Monthly Archives: April 2012

Quoth The Raven

After a particularly long and stressful week, I decided there was exactly one thing I wanted to do last night: go see The Raven.

I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Edgar Allan Poe. The 19th century dark poet and author was one whose work I treasured in high school because I tended to favor the romantic lyricism of his work, as well as his gory imagination. I admit that my previously shared flair for the dramatic didn’t hurt my fascination with the man, either.

So, walking into the theatre, this deep adoration had me hoping James McTeigue’s direction of The Raven would delight me as much as Roland Emmerich’s did in Anonymous last year (great movie, if you haven’t checked it out yet). Though I think the cinematography of The Raven was lovely—the period thriller is set in 1849 Baltimore, a time of colorful and decadent wardrobes, quaint horse-drawn carriages, and bleakly dark cobblestone streets—and the concept was clever, the movie did not quite meet my expectations. The admirable John Cusack seemed believable as a goateed Poe at first, but I soon found myself put off by some of his attempts to speak in the style of his character. In all honesty, I think most of the actors came across that way—their acting seemed fine, but something about their dialogue didn’t click. In Anonymous, I never felt uncomfortable with or aware of the actors’ Shakespearean dialects; here, I felt everyone struggled, spending more of their focus on attempting to command the romantic language than acting their parts. Blood spewing violence aside, I felt the movie had a unique idea that could have been a little bit clearer, and perhaps needed more depth.

Fortunately, I have a knack for enjoying most movies, even those that leave a bad taste in my mouth. Despite my criticism of The Raven, I did find some prettiness embedded in it—namely, the frequent quoting of Poe’s stories as he connected the serial killer to his artistry. If for no other reason, I enjoyed the movie for bringing Poe’s language to the screen and into the ears of a new audience.

Now for some fun: mesh a flair for the dramatic with a love of Poe and a 14-year-old girl, and what do you get? Some really over-the-top poetry. When I arrived home last night, I remembered Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven” once inspired an intensely mad work of my own. Since it’s always good to poke some fun at oneself, and for your amusement, I thought I’d share a piece that a 14-year-old me wrote for a high school English class—and which my teacher found so dramatic, he actually read it aloud to the class, complete with wild hand gestures…Oh boy. Hold on tight, folks, there’s some real teen angst in this one:

Madness

Alas!

What brought it on?

Was it the anguish inside or

Was it the torture on the outside?

Did the cold nights of loneliness

With the terrible insomnia

Of the pain for tomorrow

Bring it about?

Was it rejection, and the feelings

You threw harshly at me?

Maybe it was blackness

That burnt through my window,

Burning until nothing was left

But a shriveled, diminutive

Shell of what I had once been,

Forcing me into eternal insanity.

You laugh at the torture

I must withstand,

But oh!

How you bring it on, let it continue.

Stop this pain you cause me!

Don’t laugh!  No!

Hold me!  Love me!

Be as you once were.

Halt your squalid words,

Your painful ideas.

Don’t grin at me;

So insolent and deluding.

Deceiving and conniving,

Stop it!  Please!

You’re calloused and shrewd.

What caused it?

And in your insinuating actions,

Your insubordinate ways,

Do you realize a

Part of me tears away?

I’m going mad.

You caused it.

You’ve torn my heart to shreds, but

You keep laughing

With your gimlet eyes

Shooting impetuous hatred

My way.

Why?

The pain is

Causing me great

Indignation.

So stop!

You’ve pinioned me against

A wall of thorns

And you won’t release me

Until…

You won’t tell me either!

Stop it, please!

My will to live is gone!

I don’t exist.

I’m just not here.

Stop!

It won’t be long.

You’ve killed my heart,

You’ve killed my soul.

You keep on killing

And you won’t let go.

Your passion to

Hurt me

Is driving me mad;

I’m declining

In more ways than one.

I’m nautious

With your treatment;

Steadily vomiting your putrid

Love out of my system.

But it won’t all leave.

No, it’s still there,

But covered with your madness.

Your madness

My madness,

You’ve given it to me

Like a plague, a disease.

I’m crying out,

Unplug your ears

I love you, please!

I’ve lost my will

I can’t hold on

Save me from this death

You’ve left me mad and insane.

And now…

I’m gone.

***

Wow. There’s probably a reason I switched to fantasy and contemporary fiction instead of poetry… 🙂

If you would like to read more about Edgar Allan Poe, please check out the Edgar Allan Poe Museum or PoeStories.com. You can also read more of Poe’s work at PoetryLovers.com.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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Anatomy of a Broken Heart

All right, time to get back onto my more traditional blog schedule…and today I’d like to take a slight detour from my usual themes.

