Why I love reading fanfiction and why I can’t write it.

I must admit that I absolutely love reading fanfiction. I think it’s because sometimes I like the characters or the world so much, that I feel sad leaving them behind once the book is finished. I think most of us feel the same way, as the sheer amount of fanfiction written everyday can attest.

Fanfiction gives the readers a chance to explore the world the author created a bit further, or to shine the light on secondary characters that had been mostly on the margins of the original story. Sometimes it even lets the readers reimagine the story itself if, for some reason, they didn’t like the ending the author gave them. I know that I love reading fanfics that I will never forgive Rowling for pairing Hermione with Ron, or for killing Severus Snape off (and in such a lame way). So I particularly enjoy reading fanfics that explore other paths Hermione could have taken after Hogwards, or those where Snape survived and finally got a chance a normal life.

keep-calm-and-read-fanfics

I think it’s normal to want to read and write fanfiction, and I know that many writers started their writing careers by writing fanfics for books that really touched them. It’s also an excellent form of exercise, because it lets your imagination run free, but at the same time give you a set of rules consistent with the world of the original (unless you are trying to write something totally AU). It’s also an easily accessible (and free) way of staying a little bit longer with the characters you like.

The downside of this is that there is a lot of drivel out there. Stories that are poorly written, with characters that are so OOC they are unrecognizable, and a plot that is pure wish fulfilment on the part of author. I have noticed a lot of that last one when the authors try to introduce an original character into the story and she / he end up being a better (in their mind) version of the author him / herself (that’s where all the Mary Sue and Gary Stu come from). So, sifting through the muck can be a painful and mind-numbing process, but sometimes you find absolute gems – fanfics so well written, that they keep you hooked just as much (if not more sometimes) than the original book (movie, series, graphic novel) did.

By the way, if you are a fan of Harry Potter fiction, the wonderful Loten has some beautiful (and very well plotted) stories. WARNING – there is explicit content and most of the stories are about Hermione Granger and Severus Snape. I would especially recommend her Post Tenebras Lux.

But I got sidetracked. Moving on. I think I pretty much covered the reason of my love for fanfiction, so now I have a confession to make. I absolutely, totally suck at writing it. I CAN’T write fanfiction to save my life. Every time I get psyched up about a show or a book and want to write a story about it, I end up thinking about it for so long that by the time I sit down to write, I have created my own world and the characters populating it have nothing in common with their prototypes.

For example, my first novel Of Broken Things started out as a fanfiction idea when I watched Star Trek Into Darkness. I had been so impressed by the portrayal of Khan by the wonderful Benedict Cumberbatch, that I remember thinking, “What would someone like that do if he fell in love? And then lost the woman he loved? Oh, but it must have been an exceptional woman to catch the eye of someone like that.” And I started thinking about plot and character backgrounds, world building and politics, and ended up with a story that has nothing to do with Star Trek. Yes, one of the protagonists in it is a genetically modified soldier, but that’s the only think GMS798 has in common with Khan. I started with a fanfiction idea and ended up with an original book.

The idea for my next book also came as a result of watching a popular TV series. I was so impressed with one of the characters that I wanted to play with him myself. Only he didn’t want to talk to me. He kept pushing other characters into the light instead, none of which were present in the original show. By the time he finally decided to step into the light and tell his story, the only thing he had left from that character in the show was the face. And I’m thankful, because he brought me a wonderful story that I can’t wait to tell.

I think the reason why I can’t write fanfiction is because I don’t feel comfortable playing in somebody else’s sandbox. I can’t help but start changing the rules, modifying the backstory and starting to build my own castles. So I might was well go to my own sandbox and do it there, at least then I can have some fun without feeling guilty about it, and even discover wonderful stories in the process.

So what do you guys think? Do you read fanfiction? Do you write it? Do you think fanfiction is important? And question for published authors out there, do you read fanfiction about your stories?

My short story “A Small Detour” has been published.

