Three Great Places to Draw Inspiration for Creativity

I have to admit, sometimes it’s hard for me to find inspiration for blog posts. And honestly, sometimes that extends to larger projects, like books, art pieces, or DND campaigns. This is a sentiment a lot of creatives often share, and people can find their inspiration in a lot of different places. So where can we look for ideas when we’re feeling blocked? Where can we search from the comfort of our armchairs or couches or desks? Let’s take a look at three places online we can search for ideas.

Real life

Honestly, is there anything stranger than real life sometimes? *gestures vaguely*

But current events aside, you may find that you can be inspired by the things going on around you. As an exercise, try setting a timer for 5, 10, even 30 minutes (and believe me, a timer is important if you don’t want to lose the rest of the day). Then, scroll through the home page of a news site or even Facebook. Write down as many ideas as you see pop up…don’t worry about if you’ll use them or what you’d use them for. The idea is to pick out things you might not have noticed otherwise, things that can be used for character or world development, maybe even the basis of a plot.

Other media

Another way to come up with ideas is to see what other people are doing. In order to refill your own creative well, you may find that consuming other stories is key. So watch Netflix for a couple hours a couple times a week. Read a few books (and you should probably be reading books anyway as research for yourself). Take time to see what you enjoy in stories or what interests you in documentaries and let yourself dwell on those things. Then, when you’ve done some research into things you like to consume, see if you can figure out how to incorporate those ideas and tropes in your next piece.

Internet

There is an abundance of inspiration to be found online as well, some of which can count as real life or media. But I want to draw your attention to a few particular places online.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a great place to find photos and artwork to inspire you and to create digital mood boards. I do this for just about every story I write! I’ve also talked a bit about how to use Pinterest for your writing in a previous post, so I’ll leave it here for now. 🙂

Photo sites

I won’t list specific ones, but sometimes all you need to shake an idea loose is the right photo. Take some time to scroll through stock photo sites or photography communities.

Tumblr and other blogs

You may also find ideas in blogs across the internet. See what other people are discussing that strikes a chord with you. Maybe it’s a single thought that’s the theme for a new piece. Do you agree with what you’re reading? Disagree? Have more thoughts? Expand on that.

Wikipedia

Finally, Wikipedia is a wealth of information. And it’s so easy to go down the rabbit hole. Follow a link trail and learn new things about a topic that interests you. But, much like with the news or social media searching, you may want to set yourself a timer.

Final Thoughts

Before I close for the week, I want to be clear that what I’m talking about today is simply finding inspiration – a single idea that you can develop on your own. This does not mean taking whole ideas and stories (no plagiarism, copyright infringement, or other illegal activities!). It simply means looking at something that interests you and seeing how you can make it your own story.

But I do want to emphasize that we are surrounded by stories all day every day. With practice, you’ll be able to pick them up and set them aside for later. I don’t know about you, but I keep a file on my computer of random ideas I may eventually use. Maybe it’s time to start your own file, too!

Keep your eyes open, and let your mind wander. You never know where you’ll find your next idea.

Ambient Sound Recommendations to Improve Your Writing Day

Hey folks! Last week we discussed the benefits of using ambient sounds and I admitted I’m terrible at following my own advice (I regularly watch TV while writing instead of using tools like ambient sounds to boost my focus). But today, I wanted to share three resources for those of you who want to give ambient sounds a try. These are all resources I have personally used for both writing and for setting the mood while DM’ing a D&D game (so dungeon masters, listen up!).

Online Resources

Rainy Mood

This site is by and large my favorite. It plays the sound of rain, and as a pluviophile, I love putting it on as white noise in the background.

Coffivity

This is another one that’s fun. For free, it lets you choose from three different coffee house settings to give you some ambient noise. Especially good for right now to make you feel like you’re sitting in your favorite coffee shop. All you need is a fresh cup for yourself, and you’re all set!

