Thursday, February 28, 2013

A random observation

Today I found myself wondering why characters in urban/contemporary fantasy have never read anything in that genre.  For example, you'd think in anything involving magic that the characters, if they start out the book as normal people, would make references to Harry Potter at the very least.

Then there's all the other urban fantasy out there.  If these books are supposed to be set in our world, why is it that there are no references to pop culture?  I'm not that into pop culture myself, but not all our characters would be like me.

In my most recent editing run-through of my upper MG fantasy The Man in the Crystal Prison, I have added some of these references.  In the book, I have the age-old character finding out he has special abilities (of course, by the start of the book, he's already known for two years that there's something different about him).  Then he is taken to a different world and trained in his abilities.  How could you use that plot without the character making a reference to Harry Potter at some point?

In my case, it would make little sense.  My main character is an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, and mystery novels.  There's no doubt that he's read some contemporary fantasy.  I know there are mixed views on including such references in your book, but it doesn't make sense not to include them.  At least that's what I think.  I'll see what thoughts others have.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What kind of writer am I?

I have some idea, but I often wonder if I should focus on one certain type of book.  For all my life, I've been drawn to speculative fiction.  Whether its magic, technology, or scary creatures, I find it interesting.  I have so many stories I want to tell, and they fall across multiple genres and age groups.

For example, take my two current projects.  The Armoth Cycle is an epic secondary world fantasy in the tradition of Lord of the Rings (of which, surprisingly, I've only read Fellowship).  The two main characters are in their late teens, but I still consider it an adult fantasy because there are other major viewpoint characters who are well into adulthood.  The Martin Mason series is intended for roughly ages ten to fourteen, or upper middle grade.  It is a contemporary fantasy more in the tradition of Harry Potter.

To non-fantasy fans, there might not seem to be much of a difference, but I know there is.  And most fantasy writers seem to focus on one over the other.  Not to mention the great variation there is even within epic fantasy and contemporary/urban fantasy.  For epic fantasy, just compare Brandon Sanderson and George RR Martin.  They both write epic fantasy, but it's not at all the same.

Most of my reading seems to fall in the realm of epic fantasy, but since there's so much variation, I have yet to figure out what exactly I want to write.  I feel like I'm caught in a trap, like I'm only able to think of ideas similar to what's already out there.  And then I feel like I'll have to stick to a certain type of book.  My Armoth Cycle is very much a quest fantasy, but that's not necessarily what I want to write.  I can't see myself writing quest after quest like Terry Brooks.  I like some variety.  I'm just not sure that's the best way to build readership.

I also would like to branch out into science fiction and maybe even horror, though I haven't read enough horror yet.  Nearly every idea I think of has a speculative element.  I suppose that at least puts me in a certain box as a writer.  I'm just not sure it's specific enough.  Add to that the fact that I have interests in writing adult, young adult, and middle grade, and it becomes clear that I lack focus as a writer.  It seems to me like most YA authors stay within the YA category, with occasional forays into MG.  I just want to write everything.

Some of this may stem from the fact that I became a reader later than most authors do.  Once I got started, though, I read like crazy.  As I said above, most of it is epic fantasy, but I also read urban fantasy, science fiction, and YA across all these categories.  For example, one of my favorites is the Hunger Games series, so naturally, I'd like to write a dystopian at some point.  I have countless ideas swimming around in my head, and it just seems like none of them are all that similar.

I suppose there are worse problems to have.  Maybe there's a market out there for a writer who writes across genres and age groups.  After all, if what I write is good enough, does it really matter?  I just worry that an agent might want me to focus in one specific genre and age group, and I don't know if I can do that.

Any thoughts on this?  Am I making a problem where there really isn't one?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Book Review: Heroes Die

Today I finished Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover.  The book is set in a future where Actors entertain the masses by having adventures in another world that is stuck in medieval times.  Hari Michaelson is the best Actor out there.  In the world of Ankhana, he is a world-renowned warrior known as Caine.  He is simply the best at doing what he does, and that is killing.  But he's only doing it because the producers back home on Earth are forcing him to do it.  Until his wife, also an Actor, is captured.  Now his quest becomes personal.

