Tomorrow’s Authors: Lucy Summers

This continues my occasional series about new, unpublished writers, the ones we’ll be seeing more of in the future.

Today’s guest blog is by Lucy Summers. She sounds interesting to say the least–when someone tells you they are into “horseback riding, archery….and oh, I have a small obsession with daggers” you know there’s something fun happening.

Lucy is writing a book called Storm of Thieves and here’s the pitch:

A thief must pull off a dangerous heist that entangles her with a deadly assassin and a former slave. The fate of their world now rests with her. Pursued by the guild of a criminal empire, success – and their lives – are far from promised.

Sounds like it’s worth a read. So let Lucy tell you about herself and Storm of Thieves, and her thoughts about the future of fantasy. You can visit her Facebook page here: Lucy Summers.

1. Who is Lucy Summers?
I am a girl who is full of passion. I believe that if you love something, don’t hold back and show the world what it is you care about. For me, there are several things that strike my passion. Horseback riding is one of them. Archery is another. I might also have a small obsession with daggers. The entire fantasy/medieval setting is something that I really enjoy. It started when I was a teenager watching The Lord of the Rings. I’d always enjoyed fantasy stories, but something about those movies turned kindling into fire. I picked up archery because of it. Now that passion has grown, I’ve taken it a step further.

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In my work-in-progress, one of my characters, Ryale, is an archer and in some scenes she shoots her bow from her horse. I think I might be slightly crazy, because I wanted to know what that felt like. So I trained my horse for it and shoot arrows off her just so I can write it more accurately. I also cosplay my characters and have a friend photograph us. I find it helps to have a visual for specific scenes. Next thing I know, I just kept taking more and more of them based off scenes from the story. It’s something I really enjoy doing. There are more photos and snippets of the story on my Instagram account, as well as updates on my Facebook page.

2. Tell us about your work-in-progress Storm of Thieves.
My story is about a thief (Ryale), a seven foot tall human giant (Thane) and an assassin (Daemon) all wrapped up in a heist together. There is only a little bit of magic within their world, none of which they can control. The unusual threesome end up having to work together in order to avoid capture by the antagonist, all while navigating a land run by a criminal empire where death is more common than life. It has darker undertones to it, and can get gritty at times. But everyone in it is human. There are no mythical races or creatures.

I enjoyed creating the dynamic between them. Thane is a formal slave with newfound freedom and kind and humble, pitted with Ryale, who is a wild a reckless thief. She is high-energy and clever, but untrusting of Daemon. Daemon is a skilled killer, with unmatched skills with his blades. His arrogance knows no bounds.

I’m writing it from three first-person points of view, broken into sections, with the first part being Thane, the middle part Ryale and the last part Daemon. I try to make each voice unique, even in the writing itself, to bring each character to life. I chose to do it this way because as the story unfolds and moves the reader gets more out of it depending on who they are with. It’s not simply retelling the same set of scenes per character. The story moves on without such repetition. With a few small twists along the way, the unravelling of the world and heist is best told this way.

I began this story about two years ago when a photo online inspired the creation of Thane. In all honesty, I didn’t actually intend to write a book. I’d dabbled in writing throughout my childhood, the typical young girl adventure novels, and I took a few writing classes in college, but I never sat down with the full intent of writing a novel. It just sort of…happened. I began writing a few scenes with Thane, and then Ryale came into the picture, and then Daemon forced his presence in the story as well and next thing I know the story just unfolded. There was no outline or template or even overall plot. The story just became what it is on its own. That, I think, is part of the magic of writing. Especially fantasy.

 
3. Why do you like fantasy as a genre?
Fantasy is different from any other story. People tend to think it’s easier to write because you can make up rules to allow things to happen that can’t in real life. I find this to be the opposite. It’s not easier. It’s harder. And that’s why it’s my favourite. Anything can happen. The world most fantasy stories take place in, including mine, is completely made from scratch, different rules, values, traditions, even people and races. Nothing is off limits. That’s the beauty of it.

 

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4. Who do you see as your writing influences?
I am such a huge fan of Patrick Rothfuss. His world and characters are compelling enough, but the language itself is so poetically beautiful. I wish I could write even half as well as he does. The man is truly a master of words. I also love the sheer creativity of Ransom Riggs. He weaves a story so well and with such a large cast, too.

 
5. What is the future of fantasy? Do readers still want the same old thing or are they looking for something fresh and “different”?
I think it’s a bit of both. I think the same story can be told by 100 people and it would still come out fresh and unique as each person puts their own spin on it. It’s really just a matter of opinion on what is well liked by readers. Tropes and cliches will always have a love/hate relationship with readers; there will be those who love them and those that hate them. I don’t think its exclusive to only fantasy. But I think a good spin on something old or a new approach to a story can easily be well loved and accepted.

