Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Guest Post: Author Kelly A. Harmon

Kelly A. Harmon used to write truthful, honest stories about authors and thespians, senators and statesmen, movie stars and murderers. Now she writes lies, which is infinitely more satisfying, but lacks the convenience of doorstep delivery, especially on rainy days.

Bio courtesy of her website. 

The Appeal of the Fantasy Genre

I like to read fantasy for the escapism. I enjoy being transported to a different time period or a different world each time I open a book. There’s something appealing to me about the possibility of magic and the likelihood of meeting some fantastic creature, like a dragon or satyr, between the pages of a good book. Fantasy is bedtime stories for adults…

And why shouldn’t we have our bedtime stories?

We grow up believing in fairy tales. We make wishes on stars and birthday candles. We wait for the tooth fairy to show up. It’s not until we’re older that we realize the truth.

It’s for this reason I think that fantasy is on the rise, and science fiction is on the wane. Science fiction used to be fantastic fiction. In its infancy, it was about rocket ships and men from Mars, and later on became psychological. Always, it was about computers and gadgets. Except for the men from Mars, these things are common place these days. Where’s the fun in that?

I’m exaggerating, of course. But there’s a grain of truth there, I’m certain.

Mark Chadbourn writes, “The more rational the world gets, with super-science all around us, the more we demand the irrational in our fiction.”

What’s nice about fantasy is that “irrational” bit isn’t “one size fits all.”

These fantastic tales may have started with Lord Dunsany and proceeded to Tolkien and Terry Brooks, but fantasy has grown so far outside those boundaries of dwarfs and dragons and swords that even its sub-genres have sub-genres. And what this means is there is a slice of fantasy out there that appeals to just about anyone.

If dwarves don’t rock your world, maybe steam punk will, ala Alan Campbell’s Deepgate Codex where the world is built on chains suspended over a tremendous chasm, and angels fight for supremacy.

A lot of people enjoy their fantasy set in modern times and modern places, like Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series about the witch, Rachel Morgan. Her stories take place in an alternate “now” in Cincinnati where witches cast spells with visual results, vampires run casinos and pixies winter over inside rather than hibernate.

Fantasy is so appealing that even the romance are publishers jumping on the bandwagon, with great success, as readers of fantasy try new authors, and romance writers, such as Mary Jo Putney, known for her fabulous historical romances, delve into the fantastical, albeit while continuing to write romance. Paranormal romance, with were-cat, wolf, whatever and vampire heros, is a hot market.

Fantasy has even crossed over to literary (much to the horror of more than a few literary authors, I’m certain) with stories such as Susanna Clark’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norvell.

At the heart of it, fantasy is still about escaping. It’s about ignoring Facebook and email and turning off the cell phone. It’s about exploring new ideas (or old ones) and maybe discovering a little about yourself.

Young adult author T.A. Barron says, “Fantasy opens the door to experiencing the magic that is in the world around us and more importantly the magic in ourselves. As a genre, fantasy is about moving from our world into the world of experiences beyond. By tapping into those experiences we come to know more about ourselves.”


Ms. Harmon is on tour promoting her dark fantasy novella Blood Soup. Click "Read More" below for more info and excerpts from Blood Soup!

A tale of murder, betrayal and comeuppance.

King Theodicar of Borgund needed an heir. When his wife, Queen Piacenza, became pregnant, he’d hoped for a boy. His wife, along with her nurse, Salvagia, knew it wouldn’t be so: with each cast of the runes, Salvagia’s trusted divination tools yielded the same message: “A girl child must rule or the kingdom will fall to ruin.” The women were convinced that the child would be a girl.

When the queen finally gives birth, the nurse and the king are equally surprised. The king is faced with a terrible choice, and his decision will determine the fate of his kingdom. Will he choose wisely, or will he doom Borgund to ruin?

Here are THREE great EXCERPTS from Blood Soup that Ms. Harmon was kind enough to share!

Excerpt One:

Theodicar looked down at the mewling infant in his arms, and felt the anger rise up. Even in death his wife defied him, the nurse ensuring her success. Women did not rule. He would not allow it. They had created a male child, and that child would take the throne upon his death.

“You can save the boy,” he said to Salvagia.

She slitted her eyes at him, her stare mutinous. Her words were loud and hard in the wake of Pia’s death. “I have the power to save one at the expense of the other, Sire. The girl is stronger. And eldest. She was born to rule.”

Theodicar watched the girl curl up in his arms, her birth fluids staining a brown patch on the dyed-yellow wool of his tunic. She burrowed into the crook of his elbow, trying to achieve the comfort of the womb.

“I will not hear those words again,” he said. “That absurd idea died with my wife. My son will rule.” He reached for the boy, thrusting the girl child back into the nurse’s hands. “There’s no need for a daughter. And no need for anyone to know of her.”

“So be it,” Salvagia said, wrapping the weary girl in a square of wool, covering her face. She reached for her basket.

