Your Votes are in!

Last week I gave YOU the power…

to choose the cover art for my upcoming novella.  Well, the votes are in, and the response was overwhelmingly in favor of…*drum roll*…

Cover Concept #1!

The artist will be developing this idea into my new cover.  Thanks to everyone who participated! The comments I received gave me great insight into why this particular cover resonated with so many of you.

concept_shot1


newsletter headerThis week’s Fantasy Fix Newsletter is now available–check out the current edition, put together by Renee Scattergood. Like what you see? Subscribe to get each edition emailed directly to you.

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I’m Giving YOU the power!

Whoever said “you can’t judge a book by its cover” clearly wasn’t an Indie Author! Let’s face it, being your own publicist isn’t easy. There’s no marketing team, staff cover artist, or editing specialist at your disposal. There’s just you, a lot of heart, and a lot of hard work. When your name is largely unknown out there in the book world, your cover might be the first and only thing readers see. If it doesn’t stand out amidst the sea of other covers vying for attention, the blurb that tormented you for weeks as you tried to perfect it might not even get read.

My novella, Into the Shadow Wood will be released soon, and I’m excited to say that I have an artist making a custom cover. He just sent two rough concept sketches for me to choose between before he fills in all of the details, and I’m asking you, the Fantasy Fix readers, to help me decide!

Which one would you pick up off the shelf first?  CLICK TO VOTE

concept_shots for poll


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fictional mothers: How do they measure up?

Sunday is Mother’s Day, so I thought I should dedicate this edition of the Fantasy Fix Newsletter to mothers. After all, many of us are mothers, trying to find that delicate balance between work, family, and our creative pursuits, whatever they may be. We all have mothers, too, whether present in our daily lives or not.

For those of us who are writers, our characters all have mothers with stories of their own to tell. We place them within the bounds of a specific time, place, and culture, trying to predict how they will react, and how in turn those reactions will affect their children whose voices guide our narrative…


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The PoweR of Setting

Fantasy is a dream genre for writers like me who love world building. We can reshape what we already know of this world into something slightly different, or we can escape it completely and fashion a new and unique universe. However, once we’ve created our fantasy world, we still need to be able to get it down on the written page in a way that allows others to visualize what we see in our heads. That’s not always an easy task when we’re trying to balance action with description; juggling plot, characters, pacing, conflict, and everything else that goes into making an excellent story.

During Camp NaNoWriMo this month, I’ve been trying to finish my novella, Into the Shadow Wood, and I got the chance to enlist the help of a book coach. (It is a service I’ve never used before, but highly recommend!) One of the things my book coach pointed out to me was that she was having trouble visualizing the setting of my story. This really took me by surprise. I had already built the world—establishing the Shadow Wood as an untamed wilderness, steeped in ancient evil, with a history all its own. The rumors and mythology were all there, along with the corresponding sense of dread and fear in the hearts of my characters. Yet once I had actually placed them in the Wood, I had gotten so caught up in what they were doing, and feeling, that the experience of the journey was getting lost. I had unintentionally glossed over the setting. In doing so, I was losing an opportunity to add an extra layer of meaning, not to mention creepiness.

The setting can sometimes say things to a reader that the characters or narrator can’t. It can affect mood, create or diminish conflict, or even serve as a metaphor for something far deeper than the visual it provides (ever read Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad?). As I’ve gone through making revisions to my tale, I’ve made a point of giving my setting a greater voice, and the story has become more profound as a result.

If you’re a writer, what role does your setting have in the story you’re telling? Has it become a vague backdrop against which all the action takes place, or is it something more? If you’re a reader, can you think of a story where the setting stood out and intensified the experience of the book?


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The Heart’s Bane

Fantasy fiction often seems to be about external conflict — sieges and escaped gods, blasphemous magic and tyrannical rulers, or eternal racial wars and betrayal. Then again, sometimes we find character conflict has to do with some kind of internal suffering: depression, pain, or a longing for something never known. But good conflict is about values.

What lies in the heart of a character is what we understand and relate to the most. Read the rest of the article and get more great information with this week’s Fix.  If you’re not yet subscribed, check it out.

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Thoughts on Time & World Building Concept in Fantasy

World building is a time consuming process. There is a lot to take into account when you are considering every aspect of a new world…how it came to be, what kinds of people lived there, how its landscape, history, economy, religion, and politics developed over time to the point where your book plot begins. How is what you write going to shape that world’s future for any additional books you may be planning?

Part of building a new world is figuring out how time works. Is your brand new world governed by the same rules we’re already familiar with? Or is it more subjective and non-linear; “a big ball of wibbily wobbly timey wimey…stuff” as David Tennant (still the best Doctor!) describes time in Doctor Who? Do you mark the passage of time with minutes, hours, days, months, years? And are those at the same intervals we are accustomed to? Maybe you are doing something radically different. If so, how do you get your reader to let go of what they know and embrace your vision of how time moves?