Ambient Mixer

This one is also fun. There are so. Many. Choices. And you can search for specific atmospheres you’re looking for. I know there’s also a way to make your own mixes, but I’ve never played with that part of the site.

Apps for your Phone

There are also a couple apps I have on my phone for those times when I’m not connected to the internet on my computer. Rainy Mood has an app with some free ambient noise for you, the Rainy Mood Lite app. There’s also Relax Forest that I really love, which has a whole bunch of forest tracks for you to listen to for free. I run on Android, so I can’t promise these are also on iOS. But if you can get them, they are fantastic!

YouTube

I linked my own personal playlist of writing sounds, but there are so many. Just search for whatever setting you’re working in, and voila! Instant atmosphere.

Final Thoughts

Ambient sounds are a great way to focus, and today I’ve shared some of my favorite tools (psst, they can also double as ways to set the mood for events like parties). If you have a favorite I haven’t mentioned, feel free to let me know about it in the comments! Or if you’ve tried one of these and hate it, let me know that, too!

Either way, I hope you found the last couple weeks useful, and I’ll see you next time!

Survival Part 1: Why I Love Survival Stories

Let’s talk books!

This week I’m going to start a 3-part series on survival stories. Why? Well, I’ll get into that this week. But the background is three-fold: I am a longtime lover of the survival story, the novel I’m querying right now is a fantasy survival story, and I just finished reading a new one (which I loved!).

Now, I don’t know about you guys, but right now is not the time I’d necessarily expect I’d want to read survival stories. We’re in the middle of weird times (yes, I am also getting tired of people calling it “unprecedented times”) that feel a little too post-apocalyptic. Personally, I’ve noticed a split between those who want to read ALL the post-apoc and those who want nothing but fluffy. At first, I did want those post-apoc books. Then I wanted fluffy. And now, as things are starting to stabilize again, I’m good with reading slightly more survivally stories.

There are several things that really appeal to me about this kind of story.

First, these stories showcase ingenuity in a way nothing else does. There’s something to be said for dropping a person in a seemingly impossible situation only to see them come up with solutions like MacGyver with nothing more than a shoelace or their own hair. Yes, that really did happen in the book I just finished. As someone who’s never had to fight for my life in a life-or-death struggle, I never would have come up with that. Amazing to see the things a person can come up with when the situation arises.

Next, these stories make us think, but in good ways. They remind us that we really don’t have it that bad, but beyond that, they make us think what we would do if thrown into a situation like that. They are books for critical thinking wrapped up in a pretty package of drama and edge-of-your-seat excitement. They show the raw sides of humanity and let us consider both the good and the bad.

Finally, there is nothing like a triumphant survival story to showcase the human spirit. It can show us the lengths we can go to in order to make it through a difficult situation. And they show us the pure determination and grit, the hope. They show us how people come together in impossible situations to take care of each other, like in The Martian (we’ll go through some specific recommendations in a couple weeks). They show us how people can rise above the terrible things that could happen.

And honestly, that’s the biggest draw of the survival story: the triumph of the human spirit.

Next week we’ll discuss five important elements to writing a survival story, and the week after that I have some good recommendations, but for now, tell me what you think. Do you enjoy this kind of story? Why or why not? What is it about them that make you feel that way? Let’s chat in the comments, or tweet me @selinajeckert!

The Value of Finding Your Writing Community

Do you know why community is so important for writers?

It’s been said that writing is a solitary pursuit, and for the actual act of writing, usually that’s true. But just because writing is solitary doesn’t mean it has to be lonely. The online writing community is one of the most positive and friendly communities I’ve run into online (of course with exceptions). There is a lot to be said for finding a tribe of fellow writers to share your writing life with, and there is a special value in having like-minded individuals to talk to and learn from.

The Value of Community

There are a lot of benefits to finding a writing community to participate in, ranging from professional and creative development to fostering networks and friendships. Let’s look closer at three benefits to writing community: mentorship, fellowship, and growth.

