Why I write fantasy

Once upon a time….

Those are the words that start off many fairy tales. As a child, you hear tales of mermaids, fairies, trolls, unicorns, knights and magic. In these stories, animals can talk and often magic exists. It is a wonderful world of escape.

This is one of the things I love about books. They allow you to enter another time, another life, another world. You can be anyone. You can do anything. This is the magic of reading that I discovered as a child.

And when I became an author, I knew that I wanted to be able to sweep readers up into the story. I wanted to be able to let them enter another world, to experience magic, romance and adventure. I wanted to be able to do what other authors have done for me.

DragonIn the four years since I began this blog, I have never actually addressed the question of why I write or more specifically, why I write fantasy.

I think it is that early introduction to fairy tales and their world of magic that drew me to this genre. I have always liked unicorns and dragons. And I have always been fascinated by the idea of magic.

Even my choice of television shows (Merlin, Highlander, Buffy, Once Upon a Time – to name a few) and movies (DragonHeart, Marvel movies, Star Wars – again just a few to give you the idea) often reflect my interest in fantasy or science fiction.

In high school and college, I read Terry Brooks, David Eddings and Anne McCaffery. I got lost in their stories. And it fueled me to with the desire to write my own fantasy adventure.

Yes, I love writing and could write many different genres. I do love to read romances and mysteries, but they don’t call to me the same way the idea of creating fantastic lands with mythical creatures. I love creating whole new worlds. Yet, I have shied away from science fiction because of the science and technology issues. (Not my strong suit.)

The wonderful thing about fantasy is that there are no rules. Anything can happen. The only limits are my imagination and the prescribed order of the universe I create. For me, fantasy offers the ultimate escape.

I only hope that my fantasy stories allow readers to immerse themselves in another world, in an adventure that allows them to escape, dream and believe in a world of magic and magical creatures.

Today’s Featured Author: Skye Hegyes

Today I welcome author Skye Hegyes to my blog. Her latest book, Puck’s Choice, is the first in a new series. Puck’s Choice came out in December.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Born in Germany while my parents were stationed overseas, I’ve lived in North Carolina since I was two except for a two-year stint in Montana between the ages of five and seven. I am married with two kids, and love my family more than anything in the world. There are also several animals in my life: a dog that stays at my parents’ house because of my lease agreement and they have more acreage for him to run on, two parakeets, and three cats.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

While I would like to one day write full time, at the moment, I can only say I write part time. I have a full-time job and work forty plus (40+) hours a week as a production associate at a factory that builds cab servers, so I can’t devote as much time to writing and still have a semblance of a life with my family. Maybe one day.

I tend to find time to write at both work and home. I work third shift and there is a lot of down-time sometimes. If I’m not online researching, replying to emails, or procrastinating on Facebook, I’m writing. I tend to write at work if there’s nothing to do.

At home, the process can be different, but not by much. Again, I tend to write for twenty-minute sprints, but in between each sprint, I take a ten-minute break in which I eat, drink or use the restroom. I tend to get more writing done, as it’s not interrupted by the things I need to do at work. Then again, there are kids, but they can be distracted with movies and food, which makes it easier.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

This varies from project to project. Sometimes I outline my works, and sometimes I just roll with the idea and see what happens. With larger works, I do at least complete a basic bullet-point outline with a couple of minor details—just little things I want to see happen in the work. Shorter projects tend to be just written out from start to finish. I take an idea, write it into a sentence or two that will become the “blurb” and write.

Please tell us about your current release.

My newest release came out in December. Puck’s Choice is the first book in the Shifters & Mages series, which is about witches and their familiars in the modern world. Puck is a fox shifter (familiar) who has spent over a year as a fox and is now getting used to a human life again and making up the year she missed as a junior in high school. It’s a new adult paranormal romance with some language, some sexual content, and a whole lot of magic and high school mayhem.

Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

Honestly, my favorite character seems to be everyone’s least favorite (of the good guys): Rand. I really can’t explain why he’s my favorite. I just know that if he was real and I met him, I’d hug him and squeeze him and never let him go.

