Monday, June 30, 2014

Genre Mash-Ups with Lily - Guest Post

A few weeks ago I asked Lily J. from Lily's Notes in the Margins if she would want to guest post on Inklined. She's here with a lovely post on Genre Mash-Ups that I think you'll all enjoy. If you like today's post be sure to head over to Lily's blog. It's one of my favorites! Thank you so much for posting Lily!

Lily J. started writing stories to get out of writing a book report, and despite the failure of that plan, has been writing ever since. She's been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2011, reads lots of books, and spends too much time on Pinterest. She blogs at Lily's Notes in the Margins (

Thank you, Sarah, for letting me guest-post!

In the world of books, you have your mainstream genres, with whole sections of the bookstore dedicated to them, and then there are those quirky books that are a mash-up of two or more genres.
As I think about this, I realize there are two kinds of genres: Story genres and setting genres. Story genres are things like mystery or romance, where the quintessential element is something plot-related. Setting genres are things like wild west or fantasy, where it’s some element of the setting that puts the story in that genre.
Different story genres get mashed with setting genres all the time, hence you have things like paranormal romance, or a Cinderella retelling about cyborgs. In the end, stories are about people, so naturally things like romance and coming of age work for all genres everywhere. (Indeed, it seems like it’s hard to find a book that doesn’t have a romantic subplot in it these days.)

Mashing two setting genres leads to something like Steampunk or urban fantasy. Steampunk is essentially historical fiction for sci-fi writers. It’s a mash-up of hi-fi and sci-fi, and now it’s become a genre of its own.
Genre-mashed books take genres we’re all familiar with and do something new with them. Soulless by Gail Carriager put a murder mystery with vampires and werewolves in Victorian England. (As a side note, I do not recommend this book due to excessive amounts of very mature content, but it’s a great example of genre-mashing.)

Lots of fantasy stories are about epic wars. What if you scaled that down? What if, instead of being about armies, a story was about the police catching a notorious criminal? How do the police work in a world where magic is the norm? What’s the justice system like? There’s a fantasy-set thriller for you.
What about a coming of age story set in outer space, where the protagonist isn’t the same species as the rest of the planet and has to deal with alien coming of age ceremonies? 
The possibilities are endless.  (Amish Vampires in Space, anyone?)

Genre-mashing books appeal to me because right away they say “Hey, look at me! I break stereotypes!” When you think about a given genre, you think of some standard motifs, don’t you? For fantasy it’s epic battles and daring wizards, for romance it’s love triangles, for mystery it’s a gruesome murder investigated by a hard-boiled PI. But with genre-mashed books, those stereotypes may not apply, or they may combine with the stereotypes of another genre to be something new and cool. I’ll go back to Steampunk: the elegance of the Victorian era combined with steam-powered technology. Not things that immediately come together in mind, but that when put together create a fun new world to explore.

Some genre-mashed books I’ve read are Embassy by S. Alex Martin (coming of age story set in a sci-fi world), Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (a fantasy-set heist, though the events of the trilogy do culminate in an epic war), Alloy of Law also by Brandon Sanderson (takes place in the same world as Mistborn, but 300 years after that series ends. It’s sort of a fantasy-Industrial Revolution-mystery-thriller), and the Dark Mirror series by M. J. Puteny (historical fiction, fantasy, time travel.)

Anyone up for a writing challenge? Go find a list of common genres and combine two or more of them into something fun.  If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, write a short story in your new mashed-up genre. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Don't Make Yourself the Main Character

Hello! So I sat down to write this post and came up with several possible ideas. But I thought about my favorite thing to find within a novel, which as we all know is the characters. I thought about my least favorite character related thing in amateur novels and this post is the result of that.

So the problem that I have both faced in my own writing and found in other's novels is this: Amateur authors tend to cast themselves as the main character. Here's the problem with that. When was the last time you read a good book about a normal person, with a totally normal life, who did totally normal things? Hopefully you have never been forced to read such a dull book. I would imagination that would be awful, and I would hope to spare you such a novel.

