Fantasy

Something Old, Something New…

Posted on February 7, 2011. Filed under: Books, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance | Tags: , , , , , , , |

No, I’m not getting married. Phew! That’s a relief, right? And to finish, there is something borrowed but not something blue. Something Green, yes, but blue? No.

So let’s do the run-through. Of late, I’ve been trying to read as many books as possible before I travel back to China. It’s going to be interesting to see if I can finish the one I’m reading now, given that it’s more than 800 pages long, but I’m trucking along. I’ve been reading it while doing the free step exercise on Wii Fit Plus.

As far as the something Green goes, you probably already guessed that I finally read Ted Dekker’s book, Green, from his original Circle Trilogy. Granted, that has now become four books, and there’s no cool name for four books, so we’ll call it a series.

After reading it, though, I was completely lost and confused, mostly cause it’s been so long since I read the original three books. So I had to go back and start rereading the series from Black. I got halfway through Red before moving on to another book. So I suppose that also answers my something old question as well.

I loved Thomas Hunter’s story. The way Dekker wove the history of earth with the history of Hunter’s dream-world-turned-reality was amazing, and the fact that the two worlds were colliding through one man and his connection to both blew me away when I read it originally. Dekker’s originality and creativity made me really appreciate his series.

However, I think I’m with the people who have critiqued the latest release. Instead of answering questions, it left me with more questions. Instead of wrapping up what was already a phenomenal trilogy, it gave me another book with plot twists that only got more and more confusing and led to a cliffhanger that was unsatisfactory. In short, it left me feeling disappointed, and it definitely fell flat in my opinion.

So what else? Oh, yes, that leaves me with my something new. And that would be a book totally outside my normal authors and genres. Actually, I’m not sure where this book would fit. It’s a romance, to be sure, but it’s kind of a fantasy mixed with historical fiction as well. I haven’t looked at the official classification, but I assume it typically falls under romance.

I picked it up because so many people in the NaNoWriMo forums are always recommending this author as one of the greats. I wanted to read some things that I’ve heard people talk about as I tend to read authors who are either less well-known or more obscure (which is really the same thing, I suppose) than the many readers on the NaNo forums. I often find myself feeling as if I’m not well-read at all when I peruse the forums, so I decided to do something about it by choosing a few authors and books that sounded interesting and reading them this year.

The result? I picked up Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, an 800+ behemoth that is the first in a series of at least seven books.

Boy, was I stupid.

Now, before you start thinking that I say that because I was hoodwinked into picking up what is the first in a series of huge books instead of just some one-off, stop. That’s not what I meant. My problem is that I have, so far, really enjoyed the story Gabaldon weaves. It’s actually somewhat plausible to me, and given her protagonist, I can see how the woman’s placement in the time period she’s in would give her opportunities to use her knowledge of history for good while simultaneously avoiding being singled out as a witch and killed.

That said, I don’t have the money to buy the rest of the books in the series. I’m a little sad about that.

But the great thing is that I’ve never read anything by Diana Gabaldon before, and so far, she’s really impressed me. I’m loving the story, even though I’m not even halfway through the behemoth, and I can’t wait to see what other twists and turns it takes before it reaches its end.

So now I’ll end this by asking if you’ve done the same: taken someone’s suggestion of a book or author only to come across someone you really enjoy. Got any other suggestions for me? I don’t read many mainstream books because I tend to gravitate towards others, but I’m always open to suggestions, especially if I’m going to read 50 books this year.

I’ll update you on my progress towards 50 soon, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rae

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What is it about magic…

Posted on January 14, 2011. Filed under: Books, Children's, Fantasy, Musings | Tags: , , , , , |

…that makes me feel like a child again?

There’s something about children’s stories that always awaken the child in me regardless of how old I am. I hope I never lose the sense of wonder and awe that I feel when I see movies where magic happens or read books that tell tall tales of dragons and hobbits and elves.

Tonight was another magical night.

Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

My parents and I went to see The Voyage of the Dawn Treader at the theater. I was amazed it was still out in theaters, and we went to the non-3D version of the movie. I think because we saw the regular version, which might contribute to the graphics looking a little off. In fact, I was a bit disappointed in the graphic quality of this Narnia adventure as compared to the first two.

Never mind that I finally realized they’re making the movies out of order.

I imagine it’s because they needed to have the children close to the correct ages to fit into their respective books, but I also suspect it’s because they never intended on making the entire series into movies. But then again, maybe I’m wrong about the order the novels are supposed to go in. I was looking at my old, ratty copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe tonight and realized it listed the books in a different order from some of the newer copies I purchased last year. So if anyone can link me to the proper order or simply fill me in, that would be great. Is there even an official reading order? I’m not sure.

