My Fantasy Favorites

Welcome to February is Fantasy Month!

Hi there friends! Happy February! This is going to be a huge month packed with all sorts of goodness, including the cover reveal for This Cursed Flame next week!!! This month is also Fantasy Month, so to celebrate we are going to dive into fantasy books in wonderful ways.

And what better way to kick off Fantasy Month than to share some of my all-time, current favorite fantasy reads??? I’ll break this down into a few categories, but these are some of the fantasy books I have read and loved over the years. (And yes, Harry Potter is on the list, but today I want to highlight other books!)

High Fantasy

I’m really picky about this! I don’t really love the LoTR-type fantasy (that whole Medieval Europe sword and sorcery thing). But here are a few others I enjoyed!

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archives #1), by Brandon Sanderson

This book is the first I read of Sanderson’s… but it made me see why everyone considers him the master fantasy writer! It’s full of unique setting and world details and has an intriguing and unique storyline that never gets old! It’s a brick of a book, but I loved every second of it. And that magic system! *swoon*

Golden Daughter (Tales of Goldstone Wood #7), by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

THIS is how you do “inspired by” fiction! Stengl created an amazing world inspired by Asian culture, and it made for an incredible story and setting. And even though it’s #7 in the series, each can be read alone and out of order.

The Killing Moon (Dreamblood #1), by N.K. Jemisin

This is another example of unique worldbuilding and magic systems. The magic is based in dreams, and the culture has a very Egyptian feel to it. I loved getting to see such a unique world and meet characters with all kinds of struggles! One day I will read book #2…

Spice Bringer, by H.L. Burke

This is another awesome world with a very fun cast of characters. I loved the journey, and I loved the way the book made me think about life and faith and the things that really matter.

Urban Fantasy (Adult)

Okay, I LOVE urban fantasy! So here are some of my favorites. (Caution on some of these… they are written for an older audience, so if you are sensitive about content, look it up before reading!)

The Others series, by Anne Bishop

Oh. My. Word. This is such a twist on classic supernatural creatures, and the characters are so lovable, and the world is so intense… This may be my all-time favorite UF series!

Mercy Thompson series, by Patricia Briggs (also see Alpha and Omega series, which is a spinoff)

This is one of the best and most fun UF series out there. There are plenty of werewolves, vampires, shifters, and ghosts to go around! And Mercy is a blast of a main character to read. She’s fun and strong and intense!

October Daye series, by Seanan McGuire

Okay, McGuire has written some fantastic books, including ones under a pen name, and this series does not disappoint. Half-fae detective? Um, yes!

Split Feather, by Deborah A. Wolf

I. Loved. This. Book. And there need to be more of them ASAP. Let me just say BEAR SHIFTER WHO CAN GO INTO THE UNDERWORLD.

Weather Warden series, by Rachel Caine

While she may be better known for some of her vampire fiction, this series is about djinn and their relationship with gifted humans who can control elements such as earth, fire, and weather. It’s an amazing world that just gets better with every page.

YA (Young Adult) Fantasy

As a writer of YA fantasy, I love reading in this genre. And it is full of gems!

Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi

That magic system, the mythology, the story… just wow!

The Elementals, by A.L. Knorr

Everything Knorr writes is amazing, and I especially love her elemental girls. Definitely a series not to miss!

Lost Voices series, by Sarah Porter

This is a mermaid trilogy, and it is definitely at the top of my mermaid fiction list. The mythology is great, the world is fantastic, and it is just dark enough and exciting enough to hold your attention until the last page. And each book just gets better!

Monsters of Verity series, by Victoria Schwab

This is such a great duology. It’s one of those stories that has a neat mythology and also makes you question real life. And her writing is some of the best out there!

Shadowshaper, by Daniel Jose Older

You want to talk magic systems? This is the one. Things the main character draws or paints can come to life… and follow her commands!

MG (Middle Grade) Fantasy

Oracles of Fire series, by Bryan Davis (companion series to the Dragons in our Midst series)

This is a Christian fantasy series I grew up with and loved. It makes you think, and it draws you into the characters and their world so completely.

