Urban Fantasy

Urban Fantasy, and other fantasy, but mostly I work with urban and future fantasy.

Book Recommendations

Books and Holidays and Gifts and Stuff

It is winter gift season, post NaNo reading season, cold snuggle up with a warm bowl of soup and a wonderful sweater season, and year end wrap up season. I am far from the first person to say this of course, but I am prompted now to say my own thoughts and recommendations.

There are really good lists out there already full of great book/art/music/etc recommendations. Try Whatever’s annual lists of traditional books, non-traditional books, art, and charities. Try terribleminds recommend a book list.

My Book Recommendations

I Am Princess X

by Cherie Priest. This is fun, fast, engaging and beautiful. It is a great book for anyone who doesn’t like to read. Lots of really beautiful comics interwoven with the book. It is a mystery that reaches the heart of its main character, a 16 year old girl who is lonely and friendless. She’s an active hero, reaching into the world and grasping and unweaving the mystery of her best friend’s death. Get this for the teenager or adult in your life who is like pff books. Tell them it’s a comic (it is!) and read it with them.

Written in Red

by Anne Bishop. I actually recommend all of them. This is an urban fantasy that creates an incredibly rich and complex world. This is the world that when I think about books I’ve read recently always comes to mind. Always led by Meg who is a great protagonist. She tries so damn hard. She fails so damn often. And she still gets up and tries again. The world though is really what sets this book apart. It isn’t at all our world but with magic. It is stripping the Earth back to the beginning  of life and starting magic, then building up from there. Political balance (which has a disturbingly familiar feel), technology, populations, everything is impacted, and well thought out. I highly recommend this series.

Cinder

by Marissa Meyer. Again, I recommend the entire series. This YA Sci-Fi series leans heavily on but still manages to really transport and reimagine them. I’m a secret, not so secret, huge Cinderella fan (hell I even watch when Disney makes a new version every 3 or 4 years) and this is a really good retelling. It holds all the good bits and tosses plenty of the not so important ones. There are also some really fantastic but subtle nods to the fairy tales throughout the books. The final book in the series just came out in November so I’m hoping to get my hands on it soon.

Shards of Honour

by Lois McMaster Bujold. Anything. The odd thing about this series was I started way, WAY out of place. Liked the writing, liked the characters, decided to pick something else up. Looked at the first book, saw it was written when I was very little, grimaced. I’ve found that lots of books that were written quite a long time ago are just books that aren’t for me. But I decided to try. Nothing about this book feels absurdly out of date. It doesn’t feel heavy with language that is laughable, it doesn’t make me constantly roll my eyes out of my skull with frustration. It feels current and engaging. It has characters that really matter, these books float through my brain on the incredible strength of the characters.

These are some I’d recommend. I’m burning through books at a good clip right now as a break for my brain from writing. I’m also just cracking into the novels I agreed to be a beta reader for as well which is exciting.

Go forth and find new books to add to your To Read lists! Have soup! Ski if you have snow! Wear a lovely, soft sweater!

I also really like All Thing Urban Fantasy when I’m looking for a new series, good reviews, thoughtful and considered. Easy to figure out when it isn’t for the reviewer but might be for me, or vice versa.

Nano Update – Done

Done

I’m done. I wash my hands of it. I actually finished on the 23rd with the bulk of the book. I went through and put in notes where I need to fix things. I pulled the first book into the Scrivener along side it so that I can make sure I’ve got good continuity between the two. This seems like what it was made for. I can have open my information about her magnetic bracelet (more like this – though more do it yourself and not so much like this) so I make sure I’m getting the look right and the list o-stuff she currently is carrying with her on it stays consistent.

I also went through and highlighted the scenes from the first book that I know will need a significant rework (in addition to the 2-3 that just need to be written) which is only 3 of them. So overall not as bad as I’d feared. One will need to be basically redone completely but the other 2 have a lot of salvageable stuff.

Next steps for Jenna

I’m setting her aside. This is, hopefully, 1 and 2 in a trilogy. I have a really long way to go on getting them edited up and polished and ready. But I’m hoping to really dive into that in January. I figure a month off to work on other things is a good break.

I fully expect editing book one to be painful. But it won’t be as bad as my last, for so many reasons. And I think book 2 shouldn’t be too bad. I’m looking forward to having them ready to go.

Next project

Shorts. More shorts. They are fun and fast and I think they are helping me get better at writing, plotting, planning. All good things. I’ve got two in the novelette range (for me I am aiming for 10-12K) that need polish and can be put on a shelf for something I’m hoping to put together.