Writer's don't agree on much as far as the writing process goes, but I think almost everyone will agree that a good books is when good characters meet an interesting plot. And to have those things, you have to break from ordinary. So unless you're a professional thief, Olympic candidate, or daughter of a famous rock star, a character who is the literary incarnation of you is probably not a huge break from the ordinary.

In addition to that, we all view ourselves very unobjectively. So if you base a character off yourself you will find it very hard to portray that character as making bad decisions or doing the wrong thing. None of us like to present ourselves in a bad light, and so we will have the same problem with characters based off ourselves. We want them to be amazing heroes, and hope we will rise to any occasion we face, so when our characters have every right to be breaking down and giving up, we don't even let them show fear or doubt, because we hope we wouldn't either. (On a side note, it is also very hard to torture or emotionally devastate a character based intentionally on yourself.)

Disclaimer: It is perfectly plausible to have characters that originally seem like normal people, but as their stories play out, we realize they are more than that. Take the Pevensie children from the Chronicles of Narnia. They seem like perfectly normal people, but out of that Lucy because one of the most caring literary children I can think of. While Edmund is a bully who learns the error of his ways. Now, if you were Edmund and trying to write the story of Narnia, don't you think you would have a hard time exposing the selfishness Edmund shows?

So we've labeled it as a problem, but how to we fix it?
  1. Give your characters struggles you don't struggle with. I believe it was Lily J. who shared this idea with me and I think it's great!
  2. Switch the gender. (I'll be honest, this one is probably my favorite.) It is, I find, hard to represent my personality in a boy, because I am very girl-like. Just switching my main character from a girl to a boy really deepens my character.
  3. Give the character skills you don't have/want.  I am not a fantastic chef, but neither is it something I strongly desire for myself. If a character of yours is really great at something you don't really thinks about all that much, your character's interest in that hobby will lead to a different personality from yours.
  4. Give your characters a history that leads to an interesting person. I'm the middle child of a large family in a two parent home in the country. Nothing about my history or past makes me all that special. If I was the runaway daughter of a drug cartel leader, on the other hand, I would probably be a much more interesting character.
So that's what I have to say today. What do you think?  Anything you'd never heard before? Anything you disagree with? Or something that particularly stuck out to you? I'd love to hear your opinions! Either leave your answers in the comments or feel free to write up a similar blog post with your opinions on this topic and leave me the link!

Have a great week!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Research Trip

You may have noticed it's Monday. You may have also noticed that this doesn't look like a typical blog post (if those mythical things even exist.)  I am writing the post from the lobby of a four star hotel. The view form my room looks out across the Potomac River, onto the Ronald Reagan Airstrip, and--if you look really closely--you can also make out The United States Capital Building.  (I'm also writing on a Mac, which makes up for any and all errors in this post, because guys, Macs are HARD!)

So yeah. I'm on a trip to DC.  I've never been here before, and every minute of it has been amazing, even the part where we got poured on at the Flight 92 Memorial. While here I met a fellow teen blogger and writer. If you can guess which one in comments, you will get e-hugs an e-candy. (I'll even give you a hint. Her blog title mentions a Harry Potter character(although not necessarily intentionally.)) (I think I may have just used double parenthesis correctly, and that makes me very happy.)

Guys, I could have taken the time to write a long and complicated blog post and set it ahead for today, but as I think we all know I have no where near that kind of forethought.

Enjoy you're week, I know I have been. And if you happen to be in DC right now, shoot me an e-mail and maybe we'll be able to hang out. (although that's, admittedly, highly unlikely.)

Happy writing! (And sorry for the number of parenthetical statements in this post!)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Attending a Writer's Conference as a Teen - Guest Post

Hey guys!  Today I'm really excited to introduce you to our guest poster today, Alyson Schroll.

