Fantasy

The Favorites Post

Posted on February 5, 2010. Filed under: Books, Classics, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, reading, Romance, Suspense/Thriller, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

So I’m a bit later to post today. In fact, it’s the latest I’ve posted since I started NaBloPoMo, but I think that’s okay. On a more personal note, I actually had a friend, Desteni, over today for a breakfast that extended to 2 p.m. (See the “Adventuring Solo” link on my blogroll for more info about Desteni.) To celebrate my actual social tendencies, let’s take a look at our favorites today!

Yes, this is a cop-out post because I’m struggling with blogging about anything writing or reading related; however, it does fit the theme. With no further ado, I’ll tell you a little about my favorites.

"The Scarlet Pimpernel" by Baroness Orczy

Favorite Book: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

Wow, what a concept! I actually have a classic as my favorite? Yes, that’s right. I love the swashbuckling tale of the ever elusive, ever daft Sir Percy Blakeney and his dear, sweet wife. The Baroness’s tale became my favorite in middle school when my English teacher showed us the 1934 version of the movie. I read the book for the first time in high school and was in love.

Favorite Author: Baroness Orczy

I am on a mission to eventually read all the novels within the Pimpernel series to be quite honest. I have only found the first in print at bookstores, but will be on the lookout for others in the future. The Baroness has a true fan in me!

Favorite Genre: Too close to call

I’m eclectic, a word most people (me included) use to describe their music tastes. However, I refer to genres. I’ll read historical fiction, romances, fantasy, general, classical, and a few others. Right now it’s a toss-up between fantasy and romances.

Favorite POV: Third person omniscient

I’ll admit I’m not a fan of first person unless it’s done incredibly well. Third person is my standard, and if it’s omniscient, it’s even better. I like getting an overview of all the pertinent players instead of sticking in one person’s head.

Within the genres–

"The Hawk and the Jewel" by Lori Wick

Favorite Romance: Toss-up between The Hawk and the Jewel, The Princess, and Donovan’s Daughter all by Lori Wick

Honestly, I love a ton of romances. But these three represent three very different things to me. The Hawk and the Jewel represents my adoration for historical British fiction. The Princess represents my introduction to the romance genre. And Donovan’s Daughter represents all the good things I love in romance.

And, yes, these are all Christian romances. Perhaps I should add a Christian subcategory, but I don’t want to go into that much depth!

"The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis

Favorite Fantasy: Toss-up between Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Anyone else seeing the pattern here? I don’t know about you, but I’m curious. Why do all these authors only use their first initials? Is that the mark of a good fantasy author? (If so, I’m in trouble!)

That’s beside the point. Lewis introduced me to the world of fantasy as a child. Tolkien made the fantasy come to life. And Rowling reminded me of what it is to feel childlike faith in a fantasy again. I think they offer a good mix.

"The Secret History of the Pink Carnation" by Lauren Willig

Favorite Historical Fiction: Any of the books in Lauren Willig’s series

I won’t rant and rave here. Honest. I’ll just point out that Lauren Willig not only revived my faith in authors trying to channel the classics but she also channeled the one classic I adore: The Scarlet Pimpernel. Willig’s series of bumbling, dangerous, deadly, and humorous French Revolution spy novels is lovingly coupled with the young woman who sets out in modern times to discover their secret identities.

Plainly put, I love this series of books, and I plan to write about them in due time. I just have to do them justice, which will not happen today!

Favorite Classic: Outside of The Scarlet Pimpernel, I am a Jane Austen fan.

Simply put, Austen’s classics do not bore me to tears, make me want to burn the books, fill me with despair, or leave a bad taste in my mouth. Instead, they make me smile with amusement at the antiquated wit and whimsy she writes into her tales, and I find myself feeling light and cozy. It’s the perfect pairing for a rainy day (like today).

"House" by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti

Favorite Suspense/Thriller: Three by Ted Dekker and House by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti

Ted Dekker knows the art of suspense. His books are chock full of it. He weaves the art of storytelling with the art of suspense-writing and creates vivid worlds where the best response I can give is to turn the next page until I’ve reached the end. Combine Dekker’s suspense with Frank Peretti’s art of addressing the supernatural, and you get chill-inducing fiction which thrills and frightens.