Mentorship

One good reason to find community is mentorship. Especially as a new writer, there are going to be questions…and lots of them. And even writers who have been writing or publishing for years may have questions that more experienced writers can answer.

A good writing community can provide help to writers for writing craft, marketing, publishing industry, moral support, and/or the process of publishing. Just bear in mind that some communities will focus on specific aspects and will ask members not to post about unrelated topics. But that’s just another reason to join a variety of groups focused on different things!

Fellowship

Besides mentorship, online communities can provide places for writers to commiserate about the challenges of writing or just chat about craft and story. It’s awesome to have these kinds of connections, and they can be inspiring and uplifting conversations! You may find not only friends but colleagues with whom you can produce work together (be it co-writing, beta reading, editing, or any other act of creation and revision).

Regardless of what you find or the friends you make or don’t make, just having a place to go to chat with like-minded individuals can reduce that loneliness that can come with being a writer. These people know what you’re going through, and more likely than not, they want to help. Writers, more often than not, are some of the most generous people I know.

Growth

And finally, similar to mentorship, online communities can help you to grow. They can provide you with valuable tools, resources, and information to grow your writing and your business, and they can also help expand your thinking. By finding diverse communities, you can begin to find people who may not think exactly like you and who encourage you to try new things or to come at a story from a different perspective.

Finding communities can help you grow academically, professionally, and personally, and it is a great joy to both to be the one learning and to work with others to learn together.

Where to Find Communities

There are a lot of places online where you can find communities, but I’m going to stick with Facebook for today, as there are lots of groups on there that can get you started. I encourage you to look into a few that are relevant to you and join them to try it out…and if it doesn’t work for you, just leave and move on! Eventually you will find your people. 🙂

I highly recommend that those interested in indie publishing (or in finding new communities) check out 20booksto50k(R) on Facebook. This is a large business-focused group, but they have an abundance of “units” where they share the collective knowledge of their almost 40,000 members. They also have units dedicated to finding writers in your genre, which is a great stepping stone for new authors to network. They do strictly monitor posting, though, so be sure you read the rules carefully so you don’t get kicked out!

Another kind, positive group I recently found is Create If Writing, run by indie author Kirsten Oliphant. She is such a kind, knowledgeable person and maintains a wonderful safe community for authors to chat and learn. She also has a podcast that has excellent info for authors on marketing and branding.

Finally, I am also part of the Clean Indie Fantasy (Discussion) group, which also has an indie book club run by Fellowship of Fantasy. This is a great place for clean and Christian authors to connect, and it is an active, supportive group of authors who all help each other out.

In general, just search around and ask other writers what groups they’re in that they like. Sure, you may find some you don’t like, but you will get the chance to find the groups that are right for you, the groups that will encourage you, grow you, and make you new friends.

But most of all, don’t give up the search. Keep looking for your community, and let them support you as you support them in turn. Sometimes you don’t realize what you needed until you stumble on it.

Keep writing, my friends, and keep growing. 🙂

Keeping Creative in Stressful Times

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had just about as much media overload as any one person can stand. In my corner of the world, my state has shut down non-essential businesses and issued a stay at home order for my county and several others. If we do go out in public, social distancing is strongly encouraged. And the stores…well, you’ve heard how people have been hoarding. But hubs and I did manage to find the groceries on our list, so hopefully we won’t have to venture forth again any time soon.

Well, other than for work. Because we’re also both essential personnel. I am a biologist, and my lab is still open, so I am in every day there is lab work and analyzing data and writing reports when I’m at home. And then of course there’s just life itself, and we all know how that can be.

It’s a lot for someone to handle. And I know many of you are feeling the same kinds of stress, or even just the stress of being at home, not having enough to do, or worrying about paychecks. And on top of this, I’m sure you may have seen the posts encouraging us writers to write a “quarantine novel.” I’d love to…if I wasn’t still working full-time. (Thanks to all you essential workers out there…you’re keeping us going!)