Artemis Fowl series, by Eoin Colfer

You want a fun, lighthearted romp with tons of mythology? This is the series. I have loved these books since middle school, and I’m not putting them down any time soon!

Continue the Adventure!

You can check out the full schedule for February is Fantasy month here, and the next posts will be up according to the schedule. 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!):

Blog Tour: Paws, Claws, and Magic Tales

PawsClawsandMagicTalesCoverSmall.jpg

It’s that time again! Time to showcase another new book! This time, it’s a fantasy anthology by the lovely authors over at Fellowship of Fantasy. Feel free to follow the link to see other stops on this blog tour.

If you’re an animal lover and a fantasy lover (like me), then this anthology will appeal to you. This book is packed with sixteen magic tales with cats taking the lead. I have a pre-order link and Goodreads, for your viewing pleasure.

What’s that? You want to know more? Well, how about a blurb for each of the stories in this volume?

The Witching Hour by Savannah Jezowski
As shadows encroach on the city of Lite, one cat stands between humanity and the hounds of darkness. Will true love save the day?

Tail of Two Kitlings by Sharon Hughson
Two kitlings. One tail. A mother’s sacrifice and a brother’s betrayal. Who will survive the Siamese curse?

Black Knight by Laura L. Laura Croman Zimmerman 
When a jingly bell goes missing, there’s only one supercat to solve this crime—the mysterious Black Knight.

Sulphur & Sunshine by Grace Bridges
How to Handle a Dragon, Feline Edition: on a volcanic shore, the accidental appearance of a local fire-guardian has unusual consequences for a street cat.

The Magic of Catnip by A. J. Aletha Bakke
An impulse purchase of catnip leads to unexpected shenanigans.

The Secret Treasons of the World by J. L. Rowan
When Braelin stumbles upon an outlawed Guardian, she must choose between his safety and her own—and the cost may be more than she can bear.

The Poor Miller and the Cat by Lelia Rose Foreman
When a poor miller rescues a cat, it promises to make him a wealthy man. But what is true wealth?

Alex the Cat and Alex the Prince by Ace G. Pilkington
The prince’s parents are telling him he has to marry for money, and his cat says it could cost him his life.

Whisker Width by H. L. Burke
Get a cat they said. It’ll be fun, they said. No one mentioned the portals to a mysterious realm opening up in Kara’s bathroom.

The Honorable Retrieval of Miss Sunbeam Honeydew by Pamela Sharp
When two princesses of the realm claim the same cat, how far will their loyal retainers go to see that each princess gets her way?

The Witch’s Cat by Rachel Ann Michael Rachel Harris
Walk under ladders. October the 13th. A black cat. Perhaps the only way to bring two lovers together is through the worst luck.

The Cat-Dragon and the Unicorn by Janeen Ippolito
Ademis the cat-dragon only wants his freedom but must graciously help a scared unicorn girl who should be glad of his benevolent assistance.

Destined for Greatness by Jenelle Leanne Leanne Schmidt
Kendall knows he is destined for great things. The problem is, the Fates — if they even exist — don’t seem to agree.

Sammy’s Secret by Karin De Havin
A ring is lost. A friendship is ruined. A cadre of cats is on the case!

Death Always Collects by Jeremy Rodden
Loki, a regular old Siamese cat, finds Death looming to take his human. Bargain as much as you want, but remember: Death always collects.

The Wild Hunt by Naomi P. Cohen
When an immigrant violinist’s music enchants a Cait Sidhe, she’s entangled in the secret world of the New York Fae.

Interested yet? What about a Rafflecopter giveaway for a paperback of the book?

Okay, okay, I’m done! But seriously folks, these look amazing. One more time, here are the links: pre-order link and Goodreads. Note that there are two pre-order links, depending on your reading preferences.

Thanks for tuning in, and I’ll see you all tomorrow for our regularly scheduled post!

3 Reasons I Love Urban Fantasy

Werewolves, shapeshifters, vampires, and… cell phones?

