Fantasy and Society (OWS CyCon)

Introduction 

I’d like to offer you a warm welcome to my blog. I write what you want to read, so feel free to drop a topic below! I hope you enjoyed visiting Timothy Bateson’s blog. If you haven’t stopped by, make sure to check him out!

My name is Erin Casey, and I’m an urban fantasy/YA fantasy/medieval fantasy writer. My first book The Purple Door District came out December 2018, and the next book in the series, Wolf Pit, will be released in December 2019. To learn more about my series, and all the other projects I’m doing, find me on my website, twitter, instagram, and facebook.

If you’ve come here from OWS CyCon, you can find my booth here. If you’re new to OWS CyCon, CyCon is a weekend-long book online convention where you can meet authors, vote on book covers, check out interviews and readings… all without putting on pants! I’m also involved in cover wars, character wars, and several panels. Be sure to visit the CyCon website and Facebook events acting as the hub for all of our events. Sign up for our newsletter or RSVP to the event to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the bookish goodness we have to offer. Be sure to visit the Fantasy Sci-Fi Reader’s Lounge, especially on Sunday, May 19th from 11am-12pm when I’ll host an author takeover event. 

Now, with all the logistics out of the way, let’s get into the heart of the blog post!

Fantasy and Society 

Whether you write epic fantasy or urban fantasy, you have to find a way to integrate the fantastical world into “normal” society. How you do that depends on several factors of world building. We’re going to talk about a few of these in hopes that they’ll get you started in developing your fantasy world.

Who Knows? The first question to ask yourself is who knows about magic and your “not human” characters (we’ll call them parahuman in this case)? Are your parahumans just starting to come out in society or are they a secret hidden away from the government?

For example, in The Purple Door District, society is starting to learn about parahumans. There’s a government section that is specifically devoted to the parahumans, though they generally keep to themselves unless otherwise needed. The way parahumans can find each other is by going to Purple Door Districts, safe havens that are marked by purple-colored doors, or purple-colored items at the front of the building. In this case, some people know about the parahumans, and others don’t. They try not to announce themselves because Hunters lurk in the shadows, people who think parahumans are an abomination and want to kill them.

What about your world? Whether society knows about your parahumans or not can play a major factor in the danger your characters may endure.

Jobs/Economy: What kind of jobs do your parahumans have (whether they’re “out” or not in society)? Are werewolves more likely to take on heavy-lifting jobs like construction or maintenance work while suave vampires are more adapt to being lawyers? Do you have places that are run by magic (think of a coffee shop that’s powered by magic and produces drinks with potions that help with stress, anxiety, weight loss, etc.)? Or do their abilities not influence where they work or what they do? Note: If you find the idea of a fae-run coffee shop interesting, check out my story Coffee Chaos on wattpad.

Introducing Your Readers to Your World: Once you have your world established, how do you want to introduce the magic and society to your readers? Some writers will introduce a character who is human or not very aware of the parahuman world and slowly integrate them, and the readers, into the world. In other cases, you can use someone who knows about the world but has a very different view of it to help your readers adjust. Stick with some familiarity so that the readers don’t feel completely overwhelmed.

Government: As mentioned, The Purple Door District has a government faction that knows about the parahumans and keeps them in check. What about your world? How is the government involved? Do the parahumans have to watch their backs? Are they free to roam in society as they are? Does your world resemble X-Men where some government officials call for sanctions against them while others want to protect their rights? It’s good to figure this out ahead of time because it can help you know just how much trouble you can get your characters in with or without government involvement.

How Powerful Are Your Parahumans? Do they have abilities that could threaten all of humanity? Think of Professor Xavier and Cerebro and how his ability almost took out all humans/mutants in the 2nd X-men film. Are there fae who have their own world and government and could easily take over humankind? Or are your parahumans more like groups of vampires and werewolves who can be considered a threat but can’t take over the entire world? Knowing this allows you to figure out how society might either accept or fear the parahumans. You can also play around with the characters who have different power levels. How would an overpowered character react to a situation vs someone who is weaker? Figuring out how you can integrate the fantasy element into society will help you further develop your characters.

These are just a few elements to think about when you’re integrating fantasy into society. One thing to keep in mind is that you want it to be believable. Know why parahumans act the way they do, or why society treats parahumans a certain way. Be creative, and most importantly, have fun!

I hope that you found these tips helpful. If you want to learn more about integrating fantasy into society, take a look at Kayla Matt’s blog.

Happy writing!

