Friday, May 17, 2019

OWS CyCon Urban Fantasy Blog Hop: "Fantasy Integration In Society--Magic and 'The Real World' In Fantasy Fiction"

Welcome to the next stop in the OWS CyCon Urban Fantasy Blog Hop! I hope you enjoyed exploring "The Fantasy of Reality" with Megan O'Russell. Now, get ready to enjoy something a little different, as I explore the impact of fantasy in the "real world" of my own life. 

Has this ever happened to you?

You're walking along a sidewalk, going about your normal day, when the sunlight glints off something on the pavement. You stop and peer a little closer. It's a ring, a very pretty, expensive-looking ring. Intrigued, you pick it up. It looks to be about your size, so you try it on.

The minute the cool metal touches your skin, a breeze hits your face out of nowhere and you blink--and you're standing in the middle of a wood, with tall trees, lush grass, a babbling brook, and no sign of human interaction anywhere.

Not your style?

Well then, how many times have you gone exploring in an unfamiliar wood, expecting to see the crumbling ruins of an abandoned castle buried deep within?

Just me? Okay, fine.

The point is, whether or not the magic we read about in books or see in movies is the same sort we can expect to experience in our everyday lives (spoiler alert: it isn't), there is still a host of valuable lessons we can learn from watching and reading and "experiencing" these flights of fancy in our imaginations. Fantasy has a way of imbuing the most mundane activities with fresh new life--and seeing the difference between the "real", magic-less world and the one where magic lives freely is a remarkable thing to behold.

As you might have guessed by now, I'm a voracious and avid reader (See THIS post from earlier this week and also check out the Reader's Review page to see just how serious I am) and one of the genres that has long been my favorite is fantasy. Most people read fantasy because they want to "escape reality." They assume this, because that is what the characters seem to be doing--they have a miserable circumstance in their life, or things are just too boring--and the minute something happens the least bit out of the ordinary, they jump at the chance to chase after that extraordinary thing.

But look deeper. Is it merely escape? Or are there important lessons that the character learns--amid the dancing fairies, the impossible unfurling before their eyes, and the talking animals--that end up making them a better person, once they return to the "real world"? Wouldn't that be a far greater benefit, and a reason to read more fantasy: to better understand what lies at the heart of the thing we struggle with, and to gain a new perspective on how to handle it?

To that end, I wanted to talk about five different fantasy tales (not all of them are books, there's a few movies in it, as well) that I encountered, which taught me valuable lessons that impacted my perspective on the real world. Each of them used the "real world vs. alternate world" duality, so I'll be expounding how the story used the two worlds, and the lesson this method communicated.

Ready to go? Let's begin!

1. Stardust

The first fantasy tale we will look at is Stardust by Neil Gaiman. Specifically, the film based upon his novel. (Didn't much care for the novel, for a variety of reasons...) In it, the "normal" world and the fantastical are separated by a long, ancient Wall. The Wall had been there for so long, people forgot what it was for. In fact, the very name of the village was "Wall", since it was the only village right next to this anomaly. People from Wall didn't cross the Wall, and people from the magical world just on the other side of the Wall--called Stormhold--didn't ever cross into the normal side. The way it was set up, one couldn't exactly tell if the magical world was still on Earth, or if it was a separate dimension. Things that happened in Stormhold could be seen from Wall--but everyone would dismiss what they saw as a quirk of nature. The big important event that sets off the whole plot of Stardust has to do with a young man from Wall crossing over into Stormhold, meeting a girl, having a child that was half "normal", half "magical", and that child finding out about their heritage--among other things. The important thing to note was that this fantastical masterpiece stemmed from a simple wall in the middle of a relatively empty field. One need only to wonder: "Why is it there? Is it to keep something in--or to keep something out? Who put it there? What's really on the other side?" And there would be no stopping that sort of inquisitive mind.

The lesson I learned from Stardust was this: "You never know what could be, beyond the scope of your experience." After watching the film and experiencing the story, I found myself drawn to the small spaces, the little details most other people would ignore: a random door on the side of a building, a barricade in front of an empty field, or even an abandoned building lot. Who knows what amazing secrets these places hid? What if there was a magical dimension, just waiting on the other side, concealed from the casual eye? It gave me appreciation for these small moments, and even some sights found their way into my stories, sometimes. There was, quite literally, a story around every single corner, I found.

2. Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

This film was cheesy, and kind of fluffy--but it was also cute and magical and so I kind of felt like it was a "guilty pleasure" for me. In this film, there aren't two separate worlds, but an unassuming toy shop in the "real world" seems to possess magical properties, as the toys themselves come to life and interact with the children who play with them, the impossible is possible, and it's always full of life and color and movement--until the Grumpy Adult comes to try and shut it down, showing an incredible lack of imagination, whereupon the shop loses its life and color, and the toys become dull, inanimate objects again. Therein lay the contrast of the two "worlds" in this film: one was dark and empty and still; the other bouncing, vibrant, and full.

