Tag Archive for: fantasy

A Hobbit House!

The mountainous terrain of northern New Mexico, where my husband and I spend our summers, makes me aware of J.R.R. Tolkien’s clever way of segmenting Middle Earth into various regions. I’ve let my imagination fly thinking that he set up different regions, and their diverse inhabitants, by using mountain ranges and valleys to map out Middle Earth. With New Mexico’s diverse cultural heritage, I can imagine that Tolkien’s elves, dwarves, men, hobbits, ents, orcs, and trolls might have been created, each group with their unique characteristics, by studying various cultures and then adding a good measure of fantasy.

Of course, Tolkien was British, not New Mexican, and he was probably inspired by the various European cultures and terrain. Middle Earth, the main continent in his fictional fantasy, was set in a period more than six thousand years ago – so adding fantasy to the saga was essential.

Fascinated by Tolkien’s imagination, I let my own inspiration wander through the mountains and the cultures of New Mexico and surmised that a creative mind can entangle extraordinary stories set in the Land of Enchantment. Especially if the stories are set in the ancient past or centuries in the future!

Back to the present: This summer, a good friend invited me to see a ‘unique’ house. I never envisioned I would be dropped into Middle Earth to experience a hobbit house. Little did my friend know that I love Tolkien’s The Hobbit, the prequel to Lord of the Rings, where the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, is hired by the wizard Gandolf to reclaim the treasure from the dragon Smaug.

The house we visited is known in its neighborhood as The Hobbit House. Even more fascinating is the fact that the owners built their Middle Earth abode using materials taken from the land where they were building.

Their daughter, an architect, prepared the blueprints. She assisted in tree cutting, testing the clay content in the soil, and manufacturing the adobe bricks and puddled adobe used in the construction. As you can see from the exterior and interior photos, they constructed a wonderful home. Imagine building your own and creating such a beauty!


Credits: All photos by Kathryn Lane

About Kathryn:

Kathryn Lane writes mystery and suspense novels usually set in foreign countries. In her award-winning Nikki Garcia Mystery Series, her protagonist is a private investigator based in Miami. Her latest publication is a coming-of-age novel, Stolen Diary, about a socially awkward math genius.

For her writing, Kathryn draws inspiration from her travels in over ninety countries as well as her life in Mexico, Australia, Argentina, and the United States.

She also dabbles in poetry, an activity she pursues during snippets of creative renewal. In the summer and fall, Kathryn and her husband, Bob Hurt, escape to the mountains of northern New Mexico where she finds inspiration for her writing.

Personal website kathryn-lane.com

Latest novel: Stolen Diary – a coming-of-age mystery.

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BSHFRD11

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Stolen-Diary-Kathryn-Lane/dp/1735463833/


By Genre!

By Bethany Maines
One of the best parts of the Stiletto Gang is hearing about
the spectrum of genres that our authors work in.  I work in several and I know that can get
confusing for readers, so here’s a primer of genres and how they apply to me.
Mystery – A detective either professional or amateur
must attempt to solve a mystery, usually a murder.
  In my San Juan Island Mystery series amateur
detectives Tish (an ex-actress) and her grandfather Tobias (an ex-CIA agent)
solve murders in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. 
Crime – The main plot revolves around some form of
crime. There can be elements of deduction and mystery, but the main elements
involve some sort of criminal behavior.
In my Shark Santoyo Series, Shark is attempting to navigate his way out
of the criminal life, but faces enemies on both sides of the law. 

Thriller – While a mystery detective finds a crime and
steps in to solve things, the thriller protagonist has the crime happen to them
and must fight their way out to simply get back to his or her ordinary
In my Deveraux Legacy Series,
the Deveraux family must face a series of antagonists who seek to bring them

Romance – A book where the relationship between the
two protagonists takes center stage.
The best part about Romance is that like a good wine, it pairs well with
anything.  Most of my novels contain an
element of romance, but not all of them push the romance to the forefront.  But in the Deveraux Legacy series, each of
the cousins will find love while battling the baddies, making the series genre “Romantic
Want a free romantic thriller from me?  Get Blue Christmas today: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/to271maetc

Science-Fiction –
Sci-fi explores the future of science and
humanity as they intertwine.
participate in an anthology series called Galactic Dreams that translates fairy
tales to science-fiction.  Each author in
the anthology assists in building the shared universe of Galactic Dreams,
meaning that each of our stories share the same background, timeline and rules.

Fantasy – Fantasy stories contain elements of magic
and wonder. 
My mother read us The
Hobbit when we were quite young and so I always assumed that fantasy was
something that everyone enjoyed. Then I grew up and realized that some people
think that it’s not “real” literature (what does that even mean?!) and
sometimes hate it for appearing to have no rules if magic can simply make
things happen.  So fantasy is my little
secret.  I don’t write a lot of it, but I
periodically dabble to make myself happy. 
Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous
short stories. When she’s not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some
serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her
daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel.
You can also catch up with her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

The Good Parts

by J.M. Phillippe

I have a confession to make: when I read books, I tend to skip through large swaths of text. It started when I was a kid, reading fantasy novels. I adore fantasy novels. But without fail, every fantasy author I have ever read has spent a tremendous amount of time describing things. Now, when you are creating a world mostly from scratch, there are a lot of new things to describe. World-building takes a lot of time (as I am learning, since I am now writing a contemporary fantasy novel), and authors want to make sure that effort shows in their book.

And while I know there are readers who really appreciate those long, detailed passages that describe all the unique things of that magical new world, I am not one of them. I find myself skimming, searching out the gist of whatever is being described — the character likes fancy clothing or the home is drafty and cold — and then move on to dialogue and action. Sometimes I have to go back and actually read something I’ve skimmed through because I’ve missed something important, but mostly I can get away with skipping entire paragraphs without missing anything significant. 
This is not just a fantasy and science fiction problem either — I have ready plenty of mysteries where characters are described like the author is working with a sketch artist, and romances where the heroine’s wardrobe has gotten more page-space than the love scenes. 
I should say that I have never not enjoyed a book because I skipped over the long descriptions — in fact, some of the best lines I have ever read have been in those passages (when I have read them). They just tend to interfere with my primary driving force as a reader — to find out what happens next. 
Now that I am trying to create a new world, I find myself writing those same long passages that describe everything. And honestly, I have been wondering just how much I have to actually include — and how much I can get away with leaving out. It is an essential question for every writer — how much can you trust the reader to fill in the blanks? 
I know there is no one-size-fits-all level of description that will satisfy every reader, and certainly I may be on the far side of the spectrum in the number of scenes I gloss over. And while there probably are more writers not writing enough vivid description, I also don’t want to be one of those writers that overdoes it either. But it’s a hard balance to achieve. 
But, since I am making my confession, I should also make my apologies. To most every author I have ever read, even the ones I loved — I am sorry for not actually reading all the words you wrote. I am sure they were amazing words. Gorgeous descriptions. Pure poetry. I likely skipped your best lines. 
But I probably loved your book, anyway.
J.M. Phillippe is the author of Perfect Likeness and the short story The Sight. She has lived in the deserts of California, the suburbs of Seattle, and the mad rush of New York City. She works as a family therapist in Brooklyn, New York and spends her free-time decorating her tiny apartment to her cat Oscar Wilde’s liking, drinking cider at her favorite British-style pub, and training to be the next Karate Kid, one wax-on at a time.

Science Fiction: A Bastion of Hope

by J.M. Phillippe

Social work, I tell people, is about holding hope for others when they are unable to hold it for themselves. More often than not, I meet people when they are in the midst of some sort of crisis. That crisis has painted their world pretty dark, and optimistic isn’t very high on the list of things they are feeling. And yet, the very act of going to therapy is an act of hope — it’s taking a chance that there may be another way to feel, another way to live life. They come with a spark, and it’s my job to help them nurture and grow that spark. I help them see the strengths they already have, and learn to accept that being human means having imperfection. When all else fails, I sit with them in their darkness until they can contemplate the existence of light again.

The world feels very scary to a great deal many people in my life right now. Here in the US, the electoral college just elected a man that the majority of the nation did not vote for, and he is pushing for policy most of us oppose. I have teenage clients being told by bullying classmates that they will be deported, Jewish clients being threatened with swastikas, trans clients terrified for their safety, and countless female clients terrified for their rights (including the right to not be sexually assaulted). Facts are being re-branded as opinions, and science dismissed as an elitist and biased view. People don’t know how to tell if the stories they are reading are real or fake — and too many people don’t even care. If it sounds like the truth (or rather, like what they already believe), that’s good enough.

It’s times like this that I hold on to one of my first and greatest loves: science fiction. Science fiction and fantasy have covered all this territory before. I think I have managed to read a story or see a movie about every kind of terrible thing that humanity can do to itself, or have done to them by some greater power. I have read every kind of ending as well, from the dark and nihilistic, to the fiercely optimistic. The most recent was the latest Star Wars movie, whose tag line is this:

While I can’t assume to know the motivation of every author out there, I can’t help but think that the reason why so many writers create such dark worlds is to show people a way through that darkness. However big the odds, there are always heroes willing to take them on. However hard the path, there are feet willing to walk it, and however horrible the consequences, there are people willing to risk it all. For hope.

Hope is one of the great themes of science fiction: where it lives, how it endures, what it can accomplish, what happens when it dies. You cannot tell a story about human beings without also talking about their hopes and dreams. My particular interest in science fiction and fantasy is the way it can take the human condition to the furthest stretch of “what if” and provide a possible answer to what humans would do then. And more often than not, what humans will do, whenever given even the tiniest chance, is hope.

Like many others, I found 2016 to be a very challenging year. I don’t know if we all just collectively only focused on the bad and missed the good (though a lot good happened as well), but it seemed like the year when a lot of people realized, as the great William Goldman (of The Princess Bride) said: “Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” None of us are buying this year.

Still, it’s my job to hold hope. The only reason I have been able to is that I spent my childhood practicing this skill. I usually needed it about midway through a book when everything in the story started getting darker and darker. I definitely needed it right before the end, when it seemed like any sort of happy ending would be impossible. But I stuck with it (and didn’t skip ahead) and even if all the characters would not survive the story, one thing almost always did: hope.

So I’d pick up the next book, and the next, and the next, and get the same message again and again. However dark the world, there were good people in it. However horrible humanity could be, there were other humans willing to stand up for the weak, for the innocent, and for the best in all of us.

And that is why I can look at 2016 and understand — the story is not over yet. I don’t know if 2017 will be a dark chapter or not, but I do know that in the end, however long this series goes, the good will win. We just have to keep flipping the pages, and we’ll get there eventually.

* * *
J.M. Phillippe is the author of Perfect Likeness and the short story The Sight. She has lived in the deserts of California, the suburbs of Seattle, and the mad rush of New York City. She works as a therapist in Brooklyn, New York and spends her free-time decorating her tiny apartment to her cat Oscar Wilde’s liking, drinking cider at her favorite British-style pub, and training to be the next Karate Kid, one wax-on at a time.

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It…

by Bethany Maines

It’s a new year! And you know what that means? Time for
resolutions! Personally, I resolve to stop obsessively watching old episodes of
the West Wing. (Actually, I really don’t, but in public we’re going to pretend
that I do because it’s embarrassing to obsess over a show that’s over a decade
old.) I’m also making the usual one about going to the gym more and eating more
vegetables. Which is also my husband’s resolution.  Only he’s far more serious about it than I am.  He’s actually resolving to try eating meat
free a couple of days a week. I fully support this idea, but it has kind of put
a kink into my regular dinner making plans. I just don’t have a repertoire of
vegetarian recipes yet. He’s been contributing some fun new meals and an
oil-free hummus recipe that is highly delicious, if slightly over the top in
roasted garlic, but we’re still low in the whip-something-up-in-a-pinch
vegetarian recipe department. So that will be my 2013 challenge – learn to cook

If that weren’t enough of a challenge I’ve also decided that
2013 is the year that I will be putting out a new series of short stories. I’ll
be trying out new characters, self-publishing, and vegetarian cooking all in
one year and I don’t mind telling you that I’m a little bit worried about it
all. I’ll admit, mostly I’m worried about the cooking. I don’t like mushrooms
and every other vegetarian recipe seems to feature mushrooms, but the
self-publishing and new characters are also weighing a bit on my mind. I really
don’t want to starve while in the midst of a new creative endeavor. Not that I
will starve. I’m pretty sure I’ve got enough fat reserves that I can subsist until at least February before I actually start to starve, but if I go on steak
consuming rampage I’ll be blaming the great profession of writing. I cannot be
expected to produce sublime creative work or even moderately entertaining
creative work on a protein deficit.
And so, dear Stiletto followers, if you wish for a sneak
peek of my paranormal adventure Tacoma series you may visit
CityofDestinyStories.com. The first story, The Dragon Incident will be released
next week and I will give a free copy to the person who submits the best meat
free recipe between now and January fifteenth.  You may leave a recipe in the comments or email it to me at carriemae.agent@gmail.com! And
please remember… I hate mushrooms.