Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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Guest Blog: Jennifer Lunde and “The Next Big Thing” Blog Chain

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Folks, my niece, Jennifer Lunde, has responded to my earlier blog tagging her for the Next Big Thing blog chain.  So without further ado, here’s a guest blog from Jenni which gives her answers as to what she’s working on now . . . and why she believes this is her next, big thing.

*** Jenni’s answers start . . . now. ***

What is the working title of your book?  Arc.

Where did the idea come from for your book?  I get most of my ideas from dreams. This particular idea has been chipping slowly through the walls of my skull for years now (Pulse, my previous big project, was an attempt to capture a piece of this idea). The dream that prompted Arc is unusually surreal in my experience: it was entirely silent and in black and white, and as I stood by, I watched a city of dark stone rise out of an ocean. I looked around for who had done this and found Niela standing a little above the water. She waved.

I dealt with Niela in a minor way in Pulse, but the person I saw in my dream was not a worn-out, vengeful ghost: this was a woman at the height of her powers, reasonably happy and with her whole life in front of her. I saw her before I killed her, and the sight hurt me. In Pulse I identified more with Caderyn (the guy who killed her) more than Niela; she likes power, not responsibility, and she likes to make the people who hurt her (lots of those) suffer. Despite this tendency in her, she was always a problematic villain for me to write. She’s betrayed by her best friend and loses both her life and her child, and that isn’t even the end of her tragedy. In Pulse I both punish her and provide her with some form of resolution, but that story has less resonance unless I explore what happened to her first. That’s part of what Arc is all about.

It’s not all doom and gloom, of course. Like I said above, I always identified with Caderyn pretty easily, and his family is a wild bunch. I’ve spent entirely too much time writing the exploits of his aunt and uncle—they’re a riot. And the world of Arc is older than Pulse’s, newer, less corrupted and more magical. It’s been fun to build the story from the beginning instead of starting at the end like I usually do.

What genre does your book fall under?  Fantasy (not for children). Pulse is tamer than this project (almost out of necessity).

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie version?  Ack. I don’t typically write with movies or movie actors in mind. Samuli Vauramo (“Sam the Slammer” to you American audiences) might make a decent Caderyn. I like Sophia Miles for Saerys; she has the right kind of combination of sweetness and toughness. Niela is impossible to cast, and given her ability to disrupt reality at any given moment, she might have to be mostly computer-generated. She needs a dark voice: it’s definitely not a typical Hollywood starlet part. John Hurt would be wonderful as Ashan, old as he is. I can’t honestly cast anyone else…

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  Arc will probably be split in two when it’s done, but here’s the basic idea: A mysterious source of power called the heart of the earth regulates energy (including magic) within the world of Anavila, and when a man manipulates that energy to bring a dead child back from the dead, the consequences—for the man, the child, her family, and the heart of the earth—are devastating. (Pulse deals with some of these consequences, and it’s set three hundred years after Arc.)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I’m not entirely sure yet. It isn’t done.

How long did it take you to write your book?  Right now, it’s 245,000 words long. (Yikes.) It will eventually be split in two at an appropriate point; I haven’t determined that point quite yet. I’ve written about half of the story so far (some of it is writer’s crutches/filler to remind myself of things), and I started in June. At this rate I’ll be finished with the first draft by May 2013.

What other books would you compare this to within your genre?  All fantasy is indebted to Tolkien, but Arc nods toward darker themes covered by authors like Stephen R. Donaldson (Thomas Covenant, The Gap Cycle), Patricia McKillip (The Book of Atrix Wolfe, Ombria in Shadow) and Margaret Atwood (Cat’s Eye, The Robber Bride). I can also cite Faulker’s Go Down, Moses as a major influence for some developments in the story, but he doesn’t quite fit in the genre, does he? 🙂

Who or what inspired you to write this book?  My dream prompted me to return to this universe and let me know that my work there was unfinished, but my true inspiration came much earlier. I was a child when I first came up with this idea (exactly where it came from is lost to the rubbish bins of history), and my initial attempts to get it down on paper were clumsy and sometimes humorous. (I still have some of these abortive attempts in my files.) Since then, the basic story—which has always revolved around Niela to some extent—resurfaces at odd times, in my writing or in my own life. When I was in service for Americorps for a year, I ceased writing for a period of six months. I did this deliberately in a fit of despair (how many writers have had those? :P), but at the end of those months I had my dream, and a week after my dream I had 15,000 words. Niela brought me back. She told me that our work wasn’t done. I’ve been doing what she says (with minor alterations) ever since.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

