There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Pin-ups March 29, 2014

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 6:00 am
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I’m notorious for letting band-wagons pass by. I stubbornly refuse to join in just because something is popular. Facebook is a perfect example of that. I went in kicking and screaming; only joining because most of my family had defected from our Yahoo Group List, and it seemed if I wanted to keep abreast of things, I needed to be on Facebook. Oh, but the grumbling that took place.

I now have three Facebook personas. *head, desk*

When Pinterest came around, I turned my nose up. Yes, I can be a snob. What a frivolous waste of time it seemed to be. I needed nothing to do with it.

A while back…I succumbed. And, I’m big enough to admit, I was wrong about Pinterest. I’m a visual person. Pinterest has become a giant corkboard for me. A place to stash bits of things I want to remember, or keep track of. More importantly, I can see how it is becoming a tool for my writing. All those little things I scrawled on post-it notes, all those links I write down and then lose, images that inspire scenes, characters or places…they are no longer lost in piles of papers, stuck somewhere in the back of my head, or otherwise scattered to the winds. They are organized on boards that I can access at any time from any where. I figured I would post things and forget about them, never checking them, never using them as reference.

Again. I was wrong.

More importantly, I’m hoping to use Pinterest and my writing boards to connect with my readers. No, I haven’t figured out how exactly. Not entirely. I have some ideas rolling around in the grey matter. One thing would be to invite readers to send me images that they connect with my books. How they see the characters, or the world around them. Maybe bits of music that remind them of a certain scene. That’s something I’m working on. I’m sure it will evolve.

One of the nicest things about Pinterest is that it’s quick. Especially with the aps available. I see something I want to pin, and in a few clicks, done. I like that. Simple, effective, visual, easy to share, easy to keep private if I choose.

So, how many Pinterest users out there? What do you use it for? Do you actively follow other people’s boards? What are some creative ways you seen it use to connect with others?

~ K. L. Schwengel

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The Music of Writing: I See Fire March 26, 2014

Music has always played an integral part in the world of fantasy. Whether in the form of the siren song, cast out over a still ocean, or in the bardic tradition of weaving myths and legends into musical form; it brings a richness and sets a cultural timbre to the fantasy world.

When it’s done well that is. One of my favourite passages of ‘written music’ is when Aslan sings Narnia into existence in The Magician’s Nephew:

In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide what direction it was coming from. Sometimes it seemed to be coming from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth herself. There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it…

It’s a long passage that builds a crescendo in the reader:

The lion was pacing to and fro about the empty land and singing his new song. It was softer and more lilting than the song by which he had called up the stars and the sun; a gentle, rippling music. And as he walked and sang, the valley grew green with grass. It spread out from the Lion like a pool. It ran up the sides of the little hills like a wave…

Conveying the essence of music with words is hard work. A mere record of the lyrics often can’t convey the emotional response, atmosphere or tone of the music itself. And music often tells its own story. Just watch a deleted scene from a movie without the background music. It’s never as powerful.

Fortunately you don’t have to be a gifted musician to write music in a novel, but it helps to look those with a musical gift for inspiration. Whether the music of your book leans towards the soft background music of unassuming string instruments, often in the background and unnoticed by those discussing things of import (because it never hurts to have one eye on your plot); or the type of percussion that gets into the blood and rouses passions – find yourself something similar to listen to and to quote Eminem;

Lose yourself in the music…

And then find the words to express what you feel.

Many of us create playlists that evoke emotions when we’re writing. On my epic fantasy playlist is U2, Bryan Adams, John Mayer, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson and Shooting Stars. It only takes a few bars from With or Without You, and I’m with one of my characters, riding across the plains of Gaelladorn with the wind whipping my hair and my mind focussed on just one thing…

And if you get really lucky you might come across a musician who has been inspired by someone else’s words, and who will inspire you. Like this masterpiece from Ed Sheeran:

I’d love to know how you incorporate music into your writing, or writing process?

by Raewyn Hewitt

 

Book Recommendation: The Queen’s Thief series by M. Whalen Turner March 22, 2014

Filed under: Reading — thereanddraftagain @ 9:12 pm
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QueensThief

It’s no secret THE QUEEN’S THIEF series by Megan Whalen Turner is my favourite YA Fantasy series of all time. If you haven’t read these books yet, I’d like to convince you to do so today.