Yup, you read it right. Urban fantasy is one of those genres that likes to mix unlikely creatures with our very own world. But what exactly is urban fantasy, and how does it differ from other, similar, types of fantasy?

Urban fantasy: A subgenre of fantasy which takes place during contemporary times, often in cities (hence “urban”), and involves typical elements of fantasy such as magic and fantastical creatures. Urban fantasy is often associated with leather-clad demon hunter ladies, but that is not a requirement. Also I don’t really like the leather-clad demon hunters… give me the coyote shifter mechanic any day (Hello, Mercy Thompson).

Now, you may be wondering about stories that don’t take place in cities but fit the other requirement: a contemporary setting. Technically, these are contemporary fantasy, though they are often still called urban. The difference is the physical setting.

Then there’s magic realism, a fantasy subgenre made famous by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude). It is normally associated with Latin American writing, but other writers can also pull it off. For example, Neil Gaiman does a wonderful job using this subgenre, though I think most people call it something other than magic realism, like contemporary fantasy (The Ocean at the End of the Lane). Magic realism has its own unique feel; it comes across as a dreamy writing style that seamlessly incorporates magical elements into the everyday. It is difficult for the reader to separate the expected from the magical, and the characters see these magical elements as part of their everyday experience.

But I digress.

While I love other fantasy genres, urban fantasy (including contemporary fantasy and magic realism) has become one of my greatest loves. Why, you ask?

  1. It involves our world. I love the idea that magic could be just around the corner from me. That it surrounds us, even if we don’t know it. I love the possibility.
  2. It involves technology. I don’t know about you, but I love my devices. I don’t mind reading about pre-digital devices times, but the concept of magical creatures using a cell phone or computer is something that really gets me… it humanizes them, in some cases, or draws them into greater relatability, giving them more depth. I love the idea of mixing magic and science! Hey, I’m a scientist.
  3. It has great heroes and heroines. Let’s face it. Some genres just naturally pump out characters we love. I find that urban fantasy is one of the best. You get shifter mechanics (who also have history degrees), half-fae detectives looking for their place in the world, vampires warring with their natural desires, and mermaids trying to hide what they are from the swim team. Extraordinary beings thrust into entirely ordinary situations. I love the contradiction. And I really love the characters for that reason.

Those are my top reasons for loving urban fantasy, but what specific series or books do I love most? Here are my top favorites:

This is by no means an exhaustive list, though. I still plan to read some others, like the Dresden Files, and I love a number of other books and series I didn’t mention here. But my list is pretty long. Indie authors especially, like A.L. Knorr above, tend to publish urban fantasy a lot. Unfortunately, the traditionally published urban fantasy is trickier… some agents and publishers think urban fantasy is dead. But I disagree wholeheartedly; the number of books available and published every day in this genre scream otherwise.

