First in Category-Young Adult Fantasy

First in Category-Young Adult Fantasy
Dante Rossetti Award

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Why do Writers choose to write Fantasy?

Fantasy is what I love to read—so writing what I loved to read was a natural. When I started reading fantasy in the eighties( C.J. Cherryh, Elizabeth Moon, for example), I soon discovered that fantasy was one genre in which I could be sure to find strong female protagonists.

Some readers of this blog may not be aware that there was a time when it was rare to find strong female characters in Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Author Eileen Kernaghan remembers:

“…later (late 60’s) I discovered Phyllis Gotlieb’s lovely “Sunburst”, with its teen-aged female protagonist, and Joanna Russ’s hard-bitten professional assassin Alyx…what a thrill to stumble across them, and what possibilities they opened up for women writers!”

Eileen has gone on to write eight novels, poetry as well as non-fiction and she has received multiple awards for her Science Fiction and Fantasy.

 I enjoy world creation, even if it’s only an “alternate earth” such as the setting in my book, Elanraigh: The Vow. You write your own laws and set your own boundaries.  I’m very drawn to portraying beasts of power, such as the grey wolf of Elanraigh, as thinking, intelligent creatures that can, at will, communicate with a chosen human. (This undoubtedly stems from the many times I’ve been convinced my cat was staring at me with great emotive intent…feed me, pet me, provide me warmth, I possess the keyboard…type around me…). I love the unexpected that can always happen in a fantasy—be it a sentient forest or reptilian humanoids.

I asked other speculative fiction writers what drew them to the fantasy genre. Results poured in from my writers group and blog buddies, and not too surprisingly, they shared much in common.

One author writes,  “I like to write fantasy because I’m not restricted to real life situations and physics.”

This is interesting to consider because even in the writer’s created world, its beings will have emotions based on the writer’s own spectrum of knowledge acquired through the writer’s experience. Our human reality and our dreams will shape our fantasies, and of course, this is why our readers can connect with and care about the characters and their story.

Author Dina Rae writes paranormal using the mythology of differing religions: voodoo, witchcraft, angels, demons, etc. Whereas author Linda Hays-Gibbs prefers to weave her “what-ifs” in a specific historical era. Other authors tell me they are interested in exploring the human spectrum of morals and values…there just happen to be past-humans (i.e.: ghosts) in the picture.

I feel that in today’s mechanistic society we are so often watchers who feel impotent to change or challenge the world around us. In our fantasies we can create heroes who through courage, or just plain perseverance, will right wrongs and make a difference. All Fantasy and Paranormal authors crave the freedom to set their own parameters, and then love to have their readers join them there.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Gold Letter...

Well, dear friends, today is a momentous day…

No, unfortunately it is not that Ridley Scott has contacted me to say he wants movie rights to my novel (sigh)

However, I did receive a communication from Revenue Services Canada. Or, let me modify that to read that Bill received the communication as the envelope and contents are addressed to, “William John Hunter”. Said envelope contained my shiny new Gold Card. (I must suppose that our federal gov’t still holds to “the little woman” thought-paradigm and sent my CareCard, in care of my husband—they likely believe I will mistake the shiny gold card for a credit card and run off shopping.

Yes, it is only one month away from my official entering “senior hood”.
The crisp, heavy weight bond paper to which this key to wrinkle hood is attached contains 4 important points for me to note:
1.   Check for correctness (ok – can do)
2.   Sign the back – (they note that I can have a spouse, guardian, or other responsible adult sign on my behalf)
3.   Keep record of my number and store in a safe place
4.   Present card at time of service. 

 II  feel as if I now have a large, gold "S" imprinted on my forehead. That’s it, kiddies, I think I’ll just dodder into the kitchen a make a cup of coffee and contemplate the one, small benefit…free rides on the ferry.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Boris Karloff shops at Thrifty's...

It was his face, so startling in its melancholic cast: a pronounced bony brow ridge over deep, shadowed eyes and high cheekbones sweeping downward to a lantern jaw. His lips were wide and thin, now set in grim concentration.
He hovered over the avocadoes, his large-knuckled hands sorting through the bin with as he made his carful selections.
Frankenstein’s going to make Guacamole? I mused.
That he was elderly was evident in the deep crevices of his face, and his thin, lanky build. However, when he straightened to his full height I gasped at how tall he actually was…
Oops…did he hear me? I made busy checking out the cauliflower.
He was all of six foot plus tall…the impression of great height added to by the fact he wore a white Stetson hat, western boots…and, I noted, a canvas Duster coat.
I smiled to myself, Of course, if you’re Frankenstein what do you dress up as for Halloween—why a human being of course, perhaps a cowboy?
Later, I saw him again, just ahead of me at the Express cashier. A charming little lady was with him, his wife apparently. When the cashier, who seemed to know them both, said something. He laughed deeply and the crevices of his face wreathed a large-toothed smile
His wife laid three bags of Halloween treats down for the cashier to tally. “We get so many children come by,” she said, “and we always dress up for them.”
“What’re you going to be this year?” asked the cashier.
The little lady laughed, “Frankenstein and his bride!”