But if there’s one thing I love about Narnia it’s the story. The story always captivated me as a child. I think I’ve said this before, but I always, always wanted to be Lucy. I would spend hours playing make-believe games and going into the bedroom in my granny’s house, opening double doors on closets and whatever else I could find and pretending they were wardrobes taking me to a frozen Narnia wonderland.

I love Lucy because her faith is so simple and pure. I think she’s always inspired me to achieve some of the same kind of belief in something so amazing that it seems incredible. I don’t think I have her faith yet, but I do think I have her awe at the way things happen.

And as it happens, I’m on a children’s theme today. I’ve been reading through A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh today and found it delightful. Truthfully, I was always a Winnie-the-Pooh girl. My childhood blanket was a Pooh themed blanket that I still have. I have a Pooh picture framed in my room and a Russian Pooh nested doll that features five of the characters.

I know people always love Tigger for his energy. I love Pooh for his simplicity and adventurous nature. Instead of a silly old bear, as Christopher Robin always put it, I find Pooh to have a certain charm that makes him one of my favorite childhood characters.

Pooh Bear and Christopher Robin

Milne’s story is one I’ve never actually read; I always watched my old-school Disney VHS versions of Pooh Bear. Or I’d watch “The New Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh” with that snappy theme song that started something like, “Gotta get up, gotta get movin’, ready for a brand new day…”

And, in case you were wondering, yes, I am such a Pooh fan I can sing the original Disney song.

From the beginning now…

“Deep in the Hundred Acres Wood, where Christopher Robin plays,

you’ll find the enchanted neighborhood… of Christopher’s childhood days…

a donkey named Eeyore is his friend, and Kanga and little Roo,

there’s Rabbit and Piglet, and there’s Owl, but most of all Winnie-the-Pooh.

Winnie-the-Pooh, Winnie-the-Pooh, tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff,

he’s Winnie-the-Pooh, Winnie-the-Pooh, willy, nilly, silly old bear.”

So how much of a nerd am I?

I can still remember the sound of the narrator’s voice reading the book and the look of the pages as they magically turned and you saw Pooh Bear climbing along letters and commenting back to the narrator. It was always one of my favorite images as a child. And I find myself still appreciating the simplicity of Milne’s book, even down to the amusement I feel that Pooh’s name always starts as “Edward Bear.”

I’ve also got Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner on my list to read and am equally looking forward to that one. And I’ll finally finish reading Benjamin Hoff’s The Tao of Pooh as well.

I’ll eventually go back and review the other two books that I’ve not reviewed yet. I still have about two chapters left of Pooh Bear to go, and I plan to finish that tonight. It makes for a nice, light read.

I hope you have something magical in your life as well! Share it with me?

Rae

P.S. Is it hypocritical to join a number of challenges based on books already on my to-be-read-2011 list? Just curious!

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History of the Author Part 4 – I think

Posted on March 23, 2010. Filed under: Books, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, My Writing | Tags: , , , |

It’s been a good day so far. Things are finally winding down a bit, and I am happy to say my mom is definitely on the road to recovery. It’s a good feeling, and my family is happy she doesn’t look nearly as pale or in pain as she did.

That said, I’m going through some weird stuff. I’ve been having three headaches a week on average and been extremely queasy and dizzy lately. Not to mention tired. I’m not sure what to make of it besides the fact I need more sleep. Ah well, that’s life, isn’t it?

Onto more exciting things!

History of an Author:

I figured today I’d talk a little about how I decided writing long fiction was for me. And that begins with a wonderful trip down memory lane. Full steam ahead from high school newspaper work, take a left at the manga, follow the s-curve to the little camouflaged sign reading “Fan Fiction” and hang a right. See it?

Yep, I started writing fan fiction. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I started writing fanfics in high school. For anyone who doesn’t know the term, fan fiction refers to stories written about published, licensed, copyrighted, or other works of fiction, such as plays, movies, TV shows, novels, anime, and manga.

Guess where I started…

That’s right: I started writing fanfics for one of my favorite animes. It’s called Rurouni Kenshin, and I wrote several fanfics for the series before attempting my first big fic. It was probably around 30,000 words long all told, and I had fun writing it.

But I ended up wiping out all the information on my FanFiction.net account and going away for a long time. When I came back, I started writing for a new series. It started out small and simple. I began writing a story for the manga Ouran High School Host Club. That quickly grew into several different stories that went from only a few thousand words to more than 80,000 words.

