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  1. The Five Women Who Created Fantasy By Jean-Marc & Randy Lofficier Fantasy as a separate literary genre could be said to have begun with the Contes de Fées, or Fairy Tales, of the French Siècle des Lumières, or Age of Enlightenment. This started with the reign of the Sun King Louis XIV in 1643, when France entered a period of political, artistic and scientific grandeur, before settling into the decadent reigns of Louis XV (1710-1774) and Louis XVI (1754-1793), and ending up with the French Revolution. The undeniable popularity of fantasy at the time was, in great part, attributable to the fact that it was safe; it did not imperil the soul—a serious concern for a nation which had just come out of an era of great religious persecution—and it appropriately reflected the grandeur of the Sun King’s reign. We have singled out here five women who, because of their talent, originality and genuine inventiveness, could have a claim to be declared the founders of modern fantasy. The great precursor in the genre was the Baroness Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy (1652-1705) who, in 1690, introduced in her rambling novel Histoire d’Hyppolite, Comte de Douglas [Story of Hippolyte, Count of Douglas] a fairy tale entitled L’Île de la Félicité [The Island of Felicity]. She followed suit with a remarkable, three-volume collection simply entitled Contes de Fées [Fairy Tales] (1698), and then Contes Nouveaux ou Les Fées à la Mode [New Tales or Fashionable Fairies] (1698). Unlike the better-known Charles Perrault, Madame d’Aulnoy used her tales for satirical purposes, deliberately aiming them at a more adult readership. As a result, her stories were more complex and sophisticated. Her best-remembered tales are L’Oiseau Bleu [The Blue Bird], La Chatte Blanche [The White Cat] and Le Nain Jaune [The Yellow Dwarf], which spawned a popular board-and-card game. L’Oiseau Bleu introduced one of the very first “Prince Charmings” in the world of fairy tales. From the 1690s onwards, Madame d’Aulnoy was an active member of a literary salon where she and the Comtesse de Murat (see below) became the most prolific contributors to the new genre of the contes de fees, which they helped invent, shape and develop. Like almost all of the other members of her coterie, she became a renegade female aristocrat writing tales for the select consumption of other renegade female aristocrats about a world the corrupt glamour of which they understood only too well, with a depth of sarcasm that the innocent could not be expected to comprehend. One should regard these women as significant writers of Decadent fantasy, and one wonders what they might have done had they been allowed to continue with their work. Given that both had extraordinary imaginative range, it is hard to imagine that they would have run out of inspiration, had they not been violently stopped in their tracks. We have to be grateful that they contrived to publish as much as they did during their brief window of opportunity, leaving behind fugitive material that could be recovered once the worst of the repression had blown over. Considered separately Madame d’Aulnoy and the Comtesse de Murat were great writers of imaginative fiction, but as a competitive collective, they are unique in literary history, and it is as part of that collective endeavor that Madame d’Aulnoy is fully entitled to her classic status today. They were the first to virtually define the boundaries of modern fantasy. After them, magicians, ogres, dragons, dwarves and fairies became fully integrated in the realms of modern fantasy. Comtesse Henriette-Julie de Castelnau de Murat (1670-1716)’s Les Contes de Fées [The Fairy Tales] (1697) and Les Nouveaux Contes des Fées [The New Fairy Tales] (1698) are first set in the time of the fays, a remote mythical past, but her later stories take place contemporaneously in countries that are only separated pseudo-geographically from France. Her works are remarkable for the imaginative extravagance of their plots; the superbly surreal depiction of magical civilizations, the extreme trials to which she subjects her heroes and heroines, caused by jealous rivals intent on breaking the amorous bond between them, and their often deliberately atypical conclusions. Charlotte-Rose Caumont de La Force (1654-1724), with Les Fées: Contes des Contes [The Fairies: Tales of Tales] (1698), was a pioneering writer, perhaps the one who took the greatest imaginative license from the freedom to make arbitrary inventions and narrative moves. Her tales tell a story that is very different from the historical fantasies built on Perrault’s moralistic tales for children. The morals attached to her tales are certainly not aimed at children. In fact, what distinguishes her tales from those of her most famous contemporaries is their evident moral unease. By far the most famous of her tales is “Persinette” which was plagiarized by Friedrich Schultz, who retitled it “Rapunzel” (1790). As the contes de fées suffered a decline in fashionability in the 1750s, they began to rely on hybridization with Oriental and Medieval fantasies. The tales continued to be replete with fays, ogres, magic swords and other motifs, but they also revolved around a series of moral dilemmas, provided with fanciful magically-aided resolutions, although reflecting real philosophical debates of the times. (Not coincidentally, the classic Thousand and One Nights was first “translated” into French at that time, with some stories quite possibly having been made up from thin or non-existent sources, as no earlier Arabic manuscripts of Aladdin and Ali-Baba are known to exist.) After a twenty-or-so years’ pause, a second wave of fairy tales hit the market in the mid-1700s, this time written by such notable authors as: Marie-Madeleine de Lubert (1702-1785)’s first fantastic tale, published in 1737, was the striking original Tecserion in which the eponymous king of the Land of Ostriches is madly in love with Belzamire, Princess of Flowers, who herself dotes on the King’s nephew, Melidor. The story is replete with elaborate descriptions of strange societies, including one located on Venus. The fascination extravagantly displayed in her stories with the metamorphoses of humans into animals is reflected in the ambiguous naming of realms and individuals. Such metamorphoses are a common motif within the genre, but no other writer ever deployed it with the same intensity and fascination as this author. Both Princess Camion and Prince Frozen and Princess Sparkling (1743) strike a better balance between surreal extravagance and narrative discipline, but remain flamboyant and intent on defying conventional expectations. There is justice in the fact that Princess Camion is now her best known work by virtue of the availability online of a video of a 2014 dramatization by a French theater company. Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (1685-1755) created the story of La Belle et la Bête [Beauty and the Beast] in her collection Les Contes Marins ou La Jeune Américaine [Sea Stories or The Young American Girl] (1740). It was later abridged and rewritten by Madame Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont (1711-1776) and published in London in 1757—it is that version which is best known today. The main interests of the original tale lie two sections, one in which the Beast explains how he came to be transformed and why it was forced to act as he did in regard to the Beauty; and the other in which the fay who contrived his liberation from his curse explains how and for what motives an evil rival placed her in that elaborate necessity. This original account of the organization and politics of the world of Faerie is of considerable interest, as well as completing the explanatory schema of the enigmatic fundamental tale. The Naiads, published 100 years after Madame de Villeneuve’s death, is one of the earliest fantasy novels. It is set in a distant past in a fictitious realm with a religion based on elemental spirits. While it uses the stock motifs of the fairy tale, featuring a Prince Perfect who falls in love with a shepherdess, unaware that she is really a Princess, as well as a wicked stepmother and an ugly sister bent on persecuting the beleaguered heroine, it also looks behind those motifs and provide them with elaborate explanatory schemas, such as the strange story of the Mill of Misfortune and the revelation of the Prince’s true identity by the Gnome Queen. In this fashion, the literary evolution of fantasy paralleled that of French Royalty, with the decadence and corruption of Louis XV replacing the aristocratic grandeur of Louis XIV. Eventually, the French Revolution came and, in an act tantamount to a literary execution, guillotined the heads of, if not the fairies and the little people, but many of the people who had become so much associated with this Ancien Régime genre. Fantasy was a genre in which many women excelled. Other notable authors included: Marie-Jeanne L’Héritier de Villandon (1664-1734) included several fairy tales in her Oeuvres Mêlées [Mixed Works] (1695). A relative of the better-known Perrault, she originally published four stories in 1696, a year before Tales of Mother Goose, then penned the classic La Tour ténébreuse et les Jours Lumineux [The Dark Tower and the Luminous Days published in 1705, as well as an essay written in the form of a letter, in which she casts more light on the detail of her thinking, the process by which the tales came to be written and the various things that she was attempting to achieve. Her stories may well be the source material that inspired Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin, amongst others, and are not an adaptation of folklore, but an attempt to recycle literary inventions attributed to the medieval troubadours. Catherine Bernard (1662-1712), the first woman to have written a play performed by the Comédie française, was also one of the originators of the genre, with The Rose-Bush Prince, Riquet with the Crest and The Origins of the Fays (c. 1696) The anonymous “Comtesse D.L,” wrote La Tyrannie des Fées Détruites [The Tyranny of the Fays Abolished] (1703). She disappeared from view, censored out of history, and to this day, she has only been replaced in the official record by a phantom who probably originated as a spelling mistake. In her own peculiar fashion, however, she was a heroine. Her story’s representation of marriage as a matter of innocent young women falling into the brutal hands of disgusting Ogres who abuse them is only par for the course, but what is unusual is the conclusion, in which the bold Prince, eager to do battle against the monsters guarding the cave where his beloved princess is being held captive, is told to put away his sword, this particular rescue being women’s work. When the rescue is complete, the prince is graciously permitted to continue adoring the princess, provided that he never lays a finger on her, while she enjoys a perfect bliss with her steadfast female best friend, under the tutelage of their benign protectress, the fay Clementine. Marie-Antoinette Fagnan (1710-177) wrote Kanor (1750), Minet-Bleu et Louvette (1752) et Le Miroir des Princess Orientales [The Mirror of Oriental Princesses] (1755), which demonstrate that fantasy could be a useful instrument in the advancement of Enlightenment, because rather than in spite of its absurdity. The author’s sardonic narrative points out the absurdity of the fairy tales, and emphasizes that the age of the fays, if ever there was one, reached its twilight long before history became possible. Her work as a whole asserts that fays are not, and never could be, up to the task of providing miracles, because the inevitably corrupting effects of their power would always lead them to indifference toward human suffering, if not to the malevolence of causing it. That, rather than any scientific skepticism relating to the workability of magic, is the Enlightenment that hammered the nails into the coffin of the genre, and although the final nail had yet to be added, that coffin was already sealed by 1755. Finally, Catherine de Lintot (1728-1816)’s stories Timandre and Bleuette, Prince Sincere and Tendrebrun et Constance (1735) show a marked evolution in the genre, each being more substantial, and more imaginatively innovative than its predecessor. Although they clearly attempt to take up where Madame d’Aulnoy and the Comtesse de Murat had been forced to leave off, in terms of their imaginative extravagance, their use of metamorphoses and their quirky employment of allegory exhibit a further development in the direction of the calculatedly absurd and the surreal. These are not the only works of the period to extrapolate its licensed disorder to the chaotic brink of surrealism, but they do so more self-consciously than most. The stories gathered herein provide an intriguing kaleidoscopic pattern and can justly be reckoned to be more than the sum of their parts. BOOKS All available from the Black Coat Press Website Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy: Tales of the Fays (2 volumes), Black Coat Press, ISBNs 978-1-61227-836-0 and 978-1-61227-837-7. Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve: Beauty and the Beast * The Naiads, Black Coat Press, ISBN 978-1-61227-626-7. Catherine Bernard: The Queen of the Fays, Black Coat Press, ISBN 978-1-61227-814-8; The Origins of the Fays, Black Coat Press, ISBN 978-1-61227-821-6. Charlotte-Rise Caumont de La Force: The Land of Delights, Black Coat Press, ISBN 978-1-61227-760-8. Comtesse D.L.: The Tyranny of the Fays Abolished, Black Coat Press, ISBN 978-1-61227-792-9. Marie-Antoinette Fagnan: The Enchanter’s Mirror, Black Coat Press, ISBN 978-1-61227-820-9. Marie-Jeanne L’Héritier de Villandon: The Robe of Sincerity, Black Coat Press, ISBN 978-1-61227-732-5. Catherine de Lintot: Funestine, Black Coat Press, ISBN 978-1-61227-812-4. Marie-Madeleine de Lubert: Princess Camion, Black Coat Press, ISBN 978-1-61227-796-7. Henriette-Julie de Murat: The Palace of Vengeance, Black Coat Press, ISBN 978-1-61227-774-5. Jean-Marc & Randy Lofficier. The Handbook of French Fantasy & Supernatural Fiction. Black Coat Press, ISBN 978-1-64932-165-7. Brian Stableford. Tales of Enchantment and Disenchantment. Black Coat Press, ISBN 978-1-61227-838-4. Black Coat Press was born in 2003 as a logical development in our desire to bring out the best of French popular culture into the English language. First, there was our massive French Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror & Pulp Fiction encyclopedia published my McFarland in 2000; then there was our coolfrenchcomics website, and finally our two non-fiction Shadowmen books which, with our translation of Doctor Omega, were the first books published by Black Coat Press. We had been working for Starlog and in comics for years prior to our desire to become publishers. We had, in fact, been translating a number of award-winning French comics for Marvel (the Moebius series) and Dark Horse (works by Tardi, Andreas, Druillet, Schuiten and others). So moving into books was a natural extension. We had already co-authored over a dozen books about movies and television series, such as The Doctor Who Programme Guide, Into The Twilight Zone, Science Fiction Filmmaking In The 1980s and The Dreamweavers, the latter two from McFarland. It had always been a source of profound frustration to us that, because of the language barrier, the knowledge of many outstanding French works was denied to the American public. There was a time when French novels and French films were widely imported in the United States. People were mobbing the New York harbor waiting for the latest installment of Alexandre Dumas’ novels. Yet in the age of the global village, this cross-cultural exchange has shrunk to next to nothing, and I think America is the poorer for it. The purpose of Black Coat Press was to help remedy this sad state of affairs by providing a fairly comprehensive selection of the best and/or the most representative works, with proper introductions, bibliographies, etc. Because science fiction, fantasy, etc. are often regarded as minor genres by “serious” scholars (on both sides of the Atlantic!), we felt that publishing works of this nature would be more useful than publishing classic or mainstream novels, for which there are at least a few outlets available. The post The Five Women Who Created Fantasy – GUEST POST by Jean-Marc & Randy Lofficier appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  2. Around this time last year, my mom said four words guaranteed to keep anyone up at night. “I found a lump.” If that weren’t anxiety producing enough, a diagnostic mammogram required a referral and she had no primary care physician. Those accepting new patients were booked solid for months because so many had delayed routine care during the initial COVID surges. Two things were clear. First, she was going to have a wait on her hands to find out what, if anything, that lump signified. Second, I was going to make a bad situation worse if I gave in to the existential terror the word ‘cancer’ provokes. That demon had already claimed both my grandmothers and an aunt. A second aunt was securely in its clutches and passed away a few weeks ago. The manuscript languishing on my laptop was the obvious place to pour all my nervous energy, but panic and focus aren’t exactly a winning combination, especially when I’m stuck. I needed a sense of direction. Accountability. Deadlines. I needed something like Kathryn Craft’s “Your Novel Year” class. I’d considered taking it before. I knew Kathryn, I loved her novels, and I suspected I’d work well with her. Barreling through a shitty first draft isn’t something I’ve ever managed to do, though. If forced to participate in NaNoWriMo, I would be clinically insane by Thanksgiving. It took a nudge from our own Therese Walsh, combined with a major life upheaval, to get me to take the plunge. If you have ever wondered whether this class or something like it would be worth the time and expense for you, here are some things to consider. Know your mentor/coach Handing over unfinished work, particularly in the early stages, involves some major creative risk. Trust is an essential component to a successful working relationship. If you can meet your proposed mentor, at a conference or at least online, you will be better able to gauge their critique style, how flexible they may be, whether you find them approachable or intimidating, etc. Do they have published novels? If so, read them. If they