Elements of Fantasy #1 – Wizards, Warlocks and Witches

You don’t know how hard it was to resist adding “…Oh My!” to the end of that title. But this is planned to be a (relatively) serious series of articles, so resist I did.

So in this, the first in a brand new series entitled “Elements of Fantasy”, I want to explore one of the most defining elements of fantasy: magic users. I’m starting with perhaps one of the most expansive topics, probably because I’m a masochist, so this may very well end up becoming “Part 1” of an article on magic users.

A magician is someone who uses or practices magic that derives from supernatural or occult sources.
Wikipedia: Magician (fantasy)

Good old Wikipedia. Have you ever failed us? Well, yes, many times, but I’m pretty confident the above snippet is accurate. Continue reading

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Niklaus: Part One – An Invitation

Happy Friday, everyone! Today marks the final day in our Festive Fantasy Week celebrations for 2013. I want to share with you now a short story that I’ve been working on in the build-up to Christmas. Now, I’d hoped to have it wrapped up by now, but it’s not quite there yet. However, that might not end up being such a bad thing. I’m going to release it in three parts here on the blog, hopefully having the whole thing on here by Christmas Day.

I really hope you enjoy the story and make sure to stay tuned for Part Two, which should be posted over the weekend.

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Niklaus: Part One – An Invitation

Tobacco smoke snaked up from the pipe and obscured the old man’s face like a veil of fog. Impossibly blue eyes danced from behind the smoke, framed by a briar patch criss-cross of wrinkles and scars. The man’s weathered face—so dark, so lined and like old boot-leather—was encircled by brilliant white hair, so overgrown now that the man’s mane and beard were indistinguishable from one another. His thick, pale lips formed a perfect circle as he took another drag from the pipe and let out the smoke in a series of silent whispers.

‘Tell me that last part again,’ he purred. ‘About the deer.’ Continue reading

The Christmas Dinner Invasion: A Not-So-True Story

It’s Thursday and the fourth day in our week-long festive celebrations! Today, I have a story to tell you all. A story which I have to stress is 100% totally true. It’s about the time I was sat down to Christmas Dinner on my own (solely for the purpose of giving me less characters to juggle). The turkey was bronze, the carrots were orange and the stuffing was… well, that mouldy-brown colour. Everything was great. Then a rift in space and time opened up before my disbelieving eyes (stay with me here). What follows is my account of that evening, retold in the (sort of) form of a play. And remember, this absolutely, positively DIDnotHAPPEN.

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FADE IN

JAMES is sitting down to Christmas Dinner on his own (boy, what a loser!) It is dark. The scene is illuminated only by candlelight.

JAMES: Wow, I sure do love the peace and quiet of a Christmas Day spent alone.

A stifled sob is heard. Suddenly, an inter-dimensional rift appears and fills the room with a thick fog.

JAMES: Egad! Continue reading

Fantasy In Motion Interviews… Hedwig the Owl

It’s Wednesday and we’re at the halfway mark in Festive Fantasy Week! Today we interview a character so pivotal to the events of the Harry Potter series that she even became one of Lord Voldemort’s targets for assassination. We had the chance to hear her side of the story and discover how she survived that fateful night in 1997.

Hedwig Harry Potter
Gaze upon the face of a cold-blooded killer. The tortured souls of a thousand children swim within her eyes.

Hedwig, we’re so glad you could join us. How are you these days?

I came in here on owl-crutches, how do you think I’m bloody doing? Continue reading

The Ultimate Fantasy Christmas Wishlist

Well, it’s Tuesday and that means it’s time for our round-up of the ten coolest fantasy-themed gifts for your wish lists this Christmas! Yes, I know it’s probably too late to order any of these in time for Christmas. No, I don’t feel bad for that. Yes, you may buy all of these gifts for me as a way of showing that you forgive me.

#1 – Game of Thrones Dragon Eggs Collectible Set

Game of Thrones Dragon CollectiblePerhaps one of the most awesome things I’ve seen this year. You can now actually own Daenerys Targaryen’s dragon eggs and mooch around your living room naked, pretending you’re the goddamn Mother of Dragons or something!