            Alyson Schroll is a hater of poetry turned poet and impatient brainstormer turned novelist. She teaches Creative Writing to elementary school homeschoolers, and she has contributed to popular teen writing blog, Go Teen Writers. Alyson enjoys bookstore cafes, lessons from C. S. Lewis, and books with fascinating imagery. Check out her blog at

 I walked into my first writer’s conference a five-foot-one fifteen year old with braces on her teeth. This presented an interesting first impression which then led to a platform I could use to show why I deserved to be published. We cannot control how people respond to us being young, but we can control how prepared we are, how professional we look, and how we present our story.
Attending a writer’s conference can be the catalyst that turns you from an unpublished teenager into a published author. You will be noticed. This can be good or bad depending on the work you put into it beforehand.

Be prepared:
As far as the conference goes, be responsible and have all your paperwork and payments completed. You do not want to miss time in classes because you are lost or have to fix a problem with your appointments.
Do your homework and know all about the people you are meeting with. If you list ten people for possible appointments, you should be familiar with all of them, not just the ones on the top of your list. This takes time, but it is worth it.
Have what you need to be prepared:
·         A few copies of your first three chapters. Put them neatly in a folder and have your title, name, and contact information on the folder itself. I printed mine on mailing labels to make it neater.
·         More than one copy of your proposal. Put these in folders just like the chapters. If you do not know how to compile a proposal, check this link:
·         Five to ten copies of your pitch/one sheet. This article was a big help to me:
·         Plenty of business cards. These should be clean and concise, but make sure they have your name, title, pitch, e-mail and blog link if you have one. Keep these in a place where you can easily get them, like a pocket. You do not want to dig into your bag each time. Hand these to other writers and not just editors and agents. You might pick up a few new blog readers along the way.
·         Note taking materials. A laptop can be helpful, but paper and pen works well too. Handouts may or may not be there so be prepared in case there are none.

Be Professional:
As a teenager, you can do little things to put off the unprofessional stereotype. Put your phone away and wear a watch instead. Be extra polite, smile and hold the door for others. When you are eating with others, offer to take their trash. Be the first person to start up a conversation. These things go a long way toward appearing professional.
When I work in my dad’s law office, professional means skirt and nice shirt. So that is what I wore to the conference the first day. Not many people were in a skirt, however. Many were in dress pants, and some were in jeans or shorts. But I decided to maintain the bar I had set for myself and stick with the dress I had chosen. I encourage you, especially as a teenager, to dress more professionally than you think is necessary. If you wear pants, choose a nice shirt and shoes to go with it.

No matter where you are, in an appointment, in a workshop, eating a meal or just standing in the hallway, carry yourself well. Eye contact means you are comfortable talking to an adult. Sitting with your back straight means you are confident. Speaking slowly and clearly means you care about the conversation. When you listen, it means you care about the person. Being on time shows them that you value their time. Think also about the little things that could lead people to believe that you are too childish to write a book, even though this may not be true. For me, it meant changing my Captain America wallpaper on my laptop to something that was still my personality, but more mature.
Remember that agents and editors have to work with you too. If they think that you will be a challenge to work with on a professional level, why would they jump at the chance to represent your book?

Present Well:
            You know your story better than anyone else because you wrote it, but translating that into a verbal expression is a challenge. You have to be able to share your idea to people so they want to read it without sounding demanding or rude.
·         You need a focus. Don’t try to cram every great idea you had about your book into a fifteen minute appointment. Without rambling, be able tell why the story is important, where you came up with the idea and why you should be the one to write this book.
·         Answer the Question. Don’t start talking about a pet you had three years ago when you were asked about your target audience. Be direct and concise. It is okay to ask questions too. Tip: If the editor or agent starts looking away, it probably means you are talking too much.
·         Give solutions to their suggestions. If an editor has a concern about something in your story, think of ways to fix the problem right then. Tell them how you can work on your story. This shows them that you listen, are willing to learn, and are not too attached to your story. As small as it may seem, this is important.

