Monday, January 30, 2012

Why I Write Fantasy - Ariana and Mythpunk

Why I Write Fantasy by Ariana and Mythpunk

Yesterday I visited my thesis supervisor. We chatted for a little while about writing and my plans for grad school, and some of my faculty's upcoming writing contests. He asked me if I've written about "anything that could possibly happen to someone living here in this city." I thought for a moment, and then I said no.

He chuckled a little, and then he asked, "What started your love affair with fantasy?"

I thought about it for a second, and then I told him a few stories.

When I was a little girl, just four or five years old, I never played with Barbies or dolls. I had a variety of plastic animal figurines, and I'd spend all of my time outside, playing with them in the grass and dirt. I was a bit of an animal geek, and spent all my time reading animal encyclopedias. I was fascinated by what I read. There was never enough information for me.

My favourite animals, though, were wolves, bats, rats, lions, and poison dart frogs. When I would go to sleep at night, I'd sleep with a black plastic rat and a plastic bat, both of which squeaked, and had red eyes.

"You could be a witch," my supervisor said.

Then I told him this story.

When I was six, I wanted a pair of antlers. Not fake antlers. Real deer antlers. I needed them. To be honest, I am not sure why I wanted them so badly. But it was a deep, visceral need in me. I wasn't quite happy with being human. My dearest wish was to be a wolf. But deer antlers would have to do in the meantime.

Well, I got them for Christmas. Real deer antlers, two lovely spikes with three tines on each, jutting up from a small triangle of skull. That cemented my belief in Santa for several more years. I would hold them to my head rapturously and gaze in the mirror, imagining having them for real. It was only a few years ago that I learned how I got them.

My parents went to my grade one teacher, saying, "Help us, Ariana wants deer antlers in the worst way, we don't know what to do, our daughter is really weird."

And my teacher's brother was a hunter, and she got him to save the antlers from the next deer he killed for me. He cleaned them up and sent them to my parents. Reason #295 why my parents are amazing.

Of course, I am not mentioning how much I loved fairy tales and mythology as a kid. I had a book of Greek myths, countless fairy tale anthologies and stand-alone stories, and an endless amount of imagination. In my mind, animals always talked, and the wind was a goading force that tempted me away from home, and I'd kiss trees affectionately because I was happy they were alive. I was happiest when I imagined I was flying, a Swan Maiden, part-cat, part-wolf, magical, a Faerie, transformative.

I've never been satisfied with reality.

As I got older, and Pretend wasn't always a viable game, I read more and more. My favourites? The Golden Compass, The Sight, Harry Potter. They opened up my mind to even more possibilities. They were my games of pretend come to spectacular, beyond-my-imagination life.

Even now, I find it hard to describe what my mind is like. It's full of stories, and wishes, and garnets and grease and cinquefoil and tea and silk and shadows and bones and feathers. I add narratives to everything around me. My highest aspiration is to live a life that can match my dreams. The wind still tempts me away from home.

I couldn't stop writing fantasy if I tried. It's a part of me, in the way that antlers are not. 

Favourite authors: J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Catherynne M. Valente, Holly Black, Diana Wynne Jones, Philip Pullman, and Haruki Murakami.


Ariana F.

I'm twenty-two years old and a university student in Canada. I'm in my last year of studying English Language and Literature as well as Creative Writing, and I am planning on pursuing my MLIS degree. I'm currently writing a creative writing thesis, a collection of short stories focusing on transformation, folklore, and magic.  

I write primarily for a Young Adult audience, and I think the best way to describe my writing is mythpunk *. Fantasy literature has been a part of my life ever since I could choose my own books. I've been published in Cicada magazine, as well as my university's writing zine, and I'm hoping that this is just the beginning of my career. I blog at Wolf in the Fable

Characterized by baroque multicultural fashion, alternative/ queer sexuality, bizarre retellings of familiar faerie tales, pervasive anxiety, fear of inevitable change, elaborate symbolism and radical reinterpretation, mythpunk is a cross-media movement. Although largely defined through literary works like Andrea Jones's Hook & Jill, Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat series and Catherynne Valente's The Orphans Tales, the mythpunk aesthetic occasionally manifests in music (The Decemberists), film (Pan's Labyrinth), jewelry and other media forms.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why I Write Fantasy - Pat McDermott

The Balm of Fantasy 

Aren’t there enough troubling issues to write about for teenage readers without making stuff up?

Sure. That’s one reason why I write fantasy. Not only did I used to be a teenager, I also had two in the house for thirteen years or so. Their experiences gave me some knife-edged refreshers on what it’s like to be a teen. As if I could forget.

I recall my own teenage years well because I disliked them so much. Many teens do, for reasons ranging from embarrassing skin to curfews and cliques, STDs and mental health, body image, peer pressure, bullying, depression, drug abuse, and worse. Being a teenager is, and always has been, hard work.

