Upcoming Events in July and August: A Half Price Books Tour!

IMG_20190503_121959_017.jpg

After doing Fan Expo Dallas, my friend Sarah Mensinga and I spend some time thinking about other author events we could do. We both love visiting Half Price Books, a chain of indie bookstores that sell both new and used books, and I’d noticed that Half Price Bookstores often had author events. So one day, I got up my courage and asked at the information desk about setting up a signing/selling table in the stores (which turned out to be a fun and easy process). One thing lead to another, and before long Sarah and I had scheduled a mini book tour of our local Half Price Bookstores! Here’s our dates and locations, with links to the Facebook events pages! (all times are in Central Time Zone).

July 20, 2019 from 1-4pm at the Half Price in Plano, TX

July 27, 2019 from 1-4pm also at the Half Price in Plano

August 4, 2019 from 1-3pm at the Half Price in Grapevine, TX

August 11, 2019 from 1-3pm at the Flagship Half Price in Dallas, TX (on Northwest Highway)

In addition to these in person events, I’ll also be taking over the Fantasy and Sci-Fi Reader’s Lounge on Facebook on July 26 from 3-4pm for Games Week! Stop by to play some of the fun readers/writers/book games I come up with!

I’ll also be taking over the Fantasy and Sci-Fi Reader’s Lounge again on August 10, 2019 from 1-4pm for Curses and Enchantments week! So be sure to stop by to learn more about Curses and Enchantments in my book, Saints and Curses. There will be a surprise for Lounge Readers that I’ll announce that day!

Also, check out this video from Fan Expo Dallas by Rube Da Great! Sarah Mensinga and I are in the video around 17:30 minutes in!

Remember, if you’d like to here more about my events, make sure you sign up for my newsletter!

Review: The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest

greenman.jpg

The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest is collection of fantasy short stories and poems that I found at the library. It was edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, the same duo who had edited another book I enjoyed, Black Swan, White Raven, so I decided to check it out. I loved the theme of the book, and since I just returned from a trip to the Redwood Forest, it felt like the right book for me to read. I'm glad I did, because while I didn't love all the stories, many of them were haunting and unique, and I'm looking forward to reading more from those authors.

Some of my favorite stories were "Grand Central Park," by Delia Sherman, "A World Painted by Birds" by Katherine Vaz, and "Joshua Tree" by Emma Bull. These stories captured the theme in beautifully imaginative ways, but each one was as different from the others as water from fire. In particular, I loved the coming-of-age theme in "Grand Central Park," as well as the heroine's kindness and generosity even as she "wins." Vaz's story is as gorgeous and lush as a canvas, yet as sorrowful and haunting as a poem by Frederico Garcia Lorca. I loved her imagery, and how the worst characters had some humanity in them, even the selfish General's Wife. In contrast, Bull's "Joshua Tree" was spare and understated, yet the germs of hope and freedom her main character discovers in the desert felt as tough as the trees in her title. It was a reminder that there's a beauty even in harsh, hard-to-survive environments, like high school and the desert.

Other notable stories included "Fee, Fie, Foe, et Cetera" by Gregory Maguire, "Remnants" by Kathe Koja, and "The Pagodas of Ciboure" by M. Shayne Bell. I loved Maguire's matter-of-fact take on fairy tales, where Jack has to contend with taxes and bureaucracy as much as a giant. Koja's "Remnants" on the other hand, had one of the darkest takes on the theme in the anthology. The forest of trash is both a refuge and perhaps a trap for the main character, who seems both magical and deeply disturbed. The dark secrets she uses the forest to conceal lurk beneath her supposedly sunny outlook, and the enemies she fears might be people trying to help her, if perhaps ineffectually. It's a story that definitely sticks in your mind, and raises uncomfortable questions about society and the "trash" we throw away. In contrast, "The Pagodas of Ciboure" is a charming, lovely story about the imagined childhood of one of my favorite composers, Maurice Ravel. I loved, loved, loved the pagodas, which are not Chinese temples but a type of French fairy creature made of porcelain, jewels, and crystal. The lovely little creatures and their relationship with a kind but sickly boy made this story one of the most enjoyable to read.

Overall, I'd highly recommend this book to anyone interested in fantasy stories. Like many anthologies, there's such a wide variety of voices and approaches to the theme that it's easy to find stories to love.

Remember, if you like my writing, don’t forget to sign up for my monthly newsletter using the subscribe box below!

