Tag Archives: Writing Possibilities

Quick #NaNoWriMo Update

NaNoWriMo.org
NaNoWriMo.org

As you may know, I’m participating in #NaNoWriMo this year. If you didn’t know that, you haven’t peen paying attention for the last 19 days. I’ve been chugging along at a pretty crazy pace, and so far, I’ve written 117,349 words.

But to put that in a little perspective, here’s some pictures of my sticker calendar.

First, here’s what I wrote in September, before I started working on this novel:

20141026_204137Every sticker is either 1000 words or 1 blog post (I get a sticker for writing this blog post you’re reading right now). As you can see, I had a shitty month. Busy with work and school, I went days at a time without writing. I had a nice surge of energy at the end of the month, which was mostly revisions for Contamination, the sequel to Manifestation.

Next, here’s how October went:

20141026_204146A lot better, all said and done. The stars are for new chapters I wrote in Contamination, and the “Wow!” and “Great!” stickers are for every chapter I revised. I made pretty good progress . . . but I still had long stretches of inactivity. I maybe managed a sticker or two per day some days, and there were a few days at the end of the month I only got three per day. After the big rush at the beginning, I was starting to slow down.

Now, here’s my #NaNoWriMo calendar so far:

20141119_124920I know, right?

I had a few days in there where I managed between 10,000-12,000 words per day. Which is really killer on the back. My average goal has been 5,000 per day. I’ve hit that . . . most days. I’ve got a few days with only one or two stars (the round star stickers are still the same, one sticker for 1000 words written, but I ran out of the shiny stars on Sunday and had to switch to new ones). But as you can tell, the last week or so has been a lot slower than the beginning. I only managed two stickers yesterday, one last Friday, two last Wednesday. I’m losing a bit of steam, but I’m almost done.

My goal is still 150,000 for the month, give or take. I’m almost done the novel itself (which is still untitled because I can’t think of a title). The main characters, led by Gabby Palladino, are marching off to the epic final battle right now. Some of them will live, some will die, and some will kiss. Though I don’t plan on anyone kissing someone who died, cause, eww, that’s some creepy Disney stuff right there.

funny-memes-finds-random-corpse-in-the-woodsAnyway, that’s all for now. Wish me luck. I may break something before the end.


mani_promoManifestation is available in paperback format through:

CreateSpace and Amazon

and in ebook format through:

Kindle and Nook

 

Fight Scenes: The Styles of MMA (MAGICAL Martial Arts)

Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wfmullen14/7690794070/
Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wfmullen14/7690794070/

We all like a good fight, right? Especially when the people involved are wizards. From Dumbledore vs Voldemort to Yoda vs Palpatine to Willow vs Bavmorda, a good magically-powered duel can be exciting, dangerous, and visually stunning. It can also have a lot of differences when compared to more traditional martial arts (i.e. anyone fighting without magic).

I’d like to discuss some of the principles I find helpful in writing a magical fight scene, using examples from my upcoming novel, Contamination, which is currently in revisions (and will be released next year as the sequel to Manifestation). I was inspired to do this after reading some posts on fight styles, written by Kat Loveland. She wrote a blog post about using fight scenes to develop your characters, and another on showing emotions and motivations during a fight. They’re both excellent reads, and I definitely recommend checking them out (and following her blog for more updates, since she has two more posts in this series coming up).

To touch on a couple of points Kat raised in her post, before I move on to the magical stuff, I’d like to quote a couple of lines that do a pretty good job summing up what she was getting at. One is when she discusses different fighting styles, and she cites Jason Bourne as an example:

Jason Bourne is an assassin, plain and simple, his entire existence is get in, kill, get out. As a result there is no hesitation, no flair, no fancy movies just fast, efficient violence.

This is something to consider when it comes to the personality and goals of your character. Kat makes some comparisons that show why one fighter will be quick and efficient, while others might have reason to draw out a fight with fancy moves. These types of details can really tell you a lot about a character’s personality.

Another quote from her second post  touches more on the emotions of the characters in a fight scene:

Ideally the reader is drawn into both the life and death drama of the physical violence but the internal drama that the characters present as well. There is no exposition going on yet you feel what the character is feeling, fear, rage or the need to prove that you are worthy and gain respect.

This shows another side of a fight scene, the way it can tell you about what a character is feeling in the moment of the fight, or how they feel when they have to kill someone.

So how does all this relate to magic? Well, just like a character’s physical fighting style (quick and efficient vs showy and elaborate) can tell you things about their personality, the way a character uses their magic can tell you about them as well. And there are a few questions you might want to ask about how your character’s personality dictates their magical strategies. I’d like to explore three aspects in particular, and I’ll share an example for each one.

Image Source: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?106639-3-5-Arcane-Knight-ToB-14-level-PrC
Image Source: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?106639-3-5-Arcane-Knight-ToB-14-level-PrC
 1. To Fight or Cast Spells?

Not all wizards are strictly limited to using their magic. Harry Potter fought the Basilisk with a sword, a Jedi will alternate between a lightsaber and force powers, and even Gandalf pulled out Glamdring the Foe-Hammer when it was time to face down some foes with brute force. So if you have a character who can use both magical abilities and physical combat skills, which do they prefer?

Sometimes, this decision can be one they make based on necessity. Most genres show that magical abilities tend to be draining, leaving the user exhausted if they overuse their powers. In other cases, a character might find themselves cut off from their powers in some way (such as in The Wheel of Time, when Aes Sedai can shield others from the source of their powers, leaving them helpless). A character who can draw a sword and defend themselves physically will have a backup for when their magic fails. While another character will draw their sword first, and resort to using their magic only as a last resort.

Here’s an example of Jeremiah Pritchard, one of the main protagonists in my novel, fighting with both physical and magical abilities:

The men coughed and gagged on the smoke and fired blindly at him, their shots flying wide over his head. Then one of them rushed through the smoke, half-bent over and coughing. He rushed for the door, seeming not to see Jeremiah through the smoke.

Jeremiah whipped the butt of his rifle in the man’s face and knocked him back. The man fell backwards and slammed into the ground. As soon as the man hit the ground, Jeremiah pulled the stun baton from his belt and slammed the tip into the man’s stomach. The baton crackled and send out sparks as it unleashed its charge into the man. He shook and trembled on the ground, then went limp.

Another spray of gunfire whipped past Jeremiah’s head. A burning sensation built up inside of him. His hands shook and he felt the light building up inside of him. But when the shadowy figure rose through the smoke, Jeremiah didn’t reach for the light. He dropped the stun baton, raised his rifle, and fired a quick, clean shot that caught the man in the neck. He dropped to the ground in a heap.

Another figure appeared at Jeremiah’s right. The man raised a shotgun and fired it right at Jeremiah’s head from point-blank range.

