The Best Of 2012 – TV Shows

Hello gentle reader,

As the end of the year draws near, it is now time to look back at 2012… Fans of Sci-Fi and Fantasy had many TV shows to choose from this year. Here are a few I watched…

Game-of-Thrones-Season-2-Promo

Game of Thrones (Series 2 – HBO) Epic Fantasy

Merlin Series 5 promo

Merlin (Series 5 (final series) – BBC): Arthurian Fantasy

misfits-series-4

Misfits (Series 4 – E4): Science Fiction (Superheroes)

Doctor Who Series 7

Doctor Who (Series 7 – BBC): Science Fiction (Time-travel)

Revolution-Season-1-Promo

Revolution (Series 1 – NBC): Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction

being-human-us-season-2

Being Human US (Series 2 – Syfy): Supernatural Drama

the_walking_dead_season_3_poster

The Walking Dead (Series 3 – AMC): Post-Apocalyptic Horror (Zombies)

TVDS4promo

The Vampire Diaries (Series 4 – CW): Supernatural Drama

promo-teen-wolf-season-2

Teen Wolf (Series 2- MTV): Supernatural Drama

What did you watch this year?

Book of the Week – 16

Hello gentle reader,

This week I have finally been reading The Gathering Dark (Book 1 in the Grisha trilogy) (aka Shadow and Bone) by Leigh Bardugo.

This book was published in May 2012 and I was VERY excited about it. I bought it as soon as it came out, I read the first two chapters that same night… and I didn’t open it for 7 months. As those months went by, I read raving reviews about the book, I kept having people recommend it to me, and yet I couldn’t seem to find the will to dive back into it.

I’m not sure what it was.

It is a beautifully written YA High Fantasy book with a great plot and compelling characters, but I guess I had to read it at the right time to finally enjoy it. To me this was “a winter book”: a book to read snuggled under a blanket, when there’s snow outside and with a cup of tea at hand.

I’m glad I finally read The Gathering Dark. Have you ever had a book that sat on your TBR pile forever when you were initially looking forward to reading it?

Leigh-Bardugo-The-Gathering-Dark-UK

From Goodreads:

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

What are you reading this week?

shadow_bone_sketch_both3

On originality and writing a book that doesn’t already exist

shakespeare-in-love

Hello gentle reader,

Today is Thursday and I thought a post about the writing process was in order.

 I was actually inspired by this post written by YA author Aimee L. Salter on 19th November 2012. In her post, Aimee made a list of all the good reasons we writers have to read other people’s books. Among other things, she mentioned the importance of knowing the competition and of understanding what works (or doesn’t work) in other books.

On that same day, Epic Fantasy writer Jeff Hargett published a blog post in which he admitted to having just realised his book (which he has been working on for ten years) was very similar to the TV show/movie Airbender and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time book series.

It reminded me of another blog post I read in February 2012. Back then, YA author Elizabeth May published a great post entitled The Unfortunate Case of the Book that Looked Just Like Someone Else’s, in which she confessed having written, edited and queried a manuscript that was extremely similar to a published book that she bought later on Amazon. When she found out about it, she felt embarrassed and she shelved her manuscript, feeling that she had somewhat wasted her time and the agents’ time.

So what’s the moral of these stories? Listen to Aimee’s advice and READ. If your story is derivative of other works, you need to be aware of it and it needs to be intentional. Being derivative by accident is the worst thing that could happen to you as a writer.

Secret Window

Let’s face it. If you live in the US, Europe or Down Under, chances are you are influenced by the same things that other writers are. We all watch the same movies and TV shows, we all hear about the news from around the world and we have all read the same books as children. This means that it is likely we will write stories that remind us of other stories.

And it’s fine, AS LONG AS YOU ARE AWARE OF IT.

Discovering that the book you’ve worked so hard on already exists is crushing. To avoid it, read the books that are already out there. Read books in your genre and category. Read publishing news and newly published books. Agents do. Publishers do. You won’t have the excuse of not knowing once you try to get your own story published.

I’ll finish this post with my own little experience in the matter: I finished writing the first draft of THE LAST QUEEN in the summer of 2011. Then I heard about a series of books entitled THE SEVEN REALMS (by Cinda Williams Chima). The blurb goes like this: “Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for for his family. Meanwhile, Raisa ana’Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. Her mother’s plans for her include marriage to a suitor who goes against everything the queendom stands for.” My heart dropped. This sounded A LOT like THE LAST QUEEN. Especially the Princess Heir part. So I bought the book, read it (loved it) and realised that this book had nothing in common with mine. Cue sigh of relief.

But I keep reading YA High Fantasy books. For my pleasure, to know the competition, and to make sure no one has already written and published a book similar to mine.

