Shark River

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Dindi is kidnapped to be the bride of a shark... To escape she must untangle a terrible curse caused by a love and magic gone wrong.


This stand-alone novella is set in Faearth, the world of The Unfinished Song. Available here ONLY.


The Unfinished Song - This Young Adult Epic Fantasy series has sold over  70,000 copies and has 1,072 Five Star Ratings on Goodreads.

Tag Archives for " Genre "

June 15, 2015

What is Fantasy Romance? (Guest Post by Amy Raby)

Loving Fairy Couple In A Bed Of Grass
Are you a fantasy reader who enjoys pairing the characters off in romantic relationships? Do you sometimes wish a fantasy novel would spend more time on the characters, go a little deeper into what makes them tick? If so, fantasy romance is the genre for you.

When I started writing my own fantasy novels, I found myself beginning not with situations but with characters. I spent a lot of time on worldbuilding, but I didn’t create my characters for the purpose of revealing the world. Rather, I created my world for the purpose of revealing the characters. My first novel (never published) was about two men on an adventure. They were a mage and a thief, essentially, and I put them in constant conflict with each other.

Someone beta-read the novel and was confused. “It reads like a buddy movie,” he said. Yes, it was supposed to! The reader seemed to think a fantasy novel couldn’t spend so much time on the characters and their relationship. Maybe that novel didn’t work, but I knew that writing about characters and relationships was what I wanted to do.

I’d been reading science fiction and fantasy since childhood. I discovered the romance genre later in life, and when I did, I realized this was what I’d been missing. Here were the character-driven books I’d been looking for. This was the genre I was meant to write. But I didn’t want to give up my fantasy worlds and magic and dragons. So I started writing romances that took place in fantasy worlds.

Fantasy romance novels sit astride two genres. They are romance novels, fulfilling all the requirements of the romance genre. And they are fantasy novels, fulfilling all the requirements of the fantasy genre. I aim for a 50/50 split between romantic content and fantasy adventure content.

At this point I don’t even know how to write a novel that’s not fantasy romance. Having two intertwined storylines gives me so much narrative freedom, as well as advantages in pacing. We’ve just had a big action scene as part of the adventure storyline? It’s time for a quieter scene focused on the romance. My romantic couple just had a big fight and they’re not speaking to each other? Get them together with new developments in the adventure storyline that force them into contact.

Adding magic to a romantic relationship can be all kinds of fun. I had a great time writing the playful love scenes in one novel, in which the man had the power to turn invisible. Magic can also serve as an equalizer for female characters. I enjoy writing powerful, magically gifted heroines.

When I started writing fantasy romance, I thought I was the only person doing it. I’d never read a novel in this hybrid genre in my life—although several novels shelved in the fantasy section might have qualified (one by Ellen Kushner, several by Barbara Hambly).

But I was wrong. I wasn’t the only one. It’s a lesser known genre, but a few fantasy romance authors have been published by Penguin, and self-publishing has really flung open the doors for fantasy romance, adding many talented authors to the mix. We’re an emerging genre, and we’re building steam. The world is full of readers who grew up reading fantasy novels and also love romance. Those are the readers we’re writing for.

June 12, 2015

What Are the Obligatory Scenes for Genre Fiction?

Writing CraftI’ve been reading The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne. It’s a meaty book on writing, from the point of view of an editor who has an eye for highly popular, commercially successful books.

His method is similar to Scott Bell’s Save the Cat outlining method, and since I’m a fan of that, I found this highly useful as well. My biggest takeaway is the concept that any given Genre has certain Obligatory Scenes along with its usual conventions.