Jeremiah’s arms flung up on reflex, and with them came the light. A silvery-white field of mana erupted before him, crystallizing into a solid barrier. It deflected the shot, though the crystal buckled and cracked under the impact.

Jeremiah let the light dissipate as he rushed at the man. He used his rifle to knock the shotgun aside, then he swung his fist at the man’s head. The man crumpled under the blow, dropping to his knees. Jeremiah rammed the butt of his rifle into the man’s jaw and a loud crack filled the lobby. The man slumped to the floor, blood dripping from his jaw and the shotgun falling from his limp hands.

 As you can see, Jeremiah uses his combat skills first, his magic second. That’s because of his greater confidence in his military training, as opposed to his uncertainty about his magical capabilities. He’s the sort of person who only uses magic as a last resort. He doesn’t trust it, and he doesn’t want to rely on it.

Will your character rely on their combat skills first, and save magic for emergencies? Or will they break out the spells right away and go for broke?

Image Source: http://myworldsofmagic.com/images/updates/spell_circles.png
Image Source: http://myworldsofmagic.com/images/updates/spell_circles.png
2. Adaptability

Another thing to consider in magical combat is a character’s ability to think on their feet and use what’s around them. Think of this as the magical equivalent of the way Jackie Chan fights in his movies. He tends to grab anything that’s handy and use it as a weapon, even if it means opening a cabinet door and slamming it in someone’s face. He’s not the type to make himself rely on a certain weapon or a certain style.

Magic can be similar. You don’t have to stick with one or two “signature” spells. Harry Potter, for example, tends to use expelliarmus quite often, so much so that his overuse of it becomes a plot point in the last book. But what if you have a character who can think on the fly?

Here’s an example of Tock, my golem-maker, showing how she can adapt to make use of whatever happens to be around her:

Tock screamed in unholy fury and started shooting. Mana channeled into her gun and charged the bullets up with unstoppable force. They flew through the air as blue streaks of energy and pierced the cop’s armored vest with ease. She emptied the clip into him, screaming pure murder the entire time.

The other cops fired back at her, and she threw her empty hand towards them. Their bullets flew with kinetic energy. She was an energy manipulator. If she could change her own bullets with kinetic energy, then she could drain it as well. The air between her and the cops began to glow and she robbed the bullets of their energy. They hung still in the air for a moment, unable to even fall as she robbed them of gravity’s pull. The glow faded and drew back into her hand as a compressed ball of kinetic force.

“Oh shit,” one cop said.

“You ‘urt my baby!” Tock screamed. She reached into her tool belt and pulled out a handful of thick screws. She hurled them with the force of a shotgun firing, the collected energy from the bullets channeled into them and magnified a dozen fold with the extra mana she charged into it. The second cop was pelted with glowing shards of metal that pierced his flesh and punched clean through the other side.

As you can see here, Tock breaks out the magic right away, something very different from the way Jeremiah fights. But she also doesn’t limit herself to the things you’d expect. She also smoothly switches from channeling her mana into a gun to channeling it into a handful of screws, using them as magically-propelled shrapnel. And that’s just a small example of how much she’ll think outside the box with her abilities. The more creative your character’s personality is, the more they can break from the norm when it comes to magical combat.

Will your character fight with a few key spells? Or will they adapt on the fly and never use the same spell twice?

Image Source: http://akcdn.okccdn.com/php/load_okc_image.php/images/0x0/0x0/0/8469727233039783240.jpeg___1_500_1_500_cb94de6a_.png
Image Source: http://akcdn.okccdn.com/php/load_okc_image.php/images/0x0/0x0/0/8469727233039783240.jpeg___1_500_1_500_cb94de6a_.png
3. Direct Combat or Ambushes?

Is your character the type to rush at their foes, hurling fireballs and lightning bolts from their hands? Or will they take on a more subtle approach?

Sometimes there can be merit to using magical abilities with stealth, like a ninja. A magic ninja. You might be faced with foes who are stronger than you are and have more experience using their magic. Or you might be outnumbered. Or you might have to worry about how long you can keep using your powers before your energy is drained and you can’t use them anymore. In any case, there’s always times when it can be a good idea to avoid a direct fight.

Consider this scene with my main protagonist, Gabby Palladino:

Gabby ran behind a bush and crouched down. With how dark it was, she hoped they wouldn’t see her. The heavy footsteps and sounds of breaking branches got closer, then the two soldiers emerged from the bushes. All Gabby could make out was vague shadows, barely illuminated by the moon.

“What’s that?” one of the men asked. They both stepped closer to where Gabby had been a moment before.

“Yeah, I feel it too,” the second man said. He leaned over and pointed to the ground right where Gabby had been crouching a moment before. He waved his hand over the area. “Something . . . some kind of energy. Like what we sense in each other.”

Gabby silently cursed herself. The mana pool was like a beacon in her senses, and no doubt in the senses of the soldiers as well.

The first man looked up in her direction and pointed. “There’s something else,” he said, “there.”

They moved forward, and Gabby froze in indecision. She could fight, or she could flee. I’m tired of running, she thought. She stood up and drew back the arrow she still held in the bow. She aimed low, letting her mana sense guide her as she targeted the invisible pool of energy on the ground. She didn’t want to kill these men; they were Northern Union soldiers. They were the good guys. She may not want to let them arrest her, but that didn’t mean she wanted them dead. She’d seen enough death.

She released the mana-charged arrow and let it fly. It shot through the air and landed in the ground, piercing right into the heart of the mana pool there. When the two opposing charges of mana—the one in the ground and the one in the arrow—collided, the energy erupted in a flash of light. Mana exploded and an eruption of dirt blew out from the ground. The two soldiers were thrown back, screaming. One smacked into a tree then fell to the ground, the other landed in a thick bush. Gabby could still sense the mana flows inside each man, so she knew they were still alive. She turned and ran to the side before they recovered from being tossed about by the explosion.

As you can see here, Gabby isn’t really a fighter. She doesn’t even go for the kill. She hides in the shadows, then strikes before her opponents know what hit them. Then she runs deeper into the woods before any other enemies approach. These are the tactics of a hunter or sniper, not a warrior.

Will your wizard kill from the shadows? Or weave illusions to deceive their foes? Or maybe even muddle their enemies’ minds and make them fight each other, ending the battle without the wizard having to set foot on the battlefield?

There’s many possibilities. And these possibilities say a lot about the personalities of any individual character. I develop each character’s style based on their personality, background, and experience.

So what about you? How will your wizard fight with magic?


mani_promoManifestation is available on:

Createspace in paperback

and Amazon in ebook and paperback.

Awaken by Skye Malone

Hello! It’s my pleasure today to introduce you to an author friend of mine who recently released a new book and the start of a new series:

Awaken by Skye Malone, Book One of the Awakened Fate series
Awaken by Skye Malone, Book One of the Awakened Fate series

Running away from home was never Chloe Kowalski’s plan. Neither was ending up the target of killers, or having her body change in unusual ways. She only wanted a vacation, someplace far from her crazy parents and their irrational fear of water. She only wanted to do something normal for once, and maybe get to know her best friend’s hot stepbrother a bit better at the same time.

