There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Balancing Your Writerly World with Real Life September 29, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 9:03 pm
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I know I’m supposed to be wrapping up the Fantasy Bible tips in my post today, but something else has come to light. Namely, that my post was supposed to happen yesterday and I completely forgot about it. Why? Because I was too caught up with life. It’s a lame excuse, but it is the truth.

Which brings me to the topic today. As we continue down our writerly paths and writing becomes more of a career, complete with responsibilities and deadlines, how do we balance it? That’s one of the most common questions I ask when I interview other authors for blog tours: How do you balance your writerly life with your non-writerly life?


It isn’t all fun and games and social media. When you commit to a blog post, you need to stick to it. When you sign up for a blog tour, you need to make sure you don’t double book and that you post on time. When you get to the point of publishing your book, you will have deadlines to stick to (this is true for traditional and non-traditional publishing). You’ll need to connect to your audience and engage them through social media. Once you join a critique group, you’ll need to do your fair share and read your partners’ works as well. And you still need to be writing and reading.

Overwhelmed yet? Understandable. But we can’t just spend our lives in front of our laptop screens, even if it seems like our writerly lives demand it of us. We have friends, family, kids, jobs…Sometimes the list of responsibilities we have can be daunting.

So here are some tips to help strike a balance (like I failed to do yesterday):

  1. Keep a calendar. When you make commitments of any kind, view those as appointments and put them on your calendar. I use Google calendar to keep my blog tour dates straight. I even color-code it so I know which posts I need to write and which have already been written. If I commit to review a book, I also put the deadline on the calendar and set reminders. Make a habit of checking your calendar at least once a day to make sure you are on top of the tasks for the week.
  2. Stay organized. This doesn’t just include files on your desktop. It’s very important that you keep your email clean and orderly as well. If you engage in blog tours and critique groups, create separate folders to hold those emails. You’d be surprised how often you’ll need to go back and reference them, and this helps cut down on the search time. This is also a good way to keep up with social media. I have a folder for Twitter followers. When I get an email notifying me of a new follower, I put it in that folder so I can go back and check them out later (I never auto-follow).
  3. Give yourself a break. Writing isn’t just a hobby for most of us. It is a job. So this means that if you are setting out to edit or write for the day, you need to make sure you are giving yourself breaks, just like you would take at an onsite job. Walk away from your computer for an hour to do something else.
  4. Don’t neglect yourself. This goes along with the breaks, but it needs a point of its own. It is way too easy to forget to eat, or spend your day imprinting your couch cushion with your butt. You need to take care of yourself. Make a real meal. Go jump on the treadmill or take a walk. Just make sure you are still taking care of you.
  5. Give yourself a day off. Most people get these with their so-called “9-5” gigs. You should get them too. Spend some time with your friends. Go out and be social. Your writerly world will still be there tomorrow. (And if you fear it won’t, you can still stay connected with your phone, but no more!)
  6. Have an end of day. For some people, there’s no getting around this. Once the kids get home from school or the spouse gets home from work, the laptop gets put away. Family should always come first. But if you don’t have someone (or ones) forcing you to end your writing shift, do it yourself. If you keep running from morning til night, you are eventually going to run on empty and get burned out. And this will also help to ensure you don’t forget about commitments if you make sure all your work is done before your “end of shift”.

Doing these things might seem like no-brainers, but it is easy to let some of them slip by the wayside. What are you guilty of when it comes to writing?

~Mara V


Gaslamp Fantasy September 25, 2013

Hi everyone,

This post was inspired by Kate’s post on Dark Fantasy. Much like her, I have a favourite Fantasy sub-genre: mine is Gaslamp Fantasy. The name was coined in 2006 by webcomic artist Kaja Foglio to differentiate her work from steampunk fiction. Gaslamp Fantasy is what I write, and what I love to read.

What is “Gaslamp Fantasy”?

Gaslamp Fantasy (also known as Gaslight Fantasy or Victorian Fantasy) designates stories set during the 19th Century, from the Regency to the end of Queen Victoria’s reign. It is a sub-genre of both Fantasy and Historical fiction, and it comprises elements from both genres.

How is it different from Steampunk?

The main difference between Gaslamp and Steampunk is that Steampunk is technology-focused and Gaslamp is magic-focused. Also Steampunk will often favour adventure when Gaslamp will focus on a mystery.