For instance, he lists the Obligatory Scenes for a Mystery. My order is a little different than his, and I’ve added my own nicknames to the steps:

  1. The Crime: A crime is committed—usually a murder.
  2. The Crime as Trigger: The crime must occur reasonably early in the story.
  3. The Criminal Mastermind: The criminal must be clever enough to have hidden his identity sufficiently that it’s not obvious from the start who committed the crime.
  4. The Detective: The investigator must be clever enough to solve the crime. If he’s not a professional (cop, PI), he must have some special skill or knack that helps him uncover clues others miss.
  5. Now It’s Personal: At some point, the investigation becomes personal for the investigator.
  6. Clues & Red Herrings: The investigator finds clues, but some clues are red herrings.
  7. J’accuse: The investigator uncovers/confronts/denounces the criminal.
  8. Justice Theme: The ending results in justice, injustice, or ironic justice.

In a Medical Drama, like House, the Obligatory Scenes are exactly the same, but the “criminal” is a disease and the “detective” is the diagnostic doctor. The “suspects” are not being accused of a crime, but they are people who must be interrogated to find clues about the true identity of the mystery disease. As in any other mystery, many of the suspects lie to protect themselves for various reasons, leading to red herrings.

For Horror, he lists these Obligatory Scenes:

  1. Fate Worse Than Death: Something more than life is at stake. A fate worse than death is possible, such as torture or damnation.
  2. Monster: The villain is far more powerful than the hero, possibly even supernatural.
  3. Speech in Praise of the Villain: Early one, someone describes how insurmountably powerful and/or awesomely evil the monster is.
  4. Hero at the Mercy of the Villain: There’s a scene near the climax where the protagonist seems to be utterly powerless against the villain.
  5. Double Ending: There is a false ending where the villain seems defeated, but isn’t, followed by the real defeat of the (real) villain.

Thrillers, he says, are a combination of both these kinds of Obligatory Scenes.

Those are the genres he’s most familiar with, so unfortunately, he doesn’t give his take on other genres more of interest to me, such as Romance, Fantasy, or Science Fiction. So I’ll try my own hand at it.

For Science Fiction/Fantasy we’d need:

  1. We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: We must learn early on that this universe differs from ours because it has some magic/tech that our universe does not.
  2. Rules of the Universe: We must have some insight into how the magic/tech works—not the mechanics of it, but the global rules, such as who can use it, what it allows, etc.
  3. All Magic Has a Price: There must be limitations to the magic/tech, a cost to using it.
  4. Magic Makes Trouble: The magic/tech must shape the character and/or society in a way that drives the plot. The magic/tech or the society it enables, creates the problem.
  5. Magic Aides the Hero: The magic/tech must also be relevant to how the problem is solved. (Even if the solution involves destroying it, as in Forbidden Planet, or being destroyed by it, as in 1984.)

Hm. I’m not sure if those are really Obligatory Scenes, in the same way that “Hero At the Mercy of the Villain” is a scene. I think there’s a real danger in both fantasy and science fiction of making those “telling” rather than “showing” scenes. Hence, the dreaded infodump: a pitfall for any novel, but speculative fiction especially. It is better if each of the above Obligatory features of sff are crafted as scenes.

If many of the usual scenes one might expect are missing, it’s because we often conflate Fantasy (especially) with a Quest plot. A Quest plot or an Epic plot has its own Obligatory Scenes and conventions, such as the Search for the McGuffin or Acquiring the McGuffin, the Final Stand Against Evil, etc.

But not all Fantasy, and certainly not all Science Fiction, involves a Quest or need be Epic in scale. I do think all fantasy & sf, even odd forms such as Literary Fantasy/SF, need to have the five features I’ve listed.

I’ll give Romance a shot. I think it’s easier, ironically, because there are more strict requirements.