don’t wow you, hesitate before signing any contracts. If your prose is uber-descriptive and theirs is spare, know that you will be encouraged to rein yourself in. This isn’t a dealbreaker if you are secure in your own voice. If prone to blindly follow every suggestion, proceed with extreme caution. Do they write in the same genre (ideal) or at least have a lot of experience with it? If you write women’s fiction and they write spy thrillers, your proposed mentor may have the biggest name and the greatest connections and still be of no actual help to you. Know that this is an investment with no guarantees Intensive workshops, especially those involving developmental edits and individualized coaching, aren’t cheap. You will be making an investment, financially and emotionally. To get the most out of the experience, you must be willing to sacrifice a significant chunk of time and energy. In exchange, you will very likely have an improved manuscript, maybe even one that is publication worthy. Many good novels, even great novels, still do not sell. Are you prepared for that possibility? Know your process If you are the sort of writer who sets word count goals of 1000 words a day and consistently meets them, you’ll have no issue keeping up with any intensive class. If, like me, you start off each writing session going back to the beginning of any chapter you are working on and adding another layer of polish before writing any new words, you may need a mentor who is open to reviewing revised work, too. Is your comfort zone crippling you? Not letting anyone see your work until, say, draft 25, may ensure that the beta readers see flawless prose. However, the most beautiful sentences in the world will do nothing for your manuscript if that chapter you spent a month on doesn’t move the story forward. A good developmental editor will pick up on that in draft one or two, which may save you twenty drafts of said chapter, and countless drafts in subsequent chapters. (Yeah, guilty as charged on this one. Thanks, Kathryn.) Also, the work will never be perfect. Waiting to show it to anyone until you internally debate the necessity of certain comma placements might just be a convenient excuse to spin your wheels indefinitely. If this sounds like you, forcing a break in that cycle might be liberating. How thick is your skin? If your chosen class involves developmental editing, and you’ve never been through that process before, be prepared for a lot of virtual red ink. Much of it may not be of the ‘rethink this sentence structure’ or ‘this gesture made me cry’ variety. You may have key points in your plot deconstructed or, worse, told that your story has no discernible plot at all. You may be told that your main character is unlikable or that their story goal is unclear. You may be asked why the reader should care about any of these people. Chances are good that feedback days will involve big emotions, both good and bad. If something is especially triggering, that is a good sign the editor is onto something. (Yes, I speak from experience.) Better to hear this from a paid editor than an agent or a publisher. There is no such thing as perfect timing When I signed up for Your Novel Year, I thought that 2022 would be a time of high productivity. One child lives full-time in her college town. The other is still home but largely self-sufficient. I am lucky enough to not require a paycheck to survive. Had I known last December that this year would be spent ricocheting from one hardship and hassle to another, I would have claimed it would be impossible for me to get any writing done. I didn’t have staring down my own mortality and choosing to remove five organs from my body on my bingo card any more than my mom had cancer warrior on hers. Nevertheless, I persisted. Set realistic goals Had I been able to stay on pace, Your Novel Year would have allowed for a developmental edit of up to 300 pages of material. I knew that was unrealistic for me, though I had hoped to get to 200. Counting revisions, I’ve done that, but my actual page count in the novel just surpassed 100. Am I disappointed in myself? No. Do I feel the class was worth the time and investment? Absolutely. Those 100 pages are now rock-solid, and I have a clear path forward from here. This would not have happened without Kathryn’s guidance. (And no, she is not paying me to say that.) What about you? Have you taken an intensive writing course? Worked with a coach? Hired a developmental editor? Was it helpful? Do you have any tips to share? [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  3. Peter Straub (1943-2022) The Fantasy Hive was saddened to hear of the passing of Peter Straub. Straub was one of the key voices in horror fiction in the latter half of the 20th century, beloved by both fans and critics, with his work winning numerous awards including the Bram Stoker and World Fantasy Awards. Straub was born in the US and started writing supernatural fiction with Julia (1975), but it was Ghost Story (1979) that established him as one of the modern masters of the horror novel. Rich and complex, the novel spans multiple viewpoints and nested stories, weaving them all together into a terrifying and vivid whole. The novel was a massive commercial success as well as a critical hit. It was followed by Shadowland (1980), a masterful dark fantasy novel about a mysterious realm where reality and illusion collide. The novel was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. Straub wrote The Talisman (1984) in collaboration with his friend and legendary horror writer Stephen King, and the two of them would collaborate on a sequel Black House (2001). The Blue Rose Trilogy, beginning with Koko (1988), demonstrated that Straub could be just as frightening writing about non-supernatural matters like the Vietnam War. As well as being a proficient novelist, Straub was also a master of the horror short story, as evidenced by the wealth of wonderful material contained in the collection Interior Darkness (2016). Although not as well known as his famous novels, short material like ‘Pork Pie Hat’, ‘Mr. Clubb and Mr. Cuff’, and ‘A Short Guide to the City’ demonstrate Straub’s facility with language, his sharp characterisation and his ability to play and experiment with form in ways that enhance the power of his stories. They clearly show that Straub’s literary handling of language, character and form would have made him a great writer in whatever genre he chose to write in. The Fantasy Hive’s thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time. The post Peter Straub (1943-2022) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  4. Dragons vs Spaceships, Who’d Win In A Fight? by Adrian Tchaikovsky I am, of course, a fantasy fiction writer. Spaceships? Me? Perish the thought. In fact, my first fantasy book in a while is out this year – City of Last Chances drops at the start of December and I’ve relished the chance to get back into that mode. But, for those who’ve been on the wild train I’ve been riding since 2007, I hit the shelves with a 10(!) book series, Shadows of the Apt, recently re-covered and reprinted, along with audio from the talented Ben Allen. But that was riding the wave of readers who’d come to me for Children of Time, a book notably concerned with spaceships, albeit covered in spiders. (I’m assuming that, as a familiar of Fantasy Hive, you’re at least engaged in the discussion of fantasy and science-fiction and whether any of it means anything. A subject we constantly kick about with the same laser focus as quantum physicists arguing about the existence of fundamental particles.) So, dragons vs spaceships, who’d win in a fight? And the answer is that if the dragons are sharp enough they build their own dragon-scale spaceships and then you’re in a whole other sub-corner of the sub-sub-genre… This is the point about genre divides. Like the particles, even though they absolutely matter, they simultaneously do and don’t exist. Binary systems are generally bunk, and even a dragon/spaceship continuum doesn’t do the job. What there is, however, is a kind of topographical landscape. An ideas morphospace, where every possible idea involving those dragons and spaceships and all the rest can possibly exist. A political map of a thousand little polities, each with its own traditions and each with infinitely permeable borders so that, from out in the countryside, it’s just about impossible to know whose laws you’re supposed to be following. And that is the joy of it, for me. That is the Why in why I do what I do. Because, despite being a profoundly reluctant traveller in the actual world, given that morphospacic landscape, I will goddamn ramble where I want. Which means I can end up with something like Elder Race, which is simultaneously a hard SF book and an epic fantasy narrative. I can write Ogres and The Expert System’s Brother where the trappings of a fantasy narrative are stretched over a SFnal skeleton. And I can delve into the mythic landscape in Children of Memory, where a struggling exoplanetary colony is haunted by the ancient stories of the world its ancestors came from, old gods and fairy tale entities that just won’t quit the human imagination, and that grow to fill the curious spaces that the new world presents. Adrian Tchaikovsky was born in Lincolnshire before heading off to Reading to study psychology and zoology. For reasons unclear even to himself he subsequently ended up in law and has worked as a legal executive in both Reading and Leeds. He’s the author of the critically acclaimed Shadows of the Apt series, the Echoes of the Fall trilogy, The Doors of Eden, and the Final Architecture series. Children of Time was the winner of the 30th Anniversary Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Children of Memory the third instalment in the series is out NOW The post Dragons vs Spaceships, Who’d Win In A Fight? GUEST POST by Adrian Tchaikovsky appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  5. “Everything was alive: rock, metal, food, tools. Everything was crawling with the infection of Aleutia: a world of flesh infested with the life of its people.” “It was a truism that the aliens who landed, whoever they were, had to be superior. Or else we’d be visiting them.” White Queen (1991) is the first novel in Gwyneth Jones’ Aleutian Trilogy, one of the key works of speculative fiction of the 90s. It is a first contact novel, one in which the aliens are used to both explore posthuman possibilities of embodiment and to question the ways we perceive otherness. As such it is a feminist science fiction classic in the vein of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) and Octavia E. Butler’s Xenogenesis series (1987-89), works with which it is very much in dialogue. Through her alien Aleutians and her compellingly well drawn human characters, Jones explores how our assumptions about humanity, and about how aliens will behave in first contact situations, combined with similar assumptions on the aliens’ part, lead to a tragic series of miscommunications that have enormous consequences for both peoples. Jones demonstrates how speculative fiction acts both as a thought experiment to consider the difficulties we might face in human/alien communications, and as a mirror through which we consider how we interact with people whose race, gender or sexuality is different to our own. She does all this whilst constructing a frighteningly plausible future for humanity, in which the effects of climate change and the tensions between the haves and the have-nots are making themselves felt. White Queen is a powerful and disturbing work of science fiction at its best, and confirms Jones as one of the genre’s most incisive voices. White Queen starts in the year 2038, the year the Aleutians land. The world is teetering on the edge of chaos, following the destruction of Japan in a geological disaster, the wide-spread effects of climate change, and increasing wealth inequality. Johnny Guglioli is an ex-eejay – a digital journalist – living in quarantined exile in West Africa because during his last job he became infected with QV, a deadly virus he caught from a biotech computer. He meets what he perceives to be a mysterious young woman called Agnès, whom he has a hunch can lead him to the rumoured landed aliens, a story so big it will put him back on the professional map. He also becomes entangled with Braemar Wilson, a cynical journalist not shy about using her sex to manipulate him, who also believes that Johnny is onto a massive scoop. Both Johnny and Braemar get gazumped by the Aleutians announcing their presence to the world, but not before Agnès reveals herself to Johnny as one of the Aleutians. Humanity is convinced that their new alien visitors must be a massively superior species to have travelled all that distance, and assumes that the Aleutians are telepathic and immortal. The Aleutians, who simply want to make a quick buck trading with the humans, are keen to exploit this misunderstanding. For their part, they mistake the World Conference On Women’s Affairs (WOCWOM), which just happens to be in session, for the world government, inadvertently fuelling the conflict between the exploited women of the third world and the patriarchal men in power in the West into a full-blown Gender War. Misunderstandings pile up and tensions between humanity and their alien visitors rapidly increase, resulting in the anti-Aleutian terrorist group White Queen deciding to take matters into their own hands. Following a disastrous encounter with Agnès, who is now called Clavel, Johnny finds himself recruited into White Queen by Braemar, who is planning a terrible mission of retribution. As the summary above indicates, White Queen is a complex novel with many overlapping elements. However the main focus of the book remains the disastrous relationship between the Aleutians and humanity. Because the Aleutians have turned up on our doorstep like the Martians out of War Of The Worlds, humanity assumes that they are a vastly superior force, armed with devastating firepower and equipped with FTL drives, intent on conquering Earth and making us a part of some vast galactic empire. However the Aleutians are only playing along the role of the superior conquering aliens because their leader Rajath thinks it will help them get a good trade deal. Far from representing a galactic empire, they don’t even have a formal name for themselves – the press calls them Aleutians because their first ship lands in the Aleutian Islands and the aliens just go along with it. Because the Aleutians can communicate without words, humanity assumes they are telepaths, able to read everyone’s thoughts and so curb rebellion as soon as it’s thought of. But the Aleutians communicate using the Common Tongue, a combination of body language, intuition and non-verbal gestures, and make the mistake of assuming that the humans can communicate in this way too. The Aleutians have every possible individual coded into their DNA, resulting in them being reborn each generation and learning their previous personalities, and those of their fellows, using their extensive recorded archives. They came to Earth on a generation ship. But the humans misunderstand individual Aleutians to be immortal. Thus both Aleutians and humans, because of their specific cultural environments, encounter the alien through their own specific lens of assumptions and beliefs, leading them to inevitably misunderstand one another. However, the two biggest differences between humans an Aleutians comes down to gender and individuality. In stark contrast to Johnny Guglioli’s American individualism, the Aleutians treat their living technology, their plants and animals, and each other as extensions of one massive WorldSelf, a contiguous hive entity. This is a viewpoint radically opposed to Western notions of the self as distinct and discrete, and one that horrifies the humans when they discover it. The Aleutians, for their part, can’t help but see individual humans as woefully incomplete. Aleutians are also hermaphroditic beings who reproduce via pathogenesis. Johnny, Braemar and the other human characters insist on reading Clavel and the other Aleutians through the lens of a binary male/female gender system, one that absolutely does not apply to the Aleutians at all. Thus, depending on whether Clavel is thinking about themselves or other people are thinking about them, Aleutian pronouns change from he/him to she/her in the text, showing how humanity is projecting their understandings of gender onto the Aleutians rather than trying to understand how the Aleutians conceptualise themselves. This leads to the great interpersonal tragedy between Clavel and Johnny, as Johnny sees Clavel as a woman until following a horrendous miscommunication, Clavel rapes Johnny. This act of violence, which Clavel cannot perceive as violence because they do not have the same conceptions of personal boundaries as humans do, radicalises Johnny into joining White Queen. Similarly the Aleutians mistaking the WOCWOM for the world government suddenly spotlights women’s affairs in ways the Aleutians cannot understand, ultimately splitting humanity into those who want reforms, which gets called the women’s side, and those who are opposed to them, which gets called the men’s side, in the messy Gender War, which of course has men and women fighting on either side. The Aleutians may not see themselves as conquerors, but their very presence on Earth exacerbates existing tensions in ways they cannot understand and irrevocably changes humanity based on these fault lines that were already there. Jones manages to juggle all these complex storylines and ideas into a satisfying narrative whole, one that is fuelled by the personal tragedies of Johnny, Clavel and Braemar, damaged individuals caught up in something larger than they can understand, whose attempts to find intimacy only end up causing more pain and suffering. Jones expertly handles the big reveals, slowly feeding the reader information and rumours about the Aleutians as the humans receive them, so that like humanity in the novel, the reader must try and build a picture of the “real” Aleutians from the incomplete and biased information they have. Rather than getting a clear picture from an infodump, the reader is required to confront their own assumptions and prejudices about aliens, and experience in real-time how that obscures the Aleutians from the humans and vice-versa. Jones continues this process throughout White Queen and its sequels, North Wind (1994) and Phoenix Café (1997), and as we shall see, the in-depth exploration of the relationship between humanity and the Aleutians makes the Aleutian Trilogy one of the most powerful explorations of the alien the genre has to offer. The post WHITE QUEEN by Gwyneth Jones (BOOK REVIEW) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  6. Travis Baldree turns from the man behind audiobook narrations for Forthright books, to writing his very own debut novel, and I’m so glad he did. Legends and Lattes isn’t just a cosy, slice-of-life fantasy, it is a hug after a long day, it’s that first bite of chocolate you’ve been desperately craving or that first sip of coffee, it’s pyjamas and blankets and everything else which brings comfort and warmth. This is a tale so simple yet so wholesome and adorable, it has made me see just how versatile the fantasy genre can be. Originally self published, Legends and Lattes caused quite a stir upon its initial release. The hype surrounding this book was immense, bloggers were an absolute powerhouse for promoting this book, and in all honesty this intimidated me. What if it didn’t live up to my expectations? What if I found the pacing too slow and wanted more action scenes, as I am known to do? I’ll admit, whilst I’ve watched tv shows, I’ve never actually read a slice-of-life fantasy before and therefore didn’t know what to expect, yet I was curious. So when UK Tor acquired Baldree’s book for publication and offered a review copy, I jumped at the chance with some nervousness but also excitement at trying something new. Believe the hype. The blogging community was completely right for putting this book on everyone’s radar, and credit goes to them for doing so. Now I shall join their choir, as this book deserves all the praise. “Blackblood hung ominously on the wall, and she found herself wanting to take it down to sharpen it and to lose herself in the repetitive, familiar action of it, but she forced her gaze away.” Meet Viv, an orc barbarian known for chopping off heads and relentlessly chasing down her bounty with her crew in tow. In secret though, Viv longs for another life, to be someone far different from what her reputation perceives her to be, to put down her trusted sword, Blackblood, and start anew. On her final quest, Viv comes into possession of a fabled artifact, one that will aid her in swapping a life of violence for a journey to the streets of Thune, where she plans to open their first ever coffee shop. A dream, the will, and a ton of good fortune is all Viv believes she will need. Yet when she faces a mob boss, an old frenemy and the people of Thune’s scepticism (they’ve never even heard of coffee before!) she realises her problems can no longer be solved with swords, not if she wishes to leave that life behind. She now needs an entirely new crew: one that can build, brew and bake. We then traverse through a slow and heartwarming story where, through Viv’s point of view, we watch the building of the coffee shop blossom, and right along with her we experience her hopes and fears. Viv is gentle, kind and vulnerable in many ways, often not seeing her true worth or allowing herself comforts, or a place to call home. Despite being an orc, often depicted as savage, foul, cruel creatures, Viv is portrayed in a very human light. This is where Baldree superbly excels, almost all of the entire supporting cast of Legends and Lattes are also made up of non-human characters and they are truly endearing in a variety of ways. Calamity, a hob who she meets repairing boats by the docks, is the first friend Viv makes when she chances upon him to transform the old livery into the shop of her dreams. Cal shows himself to be a hardworking, trustworthy worker and it’s easy to immediately warm to him. Just as it is to the rest of the characters. Thimble, Madrigal, Laney, Amity the adorable giant dire-cat and of course Tandri, our succubus, were all charming; each of them touched upon Viv’s life and shaped her character. Together they are the heart and soul which drive this novel through an enchanting, calm tale of friendship and belonging. “I think I’d been looking for a way out for years. Adventuring, fighting, hunting bounties—you’re either bleeding yourself slow from a hundred wounds or waiting on one deathblow. But you get numb to the possibility of anything different. This was the first time something else made me feel a way I wanted to keep feeling.” During the day to day life of running a coffee shop Viv and her friends unwittingly build a safe place for all, they create their own little community. Prejudices, insecurities and worries are put aside for everyone to simply enjoy a moment of pleasure filled with aromatic coffee, lively music and the mouth-watering taste of sweet treats. A little warning, this book really does make you hungry! On the surface, this novel is the perfect escapist read, yet as the novel heads towards its climax, Baldree dives a touch deeper and reflects upon the theme of reinventing yourself, of rebuilding your life when it knocks you down, of striving to be better. The message of learning to love and accept yourself is prominent throughout, not just in Viv, but the other characters too. It is what makes Legends and Lattes one of the most heartfelt, adorable books I’ve ever read. Quite frankly, Baldree delivers a tale to soothe the soul, a tale which had me smiling and crying with happiness from beginning to end. “Viv leaned on the counter, studying their faces, and saw, at last, what she’d been too nervous to hope for. She found it in half-lidded eyes and a slow, deliberate swallow. In cupped hands around the warmth of a mug and the lingering enjoyment of the last taste. It was the echo of her own experience, and a pleasant flush of recognition washed over her.” ARC provided by Jamie and Stephen at BlackCrow_Pr and UK Tor in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the copy! Legends and Lattes is out now! The post LEGENDS AND LATTES by Travis Baldree (BOOK REVIEW) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  7. I almost titled this post “What We Talk about When We Talk about Talking,” but it looked bad as a header. As a not-professional editor who nonetheless gets to edit my friends’ writing, one of the most common questions I get is, “Does the dialogue sound natural?” And often, because my friends are talented, the answer is most definitely “yes.” But is “natural” really the highest form of dialogue? We all want our dialogue to sound natural, as opposed to stilted, but dialogue can sound natural and still be missing that extra spark that takes it from “good dialogue” to “oh my god, Becky, I will remember this line for the rest of my days” dialogue. As I looked up some online sources on writing good dialogue that I could share with my friends, I found that many of them repeated the same advice. Most of the focus was on what characters should say, or else how they should say it: dialogue must move the plot forward, dialogue must reveal something about the relationship between characters, dialogue should sound natural but not too natural, dialogue should be unique to characters’ backgrounds, don’t pad your dialogue with unnecessary small talk, avoid greetings and soliloquies and goodbyes, have characters be indirect. These are great pieces of advice, but even if you follow them to the letter, your dialogue still may come out sounding wooden. I’d like to offer a third way to look at dialogue, and ironically, it’s through what isn’t said. “But Kelsey,” you say, “that sounds like ‘show, don’t tell,’ which is the oldest advice in the book.” Yes. I mean, it is basically that, but “show, don’t tell” was usually framed around character actions, not dialogue: e.g., “Sally was mad” versus “Sally stomped to her room and slammed the door.” Similarly, there is plenty of advice out there that recommends having characters be indirect in their speech (one of my favorite tactics), but that’s not what I mean here, either. The classic example of the art of the unsaid—and it’s a classic for a reason—is Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants.” In this story, the topic of discussion between the man and woman is never made explicit; readers must complete the story by insinuating the couple’s meaning from what they say and how they speak. But if we take our analysis even further, we can see that part of what makes this story so compelling is not just because of what was left unsaid, but how it was left unsaid. Take this passage, for example: “Well,” the man said, “if you don’t want to you don’t have to. I wouldn’t have you do it if you didn’t want to. But I know it’s perfectly simple.” “And you really want to?” “I think it’s the best thing to do. But I don’t want you to do it if you really don’t want to.” “And if I do it you’ll be happy and things will be like they were and you’ll love me?” “I love you now. You know I love you.” “I know. But if I do it, then it will be nice again if I say things are like white elephants, and you’ll like it?” “I’ll love it. I love it now but I just can’t think about it. You know how I get when I worry.” “If I do it you won’t ever worry?” “I won’t worry about that because it’s perfectly simple.” Aloud, the man says, “But I don’t want you to do it [spoiler alert for a nearly century-old story: they are talking about her having an abortion] if you really don’t want to.” But when the woman asks, “And if I do it you’ll be happy and things will be like they were and you’ll love me?” he replies, “I love you now. You know I love you.” His non-answer tells us everything we need to know about the man’s true feelings. First, by simply avoiding any acknowledgement of the woman’s first two questions—“you’ll be happy and things will be like they were”—we, the audience, can infer that he is not comfortable promising those things because he does not believe them. Had he outright lied to her, this would be a different story: they likely would not be having this conversation at all, because the man would have told her what she wanted to hear in order to get what he wants. Second, his reply to her third question—“and you’ll love me?”—is equally a non-answer. He replies in the present tense, while she is looking for reassurance about the future. Again, rather than being forthright and telling her that he cannot make promises about the future, he avoids and redirects the conversation. While the man has said explicitly that he thinks having an abortion is the best choice, he still claims to be willing to go along with his companion’s wishes. But from just these few lines of dialogue, we can infer that the man may not be as flexible as he claims. If he cannot even honestly answer questions about the couple’s future if they have the abortion as he wishes, what makes us think that he would accept his partner’s choice to give birth? Another example of excellent use of the unsaid in dialogue is from Téa Obreht’s novel The Tiger’s Wife. In this passage, the narrator, Natalia, has come to pick up her late grandfather’s belongings from a remote clinic, and the only person who can let her in is the neighboring bartender: The barman reappeared with a pale blue plastic bag under his right arm. I watched him lock the stairwell door and come over to me. Goose bumps paled the flesh of his arm. “This it?” he asked me. The bag was folded, stapled closed. “I don’t know.” I stood up. He turned the bag over and looked at the label. “Stefanović?” I reached for the bag, but it was so cold it fell out of my hands. Bad arm dangling, the barman stooped to pick it up, and when he held it out to me, I opened my backpack for him and he folded it inside. He watched me zip up the backpack. “All I know is, he collapsed,” the barman finally said. “Where?” “Outside the bar. A couple of nights after they brought those kids in. Before they died.” “Were the nurses here? Did they take long to help him?” The barman shook his head. “Not long,” he said. “Not long. They thought maybe he was drunk, at first. But I told them no. I told them he only ordered water.” “Water? Was he alone?” The barman wiped the sweat that had congealed on his temples in a grainy film. “I couldn’t say. Think so.” “A tall man,” I said. “With glasses, and a hat and coat. You don’t remember him sitting with anyone at all?” “No.” “With a young man, maybe?” He shook his head. “They would have been arguing,” I said. “This is a veterans’ slum, what do you think people do all day?” In the freezer below us, something shifted with a hollow clang. This passage follows all the advice above for what and how characters should speak. But what makes this dialogue stand out is the subtext underneath the words. Natalia doesn’t say, “You see, I’m suspicious of the suddenness of my grandfather’s death.” She asks questions about the nurses and if her grandfather was seen with anyone. The more questions she asks, the less the barman says. Obreht indicates Natalia’s frustration with the barman’s closed-off nature by reducing the action and dialogue tags until there is nothing but a brief exchange of dialogue (“You don’t remember him sitting with anyone at all?”/“No.”/“With a young man, maybe?” He shook his head. “They would have been arguing,” I said.). Finally, the barman ends her probing with an irritable rhetorical question, signaling to Natalia that he has had enough, and is ending the conversation. But he doesn’t say, “That’s enough. I’m tired of your questions, and I’m ending this conversation.” There is no “he said irritably,” or even an action tag to show the barman’s irritation, like a sigh or a hand on his hip. Based on the exchange up to this point, readers can intuit that the barman’s “what do you think people do all day?” is his way of telling Natalia that she’s pushed him too far. I think the hardest thing for many authors in writing dialogue is trusting the reader to intuit meaning from the unspoken. It’s an understandable block; we’re writing because we have something to say, and we want to be sure readers understand us. But part of what makes the above passages so emotionally powerful is that to understand them, the readers must be fully immersed in the page, able to draw out meaning just as we do in real life. And—speaking from experience—when readers are able to pick up on subtext, it feels satisfying as hell: like you’re having a secret, one-on-one conversation with the author. So the next time you’re writing dialogue, ask yourself if there are emotions that you can bury into subtext (ands this is the only time I will tell you it’s okay to bury emotions), and let your readers bring their pickaxes. They’ll probably thank you for it later. WU readers, who are your favorite authors of dialogue? Do you love, hate, love to hate, or have a love/hate relationship with writing dialogue yourself? [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  8. The Fantasy Hive is sad to hear of the passing of Greg Bear. Bear was an American science fiction writer who started publishing SF in the 60s and 70s, and would eventually become one of the genre’s key voices in the 80s and 90s. He was one of the original cyberpunks, with his story ‘Petra’ included in Bruce Sterling’s Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology (1986), and would become best known for his hard science fiction. In 1985, Bear would release two of the novels that would mark him out as one of the most significant voices in science fiction. Blood Music, expanded from his 1983 Hugo and Nebula Award-winning novelette, is a masterpiece of post-cyberpunk fiction, its powerful imaginings of a world and humanity transformed by nanotech leapfrogging ahead of even the work of fellow cyberpunk pioneer William Gibson, whose Neuromancer was only released the year previously. Its biopunk extrapolations still feel startlingly relevant, and its explorations of possible posthuman futures for humanity still resonate. Bear’s other masterwork of the year, Eon, is the kind of space opera underpinned by rigorous scientific extrapolation that would become synonymous with his name. The novel follows a group of astronauts exploring a hollowed-out asteroid whose final chamber is infinite. Bear draws on the big idea science fiction of his predecessors like Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein, but both his understanding of the mind-bending extremes of physics and his characterisation exceeds those of his forerunners. The story would be continued in the sequel Eternity (1988) and the prequel Legacy (1995). Bear would continue to explore the possible effects of nanotechnology in his future history Quantum Logic series, beginning with Queen of Angels (1990). Darwin’s Radio (1999) and its sequel Darwin’s Children (2003) is another powerful work of biopunk, exploring the evolutionary potential of engineered retroviruses to kickstart humanity’s next evolutionary stage. While hard science fiction, cyberpunk and biopunk remain Bear’s most well-explored genres, he was also capable of writing engaging and lyrical fantasy, as in his Songs of Earth and Power sequence, comprised of The Infinity Concerto (1984) and The Serpent Mage (1986). Bear leaves behind him works that make up the cornerstone of 80s and 90s science fiction. Although fascinated by big concepts involving physics, biology and technology, Bear’s best work shows that he was equally engaged in the humanity of his characters, creating stories that first and foremost tell us more about ourselves and how we confront the universe around us. The Fantasy Hive’s thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time. The post Greg Bear (1951-2022) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  9. Do you ever find yourself switching between windows/programs to refer to research or images, or scrolling up and down within a document to view something you wrote in another section? If so, check out Scrivener’s Split Screen feature. It allows you to divide the Editor pane (where you write) into two panes, either horizontally or vertically (my personal preference). I often use it to quickly look at what I wrote in a previous scene so I can be consistent or avoid being repetitive. Basically, any time I want to see something else in the project without “losing track” of the document I was working in, I split the screen. Here are a few other ways to use it: View another part of the current document while working on it. Look at the end of the previous scene while working on the opening of the next one. Copy text from the same, or another document, without losing your place. Refer to research files, notes, character sheets, or photos while you write. See your outline in the Corkboard or Outline view in one pane, while you write in the other. View/search the entire manuscript in one pane (Scrivenings view), while keeping the scene/chapter you’re working on open in the other. In my experience, the main source of confusion with Split Screen is that, initially, both panes display the same document, as shown below. That can be handy for referring back to an earlier point in the same scene or chapter, but if you don’t want to view two locations in the same document, you can easily choose to view something else in one of the panes. Splitting the Editor To split the Editor, select a document in the Binder, and then do one of the following: Click the Toggle Split button in the upper right corner of the Editor (see image below). Hold the Option key (Mac) or Alt key (PC) on your keyboard to switch the split button between horizontal and vertical. Scrivener will remember your most recent orientation choice until you change it again. Go to View>Editor Layout>Split Horizontally/Split Vertically. The Editor splits into two panes with the selected document displayed in both. NOTE: Each pane can have separate zoom and Page View settings. You can also use the Edit>Find feature within just one pane. Working with Split Screen Each pane has its own header (see image below). The active pane’s header turns color (whatever color is dictated by your system settings). This is the pane that will be affected when you select a document, choose a menu option, or use the format bar. Choosing the Active Pane To designate the active pane, click anywhere in that pane’s editor. If it wasn’t already the active pane, the header will turn color. Assigning a Document to the Active Pane Once you’ve designated the active pane, click any document in the Binder to view it in the active pane. Viewing a Group in the Active Pane To view a group of files in the active pane, select the desired folder (or multiple-selection of files). Depending on the last choice you made when you selected a folder, you’ll either see the Corkboard, Outliner, or Scrivenings view. Adjusting the Split To adjust the relative split of the panes, drag the bar that divides them. Locking the Contents of a Pane To prevent yourself from accidentally changing what’s viewed in a pane (say, by clicking something in the Binder while that pane is active), you can lock it. To do so, right-click the header of the pane you want to lock, or go to Navigate>Editor>Lock in Place. Repeat to unlock. In Windows, the locked pane turns pale red. On the Mac, a small lock appears in the header. NOTE: You can lock both panes, if desired. Exiting Split Screen When you’re ready to go back to a single Editor pane, simply click the No Split button in the header of whichever pane you want to keep working in. Or, click in the pane you want to stay in and go to View>Editor Layout>No Split. Do you think Split Screen might be useful in your own process? Got any questions about Split Screen or anything else in Scrivener? Just ask. [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  10. Starting a writer's group recovery service, rather like a Red Cross for Writers.
  11. Please note this review will contain spoilers for The Mistborn series. “He missed darkness. It was never dark in the city, not as it had been in the Roughs. Electric lights were only exacerbating the issue. Everything glowing, casting away the darkness and with it, stillness. Silence. Solitude. A man found himself when he was alone. You only had one person to chat with, one person to blame.” The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson is the penultimate instalment in the Mistborn era two quartette. Mixing magic with technology, religion with politics and good with evil, this is a story which grips its readers from beginning to end. Throughout the course of these books we have seen how the world is changing, automobiles slowly replacing horse-drawn carriages, railroads replacing trade by canal boats, and even the emergence of electricity illuminating the streets. Scadriel is well and truly entering a new era, and now the powers of old are set to change too. Though perhaps not for the better. The Bands of Mourning, the metal minds of the Lord Ruler himself, is said to be a myth. It is said that those who possess the Bands could wield the powers of the Lord Ruler, essentially becoming as powerful as he was. Do they truly exist? Many believe not, but when a kandra researcher returns with images of the Bands, scripture in an unknown language and with his spike missing, it is time to investigate. For if those Bands were to be found, its power could be harvested and used to create devices that would grant people Allomantic and Feruchemist powers. In the wrong hands, this would be catastrophic. Wax, Wayne, Marasi, Steris and MeLaan set on a journey to New Seran, the last known whereabouts of the kandra. Here they uncover a larger, more corrupt plot, and at the heart of it all is Wax’s uncle, Edwarn and his shadowy organisation, the Set. After the revelation in the previous book, Shadows of Self, that Harmony had been using Wax, that he had sent Lessie to manipulate him from the very beginning, Wax, understandably, loses his faith. Throughout he refuses to take any further guidance from Harmony and so is reluctant to take on the task of uncovering the whereabouts of the Bands. Yet when a picture of his sister, Telsin, crops up within the kandra researcher’s images, Wax immediately works on finding her. As the previous book did, Bands of Mourning also begins the prologue with a flashback scene. This time we get a glimpse into Wax’s past living amongst his Terris grandmother and the rest of his Terris kindred. Once again we are shown that Wax does not belong within this culture, his sense of right and wrong, his need to bring justice and law to a society which doesn’t like to believe crime exists amongst their people, instantly singles Wax out. He is an outcast, a loner. His sister is of little help, as Telsin appears to be more popular even when breaking Terris’ rules. We are shown just how rebellious Telsin was, how stubborn and wilful her character could be. Though both conflict within Terris society, it is significant that Sanderson shows us that both siblings also conflicted with one another. However, no matter how estranged Telsin and Wax have become, the time to make amends, after Wax has lost so much, was more important than ever, for in this book it feels as though Wax has lost a part of himself. Once again, Wax, MeLaan and Marasi provide a wealth of entertainment and play significant roles within the narrative. However, in true Sanderson fashion, he takes characters which I had previously disliked and shapes them into characters I eventually adore. Steris was no exception. In the two previous instalments I had found her character quite stiff and bland, unlike other female characters, who Sanderson has always managed to create with vibrant personalities. I felt Steris tended to fade in the background more often than not, never really being a noteworthy character. I’m happy to say, as her character bloomed throughout the novel, she also became a key player. As Steris begins to show an empathetic and tender side, revealing her fears and insecurities to Wax, she also begins to support him in the most endearing ways. Not only that, she shows her wide range of skills, her ability to understand people and subtly manipulate them, her talent for problem solving, for finding hidden patterns within figures, and even her obsession with lists and preparing for every disaster possible comes in handy time and time again. In this book Sanderson spends time exploring the potential of each character and shows how they are adapting to an increasingly changing world. “Technology that enhanced Allomancy. Bracers that one Feruchemist could fill, and another could use. He couldn’t help but feel intimidated, as if this behemoth ship were a soldier from another time, come to stamp out all the dusty old relics like Wax.” The Bands of Mourning whilst keeping in line with a crime solving plot, also weaves in a great deal of Mistborn lore. We learn more about Allomancy and Feruchemy and how they correlate with Investiture, which was beyond fascinating. We discovered how technology was being developed to harvest these powers as means to bring revolutionary changes, and whilst of course there are benefits to this, it is the Set who are in control and granting criminals with powers they should not wield was definitely something Wax and Wayne could not allow. Yet my personal favourite was seeing how Mistborn abilities could be stored and used to fly ships, or make grenades, or heal the most grievous wounds. The introduction of this through the Malwish people was fantastic and the more I learned about their history and culture the more I wished for an entire standalone novel centred on their race. It wasn’t until a friend pointed out, I realised I had actually met the Malwish before in Stormlight Archives, and the connections didn’t end there. As we reach the finale, particularly the epilogue, Sanderson drops one hell of a bombshell which hugely resonates back to Mistborn era one and throughout the Cosmere. When I say Sanderson is a master storyteller, this is why. The Bands of Mourning is a sheer delight for hardcore Mistborn fans. Sanderson yet again delivers a high calibre tale that is both compelling, addictive and mind-blowing. I’m so glad I do not have long to wait to see how it all ends in The Lost Metal. The post CRUISING THE COSMERE: The Bands of Mourning (BOOK REVIEW) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  12. This contest submissions season covers deadlines from December 1, 2022 through February 28, 2023. Thanks to Literistic, Poets & Writers, Submittable Discover, and New Pages for many of these contests. Much like editors are looking for reasons to reject work, I want to focus on opportunities worth my time. Thus, my list of writing contests below includes reasons to submit to that particular writing contest. May you find a promising opportunity among this list and spend less time searching for where to send your exceptional work. December 2022 Breakwater Review – The Breakwater Fiction Contest – $10 fee Deadline: Dec 1, 2022 “We are seeking submissions for pieces that breathe freshness to the form. We are interested in previously unpublished prose ranging from 1,000-4,000 words, each with a $10 entry fee. We accept simultaneous submissions, but please notify Breakwater if submission is accepted elsewhere. … prize: $1000 and publication in our next forthcoming issue … 2023 FINALIST JUDGE: Camille Bordas … Winner and Finalists will be published in Issue 33.” Reasons to submit: No hunting for winners—can read past winners online Prestigious judge Share the wealth—multiple prizes Virginia Commonwealth University – Cabell First Novelist Award – $0 fee Deadline: Dec 30, 2022 “The VCU Cabell First Novelist Award honors an outstanding debut novel published in the preceding calendar year. … Winning novelists have written books that may be funny or sad, sarcastic or heartrending, but each is powerful enough in its own way to have moved initial readers and final judges toward the conclusion that, among a field of roughly a hundred submissions annually, its writer has achieved something notable and enduring. … VCU Libraries then organizes the annual event, generally held at James Branch Cabell Library, in which the winning author and two others involved in the writing and publishing worlds, typically the author’s agent and editor, appear at a public reading and Q&A session focusing on the creation, publication, and promotion of a first novel. Travel to and lodging in Richmond for the author and the additional speakers are provided, and the author receives a cash prize.” Reasons to submit: Friendly to emerging writers Friendly to novelists Rebirth—accepts published work Wanderluster—prize includes lodging or travel Press 53 – Award for Short Fiction – $30 fee Deadline: Dec 31, 2022 “The Press 53 Award for Short Fiction is awarded annually to an outstanding, unpublished short story collection. This competition is open to any writer age 18 or older, regardless of his or her publication history, provided the manuscript is written in English and the author lives in the United States or one of its territories. … The winner of this contest will receive publication by Press 53, a $1,000 cash advance and 53 copies (38 softcover / 15 hardcover) of the book; all prizes will be awarded upon publication.” Reasons to submit: Blind submissions are fine submissions! Friendly to emerging writers Oh, wordy!—generous word count limit Prestige—#176 in Pushcart ranking Boulevard – Short Fiction Contest for Emerging Writers – $16 fee Deadline: Dec 31, 2022 “$1,500 and publication in Boulevard awarded to the winning story by a writer who has not yet published a book of fiction, poetry, or creative non-fiction with a nationally distributed press. … We accept works up to 8,000 words.” Reasons to submit: Eligibility restriction—less competition Friendly to emerging writers Oh, wordy!—generous word count limit Prestige—#39 in Pushcart ranking Read on—entry fee includes one-year subscription Michigan Quarterly Review – 2022 Jesmyn Ward Fiction Prize – $25 Deadline: Dec 31, 2022 “The Jesmyn Ward Prize will be awarded annually by the Michigan Quarterly Review to one short story submitted for consideration. … Please submit one unpublished short story of 1,500-7,000 words. Simultaneous submissions are welcome … We ask entrants not to include their names or contact information within the document they upload to Submittable, its title, or its file name. … The 2022 Judge will be Desiree Cooper. The winning story will be published in the Summer issue of the following year. The prize will be in the amount of $2,000 and publication. All submissions will be considered for publication in MQR.” Reasons to submit: Blind submissions are fine submissions! Oh, wordy!—generous word count limit Prestige—#57 in Pushcart ranking January 2023 Epiphany – 2023 Breakout! Prize – $20 fee Deadline: Jan 1, 2023 “Winners receive a $1000 cash prize and publication. The 5th Annual Breakout! Writers Prize brings visibility to the creators of our future by honoring and supporting outstanding college and graduate student writers. … All applicants will receive a complimentary digital subscription to Epiphany. … Candidates must have been enrolled in an accredited university, at least part-time, for the academic years 2021 or 2022. The prize is open to both graduate and undergraduate students. Students need not be enrolled in MFA programs or creative writing programs.” Reasons to submit: Blind submissions are fine submissions! Eligibility restriction—less competition Friendly to emerging writers Prestige—#69 in Pushcart ranking Prestigious judge—Safiya Sinclair Read on—entry fee includes one-year digital subscription Mississippi Review – Fiction Prize – $15-16 fee Deadline: Jan 1, 2023 $1,000 prize. “Our annual contest awards prizes of $1,000 in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Winners and finalists will make up next summer’s print issue of the national literary magazine Mississippi Review. Contest is open to all writers in English except current or former students or employees of The University of Southern Mississippi. Fiction and nonfiction entries should be 1000-8000 words; … Each entrant will receive a copy of the prize issue. All submissions will be read anonymously. Please remove or redact any contact information from your submission.” Reasons to submit: Blind submissions are fine submissions! Flag-bearer—open to international submissions Oh, wordy!—generous word count limit Prestige—#54 in Pushcart ranking Read on—entry fee includes copy of prize issue Bayou Magazine – James Knudsen Prize for Fiction – $20 fee Deadline: Jan 1, 2023 “Winner will receive $1,000 and a year’s subscription to Bayou Magazine. Finalists will be named on our website. All submissions will be considered for publication.” Submit up to 7,500 words, including novel excerpts that work as a standalone story. Reasons to submit: Blind submissions are fine submissions! Friendly to novelists Oh, wordy!—generous word count limit Read on—entry fee includes contest issue North Carolina Writers’ Network – Jacobs/Jones African-American Literary Prize – $10-$20 fee Deadline: Jan 2, 2023 “The competition is open to any African-American/Black writer whose primary residence is in North Carolina. Entries … must be unpublished*, no more than 3,000 words, and concerned with the lives and experiences of African-American/Black North Carolinians. Entries may be excerpts from longer works, but must be self-contained. The winner receives $1,000 and possible publication of the winning entry in The Carolina Quarterly.” Reasons to submit: Blind submissions are fine submissions! Eligibility restriction—less competition Friendly to novelists Regional restriction—less competition The DISQUIET Literary Prize–$15 fee Deadline: Jan 2, 2023 Fiction winner will be published in Granta.com. “One grand prize winner will receive a full scholarship, accommodations, and travel stipend to attend the tenth annual DISQUIET International Literary Program in Lisbon (June 25-July 7, 2023). Genre winners will receive a tuition waiver for DISQUIET 2023 in addition to publication. Winners who are unable to attend the progam in Lisbon may elect to receive a $1000 cash prize in lieu of the tuition waiver.” … Submit “ONE short story or novel excerpt, maximum 25 (double-spaced) pages per entry.” Reasons to submit: Eligibility restriction—less competition Flag-bearer—open to international submissions Friendly to emerging writers Friendly to novelists Oh, wordy!