The one that I like the most? It’s a story I titled “Htelobbihs: Can You Say It?” The story is all about a kidnapping, and it’s not just any kidnapping. By the end of the second chapter, it’s revealed that the kidnappers have managed to nab 7 people total, and our unlikely heroes are forced to follow the clues to find the people one by one, in a particular order.

One slip up, and the last person on the list goes missing forever. Of course, this just happens to be the most important person to our group of heroes. In addition, the kidnapper isn’t exactly the sanest person in the world.

What I like about fanfics is the ability of the author to gain feedback. You can learn a lot about your writing style and how it will be received by posting fanfics. Develop a solid fan base, and they’ll give you tips, catch grammatical errors, and cheer you on as your write more of the stories they fall in love with.

I think “Htelobbihs” had over 100 reviews by the time I posted the last chapter. And it was a joy to see how people reacted when I revealed the clues that led to the conclusion. I also tend to be a bit of a devious author, too; I like to write things that leave you wanting more. Cliffhangers are my friends.

In any event, I developed a lot of story ideas from my fanfic days that never finished. One of my favorite ideas is one I had for a fandom practically everyone will know something about: Harry Potter.

Did you feel cheated at Sirius’s death? I know I did. So I came up with an idea that would meld the Harry Potter world with a bit of fancy and classical writing.

The story, which I began writing but did not finish, followed Harry, Ron, and Hermione through their sixth year. Sirius, of course, is dead, and Harry is grieving as it’s still summer at Number 12 Grimmauld Place. Hermione is reading every book she can get her hands on, including a fascinating classic titled The Picture of Dorian Gray. But this book leads her on a whirlwind adventure that she never expected.

Tucked behind a large book in the bookshelves, Hermione finds the diary of one Lord Henry Wotton, who, she comes to find out, was a wizard. Lord Henry’s diary tells the story of his encounter with a muggle named Dorian Gray and how he chanced to create a spell that went awry, changing Dorian’s portrait to age while allowing Dorian to stay forever young.

The results of Henry’s research? Grief, murder, pain, betrayal, and loss. But not all is hopeless, as Hermione discovers. Lord Henry and his friends were researching potions and spells to return the dead to life, but there are several catches.

Can you guess where the story’s going? I actually did a lot of research on it, and I wrote about 7 chapters before I stopped writing. It was quite fun if I do say so myself.

In any event, my experience writing fanfics was positive enough that I grew confident enough to venture into the murky depths of original fiction. And that is where I’ll continue next week!

Thoughts? Comments? Snide remarks? Let me know!

-Rae-

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The Alice Craze

Posted on March 13, 2010. Filed under: Books, Classics, Fairy Tales, Historical Fiction | Tags: , , , , , |

Yes, I’m adding to it, but I haven’t seen the movie. I’m still debating on it. A friend asked me to go with him, and I’m thinking of saying yes if I can convince him to pay for my ticket. 😉 Poor unemployed girl needs someone else to help her out. Haha.

Image Credit: The Victorian Web

I know everyone’s all up in arms over Burton’s adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but I’ve never been a huge Burton fan. Sure, he’s a great director, but I’m not one of the people who makes plans to see his next hit movie each time it rolls into theaters.

So all that is to say: I’m not writing this because of the movie.

I am writing this because of Stacy and Alice I Have Been. Like a lot of people, I’ve seen the Disney adaptation that pulls elements of Wonderland and its sort-of sequel Through the Looking-Glass and then twists them in the way only Disney can. I didn’t really like the movie as a kid, so I never bothered to read the book.

Well, I’m here to admit it. I should have read the books before. After reading Wonderland and Looking-Glass, I wanted to kick myself for not getting a perspective on this world as a child. What would my opinion have been reading this book when I was 7?

Would I have, like with so many other tales–both book and film,–fallen into my own rabbit hole of fantasy and adventure? I was disappointed when I found no wardrobes to peek in after Narnia. I pretended to be whisked off to an English manor home from India where all manner of mysteries and secrets waited to be uncovered after The Secret Garden. Would I have searched out holes in the ground to fall into after Wonderland or attempted to press through mirrors after Looking-Glass?

It’s really a pity I’ll never know.

However, I do know that I enjoy Lewis Carroll’s tales, especially now that I’ve read them in preparation for Melanie Benjamin’s Alice I Have Been. I’m reading Benjamin’s book now, and it’s already fascinating after one chapter. But I’m here to speak to my take on Carroll. It’s one classic I really, truly, thoroughly enjoyed.