In the same respect, my least favorite character is one everyone loves to hate by the end, Melinda. It was real easy to write her as a nasty mean, upfront character, but that didn’t make me like her anymore.

If this book is part of a series, what is the next book? Any details you can share?

Puck’s Choice is the first book in the Shifters & Mages series. I am currently working on editing book two, Jenna’s Story. Each book tends to follow a different character in the same world. Jenna is a teenage girl who can change into the form of a wolf. She doesn’t know who her father is, her mother ignores her existence, and her stepfather abuses her. It’s a tale about her growing into her own and discovering who and what she is.

Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?

Chocolate is always a welcome snack. I’ve actually gotten in the habit of buying large bags of Hershey’s kisses (right now I’m still eating the chocolate truffles from Valentine’s Day). When I’ve reached a certain word count goal, I snack on seven kisses. Seven being my lucky number. On the weekends, when I’m writing at night, I also like to pour myself a glass of wine if I have any to sip at as I write.

What book are you reading right now?

Currently, I am reading Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. It’s pretty good so far, and I hope to finish it soon and then watch the movie again. Another I am reading (I always seem to be reading more than one at a time) is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It’s one I’ve read multiple times in an attempt to understand it, but it wasn’t until I watched the movie that I even really recognized what was going on. Now I love it, and I come back and read it at least once a year.

Do you have an all-time favorite book?

There are a couple of books on this list. One is The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, which fed into my love of horses. Another is Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey. Mmmm… It’s a nice blend of romance, magic, battle, and everything a fantasy novel could ask for. A newer edition to this list has been Moon Called by Patricia Briggs. If you need an urban fantasy with a kick-ass heroine and a blend of fey, vampires, werewolves and other magical creatures, this one’s for you.

Book Blurb

PucksChoicePuck Dupree moved in with her sister after spending over a year trapped in the form of a fox. She had hoped to move on with a normal teenage life; however, trouble seems to have followed her.

 

The Council wants her to partner with a mage or forfeit her life, a friend of hers has a stalker who may or may not be trying to destroy her, and a boy at school keeps watching her. If only she could decide if he wants to kiss her or kill her.

About the Author

SkyeHegyes“Creativity: having a pencil in one hand and the paper below it. All that’s left is the writing.” ~Skye Hegyes

Dragons, wolves, and sharp objects are commonplace in Skye Hegyes’s home in North Carolina. She spends most of her time between writing and working. When not doing either of these things, you may find her making crafts or adventuring with her family, which consists of her husband, two daughters, two birds, and three cats… and a partridge in a pear tree…

You can find out more about Skye on her website or Facebook.

You can purchase Puck’s Choice on Amazon in either e-book format or as a paperback.

Starting over…beginning a new novel

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverIn January, I released my latest fantasy novel, The Heir to Alexandria. The months of February through April were packed with some non-writing projects so it is only now in May that I am finding time to work on my next new novel.

Sigh. It isn’t that I don’t want to start a new novel, but starting a fantasy novel is a lot of work. It goes beyond just deciding on a plot and building characters. I have a whole world to create. And that takes time.

And while I do enjoy developing a believable setting for my story, sometimes I would love to be able to skip the planning part and just begin writing. But I know that without some planning that I would be doing a lot of rewriting.

So first comes plot…I need a compelling story with a well-defined conflict before I can even worry about the world building. And I think I have the compelling story, but I still need to fine tune the exact nature of the conflict.

Once that is done, it will be time to develop the characters (and at least one from this new book will be a dragon).dragon This can be fun. You get to explore their backgrounds and discover their flaws as well as their strengths. Over the next few weeks, I will develop histories, descriptions, and motivations for all my characters. Knowing these details makes the characters more vivid and real.

But because once again I have been busy with travel and doctor’s appointments (see Monday’s post for details regarding the medical issue), I haven’t had as much time to anything. But with character building in mind, I have used my spare time to collect a list of names for some minor characters.

wizardAnd there is still a lot of world building to do. I need to decide on the political and religious beliefs as well as define how magic will be used and what limits there are to it. And yes, you do need to add limits or consequences to your use of magic so that it is believable and can add to the conflict of the story rather than be the supreme answer to all problems.

As part of my world building, I also usually create a map of my world so that I can refer to it as I am writing. This step is quite useful in knowing where your characters are, and how long it will take them to get to other locations. Readers might catch that it took two weeks to reach the seaside village but only two days to return home. Knowing where your characters are and what type of environment they are in will help create that believable world.

So here I am again…starting over. So much planning to do before I even begin writing. It sometimes feels overwhelming, but I know it is will be worth it.

#NewRelease – THE HEIR TO ALEXANDRIA by Susan Leigh Noble

Release day is finally here! Now available only on Amazon for just $2.99 is my latest novel The Heir to Alexandria.

Book Blurb

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverBelieved the descendants of the Gods themselves,

The Alexandria line ensured peace,

Until they were brutally murdered.

But rumor spread a maid escaped with the youngest daughter.

Now as the world rushes toward a period of unrest, the nations’ Kings continue their 200-year-long-search for the Heir to Alexandria – the one person who can bring peace and stability through divine power.

Alista has her own search – for the parents who abandoned her as a baby years ago. When her only lead proves to be a dead end, she heads to the capital with a reluctant escort. Grayson is just following his aunt’s order, but he would rather be on one of his solitary scouting missions for the Landra Guard. However, when Alista unintentionally curses a guard in front of the King’s court, everything changes for both of them.

Now forced to travel to Covington for testing, danger lurks at every turn as a secret society strives to prevent the return of the Alexandria line. Are Alista’s visions of the future enough to save herself and those traveling with her?

Excerpt – Chapter One

The rough hand pressed down over her mouth. Alista’s eyes flew open. With the moonlight behind the large figure, she couldn’t make out any details of the man hunched above her. But his foul breath washed over her making her stomach flop. He rolled her onto her back, pinning one arm to the ground.

The vision hit as Alista struggled to reach her knife hidden under her bedroll. She saw the man’s sinister smile as he attacked a woman. The images of his past came fast. She felt the fear of his victims, the pain he bestowed on them and his pleasure at his actions. Her stomach turned. A wave of nausea swept over her as the vision ended.

The man climbed on top of her, pinning her to the ground. He moved his hand away from her mouth, caressing her jaw with his coarse fingers. Alista heard movement in the camp, but the man didn’t turn. The sound of someone rifling through her bag reached her as her fingers found the cool handle of her dagger.

A scream pierced the cool night air.

The man on top of her twisted around to look behind him. Alista took the moment of distraction to pull out the knife. She jabbed it forward, sinking it into the man’s belly. He turned to face her, a gasp escaping his lips. Shaking, Alista wiggled out from under him. The man clutched at the blood gushing from his stomach. Her own stomach lurched at what she had done. She scooted away as the man staggered to his feet.

She tore her eyes from him to the large wolf standing on the other side of the dying fire. Its jaws were still clenched on the throat of a second intruder. The wolf’s yellow eyes briefly met hers and then flickered to the man beside her. The wolf released its hold on the dead man’s neck. It leapt toward the wounded man, knocking him to the ground.

Crack!

Alista gasped as she heard the wood break. The man pushed at the wolf as the beast sunk its teeth into his neck. She barely heard the gurgling sound as she reached forward and pulled the broken basket from beneath him. She cradled it in her arms. Tears streamed down her face. What once had been a beautiful, handcrafted basket was now nothing but a heap of wood fragments.

She looked up to see the wolf watching her. In the moonlight, she could see the two lifeless bodies. An image from her vision flashed before her eyes, and she knew she was lucky to be alive. The men had no intention of only robbing her camp. She shuddered. The wolf had saved her again.

“Thank you,” she murmured as the wolf disappeared into the forest.

She sat the basket down and reached for her bedroll. She began to roll it. There was no way she could stay here tonight. Quickly, she put away her supplies that had been dumped on the ground. She glanced at the body lying next to them. She couldn’t bring herself to look at his torn throat. She kicked dirt onto the dying fire until the flames disappeared. In the moonlight, she surveyed the camp one more time before hefting the pack onto her back. With one last glance at the bodies, she began walking.

