Tag Archives: reading

Magical World of Mish-Mash by Angela Castillo

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Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

Sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk, cyberpunk . . . one of the challenges speculative fiction authors face is figuring out just what Amazon category to click when listing books. Especially in the case of short story collections, where many authors throw things together in a glorious stew of deathly curses, spaceships and roving mercenary camel-racers (runs off to write story about camel racers).

Most traditional editors are looking for definites. They want straight-up fantasy, sci-fi, space operas, or defined steampunk (is there even such a thing).

I say why choose? Some of the best fiction novels of all time are a happy jumble of several genres, and you don’t see the millions of readers who cherish them complaining.
Here are a few of my favorites. Please note many of them are children or YA because that’s what I mostly read!

C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy

Spaceships, planets and government conspiracies all point to sci-fi, right? But hang on. In Perelandra we learn about the eldil, angel-like creatures that communicate through thought. Rainbow-colored flying frogs abound, and a mysterious woman (who is rather like a Biblical Eve) is discovered on another planet. In That Hideous Strength, an apocalyptic world emerges where the leader wants to turn humans into brain-powered machines. The mixed-up frenzy continues, and it’s all glorious.

The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles
Julie Andrews Edwards

Mary Poppins writes a delightful children’s fantasy? Yes please! But hidden in the story of the Whangdoodleland, complete with Whiffle Birds, furry creatures called Flukes, and a villainous creature called a Prock, are references to tessering (a type of matter and space travel also referenced in another glorious match-up, A Wrinkle in Time) and DNA sequencing. So there’s that.

The Giver Quartet
by Lois Lowry

At first this series seems pretty straight-forward Utopian/Dystopian. You have the seemingly perfect future world that slowly unravels into something heartbreakingly sinister. As the series unfolds, though, it becomes apparent Lowry has created an allegorical social commentary, with plenty of spiritual/supernatural (dare we say fantastical?) Though some of the story arcs can be frustrating, it would be a rare reader that could walk away from the series without some serious food for thought.

The Claidi Collection

Claidi is a servant of an isolated kingdom. The rulers of the castle are lazy, cruel, and treat their servants terribly. This introduction screams fantasy until a stranger crashes his balloon outside the walls of the castle. Thus begins a journey through a land of gears, machinery, and magic–or is it magic? This series keeps the reader guessing all the way through. While the MC, Claidi, can make some maddening life-choices, the series is still fun and interesting.

Do you have any favorite genre mish-mash books? Or do you prefer to read more straightforward, cut-and-dry, single genre fare?


Angela CastilloAngela Castillo loves living in the small town of Bastrop, Texas, and draws much of her writing inspiration from her life there. She enjoys walking in the woods and shopping in the local stores. Castillo’s greatest joys are her three sons and one daughter. Castillo writes a variety of genres, including sci-fi and fantasy mish-mash, and has been published in The First Line, Aardvark’s Ark, Heartwarmers, Thema, and several other publications, and also has works available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle format, including The Busy Mom’s Guide to Writing.

 

Busy Moms Writing Guide Book Cover

 

The Importance of Reading by Lisa Gordier

Fantasy Angel
Many of us know the quote by Stephen King about what it takes to become a writer and reading – “Read, read, read. You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. If you don’t have time to
read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

What Stephen King is referring to in this quote is the ability to read outside of the genre we write. It’s a very important key in how we shape our own writing. Knowing how other authors write allows us to see different techniques of our trade. From the Young Adult authors to the experienced (and perhaps no longer with us). There are thousands of authors to choose from.

Fantasy writers are a varied lot (myself among them). When we write we don’t always stick to just your normal, everyday wizards, dragons and elves. There are books in the fantasy section you may not have thought of before. For instance: Ray Bradbury, often known for Science Fiction, his book “Something Wicked This Way Comes” is classified as fantasy. Another book most may have thought of as more Science Fiction than Fantasy is “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Even Robert Heinlein wrote Fantasy for a magazine known as “Unknown Worlds”.

At this point, you may be saying to yourself that Science Fiction and Fantasy are two genres that really aren’t that far apart from each other and perhaps you might be right in some ways. Often times both genres take a lot of research into world-building, character development, and sometimes even technical research. But there is one slight difference between the two. With Fantasy you can do almost anything as long as you can make the reader believe it’s possible. Science Fiction you need to make the reader believe there is some kind of Science behind what is happening.
Mystery, Horror, and Suspense writers also come in an array of sizes. I will mention here that I’ve read some of Stephen King’s books (those that don’t scare me while reading during the day) and found them infinitely profound. I think the first of his I read was “Fire-starter” and I realized that though classified Horror, it wasn’t. I’ve also enjoyed several of Dean Koontz novels and a mystery series were written by Shirley Rousseau Murphy (who’s main character is a cat named Joe Grey). Of course, I must confess my favorite mysteries of all time are still “Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

I believe the writers of these genres are somewhere between Science Fiction and Fantasy. They must delve into a bit of the unknown and fantastic. Researching things which are very real to us. Sometimes the horror or suspense may be more in the realm of fantasy, or they may have been case files of the police – rewritten to exclude names we might recognize. These authors walk a fine grey line to keep us on the edge of our seats.
I’ve been discussing Fiction but there are Non-Fiction books such as Biographies/Auto-Biographies, Self-Help, Essays and Journalism. Authors of these books or articles all want to either tell a story or help others with their stories. Some you’ll find on the bookshelf and others in magazines. It can be difficult to find an item in these categories that you enjoy, but they’re out there. I’m partial to stuff on space and the universe myself.