Alternatively, you could pretend you’re Eragon. Yeah, not as exciting is it?

Go check it out at the official HBO store.

Continue reading

Festive Fantasy Week 2013

Christmas is almost upon us and with only one full week left to go, I thought it would be fitting to ring the festivities in with a bang here at Fantasy In Motion! So with that said, I’m pleased to announce Festive Fantasy Week 2013, a week-long extravaganza of fantasy goodies for all you fans out there, right here on the blog, on our Facebook page and on Twitter. Here’s the official Timetable of Fun™ for next week:

Festive Fantasy Week 2013: Timetable of Fun™

16th – 20th December 2013

Monday 16th – We’re going to kick off the week with the Festive Fantasy Quiz, an epic test of your fantasy knowledge! Start swatting up on everything from books to movies to gaming. Post your answers here or on our Facebook wall before Friday – the highest-scoring entry wins a very special ‘Festive Fantasy Champion’ certificate and gets a mention on the blog!

Tuesday 17th – What’s the best thing about Christmas? That’s right, getting loads of awesome presents! We get in the true spirit of Christmas and round up ten of the coolest fantasy-themed gifts for your wish-lists this festive season.

Wednesday 18th – A very special one-off revival of ‘Fantasy In Motion Interviews…‘ in which we interview one of fantasy’s unsung heroes. Last time we interviewed Bill the Pony, the real saviour of Middle-earth. Who will it be this time? Stay tuned – there will be clues posted to our Facebook wall throughout the week!

Thursday 19th – The turkey is roasted, the potatoes are crispy and the Brussels sprouts have been burned in a sacrificial ritual to the Dark Gods. But what’s this? Five of fantasy’s best-known characters muscling in on your Christmas Dinner? Tune in to see what kinds of shenanigans unfold!

Friday 20th – To close out the fantasy festivities, I’ll be releasing a brand new Christmas-themed short story for your pleasure! I’ll be posting the official blurb and a little teaser on our Facebook page very soon!

What are you looking forward to this Christmas? Let us know below!

Looking Ahead to 2014 (And a Retrospective)

With NaNoWriMo gone and 2014 on the horizon, I now feel that Fantasy In Motion could do with a little ‘stamina potion’, just to get the juices pumping again. Articles have been few and far between these past months and for that I apologise. I could probably try to lay the blame on a variety of things, but you’re not interested in the whys and whats (and neither am I – those whys and whats are so boring!)

If I had to sum up my contributions to this blog during 2013 in one word, it would have to be ‘casual’. Like someone dipping back into World of Warcraft during a year of AAA console releases, I was only writing articles when I could be bothered, although I did also manage a nice little blog redesign.

Now, it may sound like I’m being overly hard on myself here, but I’m just being as honest as I can. One of the other reasons why articles have been scarce is likely due to a minor identity crisis. I’ve always been torn between:

  1. Blogging exclusively about writing and the fantasy genre.
  2. Taking a more ‘geek culture’ approach and commenting on gaming, movies, comics etc.

Continue reading

NaNoWriMo 2013: The End

Its finally over! Thirty days of writing fury: of non-stop plot-weaving, of unrelenting creativity and of a brave foray into the unknown. Well, that’s what NaNo is supposed to be about. As it turned out, my experience wasn’t quite like that…

I started NaNo reasonably well, managing to rack up close to a thousand words every day, for a few days. Not bang on target, but a decent effort nonetheless. It was then, about four days into NaNo that things started to fall apart. I think it was probably a mixture of not enough plotting (you know, actually knowing what happens beyond the first third of the book), too much time spent making planning spreadsheets in Excel and not having a clear enough vision for my story.

