Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Caribbean Christmas Pictures

It's the holidays, and I know that for most folks that means lots of snow and cold weather. I, therefore, thought it would be nice to share a touch of Caribbean warmth with some photos taken around my home of St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. Credit for these images should be shared with my coworkers, Ms. Anne-Marie Gibbs and Mr. Halston Francis, since most of these images were taken while I was on the job and the camera would be shared between the three of us. Enjoy!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Glass City Query

Boy, it’s been a while. Sometimes the real world gets in the way, not to mention a lack of internet access at home. I’m back, though, and hopefully I can make my posts a bit more regular here.
I’m borrowing some sound advice from our good friend(s) over at Query Shark. To quote from her post #125 which is linked here: Query Shark #125
“Remember the formula: Who is the hero/heroine? What choice does s/he face? What are the consequences of that choice/not making the choice. That's what your first paragraph should cover.”

I’ve since had my own query looked over by a number of my friends at the online writing community of which we are members and they’ve helped me, along with the guidance from Query Shark, to get it pretty darn close to where I think it needs to be.

Here’s my current query letter (247 words). Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

Dear Mr. XXXX:

Glass City is an island metropolis off the eastern seaboard that hides a dark world beyond its guise of transparency. June is a photography major returning to her prodigal home to attend the university at the beckoning of her childhood boyfriend. She doesn’t know that he is a minion of the city’s vampire brood with plans to recruit her for her potential abilities. After her transformation, she hopes to confide in David, one of her nerdy floor mates, but he has his own problems to face when his soul is ripped from his body by a coven of warlocks to make him into a reanimated homunculus slave. The city’s werewolf pack is also on the move to increase its numbers, forcing June and her new vampire family to go on the offensive. The warlocks take advantage of the chaos run amok in the city and initiate their ultimate plan to revive their demon patriarch.
June is torn between saving her homunculus friend, befriending a new werewolf recruit, and forcing a renegade warlock to face up to her crimes, all while attempting to determine what her new identity should be. Is she a deadly vampire assassin, or can she still be June? This unlikely crew of mongrel creations must survive the chaos created by their respective clans if they expect to escape the darkness of this blood diamond of a city.
GLASS CITY is an urban fantasy novella complete at 40,000 words. I thank you for your consideration.

Nicholas Mena
[contact information]

Monday, April 22, 2013

Today I am appearing as a guest blog for a good friend of mine. I am disusing the role of social change in fantasy literature.

Fantasy for Social Change - Guest Post by Nicholas Mena

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Never Say “Always”... or “Never”... Always!

Ok, so I’m getting pretty tired of writer’s rules and so called guidelines that are so often in the extreme. These repeatedly seem to bring up points of contention with other writers and are typically only a standard that worked for the particular writer who came up with the rule, if even. I thought that as writers, we were supposed to strive for diversity in our craft as a whole, we aren’t all painted in the same shade of grey, and experimenting is supposed to be a good thing. What’s good for the goose may not necessarily be good for the mongoose. I was therefore inspired to come up with some pathway markers for writing that are far less superlative than what we keep seeing popping up on writers’ blogs and trade websites:

1. Read a lot. Sounds simple, but not everyone is an avid reader, and if you research literacy statistics, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to put down the TV remote once in a while and read the TV remote instructions... or anything with words in it, like books!

2. Write what you know about. This doesn’t mean to ignore subjects you don’t know, but rather to strive to know more about the things you don’t. Research is very important, and if the Schoolhouse Rock gang taught me anything, it’s that it’s great to learn ‘cause knowledge is power!

3. Avoid distractions that distract you, and I make the distinction because being alone in a “writing cave” doesn’t work for everyone. Sometimes we need that music in the background or the TV on or the spouse trying to kick butt on Call of Duty. It can be pretty inspirational to jot down notes while riding the bus to work, as long as you can avoid the motion sickness!

4. Don’t use your exclamation points like I’ve been doing so far. I swear it’s like syrup at the IHOP; it has to go on everything no matter how wrong it is. (!)

5. Observe, people in particular. Even Shake-a-speare spent hours looking out his window (he was such a stalker!) just watching folks carrying on with their daily lives. You may hear (or read) me going on about how much I like listening to conversations on the bus ride or at the bus stop, but you’d be surprised at the level of insight you gain on human nature, especially during these intimate yet totally public moments.

6. Have a pet at some point in your life, especially one like a cat or a dog that really depends on you. I won’t equate this with children because even people who have children generally feel a different level or type of empathy and love with animals than they do with humans. While I’m not saying one type of love is better than the other, the empathy we have for pets is a good lesson for helping us to create empathy within our people (I personally don’t like the term “characters” as it makes them less real to me), and that’s something I’ve seen a lot of writers struggle with. It’s also just good karma to take care of something (someone) out of the kindness of your heart.

7. Start a draft and finish it. Writers are typically very creative to begin with, and all that bubbling inspiration in our brains can sometimes be a hindrance. We like to get our next new idea down and rocketing off into space while ignoring our other red-headed stepchild ideas crying in the corner and begging for a little attention. Take notes on other ideas if you just have to get them down, but writing complete drafts teaches us a very important lesson: we learn to finish our work, avoid procrastination, and to write better endings.

8. I’d like to close up by saying it’s pretty good advice to ignore lists like these that try to tell you how to be a better writer and to just go and write your own list. It worked for me, and I’m an expert at ignoring things!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Fantasy Deferred

I’m primarily what most folks might call a fantasy writer, and while I did enjoy reading fantasy growing up, I couldn’t help but feel left out of so many of the books and stories I read. Where were the black folks in Lord of the Rings? Why weren’t there any Latino people in The Never Ending Story (or at least any respectable ones)? Why was She-ra such a second banana to He-man? Fantasy has been one of slowest genres to catch up to the times, which may be due in part to the fact that much of the genre was set in the good old days with the same good old boys fulfilling the same old quests. But I think those of us who still love to read and write it can agree that while it’s not where it probably should be yet, fantasy has made great strides to being more inclusive.

I’m delighted to see that most fantasy I read now, including those still set with more medieval and renaissance styles, no longer omits the fact that there are other people in the world besides Europeans. Even the stories that are still heavily Eurocentric no longer seem to be those washed over versions of some idealized Britannic society (not that I don’t love my friends across the pond). Contemporary and urban fantasies are no longer considered fringe subgenres, and are, in fact, giving high fantasy a run for its money. Emerging styles like Magical Realism are giving writers a voice who would have normally been completely ignored and marginalized in the past. There are more female, black, Latino, Asian, indigenous, First Peoples, and LGBT writers in Fantasy as well as general fiction. It’s no longer a surprise to see one of our stories set in Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica, Peru, or Singapore. It’s now frowned upon to say a race of elves is “evil” simply because they have darker skin than the other elves. And while I do still consider prejudice and marginalization to be facets of human society that can never be fully eliminated, they are no longer the rules of order that aren’t paid any attention simply because the genre was so homogenous.

So what happens to a fantasy deferred? From the example we’ve set for ourselves, I say it pushes and fights to be told, because no one’s story should ever be silenced simply because a group of people feel it is too different. As they say in France (even if I am using it out of its original context), “Vive La DiffĂ©rence!”