Tags: fantasy

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal week, Lucienne Diver bringing it home

It didn't occur to me when I decided to hold my post for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal week until the end that I'd have to follow such tough acts.  My only thought was that Friday is generally a slower day, and I'd give everyone else the benefit of the higher traffic.  Well now, best intentions and all that.  Anyway, I hereby, humbly, offer my post:

                                  Myth…It’s Bendy

I didn’t set out to use my (mostly) Greek mythology in Bad Blood to justify years spent in Latin class painfully declining verbs.  I didn’t really set out to use it at all.  I began with a character in my head.  I didn’t know much about her at first, just that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time to see something very bad go down.  I knew that she was pretty hard-boiled because of her voice, which started out originally in the very noir and self-consciously literary technique of talking to the audience, in this case about the properties of blood—particularly the scent, and the way her hind brain reacted to it. 

My novels always seem to start with voice, and the first draft always begins with the character waxing all expository, talking to the audience…or, really, to me.  I quickly do away with all that in subsequent drafts, but this is how I always come to know my characters.  I knew that Tori Karacis, my heroine in Bad Blood, had to be something special, not because of marketing concerns, but because of the way she responded to the really bad thing—a little too calmly, a little too analytically and a little too credibly.  She’d seen weird before, and it didn’t phase her.

I don’t know when I realized about the gorgon blood.  Probably about the same time the heroine realized it herself.    As soon as I knew, though, it all made perfect sense.  Who wouldn’t like a heroine who could literally stop men in their tracks?  I knew I totally wanted to be her.  That’s the great thing about writing, I could be someone else for awhile and call it writing rather than insanity. 

But my blog title says that I’m here to talk about myth, and really I am.  I was an anthropology and English/writing double major in college.  Now, as any English major knows, any ten people (or more) can look at the same piece of writing, whether it be poetry or prose, and read entirely different things into it.  In anthropology there are endless theories about human evolution and no definitive family trees because every scientist wants his or her own find to be the conclusive “missing link.”  We’ve created entirely new and subsequently debunked species on the basis of a single molar or lone skull cap. 

Let me tell you, nothing, is more bendy than mythology.  If you read any five books on the subject, I can almost guarantee you that every one will have a different take on the origins of the god Apollo, for example, or whether Medusa was turned into a monster by Athena in revenge for committing sacrilege in her temple with Poseidon (I’ll leave it to your imagination the form of sacrilege) or whether she and her sisters were already all gorgonic.   The thing is that myths and legends were passed along orally for ages…and anyone who ever played telephone as a kid knows just how twisty a tale can get going from point A to point B.  Beyond that, myths and worship would spread as places traded and invaded.  Local tales and deities would get all tangled up with the outside influences until one would transplant another or become nearly indistinguishable. 

Why is this good for readers and writers?  Well, for one, chances are that my Greek mythology won’t be just like someone else’s.  I can choose the version of the stories that fit best with what it is that I want to do.  Someone else’s mileage may vary.  It doesn’t mean that mine is right or that someone else’s is wrong.  If Zeus or Poseidon came down from Olympus tomorrow to set the records straight—I know, I know, but just ride my crazy train for a moment—I doubt even they’d agree on how everything went down.  So, it’s fun and it’s different and ever-changing.  I can write-off my mythology books, read about all sorts of ancient scandals and call it work.  Best of all, I can twist it all up like a bendy straw, stick it into a nice, modern setting and let you drink a taste-bud tingling concoction through it. Plot, action, hot gods and heavenly heroines.

That’s my hope anyway.  You’ll have to let me know how the nice bendy straw works out for you.