But the first day she goes out on the ocean, strange things start to happen. Dangerous things that should be impossible. Things to which ‘normal’ doesn’t even begin to apply.

Now madmen are hunting her. A mysterious guy with glowing blue eyes is following her. And her best friend’s stepbrother seems to be hiding secrets all his own.

It was supposed to be a vacation. It’s turning out to be a whole lot more.


Skye-MaloneSkye Malone is a fantasy and paranormal romance author, which means she spends most of her time not-quite-convinced that the things she imagines couldn’t actually exist. Born and raised in central Illinois, she hopes someday to travel the world – though in the meantime she’ll take any story that whisks her off to a place where the fantastic lives inside the everyday. She loves strong and passionate characters, complex villains, and satisfying endings that stay with you long after the book is done. An inveterate writer, she can’t go a day without getting her hands on a keyboard, and can usually be found typing away while she listens to all the adventures unfolding in her head.

Skye also writes YA urban fantasy as Megan Joel Peterson and is the author of The Children and the Blood series.

You can also visit Skye’s website, or connect with her on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, or Tumblr.

Awaken is just 99 cents, and you can pick up a copy through any of the following links:

All Romance eBooks | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Google Play | iTunes | Kobo | Smashwords

You can also add Awaken on Goodreads. And if you’d like a chance to read some of Awaken before you buy it, check out the excerpt below:

Maddox slowed the boat, killed the engine, and then lowered the anchor. At least a mile off, the shore was a mosaic of green mountains and white buildings below. Puffs of clouds drifted over Santa Lucina, but out here, only the barest wisps hovered in the brilliant blue sky. Baylie leaned back on her seat, a smile on her face, while her dog just eyed the water as though trying to figure out how the demented humans could possibly think this was a good idea.

“So…” Noah started. “Anyone want to go for a swim?”

I smiled. My parents being so psychotic and all, we didn’t even have a bathtub in the house, just a stand-up shower the size of a broom closet. I’d never been able to teach myself how to hold my breath underwater, let alone swim.

But that was going to change, starting now.

“Well, um,” I began, feeling a bit reckless with excitement. “If you wouldn’t mind teaching me?”

His eyebrows climbed. “Uh, no. I mean, sure. I–”

The boat jumped.

“What the hell?” Maddox cried as the rest of us grabbed at the guardrails.

“Did we hit something?” Noah asked, scanning the water.

Maddox shook his head. “I don’t–”

The ocean around the boat began to bubble and roil.

Noah swore. “Get us out of here!” he called to Maddox.

His brother didn’t need the encouragement. Quickly, he scrambled back toward the driver’s seat and turned the key in the ignition.

The engine wouldn’t respond.

Shudders shook the boat, while all around, the ocean’s surface began to foam like the calm sea had suddenly become a boiling pot on a stove. Waves surged from every direction at once, growing more violent by the second, and on all sides the water darkened, as though a shadow was spreading below us.

“What’s happening?” Baylie cried.

No one could answer. As if shoved from beneath, the deck tipped up at a sharp angle and then just as quickly rocked back, wrenching us hard as we fought to hang onto the guardrails. The lurching came again, throwing us forward and back.

My grip broke. The metal rail hit me, knocking the air from my lungs.

And then came the water.

I didn’t even have time to scream. Waves closed over me, choking my instinctive gasp and tossing me so hard that, in only a heartbeat, I lost all sense of up and down. Flailing, I tried to reach out and find something, anything, to grab onto as the water pummeled me like it was a prize fighter and I was its punching bag.

Strong hands caught me. Steadied me. Pulled me from the maelstrom into a space of calm. I clutched at them, thinking Noah had managed to find me in the chaos.

Eyes like brilliant sapphires met mine.

“You’re okay,” a boy said, gripping my shoulders. “You’re fine.”

I stared at him. In the impossibly black water, I could see nothing but his face and his arms, both pale as though he’d spent his life out of the sun. He seemed only a year or two older than me, and his features were angular, carved like they came from stone, and strangely mesmerizing. In the darkness, his eyes shone like deep blue jewels, simultaneously seeming to reflect light and yet glow from within.

But we were underwater. We should be drowning. And instead, I could hear him as clearly as if we stood in the open air, and the oddest sense of peace was settling over me.

I wondered if I was dying.


Title: Awaken
Series: Awakened Fate (Book One)
Author: Skye Malone (www.skyemalone.com)
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Wildflower Isle (www.wildflowerisle.com)
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-940617-07-7 (epub), 978-1-940617-06-0 (mobi), 978-1-940617-08-4 (paperback)
Cover Designer: Karri Klawiter (www.artbykarri.com)

How Two Gems Make A Novel

One of the most common questions I get asked (and I think most writers get this) is “Where do you get your ideas from?”

Image Source: http://drgretchentorbertphd.com/2013/05/21/my-brain-is-exploding-my-ideas-are-godly-ones/
Image Source: http://drgretchentorbertphd.com/2013/05/21/my-brain-is-exploding-my-ideas-are-godly-ones/

I’m on the record as saying that I get most of my ideas in the shower. But I don’t think that’s really the answer people are looking for (even if it IS a good answer!). Nor do they want to hear that my stories are taking place somewhere in an alternate reality somewhere and I’m simply watching them and seeing what happens (even though I believe this to be true).

Instead, I think what people really want to know is, “How can another writer use your own idea-generation techniques for themselves to create a good book?” Which is something a bit more substantial, and something I can actually go into detail about.

The first thing, in my opinion, is to start creating some fascinating characters.

Image Source: http://www.cgchannel.com/2014/02/autodesk-rolls-out-autodesk-character-generator/
Image Source: http://www.cgchannel.com/2014/02/autodesk-rolls-out-autodesk-character-generator/

I mentioned before that I’ve created some characters based on roleplaying games. This can be a good place to start. A game, whether it’s Dungeons & Dragons, Storium, or an online roleplaying forum, can be a good way to delve into a character’s personality, goals, mysteries, and nuances. The more time you spend with a certain character, the more you’re going to get to know them, and the more depth they’re going to have. If a character already has a lot of depth and development before you start writing page one of your novel, you’re going to have a lot more to work with.

This is what I did with both Gabby Palladino and Tock Zipporah, my two primary main characters. Before I ever wrote the first line of Manifestation, the first volume of the Arcana Revived series, I had written a lot of short stories and roleplaying scenes with both characters. I actually wrote over a million words on each character, most of which is now buried on some old forums deep in the web.