I have started my journey to become a writer during NaNoWriMo 2013. Can’t believe it’s already been seven months. During that time

  1. I have finished the first draft of my novel Of Broken Things,

  2. thought I had finished a short story called Mists of the Crossworlds, but it decided to become a novelette instead,

  3. Finished the short story A Small Detour.

  4. Started the first round of edits and rewrites on Of Broken Things.

  5. Started brainstorming an idea for a new novel involving a vampire and a Tuata de Danan (don’t ask, I have no idea what’s going on there, I’m still busy torturing my characters and prying information out of them).

  6. Had to get a big bucket for all the plot bunnies that started breading in my head at the speed of light.

  7. Started submitting A Small Detour to different magazines.

Well, on May 24 I passed another important milestone on my writing journey. My short story had been accepted by Witty Bard Publishing LLC to be featured in their anthology Of Dragons and Magic: Tales of the Lost Worlds. Here is a beautiful picture of the cover:

Of Dragons and Magic

This is a big deal for me. I know it’s just a short story, but to me this is proof that what I do is worth something. That I’m not just spinning stories for myself and my immediate family, and that other people might find it interesting and worth their while. As of two days ago, I ceased to be a pre-published writer and became an author.

To pick your curiosity, here is a little synopsis of A Small Detour: When Ryssa’s horse gets stolen along with most of her possessions, she is forced to take a small detour. Little does she know that this detour had been the destination the Norns had intended for her all along.

It’s available on Amazon (see link above), so go check it out, spread the word. The other stories in the anthology are well worth your while as well.

Onwards towards new accomplishments!

Hounded and Hexed by Kevin Hearne

houndedHexed

 

Stars: 3.5 out of 5

I love browsing the recommendation section on Amazon. I have discovered a few wonderful books by doing so, books that I would otherwise probably not heard of. It was definitely the case with Hounded, the first book in the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne. I had finished the latest of the Harry Dresden books and was looking for something similar. Hounded was amongst the recommendations and I’m glad I decided to give it a try. Atticus O’Sullivan is now amongst my absolutely favorite characters, and Oberon is the best dog ever written.

Atticus O’Sullivan is the last druid and he is close to two thousand years old. He has been all over the world, and seen and done almost everything under the sun. That doesn’t mean that he is life-weary and brooding though, quite the contrary. He still enjoys life and everything it brings. He loves interacting with people and soaking in everything each new century has to offer. I think that’s why I like him so much. I am tired of brooding century-old vampires or ancient wizards with issues and “baggage”, who are just so tired of the world. After several books with similar characters it gets a bit old, so to me Atticus was like a breath of fresh air.

I also loved the fact that there was no love interest (and thus no love-related angst) in the two books. Maybe that will come in later installments, but right now it would definitely have been out of place.

I will not talk about plot here and let you discover it by yourselves. I will just say that it involved a lot of fighting, some demons, Celtic gods and goddesses, and witches, both evil and not so much. Both Hounded and Hexed were a joyful romp through the peaceful Arizona town Atticus chose as his home for now, full of explosions, mayhem and madness.

I like Kevin Hearne style. It’s fun to read, it flows easily, and he has the knack to sprinkle it with humor that just puts a smile on your face no matter what mood you were when you started reading. And I absolutely love the mental conversations between Atticus and Oberon. They make me wonder what my dogs would tell me if they were able to talk.

There have been a lot of criticism of this series where it comes to depiction of female characters, and I must admit that it is rather sexist. But I would disagree that all of the women in the series are there purely as objects of sexual desire. Some of them are well-rounded characters who would not hesitated to kick some ass if needed… and eat your heart out after (Morrigan, I am talking to you).

So all in all, I like this light-hearted series and will definitely read the other books in the series.

Life is just a moment between the past and the future.

Year 2014 took two good friends away from me. In March, my childhood friend’s husband lost his long battle with cancer. And last Saturday I learned that one of our good friends from Camp Darby, Italy, got the news that he would never walk again after a bad car wreck and took his own life. Both deaths affected me deeply. I’m 36, that’s way too young to be burying friends, especially if they are the same age as you.

I think it’s also hard for me to get used to the idea that they are gone because in both cases I was unable to attend the funeral, so I didn’t have closure. In my mind, they are still very much alive. I can remember them talking, laughing, making plans, and I cannot reconcile it with the idea that they are now gone for good.