Some teens find comfort reading about characters plagued by problems akin to theirs. Others prefer to bury themselves in rousing adventures that help relieve stress for a while. Those looming final exams don’t seem so desperate when vampires, werewolves, dragons, and aliens threaten the world.

During my teens, I often sought refuge in tales like Treasure Island, Great Expectations, the Hardy Boys mysteries, Peter Pan, and all sorts of fairy tales. Even better, I started creating my own escapes. I love to write and have three adventures coming soon from MuseItUp: the "Band of Roses" stories, alternate histories set in an Ireland that might have been. Glancing Through the Glimmer is the "prequel" to that trilogy.

Glimmer’s hero and heroine, Liam Boru and Janet Gleason, struggle to deal with their own teenage issues. Their problems fall by the wayside when the King of the Fairies decides he’d like to dance with Janet—for the next few centuries. Danger and magic shadow her and hinder her budding romance with Liam. What would you do if you were Janet? Or if you were Liam, could you fight fairy enchantment to save her? Can Janet save Liam when the Fairy King turns on him? (I sure hope so. I need them both for the sequel.)

Whether readers identify with a character, or whether they simply enjoy going along for the ride, fantasy offers a respite from the world’s afflictions, and not just for teens. I love all genres of YA—but I still like the fantasy best.

Pat McDermott
Born and educated in Boston, Massachusetts, Pat grew up in a family full of music and myths that have found their way into her stories. Her "Band of Roses" trilogy and her young adult novel, GlancingThrough the Glimmer, are romantic adventures set in an Ireland that might have been. One of her short stories, By the Light of My Heart, was featured in the recently released Mammoth Book of Irish Romance. Pat is a member of the New Hampshire Writers' Project, Seacoast Writers' Association, Romance Writers of America, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. Pat's favorite non-writing activities include cooking, hiking, reading, and traveling, especially to Ireland. She lives in New Hampshire, where she is currently working on Autumn Glimmer, the fairy-filled sequel to Glancing Through the Glimmer.

Learn more about Pat McDermott at her website


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jane Toombs - Why Writing epubs Is Relaxing

What really stresses me about my writing is getting a project done. For example I’m currently working on dividing a long California saga I wrote ages ago into a series of seven separate novellas for Books We Love Publishing Partners to put onto Kindle. Yes, everyone tells me how easy it is to do it myself, but they don’t understand I will never be a techie and do not need the additional stress of trying to be one.  So why do I find this project stressful?  Because I have another half-finished project I really need to be working on since another publisher is waiting for the third book in a different series.  I’m not exactly procrastinating, but it feels like it and I hate feeling this way. 

What tends to relax me and keep me creative?  Well, for the immediate future I’ve resolved when I finish the second novella in the California saga series, I’ll stop and finish the other book I need to turn in, thus taking the pressure in my mind away.  Because, actually, what I’m doing with the saga is only editing. Any revisions are additions to the first chapter at the beginning of each book for clarity, as I’ve already done the work of separating this very long book into seven shorter ones. I’ll then turn in the first two books to BWLPP so they can start working up covers for them and I’ll finish the book I really need to turn in, thus eliminating the stress. 

I’ve stopped writing for NY pubs because killer deadlines were keeping me pretty much always stressed. With additional stress because I was constantly having to remember to fit my books into a line, when I’m really not that kind of writer. By that I mean some of my books need to be sexy and others don’t.   Some need to be paranormal and others don’t.  And so on.  Even though I’m a plotter, not a pantser, because I work with a synopsis, I can’t always foresee what the characters will tell me about themselves as I work with them. I truly love the no-pressure, no-line epubs.   

My primary way to relax is to read. I once compared this to the need to fill up again on words after I’d used up all my current ones in my own stories.  Whatever the reason, reading does relax me so much that I sometimes fall asleep in the middle of a book. Which really has nothing to do with how interesting it is.

I sometimes take  a walk along the beach as I live across the road from Lake Superior’s south shore. Or do a spot of easy gardening, like snapping off old flower heads. Occasionally I do a bit of cooking ahead, like making soup.  For some reason, soup-making is relaxing for me.  Maybe because it reminds me of being a child and watching my mother make soup while we talked. I’ve tried relaxation techniques, but they don’t work for me because I can’t shut off my mind.  I start to feel myself drifting and the next I know, I’m in the midst of creating a plot for another story, which is not relaxing.

So I’ve come to believe that since every writer is an individual, what works for one may not for another. But I believe we all should explore ways to de-stress ourselves because I well-know how tight we can get wound up during the  writing process.  There is no right or wrong way to relax, although it’s wise not to get dependent on drug use for that purpose. That said, I admit to having a vodka tonic with cran-cherry juice and lime every evening before supper with the Viking. But only one.  We have a screened porch where we sit in good weather and watch the birds and chipmunks. I get so relaxed I sometimes fall asleep. My advice to writers is that every one of us should explore every possible way to relax until the “right” way or ways for each individual is found. 

