all the primary characters—although I would have loved to see what came next for Gothel, Rapunzel, and the prince! 

I found this an engaging rendition of Rapunzel in an intriguing setting, and I believe Gingell intends to return to the world she created for more fairy tale retellings. If that’s the case, I’ll certainly be picking them up.
 
If you’re looking for a quick yet satisfying read, I would check out Gothel and the Maiden Prince. And if you have interest in the series as a whole, take a look at our interview with one of the other series authors, Allison Tebo.

Please note, I have only read two of the novellas in this series, so I can’t say if the series in its entirety is clean. Also, trigger/content warning/possible spoilers….




childhood sexual assault and abuse are discussed in Gothel and the Maiden Prince.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

The Top Eight Things Your Editor Needs to Know (Lydia)


 After several long months (or even years) of planning, plotting, and writing:  you’ve finally completed your manuscript.  You’ve gone through rigorous research and rewrites.  And now, you’re ready to track down an editor.  But you may be asking yourself:  what information do I need to give to my editor before they begin their edits?

Here are the top eight things I recommend authors communicate to their editor when sending in their manuscript.

 

1)      What Specifically You’re Looking For:  This detail is probably the most important one of all, and one that will give your editor direction to better match your vision.  What type of edits are you looking for?  Content?  Developmental?  Suggestions?  Line-by-line?  Proofread Edits with Track-Changes on?  Every editor does have their own unique style and approach to editing, and even if you simply request a proofread, there’s a chance the editor will still provide content or even some line-by-line suggestions too.  Always remember, that even if a suggestion or comment or edit doesn’t fit your bigger vision, don’t take it personally against the editor.  They’re pouring several hours of effort into your work, to help it as best as they can.  And, even if the edits might not fit your perfect vision, don’t completely throw them out.  Take some time to reflect on them, because a suggestion from a good editor could potentially help you avoid a harsh or terrible critique or online review later on down the road.

2)      Comparable Titles:  This is essential if you want your book to match a certain style or genre.  Without a comparable title to reference, an editor may edit the book in the style they prefer, instead of in the style it’s intended to be modeled after.  Comparable titles can help your editor with narrowing in on the tone, flow, and overall sentence structure for your work.

3)      Target Audience:  This goes hand-in-hand with comparable titles.  While a title may give an idea of a target audience, make sure you are specific as to what age-group, reader-group, and marketing plan you have in mind.

4)      Beta Reader/R&R Critiques:  It’s always a good idea to have someone else read your manuscript before it’s sent to your editor.  Whether you have a loyal fanbase of Beta Readers, or you decide to start querying agents or publishers, getting some concrete feedback from your potential readers can help your editor to focus on the specific problem areas in the story and help you to polish it to perfection.  The more critiques and constructive criticism you can provide, the more it will help your editor in the long run.

5)      Your Intentions/Themes/Goals:  Give your overall vision for your story.  What do you want its tone to be?  Funny and lighthearted?  Gritty and heavy?  Whimsical?  Tense?  What themes do you want to push forward the most?  What’s your ultimate goal and take-away you want a reader to have after finishing your story?  These are all useful pointers to help your editor narrow in on the specific details of your writing.

6)      World-Building Rules and Notes:  If you have a world with elements to it that operate outside of the norm, make sure you provide information to your editor on how these elements are supposed to work.  Whether you’re building a magic system, or creating a brand-new government from the ground up, these details again will help you editor with fine-tuning how to express your world throughout your manuscript.

7)      Character Profiles:  Not every editor will request a profile or in-depth analysis of your characters, but feel free to offer it to your editor in case they might be interested.  Having an idea of your character’s personality type, interests, passions, aversions, things they love/hate, and overall growth can help immensely with giving an editor a better overall picture of what you have in mind for your characters.

8)      Your Dream Publishing House or Current Self-Publishing Plan:  And last but not least, be sure to clearly express what your publication intentions are for your manuscript.  If you have a specific publishing house in mind, or if you’re diving headfirst into a self-publishing journey, make sure that your editor is aware of what your intentions for publication are.  Because an editor operates best when they know your bigger picture and ultimate end-goal for your story.

