My Spec Fic Reads for 2015 Part One

What where your favourite fantasy and science-fiction books and movies for 2015?  Here are a few of mine.

Star Wars 7 The Force Awakens

ReyForceAwakensReviewx300With all the hype and the long wait since the release of the last trilogy, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one.  My daughter and I saw it together on our trip to Melbourne in December after a day of looking at art galleries, graffiti lanes and traveling on the trams.

Star Wars 7, directed by J J Abrams, takes up the story twenty or more years after the end of Return of the Jedi. A new dark force, the First Order and dark user of the force, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), are out to destroy the Republic. Hans Solo and the Resistance are searching for a map fragment which will reveal location of the last Jedi, Luke Skywalker.

The movie was fast-paced, with lots of explosions, crashes and fire-fights.  Favourite characters Hans Solo, Chewbacca, Princess (now General) Leia, C3PO, A2D2 all make an appearance and new characters such as Finn (a reformed Storm Trooper) (John Boyega), Rey (an orphan left behind her family on  desert planet of Jaku with an affinity to the force) (Daisy Ridley), the droid BB-8, Maz Kanata and Kylo Ren (the dark ‘jedi’) who works for the mysterious Supreme Leader of the First Order, Snoke.  The plot echoes the past movies with a shocking (though not unpredictable) twist at the end.

We enjoyed the movie. For my son (who saw it with his father), it was ‘the best one yet.’ There was enough excitement, special effects, humour and emotion to keep us on the edge of our seats.  I love the fact that Finn is a person of colour and that Rey is a woman though, for some, this seems to encourage making the emo and conflicted Kylo Ren as the a dark anti-hero despite his terrible nature of his deeds. There are some obvious plot holes and many things left unexplained (how did the First Order arise and gain such devastating power so quickly, who is Snoke, why was Rey abandoned by her family and what is her connection to Luke, why did Luke walk out on the Republic and Resistance (even if his efforts to train more Jedi had disastrously failed)? No doubt some of these things will be revealed in the next couple of movies.

However, the more I think of it, the more I wish that The Force Awakens had deviated more from a recycling of old plot themes and scenarios. I guess it remains to be seen if the next two movies are more adventurous and more ready to risk alienating die-hard fans.

Mocking Jay Part 2

This final film from the Hunger Games trilogy, in which the Rebellion makes a final assault on the Capitol of Panem. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is the face of the resistance but, against orders, she teams up with her closest friends, including Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Finnick (Sam Claflin) to take out President Snow.

Again, I watched this movie with my daughter and thoroughly enjoyed it. It does verge on horror in a number of scenes, but the violence is not glorified. The movie stays faithful to the book and, in some ways, surpasses it. I can remember being very disappointed with the end of Mocking Jay (the book) for a couple of reasons, especially with regard to Prim – but also the death of a number of characters. I’ve had a number of years to think about why Suzanne Collins chose to end the book the way she did and I concluded that what happens to Prim was a necessary motivator for Katnis’ final actions and her realization that tyranny and the misuse of power was not the sole prerogative of Snow. Even so, (as I discuss here) it would be refreshing to see more peaceful and diplomatic means as a way of resolving problems. And while this may seem unrealistic – it can be done without necessarily spoiling the climatic thrill – as, for instance, in How to Train Your Dragon.  Not to quibble though, this was a fantastic movie.TriggerWarningreviex220w

Trigger Warning

Trigger Warning (2005) by Neil Gaiman is a collection of short stories of fantasy, sci-fiction and horror. Some are quite brief and others are longer. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book with it’s effortless prose, great characterizations and storytelling. Gaiman has a quirky view of life in which danger and retribution lurks in unlikely corners. I’ve reviewed it more thoroughly here.

Anansi Boys

I enjoyed Trigger Warning so much, I went looking for another Gaiman book and came across Anansi Boys (2006).  This book has an unlikely hero in Fat Charlie, and touch of romance, and great twist at the end and draws from Caribbean mythology. It was fun read and I really must read more Neil Gaiman. Again I reviewed it here.

Fly by Night

As I loved Frances Hardinge’s A Face Like Glass (2012), I was delighted to discover Fly by Night (2006). Like A Face Like Glass, this is also a Young Adult fantasy novel with a young teen protagonist combined with an intricate and fascinating, almost Baroque world and a complicated and inspired plot. Mosca Mye (named after the common house fly by her absent minded and erudite father) has to flee her village in the company of her goose, Saracen, and the dubious and smooth tongued Eponymous Clent. On arriving at Mandelion, they find themselves in the middle of intrigue, murder and an escalating feud between the Stationer’s Guild and the Locksmiths. This is a book about freedom of thought. And while I found it’s zealous Birdcatcher villains almost predictable in motivation (see a fuller review here), I still enjoyed the twists and turns, idiosyncratic characters and world building. Certainly, there is a need for tolerance and the freedom to discuss and contest different positions and values in a world where opposing points of view are often howled down or ridiculed in social media storm.