Jane Toombs, along with the Viking from her past, lives in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula wilderness with the Viking from her past and their calico grandcat, Kinko. Jane, multi-published, with books in many languages, writes in all genres, including non-fiction, but excluding men’s action and erotica. She favors paranormal.  Her published book count, including her novellas, is near ninety.  Jane hopes to reach 100 published books before she’s that old. 

Taken In
In New York City Gail Sarandon watches the murder of a man she knows. Afraid the hit man has seen her, she flees her apartment, heading in a rental car for the Adirondacks. Both Secret Agent Jason Tregarth , who intends to turn her over to a US Marshall, and the hit man pursue her. Jason reaches her first, but his attempt to get her to safety is thwarted by the hit man. Jason, Gail with him, is forced to flee. They evade the hit man but the car crashes and burns on a lonely mountain road. Both are forced to take shelter in a old and haunted Victorian called Dagon House…

Inside Dagon House, one of the three women Jason didn't know took his arm and led him to a chair, standing over him. Gratefully, he sank onto it, glad to be sitting down inside a house, out of the rain. Between the throbbing in his head and the pain in his arm, he couldn't think straight. He had no idea where he was, though he knew one of the women had brought him here from—what? Some kind of accident? But all three were strangers.
"In case you didn't catch my name, Jason," the woman said, "I'm Anita, and I'm a nurse. We're going to get that jacket off and take a look at that injured left arm of yours."
Even though she was careful removing the jacket, he was forced to clench his teeth against the pain. Anita set a towel on his knees and he watched blood drip onto it.
"Krystal," she said, "please bring me my first aid kit."
"I know where it is," a child's voice said. "I can get it."
"Krystal will take of that," Anita said. "Just what are you doing out of bed?"
"I heard someone knock and I got scared."
"As you can see, everything is all right. Take Rex upstairs with you for company. "
"That man's arm is all bloody, Mom."
"I'm going to fix it. Go back to bed. Now."
"Come on, Rex, " the child called. The brown mixed-breed dog wuffed and followed the dark-haired girl from the room. Jason figured she was about ten. She had her mother's hazel eyes. The blond woman who must be Krystal had already disappeared.
"You have a long gash on your forearm that needs stitches," Anita told him. "I don't know what else might be wrong with the arm, but I don't think any bones are broken."
Krystal returned with the kit, set it on the table beside Anita and opened it.
"I'll pad your arm with gauze to stop the bleeding till we can get you an emergency room.," Anita said.
"No ER." Jason's tone was clipped.
Anita gave him an assessing look. "Do you have any other injuries?"
Involuntarily, Jason's right hand rose to his forehead.
She took a penlight from the kit , bent over and shone it into one eye, then the other. Then she ran her hands over his head, He winced when she touched the left side.
"Some swelling," she said. "So you banged your head in that car wreck. Your pupils are both the same size, so you're okay so far, but you really need an X-ray to be sure you don't—"
"No X-rays. No hospital."
Anita looked at the woman who'd brought him here.
"He has a reason," the woman said.
So she knew him. A blade of fear sliced through Jason. Why didn't he know her? But she was right. There was some reason he couldn't be taken to any hospital. If only he could remember what it was.
Anita looked from her back to Jason. "Since I told you no one asks questions in this house, I'll have to give you both the same courtesy. But I do recommend you see a doctor, and will be glad to drive you to an ER. "
"That's not an option," Jason told her.
"Okay, understood. You both need to get out of those wet clothes." She turned to Krystal. "Why don't you take Gail upstairs and get her into something dry. Once she's set, you could see if there are any men's clothes in those attic trunks." Focusing on Jason, she told him, "I'll stitch you up first. Got to warn you, though. I don't have any local anesthetic, much less any curved needles or sutures. I'll have to sterilize a regular needle and thread for the job."
"Do whatever needs to be done." Now he knew Gail was the name of the woman who brought him here. Why didn't it sound familiar? What the hell was wrong with his mind? And what was this no questions business?
The stitching-up hurt him every bit as much as Anita had warned, plus her moving his arm caused excruciating pain. When she finished and was bandaging up her work, she shook her head. "What is it with men? Wouldn't have bothered me a bit if you'll yelled every time I stuck the needle in. But, no, men like you always have to prove how rugged they are."
Men like him? What did she mean? When she finished, he rose from the chair and had to grab the table top when the room whirled. Without thinking he used both arms and couldn't avoid grunting from the pain in his left one. He sat back down and closed his eyes.
"So you're dizzy. Not surprising," she said.
"Arm hurts if I try to use it." he confessed. "May need some aspirin."
"I told you I didn't find any broken bones when I checked. My guess is you've got some bruised muscles from whacking that arm on something during the accident. They'll heal in time, but they'll go on hurting till they do. I'll fetch some aspirin. In the mean time, you sit right here. Put your head down on the table if you feel faint. Don't try to get up until Krystal comes back downstairs. All the bedrooms and the only bathroom are upstairs. It'll take the two of us to get you there."
Jason hated the fact he needed help, but she was right. He wouldn't make it on his own. He hoped the aspirin would help clear his head.
After the hot shower she'd dreamed of, Gail, dried off and put on the gray sweat pants and T-shirt Krystal had given her. The watch resting on the washbasin had both hands on twelve. Midnight. She left the bathroom just as Anita hit the stair landing.
Anita opened a door and gestured for Gail to enter. "I'm putting you in this bedroom with the twin beds. Your husband will need checking on during the night, so I'll bring you an alarm clock and a flashlight."
Gail opened her mouth to set Anita straight about their relationship, but bit back the words. If she didn't check on Jason, then Anita would have to, and she'd done enough already. 