In conclusion…

I do believe that is quite enough of my favorites for today. I’m planning a later post with my least favorites (which will hopefully gain a more entertaining title by then), but I want to hold off on that for a while. So we’ll see how that goes.

Feel free to let me know what your favorites are! I’d love to hear about new authors that I can check out and books that you enjoy. (Come to think of it, I’ll have to make another post on my nonfiction favorites as well.) And if you have any comments about my favorites, I’d like to hear it.

-Rae-

P.S. In case you’re curious but don’t want to spend money, you can read the e-book version of The Scarlet Pimpernel here.

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Write What You Know

Posted on February 4, 2010. Filed under: Books, Fantasy, My Writing, writing | Tags: , , , , , |

Pen

It’s a simple piece of advice echoed in thousands of ways. “Write what you know.” That’s what I’ve heard, read, and seen in people’s writing over the years. And it’s the single piece of advice I’ve heard most from others who write.

So I have a question.

How many writers actually do this?

Yes, of course, I understand there are elements of truth in all fiction. That’s quite obvious. And I know writers tend to put a little bit of themselves into what they write. That’s one of the reasons so many authors are passionate about what they do.

But if you take apart the elements of the story, how much of what authors write do they actually know?

Since I’m asking the question, I’ll use myself as the example. (It works well considering I don’t want to make claims on another author’s behalf.)

For NaNoWriMo, I planned, outlined, and wrote a majority of a fantasy novel. Like most fantasies, my novel was written entirely in a made-up world. The countries I created were not based off the United States in any real way. Nor was the continent based off North America (though I could certainly argue that my inclusion of three countries within my continent is similar to N.A.).

My fantasy elements are all based off elements in nature, so perhaps I’m writing what I know there. However, instead of using a typical four-element society, I dreamed big and wrote a ten-element society, which I’m still getting the hang of.

For the most part, my fantasy world is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I’ve never experienced a world where the most advanced form of transportation is through horse-drawn carriages, nor have I experienced a journey through a wild forest on foot that lasts more than a day.

I don’t know what it would be like to wield an element in nature, nor the extent to which a person would have to practice in order to control that element. And I don’t know what it’s like to watch a very close friend tortured to death.

These are just a few of the elements I’ve thrown into my world. Now I’m not trying to generate interest in my novel; I’m just explaining why I wonder how much writers actually know about the worlds they write in.

I do understand some of my world, for sure. My characters have become my friends, and I understand and know them. I know the friendships and relationships I’ve created, and I see the web I’ve weaved to tie them all together.

And as a great portion of what I write is in some way, shape, or form loosely based on others’ works that I’ve read or watched, I know those things, too. But it makes little sense to me to claim that I’m writing what I know.

I’m curious. Are there any other writers out there who have similar problems? And is it related more to the experience the author has? I’m relatively new to the art of writing a novel as this is the first one I plan to finish. So maybe I just don’t understand because I haven’t really been there yet.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear others’ perspectives. Let me know what you think.

-Rae-

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The New “Pride and Prejudice”?

Posted on February 2, 2010. Filed under: Books, Classics, Fantasy, Vampire Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , |

While it might be a bit passe to write another blog about the virtues of vampire fiction, I have a slight beef with a nameless person whose comment on a local news station rankled.

To set the stage: When New Moon came out in theaters this past November, I was one of the lucky ones to be in Knoxville, TN, where two of the stars visited for a charity premiere. Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner came to one of Regal Cinemas’ theaters to help promote both the movie and the event, which was nice enough, but of course all the news stations were there to video the event.

I watched with my mom, and this was before I considered reading the novels, so I wasn’t too impressed either way by the shrieking fans. However, one such fan, a mother, was caught on film, and what she said made my blood boil.

Jane Austen

Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice"

“It’s wonderful! It’s amazing! It’s Pride and Prejudice!”

Let’s get one thing straight, lady. New Moon has absolutely nothing on Pride and Prejudice.

I’m all for bringing back classics and attempting to write like the classics, but honestly, has this woman ever read a classic in her life? I don’t think so. Especially after reading the novel myself.

I’ve read them both, and Jane Austen is a class act. Her writing is truly classic in the best way, and I’m a fan. Stephenie Meyer has a lot to learn.