But how do we keep on top of our creative endeavors when we’re feeling so much stress and pressure, when things are so crazy out of control?

I have three quick tips, and feel free to add your own in the comments.

Set reasonable goals.

I say this one for a lot of situations, but one of the biggest things you can do to boost your creativity when you’re stressed is to set goals that are attainable. Write a sentence a day? Sure! Browse the interwebs for new ideas? That works!

Perhaps make a list of potential goals that can help you baby-step forward on your larger goals. Then, you can check less stressful things off in a way that’s still making progress.

Whatever you’re working on, just set goals you can hit that won’t overwhelm you during this time. And you may even find that once you start working on these smaller things, you’ll have the fuel to keep going longer than you expected!

Find and consume inspiring things.

I don’t know about you, but for me, consuming certain things can really boost my inspiration and make me excited to do creative work.

This may be reading articles or listening to podcasts related to writing. Or sometimes it’s looking at pretty pictures to inspire settings or paintings. Maybe what you really need is to take a few days to just read new books.

Whatever it is, find the thing that excites you to get back to work!

Cut yourself some slack.

Yup, don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Don’t be afraid to change your goals or even to step back for a bit to reset. It’s okay to take a break if you need to…without criticizing yourself for whatever you’re not getting done. It will still be there when you’re ready to go back to it.

Concluding Thoughts

This is a hard time for everyone, but there is so much community online. Reach out to your friends and peers, your fellow creative individuals. Let’s build each other up during these stressful days and try not to be hard on ourselves (or others), no matter how much or how little creative work we’re doing.

And don’t forget that we’re all in this together.

Stay safe, my friends! ❤

The Therapeutic Power of Writing

Did you know writing can be a powerful tool…for anyone?

In case you’ve been living under a rock, life is super crazy right now. There’s a pandemic outside our doors, the media is telling us the world is ending, and we still have to deal with life along with social isolation (though as an introvert, I really don’t mind that last part so much).

But it does get to be a lot to cope with, especially with all the hype about the risks and the constant updates. And the memes. And the people hoarding supplies (please don’t do that).

So how can we deal with these uncertain and anxious times? There are a lot of good coping options out there (and I encourage you to find what works for you, either through internet searches, therapy, or trial and error), but today I want to talk about the therapeutic power of writing.

Hint: writing isn’t just for “writers.”

So how can writing help us cope with difficult situations?

Writing is a way that we can truly examine our thoughts and feelings, to put them clearly down on paper in a way that we can understand things that weren’t clear to us before. It can help us think through difficult times and work out problems we struggle with, to better understand ourselves. We can think in complete thoughts and sentences by writing it out, and we can avoid censoring ourselves when we write just for us and give ourselves permission to examine our deeper thoughts and feelings.

Writing can also be a type of catharsis, especially in fiction or memoir writing. A chance to say something that happened. To find the resolution we wish we’d had. To finally say the thing we thought of days later. This is one reason I love first drafts. With a first draft, I can say whatever I want to the person who yelled at me at the grocery store! (that didn’t happen…at least not to me) And then, after I’ve gotten it out of my system, I can erase it from my next draft.

But what kinds of ways can we write? How do we apply these ideas?

  • As I mentioned above, you can write an experience out as fiction. This can distance yourself a bit while still leaving some of yourself in the story. Plus, it can always be erased in a later draft.
  • You can journal it out. I used to do this all the time, and just the process of putting my thoughts down let me get them out of my head so I stopped cycling through them over and over. This is also a way you can think to yourself without censoring yourself. Just letting you be honest with you.
  • You can write a letter. You don’t have to send it, but writing a letter to someone and saying what you’re thinking and feeling can help you articulate yourself better and figure out what needs to be said to them versus what you just needed to express and understand for yourself. I do this, too, so I can process how I’m feeling about something that happened with another person…and why. And how to fix it.
  • You can put it down into poetry. I’m still learning this one, but when I was younger, I found that I dealt best with really strong pain or other emotion by putting it into poetry. Now, mind you, they weren’t good poems. But they were only for me.