So, I will continue to read (and write) urban fantasy. And I will love it without shame.

~~~

What about you? Do you like urban fantasy? Do you prefer other genres or subgenres? Why? Tell me in the comments below!

Book Spotlight: Child of Prophecy

Guys, I am really excited about this one. I’ve read the blurb (see below) and am dying for it to come out. It has all the fantasy and adventure my heart has been yearning to read lately! Take a look below, and see what you think!

Blog Tour Banner

About the Book

Child of Prophecy Front CoverOne misfit. One prophecy. Two worlds. Being different is bad until you find out it’s the only thing that might save you.

How far would you go to fit in? Another world?

Fifteen-year-old Nova Hawthorne has a unique trait that sets her apart, yet she wants nothing more than to be normal and fit in.

She soon finds out that there’s a very real reason why she feels so out of place in this world—she’s from another one. And prophecy says she is destined to destroy them both. Continue reading “Book Spotlight: Child of Prophecy”

Author Interview: Kendra E. Ardnek

Another exciting post today, folks! This week, author Kendra E. Ardnek is preparing to release her newest book, The Worth of a King. This is book one in a brand new high fantasy series, and we will be talking directly to Kendra today all about the book and her life as an author. (How gorgeous is this cover?!)

Kendra is also giving away a paperback copy of her book and a 15 mL bottle of peppermint oil (to US readers), and a special prize for whoever leaves the most comments across the blog tour (open internationally). Check out the rest of the tour here.

Here’s a little blurb to get you started:

32739875Princess Obsidia’s father was killed the night she was born. Since there was no male heir, the crown went to the man who killed him, by Dialcian law. This never bothered her, growing up, and when it comes time for Obsidia to choose her husband, she chooses Prince Delaney, the son of that man, with little hesitation. Only then does her life start crumbling around her.

Adrian expected to live a normal life, taking his father’s place at the print shop when his father retired. But, on his eighteenth birthday, when the princess’ engagement is announced, his world is ripped out from under him when he learns that his life was a ruse, and he is the twin brother to the princess – and expected to take back his father’s throne.

Delaney knows that his country is hovering on the brink of war – and that his father may harbor murderous intentions towards his intended bride due to her Zovordian blood. He wants nothing more than to protect Obsidia and his people, but as merely prince, he has little power against his father.

The ancient war between the Dragons and the Immortal King and Queen is nearing its climax, and the three are already caught in it.

You can add it to Goodreads here
or buy it here
or read the first chapter here!

And now, the main event: interview with Kendra E. Ardnek!

Kendra E. ArdnekKendra E. Ardnek loves fairytales and twisting them in new and exciting ways. She’s been or acting them on her dozen plus cousins and siblings for years. “Finish your story, Kendra,” is frequently heard at family gatherings. Her sole life goal has always been to grow up and be an author of fantasy and children’s tales that glorify God and His Word.
Find her online at: Website || Blog || Goodreads || Facebook || Twitter || Amazon 

Q: Tell us a little bit about your writing journey. When did you start writing? When did you decide you wanted to publish?

I’ve been writing ever since I understood that it was the proper thing to do with pencils – as opposed to having my pencils act the stories out. I think I always knew that I would someday have my name on the cover of a book, though I did distract myself with playwriting for the longest time. I just really wanted to be an actress. Still kinda do, but writing has supersceded it.

Q: Where do you find inspiration most often?

In the question “what if.” And also in the challenge to take cliche ideas and make them my own.

Q: What are your favorite themes to write about?

Trust, friendship, love, hope, acceptance, finding your purpose, and the meaning of womanhood.

Q: What inspired your upcoming release, The Worth of a King?

The desire to cowrite a book with Jack Lewis Baillot. See, she’d confessed that she struggled to write female characters, and at the time, I really struggled to write guys. So, we set out to write a book together where I had the female main character, and she the guy. We agreed that we didn’t want our characters to be romantic interests, and so twins were our natural choice, and we also both had a fascination with king stories. Unfortunately, she had to drop out of the project, but across the board, the book’s inspiration was “what is a story that we can write together?”

Q: What was your favorite part of writing the story? Least favorite?

My favorite part would be the delightful cast of characters we created. Least favorite would be the fact that Jack and I never quite found a rhythm when it came to writing it. (Which wasn’t why she dropped out, mind you, but I’m not sure that it wasn’t a factor.)

Q: Are there any hints for upcoming projects after this book releases?

How about this?

Q: What is your best piece of advice for someone who is either new to writing or new to publishing?

