Friday, December 14, 2018

It's Okay to Put Magic in Your Christian Fantasy Stories. Here's Why.

*thumps Bible down in front of you*

See this book? This is a great book. I love it.

But you know what I don't love? The way Christian fiction writers use it as a way to stifle creativity. Some people have the bad habit of throwing together half-baked "Bible-based" rules about what we're allowed to put in our stories. These rules are pretty varied, but some of the more common ones are:

No violence. No swearing. No sexual content. (I talked about all of these issues in this post, in case you care)

And here's the one that really kills me as an author of Christian Fantasy:

No magic.

Yeah. I'm not happy, Bob. Not. Happy. Why? Because it simply isn't true that we Christians are not allowed to write about magic. Let's talk about why.

It's Okay to Put Magic in Your Christian Fantasy Stories. Here's Why.

Why do (some) Christians think magic in Fantasy is bad?

First, it's important to take a look at why people think that magic + fantasy = blasphemy. It's believed that Christians cannot write about magic because the Bible is very, very clear about witchcraft being wrong.

Now, I'm not contesting the fact that the witchcraft in the Bible = very, very bad. There are multiple counts of the Bible coming down hard on witchcraft. There seem to be one main reason for this: Witchcraft/sorcery/magic does not come from God and, as such, we are putting our faith in something other than him when we seek it out. This is never acceptable because we, as Christians, are called to put our trust in him and only him.

This then brings us to our next question:

Is it Biblically true that we can't put magic in Fantasy?

If it is true that magic here on earth is bad, then does it follow that magic in a fantasy setting is evil?

Pfffft. Nope.

Fantasy is make-believe. While it can have very real messages and themes and impacts, the world itself is not real and, thus, does not need to follow the rules of our universe.

While magic is bad here on earth because of what magic is here on earth, there is no reason that magic in a fantasy setting would have to be a carbon copy of earth magic. This means that magic in a fantasy world does not not have to be the same as the witchcraft condemned in the Bible.

Fantasy magic does not have to be a power that relies on demonic forces or trickery. It also does not have to be something that causes people to turn away from God. Does that make sense? Yes? Good.

Let's move on.

Is God cool with us putting magic in our writing? 

Given the logic in the above section, yes. But I can take this argument a little further by countering with my own question: Why wouldn't he be?

We as writers have been blessed with an amazing skillset: We have the ability to create worlds to further glorify our own Creator. How cool is that? Many of us have been given the gift of creativity, and I don't think that God would ever frown upon us for using that creativity to write in a way that helps and encourages others. That includes using magic in our writing.

Is it wrong to borrow witchcraft concepts when creating our own magic systems? 

Okay. So. This question is a bit more complex. It is important to note that there is a difference between borrowing from and copying

For instance: Gandalf from Lord of the Rings is a wizard who uses a staff. 

Magical staffs have roots in pagan practices. Many other fantasy characters use runes, herbs, chanting, crystal balls, etc, all of which are tied to witchcraft. These are all instances of borrowing from, and there isn't anything wrong with this. Here's why: 

While many of the above tools are the same as ones used for witchcraft in our world, they are used in an entirely different manner in the fantasy setting. The rituals are not the same, the purpose is not the same, and the history is not the same.

Also, remember that "borrowing from witchcraft" is largely a misnomer because witchcraft borrowed from/warped things that God had already put in place. For example: Biblical characters like Moses used staffs. Chanting is repetitive in the way that some psalms are repetitive. Herbs are plants, and do have healing properties because God's nice like that.

So while many of these objects/practices sometimes have negative connotations in our world, they don't have to in your world. Just because somebody has used them negatively here on earth does mean you can't use them positively in your fantasy setting. 

You just have to make sure your borrowing doesn't lead you down a bad path. Don't go reading a wiccan handbook or visiting a necromancer in the name of research. There is no need for this, and does cross the line of consorting with witchcraft. This flies in the face of all of those Bible verses that say things along the line of: "Hey, idiot, don't consort with witches." So yeah. Don't be an idiot. 

Copying, on the other hand, would be if you were to take large chunks of magic rituals from our world and transpose them into your fantasy world. This would include copying over specific phrasings, specific shapes, specific belief systems, etc that occur in our world. This would be problematic because you run the risk of glorifying the very thing we as Christians are called to reject. Also, if the copying was very in-depth, it also means you would be giving people the key to practicing witchcraft. Again: that would be promoting something we are not meant to promote. Don't do it.

*takes deep breath* 

Okay. I think I covered everything. Have any additional questions? You're in luck! My next #ChatWithHannah video is all about writing Christian Speculative Fiction. 

Leave your questions using the hashtag on social media or in the comment section below and I'll answer them in my video next week! Or don't use the hashtag and I'll answer you directly by replying to your comment. Whichever one. I look forward to hearing from you!

Related articles: 
10 Tips for Writing Christian Fantasy

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Friday, December 7, 2018

Torn Universe Facebook Group Launch + Livestream

Attention, idiots!

I have some news that you'll want to hear.

December 5th, 2018 (this past Wednesday) was the three-year-anniversary of the publication of Skies of Dripping Gold. It was also the day that I officially released the Torn Universe.