So if you find yourself getting overwhelmed in these strange times, maybe try picking up a pen. At the very least, you’ve tried something new. And at best, you’ve found something you enjoy that helps you process difficult things.

Either way, I hope you find the thing that works for you.

Keep writing friends. Or whatever it is you do. Stay safe, and stay healthy. ❤

What TV Got Wrong: Being a Writer (New Girl Edition)

Okay, New Girl is one of my absolute favorite shows. I love the characters. I love the antics. It makes me happy. And as the series progresses, we learn that one of the major characters is a writer (and writes an absolutely terrible first book, that includes a word search).

But there is one particular episode in season 6 that drives me absolutely insane (potential spoilers if you haven’t seen it): the episode all about Nick’s Pepperwood Chronicles novel. Specifically when he gets his first rejection from a publisher and his friends push him into selling it himself.

You see, in episodes leading up to this one, it’s slowly being established that Nick is a writer working on a book. And I have issues with some of those moments as well, such as when every. Single. Person. On the show. Tells Nick his book is perfect with absolutely no corrections or issues (hint: no book is ever perfect, even after publication). But for now, I’m going to focus in on this one episode.

So anyway, back to this episode. Here are the things New Girl got wrong about being a writer, as well as a reality check.

Myth: If you get a rejection, your career is over.

Nick submitted his Pepperwood Chronicles book to a publisher, and they rejected it. He was so embarrassed he wouldn’t tell anyone, and he decided it meant his career is over.

Here’s the hard truth: if you want to be traditionally published, whether you submit to an agent or directly to publishers, you will have rejections. So many rejections. And you know what? None of them mean your career is over.

Think about this: J.K. Rowling got over 100 rejections for Harry Potter, and that series is one of the best selling series of all time.

A rejection doesn’t end your career. And it doesn’t mean your book is bad.

Myth: As soon as you finish the book, you’re ready to submit it. Or publish it.

Okay, so truth be told, I do not really know what Nick did after finishing the novel. But as I said before, everyone told him it was perfect.

Your book is never ready to be published as a first draft. Even if you draft fast or clean, you need beta readers to make sure you don’t have loose ends, offensive material/misrepresentations, or major plot errors, and preferably a series of developmental editing, copyediting and line editing, and proofreading. Then you can move on. Even indies should follow these steps, even if they don’t hire people for them and just find good readers to help (many indies just don’t have that kind of money starting out, and I’m learning that’s not as big a deal as I once thought).

And if you’re going traditional? You still need beta readers and several more rounds of revision to polish it so it is as close to publication ready as possible. No agent or publisher will take a first draft, and it makes you look unprofessional.

Truth is, you’re going to have several drafts of your book as you tweak it and make it either publication ready or ready to submit. Never ever ever a first draft.

Myth: You should make your own books to sell. And you can do it in a day.

This one is weird, but in the episode, Nick’s girlfriend gets him a book reading at a bookstore. For his unpublished book. The night she finds out about the rejection.

Problem is that he’s unpublished so has no book to sell.

No problem for New Girl’s title character, Jess. She just whips up a bunch of books for him to sell (honking beasts, by the way…note: page count is important!).

NO. You are not going to make your own books as an indie. You upload your work to a print-on-demand site, they print when they have an order, and it takes a few days to be available. Also, you’re going to want to order yourself a proof copy to make sure you didn’t screw it up. And if you have the money, you’ll probably be hiring someone to design a professional cover that’s not literal bits of paper cut and glued to a brown cardboard cover.

Myth: As an unpublished, unknown author, a book reading will solve your problems.

If no one knows you exist, you’ll be lucky to get a few butts in chairs at a reading, unless it’s a collaboration with a better-known other author. In the episode, Nick packs his reading (even though it isn’t a ton of chairs). And it’s viewed as the solution to his problem, the jump start his career needs.

