Giveaway Winners and Birthday Celebrations and a Special Announcement

February is Fantasy Month 2

Fantasy Month ends today, though there are plenty of blog posts in the link-up to catch up on if you haven’t read them all yet, and I’m sure I’ll be playing catch-up for a while still, trying to make sure I got to everyone’s comments. Thank you all so much for making this the best Fantasy Month ever (and please don’t stop leaving me comments now that I’m not rewarding you with giveaway entries for it!) hahaha.

Speaking of giveaways… today we find out who are the winners of our awesome prizes… later on in this post.

But first, although my first book has been out for 8 years, because I chose to release it on Leap Day, today is only King’s Warrior’s SECOND official birthday!

KW Front

“For some ridiculous reason, to which, however, I’ve no desire to be disloyal,
Some person in authority, I don’t know who, very likely the Astronomer Royal,
Has decided that, although for such a beastly month as February,
twenty-eight days as a rule are plenty,
One year in every four his days shall be reckoned as nine and twenty.”
~Pirates of Penzance

I thought some of you might enjoy a few interesting stats on this debut novel of mine.

In the eight years since it has been released:

~2 editions (1st edition had white pages, 2nd had cream colored pages and I fixed all the typos)

~18,558 e-copies have been downloaded on various free days

~616 ebooks have been bought at 99 cents or full price

~over 300 paperback copies have been bought either through Amazon or at in-person events

~295,939 pages read (I was really hoping that would add up to 300,000… but oh well… it’s still a pretty big number and… if we assume that people are reading the whole book, estimates out to it having been read by 450 people through KU).

EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT

As part of the celebration of the end of Fantasy Month, and as part of the King’s Warrior Birthday Celebration, today I am revealing some exciting news!!! (I’ve been hinting at it over on my Author Facebook Page, referring to it as my “super secret project”) and today you get to find out about it first.

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Is the suspense killing you yet?

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King’s Warrior is going to be an AUDIO BOOK!!!!

That’s right! I’ve found an amazing narrator who is excited to work on this project in spite of its length and massive cast list and ridiculous pronunciations (really, I’m not sure he really knows what he’s getting into… um… I hope he doesn’t run away when he finds out what the scope of this project really is…)

After years of dreaming about producing King’s Warrior in audio-book format, and secretly dreaming that I might be able to do the narration myself, I have come to realize something very important.

In order to record an audio book, you need some very key things:

1. Good equipment

2. Time

3. Quiet

4. A particular set of skills

I can buy the first… but the other two are things that sort of escape me with four tiny hobbits running around. AND… after recording the audio version of ‘Twas an Evening in Bethlehem (which, in spite of taking only 4 minutes to record, took approximately 3-4 hours to produce!) I started to realize that doing the recordings myself was unrealistic. And… while I am quite good at reading books out loud, I honestly don’t have the necessary skill to be an audiobook narrator.

Thankfully, Benjamin Fife DOES have that skill. We are super excited to work with him on this project, not just to turn King’s Warrior into an audio book, but also the rest of the series!

And now, for our Giveaway Winners!

 

 Marlene S – Five Poisoned Apples

Diamond K – Story Peddler/Story Raider

 Katrina D – Orphan’s Song

Deborah O – King’s Warrior Keychain

Liv - Choice of one J.L. Mbewe paperback

Rhellerecorder – Paws, Claws, and Magic Tales

Mackenzie – Paperback set of Minstrel’s Song books

Sarah P – Castle Magnet

Christine S – Tote bag

Chelsea – Mythical Doorways

Dynal R - Cursed Flame ebook

Nancy P – Minstrel’s Song ebooks

Abigail H – Horseman audio book

Beth D – Bookmark bundle

Wyn O – Cursed Flame bookmarks

 

Thank you all so much for entering the giveaway, I hope  you are pleased with your prizes. For those who told me what they were eyeing I did try to match you up with the prizes you were hoping for!

I (and the other prize donators) will be contacting you shortly about shipping information so that we can tell the dragons which direction to fly!

