Showing posts with label fantasy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fantasy. Show all posts

First Impact: GRIMOIRE by Marcy

Time for another First Impact critique. Remember, anyone who leaves a critique in the comments is eligible to win a 15-page critique from author Jodi Meadows.

And this feature can only continue with your submissions! If you have a query letter, first page, or even back cover blurb you'd like critiqued, send it to Details here.

Thank you, Marcy, for letting us take a look at your YA Historical Paranormal. As always, this is just my opinion. You are welcome to disagree.

Chapter One ~ February 1805

The last sentence threw me off on my
first read. I think the problem is the
first sentences are a bit misleading.
It was a fine day for a sale, brisk but sunny; -- a good day for traveling, as evidenced by the crowd in the lane. Most came to buy. Some came out of curiosity. But none of them noticed her sitting in the hall, left with nothing but a single trunk.

I love this paragraph. Great voice.
Great emotion. Totally draws me in.
Arlen watched them, blinking back furious tears, winding her fingers together so tight it hurt. She itched to slap their hands away from whatever they touched, snatch back what they'd bought. How dare they? These were her things!

Except they weren't.

Not anymore.

How long ago did this happen? How
fresh is her pain?

This last sentence is a bit awkward.
It had been an accident according to the coroner. Her parents, coming home from a dinner party in nearby Saxton Greene, were killed when their carriage careened into the pond at the entrance to the property. They were found with their driver all frozen and stiff the next morning when one of the kitchen maids walked in from the village.

And according to Mr. P. T. James Esquire, Ssolicitor to her father's estate, there was no money, therefore, nothing to bequest bequeath. In fact, the estate's debts were such that everything would have to be sold.

Now all the pretty things her parents had collected, the baubles and crystal lamps, the paintings in their gilt frames, the plants in the conservatory - even the lovely gown she was supposed to wear for her coming out ball - were walking out in the hands of strangers.

It was all she could do not to scream.

Adam's Thoughts
What a horrible day for Arlen. This is such a great start -- I'm feeling Arlen's pain and wondering what the heck is going to happen to her (does she become Batman? Please tell me she becomes Batman).

The only major thing I want to say about this is about the opening paragraph. It feels tricksy to me, but not in a good way. I like the irony of it -- that it's a nice day for a sale, but the sale totally sucks. But I don't like feeling like I was tricked into believing one thing, when the story's about another.

I also noticed a lot of little errors here and there -- misplaced commas, bad capitals, misused semicolons, etc. Not so much that I think you can't write (you obviously can, and well), but enough that I noticed.

On the one hand, I understand you shouldn't have to worry about these things until the meat of the story is polished. I get that.

On the other hand, I consider them to be our katas. Ultimately, we should be so familiar with them we don't even think about them anymore. We just do it right. I say this for everyone, myself included. Learn to care :-)

What do you guys think about this piece? Does the opening paragraph work for you? If not, how would you fix it?

Books I Read: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Title: The Lightning Thief
Author: Rick Riordan
Genre: MG Fantasy
Published: 2005
My Content Rating: PG for action scenes
Cliffhanger Ending: No

Summer after 6th grade, Percy Jackson learns that the Greek gods are real, alive, and one of them is his father. Oh, and half the Greek pantheon is trying to kill him because they think he stole Zeus's master lightning bolt. So, not the best summer of his life.

What I loved about this book (in list form, cuz I'm feeling lazy today):
  • It's funny.
  • Exciting action.
  • The plot is nice and twisty, even after seeing the movie.
  • Speaking of which, it is much better than the movie.*
  • The world-building is pretty clever.**
The only thing I didn't like so much was the scenes at Camp Half-Blood felt too much like Harry Potter to me (it didn't help that the brave, muggle-raised protagonist befriended the school's camp's smartest girl). But once they got on their quest, that didn't bother me so much.

I'm not a "Greek mythology! Love it!" kind of guy (I prefer Eastern mythology, which I'm less familiar with). But if you are gonna revisit the Greek stories, Rick Riordan figured out a really great way to do it.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

* Seriously, it was like Hollywood used all the boring, irrelevant parts and cut all the interesting stuff that made sense.