Now here's the profoundness in the way such a quaint and silly movie taught a powerful lesson. Was it "Adults are boring and need to have more fun"? No. It could have taught that being impulsive and refusing to live by any sort of rules is the only way to live... but it didn't. Instead, my takeaway from the film was that "A life without imagination is no life at all." It wasn't that "rules are evil" or "believe that something will happen and magically, it will", but that within the set guidelines for cooperating well with others and functioning as a community, a little imagination is to be embraced as a way to enhance one's life, not shunned or feared as useless daydreaming. For me, that meant that allowing my mind to wander a little bit, as long as my ideas brought benefit and not harm, could actually serve to benefit me and others. I don't need to be ashamed of my ideas, or pursuing the fantasy and science fiction topics I am passionate about. A little whimsy makes the world go round!

3. Chronicles of Narnia

This series is perhaps the most foundational of all the fantasy I read and loved. I read these books over and over, almost to the point of memorization, and even went on to write my own spin-off fanfiction trilogy based on the series! In this series, the "real world" and the fantasy world--Narnia--are presented as in separate dimensions, accessible only through certain "portals", such as a wardrobe, or a magic ring. Four siblings pass many years in both the real world, and a few centuries in Narnia, growing learning, ruling, and every time they returned to the real world, it was as if no time had passed at all. Each book in the 7-book series features either a couple of siblings from this family, or later on a cousin and his friend, going back to Narnia and having adventures until the magic world literally comes to an end, with surprising implications for this world.

A lot could be said about the fact that the author of said series was an inquisitive theologian, writing a straight-up allegory disguised as a kid's fantasy adventure... but really, the impact it had on me didn't really surface until I was writing that trilogy I mentioned earlier. In the trilogy, the siblings are all older, and I really went after the contrast between the siblings who chose to still "believe" in Narnia, even when they were "too old" to continue returning there, and the one who ended up rejecting the whole idea, even scoffing at the others for still treating their experiences as real memories. I began to realize something very important that wasn't exactly mentioned in the original series, but implied. The lesson is this: "Just because an experience isn't 'true' or 'realistic' doesn't mean we can't learn from it and reap the benefit in our 'real world' life." The ones who still "believed" in Narnia took seriously the things they learned about leadership, about relationships, about good and evil--and in that way, perhaps they weren't "going" to Narnia, but they were living as if they had been.

The one who rejected it? She had learned much of the same lessons, but she chose to ignore them. If she couldn't accept the entirety of the experience, then she refused to reap any benefits from having gone--and her "real world" life suffered greatly for it. Where the others became more mature, and handled life with a little more grace because of their "fantasy" experiences, this other sibling traded it all in the vain pursuit of all the futile, short-term things life had to offer: fashion trends, the approval of others, and so on. I summed up the difference in this line I wrote for one of the characters: "Narnia may have been a fantasy, but the lessons I learned there were very real. Whether I really was High King for several years or not, that does not mean I cannot behave as one who has been king."

Some people shy away from reading most fiction--fantasy in particular--because they "can't see the point of it." To which I reply: The point is to learn "firsthand" important lessons about morality, courage, and other life and character lessons these fictional "people" might learn. So that one day, when you're faced with a situation that matches the one you read about... you know exactly what to look for, and what to do about it. Good fiction isn't just about escaping reality. It's about reconnecting with reality in a more meaningful way, learning from the mistakes of another person--albeit a fictional one--and getting the chance to "preview" a common interaction before it happens in your own life. At least, that's how I approach reading any sort of fiction or sci-fi: What are the characters learning, and can it benefit my life to learn the same lesson along with them, without having to go through the real-world "classroom" myself?

4. The Little Prince
This one is kind of more recent, since yes, we did have a copy of the book around the house growing up... but it had already fallen apart by the time I was reading, so I never remember seeing more than two pages of it together at one time, in various places around the house. Then Netflix made an adaptation, which I watched and holy buckets it was amazing and I cried. A young girl lives in a world with no stars, that values "essentialness" above all else, and she has as her goal to be "worthy" of acceptance by a boarding school that is the height of quality of life. She meets a rambunctious old aviator who lives next door, and he tells her the tale of the adventure he had when he met a young boy who identifies himself as The Little Prince. The stories he tells through the eyes of the Little Prince are so outlandish that the girl has trouble believing that they are anything more than stories--until the day she finally notices that some of the characters the Prince described match some of the people in the real world... including a grown-up young man who could have been an older version of the Little Prince himself. 

There's a whole lot that happens, but the lesson it contained took a little bit of thinking. I think the most important thing I carried with me away from that story is: There is a vulnerability and an extra level of perceptiveness that comes from allowing oneself to see the "little magics" of everyday things, and appreciate them for what they are, instead of trying to make them into this narrow view of what one might think they "ought" to be.