NETWORK. Build your platform and make connections with other writers and potential readers. No matter what route you go with for publication, having a ready audience can make or break you. I published my first book with no audience whatsoever, and it’s been nothing but a struggle to claw myself up since then. There is so much less pressure on you before you publish. Build your audience first.

Q: Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share with my readers?

Um … I think I need more coffee…

Concluding Thoughts

Those are some really great answers! I also love the idea of “what if” (it inspired my WIP, Sea of Broken Glass), and I love those themes in stories. Thanks to Kendra for her answers, and lots of luck to her on this release! It sounds like an amazing read, and I hope it finds its audience without any hiccups. 🙂

That about wraps it up! To see other stops on this blog tour, hop on over to the main tour page here. And be sure to come back tomorrow for our regularly scheduled discussion!

Until then, happy writing and happy reading!

A Tale of Two Apples Blog Tour

Today I have something a little bit different (and a lot special) to share with you all. Remember how I entered that Snow White retelling contest a while back? Well, two of the other participants are publishing their stories for all to enjoy! Check out the spotlight below!

Book Spotlight

Annie Louise Twitchell and Rebekah DeVall are joining forces to present two lovely Snow White retellings!

The Witch of Belle Isle

The Witch of Belle Isle cover image.jpgAnnie Louise Twitchell Image.jpg

A war between brothers. An apple between friends.

Trapped in the prison camp on Belle Isle, Henry longs for freedom–and instead finds a girl named Faith. How far would you go to save your enemy? And how far would you go to save your friend?

This short story is a Snow White inspired historical fantasy.

Purchase here.

About Annie:

Annie Louise Twitchell is a homeschool graduate who is obsessed with dragons and fairy tales. She enjoys reading, writing, poetry, and many forms of art. When she’s not writing, she can often be found reading out loud to her cat, rabbit, and houseplants, or wandering barefoot in the area around her Western Maine home.

Contact Annie:
AnnieLouiseTwitchell.com
Annie-louise-twitchell.blogspot.com
Facebook.com/AnnieLouiseTwitchell
Instagram: @annietwitchell
Twitter: @WriterAnnieLou

 

Death’s Mirror

Death's Mirror Cover Image.pngRebekah DeVall Image.jpg

“How do your human stories begin? Ah, yes. Once upon a time…”

Death tells the story of Snow White.

Purchase here.

About Rebekah:

Rebekah DeVall prides herself on being the girl who wrote 200,000 words in 21 days. She’s a Christian author with a penchant for killing characters and a love for writing real female protagonists described as “the example of a Christian hero that young readers need to see”.

Contact Rebekah:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rebekah-DeVall-Author-217931808704713/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rebekahdevall/
Blog: http://www.rebekahdevall.wordpress.com

From Spark to Story: My Writing Process

One thing I’ve always found interesting is how the development of a story can vary from author to author. Everyone eventually finds techniques and patterns that work for them, helping them to cultivate their initial idea into a finished product. Personally, my process has developed through a great deal of trial and error of different methods until I arrived at the way I approach stories now. Today, I want to share what my process looks like.

The Idea

Yes, the elusive spark to a greater story.

Like many authors, I can’t really tell you where all my ideas come from; a lot of us honestly don’t know. But there are a number of things that can spark those thoughts. For me, my initial ideas have come from things like dreams, other people’s works (books, movies, magazine articles, etc.), things I’ve learned in school or through my own research, or even something as simple as a photograph, as happened with my most recent idea. But that’s all it takes: one simple moment of “that could be an interesting story.”

The Slow Simmer

After I get that idea, it simmers on the burner for a while, building up some flavor. Okay, metaphors aside, after I have an idea, I sit with it and simply think about it. This simmering phase can be anywhere from days to weeks to months long before I’m ready to move on to the next phase. I let the idea build until I know where I want to start.

The Exploration

Once I have an idea and I’ve given it some thought, I pick a fresh, brand-new notebook. I have a separate notebook for every project, one that I love to pick up and open. Sometimes I’ll even match the look of the notebook to the aesthetic I see in my head. And I also keep a small library of blank notebooks for the sudden idea I MUST write down immediately. Those can be unpredictable, and I need to be ready!

Then, the research begins. I start my notebook with research on what exists in our world that relates to the story. To keep with the theme of my most recent idea (which is currently in this phase and the next two phases), this was when I sat down and researched the picture that sparked it all, a photograph in a unique setting. So I looked up information about that setting, its geology, its geography, the earth science behind it, the flora and fauna associated with it. I learned everything I could and let that build on the ideas I already had.