You can actually read a couple of the stories I was developing here on the blog. One of them, “A Hard Life in the Big Easy,” is actually the very first piece of writing I ever wrote about Gabby. It’s a short action/adventure piece showing her in a fight for her life. Of course, there are many differences between what you’ll read in that story versus what you’ll see in Manifestation (such as how that story takes place near New Orleans, whereas Manifestation is on a completely fictional world). But the heart of the character is still the same. (It also contains possible spoilers about Gabby’s role in the novel, just a warning.)

There were other characters I wrote about during those roleplaying years, but they didn’t all make the cut. For example, I had a lot of fun writing the crime lord Aamon Dukushu (especially when dancing ballet), but in the long run, his storyline didn’t feel like one I could reboot and expand upon in a new series. I also had another character who didn’t fit because she was an alien, one who didn’t work because he was designed more for a romance plot than an urban fantasy adventure, and another who didn’t fit because she was a lycanthrope and I didn’t want to include vampires or werecreatures in this series. All in all, I had over a dozen good characters with strong backgrounds and interesting plots. But I had to pick out the two gems of that batch who had the most potential for growth, the most passion, and the most ability to generate conflict.

I picked out Gabby Palladino and Tock Zipporah because they both fascinate me, and because they could not be more different from each other. Gabby is a poet, a gentle soul, and a girl who would never hurt anyone if she had a choice in the matter. She bears a lot of great burdens on her shoulders and she rises up to take on responsibilities that no one should have to bear. She can also get a bit sassy with a very punny sense of humor (something she uses as a coping mechanism when dealing with difficult situations).

Tock on the other hand, is a lewd, rude, crude mechanic who likes to get dirty, build things, fix things, and follow her urges. She also never takes shit from anyone and she won’t hesitate to tell you exactly what she thinks about you. Messing with Tock is generally a bad idea, though she usually won’t go out of her way to start trouble with others.

Once I picked out my two gems: the gentle poet and the shit-talking mechanic, it was a matter of putting them in a situation together and letting the sparks fly. But to get the most sparks, I had to make sure they were tied together.

Image Source: http://sincity2100.deviantart.com/art/Sailors-tied-up-in-ribbon-213386051
Image Source: http://sincity2100.deviantart.com/art/Sailors-tied-up-in-ribbon-213386051

I wrote a while back about the crucible, a technique for building tension by putting opposing characters in a situation where they’re stuck together. They’re either forced to deal with each other as family, as coworkers, or as people trapped in the same place and unable to escape each other’s company. This can mean either physically jailed or tied up and forced to stay together, or it can simply mean they’re stranded together, such as on a desert island. Or, in my case, in a city going through an unexplained supernatural disaster.

After that, I basically let the characters write the story for me. I had these two fascinating characters, the poet and the mechanic, trapped in a city filled with danger, magic, mystery, a touch of romance, and a dash of attitude. I could have thrown any two characters into that setting when the magical dangers started to appear, but having two characters who were both strong willed but had vastly different viewpoints made for a much better story.

It was also interesting to see how they each reacted to the dangers around them. After all, how do you think you would react if you found yourself surrounded by dangerous people with uncontrolled magical abilities, in a city held in the grip of fear and chaos? Gabby, the gentle soul, and Tock, the short-tempered mechanic, each react to those situations differently, and I feel like that adds a lot of depth to the story.

They’re my two gems, and I love them. That’s probably why I’m about to start work on the sixth novel with these same two characters, still going strong, and still completely different from each other.


mani_promoManifestation is available on:

Createspace in paperback

and Amazon in ebook and paperback.

From Lazy to Insanity in 6.3 Seconds

So things have been pretty crazy around here lately. As you might have heard, I published my first novel last month. I also started my second year of grad school, plus a new tutoring job in the Rowan University Writing Center.  Because of all this (okay, and a lot of time watching Star Trek), I didn’t get much writing done last month, as evidenced by my handy dandy writer’s calendar for September:

1 sticker = 1000 words OR 1 blog post.
1 sticker = 1000 words OR 1 blog post.

But notice that sudden surge of stickers near the end of the month? That’s when I shifted gears from #LazyWriterIsLazy to #WriteALLTheWords. I’ve been going nonstop since October started:

Calendar OctoberThis is a good thing, since I’ve got some MAJOR projects coming up.

First, you’ll notice the progress meter over there on the side of the blog ——–>

The one for Contamination, the second novel in the Arcana Revived series is about to start making some major progress. I’m planning to finish Draft Two before the end of October. Is that doable? Yes. Is it crazy to try to finish the draft in one month? What do I look like, a psychiatrist?

Second, I’m prepping for #NaNoWriMo. I’m about to start writing the first draft of the sixth volume of Arcana Revived. It has no title yet, but I know what the basic plot will be. Things will be happening. Things that involve people.

Okay, that’s vague, I know. SPOILERS! But, Here’s a few things I can promise:

  • Kissing
  • War
  • Golems
  • Death
  • Teddy Bears
  • Arcane Discoveries
  • Devastation
  • and Mechanical Men Playing Football

Yes, I’m dead serious about all of those things, especially the last one.

I’ll be posting updates as they come, and perhaps a few sample scenes from both the revisions of Contamination and the new progress on Book Six. Stay tuned for further insanity.


mani_promoManifestation is available on:

Createspace in paperback

and Amazon in ebook and paperback.

Speedwriting

I have a deadline, a sore back, and a LOT of caffeine.

I’ve been doing a lot of speedwriting this week. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed me tweeting word counts upwards of 5000 words per day. Why am I doing this? Well, I have a project (the details of which I can’t disclose) that’s due at the end of the week, and I’ve been falling behind. So I’m in crunch mode, churning out the words and sculpting the story in what amounts to a mini-NaNoWriMo style for one week (NaNoWriWeek?).

It’s actually very refreshing. As you can see by my writing calendar below, I didn’t make much progress on anything AT ALL during the month of September:

1 sticker = 1000 words OR 1 blog post.
1 sticker = 1000 words OR 1 blog post.

I went whole stretches of days without writing much of anything, aside from a blog post here and there. Then, right at the end, you can see a swarm of stickers representing about 6000 words per day PLUS a couple of blog posts. I even found time to revise a chapter of Contamination, the sequel to Manifestation.

Of course, I DO have a bit of an excuse for the lack of writing and revising this past month. After all, I was working on releasing my debut novel. So I’ve been doing a lot of work, just not a lot of “writing” work.

Hopefully, this surge throughout the week as I race to my deadline (only 25,000 words to go!) will get me prepped for NaNoWriMo. I’m planning to write the sixth book of the Arcana Revived series during November, and I’m projecting a first draft word count of 150,000 words. That’s more than I’ve ever done in a NaNo before, but it’ll get done. Because I’ll be speedwriting the whole time.

Hopefully you’ll join me when NaNoWriMo comes around. Let’s rock the writing world.


mani_promoManifestation is available on:

Createspace in paperback

and Amazon in ebook and paperback.