What books are examples of Gaslamp Fantasy?

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (2004)

The Magic Most Foul series and The Strangely Beautiful series by Leanna Renee Hieber (2009-now)

The Sally Lockhart Quartet by Philip Pullman (1988-2004)

Temeraire (aka His Majesty’s Dragon in the US) by Naomi Novik (2006)

The Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray (2003-2007)

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley (2012)

Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells, An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (2013)

So tell me, have you heard about Gaslamp Fantasy before? Is it a sub-genre you enjoy reading? Let us know in the comment section below!

EM Castellan


Video Games as Inspiration September 19, 2013

Hello Readers!

Sorry for the delay in post, but I just got stitches out and wanted to write something to celebrate 🙂

Now, onto the post. Inspiration can be found all around us. Most people look to television, movies, and nature, but an underrepresented media are video games. There are a plethora of fantasy game available for players of all strengths. Five of my personal favorites are below.

5.) Skyrim

You play the role of a character capable of using the ‘The Voice’ (Dragon Language which allows you to control fire, snow, and other elements) and are charged with destroying a dragon said to bring about the destruction of the world. You are capable of choosing whether you want to use an ax, duel swords, sword, and shield, or primarily magic. You can also chose to be one of the many inhabitants of the world. The world is fairly rich with lore and you can get into the middle of a civil war if you so chose.

4.) Diablo 3

The third installment of the Diablo series, a series I’ve been playing since I was five, doesn’t disappoint in continuing the lore they had in the first two games. Information is giving to you through journal entries that are found throughout the game. It deals with the struggle between The Hells, the world of humans, and Heaven, and does a great job of blending story and action.

3.) Guild Wars 2

Very different from the other games I posted above, this game is only available to play online and can be played with many, many players. Admittedly, there are Guild Wars books, but the game is so much fun to play. It’s based in a fantasy world called Tyria that is split up by race (of which you can choose any to play). You have to quest throughout the world, gaining levels to unlock more of the story. Depending on choices you made at the beginning, your personal story will be different. However, everyone eventually must team up to take down an undead dragon bent on destroying the world.

4.) The Witcher 2

The Witcher 2 is also based off a book series, but is definitely a fun game. You play as Geralt, a Witcher-a monster hunter that most everyone is afraid of. The game is interesting because you can chose what you say and what you do, which drastically impacts the ending. There are multiple endings and multiple paths to take. I would say this game is more for the advanced gamer ( in my opinion) as the controls are a little hard to get control of.

5.) Dragon Age Origins

Personally my favorite game of all time. You can pick between being an elf, human, or a dwarf. Of these three choices, there are paths you can take, noble, lowborn, mage, or a Dalish Elf-elves who refused to be subjected by the humans. You play as a Gray Warden, defenders of the world against the Darkspawn, men twisted from touching the seat of God. You must defend your country from the invading darkspawn, while gathering armies from others in the country. One of the great parts of the game is that you can talk to your fellow party members and form relationships with them. Not to mention the lore in the game is outstanding and consistent across all games.

SO, if you’re into playing games and writing fantasy, I would suggest checking them out. Do any of you have favorite games?



The Rough-shod Middle Earth of Your Trilogy September 11, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 2:44 pm
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Yup. That’s me right now. Can any of you relate? For your sakes, I hope not.

They say the second book in a trilogy is the one that does you in, and I am here to tell you, believe it. The second book will rip something out. It might be your heart, or your brain, or your eyes, but seriously, you are not getting out of here unscathed.

Why is engaging in the drafting and revision of a second book so terrifying? Well, some simple reasons, for starters. The story must go on, but it can’t be the same. It has to be deeper and more powerful. The stakes must be raised. Whatever the characters were fighting for in book one must suddenly be more of a background issue. You need fresh problems, fresh challenges to face.

Right. That can’t be too hard, can it? Well, here’s where it all gets complicated.

Your second book needs conflict and resolution. It needs clean character arcs. It needs all the same story beats your first novel had. But it CANNOT TRULY RESOLVE. At the end, you need to still have another novel’s worth of even HIGHER stakes waiting. This is where I run into the greatest difficulty. My second book is different from my first in so many ways. It has a different main character. Most of the POVs are swapped. The stakes are crazy high by the time we get to the end — so high in fact that I’m not sure everyone won’t be staring at me with this look on their face:

Everyone goes through hell in this book. Everyone gets hurt. Everyone loses something dear. And yet, the show goes on. (And yes, I have a third book full of even crazier shiz already in my head.) But I can’t help wondering if this is going to be one of those, “Like, for real? You think you can get away with this?”