Aside from reading the notes in the Modern Library Classics edition of the book I got, I also read every footnote and the poems and letter thrown in at beginning and end for more perspective on Carroll. It’s intriguing because many scholars speculate that Carroll was some sort of Victorian pedophile with his collection of child friends whom he took on boat rides and told fantastical stories to. I think that’s a shame.

Carroll was a don at Christ Church, Oxford, where he taught mathematics. During his years at the school, he met the new Dean, a Mr. Liddell whose three daughters became Carroll’s young friends. The middle daughter was Alice Liddell, and as most of us can guess: the rest is history.

I love speculation as much as the next person, but really? I have no idea whether Carroll was attempting to court Alice in her early days at Oxford. It makes for a great story, though, especially considering he was 30 to her 7 years old, and he was required to remain celibate as a don.

I can hear the old gossips of Victorian Oxford now.

“Where is that young man headed?”

“Why, don’t you know? That’s Mr. Dodgson. Of course, he’s off to the Deanery to see the Liddell girls.”

“You don’t say! But truly he couldn’t be off to see them, could he? Surely you mean he’s off to counsel with the Dean. I hear he teaches mathematics, and you know those young men can grow boisterous–”

“No, I’m certain he goes to see the Liddell girls. Louisa was telling me yesterday he actually takes them to the field and plays with them, of all the–”

Well, you can see where that conversation was headed. 😉 I do believe we haven’t deviated much from those old hens and their tales of impropriety.

If you’re like me and you read the Alice tales, you’ll be enthralled by the vivid world of Carroll’s creation. But more than that I found myself immersed in a world where sense doesn’t have to make sense and nonsense more often than not has a thread of sense in it. Logic is illogic, and if I’m not careful, I’ll begin to sound like Big Brother and make mathematical errors that Carroll would have most likely corrected in his classes.

The lack of plot in both Alice books would normally make me shudder and run in the opposite direction, but it doesn’t. Instead, I embraced the Wonderland and Looking-Glass worlds with arms wide open, not expecting any sense to be found. And I was delighted because Carroll changed my opinion, perhaps not as intended but certainly in a good way, through his Alice.

As I watched Alice make her way through this zany new world, I noticed something intriguing. Originally I cheered the little girl in her white pinafore on because I felt she was the only one making sense in a strange land. But my opinion flip-flopped. I still cheered her on, but it was towards finding the peculiar formula of illogic that made the Looking-Glass world go round rather than towards finding her way back home again. And the other characters with their obvious misinterpretations and ridiculous rules became more and more sensible to me.

I may be the only one who feels that way, but it truly is what endeared the Alice tales to me. By changing my perspective in a world so far from normal, Carroll challenged me. And I always love a challenge.

I could go on and on. I gained quite a bit of insight from this simple children’s tale. But I’m already overdoing it. So what’s your take on the Alice craze? Enlighten me!

-Rae-

P.S. Sorry for the gigantic photo – for some reason it didn’t want to edit!

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On Character Consistency

Posted on March 10, 2010. Filed under: Editing, Fantasy | Tags: , , , , , |

Can you have too many characters in a novel?

So I’ve been working on editing my novel, and it’s understandably slow-going. (Though I admit to suffering severe laziness lately!) I’m still doing my first read-through, but one of the big things I’ll be picking up after this read-through is character consistency.

I titled it that because I’m not sure if there’s another “proper” term for it. So I’ll define it for you.

Character consistency: (noun) in a novel, the keeping of character descriptions, mannerisms, backgrounds, skills and abilities consistent throughout the whole

So that’s where my question originates. After looking at a few of my favorite series of fantasy novels, I have to wonder how difficult it’s going to be for me to keep my characters consistent. I plan to eventually write the sequel to Fire and Ice Bound, and it will no doubt add more characters to the mix that will need good, solid descriptions and backgrounds to enrich this world I’m creating.

Frodo Baggins

I decided for comparison’s sake to look into two well-known series. First, let’s consider Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I am no Tolkien. He was a true master of the craft, having created Middle-earth, all its various creatures, the languages spoken by different races, and the specific characters who give the world and the plot life and breath.

The fellowship of the ring numbers 9 characters: Frodo, Samwise, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Pippin, Merry, and Boromir. By the end of the first book, they number 8 and have split up, but the following two books tell the entire fellowship’s story in detail, following each group (with the exception of Gandalf) in their own travels.