 
6. Are there things about the genre you find worn-out or over-done? Is there a particular direction you’d like to see fantasy take as a genre?
I’m not really the type to pick apart a story to the point I’m bored with it. I won’t set a book down because the main plot line has a dragon guarding a princess, or a knight falling in love with royalty. I tend to fall in love with characters more than plot. If I can get behind a character, the overdone or worn out story matters less. I love character-driven books, and that’s something I’m trying to recreate in my own. While the plot is obviously important, having characters that readers like and/or relate to is far more critical. If they are dull or two-dimensional, it lacks a focus and I find myself getting bored. I’d like to avoid that.

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7. What have been your struggles as a writer? What have been your personal triumphs?
Turning my mind to focus on the writing part can be hard. It gets frustrating, writing and rewriting and editing and making more changes, and still not being quite happy with the work. It is hard to know when its “done” because the more you write, the more the skills develop. It doesn’t help that I honestly have no idea what I’m doing. Everyone has a different process. For me, I have to explore a scene with my characters to understand. Sometimes, that ends up being something pivotal to the plot. Other times, it’s four or five pages of poking around only to realize that it just didn’t work the way it needed to. But then those little moments come when everything just clicks into place. Those are the moments I live for, finding small keys that unlock a greater picture and fit everything together.

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8. Why is fantasy an important genre?
It’s freedom. It’s taking what is impossible and finding a way to bring it to life and make it real, even if it’s only in the reader’s mind. Words have magic. They bring to life something that can’t be created elsewhere, a unique experience for each individual reader. There are always going to be slight differences in speech, tone, and even visualizing the world and characters. Everything in a fantasy setting is unique. The writers of these worlds expanded their minds into other places, found them, and brought them back with them to share with others.

So that’s Lucy Summers. You can find here Facebook page here: Lucy Summers. Or check out her Instagram site: @storm_of_thieves.

(Featured image: https://pixabay.com/en/background-fantasy-landscape-tree-3607469. Other images (c) Lucy Summers.)

Russell Proctor www.russellproctor.com

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The Journey of a Story – Getting the Idea

Today I am setting out on a journey. I’m going to write a new short story.

Because I am a teacher, and teach creative writing as well as English, I thought I’d do a series of blogs about the process of writing the, so anyone who wishes can see how I work and what it might take to produce a story.

Mind you, I’m not saying the story will turn out to be a good one. I’m not trying to blow my own trumpet here and suggest I am a great writer. But to go step-by-step through the process might help others who struggle with writing or are wondering where on Earth to start.

Nor am I promoting my writing method is the only proper one. There are as many ways to write as there are writers. So let’s just say this is one method by one writer. You can take from it what you will. I am what is called a “pantser” in writerly circles. That means I don’t normally plan a story out before I write — that’s what “plotters” or “planners” do. So I’m not going to do much planning before I kick off. Or I might make the exception and do that for this blog.  I don’t know what’s going to happen.

To me, that is part of the fun. Writing a story is like reading it for the first time.

 

Getting the idea.

At the time I’m writing this blog, I have little idea of characters and events. I went to buy a newspaper this morning and in the early light I thought I should write another story sometime. So naturally my thought was what it could be about. I am currently writing a series of novellas about the Greek god Dionysus running a music hall in Victorian-era London. I am almost finished the first draft. Dionysus has his maenad followers with him, and they are also the basis of a series of short stories I’m planning called Tales of the Maenads, a sort of companion volume to the book series.

My maenad stories can be set in any period of Earth’s history. I decided, for no particular reason, that this would be another maenad story involving Nicolas Copernicus. Why? well, I’m interested in astronomy, and he was one of the most influential thinkers in astronomical history. Also, I wanted to find out more about his character.

That meant doing research. I had a couple of books already with chapters on Copernicus. One is the excellent This Wild Abyss by Gale E. Christianson (The Free Press, 1978). This a detailed biography of the astronomer and his work which should prove an invaluable resource. I also have a copy of Copernicus’s book De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), reproduced in its entirety in On the Shoulders of Giants edited by Stephen Hawking (Running Press, 2002). This contains, besides Copernicus’s almost unreadable tome, an excellent biography of Copernicus.

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So I read both of these but was still stuck for an actual idea. Copernicus led, it turns out, quite a boring life. He studied medicine and law, was appointed Canon of Frauenberg (Frombork) , wrote a book that revolutionised astronomy but which wasn’t published until the end of his life–literally. The first edition arrived at his bedside on the day he died. And that’s pretty much it. No juicy gossip about him, or questionable activities or notoriety (at least, not until after his death).

There didn’t seem to be anything on which to base story, especially one that would contain the worshipper of a pagan god. Then I realised Copernicus’s blandness could work in my favour. he was one of those helpful historical people whose life is not entirely known, or who was boring enough that incidents might be inserted in their life without upsetting too many historians. If little was known about him, I figured, I could invent “facts” as needed.

A few days later I was teaching and the students were working quietly (yes, in my class they do; I’m that sort of teacher). Bereft of ideas I took out my notebook and summarised what I knew of Copernicus. I jotted some ideas down, then crossed them out because they proved unworkable or just plain silly. I wanted the story to be about Copernicus’s book. I wanted my maenad character to be a servant of his. I wanted Copernicus himself to be a character in it, albeit perhaps a secondary one.