Five More SciFi/Fantasy Very Short Stories (July 2019)

I’ve stayed pretty busy, so I haven’t been posting as many very short stories on Twitter as I was. But I am trying to keep it up, since it’s so much fun! I wrote these stories for #vss365, #scififri, #scifansat, and #satsplat.

Soup

She stirs a pot of water, smiling. "I'm making soup," she says. "Try some."

"Delicious," I say, wishing we had real soup. 10 more days. "Sweetie--"

"Don't worry, Mommy. I know we don't have rations. I'll be brave until we land."

"Yes, baby." Tears cloud my eyes.

Greetings from Earth

The craft unfurled like a tangle of vines. The beings inside shimmered and glowed like sentient mists. I tried to call off the airstrike. Too late--they'd triggered our 1980's paranoia. I cried when it hit--burned everything to ash. I hope they didn't suffer.

Contact

It was nothing like we thought. The first signs were in the flight patterns of butterflies and the song of the whales. When the ship arrived, it was a green and translucent, more like a bubble than a craft. Their contact brought a revolution of peace.

Fortune

It was a joke, a fun thing to do for my bachelorette party the night before the wedding. But the old woman had palsied hands and milky white eyes, and she gasped when she touched my hand.

"What's my fortune?"

"Run," she said. "Don't look back."

I wish I'd listened.

Liberty

Her hands stray over the shackles she's spent months shaving away. Liberty, almost... A key turns in the lock; a guard shoves something in her cell. A child, tiny shackles around bony wrists. Sobbing. She wraps it in her arms.

"Shhh, it's okay. We'll be free. Someday."

If you enjoyed these stories, and are interested in reading more of them, please make sure to sign up for my newsletter!

nowshad-arefin-EvdYEGDu_CQ-unsplash.jpg

Xanthuss Marduk, the Sorcerer of Tea, Discusses Mythology and Worldbuilding!

How to Use Mythology to Worldbuild

I recently wrote a post about how to create better mythology for your world. If you’ve read that, or you’re already confident creating myths then this is the next step - using myths to worldbuild.

Using myths as a vehicle for worldbuilding is something I love to do. I often write a creation myth before anything else in my world. But how do we do this?

Remember, Myths were Once a Religion

If you’re writing myths that people still believe in, think of it as a religion. The primary difference is that classical myths were not codified like modern translations of the Bible are today. There was no single version, and many were recited by entertainers and not written down.

The myths we read today were once working religions. It is important to remember this. Much like the Bible, people truly believed in these stories and followed them. Using them to set their morals by, and understand the world.

If you’re writing myths that have no followers left, think about their impact when they did have followers.

Use Myths to Set the Tone of your Setting

Myths are an important way to colour your setting. For both your characters and your reader, they give context to history and natural laws. If all the heroes die, it sets a darker tone than a myth or legend where the heroine gets the girl.

The god of the moon, Gywndolin, from Dark Souls.

The god of the moon, Gywndolin, from Dark Souls.

Dark Souls tells the bulk of its lore through fragments of stories, many of which are merely legends and myths. They tell of a grander era than the one the player explores. A golden age of gods. That contradiction immediately tells us what is going on. Dark Souls is a story about the world slowly fading. Through each game, the myths get warped and we hear less and less about them. The facts start to give way to rumour.

If you instead decide to set a bright and heroic tone, your myths may always see the heroes win, and the gods will hand down the details of these events in perfect clarity.

Mix Politics and Mythology

Politics plays a surprising role in mythology. Many myths are promoted or rewritten to promote royal families or noble lineages who claim heroic ancestry. Cities are named after mythological figures. And oracles become the tools of politics.

The Oracle of Delphi was often a central player in the politics of the Greek city states, and for the right amount of gold, you might get a prophecy that’d cement your legacy. Whether or not the Oracle really spoke to Apollo was less important than the fact that the average person believed she did.

Marble busts of Hadrian and Antinous.    Photo by Carole Raddato   .

Marble busts of Hadrian and Antinous. Photo by Carole Raddato.

Another example. The death of Antinous, the lover of the Roman emperor Hadrian, led him to deify his love. Though it may have been solely because of his grief, creating a cult of worshippers loyal to his lover gave Hadrian political clout in Egypt. In the following centuries, the cult of Antinous became a political hot potato. Everyone from Christians to the Sibylline oracles criticized the legend of Antinous, often as a vehicle to attack Hadrian’s legacy itself. In the fight between Christians and Pagans, Antinous was used as a central figure and medals were issued with his face as anti-Christian propaganda. Christians responded by destroying statues of the god, and in 391 banned his worship entirely.