FlyByNightReviewx220

Femme

Femme (2014) by Delia Strange is the first book published in the Wanderer of Worlds series (and multiverse). Kaley  has won a scholarship to the almost Utopian paradise of Femme, a matriarchal society in which men are slaves. Kaley is excited about pursing her future tech studies but finds it hard to adjust to the mores and expectations of this rich and beautiful world, especially when she is assigned a personal slave. The world-building in Femme is rich, multi-layered and delicious. There is an underlying romantic tension and social dissonance that gradually builds up a climax and a realistic (and satisfying) conclusion. By turning social stereotypes and traditional gender roles upside down, Femme makes one think.  I reviewed it here.

That’s the first 6 of my 12 picks for 2016.  I’ll continue with the next six in the next post.

I’d love you to tell me, have you watched or read any of these spec fic pieces? What did you think of them? What are your best reads and views for 2016.

Jeanette

Cross-post to Fantasy Trekkers.

Fictional worlds, Series and more

The last couple of months I’ve been flat out with 2 units of study in the Masters of Arts (Writing). This has left little time for writing. However, I will be using Mannok’s Betrayal for my major project in my current unit The Creative Artefact.

In the meantime, I’ve written a couple of guest posts.

Multiplying the Magic

(on writing and reading series)

A good series is a delight to the reader, author and publisher. How many of us remember those series we loved and avidly followed as children – Anne of Green Gables, Biggles, Enid Blyton’s Famous Five or the Faraway Tree, Narnia, Sherlock Holmes – the list goes on. And as we got older maybe we moved on to Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer, Isaac Asimov, Janette Oke, Karen Kingsley or perhaps Stephen Lawhead. Well, you fill in the blanks with your favourite series author.
Series come in different guises depending on authorial choice, genre and reader expectations.

Read more

Creating Worlds

(on building fictional worlds)

One Hundred Acre Woods, Never Land, Avonlea, Narnia, Hogwarts, Middlearth … these are all places that have delighted countless children – and let’s admit it – adults, filling them with wonder and whimsy.
For me one of the joys of reading is being transported to another place and time.  It might be across the universe in a FTL spaceship or a Blue Police box. It might be back in time to encounter ancient or not so ancient societies and cultures (Victorian, Medieval, Roman, Chinese or Incan) or perhaps to a strange technological or dystopic future. Or it might be the streets of New York or Sydney, the vast Australian Outback or the green hills of England. Books have whisked me away to all these places – and more, many more.

Read more

Jeanette O’Hagan

Blogging about Fantasy

At the end of April I was thrilled to  guest blog on Dyane Forde’s Writing Blog Dropped Pebbles.  I wrote a two part series on Fantasy:

Fantasy and Faith: Part One

“Some day yfantasy1ou will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” C. S. Lewis

Not everyone loves fantasy, not everyone gets it. ‘I prefer reality,’ they say as they look at you slightly askance. The implication, whether stated aloud or not, is that fantasy is escapist entertainment for the childish and less enlightened among us. Even so, I don’t mind admitting that I have not lost my love for fantasy since the day I was introduced to C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series at age 7. In fact, I spend a large part of my days reading fantasy or writing it. So what can we say to the naysayers? Despite the critics, Spec-Fic including fantasy continues to dominate the bestsellers and movie blockbusters. In fact, many people read or watch  fantasy without realising it – Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, for instance, or Disney’s Fantasia. Moreover, fantasy comes in a wide variety of guises – so chances are there is something for everyone.  Read More.

 

 

 

Fantasy and Faith: Part Two

BirdMany skeptics relegated fantasy to the dusty attics of their childhood. In their minds, it is at best escapist entertainment empty of real meaning or at worst mind numbing wish fulfillment that leaves one out of touch with reality. And to be honest, fantasy does explore and extend our most fantastical dreams and plumbs our worst nightmares. But is it escapist? And is that a bad thing? Read More .

My Writing Process – Blog Tour #mywritingprocess

I was asked to join in with this blog tour on My Writing Process by Melissa Gijsbers Khalinsky. You can read her post here.

And here are my answers to the questions given.

1) What am I working on?

I’m working on a few of projects at the moment. My main passion is for my YA/NA fantasy fiction Akrad series. I’ve written three of the books (Book 1, 2 & 4) and am correctly close to finishing Book 3 Mannok’s Betrayal. Pulling all the threads together has been a challenge but one I enjoy. I have started sending out Book 1 Akrad’s Children to publishers and will be soon sending Book 2 Rasel’s Song to my faithful beta-readers.