Think about it: All the characters in the "real world" were so focused on being "essential" that they would go out of their way to avoid anything the slightest bit disorderly or irregular. Everything was tuned to the Next Big Thing. For the little girl (and her mother), it was the scholastic acceptance. There was hardly a moment of the day that wasn't severely regimented down to the second, pointing toward that. The girl wasn't allowed to do anything that wasn't "essential" to meeting her goal. Humanity was reduced to small, colorless "machines" on a never-ending treadmill. It takes the constant brushes with the Aviator to bring the new perspective into the little girl's life, and it's by allowing herself to see life through the Aviator's eyes--and the eyes of the Little Prince--that she is able to see the world for all the possibilities it contains, not for it's "essentialness."

Then there's also the vulnerability part: These characters all grasped at the promise of security found in conforming to the "essential" worldview--and to do otherwise would leave them vulnerable to those who would exploit others for their own purposes. But is it worth being vulnerable, to escape the trap of blind compliance? What if life has more meaning than just being "essential"? What if the things we've convinced ourselves are essential--number crunching versus connecting with the world around us; pinching pennies and hoarding money versus counting our riches in friends and community; maintaining absolute control over our circumstances versus learning how to roll with anything life throws at us--actually ends up being pretty pointless, while those "nonessential" things are what make life worth living? To live is to be vulnerable--but we would not choose to be vulnerable that way unless we believed that the payoff (being able to see life from multiple perspectives, and adapt accordingly) was worth all that and more.

Who would have thought that a little 93-page "novelette" (shorter than the book I wrote!) would carry such a big, important message? At least, it did for me.

5. Inkheart

The last fantasy series that really impacted me would have to be the Inkheart Trilogy, by Cornelia Funke. The premise is that there are certain people with an almost magical ability called Silvertongues, who can read passages in books and bring objects and characters from the book world into our world. The flaw here is that whenever something is brought out of the story world, then something from the real world is drawn in to fill that space. The main character, Mo, ends up reading a book called Inkheart, and while he is reading, he ends up bringing out one of the villains from the book--and inadvertently, his wife ends up transported into the world of Inkheart. The book was pretty obscure, only a handful of prints left, so Mo has to use his trade as a book-binder to travel all around the world (along with his daughter) hunting down copies of Inkheart in order to find the one that describes his wife, so that he can read her back out again. But of course, it's not going to be that easy... Things are rarely straightforward when it comes to a rare fantasy world, and a villain who has found his niche in this modern world and doesn't want to leave--so much that he'll hunt down every copy of Inkheart himself, so that there would be no chance of the Silvertongue reading him back in again.

The lesson this book taught me wasn't so much a character one as it really influenced the way I saw and thought about writing stories. A Silvertongue's words hold much power over the fate of people--when they meet the author who wrote Inkheart, Mo discovers that if the author writes about his characters, and Mo reads them, it can alter reality for the characters, even in our world. The villain finds a different Silvertongue and gets him to read an entire village from "Inkworld" into ours, so that he can live in a place where he feels comfortable. I learned a lot about how to approach writing my own stories from reading this. I would say the most important lesson I carried away from Inkheart--the whole trilogy, as a matter of fact--is that there is an inherent power in storytelling that cannot (and should not) be underestimated. Stories have power, and repeating those stories increases that power.

The thing is, it doesn't just apply to fictional stories we invent in our heads, either. The term story can also refer to "things we tell ourselves about ourselves"--such as "That's just the way I am" or "I'm such a ditz", "I'm the best there ever was!" or even "Nobody wants to be around me." Stories have power, negative and positive. The might not have a beginning, middle and end; they might not even be coherent narratives--but all of us have the ability to manifest attitudes and make choices that result in certain actions that come from that inner monologue of "stories" we tell ourselves every day. So what story are you telling yourself? What kind of main character are you, in the narrative of your life? Will you be the hero, or the villain? Is your character worth emulating?

That's quite a bit of introspection from a simple children's series!


So there you have it. Five fantasy stories--each of them geared toward a younger audience, most of them extremely campy if I'm being honest--and each one carrying within them a powerful message that even adults can benefit from. While on the surface, fantasy can look rather frivolous and wasteful--something to do only when you have literally nothing else that you want to do with your life... If you look closer, you might find that even the most whimsical stories contain valuable truths that manage to integrate with the real world in very significant ways.

Thanks for joining me on this little jaunt. I hope you learned a thing or two about the way fantasy relates to the real world... Maybe the points I've made have given you a renewed appreciation for such a "pointless" genre? At any rate, enjoy the rest of the blog hop.... Your next stop will be hosted by Alexis Lantgen, who would love to tell you all about "Fantasy Integration in Saints and Curses"! Be sure to visit the CyCon website and Facebook events acting as the hub for all of our events. Sign up for the OWS newsletter or RSVP to the event to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the bookish goodness we have to offer.