What's the Torn Universe, you ask? Well, if you read my interview on Beth Wangler's blog, then you'll know that all of my publications take place in the same expanded universe. I've been keeping that fact under wraps for a while, and have also been hush-hush about the name, too. But no longer. Torn Universe is the name of my expanded universe, information I officially released with the launching of my shiny new Facebook group.

What is this group, exactly? *pulls out chair* Take a seat. Let's discuss.

The Torn Universe group is a place to read snippets of my WIP, get behind-the-scenes looks at my writing process, receive exclusive news, and even have a shot at beta reading opportunities. It's also a fun way to meet up with fellow Torn Universe readers, swap theories, create fan-art, and ask me questions.

Basically: It's super awesome. You should join us in the fun. All you have to do is send a request to join and then you'll be on your way to interacting with desert elves from The Terebinth Tree Chronicles, Blood Hunters from Vengeance Hunter, and poisonous air from Skies of Dripping Gold. All from the safety of your computer screen. 

*in best infomercial voice* But wait! There's more!

To celebrate the release of the Torn Universe and my three-year-publiversary (what? Publiversary should be a word and you know it), I'll be holding a Facebook livestream on Sunday, 12/09/18, at 12 PM PST. Stop by to say hello, ask me questions about any of my stories (or my indie authoring life), talk about Batman, and drink tea. Batman and tea have literally nothing to do with anything in my universe, but I really like my leaf drink and my Dark Knight, so there it is. 

Speaking of unrelated things: My younger brother (Christian rap lover, Vengeance-Hunter-Non-Supporter, and contributor to Philosophical Pieces of Toast) will also be making a 5-minute appearance during this livestream. I don't really know why, but he wanted to come, soooo. Yep. That's happening.

If you aren't able to make it to the livestream, no worries! The video will be archived, so leave your questions for me below and I'll answer them during the stream for you to watch later. 

*infomercial voice* But that's not all! 

For anyone who is feeling cheated about the fact that you didn't get a writing-related post today, I've got you covered. Check out my PFW post about how to write unique, creative worlds.

Have any questions about the Facebook group or the livestream? Speak up!

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, November 30, 2018

9 Tips for Maintaining Mental Health as a Writer

The depressed writer. It's a major stereotype that crops up in books, movies, documentaries, and even social media. This stereotype is so common that I've started wondering: Is this really a stereotype? Or a writers actually more prone to being Eeyore incarnate?

I don't have an answer yet, but I do have a hypothesis. I think that, because we writers are in our heads so much, we are actively putting ourselves in the position to be mental health train-wrecks. It's not good.

Thankfully, there are ways to combat this. As somebody who has struggled with depression for a variety of reasons, I've had the opportunity to come up with a lot of different ways to balance mental health with my writing activities. Here are a few tips:

9 Tips for Maintaining Mental Health as a Writer

1. Develop outside hobbies/jobs. Yes, I mean outside literally. Make sure you are getting out of the house on a regular basis. While it may be helpful writing-wise to isolate yourself, it is not great for your mental status. Going outside can take a lot of forms, but whatever form it takes needs to involve you getting out of your head and interacting with other people. *gasps of horror* Yeah. I know. If you're like me and don't particularly enjoy non-introverting-activities, this can be hard. But it's worth it. Trust me. Here are some ideas: Visiting with friends (or one friend, if groups stress you out), going to church, going to school, and going to work (provided your work isn't you in your PJs writing your next novel).

2. Exercise. This is important because it helps with hormone balance and science-y stuff like that. If you are physically healthy, this can improve your mental health, too. Go for a jog, lift some weights, surf, hike, skateboard, walk, do yoga, stretch. Whatever is in your means.

3. Eat good food. Caffeine and sugar are yummy food, but they are not good food. Make sure your diet is balanced. Have some salad, eat some non-refined carbohydrates (brown rice, millet, quinoa), boil an egg, consume a fish.

I'll have you know it took me a solid 10 minutes to find this gif.
I regret nothing.
4. Learn to value your own writing. Is it nice to receive outside praise about your writing? Absolutely! But you cannot rely on this as a way to keep feeling good about yourself and your projects. Our brains have the horrifying ability to largely ignore awesome feedback/reviews and latch onto small bits of negative feedback/reviews, thus making ourselves miserable. One of the ways to combat this is to stop relying on outside feedback. Those peasants don't know anything anyway. Instead, learn to be proud of yourself and how far you have come. This boosts self-esteem and means that you no longer rely on outside sources to keep you balanced. That being said...

5. Get outside perspective. It is very easy to get so focused on the imperfections of your writing that your brain goes off the rails. You've read your story so many times that it may appear boring or disjointed even when it's not. When you reach this point, send your draft to a few trusted writer friends and ask for constructive feedback. If they are good, honest people, they will praise your writing and help you move forward and fix up any sticky parts, thus keeping you from going insane.

6. Take breaks to avoid burnout. This is SO important. Be nice to yourself and take breaks when you feel your mind starting to unravel. Breaks can mean taking a few days off from writing, or from social media, or whatever it is that is causing you stress. But here's the thing: When you take a break, you need to be replacing your time with something healthy. Don't just sit in a corner and feel bad about yourself. Try cooking a new dish, going somewhere new, chilling with a movie, re-organizing your desk.