Then the thought struck me: what if someone wanted to steal the book or prevent it being published in some way. But who? The Catholic church at the time (the 1540’s) was actually quite happy for Copernicus to go against dogma and state the Earth orbited the Sun instead of the other way around. It was the Lutherans who were opposed to the idea. But having my bad guys Lutherans would not go down well with part of my potential audience. Besides, Copernicus had a Lutheran student, Georg Rheticus, who was instrumental in having the Revolutions published. My bad guy had to be someone else.

If the new Copernican system upset the old Aristotelian/Ptolemaic one, then it might be another pagan god who didn’t want the truth to be known about the universe.

Here was my idea. The followers of another god, upset that their hold on the minds of mankind would be even further eroded by the advancement of science, might seek to destroy Copernicus’s life-work. My maenad, although a pagan herself, and having doubts about the new system of her own, could realise that truth was better than lies and thwart the evil plan.

Now I had an idea, I continued my research about Copernicus, the city he lived in and other material that would help me flesh out the details. I decided on a name for my protagonist: Renata. Originally I settled on Katalin, but since Copernicus would be referred to as Father Kopernik, two characters with K-names might look odd.

So here I am. I have no idea about Renata’s character or precisely what part she will play in the story. I have little idea of the story itself other than a broad concept.

This is going to be fun.

 

Next part: Writing the first draft.

 

Russell Proctor – www.russellproctor.com

 

 

Tomorrow’s Authors – Aravind Pradhyumnan

Continuing the series of Tomorrow’s Authors, in which I hand over to guest bloggers, the next generation of fantasy writers. These writers are as yet unpublished, but working hard to bring their own version of this great genre to a reading audience. Today our blogger is Aravind Pradhyumnan.

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Recently, I joined a support group for Fantasy writers. It is heart-warming to find there are entire communities of people who want to help their fellow novice writers. I am a Masters student pursuing Aerospace Engineering far from home, and I took to writing as a hobby. Soon, my penchant for the craft turned the hobby into a fierce passion and helped me get back from a dark place. This I did by creating a fantasy world of my own. If not for the incredible support and advice from fellow writers, I may never have turned my outlines into the first draft of my manuscript. On that note, thank you, Russell, for giving me a rub.

 
I would like to say I am the next phenomenon sweeping through the Fantasy genre, and the household name of the next decade. But my name is hard to pronounce, and I am but an aspiring author.

 
But that’s enough about me, let me tell you about my work-in-progress, which has the working title Black Rose Bloodmage.

 
I do not have a cover art or any illustration to give a taste of my work yet. But I do have a song by Opeth in mind that captures the brutal beauty of world I’ve imagined. Listen to it reader and hear what I hear, see what I see. Opeth: “Bleak”.

 
Adrya is a country with a bloody history. Due to the nature of magic, there was tremendous bloodshed and the world saw the decline of powerful creatures that roamed the wild. Men killed one another. This was characteristic of the Magethic Era.

 
However, an ambitious man, Adrian, took the crown along with a coterie of powerful mages at the time, and heralded in the New Era. The country grew more stable as all unaffiliated mages were systematically eradicated. Prosperity was ushered into the years that followed under the rule of the immortal King. However, Enthaumy – the magic system, became forbidden knowledge and was henceforth only shared among a few members of the peacekeeping Justiciary.

 
By the year NE 88, a rogue mage, Gathvel has risen to the upper echelons of the Black Rose Guild. He remains in hiding both from the Crown, as well as his own past. But his life changes when he adopts a nine-year-old girl. After a botched assassination mission, Norman, an Inspector of the Justiciary catches Gathvel’s scent.

 
The first book of a hopeful trilogy deals with this hunt – who will emerge from this ordeal alive? I aim to explore themes of friendship, bonds, and how even men set in their ways can change.

How this project came to be:
Originally I set out to create a magic system that seemed realistic and had a tangible, measurable cost, with world-changing ramifications. I used my Engineering education to help legitimise the workings of the magic system I came to call Anthaumy. As it grew and developed in front of my eyes, they branched into rather specific fields of “science” of Enthaumy and Alchemy.

 
Along with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the Second Law of Anmodynamics came to be revered in Adrya. Mages were scholars after all. The law states that the Antopy of Miridian always increases, but its saturation remains infinite. I understand this sounds like gibberish, but the book will ensure it makes sense.

 
So as you can see, I spent the bulk of my time creating the magic system and it led me to create a world for it to exist. Over the course of a year, I had created a country with a rich culture and history, a functioning economy, and quirks specific to this world.
My first attempt at creating a plot set in this world however, was a travesty as terrible as the events of the Magethic Era. It was a piss-poor story, that incorporated all elements of the world I created, but the plot itself held no water. I was disappointed, and all but abandoned the project.