** The only problem I had with the world-building was how demigods were all dyslexic because they're "genetically predisposed" to read ancient Greek. It's the language geek in me. Sorry, Rick.

First Impact: MG Fantasy from Kristen Wixted

First off, I have to thank Matt MacNish for promoting this feature and single-handedly filling up October with submissions. You should thank him too, because until those submissions came in, there wasn't going to be a prize this month (and it's a good prize; keep reading).

Second, the winner of September's prize -- $10 for Amazon/B&N or a 20-page crit from me -- is PATCHI! Please contact me and let me know which prize you want.

And thank all of you for your thoughts. keep them coming. The authors always tell me how much they appreciate it.

Lastly, I have a special prize for October: a 15-page critique from the amazing and talented Jodi Meadows! To win, leave a critique on any First Impact post this month. Purchasing a copy of Jodi's fantastic INCARNATE won't improve your chances, but it will keep you good company and cure acne (maybe). Plus! Dragons!

Somebody stop me. We have a critique to do.

Disclaimer: This is all just my opinion. Feel free to ignore it. Overall comments at the end.

First Page
I like this opening. But unless kids
do get locked away in this story, I'd
snip that bit. Get to the point.
Not all attics are full of shadows, spider webs, and ugly hatboxes dotted with evidence of unwelcome creatures; those are the kind of attics where children get locked away. Some attics smell like lavender soap, are strewn with treasures, and if the right child should come in at the right moment, are full of possibility.

I was initially confused, as "diaries"
are different from ships' logs.

Love the voice at the end.
The treasures in Aunt Tibby’s attic were mostly old diaries. Crooked, nearly toppling stacks of antique journals and ships’ logs covered the wooden floorboards and wide shelves, because the museum had run out of room and Aunt Tibby wasn’t about to throw them away. Heavens no.

This snipped bit slows things down, I
think. And it's info you can give later.
Somewhere, in one of the piles of antique leather and cloth-covered books was a particular diary that Eve, Aunt Tibby’s grand-niece, couldn’t wait to find. It was the key to her questions, because now that she was eleven she had lots of questions, about her Mama.

Good description (all of this is, btw),
but now that we have a goal (Mama),
I immediately want to know more. I
think some of this could be snipped
to get us there faster.
So for months, every time she visited her great aunt on Martha’s Vineyard, Eve put on her favorite old jeans and sweatshirt—clothes that she would never be allowed to wear at home in New York City—and she scoured. She searched. She investigated, explored, and rummaged around in the attic. She flipped through yellowed books, she tossed aside threadbare scarves and feathered hats so she could get at more old books. One time, to reach a pile of diaries that was off in a corner, she was even forced to pick up, with two reluctant fingers, a ratty, blonde wig and fling it aside.

Adam's Thoughts
I don't have a lot to say except to elaborate on my comments there. The voice, and especially the descriptions, are really good. I get the feeling I'm about to step into a mystery or possibly an adventure.

My only real complaint is at the end, and honestly that could be just because it's cut off as a first page. If the very next line was like, "Her mama had died when she was little . . . " or else, "Then one day she found it," I probably wouldn't have a problem with the length of that last paragraph at all.

So I'm just being nitpicky, really, because I don't know how much longer I have to wait to get to the meat. This first page is enticing (that's why I want the meat!), and though I do see occasional tangents that slow things down, they're not so bad that I wouldn't keep going.

What do the rest of you think?

World-Building and the Problem With Quidditch

On Friday, I talked about making up fictional games for your world: take a real-world game and alter it slightly: to suit your world, to make it unique, and (if you're like me) to make an actual game that might be fun to play.

Today we're looking at an example: Harry Potter's Quidditch.

Quidditch is essentially basketball on broomsticks -- with six goals instead of two, extra balls that hurt/distract the players, and the snitch to determine the end of the game. It's a good concept and it totally suits the world. And it's a testament to the books that even though this central game is fundamentally unbalanced, hardly anybody seems to notice.

But yes, it's unbalanced.