Going to a conference can be scary and intimidating, but when you put the time into your preparation, you do become more confident. If you spent so much time on your book, why wing it at the conference? Be prepared, be professional, present your story well, and your experience will be much more enjoyable and encouraging. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Liebster Award Tag Thingy

In the past month, I've been nominated for the Liebster award four times.  I'm feeling the love here, guys, so thanks!  I received nominations from Samantha S. @ Le Chaim (on the right), Trinity Lee @ A Quill In Her Quiver, Candice @ O Ye Scribes, and Maddie Joy @ The Wonderful World of My Life. Many thanks to all these lovely ladies for think of me.  Because I don't really feel like doing this 4 times separately, I'm going to lump all these posts into 1.

Here are the rules:
Thank and link back to the person who nominated you. (See above.)
List 11 facts about yourself.
Answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated you. (I'm going to do 22, instead, because of all the nominations.)
Nominate 9 bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers.
Ask them 11 questions.
Let them know about the nomination.

Facts about me:
1. I am currently critiquing a 150,000 word manuscript, and I critiqued 5,000 words yesterday.
2. I have never written a short story, but would really like to do so sometime in 2014.
3. My favorite food to make is cookies, especially chocolate, and especially these. (They are a chocolate lover's dream.)
4. I drink hot tea in the winter and ice tea in the summer.  I just switched tea.
5. Grocery stores stopped carrying my favorite kind of tea, so I buy it online. 'cause it's AMAZING!
6. I am having an inner struggle, because I put a word in all caps, and I don't normally like to do that.
7. I've never broken a bone.
8. My favorite food that I don't know how to make is Fro-Yo.
9. If you buy me Fro-Yo we will be best buddies forever.
10. Whenever I type 'me' instead of 'my' everything I read/write develops a pirate accent in my head.
11. I'm considering integrating the use of GIFs into my blog. What do you think of that idea?

Alright onto the 22 questions: (Bonus fact, I now have Taylor Swift playing in my head. Don't know about you, but I'm feelin' . . . yeah.)

5 Qs from Samantha:
1. Pinterest or Facebook?
This is really tough, but I'm going to have to say Facebook, because I don't connect with people well on Pinterest and in the end, doesn't it all come down to connecting with people?

2. Fictional crush? 
Will Herondale from The Infernal Devices and Han Alister from The Seven Realms series.  Also Neal Caffrey from White Collar, but that's a TV show, so I don't know if it counts.

3. What is your fashion style? 
I like feeling classy--I wear a lot of skirts, scarves, and heels--but I also like being a little edgy, with hats, fingerless gloves, and the color black.

4. If you could go on any TV show, what would it be? 
Either White Collar or Psych. Can you imagination being on Psych and knowing the truth about Shawn, but playing along anyway.  That would rock!  But also, White Collar, because then Neal Caffrey could teach me how to pick locks and pockets and it would rock too!

5. Favorite Ben and Jerry’s ice cream?
I have never had Ben and Jerry's ice cream.  I feel like that's a little sad/wrong somehow.  What's your favorite flavor?

7 Qs from Trinity Lee:
6. What is your favorite thing to drink?
It's a fight to the death between Virgin Strawberry Daiquiris and Chocolate-Marshmallow Milkshakes.

7. What fandoms are you in?
Pretty much every one but Game of Thrones.  I watched the first episode, but it just had so much mature content and swear words, that I refuse to watch any more.

8. How many ongoing writing projects are you working on? (Novels, essays, short stories, etc.)
I have 3 partial novels of other people that I need to critique.  I have one novel in the first draft stage and three that need some heavy editing.  So that's 7 projects overall.

9. Of those projects, which has the highest word count and what is it?
One of the novels I'm critiquing has a word count of 156K.  That's a lot.  The longest novel I've ever writing was 98K.

10. If you could live anywhere besides where you're living now, where would you live?
London, England.

11. Who would you most like to meet in person?
It's a two way tie between Elizabeth Liberty Lewis, and Lily J.

12. Your family and pets are safe and sound and you have two minutes to grab some things out of your burning house. What do you take?
My laptop, iPod, and Kindle. Also the family photo albums.

