Fae Bargains and New Beginnings

Spring stories! Yay!

I don’t know about you, but I kind of feel like we all missed spring this year.

Today, I went out to the grocery store after being on full quarantine for two weeks. It was sunny…and very, very hot. And all the trees are in full summer leaves.

I missed all the gentle spring air and flowers.

But in a way, today felt like a fresh start after weeks of working from home and a completely destroyed sleep schedule. I got sunshine, ate some vegetables, and have renewed energy for my writing, no matter the other things going on in my life and the world around me. It’s a great feeling.

And another new thing happened yesterday: All That Glimmers released! AND I now have a BookBub!

This novella is the first spring installment of Seasons of Magic, and though it deals with the heavier topics of grief and guilt, it’s also a contemporary fantasy set in the same world as Pumpkin Spice Pie-Jinks. So if you liked Fae in that story, this is the next one for you. 🙂

Three things you’ll find inside:

  1. A deer Fae, complete with antlers.
  2. Friendship.
  3. New beginnings.

Here’s a little more about it (and keep reading for a sneak peek!):

Hallie just made the stupidest mistake of her life. Twice.

After the loss of her longtime friend, college student Hallie just needed a win. Too bad she got rejected from the only graduate program she applied to. But when a mysterious Fae appears offering to change that rejection to an acceptance, her choice seems clear. And all she has to give him is her first discovery—her academic firstborn.

But when the time comes to pay up, Hallie can’t go through with it. She never counted on a discovery that could bring her friend back to life. So she offers a new bargain: she keeps the knowledge, but she must figure out who this mysterious Fae is…or stay in the Spring Court forever. Now she must race the clock to investigate the Court, solve this mystery, and find out how to bring her friend back. Otherwise, she can forget about fixing her mistakes and say goodbye to her human life for good.

This retelling of Rumplestiltskin is a powerful story of loss, acceptance, and new beginnings. How far would you go to fix your worst mistakes?

You can get it on Amazon here or anywhere else here!

And now…a sneak peek!

Hallie crumpled the paper between her fists as the first tear hit her desk.

Of course she didn’t get in. Sabine University’s folklore program was only the most competitive in the country. And of course she didn’t apply anywhere else. And of course she had already told her parents—who already told everyone they knew—that she was a shoo-in.

And of course Kat had tried to tell her.

Stupid. She should have listened to Wyn. To Kat. But Kat was gone now, and it seemed she’d taken every good thing along with her.

Hallie rubbed at the fresh red scar across her collarbone. Even if she wanted to forget it all, she couldn’t.

After the accident, she had nearly failed her last literature class, missing the deadline for the biggest paper of the semester. Luckily, the professor had been understanding and let her turn it in late. Even a C was better than a 0.

And she got nothing done the entire week of the funeral.

And now this. Hallie sincerely hoped it was true that bad things came in threes. Maybe this meant the bad was finally past, like the spring shower pelting her windowpane.

How was she ever going to explain to her parents?

She tossed the crumpled paper onto her crowded desk where it was lost amidst her notes and books for finals. None of it seemed to matter now. She might as well skip her last final tomorrow and start packing up her dorm room. She stretched her arms over her head and leaned back in the chair, taking a shaky breath.

“You could always ask for help,” came a voice from behind her.

A male voice.

Hallie’s chair hit the cement floor with a thunk, and she spun to face the intruder without standing. A boy about her age stood in the door, his hair shaggy and storm-tossed from the wind outside. His black frames almost hid his eyes behind the glint of the fluorescent light, and behind him, her dorm’s door was definitely still closed. And locked.

“How did you get in here?” She swiped at the tears on her cheeks.

“The more important point is that I’m here,” he responded with a toothy smile. “After all, this is what you wanted, isn’t it? Don’t you want to know how I can help you?”

The air seemed to shimmer around the young man. There was more to him than what she could see, she knew that. Yet, in this moment, it didn’t seem important that she remember why she should care. Why she might worry. Wyn, as a Fae, had taught her something, but Hallie’s brain was fuzzy, like this boy radiated something to make her forget.

Her locked door was concerning. But she had summoned a Fae, any Fae, in the hopes that she could still fix at least one thing in her life. She just never thought one would actually appear.

And then she was speaking before she even realized it. “How can you help me?”

His grin grew even wider, were that possible. He took another few steps into the room. The crumpled rejection letter rolled from the pile of notes and smoothed itself in front of her. She snatched it up and held it to her chest as if she could hide the painful words from him.

“I can make that rejection…” He thought for a moment, looking up into a distant corner. A sharp tooth glinted in the artificial light of the dorm. “Transform.”

“Transform?”