To find out more about 
Taken In 
& Jane Toombs 
visit her website:

Friday, January 13, 2012

Why I Write Fantasy - Rahima Warren

Amber: Why do you write fantasy?
Rahima: First, I have to say that I didn’t plan to write a fantasy trilogy. The hero, Kyr, took over my life and turned me into a fantasy writer, so he could go on his arduous but healing journey. (See my essay on how this happened on my website, Second, I blame my parents. They left fantasy and sci-fi magazines, such as Galaxy, If, and FandSF, etc., lying around the house. The cover art was fascinating to me as a child and I started reading the stories as soon as I could read. I remember the first story I read, “Lorelei of the Red Mist,” which I thought was wonderful as a third grader. (Later I reread it, and wasn’t so impressed.) Anyway, my parents got me hooked. So, the third reason I write fantasy is because that’s what I have been reading since I could read. You might say my brain is steeped in it. It’s the natural language of my unconscious mind.
More importantly, I love deep fantasy novels that explore the truths of the soul, and magical possibilities beyond the screen of ordinary life. In Western rationalism and scientific thinking, truth is found in provable facts. For the human soul, that is a dry fountain.
What does your soul long for? Something juicy, freeing, or inspiring?  Something that leads you deeper into the mystery of life? That helps you discover more of your own unique truth? That opens your heart and thrills you with wondrous possibilities? The best fantasy novels offer all this, wrapped up in a fascinating story with strong characters and lyrical writing. That’s what I long for, so, of course, when I found myself writing Kyr’s story, I couldn’t help but write it as a fantasy.
Amber: What fantasy subgenre do you prefer?
Rahima: My trilogy—The Star-Seer’s Prophecy— is hard to classify. On the one hand, it starts out very dark, so one might think it is dark fantasy. As Kyr’s journey begins, he knows nothing but evil and pain, both as victim and perpetrator. But his story is about his struggle toward healing, and to learn to forgive others, and even himself. I see my story as visionary fiction, in that it offers a vision of a way beyond inner and outer hatred, revenge and punishment toward love, forgiveness and healing, cleverly disguised as a gripping story of mysteries, challenges and forbidden love.
Amber: What are your favorite fantasy novels?
Rahima: Phew! That’s a hard one. I have an extensive collection of favorites that I keep to reread. Well, I have to start with Ursula K. LeGuin’s novels – almost all of them, especially The Wizard of Earthsea series. Then there’s  Lord of the Rings, of course. All of Patricia McKillip’s stories. Her writing is magic in itself! Carol Berg’s duology: Flesh and Spirit, and Breath and Bone, and her trilogy Transformation, Revelation and Restoration. Most of Charles De Lint’s work, especially The Onion Girl, and Trader. Then there’s C. J. Cherryh’s Fortress series. I could go on and on!
Amber: Why do readers love fantasy?
Rahima: Oddly, not everyone does. Isn’t that strange? Anyway, I’m sure it’s because people love to escape from our rather harsh reality, enter worlds of imagination that speak to the magical, non-linear side of our souls, and go on adventures beyond the confines of so-called reality. In the best fantasies, reader are touched by the struggles and evolution of the characters, learn something about themselves, and may even be inspired to expand their own vision of who they can become.

Rahima Warren
I’m a third-generation native of California and reside there with my husband, where I periodically chase squirrels off the wild bird feeders, and deer away from my roses. For 20 years, I was in private practice as a licensed psychotherapist, but retired in 2006 to focus on my expressive painting, creative writing, and spiritual studies. Dark Innocence is my first novel. I’m currently editing Book Two of The Star-Seer’s Prophecy trilogy, Difficult Blessings. The third book, Dangerous Bliss, awaits revision.

Dark Innocence ~  
Book One of The Star-Seer’s Prophecy 
published by Rose Press
now available on:
Also available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble