Quote of the Moment

"What's Past Is Prologue." - William Shakespeare

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Randomness: Sense of Wonder, the Sublime, the Uncanny (And Chain Story #2)

*Grips the wheel of randomness, takes a deep breath, and pulls it into a dizzying spin* Where will the wheel stop? Who knows?

Yes, yes - I know. I didn't know last week, though. >:) Today, the wheel has landed on Sense of Wonder, the Sublime, and the Uncanny! Also, if you keep reading until the end, you'll find the beginning of another chain story for your writing pleasure.

So, as mentioned in my update post, I had my residency for my M.F.A. program this month. It was a blast, and I knew I'd want to blog about at least part of it. Dr. Al Wendland did a wonderful module on Sense of Wonder, the Sublime, and the Uncanny. I thought it would be a good idea to at least cover the definitions of these concepts as they can be hard to wrap your head around at times.

Sense of Wonder, the Sublime, and the Uncanny are all devices used in speculative fiction (and can also be found in other types of fiction). These devices make a story richer and can help deliver a bigger impact.

Sense of Wonder is found mostly in beautiful description, evoking awe and the desire to be pulled into the described location or object. The use of color is prevalent, as well as other sensory details. As a writer, you take something ordinary and make that ordinary object breathtaking with words. A sunset, a vast field of flowers, the intricacies of an electronic device - anything can be described just so to bring out that Sense of Wonder inside of us, a tug at our emotions.

The Sublime takes that Sense of Wonder to a whole different level. It's a feeling of vastness and the unknown. Instead of looking at something ordinary, the writer takes a look at something that is incomprehensible. This is utilized in things such as an alien planet or an apocalypse. The reader gains a sense of something impossible to describe when introduced to the Sublime.

And then there's the Uncanny, where you take something ordinary and make it strange. Talking cat? Uncanny. It's where the writer creates something normal that does something unexpected. If it's taken far enough, if that ordinary object is pushed to the point of changing that it becomes a bit terrifying, it turns into the Grotesque.

So, where in your writing do you take advantage of Sense of Wonder, the Sublime, and the Uncanny? Even if you weren't aware of writing these things in initially, you'll notice that they're there and they make your writing that much better.

Speaking of writing, don't forget to join us for Writing Quest - July. Sorry, had to mention it. =)

Now, as promised, here's the start of a new chain story (and an example of a Sense of Wonder). Rules are the same as last time: only add one sentence, you can add another sentence after someone else has posted, and don't be afraid to have fun (and be silly). Happy writing, all!

Beginning of Chain Story #2:

A dandelion seed danced on the wind, weaving back and forth, finally alighting on the cap of an emerald mushroom.

Continue the story in the post comments!

NEXT UP: The MGOC Series on Fantasy continues with Mike Mehalek!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

MGOC Series on Fantasy - Chun Lee

The Many Genres, One Craft series on fantasy continues with Chun Lee - another great writer I've known for many years. If you'd like to know more about the author and Many Genes, One Craft, please scroll to the end of the article.

Just Because it’s Grounded Doesn’t Mean Fantasy is Bad by Chun Lee

I’ve been asked to do a guest blog, which is something I have never done, but I don’t think it will be too difficult. I thank Alexa, for this opportunity (it’s really nice and comfy here). Our subject is fantasy. More specifically I am to give you two examples of fantasy from way back in the day and two examples of contemporary fantasy and explain why those titles speaks to me or influences me.

Let me first define my favorite type of fantasy. I like my fantasy to be grounded. I like it to make sense. I don’t mind the wonder of it, absolutely nothing wrong with wonder. In fact I think grounding a fantasy enhances the wonder. Giving the reader a sense of how characters view their world lets the reader understand how wondrous a certain fantastic element is. I never liked it when characters felt no awe in the presence of the fantastic. So my favorite fantasy reads tend to have a realistic grounding to it. Take a look at T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. This is the novel that pretty much decided what the Arthurian legend was going to be for the 20th century. The fantasy elements in this book can always be doubted. It could be magic but it could also be an interesting dream or a simple misinterpretation of reality. In this world magic is magic only when you believe it to be magic. It’s a very fine line that White does a fantastic job treading.

Another fantasy classic worth taking a look at is Dracula. I know you want to now point out that Dracula is a horror novel, but what’s wrong with considering it to be both horror and fantasy? There are plenty of fantastic elements in it. It’s also grounded. It’s a strange mixture of the emerging faith in Victorian technology and the fear of the distant supernatural coming to town. Applying science to fantasy seems to be the most logical thing to do when faced with the impossible. It’s human nature to want to understand how some strange foreigner is using supernatural powers to drink people’s blood and take their women.

