Book Editorial, Books, Editorials

Traveler Blog tour day 3: The Magical Locations in the Seeker Series!

We’re so excited and honored to be hosting one of the days of Arwen Elys Dayton’s blog tour for the newly released Traveler (out yesterday!). Traveler is the sequel to Seeker (which we LOVED!!), and we are featuring this book all month with our book club. There are giveaways, interviews, all sorts of great things. And today we have an exclusive video Arwen recorded just for us talking about how she chooses locations.

Arwen Dayton Jacket Photo_credit Michael LionstarThere are a few different locations in the series, but the two that are most vibrant are Scotland and Hong Kong in Seeker, and places like Africa and Norway in Traveler. Check out the video below for more (including gorgeous images of these places!) Also, if you aren’t in the mood to watch, we have included a transcript of the video at the bottom of this post. But the video is pretty fun; Arwen did a lot of her traipsing about with a GoPro on her head, and it’s fun to see things from her perspective.

ARWEN ELYS DAYTON is the author of SEEKER and TRAVELER. She spends moths doing research for her stories. Her explorations have taken her around the world to places like the Great Pyramid at Giza, Hong Kong and its many islands, and lots of ruined castles in Scotland.

You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @arwenelysdayton, and check out her video series about writing, 1 QUESTION, 2 MINUTES, at and on YouTube.

What’s Traveler about? Check it out!

51YGc3Kv0WL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_TRAVELER, book two of the SEEKER series

by Arwen Elys Dayton

Quin Kincaid is a Seeker. Her legacy is an honor, an ancient role passed down for generations. But what she learned on her Oath night changed her world forever.

Quin pledged her life to deception. Her legacy as a Seeker is not noble but savage. She was trained to be an assassin. And the boy she once loved is out for vengeance, with her family in his sights.

Yet Quin is not alone. Shinobu, her oldest companion, might now be the only person she can trust. The only one who wants answers as desperately as she does.

But the deeper they dig into the past, the darker things become. They are long-vanished Seeker families, shadowy alliances, and something else: a sinister plan begun generations ago with the power to end the legacy forever. And it might destroy them all.

Thanks again Arwen for the awesome video! Be sure to check out the other exciting places on her blog tour. She is off to Book Blather and Supernatural Snark tomorrow!



SEEKER is the story of three teenagers who have spent most of their lives training for what they think is a noble purpose – to be Seekers – only to discover that their families are actually turning them into assassins. In TRAVELER, as they try to break away from this fate, or maybe embrace it, they discover that the world of Seekers is larger than they’d realized, and they become entangled in a plan begun generations ago that immediately threatens their very survival.

Today I am here on one of my favorite sites,, to answer the question, “How do you choose the locations for your stories?”

I choose places that inspire me, and I am generally inspired by vast, majestic, open, lush landscapes, and the world is full of so many different versions of this. I am also weirdly inspired by the exact opposite: densely populated, intricate, dynamic cities. And I think that is why in SEEKER, you see the action takes place between the Scottish highlands and Hong Kong, which in the book is this even denser, darker, more crowded version of Hong Kong.

And then in TRAVELER there are new locations. We go to Mont Saint-Michel, which is this medieval city. It’s a small island off the coast of France that’s completely separated from the mainland when the tide comes in. There’s the Skeleton Coast in Namibia, in southwestern Africa, probably one of the most barren places on Earth, but also beautiful in its own way. There’s a frozen cave in Norway where some key chapters take place.

I think the locations really just come from my own wanderlust and inspiration.

Thank you so much for having me on

Book Editorial, Books, Editorials

Lytherus Book Club: Emmy Laybourne talks genrebusting books in YA!

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We wanted to feature Emmy this month in more than just her amazing book SWEET. She was awesome enough to write up a cool guest post, dissecting genre-bending YA books and what she loves about them. Enjoy genre mash-ups? Read on!


My favorite YA Genrebusters

I’m so honored that Lytherus is featuring my new book Sweet this month. As you may have already learned, Sweet tells the story of a luxury cruise to promote a new diet sweetener that makes you lose weight. When the sweetener turns out to be highly addictive, things go from comic, to tragic to terrifying – all on a seven day cruise! At the center of the book are two teens who, for different reasons, each decide not to take the sweetener. They also happen to fall in love and, they’re pretty funny about it, so at the center of this dark tale of rising addiction and horror is… a romantic comedy!

Why did I do this? Well, I love a good genre mash up, I really do. As soon as I hand in the first draft of my current work-in-progress to my editors at Macmillan, I’m going to work on a synopsis of Sweet to pitch to movie producers. I think I’m going to really amp up the romantic-comedy/horror paradigm – aiming for a tone in the realm of “Shaun of The Dead” (everyone’s favorite buddy comedy/horror film).

