Tag Archives: fantasy

Why Fantasy?

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I’ve been asked before, why do you write fantasy?  Why not something more real?  I’ve also been asked why M/M romance, why poly, why Wiccan, why, why, why.  I think it’s a fascinating question, in and of itself, and indicative of the conundrum those of us who like to read fantasy and science-fiction face:  we see more than everyday reality, and we want to read stories about more than everyday reality.

Steven King sums this up nicely.  He writes stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.  He twists some element of reality, making it odd or strange, and then throws people into the mix to see what happens.  In an interview about one of his recent projects, a television serial called “Under the Dome,” he remarked that he didn’t make the people unusual; the villain is really the darkness in the people themselves when caged for an extended period of time.  Chilling.

I’ve written before that the trick to writing a good fantasy or science-fiction is in the details, the world-building, if you will.  Ray Bradbury is another one who writes about ordinariness in the extraordinary:  suburban Americana on Mars, for example.  He also writes about the extraordinary in ordinary terms: a painted, tattooed man whose tattoos were done by a woman from the future.  He uses tattoos later, in “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” in more sinister fashion as the tattoos tell the wickedness of the characters and, through them, of mankind itself.

For me, I write fantasy because it allows me to step back and write about things at one remove.  I can pick and choose what “ordinary” elements I want to include and have more control over the world.  I can idealize some elements, as when I added magic to the world of TIGER TIGER, our upcoming release from Samhain Publishing.  As Rachel and I wrote the book, we spent hours roaming Chicago’s north side, looking for the neighborhood where the book takes place, deciding where to put The Factory, the restaurant and BDSM club in the book.  We roamed the lakeshore, exploring where Doc jogged on a regular basis.  All these ordinary details made writing TIGER TIGER feel more real, despite the unreality of weretigers and magic.

What about you?  What are your favorite fantasy stories?

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Fantasy and Reality

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One of the challenges of writing fantasy is making it real to the reader.  To do this requires getting the details right.

In our upcoming release, TIGER TIGER, we have a trauma veterinary surgeon who discovers a rogue tiger shifter is killing homeless men in their neighborhood.  If someone with no medical background found a body, the descriptions would be shocked, horrified, even “grossed out”.  Since our main character is a doctor, we have to go with a more calm, clinical attitude.  Rather than describing the body in general terms, he would use the medical terms for things.  And when his friends are injured, he’s going to react as a trauma surgeon and want to fix it, rather than simply worry that they’re hurt, or run away in fear.

Any good fantasy or science fiction story is going to have this emphasis on the details.  In Battlestar Gallactica’s reboot with Edward James Olmos, they first showed paper with the corners cut off as a cosmetic detail indicating the expense of paper.  One of the special effects supervisors said they regretted that since the show had such a long run and they had to cut the corners off everything.  Details.

Even more silly shows that stand the test of time follow this rule.  Star Trek, the original, remained faithful to its own rules throughout its run.  Later, in subsequent, spin-off shows they kept to those same rules.  This made it seem like warp-speed travel is something we’ve already discovered and not something that was made up.

What’s your favorite fantasy or science fiction story that stands up to the details test?

 

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
– E.E. Cummings

My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora

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Team Blogs: Nightlight | Nightlight FB Page |  Beyond the Veil | BtV FB Page | LGBT Fantasy Fans and Writers | LGBTFFW FB Page
Publishers: Samhain Publishing | Torquere Press

Check out BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.

Check out “Taking a Chance“, available from Torquere Books.

Check out COOK LIKE A WRITER , available from Barnes and Noble.

Watch for TIGER TIGER, coming July 23, 2013, from Samhain Publishing.

Training the Eye

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There’s a common misperception that fantasy is about the imprecise, the ephemeral, the unknowable, and therefore the usual rules of writing and art do not apply.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, in fantasy, one must be more precise in order to create a plausible otherworld.

That’s all well and good, and many, many articles and books talk about worldbuilding with an emphasis on how to create fantasy worlds that capture readers’ imaginations.  But how do we develop that precision?

In learning to draw, the phrase “training the eye” refers to learning how to see so that one can reproduce what one sees.  The student learns concepts such as negative space (it is sometimes easier to draw the outlines of what isn’t there in order to get at what is there) as well as light and shadow.  In writing, we can learn to hone our descriptive skills in much the same way.

Close your eyes and imagine a room in your home.  It matters less which room, than that the room actually exists.  Now, imagine you are standing in the doorway of your room and look to the left.  In slow motion, look around the room in clockwise direction, slowly enough that you see everything in your mind’s eye.  Then look up at the ceiling, then down at the floor.

Set a digital timer or the one on your cell phone for five minutes.  Now, take out a piece of paper and a pen or pencil and quickly, working off the top of your head, write down a list of everything you see.  Keep going until the timer stops; if you forget anything, just jump forward from where your eyes are currently and write down the next thing you do remember.  Try to keep the pen moving for the entire five minutes.