If you look up the Wikipedia page for LOTR character pages, you’ll see that there are 64 different characters listed, all with separate Wiki pages. I can’t claim that Wiki’s correct (and no one will dispute that Wiki’s accuracy sometimes leaves something to be desired), but I scrolled through the page, and there are a number of characters listed that I remembered from the books, including those who didn’t make the movie version.

I’d be willing to guess that this is an incomplete list as I don’t remember everything from the books. But just consider that Tolkien wrote in parts for at least 64 different characters, all with appearances, backgrounds, abilities, and other minutiae he must have had to dream up. Even if he didn’t write in their stories, Tolkien created such a rich tapestry that it seems impossible for him not to have at least dreamed up the backgrounds for such characters as the various hobbits (the Bolgers, Brandybucks, Tooks, and Proudfoots “Proudfeet!”).

Okay, so moving right along, let’s look at another fantasy series since I am by no means epic like Tolkien. I got to looking at C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia as well. The Wiki article covers characters from all seven of the books, so there’s a large number of characters mentioned. Just looking at the page, though, I’m a little overwhelmed by how many characters were introduced in this children’s series.

Lewis’s most endearing and enduring characters are characters like Lucy Pevensie, Mr. Tumnus, Reepicheep, and others. And they have very different personalities. Where Lucy is curious and brave, Mr. Tumnus is nervous and watchful, and Reepicheep is brash and excitable.

Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of Lewis’s series is how much you see the children change. Yes, I know they don’t all feature in each book, but it’s the mystery of Narnia that Lucy and Edmund can continue into Narnia after Prince Caspian but Peter and Susan cannot.

How many characters is that? Six characters of a whole host of them featured in the stories.

I ask myself how these two incredibly talented writers could create such richly tapestried worlds with varying cultures, peoples, and plots. It seems a great deal of work to me.

And then I look at my own story. Fire and Ice Bound follows the story of 14 students. That’s enough to give me a headache, especially if I weren’t focusing on just one as the main character. But I have to give each student a description, skills, abilities, background, and a myriad of other items to make them come alive. And I’ve fallen in love with each of the students I’ve written.

To the end of character consistency, I started a character profiles document in my F&IB folder for the purpose of documenting the characters. Each student has a name, age, height, hair color, eye color, status, and element. (Because F&IB is an elemental story, most of the students have an elemental ability, which can get confusing.)

Of course, these 14 students aren’t the only characters in the story. So I have all my characters listed in the profiles sheet, including parents, extras, and others. And many of these characters haven’t even appeared in my novel in any way. But they’re all listed because they have their various parts to play.

At present, I have 35 characters listed in my document, but it hasn’t been updated since I wrote it at the beginning of November 2009.

In short, my second revision will include quite a bit of shuffling of characters, fixing those who change elements mid-story, bringing blue eyes back to brown where necessary, finding personality flaws that should be brought into more prominence, and making them more lively in what ways that I can.

Anybody else think I’ve overdone it? What about you? Have you written stories with multiple characters like this? How do you deal with a story that has a large amount of characters?

-Rae-

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Shameless About A Few Of My Favorite Things

Posted on March 8, 2010. Filed under: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance | Tags: , , , , , , , |

I have a wee bit of news before I get into the meat of my post for the day.

First, I have to thank Stacy of The Cat’s Meow for sending me Alice I Have Been. I follow Stacy’s blog, and through that, I won a copy of this book by Melanie Benjamin. Benjamin’s debut novel tells the story of Alice Liddell Hargreaves, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s book Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. Carroll was a pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, and he shows up as a character in Benjamin’s book. Ironically enough, Melanie Benjamin is also a pseudonym for author Melanie Hauser, who has written two contemporary novels.

Because I’ve never actually read Carroll’s classic, I went out and bought it today. So now I own my own copy of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. I plan to begin reading it tonight.

That said, I finished reading Kathy Tyers’ Crown of Fire tonight, so I’m officially done with that particular series. It’s lovely and well done, but I believe I’ve had my fill of sci-fi for a while. Although I have learned that I tend to increase my book list by two books for each book I finish reading. That, of course, means I won’t be finishing my book list anytime soon. I believe it’s numbering upwards of 40 books now. Granted, I’ve read some, but still–it’s a little excessive to have that many books piled up against the wall of your bedroom.

All right, onto something more interesting!

A Few Of My Favorite Things:

I’m a romance fan. I have been ever since I read my first romance novel back in middle school. Not that I was really emotionally ready for an actual romance novel back then, but my hormones being what they were, I felt like I could take on the world. So I ditched my childish stories that wouldn’t even classify as YA or teen novels in today’s bookstores and began searching for something more along my reading level.