And last, don’t cut out Comic Books and Manga (Japanese Comic Books). Both are a large market here in the United States. I’ve found a few I really enjoy, both for the artwork and the story lines. For a comic book produced in the States I’ve started reading one called “Elephantmen”, a postwar science fiction sort of comic book. And with regards to Mangas I have several I enjoy, “Sayuki” being the top runner.

I do also try and read different magazines for articles and essays. I’ve recently subscribed to “The New Yorker” and I also read “Writer’s Life”, “Time”, “Natural Geographic” and occasionally “Life”. Each gives me a different perspective upon the world and how authors write.

In closing, as Stephen King said, don’t be afraid of reading outside of the genre you write in. It expands your horizons as an author, teaches you different techniques as a writer and at the least entertains you as a person. I have found, as I’ve followed this philosophy, that I’ve become far more open-minded in the kinds of books I’m willing to try to read. I no longer am drawn by just artwork or title in one genre. I’ll browse every one, read the synopsis of story lines and take time to see if a book will interest me. So far the only books I can’t seem to get into are Romance novels but even that may change in time.

If you’re interested in knowing about what genres of books are out there, here is a list of them all:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_writing_genres

Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – USA. Lisa Gordier grew up as a Navy Brat, moving across the country with her family. The Navy settled them mostly in San Diego, California.

Her father started Lisa reading books by Piers Anthony and Robert Aspirin when she was around eight years old. From there she found she enjoyed not only reading but writing her own stories and poetry.

When Lisa was Eighteen, she moved from San Diego to Phoenix, Arizona to go to College. she married and joined the Air Force during the Iraq conflict. She served in Italy during her first tour of duty. When she returned to the States, it was to San Antonio, Texas and a divorce. Lisa was honorably discharged from the Air Force and moved to Phoenix once more where she soon remarried and began serving in the Air Force Reserves for ten glorious years. she continued to write and draw as an artist.

After twenty years of marriage, Lisa was divorced once more and moved to Tucson. The author currently works on a fantasy novel, working on artwork for a co-authored
novel and writing poetry.

Read Your Own Work by Loren Rhoads

 

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I love to read from my books in public. I love the silence that descends as the audience grows rapt.  More than that, I love to hear the crowd react to my words, noting when they gasp or if they laugh.  Best of all, I love to gauge the enthusiasm of the applause at the end.

The chief thing to keep in mind when you are asked or volunteer to do a reading is that – while the audience comes to be entertained – YOU are there to sell your book.  Whatever you read, make it the best advertisement for your book that you can.

I try to tailor what I read to its intended audience.  If I’m reading in a bar, I choose something sexy. If it’s a bookstore, I read an action scene. If I’m reading to science fiction fans, I pick something that’s undeniably SFnal.  If it’s a horror convention, I read something bloody.  I don’t try to stretch their tastes because I want them to buy the book.

It’s important to find out in advance how long your reading slot will be.  It’s rude to exceed your time limit, because then you’re stealing time from the other readers.

I’m a strong believer in reading a complete scene, whenever possible.  It’s good to end on a cliffhanger or some other place that will leave your listeners wanting more.  In my experience, it’s better to read one long piece, rather than too many short pieces, because it’s easier than most readers realize to overstay the audience’s good will.

I always practice before I perform, not only to time my selection, but also to see how it feels in my mouth.  Are some names tricky to pronounce?  Are there words I’m uncertain of? I’d rather make mistakes at home instead of in front of people.  Also, as I’m practicing, I sometimes add extra commas, so I remember to breathe or leave space for laughter.

Reading to a live audience can teach you a lot about your own work.  Sometimes what looks good on a page doesn’t sound good in performance.  Maybe the sentences are too long or convoluted. Scenes full of dialog can be hard for listeners to follow.  Long descriptions or info dumps can sound awkward out of context.

Another element to consider when you’re preparing for a reading is how you will introduce yourself.  Usually, you will be expected to provide the host, if there is one, with a short bio.  Crafting the perfect bio is a whole ‘nother essay, but briefly, this: Give your name, the title of the book you are selling, and your web address.  If there is more information that your audience will find useful, mention it.  Highlight your authority as an author and what you have in common with your listeners.  Keep it short.  You can be funny if that comes naturally, but don’t bring up your cat or your marital status – or any other personal information, for that matter – unless that’s what you’re reading about.  Otherwise, it’s obvious filler that erodes your audience’s patience.