In this phase, I also tend to make a board on Pinterest to help me envision what is to come, the Build. I save pictures for anything that could relate to the story, real or fantasy, any character inspirations, setting inspirations, or aesthetics to help me feel how the world feels, to achieve the emotion I want to achieve, to visualize the things I need to create.

Then I take it further.

The Build

I move past the real and into my own creation. I begin the worldbuilding stage. I get to know what my world looks like from the layout of the country to the ecosystems to the culture. I write down everything I can think of to build the setting for the story. This naturally leads to filling in other details, such as characters. In this stage I complete (or set up a solid foundation for) the setting and the major characters I need to start the story, any details I want to include, what makes it unique. And I fill all this information into my notebook.

Note: sometimes the characters come first. Some of my story sparks are a character, and I build out from there. Every story is different. But the general process remains the same, even if the specific parts change and rotate.

The Simmer, Part II

Then I let the story simmer again. This phase could last anywhere from minutes to weeks to months, depending on how the previous phases went. This is where I need to take the build I created and turn it into a story. What is going on in the world that could create an interesting tale? What are the characters facing? Where is the story in the place I found? With these people I met? I ask myself these questions, write down the possibilities, and let them sit in my brain as more ideas.

The Plotting

After I brainstorm the direction I want to go (which can happen all at once or in stages), I generally sit down and write a basic outline for the story. (Side note: I tried to pants one of my books…write it without an outline or any clear direction…and have decided to never put myself through that again! The editing has been a monster.) This helps me find my story beats, lay out the map for the story, and understand where everything is going before I begin. Sometimes, after that basic outline, I will fill in more detail, such as chapter by chapter, but this doesn’t always happen.

The Writing

Finally, I’m ready to draft. And this is my favorite part! I tell the story.

I typically write in a dedicated word processor. Previously, I used Word, and I tried Scrivener, but it didn’t benefit me much. Now, I do most of my drafting on Google Docs so I can open it anywhere and on any of my devices. I wait to convert to Word until I’m ready to share it. This may change in the future as my circumstances change, but I doubt it would deviate much from this basic setup. I prefer to type my stories directly in manuscript submission formatting.

The Revising

After I complete my first draft, which has historically taken me anywhere from a few months to years to complete (depending on how dedicated I was at the time of the writing, how motivated I was, or my health and life circumstances), I am ready to fix the problems.

First I let it sit for at least a month before touching it again. I want to forget what I wrote so I can look at it with fresh eyes.

Then, I read through the entire thing, changing nothing and keeping minimal notes, just to get a feel for how the story flows, feels, and accomplishes what I want it to accomplish.

Then, I do the first rewrite. A brand new, fresh document, where I write the story over again. I use some of the first draft, but the story typically morphs and changes along the way, so many of the scenes, especially early, also change.

Then comes more of the cycle of revisions, allowing others to read and critique my work, and revising again. This process never really ends, so at some point I say I’m done changing it (until I decide to revise again).

The Sharing

This is the end of my work on it. At this point, either it gets shoved into a word processor deep down on my hard drive or it moves to the next step in publishing. This could be anything from sharing it online, such as with Wattpad, to beginning the query process.

And then it is out of my hands.

 

Now that I’ve shared my process, I’m curious to know yours. Do you do any of these things the same way? Do you keep a dedicated project notebook or Word file for every new story? Tell me about your process in the comments. Let’s talk writing!

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

Creating Living Worlds

One of the most important, and sometimes most difficult, things when writing a world is making it feel alive. We want to feel that the world around our characters is progressing, that it isn’t a stagnant box we created, a world crafted in stone. We want to know that it is realistic. After all, things in our own world are always changing whether we are involved or not. Why shouldn’t your fictional world?

But how do we actually accomplish this gargantuan feat? How do we make our fictional worlds feel active and alive?

Change.

1. Understand that things will still change while your characters are awayAnd show this to your readers.

For example, let’s say you’re writing a fantasy and your heroes leave on a quest to a cave in the woods. The village or town from which they left may have been calm and serene, but perhaps they return to the middle of an event. A town isn’t a dead thing; events cycle in and out, patterns of life ebb and flow, streets become busier or sparser depending on what’s happening or the time of day.