Try this same exercise tomorrow.  See what’s different about your memory the 2nd time around.  Then try a different room.

Next, write a one page narrative using this room.  Write it from the point of view of a character entering it for the first time.  Maybe they’re there to buy the house.  Maybe they’re an alien or a foreign creature who happened on the house.  Maybe they’re a dog or cat.  Whatever the case, use details from your list to salt and pepper your description.

The more realistic details you can put into your scenes, the more real they’ll feel to the reader.  This exercise segues well into creating a world that doesn’t really exist.  The more clearly you can see the otherworld in your mind, the more details you can put down on paper, the better able to season your description you will be.


“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
– E.E. Cummings

My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora

Knoontime Knitting:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Website | Facebook
Team Blogs: Nightlight | The Writers Retreat Blog | Beyond the Veil | LGBT Fantasy Fans and Writers
Publishers: Samhain Publishing | Torquere Press

Check out BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.

Check out “Taking a Chance“, part of the Charity Sips 2012 to benefit NOH8, available from Torquere Books.
Watch for COOK LIKE A WRITER, coming February 2013 from the Guerrilla Chicks.
Watch for TIGER TIGER, coming July, 2013, from Samhain Publishing.

Fantasy Holiday Worldbuilding

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I think one of the harder parts of worldbuilding is the development of a distinct cosmogony. George Lucas talked about that in reference to the philosophy in Star Wars. While it was based on Taoism, he said, it wasn’t enough of a philosophy to guide life. I can see what he means, from having written a couple new worlds. It’s difficult to create a fully-formed philosophy for a new culture, just as it’s a challenge to understand our current cultures and their varied expressions of religion.

On Persis, the planet where our novel Emerald Fire takes place, Rachel and I talked a lot about whether or not to have religion play a part and, if so, how large of one. For example, what does a funeral look like? Funerals and weddings are visible expressions of religion and their traditions are as varied as there are cultures on the planet. Did we want to do that on our planet? What religions did the settlers follow?

In the case of Persis, we decided to sidestep the whole issue and make them mostly Unitarian Universalist, with a visible similarity to Zen practices. This allowed us to have a priesthood that is under the radar and discrete. We do have Fundamentalists, in the Diggertowns, but their religion is more about being secretive than being religious. Other than that, we don’t have religion playing a large part in our world at all.

In a piece we’re working on, called Fear Not, we developed an entire cosmogony that is central to the plot. The creation myth has a direct effect on the plot because our characters were given their shifter forms by the goddess. Two goddesses, sisters, met two gods, brothers. The sisters both fell in love with the same brother and the one sister grew jealous of her sister’s love. The creatures they created started to war with each other, driven to it by the anger of their deity. The heroes were given their powerful animal shifter shapes by their patron deity in order to make more effective war. Religion is central to the culture in this story.

Each author resolves the situation in their own way for their stories. What are your favorite stories involving mythology? If you could create a world, what religion(s) would you give your characters?

Resources

“Philosophy and Religion in Star Wars,” Wikipedia entry, Accessed 12/09/2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_and_religion_in_Star_Wars

 


“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
– E.E. Cummings

My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora

Knoontime Knitting:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Website | Facebook
Team Blogs: Nightlight | The Writers Retreat Blog | Beyond the Veil | LGBT Fantasy Fans and Writers
Publishers: Samhain Publishing | Torquere Press

Check out BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.

Check out “Taking a Chance“, part of the Charity Sips 2012 to benefit NOH8, available from Torquere Books.
Watch for TIGER TIGER, coming July, 2013, from Samhain Publishing.

If you go down to the woods today…

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October is the month of all things dark and haunted, and for me, there could be only one blog topic. The forest realm. Fantasy literature has long worshipped the forest, from Tolkien’s Mirkwood through to Kenneth Graham’s Wild Wood. Images of woodlands are many and contrasting, as different as slow moving Ents are from Whomping Willows. And like vampires and werewolves and all things ghoulish, stories of the forest realm have a long and fascinating history.

The earliest written accounts of forests construct them as dark,

A water naiad emerges from a woodland brook for some sexy fun with Hylas (J.W.Waterhouse, 1893).

fearful, and often intensely erotic places—much like the ways in which modern western imperialists have described the orient. Following resistance to Roman empire-building in the forests of northern Europe, Tacitus wrote of bestial Germanic Wild Men gnawing the bones of defeated legions, while Julius Caesar and Strabo described the Druids of the British Isles burning sacrificial victims alive in wicker men, images that have resonated through the ages.  Rushing forward to medieval times, the scariest creatures of the forest were the fairies. A far cry from the sparkly wing-wearing, pink-clad kiddies of today, the fair folk embodied the spirits of the dead, feared as child snatchers, shifters, seducers, and even murderers and rapists.

Anne Cain’s interpretation of Herne the Hunter for the cover of my book, Bound to the Beast.