—generous word count limit Wanderluster—prize includes lodging or travel Voyage YA – Best Chapters Contest – $20 fee Deadline: Jan 15, 2023 “Submissions must be a chapter of a Young Adult novel (full novel does not need to be completed), and from the point-of-view of a young adult, meaning through the lens of a teen protagonist … We want the chapter that makes us ache for the rest of the book, that makes us desperate to spend more time in the world of your creation! … The 1st Place winner will receive $1,000 and an hour-long consultation with a literary agent 19 Finalists will receive written feedback on five pages of their novel from a literary agent.” Reasons to submit: Eligibility restriction—less competition Flag-bearer—open to international submissions Friendly to emerging writers Friendly to novelists Share the wealth—multiple prizes February 2023 American Short Fiction – American Short(er) Fiction Contest – $18 Deadline: Feb 1, 2023 “The American Short(er) Story Contest recognizes extraordinary short fiction under 1,000 words. This year we are honored to have Karen Russell as our guest judge. … You are allowed to include up to three stories per entry. … The 1st-place winner will receive a $1,000 prize and publication. All entries will be considered for publication. … International submissions in English are eligible. The entry fee covers up to three 1,000-word fiction submissions. All entries must be single, self-contained works of fiction, under 1,000 words. Please DO NOT include any identifying information (name, address, email) on the manuscript itself. … Winners will be announced in April.” Reasons to submit: Blind submissions are fine submissions! Eligibility restriction—less competition Flag-bearer—open to international submissions Prestige—#17 in Pushcart ranking Stonecrop – Storyfort Micro Fiction Contest 2023 – $5 Deadline: Feb 17, 2023 “College of Western Idaho’s literary magazine, Stonecrop, is proud to collaborate with Storyfort, a branch of Treefort Music Fest held in downtown Boise, Idaho, to host this writing contest. All are invited to participate. … The top three winners receive prizes and get their stories published in the spring issue of Stonecrop. … Stories must begin with one of the following first lines from recent and upcoming Treefort artists … Each entry must be between 300 and 500 words in length. … All submissions are anonymous. … All winning submissions will be published in Stonecrop magazine’s Issue 06, spring 2023. All winners are invited to read winning submissions on the final day of Storyfort 2023.” Reasons to submit: Blind submissions are fine submissions! Share the wealth—multiple prizes Wanderluster—prize includes lodging or travel Lunch Ticket – The Gabo Prize for Literature in Translation & Multilingual Texts – $0 fee Deadline: Feb 28, 2023 “Translators and authors of multilingual texts are encouraged to submit their work for The Gabo Prize. The winner, selected by a guest judge, will receive $200, and the winning piece will be published alongside two semi-finalists in the upcoming issue of Lunch Ticket. … All submissions for the award will be considered for publication in other sections of Lunch Ticket.” Reasons to submit: Blind submissions are fine submissions! Eligibility restriction—less competition Flag-bearer—open to international submissions No hunting for winners—can read past winners online Share the wealth—multiple prizes Fish Publishing – Flash Fiction Prize – €14 fee Deadline: Feb 28, 2023 “The Fish Flash Fiction Prize is an opportunity to attempt one of the most interesting and rewarding tasks – to create, in a tiny fragment, a completely resolved and compelling story in 300 words or less. … Ten stories will be published in the Fish Anthology 2023. (First, second, third and seven honourable mentions) … First [prize] – €1,000 … Second [prize] – Online Writing Course + €300 … Third [prize] – €300 … The ten published authors will each receive five copies of the Anthology and will be invited to read at the launch during the West Cork Literary Festival in July ’23.” Reasons to submit: Blind submissions are fine submissions! Eligibility restriction—less competition Flag-bearer—open to international submissions Share the wealth—multiple prizes Have I missed a great writing contest? Please leave a comment and let me know where you found it. Happy submitting! Wish you could buy this author a cup of joe? Now, thanks to tinyCoffee and PayPal, you can! [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  13. If you’re considering self-publishing and wanting to maximize potential income, do yourself a favor and take a peek at Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. If you haven’t already heard about Kindle Vella, it’s a place where you can serialize your novel over an extended period, instead of publishing one whole story all at once. Instead of chapters, you are publishing “episodes,” much like a television series. This isn’t a new concept. Serialized novels first popped up as early as the 17th century and really took off in England during the 19th century when novels were published episodically in newspapers and magazines. This allowed poorer overworked readers to enjoy stories that would have been too expensive for them to read as leather-bound volumes. In the modern era, Kindle Vella readers are reading on their phones, often during short breaks in their busy days, like while standing in line at the DMV or waiting in the carpool lane. There was (and still is) a benefit to authors for writing serially. Many unknown 19th century authors were able to establish an audience and grow in popularity by first publishing in serialized format, including but not limited to Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Many modern-day authors are having similar success, building their fan bases through Kindle Vella. Why couldn’t this be you? In a nutshell. The first three episodes of every Kindle Vella story are free to readers. After which, readers must redeem tokens to unlock future episodes. The number of tokens it takes to unlock an episode corresponds to the length of the episode. For example it takes 6 tokens to unlock an episode that is in the 600-699 word length. It takes 12 tokens to unlock and episode that is 1200-1299 words in length. Readers can buy tokens in bundles of 200 ($1.99), 525 ($4.99), 1100 ($9.99), or 1700 ($14.99). As they read, readers can give feedback such as marking your story as a “favorite” or giving an episode a “thumbs up.” This feedback will affect your bonus. More on that later. How to get started. It is ridiculously easy to set up an author account. If you do not already have an Amazon account, start there. Once you have an Amazon account, access Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Once you sign in to KDP, access the “Kindle Vella Library.” After that, KDP will take you through the step-by-step process of entering your name/pen name, the title of your story, the genre, and the key words. As for the cover image, you don’t have to pay for an expensive book cover. Traditional book covers aren’t even allowed. Instead, choose a simple image with no words on it that conveys the tone, theme, and genre of your story. You can find many images for free online. For example, explore Canva. The dimensions of a Kindle Vella cover image should be 1600 x 1600 px. Here are some examples of cover images from Kindle Vella (the platform will make your square image round): Writing the Perfect Episode. Kindle Vella allows episodes to be anywhere from 600-5000 words; however, there does seem to be a “sweet spot” with readers. Because they’re often reading on their phones to kill time in between events in their busy days, the 12-20 token (or 1200-2000 word) episode seems to do the best. Obviously, it is imperative that you make every episodes hugely compelling and end each episode on a devastating cliffhanger that leaves the reader desperate to know what happens next. If readers aren’t hooked, they won’t waste their tokens on your paid episodes. They’ll move on to explore other stories, and yours will wither on the vine. For this reason, you may need to end your episodes in the middle of what you might consider a “normal” chapter ending. Again, think of the classic Batman episode. It always ended with Batman tied up and the swinging blade getting closer and closer to his neck. Publishing an Episode. Publish one episode at a time (it’s as easy as a click of your mouse) and do so at consistent intervals so readers know when to expect the next installment. This is another similarity to Victorian-era serialized stories in newspapers that came out at regular intervals. You can also write ahead and schedule several episodes (or even your whole story) so a single episode is released according to your pre-determined schedule. In fact, writing ahead and scheduling episodes is something I would strongly recommend so you don’t fall behind. I actually don’t publish Episode 1 until I have 5-6 episodes ready to go. Royalties and Bonuses. You don’t earn any royalty on your first three episodes, which are free to readers. After that, your royalty depends on how many tokens are required to unlock your episode. Obviously, the more tokens the higher the royalty, but also remember that the more tokens required, the less likely it is that a reader will open the episode (see “sweet spot” above). The royalty calculation is (number of tokens to unlock episode) x (token-bundle price/# tokens in bundle – taxes and fees) x (50% revenue share). For example, if it takes 12 tokens to unlock your episode, and those tokens were purchased in a 200-token bundle… 12 tokens x ($1.99/200 token bundle – $0 taxes) x 50% = Royalty Or…12 x .00995 x 50%=6-cent Royalty Not super exciting, BUT where the real excitement comes in are the monthly bonuses. It is a little unclear how bonuses are determined—it has something to do with reader engagement and the consistency of your episodes—but they can be surprisingly high. I consider myself a bit of a “dabbler” when it comes to Kindle Vella. My stories aren’t anywhere near the top 100. And yet, I am still getting monthly bonuses from $500-$1000. Author friends of mine who are “all in” on Kindle Vella and really putting in a lot effort are making monthly bonuses of $5,000 and more. For one friend, way, way more! She’s even had to hire an executive assistant to keep up with her rapidly growing business. Maintaining your Rights. Kindle Vella requires exclusive content (i.e., if you get your rights back to a traditionally published novel, you can’t republish it on Vella), and while your story is being published on Kindle Vella, you can’t publish it anywhere else for the first 30 days. However, once an episode has been on Kindle Vella for 30 days, you are free to do with it as you please, including simultaneously publishing it and other eligible episodes together as a full novel on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, or anywhere else you choose. My friend who is killing it on Kindle Vella now has her books, which started on Vella and remain on Vella, also displayed on Barnes & Noble end caps. You can also “unpublish” your story from Kindle Vella at any time, though it would be bad form to do that before ending a story, or when you have readers who are midway through and emotionally and financially invested. Advertising. Interestingly, you can’t run an Amazon ad on a Kindle Vella story, even though the platform is an Amazon product. You can run Facebook Ads. A lot of people have also had success promoting their Kindle Vella on TikTok. See, for example, @nikkistcrowe. Why I like it. Besides the nice bonuses, I like Kindle Vella because—as I’ve transitioned from being traditionally published to self-published—it has improved my own editing process. I already like to end my chapters on cliffhangers to compel readers to turn the page. Publishing on Kindle Vella requires me to really dig deep and nail those cliffhanger endings. It also gives me immediate feedback as to whether readers continued reading from one episode to the next, or if some section of the story fell flat and readers tapered off (in which case I can go back and edit the episode). Finally, Kindle Vella gives me “two bites of the apple” because—just like with the serialized stories of old—Kindle Vella taps into a different audience from those who like to (or can afford to) buy books to fill their bookcases. After being on Kindle Vella for 30 days—the same story can earn me royalties and bonuses on Kindle Vella while at the same time earning me ebook sales and page reads on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited—thus, often tripling my normal monthly income. Have you tried Kindle Vella? Want more information about my experience? Hit me up in the comments. [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  14. Writing and Anxiety by Alison Levy Having an anxiety disorder is weird. Anxiety itself is a healthy emotion; it’s a normal response to stress, meant to heighten mental awareness and prep the body to react to danger. However, suffering from an anxiety disorder means there’s a short circuit between my brain’s rational assessment of a situation and my body’s reaction to it. Something I see or hear triggers something in me—maybe just a stray thought or a disconnected memory—and suddenly my body is overwhelmed with fear and/or tension. I can explain with absolute clarity why my feelings are illogical but that doesn’t make the emotions stop or make them feel less real. I know I’m freaking out about a danger that only exists in my head but I live in this head. To me, it IS real. Growing up, I didn’t know that I had an anxiety disorder although looking back on my childhood, it was very obvious. I was so terrified of making any mistake that I wouldn’t turn in assignments—self-sabotage always seemed preferable to being judged and found wanting. Stomach aches, brought on by tension and worry, often resulted in me missing school, and at one point I even developed a facial tic. I cried a lot but I learned how to do it quietly behind closed doors so I wouldn’t get scolded by my parents. I was a ball of nerves. I really should have been diagnosed and treated but anxiety disorders were not widely acknowledged in the 90s. Besides, my parents are of the generation where you, to quote Miranda Lambert, “get a grip and bite your lip just to save a little face.” I was told my issues were a result of my “bad attitude” and that I needed to stop acting up. I was on my own. I started writing in middle school after an English assignment of mine received praise from my teacher (thank you Mrs. Webb!). As the years went by, I learned how transformative writing is on my mental state. When I sit down to write, my brain undergoes a change. Like when the lights in a movie theater dim, reality fades away and the fictional story fills my mind. Wrapped in a comfy blanket with my headphones shielding me from intrusions, the anxiety-inducing real world gets swept into the shadows while I build a new world from the ground up. Unlike the rest of reality, everything I write is within my control. I may, like many authors, feel that my characters at times take on a life on their own and insist on deviating from my story outline but that never triggers my anxiety. They all come from me, are extensions of me, and can do nothing unless I write them doing so. No surprises. No stressors. No anxiety. I used writing instinctively throughout my teenage and young adult years, retreating to it any time I got stressed. It got me through hard times and made the good times even better. But it fell by the wayside when I had my son. I knew going into parenthood that babies are time-consuming but I was not prepared for how anxiety-inducing they can be. Those first few months are a blur in my mind but I clearly remember the near-constant state of fear and despair. After I was diagnosed with post-partum depression and received treatment, I pulled myself together enough to get into a routine. But I wasn’t writing. And I was never far from an anxiety attack. When my son was a little older, I started seeing signs of anxiety in him. I did some reading on the disorder and in the symptoms, I saw not only him, but myself. Suddenly, the emotional roller coaster of my life made sense. Driven by a desire to improve for my son’s sake as well as my own, I went into therapy. To my surprise, one of the things my therapist recommended was that I return to writing. She understood what I had never quite put together: that writing is therapeutic for me. I noticed an improvement in my mental state almost immediately. Taking some time each day to disconnect from reality, from everything that stresses and triggers me, was so refreshing! Even if it was just for a short time, the anxiety would melt away while I switched gears from daily life to world building and character development. It gave my brain a chance to indulge in something pleasurable and soothing, which allowed my body to disengage from the tension and fear. I came away from every writing session feeling calmer and more in control of myself. Over time, I made a point to set aside some time each day for writing; it’s made me happier, healthier, and a better mom. While writing isn’t a cure for my disorder—it’s as much a part of me as my eye color—it has proven to be the most effective means I have of managing my anxiety. By redirecting my mind away from real-life and into a sphere where I have total control, I break the cycle of negative emotions and intrusive thoughts that work me into an anxiety attack. That gives me better control over my emotions, over myself. And so, wrapped in a blanket and wearing my headphones, I cope and I write on. Alison Levy lives in Greensboro, North Carolina with her husband, son, and a variety of pets. When she is not writing or doing mom things, she crochets, gardens, walks her collies, and works on home improvement projects. Her books feature female characters who are strong but flawed, making them more relatable. They stay rooted in everyday life while world-building in their fictional cultures. Intolerance of differences has become widespread in recent years. Gatekeeper encourages readers to look beyond what they consider normal and see through foreign eyes, a message that I hope will appeal to many in today’s climate. Blue Flame is the second instalment in Alison’s Daemon Collecting series and is available HERE Rachel comes from a dimension that exists adjacent to ours. The people there have structured their society around daemon collecting: they locate, catch, and repair malfunctioning daemons (creatures out of phase with our world that tempt people to do good or evil). While introducing Leda Morley, last of an ancient line of gatekeepers, to the ins and outs of her daemon-collecting work, Rachel Wilde encounters something far more dangerous than any daemon: a young boy who stands alone against an unseen yet terrifying enemy that has invaded his home—an inhuman creature who, hellbent on revenge for a minor slight, intends to harm the boy’s oblivious family. Meanwhile, Leda’s brother, Simon, is feeling left out of his maternal family legacy but is coping partly by helping Rachel’s friend Bach—a previously homeless man with unusual mental abilities—get his life back on track. In the midst of all of this, Bach unintentionally but serendipitously makes contact with a capable otherworldly being who, with great reluctance, agrees to help Bach and his