The problem is the point value of the snitch. Every goal in Quidditch is worth 10 points, but whoever grabs the snitch simultaneously ends the game and earns 150 points -- 15 goals. The overall effect is that regular goals don't matter.

Unless one team is down by more than 15 goals, right? Then they wouldn't want to get the snitch. There's tension!

Well, yeah, but when does that ever happen? Have you seen a professional soccer game go 16-0? An NFL game with a 112-point gap? Even in the NBA, all-time comeback records don't go much higher than a 16 goal gap. The best strategy to win Quidditch would be to make everyone a keeper until the snitch shows up. Nobody would do that (because it's boring), but any team that did would always win.*

So why does Quidditch work? For the following reasons:
  • The protagonist is the seeker. Can you imagine if Harry was the one making meaningless goals, while some minor character caught the snitch and won the game?
  • Quidditch wins and losses are not plot critical. If Harry had to win a Quidditch game to save his life, I would be a lot more mad at his team for not being smarter about gaming the system.
  • Something else is almost always going on -- like someone's trying to kill Harry or something, so we're invested in something other than the match.
These are good things to keep in mind if you're making your own fictional game. The more the plot focuses on the game, the more that game has to hold up under scrutiny.

And don't bother playing Quidditch in real life. It's not as interesting as it looks (unless you change the rules, of course).

* Though in the books, Quidditch teams are ranked by points scored, not games won. This fixes the brokenness for a tournament, but it makes individual games less interesting, and makes it almost impossible to have a true championship game.

Speculative Fiction: A Diagram

Following up our conversation a couple weeks ago, I present Adam Heine's Official Definition of Speculative Fiction:

1. Speculative Fiction is an umbrella term covering everything that is either science fiction or fantasy.

2. Science Fiction and Fantasy are the two main branches of speculative fiction. Sometimes they overlap.

3. Horror is fiction intended to frighten or scare. It could be sci-fi, fantasy, both, or neither.

4. Magical Realism is not sci-fi, but to quote Terry Pratchett, it's "like a polite way of saying you write fantasy."

5. Everything Else -- paranormal, utopian, dystopian, superhero, apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, alternate history, urban fantasy, weird fiction, supernatural, and all of the -punks -- is a sub-genre of sci-fi/fantasy.

Among other things, this means there is no speculative fiction that is not either sci-fi or fantasy. You will be very hard-pressed to convince me otherwise.

Here, I made a diagram to help.

Why Your World is Boring


I'm always surprised when someone who loves fantasy tells me they haven't read The Lord of the Rings. I mean, this book is fantasy. And it's awesome! Why have so many people not read it?

I'll give you three reasons: world-building infodumps, plot-stopping songs, and unintelligible languages.

Listen, I know these are what make LotR what it is. I KNOW. But you have to understand that for a first-time reader -- someone who is totally unfamiliar with Middle Earth -- these parts are boring.

Tolkien loved his world -- and rightfully so; it's amazing. But the truth is that if Tolkien tried to pitch it today as his debut novel, he'd be told to cut the word count in half, split the story into smaller parts (oh wait), and for Pete's sake use a 'k' instead of a hard 'c' in your fantasy names!


Many of us who write fantasy fell in love with it because of books like Tolkien's. We created our own worlds, with new races and cultures and politics and histories and languages. We wrote a story in that world.

But you know what happened? Our story became more about the world than the story. And it was boring.

Now we're full grown authors. We know about character and conflict. We're good with pacing and tension. But every once in a while, we start our story off with an infodump prologue, or we toss a 70-line poem into our story "to flesh out the world."

People don't want to read about your world. They want interesting characters to root for. They want a compelling plot. Give them these things and only then will they listen to whatever you've got to say about the history of the Sidhe (or why it's pronounced 'she').

Readers that love your characters will love your world, not the other way around.

What about you? Did you get into fantasy because of Tolkien? Where do you stand on stuff like this:

Go on, John Ronald. Tell me why this was necessary.