So, these are my personal top eight things I recommend sending to your editor in addition to your manuscript.  What do you think?  Are there some details I left off?  And what are your thoughts on the editing process overall?  I hope you have a blessed day!

Friday, October 8, 2021

Weekend Reads: The Fey of Castle Garden (Upcoming Release) - Mary

 For this episode of Weekend Reads I am SO excited to get to share the upcoming release by Naomi P. Cohen, The Fey of Castle Garden!


Official Blurb:

New York City, 1859: On Samhain night, a mage pledged to the Wild Hunt is violently murdered. Tensions between the Hunt and Triona, Fey Queen of Central Park, heat up and threaten to boil over into a full-scale conflict. Sofia De Benedetti, mage and musician in Triona’s court, has her hands full making enough money to support herself and help women who are down on their luck in the rough corners of the city. Now a fey war looms and a mage killer is on the prowl. Everything Sofia has built since immigrating, and her life itself, is at risk. With the help of a cait sidhe and a tempestuous storm fey, Sofia must find the murderer before the streets of the city erupt into a magical battleground.

 

This book is utterly magical. It's a shorter read, one that feels like treating yourself to a tiny, beautifully artistic, and deliciously sweet fancy dessert from a five-star restaurant.

I'm a big fan of literary fiction, and while this book has a very clearly-defined plot unlike the literary genre, Cohen's vivid, luscious descriptions echo the enchanting tradition of L.M. Montgomery (my personal favorite).

This book also boasts a very unique setting, but one that meshes perfectly with the genre to make it highly unique. Cohen has done a fantastic and well thought-out job of interpreting and expanding urban fantasy and Irish mythology tropes into new realms. As I was beta reading it, I kept finding myself thinking "I want to live in this world!"

The Fey of Castle Garden is set to release on October 31st, 2021. If you like Irish mythology, urban fantasy in historical settings, gorgeous descriptions of magical creatures and realms, and Jane Austen-esque explorations of a society's inter-class dynamics, you will want to have this book in hand to begin reading this Halloween!

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Writer's Life: The Nuances of Fantasy or Fairy tales versus Epic Fantasy (Kimberly)

Writing in different sub-genres within the same fictional world is easy. Did you laugh? Me too. In truth, writing in different sub-genres in the same fictional world comes with its own series of challenges. In this case, let's talk fairy tale retellings versus epic fantasy.

During the course of my career I've written in a number of different sub-genres within the fantasy world realm that do not include my two ventures outside of fantasy. I started in urban fantasy then added fairy tale retellings and have now expanded the fairy tale universe to include an epic romantic fantasy. Sub-genre or niche bouncing is something I consider to be normal for many authors, so don't be alarmed if you're the same way. Not all of the shiny ideas fit into the same box and that's okay. However, there are going to be challenges when you hop sub-genres because each niche brings its own nuances.

Urban fantasy and fairy tale retellings set in a secondary world have very obvious differences in setting and world building. However, even if two sub-genres are set in the same fantasy world, there are still  challenges ahead. I'm going to focus on three of them.

Challenge #1 - Fairy Tales vs All Original

The biggest difference between writing fairy tale retellings and creating an all new story comes down to plot points. With fairy tale retellings, I have a road map to reference because the fairy tale I'm adapting provides defined points that must be incorporated inside the story framework. When examining the original tale I want to adapt, I look at the key elements and decide what can be dropped, kept, or twisted on its head. Which plays into decisions for how the story will unfold because there are certain parameters that must be met in order to qualify as a retelling or a looser reimagining. 

With all original stories, such as my Unseelie of Sonera trilogy, I have more plot flexibility because I do not have a specific road map I need to follow. This can also be an additional challenge because if you get stuck in parts, going back to the fairytale for inspiration will not help. 