A reading (or a book tour) is unlikely to sell you many books, and it’s a gamble that even traditional publishers rarely take anymore.

Concluding Thoughts

Bottom line is that TV gets a lot of things wrong (most people know this already), so don’t be discouraged if you see TV writers hitting it big while you’re still struggling to break in or be read. Or even to write.

Writing is a complicated thing that is mostly different for each person, but stick to it! And keep your eye out for more misrepresentations in media. 🙂

For now, though, do you have any pet peeves in TV or misrepresentations of what you do that drive you crazy? Share with me below!

Fantasy Creatures Blog Tag

Happy weekend (end of the weekend) everyone! Today to continue the fantasy month fun, I’m going to do the Fantasy Creatures Blog Tag by Jenelle Schmidt! Thanks, Jenelle! If anyone would like to play this game, consider yourself tagged and click through to Jenelle’s post for the list of rules and a “clean” set of questions. 🙂

And now, without further ado, the Fantasy Creatures Blog Tag!

1. In a strange twist of fate, you are transported into a fantasy realm of your choice. The catch? You have also been transformed into your least favorite fantasy creature. Where are you, and what are you?

Ooo, such an interesting question! So for me, I absolutely hate vampires, so I suppose I am a vampire.

But fantasy realm of my choice? That’s a bit harder. As discussed last week, I really love urban fantasy, but those realms are so close to our own. So…I think I’d end up in Anne Bishop’s The Others.

First off, as a vampire, I’d be one of the Sanguinati, which is a bit better than traditional vampires. They still have accents and dress very old world and drink blood, but they can turn into clouds of vapor and drift around. Also, the supernatural creatures are in charge! Fear us, humans!

2. What fantasy creature do you wish featured in more stories? What is your favorite story that has that creature in it?

I know these are both becoming a bit more common, but I want more mermaids and more kitsune (or fox shifters).

For mermaids, my favorite is absolutely the Lost Voices trilogy by Sarah Porter. They are SO GOOD, and the mythology around the development of mermaids is so sad but also so gratifying: those deeply betrayed by humanity are embraced by the ocean and become mermaids, no matter where they decide they are no longer part of the human race. It’s about finding acceptance and peace after having a life where a girl has had neither.

As for kitsune…I’m still looking for a favorite, so if you have one, be sure to share it below! There are a couple on my list, like Wicked Fox and Kitsune-Tsuki, but I haven’t gotten to read them yet. And I can’t list Janeen Ippolito’s Steel City Genie, because even though she HAS a kitsune (half-kitsune), she’s a secondary character.

3. As you are reading this, a voice rings in your ear proclaiming:

A hero true, a leader strong,
A quest is where you do belong,
So arm thyself, and take your stand
With an item to your left your fate is at hand.

Besides the fact that this prophetic voice is clearly incapable of sticking to a meter, what ordinary item do you now find yourself armed with? (And, for bonus points, what helpful magical properties does it now possess that will help you on your quest?)

I’m sitting kind of weird, so to my left is actually my purse. And guess what? It’s now a bag of holding. BOOM.

4. You happen across an ad in a catalogue promising a magical fantasy cruise that will allow you to stop in any three realms of your choice and explore each for several days before returning you home (and the ad promises your safe return or your money back, guaranteed!) Assuming this is not a hoax and that the tour guides will actually be able to cater to your requests, what three realms will you tour and what do you hope to see/who would you like to meet along the way?

Realm 1: The Others, again. I just love those books. I want to see/meet Simon and Meg for sure, and I’d love to meet the Elemental girls! I’ll have to see Lakeside as well as the retreat for the Others in Lake Silence.

Realm 2: The Siren by Kiera Cass…I want to meet the Ocean. Ocean is an actual character that speaks to the siren girls, and it’s such an interesting and well-done concept, and the Ocean has such a fascinating personality.

Realm 3: How could I not say the world of Harry Potter? I would have loved to meet Lupin and see Diagon Alley and Hogwarts and meet the Weasleys.