 
Enter Brandon Sanderson. Figuratively speaking. The man has lectures on creative writing that breathed a new life into the fading embers of the passion for my tales set in Adrya. In a matter of weeks I had characters and conflicts that produced elements of the plot I described. I streamlined the magic system and the cut out elements of the world that I felt were unnecessary.

 
I found that I was a heavy outliner and in few more months, I managed to create a solid outline to base my manuscript on. With more advice and encouragement from fellow writers, I finally set pen to paper. Now I am 9000 words into my first draft, and I just wrote my first fight scene. Enthaumy was finally on paper and it read better than I hoped. I know exactly where the book is headed and by my ambitious estimate, I should have a completed first draft by March.

The struggles along the way:
Time has proven to be my best friend, as well as my worst enemy. Writing can seem like a chore sometime and there always may seem like something else is just a little more pressing. Getting past that resistance to start typing into the laptop has been the biggest hurdle I personally face.

 
But this is where the support groups on Facebook help. Good people are all around and they provide motivation to resume writing, whether they realise it or not. And once I’ve entered that headspace, it becomes easier to write and harder to stop.

 
Other times, I’m convinced what I’m writing is digital dogshit, but then accomplished authors tell us that is normal and even they feel similarly at times. When you’re in agreement with Joe Abercrombie, it is likely that you may be on the right track. This hasn’t been a debilitating struggle for me though and I’m confident to a degree that my writing isn’t all that terrible. And hey, that’s not so dreadful, right?

My influences:
It’s hard to point to an author as an influence. I think I just read the right books at the right time which encouraged me to develop my own magic system. These were the popular debut works of authors from the last decade – Pat Rothfus, Scott Lynch, and Lord Grimdark himself, Joe Abercrombie.

 
I like to think I have learnt from each of these authors, and I might have to actually build a shrine for Brandon Sanderson. What I’m writing may be considered Dark/Hard Fantasy and I certainly will not be pursuing my passion if not for these authors.

Fantasy – Its importance and what it means to me:
The human mind is fascinating. We can see with our eyes closed. We can see even without them, in fact. With our mind’s eyes we see into the past and more importantly, into the future. I heard a psychologist lecture that it was this ability to peer into the future that made us the intelligent species that we are today.

 
But this also opened other doors for our mind’s eye. We can look at things that aren’t, we can see things that could be, and we can even see things that couldn’t be. Our mind can create entire worlds where we are gods. We take literary fiction above and beyond its limits, and this is why Fantasy and Science Fiction are here to stay.

 
We humans started out as hunter-gatherers. Adventure and exploration is a part of us. So no wonder we as readers and writers want to explore new worlds and possibilities, and there are few things comparable to being immersed into a fantastic world. People say fantasy is a means to escape reality– yes, that can be the case. But to me it is a means to explore beyond reality.

 
As a reader, this is what I want. As an author, I hope to provide others the same. And if you give me your time, I have a story to tell. Follow me on twitter at @pradhyumnan503.

– Aravind Pradhyumnan

 

Tomorrow’s Authors: Debdip Chakraborty

 

Today’s post continues the series of interviews with unpublished writers of fantasy. While they are still struggling to finish their works or await publication, they represent the fantasy we’ll be reading in years to come. The interview on this post is with Debdip Chakraborty.

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I was born into a world of books and writing, so I guess I was fortunate enough to be born in a family which had tremendous love and nurture of literature and art. My granddad was an avid reader, which he passed on to her daughter, my mom, and she is the woman who has given me every thoughts and ideas and made my life much more interesting with books.

As I kid, I liked isolation, and my ideas were always too weird or laughable to share, so I used to enjoy more of the characters that I read than the company of people. The interactions with characters in my head made me to pick up writing my own fan-fiction, which later changed into my writing.
Years turned, and after drifting through books, of all genres, shapes and sizes, I felt fantasy is the genre which speaks the most to me, and resonates with me.

 
1. Tell us about your work-in-progress.
Being an unpublished author is hard. You’re stuck in a boat, sailing in a vast sea, your destination is nowhere in sight. And you don’t want to go back to the land you just left. I guess that’s what I feel right now. More so, because I’ve miles to go before I finish my first draft. The dreaded first draft.
Currently, my main project, a planned fantasy trilogy named Ode to the Fallen, is stuck in the first draft.
It is about an Imperial Prince, who never dreams of power for himself but only kills and conquers in the name of his father, the Emperor, even if it means killing his kin. There is also a sorceress, who is seeking to revive a High God, fallen and broken; however, she knows that time is running out. A cannibal and barbarian veteran soldier seeks to wreck vengeance for cleansing the sins of the past. All their paths will cross once the world will be opposed by a far greater and ancient threat that’s beyond their comprehension or power. Hopefully, by 2018, I can end up finishing with the draft of the first novel of the trilogy.
Apart from that, I do have a sci-fi in work, still at the nascent stages, a few ideas of comic books, and a host of poetry.

 
2. Why do you love fantasy as a genre?
The boundaries of this genre are limitless. While most of the other genres do get tamed by having a “realistic boundary”, fantasy (sci-fi is considered as a sub genre within fantasy) provides an author with the concept of endless loops and probabilities.

