Friday, May 18, 2018

New or Obscure Speculative Fiction Subgenres - A Guest Post by J.E. Purrazzi

Are you looking for some new genres to read? I hope so. This post is full of great book recommendations in new, cool genres and, by the time you're done reading it, you'll find yourself wanting to read all of them. You'll also find yourself wanting to read everything ever written by J.E. Purrazzi, the author of this post. Jill happens to know more about the written word than most people. Not only does she know how to write an amazing novel, but she knows an epic amount about genres, must-reads, and books in general. So take a deep breath, get a pen and notepad out, and dive into her brilliant list of subgenres and recommended reads: 

Genre is a tricky concept. It might not seem like it. I mean, A Science Fiction novel and a contemporary romance are pretty distinct from one another, right?

Yes and no. Genre is a tool for marketers to be able to best reach their audience, but often their reach is too broad.

For instance, “Science Fiction” could mean Star Wars, or it could mean “The Martian” by Andy Weir, or it could mean “The Host” by Stephenie Meyers.

That is why subgenres exist. For example, Star Wars and books like it, aren’t just Science Fiction, it’s a Space Fantasy.

But we know about subgenres? It’s not that strange of a concept. The problem is, unlike Genre, which tends to be really stable, subgenres are constantly shifting. New subgenres pop up every day. Books tend to bleed through one subgenre into another, or fit into more than one. And many subgenres have multiple titles, or are so wide that they almost need more subgenres. Worse yet, some subgenres fit under multiple genres. Like Dystopian, for instance, wich can fit under Science Fiction, or Fantasy, or even, at times, Realism.

Despite that, I still think it’s valuable, both as a reader and as a writer, to keep up to date with the changing subgenres and to always be on the hunt for more. The better you know what tones and tropes you enjoy, the more effectively you can find the books you love, or find an audience for the books you write.

In honor of that, and because I am a speculative fiction writer, I wanted to introduce you all to a few of my favorite new or obscure Speculative Fiction Subgenres.
New or Obscure Speculative Fiction Subgenres - A Guest Post by J.E. Purrazzi
Firstly, let me define “Speculative Fiction”, since not everyone knows what that is and how I am using the title here.

Speculative Fiction: A category of books that require imagination or speculation as opposed to “Realism” which assumes the constraints of the real world. Usually Science Fiction, Fantasy, and some Horror fall into these guidelines. Though books tend to fall on a spectrum and sometimes don’t fit entirely into one category or another.

And now, let me introduce you to some of my favorite new or obscure genres that fall into the Speculative Fiction category.

Animal Fantasy:
How many of you have read “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White as a child? Or who has read “The Animal Farm” by George Orwell in school?

These books belong to a subgenre of Fantasy known as “Animal Fantasy”. Usually used in children’s books and movies to great effect, it really is underestimated. There are not a lot of solid tropes associated with animal fantasy and it is quite a broad genre. Sometimes it takes place in an alternative version of the “real world” or it might be a totally different universe. Sometimes there is only one animal, sometimes it’s an entire cast of them. Sometimes you will see animals behaving as people. Other times the only difference from typical animals is that they speak.

But whether it is in a children’s book, or in a darker, adult tale, there are a lot of things that the presence of talking animals can bring to a story.

Nonsense: The “Nonsense” Subgenre is a collision between Speculative Fiction and comedy. Often taking form in some kind of Satire, the “Nonsense” subgenre derives humor from the out-of-place happenings in them, especially when those happenings are treated in a cavalier way. Comedic writings in general, will use an overtone of “Nonsense” to add a lighter tone to their books, even if they don’t fully fit into the category.

Nonsense books often use dry humor, a light tone, and take a very unique look at otherwise dark events. They are not just for humor alone. Many “nonsense” books use this style to face very dark themes in an endearing and comforting way.

Cyberpunk and Biopunk: The world has become familiar with Cyberpunk as of recently. It’s still relatively obscure but most of us would recognize what it looks like if we saw it. The reason why I include Biopunk in with it is because, even though we can argue that the very first “Science Fiction” book was a Biopunk book, Biopunk is just emerging and still often looks a lot like Cyberpunk, It often blends in with it, as writers test the new boundaries of the subgenre.

Cyberpunk and Biopunk both deal with the blending of humans and technology. Cyberpunk specifically with the concept of human colliding with machine. Biopunk with the effects technology has on the biological. Basically, expect a lot of really cool cyborgs and mutants. Both deal with the near future, often one that is dark or dystopian (thus the “punk” element), and usually on earth in an urban setting, though this is starting to change. Themes like “What is humanity?” “Technology is a double-edged sword” and “can we play God and get away with it?” are very common with dehumanization at the core of its storytelling.

Most people think “Blade Runner” almost exclusively when they think of Cyberpunk so the subgenre has very quickly stagnated. But as technology starts emerging that make these genres more and more a reality, these things are starting to change. And finally Cyberpunk is starting to reach out of the “Noir” setting and cliche “detective” storyline to take on new questions.

NobleBright Fantasy: NobleBright Fantasy is the answer to contentions caused by “GrimDark” Fantasy, a subgenre that emphasises darkness, death, and nihilism.

NobleBright, like LIT RPG and Biopunk, is in its infancy. Because of that, it's hard to nail down. Right now, it is more of a movement than anything. It’s an attempt to bring heroism, meaning, and maybe a bit of escapism, back into our fantasy books.

While GrimDark ignores the concept of good and evil and applies “morally gray” characters throughout the whole story, NobleBright clings to some modicum of right and wrong. While GrimDark denies us an escape into fantasy, filling the pages with rape, torture, murder and hopelessness, Noblebright tends to stay a bit more on the “light reading” side.

That isn’t to say that NobleBright doesn't use any of these tools. But what Noblebright does is present a clear picture of Good and Evil (even if it’s not a simplistic depiction) and gives a solid, positive message through the narrative. And often, because it’s calling back to older values, NobleBright uses classical “medieval” fantasy structure. Though it isn’t a rule for the genre.

Noblebright also tends to stay a bit on the “cleaner” side. While there might be some minor violence or some swearing, mostly this fantasy tends to stay pretty “light”. Probably the most important aspect of NobleBright, however, is the presence of a real “hero.”

Antiheroes don’t cut it in this genre.

Because of the themes and values, most Christian fantasy tends to fall in the lines of NobleBright fantasy. Most MG fantasy could be called NobleBright as well.
There are many more wonderful subgenres we could explore. As I said, they are always growing and changing. New subgenres are popping up daily as readers look for new ways to find their favorite books, and writers and publishers look for ways to provide them. What are some of your favorite subgenres? What tropes would you love to see turn into their own subgenres? And if you are a writer, where do your books fit? Or do they straddle a few?

I told you she knows a lot about writing. I'm curious: How many have you read of the books she listed here? I've read 26 and am feeling rather proud of myself. Leave a comment below and tell us which ones you're read! 

After you do that, be sure to follow J.E. Purrazzi everywhere to get more of her awesomeness: 

Also allow me to steer you towards her recommendations page on her website. She keeps a list of awesome indie published books there. It's organized by genre and it's glorious. She'll even make you a personalized list of book recommendations if you ask nicely. How cool is that? 

And that concludes our book nerd post for today. Be sure to follow Jill, subscribe to her site, read her books, and say hello!

Related articles: 
12 Fiction Genres You've Probably Never Heard Of
A List of Great Self-Published Books You Should Read (Part 1)
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!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

#ChatWithHannah Ep 11: On Inspiration vs Copying, Continuity Errors, POV, and More

Today we talk about being influenced by an author vs copying them, how to fix continuity errors during editing, when it’s okay to introduce a new POV to a story, and how to avoid info dumping during conversations. I also mention how I’ve sold my soul to Disney, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone.

BONUS info: I will be at Comic Con Revolution on May 19th and 20th. I’ll be with my fellow Constant Collectible writers. We’ll be at booth COS4, so stop by, say hello, get a signed copy of my stories, and talk to me about your favorite nerd things. I’d love to meet you!

Blog posts and videos referenced:

Stealing Another Writer's Work vs Being Inspired by It
#ChatWithIndieAuthor: Aria E. Maher

Psychological horror story recommendations:
The next #ChatWithHannah video is coming out on June 20th, so leave a question below or use the hashtag on social media to get answers.

The #ChatWithIndieAuthor interview with Rae Elliott releases on May 30th, so leave questions for her below! Just make sure you mention that they’re for her and not me. In the meantime, check out her website here.

Like this video and want to support my writing efforts? Subscribe to my channel or buy my short stories. Or both! 

Related articles: 
#ChatWithHannah Episode 4: NaNoWriMo Tips, Favorite Movies, and Overcoming Writer's Block

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!

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Don’t Write Every Day: 9 Ways to Rest and Rejuvenate - A Guest Post by Beth Wangler

This post is brought to you by my blog, Beth Wangler, and irony. Why irony, you ask? Well, Beth's post is all about the importance of resting and rejuvenating. She is kindly and epically guest posting today because I am off doing the exact opposite of resting: studying for finals, working, and generally being a ball of stress wrapped in tiredness. HOWEVER, this post did help me calm down a lot, so I'm beyond pleased to be able to share it with you. Kick back, relax, and soak in indie author Beth Wangler's wise and entertaining advice: 

If you’ve spent more than two minutes on the writer side of the internet, you’ve probably come across this advice from such masters as Ray Bradbury and Stephen King: “Write every day.” We writers tend to parrot this. These words of advice pass from person to person, gaining weight with repetition.

At this point, if someone made a 10 Commandments for writers, this would probably be at the very top.

I agree with the heart of this writing advice. The surest way to at anything is practice. Also, if you don’t write, you’ll never finish your WIP (and by you, I mean myself).

We should take this rule by its heart, not by the letter. In the indie world, where most of us work one or more day jobs in addition to writing, taking this advice as a law is dangerous. It leads to the two most common kinds of posts I see on Twitter: the “I’m terrible for not reaching my word count and don’t deserve to call myself a writer” post, or the “I’ve reached near-zombie status from habitually sleep deprivation, but why am I so tired and disheartened?” post.

If we keep up at this pace, we’re in danger of writing ourselves into an early grave. Just like the need for food, water, and air, the need for rest is built into who we are as humans. Pretending otherwise is unhealthy. Death by overwork may be rare, but overwork has other negative health consequences. It also saps our creative energy and robs us of our joy in our stories.

In her recent article on keeping deadlines, Hannah mentioned the importance of taking breaks for productivity. There are different kinds of breaks with different levels of refreshment. Binge watching entire shows, playing Candy Crush, or scrolling through Pinterest may be the easiest break activity, but I often find them less refreshing than I expected. Sometimes I’m more drained after these mindless “rests” than I was before.

To help make your rest as restful as possible, I’ve come up with nine ways to really rest and rejuvenate when you take a break from writing.
Don’t Write Every Day: 9 Ways to Rest and Rejuvenate
1. Read Books

I’m starting easy. If you’re a writer, chances are I don’t have to convince you to read. Read a silly book just for fun. Read a classic and bask in the prose. Read a non-fiction book on a topic you find fascinating. Escape into another world for a while.

Even as reading refreshes you, it will also help you be a better writer. You’ll learn what to do and what to avoid. Read books in your preferred genre, but also branch out. Try new things. Reading widely will help you better understand the world and the many kinds of people in it.

2. Visit Local Nature

Maybe being outside comes naturally for you. I usually get caught up with computer screens and desks and forget to see the sun most of the time. This is a pity, because few things are as refreshing as going somewhere where nature surrounds you, taking a deep breath, and really looking at the world.

Local parks, plant nurseries, hiking trails, beaches, mountains, zoos, and observatories are great places for this. Go to familiar and new places. Have a picnic. Go for a walk. Take a hike. Surf or scuba dive.

The latter of these also count as:

3. Exercise

I’m not particularly fond of this one myself, but exercise is healthy. Moving our bodies helps them function better. Bodies functioning better keeps us feeling better. Feeling better keeps us happier. Happier writers write more.

Also, physical activities can be a breath of fresh air to a cluttered mind.

I’m far from an expert on this one, so I’m just going to brainstorm. You can: Go to the gym, train for a marathon, walk around the block, start or continue playing a sport, hike, swim, do yoga, or...yeah, I’m out of ideas, except following Pooh’s example. If you have more ideas, let us know in the comments!

4. Laugh

Laughter is the best medicine, as they say. One simple way to refresh yourself is to take a break from taking things seriously. Look up corny jokes or bad (by which I mean, awesome) puns. Watch that movie that always has you rolling on the floor. Call up that friend who puts a smile on your face.

I have a Pinterest board of humor, creatively titled “For When I Need to Laugh.” My rule for the board is that I only pin things if they made me literally laugh out loud the first time I saw them. This can be a more refreshing use for Pinterest.

5. Make a Spectacularly Delicious Meal

In the rush of life, it’s easy to grab whatever’s handy. Food is a necessity, and so we may end up treating it as just another box to tick. There’s something very therapeutic about slowing down enough to mix your ingredients together with care into a truly yummy masterpiece. Baking also counts.

6. Community Service

Doing something big or small for others may seem like work, but you might find it very restorative. It takes your mind out of the cares of your own world, gives you a tangible way to make an immediate impact on others, broadens your compassion, and opens your eyes to unexpected blessings. Schools, shelters, libraries, national parks, museums, and more are good places to start.

7. Enjoy Non-Writing Creative Things

Experience someone else’s creativity. Visit an art gallery or museum. Attend a dance recital or orchestral performance at your local theater. Eat at the restaurant of an acclaimed chef near you.

You can also invest in your own neglected hobbies. You know what these are better than I do. Don’t let that love die because you are chained to your keyboard or notebook.

8. Talk to Humans

I know, most of us are introverts. I am one, myself.

The thing is, we still need human interaction. Desperately. Humans are social creatures. For every introvert I’ve met, there’s been a consensus that meaningless interactions are draining, but rich and deep interactions are rejuvenating.

Yeah, it’s hard sometimes. But don’t be like Mr. Darcy. Practice anyways. Good conversation is a skill that can be learned, you just have to be willing to:

9. Try Something New (and Scary)

This can be as simple as drinking a new tea or as big as travelling to a new country. Doing something new gives you more experience (which makes you a better writer), fills you with a sense of accomplishment, and empowers you to conquer fears.

So go forth and rest. Your story will still be there when you come back. Your word count is not your measure of value. You are important and you are an author regardless of what anyone else does. You have my permission to not write every day.

What things do you find truly refreshing?

Beth Wangler is one of my favorite people. After reading this post, I bet she's now one of your favorite people, too. Not only is she a fellow indie author and Phoenix Fiction Writer, but she also happens to have one of the most charming, wholesome social media presences in existence. You'll want to follow her: 

Website | Novella | PFW Page | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram 

After you follow her, be sure to leave a comment below! And do yourself a favor and follow tip 1 by reading The Weavers' Blessings. It's an amazing, charming, magical fairy tale novella that is perfect for relaxing and rejuvenating. 

Have writing, reading, or writer's life questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

Related article:
7 Tips for Balancing Your Writing with the Rest of Life
9 Tips for Dealing With Writer's Burnout

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

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

Friday, May 4, 2018

6 Tips for Writing Fantastic, Original Fairytale Retellings - A Guest Post by Grace

Today is one of the greatest days of 2018 for two reasons:

1) It is May the 4th, so we can get our Star Wars pride on. Not that I don't always do that, but it's nice to have a day where we're all unified by our love for space ships and Wookies and bounty-hunters-who-should-never-have-died-in-movie-number-3. Ahem. Sorry. Still bitter about that last one.

2) Today brings us a guest post by Grace from Bard on Pilgrimage. And when I say "us" I really mean you because I've already had the privilege of reading, laughing over, and being provoked to thought by this post. Grace is an epic writer, great blogger, and huge nerd. She has kindly volunteered to be the first of three people who have stepped up to fill in for me during these next three weeks as I battle Microbiology finals. So let's hear some loud, enthusiastic, pod-racing-from-the-Phantom-Menace-style cheering to welcome her!

Originality is overrated.

Now before you throw me into the sarlacc pit, hear me out. Depending what source you read, there are only a limited number of plots out there—1, 7, 9, 20, 36. One glance at your personal library should tell you there’s going to be some recycling going on. But you don’t usually see it lauded until you come to the fairy-tale retellings. (Other stories get retold too, as soon as they enter public domain—that’s how we got zombies invading Pemberley—but let’s stick to the not-quite-as-macabre side of things.)

So maybe you struggle with compelling plot structure. Maybe villains aren’t your strong suit (*swallows guiltily*). Or maybe you just want a quick side project, and a fairy tale sounds like fun. Retellings let you blatantly rip off an existing story, right? Nothing could be easier!

Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong.

Fortunately for you, you have this post to put you on the path to the Light Side—I mean, help you start your fairy-tale retelling.

6 Tips for Writing Fantastic, Original Fairytale Retellings

1. Do read the original. The beginning is the very best place to start. Know your material. This is not an option. There are plenty of great sites out there that provide fairy tales for free—as well as any variants from other cultures. Read the variants too! They may have some interesting twists that your readers won’t be expecting. Read, take notes, analyze what’s going on. The more you can find the roots of what’s going on, the easier it will be to swap up things like setting or character roles, because you won’t lose sight of the meaning. More on that later.

2. Don’t follow the Disney version verbatim. Your readers will know you did not do your homework. Gaston may be a good foil to the Beast, and Rapunzel’s healing hair was pretty handy, but unless you have a fresh reason for incorporating that detail, it might just be an easy way out. We want to read your story. If you look to Disney for inspiration, study their strategy of putting an original spin on old fairytales, but don't use them as source material.

Or fairy tale retellings, either.

Although . . .

3. Do feel free not to feel free. Take as many or as few liberties and twists as you want. If you want Snow White to be a scientist in an asteroid mining facility, go ahead. If you want her to be a medieval fantasy princess, go ahead. The little mermaid can be a mermaid or an android; Beauty can be a medic or a merchant’s daughter; mirrors can be people, dwarves can be cats, fairy godmothers can be inanimate objects or plot developments or actual fairies. Do steampunk, do contemporary, do culture- or gender-swaps. Play with viewpoints, motivations, character roles—or don’t. It’s up to you. As long as the story stays true to its most important roots (again, more on that later), the branches and leaves are all yours. And on that note . . .

4. Don’t compare your ideas to others’. Yes, the Lunar Chronicles are amazing. Yes, Gail Carson Levine has fairy dust in her fingers. Yes, Kyle Robert Schultz is the inimitable overlord of the Afterverse (and really should be the one writing this post, who am I kidding here). But that’s a white rabbit hole you don’t want to fall down. No one else can envision your story just like you want it. You may love their voice, you may admire their sense of humor, you may die in envy of their plot twists multiple times a day—but they didn’t have your idea. You did. It’s your messy, adorable, incorrigible little brainchild, and the foster system doesn’t accept brainchildren. You get to bring it up and help it grow and mature, and eventually you can show it off to the rest of us like the proud parent you are. If you want to read this story, then you need to write it.

5. Don’t forget to develop your characters. This is huge. The original fairy tales use a whole ton of archetypes, a word which here means “flat characters with one defining characteristic that makes them very hard to use in today’s literary world without modification.” Gentle, pure maidens and swashbuckling princes (or plucky peasant lads) may be all well and good in Andrew Lang and the brothers Grimm, but your retelling faces a different market. Readers today reasonably expect certain things from their stories, including round, dynamic characters. So consider things like motivations, flaws, and arcs carefully. This is one key way your retelling can engage an audience and set itself apart from all the other versions out there.

And yet where it really matters, retellings are actually all the same:

6. Do keep the original theme (at least one, though there may be more). That’s the real reason we retell fairy tales. The revolting Beast and gentle Beauty are classic characters, but the chord that resonates with us is the importance of seeing past appearances. A formidable tower and yards of golden hair may be iconic images, but the delicate balance between protection and isolation soars beyond them. And of course, the great triumphant theme of good conquering evil rings out over all. No matter how dark things get, no matter how many stars fall from the sky, the tales as old as time will never stop shining—and your retelling can perpetuate the light of that ever-new hope.

...Okay, that’s quite enough forced Star Wars references for one post.

Good luck with your retellings, and May the Fourth be with you all!

The force is strong with Grace, isn't it? If you want more of her amazing writing, head on over to her blog. But not before leaving a comment below and telling us either:

A) Your own fairytale retelling tips

B) Your favorite retold novels

C) The best Star Wars joke you can think of

Or all three, honestly. No go forth! Be one with the 4th, for the 4th is with you.

Have writing, reading, or writer's life questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

Related articles:
9 Different Descriptive Settings to Use In Your Fantasy Novel (Without Using Forests)
9 Epic, Underused Mythical Animals for Your Fantasy Novel

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

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

Friday, April 27, 2018

Why Writers Need Deadlines (And How to Set Them Up)

Note: If this post seems familiar, it's because it's an expansion of a newsletter I sent out a while ago. Cheating? Maybe. But I spent about 30 minutes yesterday writing a blog post only to realize I'd already written on one the exact same topic over a year ago (this one, in case you care). So I'm re-purposing a newsletter article to save my time and sanity. Sue me. 

As a creative, got-no-strings-on-me, hippy type of person, deadlines weren’t really something I’d ever considered setting on purpose. They just…happened. I have a weekly deadline for my blog posts. A monthly deadline for my Youtube channel. Deadlines for WriteOnCon work. I didn’t notice I’d set them up until they were entrenched in my brain. By the time I finally took notice of them, I realized: These deadline things are actually really helpful.

So I decided to try it for my daily writing life.

I set a deadline for my completion of The Stump of the Terebinth Tree, a project that I couldn’t ever seem to complete. And you know what? I finished it two days before my deadline. I set a deadline for Colors of Fear and I actually finished it on time rather than completing it two days before the set release date (because yes, that’s the type of thing I do….It’s hard being me).

In short, deadlines have been amazing for me. I think they'd help you, too. Not convinced? Here are 4 reasons you should set deadlines:
Why Writers Need Deadlines (And How to Set Them Up)
1. It increases productivity. I know what you're thinking. "But Hannah. I'm already fairly productive." So? Just because something works doesn't mean it can't be improved. Deadlines allow you to write consistently. Even if you don't feel "inspired." Even if you're sick. Before you know it, you'll be able to write whenever you want. All those stories you never thought you'd never get around to? Well...Honestly, you'll probably never be able to get to all of them. But at least you'll be able to complete more of them than before. How cool is that?

2. It leads to some great ideas. "But forcing myself to write means that my writing is forced and stilted and just no good," you whine. Shush. Just....Shush. When you have to write by a deadline you're force to just put anything on the page. Anything. This somewhat panicked, just-get-something-down state leads to less inhibition. You write down things that you generally wouldn't allow yourself to. Sometimes these ideas suck. Which is totally fine because that's what editing is for. But other times? You spit out crazy cool ideas that you'd never have thought possible before. It's awesome.

3. It prepares you for the publishing industry. When you traditionally publish, publishers and agents and editors want you to stay on the shelves. They want you to stay relevant. To do that, they need you to keep cranking out books. Yep. That's how traditional publishing works. Sure, you don't have to follow those rules, but your second publishing will be a lot harder if you don't. And if you indie publish? You don't absolutely need to crank a new book out every 18 months (which is standard for traditionally published authors), but you do need to continue to write something in order to keep eyes on you. That means you'll be having to write newsletters, blog posts, short stories, etc on a fairly regular basis. Yep. Publication is hard. Start training for it now so you can go all Rocky Balboa on the publishing world when your time comes:
It has just occurred to me that a decent portion of
my followers probably haven't seen this movie. Now I'm sad.
Have I convinced you to give deadlines a shot? I hope so. Let's move on and talk about game plans:

1. Be realistic. But also harsh. You need your deadlines to take everything into account: How much time you have, how fast of a writer you are, what your day job is like, etc. If you get sick a lot, know that your kids are starting soccer next month, or have a stressful transition going on at work, add that into the equation. Don’t overburden yourself. But then again…do put yourself under some pressure. You want your goal to be attainable, but also rigorous enough to force yourself into being structured about your writing process.

2. Don't set too many deadlines. Let's say you have three writing projects going. Choose the most important and set a hard deadline for that one. Under no circumstances are you do move this one (Unless the zombie apocalypse starts or something equally horrendous happens, in which case: Dude. You do you. Take care of yourself.) What about the other two? You're probably better off setting soft deadlines or no deadlines at all. Deadlines can be hard to balance, so unless you have experience with them and know that you're good at them, start out with only one or two. Do you hear me? Don't over do it.

3. Schedule your writing time. Yep. I’m harping on this again. Schedule a time to write each day/every other day/week/whatever-you-can-pull-off and stick with it. This is really, really important.

4. Keep track. Set a goal and then figure out what you have to do each day to meet it. How many words do you have to write? How much time do you have to carve out? Do the math and then stick to the numbers. Yeah, numbers. We're writer, but we can't avoid numbers completely. That'd be nice, though, wouldn't it?

5. Reward yourself. Every day that you stay on track, give yourself a little treat. Me? When I have a deadline to meet, I choose to allow myself to watch Netflix a bit each night if I write that day. Yes, that means I don't get to watch anything if I don't write, so it is also a bit of a punishment. But it works.

6. Give yourself breaks. What? Isn't this counter to everything I just said? Kind of. But not really. While deadlines are good, they can also be stressful if you had to set up something super rigorous, if you're not used to working by deadlines, or if you're doing them wrong. Give yourself days where you don't write at all. Give yourself the wiggle room to push your soft deadlines back a few weeks. And absolutely don't feel like you always need to have deadlines. It's healthy to have stretches of time when you have zero.

As scary and non-creative as deadlines seem, they are very important if you want to make healthy progress in your writing life. So here’s my challenge to you: Pick a writing project. Give it a deadline. Even if it’s just: "I’ll complete three chapters this week." Now stick to it.

Go on. Confront the problem. Fight! Win! And get in touch with me when you complete it. I’d love to hear how it goes.

Have writing, reading, or writer's life questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

9 Tips for Dealing With Writer's Burnout

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

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Ep 8 of #ChatWithIndieAuthor: Daley Downing

Daley Downing writes fantasy and is the author of The Order of the Twelve Tribes. In this video she discusses balancing being a writer and a mother, using Celtic Christian fairytales as story inspiration, the importance of writing autistic characters (and how to do it well), and how to keep track of all everything in a story. 

Remember: You can listen to this chat on iTunes!

Are you following Daley Downing online? If not, you are doing life wrong. Now go ahead and clean yourself up and follow her here:





When is the next #ChatWithIndieAuthor episode? Superb question, friend! Wednesday May 30th will bring us a chat with speculative fiction author Rae Elliott. Have questions for her? Leave a comment below or on social media using the hashtag! In the meantime, check out her website here.

Like this video and want to support my writing efforts? Subscribe to my channel or buy my short stories. Or all three!

Have writing, reading, or writer's life questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

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

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

12 Unusual, Frightening Mythical Monsters to Use in Your Fantasy Novel

Vamires. Minotaurs. Werewolves. Charybdis (those are the giant whirl-pool monsters you see in every sea adventure...yep. Bet you didn't know it had a name, but it does). Giant serpents. Ogers. These are just a few of the mythical monsters that are commonly used in fiction. They're cool, right?

Well, I know some cooler ones. *puts on hipster glasses* Allow me to introduce you to 12 mythical monsters that you've probably never heard of.
12 Unusual, Frightening Mythical Monsters to Use in Your Fantasy Novel

1. Nuckelavee

Image source: Deimos-Remus

This looks like something from Attack on Titan, doesn't it? From Scottish mythology, this is a skinless horse and rider that are apparently attached to each other. It is red as fire, its hands drag on the ground, and the breath from the horse's mouth causes death and disease. It is massive and, though it roams land, it can also live in the sea. Thankfully, it doesn't like fresh water, so if you want to be safe from it, go live on a lake. But that doesn't solve the issue of it killing all of your crops with its breath, does it?

2. Afanc

Image source: Afanc

A Welsh lake monster that basically looks like a demonic platypus...which is saying something because platypuses already look vaguely disturbing. Technically, it's a cross between a giant crocodile and a giant beaver. It kills people who enter its waters and is said to cause flooding by thrashing its tail around. I don't think it generally leaves the water, but if it does? No way am I living anywhere near a Welsh lake.

3. Mongolian Death Worm

Image Source: PyroHelfier
Literally exactly what it sounds like. It's a giant worm rumored to live in the Gobi desert. It resides beneath the sand, is thick like a sausage and 2 to 5 feet long. Touching it results in death, but being near it is also probably a terrible idea because it spews acid, poisonous gas, and possibly electricity. It often preys on camels and its acid can corrode metal. Suddenly snakes seems a lot less scary.

4. Lou Carcolh

Image Source: Feig-Art

Is this a giant, serpent-like snail? Yes. Is his name Lou? Yes. Because why not? A snail with a serpent-like body, it uses its long tentacles to eat people whole. And when I say "long," I mean that these tentacles can stretch for miles. Yes. Miles. In case you're wondering, this creature is from French mythology. What is it with the French and their snails?

5. Ijiraq

Image Source: Deimos-Remus

A half-man half-caribou monster from Inuit mythology. They are fast, strong, cause ground tremors, and kidnap people. Ijiraq are also very elusive: You only ever see them out of the corner of your eye and they are capable of shapeshifting. This is a personal favorite of mine.

6. Al-mi’raj

Image Source: Unita-N

Demonic bunnies! Yep. A large rabbit from Arabic poetry (what kind of poetry features a demonic bunny??), the Al-mi'raj has a 2-foot, black horn that it uses to skewer people. It then eats these people because it has a huge appetite.

7. Kamaitachi

Image Source: Flight Rising Wiki

Because the Al-mi’raj brought up the topic of rodents that shouldn’t be terrifying, but are: Let’s talk about the Kamaitachi. Sometimes called "sickle weasels," these monsters hail from Japan. Their claws are long and sharp like sickles, they have spiny fur, and ride on dust devils. They attack in threes: The first Kamaitachi cuts off a person’s legs, the other then cuts the person a bajillion times, and the third heals the person with magical salve. That last part makes them slightly less monstrous at first glance, but also begs the question: Why attack people in the first place? I’m not sure. Maybe they’re just sadists.

8. Hodag

Image Source: Kaijuverse

A fearsome monster hailing from…. *drum roll* Wisconsin. Because literally nothing happens in Wisconsin, so they decided to make up a monster so they could talk about something other than cheese. It has short legs, giant claws, a row of spears down its back and along its tail, and a weird, grinning, froggish face. Covered in fur, it smells like buzzard meat and is about 2 feet tall and 7 feet long. And it eats bulldogs…but only on Sundays. Obviously.

9. Yara-ma-yha-who

Image Source: Villains Wiki

A legendary vampire-like creature, the Yara-ma-yha-who (which is surprisingly fun to say, by the way) is a frog-like humanoid with red fur and no teeth. It hangs from trees and drops on people…apparently Tigger knows what’s up. They suck their victim’s blood using the suckers on their hands and feet, eat the person, then take a nap. This monster lives in Australia along with all the other disturbing animals that live in Australia.

10. Ushi-oni

Image Source: Loneanimator
An "ox-demon" from Japan, the ushi-oni has the head of an ox and the body of a spider/crab/some similarly creepy animal. It lives in the sea and attacks fishermen. This thing looks like the perfect steed for a demon lord.

11. Mothman

Image Source: Chris Scalf
Because moths weren’t already scary enough. A West Viriginian folklore, the mothman is…well…a man-sized creature with moth-like wings and red, "bicycle reflector" eyes. I just threw this in to remind you: Moths are creepy and would make great monsters. Use them in your stories.

12. Inkanyamba

Image Source: Jayar-Jonnz
A giant serpent (sometimes described as a giant eel) with a head like a horse, this monstrosity comes from South African folklore. It is said to be an aquatic animal, but also has wings and sometimes flies. According to some, there may also be electricity involved. Not that it really matters. A flying eel is frightening with or without electric shock.

If you're looking for more mythical animals, click here. This list includes both amazing creatures and terrible monsters. Feel free to use any of them or mix and match ideas and come up with your own monster. But be sure to leave a comment below and tell me all about it!

What is your favorite mythical monster?

Related articles:
9 Epic, Underused Mythical Animals for Your Fantasy Novel
9 Different Descriptive Settings to Use In Your Fantasy Novel (Without Using Forests)

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!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

#ChatWithHannah Ep 10: On Editing, Cover Design, Avoiding Preachiness, and More

Today we talk about how to make the editing process less gruesome, ways to keep your story from being preachy, and tips for keeping track of all the details in world development. I also discuss my cover design process and Delilah Dirk, a graphic novel that I’d love to see converted into a movie at some point.

AND, bonus: I reveal the cover for Flames of Courage, the second short story in the Terebinth Tree Chronicles. If you want to stay updated on its publication, follow me here:




And don’t forget to read Colors of Fear in preparation for Flames of Courage!

Okay. On with the video:

Space Opera book recommendations:

Scout’s Progress by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Dark Disciple by Christie Golden
Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover

The next #ChatWithHannah video is coming out on May 16th, so leave a question below or use the hashtag on social media to get answers.

The #ChatWithIndieAuthor interview with Daley Downing comes out on April 25th, so leave questions for her below! Just make sure you mention that they’re for her and not me. In the meantime, check out her blog here.

Like this video and want to support my writing efforts? Subscribe to my channel or buy my short stories. Or both!

Related articles:
#ChatWithHannah Episode 4: NaNoWriMo Tips, Favorite Movies, and Overcoming Writer's Block
#ChatWithHannah Ep 9: On Writing About Tough Topics, The Batman Mentality, and More
#ChatWithHannah Episode 5: Writing grief-stricken characters and non-preachy Christian fiction

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, April 13, 2018

5 Problems Within the Own Voices Campaign (And How to Fix Them)

Own voices stories. What does that mean? In short, it's a term used to describe when people write stories that feature characters who share the same identity as the writer. For example: A Syrian refugee writing a story about Syrian refugees. A disabled author writing a disabled main character. A hispanic author writing a hispanic character. A Sikh author writing a character of the Sikh religion.

