Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The “F” Word

Simmer down now. It’s the word fantasy. I thought we could have a bit of genre talk today, although the concept of genres in general is murky and sometimes challenging to navigate. We’ll try to wade through this together and can blame the library catalog I was sifting through yesterday for this impromptu journey into bookish waters.

One of the more challenging aspects of getting a book ready to publish is trying to figure where in the world to place it. (Indie author here. I don’t have a big company leading me in the right direction.) Genres are essentially matryoshka dolls, where you have categories within categories. To simplify it, I’m just referring to Ransom of the Healer as fantasy and all of the other little subgenres can just cozy up within Big Mama for a little while.

The fantasy genre is one that not everyone wants to spend time in. For some it has a stigma associated with it that can make people hesitant to explore all that it has to offer. Others honestly view it as somehow inferior and I can't help but feel disappointed when a work is discredited just because it falls under fantasy. To be fair, I will admit there is some weird stuff out there...because people are weird. I don't even need to provide an example of that fact because a memory most likely already popped into your head confirming this. But not all of the content out there is weird. It's just different. I think as adults we tend to shy away from some of the things we would have embraced as children.

When we're younger fairy tales and make believe are as natural as breathing. In fact, they're encouraged. Kids can spend the day wearing capes that transform them into royalty, super heroes, wizards, or magicians and we think nothing of it. We're thrilled to see them using their imaginations and smile as they live their adventures in front of us because we remember. 

We were there once. 

We wore tighty whities on our heads as scuba masks. We were invincible against bad guys. We were cowboys and astronauts and we fought dragons while casting spells. And then something happened. We got older. Our capes were exchanged for suits and uniforms and we all but forgot about the once upon a times and the mighty feats we performed when we had super powers. 

This is why I like fantasy.

I understand that I'm asking you to suspend logic for 300 pages. I get that I'm asking you to accept the fact that my characters don't need food and sleep the way that we do. Fantasy authors are taking you into places that they've imagined. They're inviting you into their world of make believe. For just a little while we're all super heroes again and we are on a collective adventure. We're traveling through wardrobes and we're flying through the air on a Nimbus 2000. We get to postpone the monotonous and mundane aspects of life for just a little while. 

If you are in the group that already enjoys fantasy, you are one of my people. If fantasy intimidates you or isn't something you think you'd enjoy, just give it a try. You might be pleasantly surprised. I know it can seem silly or preposterous to some out there, but remember: A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men. Thank you, Roald Dahl, for that beautiful reminder.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Laws of Motion

I did not intend to take physics in college. I ducked and dodged and shied away from courses that involved complicated math and equations like a skillet on a hot stove. Bring on the literature! Bring on the essays and reading lists! Chemistry and calculations? No, thank you. An unfortunate round of scheduling brought me face to face with the very thing I had tried to avoid for semester after semester. I took Physical Science over the summer before my impending graduation...and I loved it.

Loving it certainly didn't mean that it came without challenges. Nope. I struggled and worked hard to keep up in that class. But I have to say, of all of my college courses I walked away with a greater sense of accomplishment from that class because of the effort it took to finish. No, I did not get an A. And that didn't matter to me one bit. To this day I still don't fully understand electric circuits, but I'm okay with not understanding all the ways of the universe.

Why the physics talk? So glad you asked. It's because I still have an $80 used textbook on my shelf to unload and I'm trying to finance publishing a second book. Just kidding. It's not for sale. It's my trophy. 

Earlier I was thinking about how objects at rest tend to stay at rest and objects in motion tend to stay in motion unless an outside force disturbs it. At the moment I'm an object in motion with finishing up this second draft of Rise of the Seer. My plan is to stay in motion until it's finished, which means I need a...

I had a few people ask me about the progress on Rise because I hadn't mentioned it lately. It's moving along and I am looking forward to handing it off once again. Outside eyes see things that I just can't find on my own. Eye color...the spelling of names...who does and does not like pickles and why? (1,000,000 points to you if you knew the answer to that last one.*) 

I feel like I would miss a wonderful opportunity to let you in on one of my favorite lessons from back in the day. Check out the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to see why physics can be utterly fascinating. It can also give me a small case of the heebie-jeebies. What's life without a little bit of fascination? The moral of this story is, work hard, kids. Try the thing you think you can't do and don't put limits on yourself before you ever start. Someone should really put that on a t-shirt. Thank you in advance.

*Points may be redeemed for a smile or high five, depending on your level of comfort and my level of comfort at the time you choose to tell me about your in no way literal points. Open to US residents 18 and up.

Also, it's Catryn. Because of an afternoon of pickling that she just couldn't get out of.  The more you know...

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Summer Loves Books

Sunscreen and bug spray have once again become the perfume of the season. The sun is (finally) shining and demands exploration of everything it touches. School is drawing to a close and the communal calendar in our house comes to a screeching halt. Late evenings around the fire pit and board games loom on the horizon. We’ve finally made it.

We have a tradition in this family we started a few years ago. The first Monday of summer vacation is sacred. It is our one day to completely unwind. It starts with a box of toaster pastries left on the counter for whenever someone wakes up. We have them maybe twice a year, so this is a big deal for us. It is also the only day of unlimited screen time and pajamas. It’s the day we recharge. Normally, we don’t leave the house (due to all of the pajama wearing), but this year another magical day coincides with our sacred day-Summer Reading Kickoff at our library.

We'll meet soon, you little rectangle of deliciousness.

Until a few years ago I didn’t even know that our local library offered summer reading programs for adults. After discovering this exciting news I have made it a part of my summer ever since. We read a certain amount of books from any genre, fill out a form, and are then entered in drawings for prizes. The first summer I won a basket full of pens, sticky notes, chocolate, and a gift card to Half Price Books. It was a solid week before my merriment finally died down. I realize that summer is no longer a break or three free months for most of us out there now. It’s still fun to challenge ourselves to make reading a priority, and it is nice to know that others out there are joining in on the literary jollification.

Current to-read shelf. House rules dictate no new purchases can be made if there is no room left. I've still got space!
Check your local library to see if they offer a summer reading program for adults as well as the kids. If you do have children, Half Price Books also offers a free summer program where they can earn Bookworm Bucks to apply to future purchases. If book contests are more your thing, one of my favorite authors, Sarah Addison Allen, is co-hosting a Summer Reading giveaway. You can enter by clicking here. 

Books and hammocks are best friends. I hope you enjoy their friendship to the fullest extent this summer. Do it for the books. They are the least expensive vacations you will ever take and their destinations are unlimited.