 

2018 Wrap Up and 2019 Goals

I can’t believe that 2018 is finally over. It felt like the year that just would not die! I made resolutions last year, but most of them I don’t even  remember, except for wanting to start querying Dragon Steal, which I did manage to accomplish. For this post, I’d like to go over some of the awesome (and not-so-awesome) things that happened this year and cover my goals for 2019.

2018 in Review

  • Finished editing Dragon Steal and submitted it for publication.
    • I’ve received several rejection letters but recently got a full manuscript request. While the rejections have hurt, at least the book is out there!
  • I created my own website and started developing a branded persona on twitter, facebook, instagram, etc. I have over 1,000 followers both on twitter and on instagram.
    • Even better, I’ve met a ton of amazing authors and creators through these sites who I can’t wait to work with next year!
  • Wrote, edited, and published The Purple Door District.  I can’t believe I developed my own marketing and indiegogo campaigns, formatted the book, published it, and held a launch party all in the space of six months. The question is, can I do it for PDD2?
  • Had “Latte with a Shot of Poltergeist” and “Frozen Heart” published in anthologies.
  • Submitted more short stories and poetry than I ever have before. While I received a lot of rejections, I at least received a few publications.
  • Officially launched The Writers’ Rooms with my co-Director, Alexandra Penn. We also finished our Articles of Incorporation and got certified as a non-profit corporation.
  • Helped develop the concierge anthology through The Writers’ Rooms.
  • Returned to my college and taught a few classes about publishing and NaNoWriMo.
  • Wrote 50k words for The Purple Door District: Wolf Pit.
  • Lost about 45 lbs through exercise and healthy eating.
  • Attended my first book signing event with other authors and signed up for even more in 2019.
  • Hosted giveaways for my book and swag that was developed by local creators.
  • Started my patreon account to help raise money for my writing career.
  • Received honorable mention in Writers of the Future.
  • Truly started my profession as an author.

It’s been a really big year for me writing wise. I still can’t believe that six months ago I decided to publish The Purple Door District. It seems like ages since I made that decision. I’ve managed to publish a few pieces of work this year, including on wattpad and patreon.

Next year, I hope to do even more, but also find a way to take care of myself at the same time.

2019 Goals

  • Focus on my mental health and take better care of myself mentally and physically.
  • Find an agent and publisher for Dragon Steal.
  • Finish writing and publish The Purple Door District: Wolf Pit.
  • Work on Fates and Furies with my co-author, AE Kellar, and hopefully publish the first book, if not in 2019, then in early 2020.
  • Submit more short stories and poetry for publication.
  • Start working on The Purple Door District #3 and Dragon Steal #2
  • Return to working on Traitors of the Crown.
  • Lose more weight for health reasons and get healthier.
  • Attend multiple writing conventions to both sell my books and to meet other authors.
  • Start my path to becoming a full-time author.

These are pretty ambitious goals, but I think most of them are possible. I really do need to focus on my mental and physical health, though, because I managed to break myself a few times while working on PDD. If I can’t hold myself together, I won’t be able to accomplish any/all of this.

I’m really proud of what I did this year. It’s my biggest year as an author, and I can’t wait to see what 2019 holds. I’m also a little scared. What if next year doesn’t unfold as well? I guess that’s all part of growing up and making plans as a writer, though. Some years you’re going to make it big, and some years are going to be a lot slower. I hope 2019 is still a fantastic one.

What are your goals for 2019? Feel free to share them below! Also, let me know what topics you’d like me to cover this year!

Happy Writing!

Erin

The Purple Door District: Behind the Scenes

The world of The Purple Door District started out as the stubborn brainchild of AE Kellar and myself. We have spent years writing together, researching, brainstorming, and developing characters and rules governing our parahumans and worlds. Our main series, Fates and Furies, is still in production but occurs in the same urban fantasy setting.

But let me backtrack a little.

AE Kellar and I met each other on a Redwall roleplaying site when I was still in high school. We had a mutual interest in the book series by Brian Jacques, obviously, and the forums gave us the opportunity to create our own characters, be they cat in AE’s case, or a silver-striped red squirrel named SilverRose Brighteye. Some of you may recognize my NaNo name.

For those unfamiliar with roleplaying on forums, basically one person writes out a few paragraphs of a scene with their character, someone responds, and the two people (or more) write back and forth to create an adventure. Redwall provided the world for us; we just had to worry about the characters and plot.

