Friday, February 7, 2020

8 Mexican Folktales and Mythical Creatures to Use in Your Stories

Hola, guey!

If you're part of my Torn Universe group or subscribe to my newsletter, you know that I'm currently working on a few Space Opera stories that center around Mexican world-building. I've been having a TON of fun with it. I'm a quarter Mexican, so it's been awesome to connect with the Mexican culture and also learn about the etymology of things I've heard about from family members.

One of my favorite parts of the Mexican culture has been all of the folklore and mythological creatures. This is unsurprising given my fascination with spooky monsters and underused mythical beasts.

Today I wanted to share some of my favorite folklore and mythological creatures with you, so get ready for some chido tales:

8 Mexican Folktales and Mythical Creatures to Use in Your Stories



Alebrije 

Source: JillianLambertArt 


I love these. Alebrije are like snowflakes in that every single one of them is a unique shape, size, and pattern. At first glance, Alebrije are just Mexican folk art, but the background is much richer than that. The original artist (Pedro Linares) saw visions of alebrije when he was close to death and, upon recovery, started re-creating these mythical animals. They now have taken on multiple meanings in Mexican culture: Some people think that each person is matched with a alebrije at birth (thus explaining why each alebrije looks different: It's because they're a mirror of a person's soul). Some see them as symbols as Oaxacan pride, as Oaxaca is known for being the place to go to create and buy alebrije carvings. 

Regardless of the meaning, they are straight-up beautiful. And, because their purpose is so ambiguous, they make for a great blank-slate for either world-building, a character, or a magic system. I'm a fan. 

Huay Chivo

Source: Nimrais

This creatures is basically what would happen if a chupacabra and a minotaur had a baby. It's part person, part goat(ish), usually has horns, and always has red eyes.

Despite looking like it will eat you as a snack, Huay Chivo actually doesn't consume people, only their livelihood. He's rude, but he's not a murderer. 

Duende

Source: Wiki

Duende is probably one of the most difficult words to translate. Talk to any Mexican and they'll each give you very different definitions of what it means (or stare at you blankly, as it doesn't seem to be a commonly used term).  My grandparents told me that it was the Mexican equivalent of Mr. Nobody: It's a little house spirit that goes around making mischief while nobody's looking. If you ever do something wrong (break a glass, stain a rug, etc), you can just say the Duende did it.

However, other people say that Duende like to live in children's bedrooms and clip their toe nails (because that's a normal thing, apparently), but sometimes mess up and chop off the child's entire toe. Yeah. I...have no explanation for this.

Still others say that duende is a type of emotion linked to passion and art. It's what gives you chills when you hear good music or watch a beautiful dance.

So. I guess pick your favorite version and run with it...? 

La Llorona

Source: focusnm

Ah, one of my favorites. La Llorona is a cheated-on woman who either intentionally or accidentally drowned herself and her children. She now lives in bodies of water while wailing loudly and luring children to their deaths.

If you want to keep your children from drowning, telling them this story is certainly one way to do it. Though you may end up giving your kids aquaphobia, so maybe don't do that.

La Llorona's story is definitely a very creepy one. However, it also is told from multiple angles (such as La Llorona just being lonely and not actually intending to hurt anyone), so it makes for great writing material. 

Chaneque

Source: Canijochaneque

Legendary creatures of Mexican folklore, the Chaneque are sprite-like beings that guard nature with a  vengeance. They protect specific parts of nature (trees, meadows, riverbeds, etc) and attack any intruders by scaring them so badly that their souls leave their bodies. The only way to retrieve your soul after such an attack is to perform a specific ritual. If you don't? You'll get sick and die very soon.

Of course you could just respect nature in the first place and the Chaneque will let your soul stay in your body where it belongs. They're nice like that.

Quinametzin

Source: Roque Leão

Did somebody say "Ancient Aztec Giants"? Yep. I did. That's what Quinametzin are. They stand about ten feet tall and are credited for a lot of the impressive architecture in ancient Mesoamerica, such as Teotihuacan or the Great Pyramid of Cholula (which, by the way, is the largest pyramid in the world. Take that, Egyptians! Just kidding. Though...why did we never learn about this in school??).

However, the Quinametzin messed up and angered the gods, so the gods just...killed them. All of them. Yeah. Seems a bit dramatic, but okay. 

Nagual

Source: LeonelSaberTooth

This one is complicated. At its core, nagual is the term for a person who can shape-shift into a human. The superstition is that the nagual made a deal with the devil to gain this ability, but, like most folklore, this isn't the sole view. Tonalism and brujos come into play for the other versions, so feel free to look that up if you're interested.