Let’s talk about that last point. I am easily influenced by the stuff I read, the games I read and the movies I watch. Sometimes that can be a good thing, but mostly it’s not. It’s fine to be inspired by great stories and worlds, but I really have to learn not to grab those elements and throw them into my stories like some overfull fondue pot. I start out having a clear idea of what my story is and what it’s about, but then I begin to work in other elements which only serve to confuse the whole project. It’s like making a nice spaghetti bolognese and then adding curry powder. You may love curry powder, but in a bolognese it clashes and confuses the dish. It’s unnecessary, so it shouldn’t be there. Continue reading

NaNoWriMo 2013 Midpoint Update

Firstly, let me apologise for the distinct lack of activity here over the last few weeks. I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo this month and let’s just say every ounce of my will to write has gone into the endeavour. That’s not to say I’m doing great (because I’m not), but I am at least consistently writing something each and every day. I’ll share my word counts and progress with you. I was hoping to be 25K words down at this point, but there’s no reason why I can’t make up that time during the last 2 weeks.

I started NaNo on day one reasonably well with just over 900 words. My target was about 2,500… yeah…

The following days were mixed with counts of 700 and 800, before plummeting to 450 and then a good block of six days in which I wrote a grand total of 300 words. Hey, it was my son’s first birthday somewhere in there!

This week, I have come back stronger and more determined than ever. 400 words on Tuesday, followed by just over 1,000 yesterday and so far today I have managed 471 words. I’m aiming for about 1,500 today, though more would always be welcome. Now that I’m well into the meat of my story, things seem to flow much more easily.

So, it’s safe to say NaNo Part 1 kicked my butt round the playground, downtown and into Chinatown. NaNo Part Deux? Bring it on.

Author Interview: Dawn Finch

We interviewed Dawn Finch, author of Brotherhood of Shades, her debut novel, a contemporary YA fantasy set in London. Brotherhood was published last month in paperback by HarperCollins and is set to be the start of an exciting and unique fantasy series!

Dawn Finch Author

Dawn, welcome to Fantasy In Motion. Thanks for joining us.

Thank you very much for inviting me, I’ve enjoyed reading your blog a great deal and I’m a huge fan of fantasy maps. I have a designer working on a map of Brotherhood locations at the moment so I’m looking forward to sharing that before the end of the year.

Could you start by telling us a little about your novel, Brotherhood of Shades?

Brotherhood of ShadesBrotherhood is a contemporary ghost story with roots in the sixteenth century. Adam, a streetwise homeless teenager, dies of cold and starvation on the streets of London and after death is recruited into a clandestine organisation called the Brotherhood of Shades. The Brotherhood is an organisation of ghosts set up after the Dissolution of the Monasteries to oversee the passage of the living through the World Between.

The book details Adam’s transition into the Brotherhood, and their battles with demonic forces as they attempt to retrieve a coded manuscript, and protect the world of the living, from the world of the dead.

How did the idea/inspiration for the story come to you?

One of my first jobs was at the education office of a Cathedral and I used to dress as a monk to take children on guided tours. I was aware that young children worked in monasteries and had a brutal and harsh life there, and I felt that it was an untold story. Brotherhood started off as a short story but I liked the central character and knew that he had more to say and it grew from there. I’ve always loved ghost stories and felt that I wanted to bring classic ghost stories to a modern audience.

I was interested to see that you’ve previously worked in publishing and in libraries. Do you think that working with books has helped you as a writer?

I have always worked with books, but my first job in publishing was hardly what I’d call “in” publishing. I worked in the post room and one of my jobs was sorting the slush pile and making sure the unsolicited manuscripts reached the right desk – or not! Some of the manuscripts were, well, shall we say, odd! I certainly learned how not to submit a manuscript after wading through manuscripts that were sometimes barely legible. I think my favourite was one written on serviettes that had clearly been written whilst very drunk and made no sense whatsoever but became increasingly angry as the pile of tissue went on. The writer ended up ranting about how the publisher would be insane to reject them, but never actually got the point about the subject matter.

I have worked for over twenty five years in libraries and I am the current vice-chair of the London and South East School Libraries Group. I campaign hard for all schools to have a library and a librarian as I see this as essential to the literacy of our children, and our adults. Working in libraries has taught me so very much about books, and I read constantly. I always say to young people that if you want to write, first you must read!