What about you? Have you had that kind of experience? Have you written a book then found out it was similar to another book? What did you do? I’d love to read your comments!

The Next Big Thing – Week 27 (#2)

Forest-EMCastellan

Hello gentle reader,

So if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve already read what follows. Back in early October, I was tagged for The Next Big Thing blog hop and I answered questions about my Work In Progress. But since then, this blog has gained new followers and I keep getting tagged for this blog hop. I have actually lost track of who tagged me and when, but last week I was tagged again by Craig Schmidt and I decided it was time to repost my answers to the Next Big Thing questions…

What is the working title of your book?

THE LAST QUEEN (Book I in THE DARKLANDS trilogy)

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I started thinking about this story ten years ago. I wanted to write a story where the main character would be a teenage girl (like I was at the time). I also liked the idea of a fantasy land where humans were the lesser people. Finally I wanted to write a love story that would be as realistic as possible, although set in an imaginary land.

What genre does your book fall under?

YA high fantasy.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

In the dangerous Darklands, a power struggle between Elves, Wolfmen and Humans is igniting, shattering the lives of a young princess, a warrior and a slave boy whose destinies seem meant to intertwine.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m going to cheat for that one 😉 I have no idea who would play my characters on screen, but I can tell you who inspired me while I was writing The Last Queen. I need to have a clear picture of my characters in my head in order to bring them to life, and I’m usually inspired by actors. With that in mind, here goes:

Elian is my main character. He is a 16-year-old slave whose life has been quite traumatic until he meets Araminta. He was directly based on English actor Eddie Redmayne, who was in countless historical movies between 2007 and 2010. Every time I saw him on screen I thought “This is Elian!” So here it is: Elian.

Araminta is 14 years old. She is an Elf, and a Queen. She is strong-willed, smart and quiet. When I described her in my WIP, I thought of English actress Lucy Griffiths.

Theron is 19 years old and he is Araminta’s husband. He is a Wolfman and the son of a lord, who loses all at the beginning of my WIP. He is a short-tempered warrior who happens to be very good-looking. Since I have had a crush on British actor Henry Cavill since, well, forever, I pictured Theron looking like him.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Call me crazy, but I’m going for the traditional route.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Seven months for the first draft. Then six months for the first round of revision. I have battled with a high word count, instances of telling instead of showing, repetitions, adverbs, passive form and everything you shouldn’t do when you write. I’m still working on this manuscript, hoping one day I will get it in shape for the query process.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

That’s a tough one. If you don’t know what High or Epic Fantasy is, think Game of Thrones and The Lord Of The Rings. But I can’t compare my WIP to those masterpieces. Since it’s YA, I guess it could be compared to The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

My favourite character in the book (beside Elian) is Araminta’s bodyguard/slave/assassin Jerod. I actually wrote a short story about him entitled The First Guardian, because I felt he deserved his own story since he is, you know, awesome.

Thanks to all who nominated me!

Book of the Week – 15

Hello gentle reader,

I realise I haven’t done a “Book of the Week” post in a while, but this is because I have been reading a series of books by YA Fantasy author Megan Whalen Turner and I wanted to finish it before I shared it with you.

Nicknamed The Queen’s Thief by its readers (MWT has no name for it herself), the series has four books so far, with 2 more announced. The first book in the series, The Thief, was published in 1996 and it won the Newbery Medal in 1997.The following books are The Queen of Attolia (2000), The King of Attolia (2006), and A Conspiracy of Kings (2010).

This YA High Fantasy series is not well known, and I came across it because Sarah J. Maas (author of 2012 debut Throne of Glass) recommended it.

And I’m so glad I went ahead and read it. Not only is this series so well written it makes me want to weep, it is also a very clever, audacious and captivating example of great High Fantasy for young adult readers. Each book plays with points of view, has a smart twist at the end and explores themes such as religion, politics and personal choices. The main character, Gen, is nothing like you’ve read before, I promise. And if you haven’t read this series yet, I suggest you get it sooner rather than later, because you’re missing out.

From Goodreads:

The king’s scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king’s prison. The magus is interested only in the thief’s abilities.

What Gen is interested in is anyone’s guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.

What are you reading this week?

Should you really be writing that YA High Fantasy novel?

Hello gentle reader,

Recently I have been researching agents as I am getting ready to query my YA High Fantasy novel The Last Queen. And when I check out literary agents’ websites to find out what genre they represent, I often find a note along those lines: “represents YA Fantasy, all subgenres, but no high fantasy please”. And I want to bang my head on my keyboard.

When asked why they don’t represent YA High Fantasy, literary agents will often give you one of these two answers:

–          The market for YA High Fantasy is very narrow: only a handful of readers buy those books.

–          The agent herself doesn’t read this genre.