View through the bendy straw:
Bad Blood
, first novel of the Latter-Day Olympians
Available digitally June 28, 2011, print in 2012
Vamped young adult series (Vamped and ReVamped) available now
Facebook fan page

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal week continues with Marjorie M. Liu

Continuing science fiction, fantasy and paranormal week on the blog, I have the tremendous Marjorie M. Liu, whose Dirk & Steele and Hunter Kiss series are some of the absolute best paranormal romance and urban fantasies around.  Avon has been re-releasing her Dirk & Steele books at the rate of one a month, which means that THE WILD ROAD is on the schedule for June 28th...just a few days away!   In addition to her wonderful novels and novellas, she writes comics for Marvel and has a game out based on her very first Dirk & Steele, TIGER EYE.

Also continuing the trend, while I have a guest blogger here, I'm over at Magical Words today talking about "Of Quirks and Characters."  However, I will be here tomorrow, so tune in.


Look, there was this time in high school when my class went sea kayaking, and on the second day or so, after we'd been battling a hurricane and sharks and each other, we ended up on this island where each of us had to help out cooking dinner on these awful little stoves that only made enough to serve each of us starving kids a mouthful of burned macaroni and cheese (which we were grateful for, crazy kids), and then afterward we had to sit around and listen to our wilderness instructor tell stories about dog poop and freezers, and Halloween costumes that looked like penises (because that was the way he rolled), which was bad enough except that night it rained and we were cold and smelled -- but at least we didn't get eaten by the werewolves who lived on a neighboring island, so I guess it was okay.

Until the next morning.  


And that's how I approach writing paranormal fiction.  Truth mixed with the crazy. 


Let's put it another way:  I like to keep stuff real.  Real, in the sense that the magic, the paranormal aspect, is accepted and normal (to someone, not necessarily everyone).  I mean, think about airplanes.  We take them for granted.  We climb inside, fly up into the air to travel huge distances around the world.  To us, it's normal.  We might not know exactly how it works, but it does, and it's nothing to get excited about (unless TSA is about to pat you down).  

In another age, however...flying in an aircraft would seem like magic.  Heck, sometimes it still does.

It seems like magic when you read how some snails can sleep for three years -- or that the light of the stars takes millions of years to reach us -- or that a little bit of water, sun, and air can nourish a plant that will make fruits and vegetables that feed people.  It's not magic, but it feels like magic.  Life *is* magic, in its own way.  

Point is, though, it's *real*.  It feels real -- easy and accepted, like it belongs -- and that's so important to helping readers accept the paranormal in your fiction.

How do you get there?  How do you make it real?  I wish I had an easy answer, but the truth is that you just need to feel it.  Try to put yourself into the shoes of the characters, breathe the air of that world, imagine all the ramifications of the paranormal, strange, and magical.  What's the cause and effect?  How do people adapt, in the same way that we adapt to planes and television, or some act of nature, like a tornado?  How do people recover from contact with the paranormal?  What are the precautions, the laws, the stereotypes?  

These are just a handful of the questions you could ask yourself, and there are a million others.  Do what it takes, though.  Follow your instincts.  

Keep it real.  Mix your truth with the crazy, and make some magic. 

Where else can you find Marjorie?
Her website
Her blog

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal week continues with Jon Sprunk

While I'm guest blogging for Kalayna Price on Turning Myth to Magic and for Wynter Daniels on one myth/god in particular, I'm pleased to present here talented fantasist Jon Sprunk, who's latest novel, Shadow's Lure (sequel to Shadow's Son) has just been released by Pyr Books.  He's talking today about the television adaptation of George R.R. Martin's famous series.  All that stuff I've been talking about -- worldbuilding, characterization, etc. -- it's in there!

Thoughts on HBO’s A Game of Thrones, Season One by Jon Sprunk

HBO just concluded the first season of its new fantasy series, A Game of Thrones (adapted from George R.R. Martin’s mega-bestselling books). Like many viewers, I had read the books first and initially I was leery of this series. HBO generally does a fantastic job with its productions, but I always approach book adaptations with a healthy dose of skepticism. After all, novels offer so much more depth and verisimilitude. That being said, I’ve really enjoyed this first season. Here are a few reasons why:

Setting: HBO nailed it. The Twins, the Vale, the Wall, King’s Landing, and the Dothraki plains—they were just like I pictured while reading the books. It’s evident that HBO put a lot of time and money into set design, including the costumes. My wife commented early in the series how the people wore such shabby clothing compared to other fantasy shows and movies, and that jives completely with Martin’s world. It’s not pretty all the time, and the show got it right.

