The Genre Game

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It turns out the hardest part of writing a query isn’t trying to fashion a snapshot synopsis, (although that is definitely not an easy task). The hard part comes in the “logistical” paragraph. Right after the title and word count, agents want to know what genre fits your novel. That’s a toughie for those of us who write something that doesn’t exactly fit into a precise pigeonhole.

The genre section of my query letter is a sentence with a blank space until I figure out what genre best describes my novel. I have a few choices that include sub-genres of YA: fantasy, paranormal, romance, urban fantasy, magical realism or a combination of two or more.

I decided the best place to start my research was at my neighborhood bookstores. The Young Adult section is divided into Fiction, Fantasy, Fantasy & Adventure, Romance, and Paranormal. I looked at various books on each shelf to find anything that had any sort of reference to Greek mythology or re-imagined myth. One bookstore had those books shelved under Fantasy, but another had them shelved under Paranormal. Yet another, had them shelved under Romance. Clearly, there is dissension among the ranks.

Now even more confused than I was at the start, I went online and researched general definitions for fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal and magical realism. These are the four genres I feel have the strongest relationship to my work, but after researching them I’ve discovered the line dividing them is much thinner than I previously thought.

Fantasy: commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as primary plot element, theme or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic and magical creatures are common.

Urban Fantasy: sub-genre of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times and contain supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods, and the settings may include fictional elements. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a city.

Paranormal: encompasses elements of the paranormal, such as ghosts, vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, and any sort of magical or otherworldly creatures. This type of fiction often goes beyond fact and logical explanations to speculate about the things that cannot be seen or proven.

Magical Realism: magic elements are a natural part in an otherwise mundane, realistic environment. Magical realism portrays fantastical events in an otherwise realistic tone. It brings fables, folk tales, and myths into contemporary social relevance.

Hmmmmmm. A story about a girl who falls in love with a male muse could easily fit into both fantasy and magical realism. Plus, the fact that the bulk of the story takes place in a modern city gives urban fantasy a point as well. Heck, we can even give YA Romance a point! The only one I think I can safely eliminate is paranormal because it seems a little darker in subject matter. Muses aren’t remotely scary like a vampire or werewolf.

The Muse takes place in the real world for the most part, but also in a fantastical world towards the end. It includes human characters and magical beings. And mythology is re-imagined and ushered into the modern era. I’ve got fantasy on one hand and magical realism in the other. Can it be both??

Why all the fuss about genre? Agents are pretty picky about they want to see in their inbox. If I don’t label my novel correctly, it could end up in the slush pile without a single look.

What’s a writer to do?

I have no idea.

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c.b.w. 2014

Genre Information courtesy of Wikipedia and http://www.wisegeek.com

Writing Process Blog Hop

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If you ask five writers about their writing process, you’ll get five different answers. That’s part of what makes reading writer blogs so interesting and inspiring. So, when I got tagged for a writing process blog hop, I was thrilled! Susan Rocan of mywithershins invited me to jump into the fray and I’m more than happy to do so. She is the author of two YA novels and an amazing crafter! I love her blog and highly recommend it for readers, writers, and crafters.

I’ll be answering four questions about my process and current projects. Then, I’ll be tagging three other bloggers to take part in the blog hop.

1) What am I working on?

Currently, I’m working on a number of things. Recently, I’ve started taking my poetry much more seriously. Over the last few months, I’ve tinkered with different forms and experimented with new concepts. As a result I’ve written more poetry over the last couple of months than I did all of last year.

I’m also starting to answer the call of my muse regarding the sequel to The Muse. After a long break of relative silence from my characters, they are starting to pop back into my head. My novel notebook goes everywhere with me and I’m busy scribbling notes, ideas, and concepts. It’s really very exciting to be immersed completely in the creative process.

Speaking of The Muse, I recently hired an editor to comb through my manuscript and help me make it as perfect as possible. I’m super excited to embark on yet another another phase of revision. With the help of my editor, I’m hoping to end up with an even better version of my passion project!

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The Muse stands apart from other YA fiction for two reasons:

1. It puts a twist on mythology and art.

I include references to actual Greek myths and works of art with a high degree of accuracy, but I’m also not afraid to alter the truth. Reality and imagination are mixed together to create fictionalized layers to famous works of art and literature.

