Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

Option 1

Here I am with a couple of fairly firm concepts for the cover of The Tower in the Mist. I’d love to hear what you think!

Which font style do you like better? Which color works with the art? Should the sub-headers be placed somewhere else?

I really appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.

Option 2

In other news, I’m being interviewed! Dave Koster has invited me to visit his blog, On Writing Dragons. I get these invitations from time to time, and it’s always a ton of fun. It should go live within the next weeks, so watch this space for a link to that.

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As I type this, I’m beginning the preliminary process for publishing my novella, The Tower in the Mist. My plan is to get it out by early May. I have a month to put it together, more or less.

Step One will be to design the cover. After much eye strain, I’ve picked the art I want for both this and The Bitternut Grove. In spare moments, I’m browsing the fantasy category on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble to see what kind of cover layouts are popular right now. This should give me ideas as I begin playing with layouts on Canva.

Step Two is to search for unique words and names. It would be awful if one of my titles had already been used! So far I’ve found a book called Towers in the Mist from 1938, and a D&D module from the ’80s. I feel confident there won’t be confusion between these books and mine, so The Tower in the Mist can keep its name.

Unfortunately, The Bitternut Grove may be in trouble. Although I created a fictional bitternut tree for my novella, it turns out there’s a real-world bitternut tree related to pecan and hickory trees. I need to research them. If I can’t say, “yeah, those are my trees,” then I will have to call my trees something else. This would require renaming the book, as well. Win some, lose some, I suppose.

Step Three will be to come up with catchy slogans, tag lines, and gripping cover copy. This novella is complex, and the description will take some boiling-down. At the same time I’m working on Step Four, which is the final revision. I’m hoping these revisions will help me focus my cover copy. Maybe I’ll try out a few ideas here, and see what you all think!

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It’s all well and good to debate the chances that a particular oracle’s words will come true or not, but I suspect the real unknown is not the relative skill of the prophet. It’s in the one who receives the prophecy.

In many legends, the prophecy only begins to come true when somebody believes it, and acts upon it. In my novel, Too Many Princes, King Unferth of Crutham receives a prophecy that if he doesn’t have more than 20 sons, no son of his will succeed him on the throne. Everything about Unferth’s life changes as he scrambles to have children with as many women as possible — and much to the disgust of his queen.

Merlyn receives a vision of a great king uniting Britain in an era of peace. He then begins manipulating the events that lead to King Arthur’s conception, his training in secret, and his eventual coronation.

Gandalf knows of a prophecy that the sword Narsil will one day be re-forged and re-named Anduril. Then the lost heir of Gondor will be restored to his throne. Gandalf makes it a point to befriend Aragorn and make sure he follows the steps necessary to claim his destiny.

In perhaps the greatest prophecy tale from Greek legend, King Acrisius of Argo receives a prophecy that his daughter’s son will one day kill him and seize his throne. He decides to lock Danae up in a tower, but she is still impregnated by the god Zeus. So Acrisius shuts mother and son up in a chest and throws it into the sea. The chest comes to land, and the boy grows up to, indeed, overthrow his grandfather.

The Perseus story, in particular, shows how acting on the prophecy can create its own outcome. After all, most kings hope to have an heir of their own bloodline. Like, say, a grandson. What if, instead of trying to slay Danae and her child, Acrisius had welcomed Perseus as his future heir? Perseus would still have followed Acrisius to the throne, but without the necessity of killing him first.

I predict: There will be one more post to this thread!

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I really enjoyed my last blog about futures: Fixed, Flexible or Fractured, but I’ve realized that I left one out. The future in your story can also be a Fake-Out! This happens when a prediction is made, usually something dramatic, which does come true but in an unexpected way.

Perhaps a battle is coming and the king is told he will “fall while defending the realm.” This makes it sound like he will die, right? But maybe this is a comedic fantasy. The king literally trips and falls during the battle. A blow that would have taken his head off misses, instead.

Perhaps a spoiled princess is assured by the oracle that she will “marry a prince and reign for forty years.” But this is a hard fantasy. Her fated prince is a horrible person, and she ends up imprisoned in a tower all that time.

Using this technique, the author sets up a prophecy that drives tension: the king is destined to fall in battle. This will shadow the tale and keep the reader worried for the king. Or if the reader is annoyed by the spoiled princess, her unjustified success will turn to despair — and the schadenfreude reigns supreme.

There is a risk, of course, that a prophetic Fake-Out will alienate readers who feel manipulated by the writer. Yet, if it’s well done, a Fake-Out maintains the consistency of the foretelling while providing a fun surprise. It can be a great ending for a fantastic tale.

