Category Archives: Posts by Genre

Review of Red Rain by Aubrey Hansen

Government regulations said they had no choice. 17-year-old Philadelphia must stay on Earth in the care of complete strangers while her father is sent against his will to Mars. When a benevolent official allows her to accompany her father, Philadelphia knows she must keep her head down or be sent back to Earth. But when a search for her deceased brother’s Bible leads her into a hallway that isn’t supposed to exist, Philadelphia is faced with a question she doesn’t want to answer – the choice between returning to Earth or destroying it.

Within the first chapter I was impressed by the pace. During the second chapter I realized there was no way I was going to put it down soon, despite that fact the dishes were waiting. And had been waiting. I think I may have honestly told myself, “I’ll just start this new book late at night and then I’ll get to the dishes.”

Quit laughing.

I put it down half-way through only because I’m attempting to break a habit of staying up past 10 o’clock, and it was 11. I finished the rest the next morning, made a gushing note about it on GoodReads, then went to those dishes.

Pacing contributes heavily to an un-put-downable factor, but pace alone does not keep me stuck within a book’s pages. I must feel with the characters, be there inside their heads. Aubrey’s ability to make even minor characters feel rounded and real. I was fully invested in the main character and her goals and problems.

And the story! I feel like giving much beyond the blurb will be a spoiler, but I found it unique and interesting. While some twists I predicted, many more I did not.

Currently, Red Rain is only the third self-published work I think was worth the read. (I’m noticing a pattern of self-pubbed novellas being of better quality than self-published novels.) Niche genre, niche length, well-edited. I didn’t notice a single grammar or spelling error, when I normally catch a neat handful in the most well-edited self-published works. (Aubrey, I know you’re reading this. How’d you do that?) As a unique trait, every couple chapters there are very beautiful illustrations of a character.

4/5 Stars

Purchase on Amazon

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How to Make a Fantasy Character Name

[A note to my subscribers: this post was originally published in October, but wordpress hiccuped and the post was down within the day. Some of you will remember it and some of you will not. I just now made this re-post.]

Usually, fantasy and science fiction names come easily to me. But for some reason my current WIP does not want anything in it named. I was having a headache of a time, so I decided to do a little research. Maybe you aren’t having as bad a time as I was – you just need a fantasy character named, without the writer’s-naming-block. Well, you’re in luck. Fantasy name generators are a half-penny a dozen on the internet. Just google search, pull up a site, press “generate” until you find something you don’t hate, and presto, fantasy name. Go on. What are you standing around for?

Still here? Good. That means you understand enough to know no generator can possibly supply a quality name, specific and tailored and an enrichment to the rest of your fantasy world. You know a generator can not supply originality or the specific need of your story. Yay!

  • Quick: What NOT to Do

I found this humorous piece while researching. In short, it gives a good run-down of how not to make a fantasy name. Since humor does every so much better a job at explaining things (especially why things are wrong), I’ll just link. How Not to Make a Fantasy Name. It’s a quick read.

  • Methods of Creation

I found many authors sharing their method of playing with words and sounds in order to come up with something they liked. I suppose this is what I always did before; it just came naturally to throw together sounds. Lots of writers look through baby name sites and then manipulate a name they like. One author said she would take a word, and then change it one letter at a time until she had what she wanted. At first glance just playing with sounds doesn’t sound like a good method, but don’t dismiss it too soon. This mainly relies on your ability to decide on a name that “feels right.” Which comes to my next topic. . .

  • Connotations of Sounds

What makes a name “feel right”? It’s not psychic. It’s not random. Sounds have connotations around them. Yes, this is scientific. Think about softer sounds versus harder sounds. S and L versus the hard G and K, for example. When a word, especially a name, sounds like what it means, that’s perfect. So play with sounds. . . but know what you’re doing when you play with them. If you have the time – and I highly recommend you make quite a bit of time if you don’t have it – explore the site at http://www.trismegistos.com/MagicalLetterPage/, which deals extensively with this subject.