“You want to get in, right? To be a student at Sabine? Well, I can make that happen.”

Hallie’s breath caught in her throat. He could get her in? How?

“I have ways,” he said, as if reading her thoughts. “But it won’t be for free.”

Her heart dropped. Of course. No magic was ever free.

“What do you want?” she forced from her wooden lips.

He smiled again. “Not much. I just want your first discovery. Your academic firstborn, if you will.”

“What?”

“I get the credit for your first discovery, my dear. That’s all.”

That was it? Her first paper would belong to him, whoever he was? That didn’t seem so bad. Her mind scrambled furiously, trying to see a downside to the offer, but nothing came to mind.

She should stop here. Think on it. Sleep on it. Wasn’t that what Wyn had always told her? Don’t trust the Fae too easily?

But why? She could change her fate. And all it would cost was a single piece of research. Didn’t she have a whole lifetime ahead of her, anyway? Her entire life to learn folklore, to find out where story and truth intersected?

She nodded slowly. “Okay.”

“Wonderful!” he said.

The boy stepped forward, extending a hand. She rose from her desk chair and took it. Vines of golden-green magic wrapped around both their arms, and the air hummed with energy. She could feel it sinking into her skin, a warmth like the first breath of spring air.

He released her hand and gestured at the letter, still clutched against her chest. “Look.”

She pulled it away, her eyes scanning the page quickly.

Congratulations, it said in place of We are sorry to inform you

Hallie caught her breath. So easily? Could it really be that simple? She looked back up at the boy.

“It is done,” the boy said. And then he was gone.

ONe more time…here are those links: YOU CAN GET IT ON AMAZON HERE OR ANYWHERE ELSE HERE!

~~~

News!

As I mentioned briefly above, if you’re on BookBub, I’m there now! You can find me and my recommended reads here. See you there! 😀

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!

~~~

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!

All About Fantasy Genres

Fantasy is my favorite genre.

Okay, let me get a little more specific. Urban and contemporary fantasy are my favorite genres to read. For writing, I love writing contemporary and high fantasy.

Wait, is it really high fantasy? What about epic or heroic? What am I writing? What am I reading???

If you’re anything like me, you love fantasy, but you are a little fuzzy on some of the differences between the subgenres. So today I want to take a little time to examine a few of the lesser known genres and clarify the differences between some of the confusing ones.

Let’s start with something general.

Fantasy is a genre of speculative fiction in which the plot and the worldbuilding revolve around magical or supernatural elements that are not seen in the real world. All fantasy can be divided further and classified according to various elements and characteristics, such as the grimdark versus noblebright classification (which I won’t go into today). You may not agree with the subgenres I call fantasy, but that’s okay! We don’t always have to agree. 😉

Low Fantasies

Low fantasy is fantasy set in the real world (low refers to the prominence of the fantasy elements in the story) and is also known as intrusion fantasy. Within low fantasy, there may be historical fantasies, alternate timelines, post-apocalyptic fiction (which could also be science fiction, depending on the story), or contemporary fantasies.

Contemporary fantasy is the wider term for what some people call urban fantasy. It is a fantasy story that takes place during the present day in the present world, or during the time in which the author lived and wrote. It often incorporates elements of real places and people to ground it in reality. The Lost Voices trilogy by Sarah Porter is an example, as it is a mermaid story set in the Pacific Northwest (but also the ocean) during modern times.

Urban fantasy, on the other hand, is a subgenre of contemporary fantasy. It still takes place in modern times in the real world, but it is specifically set in cities (hence urban). Popular examples include Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson books and Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files.

There is also paranormal, but the jury seems to still be out on exactly what this is and how it is defined. Some people suggest that paranormal is like urban fantasy, but instead of following a fantasy story, it has other genre elements to it, like thriller or romance. Either way, there appears to be a lot of overlap between paranormal and urban.

High Fantasies

High fantasy, often referred to as Tolkienesque or Lord of the Rings-type fantasy, is a fantasy set in a secondary world with its own set of rules and laws. Magic or the supernatural is highly prevalent in the world and the plot, and these stories are often associated with large, sweeping stories with grand stakes.

One confusing distinction in high fantasy is epic versus heroic fantasy. Epic fantasy are stories which often have large casts of characters, dramatic fights between good and evil, and plots on a worldwide scale.

Heroic fantasy, on the other hand, focuses more on the characters than the world. It often follows a hero or set of heroes on a specific quest, often with a good versus evil plot, on a smaller scale than epic fantasy. Some people refer to heroic fantasy as sword and sorcery.

Portal Fantasies

Kind of in between high and low fantasy are portal fantasies. These stories often start in a low fantasy setting (our world), but the characters are transported to a new secondary world for much of the story (hence portal). My upcoming release This Cursed Flame is a portal fantasy. So are the Kacy Chronicles by A. L. Knorr and Martha Carr.