I found Lori Wick. To elaborate, I was searching through my church’s library for some new material because the church library doubled as a school library for the private Christian academy I attended. I’m pretty sure I was supposed to be writing a book report (those were the days!) on a book of my choice, so I began looking through the library for something interesting to read. It might have been seventh or eighth grade, but I was attracted to the adult books.

The book I picked was a standalone book of Wick’s titled The Princess, a heartwarming tale of a couple set in a country very much like the United States or England but very much a made-up country. Let me clarify that by saying that this was not anything like sci-fi or fantasy. Wick just chose to create her own country that could have been an island nation set off from the Western United States. In fact, her character mentions visiting New York on a school trip, so perhaps it’s set to the east. Either way, it’s a ‘what-if’ type of story.

Pendaran is a humble kingdom where the prince or princess is required to marry before he or she can assume the throne. There is, of course, a cut-off date for marriage; in this particular story, Prince Nikolai is a widower, having lost his wife two years after marrying her. He mourns her several years after her death.

Unfortunately for Nikolai, the time is rapidly approaching for the fated birthday by which he must be married. Unwilling to go searching for a princess of his own, Nikolai entrusts the task of finding a suitable woman to his parents. They make a request of a good friend to send out feelers among his own web of friends, and lo and behold, they find Shelby Parker.

The daughter of a deaf father and a very capable mother, Shelby knows sign language and regularly translates for her father, who gives motivational speeches about disabilities. Shelby has one brother who is in college, graduated with a nursing degree, leads a ladies’ Bible study, and is an all-around sweetheart.

Running out of time and unable to pursue the topic under any normal circumstances, the king and queen make a decision to approach Shelby directly. After a bit of time and a few letters pass between Shelby and Nikolai, Shelby decides to accept this unusual proposal of marriage. In a very quiet ceremony, the two wed, and Shelby begins a totally new life as princess of Pendaran.

Meanwhile Nikolai, overwhelmed by his grief and the newness of another woman, retreats in the only way he knows how: by making himself unavailable and taking on added appointments to his already busy schedule. The result? A comic moment in the kitchen of the couple’s suite in the palace a few weeks after their marriage.

When he doesn’t even recognize his own wife dining in the kitchen, Nikolai realizes his own grief has driven him too far from someone he should be making an effort with. Thus, he begins attempting to court his lovely, red-headed wife, whose innocence is both touching and refreshing.

I won’t spoil the rest of the story, but Shelby and Nikolai suffer their fair share of heartache and tragedy before realizing that love can transcend loss and lack of trust.

After having read quite a few romances in my day, I’ll admit it’s the picture-perfect formulaic romance. It follows the regular pattern from a Christian point of view, but it was the first romance novel I ever read, and as such, I have a certain fondness for the book. I’ve read it multiple times over the years, and I’ll probably read it again.

Perhaps it’s the fact that I know this is the happy ending story, but I usually pick up The Princess when I’m feeling a little down and don’t want to read anything new. I crave the comfort of an old friend, and this is, indeed, an old friend.

What about you? Do you have any old friend books you return to time and time again for comfort or escape? Does it change depending on your mood? I know mine certainly does. Let me know what you think. And, of course, I don’t mind if you disagree with me on The Princess; it is, after all, targeted to a rather limited audience!

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I Am Not Editing – Really!

Posted on February 22, 2010. Filed under: Editing, Fantasy, My Writing, Science Fiction | Tags: , , , |

I got enough sleep last night after all the craziness of the last few days. It was glorious. And it was so lovely to wake up and realize I’d overslept my alarm for the umpteenth time. I suppose getting a job would cure me of that failing or else that failing would cure me of a job. Either way, I feel rested today.

So I thought it would be a good idea to read a bit more of How To Write Science Fiction & Fantasy while I was awake and able to process it. So far I’m really enjoying the book, but it’s also been rather challenging. That’s both good and bad for me.

Having Orson Scott Card’s take on this area of fiction has been rather invaluable for me. I finished reading the chapter on world creation today and am currently reading the story construction chapter. It’s fascinating because there are so many facets that need to be considered in order to write a well-rounded, thoroughly planned, adequately articulated novel. Granted, a lot of those are things that become subconscious, like deciding your genre and then adding in elements that are typical to that genre in order to fit with the conventions. But there are a lot of questions this book is raising for my own story.

