The "Unexpected Inspiration" Characters

May 31, 2014

I'm an orange in an apple's world

I saw this post about Dark Fantasy feed through on Facebook and in a way it made me grimace. I was surprised to find that I've read several of the first books listed there considering that this is so very much not my genre of choice. (Then again, I am a huge literature geek.) The article starts with "What folks call dark fantasy — that niche within fantasy of bloody tales full of morally grey people, supernatural forces and a distinct lack of happy endings — has become incredibly popular over the last few years."

I'm going to take this a different direction than the actual intent of that article. It was an interesting read, but it means something else to me. I hate how the current trend for fantasy is dark and depressing. (I'm holding tightly to my beloved Terry Pratchett books, let me tell you!)

It always makes me feel like an outsider, a weirdo, because I've never really liked dark fantasy. I've always thought Game of Thrones, though well-written, was overrated and not very enjoyable. I certainly dislike the fact that it has set the bar for fantasy where now everyone seems to want more of the same. My desire to avoid this particular subgenre makes it difficult to find fantasy books that I want to read because so much of what I'm hearing about and what people are recommending aren't my cup of tea. The world is depressing and dark enough; I read fantasy to escape and I want to enjoy the time I spend "living" in new worlds. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't have to be entirely sunshine and daisies and clear heroes and villains, but I need good things to happen to the characters to balance out the bad. I want happy endings. I want parts of it to make me smile. What I don't want is constant death and violence. Is that so much to ask?

This subgenre being so popular is also putting me between a rock and a hard place with my own writing should I reach the point where I would try to get my novels published. I don't usually write Young Adult, but I fear that because I write humor, upbeat stories, and things working out for the good guys in the end (youngish good guys: at the moment they're all between 17 and 30), that's the shelf I'm going to be placed on. I guess what I'm saying is that it makes me feel as though my writing isn't as important, adult, acceptable, or good as the authors who write downers. I can turn a phrase just as well as many of them, I can write intricate plots and well-rounded characters, and I can have series that span centuries, but because I'm not writing gore and constant darkness, does that mean that my effort isn't as adult? Isn't as important? Isn't as amazing as the gritty dark fantasy? As an aside, I'm not saying that there's a problem with YA. I love the genre and read it a lot, precisely because in general it isn't as dark as "adult" fantasy. It's just that YA isn't the genre I usually try to fit inside and "lighthearted" and "humorous" shouldn't be an automatic placement into that category.

I'm not trying to turn this post into a pity party, but this is something that has been taunting me in the back of my mind and causing self-doubt, so I wanted to get these fears and frustrations out of my head so they can go take up residence somewhere else. (Fly away, doubts! Shoo! You've bothered me long enough! I have work to do and novels to finish!)

I was talking to my husband about this and he gave a response that I want to share:
"It sounds like you're upset because you expect everyone to want you to be an apple when you're perfectly happy to be an orange. I like oranges. The best thing about an orange is when you get a really good one when you haven't had one in a while and you go 'Oh my gosh, I forgot how much I like these!' When you read a book, it's the exact same thing."

So maybe I shouldn't worry so much that no publisher will want to pick up my lighthearted fantasy adventures and that no one will want to read them if they do make it to the shelves. Not everyone is going to want to read dark, even if it is incredibly popular right now. Even if they do, they might want a break from all that gore and violence sometimes. Like my husband said afterwards, "When have you ever cared what anyone thought?" I need to hang on to that and have faith that there's room for this orange in a world of apples.

And since I'm currently writing about carnival performers and have been slowly picking up their tricks as a kind of research, you can picture me juggling oranges and apples. ;)

~Meri

After I shared this post, one of my Twitter friends made an observation that I agree with completely. You can have mature content and serious themes. Just because something is optimistic and positive doesn't make it any less "epic" fantasy than something dark and depressing. I'm including that here because it pretty much sums up what I've been saying. :)


Edit the following day:
While my husband and I were out geocaching today, we discovered what looked like a toy orange in one of the caches. This seemed like fate giving me a well-timed thumbs up, so I took the orange home with me where it's now sitting on my desk next to a few of my writing character dolls. I figured that was an appropriate place for it. ;)

May 29, 2014

Building a culture only to break it down again...

Time for an update since I haven't blogged here in exactly a month. May was not a good month for me, creative-wise. I had a lot of personal and family related things going on that made my creativity fly out the window. I'm hoping June will be better and get me to the end of my first draft of "Unexpected Inspiration". Goodness knows I didn't get any actual story written this month.

That said, I have been working on world-building a little, so writing is going on in my head and notes-notebook even if it's not on the actual novel pages this month. I'm still working to build my main country (it still needs a name!) and its classes (six so far!) and subcultures (hi, carnival peoples!), and all the little things that go into designing a country. So what do I do this week instead of that? Try to figure out how to bring this advanced technological society crashing down with the end result being mystical artifacts and leftover plumbing with all the people vanished. Maybe I should just start playing Sims again if I'm feeling this destructive. LOL!

My husband is a bad influence, though. We share this world and he says he doesn't want this technology there later. Fine, but I'm not going to be responsible for what happens to his people when they stumble across abandoned magic items. Or toilets. (Would they even recognize a toilet or would they think that's a mystical artifact, too?) And I'm clearing myself in advance of any responsibility of what might happen should his people wander north and find that my culture became nomadic and secretive and quite possibly have now made it into the age of steam. The penchant for crazy inventions never dilutes out of their bloodline.

So there you go. I have been culture-building, even if I've also been culture-destroying at the same time. This is leading me to wonder, however, what would happen if my husband does more writing with this world. Has it even been done before that two people write the same series but not the same books?

Anyway, my upcoming writing goals will be to finish "Unexpected Inspiration" as soon as I can, spend Camp NaNoWriMo in July working on "In the Cards" to try to get a finished first draft of that novel (gasp! I may be tackling that dreaded beast again!), then November's NaNoWriMo is shaping up to be either the book that directly follows "Unexpected Inspiration" or one that takes place twenty years later. I may end up having to flip a coin: one side is my fire elemental, the other side my mime. Ooo, actually, watching Drake and Grandeau duke this out could be entertaining in itself. Light verses shadow, loudmouth verses mute, dancer verses jester.

I think I'm getting slap happy. Time to open my 170 page story file and try to inch my way closer to "the end".

~Meri

May 27, 2014

Book Review - Mystic Guardian

In this blog post I'm reviewing the book Mystic Guardian by Patricia Rice. I received this as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. (This review had previously been posted here.)



Here's the summary from the LibraryThing page:
Somewhere off the coast of France a sun-kissed island lies hidden. For centuries, the people of Aelynn have used their magical abilities to protect a sacred chalice. But a beautiful maiden from the outside world inadvertently takes the chalice, and sets in motion dangerous and far-reaching consequences. Now Trystan Enforcer, Aelynn's powerful guardian, must work with her to recover the sacred object.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


First off, I want to preface this review by saying that I enjoy a good romance novel. I love fantasy. A story with romance, mermaids, and magic was such a hook that I requested this from LibraryThing's early reviewer program immediately. I'm also going to add that I'm usually willing to give a book the benefit of the doubt until I reach the end.

Not this time.

I tried, really I did. I got to 15% (thanks to my Kindle I can keep good track of how far I am in a book- I'm relatively new to ebooks and still think this is a neat feature) and even though I wasn't liking it, I gave it a while longer to see if that would change. By 25% I had to admit defeat at the hands of the dreaded beast Misogyny.

I'm assuming that we're supposed to like the male protagonist (Trystan) at least a little and feel some sympathy and attachment to him because he is the main character and half of the "love" story. All I wanted to do was push him- and the other male characters who were all of a similar mold- off a cliff. When the story reached the point that his life had been turned upside down and he was fearing bad things would happen to him, I was cheering on those possibilities of exile and loss of magic so that he would grow up and become a decent character/person. (Perhaps he does; I never got far enough to find out, but I fear things probably just work out for him in the end. Alas.) Far too much of the first quarter of the story (granted that was as far as I got) was dangerously close to him wanting to rape the main female character. Her own reaction to the lust-magic wasn't much better. It skeeved me out so much that I'm surprised I didn't get a headache from all the eye rolling and teeth gnashing I was doing. I had a similar experience with the book A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony, which my friends all heartily recommended and I hated with the burning passion of a million suns for the same reason I disliked this book. I will say that this one didn't bother me quite as much as Anthony's, but after fighting my way through one misogynistic book to the end, I wasn't willing to do it again.

If there's one thing that breaks a book for me and instantly lowers it by at least 3 stars, it's misogyny. This isn't an automatic "I hate it", though, because if there's enough to redeem a book, there's always a chance of it gaining maybe an extra star or so despite this subject, but I just couldn't find enough good to get me past a theme that I despise and to the end of the book. It would have been different if it would have been characters fighting that outlook towards women, but having it repeated over and over again (only broken by periods of the main male character being instead only patronizing towards women- sheesh) means it broke the entire story for me.

There are redeeming qualities here, so I do want to point those out. The story is well-written and, from what I could tell from what I read, there was a good deal of world, culture, and magic-building in this book. I do appreciate these things and they are what gives this the two stars that I'm using to rate it.

This should have been a story I liked. It had the potential to be a book I enjoyed and I'm sad it didn't work out that way. I really hate giving a book a poor review because generally I'll find something to like in almost everything, which is obvious considering that I give most books between four and five stars. As a writer, I know how much effort and love goes into a novel, so I always feel like I'm being rude on the rare occasion I didn't like a book, but things just didn't work out between me and this one. We need to see other people. Others will probably find this book perfectly good and enjoyable- I know it has an overwhelming number of positive reviews compared to negative ones- but if you're like me and can't stomach misogyny, I'd say to give this one a miss. I'm probably not qualified to review it since I didn't finish it, but I just can't bring myself to spend time reading another three quarters of a book I don't enjoy.