When it comes to the mythological elements of The Muse, I combed through ancient texts until I hit something rather interesting regarding muses and their origins. Instead of playing with the obvious gods and a goddesses, I took a relatively small aspect of Greek mythology and essentially rewrote the canon. The general structure of the myth surrounding muses remains, but I expand on lesser known elements by creating a backstory with new characters and new “rules.” In my world, there’s a such thing as male muses!

2. The villains are not evil.

After reading a number of YA paranormal/fantasy novels, the one thing many shared in common was an outright evil antagonist. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it got me wondering, what if the villain wasn’t evil?  Thus, my imagination went wild in creating antagonists that are mesmerizing with beauty inside and out, yet still pose a grave threat to my protagonists.

3) Why do I write what I do?

The funny thing is I didn’t “get” YA fiction until I was well into my twenties. My students actually persuaded me to read a book they liked and it turned out to be fantastic! As I continued to delve into YA books, I realized the insight they offered helped me understand students on much deeper level.

That being said, I discovered a genre that tells some pretty great stories.  YA authors deserve far more credit than they receive for being incredible storytellers and world builders. This is especially true when it comes to YA fantasy and paranormal genres.

I discovered a deep passion for urban fantasy and magical realism. Once I started experimenting with the style, I loved the freedom of having absolutely no limits on where a story could go. The concept of taking elements of the real world and giving them a sprinkle of fairy dust is just irresistible. So is having a platform to explore real emotions and issues experienced by young adults.

So often, young adults are portrayed as being oblivious to life and the world around them, but my experiences with them have given me a different perspective. They are smart, observant, and often wiser than people give them credit. At the same time, they can be insecure and impressionable as they are people still trying to find themselves.

In many ways, I want my fiction to change the way people perceive young adults, while also capturing the internal experience of growing up.

4) How does my writing process work?

My process varies depending on the project. When it comes to poetry, I am very inspired by images. Photographs in particular seem to get my muse rolling. Because of that, I consciously take a lot of photographs of different objects, textures, and locations. Whether I’m at home or abroad, I know my camera is going to unlock poetic verse, so I better pay attention to what’s around me!

For novel writing, I keep a novel notebook. I’m a big believer in brainstorming, so I scribble every single idea that comes to mind. Sometimes it’s a bulleted list of plot points  and at others it’s an erratic semantic web of random thoughts. I’ll sketch out locations and make scrapbook pages of character wardrobes. Some pages are reserved for playlist songs or research notes.

In the midst of all the chaos, pages are numbered and details are color coded and/or symbol coded to help me keep spread out ideas connected. I swear none of it makes sense to anyone, but me!

Above all else, I make time to write every single day. Even if its just gibberish, I still write. Sometimes that gibberish leads to an unexpected and wonderful journey!

Psssst … gibberish lead to The Muse!

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Tag, you’re it:

The Everyday Epic – A fantasy writer who documents her journey into fiction both as a writer and reader. Visit her blog for all things Tolkien and inspiration.

Rita Ackerman – a writer that delves into non-fiction, fiction, and the writing process. Her blog offers very informative and inspiring posts on the writing process.

The third blogger I contacted has yet to answer me, but if she does, I’ll add her to the list!

Visit these blogs to see how they respond to the above writing process questions as well who they tag to keep the blog hop going!

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c.b.w. 2014

Favorite Thing Friday: Last Books

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Any reader of a series has mixed feelings about the last book. This is especially true of Young Adult readers that spend large portions of their lives immersed in other worlds built of science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal romance. We don’t just read these books, we live them. Even those of us well into our thirties. There’s something to be said for the magic and escape only Young Adult series books can offer.

Sitting on my bookshelf is no less than thirteen series of Young Adult novels. I anxiously wait for the next book in each series to come out and I buy it the day it hits stores. In many cases, I drop whatever I’m currently reading, so I can dive right into the newest addition of a given series. That is until the series concludes with the last book. Part of me is ready to read it in one sitting, but the other more powerful side is hesitant to even crack open the cover.

Over the last year I’ve made a pile of books, each of which are the last book of a series. They sat and collected dust as I found myself wedged between two very strong emotions. On one end there’s the uncontainable excitement of finally learning the fates of much beloved characters. One the other end is the sadness of having to bid them goodbye. Thanks to the evidence of dust, its easy to guess which end of the dichotomy rules my psyche.

Once the dust layer started evolving into dust bunnies, I knew it was time to get over my crippling hesitance. Since January, I’ve managed to clear four last books from the pile and it’s been an interesting experience of highs and lows.