For example, I have to wonder if my world is really developed yet. Do I have an organized system of government for my country? Is the magic involved fully scientific and fully ‘magical’ at the same time? Does it make sense? Are their articulated rules on how the magic works?

My answers to each of those questions are the same. Yes and no.

Card’s challenge to think through these expectations of readers is really causing me to want to get into the nitty-gritty development of my world regardless of the story I’ve written. I want to go back and pin down all the variables that make up even the details of the world that will never be written into a story.

It’s kind of exciting and kind of exhausting at the same time. But I’m thinking it’s a good idea to begin working on some of those extra details now while I have the opportunity and before I begin editing that first draft. That’ll make it easier for me when I go back to identify the areas that need to be explored, fleshed out, and detailed. Or nixed altogether.

And, despite the fact this book was written for authors of science fiction and fantasy, I think it can provide guidance for writers of any genre. Just check out the third chapter on story construction. Card begins with a discussion of the distinctions between ‘heroes,’ main characters, and point of view characters and throws out ideas for just how those characters can be the same and different depending on the story.

Perhaps this is a plug for the book, but I’m enjoying it. In fact, I’ll probably go back to reading it some more after I finish this. But it’s beneficial, challenging, and thought-provoking in all the best ways. So I’m going to stick with it.

-Rae-

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Book Formulas

Posted on February 9, 2010. Filed under: Books, Fantasy, reading, Romance, Style | Tags: , , , |

Today I thought I’d talk a little bit about book formulas. It seems that different genres have these formulaic ways in which authors write their stories. And in most instances, if you’re an avid reader (or even if you aren’t), you’ll pick up right away on the formula.

For example: let’s take a typical romance.

Fairly normal female protagonist + handsome and charming male + male’s seduction and intrigue + sudden betrayal of trust + hot make-up sex = A romance that sells.

Okay, so that might not be the complete formula, but it’s pretty basic. Authors generally add and adapt these formulas to suit their whims and make sure all the bases are covered. In my opinion, it feels a little bit too structured.

However, I can’t deny that these books sell by the thousands. Even the shoddy ones that come from new romance authors who are literally following the template set up by thousands of their predecessors. I also can’t deny that I’ve purchased some in my day.

The same can be said for almost any genre you can think up. Fantasy has what feels like a different formula for each sub-genre of the main. But all the formulas seem to stem directly from the classic “high” or “epic” fantasy.

Pick a genre, any genre, and you’ll see similar themes. These things sell and sell well for publishers. And readers are eager to lap it up in most cases. (I’d say almost especially so for the romances.)

My book, too, uses the basic formula for fantasy. It’s something that’s difficult to get away from. And if you try something different, you’re most likely going to find it difficult to get published because agents and publishers are looking for things that will market well.

So I find it odd that I enjoy and sincerely appreciate some of these formulas (i.e. fantasy) and not others (i.e. romances). What’s strange is that I like both fantasy and romance, but I quickly find the norms in romances becoming tedious. The more I read them, the more predictable they become, and the more difficult it gets not to just flip to the end and decide that, yes, I knew this would happen from the beginning.

Do you find yourself doing something like that with a genre you really love? I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I honestly don’t get as excited with some of my romance fiction as I used to because the genre never changes. I may just be choosing my books without care, I’m not sure. Either way, I’m not as appreciative of it as I used to be.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear them. 🙂

-Rae-

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The Writer’s Rush

Posted on February 7, 2010. Filed under: Fantasy, My Writing | Tags: , , |

Today is a long day; suffice it to say it’s the Superbowl rush at our house.

I’m going to begin posting a series of Sunday blogs based on either sermons at church or Christian books I’ve read. I’ll also post below the Sunday part of the blog with a normal post. Most of these will include a quote whether it be from a writer, a book, or the Bible (which, yes, I know it’s a book, but I figured it’s somewhat distinguishable from other books). If you don’t want to read it, feel free to skip down to the bold heading below.

Quote for today: “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” – Mark Twain

The Thought: My pastor used this quote in conjunction with the question: “What are you afraid of?” If you’re a Christian, this quote applies because we claim to believe in a God who’s powerful enough to control our tomorrows and thus have no real need to worry about or fear the future. And, truthfully, it applies if you’re not a Christian as well. Tell me, how many things have you worried about over the years that never came to pass? I think Twain makes a rather good point, don’t you?

See? That was painless. Now onto the rest of the post…

Once again, I’m writing about writing. But this is a celebratory post, so get excited with me.

At exactly 12:28 a.m., I wrote the last words of Fire and Ice Bound, completing my NaNoWriMo 2009 novel. Yes, it’s a rough draft. Yes, it needs a ton of work. Yes, I’ll be editing the entire month of March.