  • Fitting in the Language

Names are part of a language. Names from the same country are going to come from the same language. Grithinlot and Tien are different fundamentally because they do not sound like they come from the same language. Brandon Sanderson, an author of fantasy, detailed the way he came up with different languages in one of his novels, and I highly recommend the source – anything I say would probably be repeating him. http://www.brandonsanderson.com/book/Elantris/page/35/Creating-the-Languages-of-Elantris. Why do you need to think about an entire language when all you want are character names? Well, what else will you need to be naming? Cities? Animals? Foods? Maybe you need a magical phrase. All words are part of a language, and you can’t ignore that while worldbuilding.

As mentioned earlier, many writers have their own methods for giving their fantasy characters names. What is your method? What is one fantasy name you particularly like? What is your favorite fantasy name that you created?

Book Review of The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races is currently ON SALE ON AMAZON. Click picture.

I received an ARC copy of The Scorpio Races a couple weeks ago. I am ever so glad I got my hands on this book.

Some race to win. Others race to survive.

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.

Some riders live.

Others die.

Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He loves the sky and the island and his horse. Horses and racing are his job. Sean races to win.

Puck Connolly is different. She joins the races as a desperate move to keep her older brother on the island a little bit longer. Puck races to survive.

The premise grabbed me, and the story didn’t let go. This is a tale of courage and carnivorous water horses. The island of Thisby is a salty place like the sea. Here, and only here, do the bloodthirsty Capall Uisce come to shore. They’re the menace of the island, claiming lives both from sheep and loved ones, but if you capture one and train it you have a mount of liquid lightening. The November sea stirs a Capall Uisce’s blood more than any other month. In November they are the most dangerous, the fastest. So in November the Scorpio Races are held.

Sean and Puck live separate lives. Sean is quiet and serious. If he has any doubts he keeps them to himself. His one love and fear is Corr, his water horse – except Corr is owned by the island’s breeding tycoon and Sean’s employer.

Puck is a stubborn orphan managing with her two brothers, the older of whom is tired of the island. She joins the races in a wild attempt to keep him around long enough to change his mind. She is the first girl to join, and will use her regular island pony instead of the much more capable Capall Uisce, partly for principal – the Capall Uisce killed her parents, – and partly because money leaves her no other choice.

Do I need to explain how these two characters’ interaction is marvelous?

Sean and Puck meet each other with mutual admiration and wariness and forge and unlikely friendship. The stakes rise, and they both find the things they hold dearest depending on the race, but only one of them can win. Right up until the last few pages I was unsure of how Maggie Stiefvater could take her story to a satisfying conclusion, but she did.

The Scorpio Races is the only book I’ve read that I could call “slow and gripping.” The pace is slow, with only a few tense actions scenes scattered about until the climax. Even they seemed slow. But the story and scenes are gripping, literally; I have a tendency to shift my weight around and grip the sides of the book when I am excited. Part of this are the skillful POV switches between Puch and Sean.

Maggie Stiefvater’s eye-opening description and phrases also pulled me into the pages. Her craft is flawless, and a beautiful model as well as an exciting read. The one thing that could have made The Scorpio Races more perfect would have been the use of past tense instead of present. I’m one of those people who finds present tense distracting. But in all, The Scorpio Races earned itself a place on my favorites shelf. I’m going to step out on a limb perhaps shakier than my twitter branch and say I see The Scorpio Races enduring time and becoming a classic.

Recommended for ages 15 and up for mild gore/violence and language. 5/5 Stars

It is the first day of November, and so, today, someone will die.

October Poll: Your Least Favorite Genre

Well, your least favorite genre out of those listed. 🙂 Yes, I intend for this to be a difficult decision.

September’s poll is closed! See the results.

For more polls, ongoing and closed, visit my polls page:
https://kathrineroid.wordpress.com/polls/

Reading and Writing Every Day

We’ve all heard you need to write every day. Have you thought about reading every day? Today I updated my links, and if you ever have the time, explore the bottom of my sidebar. While going through my subscriptions to find those links, I noticed I had two sites that supplied free, frequent, short fiction of my genres. I’m not sure if writers who read every day specifically perform better, but I’d guess yes. These are free and entertaining resources. Why not give reading every day a try?

