While some genres have a tendency toward light, quick reads (ahem, romance), fantasy has always gone the opposite way. This genre tends toward dense reads … the type of book that can double as a weapon to bludgeon an assailant with.

Over at Book Riot, I'm sharing seven fantasy series that will take you all year to read. Check it out!

What are your favorite fantasy series?

Many thanks to Readers Lane and reviewer Frances Carden for an incredibly lovely, five-star review of Rain!

This short but compelling novella will capture your soul with a need equally as powerful as Nia’s consuming passion to escape depression. Luckily, an addiction to Wenstrom’s emerging voice is far less dangerous albeit eerily addicting . . . like the most elegantly woven and mysterious magic.

My heart is absolutely aflutter. I strongly encourage you to read the full review here, not that I'm biased or anything.

What did you think of Rain? Whether you agree with Readers Lane's review or not, I'd love to hear what you thought--please write a review!

P.S. If you haven't picked up your copy of Rain yet, join my email list and download it for free!

[SPOILERS AHEAD. SHAMELESS, FULL-BODIED SPOILERS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.]

You've probably heard by now, the movie Passengers held onto a secret in its promo trailers. And viewers are not responding well to it.

And this push back is for a good reason, as this plot secret makes one of the characters--Aurora, played by Jennifer Lawrence--follow a plot arc that seems designed for the convenience of the other character--Jim, played by Chris Pratt.

From a writing standpoint, this is just bad storytelling. Every character should have full agency. No character is a prop. Nothing should ever happen just because that’s how the writer wants the story to end.

But from a societal standpoint, there is an even more serious issue at hand. The issue of female characters being present for the convenience of the male characters. This is a widespread problem that fuels a mentality that women are present for the convenience of men in real life.

Ugh. It's just gross.

The truly grating part of this is that I am able to think of two very easy ways to solve this problem for the film.

I think this is worth talking about, because exploring how we create stories can help us create better stories. And science fiction and fantasy—movies in general—are in need of better stories these days.

So let’s talk solutions. And be warned--I’m not holding back at all here. If you have not seen the movie yet, severe spoilers ahead.

A Big Fat Spoiler

Before we dive into solutions, let's all start on what the big problem is.

So here is the secret in Passengers: Only one of them, Jim, wakes up by accident, as implied in the trailers. Aurora wakes up because Jim gets so desperate and lonely by himself after a year that he falls in love with her in her hibernation tube, digitally stalks her via the ship's digital records of its passengers, and then becomes so obsessed and so lonely that he finally decides to wake her up.

The loneliness in itself is understandable, in that it is so deeply human in its desperation.

The kicker is, of course, that in waking Aurora up, he dooms her to the same fate as himself--living out the rest of their life alone, with no one else, on the ship, never to see the planet they set out to reach, or reach any of the other plans they set out for themselves.

When Aurora finally finds out (due to a misunderstanding between Jim and an android ... just go with it), she is rightfully furious.

So what's the trouble? The plot bends so that she becomes okay with what has happened, and the conclusion of the film is that they have had this incredible private world all to themselves on the ship, and lived this epic love story, all by themselves.

I don't know a single love story that starts with one partner stealing the other's future. You?

Okay. So let's talk ways this plot could have been fixed.

Solution 1: Let Jim Die

There is a point in Passengers when Jim must go outside the ship and manually hold a guard door open while Aurora releases severe heat and flames into the atmosphere. You know, to keep the ship from exploding.

And for a moment, we think he really died. Because severe heat is not a thing humans do well. When he miraculously survives, this is the great turning point moment when Aurora forgives him for waking her up from hibernation and stealing her future from her.

He should have died. Scientifically, and also for the story’s best plot.

Prior to this moment, Aurora had been rightfully furious with Jim for waking her up from her hibernation, which robbed her of the life she had planned for herself.

But as Jim prepares for his heroic space walk, Aurora suddenly flips, realizing what it would mean to be left alone on this ship without him—total isolation for the rest of her life. The movie uses this moment to bring Aurora around to forgive Jim, putting her briefly in his shoes before he woke her up.

I really wish they had put her all the way in his shoes. Just kill Jim. Leave Aurora alone on the ship, angry and self-righteous, and see how long she makes it before she starts eyeing another hibernating passenger.

This is a darker ending, sure. But it says an awful lot about human nature, our need to connect, and how far we’ll go for our own survival.

Also, it’s just so Twilight Zone-y I can hardly handle it.

Solution 2: Gender Swap

Another way Passengers could have dodged the issue (at least the gender issue) is to simply switch the two characters’ genders.

First off, I’d love to see a mechanically adept, lower class woman save the ship, while a male, upper class writer does whatever she instructs him to as an assistant.

Given the gender politics in play, this turning of the tables does a number of good things for the plot all at once. It challenges gender stereotypes, empowers a female character, and turns the tables by making a male character victim of a female gaze.

Or hell, just switch one of their genders. Nothing wrong with that. Two female characters on screen in a movie with almost no other characters? Heck yes. Hollywood sorely needs to expand its definition of a romantic couple to include LGBT. Even a two-male cast would have been refreshing.

The one thing this solution does not do, is resolve the plotting issue of one character’s arc bending to serve the other’s. So this would be a less perfect solution than the first, but if you want to insist on a happy ending, it is still a hugely better way to tell the story.

Storytellers, Stop Taking the Easy Way

The solutions to these problems are often not so hard to come by. It just takes a bit of thinking.

And ya know, this thinking is really important. Movie creators need to be doing it. Authors need to be doing it. All creatives.

And all consumers of that art.

I can’t condemn Passengers the way some have. I’ll be honest, I really enjoyed the movie. I love the concept of being abandoned in space, and I love what Passengers did with it. I love that they are in an enclosed world that is supposed to offer technological solutions for essentially everything, and yet these solutions just keep failing them over and over. I even love the two characters (in part because I am a total sucker for both Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt).

But bending characters to serve a plot is like, I don't know, buying a pair of shoes, and then constructing your entire wardrobe around that pair of shoes. It’s just upside down. Create full, living characters. Then, listen to them. Let them tell you where the plot needs to go ... don't prescribe an ending and then force the pieces into the place!

A few weeks ago, I was thrilled to be a guest on Carolivia Herron's Epic City radio show on Takoma Radio, 94.3 FM in Takoma Park, MD.

We chatted it up about why Adem is so easy to root for despite his great flaws, what the heck the Orpheus myth is, and what kind of fantasy creature I would be.

Listen to the full interview here!

Just wanted to let you lovelies know that my publisher has put my award-winning novel Mud on sale for a limited time. You can now snag the ebook for just $.99, so grab it while you can!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

Readers are loving this fantasy quest for its lovable antihero, soulful storytelling and unpredictable twists.

 

Tomorrow, I am super excited to be a guest on Epic City Radio with the wonderful author Carolivia Herron. We'll be talking about Mud: Chronicles of the Third Realm War, writing process, and our love of epic fantasy from 4-5 p.m. ET on Takoma Radio, WOWD 94.3 FM.

But you don't have to be in the D.C. area to listen in! If you can't tune in to the local station, you can still stream my interview here.

Some of us are naturally cheery types for whom spreading holiday cheer is natural and easy.

Then there are the rest of us. The more cynically inclined. Because sure, the lights are pretty, but the traffic! The parties! The rampant consumerism! Ugh!

For those of you who are like me, and your Christmas comes with a grudging but well-intentioned eye-roll, let's celebrate the holiday with a very snarky ranking of insults from "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."

Check out the ranking in my Book Riot post.

P.S. -- Don't forget to enter to win this awesome collection of 12 speculative fiction books.

With each day of the 12 Days of Books Giveaway, I’m sharing a little about my writing journey so far. And, of course, new ways to enter to win!

"Where do your ideas come from?"

It's one of those questions every author (no, every creative) gets at some point. For some reason, we tend to think of ideas as these magical things that you have to have something special to acquire. Perhaps because we spend so much time focused on what is around us instead of what is inside us.

But ideas aren't some sort of alchemy performed by the chosen. Ideas are everywhere. They sit all around us, waiting to be picked up. Ideas are like coins in a special level of Mario Brothers.