I am also doing a Masters of Arts (Writing) – two units this term – which involve major writing tasks. Fortunately, I can use what I’m doing with Mannok’s Betrayal as part of my assessment for one of the units.

I participated in Month of Poetry (MoP) in January (the challenge of writing one poem a day) and have continued writing poems as the whim takes me. And I blog both for my own blogs and for a couple of group blogs.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My Akrad series is secondary world fantasy aimed at Young Adult to New Adult (ages 15-24) audiences. The books are set in an imaginary world of Nardva with complex societies, history, geography, literature, mythologies – but they are not high or epic fantasy (i.e. hero saves the universe from total destruction plot). Nevertheless, they are still full of suspense, danger, adventure, intrigue, romance and mystery. The stories are from the point of view of the younger characters (teens to early twenties) but they continue to interact with other generations. Each book can be read on its own but is also part of an overarching plot. There is also a slow reveal of magical elements with ongoing mystery throughout the series.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I love fantasy and I love writing. Fantasy was my favourite genre as a child (and still is). At about 9 I began daydreaming my own fantasy world with lots of characters and stories. This became the world of Nardva. The Five Lands (where the Akrad Series is set) is a part of this world. Writing my own books fires my imagination and keeps me entertained.

4) How does your writing process work?

Well, it starts with day dreaming. Sometimes I compose the whole story  in my head before beginning to write (often a few times with changes and usually with far more than I can use in the book). However, these days I do start the writing process earlier. I usually have a basic structure – the beginning, the climax and turning points and a good idea of the end as well as the main characters in mind before I start writing. Then I fill in the gaps – and I am often surprised at what comes out in the process. It’s definitely a lot of fun.

Here are two of my friends who will be posting the “My Writing Process” blog tour posts on Monday March 17th. Please check out their blogs next week.  

Lynne Stringer –  Lynne has been passionate about writing all her life. She was the editor of a small newspaper (later magazine) for seven years, and currently works as a professional editor and proof reader. Lynne wrote her YA sci-fi romance novel, The Heir, in 2010. The Heir is the first book in the Verindon trilogy. This book was followed by The Crown. The final book, The Reign, will be released in May 2014. You can find Lynne online at  www.lynnestringer.com

Alison Stegert – Ali Stegert is a daytime school counsellor, night time word wrangler. Her first novel, Summer of the Silk Dragon, is making the rounds of publishers, looking for the right home. Ali blogs about books and writing on Spilling Ink, her personal blog, and about cyber-parenting on e-Quipped. (www.e-quipped.com.au) The link to Ali’s personal blog is www.ali-stegert.com

Enjoy!

Jeanette O’Hagan

You can read a hyptertext teaser for Akrad’s Children – called My Sister – here.

Or join me on Facebook here.

 

Writing YA & NA

When I started writing my first novel,  I wrote from the point of view of the two teen protagonists because that was the story. The characters and world expanded and took a life of its own. I knew I was writing fantasy but that was about it. Then life intervened (study, new career, children) and my first novel languished in storage.

Last year I began studying the art and craft of writing again. I dusted off my old manuscript and my notes for sequels and prequels. My passion reignited. Once again I am writing late into the night, in stolen moments, whenever I can.

One thing I’ve learnt is that the age of your hero and/or heroine determines your audience. Without knowing it I had been writing Young Adult (YA) fiction.

My books are about young people dealing with life, solving problems, growing and maturing. The stories are fast paced with action, dialogue and emotional engagement. Like a lot of YA, they crossover between genres – fantasy with elements of mystery, suspense and romance.

I also discovered that unlike my novels, much YA has a compressed timeline, sticks to a familiar setting and has minimal subplots. Books like Harry Potter, Hunger Games and Twilight are set over the course of a year or less and the characters are still teens by the end of the series. My characters start out as teens but are in their early twenties for much of their story arcs.

That’s why I was delighted to stumble upon a new category aimed at readers in their late teens, early twenties – New Adult (NA) Fiction.

So my books straddle the YA/NA divide. I think they will appeal to older teens and twenty-somethings – and older readers who love YA fiction – who want fast paced character driven fiction on a wider stage.

Of course, you will be the ultimate judge.

Jeanette O’Hagan

4 November 2013

 

So what do you think?

Do you only read books with a protagonist your own age or a couple of years older than you?

Do you think YA should always be restricted to a short time period, simple plots and short word counts?

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What is Young Adult?