Challenge #2 - Subplots Everywhere

Epic Fantasy is known for its subplots buffet. Everybody has a subplot! The world building is often massive and the main plot is created or carried by an ever-evolving group of subplots. Lord of the Rings and The Wheel of Time series are some of the best known examples of epic fantasy and its layers of subplots. Even if you are in the same broad universe as your less subplot-heavy fairy tale retellings, there will still be a big difference between them and your epic fantasy. Some subplots will be political, personal, and romantic, which will feed into the overarching series plot. With Unseelie, I have a lot of subplots in play due to the complex nature of the villain's plans and the obstacles faced in each book as Tatiana and Ramessu work toward their final goals. I also have a lot of family related subplots since there is a strong theme of found family and mother's love. This is partly due to the fact my epic fantasy trilogy is a continuous series in the vein of Lord of the Rings. They must be read in order to make sense.

With my fairy tale retellings, the books are far more stand-alone even though they each contribute to the overall series arc. I feature a different couple and their romance in each book so the subplots do not build on top of each other on the same scale as they do in the epic fantasy. There are fewer subplots contained in each book and only one or two background subplots carry over. With Love's Enchanted Tales, the primary background subplot was the curses connecting the different books. They are built more like the Chronicles of Narnia. They do not absolutely need to be read in order to make sense but there's some spoilers if you read them out of order.

Challenge #3 - The Size of the Cast

Epic Fantasy is known for large casts and for featuring multiple POVS. When I began Unseelie of Sonera, I had my two main characters, Tatiana and Ramessu, and a couple of side characters. The number of featured side characters grew in Book Two due to the demands of the story. When I started writing Book Three, the number of POV characters grew to eight due to the demands of the story once again. This combined with the complex layering of subplots makes for a challenging writing experience because you must avoid accidentally dropping characters and subplots.

By contrast, my fairy tale retellings usually only feature two POVS, the main couple. This makes it far less challenging to keep track of who is speaking and where. Other fairy tale retelling authors only feature one POV, usually the female main character. Even with fairy tales featuring larger casts such as Twelve Dancing Princesses or Month Brothers or Six Swans/Children of Llyr, a retelling usually only follows one or two POVs. The smaller POV cast also makes it easier to prevent dangling subplots that are not a part of the series arc.

With each of the these challenges, having a shared world does not negate them because they are rooted in the different nuances and expectations associated with these two different sub-genres. This is especially true if you plant your niches in different parts of the fantasy world like I did with Sonera. The fairy tales are set in a fairly contained corner of the world that draws on medieval Europe and India while Unseelie is set on a different continent that draws from ancient Greece and Rome. 

As challenging as it can be to write in these different sub-genres, I must admit that I love doing it. I love exploring a fantasy world full of different cultures. I love exploring the different ways of telling a story that can be more centralized around my main couple or can expand to include the villain and important side characters who will bring their own subplots and growth arcs. Fantasy comes in so many different flavors and nuances. It is not always easy to move between them as a writer, but I find it more than worth the effort of rising to each challenge.

Happy writing!

Kimberly A. Rogers

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Story Snippets: Guardian Prince by Lauricia Matuska (Lauricia)

Greetings, all and happy fall. Only THE best season of the year. I adore the way the light takes on a richer tone and the air takes on a mysterious smell, and the mist... having grown up in a land-locked, semi-arid desert, I can't tell you enough how I adore misty mornings. I hope that you're finding this time of year just as enchanting.

Here's a snippet of my most recent release, Guardian Prince (book two in the Ceryn Roh series), for you to enjoy during these magical autumn days. When you've finished, I'd love to know what your favorite season is and why. Tell me in the comments below! 