Happy reading, and as always...

Catch You Further Upstream! 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

OWS CyCon Worldbuilding Showcase: Science Fiction Romance Writer Hywela Lyn and The World Of "The Destiny Trilogy"

Welcome to another fantastic stop in our World-building Showcase blog hop! On this stop, we’re highlighting a story that isn’t dependent on the Earth for the action, but you can find a full list of authors and topics on the OWS Cycon website. Let’s dive in!

Welcome Hywela Lyn!

Before we dive in to the nitty gritty, what is The Destiny Trilogy about?

The Destiny Trilogy is three separate full length stories linked by some of the same characters and the starship Destiny. Each story has its own hero and heroine and each story has a different theme and setting.

Does language play any role in your world? Does everyone speak the same language, or is there variety? Did you invent any new slang or terminology during your world-building process?

Although the language used in the books is English, there is a Universal language in force, called Common Universal.

What kinds of climates do your characters experience? Do they see a lot of change or is it always the same? Has your world always had this kind of climate, or has it changed over time?

There are several different planets in the three books, but the planet Niflheim is featured in the first book, Starquest and most of the second book, Children Of The Mist, takes place on this planet too. It is a planet of ice and mist. Only certain areas are habitable, but the temperate areas are very beautiful and produce crops and flowers, when the harsh winter gives way to a slightly gentler climate in the planet’s summer.

What do people in your world do for fun? Are there sports, games, music, or other activities they do in their free time?
The inhabitants of Niflheim are artistic and musical, but their main activities are based around their telepathic and telekinetic talents.

What kinds of transportation and other interesting technology do your characters have access to? Are they ahead, behind, or a mix of different kinds of tech compared to where we are now?

They have renounced all technology and destroyed the ships that brought them to the planet. They rely mainly on the descendants of genetically engineered ponies brought in cryogenic suspension with the first colony ships for their transportation. These ponies are capable of traversing the harsh, frozen landscape and surviving the freezing weather conditions.

Do you have different races or enhanced humans with their own unique abilities inhabiting your world?

Most of the inhabitants of Niflheim have developed psychic skills of varying degrees.

Your Process

When you build a world, what is your process like? Do you do a lot of research upfront, wing it completely, or something in between?

I tend to start with an idea for a world, and gradually build it up, researching where necessary.

How central is the setting of your story to the story itself? Is it more of an interesting backdrop, or is it integral to the events of the story?

The setting is part backdrop for the characters, but sometimes, as with the case of Niflheim, becomes almost a character in itself.

When helping the reader get to know the world you built, what techniques do you use? Do you tend to be upfront about things, or keep the reader in the dark and feed them only bits at a time?

I may describe enough of the world for the reader to get a ‘feel’ of the planet, but I think it’s more interesting to reveal certain details bit by bit.

How much of a role does realism and hard scientific fact play in your world-building? Do you strive for 100% accuracy, or do you leave room for the fantastical and unexplainable in your world?
I draw a lot on my imagination, but I do try to have a rationale for everything and usually there is an explanation, although the characters (and reader) may not fully understand it.

How do you keep all of the details of your world and characters straight? Do you have a system for deciding on different factors and keeping it all organized, or does it live more in your head?

Most of it lives in my head, but when necessary, I will draw maps, in order to keep the details consistent. In Children Of The Mist this was especially important so I could follow the characters on their physical journey.

Where can people find you on the web?


All my books can be purchased here:


And my Author Booth for the 2019 Our Write Side CyCon is here:

Thank you so much for hosting me here today, I’ve really loved taking part in this event!

For more stops on our World-building Showcase, visit the tour page on the OWS CyCon website.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

OWS CyCon Fantasy Blog Hop: Guest Post--What Makes An Author's World Unique?

About The OWSCyCon Fantasy Blog Tour

As part of the OWS CyCon 2019, we asked our fantasy authors to write about what makes their world, or the world of another author unique. Each of them has come up with very different answers which reflect their writing processes, their research methods, and their views on world building.

We hope you find these insights interesting, and that they maybe give you some new things to think about when you pick up a new book, or even start writing your own.

After reading this interview, be sure to check out the responses from our other fantastic writers:
What Makes Your/Another Author’s World Unique?

By Caleb Smith

I’d like to start off by saying that I can be pretty hard on myself at times, just as many other authors are about their work(s). There are times when I write a chapter and I am thrilled with the outcome. There are also those occurrences when everything I tap into the screen stinks like a pile of heaping [crap], in my opinion of course. I can almost smell it wafting through the blue light. 

As a new author in the realm of fantasy, I don’t honestly know how unique my world truly is. I guess this is a question geared towards the reader, sorry, I am brutally honest. All I know is what I have experienced in the 40 years that I have taken breath in this life. How truly real is anything other than what is experienced? Instead of stroking my ego and talking about how cool, unique and different I think my author's world is, I feel it would be more authentic to explain to you what my goal for the reader is.

