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Re: No Dogs Allowed I like to use the Hugos - and other awards - as a chance to learn about interesting and high-quality fiction that I haven't heard about yet. In that regard, the Puppy dominance of this year's nominations was a grave disappointment. I read widely of the Puppy nominations (widely, not entirely, but everyone's got limits and I hit mine regularly) and in my opinion - which is of course all I can use to base my vote on - they ranged from downright terrible to not-bad. But not-bad is not worthy of a major international award just by default.

I've absolutely no time for John C Wright (especially if he's going to go around throwing stones at others as though he were without sin) nor do I have much for any of the other Puppies who have maligned, decried, harassed and generally shouted at much of the community for the past six months, and who then express great and wounded surprise when they aren't welcomed with open arms and big smiles by that community.

And let's not even get into the "GRRM's awards are PROOF of the CONSPIRACY!" argument that's now surfacing.

August 26, 2015, 12:29:28 AM
Re: High fantasy books with and about religion? I find it hard to go past Pratchett's Small Gods for a thorough fantasy investigation of religion.

In pondering other possible books, I'm asking myself an interesting question: can a book really deal with faith if gods appears on the page? If there's no question of whether this is "real" or not, can it really speak to our understanding and experience of religion?

September 21, 2015, 09:59:33 AM
Re: A Day in the Life of an Agent There's heaps of great advice going on here. Having just - successfully - gone through the agent-hunt myself, I thought I'd pitch in my two cents anyway. :)

On finding the right agents to query:
- QueryTracker was my starting point, but note that "fantasy" can mean everything from paranormal romance through to grimdark epic. You need to go to the agent's website, their twitter, their blog, their interviews and research-research-research to see if they're for you. (Or just query - an email costs nothing, and rejections don't hurt quite as much after the forty-third...)
- Publisher's Marketplace was a great resource for seeing who has sold books like yours recently - but that doesn't mean they will necessarily be looking for another book like that.
- Writer's Digest can be super handy if you keep an eye on it over a longer time period. For instance: 7 agents seeking fantasy now, from October 2015 (I queried four of the agents on that list).
- And if all else fails: find similar published books, read the acknowledgements, find out who the author's agent is (they'll usually thank them explicitly, sometimes all the "industry" people are bundled together, which is where google comes in handy).

I don't know anything about pitching in person - I'm in Australia, querying UK and US, so it was never an option! I sent emails. Lots of them. And I got rejections. Lots of them. I had a 25% request rate on the book that finally got me representation, and I sent thirty queries.) Query writing is a special art like any other sort of writing. Workshop, workshop, workshop your query letter, but also read and critique those of others. It helps so much with getting the hang of what a query needs to do. QueryShark is a fantastic resource. There are also critique forums for query letters at QueryTracker and AgentQueryConnect. Just bear in mind that while the "rules" for query writing can be very, very helpful, sometimes your story needs a little tweak here or there to really show itself properly.

At the end of the day, remember that you aren't looking for just any agent. You want to connect with the agent who loves your story almost more than you do. And especially as a debut author, you're at the mercy of the market. Your book can be great, but not going to work right now. Or there might be other reasons why it's not quite happening. (The first novel I queried got lots of "you write beautifully but" rejections, but I finally realised it just wasn't a "break-out" novel - it was too quiet and restrained and introspective. It's still in the drawer. Maybe it'll work for a later release.) Keep trying, but write something else as well. You were going to anyway, right?

Same as Francis Knight, I'm willing to share my successful query - along with the versions/decisions I made in shaping the final - privately if anyone wants.

November 25, 2015, 12:23:41 AM
Re: Do you enter 'the zone' when writing? I take the concept of "the zone" a little differently when it comes to writing - not the physical act, but the formation of the story. I have written a story where I know that these are all the elements that I want and they are in the "right" order, but it's not until I come back later (sometimes years later) that I can see the structure and symbolism and other scaffolding work that I've unconsciously put in that story that make it so "right". That, for my money, is the zone.

Pacing and hitting story beats at the right time and crafting satisfying character arcs are the stuff that you have to think a lot about when you're starting out - and when you're paying attention to your action because things aren't quite working right. That's the stuff that "comes naturally" when you've practised it lots and lots and it's become second nature. (And to a certain extent, that goes for a sentence level as well. Crafting good rhythm and intriguing imagery can become habit.)

December 01, 2015, 06:03:58 AM
Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists There are so many fantasy books being published these days - and I have sadly so much less reading time than I used to - that I admit to using pretty arbitrary measures to decide which books I will add to my to-read list. I used to say, "I don't read books that don't have a named, important female character in the blurb," but I think what it really is is that I want to see in the blurb something I haven't seen a hundred-thousand times before in the genre. Sadly for the genre (though this is improving), having a named, important female character automatically makes you stand out, but there are also points to be gained for sexuality, ethnicity, and other diversities.

So it's not that I only want to see female main characters, but I am looking for a reason why this book is going to be something new and interesting, not just the same-old straight-white-dudes-with-swords/cloaks having adventures that I've read a dozen times before - and enjoyed, but still: read before.