This also made me think about life in general and what I wanted my own life to be. I had a sort of epiphany. We all live in that beautiful and fleeting moment sandwiched between the past that we can never go back to and the future that we might never reach. That moment is now, and that’s all we have.

So it’s alright to make plans and dream about what we want our life to be, but if we keep postponing those plans until tomorrow, we might never achieve our dreams at all. “Tomorrow is another day,” as the saying goes. But I say no, tomorrow might never come. None of us knows when our time will run out. It could be ten years from now or tomorrow morning, or even in the next hour.

051314_0344_Lifeisjusta2.jpg

Some might find this notion terrifying, but I find it liberating. If this moment is all we truly have, then let’s live each moment to its fullest. That novel that you have been planning to write but kept putting off? Grab a pen and paper and start writing. That trip you wanted to take to Japan, or Belize, or Katmandu, but never got around to planning? Get online and book the plane ticket. Go skydiving, learn to dance the tango, father the courage to ask that cute guy from Accounting on a date. Whatever it was that you were putting off doing because you were too busy or too scared – do it now.

Live each fleeting moment like it’s your last, that way when you arrive at the end of the line and look back, you can smile and say, “I truly lived.”

An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire (October Daye series 3)

An artificial night

Stars: 4 out of 5

In December 2013, I had reviewed the first two books in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire, Rosemary and Rue and A Local Habitation. You can find my review of both of them here. At that time, I had been disappointed with the second installment of the series and had decided not to bother reading the rest of the books. However, one of my blog readers commented that the series really starts to pick up around book 3 and that I should at least give it a try. In April, after I struggled through several rather disappointing books, I decided to follow that advice and picked up An Artificial Night from the library. I have not been disappointed.

This book has everything that the second one lacked – there is a good story with a solid conflict and really high stakes for all characters; Toby is actively doing something to resolve the situation instead of just mopping around; and the new take at the Wild Hunt and other children fairy tales is deliciously terrifying.

On a seemingly ordinary night, children disappear from their rooms and the only thing left behind is the smell of candle wax. There is no discrimination between who is taken either – changelings, pureblood and human children are missing. And Toby has a very personal reason to investigate those disappearances, because the two youngest children of her best friends are taken, while another one of them won’t wake up. Add to that he fact that Tybald, the kind of Cats, asks her to help find Raj, the young Heir to the throne, who had also been taken, and Toby won’t leave any stones unturned. Even if the next day a Fetch looking like her mirror image shows up at her doorstep, which means that death awaits her in the very near future.

I loved October Daye in this book. Mrs. McGuire finally let her character show some backbone and prove that she had been made a Knight of the Shadowhills for a reason. Toby is fierce and single-minded in her quest to bring the lost children back, and also truly heroic. She doesn’t hesitate even for a moment to put herself in harm’s way to save those kinds. You can’t help but admire her for that.

I also loved the development other characters had in this book. The story behind Luna’s past, and who her parents are. The whole sad story about the Luidaeg, Blind Michael and April. I absolutely loved May Daye, Toby’s unwilling and cheeky Fetch. And, most importantly, the new take on the Wild Hunt myth. I loved the fact that Seanan McGuire made it into a children’s night terror in this book, because those of us, who can still remember our childhood fears, know how terrifying things that go bump in the night can be to a 5-6 years old. And the fact that Toby had to be put back in a child’s body in order to travel the candle road into Blind Michael’s country makes the task before her seem even more daunting. I rooted for her. I was scared for her and all the other characters throughout this book. I also loved the fact that the author didn’t give this book a happy ending in the usual sense of the world. Yes, Toby managed to save the children, but some of them were forever altered, and so was she. And none of the people involved will ever be the same.

Personally, I think that Mrs. McGuire should have skipped the second book altogether, because it only brought one important point (that Toby’s blood magic is somewhat different from what normal Daone Sidhe can do). This point could easily have been integrated into either book one or three.

I would definitely recommend An Artificial Night. I am also looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Lightning never strikes in one place twice, right?