Have I whet your appetite for some mash-ups? Hope so, ‘cause here are four of my very favorite genre-bending novels:

PPZGenre: Regency/Undead  Title: Pride And Prejudice And Zombies

Seth Grahame-Smith took Jane Austen’s venerated novel and made it absolutely delicious. It’s filled with lines that match Austen’s wittiness and see her one. Here’s one of my favorites, “Upon entering Meryton… the eyes of the younger ones were immediately wandering up in the street in quest of the officers, and nothing less than a very smart bonnet indeed, or the wail of the undead, could recall them.” Ha! This book has made plenty Regency fans squirm – in delight or disgust or maybe a bit of both. I think it just gets better and better. The moment when Darcy and Elizabeth confess their love for each other is a beloved scene. But when afterwards, they join hands and dismiss a pack of the “sorry stricken” together, it really makes you appreciate the depth of their love in a new way.

cinderGenre: Fairy Tale/Cyborg  Title: Cinder

Cinder is the first book in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles. Each of the four books has a heroine based on the classic Grimm’s fairy tales – but they live in a fabulously-built future world that’s filled with androids, spaceships, people with unearthly powers and, yes, cyborgs. (Hint: it isn’t her slipper that Cinder leaves behind on the steps of the palace – it’s her whole dang foot.) With each new book in the series, I kept wondering how Meyer was going to keep it fresh and exciting – but she does it beautifully. If you like your fairy tales with a side of axle grease and nanochips, Cinder is for you.

nogginGenre: Coming Of Age/Cryogenic Sci-Fi Title: Noggin’

This is a sensitive and finely-told account of a teenage boy coming back to school after a difficult illness – with his head on a different body than he was born with. Travis Ray Coates’ body was riddled with cancer and so he allowed his head to be removed and cryogenically frozen. Five years later his head is attached to a donor’s body and he is reanimated, only to find that a lot has happened since he was put to sleep. This book is realistic and touching and, in the tradition of many of our best sci-fi novels, also brings up questions about morality and mortality.

beauty queensGenre: Satire/Survival Title: Beauty Queens

Oh, Libba Bray, you make me laugh so hard. This brilliant send up of the beauty industry features a planeful of teen pageant contestants getting stranded on an island that’s home to a secret military operation. Away from civilization the girls go from manicured and beauty-brainwashed to powered-up and fierce in record time. You. Must. Read. If only to familiarize yourself with “Lady ‘Stache Off,” my favorite fictional beauty product ever.

There you go – four genre-bending reads to get your mind spinning. Many thanks to Lytherus for having me over today. I’m so excited that Sweet is being featured here in June! You can find me on twitter and instagram @EmmyLaybourne if you want to tell me what you think about these books – or anything!


Thanks Emmy! Be sure to let us know your favorite genre-bending books in the comments below, and check out part 1 of our review of SWEET. 

Book Editorial, Books, Editorials, Movie Editorial

What are we reading? Plus, our first Spring Cleaning Giveaway!

what are we reading header

We’ve been enjoying lots of amazing books recently over here at Lytherus, and we wanted to share some of our favorites so you can have even more books on your to-read pile!

Here’s what some of us are reading this week:


sagaI’ve just finished binge-reading Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I don’t know why I hadn’t read this sooner, because it’s absolutely amazing. But when I suddenly felt like reading graphic novels, this seemed like a good choice, everyone spoke wonders about it. And yet I was still surprised, even with all the praise I had read about it.

It’s amazingly written and drawn, it’s fun and speaks about important themes at the same time, and it’s such a universal story, such an epic, well, saga! I can see why people compare it to Star Wars (one of the reasons I initially started to read it, not going to lie), but it’s its own story with its own merit and without a doubt with the potential to be a classic on its own. You care about the characters and they are all very well developed with their own stories and motivations, whether they’re villains, heroes, or just secondary characters. The way their stories interwoven, how previous plots make a comeback to surprise you, and how each chapter ends in cliffhangers just makes you keep reading and reading. I read the 4 volumes that are already out too quickly, and now I’m in withdrawal. I need more (I also need suggestions of more graphic novels, throw them at me)!! Now I’m starting to read Clementine by Chérie Priest, but I’ll tell you more about that next week!


the just city The Just City by Jo Walton. I grabbed this book based on the blurb alone which is something I usually try to avoid after being repeatedly disappointed. Not today! I think someone unfamiliar with Plato’s Republic and Greek mythology would still find this book extremely well written and intriguing. As someone who has studied both, I find it insanely intelligent and deliciously subversive. While I’ve probably read a book’s worth of Walton’s online nonfiction, this is the first novel I’ve read by her, and I now fully intended to go binge read the rest.