Spec Fic, Sci-Fi, and Other Ambiguous Terms

"Speculative fiction" is hard to define, mostly because nobody agrees on the meaning. Broadly, there are two useful definitions, but to understand them, we have to take a brief (BRIEF!) look at the history of science fiction.

1. About 100 years ago, people called science fiction a thing.
2. About 80 years ago, sci-fi hit what's considered it's "Golden Age."
3. About 60 years ago, a LOT of people were writing sci-fi. Not all of it was good.

(Told you it was brief.)

It was around this time that Robert Heinlein coined the term speculative fiction, and gave it its first definition:

speculative fiction: (n) 1. Fiction that has science-fictional elements, but is not science fiction.

Here's what happened. When sci-fi got big, it also got stereotyped. It became seen as cheap entertainment for the masses. "Genre" fiction as opposed to "real" fiction. Critics treated it as subpar literature, even though (and I love this quote from Peter Watts) "The same critics who roll their eyes at aliens and warp drive don't seem to have any problems with a woman ascending into heaven while hanging laundry in One Hundred Years of Solitude, just so long as Gabriel Garcia Marquez doesn't get published by Tor or Del Ray."

Ever since then, a lot of sci-fi authors -- like Robert Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut, and Margaret Atwood -- have tried to distance themselves from the sci-fi label. They often use the term speculative fiction to do this.

But it's not a very useful definition. For one thing, it defines itself by what it is NOT, which is silly.

But also, it's arrogant. It tries to define speculative fiction as "science fiction, but good." It's an offense to Herbert, LeGuin, Asimov, Card, and thousands of other genuinely good sci-fi authors who weren't afraid of the term.

I think people realized this, but the term has stayed in use. But to most people, it now mostly means this:

speculative fiction: (n) 2. An umbrella term covering everything from science fiction to fantasy to magical realism.

At first glance, it appears too broad to be useful. Almost like saying spec-fic is any fiction that could not have occurred in the world as we know it.

Two things make this definition useful: (1) fans of sci-fi and fantasy* have a large amount of overlap. (2) A lot of speculative fiction does not fall easily into one of these subcategories.

Speculative fiction gives us a way to talk about works like Miéville's Perdido Street Station without having to decide whether the fantastical races make it fantasy or the high-tech, steampunk elements make it sci-fi. Or whether Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun is fantasy because it feels medieval or sci-fi because it's dystopian and post-apocalyptic.

It is almost too broad a term (which is why I didn't use it in my query), but it's inclusive rather than snobbish, which I much prefer. Instead of saying, "That can't be genre fiction because it's not garbage!" I'd rather say, "Yes, this is genre. Some it is actually GOOD."

* And magical realism and horror, paranormal, dystopian, post-apocalyptic fiction, superheros, alternate history, and everything else spec-fic usually covers.

You Know That Fantasy Novel is Really the Author's D&D Game When...

  1. It starts in a tavern.
  2. There is one protagonist and his 3 or 4 friends, who are different from him in every way.
  3. The protagonist is awesome, because every other character tells us so. He also seems the only one capable of making decisions.
  4. Dark-skinned elves are always evil, and always dual-wielding.
  5. The only limitation on magic is that wizards must sleep before they can cast more spells.
  6. Character names contain apostrophes in unneces'sary and inexplicab'le pl'aces.
  7. The villain is immensely more powerful than the main characters, but despite their obvious bent on stopping him, he doesn't face them until they are strong enough to defeat him.
  8. The main characters are referred to as a "party."
  9. The "party" consists of a fighter, a thief, a cleric, and a wizard (alternatively: warrior/rogue/healer/mage, barbarian/burglar/priest/sorcerer, etc).
  10. They take on a quest to either save the world or aid the village, for no other reason than that it's right.
  11. Despite the fact that there are many characters more powerful than the protagonists, no one else is willing or able to take on the quest.
  12. Anyone, anywhere, uses "adventure" as a verb.
Got more?

Santa and the Siege of Barad-dûr

From Anthdrawlogy's Elves week. As far as I'm concerned there is only one kind of elf, though I'm more flexible with who their boss is.