Who would you say are your favourite authors/books?

That’s an impossible question! My favourite author is always the author of the book that I’m currently hooked on. When I find a book that I really enjoy my immediate response is to buy the entire back catalogue and read everything. I have so many favourites so it wouldn’t be fair to pick one out.

What was your first encounter with fantasy fiction? Have you always wanted to write in the genre?

I’ve always loved fantasy. I grew up in a hard-up area and the future did not seem promising for any of us kids. For me fantasy was the perfect escape and it remained that way and so when I came to write myself it was fantasy that drew me. I was never really interested in reading about the real world, and was far more interested in the world out of the corner of your eye.

I read Ray Bradbury, Susan Cooper, Ursula K LeGuin, Alan Garner, Brian Aldiss, Joan Aiken, the list is very long, shelves full of doorways to different worlds.  I wanted to be somewhere else, I wanted to be chased across moorland by ancient spirits, battling my way out of dark houses in whirling snowstorms, fleeing scarlet-eyed wolves across wild moorland, conjuring spells to hold back demons, escaping dark forces hell bent on destroying me… basically anywhere other than a tatty and cold school heading for a job in a factory.

When I came to write myself it was not as if I had a choice. I think that all writers need to find their voice and the story will roll out. I didn’t really choose my genre, it chose me.

What was your route towards publishing your first novel like? Any advice you would give to any of our readers who are looking to publish their first book?

Oh dear, my route was very long and complicated! This book was almost published a number of years ago and then the imprint went under and I was left without a publisher. I was lucky in that I did have an agent and he supported me and encouraged me to keep going. My book still didn’t sell (the public seemed to have moved on to an obsessive desire for sparkly vampires and ghosts were not deemed fashionable) and so I focussed on my other work in school libraries.

Writing is a very isolating business and a friend encouraged me to upload my work to the writer’s site – Authonomy. I wanted some feedback and it was nice to have the opinion of other writers. My book was very quickly spotted on there by the man who almost took it to print the previous time! He remembered Brotherhood and recommended it to the rest of the team and they enjoyed it so much that they took it to print. These days it’s not about pleasing one person of course, your work has to be enjoyed by a team of people including the marketing team.

My advice would be to be prepared and get some professional editing if you can afford it. I’d buy the Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook and try to get an agent first. There are a few writer’s conferences throughout the year where you can meet agents and publishers and those are a sensible investment. Work on your pitch though! If you can nail your plot down to a sharp thirty second pitch, and then hand over a card with your details on, that can do it. I know a good number of people who have secured agents on a “could I ask for thirty seconds to pitch my work to you?” Agents are used to this approach, and a good one won’t mind. If they do mind and react badly, you wouldn’t want to be stuck with them anyway!

Where do you stand in the print vs. e-book debate? Do you think paper novels have had their day or is there room for both formats?

Video did not kill the radio star! I think there is more than enough room for both formats, and we need both. I love my e-reader as I travel a lot and can’t possibly carry hundreds of books around with me in any other format, but I also love print books. A recent survey suggested that people often read the book first on e-reader, and then buy the print copy to keep if they enjoy it – I know I’ve done this! There will always be books that simply do not work in e format, academic and study books for example. Students need to be able to annotate several texts and compare them all at once using several indices, that’s just not possible in e-book form. You simply can’t lay six kindles out in front of you and jot down notes on the pages!

I think that print publishers need to start to be more creative and to offer more for the print version to encourage people to buy it. Maps work so well in printed books, and extra material only available in the print version, or beautiful binding and covers, and maybe offering a free e-version if you buy the print version?

There is a good reason that books will last, they are the best at doing what they do – carrying words. The main thing is that they do not become unreadable. Twenty years ago I remember working with floppy discs and microfiche but now these formats are virtually unreadable, whilst books hundreds of years older are still perfectly accessible.