7. Do not play the comparison game. Comparing yourself to other writers is a huge no. Not only does it lower self-esteem and poison your relationship with other writers, but it is also massively stupid. Like, trying-to-make-Marvin-the-robot-happy level of stupid.
I've written an entire post about why you need to stop comparing yourself to your fellow writers, and also outlined tips for how to go about doing this, so check it out.

8. Let yourself write garbage. Remind yourself that it is okay to write stories that aren't completely stellar. In fact, most first drafts are naturally terrible (at least I know that mine are). You are not Legolas, so you can't be perfect all of the time. By taking the pressure off of yourself, you can have time to love your writing (and yourself). I wrote an entire guide about how to write terrible first drafts just for you. You're welcome. Also remember that just because you write something bad doesn't mean you are a bad person. Try not to connect yourself so closely to your writing. A garbage draft does not make a garbage human or a garbage writer.

9. Ask for help. If you know that you are prone to depression or anxiety or catastrophizing or whatever, reach out for help. Tell your family, friends, writer buddies and ask them to check-up on you, to set up days to meet with you (see tip 1), to pray for you, to send you nice texts. Doing this isn't weak. In fact, it shows that you are willing to face your difficulties head on. Besides, most family/friends would love to have the opportunity to help you out.

You know how else you can help your mental health? Hang out with me! I'll be doing a Facebook livestream next week and would love for you to join me!

[Yes, I'm aware of the fact that that transition was not at all pretty or subtle. Sue me.] 

I'd love to know what days/times work best for you, so please fill out the below form. I'll hold the stream on whatever day/time the majority of you will be able to attend.

powered by Typeform

Looking forward to seeing you during the stream!

*transitions awkwardly back to the post*

What are some things that you do to maintain your mental health as a writer? I personally drink a cup of tea every day, read the Bible, pray, eat well, and keep a Happy Calendar (patent pending) that I mark only with pleasant things I'm looking forward to. I'd love to hear about your own techniques!

Related articles:
8 Non-Writing Activities to Help With Your Creative Process
5 Steps to Fighting Off Writer's Insecurity

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, November 23, 2018

How to Write a Story - A Guest Post by Morgan Von Gunten

Today is a special day. Not only did I get to eat leftover Thanksgiving food for breakfast, but I also get to present this amazing guest post by Morgan Von Gunten. Morgan has somehow managed to take a very complex task (writing a story) and make it simpler. It's pretty impressive and very helpful.

A note from the author before we begin: 

The story in this post is The Book, a novel I’ve been writing for almost four years. This is the first time I’ve shared details of its plot (which was scary but so good). I’ll probably share more about it soon. I like it a lot!

Got it? Okay, cool. Here's the post: 

Every good story has good structure. No matter how different each story is, you can trace it back to these four things.

How to Write a Story - A Guest Post by Morgan Von Gunten

Character first

You need someone to write about. They can have any backstory, complication, or dream you want. You just need a character.


Soren’s my character. He’s a seventeen-year-old foster kid in New York City of 2034.


Choose their goal

What do they want most? That’s their goal. It’s something they want above all else, something they’ll do anything to achieve.

Their goal is even better if it’s story-centric (sometimes if you dream up a bit of the story before choosing a goal, you’ll get a more story-centric goal for your character). The goal is the most important thing about a story. It becomes the point of the story itself.


Soren’s goal is to find a way to get his foster parents to adopt him.


Figure out the plot

How do they think they’ll get to their goal? This is the plot. This is their plan.


Soren thinks he’ll get his foster family to adopt him by getting his biological parents to release their parental rights.

Add stakes

Every excellent story has stakes. Stakes are the “before something happens to stop the character from reaching their goal” part. They should have a timeline (the “before something happens”).

What will stop them from reaching their goal? Not just could, but what will stop them? Answering this question will help you create high stakes–the best kind of stakes.


If Soren can’t get his parents to sign over their rights, or if his foster family finds out (1) his parents are undocumented immigrants and (2) he works for a man who finds undocumented immigrants, it’ll be legally and emotionally impossible for his foster family to agree to adopt him.

Make the story

How do they actually get to their goal? This is the story. This is what you read.


A lot happens (I’ll share more of it soon)!

This works

This is how stories are structured. While most plots and stories have vast differences, their structure is incredibly similar.

In The Martian, Mark Watney, the main character, is stuck on Mars – alone. His goal is to get home to Earth. He has to find a way to grow enough food on Mars so he can stay alive long enough to get back home–that’s his plot–before he runs out of food (that’s his stakes). The story is how he actually works to reach his goal.

What does your character want? That’s their goal. How are they going to try to get it? That’s your plot. How do they actually get it? That’s the story.

By choosing a goal, you create story. The story is how a character tries to get his goal–that’s it. There may be a lot of twists and turns (the best stories have those), but simply put, once you have a goal, and you have a character’s idea of how to get there, you have a story. Your job is now just to write it.