However, the deal-with-the-devil is my personal favorite version because I think it would make a great story. After all, let's be honest: Who in their right mind would go to El Diablo so they can shift into an animal? It's not that great of a skillset...? Why risk that? What happened to make you think that's a good idea?? I must know.

Chupacabra 

Source: LuxDani

You've probably heard of this one before, but it's a good one so I can't not mention it. Sure, it technically originated in Puerto Rico and not Mexico, but Mexico has folktale about them, so I'm just going to go with it.

The word chupacabra literally translated to "goat sucker," a very fitting name considering that chupacabra's sole source of food is goat blood. Chupacabra have spines along their back, long teeth, and leathery or snake-like skin.

Oh. And sometimes they hop around like kangaroos. Because why not?

And there you have it. Which of these is your favorite? Did I miss any that you love? Leave a comment below!

Related articles:
12 Unusual, Frightening Mythical Monsters to Use in Your Fantasy Novel
10 Little-Known Weapons to Use in Your Speculative Fiction Stories
12 Horrifying, Unbelievable Sea Creatures to Use in Your Writing

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Friday, January 17, 2020

Factoid Friday #4: About the Colors...

Ever noticed that colors pop up in my stories quite a bit? Colors of Fear, as the title indicates, is literally centered around colors. Skies of Dripping Gold has a color named in the title. Every single one of my stories has a color (or colors) mentioned in a significant way. Why is that? Well...


Yup. Colors play a large part in my life: I keep my hair bright blue (or red or green or whatever else I'm feeling like), I have a piece of art on every single wall in my room, and I almost always have a neon-colored pen in my purse or backpack. They make me smile and help me remember the good things in life.

Because colors are such a big deal for me and my mental health, they started leaking over into my stories. It was unintentional at first, but I chose to lean into it after a few publications.

So if a color is ever mentioned in any of my stories: Pay attention. It probably means something important.

Related article:
Factoid Friday #3: My Weird Writer Quirk

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday! Or, in this case: Saturday. Thank you for bearing with me.

Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Friday, January 10, 2020

#ChatWithHannah Ep 22: Awesome Tropes in YA Fiction

A few months ago I made a video about problematic tropes in YA fiction that need to die. Today I want to talk about all of the amazing, helpful, and just plain fun tropes YA fiction has to offer.


Articles mentioned in this video: 

What are some of your favorite tropes in YA fiction? Let's hear 'em! 

Related articles: 
#ChatWithHannah Ep 18: Tropes in YA Fiction That Need To Die

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

Some links are Amazon Affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Why We Need to Let Female Protagonists Just Be Protagonists

Have you ever noticed that people tend to be hypercritical of female protagonists? Specifically female protagonists in action or speculative fiction stories?

Yeah.

Let's talk about that.

This is something that I've been observing and thinking about for years, both as an author and a consumer. It is something that always kind of bothered me. However, the more I publish and the more I get into books and movies, the more I start to notice things.

Things that I find...nonsensical. Frustrating. Disturbing.

People have massive arguments and discussions surrounding female protagonists that simply aren't had when a male is the head of a book or movie or franchise. A single female-led story is bashed left and right for containing feminist agendas, for reinforcing gender roles, for undermining traditional family roles, for having a flawed protagonist, for having a perfect protagonist, and on and on and on.

It doesn't make any sense. To me, female characters are just characters. I don't place extra expectations on them. Why would I?

But apparently that's not the right thought-process. Apparently female protagonists must be held to impossible, contradictory, and sometimes flat-out insane standards.

It must stop, people. Let's take a look at all the ways we ostracize female characters and all the reasons that's messed up.

Why We Need to Let Female Protagonists Just Be Protagonists


1. Putting female characters in their own category. This happens on a regular basis and, while not always intentionally malicious, is pretty undermining. For instance, think about how often you hear the phrase (or even say the phrase): "She's a well-developed female character." Or "She's one of the best female character's I've read." Now think about how often you hear or read or say "He's a well-developed male character."

It's a stark difference, isn't it?

See, when people like a male character, they just say "He's a great character" or "he's one of the best characters I've read." They don't feel the need to clarify his sex. But, when it comes to female characters, they do.

There's also that whole issue of people who think that children's books with female leads are "girl books" meant for a female audience, yet children's books with male leads are simply books meant for any reader.

This is signaling that people view male characters as the standard. It also says that female characters should go in their own category where they are judged by a different set of rules and labels. And, unfortunately, these rules and labels are often nonsensical and impossible to follow, such as...

2. Incorrectly labeling female characters as Mary Sues or Manic Pixie Dream Girls. For anyone who isn't familiar, here are the basic definitions of these labels:

Mary Sue: A seemingly perfect female character who has little to no flaws, is often overpowered, and is naturally good at pretty much everything.

Manic Pixie Dream Girl: A sweet, eccentric, and often very "girly-girl" type who has no real purpose in a story except to help a (usually mopey) male character become a better person.

Critics of female characters love these terms and often throw them around as a broad, catch-all way to  put down a female character they don't like.

For instance, a very popular example of a Mary Sue is Rey from Star Wars. People like to call her a Mary Sue as a way to explain why she's not an interesting character to them. She picks up the Force easily, she's randomly a great pilot, and it is always understood that she will 100% win her struggle with the Dark Side.

But you know who else this describes? Switch the pronouns in the above sentence to "he" and you've got Luke Skywalker (from the original trilogy).  Rey is simply a less-whiny version of Luke.



And, yet, nobody bashes Luke for being a Gary Stu. They may not like him, but at least they take the time to explain why, rather than labelling him with a broad, sex-specific catch-all term.

The same goes for Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Any cute, confident, supportive female character is in danger of being termed a Manic Pixie Dream Girl simply because she has her life together and has decided to help a less fortunate character.

Now, to anyone who is about to grumble at me, I will say this: Yes. Yes, Mary Sue and Manic Pixie Dream Girl characters do exist as actual annoying tropes. Yes, these labels can be used correctly.

However, they often aren't. And that's not even what makes them so sticky and troublesome.

What makes these terms problematic is that they are labels that only exist for female characters.

There are absolutely derogatory terms for male characters ("boy scout," or "white knight" being used to describe flat, overly goody two-shoes male characters, or "Broody Boy" being used to put down the darker, more emo types). However, they are not used as often or as incorrectly, and they don't always carry a 100% negative connotation.

For instance, Finn from Star Wars is a total Boy Scout, but most people don't mind. In fact, many like him because of that trait. If people dislike Finn, they don't often use the term Boy Scout because it's not as widely known. Instead, they take the time to explain why they don't like him by using complete, logical sentences like all normal mature humans should ("He lacks any real character arc and his traumatic backstory doesn't seem to impact him the way it naturally would," rather than "I don't like him 'cuz he's a Boy Scout!!!!"

The same is not generally true for critics who label female characters as Mary Sue or Manic Pixie Dream Girl. They (often incorrectly) slap those labels on with very little provocation and little to no explanation.

3. Constantly scrutinizing their appearance. Ummm. Guys. I feel like it's obvious why this is bad, but it's still happening, so I guess we need to talk about it. Again.

Remember that time when the first Wonder Woman trailer dropped and people started going insane over her perfectly shaved armpits? It sparked all sorts of arguments about how this was either feminist or anti-feminist. People got so fixated on her hairlessness that they ignored the fact that you could see her armpit because she had her arms raised while fighting in battle like a badass. Yeah.

Or how about that time people got upset about Rey being "too skinny" to be a good fighter? Like muscle mass has anything to do with being able to use the Force....?

Or what about when people lost their minds arguing over how Brienne of Tarth wore normal armor rather than armor that showed off her boobs (AKA: "boob plate" armor)? I don't even watch Game of Thrones and I still heard about that one.

Or when people were arguing about what message it sends that Bo Peep wore pants in the newest Toy Story movie.

It's gross, guys. Women come in all shapes and sizes. Some shave, some don't. Some wear dresses, some wear pants. None of it has anything to do with how well-developed a character is, so there's no reason for us to be making any kind of an issue out of it. Stop trying to fit female characters into tiny boxes.

4. Not letting them have flat character arcs. Before we get started, let's define some stuff. A flat arc = a character whose personality and motives don't really change. Instead, they change the world/characters/plot around them. It's not a bad thing. A flat character = a character who has no real emotional depth or complexity. It is almost always a bad thing.

Take Captain Marvel vs Captain America. Captain America has a flat character arc: He starts his story as a good person who's being kept down and must fight not only for himself but for others, too. He's an incredible character and I, like many others, absolutely love him.