Mountain Segue

Thanks again! That’s all for Fantasy Month (until next year).

It might be a little quiet around here for a while, I need to focus on editing Turrim Archive and there’s a plan in place to update this little website of mine, so there may be some “UNDER CONSTRUCTION” signs posted at some point, but don’t worry! I’ll still be around, and there are some other exciting things we’re gearing up for that I’ll tell you more about later.

But for now, we bid another #FantasyMonth “adieu….”

 

Oh… yeah… it still hurts.

~ jenelle

World Building: When is Enough Enough?

“Tha’s enough! Tha’s enough! Where is this Count Rugen now so I may kill him?” — Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

I told you yesterday that today’s post would be the most important thing we discussed all month in terms of world building. And some of you already know what it is.

It’s the moment when you realize that you need to stop.

World building is important. Especially for those of us writing fantasy (or sci fi… sorry, sci fi… I love you still and I don’t mean to leave you out of the Fantasy Month Fun). There are so many different things we could talk about. Endlessly.

But — and this is important! — if you are a writer, at some point, the world building needs to END!

Remember, way back at the beginning of the month, we learned an important tip from one of the master world builders of our time:

~Focus your world building on things that will most impact the plot and characters~

Just because J.R.R. Tolkien created an entire language for his elves, doesn’t mean you have to do that. Just because C.S. Lewis created an origin story for Narnia, doesn’t mean you have to do that. Just because Brandon Sanderson created a super well-thought out magical system and gave it all sorts of rules and structure and limits… doesn’t mean YOU have to do that!

What is your story?

Who are your characters?

What elements of world building will most impact those two things? Focus on those elements. If, along the way, you need something else for the story or characters, by all means, take a minute to figure it out and add it in. But it doesn’t make a lot of sense to create a hugely complex and detailed map of the entire world if your story only takes place in a single village.

~It’s OK if you don’t use everything~

Remember my extremely detailed currency I created for the Minstrel’s Song series? I never describe the coins in the books. I use the terms “stater” and “ryal” only a handful of times. I spent a lot of time on those details, and I barely used them. And that’s ok. I don’t consider it a waste of time, because when I was creating the currency, I thought I was going to use/need my characters to pay for things more than they actually did.

I actually have 80,000 words of history/back story that I wrote for The Minstrel’s Song series, as well, most of which never made it into the books at all. However, I did use snippets from that back story as quotes at the beginnings of each chapter in Minstrel’s Call, the fourth and final book of the series.

~You can add things as you go~

You don’t have to have all of the world building elements figured out before you start writing. Not every author is a “build the world first” author. Some authors do better creating the characters first. Some authors figure out the plot first. Some like to start with the world building.

Personally, I’m a weird blend of all three. Though I’ve learned to do more world building up front because I hate how much editing is required when I don’t plan well, I generally start with an idea of a character. If you’ve ever seen “The Man Who Invented Christmas” (which is fabulous, by the way) there’s a scene where Charles Dickens is agonizing over the name of this character he’s had an idea for. He tells the maid, “It’s just a name. In a story I’m concocting.  You get the name right and then— if you’re lucky, the character will appear.”

A moment later, he comes up with the name “Scrooge” and Ebenezer Scrooge suddenly steps into the room, fully formed, fully realized.

It’s a little scary how accurate that is to the way my characters show up. I don’t do a whole lot of character-building before I start writing. The characters tend to show up, their backstories in tow, their personalities and preferences fully formed… sometimes they don’t tell me everything right at first, but usually I know enough to get started. Only twice have I been wrong about a character in a way that’s required excessive editing of their personality throughout a story (Turrim Archive holds both of these pesky characters).

But in terms of world building, I usually like to start with a general set of guidelines… a feel for the culture/landscape, a basic map (see horrible hand-drawing from my post on maps), and a time-period. Then a lot of other things get filled in as I write, depending on what the story demands. That way, I don’t pour too much energy into aspects of the world building that will never even be hinted at in the story itself, because as much fun as world building is, my main goal is to write a story I can share.