The next one I’m going to work on is a shake out my brain and do something very different short. Based on a bunch of rejected suggestions from a friend who gave really bad ideas this NaNo. Bad ideas lead to good ones.

No Elvis though. It doesn’t fit my universe.

NaNo Update 2

I’ve got less than 7000 to go to get to the shiny Nano 50K goal. Less than 10K to get to the end of the first draft. What does that mean?

If I Finish Early

I’m going to go back and write the Missing Chapters. I am really good about backing things up. I actually have four copies of the files for the first book in this series. None of them have the Missing Chapters. I’m starting to wonder if I wrote them.

I seem to remember that I wrote the final chapters and kind of hated them. I came back later and rewrote them. I think at some point I deleted them and then never saved the new ones. I will look again to see if there is some magical secret storage place (possibly dropbox, I’ve already checked in the usual suspects, but also back things up to dropbox as a if fire happens tool). Mostly though? I think I have to go and dig my damn toes in and write them. AGAIN.

After NaNo?

I’m setting the book/s aside for December. I need space between the writing and the edit. I figure I can work on something(s) else for a month and then come back to the first book and the new nano book and try to burn through editing them both. I’ve already got a good list of edit notes for them.

Unfortunately, the first book is going to require a good bit of surgery, cutting out one entire plotline and adding in a brand new one. It will make it much stronger, but a lot of work.

More Shorts!

My plan for December is to write at least one short, and polish up two of them. I’ve got two for the series I’m working on that both need editing.

I also have the short for the Anthology I’ve been working on with Stefan Budansew. Mine is ready to go on that.

And name things.

Anything. I’m horrible with names. I don’t have any good names for my current works in progress. They are all named for the series or main character with a number. Jenna 1, Jenna 2. These are not good names. I want to come up with one good damn name in December.

 

NaNoWriMo Update 1

The first week of NaNoWriMo is nearly over. It’s time to check in on goals and update where I am.

Pre-November – a little late update

  • My outline was ok, I’m continually working and reworking it as I go. I slipped in another subplot I hadn’t written down but had foreshadowed several times so apparently it was on my mind.
  • My on-the-go writing plan has been fairly successful. I’m using Scrivener this year, which does not have an on-the-go component. It seems to assume that everyone only ever writes while sitting at their computers. I like to have it on my phone or tablet to be able to write elsewhere. I copy the current scene and my scene synopsis into a google doc and am able to access it on the go. When I get home I paste it into scrivener and work from there. It’s not perfect but it’s ok.
  • I worked through my confusion and cleaned up my physical and digital spaces. I’ve been working with full screens more often and it helps a bit.

November – current update

  • Vote – done!
  • Critique – done! (well this week)
  • I’ve got four Writing Days scheduled and I have a little bit of extra time scratched out here and there as well that should help.
  • I’ve been very good about making sure I know where I’m going next before I stop. I’ve spent a good chunk of time reworking my outline based on problems I’m having or parts I’ve added that seem to work.
  • Write every day – good so far.
  • 11K steps/day, eh. Mostly but not perfectly. I had a couple of 9ishK days this week. I have to get out for a long walk today, but it should be nice.
  • Bonus: I put a hold on Winter

Numbers!

  • Am currently at 21,689
  • Until yesterday I had been writing about 4K/day
  • I took a light day yesterday and just wrote what would be required to finish on time.
  • I’ve got 18 scenes done (I’m actually going back and writing two scenes I decided I did need and couldn’t just gloss over)
  • Today is the official NaNoWriMo double up day. I am not going to double the amount I’ve written. I’m not going to double my average. I’m not going to double the number of write ins I do.
  • It is now time to go write words and make that number grow.

Planning Mire

I’m mired in planning. I have entered the bog of I Have No Clue What Happens Next.

My characters are mostly returning from prior book (though a couple of new ones, and a few more developed who will get more words). This should make it easier. It has not.

One of the themes I currently have happening in the book, as it is half planned, is fighting apathy. Apathy is a really difficult foe. How does apathy fight back? By just sitting there. How do you fight apathy? Rage, scream, explode things, destroy vast tracts of land? Do they care? Nope! I may be in over my head here.

I watched the NaNocast from last week, it was good, a nice well paced webinar. I won’t be able to do tomorrow live, but I know they’ve been posting up links later. I’ve been heavily participating in the NaNo forums. I’ve been listening to podcasts. I’ve been doing everything but putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

This week my goal is to try to really sink into my character’s voice in my head, and then come back to my outline and re-examine everything I’ve got so far, I think there’s a sticky point about 1/3 of the way in that’s making it so I don’t like anything that is 1/2 of the way in.

I’d like to lay out a list of excuses (and oh boy would they be good!) but in the end they are just excuses and I want to do this. I want to write. I want to put thoughts down and share them. Excuses don’t do that. So go forth and words I shall.

(And good luck on a good election Canada! I’m listening in.)

NaNoPlanO!

Good news!

I finished up my last project. It’s now siting comfortable in the To Be Edited Q.

Also good news!

I really like the novel that I was feeling like I ought to write the follow up to. It was good enough that as I was doing a reread to make sure I knew where I was at I got engaged with the characters, I didn’t get frustrated about the edit work (I know it needs 2-4 passes!), and I did the same excited walking around the house with the iPad in hand reading thing I do when I’m really into a book. But it was my book! That was pretty cool. I do love the main character. I love the world.  So I’ve made a decision. Jenna’s second book it will be.

Bad news?

I have no idea what the next arc is for this character. I’ve got some longer term ideas. But I destroyed (or the main character resolved…) some of the major potential villains.  So I have to start building new characters that may generate conflict.

Plans?

Terrible Minds talks about Outlines – long

NaNoPrep

I think I’m going to try to take part in the NaNo webinar they have coming up about building diverse characters and planning. (I’ve felt like these have been hit or miss in the past so I’m trying to not get too excited about them.)

Short Fiction!

The planning tactic that has worked best for me has been writing short (200-2000 words) fiction pieces about the characters. I’ve got dozens of random pieces of fiction, some within the universe, some totally not…about characters. This has been wildly helpful for me to figure out who a character is, how they’d respond to things, and making them into a fully fleshed human being (or not…as the case may be).

Index Cards

I also use index cards. Which does kind of contrast with the rest of my writing and planning. But I don’t care. It works for me for now. Action cards are one color. Character cards are another color. Artifact (cursed objects, software programs, ships, shoes, anything that factors in that I will get the details wrong on if I’m not paying attention.

Other Resources

Snowflake Planning

Holy Prep Calendar Batman

The last year’s worth of Writing Excuses (well all of them… but 2015 is super tasty)

Planning

It’s October so for me that means, time to start planning for NaNoWriMo.

Must finish faster:

I do have a novella I’m nearly done with that I would like to finish before I move onto the next project. It is a part of the series I’m working to put together based on a group of shifters who fight their own fires.

For Nano:

I don’t know which novel or character or plan I’m going to go with. I’ve always had a plan by this time in the year previously and then spent October hashing out the details of the plan. I feel a little like it ought to be one character, and I know I’ll be perfectly happy with her once I pull her out of the Novel Box and clean her up and start polishing her again. But I’m a little over-enamored with  one of my characters from a short and I kind of want to write what comes next for her.

Flash Fiction Challenge – Borrowed Character

I spent most of the day so far hammering through a read aloud/record/listen pass of my short for the upcoming anthology (new author added! Check Ariele Sieling’s stuff out).

But I took a break to clear my head and meet the flash fiction challenge of the week from terrible minds.

I borrowed the character Karen Boyd from the Scary Hippopotamus for the terrible minds flash fiction challenge of the week. Karen sounds awesome (go read!) and I’m not sure I did her justice, but I hope you enjoy her.

Flash Fiction Challenge Audio

I have 18 minutes.

I hope I have 18 minutes. I slip into the chair of the station manager and grin. Ellis never locks his desk, getting in within the first five minutes means it won’t demand identification. I set my taser on the desk, pointed at the door. I’d spent weeks making sure that not only did I know every single person on ship, but I have an idea of who might come in, who I will need to shoot, who I will need to sweet talk, who I might be able to share the truth with.

I’m not completely sure what I’m looking for today. This might be the first of many trips to dig through files and see what answers I can find. I start to go through the files, schedules, process documents, a glossary for all the acronyms we use. I didn’t think I’d find a manifesto detailing all the lies they’d told, the way they’d built people, the purpose of the mission, but it would have been nice if it was there.

I select the search function and look through the recent searches. Schedules. Everything around here is always about the schedule so I don’t know how I could be surprised that it was all about schedules.

Personnel files, they must be in here somewhere. I dig deeper, trying to make sure I’m not doing anything that can be noticed later as out of place. I’d really just like to type my own name into the search function, but that would be the fastest way to give me away.

A sharp rap on the door pulls my attention up. My hand goes to my taser, I’m going to have to use it, go with Plan B.