The formula is pretty simple. Most every fictional author does it. I take what I know through experience and research and paint a mythical tale around those facts. I know my story is different than any others because I am different. I wrote it from within the individual depths of my essential makeup. I choose fantasy because what I know is fantastically related.

There is a world, a different realm of greater dimensional space right in front of us that we can’t see with physical ordinary eyes. It’s right there for the taking, I promise it’s there, would you like to see it? 
In order to see it you must leave the mundane behind. The job, the car, house, apartment, kids, spouse, pets everything that you have ever partnered with or accumulated in this life and leave it all behind. This world is meant for you to find on your own will. 
Only you can conjure the power to see and be a part of this world, no one else can do it for you. There is a thin path that leads to this world and only the very few, strong, ready and willing, can walk it. This is a place that knows no time, pain, weight, vice or opinion. It is perfection that delivers the keys to supernatural supremacy. All the things you once deemed impossible are suddenly possible. 

There are no longer miracles because once you are in, you become the miracle. With great wisdom comes greater responsibility. In this world you will see everything in its true natural form. You will see past the physical world and into ethereal essence. In this realm the cosmic laws of the world are granted to you, and you my friend become a true super-being. Only now will it be up to you to protect and serve humanity from the fallen hoards that aim to infect and destroy it. The choice is yours. Longevity awaits you.

About Caleb Smith
Caleb Smith is a debut author from Bangor, Maine. He loves to read, write, research and explore the unknown. Caleb is currently writing a Paranormal Fantasy series titled - Longevity. When Caleb is away from his work you can find him at the local golf course, on a hiking trail, or on the water exploring nature. Caleb also loves family time, art, poetry, history, film and science. -Live Your Legend-

Meet Caleb Online

Learn More About the OWS CyCon 2019 Event
CyCon is the biggest online book event of the year, bringing together authors and readers from all over the world for an entire weekend of book-related fun. Between the organizers, and 230+ writers, you’ll be able to view live (and recorded discussions), listen to samples of their stories, vote in the various genre tournaments, browse the author booths, and discover some amazing books and writers.

We hope you enjoy this event as much as we enjoy bringing it to you. For more information, and links to all of the activities, visit us at:

You never know, you may just find your next best read!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

OWS CyCon 2019 World-Building Showcase: Sci-Fi Author Alison Lyke and The World of "Forever People"!

Welcome to another fantastic stop in our World-building Showcase blog hop! On this stop, we’re highlighting a story where the world changes or ends as we know it, but you can find a full list of authors and topics on the OWS Cycon website. Let’s dive in!
Welcome, Alison Lyke!

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, what is Forever People about?

Welcome to Zeta City, where the whole world goes to die. Here, the Node System uploads the minds of the dying so they can spend eternity in a digital Promised Land. But, this cyber heaven is causing hell on earth for the living because the System forces them to earn Points to buy data in the afterlife.

Camille is a salty mercenary out to hoard as many Points as possible by exploiting the dying with illegal technology. She's on the hunt for Toy, a rebel leader who uploaded lethal technology to her own brain in an attempt to wipe out everyone’s Node Points.

Camille goes to increasingly dangerous lengths in pursuit of Toy. She soon finds that the Node is full of warm reunions with loved ones and otherworldly creations. It’s also full of lies.

What are the main differences between the “regular world” and the world on the other side of your barrier?

The regular world is pretty similar to ours, with the exception that people who die in “netted” areas are uploaded into a computer-generated afterlife. The world on the other side is the “Node,” a digital heaven where anything is possible as long as you earned enough “Node Points” while alive.

How is travel through your portal/rift/gateway possible? Is it easy to reverse?

The only obvious way into the Node is death in a netted city. There might be other, little known and illegitimate ways in, but there’s a heavy price to pay for those who would trespass into the afterlife.

Does language play any role in your world? Does everyone speak the same language, or is there variety? Did you invent any new slang or terminology during your world-building process?

My idea is that progress ground to a halt after the Node was invented, so there is very little new technology and almost all slang revolves around the Node system.

I wanted to create a world with very little government interference, so all of the government-funded services are now private. The various police forces, for example, are named after whatever group owns them.

What kinds of climates do your characters experience? Do they see a lot of change or is it always the same? Has your world always had this kind of climate, or has it changed over time?

The primary location in Forever People is Zeta City, which based off of New Orleans. I thought it would be a fitting place for the original death city. The climate is pretty much the same, but hotter. Other, nicer cities have climate control.

Is there any kind of faith system in your world? Did you draw inspiration from any real cultures, living or dead?

Almost everyone has swapped religious faith for faith in the Node System. The only people who still follow a religion are the few who live outside of nets and those rich enough to have hobbies outside of striving for Node Points.

What do people in your invented world do for fun? Are there sports, games, music, or other activities they do in their free time?