However, I had a conversation with someone who pointed out a few interesting points about all the screaming ‘Twihard’ fans.

  • They’re young; so have they really been exposed to classics? – Sure, there are a few older women out there who have joined the throngs, but for the most part, these are young girls who have mainly fallen in love with either Edward or Jacob. Have they read some of the greats? I can’t say for sure, but if they’re comparing the Twilight Saga to Austen or the Bronte sisters (or even Shakespeare), I have to seriously wonder.
  • Meyer cheats a little: she compares her own stories to classics. – It’s not like the comparison isn’t already there. Let’s review. Twilight had a plethora of references to the Bible. The whole theme of New Moon was Bella’s inane comparison to Romeo and Juliet. And Eclipse? It was rife with excerpts and allusions to Wuthering Heights. The only one I haven’t figured out is Breaking Dawn, which is almost too convoluted to have a comparison in the first place.

So with those two points I have to conclude that perhaps that mom was just a little deluded. I’ve read the books Meyer compares her plots to. It’s been a while since I’ve read Wuthering Heights (middle school to be exact), so I’ve put it back on my reading list just to make sure my assessment is correct.

However, my opinion is set. Classics are classics for a reason. Meyer has nothing on the classics. And, yes, I still think you’ve never read a classic in your life, lady. Don’t go by the movies, either. Get the books, grab a dictionary, sit down, and read it.

Thoughts, comments, questions? Think I’m evil to have such a horrid opinion of the Twilight Saga? Let me know.

-Rae-

P.S. New Moon has been nominated for four Razzies this year including “Worst Supporting Actor” (Robert Pattinson), “Worst Screen Couple” (The threesome), “Worst Remake, Rip-Off, or Sequel,” and “Worst Screenplay.” Interesting, isn’t it?

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Follow the Genre, Honey!

Posted on February 1, 2010. Filed under: Books, Fantasy, Teen Fiction, Vampire Fiction | Tags: , , , , , |

I admit; I’m not a published fiction author. I may write the occasional fanfic or short story in my free time. And, yes, I finished NaNoWriMo last year, so technically I’ve written at least 50,000 words of fiction.

But since I’m not actually published, I’ll just go ahead and admit to not being the expert. However, I’ve read a lot over the course of my 23 years, and I’d say that gives me some power to express my opinion, whether people like it or not. Of course, I’m also fairly diplomatic. So I’ll just start by saying that I refuse to bash or rant on any book unfairly. Most likely I’ll just point out discrepancies and leave it at that.

With that in mind, I started off the New Year by reading a new series that I originally told myself I’d never read. Good friends convinced me I should try it out to see why it was so popular. So I’ve been reading the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer.

In all honesty, at this point, who hasn’t been affected by this breakthrough novel that crashed a whole genre of writing?

Note that I don’t mean she killed a genre. She seems to be the kind of author who takes a story idea, a genre, and some mis-matched concepts and flies into the realm of said genre, doing a crash-landing of epic proportions. The thing is: this particular crash-landing is in the same vein as that of the animals in the movie Madagascar, who instantly became celebrities due to their abilities to scare off the dangerous predators that threatened the way of life of a defenseless habitat.

That’s my view on Twilight. Meyer took a genre that’s fairly well represented down through the classics (vampire fiction), married it to a more culturally popular genre (teen fiction), and twisted both genres into a coupling that both instantly attracted readers and automatically repelled fans of the genre.

Why is this a big deal?

Personally, I’m a fan of following genre conventions in writing. There are several reasons for this, but really the big one is simple. Genres work. Think of how many women read romances in a year. Romances work because they have patented guidelines, give away just enough description, go just far enough to attract the readers and get them addicted to the genre. They pant for the thrill, the danger, the romance, the excitement and go after it like a deer to water.

Cue intro to Meyer’s world. Vampirism is an old genre. I don’t know that you can technically call it a genre, but I’m doing that now. In fact, some of the history of vampires goes all the way back to Genesis, if you can believe it.

Stephenie Meyer's Vampires

Edward Cullen - Meyer's Vampire

Different cultures have different portrayals of vampires, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that vampires began to be serialized in books and stories that would live on after their authors’ deaths. Perhaps it’s for this reason that I think we should look more to the historical depictions of vampires rather than Meyer’s. Vampires looked very different than her bright, sparkling Edward Cullen and the rest of the beautiful Cullen family.

