Tag Archives: Fantasy

The Three Blogs of Sandra Bell Kirchman

BLOG IDEAS

BLOG IDEAS (Photo credit: owenwbrown)

I read somewhere that blog followers are just as interested in the subject of a blog as they are the author.  Therefore, you may be interested in my other blogs, or you may not.  Heck, you might even want to touch base with them now and then just to see if I can keep up with all three.  I’m interested in that myself. On the off-chance that you are interested in one or more of my blogs, I’ll list them here, including the one you’re reading now, including the linked title and a brief description.

Tilly, Oreo, Ling Ling - picture (c) Sandra Bell Kirchman

Tilly, Oreo, Ling Ling – picture (c) Sandra Bell Kirchman

Puppy Dog Tales – This is my newest blog, started two weeks ago.  It is a casual, somewhat humorous and helpful compilation of true stories about my three little Shih Tzu dogs.  Goal is one tale per week.  Readers are enthusiastically encouraged to share stories of their own dogs.

Guru 4 gurus

Guru 4 gurus (Photo credit: sapojump)

News, Views, and Gurus – This is my second oldest blog, started in 2011.  As a writer and former journalist on the press release list, I get a lot of PR‘s from various agencies.  Some of the stories, although not hard news, are just too good to throw back on the pile.  So I set them up as a post, adding my own comments and experience, if any, with the subject matter.

"Birth of a Unicorn and Other Stories" edited by Sandra Bell Kirchman

The unicorn on the cover of “Birth of a Unicorn and Other Stories,” edited by Sandra Bell Kirchman.

FantasyFic – This is my original blog, started in December of 2010.  As the blog description states, it is a celebration of fiction writing and especially fantasy fiction.  I love fantasy fiction and write it almost exclusively, although my second love is mystery, closely followed by historic fiction.  This blog contains quite a bit of my writing–flash fiction and excerpts from novels.  It also shares some of my experience from the decades of writing I have engaged in…from character building to world building and anything in between.

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Declaration of love – I AM A WRITER!

Writer Wordart

Writer Wordart (Photo credit: MarkGregory007)

Listen closely, so you don’t miss it.

I AM A WRITER!

I used to be embarrassed to tell people I was a writer.  This was because it was immediately followed by questions from them like, “What have you written?”  “Would I recognize  your pen name?”  and the worst…”Are you famous?”  They all made me cringe.

So I stopped saying it for about 15 years.  And I stopped writing what I loved to write…fantasy fiction.  I half-heartedly pursued my journalistic career, tried radio, giving lectures, paralegal work, but very little in the way of fiction writing.  I thought I couldn’t have the name if I didn’t play the game.  This led to thinking that I probably wasn’t good enough anyhow.  What little writing I did do seemed to corroborate what I was thinking, which resulted in more years of not writing and not feeling satisfied inside.

Witchcanery – 1st edition

Then, at the urging of my husband, I left my job as the news editor for an online gaming site.  I took up the writing of a book I had started from an idea I developed in a short, short story contest.  It was a crossover fantasy fiction novel, with some science fiction thrown in.  I had loved the short story, and I was rapidly falling in love with the novel, which I had named Witchcanery.

I self-published it.  It did so well, that I turned it over to another publishing company to publish a second edition.  Then my past caught up with me.  All the projects I had gathered about me to keep me from writing demanded completion.  I was caught.  So I started this blog to help me keep my hand in about writing.  That helped some, but it also added more work to keep me from my fantasyfic writing.

Finally, I said ENOUGH.  I will write.  And you know why?  Because I AM A WRITER.  And I had to get serious, because keeping away from writing was making me ill, which of course took away more time from writing.

So far, I have departed from most of my volunteer work and am disposing of my small web design business.  I am learning to say no.  And I am intent on finishing my one business writing project, so I can write.  The challenge offered by Jeff Goins has fired me up again, and my spirit will prevail.  The trumpets sound and the golden curtains part as the words blazon themselves in the sky and in my heart.

