feeding the imagination (#SFWApro)

During 2013, I didn't have a lot of time to read due to writing and all the other things that I talked about in my year end wrap-up. I intend to rectify that in 2014. In addition to my annual business plan, I've decided to develop a definitive reading plan as well. Nonfiction is always a given for me due to the necessity for research; however, I think that having a good plan for reading fiction is just as vital.

More than once, I have arrived at plot or characterization solutions by allowing my imagination to free-roam through another's work, whether it be a short-story, a novel, or a movie. The experience is very difficult to explain, but often a word or a phrase will trigger the solution to an entirely different problem that I am having with my work. Fiction excites the imagination, and the old adage about drawing from an empty well is entirely apropos in any artistic endeavor.

Therefore, I will feed my imagination more this year. I've crafted a partial plan for 2014:

Colder Greyer Stones by Tanith Lee. I have long been a fan of Tanith Lee's works, especially her short stories. I am already halfway through this collection and I am savoring it to make it last. Lee's prose is haunting and lyrical and her imagery remains in my mind long after I've put her stories down.

Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman. I'm in the dead middle of this novel now and I will finish it during the first part of the year. If you love knights, angelology, and horror, you are in for a major treat.

Tainted City by Courtney Schafer. I always try to keep up with my friends and their works, not just out of the feeling of mutual support, but also because I always find something to enjoy in their novels. Courtney has created two very memorable characters with Dev and Kiran, and she knows how to write an adventure novel. I absolutely loved The Whitefire Crossing, and I am really looking forward to digging into the sequel.

A Feast of Souls by C.S. Friedman. This book has earned nothing but praise from the book bloggers who I trust, so this will be my starting point for C.S. Friedman's works.

The Tower Broken by Mazarkis Williams. Having already finished The Emperor's Knife and Knife Sworn, I can't wait to see how Williams ends the saga. This novel is already available in the U.K. I'm waiting for it to hit the U.S.

Iron Night by M.L. Brennan. Generation V was the last book that I finished in 2013, and if you're looking for a fun romp filled with vampires and kitsune and all kinds of yummy action, this is the book for you. Meanwhile, Brennan continues Fort's adventures with Iron Night, and I hear there are some really interesting plot developments in store for the vampires and kitsune alike.

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews. Here is another author whose work I've been dying to read. I just love Ilona's voice and the snippets she posts on her blog, so I have this as one of my must-reads for 2014. Everyone, absolutely everyone, seems to love this series, so I will finally meet Kate Daniels in 2014.

There is a mix here of horror, fantasy, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance, and there is a reason for that. For me, reading a diverse selection of literature helps me grow as a writer. I love seeing authors use different techniques and methods to tell their stories.

In addition to the books that I've listed here, I will probably read some thrillers and literary fiction and romances too. I'm also trolling other authors and bloggers to see what they're reading. Whenever one of our librarians comes to me and says, read this, you will love it, I don't question either of them. I read the book, because even if I don't love the book, I will have broadened my reading experience and fed my imagination a little more.

So if you have a minute, tell me what is on your to-read pile in 2014? How will you feed your imagination? And in what genres?

Urban fantasy, or is it? by Alex Bledsoe

Thanks to all the great bloggers who have (and have yet) to participate in my blog tour! I've got a couple more interviews coming up this week, but I thought today, we'd take a break from me and let someone else talk for a while.

My friend Alex Bledsoe, author of the Eddie LaCrosse series and those devilish vampires in Blood Groove and The Girls with Games of Blood, is taking the helm today to talk about urban fantasy and his newest novel, The Hum and the Shiver. I've had a chance to read an ARC of The Hum and the Shiver, and Alex once more shows off his versatile talent by dishing up a new tale that moves like a song on a summer night.

And there is a contest, so be sure you read for your chance to win a copy of The Hum and the Shiver.

For those of you who don't know, Alex grew up in west Tennessee an hour north of Graceland and twenty minutes from Nutbush. He has been a reporter, editor, photographer and door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. He now lives in a Wisconsin town famous for trolls and mustard, writes before six in the morning and tries to teach his two sons to act like they've been to town before. You can keep up with Alex on Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace, and read his blog here.

Urban Fantasy, Or Is It?

by

Alex Bledsoe

Elizabeth Bear defines urban fantasy thus: “In urban fantasy you don’t leave the chip shop and go to another world to find the unicorn. Rather, the unicorn shows up at the chip shop and orders the cod.”

