Quote of the Moment

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Classic Fantasy

For those of us who started reading fantasy when we were younger, we likely have fond memories of some of the novels we first read. In most cases, those novels are now considered classic fantasy.

I do think the definition of classic fantasy is different depending on who you talk to. It's hard to draw a a solid line between classic and modern, especially since time continues to pass and what was considered modern one day may be considered classic the next. The line moves, and sometimes age still doesn't make a novel classic, depending on the viewpoints of many people.

The class I am taking this semester involves reading and examining many classic fantasy texts. So, over the next few months, I will be focusing on classic fantasy on this blog. Hopefully you'll find things to reminisce about or classics that you never picked up before, but decide to finally do so.

Do you remember when you first started reading fantasy?

I think J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit was the first fantasy book I ever read (and I'll get to read it again for class!). And for me, the books that thoroughly pulled me into dark fantasy were Tanith Lee's Black Unicorn and Books of Paradys. I also have fond memories of Andre Norton's Witch World books.

What are your favorite fantasy classics?

NEXT UP: A look at William Morris's The Wood Beyond the World.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Week Off

Dear readers, I've decided to take a week off from blogging! I know you were all looking forward to discussing Classic Fantasy, but I assure you, next Wednesday I'll do just that. Until then, happy reading and writing!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Finding Time to Write!

Recently, I've picked up the book Time to Write: Professional writers reveal how to fit writing into your busy life. Heck, finding time to read the tips is a hard enough feat!

But the truth is, for all of us that have that drive to write, time is always a factor. So many things want to interrupt writing time, seem more important than that writing time. Before you know it, a year has come and gone with little to no writing because you let everything else get in the way.

If you're Born to Write, you'll find the time, even if you do have productive periods and unproductive periods like I do. That drive, that need, that yearning will overcome you, and you'll jump off that writing cliff. The thing is, we all need to strive for more consistency. We need to stick to it if we intend to produce words on a regular basis. Get in a schedule, a pattern, and learn what is the best environment and time to write. We have to make writing a habit. This is something I've yet to succeed at, but I'm still trying.

Time to stop making excuses and make time to write! It's easy enough to say, not so easy to do. So when you scrub out those excuses and get in the good habit, make sure you're proud of yourself for doing just that - it's a lot of hard work. Writing isn't easy, nor is making the time to do it.

There are several links below with many tips on finding time to write. Bookmark them if you don't have time to look at them now. One small bit of advice just might be exactly what you need to get your writing gears turning and your fingers flying.

So, when do you make time to write? What are your usual roadblocks, and what do you think you can do to overcome them?

Finding Time to Write: Making Writing a Priority

Five Tips for Finding Writing Time
Finding Time to Write When You Have No Time to Write!
Why There'll Never Be a Perfect Time to Write
Make Time to Write: How to Find Time to Write

UP NEXT: Classic Fantasy

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lee Allen Howard - Horror and SciFi

OK, last week I had said a review of The Sixth Seed would be next up. Life and school intervened and cut down my planned reading time, though. Instead of a review, I have something better - a guest blog post from the author of The Sixth Seed, Lee Allen Howard! If you'd like to know more about the author, please scroll to the bottom of the article.

Horror and SciFi by Lee Allen Howard

When I first began working on THE SIXTH SEED, I wasn’t planning to write anything other than a horror story. And it started out as a story, a short one, way back in 1994.

The idea invaded my mind during my drive home through rush-hour traffic as I approached the Ft. Pitt Tunnel in Pittsburgh, PA. A man gets a vasectomy performed by a doctor in league with the Gray alien race in order to produce the first human/alien hybrid. The doctor implants a genetically engineered paraseed in the man’s vas deferens, outside the cauterization point, that impregnates his wife with their sixth child—the first hybrid to develop full-term in utero.

I thought this was horror at the time. It was when it was only a 5000-word short story.

But the more I worked with it, the bigger it grew. Frustrated with my inability to get a handle on this tale, I sent it out for review and received a comment that the idea was too big for a short story; why not develop it into a novel?

When I wrapped my head around the possibility, I broadened the story arc, developed the characters, and gave them a backstory. Working on my antagonist revealed that I needed to represent his world realistically, and this included science and medicine. (Frankly, without this grounding in reality, the story would be too farfetched to believe.) So I studied up on urology and obstetrics. I was lucky to have an uncle who’s an OB/GYN and a friend who just underwent a vasectomy and was willing to give me the gritty (intensely portrayed in chapter 1).