Let's hear a round of applause for Morgan Von Gunten! Like her post and want to know more about her? I've got you covered: 

Morgan Von Gunten is a writer, creative, and grammar nerd currently working on her debut novel. She writes because it’s the way she feels most alive. You can read more of her writing at, and you can also follow her adventures on Instagram

Before you hop on over and explore her website, feel free to leave a comment below! Do you write your stories by this process? Have any questions or tips? Let us know! 

How to Keep Your Book From Being Boring

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

#ChatWithHannah Ep 16: All About Worldbuilding

Today we discuss worldbuilding. I attempt to talk about politics in worldbuilding without being political (kind of failed), and tackle the issues of magic in Christian fiction (totally nailed it).


00:50 Beth Wanlger - What are some often-overlooked but key elements of worldbuilding?
2:38 R.M. Archer - Favorite element to see in worldbuilding from a craft standpoint? A personal preference standpoint?
4:05 What is the hardest part of worldbuilding, for you, and how do you get through it?
4:55 Advice for creating non-generic humanoid fantasy races?
6:22 E.B. Dawson - Overused concepts when it comes to politics in worldbuilding?
7:25 - Tips for creating a unique/believable political structure?
8:57 Elza Kinde - How did you decide to write an expanded universe? How do you ensure new additions don't create weird inconsistencies?
11:06 Sparta Bunny - What's the biggest difference/difficulty between making a sci-fi setting and a fantasy one?
11:41 K.L. + Pierce - How do you reveal aspects of a world without too much info dumping?
14:38 Austin Lillard - How much prevalence should religion take on the shaping of the world?
15:50 Julie Mozart - Your thoughts on trying to put God into worlds that aren't earth?
 - How about writing magic and God in the same world?

Also, to clarify: Despite what I said in the video, the sky is *NOT* an ecosystem. I think I'm going to lose my STEM major card for that one.

Read the Phoenix Fiction Anthology here.  You know you want to. The paperback can be found here.

The next #ChatWithHannah is on December 19th, 2018. The topic is…*drum roll* Christian Speculative Fiction! Go ahead and leave me questions on social media or leave a comment below! You can also email me from my website.

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

Related articles:
#ChatWithHannah Ep 12 Part 2: Disability in Fiction, World-Building, Descriptive Writing, and More

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Friday, November 16, 2018

3 Reasons to Use Livestreaming to Boost Your Writing Platform (And How to Do It)

Here are a few things that make me uncomfortable:
  1. Impromptu speaking
  2. Talking to people when I can't read their facial expressions
  3. Being solely responsible for keeping people entertained 
  4. Technical difficulties 
And, so, I have integrated livestreaming into my writing platform. Naturally. It's not like livestreaming incorporates all four of the above things I find uncomfortable. Pfffft. I wouldn't do that to myself. *grins nervously* 

There are two reasons that I've started doing livestreams. The first reason is that livestreams are actually a really good way to build a solid relationship with readers and fans. 

The second reason is that I like to challenge myself to overcome my fears. Which doesn't seem to have worked because livestreams still make me weirdly nervous even though I do them fairly frequently. Yet I still keep doing it...? What's that about? *shrugs* A for effort, right? Or maybe chocolate for effort? Yeah. That sounds good. 

ANYWAY. We're not going to talk about that second reason today. I'll save that for a therapist. Today we get to discuss alllllll of the benefits to livestreaming. I'll also give a few livestream tips so that you'll can stream like a pro.

3 Reasons to Use Livestreaming to Boost Your Writing Platform (And How to Do It)

Why Livestreaming Rocks

Because I say so. And, as we all know, I am never wrong.

Also because: 

1. Livestreaming builds your relationship with your readers. Does blogging do this? Yes. Does social media do this? Yes. Does recording videos then posting them do this? Yes. But livestreaming does it better. Here's why: 

Livestreaming puts you and your readers on a similar level. Blogging, tweeting, posting videos? All of those activities are filtered. And, thus, they are more polished, and, sometimes, are not as reflective of who we truly are. But livestreaming is just you. There's no filter. You respond real-time to real questions from viewers. This allows your readers to feel more connected with you because they see: "Oh. That's a real person right there!" 

The relatability factor can strengthen your relationship with your fans, which then makes people more likely to continue engaging with you, reading your stuff, recommending you to friends, etc. 

2. It helps you gain important author skills. Like how to answer questions about your story in a helpful, winning manner...or at least in an awkwardly funny/endearing manner (I'm pretty sure I fall into the latter category). Or how to interact with fans (but with lower stakes, because if they don't like what you say they can't throw rotten fruit at you). Or how to verbally pitch your projects. 

I also assume it is excellent practice for when you become a famous author and end up being on a panel at Comic Con. Which *totally* isn't something I dream about doing. 

3. It can be super fun. Despite the fact that I often get nervous before livestreams, once I start streaming it's actually pretty cool. It's always interesting to see who shows up, who asks which questions, and what stupid things come out of my mouth when I blank on things to say. So fun.

How to Livestream Successfully

First off: Don't panic. Seriously. This is important. Aside from that....