Keep your locations alive by making sure to follow a natural rhythm of life. Don’t keep everything always the same.

Besides normal flows of life, realize that major changes can occur while your characters are away, also… or even while they’re right there. Just keep in mind that some of these major events are best left as major plot points. If there are large-scale changes happening, they should have a specific intent, such as a huge natural disaster caused by something related to the heroes’ quest or the deposition of a king leading to unrest the characters will have to address. You need the changes to be relevant to the story and, more specifically, your characters.

My advice, as always: be intentional.

2. Remember that people change, even when they’re not the focus. Your minor characters still have lives, even though we’re not seeing them through the story. Things are going to affect them. Don’t treat them like cutouts. Make sure that they are also progressing and changing as the story goes. They should be impacted by the same changes the characters see or induce, and they are going to respond in a way that matches their own personalities. Use that to your advantage.

3. And finally, just like in our world, civilization advances. What do I mean? Well, the technology, religion, culture, and ideas present in your society should be moldable and dynamic. They should advance and change and contort. Sometimes these changes are small and barely noticeable, like the development of a new generic drug, but sometimes there are major shifts in paradigms or laws. Incorporating changes or advances in technology, ideas, and political climate can add credibility and life to your worldbuilding.

Remember: building a world is just the foundation. Worlds change. Your world should not be static. Let the ideas shift and morph as you write. Write the changes to your world that feel natural to the story. Write a dynamic, living environment for your characters.

(This post also appears at papercraneswriting.tumblr.com)

New Draft Complete!

Exciting news: I finished a new draft!

A brand new story, so shiny and sparkly, is finally drafted after an agonizing year of trying to get through it. I never fell out of love with the idea, but slugging through the middle was really hard this time around. I knew where I had started and where I was going, but I spent a long time figuring out how to get my characters there. There were definitely some surprises and twists along the way, and I fell in love with relationships I hadn’t originally planned. Actually, two of my characters were supposed to hate each other… and they ended up in love! I gave myself warm fuzzies, and I can’t wait to give them to you, too!

Then I hit the last third of the book. Once I knew what was going to happen again, the words flowed like I had turned on a faucet. And last night I hit that last key. Finally. This feeling. Ugh, amazing. If you’ve ever completed a large project or a passion project, you know this feeling.

What’s next? Well, letting this one air dry for a bit (about a month, just long enough to work on a new story for NaNoWriMo!) so that I can come back to it with new eyes. As I was writing, a lot of different things changed, like the age of my main protagonist and her feelings about another character, so I know there is going to be a lot of rewriting and cleanup. After the sitting-period, I will print off the draft, read through it for overall notes, and then open up a brand new file to redraft… something I’m actually really looking forward to. I can’t wait to shine up this story, to tie up the loose ends and plot holes, to implement the new ideas that I had mid-drafting.

What’s this new story about? Without creating an actual summary, here’s the idea:

Ember is a half-human, half-Nis (fox spirit) hybrid who never quite felt like she fit in. Then, she finds herself forced to graduate (or, you know, expelled) from Nis school and moves in with her brother. However, she is left with this warning: she must learn how to be a real Nis, or she will be rejected from their society altogether.

Then she meets Sora, a Swan-shifter. Sora is part of a discreet organization known as the Knights Errant, an organization claiming they want equality and justice for all types of supernaturals, not just the Nis. This quest for equality strikes a chord in Ember’s bruised heart, and she begins spending more time with Sora. However, not long after this, her pearl, the seed and anchor of her magic and the most important part of Nis life, is stolen. If she can’t recover it, she may just be banished from Nis society permanently and without the chance to make amends.

In an effort to recover her pearl, she begins going to Knights Errant meetings with Sora. Before she realizes what has happened, she’s in over her head and forced to resolve a centuries-old cover-up by the Nis Elders… one that could ultimately destroy the world. With the help of her brother and her new friends, she joins the fight to stop an ancient evil and find her place as a true Nis.

So there you have it! I’m so excited about this story, and I can’t wait to polish it up and get it out into the world.

In the meantime, anyone else doing NaNoWriMo this year? I’m going to try to complete it with a new high fantasy based on a D&D campaign I wrote a couple months ago.

Tell me your stories and plans in the comments!