Friday, August 27, 2021

Five Favorite Fae Tales

 Hello, everyone! It's no secret that I love a good fae/fair folk story, whether it takes the form of a fairy tale retold, an urban fantasy escapade (or mystery), or a classic fantasy adventure. There's just so much to enjoy, from the intrigues of the fae courts to the eccentricities and strong personalities of the fair folk themselves to the dynamics between fae and humans. And because I've been reading quite a few of these kind of stories lately, I thought that I'd take this week to spotlight some of my favorite novels featuring the fair folk. (Also, I haven't done a "favorite ____ books" post in a long time, and I figured it was as good a time as any to remedy that.)

Favorite Fae Tales

  1. An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson. Is it weird that my favorite fair folk story is one that, in many ways, deconstructs the fae and reveals the hollowness of their courts and revelry? Maybe, but this is a delicious story anyway (which I really should reread sometime soon). I love the author's take on the fae (wild and beautiful and powerful, but crippled in their inability to create) and the seasonal courts, and I love the characters, human and fae alike.
  2. The City Between series by W.R. Gingell. I just shared all the reasons I love the City Between books a couple weeks ago, so I won't repeat myself too much . . . but this series is awesome, full of magnificently dangerous fae and other Behindkind. The interactions between the fae worlds of Behind and Between and the human world are one of the places where the series really shines, though.
  3. The Dark King's Curse by Wyn Estelle Owens. Though the fae in this book are far less other than in some stories on this list, it's still an excellent take on the fair folk and the seasonal courts. More importantly, it includes Laisren, who's probably on my top ten list (if not my top five list) for all-time favorite fae characters!
  4. The Masked City and The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman. I probably could've just included the whole Invisible Library series on this list, but I decided to limit myself to the two books that best showcase the fae of this series. The Invisible Library fae are creatures of chaos, driven by narrative; they shape themselves to an archetypal form and manipulate the world around them to suit the story they wish to tell. I would argue that they're one of the most dangerous versions of the fae on this list — true, Behindkind may be more deadly, but Invisible Library fae are harder to resist. That said, they're also one of the most fascinating fae types I've encountered . . .
  5. Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. I was going to narrow this one down to specific books as well (probably Starflower and Shadow Hand), but some of my favorite faerie-central scenes are in other books (notably Moonblood), so . . . yeah. While not always as fae/faerie-centric as some of the books on this list, Goldstone Wood (and, in particular, one faerie cat-bard) is the series that first raised my interest in fae and the fair folk. And I love the author's take on the Wood and the faerie demesnes, which are often as alive and as strong of characters as the faerie folk who dwell in them.

What are your favorite stories of fae and the fair folk? I'd love to get some new recommendations! Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 13, 2021

You NEED to Read the City Between Series If . . .

 G'day, all! So, this week, I have learned two very important things. One, it is, in fact, possible to drink too much tea. Two, W.R. Gingell's City Between series is MAGNIFICENT, and I wish I'd read it sooner. I mean, I did read the first two books a while back, but then I just . . . stalled? For some reason? (Probably because something else was higher-priority when it came to spending my book money.) But then I binge read the entire eight-novels-and-two-novellas lot over the course of the last week, and so now I'm here to ensure that you don't make my mistake — by telling you all the reasons why you might need to pick up the City Betweenbooks as soon as possible.


You NEED to Read the City Between Series If . . .

  1. You loved The Werewolf of Whitechapel, JackabyThe Invisible Library, The Dresden Files, or The Midnight Show and you're looking for your next urban fantasy mystery fix. Alternately, if you wanted to read The Dresden Files but you were scared off by the level of Questionable Content, these are an excellent, arguably more enjoyable, alternative. The City Between series follows the adventures of two fae, a vampire, and one rather unique human girl as they solve the more magical mysteries that crop up around Hobart, Australia — both on the human side and in city Behind and Between. If you remember me raving about Masque, you know that Gingell knows how to write a good mystery . . . and she proves it again and again in this series, with stories that I literally could not put down. (I had to go to bed early more than a few nights just so I could make sure I wouldn't miss out on too much sleep when I inevitably got caught up!)
  2. You can't get enough of narrative voices with character or clever, sarcastic leads with more courage than is probably good for them. The series is narrated by Pet — a function, not a name, but she adopts it as her moniker early in the first book. After all, when you're dealing with the fae, handing out real names is a dangerous thing. And while I love a lot of characters from this series, it's not a stretch to say that Pet is my favorite. She's spunky and sarcastic and clever (which makes her voice a delightful one for telling the story), quick to care for others and quick to stand up for those who she sees are lacking a voice — in this case, the humans who get caught up in the machinations and murders of the fae and other Behindkind. You can't help loving her . . . and, quite frankly, neither can a lot of the other characters (often against their better judgement).
  3. You love a colorful setting and wish reality had a lot more magic to it. I'm reasonably certain that Hobart, Australia is either the author's hometown or somewhere she lived and loved for quite some time, because the city comes alive under her pen — both the human side and the magical side. As we learn in the first book, there's the human world, and the magical world, and there's the bit where the two merge together — the bit that curls into reality in the corners of your eye. The three "worlds" are distinct, and yet they're one almost living thing, and the story slips between magical and mundane as seamlessly as the fae themselves do. 
  4. You want stories and characters that can make you laugh . . . but will also stab you in the feels. We already talked about Pet, but there's so many characters to love here, from the overly dramatic Korean vampire JinYeong to mysterious, morally grey fae like the deceptively-genteel, tea-loving Athelas (arguably my second-favorite after Pet, though it's a close race) and the stoic Zero to the in-over-his-head, why-do-I-keep-getting-dragged-into-this Detective Tuata and more (who I can't mention because spoilers). The characters all, if you'll excuse the cliche, seem to leap off the page, sharp-edged and broken in ways they're slow to admit, becoming friends and family in ways they're equally slow to admit — honestly, it's kind of funny how reluctant they are to allow any affection. Or, that is, it's funny until you discover why they're reluctant. As I said, these stories will stab you in the feels — and Gingell knows that the course of character growth never can run smooth.
  5. You want a highly bingeable series that still has a nice bit of meat to it. Like I said, I read eight novels and two novellas over the course of about seven days. All the published books in the series are available on Kindle Unlimited if you have that, and if not, they're pretty reasonably priced if you have money to spend. And let me tell you, once you start the series, you won't want to stop, especially not once you get to book three or so. (Plus, if you start now, you'll won't have long to wait for Book 9 to release — which will be lucky for you, because even the nineteen days that I'll have to wait feels like an eternity.) But despite being reasonably quick, addictive reads, there's plenty of substance here. There has to be in order to have a good mystery — but besides that, you have hurt and heartbreak and trauma to unpack and messy character relationships and revelations and just so much goodness.