snow like ashes I just finished the audiobook of Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch, and it was AMAZING. There are eight kingdoms in this world, and four of them are season-based. Winter’s kingdom was overrun by Spring, and though most of the Winterians are in workers camps, twenty-five escaped when the fighting happened, and they’ve spent the years trying to get their kingdom back. To do this they need a magical locket that Spring took. The book revolves around an orphan girl who was one of the twenty-five, and her trials as she deals with love, loyalty, and loss. This book was simply fantastic, and I highly recommend it to those who enjoy YA fantasy. It’s a fresh, new idea, and yet there are lots of familiar fantasy elements that fans will love.


Also, it’s Friday, which means it’s time to kick off our April book giveaways! We’re spring cleaning our giveaway shelves, getting some older books into new hands: yours! Today’s giveaway books are by two amazing authors, Catherine Fisher and Caitlin Kittredge. We’ve featured both of them in the past, and we’re excited to be getting books from two amazing series out to you. We’re also throwing in a signed 5×7 photograph from Christopher Paolini!


_LMZ8057 copy


What are the series about? Here are the blurbs of the first books:

iron thornIn the city of Lovecraft, the Proctors rule and a great Engine turns below the streets, grinding any resistance to their order to dust. The necrovirus is blamed for Lovecraft’s epidemic of madness, for the strange and eldritch creatures that roam the streets after dark, and for everything that the city leaders deem Heretical—born of the belief in magic and witchcraft. And for Aoife Grayson, her time is growing shorter by the day.
Aoife Grayson’s family is unique, in the worst way—every one of them, including her mother and her elder brother Conrad, has gone mad on their 16th birthday. And now, a ward of the state, and one of the only female students at the School of Engines, she is trying to pretend that her fate can be different.


incarceronIncarceron is a prison so vast that it contains not only cells and corridors, but metal forests, dilapidated cities, and wilderness. It has been sealed for centuries, and only one man has ever escaped. Finn has always been a prisoner here. Although he has no memory of his childhood, he is sure he came from Outside. His link to the Outside, his chance to break free, is Claudia, the warden’s daughter, herself determined to escape an arranged marriage. They are up against impossible odds, but one thing looms above all: Incarceron itself is alive . . .


We love talking about what we’re reading and sharing good books, and we want to know what you’re enjoying too. Tell us below for your chance to be entered!

This giveaway runs until 11:59 PM on April 9th, EST. It’s open to US residents only (international people, we will have something for you in upcoming weeks!).



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Book Editorial, Books, Editorials

Lytherus Book Club: Falling Kingdoms Part 1


Book Club header

Hi everyone! Thanks for your patience on the bit of a delay on this first book club post for Morgan Rhodes’ Falling Kingdoms series. Since she’s the inaugural series for this club, we’re sort of adjusting things as we go, as we find even better ways to do this fun project.

Because Morgan’s books are not only long, but incredibly dense and packed with goodies, we’re going to break down the books into more than one post, so that the info-vomiting isn’t too overwhelming. So this is the first of four consecutive posts about the first book in the series, Falling Kingdoms. We are covering the first seven chapters today. Let’s dig in and break it down!

Before we get to the meat of the story I want to say that there’s a great name guide at the start of the book which helps keep things clear if you’re unsure (there are a LOT of names in this series!) We are introduced to a bunch of important characters really quickly, and this is a great way to help keep things straight if you start to get confused. Okay, now to the book summary!

This series takes place in three different countries that all neighbor each other: Auranos, the fertile, rich kingdom, Limeros, the religious kingdom, and Paelsia, the poorer middle kingdom. There is also a magical in-between space called The Sanctuary. These are the basics to get you started.

falling kingdoms summary 1

Prologue: Jana and Sabina, sisters, stole a baby they think is a chosen child. Sabina Kills Jana and takes the child for herself.

Ch 1- Paelsia: Sixteen years have passed. Princess Cleona of Auranos, along with friends Aron and Mira, and young handsome guard Theon, are in Paelsia to get an exceptional wine Aron’s heard of. Aron’s a bit of a jerk, very arrogant, and Cleo reflects that he has a secret about her that she wish he didn’t. Aron tries to offer Silas the wine seller significantly less than the wine is worth. His teen sons Tomas and Jonas get involved, and Aron kills Tomas before anyone can interfere. They leave without the wine.

Ch 2- Paelsia: Jonas watches Tomas die in front of their father and sister (whose wedding day it also happens to be). Jonas thinks about how he hates Auranos and its people. They’re wealthy and struck a deal with Paelsia to supply wine for a good price for fifty years, but now that time is up and they’re taking advantage, so Paelsia has fallen into poverty. As Tomas dies a golden hawk flies over, watching the whole thing.