Fortunately, forest lore provides us with plenty of brooding heroes too, from Robin Hood to the wonderfully tortured Herne the Hunter, a glowering, alpha male bearing the antlers of a stag and whose dark origins lie in the horned gods of Norse and Anglo-Saxon myth. To my glee, my extensive research into forest lore has also uncovered a plethora of historical bondage. The cliché of being blindfolded, bound, and taken to the hidden camp in the heart of the forest can be traced back at least as far as Roman accounts of the tribes of Germania.

The “otherness” of the forest, it’s exclusion from so-called “civilized” societies, has also resulted in one of its most wonderful manifestations: as a place of sexual liberty. The Greenwood has long been the realm to which lovers escaped to break away from the shackles of social and sexual norms – think Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. On more modern note, in E.M.Forster’s novel Maurice (originally written in 1913-14, but not published till 1971) the homosexual hero evokes the romantic image of “Sherwood.” The idealized English Greenwood of the past is the imaginative space in which Maurice and his male lover can exist unfettered, in stark contrast to the homophobic reality in which he struggles to fit in.

The Reconcliation of Titania and Oberon–amid much orgiastic fun! (J.N.Paton, 1847)

So, sod being creepy—here’s to the forests of the world! Let’s hope you survive to keep haunting, inspiring, and liberating us, for the next several thousand years.

*****

Kay Berrisford is the author of the two Greenwood m/m fantasy novels, Bound for the Forest and Bound to the Beast (a tale of Herne the Hunter). A third Greenwood novel is in the works.  Her most recent publications are contemporary fantasies Catching Kit and the forthcoming Sex, Simon, and the Solstice Stone. You can find out more about her writing at kayberrisford.com

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Bound for the Forest by Kay Berrisford

Bound for the Forest

by Kay Berrisford

Giveaway ends November 01, 2012.

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Amores Interruptus; or how to accidentally write a lesbian romance

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Amores Interruptus

Ah, romance: An appraising look, definite attraction, hearts beating faster when they touch….and then suddenly in love. Hmm, that sounds a bit…interruptus, no? Where are the lingering feelings, the many touches, that delightful stage between just-met and in-love where the couple can’t stop thinking of each other and find themselves smiling for no reason? I didn’t have the answer.

All of my m/f romance sub-plots seemed shoved to the side, hidden behind all the action and politics and general stabbiness in my stories. I write fantasy, science fiction, and horror. I didn’t have time for romance. There were creatures to fight, morals to be greyed out, limits to stretch. Who had time for kissing scenes?

And then, well, I sort of tripped and wrote a lesbian romance. M/F romances are fine, nothing wrong with them. I quite enjoy them when I encounter them in spec fic. But I felt like I had done them, lived them. I wanted to explore something new, and my new ladies in love practically jumped out of my head and demanded to be heard.

I knew Katya and Starbride, the protagonists of The Pyramid Waltz, would be lovers from the very first time I conceived of them. I just had to get them there. When I started writing their fantasy novel full of action and stabby politics, I fully expected to gloss over their relationship. Maybe I would write them as a couple from the beginning of the story, past the nervous-belly stage and into the mature, love-before-bed stage.

But then I found I didn’t want to fast-forward them. I wanted to linger over every glance, every thought, every touch. I wanted to explore what was, for me, the unexplored. I wanted to write a fully-realized romance that shares main-plot duty with all the stabbing. I had two women in love, and I couldn’t just get over that love. I wanted to savor it as much as they did.

Does that sound dirty? Good.

Writing this book has made me rethink romantic interludes as a whole. I enjoy writing about relationships, romantic or otherwise, and people enjoy reading about them. From this point on, I think my m/f romances will be more fully developed, more like Katya’s and Starbride’s, or like an m/m subplot I once wrote in a science fiction piece. Hmm, maybe I’ll dig that out of the drawer instead.

Whatever gets everyone’s motor running. ^_^

The Pyramid Waltz
To most, Princess Katya Nar Umbriel is a rogue and a layabout; she parties, she hunts and she breaks women’s hearts. But when the festival lights go down and the palace slumbers, Katya chases traitors to the crown and protects the kingdom’s greatest secret: the royal Umbriels are part Fiend. When Katya thwarts an attempt to expose the king’s monstrous side, she uncovers a plot to let the Fiends out to play.

Starbride has no interest in being a courtier. Ignoring her mother’s order to snare an influential spouse, she comes to court only to study law. But a flirtatious rake of a princess proves hard to resist, and Starbride is pulled into a world of secrets that leaves little room for honesty or love, a world neither woman may survive.

The Pyramid Waltz is available in print or e-book form from Bold Strokes Books.

Bio: Barbara Ann Wright fantasy and science fiction novels and short stories when not adding to her enormous book collection or ranting on her blog http://barbaraannwright.wordpress.com/. Her short fiction has appeared twice in Crossed Genres Magazine and once made Tangent Online’s recommended reading list. She is a member of Broad Universe and the Outer Alliance and helped create Writer’s Ink in Houston. The Pyramid Waltz is her first novel.