Young Adult category encompasses literature written for teens (often stated as 12-18), generally with teen protagonists and dealing with teen issues and themes (coming of age, identity, relationships etc) and/or read by teens. It became popularised as a category from about 1948 onwards and is often defined in a variety of ways.

Some characteristics of Young Adult:

  • The protagonists or main characters are teens – generally 16 or older (as young readers often like to read about characters 2-4 years older than they are). At the start, Eragon (Eragon) is 15, Katniss (Hunger Games) 16 and Bella (Twilight Saga) is 17. Harry Potter is 12 but J K Rowling’s series begins with middle grade books (8-12) and ends with older YA.
  • Generally face paced with conflict, action and dialogue. YA often employs first person perspective or at least deep third person. It may use present tense (e.g. Hunger Games) rather than the more usual past tense.
  • It is often set in school or teen hang-outs, each books covers a shortish time period (usually not more than a year), is less descriptive, relatively short (50 to 70 thousand words), a limited number of characters and less likely to have subplots. This contrasts with a previous classics – such as Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, Dickens’ Great Expectations or LeGuin’s Earthsea trilogy.
  • It deals with teen concerns and themes like growing up, identity, becoming your own person, friendships, bullying, firsts (first date, first kiss, first job etc) and difficulties teens face (including abuse, discrimination, drugs, alcohol, sex).
  • The teen characters solve their own problems. Adults may be absent or may be present as helpers but take a secondary role.
  • It can include many different genres (adventure, fantasy, sci-fi, detective, historical, contemporary) and often crossover genre lines. It can be innovative and edgy.
  • As much as half of the readers of YA are older than 18. In short, adults enjoy YA too.

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What is  New Adult?

The term New Adult was coined in 2008 but has really only taken off in the last year or so (from 2012) onwards. It is aimed at college-age young adults who are in the transition between adolescence and the roles and responsibilities of older adults.

Some characteristics of New Adult:

  • Protagonists generally are 18-25
  • NA keeps the pacey emotional tone of YA but focuses on issues and life events relevant to college-aged readers. What makes it different from YA and from more general adult fiction is the focus on coming of age themes – first serious relationship, living away from home, first “real” job, maybe getting married and having kids.
  • It is likely to include a heavier emphasis on romance and may include erotica, strong violence and darker themes than YA though this need not be so.
  • While much of New Adult is contemporary romance, it can and does include other genres like fantasy and sci-fi.

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Like to do more reading? Check out:

Heather Dunlevy-Scheerer, H., (Sep 11, 2009) What Are the Defining Characteristics of Young Adult Literature? In Yahoo Voices, http://voices.yahoo.com/what-defining-characteristics-young-adult-4226787.html?cat=38  [Rather wordy but a reasonably good coverage of Young Adult literature]

O’Hagan, J., (Friday, 18 October 2013) So What is New Adult Fiction and Why Should We Care? In Australasian Christian Writers, http://australasianchristianwriters.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/so-what-is-new-adult-fiction-and-why.html  [Gives my recent overview of New Adult fiction]

Strickland, A., (October 16, 2013) A brief history of young adult literature in CNN, http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/15/living/young-adult-fiction-evolution/  [A potted history of the development of Young Adult Literature]

Wendig, C., (? October 2013) 25 Things You Should Know About Young Adult Fiction in Terrible Minds,  http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/06/04/25-things-you-should-know-about-young-adult-fiction/  [Funny overview of YA fiction, use of colourful language]

Welcome to Nardva and The Five Lands

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Welcome to Jeanette O’Hagan Writes – a compendium of information, imagination and adventure. Please, come in, explore, make yourself at home, stay a while, leave a comment and visit again.

I was on the cusp of turning ten when I took my first tremulous steps in the world of Nardva. Strange lands shrouded in mist, populated with people that over the years became close friends, even allies. Neither wardrobe or blue box was needed to be transported there – all I had to do was imagine – and stories, vistas, histories began to coalesce out of the mist and the world took shape. Some of those stories I have written down, some remain to be told.

This website is a portal into Nardva. Here you can find :

My Books (in Waiting) – glimpses and teasers for the currently three completed manuscripts and another fully plotted and about to be written (as of October 2013).

The Nardva Files – stories, poems, maps, character sketches, artwork, compendiums of flora, fauna, typography and customs.

The Fantasy Files – ramblings, ruminations and reviews about fantasy literature.

News and Events – things I do and markers along my writing and publishing journey as well as announcements (when relevant) about surveys, contests and giveaways.

About Jeanette  - want to know more about who I am? Here I have the perfect excuse to talk about myself ;)

Contact Jeanette – well, I’m sure you can work that one out.

Nardva was not built in a day – and neither is a website. It’s more fun that way.

 

Jeanette O’Hagan

24 October 2013

Brisbane, Australia