Genre for the Holidays – My Fantasy Christmas Wish-List (for fun)

December 19, 2012 at 1:36 am (fantasy, writing) (, , , , , , , , , , )

As a lark, here’s my top 10 fantasy gift list:

  1. A dragon to both fuel my furnace, roast my marshmallows and weenies and eliminate any issues with my neighbours
  2. A fairy godmother who could magically “poof” my books onto the best-seller lists (better than relying on puppets…)
  3. An elf who likes to do housework (no explanation necessary)
  4. A wondrous cauldron that could instantly conjure any food I wanted (with zero calories – of course)
  5. A saddle-broken jackalope so I could get to work super fast and not worry about gas or parking
  6. A magic beanstalk that could take me anywhere I want to go (without motion sickness)
  7. A gorgon who can hang out in front of my cubicle so I can get some work done without interruptions
  8. A goose who lays golden eggs as my lay-away retirement plan
  9. A mermaid to snag me some lobster for Christmas dinner (otherwise, we’ll have to make do with roast beef)
  10. A magic beating stick (if you insist on knowing why, I’ll let you find out first hand)

    Only a week to Christmas!

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Genre for the Holidays – Anticipation

December 18, 2012 at 2:04 am (writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

One of the best things about the holidays is the anticipation. You know…that whole “visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads” thing? We anticipate our favourite holiday meals, receiving a thing or two (or more) from our wish list (heck, anticipation *is* that wish list), or the expression on a loved one’s face when they finally open that awesome gift we have squirreled away. It’s looking forward to the parties, the socializing, the opportunity to see friends and family rarely seen, or the chance to relax and enjoy time off. If you’re the type, it’s preparing for the decorating, the baking, the carolling or the outings in the snow. The point is, the pleasure is as much in the build-up as it is in the execution.

Well, I may be a rare fossil with backward ways of thinking, but that’s how I feel about books. I hate the current focus on “the hook” – that need to throw the reader into the middle of the action at the start of the book. I prefer a real introduction. I want to know who the characters are before I follow them into a dodgy situation (I felt I got that from The Unwilling Warlord, but it’s not a new book). I crave that build up, that creation of investment and suspense, a phenomenon that nowadays gets a book labelled as “slow to start” and often shunned for it. I’m not saying it needs a 140 page intro (Inkheart comes to mind – that one really is “slow to start” from my perspective), but I’m sick of books that kick you off the edge into chaos as soon as you open the cover, like leaping into a cold shower, rather than letting you ease into a tale, like slipping into a warm bath. I want that anticipation for what’s to come. It’s one of the reasons I prefer self-published or small press books, because the requirement for “the hook” is not rigorously enforced.

Think of some of the classics – would Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have been as endearing if it started with him opening the chocolate bar that held the golden ticket? That is the first significant event in the book, what would probably be considered “the hook” by today’s standards, but you’d lose much of the substance of the story without the introduction that exposes us to the abject poverty Charlie and his family live in and the true nature of his character (too much back-story, a modern editor might say.). It gives that golden ticket, and that brief moment of selfishness that leads to it, that much more meaning.

Honestly, how much of the fun would be left to Christmas if everything was just dropped in your lap on Christmas day, with no warning or build-up? That might be your perfect idea of Christmas, but it certainly isn’t mine. I’ll take my holidays, and my books, with extra anticipation please, because that’s the way I like them.

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Genre for the Holidays – Holidays Are Preciousssss

December 16, 2012 at 10:35 pm (fantasy, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

I hope you can all forgive me for my blog hiatus yesterday. I used the time I normally work on my blog to seize the opportunity to see what may be my only movie theatre viewing of a movie for several months. We had someone to watch my son, so we bundled up my 11 year old daughter and my husband and I trundled off with her to the cinema.

The holiday season is a great time to take in a movie, especially an epic genre blockbuster like the first of three parts of The Hobbit. Even the previews, Pacific Rim, the next Star Trek movie and Beautiful Creatures, were worth seeing.

Before I say anything else, I have to say I really enjoyed the movie. The special effects were incredible (hordes of orcs and worgs), the casting was brilliant (returning cast from LotR aside, Bilbo was perfect and Thorin had amazing presence) and there wasn’t a dull moment. I kept thinking how nice it would have been if Tolkien could have seen his work come to life like this, and how much I hope something I’ve written could end up, well-done, on the big screen. There’s nothing like seeing a beloved story played out before your eyes. I actually went to see a theatrical version of The Hobbit once, and that was pretty incredible too.