Think about how your world’s queens and lords have used myths to support their own rule or undermine their enemies. Do they claim descent from a god? Have they compared their enemy to a heartless villain? Have they proclaimed their favored historical figures demigods?

Consider Why the Myth was Popular

Who did your myths appeal to? The rich, the poor, the marginalized, the ruling class?

Farmers might hold agricultural myths close to heart, and these myths might hold important wisdom farmers need to know - like the order of the seasons or movement of the weather. The cult of Dionysus was popularized because it justified the excess of the Athenian elite, and parties under the pretense of worship were a great tool to make allies.

Today, LGBTQ people have adopted many myths like Tu Shen and Antinous into their own religious practices. They do this because they seek out representation like themselves, and find it in these ancient stories.

So what do the people of your world see in your myths that appeals to them?

Find out more about the Sorcerer of Tea:

website

Patreon

Pinterest

Tumblr

Twitter

Thank you for your insights, Xanthuss! I personally love coming up with mythology that’s unique to my worlds, or else using existing mythology in a new and interesting way.

Review: Fractalistic by Gerardo Delgadillo

Fractialistic Cover.jpg

Gerardo Delgadillo and I were in a writing group together for several years, so when he sent me an ARC of his latest book, Fractalistc, I was excited to read it. I’m glad I did, because Fractalistic is a fascinating book—part scifi, part bildungsroman, part romance, with a lovely dash of Mexican culture that makes the setting vivid and interesting.

After moving to Mexico with her parents, Winter Gutan had been hoping the local alternative medicine doctor would cure her mother’s illness. When her mother does not survive his controversial treatments, Winter’s life spirals in despair.

In particular, I loved Fractalistic’s colorful and engaging cast of characters. Winter, the main character, has all the intensity and passion of a traumatized and confused teenager, in a good way. She’s deeply flawed and makes mistakes, but she’s also kind. I know that this is a small part of the book, but I loved Winter’s kindness to animals, including the dog she decides to adopt, and her sweetness to a crying child at one point in the story. Winter’s friends (or the classmates from her school who become her friends) are just as interesting, and have complex lives of their own. Even her love interest, Rafa, turns out to be way more than the hunky soccer player he seems at first. Meanwhile, grief and pain threaten to overwhelm Winter’s father, and the depictions of his drinking and descent into misery felt as vivid and painful as a fresh cut.

I thought the plot was also engaging, and it kept me guessing about people’s motives and their secrets through most of the book. Winter is distrustful, and with good reason, since many of the people close to her aren’t being very honest.

Overall, I really loved this book! The author’s depictions of Mexico are so real you can practically taste the churros, and I found myself wanting to attend a Mexican soccer game more than I’d ever have expected. I loved the characters and their relationships, and the story kept me guessing. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in YA, light scifi, or light, sweet romance. Fractalistic is available for preorder now, and comes out July 9, 2019!

Guest Post on Reads and Reels, an Author Interview on Altered Instinct, and a Giveaway!

This has been a busy month, but I’m really happy that I managed to write as much as I did (with the kids on summer vacation, no less!). In particular, I’m really proud of the guest post I wrote for Reads and Reels on “Religious Allegory in Netflix’s I Am Mother.” I watched the movie with my husband, and like the best type of scifi, it really stayed with me. I was turning it over and over in my head, trying to figure it out and find more meaning. I found I had to write about it to help myself understand it on a deeper level. So watch the movie, then read the review and let me know what you think!

Netflix’s “I Am Mother” is a thought-provoking science fiction thriller about AI and the human survival after an apocalypse. It’s a tense movie, full of uncomfortable juxtapositions and difficult questions about AI, our relationship to technology, and perhaps about the nature of Mother-Daughter relationships everywhere. What’s more, on a closer look, it offers haunting religious imagery and a disturbing allegory.

I’m also happy that I was able to do an interview with a blogger and writer I really respect, Leo McBride from Altered Instincts! Check it out, and while you’re there scoop out Altered Instincts, which is a really interesting blog about scifi and fantasy. In fact, he may not remember, but one of my first ever reviews was on Altered Instincts, for my short story “Earth is for Earthers” which first appeared in Red Sun Magazine and is now also in my book Sapience! So double thanks, Leo!

Twitter is a wonderful place. Okay, okay, it can get a little crazy at times. But it's through Twitter that I met Alexis Lantgen. She's a science fiction and fantasy writer of short stories - so she's kind of following the same path as me.