It’s okay not to have everything figured out before you start writing. Even in the examples I’ve been sharing of Revelod, not everything is figured out. There are large, blank spaces on the map, the currency system hasn’t been hashed out, I’m not sure exactly which races I’ll be using or what all the cultures look like around them, I don’t know what magical creatures or regular creatures will come into play during the story… there are still a lot of things we haven’t quite thought of, and I’m not certain we will spend the time on them before I start writing in this world. And that’s okay. Because sometimes it’s better to allow for some discovery as you write. That way, you as the writer can infuse your words with that same sense of wonder you are hoping to inspire in your readers as they step into this new realm you have built and enjoy the magic of it.

Remember… Lucy’s first steps into Narnia are the magica you are trying to create for your reader!

~Have Fun~

First and foremost, world building should be fun.

We can talk all day about the “rules and regulations” and sure, there are things that you can do to make things easier for your reader to understand or easier on yourself as you are writing… but at the end of the day, this is YOUR fantasy world and YOU get to make up the rules.

 

So write your story. Take your characters on an adventure through this beautiful new world you’ve created, and try not to get lost going down too many rabbit holes while you’re researching the exact moment that running water became commonly used or when apple pie was first invented.

Mountain Segue

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little month-long fantasy world building workshop we’ve been having here on the blog. I sure have! Tomorrow I will announce the winners of the giveaway and we will have a little celebration of King’s Warrior’s EIGHTH BIRTHDAY!

PLUS, I have an EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT tomorrow! So make sure you come back for all of that!

(All the exclamation points!!!!)

~ jenelle

Creating Fantastical Animals for Your Story World

February is Fantasy Month 2

At this point, you’re either extremely overwhelmed or you’ve got your new world almost totally nailed down. #FantasyMonth is winding down to a close and I just want to take a brief minute to say a humongous “THANK YOU” to everyone who has helped make this the best Fantasy Month yet. I am overwhelmed by the sheer number of comments and interactions and discussions that have been happening both here on the blog and over on facebook and instagram. THANK YOU. This really has been the best fantasy month ever.

Yesterday, we talked about fantasy creatures of the mythical and legendary variety. But today I’d like to focus on fantasy creatures of a slightly less well-known type. As you are building your world, you may come across the sudden thought of, “Huh… does this world contain all the same kinds of animals as mine?”

And it’s a good question to ask.

Now, before you go crazy and invent an entire animal kingdom of your own… let me assure you that, just like you need to be careful not to make up a whole new lexicon of words when you’re naming things, you also want to keep some things about your world familiar and friendly for your audience. Using animals from our world is perfectly fine.

But… you might also want or need to make a few of those animals slightly different than ours (like Tolkien’s “oliphants.” Or make up a few of your own like Andrew Peterson did in his Wingfeather Saga. One of my favorite examples is as follows:

The common thwap was a little bigger than a skonk—not much more than a ball of fur with skinny arms and legs…
–On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, Andrew Peterson

He never does tell you what a skonk is.

In addition to this example, Peterson has a whole list of animals he’s created, from Toothy Cows (which made an appearance at the 2019 Silmaril Awards) to Snickbuzzards to Daggerfish to Horned Hounds to Bomnubbles… there are plenty of fantastical and unfamiliar creatures to whet your appetite and draw you further into the story. But he also has dogs, bears, wolves, and other various regular animals, too… which keep you from getting too overwhelmed.

Lloyd Alexander kind of created his own animal in Hen Wen, the oracular pig.

H.L. Burke created “cat owls” in her “Song of Ice and Fate” duology. They were cute and fluffy and I totally want one.

I have to admit, I haven’t done much of this for my stories so far. Creating new/different animals is a place where I just haven’t ventured much in my books. Though I did create a couple of fun space creatures for my flash fiction stories about Blake and Earl… that was kind of a blast.

