Some days my #family shares amazing #writing #inspiration. Other days, not so much… #marriage & the #writinglife

In posts past I’ve mentioned I get inspiration from my kids–something they say, for instance, or a struggle they’re facing in school. 

There are other times, however, when inspiration is the last thing I get from my family.

Take this month. Writing’s been a tough racket, what with preparation for a new term, snow days, and teachers cancelling school for “professional development.” But I am a hearty Midwesterner and shall prevail! I continue working on the third Fallen Princeborn novel while prepping the first novel, Fallen Princeborn: Stolen, to go on sale for ALL OF FEBRUARY.

(Oh yeah. Watch out for that price drop. Tell your fantasy-lovin’ friends!)

we have all of us had our bloody days, charlotte. for many it is easier to remain in them than to change. to change requires to face a past stained by screams. (14)

I’m also brainstorming up some fresh’n’FREE Tales of the River Vine and a few other stories to be shared exclusively with newsletter subscribers.

(What? You’re not subscribed to the monthly newsletter yet?

*GAAAAASP* Fix that now!)

Anyway.

So I’m developing another project, one I alluded to a while back: a fantasy adventure story featuring twins who need to learn the strengths of brotherhood. (Can’t imagine where I found the inspiration for that story…)

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There goes Bash of the Yukon on another expedition…

I had an epiphany about what to name the brothers, but realized the names would require permission from a big-time person in order to pull it off. That meant having a title and rough synopsis worked out. Typing up a wee synopsis was one thing, but the title…ugh, the title. This is a title that must reflect fantasy, adventure, and NOT romance. For once, let’s have a story where protagonists don’t find love and/or sex in the plot. The title needs to reflect that absence. Something strong…otherworldly…

I poke the back of Bo’s neck, for surely Blondie’s math homework doesn’t have to be reviewed right this minute.

Hey. You’re a guy.

“Yeeees?”

I need your take on a title.

“Shoot.”

Race the Bronze Breath.

Bo’s face twists. He stifles a laugh…then gives up and lets it out. “Seriously?”

What? It’s racing. It’s fantasy.

Bo’s still laughing. “What’s that even mean?”

I…I dunno. I just thought it sounded cool and steampunky.

“Well racing’s fine. Racing says something’s got a time limit, and it’s, you know, tense. But what’s bronze breath?”

Okay, I get it, it doesn’t work. What kind of fantasy adventure title would work for dudes?

Bo without blinking: “Not Game of Thrones.”

That is not a title.

“Says you.”

I think about my brainstorm of race names, the current YA titles out there that are really long, a touch blunt.

How about Break the Centurion or Die Trying?

Bo throws down the pencil: “Again, what…are you trying to be Sergio Leone?”

Well then YOU think of a cool dude title.

“Racing Adventure with Marathon Quest.”

O-kay. But that doesn’t sound really dangerous.

“Super Killer Race of Deathly Death.”

No.

“Bloody Hearts of Death Kill the Dead.”

NO.

Blondie looks up from her fraction muddle. “Bloody Heart of the Dragon’s Throne!” 

Hush, that doesn’t…well, hmmm. I write it down anyway, even though I wasn’t planning on having any dragons this time round. Time for a squeeze and a kiss for my eldest.

Thanks, Kiddo. Now back to those fractions!

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A picture of Blondie and her bottle snowman, just because. x

Bo follows me as I scribble in my notebook, all the way down the hall where I plop down on our bed. I click the pen in that fast, annoying fashion Biff adores, and say:

The problem is I do want a bit of camp to it, like Death Race 2000. Suppose I can’t call it Lethal Prix or Killer Run.

“Not if you don’t want Roger Corman to sue you…oh hey! Let’s Get Sued! Great title. And then I can get an autograph.”

That would be first on your mind, wouldn’t it?

BloodDeathKillQuest. All one word.”

NoIdon’tthinkso.

A Good Day to Die Hard…oh wait. That’s kind of taken.”

Yyyyeah.

Killing Starfighters of Justice. Keep it vague on purpose so people question if the starfighters are killing people, or if we’re killing the starfighters.”