1. Always announce your livestreams ahead of time. If you want to do surprise streams, that's cool. But when you want to be sure that people will show up and engage, start publicizing early. I usually start talking about it two weeks ahead of time, but then slowly start becoming louder and louder about marketing it as the date comes closer until I'm practically walking up to people and yelling: 

"I HAVE A LIVESTREAM IN TEN MINUTES! WOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOO!" *crams link down poor, unsuspecting person's throat*

This amps up anticipation and makes sure that you get as many people to show up as possible. Or maybe just annoys people into showing up. Whatever works, right? 

2. Pick your times carefully. Maybe you really, really like waking up at 4 AM on Tuesdays. Hate to tell you, but: That's really not a great time to do a livestream. Try to pick days and times where you know that people are more likely to show up. You may even want to poll your audience to find what time is best for them. 

3. Pick a theme. Your livestreams should have some kind of point to them. Maybe you're talking up an upcoming release. Or answering questions about an old series. Or maybe celebrating a blogiversary. Or perhaps you just feel like answering questions on ______ subject. Cool. Just make sure you and your audience know what exactly you're getting into. 

4. Always have something planned for the first few minutes. People often show up a few minutes late to livestreams because technology is fun that way. So make sure you have things to say during this time (introductions, outlining what the stream will be like, funny stories, etc). That way you aren't sitting there awkwardly as you wait for more than your Mom and your best friend to view the stream. 

5. Run tests and have a backup plan. Technology will always try to ruin your life. Trust me. It is evil. Don't let it get the best of you. Test your livestreams in advance to work out any audio or visual bugs (and also to make sure your internet connection is strong enough to result in a good stream). Also have a backup plan for if things go badly, such as: Having a new livestream ready to roll in case the old one fails you, having a back-up electronic device to stream from, having "sorry, I messed up, there's a new livestream here" message ready to post to all your social medias, etc. 

6. Have questions or stories to fill dead air. Get questions from your audience ahead of time to read and answer if you don't get enough question. Have talking points outlined. AND also have anecdotes on hand in case you need to tell a funny story while you stall for more questions. 

7. Anticipate questions. If you're opening up to Q&As, try to think about the questions people may ask you. This allows you to have halfway decent answers ready to go, thus saving you from choking out unintelligible answers and looking like a terrified Ron Weasley.

8. Don't stress. Livestreams are casual and raw. You'll probably stutter, say "um" too much, or not come across as polished as you'd like. That's totally fine. You don't have to be perfect. Just be you. 

9. Write an entire post about livestreaming just so you can plug your own upcoming livestream. *sneaky smile* Yep. I make no apologies. Behold: 

Did you know that we PFW people are doing livestreams to celebrate the release of our Antiheroes anthology?? Well, we are. And mine is tonight (11/16/18) at 6 PM PST: 

You don't want to miss it. J.E. Purrazzi and Beth Wangler will be there and they are incredible. We're going to talk about our favorite antiheroes and want to hear about yours, too! Like our Facebook page and show up at 6 to say hi to us.

Also, E.B. Dawson, K.L.+Pierce, and Nate Philbrick will be doing a release-day livestream on Saturday at 11:30 AM PST. You need to show up for that one, too. 

Sign up for a reminder on Youtube to get a notification when they go live. Or just open this tab at 11:30 AM PST. Your call.

Have any questions or comments? I'd love to hear your thoughts on livestreams! What do you like seeing on livestreams? What scares you about doing them? Let's chat.

Also: Are you coming to our PFW livestreams? Well? Are you???

(I'm nearing the scream-at-people-about-the-upcoming-livestream marketing phase, in case you couldn't tell) 
11 Tips for Building a Successful Writer's Platform
10 Tips for Using Blogging to Build Your Writer's Platform

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

Monday, November 12, 2018

Review of Gynoid by K.L. + Pierce - A PFW Antiheroes Anthology Short Story

Today is a double irregularity: A post on Monday, and a story review. Both rare occurrences. Why am I doing this? Simple: Because I have an incredible short story I want to talk about, and I don't want to wait until Friday.

This story is a Christian sci-fi short story by K.L. + Pierce. Titled Gynoid, it is an incredible look at humanity, emotions, and choices.

(For those of you who don't know, a gynoid is a female android. Don't feel bad for not knowing. I didn't know the term existed until a few months ago when K.L. + Pierce first told me about the story.)

Anyway, Gynoid is part of the PFW Anthology: Antiheroes releasing on 11/17/18. Like all of the stories in this collection, it is brilliantly unique and creatively written. Let's discuss:

First off, can we talk about how gorgeous this cover is? Please? Because I love it. *pauses for a few moments to stare at it in awe*

Okay. The blurb for Gynoid (which I stole from K.L. + Pierce's blog post) is:

Jacelyn Sparrow is a gynoid tasked with selecting human candidates for reprogramming. However, as a member of the AI Human Alliance (AIHA), she has also been given a new directive: find human allies to fight against the RE-Programming People’s Lives (REPL) and its various projects. Unable to disobey either directive, Jacelyn must sort through how to accomplish her tasks. She must also hide the fact that AIHA has given her the capacity to feel emotions while struggling to comprehend and control them.

When she discovers the true nature of Project REVAMP, Jaycelyn knows that there are very few paths she can take to successfully dismantle it. The most likely to work is to endanger the life of the human ally she has been trying to save.

