Posts Tagged ‘Fantastic February’

Fantasy February continues.  Today we have the amazing Ann Aguirre who’s dystopian YA debut Enclave releases April 12th, 2011.

Ann Aguirre is a national bestselling author with a degree in English Literature; before she began writing full time, she was a clown, a clerk, a voice actress, and a savior of stray kittens, not necessarily in that order. She grew up in a yellow house across from a cornfield, but now she lives in sunny Mexico with her husband, children, two cats, and one very lazy dog. She likes all kinds of books, emo music, action movies and Dr. Who. She writes urban fantasy (the Corine Solomon series), romantic science fiction (the Jax series), apocalyptic paranormal romance (the Ellen Connor books with Carrie Lofty), paranormal romantic suspense (as Ava Gray), and post-apocalyptic dystopian young adult fiction.

How the Apocalypse is Like Cupcakes

by Ann Aguirre

To make cupcakes, you need flour, sugar, leavening, eggs, milk, and flavoring, which can come in many varieties like vanilla, chocolate or ground almonds. The apocalypse is the same way. Generally, it’s not one single event that causes everything to fall apart. War, famine, disease, global warming, manmade pestilence, bio-plagues, chemical weapons, pollution, radiation — as you can see the possibilities are rather endless. And in the fictional sense, at least, dystopian fiction can be every bit as delicious as the dessert referenced above.

I’m always profoundly uncomfortable discussing my work in more than abstract terms. The book should stand or fall on its own merits, and therefore, my awkward enthusiasm for a work I’ve created serves no purpose. However, for a review that says everything about ENCLAVE, this is the one to read. Ms. Holland is far more eloquent on the subject of ENCLAVE than I could ever be, but this is my favorite quote:

“…the action and violence are balanced with a deep sensitivity. Deuce wants to be a cold huntress who only focuses on her objective, but her heart gets in the way. She wants to save lives, even the lives of those that the leaders have deemed useless, and she has some serious moral questions about how much mercy she can afford to show before she jeopardizes her own survival or the welfare of her enclave. The fighting scenes are all the more exhilarating because they have an emotional core to back them up: Deuce may have fun fighting, but she doesn’t fight for fun. She’s always defending someone–the children, or her partner, or herself.” —All Consuming Books

Recently, in an interview, I was asked why I chose a post-apocalyptic world for my YA debut. The answer is actually two-fold. First, I wasn’t sure I had the voice to write a beautiful contemporary in the vein of Jennifer Echols, but I wanted, quite desperately, to write a YA. So I decided if I couldn’t do a compelling young protagonist in this world, I’d invent one. Which brings me back to why dystopian?

I’m a child of the eighties, and we saw filmstrips about what would happen if the bomb dropped. Sometimes we had nuclear drills in addition to fire and tornado. When I think about twenty small children huddled under their desks in case the Russians let one fly, well, it’s rather absurd, isn’t it? But that sort of fear shaped my psyche, so that’s definitely a contributing factor. The other reason? Well, I’ll just quote the interview I did with Karen from For What It’s Worth “I think it’s because they’re uplifting. No, seriously. You take a world in utter disarray. Things are incredibly bleak. Then a hero arises, someone who has the desire and drive to succeed, no matter what. And this person changes his or her world in some fashion. How can that message not be incredibly valuable to young adults? I think it lends hope that there can always be brightness, no matter how dark it seems.”

For me, that’s the absolute crux of the matter. People need to believe they can make a difference–that one person standing strong can turn the tide. It’s easier to demonstrate that in the Razorland world, but that example of internal fortitude will serve readers (of all ages) well. I wanted to take a run at telling that kind of story, and I’ll close with Publishers Weekly’s thoughts on the matter:  “In her first young adult novel, Aguirre (the Sirantha Jax series) has created a gritty and highly competent heroine, an equally deadly sidekick/love interest, and a fascinating if unpleasant civilization. This series is likely to hold considerable appeal for fans of The Hunger Games.”

I was thrilled they called Deuce “gritty and highly competent.” Did I succeed entirely with ENCLAVE? Only readers can be the judge of that, and I hope you’ll let me know what you think. What are your favorite dystopian novels and why do you love them?


Ann Aguirre | www.annaguirre.com

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First off, I’d like to announce the winner of the copy of Anya Bast’s Raven’s Quest.

Drumroll please..

renee smith

Renee, please contact me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize.

Fantastic February continues with a review of  the next installment of an amazing Urban Fantasy series.

Pale Demon

The Hollows book 9

By Kim Harrison

Releases February 22, 2011

ARC provided by Harper Eos

I am a huge fan of the Hollows and the Rachel Morgan books.  I’m a regular “stalker” of her blog and once blogged for a year so I could attend a conference she was signing at.  So, when I was lucky enough to get an ARC Pale Demon, the latest Hollows book I was squeeing like a rabid fangirl.