I’ve come to learn a lot of things about myself over the years—I can talk a lot, I can be impatient, I have a slight flair for the dramatic, and I can get a little snappy on occasion, et cetera, et cetera (who needs to hear more flaws, seriously?)—despite all this, there is one thing I know for certain: I’m incredibly protective of my friends, and when they hurt, I turn all mama-hen and want to take care of them. It can be as simple as an ear on the phone, or maybe it’s an ongoing attempt to supply cookies everyday for a week. Others it’s heavier-duty, requiring me to threaten to throw myself in front of an oncoming bus or duke it out with a 6’5″ male (I should mention I’m 5 foot 6 and a measly half)—the point is, I’d do just about anything to help a friend in need, because watching the hurt of someone dear can often be more upsetting than hurting for your own reasons.

So, you may ask, where is this going? Since I’m not a fairy godmother with the ability to wave my wand and fix things, I can want to make it better…but it is also important to recognize that everyone must experience his or her own pain, even if it’s something we’ve already felt ourselves. And though there are many shared experiences among us humans, one of those emotional things we all eventually have to trudge through is the end of love.

Crushes, puppy love, teenage love, casual love, tragic love, transformative love, or just true, real love—we all know about it, we’ve felt it, we may even hunt it. There are thousands of songs written about it, stories told about it, movies made about it, and dreams formed over it. Love, the power of love, the ache of love…all of it can be momentous, deeply gratifying, and ever so joyful. Remember that first crush? So sweet, so real, but eventually, it ended. And then there was the next one, and the next one…many of them ending and mourned, and then of course followed by the oft bitter sting of a broken heart.

Sometimes it’s just a headache, others, it’s a 2×4 with a plethora of jagged, rotting nails slammed painfully into your gut. Repeatedly. It hurts! It stinks! It can make you wail into your pillow, slam a fist into a wall, eat more garbage than one should possibly, reasonably consume, or even just wish you’d found a better brand of waterproof mascara. The anatomy of a broken heart is a mixed and troublesome one, eventually marking us with something unforgettable: that one time, that one person, that one deeply horrible pain that left us grieving for too many days and nights…

But from darkness springs morning, and there comes that one day where we wake up, stretch our arms gleefully above our heads, and climb out of bed thinking that today is that day. The day that we can learn to smile again. To embrace a new future, a new happiness, and to forget all that pain and agony we just felt. Each time, the end may have hurt even more—but every time, we recognize the sensation and may get over it a little faster, or grow from it a little sooner. We begin to identify the things that didn’t work and how to avoid them in the future. We find a way to take what went so, so wrong and use it in the future to make something so much more right.

I am by no means an expert on love. Far, far, far from it. (Did I mention far?) I’ve been kicked in the teeth like all the rest, sometimes so badly I didn’t think I’d recover, others so terribly I’ve been scared away for a long time—but truth be told, all of those bad experiences were something I learned from, trials that made me who I am and what I want to be. They made me embrace what I really want, whether in life or in love, and to let go of all the garbage that didn’t work in the past. There is no dismissing the pain of a broken heart, its pulsing, beating agony spreading tainted love through your veins and making you sick with hurt and anger—but eventually, it all melts away and leaves you anew, fresh to find something better, more wonderful…and, first and foremost, seeking that peace in yourself to love you before anyone else.

We’re all searching a little something in this world, our own happiness and contentment, joy and love. There are definitely some bumps and detours along the way, tiny spikes in the road that cause us a bit of agony—but eventually, we’ll find our way there.

In the meantime, we may just need to remind ourselves to keep our chins up, our friends close, and a big, delicious pint of ice cream in the freezer.

Much love to all, and a giant hug for my friend.


Once Upon a Time Official Entry Day!

Happy Sunday, everyone! First, I’d like to say thank you for reading this week’s four-day series and for taking the time to vote. I enjoyed having you be part of the process for picking my official “Once Upon a Time (OUAT) Flash Fiction Writing Contest” entry. National Flash Fiction Day is May 16th, and this flash fiction contest was set up by the lovely folks over at Yearning for Wonderland in honor of the first annual U.K. event. The rules were simple: 350 words or less on the theme of “Unexpected Fairy Tales.”

So, I offered up three flash shorts for you to pick from (you can see all three here: Flash Fiction Works), and you voted on your favorite. Your second choice pick was “Henrietta’s Love Song,” but your favorite piece, earning 57% of the votes, was “Rapunzel Had a Bad Hair Day.”

Thank you again for reading and participating. Below is my official entry, and at the bottom of this post is a link to some great entries by other authors. Be sure to check all of them out!

 

Rapunzel Had a Bad Hair Day

by Eva Rieder

They say Rapunzel had the longest hair. What was she in? A tower of some 73 feet?

Well naturally, I found my way to that tower, chest puffed and neck straining, and stared on up that ungodly height to the little face peering out at me. I slayed the witch yesterday, so it seemed I had a fair chance of making it up to my Princess.

