Tag Archives: Wordfire Press

Dragon Writers: An Anthology

dragonwritersEvery year for the past three years, alumni from the Superstars Writing Seminar submit short stories for an anthology published by Wordfire Press. The anthologies began as one of Kevin J. Anderson’s lessons to up-and-coming writers: no matter how silly a writing assignment may seem, if you accept it, you must do the best job of it you can. If your task is to write a story about purple unicorns, make it the best damned purple unicorn story ever written.

Thus One Horn to Rule Them All: A Purple Unicorn Anthology was born, followed a year later by A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology. And guess what? From a seemingly silly concept, a lot of great stories emerged.

A third anthology called for a change of themed creature, and we are now pleased to present to you Dragon Writers: An Anthology. It’s available now in both Kindle and print formats. Regular readers of this blog will see a lot of names they recognize in the table of contents, and not just Fictorians, but such luminaries as Brandon Sanderson, David Farland, Jody Lynn Nye, and others. As always, James A. Owen provided the cover art (as well as the forward this time around, because who better to write a forward about dragons?) and Lisa Mangum provided her expert editorial services.

As with the previous years’ anthologies, all proceeds from the sales of this book will go to the Don Hodge Memorial Scholarship Fund, which helps aspiring writers further their education on the business side of the publishing industry. Please check it out, and we hope you enjoy!

Hybrid Genres

A guest post by Anthony Dobranski.

What’s a hybrid genre? You won’t often find hybrid works marketed as such, since there are only so many aisles in the bookstore. Look in — and across — the larger genres’ shelves, however, and they appear more and more. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels rank as Amazon best sellers in historical fiction and time travel romance. Charlene Harris fused mystery and horror fantasy in the Sookie Sackhouse series, and won top mystery awards for it. Tor.com now has a column for hybrids.

A hybrid genre story uses essential elements of two or more genres, in a single story that honors the audience’s expectations for its parent genres, but also questions them — or at least plays rough with them.

My forthcoming novel The Demon in Business Class is a hybrid fantasy, a modern-day story of magic and the supernatural, in the international setting of a corporate thriller, with a romance that changes the story but also completes it.

I wanted to write a fantasy about my own place and time, the way Wilde set The Picture of Dorian Gray in Victorian England. I live in an amazing era, the dawn of the networked age, a far happier adult world than the Cold War nuclear winter feared in my childhood, and a world more open to many kinds of people. It is also a time of cultures clashing violently, of heartlands that feel abandoned by elites, on all sides. Lately we’re hearing from globalization’s discontents, and I don’t discount their grievances or suspicions. I worked in international business, however. I saw its good side, its optimism, the way it helped humanity shift from Cold War us-vs-them absolutism to complex morally-unsatisfying alliances that feed and clothe more than war did.

I had the sudden bold idea for a novel, a difficult romance between supernatural corporate rivals representing moral opposites, a fantasy for a time of change and ferment, both chaotic and intoxicating.

The problem is, that’s a mess of a story, a weird assemblage that invites yet leaves unsatisfied the expectations of three different genre audiences. Here are just a few:

  • Magic — the directed use of supernatural power to achieve a goal — changes any society where it is public.
  • In fantasy, a heroic and vigorous culture overcomes a decadent if powerful one.
  • What would a business with magical powers advocating a moral polar attitude… sell?
  • Corporate thrillers require a big corporate conspiracy, whose goal is either money or power.
  • Romance is about individuals.
  • Romance disallows villains. Anti-heroes, yes, but even they must be morally improved by love.
  • If the opposition is truly polarized, each has to find something repugnant in the other — which makes romance hard.
  • Romance ends a romance; exposure ends a corporate thriller; in a clash of good vs. evil, evil has to lose.

You’ll have to wait until this fall to see how I got all those narrative questions and more all resolved, but it took witches, playboys, gangsters, cultists, a prophet, two angry angels, and a very modern Tarot deck – along with several rewrites and the help of committed beta-readers!

Along the way, though, I discovered some principles that can help you develop your hybrid genre story:

Know what you want. A story speaks to humanity through genre norms, but if you’re so flagrantly violating the norms of a genre, you’re doing it for a reason. If you don’t know what that is, it’s hard to work it into your story. It doesn’t have to be an easy reason to explain. Mine was so hard to explain that I had to write a novel to do it. It’s what binds all your other ideas together, however, so be clear about it.

All plates keep spinning. A hybrid tale gives your characters multiple arcs, and none stop, though some can slow. Think through where the character needs to go on each arc to see how to weave them together.

Genres themselves are as diverse as insects. Even a seemingly niche category like “sci-fi with aliens” encompasses 2001, Pacific Rim, and Aliens — each of which also belongs to a wholly separate sub-genre (hard-SF, kaiju, and bug hunt) with different ways to show heroism. Even if you want to apply a genre “norm,” there’s more than one way to go about it.

Don’t forget the writing. You are writing one book, but as your genre elements shift, your writing can shift with them. This is a chance to play, to satisfy yourself and your audience with the style to go with your story. Be terser in the thriller elements, festive in the social moments, vulnerable in romance, quick and cutting in anger.