Allegiant (Divergent Series) by Veronica Roth

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The first foray into last books almost doomed my mission from the start. I loved the first two books of Roth’s thrilling Divergent series, but the last book left me feeling cheated and angry. I can’t remember the last time I was so disappointed with a book at every level (i.e. character development, end of story, legacy, etc.). The silver lining: It was super easy to let go considering the entire series was essentially ruined.

Beautiful Redemption (Beautiful Creatures Series) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

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This last book more than made up for the disaster of Allegient. It offers a satisfying ending to a fantastic series in that it gives the story a solid ending without becoming predictable. My only complaint was the use of multiple points of view (I hate that. See One YA Reader’s Desperate Plea), but ultimately the story was strong enough to overcome that one little glitch.

Rapture (Fallen Series) by Lauren Kate

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Another fantastic last book. Not only does it deliver on wrapping up multiple story lines, but it includes a completely unexpected plot twist. In addition, the last chapter is perhaps one of the best endings ever conjured. Beautifully done.

Clockwork Princess (Infernal Devices Series) by Cassandra Clare

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Clare certainly knows how to weave a mesmerizing tale, but she does get a little carried away in some places, (i.e. scenes that go on much too long, repetitive dialogue, etc). This is somewhat forgivable as her characters are interesting and very likable. The final book offers a satisfying ending, but the epilogue left me scratching my head a bit as it diminished the emotional conflict of the entire series.  Still, it was a pretty darn good book!

Currently, I am immersed in the final book of Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush SagaFinale. So far, I have no complaints. One of Fitzpatrick’s strengths is character development in that she allows her characters to grow without letting them grow too far out of their skin (a common problem in YA).The story is progressing nicely and I am becoming more and more curious of how it will all end. For that reason, last books are my favorite thing this week!

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Next on the list is City of Heavenly Fire (Mortal Instruments Series) by Cassandra Clare. It won’t be released until later this month, but I am anxiously awaiting its arrival, (even though this series was technically supposed to end two books ago). I promise no dust will be collecting on this last book!

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2014

 

 

Poem A Day Challenge: April 29-30

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Here are my final two entries for the  April Poem A Day Challenge . . .

April 29, 2014
Prompt: Two for Tuesday – Write a poem rooted in the real world and/or incorporate magical or fantastical elements.

Pearl gravel,
lava flow
Icebergs melt
as flames grow

Matchstick trees,
withered leaves
Salted shores,
crystal dust

Sweetened air,
sugared breath
Sunset sparks,
bitter taste

Inspiration: While in my writer’s group, one of the prompts was an image of a flame. I decided to fuse that prompt with the challenge prompt to see if I’d get anything interesting.

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April 30, 2014
Prompt: Write a “calling it a day” poem

Orange and coral
caress the sky with goodbye
A blue moon rises

Inspiration: As I was sitting down to write, the sun was beginning to set. I couldn’t ignore the coincidence!

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c.b.w. 2014

Book Review: Perfect Ruin

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23658Lauren DeStefano’s Perfect Ruin (Book #1 of The Internment Chronicles) is a perfect combination of fantasy and allegory wrapped up with a beautiful Young Adult series bow. Destafano is already known for expert world-building, (as in her Chemical Garden series), but she takes it to a new level in her latest book.

Imagine a city on a hunk of land that floats high above the ground. A large dome protects the city from the atmosphere and creates a barrier between the population and the Edge. Trains run around the city to get people where they need to go, but they are also the dividing line between an orderly civilization and forbidden territory.

In a city where everyone and everything is controlled by an all powerful king, the concepts of individuality and free thought are virtually nonexistent. The government arranges marriages, dictates when babies can be born, assigns jobs and living quarters, and essentially brainwashes the entire population with a state religion and fictional history. Anyone who dares to think outside these boundaries is declared as “irrational” and subjected to therapy and medications, or worse.

Morgan has lived in the city her all her life and she knows the rules. The Edge is a dangerous place and there are serious consequences for even thinking about what lies on the ground. Still, her imagination often tries to picture the landscape and who might live there. Both her best friend, Pen, and betrothed partner, Basil, can see the danger of her daydreams, but they too share her curiosity. All can’t help but wonder if this one city is all there is in this life. The distant land below beckons as Morgan and her friends begin to question the life laid out by their government.

Perfect Ruin is a high concept story that digs deep into social and adolescent issues like independence, family, and self-discovery. At the same time, it is a compelling allegory that explores the folly of master societies and dictatorial states.

Verdict: Well worth reading.

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c.b.w. 2014