As the synopsis suggests, this story deals with family relationships quite a bit, and none of the relationships are even remotely superficial—though some are very strange. I became aware as I was writing that Arc has all the elements of a psychological drama dropped into the plot of an ancient Icelandic saga: it’s the kind of story where everyone is out to stab everyone else all the time, but after the stabbing’s done everyone left alive feels broken up about it. It’s a heady mix to write, and it isn’t one that I’ve ever read, either. I find it interesting. Maybe someone else will, too. 🙂


And that concludes today’s guest blog from my niece, Jennifer Lunde.  (May the happy dance commence!)

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 26, 2012 at 12:46 am

And the Next Big Thing Chain Continues with Jason Cordova

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Folks, yesterday Chris Nuttall responded to the “Next Big Thing” blog chain, which I referred to in yesterday’s really brief blog post.

Today, I found out that Jason Cordova also responded and has posted his responses for the “Next Big Thing” here.

In brief, Chris discussed his new book SCHOOLED IN MAGIC, which I edited, while Jason discussed his work-in-progress WRAITHKIN.  Both of these books should interest anyone who enjoys SF&F, albeit in different ways.

Chris’s book is a young adult coming of age story and also a bit of a “fish out of water” epic as it’s about Emily, a teenager from our world who ends up in a wholly other place and finds out she can do magic.  (The main twist Chris has is that Emily is definitely not coming back, so she has to come to some sort of accommodations with her new culture, her new abilities, and new life as quickly as is humanly possible.)  Emily is appalled by the way most people live in this new world as the main society seems to be a type of medieval feudalism, and does her best to implement as many modern advances as possible.  This helps to keep the reader both interested and engaged, as most of the time, a character’s frustrations with a new world just doesn’t get any airplay at all.  (Many characters immediately “go native” instead.)  And of course Emily makes a few quite understandable mistakes along the way, too . . . .

At any rate, SCHOOLED IN MAGIC is a fun book with some unexpected depth and a great main character.  I enjoyed reading — and editing — it immensely.

Jason’s WRAITHKIN is a much darker story that deals with the whole issue of genetics and he freely admits it was inspired by the movie Gattaca.  However, Jason’s book also has aliens, a parliamentary monarchy and a civil war in the making and is described as both military science fiction (milSF) and a love story.

I don’t know as much about Jason’s story as I do about Chris’s for two reasons: one, Jason hasn’t finished it yet.  And two, I haven’t edited it.

But I do know Jason’s writing and at least a bit about how he tends to come up with plots.  (In effect, it’s the Lois McMaster Bujold method, which roughly stated amounts to, “Find out what’s the worst possible thing you can do to this guy.  Then do it.”)  Which is why I’ve told him I can’t wait to read WRAITHKIN, just to see what he’s come up with this time.

Neither of these books are available right now for two different reasons.  Chris wants to see if he can interest a publisher in his newest novel, while Jason is still in the process of finishing his newest novel up.

But both Jason and Chris have other books and stories available for your reading pleasure, so do go to Jason’s site and Chris’s blog and check out what they have to offer.  You might just be pleasantly surprised.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 15, 2012 at 12:32 am

The Next Big Thing Continues With Chris Nuttall

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Folks, Chris Nuttall has kindly followed up with the Next Big Thing blog chain; his post is available here.

As I said before, Chris has a number of novels available right now through that range from military science fiction to any variety of fantasy.  His most recent fantasy novel is THE ROYAL SORCERESS, which I discussed a few days ago in my own “Next Big Thing” post.

So do, please, read his post over at his blog.  Then go check out his work over at Amazon, OK?

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 13, 2012 at 3:32 pm

The Next Big Thing Starts . . . Now

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Have any of you heard of the Next Big Thing blog chain?

This Next Big Thing author chain has been going around for a while, but I only was tagged recently by Kate Paulk (hi, Kate!).   Kate has a number of excellent novels out from the Naked Reader that range from the deadly serious to the wildly funny including IMPALER, KNIGHT IN TARNISHED ARMOR, and ConSensual (the third book in her Vampire Con series) — so if you haven’t read her books yet, you’ve really missed out.**

(In other words, her books would make great Xmas and/or holiday presents, as would the works of the other authors on this list.)