I’m also happy to announce that I’m running an Amazon giveaway for my newest book, Saints and Curses! Sign up for a chance to win a free book! It’s going until July 4th, so hurry!

My books are also listed on the Book of the Day website now! Here’s the links for Sapience and Saints and Curses.

Thank you for reading, and remember, if you like my books or my writing, sign up for my newsletter below!

IMG_20190504_103725_366.jpg

Five Very Short Stories: SciFi and Horror!

Of course, I’m still writing tons of very short stories, or #vss, on Twitter, These stories came from the prompts for #vss365, #scififri, and #satsplat!

Explosions

She hired glitterbots for their five-year-old's birthday party, and timed the bright explosions of pink sparkles for when her daughter blew out the candles. Everyone clapped when they went off. Except for one of the neighborhood dads, who sobbed in a corner, shaking.

Not My Fault

It's not my fault. She shouldn't have dressed like that, just begging for it. Girls like her deserve what's coming to them, if you ask me. I mean, that Dora the Explorer backpack? That cheeky gap-toothed smile? What's a man supposed to think?

Mining

Typical mining practices might disrupt the fragile ecosystem of Proxima 5. Instead, Xan had developed a network of modified plants whose roots could pull metals to the surface. An iron farm, he thought, as he disentangled the first muddy clumps of ore.

Sentient

"Don't be absurd. Coral doesn't have sentience."

"Have you ever asked them?"

"No, why would I?"

"Haven't you heard them? You know they sing at night."

"Of course they don't! That's the sound of the wind and the waves."

"Just remember, they tried to negotiate."

Jed’s Rehydrated Burgers

Jed was not the first person on Mars, or the first to climb Olympus Mons, or even one of the first wave of colonists. But he did open up the first bistro in space! He proudly put up a sign for Martian potato fries and the best rehydrated burger outside Earth's orbit.

vlad-tchompalov-brrR3rAvr1A-unsplash.jpg

Review: On Becoming a Novelist

I picked up John Gardner's On Becoming a Novelist the last time I went to the library. Unlike most books on writing, this one doesn't try to teach you how to write, or offer any definitive ideas on the creative process. Instead, it reads like a thoughtful meditation on the nature of creativity, inspiration, and the writing process. Amidst the plethora of advice targeted at writers today, this book is notable for its lack of definitive advice beyond, "do what works for you," and "don't quit." I found that one of its most endearing qualities.

Gardner, a brilliant novelist and creative writing teacher, begins by noting that few, if any, writing teachers can tell which students will ultimately become successful writers. He considers the difficulty of the task of evaluating a youthful writer, especially considering how much success ultimately depends on a writer's dedication to the craft ad refusal to give up or withdraw. He offers a critique of the most common methods of teaching writing and the inane, repetitive, and often destructive advice heaped on young writers. For example, the "write what you know" trope that so many creative writing teachers push ignores the fact that fiction is based on the imagination. While it's true that characters and settings need to feel vivid and real, writers can use their imagination and their sense of empathy to create whole new worlds and populate them with unique characters. Rather than "write what you know," Gardner advocates writing honestly and avoiding overly optimistic ("Pollyanna") or overly cynical cliches. He reflects that all great art is about finding and sharing truth, and we make poor artists when we can't see or understand what's true about human nature.


Gardner is at his best when he tries to capture those elusive and brilliant moments of creative flight that all artists have in their best work. Indeed, the writing process he describes is about capturing those dreams as closely as possible, then meticulously going back over the work to make sure it communicates the writer's intention. I loved his description of the vivid, creative dream-like state of creative inspiration--it comes closest to the feeling I get when I know what I'm writing is good, or when I'm playing music and everything just falls into place.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who needs an antidote to all the writing advice that gets heaped on you the second you start talking about writing. Gardner notes that there are many kinds of writers, and everyone of them has a different process. What matters is that you work to perfect your craft, keep yourself honest, and hone your sense of observation.

51y9eMrWZ2L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Five More Mixed Genre Very Short Stories

Yes, I’m still writing tons of very short stories, or #vss! I wrote these for #vss365 and #satsplat!

Let Go

The phantasm of a smile flickered across her face. I took her hand.

"There's hope for us, I love you."

Her eyes were bitter. "It's too late. I wish you the best, but I'm going."

"But..." the word dies on my lips. She looks light, relieved. I let her go.

Craven

I try to force it down, the sick feeling, the craven impulse. I'm watching as they bang him against the locker, laughing. We're friends at home but not here. I force my mouth open to say something, anything that would end the torment. But I don't. I look away.