What is this series?

There are 6 books planned in THE QUEEN’S THIEF series and four of them are already out: THE THIEF (published in 1996 and awarded a Newbery Honor in 1997), THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA (published in 2000), THE KING OF ATTOLIA (published in 2006) and A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS (published in 2010). Additionally, two short stories have also been published as extra content: EDDIS (2007) and DESTRUCTION (2011).

What is it about?

Eugenides (or Gen) is the main character of this series, although he isn’t always its focus or its narrator. He is “The Thief” from Book 1 and we follow his journey from the prison of Sounis to the court of Attolia.

Who are the other characters?

One of the strenghts of this series is its cast of characters: the mysterious, oh-so-clever and beautiful Queen of Attolia, Sophos, the young heir of Sounis and the focus point of Book 3, the always helpful Queen of Eddis, the indispensable Magus… the reader never knows who to trust and who to like, for everyone is ultimately so very flawd and human in these books.

Where does it take place?

Attolia, Sounis and Eddis are three small kingdoms at war with each other. Megan Whalen Turner drew from Ancient Greece, the Byzantine Empire and 16th Century Italy to create them. Somewhere beyond the sea, the Mede Empire (inspired by the Persian Empire) is ready to conquer them. Unless they can unite under one banner – or rather, behind one ruler.

What’s so special about it?

 As you may have noticed, Megan Whalen Turner isn’t in a hurry to publish these books. She takes between 4 and 6 years to carefully craft each installment, which results in beautiful writing, incredibly clever plots, wonderful world building and complex characters. Each book is a little masterpiece of YA Fantasy fiction.

So go ahead and read them!

EM Castellan

 

Judging Books By Their Covers March 15, 2014

Filed under: Publishing,Reading — thereanddraftagain @ 7:08 pm
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Covers are really on my mind right now as I try to figure out what I would want on the cover of my dystopian, which has led me to think about what makes a really great cover. I know what my personal tastes are, but I also know if I had judged some of my favorite books by cover alone instead of the blurb or hearsay, I would have missed out on some amazing stories. These are just a few that have beautiful covers and are amazing stories, but not the kind of cover that would draw my eye:

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There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these covers, and they are some of my favorite books. In fact, after reading Faith of the Fallen, it became my favorite fantasy cover. If you’ve read the books, you know the impact the statues Richard made had on the story and on Nicci in particular, and I love that Richard stands so tall in front of their glory but looks so small in comparison. It is all very moving once you read the story, but wouldn’t have evoked the same reaction out of me if I had no idea what was going on.

I’m not sure why, but covers that look like paintings don’t draw me in. I prefer covers that have a cinematic, move poster-type feel to them, with the characters front and center and the action surrounding them.

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And yet, some of the best fantasy series out there have covers that are more artistic and classic. If you look at the most well-known and best-selling names in fantasy (Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Mercedes Lackey, Robin Hobb, Neil Gaiman, etc) and you will find their covers match that description: artistic and classic (urban fantasy best sellers tend to be a different story with more cinematic and action-packed covers like Patricia Briggs and Kim Harrison). There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but these are the generalizations I’ve seen.

So what makes a great cover in your eyes? What draws you in? And what are some favorite books you would have missed out on if you had only judged the book by its cover?

 

That’s How It’s Done: Siege and Storm March 12, 2014

This past month I finished reading the fabulous Leigh Bardugo‘s second installment in the Grisha Trilogy, Siege and Storm. I actually didn’t enjoy it as much as the first book, Shadow and Bone (for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is that the first book is pretty hard to top), but the fact that I wasn’t thoroughly engrossed gave me the chance to read it slowly and really parse the writing style as a whole.