Anyway, here are the rules:

  1. Give credit to the person who tagged you
  2. Post the rules for this blog hop
  3. Answer these 10 questions about your current work
  4. Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can go over and meet them.

But I’m going to tag six even though I don’t have a link for the last . . . but we’ll get to that.

The first, obviously, is Jason Cordova, whose full length novel is CORRUPTOR from Twilight Times Books.  Jason and I both write for Shiny Book Review (he runs it; I write) and are in the process of writing a steampunk fantasy together.  (Slowly, yes.  But we’re getting there.)  He also has a number of short stories available in a number of genres, which he has links to from his blog site.

The second is Christopher Nuttall.  Chris has a number of books that he’s self-published along with a book called THE ROYAL SORCERESS from Elsewhen Press.  He’s an extremely prolific writer with a wide range of stories available including a great deal of military science fiction, so do check him out.

The third is Jeffrey Getzin, whose full length novel is PRINCE OF BRYANAE.  Jeff does not have a blog site, but his author’s Web site is available here.  (I’ll let him know that I have tagged him.)

The fourth is Florence Byham Weinberg, whose forthcoming novel, ANSELM: A METAMORPHOSIS, is a literary fantasy set in the 1960s and will be available sometime in 2013 from Twilight Times Books.  She also has a number of books available (also from Twilight Times Books) that might best be described as “historical mysteries” and/or “historical literary fiction.”  Ms. Weinberg does not seem to have a blog site, but she does have an author’s Web site, which is available here.  (I’ll let Ms. Weinberg know I’ve tagged her.  It’s possible that both she and Jeff Getzin may wish to respond via my blog; if that happens, I’ll be glad to give both guest blog rights for the day so they can answer the questions any way they see fit.)

The fifth is author Rosemary Edghill, who has many books in print in just about any genre you’d care to name.  Her most recent books are VENGEANCE OF MASKS (which was reviewed at SBR), DEAD RECKONING (with Mercedes Lackey; reviewed at SBR) and ARCANUM 101 (also with Ms. Lackey; again, reviewed at SBR).

Note that Ms. Edghill is a busy working writer, so I have no idea if she’ll be able to take part in the Next Big Thing . . . but no one had tagged her as of yet, which is why I now have.  (Maybe I should grin, duck and run away now?  Though with the cane, it’s more like “grin, bend my head a bit and hobble away slowly,” if you want to know the truth.)

The sixth is my niece, author Jennifer Lunde.  Jenni does not have either a Web site or a blog to the best of my knowledge.  But she does have a book available, PULSE, and is working on another book in that same universe at the present time.  Providing Jenni wishes to answer these questions, I’ll be happy to have her “guest blog” for me.  (PULSE was reviewed by Jason Cordova over at SBR.)

Now, on to the ten questions!

What is the working title of your book?  ELFY.

Where did the idea come from for your book?  I had a very strange dream back in September of 2002 after reading a book about stereotypical Elves.  The dream went something like this: “No, it’s not like that!”

This is how my three-feet-tall character Bruno the Elfy showed up.  Within a few weeks, I’d written over ten thousand words — the most I’d ever written in such a short time — figured out that in Bruno’s worldview, the word “Elves” is a swear word (you never want to call the Elfs the wrong name, either, as they definitely will charcoal you).  And that his race, the Elfys, were mostly a bunch of rhyming fuddy-duddies, which is one reason why he wanted out . . . but of course he didn’t expect to be on Earth among mostly non-magic users.

I wrote it down as fast as I could, discussing it as much as possible with my husband Michael (his assistance was invaluable), and went from cliffhanger to cliffhanger to cliffhanger.

Most importantly, I had fun.

(Yes, I’m very proud of this book.)

What genre does your book fall under?  Urban fantasy.  Specifically, humorous urban fantasy/romance with more than a bit of mystery, some ghosts, some Shakespearean allusions and plenty of alternate universes.

(Yes, “urban fantasy” fits.  But it’s so . . . normal a description, and “humorous urban fantasy” barely scratches the surface, too.)