Character “Speed Dating” with Gabby Palladino

“Character Speed Dating”? What’s that?

Well for starters, Cairn “Pile of Rocks” Rodrigues posted a speed-dating profile on her blog, discussing her character “Awnyx Tiell, Captain of the Fist.” (If you find this character interesting, you should check out Pile of Rocks’s book, The Last Prospector, on Amazon). Then, she tagged Alicia “I can’t remember what the K stands for” Anderson, who introduced her own character, Rolfgar of Two Lands a.k.a “The Nightmage.” A.K. then tagged me, asking me to give an introduction of one of my own characters. So, to keep this blog hop “hopping,” as A.K. put it, I’m going to introduce you to Gabby Palladino, main protagonist of my debut novel, Manifestation.

Gabby with bow and arcana eyes 4

Gabby Palladino is a teenage girl from the city of San Lorien, a metropolis in the fictional world I developed for the Arcana Revived series. She’s sometimes called “Boost” (for reasons that will become clear during the course of the novel), and she gains a number of other nicknames and titles as the series go on, but those will be revealed in the future when the sequels are released.

mani_promoThe story is set in the world of the Arcana Revived series, a modern-day world where magic and supernatural abilities are returning for the first time in centuries. Most of the people in this world don’t believe that magic exists, and that any stories about it are nothing more than ancient myths and fairy tales. They’re therefore completely unprepared for the consequences when magic starts to return and nobody knows how to control it or how to stop it.

There are a few important details about Gabby that are a key part of who she is. She’s the youngest of four children. She’s a high school senior. She’s very religious. She’s a lesbian. And she most definitely believes in magic. This belief is a big part of what sets her apart from others when the supernatural changes start coming to her home.

The central conflict of Gabby’s story is her attempts to survive when chaos erupts as supernatural powers begin manifesting all around her. She’s lost, alone, scared, and confused, and she seems to be the only one who realizes that there’s more going on than meets the eye. But how does a teenage girl do anything about the rebirth of supernatural forces that are beyond comprehension, especially when those same forces are bringing death and destruction all around her?

Her first goal is survival. But more than that, Gabby seeks understanding. She’s driven to figure out what is going on around her, and to understand why she is somehow caught in the middle of it.

If you’re interested in reading more about Gabby Palladino and the strange events that start cropping up all around her, you can read the first six sample chapters of Manifestation here on my blog, starting with Chapter 1: Magic. You can then follow the links below if you want to read the rest of the book and find out what Gabby’s ultimate fate will be.

And lastly, a big thanks to A.K. Anderson for tagging me and giving me the chance to share Gabby with you.


mani_promoManifestation is available on:

Createspace in paperback

and Amazon in ebook and paperback.

Religion in Fiction

There can be a lot of complications that arise when you work religion into a piece of fiction. You might risk offending people, you might get the details wrong and misrepresent a faith, or you might simply be uncomfortable addressing something that can be such a sensitive topic. There’s a few different ways to address these issues, depending on your genre and the role that religion plays in your story.

Fictionalizing the Faith

Christian FictionFictionalized religion can take on a couple of different forms. A simple example would be creating characters in your novel who are priests, nuns, churchgoers, or anyone else involved in religion in some way. Your fictional priest might be “believable” as a priest, but he’s never going to be 100% like any real-life priest, even if you are inspired by some people you know. Even your fictional “West Podunk Baptist Church” won’t be quite the same as any church in the real world. This can give you a certain amount of leeway, since if your priest has a love affair with an teenage girl, solves murders, crimes, and mysteries, or gets drunk and hangs out with bandits, people won’t necessarily think you’re saying all priests act like that.

But sometimes you need to get a little deeper into questions of faith and spirituality. Sometimes, going into those questions is the whole point. So how do you address those questions?

One strategy can be to draw references directly from the Bible. It can be easy enough to find a Bible passage that relates to whatever it is you’re writing about, even gangsters committing brutal murder (and then having a spiritual awakening and deciding to wander the Earth). Using direct biblical quotes can be an effective way to keep your writing grounded in real-life religion, while understanding that the characters and their actions are still dependent on their personal interpretation of the Bible. In other words, no one who watches Pulp Fiction would claim that the passage Jules quotes is actually meant to condone murder; they just see it as the way Jules himself acts with regard to religion. You can also take this fictionalization a step further by making up your own Bible quotes–the passage Jules quotes in the scenes linked above is actually part real quote, part fiction.

If you want to stay away from actual Bible verses, you can also speak more generally about spirituality, sin, and the religious questions surrounding them. In my novel, Manifestation, the subject of religion comes up a number of times. One example is the question of whether something you did counts as a sin, if you didn’t mean for it to happen. Then there’s the question of whether God actually punishes the wicked like He did in so many old biblical stories. And one of my favorite scenes involves the question of how to find your soul. This scene comes right after Tock asked the question “How do I feel my soul?”:

Father Donovan tapped his fingers against his lip for a moment, studying her. “All right,” he said, taking a deep breath. “When you put it that way, I think I understand what you’re getting at. Let me answer your question by asking you this . . . have you ever loved someone?”

Tock frowned, her face scrunched up as she stared at the priest. “Like, a boy?” she asked.

Father Donovan smirked, then shrugged. “A boy,” he said, “a family member. Your parents. Anyone.”

For a moment, Tock thought about Frankie Palladino. She didn’t know quite what was going on between her and that boy, though she didn’t think it was love. Not yet. Feelings, to be sure. Something more than the physical acts they’d shared. But not love. She could only think of one person she’d ever loved in her life. “My granddad,” she said, her voice a soft whisper.

“And how can you explain that feeling?” Father Donovan asked her. “How do you ‘find’ it, as you put it? How do you ‘use it when you need it’?”

Tock frowned, thinking it over. Thinking about her granddad made her chest hurt. It had been . . . seven months? Eight? Yet the loss was still so fresh. Her fingers gripped the edge of her blanket, and she wanted to wake up Minty so that he could hug her.

She didn’t notice when a tear fell from her eye. “What you’re feeling right now?” Father Donovan said, speaking in a soft, calm tone. “That comes from your soul.”

Manifestation, Chapter 30: Soul

There’s no direct biblical quotes in that passage. There’s no real connection to a certain religion (and, in fact, I never specify which church or denomination Father Donovan belongs to). But it addresses religious questions in a way that relates to the characters and their goals and desires.

But what if you want to take the fictionalization a step further? In that case, you might decide to just make up your own religion.

Fictional Religions

Image source: http://www.deviantart.com/morelikethis/artists/368479473?view_mode=2
Image source: http://www.deviantart.com/morelikethis/artists/368479473?view_mode=2

A common trope in fantasy novels is to invent whole new worlds with unique sets of gods. This is seen most commonly in Dungeons & Dragons, and in D&D-based books, like Dragonlance.