Books I Read: The Alloy of Law

Title: The Alloy of Law
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Steampunk Fantasy
Published: 2011
Content Rating: R for action violence

Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, the world has been reborn and is in the midst of an industrial revolution, with trains and guns, skyscrapers and electricity -- and outlaws and the lawmen who bring them to justice.

Wax Ladrian is one such lawman, retired after his last job ended in the death of the girl he loved. He's just getting used to the noble life he had abandoned long ago, when his fiancee is kidnapped by a notorious band of criminals, led by a man whose Allomantic powers render him nigh immortal. As Wax gets more involved in the investigation, he learns that the city can be even more dangerous than the outskirts he used to protect.

You may recall I loved the original trilogy, and I love this. It's not as epic; Sanderson admits that he wrote it for fun, basically, and it totally is. It's a classic Western story wrapped up in a world where the kind of metal you wear (or eat) determines whether you launch yourself into the air, heal yourself, or stop time.

I have to admit the occasional character or plot event felt too . . . straightforward to me. But I love the mystery and detective work. I love the way Allomancy (and Feruchemy, which we didn't see as much of in the trilogy) interact with this new industrialized world. And I LOVED the banter between Wax and his deputy Wayne (who reminded me an awful lot of a certain pilot of a Firefly-class vessel).

Wax and Wayne. Heh, I just got that.

The Secret to World Building

"Part of the attraction of the Lord of the Rings is, I think, due to the glimpses of a large history in the background: an attraction like that of viewing far off an unvisited island, or seeing the towers of a distant city gleaming in a sunlit mist. To go there is to destroy the magic, unless new unattainable vistas are again revealed."

                               -- J. R. R. Tolkien, Godfather of World Building

The secret to creating a compelling world is to maintain the illusion that there is always more.

The second biggest mistake amateur world-builders make when showing off their world is to explore all of it. The worst is when they let the narrator or the protagonist or, God forbid, some professor character infodump all over the reader about their beautiful world -- all its countries and cultures, its languages and latitudes.

But even those that avoid the infodump -- who take their protagonist through the world so the reader can experience it -- will sometimes make the mistake of showing everything.

As the author, you need to know everything about your world, precisely because of what Tolkien says above. The reader wants hints that the world is much bigger than what they see. And if you always "go there," if you tell them all about it, you destroy the magic.

The Hunger Games still has districts we know nothing about. Mistborn implies the existence of undiscovered metals, with undiscovered powers. Even if you've read everything the Tolkien estate has ever published, there are still places in Middle Earth that you've only heard about. That is what will make your world compelling.

What are your favorite fictional worlds? What parts do you wish you could see more of?

My Favorite Anime

I can't believe this blog has been going for nearly 4 years, and I have barely scratched the subject of anime. Well that ends now! Here are my top 5 anime series of all time.

(If you don't know what anime is, start here, though odds are you've already seen it. Apparently, I was watching it as a kid and didn't even realize it.)

(For my top anime movies, please see the entire collected works of Hayao Miyazaki.)

#5 Samurai Champloo
Genre: Hip-hop historical fiction, samurais
Premise: Two rival master swordsmen are rescued from execution by a teahouse waitress, who makes them vow to help her find "the samurai who smells of sunflowers."
Why I like it: Awesome fight scenes, unique liberties taken with the Edo period, and hilarious banter between the two swordsmen.

#4 The Vision of Escaflowne
Genre: Science fantasy, mechas, dragons, steampunk future-telling devices
Premise: A girl gets transported to the magical world of Gaea, where she must use her psychic gifts to help a dispossessed prince fight off an evil empire.
Why I like it: Mechas, dragons, and clever questions on what it means to know and change the future.

#3 Neon Genesis: Evangelion
Genre: Science fiction, mechas, metaphysics
Premise: A teenager is recruited as an elite mecha pilot by his estranged father, to protect the Earth from a series of increasingly-deadly "angels."
Why I like it: Mechas and clandestine gov't organizations
Why it's not #1: Cuz the ending is weird, man. Really weird.