Should I call it cross-genre urban fantasy, then, and save steps?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie version?  Well, as great as I think Peter Dinklage is as an actor, he’s too old to play Bruno and is also too tall.  (Probably the first time in his career he’ll have been told that, but there it is.)  And Bruno’s love interest Sarah, who’s taller than most Elfys but is certainly under 4’4″, would also be difficult to cast.  (Much less the ghost characters.  Much less . . . ah, Hell.)

There are a few characters, though, that I probably could cast.  Reverend Samuel Andrews would be very well played by Laurence Fishburne (that is, if Mr. Fishburne could handle wearing a bit of padding as Rev. Samuel isn’t exactly svelte.)  Rev. Samuel’s wife, Rebecca, certainly is a part that Kerry Washington would do well in despite her being relatively short as she projects as much taller than she is on her hit ABC show, Scandal.  But I’m unsure who’d do a good job with their daughter, Mikayla or with Mikayla’s basketball star boyfriend, Jason.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  Bruno the Elfy has been lied to his whole life until he’s sent to our Earth, where he must first find love, then gather allies in order to defeat a Dark Elf and return to the Elfy Realm in triumph.  (Read one of my first blogs, “What Elfy is  About” to learn more, as a one-sentence synopsis is painfully inadequate for a 240,000 word novel.)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  Neither.   ELFY is forthcoming from Twilight Times Books in 2013.

How long did it take you to write your book?  Originally, ELFY took a year, or thereabouts.  Then came the first edit.  Then came my husband’s untimely passing.  Then, much later, came the second edit, which actually inserted something into the story to account for text messaging.

Now, if you asked me how long the work on AN ELFY ABROAD, the direct sequel to ELFY, has been taking — um, try eight years and counting.  But some of that is because life has interfered for a while before I get back to the writing . . . and I always do end up going back, because I just have to write this story.

What other books would you compare this to within your genre?  Um, none.  This is one of the problems I had in finding a publisher in the first place — ELFY is lengthy and funny, but it’s not much like anything else.  (No, not even much like Terry Pratchett.  Or Piers Anthony.  Or the late, great Douglas Adams.  Though all are great writers who’ve written a goodly amount of humorous SF&F.)

Who or what inspired you to write this book?  Well, originally it was because of that strange dream I had, as I said before.  But without my late husband Michael’s help, editing, encouragement, and willingness to brainstorm at all hours of the day or night, ELFY would be a far different — and far lesser — book.

Also, without the fact that I finally, finally found the love of my life in my mid-30s, I doubt that I’d have been able to write an authentic love story, much less one quite like this.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Um, it’s funny.  Really, really funny.  A send-up of many big, fat fantasies while still being authentically itself, ELFY is a humorous fantasy/mystery/romance with Shakesperean allusions and alternate universes.

And Bruno’s character just might get to you, too.  He’s been abandoned on Earth, what he knows as “the Human Realm,” and he’s been told his whole life that he’s not worth anything.  His parents are dead.  He knows our language only because his mentor interceded for him (something we don’t find out for a few chapters), and he gets captured right away by some pretty bad people — the parents of his eventual love-interest (and nearly instantaneous friend), Sarah.

One of my friends, William Katzell, told me that ELFY is best summed up as:

ELFY is a coming of age story about Bruno, who’s been kept in the dark about who and what he is (and could be) for all his life.  Trials, tribulations, romance and adulation abound as the anti-hero becomes the hero – and gets the girl.”

I suppose if I were really feeling up to snuff, I could tell you a little bit about my sequel to ELFY, AN ELFY ABROAD (currently in progress), or the ELFY prequel KEISHA’S VOW that’s set in 1954 (ghost characters are alive, while still-living elderly folks are much younger as you might imagine), or my non-Elfyverse New Age Christian fantasy romance CHANGING FACES . . . but as this has already gone on for a while as it is, let’s not and save steps.

(Though you may be interested in Stephanie Osborn’s Next Big Thing blog post, where she discusses all of her current WIPs — all four of them.  She’s definitely an overachiever in more ways than one, which I mean with all due respect as she’s a very classy lady.)

So that’s it for the Next Big Thing . . . tune in tomorrow and we’ll see if any of the writers I’ve tagged wish to take part.  (I hope at least one will, otherwise my part in this blog-hop will be a bit of a miss.)


** Kate Paulk also tagged me from the Mad Genius blog siteThanks again, Kate!

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 11, 2012 at 1:12 am