Ch 3- Limeros: Prince Magnus of Limeros is at a dinner, making nice even though he’s hating every moment, and the topic of his younger sister Lucia coming of age is mentioned. They also discuss the murder in Paelsia and Princess Cleo’s possible involvement. While Magnus ponders this he reflects on his terrible father, King Gaius. Limeros has fallen on hard times, and Gaius is super strict on top of it, not allowing art, beauty or pleasure, since the religious country doesn’t encourage luxury. The country is also worried that the elementia, the magic of the land, is drying up. His thoughts wander back to Lucia and he ends up breaking a glass, he’s struggling internally so much. He’s in love with his sister, and knows it’s wrong, but can’t help how he feels, even though he’s repulsed with himself. After Lucia fixes up his hand (as he mentally torments himself), he runs into a maid he often uses as a distraction and a spy, Amia. She says she’s heard his father and his mistress, Sabina, chatting on the balcony. Magnus eavesdrops and hears them discussing a prophecy and Lucia’s “awakening”, which worries him even if he’s confused. After the conversation finishes Sabina walks out and senses Magnus watching her.

Ch 4- The Sanctuary: Alexius has re-entered his body from traveling as a hawk. He and the others like him are looking for the Kindred, but he says to an elder that he thinks he may have found a girl who is the one prophesized about. They tell him to give up his Kindred search and focus on watching her, but check that he’s not following the path of his sister, one like him who gave up her immortal life to be with a human. He assures them he’d never do that.

Ch 5- Auranos: Cleo’s older sister Emelia, the heir to the Auranos throne, isn’t well, having fainting spells and dizziness and Cleo is worried. She finds out that her dad is talking about her in a meeting, and when she goes to confront him she discovers he’s been talking about the murder as well. It becomes clear that she has a great relationship with her father through their banter. He drops a bomb on Cleo: he wants her to marry Aron, and that because of what happened in Paelsia she isn’t to leave the area, and must have Theon as a permanent guard at home. She flees and runs into her best friend and Mia’s older brother Nicolo, who is the king’s squire and leans on him for comfort. It’s pretty clear he might love her, but that gets ignored when Theon comes to start his duty. He is not happy, as he wanted to father in his recently deceased father’s footsteps and guard the king. And yet, there’s this spark that captivates Cleo.

Ch 6- Paelsia: Jonas is reflecting on his life with is brother Tomas. They used to poach meat from nearby Auranos, since they are so destitute in their country, even though it’s illegal. The people of this country believe that their leader, Chief Basilius, will summon magic to save them, but Jonas thinks this is stupid. He’s also obsessed with the desire to kill Aron and Cleo for revenge of Tomas’s death. As he’s getting ready to cross into Auranos his best friend Brion appears to stop him. Brion reminds Jonas of Tomas’s intent to talk to Chief Basilius. He wanted to find out what the Kindred really are; all anyone knows is that they’re four legendary objects containing endless magic that have been lost for a thousand years. Thanks to Brion’s meddling Jonas shifts his goal and decides to follow Tomas’s quest to talk to the chief and hopefully chart a new, better course for his people.

 Ch 7- Auranos: Cleo’s dreaming of Tomas getting killed and Jonas coming to seek revenge. She wakes and reflects that she’s had this same dream every night for the month since the murder happened. She decides she wants to talk to Aron about it, hoping he feels remorse like she, and that they can at least have that in common if they are to be married. She approaches her sister Emelia for help evading her guard Theon, and tells her she wants to go see Aron. Emelia comments about secret trysts, and Cleo brings up Darius, Emelia’s intended that she ended up not marrying. Cleo thinks Emelia may love someone else and that’s why, even though her sister had never showed any sign of this. Cleo sneaks out through Emelia’s balcony, and is frustrated when she gets to Aron, as she can already smell the alcohol on his breath, even though it’s not even noon. They talk, and he reveals that he’s not sorry. When she questions the engagement he reminds her of their secret, their night together, and threatens to tell people if they don’t end up together. At this point Theon finds her and takes her away. Theon’s annoyed, though he does seem to care about Cleo’s feelings, and there is some definite energy passed through a gaze.

Thoughts on the book so far:

Lots and lots of names, which can be confusing, but once I figured out who everyone was it made it extremely interesting to follow their complicated lives – because they are ALL complicated.

So, speculation time! What’s going to happen with Cleo and Theon? Will Cleo have to marry Aron the jerk? Who are the hawk guys and why are they so important? Will Jonas eventually seek revenge and avenge his brother’s murder? And poor Magnus, will he ever be able to get over loving his sister? Also, what was up with all that talk about Lucia being the chosen one? What does that mean?