#2 Naruto
Genre: Fantasy, ninjas
Premise: A ninja orphan, shunned because of the monster that was sealed inside him at birth, is determined to become the greatest ninja in his village.
Why I like it: Ninjas, clever tactics and strategies, ninjas, like a hundred characters with backgrounds and motivations that matter, ninjas, ninjas, ninjas
Why it's not #1: Because it's at 477 episodes (and counting). About a third of those are filler.

#1 Cowboy Bebop
Genre: Science fiction
Premise: Spike and Jet travel the solar system, scraping a living as bounty hunters.
Why I like it: Witty banter, smart characters, mysterious pasts, a tight storyline from beginning to end, and one really smart corgi.

Keep in mind there are lots of series I haven't seen (Fullmetal Alchemist, for example, would probably be on this list, but I've still got over 20 episodes to go!).

What's your favorite anime? And if you don't have one, why aren't you watching Cowboy Bebop right now?

Books I Read: Dance With Dragons (Basically Spoiler Free)

Title: Dance with Dragons (Book #5 of the Song of Ice and Fire saga)
Author: George R. R. Martin
Genre: (Very) Epic Fantasy
Published: 2011
My Content Rating: (Very) R for sex, language, violence, and whatever else you got

As I do with sequels, I won't summarize this for fear of spoilers. If you've read the first four, you're probably going to read this one. If you haven't, know that Game of Thrones (being book #1) starts a massive fantasy epic that includes a couple of continents, hundreds of knights, a number of kings, some assassins, wights, dragons, a deadly winter that lasts for decades, and direwolves (among other things).

To sum it up in one very, very simple sentence: Song of Ice and Fire is about what happens when kings die and nobody can agree on who's next.

(In two sentences: Nobody can agree on a king and there's some kind of creepy evil threatening to come down on them all while they're fighting about it.)

The only reason I don't immediately recommend these books to everyone I know is the content rating. It's pretty severe. If you can get past that, though, you should read this series. It's epic in every sense, and I'm glad I've read it. Even though the series has yet to be finished and George Martin consistently and sadistically gets me to care about people doomed to die.

Oops, was that a spoiler? Sorry.

Let's talk in the comments. I'll label my spoilers much better in there.

Unicorns (and Winners)

I want to thank all of you so much for supporting Ellen Oh and Asian YA book covers during the Asian YA Book Giveaway. So many people tweeted and facebooked(?) and e-mailed about it. Don't let this be the end. Keep talking about this issue and supporting the books and publishers you're proud of!

But for the contest, congratulations to Kash Mitaukano and Carl Scott! I have e-mailed both of you already, but if you didn't receive it, please contact me yourself.

For those of you who didn't win, I submit a picture of unicorns (cross-posted from Anthdrawlogy).

I'm sure this has something to do with Asian YA books. Quick, someone make an analogy!

5 Reasons to Read Lord of the Rings

[If you haven't entered to win a copy of Silver Phoenix or Huntress yet, go do so now. Winners chosen next week.]

I still find it astounding that some folks haven't read Lord of the Rings. Then again, the book is huge, and I am sort of a fantasy geek (and don't ask about all the classics I've never read). Still, if you're on the edge, maybe I can help push you over.

1. Nazgûl. The undead servants of Mordor. They never sleep, never die, and never stop coming. They're kinda like Dementors, but they aren't scared of a silly glowing stag. And they ride dragons.

2. Gandalf. Every awesome wizard and mentor character you've ever read about was based on this guy. Dumbledore was killed by a silly curse. It took a fricking balrog to take Gandalf down. (And even then...)

3. Frodo and Sam. Bet you didn't know this was a buddy story. Frodo and Sam are hardcore. Think Naruto's tough? These guys walked into hell with the devil's wedding ring (he really wanted his ring back, too).

4. Maps. Harry Potter doesn't have 'em. Nuff said.

5. Epic fantasy poetry.

5. Middle Earth. Beautiful, even if all you've got are Tolkien's words. I'm pretty sure I'd die there, but I want to visit just the same.

So what's your favorite thing about Lord of the Rings?

What Are Your 5 Worst Movies?