There is so much that I loved about this story, but I want to first talk about the formatting. It may be strange that this is one of my favorite aspects of the story, so just hear me out. 

This story is written from Jacelyn's point of view. As such, the story is told in a series of directives from both AIHA and REPL, as well as encrypted and unencrypted personal logs. And, on top of this, it also has some sequences written in the regular fashion, too. This unique story layout really works to highlight Jacelyn's programming. We get to see Jacelyn's androidness and the directives/personal logs work to show her life as it is: A sequence of rules and programming. Cold. Logical. Impersonal, even. The first page of the story is a little hard to adjust to because of this, perfectly pointing out how different Jacelyn's mindset and existence is from us humans. So, basically: This layout was genius and I adored it. 

Another aspect I loved was the Deep POV that Pierce employed. This was her first time writing from this perspective, and she nailed it. The word choices she used when writing from Jacelyn's POV was brilliant: Pierce uses robotic, android-like language, particularly at the beginning of the story. But, as Jacelyn begins to feel more and more emotions, her word usage and thought-process becomes a little more human. 

Speaking of Jacelyn and her transition, I thought her struggle was very well-portrayed. Here is a gynoid with conflicting programming. She doesn't want emotions but now she has them and isn't quite sure what to do with them. Her foil is seen in Adriana, a human with creativity, emotional depth, and faith. Jacelyn's interactions with Adriana (and emotions in general) was incredibly thought-provoking.

As the story continued, I was getting only very vague antihero vibes from Jacelyn. But, at the end, she makes an incredibly difficult and shocking choice that completely blew me away. Jacelyn is an antihero like I've never seen before: Incredibly logical, driven yet still finding herself, and legitimately seeking to make correct decisions even though she may not have all of the tools to do so. 

Gynoid is a great look at the balance between logic and emotions, at the importance of choice, and the strength of faith. It is a lot to unwrap in such a short story. I've read it three times already, and discover something new and thought-provoking each time. Thankfully, Gynoid ended in such a way that it leaves room for more stories within this universe, so I'm pretty darn excited to see what Pierce has in store for us in the future. She is an incredible author and I am proud to be a PFW author alongside her. 

Have you read anything by K.L. + Pierce? Are you planning to read the Antiheroes anthology? Let's discuss! But, before we get into it, let me announce: 

Friday, Nov 16th, 6 PM PST. Beth Wangler, Hannah Heath, and J.E. Purrazzi are doing a livestream on the PFW Facebook page.
Click the image or here to visit our Facebook page.
We PFW authors will be doing livestreams on 11/16 (Friday) and 11/17 (Saturday) to celebrate the release of this anthology. K.L. + Pierce will be doing the Saturday Youtube livestream at 11:30 AM PST, so get ready to ask her all the questions:

I hope you're able to stop by for both livestreams and say hello!

Related articles: 
Announcing My Phoenix Fiction Writers Anthology Story

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Friday, November 9, 2018

7 Tips for Writing Characters of the Opposite Sex

I get a lot of writing-related questions from my readers. Most of the questions make sense. I can see how they are confusing dilemmas, and understand where it is that people are mixed up.

But some questions? Some don't make much sense to me. For example, here's one that I always have a hard time wrapping my mind around:

"How do I write characters of the opposite sex?"

This is an issue that I had never really considered previous to first being asked about it. And, now, every time I'm asked this question, I always really, really want to say: "You"

However, I recognize this isn't a particularly helpful response. Intead, here's an entire post on the topic. This way I can send the link to people with this question rather than staring at them in confusion, thus saving us all some time and awkward silences.
7 Tips for Writing Characters of the Opposite Sex

1. Pin point why it is that you are having this issue. You may be concerned because you are afraid of misrepresenting an entire group of people. If this is the case: Don't be. The fact that you are aware that you might get things wrong means that you are more likely to be thoughtful in your writing. Also, it is very difficult to misrepresent an entire sex through writing one single character. This is because people's personality traits, ideas, and motivations vary greatly. People who are of the same sex do not magically share the same traits and opinions. Therefore, your character is welcome to have whatever personality you want. You technically can't get it "wrong" because they are your character. They have unique arcs, backgrounds, and motivations that would be different from any other character. Misrepresentation is not the issue. Bad writing is.

On the other hand, you may be having this issue because you think that you cannot relate to a character of the opposite sex. In which case...

2. Stop stereotyping. Seriously. Not all men love cars and beer and punching things.
That's not how this works, Mushu.
Likewise, not all women love glitter and skirts and romance. And intersexual people are not weird alien hermaphrodites. You need to be developing your characters as people first. Their sex is a secondary trait when it comes to personality. Once you realize this, you will find that you have less difficulty relating to the character you are writing.

3. Recognize that the problem is you. I know this sounds really harsh, but you'll just have to deal. The problem isn't the fact that you are writing about a character who is different from you. The problem is that you are magnifying the differences. Look at it this way: As a writer, you are constantly writing characters who are not you. They are in situations that you have never been in. They may be an age that you have not yet reached. Perhaps their profession is different from yours, or maybe they are an entirely different species living in an entirely different world. So why is it that you're getting hung up on writing about a person who doesn't have your same anatomy?  That makes absolutely no sense. We, as writers, are constantly exploring characters that are different from ourselves. So if your character of a different sex is stereotypical or flat, then that just means you aren't a very good writer. The good news is that you can, of course, get better. You just need to brush up on your character creation and development skills. Practice makes perfect.