“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your—”

“Got it,” she screamed, and down came the tangled mess of hair.

I suppose I should understand that a gal trapped in a tower with a mane almost 73 feet long is worth waiting for, but that’s a pretty long climb on a lot of split ends. I didn’t really believe it until I started climbing, Rapunzel bitching almost the entire time.

“Ow. Ow. That really hurts.”

“I’m the Prince, Rapunzel!” I said, but she kept on whining.

When I approached the top, the tension grew ever tighter, and her bemoaning of the situation ever louder. I had to ask myself, what kind of Princess gets herself trapped in a tower?

And did she bathe?

So it was as I tossed myself over the window ledge that I slowly peeled open my eyes, Rapunzel cranking her hair back onto her head with some sort of pulley system and fussing as if she had a head big enough to house this dreadlocked mess. But really she had a pinhead. A pretty little pinhead, but not one befitting that length of hair. She smoothed her hands along her dress and smiled—you know a girl trapped in a tower hasn’t seen a dentist, right?—and I just scoped it all out with a sigh.

“I’ve come to rescue you, Rapunzel.”

“Oh Prince!” she squealed. She looked a tad on the old side, really, but I guess she’d have to be to have that hair. She wrapped her gnarled hands around my neck, and when she planted her kisses over my face I resolved first thing we’d get her teeth cleaned.

“You saved me!”

Oh yeah, I sure did.

***

Thanks for reading!




It’s Voting Day! Which OUAT Flash Fiction Piece is YOUR Pick?

Well, the time has finally come—Voting Day of the four-day blog series!

For the past three days, I’ve been sharing the pieces I created for the “Once Upon a Time (OUAT) Flash Fiction Writing Contest” in honor of National Flash Fiction Day. The contest required the story to be no more than 350 words on the theme of “Unexpected Fairy Tales,” and today I am asking YOU to place your vote for the piece you would like me to enter into the contest.

If you are just joining or would like to review the stories, you can check them out at the following links: Henrietta’s Love Song, Rapunzel Had a Bad Hair Day, and Prince Charming Has My Shoe. Then please cast your vote below. The poll will remain open until 6 p.m. P.S.T. on Saturday, April 21st, and on Sunday the 22nd, I will post the results as well as my official entry.

Thank you so much for reading and for being a part of this vote—I’m excited to see which piece is your favorite, and I am also looking forward to entering it into the OUAT contest! Also, thank you to those of you who have commented on the stories. Feedback is always appreciated and welcome.

And now…<kazoo sounds here>…time to cast your vote!

Thanks again for participating!


OUAT Flash Fiction Entry Possibility #3…Vote is Tomorrow!

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Today is the third of a four-day blog series to determine which flash fiction short I should enter into the “Once Upon a Time (OUAT) Flash Fiction Writing Contest,” in preparation for the first National Flash Fiction Day. OUAT expectations are simple: no more than 350 words on the theme of “Unexpected Fairy Tales.”

I crafted three pieces and—heavy in the throes of indecisiveness—decided that I would leave the choice of which story to enter up to YOU, my wonderful blog readers! The pieces have been posted daily, and tomorrow this site will be hosting a vote for you to pick which story should be used as my entry. Monday’s story was Henrietta’s Love Song. Yesterday brought you Rapunzel Had a Bad Hair Day.

Please be advised, today’s story includes some PG-13 content, but without further ado, here is…

 

Prince Charming Has My Shoe

 

So I left my shoe at the friggin’ ball.

My step-mom’s freaking out and the steps are driving me mad, and all I’m doing here is scrubbing the floor to shut them up but I really wish I could get my shoe back.

I worked out a deal with that nasty fairy and she’s going to come to collect, all bibbety-bobbety-boo like, and shit’s gonna go down if I don’t have that shoe.

When the spawn girls leave the room to pick their zits I rummage through the closet again to see if maybe I misplaced it myself, but I clearly remember getting home lopsided—one foot cut up from hikin’ it through the forest and the other cramped tight thanks to those godforsaken heels.

Of course…I was a little drunk, so it’s hard to remember exactly what happened after that sweet ass prince handed me the spiked punch.

I think we danced a little. There may have been some fireworks. I don’t really recall, but I think the step-mom might be onto something those times she’s called me a floozy.

The good news is that the girls are all squawking about the Prince showing up, because apparently he thinks the love of his life wears the damn shoe. Please. That would be me, and I don’t really care, but I definitely could use that shoe back.

“Cinderella,” the godmother says, but I wave her off and run out to greet the Prince at the door.

“Try me first, Charming,” I say. The godmother fairy has started hovering in the doorway behind him. Can he smell that?