Disclaimer the First, when I say worst movies, I don't mean B-movies or movies that are so bad they're good. For example: Army of Darkness, B-movie that revels in its B-ness. Surf Ninjas, so bad it's hilarious (my family still watches it). My "worst movies," on the other hand, are those I would rather didn't exist.

Disclaimer the Second, I can only talk about movies I've seen. There are a lot of movies I've heard are bad, but if I haven't seen them, I can't rank them. I guess my life is richer for that?

Disclaimer the Third, this is just my opinion. Get over it.

#5) Dungeons & Dragons

I don't remember much about this movie (which already says something), but I do remember thinking the story was confusing, the acting was weird, and Beholders -- one of the most terrifying creatures in the D&D world -- were leashed and used like watchdogs. Lame.

#4) On Deadly Ground

With the exception of Under Siege, I am not a fan of Steven Seagal. He's his own Mary Sue. In On Deadly Ground, in particular, he never takes a single hit or is in danger of losing at any time. He's awesome in a pretentious, cocky way (so: not awesome). Combine that with an Eskimo peyote trip, a super-preachy message, and the fact that he "saves" the environment by blowing up an oil rig, and you can see why this made my list.

#3) Battlefield: Earth

I like John Travolta, and I really wanted to like this. But the costumes were weird, the acting ridiculous, and the plot filled with more holes than my socks (the cavemen beat the world-dominating aliens with Harrier jets, that they found lying around in a base and learned to fly in a week).

#2) Avatar: The Last Airbender

It's really hard for me to judge this apart from the series. I know that's unfair to the movie, but then the movie was unfair to me, so I guess we're even. I've talked about what's wrong with this movie before. Now let's never speak of it again.

#1) Highlander II: The Quickening

This movie is so bad it actually makes its prequel (which I liked) worse by its very existence. It took a decent premise (there are immortals who wander the Earth trying to kill each other) and destroyed it (the immortals are alien exiles from another planet; the winner gets to choose whether to live their life out on Earth or return to "Zeist"). Then they punched holes in the plot they just revealed (the winner already chose to live out his life on Earth, but the ruler of Zeist was scared of him still so he sent people to kill him) and invalidated their already laughable premise (the winner kills those sent after him and . . . becomes immortal again?).

As if that weren't enough, they inexplicably brought back Sean Connery's character. That should be okay (it is Sean Connery), but they brought him back and then killed him again for no reason. (Which, by the way, is also something we've talked about).

All right, your turn. What are some of the worst movies you've ever seen?

INCARNATE Giveaway and Gushing

You guys know Jodi Meadows, right? I don't see how you could not. She's the most awesome person that ever awesomed (even before she became an Air Pirates fan).

And she wrote a book. It's called INCARNATE about a world where everyone is reincarnated and remembers their past lives and builds on their past lives . . . except for one girl. Ana's new, and nobody knows why, and worse, they don't know what happened to the person who was supposed to be reincarnated in her place.

UPDATE: Read an excerpt here.

So yeah, it's a tough life for Ana, but an awesome book for you! And it comes out tomorrow! And I'm giving a copy away to one of you lucky people!

Good day, yeah?

Even more, 45 bloggers are participating in a treasure hunt with clues, activities, and lots of prizes including signed books and handknit fingerless mitts. Simply by participating in MY contest, you automatically gain entries for Jodi's BIG drawing to win some of that stuff. Then you can head to the next activity for more INCARNATE fun! There are 19 INCARNATE activities around (I linked a few below). The more you do, the better your chances of winning the grand prize.

For more information on the INCARNATE Theater Treasure Hunt, check out Jodi's post here.

Now, to win a copy of the book from me, and also get entries to the grand prize drawing, all you have to do is come up with a caption for this (NOTE: the knitted critters are characters from INCARNATE, though your caption does not have to reference the book):


To be eligible for both contests, you MUST fill out this form:

All captions will be entered for Jodi's grand prize drawing. Additionally, I will choose my favorites and post them here on Wednesday. Then you will vote for a winner and that way no one can get mad at me that person will get a copy of INCARNATE from me (unsigned, but I will send it internationally).