Captain Marvel has pretty much the same arc: She starts the story as a good person who's being kept down and must fight not only for herself but for others, too. And, yet, so many people bash on this aspect of her character because they think it's pushing the "feminist agenda" that women are perfect, unflawed, and above needing to change.


Look.

You can't be okay with flat character arcs for male characters, but get upset when female characters have them. You can either always find flat character arcs socially problematic or never find them socially problematic.

Be consistent, please.

5. Pitting them against each other. You've heard the squabbles. "Moana is better than Rapunzel because she don't need no man!" or "Cinderella is a superior female character because she's not afraid to be 'feminine'!"

Wut.

You know it's possible to like multiple female characters at once without tearing other ones down, right? Even if there's a female character you love and one you don't, there's no need to pit them against each other. Simply discuss why you like or dislike the individual characters without mudslinging or stepping on other character's necks. It's not hard.

This is a weird trend because we really don't do this with male characters, do we? There's not a lot of "Aragorn is better than Legolas because he's more ripped and 'masculine'!" or "Superman is better than Batman because he's able to settle down with a woman and Batman isn't!"

Soooooo. Maybe stop being so weird about comparing female characters?

6. Pitting them against male characters. Did you know that you can like a male character and a female character at the same time. *gasps* Yep. You can! Please refer to the point 5 because yeah, all of that logic applies to this point.

7. Generally criticizing them for things you would never criticize a male character for.  When you're about to go all hypercritical on a female character, ask yourself: "Would I apply this same nitpick to a male character?" This is important to do because female characters are often subject to very specific criticisms. Aside from the critiques I mentioned above, here are some other female-specific standards:


  • People get into arguments over a female character marrying vs being single because clearly that's forcing an agenda, yet marital status is not generally a concern when discussing male characters. 
  • People get weird about female action heroes being mothers ("They're enforcing gender stereotypes!" or "Look, this is how all female characters should be!"), but nobody batted an eye when the entire plot of the Mandelorian revolved around him taking on the role of a father.
  • People tend to nitpick a female character's profession ("They just made her a mechanic to fulfill an agenda," or "Making her a babysitter is heteronormative"), but how often do people take issue with a male character's profession? 


Now, before you get me wrong, I need to make something very clear:

I am not saying we shouldn't critique female protagonists (or female characters in general). We should. But we should be critiquing them the way we would any other character. After all, some female protagonists suck, some are amazing, some are just mediocre. Call it like it is and move on.

My point is that we should not be holding female characters to insane standards, double standards, or pretty much any other standard that we wouldn't use for other character types.

Put simply: We need to let female protagonists just be protagonists.

Stop putting every female hero under a microscope unless you plan to treat every single hero you read or watch in the exact same manner.

*takes deep breath*

Okay. I think I'm done now.

What do you think? As always, I'm very interested to hear your thoughts! All I ask is that you please keep your comments (both to this original post by me and to any posted comments by others) respectful. Thank you!

Related articles:
The Do's and Don'ts of Writing Strong Female Characters
Writing Awesome Male Characters: What You're Doing Wrong
How to Identify and Obliterate Sexism in Your Novel
7 Tips for Writing Characters of the Opposite Sex

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

Some links are Amazon Affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Friday, December 27, 2019

8 Tips for Writing a Good Screenplay

Ah, screenwriting. One of the two types of writing that I know virtually nothing about.

(the other one is poetry, but we won't speak of that because it makes me sound like uncultured swine)

However, Alexis P. Johnson and Ryan Penland know about screenwriting. They have both written multiple short films, some of which have been or are currently being produced. And guess what? They're here today to tell you about how to get started with screenwriting.

You all better take notes.

8 Tips for Writing a Good Screenplay, a Guest Post by Alexis P. Johnson and Ryan Penland

Alexis P. Johnson 


1. Get scriptwriting software. This is crucial as most people won’t even get past page one if your script is improperly formatted. There are some free ones online such as Celtx.

2. Read some books about screenwriting structure. My favorite books are Cut to the Chase about writing films, and Inside the Room about writing for TV. There are many available to choose from.

3. Though structure and formatting are important, your own style does not need to be restrained by them. Keep your voice unique. You will see how others do that when you…

4. Read screenplays of your favorite movies. You’ll see how a variety of writers add their own spice and flavor to productions long before they are shot. You can’t have a great film or series without solid writing first.

5. Seek out feedback, especially if you’re new to scriptwriting. There are usually groups on Meetup or Facebook that you can join for film and TV. Seek out other writers and see if you can mutually beta read each other’s work.

 

Ryan Penland 


1. When writing dialogue for your characters, make sure you give each character their own voice. The tendency I have when writing my first draft is every character sounds like me. Get creative and give each of your characters their own personality. With each draft of the script, you’ll see each character come more and more into their own, and it will reflect on the actors!

2. Watch your favorite movies that inspire the story that you want to tell. Watch them for their lighting, cinematography, acting, and storytelling. The more movies you watch, the more you are able to think and problem solve like a writer when it comes to your own script.

3. Remember that the rules of screenwriting are more guidelines than anything. Every movie you have watched has broken one or two screenwriting rules. However, it’s important to know the rules so that you know which ones you are breaking.


Are you interesting in screenwriting? We'd love to hear about what you're currently working on, as well as tools you've found helpful! Leave a comment below!

Related articles:
8 Ways To Use Movie Watching To Improve Your Writing
11 Classic Movies All Writers Should Watch (Part 1)
7 Writing Lessons Learned from Stranger Things

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Some links are Amazon Affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Factoid Friday #3: My Weird Writer Quirk

I have a lot of weird writer quirks. Most of them aren't a problem in my day-to-day life, but this one? This one is.


For instance, when I was writing Sounds of Deceit, I really, really wanted to watch the newest season of The Dragon Prince. But The Dragon Prince is fantasy, as is Sounds of Deceit, so I wasn't able to watch it. 

This isn't because of will-power. It's because of the fact that, if I had watched Dragon Prince, my brain would keep screaming at me: "You should be writing!" Why? I'm not sure, but I think perhaps the fantasy elements would keep making me think of my own WIP, thus triggering a guilt-trip in my mind. 

On top of this, I try not to be overly influenced by stories in my own genre because it can end up making me feel boxed-in, so watching the show would've made me question my characters, tropes, and plotlines. 

Yeah.

It's not great, but there it is. What are some of your weird writerly hang-ups? 

Related articles: 
Factoid Friday #1: About Wanderer's Name

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday! Or, in this case: Saturday. Thank you for bearing with me. 

Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

#ChatWithHannah Ep 21: Why You Shouldn't Be Afraid to Write Disabled Characters

"I'm afraid it will limit the story." "I'm afraid of doing it wrong." "I'm afraid I'll get in trouble." Let's talk about all of the reasons why people are afraid to write disabled characters...and all of the reasons these fears are not good reasons to give up on disability representation.


Here are a list of my blog posts, videos, and interviews regarding disability:

Writing Disabled Characters: What You're Doing Wrong (AKA: The afore-mentioned post where I talk about the magical trope)
9 Tips for Writing Physically Disabled Characters in Fantasy
My interview with Yaasha Moriah about disability in fiction
#ChatWithHannah Ep 12 Part 2: Disability in Fiction, World-Building, Descriptive Writing, and More
7 Tips for Writing a Character with a Chronic Illness

Giveaway!!! Here's the link to the giveaway for my indie-versary. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Want to read some books with awesome disability representation? I've got your back.

The Electrical Menagerie by Mollie E. Reeder
Dragon School by Sarah K L Wilson
Irellia the Nightwalker by Beth Wangler
All of my stories (except Vengeance Hunter in the Antiheroes anthology)

Have questions? Comments? Book recommendations! Please leave them below!

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Do's and Don'ts of Indie Author Professionalism

Four years ago from Thursday, I became an indie author. *throws confetti* Woohooo! How cool is that?

I published Skies of Dripping Gold on 12/05/2015 and things took off from there. I didn't have a business model to look to, nobody in my family knew anything about publishing, and I didn't really know a lot of other indie authors. It was a bit disorienting, but also meant that I had the opportunity to build my indie author business from the ground up with no rules.

It's the beauty of indie publishing.

But also the downfall.

There are so many incredible indie authors out there, but there are also a lot of unprofessional practices going on, too. The lack of hard-and-fast rules combined with people's creative flares has, unfortunately, led to indie authors who run themselves into the ground because they don't know how to handle a business. Let's talk about how you can make sure you are being the best, most professional (but still personable) indie author you can be.