We wrote together for years, developing characters and immersing ourselves in the world. Eventually, we sought after a change and started roleplaying on an urban fantasy website that has long since closed. That’s when we realized that we might have found our niche. We took our characters, built a world, and ran with it, rping back and forth most nights. We’d alternate taking point on a plotline and naturally switch to the next person.

Unless we both brainfarted, in which case we just started up a new plotline.

Years of writing produced thousands of pages of writing (I’m not joking, AE took a picture of the pile of paper). Eventually, we realized we wanted to do something with it, and thus Fates and Furies was born. But in order to fully create the series, we had to know more about our world.

When we started to design the District, I latched onto it and suddenly had ideas blossoming in my head about creating one in Chicago (I grew up around the area). Plus, as a birdmom of seven feathered kids, it gave me the chance to professionally write about a werebird, even if I still get the side eye. With AE’s blessing, I wrote The Purple Door District to introduce you to our insanity.

But what about the PDD struck a chord in me? It was the community. I loved this idea that people of different talents, appearances, and strengths could come together to protect one another. A lot of urban/paranormal fantasies focus on the battle between werewolves and vampires or different magical groups. It was nice to think that there was a neutral ground where everyone could get along under the direction of The Violet Marshall. With the way the country is going today, I felt it was important to show that it’s possible for a mixing pot of people to actually come together peacefully. I chose Chicago specifically because I knew I could create a diverse cast. Even more characters will appear in The Purple Door District Book 2.

Community plays a huge role in my life. I help bring writers together through The Writers’ Rooms, a non-profit corporation that focuses on providing a free, safe environment for writers no matter their background, income, experience, gender, etc. And I work with The Iowa Writers’ House which also supports writers through workshops, lectures, and bicultural fellowship. In the writing world, I firmly believe that the only way we can succeed is if we support one another. Rising Tide, as Brian K Morris calls it.

Even through the book production, I reached out to the community for help. I asked Oni Algarra and Gabriella Bujdoso to create art for the book, indie artists who post on deviantart and instagram respectively. My cover artist is a Fiverr creator named Les. Sara Cunningham used her marketing magic to create sand jars and postcards for my book. Amanda Bouma taught me how to make jewelry so I could develop Bianca’s necklace. Leona Bushman, a fellow urban fantasy writer, guided me through editing my book and polishing it for publication. Alexandra Penn helped me format the book and was one of my main supporters who gave me the courage to publish the book. And my wonderful proofreaders, Shakyra Dunn and AE made sure the book was ready to go. I couldn’t have done this without my community, and I’m excited to support them just as they supported me. That’s partially why I created the Indiegogo campaign. I wanted to help give back to them.

As of November 5th, The Purple Door District is available for pre-order on amazon. There are no words I can use to convey my pride, joy, and hint of terror at having my book out there (I think I used up all my words in the manuscript haha). I do know that, had it not been for AE, I never would have been able to create such an immersive world.

We jokingly say that AE is the brain and I’m the heart, but I think it’s very true. While AE fills our books with well-researched facts and logic, I add feeling, creativity, and literary flare. I couldn’t have done it without my walking encyclopedia. All you see in The Purple Door District exists because of our love for storytelling and our incessant need to get fewer than 8 hours of sleep a night.

Keep an eye out. Fates and Furies is on the horizon.

And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all of your support during this crazy and amazing journey.

Welcome to the District.

 

The Purple Door District

Bianca was supposed to attend art school in Chicago, not run for her life from Hunters. The only chance she has to survive is to find The Purple Door District, a safe haven for a parahuman like herself…

Long time no write! As many of you may or may not know, I started up a patreon page for my fantasy stories. Today marks the release of the very first chapter of The Purple Door District, an urban fantasy story full of parahumans, magic, and witty banter. This is set in a world created by myself and my co-author, AE Kellar. We’ve been working on this for the past 7 years or so, and we’re both excited and nervous to share it with our readers.

The main series, title pending, revolves around parahumans, such as lycans, witches, and fae, (oh my) of both the past and modern world. The stories focus on their daily lives, their government, and how the sins of the past don’t always stay buried. There will be something for everyone in this New Adult series we are hoping to launch by 2019.

The Purple Door District itself is a safe-zone for parahumans to be themselves without fear of exposure. The series of Purple Door District novellas and short stories posted on here will touch on different story arcs that are set within the world we have created, but are not necessarily connected with the main series’ story line. While the main series will be co-written by myself and AE, the novellas and short stories will be single-author unless otherwise noted.