The second answer is fair enough, and I wouldn’t want to be represented by an agent who doesn’t “get” my book anyway. But the first one? I beg to differ.

I went to check the Amazon’s Best-Seller List this morning. Not 6 months ago. THIS MORNING. And in the Top 100 Books for Teens, you find authors like: J.R.R. Tolkien, Orson Scott Card, Cinda Williams Chima, Rick Riordan, Christopher Paolini and Laini Taylor. Most of them appear twice in the list. All of them but one appear among the first 40 best-selling books.

Then I checked the new releases to see how the YA High fantasy books released in 2012 are ranked by Amazon (according to their sales). Here is what I found:

The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima (released October 2012): #318 in Books

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson (released September 2012): #4,778 in Books

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (released August 2012): #6,184 in Books

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (released July 2012): #1,592 in Books

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (released June 2012): #4,436 in Books

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (released May 2012): #3,505 in Books

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen (released April 2012): #10,834 in Books

NB: The books in bold are debut novels. All rankings are in Books (E-books sales are not taken into account).

You’ll notice that when the release date is further away, sales start to decrease. But even if we take this into consideration, I’d say these sales figures are quite impressive for a subgenre that’s supposedly dying. I’m especially interested in the ranking of debut novels such as Seraphina and Throne of Glass: these books sell really well considering their authors are unknown.

So is YA High Fantasy a subgenre that only a handful of readers buy? I don’t think so. Is shopping around a YA High Fantasy debut novel crazy? A little bit. But not crazier than shopping around a “regular” YA fantasy novel.

What do you think? Have you written a High Fantasy novel for Young Adults? Have you encountered agents who tell you you’ll never sell your book? Is YA High Fantasy dying, or is it the next big thing?

Feel free to leave me a comment, I’d love to hear what you have to say!

The Next Big Thing

Hello gentle reader,

I was recently tagged by the lovely Amanda Fanger for The Next Big Thing blog hop and I’m happy to take part since all I have to do is answer questions about my Work In Progress.

What is the working title of your book?

THE LAST QUEEN (Book I in THE DARKLANDS trilogy)

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I started thinking about this story ten years ago. I wanted to write a story where the main character would be a teenage girl (like I was at the time). I also liked the idea of a fantasy land where humans were the lesser people. Finally I wanted to write a love story that would be as realistic as possible, although set in an imaginary land.

What genre does your book fall under?

YA high fantasy.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

In the dangerous Darklands, a power struggle between Elves, Wolfmen and Humans is igniting, shattering the lives of a young princess, a warrior and a slave boy whose destinies seem meant to intertwine.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m going to cheat for that one 😉 I have no idea who would play my characters on screen, but I can tell you who inspired me while I was writing The Last Queen. I need to have a clear picture of my characters in my head in order to bring them to life, and I’m usually inspired by actors. With that in mind, here goes:

Elian is my main character. He is a 16-year-old slave whose life has been quite traumatic until he meets Araminta. He was directly based on English actor Eddie Redmayne, who was in countless historical movies between 2007 and 2010. Every time I saw him on screen I thought “This is Elian!” So here it is: Elian.

Araminta is 14 years old. She is an Elf, and a Queen. She is strong-willed, smart and quiet. When I described her in my WIP, I thought of English actress Lucy Griffiths.

Theron is 19 years old and he is Araminta’s husband. He is a Wolfman and the son of a lord, who loses all at the beginning of my WIP. He is a short-tempered warrior who happens to be very good-looking. Since I have had a crush on British actor Henry Cavill since, well, forever, I pictured Theron looking like him.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Call me crazy, but I’m going for the traditional route.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Seven months for the first draft. Then six months for the first round of revision. I have battled with a high word count, instances of telling instead of showing, repetitions, adverbs, passive form and everything you shouldn’t do when you write. I’m still working on this manuscript, hoping one day I will get it in shape for the query process.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

That’s a tough one. If you don’t know what High or Epic Fantasy is, think Game of Thrones and The Lord Of The Rings. But I can’t compare my WIP to those masterpieces. Since it’s YA, I guess it could be compared to The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

My favourite character in the book (beside Elian) is Araminta’s bodyguard/slave/assassin Jerod. I actually wrote a short story about him entitled The First Guardian, because I felt he deserved his own story since he is, you know, awesome.

Thanks Amanda for nominating me!

And now, for my nominations… Six special ladies who write Epic Fantasy:

Raewyn Hewitt http://raewynhewitt.wordpress.com/

Mara Valderran http://maravalderran.blogspot.co.uk/

Susan Francino & Tyler-Rose Counts http://thefeatherandtherose.blogspot.co.uk/

Rachel Horwitz http://www.rachelhorwitz.com/blog/

K.L. Schwengler http://myrandommuse.wordpress.com/