But, before we get started: In honor of my four year indie-versary, I'm holding a giveaway! All the details are below, so keep reading:


Do's and Don'ts of Indie Author Professionalism

Do: Get help, or hire people. Don't know how to write a blurb? Ask you market-savvy friends. Can't draw to save your life? Hire a cover designer. Confused by formatting? Pay a professional to do it for you. Being an indie author doesn't mean you have to do every little thing by yourself. This is so important that I'm going to repeat it again, but in a different point:

Don't: Try to design your own cover, format your own books, or edit your own story if you don't have the skillset. Seriously. I can't tell you how many indies have lost future sales because they've published a fairly interesting book that is riddled with errors. Or who don't sell at all because their cover looks like a baby tried to use photoshop with their non-dominant hand. It's bad, guys. Don't be that indie author. If you can't do something, hire someone. If you can do something, invest in tools that will allow you to do them in a professional way (like Adobe or Clip Studio Paint for cover design).

Do: Ask nicely for reviews. ONCE. Only once. And even then, it's important to use discretion. If there is a reader who you have 1) interacted with and 2) has very publicly stated that they've read your book, consider privately reaching out and asking them to write a quick review. But only ask once. And be very nice.

This is something that I did when I released by debut story because I knew reviews will make or break a new indie author. However, I don't tend to do it very often anymore because I have a fanbase and know that I'll always have a decent number of reviews per story.

Basically, this is a tricky thing. Use discretion and tact, and remember that your readers don't owe you a review.

Don't: Harass people for (or about) reviews. This is a huge no-no. Never bother people for not reviewing your book. And NEVER contact a reader if you dislike their review. This is very unprofessional and off-putting. I had an indie author complain to me about my review via private message and, well. Guess which indie author I will never read again? Yup.

Don't be that person.

Do: Have a professional website. Guys. If you only take one thing away from this post, it should be this point. Having a clean, easy-to-maneuver post is essential. It shows that you care. It makes it easy for your readers to learn more about you and your books.

Yes, websites cost money. And yeah, if you aren't good at web design, you're going to have to higher someone to do it for you. But it is very worth it. It sets the professionals apart from the amateurs. Check out some of these indie author websites to get an idea of what works:


Don't: Forget to link said website on all your social medias. What's the point of having a website if you don't publicize it? Always link your website on your social media profiles. Not your Amazon page. Not your Goodreads account. Your website.

I can't tell you how painful it is when I want to learn more about an indie author, but can't locate their website on any of their social media accounts. It makes it impossible to support them, and leave us readers feeling like:

Ostrich chasing giraffe with the text "Let me love you!"


Do: Plan your releases carefully. You're gonna need sleek promotional graphics. Pre-order links. ARCs. Cover and blurb reveals. Newsletter notifications. Blog tours (depending on the type of release you're going for). All of this takes time, so you'll want to start working on your release plan well before your release date. This increases your visibility and shows people that you are very serious about your story.

Don't: Be self-deprecatory. This is a really bad look. People often buy indie books because they like that author's presence online. They like what the author has to say about their work. But if an author is constantly putting themselves and their work down? Nobody wants to see that. It's annoying, unsettling, and undermines your work. It also can sometimes feel like you're fishing for compliments, which gets really old really fast.

Do: Interact with your readers. Indie authors have a special thing going because they can interact with their readers on a very personal level. Being an indie author often has more to do with marketing yourself as an author than it does with marketing individual stories (it is often the opposite in traditional publishing). Because of this, it's important to be kind and accessible to your audience. Respond to tweets, answer emails, thank people when they tag you in reviews or shout-outs.

Don't: Slam the traditional publishing industry, fellow indies, or readers. This is gross, guys. Traditional publishing is not the enemy. Neither are fellow indie authors or that one reader who left you a bad review. Constantly slamming people in your circles is highly unprofessional and a huge red flag for both readers and those in your industry.

Along the same line, you shouldn't ever be using your author platform to constantly talk about politics or business you hate or....anything that isn't related to your brand, honestly. Before you post something, ask yourself: "Will this help me get where I'm planning to go?" and "Is this right and kind?" If the answer is no, don't publish it.

It's not hard, people.

Do: Run your platform like a business. This means you need a solid profile picture, a good author bio, a nice website. You respond to emails in a timely manner. You don't spam people by only posting about your own publications. You use a real name or a pen name (rather than a screen name like BabyYoda394). Always stay on topic.

Don't: Be robotic. Being professional doesn't mean you can't add a personal flare. If you're a nerd, don't be afraid to make nerd references online. Like sports? The occasional tweet about your favorite sport thingy is fine. You don't want to come across as a robot who is trying to impersonate a business professional, so don't feel like you have to only ever talk about books and the genre that you write. Just create a brand and stick to it.

Have questions about specific indie author conundrums? Feel free to leave them below and I'll answer as best I can!

Now.