 
3. Who do you see as your writing influences?
I was a four year old when my granddad introduced me to the world of literature and arts. It all started with the Hindu and Greek epics. Around the age of twelve I discovered my passion of writing and “Papa” Tolkien’s books. Those shaped my genre of writing: fantasy. Over the years, two other primary influences came into my life: Steven Erikson and R. Scott Bakker. Both of them are towering geniuses when it comes to the genre of fantasy and literature. They’ve pushed the aspects of fantasy and set a new bar where I feel few can reach.

 
4. What is the future of fantasy? Do readers still want the same old thing or are they looking for something fresh and “different”? Are there things about the genre you find worn-out or over-done? Is there a particular direction you’d like to see fantasy take as a genre?
The future of fantasy as a genre really does seem bright. With the old guards of the genre going strong with their new series, fantasy as a genre since the post 2000s has seen a host of new and emerging authors who’re fit to carry on the battalion. Fantasy as a genre has much gained the hype and deservingly so, with the adaptation of the A Song of Ice and Fire series by the HBO popular show A Game of Thrones. George R. R. Martin does deserve every ounce of credit for popularizing the genre.
There are readers on both ends of the spectrum. There are some who want the fantasy with tropes, the known tropes, just to get a familiar setting. There are also readers, who want fantasy to be with new ideas/ thoughts. Both does have its pros and cons.
While having the known fantasy tropes does possess the readers with familiar grounds, and not to scramble too much and being clueless, the author does have a fear of being a “Tolkien” or any other author imitator.
However, present things too fresh and new, and the readers may feel clueless as well. Having everything original doesn’t mean that it is going to work as well, and that itself is also a trope.
I feel a proper mixture of good old fantasy tropes, and originality always does the trick. While the fantasy trope will give the reader a familiar ground to focus, the author can show his/her versatility/creativity by planting the original thoughts along the way.
The worn-out processes of fantasy are the same Tolkien rip offs of the genre. For me, as much as I’m a huge fan of Tolkien, I do think the author prevented (for sometime at least) the genre growing. A farmer boy goes out to defeat the dark lord, whose sole person is to conquer the world, guided by a mentor (who dies halfway through the book). Those need to stop. The same old repetitive formula of light versus dark doesn’t really work out these days. Characters should be gray, no shades, multi-layered; not all characters have to be likable.
Also, as much as I love this new wave of grimdark fantasy that’s up and coming, I don’t understand grimdark, gore, and violence, just there for pleasing the masses.
There is a host of fantasy series that I’d love to see come up as shows or movies. So that definitely is a direction where fantasy should head.

 
5. What have been your struggles as a writer? What have been your personal triumphs?
Struggles to cope up with my depression, loneliness and suicidal thoughts have been my real obstacles towards getting my goals done. Although it does help me to project my thoughts on the characters, the plots, and the settings across the writing, it can at times come out as nihilistic, grim, and give a reader an overall sense of bleakness.
The triumphs do include when I try to get my thoughts on the page. The scenes or the characters which were so fleshed out in my mind when they take life in the page in front of me do seem a major satisfaction.
The idea is to keep pushing till you’re exhausted. A blank page sits in front of you, and even if you’ve to write a scene spanning only ten minutes of the story time, you can take at least a lot of time, to think, process and write down in real-life time.

 
6. What fantasy books or films have you enjoyed and why?
Favourite Fantasy Books (In no particular order):
Deadhouse Gates, Midnight Tides, Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson: This is a series which influenced me to take the risks, to go beyond the genre classics that are out there, and makes me want to take risks.
The Darkness that Comes Before and Warrior Prophet by R. Scott Bakker: Such an exquisite piece of literary fiction. A work of such original nature has never been seen in the genre of fantasy.
A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin: The depth of character arc and treatment, has been seldom seen in this scale.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy has to be one of my favourite fantasy film series. The visual aspects of the film, and the grandeur make me become a twelve year boy again, sniffing through the pages of the Tolkien’s epic series.

 
7. What fantasy books and films have you not liked and why?
The Twilight series were pretty dull, and it seemed like a romantic thread, with nothing in it.
The Mythica series didn’t also do much justice with the genre. It took the same old tropes, and there was no purpose in the overall story.
Neither did I like the later Harry Potter films. They scrapped and changed a lot from the books for my liking.

 
8. Why is fantasy an important genre?
The feel of fantasy is that, it speaks to everyone, regardless of caste, creed, sex, orientation. It binds all the readers, under one umbrella. The feeling of awe, and the creation of something original can only be derived by this genre.

 

 

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I wish Debdip all the best for his future writing. His work-in-progress certainly sounds interesting, a combination of different and unusual characters. His insights into the future of fantasy also show someone committed to keeping the genre alive and well. Keep an eye out for his Ode to the Fallen series!

Russell Proctor   www.russellproctor.com

(Featured picture courtesy of Dreamstime and Creative Commons.)