What questions do you have at this point? We want to hear what you think! Please continue joining us as we read the next hundred or so pages and post about them. Stay tuned!

Book Editorial, Book Events, Book Interviews, Books, Editorials, Events, Interviews

Lytherus book club kicks off with the FALLING KINGDOMS series!

Book Club header

Happy new year, Lytherus! We’re excited to kick off 2015 with a new addition to the site: a monthly interactive book club. Each month we will be selecting a book or series recently released to read together throughout the month, and at the end of the month we will be doing a one-on-one interview with the author! During the month you can submit questions on the book club posts, and we’ll take the best ones to the interview. We love hearing your thoughts, and this is a new, fun way to interact with everyone. So here’s your chance to ask your favorite authors all the burning questions.

To kick off our inaugural month is Morgan Rhodes’s FALLING KINGDOMS series. Here’s how it breaks down:

January 1- January 9th: Falling Kingdoms

January 10- January 17: Rebel Spring

January 18- 26: Gathering Darkness

We will be reading along with you, and at the end of each week we will post a summary of what’s been read, theories, ideas, and general things we enjoyed. This is your chance to share those thoughts also: we want to hear what you have to say. Remember, the best questions will be presented to the author in our exclusive one-on-one interview at the end of the month! There also may be some goodies to give away, so don’t forget to stay tuned!

The dates are a bit weird this first month, but we will be on a regular weekly reading schedule by February, so hang tight. But until then, enjoy the amazing YA series that’s being hailed as Game of Thrones for teens. Trust us, you won’t be disappointed!


Book Editorial, Book Events, Books, Editorials, Events

SDCC14: What’s Hot in YA? The best of the best YA authors tell us in this amazing book panel

Part of the YA panel L to R: Mafi, Parker, Redwine, Reichs, Stohl, and Westerfeld
Part of the YA panel L to R: Mafi, Parker, Redwine, Reichs, Stohl, and Westerfeld

The final book panel of San Diego Comic Con was What’s Hot in YA. Here at Lytherus we love all sorts of fantasy and scifi, but we do often feature YA, so this was a panel we didn’t want to miss. Rightly so, too, as the lineup of authors was absolutely insane: Kresley Cole (The Arcana Chronicles), Kami Garcia (The Legion Series), Tessa Gratton (United States of Asgard series), Tahereh Mafi (the Shatter Me series), Natalie Parker (Beware the Wild), C. J. Redwine (The Defiance series), Brendan Reichs (the Virals series), Margaret Stohl (the Icons series), and Scott Westerfeld (Afterworlds). Chew on those names for a minute. These are some of the biggest and best names in YA, and all on one panel.  Moderated by Nathan Bransford (the Jacob Wonderbar series), this panel proved to be one of the best that SDCC had to offer.

First off, let me say that the banter between Kami Garcia and Margie Stohl was hilarious. They kept cracking the audience up, and it set an atmosphere of fun and revelry for the whole panel. Also, Margie started out the panel by announcing some big news. All she could say was Marvel YA, which sounds amazing. We can’t wait to see what’s up next with this.

Nathan kicked off the questions by asking the simple one of how did they start? Were they thinking of what’s hot in YA? Brendan, who is also hilarious, writes with his mom Kathy Reichs (of Bones fame), and started off the replies with that simple statement and a shrug, much to the amusement of everyone. Scott regaled everyone with the story that gave him the idea for his series Uglies, saying he was in LA and at the dentist, who took him to the back and wanted to talk about his five-year plan for his teeth (huh?!). He wondered what the world would be like if everything was like this, and the idea was born.

Part of the YA panel L to R: Cole, Bransford, Garcia, and Gratton
Part of the YA panel L to R: Cole, Bransford, Garcia, and Gratton

Nathan led right into the next question, asking how they decide on something, even if it seems not marketable? Tessa replied first, talking about how in her first drafts she puts in everything, all the detail, talks about politics and religion, everything she loves, and then she shapes after. Kresley has been writing adult paranormal for years, and when a YA book came to mind she tried not to write it skewed young, but that was the story so eventually she stopped fighting it and wrote it as YA. Tahereh tried writing for the market, but eventually said f-it and wrote how she wanted. She didn’t think people would get what she was doing, and publishing was a dream, but it did happen. Kami added to this, saying that Beautiful Creatures was published by accident, and then after she had this intense pressure when alone re: the market. Market really messes with the head. Margie made her talk about her passions, pushing past that. Brendan said that writing for the market doesn’t work. You’re chasing something that may not even be there. Your writing should be passionate. C.J. said you spend a lot of time with an idea and world, so you should love it. The market is hard to predict.