Today, I had planned to write a review of yet another book I read, but live proved to be more interesting (and scarier) than fiction. So my house got struck by lightning Friday evening. Never thought I would be able to say something like that… Well, to be precise, it wasn’t a direct hit – the lightning struck the pool in my backyard. That didn’t prevent it from wreaking havoc around the house though.

But let’s start from the beginning, shall we? That afternoon, my father-in-law was cleaning the pool and left the pool net (the one on a big metallic pole) propped next to the pool deck. It started raining, so he switched the pool off and went inside. Unfortunately, he didn’t unplug the pump or put the net on the big metallic pole back in the shed.

Two hours later our peaceful evening was interrupted by an ear-shattering crack and the loudest bang I have ever heard. It really sounded like an explosion right in our backyard. My thirty pound dog jumped up my lap so fast, it looked like she teleported. My 85-pound German shepherd tried to dig her way under the sofa, but only succeeded in pushing it all the way towards the wall almost knocking herself out in the process. And my two cats relocated under the bed upstairs, and it took me several hours and a can of tuna to persuade them the sky wasn’t falling on us and we weren’t going to die. That is after I finished having my own heart attack.

When we finally managed to sort all the animals and humans in the house out and crawled outside to see what the heck had happened, we saw scorch marks on the deck right where the pole used to be. The wooden plank on the railing was split in half. We found splinters of it by the fence about ten feet away. The metal pole itself was laying on the ground with what looked like a bullet hole on the top and the netting at the bottom shredded to pieces. Not to self: yup, that’s why they say not to leave metal poles standing around during storms…

Nope, that's not a bullet hole, that's lightning damage.
Nope, that’s not a bullet hole, that’s lightning damage.

The lightning stroke the pole, scorched part of the deck, dug a trench in the yard from the end of the deck towards the power outlet by the pool pump, and fried the whole pool system. I mean the outlet was so scorched we barely managed to pull the plugs out. And the impact was so intense that that dirt from the trench ended up floating in the pool. It’s an above ground pool with 4 feet tall sides.

But the damage didn’t stop there. Through that outlet, the lightning then traveled into the house, melted the circuit breaker that was supposed to shut that circuit off, and did wonders on electric devises.

 

Yup, it's toast.
Yup, it’s toast.

The Direct TV box got so messed up that it literally hang itself and would not reboot. The poor technician spent 5 hours on Saturday trying to make the thing work again. In the end, he had to replace both the receiver and the dish itself. Our TV decided that it had suffered enough abuse and decided to shut down permanently. The sound system still works, but the subwoofer is toast. Several electric outlets around the house quit working. Oh, and the cherry on top – my beautiful, less than a year old desktop might as well be a door stopper now.

Good news is that nobody got hurt and that our homeowners insurance will cover the damage. So we certainly got the fright of our lives, but the consequences could have been more dire.

I also learned a few things from this unfortunate encounter with lightning. First of all, never ever leave a metallic pole outside when it’s raining. That’s just inviting disaster. Secondly, always back up your work. I mean all my writing was on that desktop. So thank God for Google Drive!

So that was my weekend. How was yours?

Sometimes it’s not quite done when you think it’s done.

onceuponatime

 

I had an interesting experience the other day that I thought I’d share with my fellow writers (and readers). I had finished my second short story and sent it off to my beta extraordinaire. The feedback I got caught me by surprise.

“Loved the story,” she said. “That’s a very good first chapter. Where is the rest?”

“There is nothing more. The story is finished,” I answered.

“But it’s not! I want to know what happens next. This episode is over, yes, but the story itself isn’t finished.”

I didn’t try to argue with my beta because experience taught me that most of the time she was right anyway. Instead I went back to my story and thought long and hard about it. At first, I couldn’t see how I could continue it – in my mind, the story was finished. But something kept nagging at me for the next two days. I was neck deep in the revision of my novel, but my mind kept coming back to that short story, over and over again.

And Friday I finally had that ah-ha moment. You know, that moment when the scene you had been struggling with all of a sudden comes out seamlessly, or when you manage to fill in a particularly baffling plot hole? Yup, that moment. To me it was the realization that my beta had been right – there was more to my story than I thought at first. And I knew exactly where that story still had to go, and where it would end, for good this time. Now I just have to find the time to sit down and write it. So what I thought would be a short story turned out to be a novella instead.