At first, what I read annoyed me. I won’t go into details about my opinion of the plot or Meyer’s style; that’s for another blog. But reading the ways in which she twisted vampirism into something sweet, innocent, and easy to swallow so that her readers would appreciate it was annoying. I know it’s teen fiction, but in this day and age, teenagers have seen a lot more and know what violence, death, destruction, and depression look like.

I haven’t finished reading Breaking Dawn yet. I’m a little over 400 pages into it. This is, by far, Meyer’s best work of genre-bending yet. My eyes nearly popped out of my head at the beginning of the book, and I haven’t managed to get over the sudden transformation from “tame vampirism” to “half-vampire child’s birth overshadowed by sudden werewolf imprinting on said child.”

This boggles my mind.

Author of "Dracula"

Bram Stoker - Author of the Gothic novel "Dracula"

All I can say, after reading as much as I have is that I would prefer Meyer’s next series of books not shatter the traditions of fiction writing quite so profoundly. I may not be a vampire fan, but you can’t escape the lore and legend surrounding these creatures of the night. Meyer’s depiction of day-walking, animal-hunting, sun-sparkling, compassionate, bloodlust-resisting, invincible vampires sends all those former depictions crashing to the dust.

Bram Stoker would roll over in his grave to read such a thing.

In short, my position on the Twilight Saga is simple: next time, follow the genre, honey!

-Rae-

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The Story Behind The Name

Posted on January 29, 2010. Filed under: Books, Fairy Tales, Fantasy | Tags: , , , , |

I haven’t really joined NaBloPoMo yet, but I still plan to. It’s only a matter of time before I do. Before that, however, I wanted to update my blog with a short story about the blog title.

“The Book Wyrm” is something that I totally did not come up with on my own. It’s actually a concept introduced by an author who writes a fantastic fantasy series. Mercedes Lackey is the author of the series, and in a short bio, she is a fantasy author with more than 100 titles to her name. For myself, I’ve purchased most of her books from Wal-Mart, of all places, because they sell them there at a nice price.

Her series “The Five Hundred Kingdoms” began in 2004 with a rather amusing and quaint tale about a Cinderella wannabe who becomes a fairy godmother in a twist of fate that leaves her full of magical power, new tricks to learn, and kingdoms to watch over.

The sequel to that story is the book One Good Knight, which is, by far, my favorite in the series. Perhaps it’s because I like dragons. Or perhaps I have a penchant for genre-bending series. Either way, this particular story was both light-hearted and amusing with a plot that I loved.

I get my title from this book. Here’s an excerpt to explain:

“Instead of adding to that, Periapt looked back to them. ‘You know that all dragons collect treasure of one sort or another, correct?’ he asked, looking straight at Andie.

“‘That’s The Tradition, of course,’ she replied, ‘I don’t know how you could possibly escape that particular compulsion.’

“‘Well, our family does that, too, of course,’ he said. ‘But our treasure is a bit different. We’re librarians.’

“He held up his fore-claws and she saw that they had been blunted; looking closer, she saw that what was covering the talons were sheaths of some sort with blunt tips. Well, if they were librarians…they’d have to keep from damaging the books, wouldn’t they?

“‘Librarians,’ she said aloud, then grinned as she got it. ‘Good gods. You are Bookwyrms, aren’t you?'”

Mercedes Lackey's Second Book in the Five Hundred Kingdoms Series

My personal favorite of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series

Obviously, Andie is talking to dragons in this particular excerpt. I laughed so hard when I first read it. The wit behind it was perfect, the concept entertaining enough to keep my attention, and the writing impeccable.

So I adopted the title for myself. Not only do I love a good book, but I have a rather enormous library (similar to Periapt, the dragon Andie spoke with) that I’ve generally read through at least once.

In any event, if you’re entertained enough by the concepts introduced in this particular post and at all interested in fantasy, I’d suggest picking up Lackey’s series. It’s delightfully humorous and usually a very quick read.

I’ll be updating again soon since February is fast approaching. I’m going to join NaBloPoMo to keep up with my progress, but I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts so far.

Feel free to leave any comments or questions! Enjoy your reading!

-Rae

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