Holograms are the main form of entertainment and news. Most places have a blank wall, and an empty area set aside for holoprojections. A few folks have portable holograms they wear on their wrists or arms.

Your Process

When you build a world, what is your process like? Do you do a lot of research upfront, wing it completely, or something in between?

I find some idea I like and just jump. For Forever People, I read about an emerging technology to help Alzheimer’s patients. Scientists are trying to develop a technology where people’s memories are stored digitally, so I took that idea and thought about where that technology could go and what a world with the possibility of digital minds might look like.

How central is the setting of your story to the story itself? Is it more of an interesting backdrop, or is it integral to the events of the story?

The world and how people are desperate to change it is an essential part of Forever People. The setting is vital in science fiction, but, to me, not as important as the character. Of course, I want a cool world with exciting features, but I want real people moving through it.

When helping the reader get to know the world you built, what techniques do you use? Do you tend to be upfront about things, or keep the reader in the dark and feed them only bits at a time?

I try to let the reader know enough so that the world makes sense, but I don’t want to ruin any surprises or give so much information that it’s overwhelming. I want as much of it to be as organic as possible. I want the reader to learn about my world like they would a foreign country they were visiting for the first time.
How much of a role does realism and hard scientific fact play in your world-building? Do you strive for 100% accuracy, or do you leave room for the fantastical and unexplainable in your world?

I like my worlds surreal, so while I use science as a jumping off point and I like things to be believable, I have no problem with things getting fantastic.

How do you keep all of the details of your world and characters straight? Do you have a system for deciding on different factors and keeping it all organized, or does it live more in your head?

Most of it lives in my head, and it’s crowded in here. I do keep notes on my world and my characters, but they are rarely more than a page or two long.

Did you experience any difficulties while building your world? Any facts that refused to cooperate or inconsistencies you needed to address while editing?

I kept mixing up the names of the Nets, which were all named after Greek letters. The netted cities are all based on real locations in the United States, but the nets are so important that the places took on the names of the nets. So, I had to remember, for example, which city Gamma was initially, which characters came from there, and the ways that the city had evolved since the introduction of the Node System.
Where can people find you on the web?
My website is here:

I’m also on

Thank you to all of the organizers at OWS CyCon and a huge thanks to my awesome blog host!

For more stops on our World-building Showcase, visit the tour page on the OWS CyCon website. You can also find more great Sci-Fi authors and books on our main Sci Fi event page.

Monday, May 13, 2019

OWS CyCon 2019 Blog Hop: My Top 5 Reading Recommendations!

Welcome to the 2019 CyberCon, hosted by Our Write Side! You can find my booth >HERE< in the Fantasy category... stop by and leave a comment if you like what you see! I'll also be taking over an hour on Facebook, in the Fantasy and Sci-Fi Reader's Lounge on Saturday, May 18th--hope to see you there, at least!

Now, on to business!

I love reading. If I could make a career out of it, I totally would! In the almost-seven years since starting this blog, I've read more and more books that I've fallen head-over-heels in love with--much more than five, I can tell you that much! Ergo, I've narrowed down the list to a countdown of my favorite series (of four or more books), trilogies, anthologies, and authors that I can definitely recommend all the time--you'll really want to check them out!

5 Binge-Worthy Series

I am notoriously slow at reading a series... Mostly because there are so many good books out there, I tell myself that spacing out books in a series and reading other books between will be more delightful and make the series last longer... but honestly, when you go to read these series--you're going to want to get the whole thing and binge them all at once!
First up is my all-around favorite, The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer: it consists of Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter, and a follow-up book of tie-in short stories called Stars Above. (There's also a novella she released while we were all waiting for Winter called "Fairest" but I wasn't as impressed with that one...) It may look like a cheesy teen novel series that is ALL ABOUT THE ROMANTIC TENSION and "looking cool" and any actual plot plays second-fiddle to a game of "Will They/Won't They"... but it's not! I would say that this series is hands-down the BEST collection of fairy tale adaptations, "disguised" to read like genuinely fantastic cyberpunk novels!

The next series I'd recommend also came as a surprise: The LorienLegacies, by "Pittacus Lore." Obviously, that's a pen name; it's actually the name of a character within the series--and the thing about this series is that I kept picking up each successive book (the series is about seven novels long.... and they've started a second series and they're already three books in... but I haven't read that one yet) wondering when it was going to fall all to pieces--and it NEVER DID. The characters were fantastic, the peril kept me flipping pages with bated breath--and yet they never seemed to "recycle" the challenges, the way one might expect with a series that carried for so long! So many cliffhangers! You'll definitely binge this one!