It’s the first time this happened to me, but it’s true that I am just an apprentice, as far as writing goes. So I am wondering, did something similar ever happen to you? And if yes, how often?

I want to hear your stories. How often did you think that your story was done when in reality it wasn’t?

City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster

City of dolls

Stars: 4 out of 5.

This book is the absolute proof that we do judge a book by its cover. At least, it entices us to pick it up and start reading. I think I would have breezed right past the City of a Thousand Dolls on Amazon if not for the absolutely gorgeous cover art. It made me stop, open the link and read the brief synopsis. And after that, I immediately bought it, not even bothering to look through the reviews. Later, I was surprised at the amount of negative reviews this book received, especially on Goodreads, because I loved it.

I the whole concept of a city created for the sole purpose of caring for abandoned girls that their families don’t want anymore. This sort of orphanage, soft of boarding school, sort of specialized school where the girls learn how to become courtesans, artisans, artists, guards or even assassins. I also loved the world Miriam Forster has created. It’s interesting to see how a society that is completely cut off from the outside world would function.

I read a lot of complaints about Nisha, but I think that she is a fleshed out character, as far as young female protagonists go. Yes, at the beginning all her worries might sound shallow and rather petty, but this is exactly how it should be. She is fifteen; she has lived a very sheltered life behind the walls of the City. Of course, she would be worried only about her dress during the Ceremony, or flirting about the young courier. I actually enjoyed watching Nisha’s character evolve and grow up as the story progressed, and seeing how her priorities shifted the more she got involved in the whole investigation into the murders. It took courage and backbone to do what she did in the end, and for that she has my respect.

I am not a fan of love triangles in general, but the implied triangle in this book didn’t bother me that much. Maybe because Mrs. Forster didn’t take the usual route and made one of the men in Nisha’s life “bad”. Everyone has their reasons for acting like they do, and those reasons make sense.

If I have one gripe with this book, it’s that Miriam Forster never explains what happened to Nisha’s parents. We know that they were afraid of something, because they decided to leave Nisha in the City instead of entrusting their nomad family with her care. We know that they were both killed. It would have been nice to know why. Why was it so important to keep Nisha safe behind the city’s walls? Who sent the dead bird to her parents? Was it a warning? Is that why they ran? Nisha had been wondering about her parents and their reasons for years, it would have been cathartic for both her and the reader to get answers to those questions. Hopefully, the author will come back to this subject in later books.

As it stands now, I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series – Empire of Shadows. And just look at that new gorgeous cover!

Empire of shadows

Do you need to be married to your job to be good at it?

This post was born out of a brief exchange I had with a friend on Twitter. She had mentioned that in all the popular TV shows, the cops always hang around the office after hours (and sometimes late into the night), even after the case is done. Why don’t they go home? Don’t they have a life outside their work?

That conversation made me think. I also took a hard look at the shows I like on TV to see if I could confirm or deny that statement. Well, the verdict isn’t pretty – it seems like the TV wants us to think that you cannot be a good specialist (be it a detective, a CSI, an agent, etc.) unless you are literally married to your job.

 NCIS crew courtesy CBS NCIS crew courtesy CBS.

In NCIS, for example, Gibbs has been divorced three times and the relationships he had during the show never lead anywhere. He lives in a house that looks more like a cheap and ran down motel and spends most of his time in the basement working on a boat. Ducky was sharing his home with his mother until she passed away and now lives alone. As far as we know, he has never been married and is not in a relationship. Tony’s romantic life had been a train wreck after train wreck. All of them practically live at work.

CSI, another popular series, also shows us a group of workaholics with almost non-existent social lives or failing relationships. Nick, Greg, Julie and Morgan are all single. Sara’s relationship with Grissom ended a few seasons ago and Brass still has problems with his ex-wife and step-daughter. Heck, even the family man D.B Russell is starting to feel the strain in his personal life.

CSI courtesy CBS.
CSI courtesy CBS.

And there are plenty more shows like that. Heck, the latest example of this was shown in Rizzoli and Isles, when Jane chose her career over marriage to the man she loved, because it meant following him around.