It is a concept meant to give an accurate voice to underrepresented groups. With so many groups of people being misrepresented or not represented at all, the Own Voices campaign is designed to encourage and boost authors who want to share stories closely connected to their identities.

Sounds awesome, right?

It is.


Yes. There's a "however." I wish there wasn't, but there is.

The Own Voices campaign has sprouted some problematic concepts that are harmful to the writing community and the underrepresented groups it was designed to promote. These issues include gatekeeping, unintentional stunting of creativity and compassion, and the unfortunate propagation of "othering."
5 Problems Within the Own Voices Campaign (And How to Fix Them)
Now, before we begin I'd also like to point out that the issues mentioned below were not originally built into Own Voices. It began as a cool hashtag that would allow readers to find books by authors who write powerful, representative Own Voice stories. Which is great. I'm not criticizing this idea. In fact, I completely support it. This post is simply taking issue with the way that it's gone in a tail-spin since then.

Got it? Okay. Here we go:

1. It shuts down representation. This realization hit me full-force during an online writing conference. A physically-abled author asked a panel of "diversity" authors if they thought it was okay for her to write a main character who is disabled, or if she should just stick to what she "knows." As somebody with Lyme disease who's constantly frustrated by the lack of disabled main characters in fiction, I placed my cup of tea down and leaned forward, excited that a fellow author was wanting to come alongside me and help fix this problem. And then the panelists spoke with resounding, "No." Do not write a disabled character if you are not disabled. This was not the first (nor was it the last) time I'd heard this, but it still broke my heart. Here was a writer who wanted to help represent an underrepresented group and she was being told by industry authorities that she shouldn't.

Readers wonder why we have so few books that showcase marginalized people. This is one of the reasons. Writers are being told to "stay in their lane." To only write stories and characters that they know about from first-hand experience (because apparently having family, friends, and coworkers and traveling and reading and thinking for oneself aren't good enough anymore). This shuts down the opportunity to have good conversations, produce good stories, and widen the pool of books that represent the world and all of the people that live in it. Why has this shutting down taken place? Well, partly because...

2. It assumes that writers are not capable of writing a story about somebody who is different from themselves. So often I see non Own Voices authors told not to write certain characters or stories. After all, if you aren't of a specific underrepresented group, you cannot possibly have the level of understanding or skill required to write about them well. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. While we live in a culture that tries to tell us that some groups are so different from us that we cannot possibly understand them, this is simply untrue. We are all human beings and we can come alongside each other and learn from one another.

For example: What's it like to be a refugee? I am not a refugee so I will never understand what that's like on the same level that an actual refugee can. HOWEVER, I can ask questions of people who are willing to help me understand. I can read books. I can do my research. Just like you, as an abled person, can do the same when it comes to writing a disabled character. No, the story won't be the same as an Own Voices story, but that's okay. It doesn't have to be. It just has to be good. All it takes is humility, time, kindness, and hard work....All skills that every writers would benefit from no matter what story we're attempting to write.

As writers, we owe it to ourselves and our readers to work hard to understand our characters and stories. And, beyond that, we need to work hard to cultivate our writing skills so that we can write our characters well. To assume that writers are not capable of doing this is nonsensical and narrow minded.

3. It is policing who can write what stories. You're Indian and you're not writing a story about an Indian character? You must not care about representation. You're a Muslim writing an Own Voices story, but one of the side characters is Christian? Take that character out because clearly you aren't an authority on Christianity. You're a neurotypical author writing a character with Asperger syndrome? You can't do that because you don't have Asperger's.

I've seen so many of these types of comments and, honestly, all of them are absurd. What gives us the right to decide who should and shouldn't write what type of story? Nobody is obligated to write Own Voices. And no non Own Voices author is obligated to stay way from certain characters or plots. We're writers. We write stories. That's it.

4. It needs to expand to deal with a larger problem: Publishers. I've heard this mentioned a lot: non Own Voices shouldn't attempt to write about underrepresented groups because, if they get published, they are taking that publication opportunity away from an Own Voices writers.  This is operating out of the assumption that publishers only publish a specific number of "diverse" stories. Sadly, this is an accurate assumption. However, the solution is a poor one. Because few diverse books are published, writers should write less diverse books...? What?
Representation, whether it takes the form of Own Voice or non Own Voice authors, is important. We cannot cater to publishing houses and their propensity to overlook entire groups of people when publishing fiction. Instead, we as writers need to be telling stories that are reflective of the real world: Stories about characters of all identities. And we as readers need to be actively requesting that publishers do a better job of publishing said stories.

5. It doesn't understand that all voices and perspectives are different. There's this weird assumption that, because you belong to a certain group, you must be an authority on all things within this group. Errrr. What? This puts an enormous and unwarranted amount of pressure on the shoulders of Own Voices authors. Why? Because everyone has different experiences. For instance, my experience with Lyme disease is different from both of my parents and my younger brother. Just because you belong to a group of people doesn't mean that you all think the same way, act the same way, or write the same way. Yes, you'll share similar experiences, but not identical. And you definitely won't write about it from an identical angle. Nor should you be expected to.

With this being the case, why block non Own Voices authors from writing about underrepresented groups? Yeah, it'll be different from an Own Voices story. But that's okay. Every single story has a different voice, style, and perspective. That's what makes writing so amazing.

I know that we writers can do better than this. Own Voices stories are an awesome idea and the campaign is one that has a lot of potential. Let's not ruin it by pitting writers against each other.

Okay. I think we're done here.