I AM A WRITER!

 * * *

The foregoing is the exercise for Day 1 of the 15-day program to master 15 habits of great writers.  The challenge today is to declare I am a writer in public.  For more information click on the Participant badge in the sidebar to the right.

Where, oh where, has my main character gone? – Describe the locale where your main character finds him/herself.

We entered a clearing where the path was broader and more firmly packed. As the clearing widened, it became more like a meadow bordered by trees, with the sound of water slapping against a shoreline beyond; on the far shore of the blue lake stood the tree-covered slopes of the Challa Mountains. I expected to find rough village huts such as one would find in a goblin encampment, but I found I had underestimated the Strakkin and their esthetic senses. As a matter of fact, despite my turmoil, I had to stop and appreciate the loveliness of their town.

Houses were spaced along a broad avenue of packed earth, with a large lodge at the end of the avenue, which I mistakenly took for the chief’s house. The smaller buildings were made from hewn logs that came from the slender birch trees scattered throughout the forest. Each house, raised from the ground by framework closed in by open latticework, had two or three rooms, which were visible from the ground. This was because the end wall was open and strung with beaded hangings that glittered in the sunlight.

You could see into the home’s main area, but the other rooms were private, closed off with brightly colored woven cloth. The roofs were made of split wood, tiled to prevent leakage and seamed with some kind of dark material, like tar, except where on Athero would these people find tar? Certainly not in the northern woods of Challa. The whole effect was rather ethereal with the weathered silver look of the birch, the filmy latticework of the open foundation, the beauty of the beads and gaiety of the colored cloths within.

The picture above left is one of the pictures I collected to help me visualize the area that I have described. This description starts shortly after Emerald, the High Priestess, and main character of the story, has been captured by the Strakkin, an undiscovered race of dark-skinned people on Athero. Emerald is on a desperate mission to save both the benigns of Athero from a savage coup by the maligns, as well as her own eyesight, and cannot spare the time to be captured. But there she is. This is her first glimpse of the “natives’” home and she is quite taken with it. The reason this description is important is that it starts giving clues as to where the Strakkin actually come from. I won’t tell you more, though, and spoil the story.

So here’s a little exercise for you…look at that picture and place your main character in it. Describe the scene through his or her eyes and little by little reveal why s/he is there. Try doing it in 275 words or less (the above quote is 276 words). If you wish to share it with us, we would be delighted. If not, that’s okay too. If the above picture doesn’t work for you, find another one that will. Good luck and have fun!

Promise You’ll Write a Sequel – Book Signings (Part 2)

Book on left was edited and layout done by Sandra Bell Kirchman. Book on right was written by her.

You’ve done your homework and read Part 1 of this two-part article, right? So you know about the set-up. Your table is looking beautiful, with shiny new copies of your book artfully arranged, your business cards available, and you’re waiting for someone to appear. The shoppers start coming in, and you eagerly await a horde of book fans, all salivating at the thought of getting a signed copy of your book.

That doesn’t happen.

Instead, as they come in the door, the stream of customers part at your table as if you were Moses and they are the Red Sea, leaving you in this tiny island of you, a table, and books. At this point, don’t despair. It will show on your face and drive any customer, who accidentally stumbles on your table, away. You are no longer a creative artist (well, you are, but this is not your primary function at this point). You are a marketer extraordinaire. Even if you are normally an introvert, you are not here. I don’t mean you have to get up on the table and tap dance, but you must start making eye contact, smiling at people, chatting to them in a friendly way if they get close to your table.

If you have signs/posters up, people will start coming over to see what the fuss is about. Then you start talking to them. Here’s how I did it.

One lady came up and picked up the book (Witchcanery), looking at the beautiful cover, then turned it over and read the back jacket.

 Me:  Do you like fantasy fiction?

 Her:  Not really. What’s this about?