friends take on the dangerous creature that’s just become their problem to solve. Together, this group of unlikely allies must put aside their differences to save an innocent child, and his family, from a monster—before it’s too late. The post Writing and Anxiety – GUEST POST by Alison Levy (BLUE FLAME) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  15. Trained by reading hundreds of submissions, editors and agents often make their read/not-read decision on the first page. In a customarily formatted book manuscript with chapters starting about 1/3 of the way down the page (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type), there are 16 or 17 lines on the first page. Here’s the question: Would you pay good money to read the rest of the chapter? With 50 chapters in a book that costs $15, each chapter would be “worth” 30 cents. So, before you read the excerpt, take 30 cents from your pocket or purse. When you’re done, decide what to do with those three dimes or the quarter and a nickel. It’s not much, but think of paying 30 cents for the rest of the chapter every time you sample a book’s first page. In a sense, time is money for a literary agent working her way through a raft of submissions, and she is spending that resource whenever she turns a page. Please judge by storytelling quality, not by genre or content—some reject an opening page immediately because of genre, but that’s not a good-enough reason when the point is to analyze for storytelling strength. How strong is the opening page of this novel—would it, all on its own, hook an agent if it was submitted by an unpublished writer? A hundred years ago, Biloxi was a bustling resort and fishing community on the Gulf Coast. Some of its 12,000 people worked in shipbuilding, some in the hotels and restaurants, but for the majority their livelihoods came from the ocean and its bountiful supply of seafood. The workers were immigrants from Eastern Europe, most from Croatia where their ancestors had fished for centuries in the Adriatic Sea. The men worked the schooners and trawlers harvesting seafood in the Gulf while the women and children shucked oysters and packed shrimp for ten cents an hour. There were forty canneries side by side in an area known as the Back Bay. In 1925, Biloxi shipped twenty million tons of seafood to the rest of the country. Demand was so great, and the supply so plentiful, that by then the city could boast of being the “Seafood Capital of the World.” The immigrants lived in either barracks or shotgun houses on Point Cadet, a peninsula on the eastern edge of Biloxi, around the corner from the beaches of the Gulf. Their parents and grandparents were Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, as well as Croatians, and they had been quick to assimilate into the ways of their new country. The children learned English, taught it to their parents, and rarely spoke the mother tongues at home. Most of their surnames had been unpronounceable to customs officials and had been modified and Americanized at the Port of New Orleans and Ellis Island. In Biloxi cemeteries, there were tombstones with names like (snip) Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll. You can turn the page and read more here. Kindle users can request a sample sent to their devices, and I’ve found this to be a great way to evaluate a narrative that is borderline on the first page and see if it’s worth my coin. This novel was number one on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list for November 20, 2022. Were the opening pages of the first chapter of The Boys from Biloxi by John Grisham compelling? My vote: A resounding NO. This book received 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon. I think it’s wonderful that John Grisham has made a zillion dollars with his novels—I’ve even enjoyed several of them. And that he can indulge himself like this and get paid for it. I’d like that for myself. But I kinda resent this whatever-it-is being labeled “A legal thriller” on its Amazon page. Judge for yourself and scroll through the six Look Inside chapters–14,000 words!–of this, er, narrative. Thousands of words and nary a story in sight. Never any tension in the air. Not a thrill to be had. It’s a history lesson for most of those words and more. Setup. Backstory. Nostory. C’mon, Doubleday, do your job. Require your thriller writer to actually deliver a thriller, not a tour of his research into Biloxi. Spend the money you put out on this into discovering and launching new writers (hey, I have some novels). At the very least, haul out a dictionary and update yourself on the meaning of the word “thriller.” I just can’t see an agent being told by an unknown writer that this is a thriller and snapping this up. Your thoughts? You’re invited to a flogging—your own You see here the insights fresh eyes bring to the performance of bestseller first pages, so why not do the same with the opening of your WIP? Submit your prologue/first chapter to my blog, Flogging the Quill, and I’ll give you my thoughts and even a little line editing if I see a need. And the readers of FtQ are good at offering constructive notes, too. Hope to see you there. To submit, email your first chapter or prologue (or both) as an attachment to me, and let me know if it’s okay to use your first page and to post the complete chapter. Wish you could buy this author a cup of joe? Now, thanks to tinyCoffee and PayPal, you can! About Ray RhameyRay Rhamey is the author of four novels and one writing craft book, Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling. He's also an editor of book-length fiction and designs book covers and interiors for Indie authors and small presses. His website, crrreative.com, offers an a la carte menu of creative services for writers and publishers. Learn more about Ray's books at rayrhamey.com. Web | Twitter | Facebook | More Posts [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  16. 5-Star Books in Five Words This is an occasional feature on the Hive which is one of our favourites, so we decided to bring it back for Runalong Womble‘s celebration of Small Presses! If you missed Jonathan’s incredible directory of Small Presses, or our appreciation post of our favourite presses, Womble is spear-heading a month-long celebration of presses which don’t fall under the Big 5 umbrella – #SmallPressGreatReads. In this post, our contributors are going to recommend some of their favourite books published by small presses – using only five words! Nils Rebellion Titan Books Homicidal Vanished sociopath murderous with magician pet strikes dinosaur! again! Beth Portal Books Titan Books Heartwarming Sumptuous Lit-RPG Xianxia, with Magic fox Mystery & squirrels TEA Gray Wraithmarked Wraithmarked Oops, Fantasy absorbed Gladiators the ascend Wraith to King! Thrones Hil Silver Sun Books Solaris Vampire Oldest murder corpse = mystery the in best Oxford date Lucy Rebellion Cassiopeia Contemporary Titan Books Why Aliens Watership is come Down, the and but Oak disrupt with gone? hierarchy murder Asha Louise Walters Books Rebellion Macfarlane Lantern Press Smart, Kiki’s Sixteen queer, Elven wintry unusual Death fairy urban Priest tale fantasy Service retellings Wizard’s Tower Press Handheld Press Old-fashioned Forgotten boarding classics school – of ON spooky MARS stories Jonathan Unsung Stories Galley Beggar Press Titan Books Mushrooms, Dead Lost pregnant God sister men under returns – and the or stories! mud not? Peter Owen Publishers Luna Press Frozen What’s world video or and deranged what’s nightmare? real? A huge thank you to our amazing contributors for all your recommendations! What Small Press reads are your favourite? Comment below! The post 5-Star Books in Five Words – #SmallPressBigStories appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  17. Most of us know what a rain forest is. A rhizome, not so much, so I’ll start with that. Back in 1980, two French philosophers named Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari came up with a notion they called rhizomatic thinking, or rhizomatic learning. A rhizome is a root system. Unlike a tree that grows from a central trunk by branching into smaller and smaller divisions, a rhizome expands laterally, equally. There’s no primary source, no hierarchy; you can enter the rhizome at any point and go from there to any and all other points through an interconnected, nonlinear network. What does this have to do with writing? A lot. A rhizomatic perspective helps us find our way through forced-choice questions like: Are you a plotter or a pants-er? Is it better to write your story from beginning to end, or to write the core scenes first? Should you start from stakes, motive, goal, or arc-of-change? If you think of a novel as a rhizome, you can say yes to all these options. You can enter the world of the novel wherever you like, and make your way through the network. You can leap-frog, follow side-paths, retrace your steps and begin again, move up and down and across. In other words: You can begin in the middle of the story. With a description of the environment. With a conversation between two characters. With an image that has special meaning for your protagonist. I’m not speaking about the reader’s experience, when he encounters the story in its final form, since most readers do prefer to follow a story from Page 1 to The End. I’m talking about your experience, as the writer, when you’re creating the story: how and when and in what order you draft the scenes, flesh out the characters, work out their traits and backgrounds and arcs. Rhizomatic movement has its own logic, its own form of connectedness between the various points. It’s not like the “logic” we’re used to, however, which is based on a sequential, causal notion of A leads to B. Rather, it’s more associative and intuitive, unfolding by evocation and correlation. To explain what I mean, I’ll describe how some of the themes and motifs in my most recent novel came about. Early in the book, the protagonist’s daughter accuses her mother of being a “Snow Queen,” beautiful and cold and remote. To an extent, that’s true, yet the protagonist realizes (later) that she’s spent years being more like Snow White than the Snow Queen, asleep rather than aloof. Those images came to me while I was writing—that is, while I was finding my story, in an early draft. I hadn’t been thinking about fairy tales, not consciously, yet the fairy tales must have been there in my subconsciousness—appearing, when needed, to give form to an emerging feeling about my character. And then, once I remembered the “Snow White” tale, other motifs and metaphors and insights arose that showed me where the story needed to go. For Snow White, a bite of the apple made her fall asleep, no longer aware of her surroundings or even herself. For Eve, on the other hand (another story in our Western lore), a bite of the apple caused her to awaken, to become aware of herself and the world in a new way. Snow White took the apple (and bit into it) because she was innocent, trusting that it was a safe thing to do. Eve took the apple (and bit into it) because she was a rebel, daring to take a risk and do something that was not likely to be safe. I began to follow these threads into the tapestry, or rhizome, of my story. The “contradictions” began to feel like complementary, yin-and-yang halves of what I wanted to say. I thought about the apple, red and round, like a planet or a drop of blood. A Cezanne apple, luminous and perfectly present. Present, like a gift—and suddenly I remembered a moment on a train in Germany, decades ago, when a little girl, perhaps three years old, offered her apple to me with perfect purity, and said: “Das ist mein apfel.” I hadn’t thought of that moment in years, didn’t even know it was still in me, yet it found its way into my story, as a little girl offered to share her red apple with the protagonist. Here. Mine, and yours too. Not my loss and your gain, but for both of us. That image of generosity, purity, and community became a central motif of the last half of the book that I never could have predicted. Children, safe and in danger. The color red. A perfect globe. All of this from the image of Snow Queen, weaving its way through the story landscape and leading me on a rhizomatic path that I hadn’t mapped in advance, or even imagined. Now for the rain forest. To understand the rain forest, we have to “zoom out” for an aerial view that includes all the vines and plants and species that comprise an interdependent whole. In the rhizome, we see what is nearby, or next; in the rain forest, we see how the elements fit together under a common canopy. For me, the rain forest is the overarching Aboutness of a novel. This is a story about what happens when we can’t forgive. Or, longer: This is a story about the cost of a woman’s refusal to forgive, and the unexpected gift of a second chance. Or, shorter: This is a story about forgiveness. A concise Aboutness statement is the canopy, under which the core elements (characters, motives, conflicts, and so on) can find their place. It’s the story’s raison d’etre, but is not itself a story. After all, when we read a novel, we aren’t thinking about its theme; we’re following the characters and their relationships and the what happens of the story events. We’re experiencing a journey along the rhizome. There’s a lot of great advice about creating that concise statement—whether you call it a premise, elevator speech, or logline—just as there are many excellent grids and templates for structuring the plot. But I haven’t seen many practical suggestions for fostering the rhizomatic, intuitive, associative process that (I believe) is another essential element of creativity. So here are a couple of suggestions: First: give yourself permission. Start with an image or theme from your story that touches you, like my Snow Queen, and let your mind wander. It can be helpful to speak your thoughts aloud into a recording device, which can free you from whatever habits are connected with typing on a keyboard. I like to do this while my body is engaged in something simple and repetitive, like walking or weeding. Include everything that comes to you; you can delete later. Pick an evocative item and toss it into other scenes. If you notice something that seems to have strong evocative power (like my red apple), try inserting it—not too often, and not obtrusively—into a couple of other scenes. How does its presence change the scene? What new connections and echoes and possibilities emerge, just by adding this item, which is already charged with meaning? Turn your story into a visual-spatial drawing. Since rhizomatic thinking is more like a web than a staircase, it can be helpful to use drawings and diagrams to map the relationships. Start with something specific, like the red apple. Write the word “red apple” (or draw one, or insert a picture of an apple) in the center of a blank page. “Apple” is just an example, of course. It can be a character, an object, a room, a gesture, a figure of speech. Around it, place the important people, settings, and items that are related to the apple in the story. Then draw lines to connect the apple to each of these items. Consider each line. Is it thick or thin, broken or frayed? Does it seem to point in one direction, or in both? What do these lines tell you? Then consider each of the items you’ve chosen—in my story, they would probably include water and the color green, for example. Then ask yourself if each of these items is connected to any of the others, independently of the apple, without having to “pass through” it. Draw those lines too. Continue as long as you like, using different images and motifs. The thicker the cross-connections, the denser and richer the tapestry, the more profound and multi-layered the resonance—with an important caveat. Don’t spell it all out for the reader—no more than you would list all the notes (C-sharp, D, major fifth) while someone listens to a piece of music. Let the reader have her own experience. Let her hear the music, not the individual notes. The idea of these exercises is to shake loose from the chain of cause-and-effect (i.e., the plot) that provides the backbone for your novel. That backbone is important—it’s what organizes the material and transforms it from a random impressionistic collection into a story. Throughout all cultures, in fact, storytelling has followed a similar structure: from before to after, from life-as-it-was to life-as-it-is-now, though a series of episodes and challenges. That sequential order seems to correspond to something deep in human experience. The sun rises, shines, and sets. People are born, live, and die. The notion of rhizomatic movement isn’t meant to suggest tossing out the need for a central premise or the sequential order of a plot. Rather, it’s meant to give us permission— and tools— to approach our work in additional, complementary, and creative ways. Have you ever worked on a story non-linearly—by creative association, rather than by cause and effect? Does this approach intrigue you? Would it disrupt your way of working—interfere with your process or, maybe, offer something new? About Barbara Linn ProbstBarbara’s (she/her) debut novel QUEEN OF THE OWLS (April 2020) was a medalist in popular fiction from the Independent Publishers Association, first runner-up for the Eric Hoffer Award, and short-listed for the $2500 Grand Prize. Her second novel THE SOUND BETWEEN THE NOTES (April 2021) was the recipient of a Kirkus starred review, where it was lauded as "a tour de force" and selected as one of the Best Indie Books of 2021. It was also awarded the Sarton Gold Medal in Contemporary Fiction, as well as the Silver Medal in Fiction from the Nautilus Book Awards. Her third novel, THE COLOR OF ICE, will launch in October 2022. Barbara has a PhD in Clinical Social Work and has been a therapist, teacher, researcher, and advocate for out-of-the-box kids and their families. When not writing, she’s a serious amateur pianist. Learn more on her website. Web | Facebook | More Posts [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  18. “The will of the city grew inside her, all the citizens, attuning their consciousness, to keep everyone safe, and then-Stillness. The city hovered briefly. A moment of weightlessness. Exhalation.” The Surviving Sky is the debut novel by Kritika H. Rao, due to be released in 2023 from Titan Books. This is a story which cleverly blends a whole host of genres from fantasy to sci-fi, dystopian to futuristic and even eco-fiction. Rao’s debut bursts with wondrous inventive