The other three series that came to mind immediately happen to be indie-published--but for sure as good as any other series out there! The first (and longest) is The Chronicles of Lorrek by Kelly Blanchard--I'm just barely starting Book 5 right now, and she's gearing up to release book 7 already! The series is a blend of magic and tech--true "fantasypunk" at it's finest! The characters, the intrigue, the fascinating realms--you'll want to read all of them! You can find reviews of the first four books, and the collection of tie-in short stories here on my blog: Someday I'll Be Redeemed, I Still Have A Soul, I'm Still Alive, Do You Trust Me? and The Truth Behind.

Also coming to mind is The PSS Chronicles by Ripley Patton: Ghost Hand, Ghost Hold, Ghost Heart, and Ghost Hope. I happened to meet her through another author, and she was local at the time (she has since moved), and getting my hands on this series just about blew me away! I loved every moment of it, from the whole original concept of the premise, to the delightful characters I grew to care about over the course of the series--it's a bit of sci-fi, a bit "superhero" as this group of people end up with this superhuman condition and they're being hunted for it by a notoriously resilient villain (the worst kind!) and this is definitely a series you shouldn't miss!

Last but definitely not least, the series to binge this summer would have to be The Grave Reports by R. R. Virdi! A superb series if you enjoy paranormal stuff like ghosts, vampires, Fae, goblins, and whatnot--I have definitely enjoyed all these characters, it's just the perfect entertaining level of snark, the female characters aren't just eye candy when it counts--it's a lively romp, not for the faint of heart, but definitely you'll want to binge the series once you start! I've reviewed all the books in the series so far on my blog: Grave Beginnings, Grave Measures, and Grave Dealings. Can't wait for more!

4 Tantalizing Trilogies

Next up, trilogies! I've encountered several wonderful, can't-miss trilogies that you definitely need in your life!
First of all... Do you like superheroes? Do you want another take besides the typical "comic book" tropes? Brandon Sanderson's Reckoner novels (Steelheart, Firefight, and Calamity) are glorious and wonderful and quaint all at once! David is a young man who witnessed a superpowered "hero" murder his father, so he plots revenge: he begins researching all the "Epics" (as they are called) and learning their weaknesses and limitations, in search of revenge. He meets a shadowy group intent on taking down the power-hungry Epics, and they embark on a mission of legendary proportions.

Next up, an indie trilogy: The Volumes of the Vemreaux by Mary E.Twomey (The Way, The Truth, and The Lie). Holy CROW, that series completely tumbled my emotions! The premise is shocking and wonderfully unique: kind of alt-history, it assumes that Ponce de Leon did discover the Fountain of Youth--but it only "worked" for those of a certain blood type, sustaining their youthful appearances, and giving them other physical advantages. Note: I noticed the other day that it is now billed as a "vampire" series... but I never got the "vampire" vibe at all, and I don't even think that "vampire" is even mentioned at all in the series... it's just pure, emotional roller-coaster ride all the way through!

The other two trilogies I chose, I have read 2 out of the 3 books--but I am 100% confident that Book 3 in both trilogies is going to be just as amazing as the ones I've read!

The first is an indie series, the Firebird Fairytale Trilogy by Amy Kuivalainen. It pulls from Finnish and East European mythology--so Baba Yaga, werewolves, witches, phoenix, and vampires, to name a few--and the characters are fantastic and the imagery is so vivid, I love it! I've read Cry of the Firebird and Ashes of theFirebird--and I'm totally excited for Rise of The Firebird! I want to know what's in store for these characters that I've gotten to know and enjoy so much!

The final one I'll mention comes from a mainstream British author that I've read just about all of his books (except the most recent one) and I own another one of his trilogies, I enjoyed it so much. 
The trilogy I'm mentioning for this list, though, is called The Book of the Ancestor Trilogy by Mark Lawrence. It's fantastic and wonderful, following a young girl as she joins an order of assassin nuns--it's grimdark fantasy, so there's plenty of violence, some language... but the author's style is irresistible and if you love sweeping, epic fantasy with tinges of sci-fi woven skillfully into the details, then you'll definitely want to look this one up at your earliest convenience!

3 Astonishing Authors

Next up for our "Reading Recommendations" countdown--some authors you simply MUST discover, if you haven't already!

The first is actually a group of authors who produce a slew of amazing anthologies--some names are pretty consistent with each one, forming kind of a "core group" but every time there are some new names whose submissions end up being my absolute favorite selections... But that would be The Writerpunk Press Group. The theme is "all kinds of -punk genres" and the skill level is beyond legendary. They started with adapting Shakespeare plays in various ways: Othello as the leader of a biker gang, Macbeth as the owner of a nanotech company, "The Tempest" reimagined with Tesla-era machines... Absolutely glorious! From there they moved on to other classics, such as Edgar Allen Poe, Classic Literature (Mark Twain, Jane Austen, even Beowulf!) and Classic Horror. Everything they do is GOLDEN and if you love steampunk, clockpunk, cyberpunk, or any kind of punk at all--do not hesitate to follow the hyperlink!