The Hidden Book

Agnes wiped the grime of a century off the cover of the book hidden in Mrs. Culpepper's pantry.

"Potions Moste Potente," it said, "And Recipe for a moste Excellent Victoria Sponge." Now Agnes would win the bake-off for sure!

Sacred Fire

Ana built the fire in a secluded grove of moss covered trees. Ash, oak, and rowan, then the sacred herbs, then a later greenwood to make the white smoke. She watched the tendrils rising into the night sky, carrying her question to the gods. She waited in silence.

For Love

Lana rode down the muddy village roads. Smoke rose from the square, but no screams yet. She drew her sword; the crowd parted. Lana rode to the pyre, sliced the ropes binding Gwen, and pulled her onto the horse.

"I knew you'd come," Gwen said with a kiss

kyle-peyton-412616-unsplash.jpg

Joanna White, Author of "Shifter," Discusses How She Develops Her Writing Ideas

In today’s word, many people want cheap books with excellent writing. Standards are high, and everyone wants something new to entertain them. Since no one wants a cliché, as a writer you have to be really creative to keep your readers on their toes.

How do you do that?

Well, ideas don’t come from nowhere. Every idea in any book that’s ever been written has come from something at some point. So if you like an idea but it’s really cliché or overused, how do you make it different?

First off, make it your own!

I’ll use the example from my book Shifter, which has shapeshifters. It’s been used many times; it’s an extremely popular genre for readers, especially werewolf romances. Really overused in my opinion. So how do you change this idea and make it your own?

Add something else you love into it. For me, it’s dragons, so I did shapeshifting dragons, rather than werewolves. It’s been used a few times but not to the point of overuse like werewolves. Maybe you love history, so you could add shapeshifters into a specific time period of history you’re really passionate about. Or maybe you love fashion—try to imagine shapeshifters in that industry. Whatever you love outside of writing, make it apart of your story to add a layer of depth to it that no one else has done!

Second, combine ideas.

Now this one may not work for everyone but hear me out. Say you love an idea—again, using an example from my book Shifter—a girl doesn’t know about the existence of shapeshifters but falls in love with one anyway. How would you take that idea and make it different? Other than adding your own spice to it—aka, he’s a dragon shapeshifter, instead of the typical werewolf—you can combine it with lots of other ideas you like.

In this example, we can take the idea that she doesn’t know about shapeshifters, but they have influenced her life before. There is also the “hard to accept factor” so I can combine that with the idea that she ends up being okay with it. Maybe you like cowboys and want to incorporate that, or you like the idea of a hostage situation, or a forbidden love. When you start combining ideas, eventually, the original idea becomes less of what it started off and the more complicated it gets, the more it becomes original to you. That’s why ideas in any book don’t seem like they’re taken from other things (well, sometimes). It’s because they’ve been combined with new ideas and the writer’s own original twist to create something brand new.

So the next time you have a cliché idea that you really like, do not count yourself or your book out yet. It may just take some creative thinking and a lot of idea tweaking to make it so much better. 

About Johanna’s book, Shifter:

Beroan is a shapeshifter, part of the dragon clan. His clan’s Alpha, Sirath, wants to watch the world burn.

For ten long years Sirath has attacked villages, killing thousands of humans and burning towns to the ground. Beroan has had enough, but his resistance will only end in suffering.

Nsi is a human living in a small village with her grandmother and cousin. Her ignorance about the existence of shifters won’t protect her for long. Her family was killed in a dragon attack when she was younger, and now dragons have come again. Now she will stop at nothing until the dragon shifters are stopped, to save humans from suffering the same fate as her family.

Together, Nsi and Beroan will risk everything to save humanity from Sirath. 

Johanna’s Books:

Hunter (Valiant Book 1)

Shifter (Valiant Book 2)

Joanna’s Social Media:

Facebook: facebook.com/joannamariewhite

Twitter: twitter.com/joannamwhite

Website: https://www.joannamariewhite.wixsite.com/mywebsite

Joanna White earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing for Entertainment at Full Sail University. The Valiant series is her first published work, which first started off on Wattpad. She lives in Missouri with her husband, where she continues to work on more books. Writing has been a passion since she was ten, when she wrote her first book. Ever since then, writing has become her life outside of her family, God, and being a nerd.

Thank you, Joanna, for being a guest writer for Lunarian Press!

art-lasovsky-559569-unsplash.jpg