 

 

Tomorrow’s Authors: B. L Sherrington

Today the first of a series of interviews with unpublished fantasy writers. That’s right, those out there still trying to get their fantasy stories read by the general public. I envy them…they have the opportunity to determine what we’ll be reading in the future. This is a chance  for you to learn what to expect from the fantasy writers still to come.

We begin with B. L. Sherrington.

“Opportunity isn’t going to come knocking on your door. You need to break down their doors to take yourself to the next step” B.L. Sherrington.

B.L. SHERRINGTON was born in London in 1989. Sherrington developed a passion for stories following a childhood filled with many nights reading fantasy books, thanks to the influence of Sherrington’s mother. Sherrington delved into an imagination filled with creativity and boundless possibilities using the people as characters and the backdrop of London as inspiration.

“I’ve always been the kind of person, whose head was bouncing around with ideas. As a child I would make up scenarios my toys would get up to and narrate them to my dad who’s blind. This was around the time my mother bought me a typewriter”. Growing tired of reading other author’s stories, Sherrington developed an affinity for fiction and at the age of eight wrote A Fallen Star, about a star who fell from the sky into the arms of a midwife and was nursed back to health before lighting the sky again over Barnet General Hospital.

“Over the past twenty years, I’ve explored writing in a lot of different mediums. I started as a blogger, and then became a journalist. My favourites have been writing film, theatre and book reviews for Exeunt Magazine and Litro Magazine. In 2015, I took my creative writing more seriously. I was penning short stories and poetry daily and a year later, I began my serialised fantasy novel, Wish Upon A Star on Channillo.”

 

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Cover of “Wish Upon a Star” (artwork by Tatev Ghambarian)

 

“Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with. Living on a gold-plated cloud on her planet named Lemsi, she is situated above the planets. With control of the weather, the ability to create and destroy worlds, her reputation speaks for herself. Respected for her ability and fearing her level of power, many try to stay as far away from Mother Nature as possible. All except for Martay, a wizard on Mars who rules it’s colony of Foxous”  – WISH UPON A STAR.

I put some questions to B. L. Sherrington:

1) Tell us about your work-in-progress.

I have quite a few! I have just completed my dark fantasy screenplay for a feature film entitled The Legend of Kuse House and I’m collating my short stories and poetry into two e-books, Orphic and Heart of Lion, to release in February.

I am working on two adult fantasy books: Basilar and The Legend of the Rastafari. A Young Adult book series Bobita and two children’s fantasy books, Akila and Deep Sea.

I’m 20K words into Basilar, a story of a sixth-generation fisherman who during rough seas meets a 50ft sea creature, Basilar, who kills using the elements, travelling in between the different seas. I’m hoping it will be completed by mid 2018.

“A creature emerged from the water . At fifty feet tall, with red scales, a curved tail, a square shaped head and long blue horns, Paul was astonished to say the least. The creature scratched through the ivory flag with its razor sharp ivory thick trunk like nails. Paul, terrified, looked at the creature, examining its face. It’s eyes were enlarged black pools of darkness. Soon the creature backed away breathing out a flood of water to the deck of Diana, disappearing instantly.”  From BASILAR

2) Why do you like Fantasy as a genre?

Reality is filled with boundaries and limits. Fantasy gives the freedom to say anything is possible and as a creative writer, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of creating my own world.

3) Who do you see as your writing influences?

So many! Madeline L’Engle, JK Rowling, Neil Gaiman, L. Frank Baum, Terry Jones, Caroline Thompson, Linda Woolverton and Winnie Holzan.

4) What is the future of fantasy? Do readers still want the same old thing or are they looking for something fresh and “different”? Are there things about the genre you find worn-out or over-done? Is there a particular direction you’d like to see fantasy take as a genre?

I think a bit of both. There are some who like the tradition manner of fantasy writing, but I think the majority are moving towards wanted majestic on a whole new scale. I think Chris Colfer’s Land of Stories, is a good blueprint for where fantasy is going. Blending reality with a combination of fairy tales is where the genre is headed.

So many books get adapted into films within a year or two, I think that needs to be considered in the writing process. How will this play out on screen? Or on stage?

5) What have been your struggles as a writer? What have been your personal triumphs?

Having the confidence to share my writing with the world has been a challenge. But once I did build up the courage to leave myself open to criticism by sharing extracts of my book with my followers on my social media channels, I was pleasantly surprised to the reaction.

I’ve been told Wish Upon A Star is gripping, Bobita has inspired other writers to start their own story and The Legend of the Rastafari, made me someone’s muse. So far, the best experience I’ve had as a writer, is managing to navigate my way through my grief by using it as a backdrop to my stories.

6) What fantasy books or films have you enjoyed and why?

My favourite stories are the ones where the authors create new worlds. They inspire me to think outside the box.

Books: A Wrinkle in Time, James and the Giant Peach, The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland.

My favourite films are full of creativity, ingenuity and slightly eccentric, so I love Tim Burton’s films such as Maleficent and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

I also love a musical. Both film genre and the theatre. My top two would be Labyrinth and Wicked.