This led right into the next question. Authors never want to write to the market, but how do you fight the pressure? Margie said the market never feels good, it’s always crazy. Writing a book feels great. Thinking about the market is crazy and stressful. Scott added that it’s always changing. Right now contemporary is “in” thanks in part to John Green. Kami added that John wasn’t trying to be a “thing”, he’s just writing. Tahereh paraphrased E. Lockhart at this point, saying that most authors re: John’s success are like, that’s great, but I wanna stay in my pajamas. Kami added that the idea of a phenomenon is strange too. People like John Green and Scott have written a while before getting huge, and people forget the years of self-doubt. Natalie said what’s cool about the YA market is it’s a cool canvas, and allows you to play. Scott added to this, saying he gets lots of great feedback from fans, has fan art Friday, and it’s great to see people play in those worlds. It’s fun to see what fans generate, and it’s all about inspiring each other. Margie said that some books are small stories, and some are big, and that’s okay. Not everything is about commercialism; sometimes it’s about the fandom tribe.

Up next Nathan wanted to know if there’s less pressure because of social media. Kami said that twitter is for hanging out. Tahereh observed that confessional blogs don’t seem as common and that micro-blogging is more popular, which makes it easer to stay on top of. Scott also prefers twitter because of the ease. You can just send out an idea. Less pressure, less questions.

The next question was about traditional vs e-books: is there a polarization? Kami said there’s lots of hybrid authors, and that it doesn’t matter. There are self-published authors who kick ass, etc. If you’re out there, you’re an author. Scott added that it’s fun to write in other ways. He loves NaNoWriMo, so fans can appreciate how hard writing is.

For the last question Nathan wanted to know what is voice, and how the authors make it their own. C.J. said it’s okay to copy, that’s how you learn. Voice is what fans can expect, even if the world changes. For her it was deciding to stop being afraid and start writing what she loves to read that helped her. Kresley said it’s her voice when she’s writing and starts giggling at herself. Margie has an exercise she tells teens: look down and write about your shoes, and that’s your voice. Shoes are often the way teens are communicating with the world. Brendan got a laugh, saying he finds this question hard, as he’s writing a fourteen year old girl and he’s a thirty-seven year old man. Natalie said she gave her manuscript to Tessa, and to have her laugh was good feedback.

The mic was opened up for fans, and some book-specific questions were asked. Overall though it was a busy, fun, interesting and entertaining panel filled to the brim with fantastic YA authors and their insights. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!

Book Editorial, Book Events, Books, Editorials, Events

SDCC14: Rulers of the Realm win at a most epic fantasy book panel

L to R: Abercrombie, Grossman, Gabaldon, Martin, Rothfuss
L to R: Abercrombie, Grossman, Gabaldon, Martin, Rothfuss

The second epic fantasy book panel Lytherus attended at San Diego Comic Con this year was titled Rulers of the Realm. This was the panel for fantasy book fandoms, to be sure!  The all-star lineup consisted of Joe Abercrombie (Half a King), Lev Grossman (Magicians Trilogy), Diana Gabaldon (Outlander), George R. R. Martin (Game of Thrones), and Patrick Rothfuss (The Kingkiller Chronicle). The MC was Ali T. Kokman of Barnes & Noble, and he was a lively host to this lively panel.

Ali started out talking about how every story needs characters and setting. However, these panelists up the ante with theirs. He wanted to know: what’s their approach to world-building? Joe kicked it off, saying his approach is similar to others: he makes stuff up. He suggested you do a lot of “research”, as in read stuff. He likes a lot of historical non-fiction to provide authenticity. Diana decided to write historical fiction because she’s a historical researcher. There’s lots more to steal with real history (this got a good laugh). George said he does the same, and just throws out what he doesn’t want. Lev starts with normal and then defiles and degrades every part (ha!).  Pat added to these ideas, saying that he’s written things he thought he made up and then fans send links asking if those comparisons were deliberate. “I’m clever, I take credit for accidents” (lots of laughing with this one!). He also is a huge advocate for writing what you know, and that half of deciding what to do is deciding what not to do; basically his reaction to what pisses him off is his book.