The Minstrel’s Song series, as I mentioned yesterday, has quite a large list of myth-creatures. But when it comes to animals, I pretty much stuck with the animals that already existed. And I think I pretty much only mentioned horses and a mule. Oh, and sheep. And a lizard. Maybe some birds? But not many other animals made it into the books.

In Turrim Archive, which has NO mythical creatures, I did create two made-up animals. First are the “grymalkyns,” which are giant cats that are used for riding. Yes. GIANT. The others are large, scale-plated lizards called “leythan” that can be ridden or used to pull massive loads.

I’m not sure yet what sorts of animals Revelod contains, but I’m excited to find out.

When creating animals for your stories, I think it’s fun to look at the animals we have and try to imagine them somehow different: bigger, or smaller, or with some additions, like wings on a cat, or horns on a hound. Another way to make something fantastical is to simply take two animals and sort of mash them together and see what happens (like in the cat-owls example). Or you can do it like Andrew Peterson and create a creature, describe it vaguely, give it a familiar role (garden pest) and let the reader’s imagination take over. This is where you can have a lot of fun in your world building and just cut loose a little. See what crazy creatures you can come up with!

Mountain Segue

Have you read the Wingfeather Saga?

What are some made-up animals you have come across in your reading that you really enjoyed or that stood out to you? Have you made up any animals of your own? I’d love to hear about them!

Tomorrow is our last regular post for Fantasy Month! And we’ll be discussing a VERY important aspect of world building. Possibly the MOST important thing we’ve talked about all month. You definitely want to come back and read that post tomorrow!

~ jenelle

Some Lesser Known Mythical Creatures You Should Consider Adding to Your Fantasy World

Fantasy Favorites Tag (1)

 

If you had to pick just one, what would you say is your favorite mythical creature?

For me, it’s dragons.

Maybe it’s overdone, but there you have it. I love a good story about dragons. Evil dragons, good dragons, cultures of dragons that can be good or evil or anywhere in between… if there’s one thing that is going to pique my interest, it’s a dragon, whether it’s in the title, on the cover, or in the blurb.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t love finding other fantastical creatures in my stories, and I love it when I find an author who does something different or uses some of the lesser-well-known fantastical creatures…. or even just makes up their own!

I was polling recently to find out what creatures people are most interested in seeing in more books, and the following creatures were mentioned with a high degree of regularity so I thought I’d feature them in today’s post. Maybe it will spark some ideas if you’re between stories and searching for something new to write… or maybe you’re in the middle of writing a story and you feel something is missing… or perhaps you know of some stories that feature these magical beasts? Please share in the comments!

Qilin/Kirin – this is one that was fairly popular in my poll. Possibly because it is one I’ve never seen anywhere, and is from Japanese mythology. The qilin is a hooved chimerical creature (meaning it is made up of multiple different animals). These fearsome-looking, yet peaceful, creatures are symbols of luck, good omens, prosperity, and protection. The closest I’ve ever seen to this would be Discord in My Little Pony: Friendship is magic, but he’s technically a draconequus.

Selkies – originating in Scottish mythology, a selkie is a creature who is constantly in conflict. A seal in the ocean, it can shed its skin and take on human form to walk on land. Often a part of tragic tales, the myth goes that if a human found and hid a selkie’s skin, they could coerce it into a romantic relationship. However, if the selkie ever finds its skin, it will go back to the sea never to return. I know there’s The Secret of Roan Innish movie. I’m not sure I’ve ever come across these in anything else, though.

Gryphons – head and wings of an eagle, body of a lion, these fierce beasts of legend are usually shown in a protective light or as guardians. Though in the cartoon movie, Quest for Camelot, we get to see one working for the villain, which was kind of fun. I feature gryphons in The Minstrel’s Song series. Orphan’s Song by Gillian Bronte Adams has a gryphon (and that’s one of the books you can win in the Fantasy Month giveaway – if you missed that memo, see the pinned post for details). Another great one is “Dark Lord of Derkholm” and the sequel “Year of the Gryphon” by Diana Wynne Jones.