7) What fantasy books and films have you not liked and why?

The Golden Compass and the Twilight series didn’t resonate with me. I felt Twilight was more focused on the love aspect and I didn’t find Lyra in The Golden Compass likeable.

8) Why is fantasy an important genre?

Fantasy goes across religions, age groups, sexual orientations, and race. It manages to unit us all, teaches the power of imagination and in present day when reality is riddled with lies and stress, it’s an escape to bring a bit of happiness.

You can keep up to date with all B. L. Sherrington’s work at www.blsherrington.weebly.com, or follow at @blsherrington on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest & YouTube.

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The Horror of Children’s Stories

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This is repost from an earlier one. It’s still relevant though.

Picture this: a little girl has just thrown a bucket water over a Witch. What happens next is quite disturbing.

With these words the Witch fell down in a brown, melted shapeless mass and began to spread over the clean boards of the kitchen floor. Seeing that she had really melted away to nothing, Dorothy drew another bucket of water and threw it over the mess. She then swept it all out the door. After picking out the silver shoe, which was all that was left of the old woman, she cleaned and dried it with a cloth, and put it on her foot again.”

Now let’s get this straight… a little girl calmly melts an old woman, sweeps the gooey slime she has become out of the door like so much swill, and then calmly cleans her shoe like this sort of thing happened every day.

You might think the extract is taken from the latest gore-filled treat from Permuted Press, but it’s actually from L. Frank Baum’s children’s classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900. A children’s book. Of course, if you are only familiar with the 1939 Judy Garland film, you may remember the witch-melting scene was a little more wholesome. Certainly in the movie Dorothy didn’t have to clean up the disgusting sewage of what used to be a human being like she was doing a simple household chore. And in the movie version Dorothy felt pretty upset about the whole thing as well, even though the witch was evil and had tried to kill her.

Take another story: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Now there are no violent scenes in that timeless classic, surely? Admittedly the Queen of Hearts threatens everyone with having their heads chopped off, but no one is unfortunate to actually have it done. But most of the violence of the Alice books is more subtle. According to Hugh Haughton in his introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of Carroll’s books (1998), there is an underlying theme of eating and being eaten in the book. The characters are in more danger of being consumed by other characters than anything the Queen of Hearts might threaten. Alice eats and drinks various substances and changes size; the baby oysters are consumed by the Walrus and the Carpenter; the Hatter is obsessed by tea and bread and butter. There is also, of course, more overt violence: the Duchess physically abuses her baby son, the March Hare and the Hatter try to drown the Dormouse in tea, and the terrifying Giant Crow threatens Alice in the forest.

It doesn’t end with those books. In Peter Pan by J.M Barrie, the fairy Tinker Bell is a right bitch. Her first act on seeing Wendy is to get Tootles to shoot her with an arrow in an attempt to kill her. He almost succeeds. Tootles is so distraught he asks Peter to kill him.

Now, the point is that these are probably not events most people recall when remembering these tales. But they are there in the original books.

There have, of course, been many criticisms of traditional fairy tales as being too violent. Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and so forth contain considerable murder and mayhem. The difference between them and the more modern stories I’ve referred to is that these stories are folk tales, handed down over many years and added to, extended and changed over generations before being recorded by people like the Brothers Grimm. They were not written specifically for children. The adventures of Alice, Dorothy and Peter Pan were.

So what do we make if this? Are these stories in their original forms just too violent? I say “in their original forms” because each of those I mentioned has been “toned down” when made into films. Disney and Warner Brothers made a point of changing things so the stories were more wholesome for tender readers (or, in their case, viewers). Dorothy melts the Wicked Witch, but feels bad about it at least. Admittedly, modern versions of Alice (I refer specifically to the recent Tim Burton CGI extravaganza) may take liberties with the plot in which they do present a more dangerous version of Wonderland than the Disney version. But this is a modern trend, I submit, and I’ll mention it again later.

My point is (and I’ve taken a while making it) is that there is a wealth of trauma available to writers in children’s tales. Quite often where you wouldn’t expect it. In The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Toad not only steals a motor vehicle, he is actually in involved in numerous car accidents and is thrown in prison as a result. And I’m sure most of us remember the Narnia series by C. S Lewis, which tells of children not only fighting in wars but killing their adversaries with barely a nod at any feelings of guilt afterwards.

Writers might well find ideas in these tales. And that’s a good thing. While I’m not condoning the exposure of children to violence, death and horror, it certainly can entertain the adult reader and inspire the adult writer.

Back when these stories were written, I submit the world was a more violent place. There was no such thing as being an adolescent. One went from the caterpillar stage of childhood to the butterfly stage of adulthood without any inconvenient chrysalis stage of adolescence in between. People grew up earlier. Children’s books were violent because life was violent. It still is these days, but we don’t like to admit it and try to protect our children from its excesses. An example of this is the scene in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland where the Duchess throws her baby boy to Alice (who only just manages to catch him) after singing a song about how beating a child was a justifiable punishment for it sneezing. This would hardly have raised an eyebrow back in 1865. Children were beaten. The world was perhaps no better or worse than it is today, but violence was condoned more and seen as an acceptable solution to social and domestic problems. Carroll was using violence as nonsense, and perhaps as a comment on the philosophy of child-rearing at the time: the air in the Duchess’s house was full of pepper, the baby sneezed as a result, and so the Duchess beat him. Problem solved.