Characters: The casting is fantastic. My favorites so far have been Peter Dinklage (who just became a father – congrats, sir!) as Tyrion Lannister and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as his more-knightly brother Jaime. These two make being bad look fun. Peter portrays Tyrion’s keen wit with just the right amount of bitterness. Nikolaj somehow remains noble (-ish) while being a prick all the time. I’m eager to see how both—and all the characters—change as the series continues.

Story: Whenever a book is converted into film or TV, some sacrifices must be made. A Game of Thrones has done intelligent cuts, but even more impressive have been the addition of small scenes where characters can discuss issues, such as the books’ grand history or Tyrion’s sad experiences with prostitutes, rather than rely on a dreary voice-over narration. So overall, I give the series high marks for holding to the story that the readers already love. I liked how it included the story of Daenerys without breaking the flow of the other plots. I would have liked to have seen more of Ayra Stark, but as I said, some things had to be sacrificed.

Atmosphere: This is probably the most difficult aspect of a novel to convey on-screen because of its intangibility. The choice of words, their texture and rhythm, the details described—these are all difficult things to show on TV, but I give A Game of Thrones credit for its excellent pacing, which mimics the style of G.R.R. Martin’s prose.

As you can no doubt tell, I’m a big fan of the first season. It goes to show what quality television production can do with a great fantasy story, staying true to the genre while also making it enticing to a general audience. I hope it’s a trend that continues, perhaps someday with a little book called Shadow’s Son . . .


Jon Sprunk is the author of Shadow's Son, a nominee for the David Gemmell Award, and the newly-released Shadow's Lure. He lives with his family in central Pennsylvania where he is devising further tortures for his characters.


Science Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal week continues with Rob Thurman

Continuing Science Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal week, I'm pleased to present New York Times-bestselling author Rob Thurman, who likes to take mythology and turn it completely on its flea-bitten ear.  I offered her Cal Leandros series up in the webinar as an example of how you can take something established and completely make it your own.

Myth-information by Rob Thurman

I’m often asked where I get my particular take on mythology. The majority of my readers recognize that I’m intentionally twisting existing myths and a few enjoy pointing out my ‘errors.’

Yeahhh, they’re not errors.

While I do love shoving myths into a wood-chipper to see what comes out the other side, enjoy putting my own stamp on tradition, what I’m actually doing is bringing mythology up-to-date.  If you’re old enough to remember the trash rag, the National Enquirer, then you remember if two celebrities passed in the street, they were instantly emblazoned on the front page as having a torrid (hey, that is the only time I’ve used the word torrid) affair, cheating on their spouses, and destroying their children’s lives. It wasn’t true of course, but that’s what gossip is all about and if your ‘prey’ won’t talk to you, gossip is all you have to go on. Now we have TV trash shows for that, but the practice is the same.

Mythology is the gossip of the ancient world.

Think of the mermaid. One day a horny sailor saw his first manatee. And you’d have to be an extremely horny sailor to envision a gorgeous mermaid out of a wallowing sea cow. But apparently he was and that was the seed of the mermaid legend.

And it wouldn’t stop with mermaids. Every myth, mythological creature, mythological god would be far different than the humans of those times managed to put down on paper or pass along. If your world is inhabited by vamps, weres, fey, and a thousand monsters, do you think that, say, a lycanthrope sat down about 25,000 BC to tell their furry story to any human who came along? That’s not in their best interest to survive. If your vampires existed (as mine did), before the time of Christ, why would they fear a cross, be burned by holy water, sleep in coffins before there were coffins? They probably sat around at the weekly vamp meeting and concocted all sorts of crazy fake legendary weapons to pretend to cower from right before they ate you. Good joke for them, eh? No doubt they’d swill blood from their cups and snort blood out of their nose when the Italian vamp added garlic to the list. Hell, he probably drank his blood with ground garlic around the edge of his chalice of blood—like salt on a margarita glass.