 Me:  (Trying not to sound too disappointed) It’s about Shelley Kesinkowsky,  a modern-day witch, who is hauled out of her comfortable home by the Grand Council of Wizards because of a special talent she has and sent with her former nemesis to save the world from Mother Earth’s wrath. See, Mother Earth is ticked off at the way people are polluting the planet and…

Her:  What age group. I don’t see it marked here.

Me:  Oh, it can be read by anyone 14 years up to 85 and more. I have friends who are in their 80s and love it.

Her:  I was thinking of getting it for my niece. She’s 13.

Me:  Oh, well, if she’s a mature 13, it should be okay. It’s squeaky clean, in that there is nothing suggestive or improper in it. It includes humor, romance, high adventure, and of course the magic of fantasy.

Her:  Sounds good. Could you please inscribe it to Nancy?

Me:  Could you take it to the counter and pay for it and then bring it back?  The store would prefer you do that before I start marking up their books. (little laugh)

Her:  (Little laugh) Sure.

I’ve won her over and off she goes.

Not all the customers are that hard to sell. That was about the hardest I had to work to get someone, who was already predisposed to buy a book, to actually buy it.

I have talked to hundreds of people at these book signings. They nearly always appreciate a friendly and caring manner. Well, friendly, anyhow. I tried to be helpful as well. If they came looking for a specific book, and I had noticed it in the store, I would direct them to it. On at least three occasions when that happened, the people came back and decided to buy a book.

On other occasions, I asked them (from signs I noticed as I was talking to them) if they were interested in writing themselves. I nearly always got it right. The people were touched that a professional writer (me) would take the time and interest to talk to them about their hobbies and their hopes and dreams. I was always encouraging, letting them know if they wanted to write, all they needed was perseverance. The rest would come.

Now, here is what I was told by the staff of this big bookstore. If I sold more than five books, I could consider myself lucky (yeah, well, it takes more than luck), and this was in a big city environment. They said that even some known authors didn’t sell much more than 10 or 15 books. I was blown away. There went my dream of big bucks at the signing table. Oh well, I wasn’t writing for the money anyhow.

And that’s what you have to remember. You aren’t really there to sell books. Remember I said at the beginning that you are going to have to be a marketer extraordinaire? But not for selling books…for selling yourself. For your first book, especially if it is self-published, you are going to have to get people talking about you and getting to know your name.

That’s why your business cards (don’t forget to hand them out), printed bookmarks if you have them, flyers and brochures are such great tools for getting your name known. People love to get things free, and readers generally keep bookmarks. They will have your name and the name of your book in front of them for a long time.

Well, where is the fun part, you might ask? I found it in talking to the readers. I love readers. Without readers, where would we writers be? I love them because they love what we do as a whole. If they like us, they back us, support us, cheer us on. And when they find a writer they can talk to, some of them pour their hearts out.

Sure, there are some who want to put their tippy coffee cup on your book table (ask them not to) or whose grubby hands gleefully page through a pristine copy of your book (nothing you can do about that unless they are rough with it) or even take your time talking to you and then walk away without buying anything. That’s okay. They probably have your business card, and more importantly they have walked away with a good impression of you. And you go away with happy memories of the great people you have met.

Just as an example. I explained what Witchcanery was about to a lady who loved fantasy. Her eyes grew bigger and bigger as I was talking. When I finished, she said to me very firmly, “I’ll buy the book on one condition.”

 “What’s that?” I asked.

 “You promise to write a sequel to it.”

P.S. At my first book signing, I sold 11 books. Only once in the many subsequent book signings did I fall under five books and that was because the book table was hidden away behind tall book shelves. One Christmas week I sold 27 books. I am telling you this to let you know that you can be a first-timer and still sell books. Also keep in mind that it’s not the number of books you sell, but the number of people you talk to. If writing is your passion, don’t let anything persuade you to let it go or discourage you!

How do I figure out what I should write?

Lord of the Rings trilogy - fantasy

If we’re going to write it, we should at least know what our options are, right?  And let me state that since you are at a fantasy writing site, I am assuming that you are interested in writing some kind of speculative fiction.