worldbuilding, reflects on privilege and class divisions and centres on a marriage ruptured by secrets. Set on a jungle planet uninhabitable due to destructive storms called earthrages, the last of humanity survives by living on plant-based floating cities run by architects. These architects are honoured above all others for their ability to physically shape the architecture of the city, thus stopping it from colliding into the jungle, and also for their ability to sense earthrages. Nakshar is one such city and upon it lives Iravan and Ahilya, our thorny married couple. Iravan is a powerful senior architect, his abilities are so ingrained into his being that manipulating the surrounding plant architecture comes as natural to him as breathing. Whilst most respect his status, his wife Ahilya sees architects as oppressors who are privileged and use their power to deliberately make citizens reliant upon them. Ahilya cannot manipulate plants, they do not bend and shape to her desire as they do for Iravan, and she feels the absence of this keenly. Ahilya nonetheless has talents of her own, she’s an archaeologist, a scholar, a strong-headed woman on a mission to find a way for humanity to once again survive in the jungle, free from the reliance upon architects. This puts Iravan and Ahilya directly at odds with one another, but with the earthrages lasting longer, and Iravan being accused of pushing his abilities to forbidden territory, and Nakshar on the threat of destruction, both must work together to save the last of civilisation. When first beginning The Surviving Sky I immediately became fascinated by the innovative magic system which centres around consciousness and desire. Architects use a term known as trajection, this is where they have the ability to enter Two Visions, one of the world around them and one of a plant’s consciousness called the Moment. Within this Moment architects can manipulate plants to respond to their desires, they can influence nature’s consciousness forcing it to change form, thus shaping plants into building structures and such. The concept of this form of power completely engrossed me and although I tend not to compare books to others within my reviews, to give you an idea of the type of magic system Rao creates, I found similarities to Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time in the way that they both use nature and spirituality. As the novel progressed I desperately wanted to explore more and Rao obliged by crafting further intricate layers and complexities, particularly by adding limitations, for if an architect pushes their ability too far they can become Ecstatic which leads to them becoming destructive. I won’t go into any more detail as I don’t wish to disclose too much but I loved the way that even the characters did not fully understand the extent or true histories of their own powers, therefore by the end the magic system took some wonderfully surprising twists. Although this novel does not incorporate a religion as such, a lot of the themes are clearly inspired by Hinduism. A central aspect of the Hindu religion is that of rebirth and spirituality. Each of the characters have lived a diverse range of past lives, of which most don’t remember, but as we delve into Iravan’s character more closely we begin to see that each life a person has lived can help unlock buried secrets and help to understand the world they live in today. History records can always fall short on their accuracy from being altered or manipulated by others yet a person’s first hand experience, even if only remembered in fragmented pieces, does not. I thought this was really cleverly done. However, my favourite part of the worldbuilding was the yakshas which were gigantic animals such as elephants, tigers and gorillas who still inhabited the jungle. In Hindu philosophy yakshas are depicted as nature spirits, and I loved the way they were portrayed in this novel. These creatures were majestic and mystical, once again compelling me to discover more. Rao’s worldbuilding is consistently richly detailed, her concepts are as fascinating as they are wondrous and enchanting. The worldbuilding is most certainly central to the narrative but so too are the cast of diverse characters. Rao gives us a queernorm world where every character is also POC. Prejudice does not come because of the colour of a person’s skin, but rather from their social privilege. Ahilya is a character who is ashamed and angered by her inability to perform trajection. Her entire life she has felt inadequate, lesser, powerless and that is exactly how ordinary citizens are treated in Nakshar. Her skills as an archaeologist are dismissed, she and her colleague Dhruv, a sungineer (an inventor) have to continually prove that their findings have worth, that they deserve a place on the Council because they truly can help. Yet they are both restricted in the data they can access, refused a seat on the council, restricted in the places on Nakshar they are allowed to enter and only rarely allowed to step foot in the jungle planet during a lull in the earthrages to carry out their experiments, they must rely solely upon the authority of an architect at all times. Ahilya’s anger at this is more than apparent! What she doesn’t realise though is that in a way the architects have been indoctrinated to believe they are a higher being, they are trained into their trajection abilities from childhood and brought up to believe that their way is the correct way. Iravan may hold more privileges, but can he truly be blamed for that? But on the other hand can Ahilya be blamed for her animosity when her own husband, Iravan, does not see her role as an archaeologist as vital as the jobs the architects do? Iravan and Ahilya always fail to understand each other, as I have stated they are our thorny couple. Did I want to knock some sense into both of them? Absolutely, because underneath all the built-up resentment, I could see how together they compliment each other immensely. They are both similar in many ways, both headstrong, both care about sustaining life whether that be in the jungle or on the floating cities, but they are both set in their ways, always on the defensive. It is no surprise given the insistence on architects to be married and have material bonds such as children, for good reasons as you’ll discover, but that kind of pressure takes its toll eventually. Many Indian cultures often apply this same pressure and it more often than not leads to conflict. Rao’s reflection on this was significant, as was the way she illustrates an unequal partnership. Iravan and Ahilya in essence are a fantastic depiction of what happens when the power and privilege within a relationship is unbalanced, when one has all the opportunities and the other has to struggle for theirs. The Surviving Sky is a fast-paced, fascinating novel wrapped in philosophy and spirituality. Rao’s debut will dazzle many. Early ARC provided by Kritika, thank you so much for the copy! All quotes used are taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication. You can preorder The Surviving Sky HERE: The post THE SURVIVING SKY by Kritika H. Rao (BOOK REVIEW) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  19. The 1501 Aldine edition of Virgil’s Aeneid, the first use of italics in print. I try to not write much here about the mechanics of writing, such as how and when to use italics. I’m most interested in opening writers’ eyes to subtleties of the storytelling craft that they might not have noticed. There aren’t a lot of subtleties involved in how you use italics. It’s all pretty straightforward. But after last month’s Onconference talk on dialogue, I could see there was still a lot of confusion about how and when to use italics. I think I need to step up. First – and I can’t stress how important this is – there are no rules, not even with purely mechanical matters. When you try to handle italics by rote without paying attention to what’s happening in your story, you’re putting the rules ahead of the story. But if you treat italics as tools that, used properly. can help you tell your story more effectively, then your story is at the center of your thinking, where it belongs. So what can italics do for you? First, your goal is to keep your mechanics transparent. As soon as readers notice how you’re telling your story, they’re no longer paying attention to your story. Which is bad. So however you use italics, you don’t want them to jump out at your readers. What italics do best is mark some passage of dialogue or interior monologue as separate. The most common use – and the most misunderstood – is with interior monologue. Some clients have taken it as a given that all interior monologue should be in italics. The problem is that, when you mark off the interior monologue, then you’re saying that your narrative voice – the one you use for descriptions – is different from the viewpoint character’s voice – which is where interior monologue comes from. You’re putting distance between your narrator and your character. Sometimes this is what you want – did I mention there are no rules? But more often than not, you want to forge an emotional bond between your readers and your characters. The best way to do that is to make your readers feel they’re seeing the action through the eyes of your viewpoint character. And the best way to do that is to let your readers move from what your character sees to what they think about it and back again without tripping over a change in typeface. Just keep the interior monologue in normal type and in the same tense and person as your descriptions – what’s true of italics for interior monologue is also true of a shift from past to present tense or from third to first person. Another exception to this general principle? Italics can be handy to mark when your interior monologue is more like a dialogue. If a character is debating whether or not to do something, you can sometimes show that internal debate by putting one side of it in italics. If a character is praying a silent prayer, italics can be the way to go. And you can also use italics for something more unusual – say, telepathic communication or the interior monologue of animals. If you do decide to use italics for something special, it’s a good idea to introduce whatever convention you’re using early in the story, then stick with it consistently from then on. Readers will give you some leeway in your techniques at the start, but after a chapter or two, they settle in to whatever approach you’re using. If you suddenly introduce some new technique in the middle of the book or shift from what you had been doing, then readers are likely to trip over your mechanics. Italics are often used for emphasis, as well – as with the that a couple paragraphs ago. And while Renni and I warn in Self-Editing against overusing it, that occasional emphasis does reflect the way people speak. So you can get away with it from time to time. Also, I prefer italics to all caps. Why? BECAUSE I’M THE EDITOR, THAT’S WHY!! Seriously, it’s just a personal preference. Italics is one of the oldest typefaces still in use. It was introduced in 1501 by a Venetian printer named Aldus Manutius, who also essentially invented books as we know them today – though that’s another story. Manutius used Italics for entire books, which can be a little hard to read. But given how handy they can be, I’d guess they’re going to be around for another half-millennium, at least. About Dave KingDave King is the co-author of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, a best-seller among writing books. An independent editor since 1987, he is also a former contributing editor at Writer's Digest. Many of his magazine pieces on the art of writing have been anthologized in The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing and in The Writer's Digest Writing Clinic. You can check out several of his articles and get other writing tips on his website. Web | Facebook | More Posts [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  20. Supporters of Ukraine at Warschauer Strasse station in Berlin, September 20. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Fotofantastika A Heartfelt Imbalance Since late February, when Vladimir Putin began his barbaric invasion of Ukraine, international publishing industry news has frequently featured stories about terrific programs providing books for Ukrainian refugee children. Generally, 5,000 copies or more of these titles are printed in a given European book market, often thanks to generous donations from book-business professionals and others. The books then are provided to humanitarian-aid organizations to be handed out at border crossings and other points at which Ukrainian refugees are gathered either to live or to move forward to settlement elsewhere. These efforts are highly commendable, of course. They can help to further the kids’ war-upended educational programs, to keep the children distracted with stories during nerve-wracking experiences, and to connect these youngsters to their own language, putting the comforts of their mother tongue within reach at a time when that language–which is not the same as Russian–is a natural, defining element of an assaulted nation’s character. What the campaigns and efforts to mount these programs for Ukrainian children seem to reveal, however, is that the big heart of the world publishing industry is warmed far more easily by the idea of children’s books and their readers than by the need for books for adults in such a nightmarish situation. It’s the adults, after all, usually mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, who have had to flee with the kids, leaving behind their husbands, lovers, uncles, brothers to are required to stay and fight. And while putting a book into the hands of one of those kids might help keep her occupied for awhile (a big help to Mom, of course), there has seemed to be little interest in the emotional and intellectual needs of the women who are caring for these youngsters. Books for Ukrainian adults just haven’t caught on as a humanitarian gesture, even as these valiant adults are the ones who really know what’s going on back at home, who understand their plight and are trying to keep the children healthy, taken care of, and as calm as possible. At Frankfurter Buchmesse last month, for example, there wasn’t only an address from Volodymyr Zelensky, but the Ukrainian first lady, Olena Zelenska, made a visit to the trade show in person. There, she did an evening on-stage interview for adults, but her first event was to appear with Elke Büdenbender, wife of Germany’s federal president. The two first ladies’ focus was a fundraising campaign for refugee children, Better Time Stories. That program is backed not only by Zelenska and Büdenbender but also by Doris Schmidauer, first lady of Austria, and by Princess Laurentien van Oranje of the Netherlands. Independent of the Ukraine crisis, this past weekend’s programming in Indonesia at the 33rd International Publishers Congress from the International Publishers Association included a discussion of reading promotion in many cultures. The focus immediately went to children. In developing the discussion, we tried to widen the perspective to include the fact that so many adults have left reading behind in a flight to the streamers and other entertainment. But there was little interest in talking about how to help adults find their way back to reading despite obvious attrition among adults who were formerly readers. What About the Adults? Provocations graphic by Liam Walsh There’s of course little to say here by way of analysis or revelatory rationale. Sympathy and empathy run for many of us more easily to the plights of children in trouble than adults, even when it’s clear that adults have done nothing to create or deserve a catastrophe, and even when they’re the ones doing the heavy lifting of trying to face an enormous struggle while trying to care for those kids. It would seem that the imaginative skills and expressive grace of people in book publishing might make them better able than others to recognize that an over-emphasis on children and overlooking the needs of adults is illogical and unnecessary. But it appears we’re not there yet. The projects for children keep rolling along. Those projects are good. They are right. They’re generous. And they’re to be supported. And what about the adults? Have you seen other instances in which children are emphasized in cases of need and adults’ struggles are left unanswered? What do you think drives this? And why are book people seemingly so fixated on children’s aid in times of such obvious culture-wide stress as is happening in Ukraine and in refugee centers? About Porter Anderson@Porter_Anderson is a recipient of London Book Fair's International Excellence Award for Trade Press Journalist of the Year. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives, the international news medium of Frankfurt Book Fair New York. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. Priors: The Bookseller's The FutureBook in London, CNN, CNN.com and CNN International–as well as the Village Voice, Dallas Times Herald, and the United Nations' WFP in Rome. PorterAndersonMedia.com Web | Twitter | Facebook | More Posts [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  21. Everard Took continues his adventures beyond the borders of the Shire, with a trip to a village outside of Bree. He’s still not found his notebook, and he is not impressed by the local tavern, but as always he is moved by the beauty of Middle-earth. Kai Greenwood ( @LostDunedan ) A visit to a little-known village in Bree-land and the notorious Midgewater Marshes. Distance: 5 miles Difficulty: Easy – assuming you keep your boots out of the bog Dangers: Quickmud, mosquitos, and poor quality ale Combe is a small village tucked into a fold of the Bree hills. I’ve always liked the place because it reminds me of Woodhall, back in Woody End, especially after sunset. When a village is hemmed in by forest, the nights are especially dark. Every hearth is stoked bright, and every conversation drops to a whisper. The trees are always listening. In daylight though, Combe reveals its true treasure: its craftsfolk. This walk visits some of the natural resources that the locals turn into products that grace markets in Bree and beyond. Before we begin, a word of advice. This route is best enjoyed in the early morning – pre-dawn – for reasons I will reveal later… Start at the Combe and Wattle inn, which is by far the least memorable drinking establishment I have ever visited. And I’ve visited a lot. It’s so forgettable that I’ve even forgotten the name… Is it the Combe and Wattle, or the Wattle and Combe? Whatever, walk east across the north road and along the lane between the fields (1), noting the mix of hobbit and big folk housing that is characteristic of Bree-land. The road soon enters the Chetwood, and here (2) you will find Lobo’s Lumberyard. This business is the source of many of the carved wooden animals you will find on sale in Bree. Lobo does a decent owl, though his ‘toadstools’ are clearly a species of mushroom, as any hobbit could have told him if he’d thought to ask… Turn south when you spy a sunken road (3). This is the Saltway, which leads directly into the northernmost reaches of the Midgewater Marshes. ‘The Midgewater Marshes!’ you cry. ‘Has Everard finally spilled the last crumbs of his sanity?’ No, brave traveller. Trust old Everard. I’m no Sackville-Baggins! Turn up your collar, pull down your hat, and stride on through the Saltway. ‘Why is this holloway called the Saltway?’ you ask. Once again I implore you to trust your guide. All will be revealed. The Saltway emerges on the slope of a low hillside, and if you’ve timed your walk well, you will see the Marshes in a new light (literally). At dawn, the sun rises over the Weather Hills and the black waters turn silver, reflecting shimmers of life as midge swarms rise like wizard smoke. Who would have thought that nasty little bugs could be so beautiful? It is a wonderful sight that makes the early start worth the trouble, in this hobbit’s learned, but humble opinion! The patterns the midges trace are mesmeric, but do not linger too long because the bastards soon start to bite. Loop quickly back to the west, noting the low, rectangular walls in the water (4). These are not the foundations of buildings, but the answer to the riddle of the Saltway. You see, the water here is brine, and long ago men realised that evaporating it left behind a fine source of table salt. These salt pans are ancient, but others are worked to this day, filling the salt cellars on every table of the Shire, as well as preserving our fish and ham. Leave the marshes and insects behind, and continue west across Combe Commons to rejoin the Bree-Archet road. On your return to Combe consider investing in one of the intricate salt cellars sold by several artisans in the village. Carved from local crystal rock, the swan designs are especially delightful. Yours, Everard P.s. There is still no sign of my lost notebook, although new evidence has arisen that I hesitate to share, as I would hate to be branded a finger-pointer. Needs must, however. On a recent return to the Prancing Pony, whilst Barliman’s back was turned, I stole a glance at the register of guests on the date I last saw my notebook. One name stood out. On the night I stayed in Bree, so too did a Mister S. Sackville-Baggins… Read more at www.kaigreenwood.com Twitter: @LostDunedan Text and Maps © Kai Greenwood 2022 The post Walking Middle-earth: Combe and Midgewater appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  22. “Our real self is not entirely inside of us.” —Jean-Jacques Rousseau It’s a truism of our peculiar art that we are obliged, as much as possible, to make every element of a story—every chapter, every section, every scene, every paragraph, every sentence, every word—serve multiple purposes, while at the same time making that effort as invisible as possible. One area where this is especially true is description of setting. Although our first effort at describing our story world may likely resemble straightforward reportage, in our revisions we would be wise to ask: In whose mind’s eye exactly is this scene unfolding? What does her account of the scene tell us about her? Description in fiction cannot be separated from point of view, even in its most objective, omniscient variations. (A common misconception concerning omniscient point of view is that it lacks a narrative perspective; not true—that perspective is revealed through the omniscient narrator’s voice.) This link between description and point of view means that physical details never merely convey information about the exterior world; they also cannot help but tell us something about the perspective—psychological, moral, emotional—forming the impressions being recounted. This point got driven home for me recently when I picked up Exteriors by our most recent Nobel Laureate, Annie Ernaux. The book was prompted by her move from a series of provincial towns steeped in history to a new modern city “suddenly sprung up from nowhere.” She felt “seized with a feeling of strangeness…continually hovering in some no man’s land halfway between the earth and the sky. My gaze resembled the glass surfaces of office towers, reflecting no one, just the high-rise towers and the clouds.” As she emerged from this “state of schizophrenia,” she became increasingly absorbed in her new surroundings. “And so this journal of exteriors was born…a series of snapshots reflecting the daily routine of a community.” The analogy to photography wasn’t casual: “I have done my best not to explain or express the emotion that triggered each text. On the contrary, I have sought to describe reality as though through the eyes of a photographer and to preserve the mystery and the opacity of the lives I encountered.” But then comes the inescapable admission: “In actual fact, I realize that I have put a lot of myself into these texts, far more than originally planned.” To which I can’t help but reply: How could she not? A photographer’s image doesn’t simply spring up before her camera’s lens. She selects it. Often the photographs she ends up sharing are the one or two kept from dozens even hundreds of others that failed to capture that ineffable quality, “the mystery and the opacity,” of her subjects. In the text of Exteriors, Ms. Ernaux makes this point in two different places. In the first, she remarks, “I realize that I am forever combing reality for literature.” The second comes at the end of one of her “snapshots:” Saint-Lazare Station, on a Saturday: a couple are waiting in line for a taxi. She looks lost and leans on him for support. He keeps repeating: “You’ll see when I’m dead.” Then: “I want to be burned, you know; I want to be burned from head to toe. I don’t want to go into that thing. It’s horrible, that thing.” He clutches her to his chest; she is panicked. I am visited by people and their lives—like a whore. Those of you who remember my post about fascination versus explanation is portraying our characters may remember a similar remark by Virginia Woolf: Here is a character imposing itself upon another person. Here is Mrs. Brown making someone almost automatically begin writing a novel about her. I believe that all novels begin with an old lady in the corner opposite. Which provides us with our segue for exploring some fictional examples to see how this view of the exterior world works in the context of story. World-building, as we have come to call it, is especially important in sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian fiction, and any novel taking place in a time or place unfamiliar to most readers. The need to convey this utterly foreign world so it’s vivid to the reader unfortunately can at times overwhelm the skill of the writer, who then turns to pure narrative description, detailing “one damn thing after another” to paint the scene. China Miéville, in his masterful Perdido Street Station, begins revealing his utterly bizarre story world by placing his narrator in the same spot as the reader—seeing it for the first time: Veldt to scrub to fields to farms to these first tumbling houses that rise from the earth. It has been night for a long time. The hovels that encrust the river’s edge have grown like mushrooms around me in the dark. We rock. We pitch in a deep current. Behind me the man tugs uneasily at his rudder and the barge corrects. Light lurches as the lantern swings. The man is afraid of me. I lean out from the prow of the small vessel across the darkly moving water. Consider what would be sacrificed if the narrator made no mention of himself and simply described the scene. The mood of oppressive strangeness and eerie menace might remain—the language alone would do the work—but those effects become far more tangible with our knowing that that language belongs to a specific person, that he (like us) is seeing this landscape for the first time, and there is palpable tension between him and the boatmen bringing him to this new place. Kate Atkinson uses a similar technique in her opening to One Good Turn. Here the point-of-view character, like the reader, is seeing the landscape for the first time, but with a particular twist: He was lost. He wasn’t used to being lost. He was the kind of man who drew up plans and executed them efficiently, but now everything was conspiring against him in ways he decided he couldn’t have foreseen. He had been stuck in a jam on the A1 for two mind-numbing hours so that it was already past the middle of the morning when he arrived in Edinburgh…It had been raining, steadily and unforgivingly, on the drive north and had only begun to ease off as he hit the outskirts of town. The rain had in no way deterred the crowds—it had never occurred to him that Edinburgh was in the middle of the festival and that there would be carnival hoards of people milling around as if the end of a war had just been declared. The closest he had previously got to the Edinburgh Festival was when he accidentally turned on Late Night Review and saw a bunch of middle-class wankers discussing some pretentious piece of fringe theater. He ended up in the dirty heart of the city, on a street that somehow seemed to be on a lower level than the rest of the town, a blackened urban ravine…A queue snaked the length of the street—people waiting to get into what looked like a bomb hole in the wall but which announced itself as FRINGE VENUE 164 on a large placard outside the door. The name on the driver’s license in his wallet was Paul Bradley. “Paul Bradley” was a nicely forgettable name. He was several degrees of separation from his real name now, a name that no longer felt as if it had ever belonged to him. The author could have easily just presented the scene in straightforward narration, but notice how much more vivid it becomes in the eyes of the character whose clearly anxious as he tries to find his way—and how powerful it becomes when we learn why he’s not the kind of man used to being lost. He has a secret; shortly we’ll learn he’s a hitman on a job. Lawrence Osborn in On Java Road narrates his tale of Hong Kong during the violent 2019 protests through the eyes of a reporter named Adrian Gyle, known to the people of Hong Kong “as a writer of something or other, and a fairly infamous glutton, but little more than that…I was an excellent nonentity.” After conveying this personal background and an account of how he spends his days, Adrian recounts the following: The heat rose and by midday the inhabitants of the city bore it with raised newspapers and parasols. They were glum and stoic in their minimal clothes, and I wandered down to the ferry terminal behind the Vic Hotel just to soak up the coolness of the ocean. From there, the interval of ordinariness was impressive in its potency. The junks with their mulberry sails, the lights of the Kerry Hotel across the water coming on at dusk, the ferries packed with miserable perspirers bearing fans, and the edges of the mountains a color of old tea at the end of daylight. It was around this time that bodies had begun to appear in those same waters, quietly retrieved by police boats that reporters were not permitted to approach, the first intimations of a new form of intimidation, a new configuration of the chessboard. Notice how easily he glides from a ‘potent ordinariness’ described with a fond familiarity, complete with raised newspapers and parasols in the stifling heat, to the discovery of bodies in the water—the bodies of student protestors the authorities have arrested, tortured, and murdered to intimidate the others. The chessboard’s configuration is indeed changing, and that abstract way of putting it tells us something about Adrian—he is an observer, not a participant, and he s beginning to realize his life in Hong Kong is coming to its end. (I doubt it will surprise anyone to learn the bodies in the water also serve as foreshadowing of things to come.) Adrian McKinty’s The Cold Cold Ground, set hallway around the world, opens with this: The riot had taken on a beauty of its own. Arcs of gasoline fire under the crescent moon. Crimson tracer in mystical parabolas. Phosphorescence from the barrels of plastic bullet guns. A distant yelling like that of men below decks in a torpedoed prison ship. The scarlet shoosh of Molotovs intersecting with exacting surfaces. Helicopters everywhere: their spotlights finding one another like lovers in the Afterlife. And all this through a lens of oleaginous Belfast rain. I watched with the others by the Land Rover on Knockagh Mountain. No one spoke. Words were inadequate. You needed a Picasso for this scene, not a poet. And yet, what if not poetry describes the language of this opening? Is the author being cheeky? No. A short time later we find that the narrator’s command of language has much to do with the fact he is the only one of the police officers who’s been to university. He’s also the only Catholic—a fact that emerges as the officers remark on the somewhat disappointing aspect of the scene. The riots a week earlier following the death of Bobby Sands had been far more impressive. This disturbance is in the wake of the second hunger striker to die, Frankie Hughes, and he lacked Bobby’s saintly appearance and biography—“Frankie enjoyed killing and was very good at it.” He also had the misfortune of dying on the same day someone tried to assassinate the Pope. We learn all this as a kind of prickly, mocking tension arises between the narrator and his fellow officers, all Protestant members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. (Note again how Miéville used a similar tension in his opening to Perdido Street Station.) These examples show how the description of the outer world can be used, at the same time, to reveal something significant about the point-of-view character surveying the scene. Sometimes that effort is even more conspicuous, as in this section from Quartet by Jean Rhys: From the balcony Marya could see one side of the Place Blanche. Opposite, the Rue Lepic mounted upwards to the rustic heights of Montmarte. It was astonishing how significant, coherent, and understandable it all became after a glass of wine on an empty stomach. The lights winking up at a pallid moon, the slender painted ladies, the wings of the Moulin Rouge, the smell of petrol and perfume and cooking. The Place Blanche, Paris, Life itself. One realized all sorts of things. The value of an illusion, for instance, and that the shadow can be more important than the substance. All sorts of things. Here the point of the description isn’t so much to paint a picture of what the character sees as to provide an oblique means to convey the state of her life—she is a young Englishwoman of modest means living in Paris, married to a man who treats her kindly but disappears for days, even weeks at a time with no word. She suspects he’s connected to the underworld, but dares not ask—thus, the value of an illusion. Without mentioning the word, her loneliness comes through loud and clear, revealed through what she sees and what feelings spontaneously arise. Finally, sometimes the landscape doesn’t just reflect the inner world of the narrating character, it stares back, as in this opening from Denis Johnson’s Angels: In the Oakland Greyhound all the people were dwarfs, and they pushed and shoved to get on the bus, even cutting in front of the two nuns, who were there first. The two nuns smiled sweetly at Miranda and Baby Ellen and played I-see-you behind their fingers when they’d taken their seats. But Jamie could sense that they found her make-up too thick, her pants too tight. They knew she was leaving her husband, and figured she’d turn for a living to whoring. She wanted to tell them what was what, but you can’t talk to a Catholic. Notice how Johnson uses the nuns as a mirror to reveal a physical description of the narrator herself—not much, but enough, given the distinctive voice, to create a distinct impression. If you’re noticing a similarity in between some of these examples and those that Don Maass presented in his post last week concerning immersive or deep point of view (“The Dilemma of Narrative Distance”), treat yourself to a cookie. And there’s an interesting similarity between his examples and the ones I’ve just provided—they’re strongest when the interior, personal perspective whips into focus at the last line, bringing us vividly back from exterior events into the mind of the POV character. The “mysterious opacity” of the outer world can serve as a mirror, and thus is never really “out there.” It reflects the mind of the observer, and can serve as a “two-fer,” conveying information not just about what is being described but about who is providing the details. What are your favorite examples of description used to explore not just the outer world of the story but the inner world of one of the characters? How have you used description of a setting in your work to convey as well the mindset of the point-of-view character? About David CorbettDavid Corbett (he/him) is the author of six novels: The Devil’s Redhead, Done for a Dime, Blood of Paradise, Do They Know I’m Running?, The Mercy of the Night, and The Long-Lost Love Letters of Doc Holliday. His short fiction and poetry have appeared in a broad array of magazines and anthologies, with pieces twice selected for Best American Mystery Stories, and his non-fiction has appeared in numerous venues, including the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Narrative, Zyzzyva, MovieMaker, The Writer, and Writer’s Digest (where he is a contributing editor). He has taught through the UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program, Book Passage, LitReactor, 826 Valencia, The Grotto in San Francisco, and at numerous writing conferences across the US, Canada, and Mexico. In January 2013 Penguin published his textbook on the craft of characterization, The Art of Character, and Writer’s Digest will publish his follow-up, The Compass of Character, in October 2019. 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