5. Congratulations! You are a fantasy hero/heroine about to start your adventure. You get to choose a small fantasy creature to accompany and assist you on your quest. Who/what do you choose?

Hi yes, I will choose a niffler. Might be a terrible idea, but they’re just so cute!

6. Elves or dwarves?

Hard question, but I think I’d go with Dwarves!

7. Do you prefer your dragons (we had to have at least one question devoted solely to dragons!) good or evil or a mix of both?

I prefer my dragons good, like the metallic dragons in Dungeons and Dragons. I’d love some fierce creatures to help me on my quests!

8. World building is a complicated undertaking full of many details. As a reader, what is a small detail you really appreciate seeing when it comes to diving into a new realm? What is something that helps you lose yourself in a fantasy world?

I love seeing that the writer thought out things like idioms and sayings that fit with the world they characters are familiar with, phrases that reference the religion or fairy tales of the culture. It helps ground me (and helps me lose myself) in the fantasy world.

9. You have been transformed into your favorite fantasy creature. Problem is… you’re still in your own bedroom and your family is downstairs, completely unprepared for this shock. What creature are you, and how (if at all) do you break the news to your loved ones? (Or how do you get out of your room?)

Though I love kitsune, I’ll go with mermaids because it’s more interesting for this question and giving me serious H2O vibes (Love that show forever!).

Okay, so I transform into a mermaid, and I can’t really hide that, soooo…they’ll find out! I won’t be able to get out of my room without help anyway. I’ll just let them be surprised. 😉

Concluding thoughts

Just a reminder that you are free to participate in this tag on your own blogs! Also, don’t forget to check out the fantasy month post to look for information on the giveaways, games, and other participating posts for the month!

And please share some of your own answers with me below!

Urban Fantasy: A Closer Look

Let’s talk urban fantasy!

Welcome back to Fantasy Month! As a reminder, you can find out all about this event over on Jenelle Schmidt’s blog.

Previously, we’ve discussed some of the subgenres of fantasy, but today I want to delve more into urban fantasy, its own subgenre of fantasy. Why? Because urban fantasy has a lot of subtle nuances that tend to be used interchangeably, and there can be a lot of disagreement about what exactly urban fantasy is.

But first, a note. Even though this is how I define urban fantasy, you don’t have to agree with me. Not everyone does! But I encourage you to share your ideas in the comments so we can chat. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Urban fantasy is not contemporary fantasy

I feel like this is a common misconception. Many people equate urban fantasy with anything set in modern time. However, it’s a bit more nuanced than that.

By definition, urban fantasy (UF) must take place in a city setting (urban). It could be historical urban fantasy, but the most likely, and the most recognized, is modern day city settings.

Contemporary fantasy, on the other hand, isn’t restricted to a city setting. It can be rural, under the ocean, on the moon…though there may be other overlapping genres there. 😉 But the key is that it takes place in current times without specifying location.

Contemporary and low fantasy aren’t the same

Low fantasy, similar to contemporary fantasy, takes place in our world. However, similar to urban fantasy, it does not have to be modern time. Contemporary, by definition, does take place during modern times.

Urban fantasy and paranormal romance are similar…but not the same

This one is still fuzzier to me. Urban fantasy is similar to paranormal romance (PNR), but it tends to focus much less on romantic elements. PNR centers on romantic relationships, though it shares many other characteristics with UF. As I had mentioned last year in the fantasy subgenres breakdown, paranormal itself tends to center on another specific characteristic, so I’d say that PNR is just paranormal with a romantic twist.

Do you have a good definition of PNR? Do you love it? Hate it? Tell me in the comments!

So what are some hallmarks of urban fantasy?