My problem with that portrayal is that it slowly convinces the viewers that if you want to be good at your job, you need to prioritize it above everything else, personal life included. You need to be married to it, even obsessed with it.

Well, I have a beef to pick with that. First of all, obsession is never healthy. Also if you structure all your life around one single thing, once this thing taken from you, your life crumbles. Have you noticed that when those series show us a retired cop, he is usually either a heavy drinker, struggles with depression or bitter at the world? And how many characters took their own lives when they were declared unfit for duty for one reason or another?

I don’t agree that you have to sacrifice everything to be good at your job. I think that in order to be good at something, you need to be a healthy and balanced person. That means having more than one “obsession”, a hobby that you would enjoy doing during your free time, plenty of friends (and not only colleagues), and a good family life / personal relationship. That way, if disaster strikes and you fail at one aspect of your life, you still have all the others to fall back to and help you through. And your work won’t suffer too much, if you leave on time to enjoy a good dinner with your family. On the contrary, you might come to work happier the next day and ready to tackle oncoming challenges.

So that’s the characters whose stories I want to read and watch. I want well-rounded people. I want people who are not defined only by their job, who can balance profession and personal life, and be happy doing both. Those people are not boring. They have their own challenges to overcome. And there is so much more that can be done with characters like that as an author.

So what do you think? Do you think that being married to your job is unhealthy? Do you think that we, as authors need to create more in-depth characters who actually have a life to come home to? I would love to hear from you all.

The more you write, the more ideas you get.

 

pen-and-paper

I remember reading the excellent book On Writing by Stephen King sometimes in 2009, when I had just moved state-side with my husband. And I remember feeling so pumped up and excited to start writing something, because the great Stephen King said that ANYONE could write a story, they only had to start.

So I sat down with my pen and paper, already thinking about printed books and glory and fame… and I hit a wall. I had nothing to write about. My mind was blank. Not a single interesting story idea to be found anywhere. But I wanted to write! So I grabbed the first half-baked story that had the misfortune to wander into the spotlight and tried to run with it. The run quickly became a walk, then a crawl, and finally it died in horrible convulsions. That was my first effort at becoming a writer and, as you can see, it was not a very successful one.

Then in October 2013 a good friend of mine told me, “Why don’t you try doing NaNoWriMo with me?” I looked at the site, I read the rules, and I decided why the heck not? But the last disastrous foray into the land of writing was still fresh in my mind, so I was rather freaked out to just start on November 1 and write 50k in 30 days. And I still had NO IDEA what I would be writing about! Needless to say that the closer that first of November loomed, the more stressed I got.

And then a miracle happened. Around October 15, one a character literally barged into my dream, knocking the door down with his military boots, and said, “Ok, you will write this, and you will write it now.” I woke up with a half-formed idea, three fully-formed characters and an almost feverish need to put pen to paper and get story out, because it was burning me from the inside. I spent the last 15 days before the start of NaNo frantically outlining the story, I hit the month of November running, and I didn’t stop running until I finished the first draft around January 15.

During this exciting journey, I learned a lot about writing in general, as well as what worked and didn’t for me (outlines are a must – I can’t pants it for the life of me). But something even more extraordinary happened in the process as well – all of a sudden, my mind was bombarded with stories clamoring to be told. I was writing one, and at least three more were knocking more or less politely at the door, waiting for their turn. Where I had suffered from lack of things to write about back in 2009, I was overwhelmed with possible ideas now. It was like the trickle had transformed into a downpour!

hourglass_parchment_quill_cover

I now have a list of stories I want to write, and it’s getting longer every month. I must admit that it’s exciting. I am in the middle of the first rewrite / edit of my NaNo novel, and I have a finished short story waiting for a second rewrite, but I am also writing a brand new story that might turn out to be a novella. And I have enough plots for at least two more short stories set in the same word as another short story I just started sending out to magazines. Not to mention, another half-written novel I really want to go back to, because I have finally figured out the outline for it.

I guess it is true what everybody says – the more you write, the more you discover stuff to write about. It’s hard to start the ball rolling, but once it’s on the move, it gathers all sorts of interesting things along the way.

My dreams and stories. The life of a writer.

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