But… here’s the kicker: I finished writing a novel all by myself.

How many people can claim that? The numbers are high enough, but really, that’s not the point. I set out to do it, and I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. For me, it’s with both a sense of elation and excitement that I wrote the final words of my novel, closing that chapter of the story.

Now I can move on to the sequel… after copious amounts of editing in March, of course. But it’s done, and I can also move on to the next items in my ever increasing goals list for 2010. I’m happy and pleased with myself and feel I’ve given myself a sense of self-discipline I didn’t have before.

In case you’re interested, here are some of the stats about my novel. I promise not to overwhelm you with posts about the content of the book; that’s for another site.

With no further ado:

Title: Fire and Ice Bound

Genre: Fantasy (possibly YA Fantasy)

Total Number of Chapters: 18

Total Number of Pages: 158 (single-spaced, 12-point font Times New Roman)

Total Number of Words: 90,066

I’m thrilled and excited and also exhausted from all the work I’ve done both on the novel and around the house lately. I am definitely looking forward to taking a break from writing novels and beginning other projects.

Now that I’ve completed my story, I feel comfortable saying that I won’t write about it again until I begin the editing process next month. In fact, I’m hoping to have a post on reading for you tomorrow, which would be a nice change of pace, don’t you think? Unless someone asks, I’ll leave my synopsis out of this blog. See my link above for the synopsis posted to my other blog.

Anyway, I’m in a very celebratory mood despite being tired, so I’m rather looking forward to my parent’s Superbowl party tonight. When I hear everyone cheering the teams on, I’ll throw in a cheer of my own for my story.

Feel like joining me? 😀 I hope you all have fabulous Sundays, and please leave any comments or questions you may have. Thank you for reading this little self-centered post, and I promise to leave references of my writing out of the next one!

-Rae-

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Question about Fantasies

Posted on February 6, 2010. Filed under: Books, Fantasy | Tags: , , , , , |

This is going to be a rather short post as my grandparents are due here in less than fifteen minutes. My poor mother has been in her “panic mode,” which is normal for a day like today. Thus the reason I’ve been up since 9 a.m. but have not managed to do much beyond vacuuming. Not that I mind; I promised I’d help. I just didn’t realize my grandparents were coming over today.

With that said, let’s jump right into my tentative post for the day.

I was thinking last night as I wrote about how the fantasy genre has developed. And perhaps I’m a bit limited in my scope because I must point out that I’m no expert. My jaunt through the fantasy world has been rather underdeveloped, I must admit.

By the way, if anyone wants to offer opposing viewpoints on this post, I’d be happy to hear them because I’m genuinely curious.

Most of the fantasy books I’ve read have been a part of a series. In fact, I’d almost wager that all of the fantasies I’ve read have been in a series of some sort. This brings me to examining my own story that I’m writing. (Yes, I’m going to talk about it some more, so forgive me if it’s boring.)

The novel I’m writing is nearly completed in its initial rough draft form. I’m going to tentatively say that I’ll finish it this evening sometime because that was the original plan. However, the story is by no means “completed” in any way, shape, or form. It begs a sequel, possibly two.

So I’m wondering: is fantasy unique in the fact that it is quite possibly the only genre that nearly requires authors to think in terms of sequels, trilogies, and series?

Perhaps my limitations come from the fact that series fantasy is what I’ve been exposed to. And I’ll admit I hadn’t really considered sci-fi because a) fantasy and sci-fi can almost fit into the same niche, and b) I haven’t read much sci-fi (though what I have read is a series).

So here are the questions I want to leave you with:

1. Do you have any recommendations for fantasies that are stand-alone novels? I’d like to be introduced to some new authors and books that might be intriguing. If it’s “high fantasy,” I’d be even more interested as that’s mainly where my interest lies. (Though steampunk is something I haven’t read, I’d be willing to try it.)

2. If you can’t think of stand-alone fantasies, do you feel that the fantasy genre has developed into one that begs for sequels and series? Or do you simply think it’s something readers have begged for?

Okay, those are my questions. As it’s almost noon, I believe I need to end this post. We’ll have company soon. Feel free to comment and tell me your thoughts on the matter. I look forward to hearing them!

-Rae-

P.S. I’ll get around to commenting on pretty much everyone’s blogs who commented on any of mine, hopefully tonight after I’m done with the rest of my day, so don’t think I’m not paying attention! (And thanks for being patient with me! 😀 )

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