Let’s now move on to contemporary fantasy. We have so many choices to look at so how about I just let my inner superfangeek out and use my two favorite contemporary fantasy writers? George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series has been captivating my interests for years now. It is low magic fantasy, but it does not need to be low magic to be grounded. It is grounded because Martin created his world from a historical basis. The man has done his research and it’s obvious he knows a lot about the politics of a medieval society. There is an economy to his world. Matters on one side of the world have ramifications on the other side of the world. And when Martin does use fantastic elements in his story I know I am in good hands because he has thought out exactly what such things could mean to his world.

Another favorite of mine is China Míeville’s Perdido Street Station. I love the fact that Míeville answers the question of how science would react if magic was a common phenomenon; it tries to find industrious uses for it. Míeville creates a world in which magic and technology are married to one another. And yes, it breaks the rule of lack of wonder from its characters (Míeville tends to break a lot of rules and does a fantastic job at it), but there is a sense of wonder in the narrator’s voice that is imparted to the reader. The characters may not be impressed with all the amazing architecture, fantastic machines, and multiple races, but the narrator is and he isn’t scared to share the impressive nature of the world he is describing.

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About the Author

Chun Lee is dodging gators and enjoying amazing Cajun cuisine in Lafayette, Louisiana. His work has appeared in The Late Late Show, Dissections, Sails and Sorcery, and the upcoming anthology Paper Blossoms, Shattered Steel. He is a graduate of the WPF program at Seton Hill University and is currently earning a Ph.D. in English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His article "Pursuing the Graduate Degree" is part of the writing guide Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction.

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About Many Genres, One Craft

Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction (Headline Books, 2011)is an amazing anthology of instructional articles for fiction writers looking for advice on how to improve their writing and better navigate the mass market for genre novels.

MGOC is available for purchase from Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

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NEXT UP: Randomness and a new chain story!

Friday, June 17, 2011

MGOC Series on Fantasy - David J. Corwell

Let's give a warm welcome to David J. Corwell, another guest blogger in the Many Genres, One Craft fantasy series! He's a great writer and a good friend. To learn more about the author and Many Genres, One Craft, please scroll to the bottom of the post.

Fantasy by David J. Corwell

List two older fantasy novels which impacted you, then give a sentence or two why:

1. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Tolkien remains a master worldbuilder and storyteller; Middle-earth is a living testament to his tremendous skills in both arenas. Its magnificent environs and the struggles of its peoples live on long after the book is closed.

2. The High King by Lloyd Alexander
The culmination of the first four books in the Chronicles of Prydain series, Alexander expertly weaves many story threads into an emotionally satisfying whole. A compelling story about choices and how these shape one's destiny.

List two newer fantasy novels which have impacted you, then give a sentence or two why:

1. Hawkwood's Voyage (Book One of the Monarchies of God) by Paul Kearney
Brimming with military stratagem and political intrigue, Kearney's world mirrors the Arab conquests in Europe as well as the search for a new world and vividly captures societies in the midst of tremendous upheaval. Yet, seemingly sworn enemies may not necessarily be the true danger, for something darker stalks the chaos.

2. The Adamantine Palace (Book One of Memory of Flames) by Stephen Deas
I've always loved dragons, and Deas breathes new life into these majestic creatures, wherein they form the power structure of the ruling aristocracy. But the human's tenuous hold on their "power base" is threatened when one dragon disappears. Did I mention I love dragons?

List one or two of your fantasy stories, then give a sentence or two about them:

1. "Susto" (Dia de los Muertos: A Day of the Dead Anthology)
An intimate reunion becomes a struggle for survival when a curandera (folk healer) invites her deceased husband home for Dia de los Muertos and also inadvertently summons La Llorona (the Weeping Woman), a vengeful spirit out to exact revenge. A fictional reenvisioning of a popular Southwestern legend, which also incorporates elements of Catholicism and curanderismo (Mexican folk healing).

2. "Conqueror of Shadows" (Tales of the Talisman magazine, Vol. 6, Issue #2)
An Apache boy faces a cunning, hidden enemy in order to save his father's life. A great Southwestern coming of age story with supernatural elements based on Western Apache witchcraft.

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About the Author

David J. Corwell’s stories appear in Cloaked in Shadow: Dark Tales of Elves (Fantasist Enterprises), Daily Flash: 365 Days of Flash Fiction (Pill Hill Press), Día de los Muertos (Elektrik Milk Bath Press), Voices of New Mexico (LPD Press/Rio Grande Books), and Tales of the Talisman (Hadrosaur Productions). He is an indefatigable promoter of his work, and his latest lineup of book signings can be found at http://booktour.com/author/david_j_corwell. David is also a 2006 graduate of the Seton Hill WPF program and the New Mexico sales rep for Fantasist Enterprises. He lives in Albuquerque with his beautiful wife and three daughters. His articles "Successful Book Signings: The Personal Touch" and "Top Ten Reasons People Give for Not Buying My Books" are part of the writing guide Many Genres, One Craft.

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About Many Genres, One Craft

Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction (Headline Books, 2011)is an amazing anthology of instructional articles for fiction writers looking for advice on how to improve their writing and better navigate the mass market for genre novels.