  1. The Cute Meet: Meeting the each other is an unusual, even life-changing event, or occurs during some life-changing event. (If they knew each other long ago, this is replaced by an Unexpected Reunion. Sometimes, the Cute Meet is included too, as a prologue or a flashback.)
  2. The External Problem: Something outside the heroine and hero keeps them apart.
  3. The Internal Problem: Some internal wound keeps the heroine and hero apart.
  4. The Draw: Despite the problems, something forces the heroine and hero to spend time together.
  5. The First Kiss: The heroine and hero express their attraction for the first time.
  6. The First Fight: The heroine and hero quarrel, but overcome their difficulty.
  7. The Commitment: The heroine and hero admit to loving one another or in some way commit to one another.
  8. The Betrayal: Despite their commitment, either the external force or internal force keeping the lover apart threatens to separate them forever. There seems to be no way to overcome this.
  9. Love Conquers All: The heroine and hero overcome the betrayal, proving the strength of their commitment (even, in a tragedy like Romeo and Juliet, or a romance without a HEA like The Titanic or The Notebook) despite death). In other almost-romances, or romances involving very young teens, an ambiguous “happily ever after for now” is acceptable.
  10. The Happily Ever After (HEA): In a true sits-on-the-romance-shelf genre Romance, as opposed to a strongly romantic story that might end tragically, the hero and heroine remain in love, remain together, and remain alive: they live happily ever after. Their HEA may be confirmed in an epilogue, or whenever the couple shows up in later books (about other couples) of the same series.

Just as Coyne says you can figure up the Obligatory Scenes for a Thriller by combining Mystery, Action, and Horror requirements, so you can figure out the Obligatory Scenes you’d need for a Paranormal Romance by combining the Fantasy and Romance requirements.

For instance, you still have a Cute Meet, but it should also let the reader know that magic exists in this world. (For instance, she finds a lamp and a sexy, overpowering Genie appears, offering to be service her every whim; or she is a werewolf hunter saved from a werewolf ambush by a mysterious hunk.) You will still need an External or an Internal problem, and it should be caused by magic. (For instance, the Genie despises her for enslaving him, but she has no way to free him from the spell; he doesn’t want to tell her that he’s a werewolf too.)

Knowing the Obligatory Scenes is not the same as having an outline for a novel. Not even close. These are simply the minimum requirements needed to center a novel within a certain genre.


Buy The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne

June 8, 2015

Differences Between Genre Fiction Before and After the Millennium (Guest Post by Jack P.)

By and large, 90s was about wondrous adventures and hilarious hijinks along the way. Since the early 00s, it took a turn toward the night along with society at large. Here are some of the main differences that happened beyond the Post-Millennial Shift, due in no small part to the events of 9/11/01. Which is better? That’s for the ages to decide.

5) Light vs Dark

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The 90s gave us Discworld, Jumanji, and Early Harry Potter. These were light stories, about character facing troubles, and dealing with issues, but of a relatively narrow scope and tied to their lives almost personally, allowing them to learn and grow

After 2000, we got the Da Vinci Code, the Kite Runner, and Later HP, where we learned our faith may be misplaced, the horrors humans are capable of, and the need to save the world from evil.

4) Fantastic Escapism vs Gritty Realism

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Instead of the journey and adventures of Hercules, 3 Star Treks, and the 5th Element, we have the harsh tones, bleak outlooks, and moral ambiguity of The Dark Knight, Watchmen, and zombie-everything.


3) Sense of Wonder vs Sense of Woe

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We once had a sense of wonder and comedy in Jurassic Park, Gattaca, and Men in Black. Now we have the tragedy and tumult of Twilight, Hunger Games, and Game of Thrones.


2) The Televolution of TV

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 Television has experienced an evolution since 2000. Instead of formulaic shows with a weekly story, the advent of DVDs, time shifting, and now streaming has led to television delving deeper into itself, with richer characters, season-long or even series-long plots with more layers than a Kardashian wedding cake, and some of the best writing and acting talent migrating to TV away from movies.

1) more More MORE

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With the internet, we have more of everything. Webisodes, eBooks, Webcomics, YouTube clips, hash tags, community tags, reality TV, refined reality TV, and the constant need for content from 500 channels of cable and 20+ screen theaters. Think about that – in less than 100 years, we’ve gone from 1 movie every month or so, to over 200 movies produced every year. I don’t know about you, but I can’t keep up, and neither can anyone!