A completely fictional religion gives you a lot more freedom. You can create your Gods from scratch and decide on their personalities (Are they kind? Vengeful? Nurturing? Scholarly? Warlike?). You can develop wars between different religious groups without risking offending any real-life people who feel like their religion is being mis-portrayed. And you can develop entire histories for these religions in order to tie them in with the plot you’re developing.

Completely fictional gods are most commonly seen in stories that don’t take place on Earth, but there are exceptions. A great example is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where many episodes dealt with villains who worshiped one demonic god or another. The fifth season even had a goddess as the main villain, and there was a triad of demon-gods working behind the scenes throughout most of the spinoff series, Angel.

Then there’s alien religions seen in various Star Trek series. The most well-known is probably the Bajoran people on Deep Space Nine, who worship a group of deities known as The Prophets. To the more scientifically-minded members of the crew, The Prophets are nothing more than aliens who happen to exist in a sort of parallel dimension outside the normal flow of time. Thus, their ability to send the Bajorans messages about the future is less “religious prophecy,” more “time travel.” But the series blurs these lines a number of times during its seven-year run, especially since Captain Sisko is seen as a religious figure, known as the Emissary, because The Prophets speak to him.

There’s probably other ways to address the use of religion in fiction, but these are certainly some of the most common that I’ve seen. If you know of other examples that use a different strategy, please feel free to share them!


mani_promoManifestation is available on:

Createspace in paperback

and Amazon in ebook and paperback.

Magic

mani_promoHere you can read the first sample chapter of my debut novel, Manifestation, an urban fantasy adventure that explores the revival of magic and mystery in a world that is unprepared for the changes arcane powers will bring. Available in paperback and ebook.

 

Chapter 1: Magic

 

 

Gabby Palladino raced through the front door of her home, a huge grin on her face for the first time in weeks. “Mom?” she called out. “Dad?” She hurried into the living room, looking for her parents. They should have been home already; she’d stayed late after school to audition for the new play, and by the time the late bus brought her home, it was well past the time her parents normally returned from work.

“Mom?” she asked, peeking into the kitchen. “Adrianna?” There didn’t seem to be anyone downstairs. She looked back out the window and saw Mom’s car sitting in the driveway, but Dad’s car wasn’t there. She didn’t know if he was late getting home from work, or if he’d gone back out for some reason.

She climbed the stairs and looked into each room on the second floor. Frankie’s room was empty, though it always was now that he was away at school. He almost never came home, even for the weekends. Adrianna wasn’t in her room, nor was she in the nursery. Adrianna was due any day now. Gabby glared at the secondhand crib that awaited the birth of the little brat. She couldn’t stand the sight of that room anymore. It used to be her oldest brother Anthony’s room, but ever since they’d moved his old stuff into the attic to make room for the new baby, she couldn’t look at the room without remembering that her big brother wasn’t coming home anymore. At least, not for anything more than the holidays.

She turned away and looked into her parents’ room. Mom’s purse sat on the dresser, but there was no sign of her parents anywhere. She imagined they must have left in a hurry for Mom to forget her purse.

She took out her phone and swiped her finger across the screen to scroll through the contacts until she found her mom’s cell phone number. She plucked at the loose threads of her sweater while she waited for an answer. When her mother finally answered, she had the gall to sound impatient. “Yes, Gabby, what is it?”

“Where are you guys?” Gabby asked. She went back to her room and peeked out the window that overlooked the front yard, hoping in vain that she’d see Dad’s car pulling up to the house.

“We’re at the hospital,” Mom said. “Adrianna wasn’t feeling well and we wanted to make sure she’s okay.”

“Did she have the baby?” Gabby asked, her tone mocking the excitement she should have been feeling.

“No,” Mom said. “The doctor said it was false labor. It could be any day still. Listen, there’s leftovers in the fridge. I’ve got to go.”

“But Mom,” Gabby protested, “you didn’t even ask me about—”

“Not now, Gabriella,” her mother said. “I need to go talk to the doctor about your sister.”

“But Mom!” Gabby said. Her mother hung up without another word.

She grumbled and sat down on her bed, crossed her arms, and glared at the floor. Her mother hadn’t even asked her about the play. She’d gotten the lead. It was one of the most exciting things she’d ever done. Not that anyone cared.

After a few minutes of moping, she got up and went over to the window. It was raining, so going out anywhere was out of the question. She looked down and saw Mom’s car sitting in the driveway. She wasn’t allowed to drive yet; she was supposed to have her license already, but like so many other things in her life, it had been put off because her family was too busy getting ready for the baby. Almost every time she’d asked her parents to take her out for lessons, they’d made excuses. She knew how to drive well enough not to get into an accident, but she wasn’t ready to take her driving test yet, mostly because of parallel parking.

She went back to her parents’ room and looked at her mother’s purse. She stepped over and peeked inside. The car keys sat on top of Mom’s wallet. She reached in and tapped them with her fingers. She wondered how much trouble she’d get into for what she was considering.

She decided she didn’t care.

She grabbed the keys, then as an afterthought snatched her mom’s wallet as well and shoved it in her pocket. She went back to her room and grabbed her pink jacket. It had been bitter cold all day. The weather seemed to be hinting at an early winter. The rain would make the cold that much worse. She put on a knit hat and gloves, then headed outside without any real idea where she was going.

She drove into the city first, crossing from the suburbs into the busy streets of San Lorien. She took herself out to dinner at the most expensive restaurant she could find, in the lobby of the Donovan Grand Hotel, and paid with her mom’s credit card. When the maitre d’ questioned her, she claimed her family was staying at the hotel but her parents were off sharing a romantic evening together, and her mother had sent her to dinner alone. He eyed her with doubt, but didn’t argue.

After dinner her phone rang. Her mom’s number displayed on the caller ID. She ignored the call, then put her phone on silent. She didn’t have any idea if Mom was calling from the hospital, or if she’d gotten home and noticed that she was missing. Either way, she didn’t want to deal with it right now.

As the sky grew darker, she started to worry about getting lost in the city if she kept driving around at night. The rain had lessened, but it was still coming down enough to make visibility poor, and the approaching darkness made it worse. She didn’t know the streets of San Lorien all that well; she’d grown up in the suburbs, and didn’t come into the city that often. She was already lost, since she’d been driving around without any real destination in mind. She pulled to the side of the road so she could use the GPS to find her way, knowing she’d never figure out where she was going without it. Once she started tapping the buttons on the touch screen, however, she realized she didn’t know what address she should punch in. She didn’t want to go home yet. After a moment’s thought, she decided to punch in her friend Callia’s address. She wouldn’t be able to take her mother’s car all the way to Callia’s house, of course, since Callia’s parents were surely at home.