MGOC is available for purchase from Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

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NEXT UP: Chun Lee, the next guest blogger in the MGOC fantasy series!

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Step Back

Wow, it's been a seriously long time since I've done a purely personal blog entry. I guess that's a good sign - it means I have tons of other material to cover!

If you prefer not to read my ramblings and updates, feel free to stop reading and come back next week (when I will continue the MGOC on Fantasy Series). But if you don't mind my craziness, don't hesitate to read on!

I figured it was time to take a step back and examine what I've accomplished so far this year and what's ahead of me for the rest of 2011. It's always good to assess, as it can help refresh what still needs to be done.

The big accomplishment: completed another revision/edit of The Mind Behind the Mind. I think it cleaned up quite nicely! Not to mention it is currently sitting in the slush pile of a publisher who requested to see the full manuscript. This still excites me, and it reinforces that my first 50 pages aren't drivel - ha! So, what's ahead for this manuscript? I wait for a response back from the publisher. If they want to sign me, I celebrate (and panic about writing the sequels). If I get a rejection back, I already decided where I want to send it next. Good to have a plan. ;)

In other news, I have been running the monthly Writing Quest for over a year now! Yup, it started back in June of 2010. You can always find the event for each month on my Facebook author page. Come join us for Writing Quest - June! I feel this monthly challenge has been quite successful.

As for other writing, I mostly still have a lot to do. I'm still sending short stories out to slush piles, I still have the Dead As Dreams rough draft to finish, and I have many short stories that need to be revised. I hope to be able to work on those in the next couple months, but other things will come first.

What other things? Well, my crazy choice to go back to get the F to shove between the M and the A. I start full-time in less than two weeks! Residency starts on June 21, and after residency is over, I'll need to concentrate on a new thesis project. Daina's Dance has been on the back burner for ages, and I really want to work on it with my mentor because it's a lot of juggling (it's a working title - feel free to suggest any different titles in the comments). Here's hoping I can also finish Dead As Dreams while working on Daina. That will be quite a challenge for me! I also have another Readings in the Genre class starting in August. My main goal for the rest of the year is to survive. =D Then I need to survive the first half of next year. =/ Can't think about that right now.

So, I feel like I've been productive on many fronts at least, and I know I still have a lot of work ahead of me. Time to get out the battering ram to keep it all in place. What have you all completed this year so far? And what do you have left for the rest of 2011? Don't be afraid to take a step back, suck in a deep breath, and examine everything you've done and that you still plan to do.

Happy writing, all! Oh, and don't be afraid to add more to the chain story we started a few weeks ago: Luca's Story. I was going to end it, but unless everyone wants it to be a dark, gruesome wrap-up, someone else better add to it! It's back to reading for me now. =)

UP NEXT: A new entry in the MGOC series on fantasy from David J. Corwell!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

MGOC Series on Fantasy - Anne Harris

We have another guest blog from a contributor to Many Genres, One Craft! This time it's Anne Harris. If you would like to know more about the author and Many Genres, One Craft, please scroll down to the bottom of the post. After this week, we will be taking a brief break from the series, but I assure you, there will be more!

Fantasy Then and Now by Anne Harris

Two older Fantasy novels which impacted you:

Tolkien's The Return of the King saved my life in junior high school. It didn't stop a bullet from entering my heart, but close.

Freedom and Necessity by Emma Bull and Steven Brust is a wonderful epistolary fantasy novel which woke me up to my love of romance and helped me zero in on what matters to me most as an author.

Two newer Fantasy novels which have impacted you:

I recently read Sunshine by Robin McKinley and absolutely adored it. And I'm not a big vampire fan, but this book was written in such a way that I was captivated first by the protagonist, and I had no choice but to go along for the ride.

Wicked Gentlemen is another recent fave. It's a fantasy because it has demons in it, but the way author Ginn Hale constructs a Victorian-era society informed by all the denizens of Hell converting to Christianity felt science fictional in the way that she uses that event as a point of extrapolation for her story.

Your Fantasy story:

I don't have any fantasy novels but my (2005) Nebula nominated short story, "Still Life with Boobs" was definitely fantasy. That was a story in which keeping the fantastic element mysterious and unexplained was crucial. It allowed the focus of the work to remain on the main character's personal struggle. If I'd done it as science fiction, it would have been a different story, probably one with a broader focus on the overall cultural impact of the phenomenon.

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About the Author

Award-winning author Anne Harris writes young adult science fiction under the name Pearl North and gay romance as Jessica Freely. She also mentors students in Seton Hill University's Writing Popular Fiction MFA program. Anne blogs at http://friskbiskit.com. She's also on Facebook and Twitter.

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About Many Genres, One Craft

Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction (Headline Books, 2011)is an amazing anthology of instructional articles for fiction writers looking for advice on how to improve their writing and better navigate the mass market for genre novels.

MGOC is available for purchase from Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

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NEXT UP: A Step Back - Examining my year so far and the year ahead.