On to the free stuff:

Please feel free to share this giveaway around the internet! I'm excited to see who wins.

Related articles:
11 Things Nobody Tells You About Being An Indie Author (Until It's Too Late)
A List of Great Self-Published Books You Should Read (Part 2)

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Friday, November 29, 2019

The PFW Black Friday Sale is Here to Save You

Your time has come.

Have you ever dreamed of starting a giant library chock full of amazing books? Or of showering your loved ones with sci-fi and fantasy novels during Christmas?

Of course you have. You're a bookworm. Luckily for you, we Phoenix Fiction Writers have prepared the way for you.



Starting today, on the Friday where most Americans are getting in fist fights over discounted TVs, I invite you to pull up a chair, grab a mug of something yummy, and prepare for the funnest, most chill shopping experience of your life (and yeah, funnest is a word. Don't bite that hand that feeds you).

In short: I'm inviting you to the annual PFW Black Friday Sale. This sale runs from 11/29 - 12/02 and includes:

  • 50+ ebooks 
  • 30 paperbacks 
  • 9 ebooks bundles 
  • 10 different signed paperbacks 
  • Dozens of pieces of merch from 5 separate merch shops 

That's right. I know the glory is a lot to take in. Allow me to recommend some of my top choices: 

The Terebinth Tree Chronicles Bundle by Yours Truly



Yep. You can get all three ebooks for 99 cents. That's a 67% discount, for all you math-y people. If you love magic, complex characters, disability representation, strong action sequences, and Native American and African-inspired world-building, this is for you. 

Echo: First Pulse by C. Scott Frank 



Do you like sci-fi, amazing world-building, and incredible characters? This is where it's at. Echo: First Pulse is three books in one paperback for only $7.99. Yup. It's a steal. Go grab your copy now! 

Out of Darkness by E.B. Dawson (signed) 



This book is a Jason Bourne-esque sci-fi thriller with an incredibly strong, broken protagonist who is one of my all-time favorites. It's so good that you're gonna fall in love with Dawson's writing, which is why you'll want the signed copy. It's 27% off, too, so that's a huge plus. 

Beaumont and Beasley Vol. 1 Bundle by Kyle Robert Shultz



Need a good laugh? Then you gotta grab yourself this ebook bundle. Beaumont and Beasley is a fantasy re-imagining of all of your favorite fairytales. It's hilarious, full of heart, and very well-written. Go snatch a bundle for 50% of it's usual cost! 

Child of the Kaites by Beth Wangler



Speaking of re-tellings, you're gonna want to read this one. It's a desert fantasy novel that's a re-telling of story of Moses, but with a female protagonist, homicidal storms, and *drum roll* griffins. Yup. It's the best. 


Where the Woods Grow Wild by Nate Philbrick 



This makes a great read for all ages, so if you're looking for a perfect Christmas gift, this is it. It's heartwarming, imaginative, and funny. 

Rift in the Deep by Janelle Garrett



Guys. This is the epic fantasy of your dreams. It has warlocks, travel adventures, awesome world-building, and compelling characters. You don't want to miss this one. 

Malfunction Universe Bundle by J.E. Purrazzi 


You want cyperpunk? Because we've got it. J.E. Purrazzi writes the best there is, and she's currently selling two novellas and three novels for $3.99. These heart-pumping action stories will make you cry, cheer, and think. I highly recommend them. 

Two Lives Three Choices by K.L. + Pierce



A Christian sci-fi with an antivillain sibling antagonist? Yes, please! Pierce is currently selling her ebook for only 99 cents. If you love sibling characters and themes of faith through struggles, this one is for you. 

The Antiheroes Anthology



GUYS. You can currently get our anthology for a massive discount (both in paperback and ebook). This anthology has everything: mischievous shopkeepers, sci-fi vigilantes, and Aztec-inspired vampires. It's a wild ride that you don't want to miss. 

Beyond these specific recommendations, I highly encourage you to check out the bundle section of our sale. This is a great way to sample multiple PFW authors without breaking the bank.

And of course I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that many of us are selling signed (and discounted) paperbacks. Yup. That's a perfect Christmas present right there. 

You should also probably sign up for my newsletter, as I'll be sending out more tailored recommendations tomorrow. 

Have you read any PFW stories? Which ones do you recommend? Leave the titles below to help out your fellow bookworms!

Friday, November 15, 2019

5 Tips for Writing a Compelling Paragon Character

What's a paragon character? you may ask. There are a lot of fancy definition, but we all know I don't go for fancy things. Put simply, a paragon character is Captain America.