The GPS guided her through the dark streets, and the tall buildings of the city faded away and were replaced by the worn-down industrial buildings that ringed San Lorien. She drove past those and into the more familiar two-story homes of the West District suburbs. She parked around the corner from Callia’s street and got out to walk the rest of the way. The night air was chilly, and the cold rain soaked through her knit hat before she reached her friend’s house. When she got there, she hesitated just before knocking on the door. Her parents might have called Callia’s, looking for her.

She snuck around to the back of the house and pulled out her phone. She hit the power key and swiped her finger across the screen to unlock it, then immediately saw several missed calls and texts from her mom. She ignored them and instead sent Callia a text message: Are you in your room?

She waited in the rain for the reply, bouncing up and down on her toes to try to keep warm. A minute later Callia’s reply appeared on the screen: Yeah, I’m home. What’s up?

I’m outside, Gabby texted back.

What? Callia texted. Why didn’t you ring the doorbell?

I’m in the backyard, Gabby replied. A moment later she saw Callia’s window on the second floor open, and her friend’s blonde head stuck out.

“What are you doing down there?” Callia asked. “Your parents called here looking for you.”

“Let me in,” Gabby said, trying to keep her voice down so Callia’s parents wouldn’t hear. “I took my mom’s car.”

“You’re crazy! Callia said, shaking her head. “God . . . hold on.”

Callia pulled her head back inside and shut the window. Gabby shivered in the cold while she waited for her friend to come let her in. Her phone was still on silent, but while she was waiting, the screen lit up with an incoming call. The caller ID showed it was her mother’s number again. She tapped the screen to reject the call, then locked the phone again. She didn’t want to talk to her mother right now. A few moments later Callia appeared at the back door. Gabby slipped inside, stepping carefully so as not to make any noise. “You’re gonna get in so much trouble,” Callia whispered. “You know that, right? If my parents catch you here . . .”

“I won’t stay long,” Gabby whispered. “Where are your parents?”

“Watching TV,” Callia said. “Come on, and be quiet.”

Callia led Gabby through the kitchen and into the hall. Gabby could hear the sound of the TV coming from the living room and the light from the screen flickered into the hall. They slipped past with care, then hurried up the stairs and into Callia’s room. Callia shut the door and locked it, then turned to look at Gabby. “You’re soaked,” she said. She helped Gabby get her jacket off, but the old, worn out material hadn’t kept the rain out very well and her sweater underneath was damp as well. “Here, let me get you something to wear. I need to get changed for bed anyway.”

Gabby sat on the edge of the bed while Callia dug through her dresser drawers and pulled out a nightgown for herself and an over-sized t-shirt for Gabby. Callia started to get changed, showing no modesty in front of her trusted friend. “So let me guess,” Callia said as she pulled her shirt over her head. “You had another fight with your mom.”

“Yeah,” Gabby said, keeping her eyes down and trying her hardest not to stare at her friend’s body. She couldn’t resist a peek, and her face heated up at the brief sight of Callia’s bare chest before her friend finished changing into her nightgown. “Well, not a fight. But they left without me, and . . .” She trailed off and bit her lip, realizing now that taking the car just because her parents had taken Adrianna to the hospital hadn’t been a bright idea. Now that she wasn’t distracting herself and she sat down and think about what she’d done, it started to sink in that she was going to be in a lot of trouble.

She changed out of her wet clothes quickly, trying not to let Callia see how much she was blushing. It was the same feeling she dealt with around other girls in the gym locker room every day at school. “It’s just,” she said, “ever since Addy got pregnant, that’s all anyone ever cares about. It’s not fair that she gets so much attention just because she was a slut.”

Once they were both changed, Callia sat next to Gabby on the bed and took her hands. “You really shouldn’t be mad at your sister,” she said. “She’s going to need your support.”

“It’s what she gets,” Gabby said. “She’s been with so many guys. She just keeps it secret from Mom.” Gabby knew that Callia was right; the baby was due any day now, and Adrianna was going to have to raise him alone, since her ex-boyfriend Jeremy had abandoned her.

There was a long pause, then Callia asked, “What about you?”

Gabby looked up and asked, “What about me?”

Callia gave her a shy smile and asked, “Have you ever . . . y’know . . . with a guy?”

“Eww, no!” Gabby replied, shaking her head and scrunching her face up in disgust.

Callia giggled and shook her head. “Yeah, me neither,” she said. “I’ve never even been kissed.”

Gabby found that hard to believe. Her friend was beautiful. She had perfect porcelain skin, golden blonde hair, and shimmering blue eyes. She was thin and graceful, and exactly what Gabby pictured an elf would look like.

“Have you ever been . . . curious?” Callia asked.

Gabby’s heart started to speed up. “Yeah,” she whispered. “I mean, I guess. But I’ve never met someone who I’d want to . . .” That was a lie, but she’d never admit to the truth.

“What if it was someone that you trust?” Callia asked. She intertwined her fingers with Gabby’s, a playful smirk touching her tender lips. “Just to try it.” She shrugged. “See what it’s like.”

Gabby barely nodded. “Yeah,” she said. Her mouth suddenly felt very dry.

“Yeah?” Callia asked, leaning closer.

“Yeah . . .”

Their lips touched and Gabby closed her eyes. Callia’s lips felt so soft, and they tasted faintly of strawberry chapstick. They were moist and warm, and Gabby trembled at the thought of her own chapped, dry lips. She held perfectly still until Callia’s lips moved gently against hers, and she parted hers ever so slightly in response. In that moment, she believed in magic.

All too soon it was over. “That was . . . interesting,” Callia said.

Gabby nodded, unable to find her voice. Her heart was pounding and she trembled. She could still taste her friend’s lips and all she could think about was kissing her again.

The room was silent for a moment, then Callia got up and said, “I’m going to go say good night to my parents, so they don’t come up here to check on me. I’ll be right back.” Gabby nodded and waited while Callia headed downstairs. Gabby settled herself awkwardly on the bed and tried to keep as quiet as possible. Her mind raced, but no coherent thoughts came to the surface. She was full of energy, and it danced just beneath the surface of her skin, waiting to be released. She just didn’t know how to release it.

When Callia friend returned, she locked the door again and shut out the light. “Okay, they think I’m going to sleep. We just need to be quiet.”

In the dark, Callia settled on the bed next to Gabby. The rain outside had finally cleared, and the moonlight drifted through the window. Gabby could barely make out Callia’s form, lying on her side, her head propped on her hand. Her thoughts raced with forbidden desires, but she kept them to herself. They built up in her mind like a pressure building up inside her skull, threatening to burst free. It made her head and her heart ache.

“So,” Callia whispered in the dark, “what else is new with you? Didn’t you audition for that play today?”

Gabby smiled, glad that her friend had remembered. “Yeah,” she said. “I got the lead.”

They chatted for a while, keeping their voices low as Callia asked Gabby about the play and about school. Gabby had a hard time concentrating on anything beyond the warmth of the girl lying next to her and the pressure building up inside her. After the conversation lapsed, to distract herself from such thoughts, she asked, “What about you? Are you still going to Costa Rosa in the spring?”