        Sabine expected to walk into complete blackness. Instead, she found the cave faintly illuminated by a multitude of green luminescent specks draped like a canopy across the cave ceiling. At first, she compared them to stars—although she knew she was now inside the cliff and could not see the sky, she could think of no better way to describe them. Upon closer inspection, however, she noticed the lights were moving, squirming over one another, like—
         “Glow worms,” Koen stated, his head craned back to study the ceiling. “Gaoth will be beside himself when he learns of this.”
         “He eats them?” Sabine guessed.
         Koen chuckled dryly. “He can’t resist them though they make him very ill. His droppings glow for days.”
         Sabine grinned. Ahead of her, Gaelan snorted.
         A thought of Bree twinged Sabine’s heart. She wondered how the dog was doing without her, then reminded herself that Bree had Gaoth for company. Besides, Sabine would only be gone for a few sennites. The dog would be fine.
         For some reason she couldn’t explain, Sabine had expected the labyrinth to be constructed of carved stone, so the ruggedness of the path they now stood on surprised her. The glow worms were so numerous that they provided enough light to see by, but only just. Even so, everyone agreed it would be best to not use additional light, yet, in case it alerted the Rüddan to their presence. Because of this, Sabine stumbled several times as her toes got caught in shadow-concealed holes.
         Sabine checked the cuff often, worried that she would misjudge the distance between the twists and turns of the path. Fortunately, the glow on the armband seemed to fade behind them as they followed the trail, indicating where they were as they moved. Sabine was grateful for this, because the strain of peering through the gloom was making her head throb and her eyes ache so that when they came upon the first turn, she almost walked right past it.
         “Turn here,” she called, directing the others off the main path.
         “Are you sure?” Gaelan furrowed his brow. “We’ve already passed two branches just like this.”
         Sabine nodded. Displaying the armband, she explained how the path was fading as they followed it.
         “We’re here,” she pointed a fingernail to the spot where the black path behind them met with the red glow before them and turned right. “And we go there.”
         Gaelan nodded but said nothing before stepping into the new tunnel.
         Sabine led them like this for a while, constantly checking the armband and indicating turns as they came upon them. The others followed without much comment.
         Then the path ended.
         “What now?” Gaelan asked as they faced a wall that blocked any forward movement on the path.
         “The cuff says to turn right again,” Sabine said, looking from the cuff to the wall and back again.
         “I’d love to,” Gaelan remarked. “Would you like to tell me how?”
         “Look around,” Koen said. “Labyrinths are full of concealed paths. You just have to find them.”
Sabine’s face burned, the heat of embarrassment scalding her cheeks. What would she do if she had led them to a dead end? Could she have misread the armband, maybe misunderstood how it worked? She scanned the wall in front of her desperately, so focused that she almost missed the clue that revealed the hidden path Koen had suggested they find.
         It was the breath of cold air that caught her attention. She had stumbled yet again as she moved to inspect a new section of the wall and had paused to massage her ankle when the wisp of cold passed her face.
         “Did you feel that?” she called softly to the others.
         “Feel what?” Koen said as he drew near.
         “A small wind, as if from outside.”
         “Wind?” Gaelan’s voice carried across the path. “In a cave?”
         “Maybe a cross tunnel,” Aodhan countered.
         Sabine surveyed the wall doubtfully.
         “Don’t expect it to be obvious,” Koen cautioned. “The easy paths are often the deadly ones.”
Sabine nodded, not really sure what she was looking for until she felt another puff of cold air. Following the direction it came from, she examined the shadowy crannies and nooks until she found an opening that turned out to be much wider than it had initially appeared.
         “Over here,” she called to the others. “This crack is wider than it looks. If we go single-file, we can fit through it easily.”
         “The glow worms stop here, so we’ll need a light,” Aodhan said as he peered over her shoulder. “A dim one, though. The Rüddan will discover our presence soon enough without our announcing it.”
A moment later an orb of light blossomed in the darkness. Hovering near Koen’s shoulder, it was just bright enough to illuminate the path clearly. Sabine was glad for this since the new tunnel was just as rugged as the one they were leaving.
         The air grew colder as they walked. At first, Sabine welcomed it. The chill refreshed her as it cut through the still, dank cave air. Soon, however, it grew chilly. Not long after that, it became uncomfortable enough for Sabine to draw her cloak around her. Unfortunately, everything she wore was still damp, so the chill soon sank into her core.
         “Human, does that map of yours indicate any new turns?” Gaelan asked, apparently unfazed by the drop in temperature.
         Sabine checked the armband. “Not for a while yet.”
         “Then that gate is going to be a problem.”
         Squinting into the gloom ahead, Sabine envied her companions’ superior eyesight. She continued forward, reluctant to admit she saw nothing. “There’s no mark on the cuff to indicate any sort of barrier, but that’s not necessarily significant. It could be the map only marks distance and direction.”
        “Let’s hope so.”
         Just then, Sabine spied the gate, as tall and as wide as her former home in Khapor. Small black mounds dotted the ground before it, splayed randomly in a half-circle array. Yes, she agreed silently, wrinkling her nose as she caught a whiff of a charred, acrid smell. Let’s hope so, indeed.