 

Avenir Eclectia

No, I don’t write for Avenir Eclectia. Not yet. 😉 This is a really neat thing these authors have going.

 

Daily Science Fiction
Daily Science Fiction is a free e-zine. There’s a flash fiction piece every day Monday through Thursday, and a longer piece on Friday for the weekend. Daily Science Fiction’s name is slightly deceiving: although most of what’s published is science fiction, but fantasy and slipstream are less than shunned.

What impresses me with this e-zine is the quality of the fiction. I can always expect very entertaining and creative works. Reading the day’s flash fiction before I start my daily outlining/worldbuilding/writing/editing opens my mind.

 

Do you have a favorite place to read your genre?

List of Thriller Subgenres

While looking back at my drafts, I found this post, made to complete a series I wrote on science fiction and fantasy subgenres. Originally I was going to include adventure subgenres in this post, but on further thought I decided they will get their own post.  Thrillers have some general characteristics: focus on plot, non-stop pace, high stakes; but this is enough material for several subgenres.  Until I did my research for this post, I had thought of thrillers under a general category, and wondered “How many divisions could there possibly be?” Silly me.

My post on science fiction subgenres.
My post on fantasy subgenres.

Thriller
Thrillers are usually defined by the mood they elicit (hence the name). “Sensational and suspenseful” stories and stories creating “fearful excitement” are two definitions I found. Because of this, thrillers are crossed with almost every other genre. I’ve tried to only include mash-ups when their combination falls under my definition of “interesting.”

Action Thriller
Take any other thriller subgenre, give it’s defining elements a back seat, and focus on the action, and you have an action-thriller. This is more common in movies than novels because of the visual appeal of explosions and violence.

Conspiracy Thriller
In this subgenre the protagonist must confront a large, powerful organization whose threat only he sees. Usually he must do so alone.

Crime Thriller
This subgenre focuses on crime, and is usually from the criminal’s point of view. Physical action and eluding the police take the place of gathering evidence and trying to discover the criminal.

Disaster Thriller
In this subgenre a (usually) natural disaster is taking place, and the antagonist is either trying to stop the disaster, the extent of the disaster, or just save themselves before time runs out and the disaster has run its course.

Eco-Thriller
In this subgenre the protagonist must stop a threat to the environment (man-made or natural) that will have consequences for society if left unchecked. The damage could be local, but nation or even world-wide stakes are more dramatic. 😉

Forensic Thriller
In this subgenre the protagonist(s) are forensic scientists whose involvement in an unsolved crime threatens their lives.

Legal Thriller
This subgenre takes place in and around the courtroom. Usually the protagonist is a lawyer who has found their case threatening death for either them or their client.

Medical Thriller
This subgenre involves something usually used for medical purposes becoming a deadly weapon. Often it is a virus that is leaking out to the public. The protagonist or antagonist or both are doctors.

Mystery Thriller
This is a subgenre of both mysteries and thrillers. It differs from a regular mystery by being much more fast-paced, with the protagonist on the run and the threat of another crime serving as the “ticking clock.”

Political Thriller
In this subgenre political relations or the whole government is at stake, and the protagonist is employed by the government to stop the decline. The protagonist may have been low-level before having attracted attention.

Psychological Thriller
A personal favorite. In this subgenre a lot of the conflict is mental, rather than physical. The protagonist has become involved in a dangerous situation which literally threatens their sanity. They must use mental prowess to overcome their opponent, whether the battle is inside their own head or it a battle of wits.

Religious Thriller
This subgenre uses the history and myths of religion. Usually a religious artifact or historical secret is discovered, and different people and groups vie for control.

Romantic Thriller
This is a subgenre of both thrillers and romantic novels. The plot line follows a typical thriller’s tension, suspense, and excitement, but a main element is the growing relationship between two characters.

Spy Thriller
It’s hard to call this a genre mash-up when spy novels almost have to be thrillers. At any rate, this subgenre focuses on the high adventures of field agents. It is usually set against the backdrop of some war.