“Actually,” Callia said with a smile in her voice, “I have an interview for an internship. It’s with the Jansborough Wildlife Preserve. If I get it, it’ll count towards college credit, and I can enroll at C.R.U. next fall.”

“That’s great,” Gabby whispered, fighting the conflict she felt in her chest. Jansborough wasn’t that far away, but it still meant her best friend would be out of reach. Jansborough was even further west than Costa Rosa, and further inland, away from San Lorien’s ports. “If you wait until next year to go to the university, we could end up starting at the same time.” Callia had graduated from high school the year before, but Gabby was just starting her senior year. Callia had taken a year off after high school to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. She’d worked some part-time jobs and done volunteer work, which had taken up a lot of her free time lately.

Gabby missed seeing her friend in school every day, but she could look forward to sharing classes again in college next year. Until then she would miss Callia dearly. Even if Gabby had a car or her license, the move to Jansborough would put her friend hours away. It wasn’t as if she could expect her parents to drive her that far for a visit.

“Yeah,” Callia said. Her hand idly reached out and played with Gabby’s hair. “It’s going to be a great learning experience. There’s a research station, deep in the woods, with cabins where the staff live. We’re going to be studying animals in their natural habitat, trying to find out how they’re being affected by civilization moving in on their homes. And since the work there counts as college credit, I won’t need to spend as much time in classes later on.”

“It sounds great,” Gabby said. She was glad for the darkness; it kept Callia from being able to see the tears in her eyes. “It sounds just like what you always wanted. Going out there and actually doing something.”

“Yeah,” Callia said. “I’ll miss you.” The excitement was gone from her voice.

“I’ll miss you, too,” Gabby replied. They settled back into silence. She closed her eyes and let out a sigh, focusing on nothing except for the feeling of Callia’s fingers playing with her hair. Before she knew it, she had drifted off to sleep.

 Chapter 2: Manifestation


mani_promoManifestation is available on:

Createspace in paperback

and Amazon in ebook and paperback.

Understanding the “Urban” in “Urban Fantasy”

I’m a writer (obviously). My favorite genres are fantasy and sci fi. I’ve written in both, though nowadays I write in a genre that could be seen as blending the two together: Urban Fantasy. There’s tons of magic, monsters, and supernatural mysteries in my stories, but at the same time there’s scientific elements to the way magic works, there’s advanced (though not futuristic) technology, and there’s even times where the magic and the technology work together (that’s something commonly referred to as “magitech” or “magitek”).

But not everyone seems to “get” urban fantasy. Take my father (…please!). I was talking to him about my writing the other day, and I tried to explain to him that my new novel, Manifestation, is urban fantasy. He asked me what makes it “urban.”

“Does it take place in a city?” he asked.

“Some of it,” I explained. “Some is in the suburbs.”

“So why isn’t it ‘suburban fantasy’?”

I wasn’t quite sure how to answer that question, especially when I mentioned that “urban fantasy” is mostly synonymous with “modern fantasy,” as opposed to traditional fantasy that typically takes place in a medieval world. Then he asked me about fantasy stories that take place in farmlands or other areas that don’t count as “urban.”

So what does make something “urban”?

For starters, dictionary.com defines “urban” as “of, pertaining to, or designating a city or town,” “living in a city,” or “characteristic of or accustomed to cities; citified.” So clearly, an urban fantasy story that takes place in any populated area big enough to be a “city or town” could count, though by this definition, a small rural town with a sparse population probably wouldn’t really count.

We might get a little more leeway if we search deeper into the etymology, which tells us “Urban” is also a male name, meaning, “refined, courteous.” But I have a hard time finding much of anything courteous about wizards and dragons rampaging through the streets of New York, so I think I’m going to have to reject this answer.

To make matters worse, Wikipedia defines urban fantasy by saying that “The prerequisite is that [the story] must be primarily set in a city.” So is my dad right? Does it not count as urban fantasy if it takes place on a farm, or in the suburbs? And with such a vague definition, does a medieval city meet the criteria? I certainly don’t think of urban fantasy as being medieval fantasy that is “set in a city.”

Fortunately, there’s a bastion of knowledge that can help us solve all of these problems by offering undisputed wisdom about the nature of fiction: TV Tropes.

The TV Tropes page for urban fantasy offers a definition that I think is pretty accurate (and which contains a footnote that discusses the very problem we’re trying to define here):

Urban Fantasy, also sometimes called “Modern Fantasy”, is a genre that combines common fantasy conventions with a modern setting (Note: That is to say, a setting which is significantly more advanced than the Medieval European Fantasy popularized by Tolkien. Around the Enlightenment or Industrial Revolution is sometimes considered the absolute earliest an Urban Fantasy could take place, though it may depend on portrayal). The name “Urban Fantasy” is sometimes taken to imply that all works in the genre must take place in a large city, but this is not the case. Rather, the name implies throwing fantasy elements into our urban society. Still, it’s very common for Urban Fantasy stories to take place in a large, well-known city, all the easier for their fantasy elements to hide themselves in.

I think the key phrase in that definition is “our urban society.”

The idea of an urban society is a fairly new one, historically speaking. There was a time, not so long ago, where most people lived in rural areas and worked farms for a living. Sure, there were plenty of city-dwellers, and have been for thousands of years. But it’s only in fairly modern times that we have metropolises filled with millions of people, and we see many farms being operated as corporate plantations instead of family-owned fields of crops. There are still, and always will be, plenty of farmers in the world. But a huge portion of the population (at least in my country) get their food at the grocery store, their milk at a convenience store on the corner, or their meat at a deli.

Another way of saying it is that an urban fantasy story takes place, not necessarily in a city, but instead, in a world where most people are city-dwellers.

Though I doubt my dad will actually accept that answer. But since he doesn’t read my blog, we’ll just keep this one between you and me.

And of course, I can’t discuss urban fantasy without talking a bit about my own urban fantasy novel, Manifestation, which most definitely takes place in a world where most people are city-dwellers. For now. If I keep throwing catastrophe after disaster after cataclysm at them, I might need to redefine “urban” all over again. But the two main characters, Gabby Palladino and Tock Zipporah, do live in a modern-day city and its suburbs. As for the kind of trouble they get into in the streets of San Lorien, well, you’ll have to read the book to find out. But I can tell you that there’s danger, excitement, kissing, and a whole lot of magic.

They also explore questions that is another big part of the nature of urban fantasy: Where did the magic come from? How does someone manifest an ability? What causes it to spread from one person to another?

And for Gabby, the most important question of all: How do I survive when I’m surrounded by the arcane and supernatural, by things I can’t understand or control?

How would YOU survive?


mani_promoManifestation is available on:

Createspace in paperback

and Amazon in ebook and paperback.