Now I can’t say the movie was 100% perfect. Unlike some critics, I loved the fact that Peter Jackson stayed mostly true to the book (like the dwarven songs and their dish juggling at the start of the movie), but there were some changes, some good and some unnecessary. I loved the addition of the dwarves’ escape from the orc/troll/goblin lair with Gandalf’s help, covered in the book only by a brief remark that they had to fight all the way out, and the Radagast scenes were a very cool addition. On the other hand, I didn’t like the fact that they changed the troll encounter for no reason and the riddles in the dark section was also fiddled with (no fish L). These were minor peeves, however, and the movie as a whole was great entertainment.

The one thing my husband and I disagreed with was some changes to Bilbo’s personality. He shows more fear in some instances and more bravado in others, which my hubby didn’t like. I, on the other hand, am a sucker for the reluctant hero who suddenly finds his mettle when his companions are in danger. Even though it was out of character compared to the more docile version of Bilbo in the book, I loved it.

So a big three thumbs up from my family for this movie, although my daughter was somewhat upset that she has to wait for the next installment. I have no doubt it will be just as good as this one.

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Genre for the Holidays – A Quiet Moment of Contemplation

December 15, 2012 at 3:11 am (Links) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Tragedy around the holidays is all the more terrible. Considering the tragedy the world saw today, few people are much in the mood to celebrate. I’ll use this moment to express my sympathy to those who lost loved ones today, anywhere in the world, for any reason. But – I won’t let anyone turn my blog into a venue for political debate, so anyone who comments in a political way on this post, will have their comment moderated into non-existence.

Today was also the day of my work “Snow Ball”, a beautiful gathering for those of all faiths. There was discussion of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other festivals and traditions. I know some people who would complain about the lack of focus on Christmas but I personally appreciate an environment that embraces a variety of cultures in a receptive and inclusive ways. For those who disagree, see my statement about comment moderation above.

As part of the presentations, three blessings from three different faiths were read and one libation performed. The blessings were nice, but the Kwanzaa libation moved me the most. The woman performing the libation spoke of things I truly value: family and friends, learning and wisdom, and the joy that comes from sharing with others. It was spiritual in a very warm, down-to-earth way. It really made me contemplate the things and people I care about.

And here is my offering for the day, Chapter 19 of my NaNoWriMo project, The Trading of Skin, posted here:

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Genre for the Holidays – Speculating Solstice

December 13, 2012 at 11:41 pm (fantasy, horror, Links, writing) (, , , , , , , )

I realize most of my focus has been on Christmas, but that is the traditional holiday celebrated by my family. I thought I would share the joy a little and make mention of winter solstice, celebrated in many different cultures in many different ways. My husband was doing some research into winter solstice the other day, when he came across the following reference on Wikipedia:

Beiwe Festival (Sami people of Fennoscandia)
The Saami, indigenous people of Finland, Sweden and Norway, worship Beiwe, the sun-goddess of fertility and sanity. She travels through the sky in a structure made of reindeer bones with her daughter, Beiwe-Neia, to herald back the greenery on which the reindeer feed. On the winter solstice, her worshipers sacrifice white female animals, and thread the meat onto sticks which they bend into rings and tie with bright ribbons. They also cover their doorposts with butter so Beiwe can eat it and begin her journey once again.[9]

9 “December Holidays”. School of the Seasons.

He thought I would find it interesting (he was right) because of the relevance to my latest NaNoWriMo project (I’m more than halfway through Chapter 19 and then only one last chapter to go.) At the same time, it’s a little disturbing to me, considering my protagonist’s love interest trades skins to become a female white reindeer. It dredges up dreadful ideas of what would have happened to poor Lieđđi if one of the brothers had first come across her in her animal form while looking for the winter solstice sacrifice (yikes!) That would have quickly turned my fantasy adventure tale into a nasty horror story.

More tomorrow J

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Genre for the Holidays – The 12 Trials of Christmas

December 13, 2012 at 1:49 am (fantasy, Magic University, writing) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Picking up on the suggestion to match up one of my novels with a Christmas carol, and on a playful whim, I’ve written up my Magic University version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”:

On the first Trial of Christmas my MU gave to me, a soggy imp in an old sack

On the second Trial of Christmas my MU gave to me, two roasting nuts (dwarven ones) and a soggy imp in an old sack.

On the third Trial of Christmas MU gave to me, three fox-bats (demonic ones), two roasting nuts and a soggy imp in an old sack.

On the fourth Trial of Christmas my MU gave to me, four trinkets far, three fox-bats, two roasting nuts and a soggy imp in an old sack.

On the fifth Trial of Christmas my MU gave to me, **five gol*den sparks**, four trinkets far, three fox-bats, two roasting nuts and a soggy imp in an old sack.

On the sixth Trial of Christmas my MU gave to me, six illusions startling, **five gol*den sparks**, four trinkets far, three fox-bats, two roasting nuts and a soggy imp in an old sack.

On the seventh Trial of Christmas my MU gave to me, seven tokens hiding, six illusions startling, **five gol*den sparks**, four trinkets far, three fox-bats, two roasting nuts four trinkets far, three fox-bats, two roasting nuts and a soggy imp in an old sack.