The grammar humor of Airplane! likely ain’t gonna translate to the teen male audience.

“Well then there’s only one title that’s going to reach those readers.”

What?

Amazonian Thrill-Whores.”

Boob Race.”

Okay, okay. I give up. Forget I asked–

Outpacing the Inevitable….wait for it…Boobs.”

OH WOULD YOU JUST STOP IT

Sooooo I’m still working on that title. It’ll come to me. Hopefully without the aid of Amazonian Thrill-Whores, but who knows…

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

JeanLee-nameLogoBoxed

 

 

#lessons Learned from #DianaWynneJones: Stop Taking Genre So Damn Seriously.

51fsghdnkdl-_sy344_bo1204203200_As writers, we are reminded to read similar works in our genre, pay attention to what’s hip in our genre, make sure we can define the genre that sums up our story, etc. Do a simple search for “fantasy books” in Amazon, and you’ll see no less than TEN subgenres. Agents and publishers need to know how to classify your story so they can sell it to the right readers. If you can’t classify it, who can?

Diana Wynne Jones spoke about the problem of genre in her address to the New England Science Fiction Association:

[Each genre] has hunkered down inside what it believes to be its own boundaries, and inside those boundaries the Rules for Being Of That Genre have proliferated and hardened until almost no one can write anything original at all. But the Rules say that if you write the same book all the time, that’s OK. That’s fine. That’s Genre.

The Rules add that if you do cross these boundaries, what you have written will be called “Not Really Horror—or Science Fiction or whatsoever” and nobody will want to know.

“A Talk About Rules,” 1994

Twenty years ago, Jones rightly nailed the fear so many of us writers face. We don’t want to be pigeon-holed or a repeat of what’s already been done, but look at those sales records! The marketing is so easy for a book that clearly hits all the same markers as its predecessors. Give people more of what they want, right?

Jones takes this concept of Genre Rules and creates two marvelous things: The Dark Lord of Derkholm and The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. The latter is a dictionary of sorts, listing all the possible people, places, and things one encounters in a fantasy novel. Here is an example:

HOVELS are small, squalid dwellings, either in a village or occasionally up a mountain, and probably most resemble huts. The people who live in hovels are evidently rather lazy and not very good with their hands, since in no cases have any repairs been done to these buildings (tumbledown, rotting thatch etc. are the official clichés) and there is no such thing as a clean hovel. Indoors, the inhabitants eke out a wretched existence (another official cliché), which you can see they would, given the draughts, smoke and general lack of house-cleaning. This need not alarm you. The Tour will not allow you to enter a hovel that is inhabited. If you enter one at all, it will be long deserted (another official cliché) and there will be sanitary arrangements out the back.

Here is a writer who has written dozens of fantasy books, and yet has glorious fun poking at her own genre. She knows full well what people expect out of fantasy. She even takes it one step further and turns all of those clichés into a fantastic story. The Dark Lord of Derkholm isn’t really a dark lord at all—it’s just his job for the tourist season.

51wy1w-envlA nasty and quite powerful wizard took control of this magical world a long time ago; every year, he opens gateways to a nonmagical world to bring Pilgrim Parties through. These tourists expect to—what else—help the poor down-trodden souls break free from The Dark Lord. They must encounter pirates, or bandits, or both, and be hunted down by monsters, get help from wizard guides and glamourous enchantresses…all the things readers expect are what the tourists expect.

Except this magical world isn’t like that at all, so people are forced to role-play lest the nasty wizard bumps them off.

It’s a hilarious story that shows what happens when we writers take readers’ expectations far too seriously. We all want to be entertained, sure, and that may include an adventure, some battles, and a bit of love. But do we really have to all do it the same way? We fear agents/publishers/readers won’t “get” our work because they can’t fit it under a tidy shelf name in the bookstore. If we follow The Rules, we can belong.

And be just like everyone else.

Click here for more information on Diana Wynne Jones.

Click here for more on THE DARK LORD OF DERKHOLM.

Click here for more on THE TOUGH GUIDE TO FANTASYLAND.