When I started working on my series I ran into two issues which affected my perspective on time. First, even though my world is a complete fantasy, the setting mimics that of medieval Europe. I relied heavily on research to inform the details of what daily life would have been like. One thing I discovered is that while people of that era had the ability to keep time with mechanical clocks and other means, ordinary people simply didn’t bother. They didn’t even necessarily know their birthdays. They often had a general idea based on the season, but didn’t keep track of the specific date. They might mark certain years based on memorable events, like the year the river flooded, or lightning struck the bell tower. Religious days and festivals were more regimented, but by the Church, which was more exact with its time keeping. For most, the days were governed by the position of the sun, and the passage of time by the seasons and the demands required by them in turn. I’ve tried to express this different sense of time through the eyes of my characters—hopefully I have been successful. I also purposely did not give my characters specific ages. I have a general idea of how old they are, and so do they. But they won’t be celebrating any birthdays.

Second, our present day calendar and numeric way of tracking the passage of years is unique to our history. It occurred to me that in my world, their way of keeping time should be unique to theirs. Trying to track years with numbers quickly became too complicated, especially since I created a historic timeline that started way back at the very creation of my world.

I decided instead to split my world up into different eras, their names determined by a special group of prophets within the monastic community. Each era of time has its own important events, and its own feel, much like the decades of the 20th century. The 60’s had a very different feel from the 80’s. The names given to each era describe their significance in history, starting with the Era of the Ancients, the very first era in which the world was created and humanity made its appearance. Later on The Era of Desolation marked a period of great turmoil and suffering, followed by The Era of Varol, where my world’s greatest hero (Varol) emerges to change the course of history. I may include a listing of all the eras and their significance as supplemental material when I publish the next book, but am not sure about that yet.

If you’re a fantasy or sci-fi writer, how do you mark time in your world? If you’re a reader, what are some of the most interesting ways your favorite authors have played with the concept of time in theirs?

Fantasy Writing

Fantasy is a highly versatile genre, encompassing everything from traditional, mythical fantasy, to that which is more modern and even futuristic. When people ask me why I love fantasy, the answer is pretty simple. Because there are no rules, and no limitations. Fantasy can take you to amazing places, both magnificent and mysterious, filled with creatures that defy nature and captivate our imaginations. Anything we can dream becomes reality for our world and characters. It’s a beautiful thing!

My love for fantasy began when I was a young girl discovering the magic of books. I would traipse to the library and come home with a stack I could barely carry. Before they were due back, I read them all…some of them more than once. My favorites were those that pulled me out of my everyday reality and into a world I could love, with characters and creatures I longed to make real. Even as an adult, I would give anything to be able to travel to Narnia and have afternoon tea with Mr. Tumnus, or visit Cair Paravel. Those stories grabbed hold of me in a very real way; they shaped my ideas, comforted me in difficult times, and left me spellbound with a sense of wonder that has remained with me ever since. As fantastical as they were, they were actually quite real—to me. Fantasy holds that kind of power in a way no other genre does.

As an adult I have also come to realize that the fantasy I read as a youth was not only entertaining, it was showing me how to be a better person. The epic struggles between good and evil teach us something about ourselves, showing us just what we are capable of, whether for good or bad. We learn about courage, honor, and integrity in the face of overwhelming adversity, and how to persevere through the trials that push the limits of our physical and mental strength. We learn how to hope, against all sense of reason, that good will always win in the end. Fantasy can in some ways prepare us for the epic struggles of real life that we all face from time to time.

As I learned from the Narnia Chronicles, fantasy can also speak to faith. Lewis imparted the simple, life-changing truths of Christianity through his children’s stories. Through them I could hear God’s voice calling to me, lifting me, and preparing me for a more mature walk with God as I grew into my faith. That has stayed with me, and I am still so thankful for those stories. Sure, they were only fantasy…but they were infused with a depth and meaning that changed me. Not all fantasy is Christian, of course. Even so, most strong fantasy characters believe in something greater than themselves. Maybe they believe in a god, a powerful object, a person, place, or an ideal. Whatever their belief, it is core to their being, and fuels the determination that drives them to fight for a higher purpose, despite the hardships they must endure.

Now that I am a fantasy writer myself, my greatest desire is to have the deeper truths underlying my own stories touch readers in a meaningful way. I’ve tried to create a rich fantasy world, full of beauty and mystery, with epic struggles, both external and from within. My hope is that I’m contributing something to the genre; joining with other writers to pass down the power of fantasy to another generation of readers, just waiting to be transported to another realm.