January 21, 2016, 07:27:03 AM
Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists Writing white male characters because it's "safe" is genuinely the worst reason I've ever heard. Writing anything because it's safe is lamentable, but I also think it's incorrect: I'm not the only person in the world who posts reviews saying, "ugh, all white males, shame about that." The bottom line of creating is that you're never going to create something that no one dislikes. Yes, it's about story quality over cast diversity, but you're going to write a good story anyway, right? Why not write one with a diverse cast too? The two aren't mutually exclusive, and indeed I find a variety of views in a story increases its depth and my enjoyment.

I must also admit to being disappointed in the "white male is the norm and doesn't need to be defended" reasoning. That is exactly the sort of thing that perpetuates it as the norm. It needs to be challenged because of that. Flip your thinking: is it important that the character be white and/or male? Then why can't they be something else?

Characterisation, like everything else in storytelling, is always a choice. Consider why you're making the choices you are. Because you enjoy it is totally a valid reason, but consider if perhaps you enjoy it because society has conditioned you to think those stories are more important, or because you feel ill-equipped to tell other stories - the latter of which can be remedied by engaging more with that sort of story, and will broaden your storytelling range!

January 27, 2016, 10:44:24 AM
Re: The King's Paws OK I did not even know this thread existed, so thanks for the pointer, @Jmack :)

As those who were in the writing groups may remember, I had two big developments late last year. Our little munchkin is now three and a half months old, and making my life difficult with a steadfast refusal to go to sleep during the day. She sleeps really well at night, which is keeping me sane, but it makes it SO difficult to get anything done when she needs an hour and a half of settling in order to take a forty minute nap.

Which has been a problem, because in news on my other big development, I've been working on revisions on my novel. The agent I signed with in October sent me a really fantastic list of suggested revisions, giving me great direction in areas of the novel I'd known were weak but didn't know how to solve. The novel's now leaner, meaner, stronger, and if my agent agrees (fingers crossed I haven't missed anything in my distraction and sleep-deprivation) I guess the next step will be submissions. Which means my next step is writing something else while waaaaaaiiiiting. (I gather subs are like querying all over again, except I have even less to do with it...)

January 28, 2016, 10:48:57 PM
Re: What did you read in January? Come share your list and what you thought I was one of the recommenders of Megan Whalen Turner (I am sure there was another person, but maybe that was on another board...) so YAY, I am so glad you enjoyed it, @Raptori. I love those books egregiously. They are so tight, so slender, but they cut so deep. A stiletto of fantasy fiction.

In January I read:
Half the World by Joe Abercrombie, which was GREAT; I enjoyed the first one, but Thorn and Brand were characters who just made this book amazing
Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord, which was also (but differently) great; I have a low tolerance for magic realism (which is often fantasy-without-rules, which seems cheap to me) and parable-myth-fiction (which is often condescending) but this uses elements of both to be cheeky, canny and utterly delightful.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which I really enjoyed with some minor reservations about a couple of story elements.
Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine, which was conceptually great (Library of Alexandria dystopia!) but didn't grab me in the delivery.

And I'm currently reading NK Jemisin's The Fifth Season which is so challenging as a new mother, but absolutely as good as everyone has been telling me it was.

February 01, 2016, 12:38:30 AM
Re: LGBT Fantasy? Sooooo, I'm a straight cis woman, but my novel features a bisexual (male) protagonist, and another few supporting characters are gay men and women. I like to think I hooked my agent with awesome characters and a great story, but I'm sure it helped get her attention to start with that she tweeted that she wanted to see fantasy novels with bisexual protags, so I flagged up front in my query that I had one. Arguably, the fact that he's bisexual has no bearing on the story, since the only romantic relationship he has in the story is one with another man - but in references to his past and his general observations on the world, there are elements that show he is also attracted to women. Have I done it perfectly? Probably not. But I've tried. (Sidenote: When looking for beta-readers for this novel, I participated in a crit-partner-matchup online, and had one potential reader tell me that she didn't want to swap because she "didn't read LGBT stories and couldn't help with that character romance arc". It surprised me to hear that queer people fall in love in some essentially different manner than straight people, but perhaps she's right...)

Just to note: probably at least 10% of the population is queer of some description (interesting stats article on the topic). So if 10% of your cast isn't queer of some description - even if that never gets explicitly shown - you're really not being very realistic. (Need help with queer voices and experiences? Read queer stories, in literature and online.)

And to hearken back to the original point of this thread - Amanda Downum's The Bone Palace (book 2, but possibly stands on its own quite well) has some really interesting exploration of trans characters and what that means for identity both in terms of self and the society of her world; obviously in Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains two of the three main protagonists are gay, and it's most definitely important to the plot on many levels (I particularly like the subtle elements of "outsider" feel that it brings and how that potentially bears on what unfolds); and of course Max Gladstone dances merrily in bounteous fields of diversity throughout his Craft Sequence, but Full Fathom Five deserves a particular mention for including both a trans woman and a lesbian in its wonderful cast of kick-ass ladies.

February 03, 2016, 12:27:24 AM
Re: World Building?? I super heaps recommend NK Jemisin's worldbuilding workshop "Growing Your Iceberg" (downloadable pdf available). She really approaches worldbuilding as a holistic view, which I think makes it easy to craft a world that just feels real because every element resonates the same reality (plus, whenever you need to build more for your story, you have your go-to pillars that help make it quick and easy).
February 10, 2016, 05:12:49 AM