On the eighth Trial of Christmas my MU gave to me, eight walls a shifting , seven tokens hiding, six illusions startling, **five gol*den sparks**, four trinkets far, three fox-bats, two roasting nuts and a soggy imp in an old sack.

On the nine Trial of Christmas my MU gave to me, nine contestants thinking,eight walls a shifting , seven tokens hiding, six illusions startling, **five gol*den sparks**, four trinkets far, three fox-bats, two roasting nuts and a soggy imp in an old sack.

On the tenth Trial of Christmas my MU gave to me, ten pillows warming, nine contestants thinking, eight walls a shifting , seven tokens hiding, six illusions startling, **five gol*den sparks**, four trinkets far, three fox-bats, two roasting nuts and a soggy imp in an old sack.

On the eleventh Trial of Christmas my MU gave to me, eleven candles flickering, ten pillows warming, nine contestants thinking, eight walls a shifting , seven tokens hiding, six illusions startling, **five gol*den sparks**, four trinkets far, three fox-bats, two roasting nuts and a soggy imp in an old sack.

On the twelfth Trial of Christmas my MU gave to me, twelve attendants watching, eleven candles flickering, ten pillows warming, nine contestants thinking, eight walls a shifting , seven tokens hiding, six illusions startling, **five gol*den sparks**, four trinkets far, three fox-bats, two roasting nuts and a soggy imp in an old sack.

Only 13 more days to Christmas – hope your preparations are going well if you celebrate it.

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Genre for the Holidays – Celebrating 2012!

December 11, 2012 at 11:56 pm (dark fantasy, fantasy, Links, writing) (, , , , , , , , )

The Blog of The Year Award

I am grateful to receive The Blog Of 2012 Award from a fantastic blogger/storyteller, Cheryl Moore. Cheryl is an amazing artist and a fascinating raconteur and you can find her brilliant work on her site, Unbound Boxes Limping Gods. I will now award this to three very deserving recipients, who are all talented and prolific.. Their names will be revealed after the rules.

1. Select another blog or other blogs who deserve the ‘blog of the Year 2012′ Award.

2. Write a blog post and tell us about the blog(s) you have chosen – there’s no minimum or maximum number of blogs required – and ‘present’ them with their award.

3. Please include a link back to this page ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award
and include these ‘rules’ in your post (please don’t alter the rules or the badges!)

4. Let the blog(s) you have chosen know that you have given them this award and share the ‘rules’ with them.

5. You can now also join our Facebook group – click ‘join’ on this page ‘Blog of the Year 2012′ Award Facebook group and then you can share your blog with an even wider audience.

6. As a winner of the award – please add a link back to the blog that presented you with the award – and then proudly display the award on your blog and sidebar … and start collecting stars…

7. There are stars to collect! Yes, there are stars to collect! Unlike other awards, which you can only add to your blog once – this award is different! When you begin you will receive the 1 star award, and every time you are given the award by another blog, you can add another star!

8. There are a total of 6 stars to collect. At which time your “badge” will look like this:

You can check out your favourite blogs, and even if someone else has already given them the award, you can still award them again and help them to reach the maximum 6 stars!

Now for my nominations and the criteria for my decision:

To go with my genre theme, and because I think he deserves all 6 stars, I’m voting for Ren Garcia, who writes the best steampunk space fantasy out there (IMHO). His blog, The Temple of the Exploding Head, offers details from his well-integrated world-building and samples of the artwork from his books. A must see!

I’m also voting for the blog of the talented Bruce Blake who writes incredible fantasy and urban fantasy (although he grabbed me with his short stories – wicked good). He’s heavily involved in the indie writing scene and celebrates writing and genre fiction on his blog.

Lastly is Blood Skies, the blog of Steven Montano. He is a fellow creative accountant who also writes dystopian dark fantasy. He has some holiday content from December 8 – another way he fits my theme. Maybe it’s something in the water that makes us this way…

Anyway – I highly suggest check their blogs out. If you do, you’re in for a treat.

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Genre for the Holidays – Holiday Travel?

December 10, 2012 at 12:47 am (fantasy, writing) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Travel through time and space…trips to alternate dimensions…magic and angels . These are all things we associate with a variety of speculative fiction, science fiction, fantasy and the paranormal – so in a way, you can consider a true Christmas classic also a genre classic. My husband and I watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” again the other day and I still love that movie, even if it is an old black and white flick I’ve seen several times. I find little details I missed the time before every time I watch it and the more I watch it the more entrenched I get in the speculative aspect of the film, the “What if?” The plot has quirky twists and turns that make you realize how big an impact George has made on the people in his life before he is even in the process of re-examining it, and how his fate has foiled him at many a turn in order to guide him to the place he is at, the place which leads to his encounter with Clarence. It’s well plotted and very magical, the kind of story I wish I could have written.

And I can’t discuss genre classics and time travel without mentioning Dr. Who. In fact, it was a picture I saw of Santa Claus daleks that made me decide to write this post. I haven’t seen the Christmas special yet, but shots of grinning evil snowmen and weeping angels are everywhere on the Internet, and I’m definitely intrigued by the idea. It goes to show that Christmas and time travel really can mix, under the right circumstances – an eerie blend, but a fun one.

Besides, if it weren’t for time travel, could the big guy in red and white really make it around the world in his magic sleigh in a single night?

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Genre for the Holidays – Christmas De-Gore

December 9, 2012 at 1:55 am (horror, writing) (, , , , , , , , )

I just finished writing a horror short story, working title Deck the Halls, set during the Christmas season and it was my first attempt at holiday horror. I think there’s something a little more jarring about Christmas horror, just like horror involving the mistreatment of children, seniors or cute, fuzzy animals seems umpteen times more disturbing. Most people see those things as particularly vulnerable and needing more protection, almost untouchable, just as they see Christmas as being something associated with happier memories (unless you have an especially dysfunctional family or celebrate a different holiday.)

There’s plenty out there to inspire this kind of scary Christmas tales. I can still remember the terrible Santa story in the Gremlins movie. The Grinch is a pretty chilling character as well. If you dig around you can find quite a bit on the legend of the naughty children-eating Christmas devil, the Krampus. There are dark humour-filled animated features like The Nightmare Before Christmas or live action gore-fests like Black Christmas. The holidays can be scary, if you are willing to tread that taboo-ish territory.

Once I have my story typed in I’ll post an excerpt. I stretched the taboo beyond making Christmas ugly and included the mistreatment of a senior as well (the guy’s elderly mother – yikes! – but don’t worry, he gets it in the end.)

More tomorrow J

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Genre for the Holidays – Do They Know it’s Christmastime at all?

December 8, 2012 at 1:46 am (fantasy, Fervor, Links, The Snowy Barrens trilogy, writing) (, , , , , , , , )

Holidays are centred around some form of religion or another (not necessarily the actual celebration, but the original concept that spawned it.) And since my fantasy novels are otherworldly, there is no Christmas or earthly equivalent. In fact, since my books tend to target specific events, those kinds of festivities don’t appear in them at all. Not that my Masters & Renegades series isn’t without ritual or celebration, but those celebrations are not focussed on family gatherings, religious ceremonies or traditions. Instead, they involve more spectacle-oriented festivities. Although it has yet to be published, the fifth book in the series does offer an example of this:

When they were finished their drinks, Peter led them out to Anthis’s town square where the festivities had already started. The square was draped with ribbons and flowers and a crowd had gathered there to watch the entertainers. There was a wide assortment of street performers, ranging from simple jugglers performing basic tricks, to elaborately costumed stilt walkers who weaved and teetered through the many people who had come to watch them. Peter and Rosemary wandered towards a group of acrobatic dancers, and Nolan was about to follow when he noticed Dee had stopped to watch a fire-eater present his display. This was the way with those with natural inclination, he knew. Once aware of their ability, an affinity for the element would develop; a lingering fascination. If not careful, this affinity could grow into a full-fledged obsession. This would be even more awkward in Dee’s case, considering her parents had died in a fire.

With soft words and gentle touches, Nolan coaxed her away from the flames, so that they could reunite with Peter and Rosemary. He soon had her distracted by a series of musicians playing spectacular drums and woodwinds in a mesmerizing fashion, not far from the acrobats. When both acts finished, the two couples rejoined one another and started looking around for their next diversion.

There is no mention of holidays at all in my Fervor series, and not just because my protagonists are glorified lab rats in a controlled environment. It is also because within that dystopian society, science has substituted for religion. Instead of church and state, it is scholarship and state, with just as many complications and conflicts when the two mix. People worship knowledge, some of them at all expense. What this means, however, is that there aren’t any rituals or traditions celebrated as part of a holiday. The world is actually quite sterile and pleasure is usually drawn from everyday events and small victories, friendships and isolated incidents.

The religion in The Snowy Barren Trilogy is an animistic one involving spirits and shamans. They have their traditions, but more tied to the cycle of life than anything else, like the Rites of Passage central to the story. Other celebrations include things like the choosing of a spirit animal for a shaman-in-training, or the taking of a mark for the transition to full shaman.

Would it be better world-building to include alternates to Christmas in my stories? Perhaps, but I firmly believe in not introducing anything superfluous to the story, and so far, none of my novels have called for this, so you won’t find it there. After all, something can’t be missed if it doesn’t exist to begin with.

On a last note, the 17th Chapter for Trading of Skin (first draft) has now been posted to, at this link:

Only three more chapters to go!

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