“I believe I am to report here for orders.” I didn’t recognize the man at the door. I know everyone on this damn ship. We are on a space ship. In space. I know everyone on the ship, that is in space. This isn’t possible. He doesn’t recognize me.

“Ma’am,” The man speaks again. “They told me that I was to report here for orders. I just got out of cry and I don’t remember much ma’am so I’d appreciate if you could tell me…who you are, what I’m doing here…just about anything.”

I think back to when I came out on the ship. When I was printed and built. They told me I was woken out of cryo. They told me to report to the station manager.

“Yes, come in and have a seat.” I sit up a little straighter.

15 minutes left.

I wave at the seat. “It is a little disorienting isn’t it?” I give a friendly smile.

“Yes ma’am it is.” He sits down looking greatly relieved. He nods. “I can’t remember much of anything. What am I doing here? This is a space ship right?” He leans forward at the last looking around a bit confused.

I laugh. It isn’t the most official thing to do, but I can’t help myself. “Yes, we are on a space ship. You’ll have a full briefing packet in your room.” I don’t know if I should tell him the truth, as much of it as I know, make an ally.

“Thank you so much ma’am.”

“Karen Boyd. Do you know what your name is?” Someone will know I’ve been here so I might as well go all in. I turn to the computer and type my name into the search field.

“No ma’am.” His confusion is thick. “I mean Karen. I mean Ms Boyd. I mean …” He pauses and looks at me, he’s sorting through his thoughts. I start moving files to the drive I’d managed to secure. Anything with my name on it, lots of schedules, but some things that look promising. I’m not even bothering to open them.

12 minutes left.

“I’m not sure what I mean ma’am. Ma’am sort of seems like the thing seems the most natural.” The man frowns. He examines his hands. I move more files.

In my haste I open one of my files. I nod at him absently. A thought suddenly occurs to me. We only have resources on the ship for an exact number of people I know every person on this ship. Except the man in front of me. How are we going to feed one more person? How are we going to house one more person? We need oxygen and greens.

I try to hide my confusion. The file is a schedule. I go to close it and then glance at the names. I scan the list for my name. It’s on there. I feel a tiny bit of relief. I start to read the rest of the names, looking for one that is missing.

“Ma’am?” The man across from me catches my attention again. He is watching me, like I’m the one with authority. He thinks I’m the one in charge I remind myself. A name I don’t recognize on the sheet jumps out.

“Reginald.” I smile at him. I don’t know who is missing, but this must be the man in front of me. Who is Reginald?

8 minutes left.

“That doesn’t sound like my name.” He frowns. He repeats it to himself quietly. I keep looking for the missing name, but there are a couple hundred people on the station. Not so many I can’t know them all, but apparently enough that I can’t find the missing name in a matter of minutes. “Is there anything else you can tell me about why we are on a ship in space, we are in space right?”

“Yes, we are in space.” I know this story, I’ve heard it a hundred times before. “We are on a colonization mission. We had one final transmission from Earth, where we came from,” I can’t remember if this was something I knew or something I’d learned, “but it was a mess. We don’t know what it was. We have to assume we are the last of humanity.”

I wait for the surprise. It doesn’t come. He nods, like this is something he knows already. Maybe he is the person I need to talk to. “That seems familiar. Is that supposed to be familiar? I feel like maybe I know about communications? Is that possible?” He looks to me for the answers.

3 minutes left. I need to leave now.

I stand. He stands. I grab the drive from the computer. They are going to know I was here. Eventually. I’m going to try to make sense of everything I can first.

“Let me show you where you can get something to eat, we can have a brief chat.” I wave him toward the door and he steps out.

There is probably a ticking clock now. I need to learn more about the files, about what this man knows, and I need to do it before someone figures out what I’m doing.

Time’s up.

Anthology in the works

I’m currently excited to be working on an anthology with a good friend, Stefan Budansew, from NaNoWriMo. The pieces are Urban Fantasy. It’s a great group of people with different styles. I’m really looking forward to our finished project.
My piece is a short about a woman who helps an abandoned dog, only to find out he’s a lot more. Never quite sure what you’ll find when you take in a dog. Usually love. Sometimes more!

“You kind of look like you bit the head off something. I doubt it was a bat, but I think I’ll call you Ozzy. Unless they have a name for you.” I spoke in a soothing coo, but my words were completely drowned out by his reverberating growl. “It doesn’t look like you have a collar. We’ll get you cleaned up and check for a chip too. Though I’ll bet a cup of coffee you don’t have one.” He licked some of the blood off his fangs.