I think there is space in the market for all formats and we need to remember that it’s the story that counts, not the object that carries it.
Do you have any ‘top tips’ for aspiring authors out there?
Don’t give up, and don’t be precious – get advice and share and grow a very thick skin! I know so many people who say they want to write a book and seem to think it is easy, and that’s why people quit. The first time they get a knock-back, or hear something negative, or actually can’t stick at it to get those words on paper, people quit. If you really want to write a book you need to first accept that it is incredibly hard and time consuming work. It is not something to take lightly and dip into now and again, it takes time and dedication to get over a hundred thousand words down! Once you’ve accepted that it is hard work, and that you will have to make sacrifices to achieve it, then you can do it.

Young people ask me all the time how to become a writer and I always say – write down all the things, and then write down some more!Are you able to share with us what you are working on at the moment?I am currently working on the sequel to Brotherhood which is set in some stunning locations from nineteenth century Paris, to London and on to a remote Scottish island. The sequel is very Steampunk as I have a bit of an obsession for automata and machines. I’ve had this idea churning away for some time and am hugely enjoying writing my machines, and avoiding all jokes about the ghost in the machine!

Dawn, thank you very much for your time!

Thanks again for inviting me on board, and I very much look forward to reading more!

Brotherhood of Shades is available now from Amazon. You can also keep up to date with Dawn at her website.

Our Author Interviews

We’ve had the opportunity to speak to a diverse bunch of authors here at Fantasy In Motion. So what better way to kick off your week than to check out our interviews so far? This is also a great opportunity to let you know that we have more interviews coming soon, so be sure to Follow us to be kept in the loop!

Author Interview with…

Carl Alves

Kimberli Renee’ Campbell

Morgan L. Busse

Orson T. Badger

Zacharias O’Bryan

Chris Stevenson

Elizabeth Moon

Michael J. Sullivan

Tim Marquitz

Luke Scull

More on their way very soon…

7 Deadly Perils of… Underplanning

Time to kick off another brand new series!

‘7 Deadly Perils’ is going to be a series of short, snappy posts about different aspects of writing and the seven possible pitfalls/disasters that you may encounter. The aim is to try to give you some useful advice in an easily digestible format. When working through my novel-in-progress I tend to come across various problems/ideas/thoughts all at the same time, depending on what I’m currently focusing on. The want to be able to share all that stuff with you while it’s still fresh in my mind is what led to this series’ creation.

So, I hope you find what is about to follow useful. Once I have a couple of these ‘episodes’ out there, I may even compile them together under their own category.

7 Deadly Perils of… Underplanning

  1. You will lose your way.
    Sensible Side of Your Brain: Buddy, I think we should turn back. We probably took a wrong turn somewhere back there.
    Stupid Side of Your Brain: No! If we keep going straight through this field, we’ll get there quicker!
  2. The purpose of your story will not be clear.
    Gandalf: You must carry this burden, Frodo Baggins. You must destroy the ring.
    Frodo: Uhh, why?
    Gandalf: Honestly? I have no idea. Probably just so it’s not left lying around.
  3. You will make things up. These things will not make sense.
    And then he was falling; falling to his death. But then a dragon swooped in and caught him on its back. ‘Phew!’ the walrus said. ‘That was a close one!’
  4. Your plot will lack cohesion and depth.
    I don’t have a piece of comedy gold for this one. Just say the words ‘cohesion’ and ‘depth’ over and over while gently caressing your half-finished manuscript.
  5. Your characters will be Pinocchios.
    Character: I’m a real boy!
    Reader: No you’re not, get back in your cardboard box… the same cardboard from which you are made!
    Character: Nooooooo! *sob sob*
  6. Your story will have no believable conflict. Your characters will experience no inner conflict.
  7. You will give up.
    Author: Well, this story about a magical wizard school and the boy who goes there isn’t going anywhere. Time to consign it to the bin. I’m gonna write a story about casual vacancies… whatever they are!

Next Time: 7 Deadly Perils of… Overplanning!