Are you convinced yet? If not, let me offer one more compelling argument: these stories are probably as close as we're ever going to get to if a modern-day Diana Wynne Jones wrote a YA urban fantasy mystery series, and I don't say that about just any book. It's just that good. Alternately, if you've already read the City Between series, what do you love best about it?
Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 6, 2021

Editing Tips and Tricks

Hey'a, all! As I mentioned in my July Doings post, my big project this month is editing Gilded in Ice (again) based on feedback from my beta readers. In honor of that project, I thought I'd share some of my favorite tips and tricks for making editing as painless — or, at least, as effective — as possible. Hopefully these will also be helpful for anyone who's now facing the challenge of editing their Camp NaNoWriMo novel.

Editing Tips and Tricks

  1. The first time you edit, retype everything. Or, at least, as close to everything as you can. This is a technique I picked up by necessity — again, until 2020, I've generally written all my first drafts by hand — but I've continued to use it even for stories I draft digitally. For me, at least, retyping everything makes it easier, both practically and mentally, to change what needs to be changed and to look for those changes. After all, if you have to retype it anyway, making adjustments isn't so bad. (This also helps me make my prose more concise, since I often want to shorten the amount of time I spend editing.)
  2. Change the font from version to version. There are a few different reasons why I do this — admittedly, one of them is that I don't write my first drafts in what you'd call professional fonts. Why you should do it, though, is that changing the look of the page helps you break out of the urge to skim or to zone out because you've seen this so many times, especially in late stages of editing. Of course, there are a lot of ways to accomplish similar changes: printing your manuscript, switching from black on white to white on black, or even just adjusting the zoom level. You don't necessarily need a new font for every version, just for the first one or two major rounds of edits and any time you feel you're growing too complacent. (As a bonus, changing your font means you don't miss any mistakes in punctuation because your font hid them!)
  3. Many eyes make easy edits. Look. No matter how skilled you are at grammar, you will miss stuff because this is your story and you've seen it a hundred times and you're attached to all your little stylistic bits and bobs regardless of whether or not they make the story better. So get another person to look at it at some point in the editing process, whether that's a paid editor, beta readers, or a fellow writer who you trade manuscripts with. Just make sure they understand your style and have a good grasp of the laws of grammar.
  4. Save what you cut! The hardest part of editing is cutting lines, paragraphs, and sometimes whole scenes that you really loved . . . so make it easier on yourself both now and in the future by saving what you cut! The easy way to do this is just by creating a new version of the document for each stage of edits, but you can also copy bits you cut into a separate document and save that. Then, in the future, you can come back to those pieces to reuse them if they fit somewhere else . . . or you can realize they really aren't that great and feel good about yourself for removing them.
  5. Don't rely too much on spellcheck — of any kind. If you're a fantasy author, you're already used to ignoring spellcheck to some degree. But no matter what genre you're writing, you have to know: spellcheck will fail you. It doesn't matter if it's Microsoft Word, Grammarly, or something else entirely. It's a useful tool that will catch some mistakes, but it won't catch all of them — and sometimes it'll flag things as mistakes that are either correct or (more frequently) are deliberate stylistic choices. Or it'll get confused by too many changes and try to suggest changes that aren't correct at all, regardless of whether or not they're necessary. The point is: if you only trust spellcheck, it will fail you.

Do you enjoy editing? What are your favorite editing tricks and techniques? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!