Supernatural Thriller
In this subgenre otherworldy elements are introduced, usually as an antagonistic force, but just as in the romantic thriller, the plot line and feel or distinctly that of thrillers. Some characters may have psychic abilities and other supernatural novel elements may be present.

Techno-Thriller
This genres is a cross between near-future science fiction and thrillers. Cutting-edge technology plays an important role, either as something to obtain, or working for or against the protagonist.

What types of thriller subgenres do you enjoy most?  Have you ever dabbled writing thrillers? Anything I missed? Many thriller subgenre lists I found on the internet were incomplete, and I’ve done my best here, but I’m always open to additions.

Book Review of The Superlative Stream by Kerry Nietz

Last month I posted a book Review of Kerry Nietz’s A Star Curiously Singing, and mentioned The Superlative Stream was on my wishlist.  If you looked closely at the photo in this post, you might notice I have checked off a book from that list.

I was nervous about The Superlative Stream. I desperately hoped it would live up to the high bar its sequel set and was afraid it wouldn’t. I needn’t have worried.

SandFly, with his female companion HardCandy, have traveled to Betelgeuse in search of the source to the Superlative Stream that changed the way they thought and challenged everything they ever knew. When they arrive, they discover something the original crew did not: a planet. Inhabited. After their ship mysteriously goes off-line, SandFly and HardCandy are welcomed by the highly-advanced people of the planet. HardCandy thinks this is a meeting the scriptures predicted. SandFly is not so sure, and is more concerned about their original reason for traveling to Betelgeuse. Are these people the source of the Superlative Stream? And even if they are, can they be trusted?

A Star Curiously Singing captured me through its unique style and world. In The Superlative Stream the style is there and the world..! The world triples. We are introduced to the Beetles (or Jinn, depending on who you ask). They have their own strange world, their own society, their own philosophy, their own surroundings. We are also shown HardCandy’s past. Her life may have been on Earth, but she had a completely different life from SandFly, whose world we saw in the previous book.

We learn of HardCandy’s history in ‘flashbacks’ scattered throughout the book, like a separate, parallel story. Normally I dislike so many ‘flashbacks,’ especially when they are not directly affecting the plot. To my surprise, I found myself looking forward to the next glimpse of HardCandy’s old life. Many questions left by A Star Curiously Singing about the characters are resolved (although I’m still waiting to learn more about the ‘sweet spot’ HardCandy found that contained a less-censored stream). I still feel like Nietz wrote or at least outlined HardCandy’s story independent of The Superlative Stream, and wonder what HardCandy’s story would have been like had it been given its own book.

I get edgy when the weirdness of sci-fi is mixed with theology, and I was worried when the reviews of The Superlative Stream seemed to show aliens. I can’t stand people trying to reconcile aliens with the Bible. Call it a pet peeve. Even in general it really takes a good story for me not to scoff at supernatural in sci-fi. I won’t give away any spoilers, but I wasn’t let down in this area either. It’s weird, but sci-fi is supposed to be weird.

In the end we are thrown ‘back’ into the conflict on Earth, which now encompasses both the physical and spiritual world. It’s hard to know how to classify The Superlative Stream as a sequel. Usually, you can easily say that either the books in a series are standalones with an over-reaching arc, or are one big story broken into parts. The DarkTrench Saga is feels like both (so far), which is interesting. And different. But fun.

The Superlative Stream is another must-not-put-down by Kerry Nietz. I’m usually a cheapskate when it comes to buying niceties such as books, but when the next in the DarkTrench Saga comes out, I won’t wait for it to go on sale to buy it. 5/5 stars.

How to Write a Spy Novel

A few days ago, a friend (who will probably be among the first to comment) shot me a message, wondering how to write a spy novel:

Hey Katty!

So… you said you really like spy stories, and I just got an idea for a spy story. 😀 The problem is, I know diddly squat (er… my mom says that; I’m not sure if anyone else does! 😀 ) about spies and spy stories. 😛 Is there anything I need to know about them… or should I just wing it and see what I end up with? 😉

Love in Christ,
Abby

Plotted
First off: DON’T WING IT! Whatever you do, do not wing the spy novel. I winged my first spy novel plot and ended up with so many twists and subplots with no resolutions that you couldn’t see the main plot (OK, slight exaggeration). If you get an idea that will change everything mid way through, great, but plot it out first and see if it’s vaguely plausible.