Friday, September 24, 2021

The Wraith and the Rose by C.J. Brightley (Lizzie)

As a longtime fan of the classic masked-hero story The Scarlet Pimpernel (both the book and the movie), I was excited to learn that C.J. Brightley of Noblebright.org was writing a fantasy retelling. It has a Victorian setting, and the fight is against the fae, who are stealing children. If you're not familiar with The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy, it's set during the French revolution. A beautiful, witty French actress married a fashionable Englishman only to realize he's empty-headed and dull. In truth, he's the daring Scarlet Pimpernel, whose incredible rescues of French aristocrats from the guillotine have incensed the French leaders. They send a clever investigator to find this rescuer among the nobles of England. The investigator was once an acquaintance of the lady, who is wrongfully said to have caused the deaths of a French family. Our hero learns on his wedding day the lie of her betrayal of that family and vows to keep his emotional distance from the object of his adoration. All ends well, of course. It's a delightful book and movie (the Jane Seymour version is my favorite).


Here's the blurb:

A Scarlet Pimpernel Reimagining with Fairies and Magic

The Fair Folk are stealing children.
One man is stealing them back.

When Miss Lilybeth Rose Hathaway and her family arrive in Ardmond for the season, Lily can’t help but be charmed by wealthy, popular Theo Overton’s lovely manners and genuine affection. The Hathaways are soon elevated far beyond what they might have imagined, and like everyone else, they are captivated by rumors of the national hero known as the Wraith, who is saving human children from the terrors of the Fair Court.

The arrival of the Special Envoy of the Fair Court tasked with capturing the Wraith frightens everyone. But the Wraith is far too clever to be captured… until the stakes become personal.

The Wraith and the Rose is a delightful reimagining of The Scarlet Pimpernel in a Victorian-inspired setting with dangerous Fair Folk and a love worth dying for.


If you enjoy sweet romance with near-perfect heroes, rich descriptions of fashions and foods, manners and the language of flowers, then you'll enjoy this book. If you're looking more for the swashbuckling daring-do and cleverness of the rescues of the movie version of The Scarlet Pimpernel, you'll likely be disappointed. This is a book for the romantics. I admit I was hoping for a greater sense of danger and cunning, but the author seemed to be avoiding that as much as possible, going for light descriptions and only telling us of the danger. The Veil (the passage between the human and fairy worlds) is said to be dangerous, but I never felt the danger. We're told it has dangerous creatures and may glimpse them, but it felt more like something tossed in because there should be danger than a grounded part of the story. In at least one rescue of the stolen children, the hero, in disguise, merely bullies the guards into letting him have the children. I could see that happening early in the Wraith's/Rose's rescues, but not when the fae are desperately trying to catch him. They would be looking for something like that, I would think. The reason for the rift between the hero and heroine also wasn't convincingly serious either. The greatest grievance, though, in my opinion is the lack of the clever ditty about the Scarlet Pimpernel; it's fun to repeat and was a great part of the movie version as the hero uses it to mock his rival. 

I did still like the characters in The Wraith and the Rose, though they were a bit too sappy sweet and shallow-feeling for my taste, and reading the book brought back fond memories of the original story. For me, it just focused on the aspects I wasn't so fond of in the original--the hero's worship of the heroine and fashion concerns. This is a retelling for the romantics.

You can purchase it here: The Wraith and the Rose