5 Qs from Candice:
13. What is your favorite thing about blogging?
All the wonderful readers, writers, and fellow bloggers you get to connect with!

14. What do you find most challenging about it?
Keeping to a schedule and not letting myself get obsessed with the number of page views and followers I have.

15. Suppose the authors of the classics were blogging today, whose blog(s) would you follow?
Jane Austen, Harper Lee, and CS Lewis, just to name a few.

16. What is your favorite genre of book?
The kind with words and a good plot.  But seriously, probably high fantasy, especially when character driven.

17. What is one piece of advice you would give to beginning bloggers?
Find some bloggers with similar blogs to you.  Comment on their blogs, tweet about them, share them on Pinterest and Facebook.  Ask them to do guest posts on your blog.  Also, find the schedule and type of post that works for you and stick to it. (I am, admittedly, terrible  at this one.)  One last thing.  Join Twitter and follow as many wonderful bloggers as you can.

5 Qs from Maddie Jay:
18. If you could only read, or only write, which one would you choose?
This is the cruelest question I've ever encountered.  But I'm going to have to go with read, because I feel like I would never grow as a writer if I never read anything.

19. What is your favorite kind of pop?
Cherry Root Beer.  You can only get it at soda fountains, but it's so good!  But pretty much any pop with cherry in it is delicious.

20. Ever rode a horse?
I'm afraid of horses, but I can currently see four out my window.  I have ridden them, a few times, but it's not something I particularity enjoy.

21. Something crazy you would like to do someday.
One day, I'd like pack a Barnes and Nobel with people, who are all there to meet me and have me sign their books.  Ideally, all of you, my lovely writer friends, will be there with your published books too!

22. Do you like to draw?
It's not that I don't like it.  It's that I have negative talent when it comes to drawing.  I've met five year olds with more artistic talent than I have.  I do really enjoy graphic design, though.  Like, designing everything you see on this blog.  Does that count?

Now to tag some people!

Hmm . . . let's see.  Because I got tagged so many times, I can tag as many people as I want, right?  Of course right!

Jillian @ Covers and Ink
Elizabeth Liberty Lewis @ Exhortations by Elizabeth
Grace M. @ Fictionally
Julia Byers @ Julia the Writer Girl
Alyssa Faith @ Literary and Lace
Someone who hasn't done it yet @ Ravens and Writing Desks
Maria @ The Idea Catcher
Writer4Christ @ The Story in a Spider's Web
Hannah @ The Writer's Window

I know I'm supposed to ask you 11 questions, but I have so many great questions and I loved being able to pick and chose the ones I wanted to answer.  So I'll ask 15 and you get to pick 11 to answer.

1. Favorite drink? Favorite soft drink?
2. Which bloggers would you most like to meet in person?
3. What are some of your favorite YouTube Channels?
4. If you could resurrect one fictional character, (who died in the novel) who would it be?
5. Favorite ice cream flavor/ concoction? (Cone, milkshake, ice cream cake, ect.)
6. If you could instantly master one hobby besides blogging and writing, what would it be?
7. How do you like your eggs cooked?
8. In a perfect world, every library and book store would stock what work of fiction?
9. What is one crazy thing you'd one day like to do?
10. What fandoms are you a member of?
11. What social media sites are you one?
12. What writing projects are you currently working on?
13. What is your favorite thing about blogging?
14. What do you find most challenging about it?
15. What is one piece of advice you'd give to beginning bloggers?

I know that post was crazy long, so free imaginary chocolate-marshmallow milkshakes to anyone who got through it.

If you want to answer some or all of these questions in the comments or in your own blog post, consider yourself tagged.  Or tell me some random facts about yourself.  Or just link to your blog.  Pretty much, I'm giving you all a VIP pass to the comment section.

Have a great week and happy writing!