That's probably not the world's greatest introduction to the book, but I figure I could always use some practice at describing other people's books.

I was attracted to this book by the interesting premise.  I enjoy a good novel that spans both the science fiction and fantasy genres.  At first, while reading, I wasn't sure about the book.  Caine came across as a bit too bloodthirsty for my tastes.  But as the book progressed, I came to relate in some way to him, and I felt for him in his quest to save his estranged wife and regain her love.

This book was full of action (well-described action).  I think it's a good one to read for anyone who is interested in writing action-packed (and possibly bloody) stories.  The blood and gore was quite a bit.  There were a few passages that actually made me cringe.  It was fitting, though.  But it is definitely not a book for the squeamish or those easily offended by violence or language.

I'd have to say Caine is probably one of the most badass characters I've ever come across.  He's not invincible, though, which helps add a nice element of realism.  There is also conflict galore, and it was a page turner for me after the first 200 or so pages.  By the end, it ranks up there with some of my favorites.  It is also a very interesting concept, so I think it's worth reading.

Rating: 9/10

Monday, February 25, 2013

Feeling the itch to write something new.

Well, I started work on my third book in the Armoth Cycle recently, but I haven't been feeling it.  I like the story, and I want to finish the series again, but I also feel the pressure to write something new.  This same feeling applies to my Martin Mason series.  I've written and done a lot of editing on the first books in each series.  And while writing the other books is rewarding in a way, I can't help but feel it's not moving me closer to being published.

I have so many ideas floating around in my head.  Characters, scenes, conflicts.  But none of them ever seem to come together into an actual story.  This leads me to wonder if I can actually come up with other ideas.  What if I only have those two series in me?  I've been working on the Armoth Cycle in various forms for more than seven years.  The Martin Mason series has been on my radar for close to two years now.  I love both these series, but if I want to get published, I need to write something new.

This also brings me to me tendency to want to turn everything into a series.  I try again and again to think of ideas for standalone books, but they all turn into series.  I'm a quick writer, so I can handle the workload of writing series, but I come once again to the whole publishing thing.  I'm at a point in life where I feel so much pressure to make something come of my writing.  I still want it to be fun, but I also want to know I'm truly working towards getting something published.

Maybe I'll do some more editing of the first book in the Armoth Cycle.  I'm not sure about the opening chapter.  I want to make sure it can really grab the reader's interest.  I might also try to make the writing better in some places.  I often feel like my writing is a little on the plain side.  Yes, there's something good about being straightforward, but I don't know.

I'm not sure where this post is going.  I just know I'm getting tired of working on the same projects all the time.  I won't feel like a real writer until I write something else or get something published.  It's like I have a creative block that keeps me from committing to any other ideas.

Any suggestions on how to get over this block?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Armoth Cycle update

In the last few days, I did a major editing run-through of White Fire, the first book in my Armoth Cycle.  People who've read it pointed out that I have a tendency not to delve into my character's thoughts.  I love my characters and want to bring them to life, so I took this on as a challenge.

In all my previous edits, I had cut words from the manuscript.  The finished first draft was 122,000 words.  Through cutting out extraneous words and redundancy, I reduced that word count to 111,000.  Now I've added about half those words back.  Adding these character thoughts has drastically improved the story, though, so I won't complain about sitting at 116,000.

I think it might be time that I get a few beta readers who don't know me and won't spare my feelings.  While I believe in this story, I have to know what others think.  Admittedly, I use a lot of fantasy tropes, but I feel like I've assembled them into a story I haven't seen before.  On the surface, it's difficult to show how it's different, which is why my query letter has been such a frustrating process.  When I read it, though, I can't think of any other book that has the same plot and feel as mine, and I've read quite a bit of fantasy.

Today, I also resumed work on the third book of the series.  I've been looking back over an old draft of the book, making sure I won't forget anything important.  I actually finished this series a few years ago, but my writing has improved a lot since then, so I'm rewriting the series.  The first book, which I wrote at 15, was terrible, and no amount of editing could salvage it.  I also had no idea about how to use POV, which I have now corrected.

Overall, this has been a fun process, and I can't wait to see this series in print.  If I say it, it will come true.