He slips the shoe over my toes and starts crying like a baby in delight, so I smack him and run. When I get to my room I chuck the glittered shoe at the nagging fairy and knock her out cold.

I’ve already got a bad rap in this town so who cares? I’m free and clear and can get back to my work, so they can talk all the talk they want; I’ve still got my soul.

Sweet deal.

 

***

 

Thank you for reading, and please feel free to share your thoughts and comments at the bottom of this post. Don’t forget to come back by tomorrow to vote for your pick.

You can check out other participants’ entries by scrolling to the bottom of the page at Yearning for Wonderland’s OUAT Contest. There are many fantastic stories to read!


Once Upon a Time Flash Fiction Entry Possibility #2

Welcome to Day Two of my journey into flash fiction! For those of you just joining, I am participating in the “Once Upon a Time (OUAT) Flash Fiction Writing Contest” in honor of National Flash Fiction Day. The contest theme is “Unexpected Fairy Tales” and there is exactly one rule: the entry must be no more than 350 words.

Since I had so much fun with the challenge, I ended up writing three pieces. I’ll be posting them daily through Wednesday—but I can only enter one piece, so I am leaving the decision up to YOU!

On Thursday, please be sure to vote for your pick; the story with the most votes will be my entry to the OUAT contest. Yesterday’s blog entry contained Henrietta’s Love Song. Today’s story is…

 

Rapunzel Had a Bad Hair Day

 

They say Rapunzel had the longest hair. What was she in? A tower of some 73 feet?

Well naturally, I found my way to that tower, chest puffed and neck straining, and stared on up that ungodly height to the little face peering out at me. I slayed the witch yesterday, so it seemed I had a fair chance of making it up to my Princess.

“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your—”

“Got it,” she screamed, and down came the tangled mess of hair.

I suppose I should understand that a gal trapped in a tower with a mane almost 73 feet long is worth waiting for, but that’s a pretty long climb on a lot of split ends. I didn’t really believe it until I started climbing, Rapunzel bitching almost the entire time.

“Ow. Ow. That really hurts.”

“I’m the Prince, Rapunzel!” I said, but she kept on whining.

When I approached the top, the tension grew ever tighter, and her bemoaning of the situation ever louder. I had to ask myself, what kind of Princess gets herself trapped in a tower?

And did she bathe?

So it was as I tossed myself over the window ledge that I slowly peeled open my eyes, Rapunzel cranking her hair back onto her head with some sort of pulley system and fussing as if she had a head big enough to house this dreadlocked mess. But really she had a pinhead. A pretty little pinhead, but not one befitting that length of hair. She smoothed her hands along her dress and smiled—you know a girl trapped in a tower hasn’t seen a dentist, right?—and I just scoped it all out with a sigh.

“I’ve come to rescue you, Rapunzel.”

“Oh Prince!” she squealed. She looked a tad on the old side, really, but I guess she’d have to be to have that hair. She wrapped her gnarled hands around my neck, and when she planted her kisses over my face I resolved first thing we’d get her teeth cleaned.

“You saved me!”

Oh yeah, I sure did.

 

***

 

Thanks so much for being part of the vote on Thursday, and please feel free to share your thoughts and comments at the bottom of this post.

There are many great authors entering this contest, and you can check them out by scrolling to the bottom of the page at Yearning for Wonderland’s OUAT Contest. Happy reading everyone, and thanks for participating!


Once Upon a Time Flash Fiction Entry Possibility #1 (The First of a Four Day Blog Series)

Generally, I try to post about every three days—but today will be the first of a four part, four day series…with a twist!

I found the “Once Upon a Time Flash Fiction Writing Contest” last week, gearing up for National Flash Fiction Day over in the UK.

THE THEME: “Unexpected Fairy Tales.” THE RULES: 350 words (or less) of flash fiction about an “unexpected” fairy tale.

I decided to go for it…however, me being me, I had so much fun I couldn’t write just one! (Read: I like to have options, hence the five different types of lotion in my bathroom vanity and three different shampoo types in the shower at all times. Go figure.) So I wrote three. Three quick little tales to debate over for entry—but here’s the fun twist: I’m going to let YOU decide which one I should enter!

Starting today, I will post one of my entry possibilities each day. Then on Thursday I’ll post a vote box and you, wonderful you, can help be part of my decision process for which piece to enter.

I’ve never really tried my hand at flash fiction before—it’s short, sweet, and oh.so.rapidly to the point. I had a great time with it, and I hope you enjoy the pieces I created. All three are extraordinarily different, and for lack of a better plan, I will simply post them in the order I wrote them. 🙂

Thanks so much for being part of the vote on Thursday, and please feel free to share your thoughts and comments at the bottom of this post. Also, I have included a link to other entries if you’d like to check them out. They’re quite entertaining!