A spy novel needs to be thought out beforehand, even more so than novels of most genres. Unlike, say, a quest fantasy, where plot points can be shuffled or cut out or added without too much trouble, everything needs to be compactly connected to the main plot. (Unplotted) whims simply do not have a place.

I know you’re very excited and want to sit down and start writing right away, but you shouldn’t. If you start before you have your twists and ever-so-important plot points planned, you will be tempted to throw in twists and sidetracks and obstacles at every turn. This breaks the pace and spell, not to mention you run the risk of losing the main plot. No matter how big a panster you are (I’m right there with you), you need to accept this. Plot your major points. Plot your major twists. Plot your ending. Make a dreaded outline.

No James Bond coppies, please.

Cliches
While plotting, make sure you do not lapse into a dreaded cliche. This is generally true for all genres, but in a spy novel you simply can’t get away with it. Ever since the spy novel was invented, people have been searching for plot twists and uniqueness. I’d say “There isn’t much left,” but imagination is boundless, so there is plenty left. You just have to find it.

A rule of thumb: if you’ve seen it done once, there are a lot of people who have seen it done a thousand times. TVtropes has an excellent list of spy tropes, many of which are cliches or have cliche versions. I highly recommend it.

Thriller
There isn’t much unique to spy novels as a genre. First and foremost, they are thrillers. Knowing how to write fight scenes, chase scenes, and standoffs (ooh, I’m getting future post ideas) is imperative. That was one of my goofs in winging a spy novel: I didn’t know how to write a fight scene. I figured that out at the first one that came along and quickly searched for the information now contained in the above link.

But those are not the defining element of thrillers. Suspense is, and it is made in many ways.

Pacing is key. There should never be a relaxing moment for your characters. This doesn’t mean you should annoy your reader by keeping the pace racing ahead at headache speed. But something should always be happening. If there is a “dull” moment it needs to be peppered by the fact something else is going on at the same time and the point of view character knows it. In other words, keep scenes tense either for the characters or the reader.

You keep the reader tense by keeping secrets from them. Never, ever let the reader know everything. Give them just enough information to keep reading, wondering what the whole picture is. Scatter the hints naturally. Kill every single info dump and spread the information through a scene or two in suspenseful snippets.

For example, if you start a scene with a man hiding in a room, the reader wants to know from whom he is hiding, why they want him, and what his plans are. In that order. So give the answers in the reverse order. The man loads his gun. His plan. He positions himself. In between text. Next the man destroys a piece of paper, thinking he can’t afford it to fall in the wrong hands. Why his enemies want him (and a new question – What was on the paper?). There are noises, and the man prepares himself. In between text. KGB agents walk in. Who he is hiding from. The entire scene can end without the question of what was on the paper being revealed.

This tension and suspense would be completely destroyed if the man curses his enemies at the beginning of the scene, reads the contents before destroying the paper, and is then forced to action when the agents walk in.

Never do the expected, either. This is hard, because we want to go with the first scenario that comes to our mind. Thing is, the first scenario that comes to our mind has been done before. A lot. Take the time to think of unique and different twists. Think about what is expected in a situation – what would normally happen, what would a person normally act – and take an opposite route. This is fresh and new and most importantly, different. The reader wants to know how this different thing will turn out.

Accuracy
Some genres can get away with bending facts. Soft science fiction comes to mind. But a spy novel can not. The basic premise of spy novels – daredevil heroes running around on wild, exciting, adventuresome missions – is less than factual. Everything else must be, otherwise you lose the world, reader, and trust.

If you are going to use spy gear and guns, research them. If your spy is hopping around countries and borders, research and create plausible political scenarios (Don’t have your spy running to North Korea when they need a break.). It pays to do your geographical and cultural research. Little real details can make an incredible difference.

