Wednesday, March 03, 2021

IWSG: Reading Genres


Welcome to March! Let's hope this month isn't quite as mad as last year. The first post of the month is always for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Learn more about them on their website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.

Our hosts this month are Sarah--The Faux Fountain Pen, Jacqui Murray, Chemist Ken, Victoria Marie Lees, Natalie Aguirre, and JQ Rose.

Here's our question for this month: Everyone has a favorite genre or genres to write. But what about your reading preferences? Do you read widely or only within the genre(s) you create stories for? What motivates your reading choice?

 The main genres I write are fantasy, cozy mystery, and science fiction. Those are also the genres I prefer to read. Occasionally I'll venture out of those genres into classics, an historical novel, or a popular contemporary work. About twenty to twenty-five percent of my reading is nonfiction; I tend to read science, history, research topics for writing (for example, I'm currently reading Rewilding North America for a climate-fiction short story I'm working on), or anything I want to learn more about. I read more widely when I was younger, but these days I'm more focused on the genres I enjoy. As for what draws me to these genres, I would say that science fiction and fantasy help me escape my everyday life. I still crave stories that evoke a sense of wonder, but the older and more experienced/cynical one gets, the harder it is to find wonder. Cozy mysteries not only offer a way to right a wrong and find justice, but, as the name implies, they can offer a cozy atmosphere and possibly an ensemble of characters that feel like friends.

What types of books do you like to read, and why? Feel free to share in the comments.


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Selling Short Stories

Over the past few years, I've become more interested in writing short stories. However, figuring out what to do with them when they're done isn't always easy. Some of them I've written as part of the Catalyst Chronicles or Season Avatars series, so I've published them independently. Other stories have been published independently because I wanted to put them out. However, I've also been writing stories for specific anthologies. Some of them were accepted by the targeted anthology, but not all of them were. I also wrote a fairty-tale-takeoff last year because I needed to write it in response to the pandemic. I've submitted it to a few professional markets without takers so far. However, I just learned of a potential market for fairy tale stories that will open in November, so I'll hold this short story until then. Another short story I'm trying to sell has Egyptian/godpunk/urban fantasy elements. I'm still deciding if I want to submit it to pro and semipro markets now or wait until I learn of a market looking for this specific type of story.

Some short stories I'm working on have the potential for future collections whether or not I sell them elsewhere. The cli-fi story I mentioned last week is set in the same world as "A Shawl for Janice," and I have another story that could be revised to fit there as well. If I write a few more stories in that setting (I mentioned a couple of ideas last week), I would have enough for a themed collection. 

Although I've already published one collection of stories in the Season Avatars world, I'm currently working on another set of stories that would take place after Summon the Seasons. My long-term plans include a (potentially) seven-book sequel series in that world, and this collection would bridge the gap between the two series. 

Writing a short story isn't necessarily quick for me; it can take months for me to revise it to my satisfaction. Juggling multiple projects at different stages requires as much work as a full novel. However, short stories help me improve my craft and allow me to tell stories that wouldn't work at longer length. It can be difficult deciding where to market some stories, but knowing that I can always put them out as eBooks makes me feel that the effort of writing short stories won't be wasted.

Do you write or read short stories? If you write them, do you publish them yourself or submit them to markets? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.



Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Cli-Fi and Conflict

One of the short story projects I'm working on is for a contest about climate fiction, or, as it's more commonly known, cli-fi. You can learn more about cli-fi and the contest here. (Of course, having even mentioned this project publically, I've now jinxed it. I'm sure I face long odds anyway, given the number of people who will probably enter.) Cli-fi is closely related to solarpunk in that they both imagine positive futures for humanity. I actually learned about this contest from the editor of the solarpunk anthology that my short story "A Shawl for Janice" appeared in last year.

Ironically, one problem with imagining optimistic futures is that fiction thrives on conflict. If everything is good, what is there to write about? In "A Shawl for Janice," I focused on the internal conflict my heroine felt when confronting her family's history. Some of the ideas I considered for the current story involved a Native American rewilding expert moving to a new location and experiencing interpersonal conflict with one of her coworkers or two groups with different values clashing over resources. I'm currently trying a montage approach about a woman's view of trees changing over her life, as she grows from a young girl charged with planting an acorn to someone managing trees for her community. Although the story will focus on character development, there will be a parallel story of how her community uses trees to cope with environmental issues.

Have you read any cli-fi or solarpunk stories? If so, what do you think of the genre? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Mid-Month Mysteries: Chocolate


Whether you consider chocolate "the food of the gods," its own food group, a reward at the end of the day, or something else, chocolate is a favorite flavor for many people, myself included. It's not surprising that many cozy mysteries include this treat. However, so many mysteries feature baked goods that I feel they should be the subject of a separate post (or posts, if I want to break it down by cakes, scones, cupcakes, or something else.) For this post, I want to focus on cozy mysteries that feature chocolates that you might find at a specialty shop. (My favorite chocolate shop is Anna Shea Chocolates and Lounge. They make so many wonderful treats, including cupcakes, fondue, hot chocolate, and more. Their lounge is a great place to meet friends, have a date night with my husband, or even just hang out for a change of scenery.)