For the second question Ali wanted to know what, aside from movies, assists with writing. Joe said maps are good. George added that writers need to be careful however, because then you need to fill them in. And don’t even get him started on the world map. Lots of chuckles were had as he regaled the audience with his personal story regarding this, and how he had the hardest time naming mountains. Pat likes special paper and colored pencils. He also asks lots of questions. Lev got a lot of laughs when he said has a passive-aggressive relationship with maps, as his wife’s ex-boyfriend creates them. Diana took a different approach, saying that she needs a kernel: an idea, a sentence, and her process is to develop off of that. She then describes how she got a scene in one of her books and describes the thistle goblet and cold winter afternoon (it was amazing to see her train of thought and how one led right to the next). George brought it back to maps, talking about Tolkien’s maps, how we get this detailed map of the Shire, and then once they leave you realize just how small it really is. Tolkien pulled the rug out, in a sense.

epic2At this point Pat brought up an interesting thought. He said the main question you should be asking yourself is why am I doing a map? You should think about what purpose it serves. Tolkien did languages, for example, because he was a huge language guy.Everyone is a geek for something, you should revel in your geekery because that’s what will be the most interesting. Pat then provided his personal example of geekery: currency. It’s really prevalent in his books, because he’s really interested in it.

The next question was about writing. Ali wanted to know who is their first reader? Diana said she writes for herself, so technically she’s her first reader, but her husband of 42 years will read, as she trusts him. She said it’s good to have a first reader you trust, but make sure you know what you trust them for. Joe echoed this, also saying he writes for himself, and if the people like it, awesome. He said you should cover your own interests; as soon as you write “out”, you’re doomed. Lev said his wife reads for him, she’s way smarter than he is. But he said also he writes for himself, he’s an asshole and will be tough on himself. He’s a grumpy reader, so he’s tough. George added to the general idea, saying he’s known writers writing the trends vs. the stories they lose themselves in, and it doesn’t work. And Pat’s right, you need to write your obsessions. George loves heraldry and food. Pat added that you hope your interests will catch on. He then said his first reader situation is really different than most. He had 2-300 beta readers for his first book. It’s good to have smart people read your book over writers, but he wants general people. Other people know lots of things about everything else beyond writing. It’s part of his therapy (ha!), he’s obsessive about getting feedback. Joe said he couldn’t do more than two readers at a time. The current book had four editors and that was a lot for him. But Lev said that he has around twenty-five beta readers because of reading about Pat’s way of doing things on his blog. Diana said you should always ask the experts. For example, if you cut a leg off, find out how to amputate a leg, etc.

For the last question Ali asked them what’s the toughest thing with writing? Diana said inertia. The longer you wait, the harder to get back into it. When stuck, write anyway. Joe said with a laugh that with the first and last sentence he’s awesome. Otherwise he thinks he sucks. But he said don’t get down on yourself.

There were some great audience questions, but one of them referenced Jane Austin and wanted to know their understanding of love and how they explore healthy and unhealthy relationships. Pat got a lot of laughs when he said that he’s explored a lot of unhealthy relationships. He said to make a lot of mistakes early on, as we learn through failure. Without mistakes we don’t have motivation to evolve, so get out there and do crazy stuff. Lev said you can’t hold back, that fantasy is raw. Be very honest, which can be painful. Diana said Lev’s dead right, honesty is important. So is picking the right person (ha!).

One of the best things about this panel was the authors all listed books they’ve really enjoyed recently. Here’s the list:

Joe:  Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer.

Lev: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer

Diana: Phil Rickman’s crime novels, Pandaemonium by Chris Brookmyre

George: Classic fantasy like Jack Vance, Tolkien, and straight historical fiction like George MacDonald Fraser

Pat: Declare by Tim Powers

Lots of great info to chew on from this panel, especially if you’re a writer. These are some of the best, and it was great to hear what they had to say about their craft and the worlds they create. And be sure to check out some of their book recommendations!

Book Editorial, Book Events, Books, Editorials, Events

SDCC14: Fantastic women write about Fantastic Females in this excellent book panel


L to R: Harkness, Sommersby, Stein, Billings, Hobbs and Hurley
L to R: Harkness, Sommersby, Stein, Billings, Hobbs and Hurley

When a panel has Fantastic Females in the title it’s expected it will be good. Really good. And it did not disappoint. MC’ed by Chris Marie Green (Only the Good Die Young) the stellar panel consisted of Deborah Harkness (The All Souls Trilogy), Marjorie Liu (Labyrinth of Stars), CJ Harper, who is made up of Samantha Sommersby and Jeanne C. Stein (Reckoning), Christina Lauren, who is made up of Lauren Billings and Christina Hobbs (Sublime), and Tonya Hurley (Blessed series).

The first question kicking off the panel asked what makes their female characters strong. Deb started everyone off with a chuckle when she said that hers is tenured. Marjorie said that she has tattoos peeling off to form an army, but the stories really are about moms and daughters, about strength inside and out, and about building complex relationships. Sam said that their main is one of three sirens kicked out of Mt. Olympus, and she works in the modern day to find missing women (and of course there’s a hunky werewolf). Jeanne added that there’s a big curse and lots of bad that happens to the guy. Lauren said that they switched it up from typical YA books with romance, and have the boy doing all he can to be with the girl, and she lets him. Christina got a laugh when she answered with a simple “Ditto!” Finally Tonya explained that her newer series is about ancient martyr tales, and that it’s lots of fun writing them.