We would not condone such a practice today, even as nonsense, which is why this incident has not, my knowledge, been incorporated into any film adaptations of Alice so far ( I don’t include the Burton film there, as it is so far removed from the original story as to be a separate entity).

Burton’s film does, however, seek to make an adult vision of Wonderland (with a bit of Looking-Glass Land added into it). And that is how the horror of children’s stories can be used to good effect. Tales like Frank Beddor’s The Looking-Glass Wars is a classic use of a classic to create something new and insightful.

So horror is there in children’s stories. If you sit and read the originals and wonder why they all seem so different to what you thought they were about, or what you remembered when you read them as a kid, then I hope you can take a whole new delight in these children’s stories for grown-ups. And, as a writer, that they inspire you in your own tales of horror and fantasy.

The Past and the Present

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Ok, so here’s a revelation: unlike every other language in the world, the English language has only  two tense forms. Past and present.

An example of past tense: The girl walked to the shop.

An example of present tense: The girl walks to the shop.

Simple, no? But wait, you say, what about all those other tenses that put fine shades of meaning to our deathless prose? Future? Conditional? Surely they are there, I’ve used them myself!

Yes, they are, but they use the past and present forms. English expresses the other tenses by the use of auxiliary verbs. So the future tense is formed by adding the auxiliary verb will to the present tense.  She will walk to the shop.

There are arguably (and that’s one of the things I love about the English language, that people can actually argue about the grammar of it) eighteen English tenses:

  1. Present simple. She walks.
  2. Present continuous. She is walking.
  3. Past simple. She walked.
  4. Past continuous. She was walking.
  5. Present perfect simple. She has walked.
  6. Present perfect continuous. She has been walking.
  7. Past perfect simple. She had walked.
  8. Past perfect continuous. She had been walking.
  9. Future simple. She will walk.
  10. Future continuous. She will be walking.
  11. Future perfect simple. She will have walked.
  12. Future perfect continuous. She will have been walking.
  13. Conditional simple. She could/would  walk.
  14. Conditional continuous. She could/would be walking.
  15. Conditional perfect simple. She could/would have walked.
  16. Conditional perfect continuous. She could/would have been walking.
  17. Imperative. Walk!
  18. Infinitive. To walk is a pleasant activity.

Notice something? All of the tenses are based on just two forms of the verb. Walk and walked. With a host of auxiliary verbs such as has, have, been, will, be, could, etc these two forms create all the other tenses.

“Ah!” I hear you say, “but there is a third tense form in that list. The  -ing form.”

Well, yes, there is. But actually, no, there isn’t. Walked is the past tense, but walking is…well, what is it?

The  – ing form is the present participle. English has two tenses and two participles. With a regular verb, like walk, the past tense is formed by adding -ed. Walked. But with an irregular verb, like sing, things get more complicated.

Walk (Regular verb)

Present tense: Walk (I walk)

Past tense: Walked (Yesterday I walked)

Present participle: Walking (I am walking)

Past participle: Walked (I had walked)

Sing (Irregular verb)

Present tense: Sing (I sing)

Past tense: Sang (Yesterday I sang)

Present participle: Singing ( I am singing)

Past participle: Sung (I had sung)

So we use the auxiliary verbs with the participles. Of course, with regular verbs the past participle is the same as the past tense. But not with the irregular verbs. And there are many  irregular verbs in English.

So, you know all this. Or at least, you do because you get the tenses right every day, you just don’t know the grammatical mechanics behind it all. So what’s my point?

For some reason, some writers want to write in the present tense.

Why? This tendency seems particularly endemic to YA and teen writing. But it has crept (creeps/is creeping/has been creeping/will have crept…another beautifully irregular verb) into other demographics as well.

It’s actually harder to write in the present tense than in the past. So why do it? To make the action more immediate, I hear some writers say. How is it more immediate? I just don’t get it.

Call me old-fashioned if you will, but present tense writing smacks of pretension in my opinion, except when used for specific effect. For instance, I’ve used present tense to describe a dream sequence. It is also used in dialogue. A lot of dialogue is in present tense except during recount.

But it’s worse than just my opinion. As a teacher I’ve noticed that many students today think that you are supposed to write in the present tense. Or, even worse, they get confused and start writing in the past tense, switch to the present and then back again. Even the other tenses get mixed up because kids these days see present and past tense writing used so randomly.

So stop it guys! Use it for special effect, like a dream sequence, but not otherwise. I know, Charlotte Bronte slips into present tense occasionally in Jane Eyre, and then back to past, but she was Charlotte Bronte.

Russell Proctor  http://www.russellproctor.com