In short, plot it, be unique, know what you’re doing, be suspenseful, and be accurate.  With a healthy dose of writing knowledge, these will help you write a spy novel that stands out.

Have you ever written a spy novel?  Do you have any other tips about how to write them?  Do you read spy novels?  If so, what do you look for in a new read?

Related Posts:
Writing Prompt: Spy
How Long Should a Chapter be in a Novel?
How to Outline a Novel
How to Write a Fight Scene

How to write Fight Scenes: Useful Sites

A while back (and midway through a spyfy) I realized I didn’t know how to write fight scenes.  So I googled it.  Problem is, apparently everyone posts what everyone knows about fight scenes.  I ate page after page of redundant material until I had found enough unique sites to know my stuff.  Do not worry, this is not going to be yet another post on what everyone knows about fight scenes.  Other people have written enough on how to write fight scenes that I can give you a nice triplet of links and sleep at night knowing I’ve helped you bloody your characters.  Take the time to read through these; it can only improve your fighting skill.  Er, writing fighting skill.

How to Write a Fight Scene
After I read this, I thought, “I need to rewrite every fight scene I’ve ever written.”  After a friend read this (on my recommendation), she said, “I feel like rewriting every fight scene I’ve ever done.”  Essentially the same thing. 😉  I believe you will feel the same way too.  The author leads you through a fight scene step by step in the one of the more engaging voices I have read in an article.

Fight Scenes 101
An entire (small) site devoted to fight scenes.  Thumbs up.  The sections are titled Location, Weapons, Language, Writing, Big Odds, Big Battles, Other Types of Action, and Weapons Database, which gives you a good idea of the contents.

Does Your Fight Scene Pack a Punch?
Just an article, but it packs a punch.  Pun unintended.  This article focuses on two major things:  how to keep your fight scenes from looking like a choreographer’s notebook (For the record, mine did.) and how to give your fight scene emotional punch.  After all, readers aren’t going to worry about that broken nose if there is no emotion involved.

Pretty much every other article you’ll find parrots what is covered in these three sites.  ‘Tis a pity. I could rant about regurgitation articles forever (or at least a paragraph). Instead. . . Enough experts. What do you have to say about writing fight scenes? Anything to add?

Hard Science Fiction vs. Soft Science Fiction

There are two main hard vs. soft science fiction definitions. Just Google it to see.

Hard vs. soft science fiction definition No. 1:
Hard science fiction focuses on the hard sciences.
Soft science fiction focus on the soft sciences.

Hard vs. soft science fiction definition No. 2:
Hard science fiction focuses on the science.
Soft science fiction focuses on the story or characters.

I argue the two definitions are really the same.

First, a little terminology. “Hard science” is one of the natural or physical sciences. Physics, chemistry, biology, geology, and astronomy fall under hard science. “Soft science” is a field that deals with humans. Psychology, sociology, anthropology, and political science are examples of soft science.

If you focus on the story or the character in a science fiction setting, you must focus on one of the soft sciences. The whole point of using a science fiction world is to explore the possibilities of the what-ifs. You really have two options while exploring a what-if: focus on the (hard) science behind it or how it affects the humans (or other sentient forms). Hard science or soft science. Science or story and characters.

Many people think the two definitions are contradictory because of how definition two generally continues. “Soft science fiction does not always bother to use realistic technology, relying on black boxes and vague definitions.” How can something which, by the first definition, focuses on science not bother to be realistic? But if you look at the actual definition of soft science, you will see it focuses on the humans themselves, not the technology. While focusing on science, it doesn’t focus on technology.

When you hear “science” you automatically think of the hard sciences. Lab coats and test tubes and microscopes come to the mind’s eyes. When I first read the definition of soft science, I thought, “Those are sciences? Oh wait, what else could they be. . .” So we skip over “soft” and see “focus on science.” Mixed messages!

As you can see now, the second definition relies on what you automatically think of when you hear “science.”

So, we could redefine definition two to say:
Hard science fiction focuses on the hard science.
Soft science fiction focuses on the humans or the effects on humans.

Sounds like definition one now, doesn’t it?

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