“Kill her now,” said Theodicar.

Salvagia looked stricken.

“Sire, if we kill her now, she will be of no use to her brother. Once dead, the blood won’t flow, and we need her blood to strengthen his.

“Then drain her now,” he snapped. “I will not have her crying out when we call the witnesses back to cut the boy’s cord.”

Excerpt Two:

“Do you want to learn about your sister?” King Theodicar asked.

“Go on.”

“Salvagia had a set of runes, and she cast them over and over and over as Pia’s pregnancy advanced. 
Always, the answer was the same: ‘A girl child must rule or the kingdom will fall to ruin.’”

“Do you believe that, Father?”

“Your mother did. And so did Salvagia. They came from Omero, where the eldest born ruled, not just the eldest male. They believed your sister should rule.”

“But, did you believe?”

“I think your mother wasn’t meant to bear children. She was little and frail. Her labor arrived early—almost too early for you to survive. Your sister was born first. She was tiny, and just as delicate as your mother. Pia died the moment she was born, without even seeing her. Salvagia cut the girl’s cord and handed her to me. Then your mother’s belly contracted, and we realized there was another babe: you.”

“So, you killed my sister so she wouldn’t take the throne.”

“It wasn’t like that at the time.” Anguish washed across Theodicar’s face. “The girl was
frail, but you were worse. Salvagia could only save one of you. She was certain you wouldn’t last through the night, and she tried to convince me that your weakness fulfilled the prophecy. I wouldn’t listen to her. I told her to sacrifice the girl so you could live.”

“The girl, the girl, the girl. Has my sister a name?”

“Her life was given for yours before she was named. I’d asked Salvagia to remove the body afterward, so there would be no question about who would rule after me.” He looked down at his feet. “I’m fairly certain Salvagia named her, though she never told me so.”

“How did my sister save me?”

“Her blood, Amal. You drank of her blood to strengthen your own.”

Amalric’s hand tightened on the glass in his lap. He swallowed hard, imagining he could taste the tinny flavor of blood on his tongue. It was worse than he first thought: not only was he winner by default, but he was beast—some variation of an incestuous cannibal—alive only because he drank his sister’s blood.

Excerpt Three: (A Little Longer. This is condensed from a much longer passage…)

Almaric didn’t know what he had expected to see—what he expected to feel—once he pushed aside the curtain. But it certainly wasn’t the empty void he experienced. Surely, these two women should mean something to me, he thought. He should feel sad for their passing. Or relief at his own existence. Or anger at his sister’s senseless murder.

But he’d never met them, and they meant nothing.

“Mother,” he whispered, trying to feel the relationship. He touched her loose brown hair, satiny in death, as if it had been oiled. Mummified flesh clung to her skull, her mouth hung slack with decay. But he could make out her features, even in abstract.

Piacenza’s arms crossed her chest, holding onto the baby she’d died birthing. The child lay on her stomach, her face turned out to the corridor. Smooth in death, the babe’s skin was stretched taut across her skull, her tiny mouth open as if searching for a breast. He couldn’t picture this small babe as his twin.

“Sister,” he said, failing to convince himself of an emotional connection to the babe. He smoothed a thumb across her forehead, touched a finger to her puckered lips.

A scowl wrinkled his forehead, and he felt a tightness behind his eyes.

Now that he knew about them, how long would he continue to feel the emptiness that knowing them should have filled?

Had his father confirmed his sister’s existence in order to wring sympathy from his heart? Didn’t he realize that a man who had never known the loving touch of his mother nor felt the bond of his long-deceased sister would find nothing but apathy amid these moldering bones?

Amalric gazed at the wispy hair, the withered skin, and suddenly, he made a fist and drove it into his mother’s side. He felt her ribcage shatter beneath his knuckles, and saw his sister’s small frame sink as the bones of his mother failed to support her. A puff of dust rose above his sister’s head like a small halo in the torchlight.

He laughed, finding sudden humor in the situation. He should be rejoicing, he thought. Perhaps he should feel some harmony with his sire—the man who removed all obstacles from his path to the throne.

How pathetic of him, thought Amalric, if he felt any pride at all for getting rid of these women. Women! Who should be seen and not heard, who should do the bidding of their husbands without fail, who are required to take the brunt of a man’s anger and return it threefold with a submissive demeanor. Women, he thought, who are frail beyond measure and easily subdued. How pitiable that Father should take pride in such an achievement. And worse, how contemptible that he might think my seeing the mortal remains of these women would create in me a sudden change of heart.
Wow! You really get a sense of the dark tone of the novella just from these short passages! I thought Blood Soup fit nicely with the Monsters in May theme.

Thank you so much, Ms. Harmon, for agreeing to appear on The Bookish Type during your tour, and thank you Goddess Fish Promotions for organizing this great tour for Blood Soup!