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Writer on Fire

Sometimes when writing a particular scene I've had the experience that all of a sudden the words poured out of me, a psychic might say something like “you’re channeling a guide/mentor, or the Akashic Records”. Or, perhaps I could best describe it as a deeply meditative state, where everything your mind’s eye sees is brilliantly vivid and real. After this storm of writing passes, you lapse back, exhilarated and amazed, and realize that what you’ve written is some of your best yet.

It’s something of a “mountain top” experience, though. Not something you can deliberately coax it into being.  You may attempt to seduce it, but it comes only when it wills.  I was curious whether other writers shared this phenomenon; so I posed this question to other writers in the blogasphere:

...If this is something you've experienced, please tell me about it; was it after hours of plodding work, or did it happen as soon as you set fingers to keyboard. What was your frame of mind? Did something put you in that frame of mind, i.e.: were you listening to music? Reading some other writer’s work and suddenly…”

The answers flew in, and yes whether in a meditative state such as I’ve experienced, or from the sub-conscious world of dreams, writers agree that from there, they’ve draw their best inspirations. Here’s some samplings of the responses I’ve had:

 “I’ve experienced the same feeling of writing as if someone is moving my fingers...

 “My characters come to life in my dreams. Sometimes I wake up pretty tired but I get some of my best scenes that way. It’s almost like they are writing the story and I just type it.”

This aspect of our characters taking the bit between their teeth and running with it seems to be a common thread in many responses.

 “…sometimes when I’m writing, my character will reveal something about him/herself that I didn’t know.”

Or how about this comment, “My characters won’t leave me alone—and usually at two o’clock in the morning! I can’t shut them up until I write them.”

“…an out of body experience. I’m the vessel, for whatever is being said. It’s the best high out there.”

Perhaps as a reader of books you have read some in which you’ve become totally immersed in the novel’s world in all its detail: you taste the food, smell the air and live in the skin of the characters—you are moved by their grief, shaken by their terrors, and can shed tears of joy for their happiness. When the book closes, you know that your life has been enriched. That book was written by a writer on fire


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Influence of Setting

In 1995 I read an intriguing article in the Vancouver Sun, titled “Lumber firm wails the blues over “singing forest”. Apparently a local tree planter had a spiritual experience in a forest near Tenise Creek; she says, “something akin to the voice of angels rose from the landscape.” I tucked the thought provoking article away and some years later, was sorting through my tattered old file full of various newspaper and magazine articles, the “Story Ideas File”, and read the “singing forest” article again. I began to type and wrote, ““The Elanraigh forest quivered with deep unease. Forest-mind sifted the westerly wind and breathed its warning.” And so a sentient forest came to be both a major character and the setting for my YA fantasy, Elanraigh: The Vow.

Besides, forests are something I’m familiar with, having always lived near forests and ocean—so the additional advantage for this story setting is that it’s a world I know. One less bit of research homework J as my chosen time period is an alternate-earth, medieval society; there was enough research to do there.

Also, the environment of rainforest and stormy coast, both beautiful and ever changing suited the storyline and complimented a story of a girl’s coming of age and blossoming into power.

Just as an aside, in another scene of the book, my protagonist and her party have an encounter and battle to the death with a party of Memteth raiders. The setting for this scene is “Shawl Bay.” In my mind’s eye while writing, I envisioned MacKenzie Beach, known well to me, as it’s located just outside Tofino on Vancouver Island. Ironically enough, it is this same beach that is used as “La Push” in the Twilight movies.

Think how settings affect us in such post-apocalyptic films as the Book of Eli or The Road. We are immersed in dust and despair in the sepia-toned colors of the wasteland, only to brighten in color when Eli and Solara reach Sanctuary and the Curator.

The depression-era circus in Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is a wonderful background for her characters’ stories. Just as the glitz and trappings of the big tent’s show disguises the gritty poverty of the circus roustabouts; so do the various costumed performers have their secrets and scars.