Don’t fight a genre — use it. Genre demands and tropes can enliven your story, if you use them creatively. To have a romance that worked out, I couldn’t make my fated opponents the primary actors for or against a worldwide conspiracy, its James Bonds or its Blofelds — but I could make them a small part of such plans, maybe even a bigger part than they knew, while still giving them believable loyalties and higher stakes.

Consider the genre’s own influences. Noir and cozy mystery differ in setting and tone, but also in the social class and status from which their stories view their societies. Looking past the symbols to their hidden meanings gives you new perspective on how to refit elements to your story. Because —

It’s still all your story. We’ve been talking about genre norms and conventions as if you’ll get issued a citation from the genre department. You won’t. You have incredible creative freedom – if you stick your landings.

Are you writing a hybrid genre story? Talk about it in the comments below!

Anthony DobranskiAnthony Dobranski is an author from Washington DC. His first novel, The Demon in Business Class, comes out this fall from WordFire Press.

All About Attitude

A guest post by John D. Payne

John Payne cover (1)

I was single for a long time, and not by choice. I was sick of dating by the time I was 21, but wasn’t married until 36. It took me 15 years to get noticed at a party by a beautiful, funny woman who shares my love of Firefly and tolerates my love of that greatest of all Canadian contributions to the culinary arts: poutine.

What had I done to catch the eye of my own personal Princess of Power? Well, aside from riding a sweet tiger to the party and looking great in furry briefs, I had managed to figure out two important truths. First, finding a partner isn’t about trying to figure out what someone else can offer me (such as an escape from the meat market singles scene), but about becoming the kind of person that has something to offer to someone else. Second, a smile is sexier than a mope. (Sorry, Team Edward.)

A lot of getting noticed as an author is about these same changes in attitude.

Consider conventions, like the recent Dallas Fan Expo. I go to these shows to sell books. But if I get focused on the numbers, then I don’t sell well. My smile becomes strained and I start to look as desperate as I feel. If people notice me when I’m in that frame of mind, they’re going to do everything they can to avoid my gaze and escape before I can even open my mouth. That kind of treatment makes anybody feel lousy, so pretty soon I’m viciously cycling. No good.

For me, the cure is to remember that I really do love sharing great stories. Whether they’re mine or not, I really enjoy introducing someone to a book they’re going to love. So instead of pushing my book to every single person I talk to, I actually listen to what they say when I ask them what they like to read, and then try to make a recommendation that will really knock their socks off. In no time flat, I’m enjoying myself again. And my book usually end up flying off the table along with all the others I’m recommending.

Thinking about what I have to offer others is not just a great way to get noticed at conventions. My book was recently included in an ebook bundle. Part of the reason I think they included me was that the curator has seen me promoting other people’s books on my Facebook page.

(By the way, if you haven’t checked this out, do yourself a favor. Fifteen bucks gets you thirteen books, including fantastic novels by Cat Rambo, Paolo Bacigalupi, Tobias Buckell, and many others.)

Another important shift in attitude for me has been switching from a default assumption of failure to one of success. In dating, I used to go into relationships with the thought that most of them fail. That’s true, statistically speaking. But I was a lot happier once I started assuming that each new relationship would be the one that would last a lifetime. Looking for reasons to stay in, instead of a justification for bailing out, helped me see a lot more good not just in others but in myself. And eventually I was right.

I try to approach opportunities in my writing career the same way. Four years ago this summer I got an email from an old writing group buddy who made indie fantasy and scifi films. They wanted to release a book and a movie at the same time as an experiment and wondered if I would like to write the novel to go with the film.

It was an intriguing possibility, but I already had plans that summer to change jobs, move (twice), get married, finish writing my dissertation, defend it, and revise it. So I said… Sure! And then we talked about particulars and hammered out a schedule and a contract that we could all live with. In other words, I looked for ways to make it work instead of excuses to stay out.

When I start by assuming that failure is the likely result, I am nearly always right. But being part of a self-fulfilling prophecy is not as satisfying as it sounds. On the other hand, when I start by assuming that there’s a path to success, I am not always right. (Or at least I don’t always find that path.) But often great things happen. And every now and then, something truly miraculous happens. Like the day my wife noticed me at a party, and every day we’ve been together since then.

So, I offer my fellow writers just two bits of advice. Get outside yourself, and show the world what you have to offer. And embrace optimism. Believing that things will turn out for the best is so crazy it just might work.
John D. Payne Bio: John Payne (1)

John D. Payne grew up on the prairie, watching the lightning flash outside his window, imagining himself as everything from a leaf in the wind to the god of thunder. Today, he lives with his wife and family near Houston, where he imagines that the clouds of mosquitoes have achieved not just sentience but malicious intent.
 
His debut novel, The Crown and the Dragon, was published in 2013 by WordFire Press. The movie was released in 2014 and is currently streaming on Netflix and Amazon. John’s most recently published stories can be found in Black Denim Lit, The Leading Edge, Tides of Impossibility: A Fantasy Anthology from the Houston Writers Guild, and the upcoming Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology.