_ I think as a reader, many of us are turned off by the clichés we come across in Fantasy stories. Generally (generalizations are generally true), Fantasy themes fall into the category of good versus evil in some way, shape, or form. Generally, Fantasy plots are our heroes killing the evil ones to save the world/princess/etc…, overcoming all the obstacles before facing the bad guy.

First theme: good versus evil is a cliché, and it’s prevalent in most genres whether in the form of vengeance, retribution, or otherwise. The key for the writer (I think) is to muddy the lines a bit. Maybe the hero/heroine isn’t all that good and maybe the bad guy isn’t all that bad. For example, in ‘The Bounds’, my heroine, Robyn, derives a type of sexual pleasure when killing. Because of her experience, she understands the motivations of the bad guys and (hopefully) the readers root for her to fight the repulsive urges. On the other side, my bad guys, Keepers, actually strive to maintain an orderly and peaceful society—not a bad thing, although their reason for doing this is warped. I like the stories that mix it up a bit. If you read Donalson’s ‘White Gold Wielder’, the hero, Thomas Covenant, enters the alter-world thinking he’s dreaming, gets an erection, and rapes a girl. Not a proud start for Thomas, but we come to love the terribly flawed and reluctant hero.

Next plot: Kill the bad guy save the girl…right? Star Wars—rescue the princess and kill the bad guy or save the galaxy by killing the bad guy. It’s a cliché that sells every Superman story ever written or filmed. As a writer, I think to myself, how much do I deviate from such a simple plot? My hero has to have a goal, right? The story has to go somewhere and what is better than killing the guy who murdered your family, right? I think the most memorable stories are the ones that don’t fall into this cliché. In Fantasy (more speculative fiction), I can think of Auel’s ‘Earth’s Children’ series where she chronicles Ayla’s adventures…no bad guy (except in the first book). Taking a look at ‘Jericho Solus’, the plot was Jericho’s journey to discover who he was and why he existed. The book I’m currently working on is along the same lines in that I stay away from the clichés of “good versus evil” and “kill the bad guy, save the world”.
 
 
_ I’m half finished writing the draft of my next novel. Much like my previous work, it's my twist on Low Fantasy. By twist, I mean my hero, Jeremy Pour, is thrust into a world with different rules and different entities, without magic wielders running around trying to get him. Can I even call my story Fantasy without magic? Regardless, it’s still Speculative Fiction. I’m at the point in the story where my hero finally begins to make sense of why he’s in trouble and begins to understand his relationship to the world around him. My heroine is the mysterious Johinda with a connection to Earth in past centuries. Maybe Johinda is not as human as she appears?

When I write my stories, I don’t build out my outline with magic in mind. I don’t sit down and say “here are the cornerstones of what makes Fantasy, Fantasy. Magic—check; strange entities—check; different world—check”. As with my current story, I focus on the characters first, situation second, objectives third, then obstacles. It seems in my thought process, magic never really enters into the equation. Don’t get me wrong, I love stories with magic weaved in, and when done well, are fantastic.

My trilogy, ‘The Bounds,’ has magic, although I never call it magic. In the story, I describe magic as a person’s ability to manipulate energy. As I said in an earlier post, there must be rules and consequences to make magic believable and I detail the boundaries and repercussions in my story.

I think my next story will be magic laden and I'll approach it with magic being an integral element in the story. I already have the concept of what I want to do and if I can pull it off, it’s going to be awesome.
 
 
_ When I grab a Fantasy book off the shelf and read some random pages, there are a few things that cause me to place it back on the shelf. I’ve already spoke of character races and magic. The third element in Fantasy is the setting. Typically, the setting is what defines the genre, right? You can have strange races, but the setting can be Science Fiction or you can have magic, but the story may be Romance. Setting is what grounds the Fantasy genre and I’m not simply talking about a bunch of trees rather than a steel enclosure in space. Setting is broader. It is society and culture. It’s what’s used for currency and how the people or entity’s worship. It’s everything from units of measurement to burial ceremonies.

So why is setting so ignored in Fantasy? Why do writers simply take 1300’s feudalistic Europe add Dwarf’s and magic and call it Fantasy? And we as Fantasy readers let them get away with such laziness. As soon as I read “the Lord did this” or “the Lady did that”, I toss the book right back on the shelf. Whatever happened to world building in Fantasy? This is what it’s all about and perhaps the driving reason I no longer read High Fantasy. Fantasy writers have gotten lazy or simply don’t care…and why should they, we keep buying their books.

I write what I like to read. My stories have none of the feudalistic backdrop that pollutes the Fantasy genre.

 
 
_ It’s a great pleasure to host my good friend and writing buddy, Cami Skiba. Before we delve into her work, I would like to take this opportunity to give a little background. I met Cami two years ago. We were just a couple of fledging writers taking an online query writing class. At that time she was writing her first novel “Hidden Heart” and I had just finished “The Keepers”. I remember our first assignment to write a few words about our work. I forgot what I wrote, but it had nothing to do with the assignment…I had read the wrong instructions. Cami was the first come back and asked “what the hell are you doing”. I knew in that moment Cami was someone whose honesty could really help me take my writing skill to the next level. Cami is the one who reached out to myself and Cindy Bennett to form our little clique that now includes Sherry Gammon. It’s been an awesome ride that I hope to continue for the foreseeable future. Thank you Cami for helping me realize my dream.

Cami’s timing couldn’t have been better. I was in a phase of reading Romance novels after finishing “The Keepers”. My following book, “The Lylia”, would have some love scenes and I hoped reading Romance novels would help me craft the planned scenes. The books I read (from mainstream authors) had ludicrously shallow and stereotypical characters or very weak settings. I began reading Cami’s “Hidden Heart” and thought this is how mainstream authors should develop their characters. I wasn’t disappointed by Cami’s milieu and found her settings fascinating and although real, verging on ‘low fantasy’ by the way she transports the reader to a completely different place.

Cami’s sophomore novel “A World Apart” is what one would expect from a writer. I loved “Hidden Heart” and Cami kicked it up a gear with “A World Apart”. You can read my reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, or GoodReads.

First, Cami, thank you for kicking my ass when my writing became lazy. As you can see from my theme, I focus on the importance of “The Wigz” in our writing (Wigz is the writing group name Cami gave us). I find that “A World Apart” has elements that transcend your typical Romance novel, such as the medical aspect and the military aspect. From the onset, was it your intent to cross the Romance boundaries, so to speak, to give the reader more than the ‘love found’, ‘love lost’, ‘love found again’, formula?

Wow, Jeff. Let me first begin by saying your words really made me laugh out loud and warmed my heart in ways I can’t describe. Thank you for everything! Now, on to your question. To be honest, I never thought of this formula or any other formula until now that you mentioned it. As a matter of fact, formulas of any kind remind me too much of math and chemistry and, if anything, back in the day these were my nemesis. I write stories about characters that come to me without molding them in certain stereotypes. Can’t stand stories about she finds him on one page, and they fall in love the next page. A week later they’re married and live happily ever after. Real life doesn’t happen that way. I develop a relationship. I put my heroes through the ringer and if they and their feelings are strong enough they’ll get what they search for; if not, then the story can go anywhere.

This is great, and I’ll also add that I find the flaws of your characters real and believable. It’s like you say, you don't mold “them in certain stereotypes”.

This begs the question of your writing style. Many writers generally fall into one of two categories—planner or pantser. Before sitting down and writing your book, do you plan your story out or do you ‘write by the seat of your pants’?

Since we are so good at combining names (Brangelina, Bennifer or TomKat come to mind) I consider myself a plantser. I do plan the outline, know the hero’s journey from point A to point B, but how each step of the journey develops I have no idea. Some scenes come systematic, which is the easiest way. I remember when I wrote the first draft of “A World Apart” I had the beginning and the end, but nothing for the middle. It took me several months of heavy plotting to develop the middle.

My next project (which I’d like to release end of 2012) came to me while editing “A World Apart”. The new heroine was so much in my head I had a tough time keeping the two stories separate. I didn’t write down anything, thinking I’ll start on it once “A World Apart” was done. Big mistake. Now I’m struggling to get the heroine to talk to me. She’s dark and distrustful (terribly stubborn, but shhh, don’t tell her I said that) and refuses to talk. I also tried to cut her off, wanting to write a different story, but she made sure I can’t channel any other heroes either. Will see how that goes…

Thank you Cami. I can’t wait to read your next story—sounds like you’re on your way to developing the character.

There are many other blogs highlighting Camelia Skiba and “A World Apart”. Please take the time to look at some of the interesting interaction as well as entering giveaways.

I am offering an eBook giveaway. Leave a comment to this post to enter. I will announce the winner on Wednesday.



Picture
_ A WORLD APART

In a war that’s not hers, she loses everything.

Everything she loses is because of him.

Forgiveness is not an option.

Or maybe…


Lieutenant Cassandra Toma, trauma surgeon in the Romanian National Army starts her deployment at a joint-unit air base on a wrong foot, clashing on her first day with her new commander, Major David Hunt. Her rebellious nature and sassiness rival her excellent performance in the operating room—the only reason why she's not reprimanded, or maybe not the only reason.

They meet. They clash. A forbidden passion consumes them with the intensity of an erupting volcano, leaving her heartbroken and him with tarnished honor and pride as an officer. The only way out for David is disappearing into the dangerous warzone in Iraq. Their flame was supposed to be over when destiny brings them back under the same roof, this time with a common goal—to find Cassandra's brother, Maj. Robert Toma, kidnapped by insurgents while on patrol.

To rescue Robert, Cassandra and David put aside their resentments, uniting forces against a common enemy. Trying to forget the painful past, Cassandra opens up to give David—and their love—another chance. What she doesn’t realize is that her anguish is the result of David’s impetuous action—one reckless choice he made for which she may never forgive him.

His mistake, his secret, could cost them both the love they've finally found.


Buy Links:

Amazon (Kindle Edition) | Amazon (Paperback) | Barnes & Noble (Nook Book) | Smashwords (All Formats)



Picture
_ I WRITE. I LOVE. I DREAM. I WRITE.

I’m Chris’ wife, Patrick’s mom and Bella’s owner. During the day, I’m the assistant to the Director at SESE at Arizona State University, and romance’s slave at night.

I moved to the U.S eight years ago, following my heart and the man who stole it. I love comedies, historical dramas and happily-ever-after stories. English is not my native, not my second, but my third language.

Some fun facts about me:

Each year I participate in one big event that requires me to physically train. My biggest sportive accomplishment was the 3-day 60-mile Susan G. Komen Walk.

Annually I pick a color I decree my favorite (this year it’s lavender).

I refused to text until 2010, always preferring to hear voices rather than sending emotionless messages. Politic bores me to death and I have no tolerance for arrogance.

“A World Apart” is my second book. My debut novel “Hidden Heart” came out March 2011.


CONTACT LINKS:

By email at cami.skiba@gmail.com

Blog www.cameliamironskiba.wordpress.com




 
 
_Don't forget to pick up your ecopy of Jericho Solus this week for half price!

Go to Smashwords and use code REW50.
 
 
_ As you know from my other blog post, I’m a frustrated (High) Fantasy fan. It’s kind of like your favorite sports team coming in last season after season—I don’t watch the games anymore, but I check the scores on occasion. The next concept in high Fantasy that is out of control is the rules and laws governing magic and its use. How many stories have you read where the character mutters a few arcane words and poof, he’s levitating across the mote or becoming invisible to foes. Come on! Here is where my believability flag starts coming down the pole. Many stories try to justify the magic wielders in two general categories: those individuals with an innate ability and those with learned skills. Okay, I buy both of these concepts and really don’t have an issue with them. Where I take umbrage is action and reaction, or the physical laws that must govern the use of magic. For me there has to be a penalty for using magic. To be believable, it simply can’t be Harry Potter waving a wand and saying some gibberish. This acts as a descent medium to cast the magic, but where’s the penalty? It seems the author has not done their due diligence.

Think of magic like an athlete’s ability. Take Michael Phelps (Olympic swimmer) as an example. Michael is the Grand Master Wizard when it comes to swimming. When wielding his craft, he’ll beat any foe. He would crush a novice swimmer such as myself. So I’m going against Michael in a 50 meter freestyle. Of course he crushes me and that’s expected, but what is the cost? In many fantasy stories there is no cost. The magicians have the ability and that’s it…let’s dance around and cast spells with no repercussions. I just swam the 50 meters giving it everything I’ve got. My lungs burn and my muscles have the consistency of gelatin, I’m gasping for every breath, hoping I don’t drown getting out of the pool. Michael hops from the pool as if he merely stepped from a shower. Magic should have similar laws. The caster should be effected in some way, shape, or form such as I was completely drained physically. Of course the more adept, such as Michael, the less exertion or toll the skill takes. Some stories do have robust laws governing magic, but unfortunately, there are too many stories that simply ignore any rules.