4. Go out of your way to make sure that you aren't idealizing. Sometimes, people have an ideal image of what a person of the opposite sex should be like. Some writers make the unfortunate mistake of taking this ideal image and turning it into their character of the opposite sex. Do not do this. Firstly, it leads to very flat, uninteresting, and unrealistic characters (also sometimes hyper-sexualized and/or objectified ones). Secondly, it is incredibly lazy and thoughtless. And, thirdly, it's kind of creepy.
Don't be creepy.

5. Do some research. If you're writing a character of the opposite sex, there are some basic things that you need to understand. I cannot tell you exactly what these basic things are because I don't know what it is that you are writing about. But, if you are going to write about something that your sex does not have or something you simply aren't familiar with (periods, voice changes, bras, beards, makeup, long hair, etc), just research it. Please.

6. Take world-building into account. When we think of stereotypes based off a person sex, many of these stereotypes are a result of societal roles (ei: men generally present themselves as louder and more egotistical because, historically, it is more socially acceptable for men to have those characteristics as compared to women). Obviously, these societal rules do not necessarily have to apply in fantasy or sci-fi. Because of this, you need to look at how world-building affects how your characters behave. Not necessarily what their personality is, but how they present themselves. For instance, if you're writing a fantasy novel where the world is very harsh, all of your characters (regardless of their sex) would probably present as very confident and strong.

7. Read. Read a ton of books. Note how each character is developed. You will notice that good writers developed each characters uniquely, regardless of their sex. They may choose to present their characters as more traditional (traditionally feminine female characters and traditionally masculine male character), or they may not. Whatever these authors decide, you will notice that their characters are not defined by their sex. They all have distinct personality traits, goals, and mindsets, all of which are results of their specific character building and the surrounding plot. Learn from this. Authors who do an excellent job of this are: Lloyd Alexander, Agatha Christie, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lois Lowry, C.S. Lewis, Margaret Mitchell, J.K. Rowling, Patrick Ness, and all of us PFW authors. Basically: Any decent author.

Have any questions after reading this post? Let's hear 'em!

A few announcements:
  1. You need to subscribe to my newsletter. Why? Because tomorrow (11/10/2018) I'll be releasing the opening scene of Vengeance Hunter from the PFW Antiheroes anthology, and you really, really don't want to miss that. 
  2. This month's #ChatWithHannah video will be about world-building. So if you have questions on that topic, leave them below along with the hashtag! 
Okay. That is all. You may go now.

Related articles:
The Do's and Don'ts of Writing Strong Female Characters

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

#ChatWithHannah Ep 15: Character Development

Today we talk about character development. I also give information about the upcoming PFW Antiheroes anthology and offer inspirational advice for those participating in NaNoWriMo.
Time stamps:

1:06 Amanda Collins - Advice for writing a friendship between two people who don't speak the same language? Fav part about creating/writing characters?

5:27 Bella Roden - How do you show that a character has developed their beliefs slowly throughout the novel?

9:50 Elza Kinde - How do you handle writing characters you wouldn't/don't personally like?

10:53 Hallie Jenkins - Tips for making characters different from each other? What do you think makes a character arc strongest?

Pre-order the Phoenix Fiction Anthology here. No. Seriously. Do it. Right now. 

Like the PFW Facebook page to watch our livestream on 10/16 at 6 PM PST.

Set a reminder for the PFW Youtube livestream on 10/17 at 9 AM PST.

Subscribe to my newsletter to get a sneak peak at Vengeance Hunter on 11/10/18.

The next #ChatWithHannah is on November 21st, 2018. The topic is…*drum roll* I have no idea! Go ahead and weigh in on my twitter poll or leave a comment below with suggestions! Or use the hashtag on social media! I will announce the next video’s topic in this Friday’s (11/09) blog post.

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

Related articles:
#ChatWithHannah Ep 7: Batman, Large Character Casts, and Concise Short Stories
#ChatWithHannah Ep 14: Writer Burnout

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Friday, November 2, 2018

Ranking My Favorite and Least Favorite Vampire Movies

For those of you who haven't been paying attention, I've written a vampire short story to contribute to the epic Phoenix Fiction Writers Antiheroes anthology. It's called Vengeance Hunter and, like all of the stories in the anthology, it is pretty dang amazing.

(This anthology is releasing on 11/17/2018, FYI. More info on that later)

Now, I've always enjoyed a good vampire movie. In fact, I have literally been waiting years for the opportunity to write and publish a vampire story. So, in honor of the fact that I finally found a way to bring my own blood sucker tale into the world, let's go over a list of my favorite and least favorite vampire movies.

Side note: I have the flu, so this blog post is going to be stream-of-consciousness to make things easier on me.

Side side note: It took me four times to spell the word "consciousness" correctly. I hope you appreciate my efforts.