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Hippocamp – head and upper body of a horse, tail of a fish, the hippocamp is often depicted as the creature which pulls Poseidon’s chariot through the sea. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen or read this in anything.

Leviathan/Kraken - I definitely feel like there’s a big desire for stories with various fantastical sea creatures and sea monsters! Something about the ocean just sort of tugs at our imaginations, and the polls I took before Fantasy Month and then more recently confirmed this beyond a shadow of a doubt. Sea monsters show up in a lot of movies, there’s that famous line of Liam Neeson’s that gets memed all over the place from Clash of the Titans. And I think we see some in Percy Jackson, but it’s been a while and I don’t remember exactly.

Hippogriffs – who didn’t fall in love with Buckbeak in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? If we didn’t know we loved hippogriffs and wanted more of them in our fantasy stories before that, we definitely do now! Front half eagle, back half horse, the hippogriff is certainly a majestic creature and I definitely want to ride one! Other than Harry Potter, I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen these anywhere else.

Phoenix – ah, the mythical bird that lives for hundreds of years before spontaneously combusting and then being reborn from its own ashes. Why is this fantastical beast not featured in more stories? I do not know. But let’s fix that and write it into more stories, shall we?

There’s Fawkes, the phoenix in Harry Potter. I also love the episode of My Little Pony where Fluttershy tries to “heal” Celestia’s phoenix. Other than Jean Grey as “the phoenix” though, I’m not sure I’ve seen or read this anywhere else.

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I’m honestly surprised that more creatures like centaurs and minotaurs weren’t mentioned in the poll (I just read “Labyrinth of Shadows” last month that retold the story of Theseus and the Minotaur and it was EPIC).

And I’m not sure why whatever this amazing thing is didn’t make the list…

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But I guess it just goes to show that there are a TON of fantastical creatures out there just waiting to shine in a story of their own!

When you are building a world, it’s a good idea to take a moment to think about what fantastical creatures you want to include. And even if the creatures aren’t present in the story, what sort of mythology exists in your world?

The Minstrel’s Song series features whole kingdoms of mythical/legendary creatures I call “myth folk” in the books. Dragons, gryphons, and unicorns are featured most heavily, but I also included tree nymphs, a pegasus or two, as well as a wind sprite and some mer-folk. In book 4, I created two mythical races of my own… but now we tread gently on spoiler-territory, so I’ll stop.

In Turrim Archive, there actually aren’t any dragons. *cue gasping and falling over* In fact, there aren’t really any fantastical creatures at all. And there isn’t even any draconic mythology. Yep. I wrote a whole series of books in which there are no. dragons. at. all. (Bet you didn’t see that coming!) It’s been… difficult… honestly, writing a story in which I can’t even reference dragons. Can’t even have a dragon statue. But I think it’s been a good growing exercise for me as a writer, as well.

Yesterday, the folks from Deep Magic came over and gave us a look at how to spin fantastical creatures and turn some of those popular tropes on their heads. And I think that’s a great idea even with some of the less-popular fantastical creatures. That’s why, in the Minstrel’s Song series, I gave my dragons a culture all their own, and let them be capable of both good and evil, just like humans. Because of their size and shape and fire-breath, I sure gave them a different sort of culture, a more fierce and violent culture, but I also tried to show that they were cognizant of the inherent dangers that sat alongside their strengths. I didn’t want my dragons to be all good or all evil. I wanted them to be more than that.

So what are some other popular tropes we could turn upside down? What about a story about a selkie who isn’t trapped or tricked by the evil human who steals her skin? Or a phoenix whose feathers change colors each time it burns up so that you can see how old it is/how many times it has gone through its life-cycle? A leviathan who can grant wishes? A mermaid who doesn’t fall in love with a human or want anything to do with being “out of the sea?”

Mountain Segue

What is your favorite under-represented mythical/magical creature? Can you think of any books/movies/television that feature any of the ones I’ve mentioned in this post? I’m sure there are more beyond the ones I’ve encountered!

~ jenelle