My horror story was mutating into something else, some kind of hybrid… Was it science fiction? Kind of. Fantasy? That, too, listing toward the dark side. Definitely paranormal, in the aliens and UFO sense. And what else? Family drama. What a mish-mash.

I tried to place this book for a decade, and it couldn’t be categorized. I liked it just fine the way it turned out, so I refused to rewrite it to make it acceptable for traditional print publication. I finally decided to produce it myself for Kindle and Nook.

I bill THE SIXTH SEED as “a dark paranormal fantasy fraught with suburban Pittsburgh horror.” But the science fiction is there too, in the medical procedures, extrapolated to the conception, prenatal care, and delivery of a child half alien.

Like Tom and Melanie Furst’s bizarre progeny in the novel, every great story is a unique mix of fact and fiction, science and horror, family and fantasy. Whatever tale you’re writing, don’t let genre constraints keep you from birthing the story that needs to be written. Create your own hybrid!

THE SIXTH SEED is available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com, or at Smashwords.com: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/64365.

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About the Author

Lee Allen Howard has been a professional writer since 1985. He writes horror, erotic horror, dark fantasy, and crime. His publication credits include Cemetery Sonata anthology, THOU SHALT NOT... anthology (Dark Cloud Press), THE SIXTH SEED, SEVERED RELATIONS, and STRAY. He is currently working on his fourth novel.

Lee blogs about writing and editing on his writer’s site: http://leeallenhoward.com. He is currently studying spiritualism, mediumship, and healing with the Morris Pratt Institute.

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NEXT UP: Finding time to write!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Liz Coley - Extraordinary People

Today we have another guest blog! This one is by author Liz Coley. If you'd like to know more about her, please scroll to the bottom of the article.

Extraordinary People by Liz Coley

Back in 1976, Judith Guest wrote the very influential YA novel Ordinary People about a troubled teen in a dysfunctional family trying to survive the death of the oldest son. By the end of the book, the most this kid will be able to save is himself and his relationship with his father. He's an ordinary person.

In science fiction and fantasy, when the protagonist is a teenager, the kid is far from ordinary. Think Ender Wiggin, Frodo Baggins, Katniss Everdeen, Miles Vorkorsigan, Luke Skywalker. Think Harry Potter. The stakes are huge--save the world, save the empire, defeat ultimate evil. The teens who star in adventures of huge consequence can't be ordinary, not even in a "well, everyone is special in their own way" version of ordinary. They have particular grit, particular grace, particular cunning, particular vision, particular maturity. They see a world of hope and possibility. They step out in front of the adults--they step up to carry the ring, build a personal army, save the world, lead the way. Their voices aren't those of adolescents wondering the usual adolescent wonders--can I get a date? am I too fat? why are my parents such dorks?--at least not most of the time. They aren't navel gazers. Their eyes are up and on the distant horizon, or higher even, in the stars.

Science fiction and fantasy readers, at least those I know, read to escape the ordinary; we read to think about and experience the extraordinary for a while. The what-ifs are large, cosmic even. Readers who haven't grown up immersed in these genres don't entirely get it. Why would you read that? they ask. It's so unrealistic.

That's the whole point. It's unrealistic. It's inspiring.

But then is this likely? A thirteen year old boy scaled Everest--could he have climbed Mt. Doom? A sixteen-year old girl circumnavigated the world solo--could she have led a space fleet to another planet? Several kids have taken on the evil of genocide in Darfur--could they take on Voldemort? A teenaged girl with visions led a defeated French army to victory--would she have rallied the Earth to fight off invading Martians?

In my just-released novel Out of Xibalba, a teenager from Ohio finds herself stranded in the deep past, alone in the waning days of the Mayan Empire. Mistaken for the goddess Ix Chel, she has to figure out not only how to survive, but how to give this catastrophe meaning. By changing the world, of course.

There are extraordinary voices, people who aren't like most of us. There are extraordinary teens with exceptional talent and drive and initiative and maybe even magic. Between the pages and in the real world.

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About the Author

Liz Coley writes science fiction and fantasy for adults and teens. Her short story sales appear in a variety of anthologies: The Last Man Anthology (2010), More Scary Kisses (2011), and the upcoming Bride of the Golem and Strange Worlds Anthology. She has also been published in Cosmos Magazine and Cosmos Online in Australia. Liz has been writing and submitting seriously since 2001, with efforts coming to fruition in 2010/11. Her novel Out of Xibalba is available at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and Createspace in trade paper and ebook versions. On the heels of this publication comes the news of her first sale to big publishing--but that announcement will wait for a later blog.

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NEXT UP: A review of Lee Allen Howard's The Sixth Seed.