A paragon is a character who is a champion of a specific (or multiple specific) admirable trait(s). They are good characters, through and through. Maybe they stand for freedom and right-doing (Captain America) or justice (Black Panther) or kindness (Beth March). These character often, though not always, come with a special skill, such as Super Strength to go with their Super Heart (Superman).

They are fascinating characters that tend to be favorites of mine, though they are sadly lacking in speculative fiction. This lack of paragon character types is, in part, due to the fact that writers are afraid that such a character will be boring.

But guys. They do not have to be boring. They can be AMAZING. Take it from two authors who know: Beth Wangler and D.J. Edwardson, both masters of the paragon character type. 

5 Tips for Writing a Compelling Paragon Character

D.J. Edwardson


Today, we’re going to look at two types of paragon characters and how to write them well.

#1. The Superman: These are the characters who can do almost everything. They’re strong, courageous, they try to do the right thing. They don’t have any real weaknesses and, frankly, they’re a little harder to pull off.

To begin with, you’ll need to establish just how powerful they are. Have them save the day, and then save it again and again, each time in a bigger way.

Then comes The Problem, capital P, where you throw the cosmic sink at them. Give them problems so big, even they can’t solve them. This is where the character uncovers that extra wrinkle we didn’t know they had. They can still solve it (or a specialist character can—see below), but we have to believe, at least for a time, that they can’t. We’ll love them all the more when they do or, alternatively, when they learn that even they need help once in a while.

Bonus tip: Give ‘em a weakness. Without some kind of Kryptonite, it makes it hard to put your paragon in a tough situation.

#2. The Specialist: This character is really good at one thing. I’m talking extra-special-crazy good. Atticus Finch can’t run a four-minute mile, but you won’t find a more upstanding fellow in the courtroom. He’s a legend when it comes to setting a good example. The phrase “paragon of virtue” had to come from somewhere. Let it be your character.

Most paragons fall into this camp. To make these characters sing, do the opposite of tip #1. Give them chances for their unique trait to shine. Let them be the best at that over and over again. You could have them fail (or nearly fail), but there are plenty of other things for them to fail at (things they’re not good at). Let them fail at those. Try building them up in the reader’s mind to be the single best (fill in the blank) and see if they don’t end up finding a place in readers’ hearts because of it.

Bonus tip: Give ‘em a surprise second (or third) skill at some point. Make it unexpected. “What? You’re a master fencer and you’ve built up an immunity to iocane powder? Amazing!”

Gif of Vizzini from A Princess Bride saying "Inconceivable."


Beth Wangler


1. Who do you want to be? The reason I, and I think many others, love paragon characters is not just because they are nice: It’s because they inspire us. They show us what it could look like to live the way we want to live but aren’t able to yet. They light a fire in us and give us a goal to aim for.

With that in mind, there are two equally worthwhile ways to approach paragons. You can start with a good thing you wish you were better at, like loving your friends, following the rules, etc. Or you can start with whatever you view as your deepest failing—the thing you wish most in the world that you could change about yourself but can’t seem to change—and build a character out of that. Both characters may end up looking the same on the surface, but the way you approach writing them will be vastly different.

2. Give them personality. It’s always tempting to create a character around one central trait, and nowhere is this more tempting than with paragon characters. You’ll have a list of morals or virtues in mind, you’ll plop a face on top of that list—but your work is far from done. Take extra time building full personalities for your paragon characters. What are their quirks? Their regrets? What is their backstory? What are their pet peeves, and why?

3. Paragons aren’t perfect. Most of the time, your paragon character will still be human. That means that, however much they strive for goodness, justice, etc., they will still fall short. They will have blind spots where they don’t realize they aren’t living up to their ideals. They will have pitfalls that will get them again and again. Sometimes, their dedication to what’s “right” may even lead them to make the WRONG decision. Vices are often out-of-balance virtues.

If your paragon character is, say, a holy, perfect god, that still doesn’t give you an excuse for laziness. Perfection often might look very different from what your characters and readers would expect. You can play with this to create a truly powerful commentary. That will also keep your readers engaged and make them love your character even more. The unexpected “Hail Hydra” moment in End Game got one of the biggest reactions in the theater, after all.


Who are some of your favorite paragon characters? Have you ever written one before? Tell us all about them!

Related articles:
9 Ways to Keep Your Character From Being Boring
5 Tips for Creating Complex Characters

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!
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