All right, here goes (and I better start before the length of my intro exceeds the piece!). Today’s possible entry, the first of three:

 

Henrietta’s Love Song

Henrietta was a pianist.

Or at least, she thought she was a pianist.

Really what this meant was that on any given day, she would rush home with the faintest red tinge across her puffy cheeks, her breath caught in her throat from the frantic run she’d endured all three miles from the prison she called her high school, and then, throwing herself through the front door with a half-grin at her tired mother, she would drop her bag and plop down in front of the piano.

And then she would play. Long, careful strokes across the freshly polished keys, her raggedy voice tuning in here and there as she pressed the notes that sounded like a fairy tale to her, the whimsical melody that played all day in her head as she stared at him.

Him.

Charlie.

Her buddy on the track team, the most handsomest beautiful boy on the planet that she couldn’t stop thinking about ever!

“Henrietta!” her mother shrieked from the kitchen. “Do we have to do this? Again?”

Henrietta closed her eyes and played, her eyes pinched so tightly shut as she played blind—yes blind, for she didn’t need her eyes to see Charlie’s melody in her head!—and she played until her fingers blistered, that image of him in her mind.

“Seriously, Henrietta, this has got to stop.”

But Henrietta ignored her mother, playing the same song for what would be the twenty-seventh day in a row, some Bach piece that she hummed when he passed her on the 100 meter stretch of the track… “I really like your shoes, Henrietta.”

“Your phone, Henrietta!”

She paused, her fingers folded ever so gently, frozen.

“Caller ID says ‘Charlie,’” her mother said.

Henrietta slammed her hands down on the keys, her breath tight in her chest as her mother thrust the phone against her ear.

“Henrietta,” Charlie said, his voice trilling like the notes of her song. She leaned into it, sighing, delighted, hoping…

“I think you left your shoes in my bag. Come and get them.”

***

Feel free to share your thoughts, and thanks for voting on Thursday!

To check out other fantastic entries, be sure to head over to the OUAT website and scroll down to the bottom of the page.


Playing with Setting

Writing setting is all about creating a location and making it as real to the reader as possible. Some authors spend a great deal of their exposition on setting, while still others choose to infuse it more gradually throughout their work. No matter what the method, the act of building setting is essential, since it helps to create the very atmosphere and tone that will embrace the readers approaching your work.

This week I flew to visit some of my family. Most of us have been on an airplane at least once in our lives, making it easy to identify several common features: cramped seats, narrow aisles, tiny bathrooms, packaged peanuts or pretzels, miniature drinks, grouchy people, rickety tray tables, and colorful emergency pamphlets. As I sit on the plane, I always try to find some enjoyment in elaborating on these features. I think of it as playing with my setting.

I’ll start with a simple statement: It is 8:40, and I am on an airplane. Then I’ll begin to add some key details.

I am on an 8:40 p.m. flight, wedged uncomfortably into my uneven seat due to the broken spring beneath my left thigh. The plane reeks of stale pretzels and a potential sanitary issue in the nose-end bathroom.

As the flight attendants begin their speech about the procedure should we experience a sudden change in cabin pressure, I add in a few more details.

The air that spews from the vents above is doing nothing but suffocating me with a steady stream of hot air, making it more difficult to breathe against the surrounding stench.

The man next to me sneezes without covering his mouth, and after stealing a quick glance in his direction, I add more to my mental image.

The hum of the jet steadily increases, but not as rapidly as the sound of breathing that pours from the stuffy nose of the man to my right. He squirms in his seat, sneezing repeatedly until I’m forced to peer away. At the same moment, the little girl to my left tugs off her sweater, her sleeve nearly smacking me in the jaw.

Suddenly I realize that the dismal light above is not going to provide much to read by, leaving me little to do but continue my imagined ride. I do, after all, write fiction. Why not make this airplane scene go in a slightly more fantastical direction?

The girl looks up to me, her eyes glowing a light shade of green. She grins, her teeth sharp against her rose-red tongue and her lips pursing together when the man to my right sneezes again. She peers past my shoulder, her eyes slitting narrowly at him as the plane hits some turbulence. It bounces us violently in our seats in a manner that somehow does not seem to affect her.

The man sneezes. The girl licks her lips. Across the aisle, another man stands from his seat, so I add this in too.

Despite the captain’s direction for us to remain in our seats, a lanky man across the aisle stands from his chair, beginning to chat up the flight attendant before he heads toward the nose-end bathroom in a near run.

Then:

A thud sounds from the left of the airplane, as if something hit the plane and bounced repeatedly along its side. A shadow passes over us, the darkness outside creeping in, mimicking the growing smile from the girl in seat 7A. The chill looming over our row makes the sneezer in seat C and me in seat B start to shiver convulsively….