Rachel Morgan has three days to get to the Witches Conference in San Francisco to get her shunning rescinded or she’s going to be stuck in the Ever After with Al.   Denied boarding her airplane, her only chance of getting there in time involves road-tripping it with the one and only Trent Kalamack, who also needs to get to the West Coast urgently, but won’t tell Rachel why.  Trent, Rachel, Ivy, and Jenks set off on a 2,300 mile trip and encounter assassins, coven members, and a daywalking demon that’s interested in Rachel.  Not only do they need to make it to the West Coast on time, but they need to make it there alive.

In some series there’s sometimes a “saggy” book or two.  But these books are consistently good and this one is no exception.  Pale Demon is a great romp through this alternate version of America where humans are the minority.  I really enjoyed the little details of the roadtrip, such as them being afraid of taking certainly highways.  It was nice to “see” what America is like beyond the Hollows and it was interesting hearing little details about how small towns had virtually disappeared and wide stretches of highway no one ventured down.

It would have been fun to encounter a ghost town or see exactly what lurked on someone of those highways, but their trip is far from boring.  Harrison’s attention to detail really adds so much depth and color to the story.  We’re using to what a pixy wearing the color red means in the Hallows, but we find that it means something else west of the Mississippi.  Vegas has interesting rules for Vampires.  Rachel dines at a crazy Demon restaurant that uses ex-coven members as wait staff.

Harrison has some great one-liners.  Some of my favorites are: “God save me from businessmen with too much money and not enough to do”  and “It didn’t matter if a charm was white, black, or polka dotted with silver sparkles.”

This is a fast-paced book with twists and turns at every corner.  Trent is still Trent, and true to his character makes some interesting choices.  Pierce, too, returns.  The day-walking demon adds interesting layers to the demon-elf war.  Just when you think the story could be over it takes a turn and gets even better.  Despite things looking bleak, Rachel comes through in the end—and so do her friends.  Though where we get the usual “happily-for-now-sort-of” ending that you usually get in a Hollows book, this one comes at a high price and a few things are bittersweet.

I really enjoyed this book and found it a gripping, but quick, read.  A lot of things are tied up, but other avenues are opened to new, but different paths for everyone’s favorite sassy witch bounty hunter.  I get the feeling that several eras have ended for Rachel and she’ll be moving away from some things and on to others, which is good and a little sad at the same time.

Still, I will be waiting impatiently for Book Ten to see what new direction Harrison takes the series and what trouble Rachel finds next.

But I wonder, will we ever find out what the blue butterflies mean?





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It’s Fantastic February.  Today we have an amazing special guest for you.

Writing  a Believable World

by Anya Bast

My name is Anya Bast. If you’re not familiar with me, I write across many different subgenres of romance. My two best known series are the Elemental Witches series and the Dark Magick series, which are both what my publisher terms “urban fantasy romance.” I would call them paranormal romance. I write strong heroines who are paired with difficult, dangerous men. My worlds generally contain some kind of magick.

As well as paranormal romance, I write a little historical fantasy and a bit of horror. Basically, if it’s fantastical in some way, I probably dabble in it. I’m not much for non-fantastical stuff, not in my writing and not in my personal choices for entertainment, either.

Raven’s Quest, my latest release, is historical fantasy. Raven’s Quest was one of the first books I ever wrote and it’s a pure fantasy romance, weaving a tale of love through a world rich with magic. It’s set in a faux European Renaissance-type world.

In the Raven’s Quest world, magick is controlled by a tyrant who understands its influence. Although rebellion is brewing, led by the rightful heir to the throne and a powerful woman who comes from a distant magick-drenched country.

For this world I used history mostly just for underlying flavoring, like a base for a soup.  The rest of the world—the religion, system of magick, government—all came from my imagination.

Worldbuilding is my favorite thing about writing. I love creating a new world and fleshing it out. Sometimes I’m asked by writers for advice on how to create effective and believable worlds. Here’s what I tell them:

Make specific notes about the world before you start writing. It will help you avoid inconsistencies that confuse the reader and/or ruin their sense of place. If you continue to world build as you write, make sure you note all the changes or additions you make. That helps lots during the editing phase.

Make sure you cover all the bases. In our world/reality, we have religion, a political structure, philosophy, a rich history, social customs, a criminal/judicial system, a business community, military, fashion, great historical figures, influential books, ect…. I could go on for a while. Your fictional world should have all these to make it seem real. The devil is in the details when building a believable world.

I try to avoid writing scenes where the whole purpose is explain something about the world. It’s much better to weave the required information seamlessly into the story. You can do that simply through the storytelling or dialogue, but avoid dialogue between characters that is unnecessary to character or plot development. Dialogue that has as you know anywhere in it is usually a red flag. If the characters already know what you’re revealing, find a different way to convey it to the reader.

Study history and other cultures to gain ideas. Studying the French and Russian revolutions once gave me an idea for an entire world, one of my favorite worlds to date. So, get geeky, dive in and see how you, too, might be able to find some historical facts to mutate to your advantage.

Thanks for reading!

Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win an autographed copy of Raven’s Quest.



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