There are certain things we are told are against the rules of writing, and usually they’re fairly good points. But sometimes these rules of thumb are based on what’s in style, so it’s a good idea to know why and to what you are conforming. Don’t just take advice because it’s thrown out there as advice — always determine whether or not it’s right for your novel, and keep aware of the reasons these trends are circulating and to what audience[s] they apply.

As I read Siege and Storm, I noticed a bunch of things that broke *sacred* rules, and yet worked well for this novel, and I felt I just had to point them out.

— Telling v. Showing
We’re always told, “Show, don’t tell,” and generally speaking it’s a wonderful rule. But guys, there’s boatloads of telling in Siege and Storm. BOATLOADS. Whenever there’s a folk tale or history that needs to be explained, it’s usually done right there in the middle of the narrative instead of in the voice of a character or in relation to the stakes. Sometimes the description is so dry that you could swear Alina isn’t observing it herself (as we might assume she must be, since the entire series is in her first person narrative). Sometimes characters’ powers and attributes are described in a drifty, blank, who-the-frig-is-talking voice instead of Alina’s. But somehow, it works. It feels very classic, old school, and large scale.

— Lots of Action, followed by lots of Nothing
Usually pacing is a huge concern for us writers. We want to be sure our action is interspersed with reflection and dialogue in a thoughtful manner so that the crescendo at the end of the book can hit the reader with maximum force. Siege and Storm opened with seven solid chapters of pure action, then slowed to a lilting, description-heavy pace for almost the entire novel until the very, very end, where we again encountered intense action just in time for the story to wrap up. I’m a huge fan of tension throughout an entire story, so this unusual pacing should have left a bitter taste in my mouth. Yet it felt unique and truly endearing. I was pleased that the book hadn’t unfolded as I expected. Surprise is nice. Very nice.

— Passive Voice
This one is the kicker. Passive voice, passive voice, passive voice. Everyone hates passive voice. We all do. It feels lazy when we find it in our own manuscripts, and it looks lazy when we see it in others. If we could make it die finally and forever, we would. But it always creeps back up on us and lurks in the shadows whenever we’re having an off-day. To be completely honest, when I first encountered passive voice in Siege and Storm, I switched into critique mode and was tempted to take out a red pen. “Passive! Kill it with fire!” But I couldn’t. I was reading the novel of an author I admire, the second in a series I was breathless to hear the end of. So I kept reading. After awhile, I started to realize the passive had a gorgeous part to play in the story. Alina is going through some really unusual struggles with her own psyche in this middle novel. She often isn’t sure who she is or what she wants, and she starts to view others with a detached lack of empathy. The Passive Voice is just that — detached, lacking the full experience. It’s very Alina, it’s very true (in this case), and it’s very freaking brave of Ms. Bardugo to put it out there right now.

This book reads like a classic, and I love classics. I have to admire it to pieces for being able to pull a Crazy Ivan on some of our modern writing rules and still be a huge success in today’s market.

Rachel O’Laughlin

 

Forever Neverland March 8, 2014

Filed under: Inspiration,Reading — thereanddraftagain @ 7:54 pm
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As a child, Neverland was my ultimate vacation destination. I remember wanting to go so bad my chest actually ached from it. I dreamed of Neverland on a regular basis, and watched the Disney movie until the tape (yeah, VHS all the way) wore out and we had to buy a new one.

And Peter…Well, my childhood crush hasn’t ever really faded, from my heart or my mind.

So, here I am, all grown up with children of my own, and still I dream of Neverland. Anything to do with it, whether a movie or clever re-telling, grabs my attention.

Finding Neverland is brilliant and heartwarming, and reminds me of the power of imagination.

findingneverland

My absolute favorite re-telling is THE CHILD THIEF by Brom. Dark and twisted, this beautifully gruesome book is not for the faint of heart.

the child thief

And I can’t wait to add this to my collection: HOOK’S REVENGE by Heidi Schulz.

hooks revenge

One day I’ll visit Neverland, and hopefully I’ll see one or two of you while I’m there.

Kate