The joy of setting is that it can effectively set the tone for the work to-be. I have  no idea what to do with my airplane vision so far, but when I make a few tweaks and tie all the setting details together (as well as a little characterization and some information to build a scene), here’s what I have:

I buckle my seat belt on the 8:40 p.m. flight, my body pitched at an uncomfortable angle thanks to the broken spring beneath my left thigh. The plane reeks of stale pretzels and a potential sanitary issue in the nose-end bathroom, and the steady stream of hot air from the vent above makes it even more difficult to breathe against the stench. While the hum of the jet steadily increases, so does the ragged breathing that pours from the stuffy-nosed man next to me. He squirms, rocking our seats as he sneezes repeatedly, forcing me to peer away. As I turn, the little girl to my left tugs off her sweater and nearly smacks me in the jaw with her sleeve. She mutters, “Sorry,” before looking up at me, her light green eyes glowing. When she grins, her teeth press sharply against her rose-red tongue. The man to my right sneezes again and the little girl purses her lips together. She peers past my shoulder at him as the plane hits some turbulence and bounces us violently in our seats. She is not affected, her eyes slitting narrowly when the captain directs us to remain in our seats and a lanky man across the aisle stands from his chair. He chats up the flight attendant before running toward the nose-end bathroom at full speed.

A repeated thud sounds from the left of the airplane, as if something hit the plane and bounced along its length until it flew off into the nothingness behind us. Immediately a shadow passes over, the darkness outside creeping in, mimicking the growing smile from the girl in seat 7A. The sneezer in seat C and I start to shiver convulsively…

Though it is most certainly not a finalized scene, the setting aspects already have me thinking of where I could go from here. Playing with setting like this is a good practice to hone in useful details for writing, even if this particular piece never comes to life in a real story. The feel of the plane, and the random acts of the people around me on the plane, are all items that could be stashed in a mental rolodex of story components.

As I’m thinking about this, the lights above the walkway randomly start flickering, causing a gasp from some of the other passengers. I smile, then close my eyes to take a nap before we land…the sound of 7C’s stuffy breathing in my ear.

Happy Friday the 13th, everyone!


What is the Fantasy Genre?

Fan·ta·sy 

[fan-tuh-see, -zee]  noun, plural-sies, verb, -sied, -sy·ing. noun

  1. imagination, especially when extravagant or unrestrained.
  2. the forming of mental images, especially wondrous or strange fancies; imaginative conceptualizing.
  3. a mental image, especially when unreal or fantastic; vision: a nightmare fantasy.
  4. Psychology, an imagined or conjured up sequence fulfilling a psychological need; daydream.
  5. a hallucination.

“Fantasy.” Dictionary.com. 2012. http://www.dictionary.reference.com.

***

The subject of fantasy has come up a few times with friends lately, and several of them mentioned that they were surprised to hear the genre was so broad. For many of us, the term fantasy brings about the idea of swords, spears, magic, and dragons—but the actual genre includes much more. Today I wanted to spend a little time discussing some of the different subgenres of fantasy. My list is by no means comprehensive; after all, new subgenres are created all the time, styles are blended, and different audiences start to rename each category. My hope is that this list will help clarify for anyone interested in the genre.