In my universe of the Cal Leandros Novels and Trickster Novels, Puck, Pan, Robin Goodfellow is now a used car salesman (what better job for a charismatic, arrogant, slick and slippery con artist of a trickster?)  And he never had goat legs. They were fur chaps long before they came into fashion. Goodfellow didn't follow the trends, he set them.


Elves are worse monsters than demons from the deepest depths of Hell. They are the bogeymen even to other monsters. Their ‘seed’ to elven legend is long white hair and pointed ears—history left out the hundreds of metallic teeth, lava-red eyes, and the insatiable desire to kill. They were the first predators—the first murderers to walk the earth.

Werewolves aren’t werewolves at all. They were once in the same evolutionary line of prehistoric wolf and split off into a species that could turn human if they wished—all the better to infiltrate their prey and gobble them up with those great big teeth, Grandma. They didn’t start out as people who can turn into wolves, they started out as wolves that can turn into people—they are were-people.


And it goes on and on. It’s your world, your universe, your rules….different, strange, mythology turned upside down is good. No, hell, it’s great. Your only limits are the ones you set on yourself.

Me? I never liked rules. 


Wanna hear more?  You can visit Rob Thurman on her blog or listen to her at Binwalla Radio right here (her portion starts at about 33.45).

You can also check out her very cool book videos and get her Cal Leandros widget here.

SF/Fantasy/Paranormal Week begins with Carol Berg

Following up on my June 9th webinar for Writers Digest Books about Writing Science Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal, I thought I'd bring in some guest-bloggers to talk a bit about how they handle various aspects of the writing, worldbuilding, etc.  With that in mind, I'm pleased to present Carol Berg, here to kick things off.  Carol is a tremendously talented epic fantasy author, as evidenced by her awards (The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and  Colorado Book Award for her Lighthouse Duet -- Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone-- and for her stand-along Song of the Beast, the Prism Award for Daughter of Ancients and the Geffen Award for Translated Fiction for Transformation).  In the webinar, I used her work as an example, particularly, of creating multi-faceted characters.

Writing Evil by Carol Berg

I've never been a brooding person, neither depressed nor sociopathic.  Not even a pessimist!  Thus it surprised me a bit when people started labeling my work as dark fantasy.  Yes, I can be pretty tough on my heroes, heroines, and their friends.  Mine are big stories, touching on world-changing events with all the accompanying dangers and hard consequences  But, honestly, I never do a Hamlet on my worlds.  In fact, for the most part, I leave them considerably better off than they were at the beginning of the story (even if everyone doesn't realize it right away.)  And the great events are really just a setup for tales about human beings.  What makes this particular person step out to be a hero?  What makes that particular person into a murderer or embezzler or the mastermind at the center of a web of nefarious deeds?

The attraction of the real

One of my goals for my stories is realism.  Yes, I know that sounds pretty funny when one considers that I have gods who show up walking down the street, dragons as weapons of war, or a race who can dance the earth into health.  But I'm talking about realism in the human sense.  I want readers to experience my worlds through the senses - to feel the bitter cold or the sloppy mud, the arid desert or the congested city.  I also want them to recognize my characters as real human beings dealing with real human conflict, even if the circumstances have to do with magical murders or the veil between the living world and the world of the dead.

As writers we all know that we should avoid cliché both in characterization - no white knights with sparkly teeth, no wilting maidens who faint at spiders and lust for muscled rescuers, no dark lords in black towers - and in plot - no elf, dwarf, human road trips where stew or elfbread are the meals of choice.  Avoiding cliche when it comes to good and evil is critical as well, and makes a story take on another dimension.