Many people will overlap urban and contemporary fantasy, and there are a lot of book series that fall into this category in bookstores and online. Many of them tend to share some of the same features (but these are by no means inclusive and UF doesn’t have to contain all of them):

  • Brandon Sanderson once described urban fantasy as “chicks in leather fighting demons”. This can be accurate for some.
  • Many main characters (not all) are female.
  • Main characters may be human or not. But they become deeply immersed in supernatural culture.
  • There are often slow-burn romantic elements, but it is not the focus of the story, and romance isn’t a requirement.
  • Books are often long-running series.
  • Each book in a series is self-contained, but overall character arcs continue to develop from book to book.
  • UF may contain the following (or more!): shifters, fae, werewolves, vampires, ghosts, mages, demons, angels, any magical creature you can think of.

Do you have other characteristics you’ve seen in urban fantasy? What are they? Tell me in the comments!

Final thoughts

Personally, I LOVE urban fantasy, but I know it isn’t for everyone. For me, I love that idea that magic could be just around the corner, that we just don’t see it around us. It’s an idea I became almost obsessed with over the past several years, starting with when I read the Mercy Thompson books in grad school. And because of my love for it, I tend to write quite a bit of it.

This Cursed Flame is a YA contemporary/portal fantasy. It doesn’t take place in a city, but it is set in modern times. It includes many, many djinn. And a genie.

Pumpkin Spice Pie-Jinks is also contemporary fantasy, but it doesn’t take place in a city, so again, just contemporary. It does, however, have fae all over it.

And my newest release (out today!), Freeze Thaw, is a blend of contemporary and historical fantasy, as it combines magic in the Ice Age with magic in the modern world. But it’s set at an archaeological dig rather than a city, so I say, again, contemporary.

I’d love to tell you of all my upcoming projects, but it would simply take too long. So instead, do you have any favorite UF (or similar) reads? What are they? Why do you love them? Let’s chat!

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New Release Announcement!

As I mentioned, Freeze Thaw is out today! It is novelette length and a Sleeping Beauty retelling…in fact, it’s the same story that started all the Seasons of Magic stories! It was a Top Ten finalist in the Rooglewood Press Five Magic Spindles contest, and I am still in love with my story.

Click on the picture or the link above to find out more!

Change is Scary…but Important

January is a season of changes. We may want to change our lifestyle to be healthier or find tools to be more productive. Perhaps we want to try something new or improve something we used to do. But no matter what goals you may (or may not) be setting this year, one thing holds them together: they all involve change.

And that’s good! Change is important to life. If there is no change, we can’t advance in our career and personal goals. If we stay in our safe little boxes, we’ll never see anything new or discover all there is that life has to offer. Change is critical.

Change allows us to become the people we want to be. Without it, we are stuck. But with it, we grow in who we are, in what we were meant to do. We learn about ourselves and the world we live in.

But change is also terrifying. If you choose to change or make a change, then the results can be uncertain, and uncertainty can be scary. Many (I daresay most) people crave stability. And changing yourself or your world always involves leaving that safe stability, at least for a time. And if you don’t choose it, you have the added bonus of coping with the change, figuring out how it fits into your life, and then figuring out how to move forward.

But you know what? I’m glad of change. Terrified, but glad.

Because of change, I’ve begun doing the scariest things I’ve ever done. I started sharing my work with the world.

Because of change, I’m a better person. I learned many of the ways I can be unfair to the people around me and the ways I have been biased. And I am learning every day to be better, to change my attitudes and behaviors.

Because of change, I’m finding the life I feel I was meant to live. Because of one of the greatest upheavals of my life less than 5 years ago, I was able to meet my husband, which led to my writing career (at least off of my hard drive) and two trips to foreign countries that taught me SO MUCH. And I know there is so much more coming. And I’m both scared and excited. And I think that’s good.

So yeah, change is different. Change is scary.

But change is vital to keep us growing and learning and living life to the fullest.

So let’s embrace it together and find out what good things change will bring our way in 2020. ❤

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What about you? What do you think about change? Does it scare you as much as it scares me? Excite you? What big changes have happened in your life, and what good things have they brought you?

Let’s chat in the comments!