Magic Realism

Here is another, similar beast. Magic realism is a bit of fantasy and a bit of literary fiction smashed together. In these stories, magic elements intrude on real life, but it is so smoothly integrated that it is often unclear if the magic is real or some sort of delusion. Many magic realism authors are associated with Latin America, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but I would argue that other authors such as Neil Gaiman can fit this genre (I’m specifically thinking of The Ocean at the End of the Lane).

Science Fantasy

The last genre I will discuss today, even though there are many other possible subgenres, is science fantasy. Science fantasy is a unique blend of science fiction and fantasy in which both technology and the supernatural or magic elements play a role.

Sometimes steampunk is classified here, though I would say that gaslamp fiction is more accurate (think of gaslamp fiction like steampunk with more magic).

I would also argue that many LitRPG books could fit under science fantasy as well. LitRPG is a somewhat new genre in which much of the story takes place inside a video game world, like in Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It’s somewhere between science fantasy, portal fantasy, magic realism, and sometimes science fiction, in my opinion.

Concluding Thoughts

If I spent the time to discuss every potential subgenre of fantasy out there, we’d be on this page for hours. Just look at this site’s list! (Though I disagree with some of the lines they draw) But the subgenres I discussed above are some of the more well-known or easily confused ones, and those are what I wanted to highlight today.

So now I want to know what I missed; tell me some of your favorite fantasy subgenres! What other subgenres would you like to discuss? Do you disagree with anything above? Let’s talk in the comments!

Continuing Fantasy Month

This post is part of the Fantasy Month blog tour! But did you know there’s a whole list of posts like this here? You can see the previous post here, too. So jump in to the other blogs, hop onto Twitter for the hashtag game, and let’s have some fun!

Other Participating Blogs

There are a ton of bloggers participating in February is Fantasy Month. Here is a list (and hopefully I didn’t miss anyone!):

Why I Decided to Publish on Wattpad

This Cursed Flame began with a love of sitcoms, specifically that old classic I Dream of Jeannie. I loved that show growing up, loved that there was an astronaut and a genie and the silly antics and the unique feel of the show. And I still love it, though as an adult I can certainly see how the times influenced the portrayal of Jeannie and her role (but that’s a discussion for another day). Regardless, my feelings toward the show were always fond, and it was even a comfort to me in hard times (I watch classic sitcoms when I’m upset or have a bad day, they cheer me up).

And then one day in college I had an idea. What if I wrote my own story with a genie as the main character? I stewed and simmered the idea for a while, fleshing out the character, her world, and, eventually, her story.

This Cursed Flame was born.

Originally, I called it Elemental, but as much as I loved that name, it wasn’t unique and it certainly didn’t convey what I wanted it to. No, eventually I shifted this focus. Because the elemental magic in the story isn’t simply magic, and it certainly isn’t loved by Janan.

You see, Janan, the genie protagonist in the story, never wanted to be a genie. She never wanted to have magic. She just wanted to live her life. And now that her life was stolen from her, she wants to pretend she can get her old life, and her humanity, back.

But sometimes you can’t go back. Sometimes you have to take what life gives you and work with it to move forward. Her magic is a curse, but it’s one she has to learn to use. If she can’t, the world will pay for it. If you read the story, you’ll understand why.

But enough of that. Why am I moving this story to Wattpad? I’ve been working on it since 2011, it’s gone through countless drafts and rewrites (the most recent being this summer), and I’ve even queried the story.

The truth is that this story doesn’t seem to be a good fit for the publishing world at the moment. And if you’ve ever tried to publish, you know how true those words can be. It hurts when you’re told your writing is good but it’s not right for the agent or publisher right now. But that’s part of writing. Even if you love something you wrote, it doesn’t mean others will think it’s marketable, and really that’s what it comes down to.

But I didn’t want my story to die or to sit unread on a shelf indefinitely, though I was tempted to do just that. I’m in love with this world and my characters, and I wanted it to do what I’ve always wanted it to do: speak to people. Tell them they’re not alone in their experiences. Encourage and empower people to face their demons and live their lives.

I’d been hearing about Wattpad for years, and eventually I decided this was the way to go, at least for the time being. I want my story in the world; it’s already spent six years kept to myself and only a few other people. This seems like exactly what I want for this story at this time. And who knows, I may come back to publishing this in the future. But until then, I’m not going to hide my work.

If you’re interested, you can read This Cursed Flame on Wattpad for free here. I will be publishing one or two chapters every Friday until the entire story is uploaded. I hope you’ll take the journey with me.

❤ Selina