The thing is, no, I don’t think I can. I’ve been revising this manuscript by chopping it up and deleting and destroying and rewriting and then ripping up the beat sheet and starting a new outline with completely different events…*headdesk*. I just completed a rewrite of 40k of it. I’m still tossing out every version of the ending that I come up with. I tweak the dialogue. I tweak the dialogue again. I kill some darlings. I haven’t even sent it to my CPs yet because it’s too messy to be coherent. If all goes well, I’ll plague them with it later this month, as soon as I can string together all the madness.

Anyone else out there writing their middle novel? Lost in the mire? Neck deep in revisions? Dude, I raise my glass and wish you the best. This is where I’ve been lately, so I thought I’d share. At least we can all commiserate together, right?

Rachel O’Laughlin


Dark Fantasy: My Literary Sweet Spot September 7, 2013

We all have our sweet spots in literature, that special genre or subgenre that feeds our soul and makes us drive clear across town to our local bookstore (even though we hate getting out of the house) and spend money we don’t really have because we can’t go another day without a certain book. And I mean a physical, in your hand, book.

Mine is dark fantasy. Why? It’s all because of Stephen King.

I love elements of horror in my fantasy. I crave them, like I crave my morning coffee or the beach. I don’t feel complete without them. Stephen King woke the shadows in my imagination, and they’ve never gone back to sleep. I’ve read everything of his, and second to It, The Dark Tower series is my favorite. I’m always looking for books that will give me the same elation, terror, and excitement that series evoked.

While some of these may seem vastly different than the Tower series, here are some dark fantasy novels and series I truly love:

Neverwhere and Coraline by Neil Gaiman

The Child Thief by Brom

A Modern Faerie Tale series by Holly Black

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

The Darkangel Trilogy by Meredith Ann Pierce

Of course, these are just a handful, and I’ve read just about every book by each of these authors, but it’s a start if you’ve never read dark fantasy and want to give it a try.

This week, I’ll be reading Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black. And in case you’re wondering, I will drive to the bookstore to purchase Doctor Sleep.

Happy reading!



Epic Eras September 4, 2013

I’ve just started reading Shield of Thunder, the first book of David Gemmell’s excellent Troy series; which, a hundred pages in, has already captured my imagination and drawn me into the ancient world of Odysseus, Penelope, Achilles and Kalliope.

It’s not the first novel I’ve read based in this era (fantasy or otherwise), Sara Douglass’ Troy Game series had its roots here, weaving a magical fantasy tale right out of the labyrinth into the heart of wartime London; Rick Riordian’s Percy Jackson series leans heavily on the mythology of that time; and who could overlook the movie Troy, which at least gave a taste of the larger than life characters who made a such an impression on history and legend.

But what makes this period such great fodder for the writer of epic fantasy is not only the abundance of kings and the history of battles and intrigues, it was also the time of the storyteller. Great battles have been fought countless times throughout the ages, but in the time of ancient Greece, the retelling was coloured by myth and becomes something quite magical.

For writers seeking to create memorable characters, it’s worth taking a closer look at some of these eras. If you write heroic fantasy, what made the heroes of legend? What drove them? What drew people to them? Or who or what was it that provoked them to action? How did the social structure contribute, especially in the areas of religion, slavery, natural resources and education?

David Gemmell, in my opinion, got it exactly right. His Odysseus is as charismatic and mesmerising as a man of legend should be; managing to be both powerful and vulnerable, virtuous, sentimental and pragmatic.

Yet this is no cookie-cutter hero. Gemmell draws Odysseus’ character through his reaction to the death of a recently deceased crew-member, a run-away princess, dishonoured soldiers and a huge black pig!

Although the world of ancient Greece has influenced many fantasy writers, there are many other eras (on a grand or small scale) that are equally as captivating: The Scotland of William Wallace; Marco Polo’s journey into the heart of the Orient; the record breaking airmen and woman who flew around the world in planes held together with wire and string; the Kennedy Era and the first astronauts.

History might provide the major plot points, but for writers there are endless possibilities to explore the crevices in between.

Has an era or a person from history ever influenced your writing? 

– by Raewyn Hewitt