Let's go:

1. 1931 Dracula.
Yes, this is my favorite. The creativeness that went into turning Bela Lugosi into a bat cracks me up every. single. time. The cinematography is brilliant. I am also a huge fan of Lugosi himself and love the classic horror vibe he brought to this film. He is the perfect Dracula and anyone who says otherwise is fooling themselves. If you haven't seen this movie, you really need to. It is a bit campy, totally brilliant, and absolutely iconic. I love it.

2. Dracula Untold.
I know this movie got a lot of hate. I also know it has many massive plot holes ( many. It's kind of embarrassing. But here's the thing: I don't care. I love this movie because it combined three of my favorite things: Antiheroes, Dracula, and creative world-building. This movie casts Dracula in a new light, giving him a human side so that I was able to love Dracula without feeling like a psychopath. It also had unique Transylvania world-building, brought in the Vlad the Impaler myth, and featured one of my favorite types of characters: Ridiculously overpowered and totally badass, but still somehow broken and possible to defeat. Also, Luke Evans did an epic job acting out the overpowered antihero Dracula who loves his family and his people. So yes. I unashamedly love this movie.

3. I Am Legend. 
I'm going to be totally honest: The first three times I watched this movie, I thought it was a zombie movie. But later I discovered that the monsters are, in fact, a form of vampires. Which is pretty obvious now that I think about it (they couldn't stand sunlight, after all). *facepalm* Anyway, I liked the storytelling method in this movie: We're dropped right in the middle of things and are only given information in bits and pieces as the movie goes on. That's my kind of storytelling right there. And, now that I realize the monsters are vampires, I appreciate the creative angle the movie took. Also, the Fred mannequin scene is one of my all-time favorite movie scenes:

4. Mark of the Vampire.
Look. This 1935 movie is super weird. And, honestly, it's a bit boring at first. But it has Bela Lugosi (you know how I feel about him) and Lionel Barrymore. And it has a really, really interesting twist near the end that makes it impossible to talk about without spoiling it. It's one of those movies that I like, but probably wouldn't ask anybody else to watch because it's just....not super great? But also brilliant? It's complicated.

5. Horror of Dracula. 
Sooooo. This one doesn't have Bela Lugosi, but it does have Christopher Lee, who has the power of the Dark Side, thus making him a great Dracula. So yeah. I'll take it. I've only seen this movie once and that was several years ago. However, I do remember liking it. And that's pretty much all I remember. So it is possible that this is, in fact, a terrible movie that I'm misremembering. *shrugs*

6. Van Helsing. 
Ah. Now we're getting into the fun stuff: The vampire movies I don't like. I know a lot of people enjoy this movie, but the pacing was so horribly off that I couldn't stay interested. I ended up not finishing it. And I basically never do that unless I disagree with a movie's content, so that's really saying something. I also didn't particularly like any of the characters. It's not that I disliked them, but I just wasn't interested. They were walking tropes and thus very boring. This movie was basically Bella Swan incarnate to me. Speaking of Bella Swan...Yes. We'll talk about her. Right after we discuss....

7. Blade.
I can feel so many glares headed my way, but I refuse to apologize. I do not like this film. But I will say that much of my dislike for this movie is largely personal, and not particularly objective. It was unnecessarily gory for my taste, and I also found a lot of the swearing to sound unconvincing and cringe-worthy. I ended up watching half of it before deciding it wasn't my kind of movie. Also, on a slightly more rant-y note: What was up with the torture of the super fat vampire?? Karen, a doctor, ends up torturing him extensively, even after they got the correct information out of him. This seems incredibly out of line for her background. Or maybe she's just a super horrible, sadistic doctor? Or has a split personality?? Whoever was responsible for her character failed majorly.

8. Twilight.
I'm just going to talk about these collectively because I hate all of them and cannot possibly decide which one I hate the most. When I first started watching this, it was for the sole purpose of writing this post. I thought there were only three movies, so you can imagine my horror when I discovered that there were, in fact, five. *screams* Ah, the sacrifices I make for blogging.

Literally everything about this series drives me insane. The Bella, Edward, and Jacob relationship is incredibly toxic. Both of the dudes are total creeps and are very possessive and controlling. Yet Bella still finds them attractive, seemingly because of some of their creepy/possessive/controlling aspects, not in spite of them. I wanted all three of these characters to die quickly and be replaced by literally any of the DOZENS of more interesting, dynamic characters in the movie.

For instance: Carlisle is a vampire. doctor. How great of a concept is that? Run with that character, not the stupid, creepy teenagers. Alice can see the future and is also super sweet. The Volturi are horrible people, but the world-building is pretty cool. Seth is a cinnamon roll. Billy seems like a solid dude. And Charlie is amazing and deserved better. Make a movie about them. Or LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE.

Also: Break Dawn - Part 1 is literally just a wedding, a honeymoon, and a pregnancy. That is NOT a plot, people. That is just a series of event. Get yourselves together.

*takes deep breath* Okay. While I could rant about these movies for hours, I'll stop there.

What are your favorite and least favorite vampire movies? Also, before you go: Be sure to go read up on all of the short stories in the PFW anthology. We're only waiting on blurb and title reveals from two of the seven of us, so go check out the current five and tell us what you think! I don't know about you, but they all look incredible to me.

Related articles:
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11 Classic Movies All Writers Should Watch (Part 1)

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