  • High Fantasy: This is what most of us probably first came to understand as fantasy. The characters (people or creatures) embark on some sort of quest in a completely fantastical world. There is often magic woven into the story, as well as some threat by an evil force. This is the traditional tale of the fight between good and evil, frequently involving the fate of the world. It is also commonly referred to as Epic Fantasy, which is a little bit inaccurate (see below). A classic example of High Fantasy is The Lord of the Rings, where the primary world is completely unknown to us and full of magical beings.
  • Epic Fantasy: This is fantasy involving an epic quest. Both High and Low Fantasy can be considered Epic Fantasy.
  • Heroic Fantasy: This is often deemed the same subgenre as High Fantasy, having a definitive hero who battles through a magical land.
  • Low Fantasy: This subgenre tends to be a bit broader, but there is still some element of magic. Low Fantasy oftentimes lacks the good versus evil of the High Fantasy subgenre; the magical creatures (elves, dwarves, dragons, etc.) tend to be absent, and there may be a gritty theme of modern times, such as drugs, violence, crime, or poverty. Low Fantasy and Epic Fantasy can be combined, however—the quest just takes place in a more rational world. I was reminded of The Dark is Rising series, by Susan Cooper. This is a good example of Low Fantasy (and also a really great series, if you haven’t checked it out yet).
  • Swords and Sorcery: A fantasy tale with…swords and sorcery! In many circles, this is the same as Heroic Fantasy.
  • Magical Realism: This is an interesting category of fantasy which seamlessly blends the real world with a magic world, as if their intertwining is not at all unusual. Gabriel García Márquez is a master of this subgenre, and an example is the beautiful “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.”
  • Romantic Fantasy: This is a fantasy tale with a romantic element. The fantasy is the backdrop and overarching component, while the romance takes place within the fantasy, rather than vice versa. My work-in-progress, Kyresa, falls into this category. 🙂
  • Historical Fantasy: This newer subgenre incorporates a fantasy twist on history or a retelling of historical classics, demonstrated well in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. There are also similar subgenres, such as Prehistoric or Medieval Fantasies, which put fantasy elements into the respective time periods.
  • Erotic Fantasy: This category merges fantasy with erotica or erotic scenes. A particularly popular example of this, at the moment, is Fifty Shades of Grey—however the author herself describes it as Romantic Fantasy, not Erotic Fantasy. The lines get ever more blurry across the subgenres, as you can see…
  • Comic Fantasy: A blending of comedy and fantasy. Pieces in this style can also be parodies of other fantasy works.
  • Fairy Tale Fantasy: This is a folkloric style of fantasy involving classic fairy tales, sometimes in a retelling, such as Wicked. This is also closely related to Mythic Fiction, which incorporates myth, folklore, or fables.
  • Urban Fantasy: This is fantasy taking place in a modern or urban setting. Twilight, for example, takes fantastical creatures (vampires and werewolves) and places them in modern-day times. The Sookie Stackhouse series is another example. However, many Urban Fantasy pieces fall under the next two categories as well.
  • Dark Fantasy: Blending a little bit of horror with fantasy, this subgenre keeps the magical elements but merges them with a sense of looming terror. Dark fantasy can take on a gritty and violent side, or it can simply have a more ominous, tension-filled sensation embedded into the work. It’s often described as “gothic” fantasy.
  • Supernatural/Paranormal Fantasy: There seems to be a lot of debate over Paranormal versus Supernatural Fantasy. The term paranormal refers to things that defy scientific explanation—which, you guessed it, seems to describe just everything about fantasy—and yet this term is generally used to describe fantasy involving the more science-oriented end of the spectrum (i.e. ghosts, ESP, aliens) and is linked to fantasy that has a more spiritual or religious tone. Supernatural, on the other hand, refers to creatures not governed by the laws of nature (which would thus seem to account for werewolves, vampires, zombies, succubi, demons, fallen angels, etc.). Still, the term Paranormal Romance, for example, is a style of romance in which creatures like vampires and werewolves engage romantically in a modern world. Confused yet? Just to make it more complicated, Preternatural Fantasy is also thrown into the mix sometimes, which tends to be the description for subject matter outside of “natural.” Again, this leads right back to vampires, werewolves, and the like. This is why books in this category are commonly referred to simply as Urban, Dark, or the bigger, broader category title of Speculative Fiction, which encompasses elements of the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres (as well as some others).
  • Contemporary Fantasy: Much like Urban Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy creates magical or fantastical elements in a modern world. Harry Potter is an example of this subgenre.
  • Science Fantasy: This is a term applied to fantasy that has a strong blending with science fiction. Though The Hunger Games is also classified as Juvenile Fantasy, I would suggest it is a prime example of Science Fantasy. Other subgenres under this heading are Sword and Planet or Superhero fantasies.
  • Steampunk: This is a newer subgenre for fantasy taking place in an industrial era. Often times it is of the Victorian era, and it tends to have a gothic feel.
  • Juvenile/Young Adult Fantasy: Fantasy for children or young adults. These can encompass any of the other subgenres, but the writing is geared to a younger audience.

There are still several other subgenres of fantasy that I have not listed above that are specific to certain games, styles, audiences, and codes (Wuxia, Fantasy of Manners, Bangsian, etc.). The following links provide even more description of the varying subgenres, and I used both of them to help me concoct this list. Speculative Fiction Writer’s Toolkit contains some of those I didn’t describe in detail, while Worlds Without End, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Subgenres has some very thorough descriptions of subgenres not only in fantasy, but in science fiction and horror, if you are interested. Be sure to check them out if you’d like more information!

The fantasy genre is constantly evolving, creating multiple niches for people to find, read, and cherish. Are you reading any of these specialized subgenres? I’d love to know more about what types of fantasy you’ve run across and are interested in, as well as about anyone reading in the lesser known subgenres. Please share your fantasy reading experiences in the comment section below, and thanks for contributing your interests!


On Christopher Pike, Young Adult Thriller Extraordinaire

Last week, I noticed a large book on my best friend’s coffee table: Remember Me, the trilogy. Despite the fact that she’d bought it several weeks earlier with me at her side, I still squealed when I saw it, quickly scooping it up and clutching it tenderly to my chest. “Oh…” I sighed. “Have I told you how much this book means to me? I love Christopher Pike.” She’d already heard this story at least three times, but since her mother was in town and sitting next to me on the couch, I continued gushing for five straight minutes about an author who happens to be my ultimate hero.