A movie like Under the Tuscan Sun is redolent of savory foods, wine and sun-drenched landscapes…a perfect setting for a hurt and lonely woman to heal and learn to open herself to life once again.

The ambience of a book determines much of its mood; setting is a tool the writer can use to evoke emotional response in the reader.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fantasy Names and Creations

I’ve noticed how frequently readers, and even other authors, will ask a writer of fantasy, "How do you come up with those names?" Umm…sometimes it’s a puzzle to the fantasy author too, how the perfect name just drifts to the front of your mind like the lettering inside a Magic Eight Ball. (Does anyone besides me remember those fascinating toys?) Of course, many authors of fantasy works are creating a story within the existing framework of familiar myths and legends, so names and places can easily be researched. Alternatively, you can look to Ancient languages such as Sanskrit depending on the type of culture or creature you are creating. You can find words in the old Celtic or Indo-European that read aloud as either melodious or forbidding;strong and forceful;or sweet and alluring. In my own story I was dealing with an alternate Earth, and a quasi-medieval setting. I chose to use a strong flavouring of the Celtic—blending both the familiar and the exotic. One of my characters is riding up a steep switchback trail, the Ttamarini warriors are in close pursuit below him. Ok. I need a fierce forest dwelling creature to appear and force him off-trail, and careening down a steep shale cliff. Fierce creature…hmm…something between a grizzly and wild boar…Ah-ha! “bristlefang!” “…the largest hump-backed bristlefang I’ve ever seen, loping along, hump swaying.” The villains of my piece, the Memteth, are humanoid, but descended from a reptilian race. The few words spoken in their language I simply made up, keeping them sibilant, however, as I imagine a speaking reptile might sound. Of course, you then have to keep a “dictionary” of the Memteth words. Sometimes I think how much more straightforward it must be to simply write in modern day setting, or at least, a well known historical one. But then, you wouldn’t have the freedom and fun of creating a world unique. Happy writing everyone.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

What if you could meet Hemmingway?

What if there were a movie about a young writer who with the draft of his first novel in hand, went back in time to 1920’s Paris and had his manuscript reviewed by the likes of Ernest Hemmingway and Gertrude Stein…

I stumbled on a really enjoyable movie last night…scrolling through the “New Releases” on Shaw VOD I paused to read the synopsis for Midnight in Paris. Something about a family’s trip to Paris. Meh. More brash Americans, undoubtedly being offensive before redeeming themselves. Sigh. However, the cast looked good: Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody…and it had 3.5 stars. Ok.

Well, the synopsis didn’t do it justice. The “family” is an American businessman, his wife and their daughter and her fiancé. The fiancé, Gil Bender from Pasadena, played by Owen Wilson, is quickly enchanted by Paris (in more ways than one). While his fiancé and her mother are focused on expensive shopping excursions, Gil is browsing the antique and memorabilia shop across the street. He loves to imagine life in the 1920’s “Golden Age” of Paris, where great artists loved, argued, and sought inspiration in its streets, bars, and special ambiance. He could live here, he tells his fiancé, and write the novel he’s always wanted to. She believes Gil is succumbing to some kind of weak- minded escapism—and no way she would ever live anywhere but America.

On a late night walk alone, Gil gets lost and stops to rest on some steps by the river. As a bell tolls midnight, a 1920’s vintage limo drives up; stops, and the couple inside insist he join them. As they drive off, the elegantly dressed couple introduce themselves…Scott Fitzgerald and his Zelda. The party they arrive at is alive with Cole Porter music, women in flapper style evening dress. They bounce from there to a local bar, when Scott introduces Gil to the bar’s lone inhabitant, Ernest. Ernest Hemmingway. Gil tentatively, then excitedly begins to discuss his novel. “I won’t read it,” Hemmingway states, “if I don’t like it, I’ll tell you I hate it—If I like it, I’ll be jealous and tell you I hate it.” But he promises that if Gil brings it to him, he’ll take it to his friend Gertrude Stein for a review. “She reads my stuff,” he says.

Of course when Gil returns to his hotel, he has also returned to present day.

And so each night, he finds his way back to his new friends and the 1920’s. The story is peopled with interesting characters from our culture’s past: writers, artists and musicians.

The beauty of it is how Gil comes to realize that the people of every era believe that bygone times were the “Golden Age” and better than the present they live in; and we see Gil also come to appreciate, at last realizing, what life has to offer him in the here and now.

Writers, especially those in the early throes of the struggle will get a kick out of this movie. Two thumbs up ☺