First off, let’s try and define “fantasy fiction” a little more.  It’s often lumped in with science fiction and called “speculative fiction,” which also includes horror, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction.  We’ll find out more about general sub-genres a little later in this article.

There is sometimes difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and science fiction, since in recent years there have been so many crossovers.  My novel Witchcanery is one such crossover.  It is mainly fantasy, dealing with witches, wizards, Mother Earth, and golems.  Yet the reason that Mother Earth gets so upset is the ecological devastation that humans are unleashing on their own planet.   That’s based on scientific fact and reality.  Another crossover aspect of this novel is the fact that the witches and wizards in my story are actually star travelers who came to Earth centuries ago to try and help Earth people achieve maturity.  Although that’s not a huge part of the story, it still smacks of science fiction.

Science fiction.

Many people try to say that science fiction is based on science and fact, things that, however unlikely, could be true.  They say that fantasy is purely imaginary and couldn’t happen.  I object to that definition, since many fantasy stories involve telepathy, telekinesis, and other exercises of the mind.  Growing evidence supports that these activities actually exist and are fact.  That blows that description of fantasy.  So where does that leave us?  Once again, we have no clear demarcation between the two genres.

Generally speaking, for our purposes then, let’s say that science fiction is based on science and known fact and could happen; fantasy is based on imagination involving magic, beings and places that have little relationship to the real world.

Dark fantasy

How can we pin down more closely what it is we want to write?  Let’s take a look at the fantasy sub-genres outlined in this list provided by Wikipedia:

  • Dark fantasy – fantasy that includes elements of horror (this is also the sub-genre where we find vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and things that go bump in the night).
  • Epic fantasy / High fantasy – fantasy set in a fictional world where the quest is generally one that affects the entire world (Lord of the Rings is a good example).
  • Low fantasy – fantasy/magic set in the real world (Support Your Local Wizard by Diane Duane is a good example).
  • Magic realism – a literary form of fantasy where “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something ‘too strange to believe.'” [Matthew Stretcher] (Think of all the movies where scientists uncover something that will destroy the world if it gets loose, which it usually does).
  • Mythic – fantasy based on myths, fables, folklore, legend, etc. (the TV shows, Hercules and Xena, Warrior Princess were good examples of this sub-genre).
  • Paranormal fantasy – fantasy based on paranormal and supernatural activities, generally set in the real world (The Sixth Sense – movie – starring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment).
  • Superhero fantasy – fantasy involving superheroes such as Superman, the X-Men, and Spiderman, plus “mystery men” such as Batman.
  • Sword and sorcery – fantasy involving swashbuckling adventures by a hero/ine revolving around a personal quest, usually on a fictitious world, and often with a touch of romance to it. (Jennifer Roberson’s Sworddancer series books are good examples of this.)  Note that “sword and sandal” is a sub-sub-genre and is a fantasy involving the personal quest of the hero/ine in a historical environment, often Biblical in nature.
  • Wuxia – a Chinese term covering the adventures of martial artists, such stories and films being hugely popular in Chinese communities around the world.  It was banned in the Republic of China for a while for about 20 years but was unbanned in the 1980s.  All the Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan stories/movies are wuxia fantasy.

Now, let’s take a look at our beloved books, the ones that we couldn’t put down, that kept us reading late into the night, that we read and reread over again.  How are they classified?  What is it about those books that we love?  Perhaps it’s just the sub-genre, the author, the main characters, the plots.

Epic fantasy.

What you can do is pick maybe 10 of your favorite books and fit them into the above sub-genre categories.  Chances are, where most of them fit, is where you will find the most fulfilment writing.  And hey, you already know what that sub-genre feels like because you have read many of them.  Apply the craft of writing that you have learned so far to this particular sub-genre and you’re off and running.

My own writing, wholly fantasy except for the non-fiction I turn out, is centered more on either epic fantasy (Battle Cleric the Novel) or low fantasy (Witchanery).  I admit that I LOVE writing epic fantasy…it’s definitely my thing.  What’s yours?