The second is still in the realm of steampunk--a relatively new-to-me author, but one who has yet to disappoint: Patricia Loofbourrow. I am really enjoying her neo-Victorian series, The Red DogConspiracy. First of all, the world-building is stellar: the city is called Bridges and everything is a card-game reference! From the fact that the four Mafia-style "ruling families" are the Clubbs, the Harts, the Diamonds, and the Spadros family, to the titles of the books themselves: The Alcatraz Coup, Jacq of Spades, Queen of Diamonds, Ace of Clubs, King of Hearts, and so on! Not only that, but she is planning on having 13 books in this series--and I am here for them all! Her characters are wonderful, the emotion and the pace will absolutely carry you away--once you start, you will not be able to stop!

And finally--I can most definitely recommend anything by Cornelia Funke. If I see her name on the spine, I don't even hesitate anymore. Her take on fantasy is wonderful and I love the different twists she puts on things, from the Inkheart Trilogy and the magic she brings out in storytelling, to Dragon Rider, told for the most part from the perspective of the Dragon, actually! Even her YA series, Mirrorworld, takes on the darker, more mature side of fantasy with spellbinding grace. Definitely, definitely start reading Cornelia Funke if you haven't!

2 Practically Perfect Paranormal Publications

I admit, I know it's cheesy, but I couldn't really resist the urge to alliterate! I know I've made a few paranormal series recommendations already--but there's more!

First, you absolutely HAVE to hear about J. E. Mueller, the author of the incredible Shaudrey Universe series. It's a bit of a strange name, I know--but the storytelling is solid, and I really love the story she's built. It centers on Key--a girl cursed from birth because of a deal her father made with a demon before she was even born... and now that demon is set on collecting her soul as payment after her father dies. Key is intent on breaking the curse before that can happen--but what chance does a mere mortal have?
Book 3 is on its way, and I have the first 2 already, even though I've only read the first one, Fire's Song. I love her style, her character choices, the quippy dialogue that clips along and creates a distinct voice for each character... She's got other books out, more like fairy tale twists, and I absolutely want them too!

The second is another one that I've only read the first two books, Angel in Training, and Angel Eclipsed, (in the middle of the third, Angel Tormented, as we speak!) but I love it so much that I wanted to include it on this big list of recommendations! A demon curse is one thing--but how about an atheist becoming a guardian angel? Such is the case for the LouisiAngel series by C. L. Coffey. Angelina gets murdered in an alleyway one fateful night, and just before death, she is solicited by an archangel and offered a "job" as a guardian angel to a trainee detective--and in the process, the girl who never really paid much attention to anything spiritual finds herself thrust into a war between Heaven and Hell, and both sides seem to have pretty compelling reasons to fight! How can she keep things from falling apart while preserving the life of her charge and not exposing the convent of angels right there in New Orleans? The angels are great--there's Cupid (also called Kurt), archangel Michael, the cherubim (more like goth teens that are the "staff" of the convent than the chubby dolls we usually think of), and a whole host of unique figures, both the heroes and the villains. It's a ripping adventure and if you're looking for a unique paranormal "Heaven Vs. Hell" kind of series with just a touch of romance (not the sort that's plastered all over every other page) added to a very well-paced thrill ride--you'll want to get a piece of this action, for sure!

1 Drop-Dead DELECTABLE Duology

And now, we come to the last couple of books I will mention for this posts: the duology Storybound and Story's End by Marissa Burt. I discovered them quite by accident, browsing the library shelves in the children's section for another author--and when I read the blurb on the back cover, I just had to find out what this book was! Just listen:

"In the land of Story, children go to school to learn to be characters: a perfect Hero, a trusty Sidekick, even the most dastardly Villain. They take classes on Outdoor Experiential Questing and Backstory, while adults search for full-time character work in stories written just for them.

In our world, twelve-year-old Una Fairchild has always felt invisible. But all that changes when she stumbles upon a mysterious book buried deep in the basement of her school library, opens the cover, and suddenly finds herself transported to the magical land of Story.

But Story is not a perfect fairy tale. Una’s new friend Peter warns her about the grave danger she could face if anyone discovers her true identity. The devious Tale Keeper watches her every move. And there are whispers of a deadly secret that seems to revolve around Una herself...."

I just... I'm... YEAH. A bibliophile's dream, am I right? So I picked it up, read it, and immediately needed the second book right away--who knew two short books would be so immensely satisfying? By now, I've gone and bought my own personal copies, so now I own it and I can go back and read it and relive the whole astonishing adventure over and over again--all that to say, everybody should know that these books exist, and definitely if you love fantasy, books, and bookish fantasies--this adventure is a dream come true!

So there you have it... A whole COUNTDOWN of reading recommendations to keep you entertained for many years to come! I could recommend so many more... If you're interested to see what I would recommend for a particular genre, or maybe there's a book that you really loved that you want to know more like them--just comment and ask me! I'm always down to recommend books that I love! And I read so much--chances are I'll have just the one for you!