But what do you call it if the unicorn has to bring his tacklebox and catch his own cod? Or climb on the tractor and put the weevil spray on his cotton field? What do you call the tropes of urban fantasy if they're no longer urban, but are still contemporary?

This is what I've run into trying to describe my next novel, The Hum and the Shiver, out in September from Tor.

It's set in the modern, contemporary, up-to-the-minute world. There are cars, trucks, cell phones and computers. But the characters are farmers, returning soldiers, and small-town ministers. They may brush up against faery magic, but they do it in the mountains of East Tennessee, not the gritty streets of Chicago or St. Louis.

So what is it?

The obvious inversion, "rural fantasy," seems kind of...blah. "Urban" implies trendy fashion, electronics, fast-paced transportation and the smell of exhaust pipes, which then makes a vivid contrast to "fantasy." "Urban" implies sophistication. "Rural," though, conjures up images of fields, forests and lakes, which are very much the traditional fantasy setting. And you have the same problem with terms such as "agrarian fantasy," "rustic fantasy," or "country fantasy." None of them imply modernity.

There are other synonyms: "pastoral" might work, except that my story has trucks running from highway patrolmen, knives drawn in anger and at least one mention of dangling intestines. "Arcadian" has a nice lilt, but most people wouldn't know what it means; same with "bucolic," which sounds like an advanced form of colic, and believe me, that's nothing anyone wants to experience.

Maybe my process is wrong, though. Is looking for antonyms to "urban" and/or synonyms for "rural" too obvious? Perhaps we need a totally unrelated term that connotes modern, yet rural, reality. Something that says farms, trailers, pickups and railroad crossings.

I like "dirt road." "Dirt" implies the rural location, but "road" carries connotations of modern vehicles. Which gives us the term, "dirt road fantasy."

What do you think? Is "dirt road fantasy" a valid opposite for "urban fantasy"? Will it ever catch on? Or do you have an even better idea?

The best suggestion will win a free signed copy of The Hum and the Shiver.

The contest will end July 24, 2011.

an interview is up at My Bookish Ways

I've got an interview up today with Kristin at My Bookish Ways where I'm talking about Miserere, libraries, and early writing influences among other things ... Cool questions and ANOTHER chance to win a copy of Miserere at Kristin's blog:

I grew up in a rural area where we were within walking distance of nothing. So every Saturday morning, my dad would round all three of us up and drive us into town to the Reidsville Public Library. We’d get there around nine in the morning and stay until the library closed at noon. We were allowed to check out as many books as we liked, and I spent the whole summer reading. I think it was that early exposure to the library that really defined my love of literature. It’s one of the reasons I love libraries so much and see their value to our communities ... [READ MORE]

how Miserere and Woerld ended up anchored in real traditions

This afternoon, I'm spending time with my colleague Max Gladstone over at his blog where you can learn a little about Max and me. Max wanted to know how (and why) I decided to use real traditions in Woerld. He was also curious whether I encountered conflicts between Woerld and the traditions and religions featured in Woerld.

... I think each religion has something very unique and beautiful to offer its adherents, and to merge them all into one giant religion would lose those distinctive qualities. So I chose to express their commonalities by showing their differences.

Writing Miserere made me realize how little I knew about Christianity. I mean, I knew the basics, but not the history of Christianity, the angelology, the demonology, or Gnostic Christianity and how it all fit together. It was like a whole new world had been opened up to me ... [READ MORE]

Rady--Chapter Two by Kacey Condon

Chapter two of Rady is now up! Kacey takes the story I started and puts a really cool spin on Rady. Here's a teaser:

Early morning was the worst time for Jimmy. Even before Grandma was gone, in the last year he had been expected to wake his brother. Granddaddy proved how important that job was early last fall.

“The most important thing you can do is be ready to cut yourself. If you hesitate, there will never be time to make up for it. Now, fold this up like I showed you, and let’s get to it.”

Jimmy took the knife from Granddaddy’s hand and, holding the razor edge away from his body, pressed the tiny button. The snapping sound always made him jump, but his hands moved without thought by now. He pushed the smooth heaviness into his jeans pocket and tried to breathe back the fear. [Read more]

Keep up with Rady in my sidebar. I'll be posting new chapters as they're written ...