You see, long ago, I was a little girl with a taste for books that exceeded my love of ice cream (and that’s saying a lot). All I did was read, read, read, and in doing so, I rapidly outgrew the books in my age range. My friend Carrie had a similar problem, and one afternoon when we were ten, while my mom sang along to the car stereo and we talked quietly in the back seat, Carrie handed me a brand new paperback and leaned close to my ear.

The cover that caught my eye—and started a long-running reading obsession.

“You can’t tell your mom,” she said. I grabbed the book, a brightly colored paperback with a dead girl on the cover and the most interesting, violent-looking font screaming the title and the author’s name across the cover.

Christopher Pike. Remember Me.

“I like his name. What’s it about?” I flipped the book over, scanning the blurb on the back before I gasped aloud. “Oh wow! This looks so neat!”

“He’s great,” Carrie said. “But I think it’s supposed to be for older kids. My mom didn’t want me to read it, so I bought it. I have more, too.”

I smiled, sticking the book in my bag so that I could start reading it as soon as I got home. Carrie had already introduced me to V.C. Andrews—an author whose work was most definitely NOT for kids—so I kept this little secret between us.

That is, until I decided Christopher Pike was the most genius writer I’d ever come across, and then I just had to tell my parents about the amazing plots he created. Thankfully, they knew I had a good sense of right, wrong, and reality, and since my mother had a love of scary movies, it all worked out pretty well. (I still kept the V.C. Andrews to myself.)

Within about six weeks, I’d read all six of Pike’s previously published books. I carried them with me everywhere, terrified by the thrill-ride on every page and yet delighted with the themes written upon them. Here was an author who wrote about teens in a mature, honest manner, but in an unusually addictive way. He never dumbed down the content; instead he let all his characters run wild in completely shocking plots. They lived on the edge—they drank, they smoked, they had sex (or they knew about other teens having sex, because their virginal naivety actually managed to be their fatal flaw). I rooted for every character, even the seriously bad ones: there were teens torturing their loved ones, teens who found monsters while drinking in the woods, teens who somehow found a mental link to ancient goddesses, teens who happened to be ancient creatures, and teens who had mythical origins and thus transformed into clawed predatory beasts! And of course, there were some plain old classically terrifying teens who just killed their classmates.

It really didn’t matter what they were doing—Pike wrote his teens from an adult point of view and let them do bad stuff, while still crafting a compelling and well-written story.

I was so enthralled with his concepts I kept right on reading, eagerly awaiting every next book’s release date. Some of them were so good, I read them twice in a row. Chain Letter (1986), Spellbound (1988), Scavenger Hunt (1989), Witch (1990), and my absolute favorite, Whisper of Death (1991) were some of the titles I wouldn’t stop talking about. Somehow, the man wrote three or four books a year (!), and I collected them like candy, enjoying the long row of paperbacks across my bookshelf; each of them had the same neon-colored binding and scratch-style font that had captured my heart, and I treasured my collection all through middle school and into the start of high school. I even wrote fan mail, telling Mr. Pike how superb I thought he was, and that I loved him. I might even have offered to marry him.

Whatever I said in those letters, I do remember what he made me feel: an excitement for reading, an unparalleled transfixion to every work, and most importantly, a passion for the art of writing and an inspiration to start writing on my own. Christopher Pike is, after all, the very reason I have a young adult horror manuscript tucked safely away in my fire safe box, awaiting the day I might decide to continue working on it.

In the 90s, Pike released some adult stories that I also read—Sati and Season of Passage, to name a couple—but his true voice really echoed with teenagers. He wrote a collection called Spooksville for a younger audience that I never read, but not surprisingly, the books in it were also a big hit. At some point I learned a little more about Mr. Pike, which is actually not that much: his real name is Kevin Christopher McFadden, and he is incredibly elusive and private about his life. Even while researching for this post, I didn’t find much else on him except for a plethora of fan bloggers—and there are tons of us, all inspired by a vast collection of incredible books we read in our impressionable youth.

As an adult, I get tingles whenever I pass the work of Christopher Pike at the bookstore. I run my fingers over the spines, hoping that today’s readers are enjoying them at least half as much as I did. No matter what your age, if you’ve never read a Christopher Pike book, I highly encourage you to do so. You can find a complete listing of his works here: Works by the Amazing Christopher Pike

I’ve reread a few pieces over the years, and have also kept up on the occasional adult novel he’s released—but now that my friend has Remember Me, I’m tempted to move my entire to-read stack aside and instead reread every book by the man who inspired me with his phenomenal thriller work.

That said, I think I’m going to pick up an old classic from Barnes and Noble this weekend. 🙂

Happy reading, everyone!


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