What do we name good and what do we name evil?

Something that bothers me about our real world is our tendency to toss people, issues, and even food groups into binary bins - liberal or conservative, north or south, coke or pepsi, good or evil.  It is very easy to fall into the trap of instant judgment.  But as we mature, we know life is just not that simple - and it certainly isn’t for those who populate my books.

We all grow up with certain belief structures.  And somewhere along the line our perceptions shift.  Eventually we learn that our parents aren't infallible.  (Certainly when we turn 13!)  Eventually we question the articles of faith passed down from parents, teachers, or mentors.  Eventually we have to admit that a person we called friend is someone else entirely.

Certainly Valen, my hero of Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone, learned to despise his parents.  He called them evil and ran away, leaving behind their highly structured, restrictive world.  He believed he could drift along through life, staying out of sight while having a good time and not hurting anyone.  Instead, circumstances within him and outside of him drew him into addiction, thievery, selfishness, desertion - not at all heroic.  Eventually he ended up lying his way into a monastery for his own selfish ends.  At this point it would have been easy to portray the monks as the cold, wicked, hierarchical religious establishment or the warm, friendly brotherhood who taught Valen life lessons.  In fact, he found a society of human beings, each of whom had reasons for being there and reasons for his actions, some of which were worthy and some of which were Most Definitely Not.  Sorting out which was which, while getting drawn into their plots and the devastation of the wider world, caused conflict and tension – which as Lucienne pointed out in her webinar are the very things that keep readers turning pages.

Certainly Seyonne, the hero of my Rai-kirah books, came to question the religious underpinnings for the demon war his people - and he - had waged with unquestioning bravery and sacrifice for centuries.  The structure of belief, custom, and dedication that he fervently believed noble and necessary looked very different after he had been away from it for sixteen years.  Where was the evil?  Not at all in the place he was used to finding it.  And that changed everything.  Real human conflict - internal and external.  And tension - will the next choice be right, when right and wrong are so confused?

Sociopaths or maniacs are scary.  But how much more intriguing the man who loves our heroine, who has every opportunity to choose the right and knows that turning his back on a dying man will damn him forever, but goes ahead and does it?  (Purposely not mentioning any names here!)  He is human.  He has reasons.  How much more frightening is a villain who exemplifies the highest ideals of a burgeoning civilization, or a villainess who sincerely believes that razing civilization will solve society’s problems, than someone who gets out of bed for another day of working evil?  After all, maybe she's right.  How much more fun for the reader when one cannot identify these antagonists right away, because they have these very human sides to their character.  And how much more devastating for your hero when he watches a person he’s come to rely on choose up with the other side as happens in The Spirit Lens.

This is the kind of tension I find much more engrossing than that of dark lords with fangs versus heroines with golden tresses.  And this is the kind of human conflict we can recognize as real, even while we enjoy an adventure of the fantastic.

Webinar, New Releases and Magical Words

I'm putting the final touches on my upcoming webinar for Writer's Digest on writing Science Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal.  I've put a ton of work into it, and I think it's going to be great.  If you're interested and haven't already signed up, there's still time.  Some of the details are below.  Full information is available here.

Session date: Thursday, June 9, 2011
Starting time: 1:00 pm Eastern
Duration: 90 minutes

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I'm also very excited to announce two new releases today:

Chicks Kick Butt edited by Kerrie Hughes and Rachel Caine
Anthology featuring original stories from thirteen authors, eleven of whom are New York Times bestsellers:
L.A. Banks
Rachel Vincent
Karen Chance
Lilith Saintcrow
Cheyenne McCray
Jeanne Stein
Jenna Black
Jeanne Stein
Jenna Black
Elizabeth Vaughan
Carole Nelson Douglas
Nancy Holder
Two of New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampire novels in one volume.

Fade Out
Without the evil Bishop ruling over Morganville, the vampires have made major concessions to the human population. But when a filmmaker goes missing after starting work on a documentary about vampires, Claire Danvers and her friends feel anything but safe...