UPDATE: The finalists for my contest have already been chosen, BUT any caption entered on this form will still get entries for Jodi's grand prize drawing, until Monday, Feb 6th, 11:59 pm EST.

If you have any questions, post them in the comments.

Improve your chances to win the INCARNATE grand prize giveaway by checking out some of these blogs (who in turn link to more; it's a big wicked circle):

What Are Your Top 5 Books?

So, your favorite books. I know, I know. Choosing favorite books is like choosing favorite children, but I figured I'd give it a shot. For the record, these are my favorite books, which is a different thing than what I would consider the "best" books. For example, the best Nazi movie might be Schindler's List, but my FAVORITE is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

See the difference?

Ender's Game -- Yeah, the computer game that explores his psyche is a little much, but the kid's a tactical genius with a heart. I will never get tired of that.

The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings -- Do I really need to talk about this? (And yes, series count as one book. IT'S MY GAME SHUT UP!)

Dune -- I talked about this once, but for those who missed it: sandworms, desert ninjas, Sting.

Mistborn Trilogy -- The newest one on the list, so I'm not sure how it will stand the test of time. But at the moment? Original and awesome superpowers, clever heists, immortal tyrants, and subverted fantasy tropes all over the place.

Marvel 1602 -- An interesting look at what Marvel superheroes might be like in the 16th century rather than the 20th. Hey, I had to put one graphic novel on the list, and this one creeps me out less than Watchmen and V for Vendetta (though both of those are good as well). Plus it's written by Neil Gaiman. Double win.

Now that I look at this, it's interesting to note that 4 out of 5 of these revolve around the Chosen One trope. I shouldn't be surprised, I guess.

Of course you all hate my top 5. So what are yours?

Travel Times: A Reference

I frequently find myself having to calculate how far away things are when I'm writing. "How long would it take him to walk there? Can a horse run that far? Who would get there first?"

This is a reference for myself, but I figured you could probably use it too. The numbers here are averages. Actual speeds and endurances will vary.

HumanHorse w/ Heavy LoadHorse w/ Light Load
Walking Speed5 kph
(3 mph)
6 kph
(4 mph)
10 kph
(6 mph)
Distance Traveled in a Day (8 hours)40 km
(25 mi)
48 km
(30 mi)
80 km
(50 mi)
Hurried Speed10 kph
(6 mph)
15 kph
(9 mph)
22 kph
(14 mph)
Distance Traveled (1 hour)10 km
(6 mi)
15 km
(9 mi)
22 km
(14 mi)
Running Speed24 kph
(15 mph)
30 kph
(19 mph)
44 kph
(27 mph)
Distance Traveled (5 minutes)2 km
(1.2 mi)
2.5 km
(1.5 mi)
3.7 km
(2.3 mi)

Walking Speed: A basic, slow walk that can be maintained for hours at a time.
Hurried Speed: A jog or canter that can be maintained for about an hour.
Running Speed: A sprint or gallop that cannot be maintained for more than a few minutes.

Again, these are just averages. There are horses that can gallop at speeds of 70-80 kph (40-50 mph), people can be forced to walk for more than 8 hours a day (with consequences), and some folks couldn't maintain a jog for longer than 30 seconds (*raises hand*). But for me, these averages are useful in figuring out how far apart things are in my worlds, among other things.

Feel free to correct my numbers, if you know better, or to request other means of transport for me to add.

Why Do You Write in Your Genre?

Almost everything I write has some sort of fantasy element to it, something that defies understanding for the people in that world.

And I think the reason is my own faith. Part of my assembly code includes a belief that there's more to this world than we can see or understand. I feel like there must be.

So even when I write a story about a forgotten colony of Earth, something creeps in that is bigger than we are and beyond our understanding. Even when I try to set a story in modern-day Thailand, people start fires with their mind or something.

I'm not sure I could write a non-speculative, contemporary story even if I wanted to. Eventually, some character would discover unusual powers or receive visions of the future or at the very least witness something that may or may not be a miracle.

I can't help it.

What's your genre? And why do you write it?