The real question is, "How do you choose your ideas?"

This is much harder to do. It is much easier to catch an idea than it is to develop an idea--as I explained on Tuesday, my last idea took me five years to develop, and along the way I caught a ton more ideas, both for the rest of the Chronicles of the Third Realm War series and for complete new projects.

Even at a much faster writing pace of six months per novel, I have enough story ideas to fill my next six to ten years, easily.

So how do I pick what to chase? I try to consider factors like marketability and what readers will want, but ultimately it always comes down to what speaks to me.

I mean this quite literally. When I started writing Mud, the first few chapters came out at lightning speed, because Adem's voice nudged me right along, telling me his predicament (and then I had to figure out where that took him).

The same happened Rain. I did not initially intend to write any novellas to complement the Chronicles of the Third Realm War series, but Nia and Calipher's tempestuous, tragic romance clung to me ... and it proved itself to be the perfect way to bring you back into the origins of Terath's doomed fate.

I try to use my head in choosing my ideas, but it always ends up coming from my heart. Where my head comes in is in sticking with that idea long enough to turn it into something meaningful for readers.

Where do you find your ideas? 

12 DAYS OF BOOKS GIVEAWAY
New ways to win, every day until Christmas Eve

Today's way to enter: Leave a review for Mud on Amazon.

Get More Ways to Enter the 12 Days of Books Giveaway:

 

Over the 12 Days of Books Giveaway, I’m sharing a little about my writing journey so far. And, of course, new ways to enter to win!

It took me five long years to write Mud.

It was the first thing I ever wrote, and I had no idea how to do it. I had no idea where to start, and I had no idea how to get the work done.

Heck. I had no idea just how much work it would take.

The whole 9 to 5 thing was just fine, but there was something in me that it wasn’t fulfilling. I needed something creative to fill it … something that was totally and completely mine, and did not have to be approved by a supervisor, did not have to be presented to a client, something to just be a playground.

I was already a writer, professionally. And I’d been reading my entire life. So, I decided, I would write a book.

I had no idea where to start, so I just started at the beginning.

The story came out one tiny drip at a time, forced into the edges of my life while everything else kept going at full force. Over time I learned how to harness some momentum by getting up a little early each day, and over time I expanded that time to about an hour.

Completing the story often felt like a task that had no end. Each day I’d get maybe another 200 words on the page—some of them okay, a lot of them that would need to be reworked or even deleted later—out of the hypothetical 75,000 it would take to craft a full-length manuscript.

The way it grew often felt so slow that I had to remind myself that it was, in fact, growing. After all, even if it was just another 200 words, it was 200 more words, 200 more than I had yesterday, 200 more to the finish line. Rationally, there had to be an end out there, and I had to be getting closer to it.

And eventually, finally, I did finish. And then the process starts all over again, with a new book.

And that’s really the whole point, when it comes down to it.

Writing is not the finished product. Writing—any art, really—is the process. You have to throw yourself into the process, for the process’s sake.

And that, right there, is the real point of creative work. It fulfills something unstoppable within us.

What do you create?

12 DAYS OF BOOKS GIVEAWAY
New ways to win, every day until Christmas Eve

Today's new way to enter: Follow me on Twitter.

Get More Ways to Enter the 12 Days of Books Giveaway:

Happy holidays readers! We're officially in the season.

To celebrate, a group of 12  authors have banded together to give you a truly awesome collection of speculative fiction novels. Over the next 12 days leading up to Christmas Eve, we'll all be offering you ways to enter to win them!

An official unveiling of the complete 12-book giveaway collection will be coming soon (one of them is my own debut novel, the award-winning Mud: Chronicles of the Third Realm War).

But for now, go ahead and enter to win! You can start by joining my email list.

Then, check out the other participating authors for even more ways to enter! Here is the full list of authors:

Charles Cornell

Danielle DeVor

Louann Carroll

Connor Drexler

Jeff Elkins

M. G. Herron

Sharon Johnston

Jade Kerrion

R. Perez de Pereda

Brian Rella

Antonio Simon, Jr.

E. J. Wenstrom