When I think of chocolate-themed cozy mysteries, the series I'm most familiar with is H. Y. Hanna's Bewitched by Chocolate series. It's set in a small English town, where a witch creates enchanted chocolates. The heroine is the witch's granddaughter and also has chocolate magic. Here's a link to the first book, Dark, Witch, and Creamy. There are currently seven books in the series, but it looks like I haven't finished it. Time to catch up! I also neglected to mention Hanna's Oxford Tearoom series last month in my post on tea, so here's a link to the first book in that series as well, A Scone to Die For.
 
I've found three other series featuring chocolate shops or chocolate factories, but I haven't read any of these books yet. Rest assured they'll be going on my gigantic To-Read list. Here are links to the first book in each series:

Cream of Sweet by Wendy Meadows

Sadly, there's no special mention of chocolate or a chocolate shop in the mystery I'm currently editing, but the heroine does live close to a bookstores that sells baked treats. 

Cozy mysteries featuring bookstores will probably be my next theme for this series. Please return in March to read more!

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Blogging Buddies

 

Welcome to another month with the Insecure Writer's Support Group, where we share our writing struggles and triumphs. Learn more about the IWSG on their website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.

Our "hosts with the posts" this month are Louise-Fundy Blue, Jennifer Lane, Mary Aalgaard, Patsy Collins, and Nancy Gideon.

Our question this month relates to blogging: Blogging is often more than just sharing stories. It's often the start of special friendships and relationships. Have you made any friends through the blogosphere?

I started blogging to stay in touch with my college friends, but it's helped me make more friends. I've been fortunate to be part of at least three blogging groups besides the IWSG. They include a "blog chain" of writers who would take turns discussing a subject and link to other bloggers in the chain; a "blog ring of power" (BRoP) that interviewed writers (with each blogger posting a different part of the interview); and a group of independent writers who put out a magazine on Amazon called Indie Writers Monthly. I don't think I've met any of these bloggers in person, but I still connect with some of them through Facebook. (Ironically, I just realized I haven't checked any of their blogs in ages, but I spend much less time blogging than I used to myself.) I might also attend a virtual birthday party for one of my blogging buddies from the Blog Ring of Power this week. The Atlantic posted an article this week about the importance of casual friends in our lives. Hopefully we will remember that long after the pandemic is over. (And yes, I should make more of an effort to visit other IWSG members' blogs, but between being all day in the office at work and spending time playing board games with my husband in the evenings, I tend not to have a lot of free time on Wednesday. I should still make it a goal to read more blogs, though.)

How much do you interact with other bloggers? Are you friends with any of them? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.



 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The End is Always Near (Book Review)

 As a writer, I consider any non-fiction book I read potential research for stories. One book I recently borrowed from the library for research is The End Is Always Near: Apocalyptic Moments, from the Bronze Age Collapse to Nuclear Near Misses. The author is Dan Carlin, who hosts a podcast called Hardcore History. I wasn't familiar with the podcast before reading this book; I prefer to take in information visibly instead of audibly. This book consists of several chapters that apparently are revised versions of some of Carlin's podcasts. (A Goodreads reviewer pointed this out.)

As I write this blog on Sunday, I'm only partway through this book. Some of the early chapters don't seem to meet the theme of this book, such as the one on parenting. While it's an interesting read, it wasn't what I expected. Another early chapter discusses how tough people are today versus those from previous areas. Carlin seems to think earlier people were tougher, ignoring the health and education benefits we have today.

Later chapters deal with historical events that fit the theme, like the fall of the Roman Empire and pandemics. These chapters not only describe what happened but also discuss the ramifications (such as the Black Death giving peasants opportunity to claim farmland). One thing I don't like about Carlin's writing style is his putting so many asides in footnotes. This disrupts the flow of the main text.

Despite its flaws, the book is worth reading. I'm not sure yet if I'll listen to the podcasts.

Do you enjoy reading about history? If so, do you have favorite eras? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Bird Watching

 One thing I love to do in the winter is feed the birds. A side benefit of working more from home this year is being able to watch them at lunch. For a suburban area, we get a pretty good variety. Our visitors include cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, mourning doves, juncos, downy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, and unidentified sparrows. This year, I'm also getting some birds I haven't noticed before, like these two:

This is a junco, but not the slate-colored variety I normally see. I posted this picture in a Facebook birding group, and the consensus seems to be that it's a pink-sided junco normally found out west. I wonder if it could be a hybrid between different varieties.

The bird below is also new to me this year. I thought at first it was a pine siskin, but someone else thought it could be a song sparrow. I really need to work on identifying my sparrows!

Do you like watching or feeding birds? Do you have a favorite? If so, feel free to share it in the comments.


 

 
 





Site Meter