***You can buy Blood Soup on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle!


Ms. Harmon will be giving away a $25 Amazon or B&N gift card to one randomly drawn commenter and to the host with the most comments, not counting her own or duplicates! Ms. Harmon will also try to stop by and respond to comments/questions left for her! Don't forget to check out her other tour stops!


elizabeth said...

Awesome post! I agree that adults need bed time stories, too. :)

Stephanie said...

This sounds fantasic! How different was it writing fantasy compared to what you usually write? Are there other genres that you are anticipating writing?

Kelly A. Harmon said...

Thank you for hosting me here today!

I'm so happy Blood Soup fits in with the Monsters in May theme. (I've never thought of Amalric as a monster, but he certainly fits the bill!)

I'm looking forward to the conversation.

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

I have to agree with fantasy. I grew up loving all the fairy tales, and even hoped to have that one man come to my rescue. The one that was perfect for me. ;) And I don't think I could have gotten any closer. :)

Fantasy I think is needed. We all need a place to dream and escape to from the hardships of the current world.

I got my copy on my shelf here. :) I am looking forward to reading it. Thank you for pulling all the excerpts. I think I have found them through the tour here, but like them all being in one spot. :)

Best of luck to you Kelly! I am thinking about getting a copy of the Dragons Clause. As I enjoy reading of dragons. :) But, I think I have to get through a few books and that will be my treat then. Thank you!

Felicia the Geeky Blogger said...

I went and picked it up on Kindle! This is right up my alley. I love the combination of History and Fantasy. I totally agree about the why should we give up our fairy tales? We shouldn't have to :)

I wish you all the luck in the world Kelly in pursuing your writing! It sounds like you have a fantastic imagination :)

Chas @ LLL in the 808 said...

Escapism for sure!=)

A great fantasy, PNR and or UF novel acts as a time machine or a magic carpet. These books take us far beyond then just who we are. It is where the mind can fully enjoy wonder, mystics, and intrigue. These novels offer a great balance to daily reality. Not to say reality is bad, in fact, I embrace reality. However, to have a balance in life is amazing.

I am always in awe when I read a novel where the author is creative and a master of weaving a creative plot.

Best wishes to you Kelly and all your future endeavors!=)

Kelly A. Harmon said...

Hi Elizabeth

Thanks for stopping by. I think everyone should have a good bedtime story before they tuck in every night. ;)

Kelly A. Harmon said...

Hi Stephanie

Are you referring to my news writing vs. fantasy? Or my other writing in general? If you're referring to my news writing, I can state emphatically that fiction is easier: I don't have to follow up with any sources or check my facts. I get to make it all up!

On the other hand, I could tell you a dozen sordid stories which I could never have imagined writing, yet they're true. Real life people are pretty scary sometimes.

As for other genres, I've written some science fiction and horror. I love the technical aspects of SF. It very much appeals to my inner geek...but like news writing, I find that I have to "check my facts" a lot, and that gets in the way of my writing. I love a juicy horror story, but for me it makes for "tense" writing. I can't relax while I'm doing it, because I need to make sure that I'm creating that suspense for the reader as well. It's a tough balancing act.

I've got a story coming out in the Bad Ass Fairies 3 anthology at the end of the month which is an alternate history: it takes place during the Vietnam War...but the main character is a selke who is also a Navy SEAL.

Alternate history is like the best of both worlds: the framework is in place, but you can change all the facts you want!

Kelly A. Harmon said...

Hi Melissa

Nice to see you here! Thanks for picking up a copy of Blood Soup. I hope you enjoy it.

You'll have to let me know what you think of it if you pick up The Dragon's Clause.

If anyone else is interested: The Dragon's Clause is a short story about what happens when you renege on a deal with a dragon. It takes place in 1600's Italy.

Half the story is available at iFiction for free, sort of a try before you buy:

Kelly A. Harmon said...

Hi Felicia

Thanks for buying! I hope you enjoy it. Please drop me a line when you're finished and let me know what you think.

And if you like that combination of history and might like the Dragon's Clause, too. Here's a free preview of that short:

Thanks again!

Kelly A. Harmon said...

Hi Chas

Well said! Thanks for dropping by...and for the the best wishes.

Candace said...

Great interview and enjoyed the excerpts! It sounds like a very interesting read that I may have to check out one day!

Kelly A. Harmon said...

Hi Candace

Nice to see you here. Glad you enjoyed the excerpts.

If you want to read more, you could check out two chapters of Blood Soup up on scribd:

Aik said...

I'd love to read this book! It sounds so interesting!

aikychien at yahoo dot com

angie said...

I have heard great things about this book and can't wait to read it. Thanks for posting about it on here:)

The Bookish Type said...

Thanks again, Ms. Harmon, for guest posting on my blog and responding to commenters! I really enjoyed your take on the fantasy genre! Also, thanks to everyone who posted such great comments! I really appreciate your contributions!

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