Once you get up in front of the crowd, think about how well you can be heard.  If there’s a mic, lean toward it.  If there isn’t, pretend you’re talking to someone at the back of the room.  My voice tends to be soft, so I begin my unmiked readings by asking people to wave at me if I grow hard to hear.

Of course, that means that I have to occasionally glance up from my text.  Even after all the readings I’ve done, I’m still self-conscious enough that it’s hard to tear my eyes off the manuscript.  To get around that, I mark places in my scene to look up. I try not to meet anyone’s eyes because that would distract me from what I’m doing, but I want to get a brief glimpse of the audience to see if their eyes are on me, or if they’ve glazed over and I should wrap things up.  The glazing-over has yet to happen, but I always worry.

The (almost) final thing to think about is how to end your reading.  When I reach the end of my text, I let the words run out, take a breath, and then say thank you.  I feel it’s important to thank the audience for their attention.  I try to thank the host and the venue too, if there’s time and it’s appropriate.  Write what you plan to say on your text, so you don’t forget it.

Lastly, stand still a moment to enjoy the applause.  It can be surprisingly difficult to face your audience after you’ve done your bit.  It can feel like you’re hogging the attention, especially if you’re reading as part of a lineup.  I try to stand still long enough to make some eye contact with the crowd before I rush off the stage.  After all, the applause is why we do this.  That, and the book sales.

Loren RhoadsLoren Rhoads is the co-author (with Brian Thomas) of Lost Angels and its upcoming sequel Angelus Rose, about a succubus who becomes possessed by a mortal girl’s soul. Loren has read at bookstores all down the West Coast from Seattle to Los Angeles. She’s read in bars, cafes, theaters, art galleries, an antique store, a Day of the Dead tchotchke shop, a gaming store, and at a Death Salon. She still gets nervous every single time. www.lorenrhoads.com

Broad Universe Reads at Westercon68

Westercon68
The West Coast Science Fantasy Conference aka Westercon is a regional science fiction and fantasy convention geared toward fans, musicians, writers, and filmmakers of the genre. It is typically a four-day event that is traditionally held during the Independence Day holiday weekend. The location rotates to a new city each year, chosen somewhere in the United States west of the 104th meridian line. The guests of honor are chosen from professionals who live in the Westercon region.

TownCntryResort rosesThis year, Westercon was held in San Diego, CA at the Town and Country Resort in conjunction with two local conventions, Conjecture (a science fiction and fantasy literary convention) and ConChord (a filk singers convention). It is a lovely hotel filled with bright blue swimming pools, blooming roses, and garden settings.

This was my first time at a regional literary convention. The size and scope of it was bigger than I had expected. I was registered as a panelist for the first time and I participated in two events. The first event was a lecture on Author Platform, based on the methods that I use to promote No Wasted Ink. My lecture was well attended and I found the give and take of questions during the lecture to be interesting. I hope that my information was of help to my fellow authors.

Broad Universe Reading at Westercon68 (2015)My second event was a panel that I created to feature the local authors of Broad Universe, a writing guild where I am a member. Broad Universe is an international non-profit writer’s guild that promotes women writers and editors in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other speculative genres. It began as a panel discussion at WisCon back in 2000 and has grown into a large volunteer-run group that attends various conventions and conferences to promote the member’s books. One of the more popular activities of the group are known as “rapid fire readings” which feature group readings by the authors in convention panels or as a salon reading in the evening. Broad Universe also offers access to Net Gallery, occasionally have tables where member’s can sell their books at science fiction conventions and is a great place for authors to network via their email list, Facebook group or Twitter.

Our panel was given a great time in the convention on Friday afternoon. Our Broad Universe readers were Jude-Marie Green, Barbara Clark, Wendy Van Camp, Elizabeth Watasin, and Shauna Roberts. I was surprised by the turnout of listeners, many were women that sat and knitted as they listened to our stories. Having my own handmade jewelry in the art show at Westercon, I was gratified to see the support from fellow artisans. There were also a scattering of men and women who were typical convention attendees that came out of curiosity to experience new authors.

After our hour-long panel, we proceeded downstairs to the dealer room where a pair of tables were set up for authors to autograph their books. It was not set up for our group alone, but all the authors had a place on the schedule, including the big name authors that attended the convention. All of us sold and autographs books that afternoon.

Westercon68 Autographing (2015) Jude-Marie Green, Barbara Clark, Wendy Van Camp.Westercon68 Autographing 2 (2015) Elizabeth Watasin, Shauna Roberts

Authors Top Photo: Jude-Marie Green, Barbara Clark, Wendy Van Camp
Authors Bottom Photo: Elizabeth Watasin, Shauna Roberts

For the writers and fans of science fiction, literary conventions are a great place to learn more about the genre, meet famous authors in person, network with your fellow fans, authors, filmmakers, or to explore your wild side by costuming.