Now let's open up the comment section! What are your favorite and least favorite things about the Own Voices campaign? How do you think it can be improved? What are some of your favorite Own Voices stories?

As always, please leave any and all thoughts below. Just be respectful, thoughtful, and kind. I look forward to hearing from you!

Have writing, reading, or writer's life questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

Related articles:
9 Tips for Writing Physically Disabled Characters in Fantasy
"Write What You Know:" What This Advice Means And How to Apply it
4 Fundamental Errors in the Diverse Books Campaign (And How to Fix Them)

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

Friday, April 6, 2018

10 Manga and Comic Books Worth Reading (Part 2)

I'm short on time and I think that the title of this post is fairly self-explanatory, so let's jump right in:

This is a post about comic books and manga that I like and think you may, too. It's a continuation of Part 1, a list you can check out here. Manga and comics are incredibly helpful when it comes to learning new styles of writing, pacing, symbolism, and plot, thus this blog post series.
10 Manga and Comic Books Worth Reading (Part 2)
Two quick notes:

1) Each book cover can be clicked on. It will deliver you straight to the book's Amazon page. Yep. I'm so helpful, aren't I?

2) If you see a manga you like and decide to read it, remember: You open them "backwards." This is important. You don't want to open it the wrong way and have the end spoiled for you.

Got it? Okay. Let's talk about comics and manga. 

1. Tom King's I Am Gotham, Vol 1 

Because of course this post has to start off with a Batman comic. This is one of my absolute favorite Batman comics. It's a beautiful look at bravery and fear and healing and continuing to do the right thing even when it doesn't seem to matter. Stumbled across this epic quote:

"Everyone gets scared. But remember, all that means is everyone gets the opportunity to fight that fear. Everyone gets the chance to be brave."

I read this right after publishing Colors of Fear, a story that I was nervous about publishing for reasons that can be found here. So thank you, Bats, for the encouragement. This comic is absolutely amazing and worth a read. 

2. Hiromu Arakawa's Silver Spoon, Vol 1

This is a hilarious, heartwarming story of a student who, suffering from academic burnout, decides to go to what he assumes is the easiest high school he can. But he soon finds that agricultural school is much harder than expected and starts questioning his lack of motivation when faced by classmates who all have goals and plans for their futures. The anime is charming and the manga is just as much so. It will put a smile on your face and important questions in your head. 

3. Charles Soule's Darth Vader, Vol 1

Picking up right after Revenge of the Sith, this comic follows the story of Darth Vader as he sets out to build his red lightsaber and kill the remaining Jedi. It is spectacular and heart-wrenching and adds some amazing depth to an already incredibly well developed character. As a huge Darth Vader fan, this series is one of my favorites.

4. Jun Mochizuki's The Case Study of Vanitas, Vol 1

Jun Mochizuki is an amazing artist and storyteller. I loved her PandoraHearts series and I love this series, too. It's steampunk, it's vampires, it's magic and curses and Paris and friendship and crazy plot twists. I can't decide what's best: The characters, the plot, or the insanely beautiful artwork.

5. Ed Brubaker's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Vol 1

Guys. GUYS. I LOVE Captain America and the Winter Soldier and this series does such a beautiful job with this storyline. It does such justice to Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes' characters and captures the pain, struggle, and undying friendship that comes with the existence of the Winter Soldier.  It is hands down the best Captain America comic I've read to date. You need to read it. 

6. Ryohgo Narita's Baccano!, Vol 1

Italian mobster manga set in NYC during prohibition? With supernatural elements? Yes, it is exactly as fun as it sounds. In classic Japanese graphic novel style, it takes a supposedly surface-level concept (mafia mixed with the supernatural) and adds in some really neat themes (the importance of family and loyalty).

7. Matt Kindt's Divinity

This comic book is very, very confusing. I need to lead with that piece of information. It has a lot of layers and doesn't make complete sense until the end (and even then you have to flip back to piece things together). That being said, it's a fascinating, unorthodox comic (leave it to Valiant comics to publish unique comics) with beautiful artwork. It tells the tragic story of a cosmonaut who gains divine powers at great personal cost. Kind of. Like I said, it's confusing. I personally like Divinity II better, but I'll talk about that in Part 3 of this series.

8. Akane Shimizu's Cell's At Work!, Vol 1

This manga makes my science major heart incredibly happy. The main character of this series is a red blood cell who goes on adventures in the human immune system. She befriends a warrior white blood  cell who protects their home from invading infections, watches platelet construction workers block up holes in walls, survives a histamine attack, and more. This is an adorable and genius series that not only helps with learning about human anatomy and the immune system, but is also downright hilarious (in a nerdy kind of way).

9. Tony Cliff's Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant 

Yes, I know this is technically a graphic novel and not a comic book. Don't start with me. Delilah Dirk is an adventurous, 19th century lady who travels around the world seeing sights and causing trouble. The characters are endearing, the plot is fun, and the dialogue is great.

10. Higasa Akai's The Royal Tutor, Vol 1

I've read several volumes of this series and it never disappoints. A very vertically challenged young man tutors four spoiled princes with distinct and hilarious personalities. This series always makes me smile: It's funny, heartwarming, and the art work is great (it features many chibi characters).

Aaaaand that concludes Part 2 of manga and comic books worth reading. I've tried to include all different kinds of stories so that you can find at least one that you're drawn to. Don't see what you're looking for? Check out Part 1 or leave a comment below with a description of the genre/style you want recommendations for. I'm happy to help!

Have you read any manga or comic books? Well, why not? They're amazing!

If you have read manga and comic books, please leave a comment below and tell me about your favorites. I'm always looking for my next good read!

Have writing, reading, or writer's life questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

Related articles:
12 Manga and Comic Books Worth Reading (Part 1)
A List of Great Self-Published Books You Should Read (Part 2)
9 Ways to Use Reading to Improve Your Writing

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, please 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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