In the back of her mind, she could hear Raynor warning her that traveling at night was never a good idea. It wasn’t because she couldn’t see the roots and rocks on the trail. It was the Night Stalkers. Alista shuddered. She was fortunate to never have seen one. But she couldn’t forget Raynor’s brush with the huge bug-like creatures. He told the story many times.

Raynor had been foolish enough to be traveling at night, believing the extraordinary clear evening with its bright moonlight would keep the Night Stalkers away. He had not seen the two black creatures until they were almost upon him. Their heads would have come up to the middle of his chest if he had stopped to allow one near him. As it was, he ran as soon as he saw them but with their long, thin legs, the Night Stalkers covered the ground quickly. He swore he felt one of them touch his back as he ran into the meadow. At the top of the hill, he had thought he had lost them but one of them sprang through the air. He barely escaped.

Fire was the only thing the Night Stalkers feared. Alista recalled hanging on Raynor’s every word as he described running toward the forest. He fumbled for his fire rod in his waist pouch. When he entered the woods, he paused to throw down the special mix of fire starter he carried. Scraping his knife across the fire rod, he ignited a branch. He used his torch to drive the Night Stalkers back. Even now, she felt the knot in the pit of her stomach at his narrow escape.

Her mind was so preoccupied by the thought of Night Stalkers that she was to the middle of the meadow before she saw the tiny winged figures. She stopped, her mouth dropping open. She hadn’t believed fairies existed.

Daintily, the small-winged men and women danced around in a circle. The women wore flower petals as dresses and swung little lanterns as their wings beat softly. Some men played pipes or harps while others clapped in time to the music. Then one of the fairies saw her and motioned her forward.

Without a thought, Alista obeyed. The fairies surrounded her. She knelt in the soft grass as the fairies began their dance again. They circled around her. In turn, they bowed or curtsied. She nodded to each. Her eyes grew heavy. She wiggled the pack off her back. Using it for a pillow, she laid down. The fairies continued to dance around her, their music lulling her to sleep.

Click here to buy and read the rest…

What puts a novel in the category of fantasy?

Every book needs to be categorized by its genre to help readers locate the type of books they enjoy reading. Often, science fiction and fantasy are lumped together as one category, but really they are two separate sub-genres of speculative fiction.

Science fiction covers the realm of plausibility, of things that COULD happen if we had the technology or “science.” Fantasy covers the realm of the impossible – it asks you to suspend belief as it introduces mythical creatures and magic. The events in these stories cannot happen in real life.

So what exactly does a novel need to be considered a fantasy?

dragonOften a fantasy novel takes place in another world, many times based off a medieval society. There can be other creatures such as dwarfs, elves, fairies and dragons populating these worlds. And the key is that in these worlds, these things are not out of the ordinary.

Of course, some fantasy novels take place on Earth with perhaps only a part of society that knows about the fantasy element. But no matter what, with a fantasy novel, the reader is asked to suspend belief. They are expected to believe that these incredible things are part of the “norm.”

Many fantasy novels tend to be action-packed and include a quest or adventure of some sort. A conflict between good in evil is also a common subject in fantasy.

wizardBut I guess the one thing that usually sets fantasy novels apart from other genres is the use of magic. It can be a witch or sorcerer or even just someone who controls the elements. Or it can be an enchanted item that grants its own strength or power.

My books clearly have talking cats, dragons and elemental magic – making them obviously fantasy novels. But narrowing down the sub-genre of fantasy can be tricky.

When browsing Kindle books, Amazon lists 16 different categories for fantasy: alternate history, anthologies & short stories, Arthurian, Christian fantasy, classics, coming of age, dark fantasy, epic, fairy tales, historical, metaphysical & visionary, myths & legends, paranormal & urban, superhero, sword & sorcery and TV/Movie/Video Game Adaptations.

Nowhere on Amazon’s site do they list the distinctions between these different categories. And the problem is many books could be listed under several categories. A vampire book could be listed under paranormal or under dark fantasy. Even my The Elemental series is hard to determine which category best fits it – epic, sword and sorcery, myths and legends.

The other tricky element is that when you are categorizing your novel when you upload it on Kindle Direct Publishing is that all 16 of these categories are not choices.  There are only eight – general, collections & anthologies, contemporary, dark fantasy, epic, historical, paranormal and urban.

This makes me wonder if you select contemporary or general, which of the 16 categories listed on the Kindle book fantasy page will your book fall under? I certainly don’t know.

But sub-categories aside, it is the use of supernatural abilities or items that fantasies are defined.

Gods and magic in the fantasy novel

Last week, I wrote about incorporating gods and religion into the fantasy novel. Since many works of fantasy also include magic, I wanted to address magic and gods.

As I have said before, all magic needs established rules to be believable. How do the gods play into these rules? Are they the ones who established them? Are their powers also limited to these rules?

Here are some questions to get you thinking as you are building your world.

1.) How does your god or gods view magic?

2.) Is there a god of magic?

3.) Is magic a gift from god? Or is it the gods answering the participants “prayer”?

4.) If magic is really the result of the gods responding to the “magician,” why would they do this? Is there any restriction on what they can do? What prevents them from always saving the day?

5.) If you are calling on a god for help, do you call on the same god each time or does it depend on which god would be the most helpful?

5.) Does your religion require priests or priestesses to be magicians?

ritual6.) Is magic forbidden and if so, why?

7.) Does your magic involve rituals (religious or otherwise)? Do the participants expect an immediate response or will the ritual take effect three months later?

8.) Does your magic revolve around spirits or magical beings sent to do tasks?  (“I, Ago the mighty, summon you using your true daemon name to do my will…”)

With my trilogy, The Elemental, I did not involve gods in the story so I did not have to  address these questions. There were two types of magic – innate (Elementals) and learned (Learners) but neither received these powers as a gift from God. In my current work in progress, magic was bestowed on the disciples of the gods and so only descendants have magic. My gods are a little further removed from the current story.

Choosing innate magic over learned magic

A while back I wrote about setting limits in magic to make the magic more believable. Though magic can be put into many different classifications, I like to think of everything as either something you learn (spells) or something that is innate (a power you were born with). (Hmm…that totally leaves out magical items but well that will have to be a different post.)

In my trilogy, The Elemental, there are two types of magic – one performed through spells by wizards called Learners. The other is an innate form in which the user draws energy from their surroundings to control the elements – fire, air, water and land. These people are known as Elementals.

Lina stood by Tosh not sure what to do. She wanted to help but had no weapon beside her Elemental power. But she was unsure if she was skilled enough to use that power in battle. Then again, she had to do something. She began gathering the power. Her body began to tingle as it pulsed through her. She waited until neither Coy nor Val was attacking, and then she slowly unleashed the power, all the while thinking of a deep hot blaze. The bluish blaze seemed to spring up from the ground itself. Flames quickly engulfed the beast. It twisted and howled. The beast turned toward her. It’s loud cry pierced the air. – from Summoned

I chose to use an innate power because I wanted my heroine, Lina, to have a type of power that was not something she chose. This was part of who she was. It was as natural as breathing, and it was something she couldn’t avoid using.

LinaIn the first book, Summoned, Lina is pulled into the adventure because of this power she possesses though she doesn’t know that is the reason. As she travels and her magic grows, it really directs the story and creates an internal battle after she kills someone while using her magic.

Had I made her magic based on something she learned, she could easily have chosen to quit her travels when things got hard or simply stopped learning magic. Of course if I had chosen her to have a learned type of magic, I could have developed other factors that keep her in the story, but it would have been a totally different tale than the one I wrote.

In the case of innate magic, the antagonist of the story can be the magic itself. The character’s struggle to understand and/or control their magic can be more than just an integral part of the story but really the whole story.

However, that was not the focus in The Elemental trilogy and won’t be in my next novel. Though I have only begun to work on it, in my next novel, the main character will possess an innate magic that will again play a huge part in her journey. And part of that journey will be learning about her innate ability.