Kiss of Death
Vampire Michael Glass's music has attracted the attention of a music producer-giving Michael the opportunity to leave Morganville. But between a horde of hateful humans and a savage party of feral vampires, Michael may not make it to the show on time...or ever.

Last but not least, here's a link to a very interesting interview by some of the authors behind the wonderful Magical Words blog, including three of my clients: David B. Coe, Faith Hunter and Kalayna Price.

While we're on the subject of Faith Hunter, she was also kind enough to host me today on her site, talking about my wonderfully loony family, inspiration and my upcoming release Bad Blood.

Congratulating more award nominees

Congratulations are in order for two of my authors making the final ballots on a few awards!

To Patti O'Shea for IN THE DARKEST NIGHT finaling for Best Paranormal in the National Readers Choice Awards!

To N.K. Jemisin, whose fantasy THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS is up for
The Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Newcomer/debut!  In addition, the wonderful artwork by Cliff Nielsen is a finalist for the Ravenheart.

Guest blog by Steven Harper on Writing the Paranormal Novel

So pleased to present a guest blog today from Steven Harper, whose latest work, WRITING THE PARANORMAL NOVEL releases March 14th from Writers Digest Books.  So well done and let's hear it for him!

I had no idea when I started reading fantasy novels as a kid (the term "paranormal" hadn’t been invented yet) that one day I’d be writing a how-to book about them, but there I was, reading everything available with a vampire, dragon, unicorn, demon, or angel in it. All that stuff piled up inside my head, and when the chance came to do
WRITING THE PARANORMAL NOVEL for Writer’s Digest Books, my inner librarian said, "We’re good to go. Sign the contract."

When I started putting together the list of books I wanted to refer to as examples of paranormal character development, paranormal plotting, paranormal dialogue, and so on, I was a little startled at how many books I’d snarfed down over the years, kind of like a frat boy who stumbles over a pile of beer bottles on the back porch on Sunday morning and says, "Dude! I drank all that?"

And when I started work on the manuscript, I naturally dragged out my private library. Dozens of books flew off my shelves and built a castle around my desk. They sat on the floor, loomed over the monitor, and buried the Ukrainian nesting dolls I snuck out of my son’s native country the day I adopted him. I couldn’t leave the books on the shelf--I needed all of them instantly at hand. How does Naomi Novik change her prose for the voice for Temeraire? Which novel did Terry Pratchett avoid using a prologue? Why is Edward Eager still enjoyed by adults? I couldn’t let any of these examples fall out of arm’s reach.

Of course, I had to have read all these novels in the first place. Every one of them led me to this book, like little stepping stones made of paper and ink.

But the path doesn’t end there, you see. Life doesn’t work that way. Just as those hundreds of books led me to PARANORMAL NOVEL, PARANORMAL NOVEL led me to write yet another book.

Remember those nesting dolls back in the third paragraph? See, I adopted my oldest son from Ukraine when he was twelve, and five years later, he still hadn’t had any contact with his birth family. He didn’t even know if they were aware he’d been adopted. I promised him that if I sold WRITING THE PARANORMAL NOVEL, I would use the money to take him to Ukraine and visit his birth family. When the contract arrived, I kept my promise.

Once summer break came, he and I took a plane to Eastern Europe. The Old Country. Where vampires comes from. We found my son’s family and they enjoyed a long and emotional reunion.

But the path keeps on going. I was already writing a novel called THE DOOMSDAY VAULT, the first in a steampunk trilogy set in Victorian London. (It’s due out this November, in case you were wondering.) The second book, THE IMPOSSIBLE CUBE, I had decided to set in Europe somewhere, but I wasn’t quite sure where.

Spending ten days in backwoods Ukraine settled the question. The people there still live in the nineteenth century, and while my son was visiting relatives, I was conducting quiet research for the next novel.

One book leads to another.