So what is this first novella about? Here’s a little taste…

Bianca was supposed to attend art school in Chicago, not run for her life from Hunters. The only chance she has to survive is to find The Purple Door District, a safe haven for a parahuman like herself. When she stumbles upon a magus named Gladus and a fellow avian named Carlos, she thinks she’s found safety. But the Hunters are relentless, as is the dark force driving them. Vampire, werewolf, avian, magus…It’s up to the parahumans of the Purple Door District of Chicago to put their differences aside to save Bianca and stop a dark threat from destroying their peaceful community.  

To read the first chapter, become a patron here!

Creating God Systems

Long time no write! I’m sorry it’s taken so long for me to get back to the blog, but I’m hoping to post regularly now that I’m leading a Fantasy/Sci-Fi group in Iowa City. I’ll post more information about that later. For now, I would like to talk about the art of creating a God system.

Many fantasy/sci-fi stories present different forms of higher powers. But how do you make them? It’s really up to you, but I can give you some ideas on how to get started based on what I’ve done in my own writing and what I’ve seen.

Gods based on mythology

One way to introduce Gods into your book is to look into mythology. For example, what Gods appear in Norse mythology, Greek mythology, Celtic mythology, etc.? Each one of these Gods has a purpose, an appearance, a reason to be in the story. If you’re rewriting mythology, you can freely use these Gods to your own desire. Maybe Thor makes an appearance, or Odin, or Apollo and Athena. Perhaps you’re writing about vikings and you want to keep true to Norse mythology.

My advice to you is if you’re stumped, read different types of mythology and see if you can create Gods that way, or reinvent those Gods. It’s okay to take something that’s already known and apply it to your writing, just try to put an interesting twist to it!

Symbolic Gods

My favorite thing to do is to create Gods based on symbols or elements. For example, I have five Gods in one book. Each one is based on the seasons: Fall, Winter, Summer, Spring. The final God, however, is the Goddess of balance, neither light nor dark, life nor death. Each God represents a compass location, have particular colors, and are said to provide particular gifts to mortals.

One example is my Goddess Ren. She is the Goddess of Death and Night, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Her followers say that life cannot come without death and death can bring life (reincarnation/dead bodies bringing about new earth). She is celebrated during the Autumnal Equinox. Her avatar is a black serpent or a black dragon. And her governing colors are red, orange, and black for the changing leaves and fire. She is also the Goddess of the West (a call out to the Wicked Witch of the West).

Using symbols helped me understand my Goddess. It also made me realize that I needed other Gods to balance her, so I have one of fertility to counter her power of death. This is a really fun way to create Gods and mess with your characters’ lives.

Gods based on character needs

Sometimes the best way to build a God is determined by the needs of your characters. You may start writing and realize that your character believes in some higher power. What higher power should she follow? Well, what does she need? Is she looking for strength, guidance, answers to questions? In the Catholic faith there are patron saints that are meant to protect people in certain ways. Think of your character’s needs and decide, who is her patron saint, or her patron God? From there, ask yourself if one God is enough or if you need more Gods.

The funny thing that I didn’t realize about my book is that part of it revolved around my character losing her faith then finding it with the aid of a certain God. It helped give more depth to my character, and also made her more interesting. She was able to relate to me as well as to my readers. So, focus on the needs of the character and you might be able to figure out your God or Gods.

Gods who influence characters’ lives

To go along with character needs, you have to consider if the Gods get involved with mortal life. Are they intangible, or do they actually walk among mortals? Do they treat mortals as equals or beneath them? If you’re going to have Gods walk with them, then what should they look like? Is it hard to tell them apart from mortals? Or is it very obvious that they’re big, blue, and powerful? Perhaps they have a spell on them to make them look like mortals.

You need to ask yourself these questions and see how big of a role your Gods play in the world. How little or how much they appear will determine how in depth your God system needs to be. If they’re only there for the sake of basic beliefs, then you may only need names. But if you want them present, you must think how they’re going to influence the world.

A final piece of advice, don’t make Gods for the sake of making your story complicated. Make them have a purpose so they can move the characters and the story forward. If their presence slows down your writing, then consider cutting their appearance out.

How you make your Gods can be as complicated or simple as you want it to be. Just remember to have fun!

 

World Building

One of the most exciting and most frustrating tasks of starting a book series is world building. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, this is something writers have to do when they write a book that’s set in their own world. They have to create everything about the world, from the appearance and agriculture to the politics and government. Maybe you have a race you want to create, or a brand new religion. Sounds simple, right? I’ve read on blogs before that non-fiction writers believe that fiction writers have it easier because we don’t have to look up historical facts to back up our literature or world. Quite honestly, I think fiction writers have it the hardest. At least non-fiction artists have a base point from which they can start. They have a timeline and a culture already created for them from which they can draw history. And in truth, many fiction/fantasy writers do a ton of research to create their books. Right now I’m looking at a huge shelf of books about medieval history including blacksmithing, herbal medicinal uses, the medieval city/castle/town, and even ship facts. Some of us writers do try to keep our stories somewhat historically accurate so that there is some truth in our craft.

Outside of researching, we also have both the pleasure and burden of creating our own world. When I was little, the facts that truly concerned me about world building were: what color is my sky? What color is the grass? What kind of creatures will I have? Will there be different food? And that was it. Today, I realize just how much more in depth you have to get to accurately create your own world. This will actually result in reconstructing an entire series I’ve been writing.

But I digress.

World building can be as simple and as complicated as you want to make it. For the medieval books I’m writing, I’ve tried to create a map of what my world looks like. Where are the provinces located? What kind of agriculture is in that area? What marketing can they do and what is their main import and export? What are their political standings? Do they have natural enemies and allies? What is the landscape like? What kind of powers do mages possess? Can they control water? Are there rivers, or streams, or oceans? It’s always fun when you have a character try to cross a river in one chapter, and then you have a group of characters jaunt merrily across the land without the fear of a river…because their belligerent author forgot all about it.

World building can get even more confusing and complicated when you take myths from around the world and try to bastardize them to your own liking. My friend and I have been writing a series that includes multiple mythologies included, but not limited to, Greek, Arthurian legends, and various other beliefs and cultures. Now, we could stick strictly to what we know is “historically” accurate, but we’ve twisted the tales to make them all match what we want our story to be. Of course doing this, we realize, we have to create a brand new timeline to make sure we stay somewhat true to the old myths, but so we can tie them together with our own stories. Likewise, something as simple as writing about werewolves and vampires can become even more tedious when you get into the questions of, “species vs race, what are they?” Follow this with what bites can do and how likely it is for hybrid children to be born followed by the percentage of whether a child would be more vampire or werewolf if the two were to mate, and you’ve got a headache waiting to happen.

Needless to say, I keep Tylenol, chocolate, and tissues close at hand. One of these days I think I’ll need to add a pillow to my arsenal so I stop putting dents in my wall with the Tylenol bottle.

As painful as world building can be, it’s exciting and entertaining at the same time. There’s something very special about watching this world come to life and realizing you created it, or twisted it in such a way that you can call it your own. You can add as much color and flare as you want, or make it as murky and dark as you please. It’s not as simple as saying the sky is green and the grass is yellow, it’s so much more than that. Some writers go even into the scientific possibilities of how their world could actually be possible. Honestly, some of the science fiction theories people have come up with during their world building experiences have actually lead to the possibility of “science fiction” technologies becoming real.

There are a plethora of templates out there that people follow to help themselves create their own worlds. I’ve used some myself, and I’ve gotten half-way through and realized I had no idea what in the world I was trying to write about. That’s what happened with the first series I wrote. Fortunately, I don’t seem to have the same dilemma with my current series otherwise I’d be chucking more than a Tylenol bottle at the wall.

The advice I give you is make your world your own. Make it as amazing or as simple as you want it to be and then let it grow. Sometimes if you confine the world you’re building to one set of laws, it will crash and burn and leave you with a smoldering pile of charred dreams. But if you allow yourself to question your world and let people throw more and more questions or ideas at you, you may create something beautiful and wonderful that you can be proud to call your own.

Start small and work your way up. Make sure you actually know your world to some degree before you write your book. It’ll help you to better describe what’s going on and will help make the readers feel at home in your world. Now, as you write, you’ll find parts of your world you’ll need to revise or take out. You may find halfway through that the world you’ve created has completely evolved to something new. This isn’t a bad thing; it just means that you’re becoming more familiar with your world. Some people ask, why create the world before I start writing if I’m going to change it anyway?

Well, you have to start somewhere. Walking blindly into a story is easy for some writers, but for a person like me, I need to know what to expect before I begin, otherwise I’ll get lost…and if a writer gets lost in her own universe, how can she expect her readers to keep up?

For those of you interested in some templates, here are a couple you can try out:

Template for Creating and Building a New Fantasy Race for your Fictional World or Story

5 Tips: World-Building Template

How to Create a Fictional World from Scratch

Worldbuilding

That’s all for today. If you have any questions or writing ideas you’d like me to address, let me know below.