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Wyrd. An ancient word that echoes into today’s weird and wonderful domain of genre fiction. Today we use the word “weird” to describe anything strange or hard to explain. “Did you see those weird lights in the sky?” It can also encompass unexpected or unpleasant behavior. “That kid was acting weird.”

But for our long-ago ancestors, wyrd was a religious and philosophical concept. It grappled with the question of predestination. Do people have free will, or are we all prisoners of an unknowable fate?

The origin of this word comes from Norse mythology. The Norns were a magical sisterhood who were responsible for the fate of all creatures. Best known of these are Wyrd (or Urd), Skuld and Verdandy, three goddesses who represented the past, present and future. They held a role very similar to the Three Fates of Greek lore. Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos were depicted as weavers whose tapestry spanned the universe. Both sets of goddesses were believed to hold power over every human, from the lowly peasant to the mighty king.

In the Norse version, Wyrd was not only the goddess who determined one’s destiny, but was also used to indicate the actual destiny. Many tales referred to Wyrd and the other Norns as whimsical and inscrutable beings whose will could never be gainsaid.

Yet, there was a parallel belief that people’s own actions could influence their wyrd. Presumably, good and kind actions would bring about a happy destiny, while selfish or evil actions would lead to disaster. This applied to groups, as well. The collective actions of a clan, community, or even a nation could shape its wyrd by pleasing or offending the Norns.

This idea of a magical fate that couldn’t be denied is one that comes down to us in many forms of modern fantasy and science fiction. How often does a story begin with a prophecy? How many times have we witnessed the struggles of a Chosen One who must rise to meet their destiny?

It would seem that the eternal question of Wyrd is with us to this day.

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First, I want to thank David and Craig for responding to my initial call for feedback on what exactly my genre is.

When I reflect on the things my stories have in common, it comes down to two concepts: family and magic. Almost every one of my books has had some kind of family issue at its heart. After all, who knows you better than family? Who can hurt you with a word, or lift you up? In Too Many Princes, the brothers Brastigan and Lottres go on a quest, but the story is really about how their relationship is threatened by conflicting goals in adulthood. In Masters of Air & Fire, a sibling group of young dragons struggles to stay together after the death of their mother.

I get a lot into the magic with my world-building. If magic was real, how would that shape society? In The Gellboar and The Seven Exalted Orders, mages are separate from other people and there are restrictions on magic for the public good. In The Magister’s Mask and The Necromancer’s Bones, magic is common and well understood. They use it for things like preserving food, where we would use refrigeration technology.

In both of these, perhaps, I do follow more closely to High Fantasy than Low. Grapping with ideas and consequences around magic is High Fantasy. Family might not be as obvious at first, but you can’t deny the importance of family drama in series like A Game of Thrones.

So maybe that’s where I land — but I’d still like to hear from more of you. And if you’ve read my books, why not take a minute to leave a review? It will really make a difference!

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As I work through refocusing my outreach, one puzzle is how to describe my books when people ask about genre. I try to push myself beyond easy categories and stereotypes, but here’s where it bites me in the butt.

Starting with the broadest definition, I write fantasy. That’s a no-brainer. My books are full of magic and magical creatures. From there is where it gets foggy.

There’s High Fantasy, which involves the great and powerful with their big wars and political intrigues. But there’s also Low Fantasy, which involves the small and powerless, and is often humorous in nature. In Swords and Sorcery,¬†individual¬†warriors struggle against malign magic and corrupt empires, while they themselves are no angels.

Then there’s Urban Fantasy, where mythical creatures/monsters interact with people in the modern world. There’s often a strong element of romantic tension. Last but not least, there are Fairy Tales. People are always re-imagining beloved fairy tales.

So where do my books fit in? I’ve written somethings in almost all of these sub-genres. Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, for example, is contains several stories in the fairy-tale style. The Gellboar is a form of Urban Fantasy. The Weight of Their Souls is Swords and Sorcery. But most of my books are much harder to pin down.

Take The Seven Exalted Orders, for example. It’s High Fantasy because it ponders political and philosophical questions like who decides how mages use their power. It’s not High Fantasy because the protagonists aren’t among the ruling elite. This would make The Seven Exalted Orders a Low Fantasy, except that it lacks broad humor. Calling my books Medium Fantasy just sounds boring.

For those of you out there who have read my books, I’d love your perspective on this question. What should I call my genre in order to attract readers who are likely to enjoy my work? High Fantasy, Low Fantasy, something else… And I’d love to hear your reasoning.

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