The second question asked about tropes, and if there are any they like to avoid or use. Lauren jumped in, explaining that they found a lot of stories where the girl does anything to be noticed and she has the growth. But in this case she’s locked as a character and the boy is trying to figure it out. Marjorie said she’s so done with the love triangle. In the beginning it was fun and often done well, but she started to feel it was a distraction to the female’s journey. In the start of her series the character is in a relationship, and it was interesting writing. Deb said she’s totally over the “will or won’t they get together?” story plot. You know they will, why waste time, she reflected. But to make them stay together, that’s a different story. How as a writer do you make it last? That’s the challenge. Sam observed that there’s an expectation to use sexuality to get things with a siren as a main character. They turned that upside down: their main character has a glamor to hide that, and she can’t be discovered, so she can’t use sex. Jeanne added to this, saying that she’s also an old-fashioned heroin with old values. Tonya closed out the question talking about her main character, and how she handles love totally differently than what’s expected. It’s not about getting a guy to save you; you’ve got to save yourself.

FFThe next question reflected on sexism: are there places you can’t go with a woman that heroes can go? Sam said it depends on the audience and the motivation of the writer/story. Chris added to this, saying that writers need to think about how comfy the reader is going to feel. Deb countered, saying that writers need to push that. Be consistent with character, but don’t think of the reader, it can get in the way. Sam added that you almost have to break the rules. Lauren also added the thought that you don’t have to completely relate to the character to do this. Tonya provided an example of this: Hannibal. “He’s charming, even though he eats brains. That’s writing!” Jeanne added Dexter as another anti-hero we root for.

The last question from Chris was about themes the authors spotlight. Christina said that most girls don’t know they’re strong, and that her character reminds her of her students in that sense. Tonya deals with belief in this new series. The idea came from a guy on the subway saying he’s Jesus. And she thought, “What if he is?” This led her to one of the questions of her series: would you believe you were an ancient martyr? Lauren actually had a conversation with a neuroscientist regarding nerve protection, which ties into a frozen lake in Sublime. They fictionalize the science in a way. Where does science and paranormal intersect? Sam said their series is similar, referencing things from the real world, things like addiction. Marjorie is drawn to stories of the outsider, internally and physically, and what the idea of home means. Do you have a home? How do you have friends when you feel alone? How do you break that cycle? These are all ideas she’s explored, and they deeply move her. Deb closes it out, saying for her it is power and the price of power. It always exacts a price: loneliness, isolation, etc. She likes to think this through.

There were some great audience questions at this point, including how not to repress dominant females (do a give and take, and follow the “don’t be a dick” rule), dealing with LGBT issues (the sex can’t define them), and sex in YA books (is it relevant to character growth? Conflict?)

This panel had a really cool mix of authors. There were a few I hadn’t heard before combined with some I had, and it was interesting to hear how all of these women represented women in their stories. I also have added a few series to the reading list, thanks to this panel. All in all this one was excellent, and I’m really glad I went.

Book Editorial, Book Events, Books, Editorials, Events

SDCC14: Some of the world’s biggest fantasy writers talk about putting the Epic in Epic Fantasy

LMZ_8691w header
L to R: Weeks, Wexler, Sykes, Abercrombie, Hobb, Rhodes, Feist, and Rothfuss

Lytherus had the good fortune of attending not one, but two epic fantasy panels at San Diego Comic Con this year. The first (aptly named “Putting the Epic in Epic Fantasy”) had an amazing lineup of authors: Django Wexler (The Shadow Throne), Sam Sykes (The City Stained Red),  Joe Abercrombie (Half a King), Robin Hobb (Fool’s Assassin), Morgan Rhodes (The Fallen Kingdom Series), Rayond E. Feist (Magician’s End), and Patrick Rothfuss (The Slow Regard of Silent Things), with Brent Weeks (The Way of Shadows) as the MC.

Brent kicked it off with a hilarious intro to all of the authors, complete with photo slideshow, which had everyone in stitches in the first few minutes. Once he got into the meat of the panel though, some great questions were asked. First up: Does it make sense to have traditions in fantasy? Pat started everyone off, saying that he doesn’t really know where his position is with this, using Christianity going from one to many types as a parallel example, and saying that we can follow the trends, like from Harry Potter now over to George R.R. Martin. He also said that he’s inspired from stuff he doesn’t like as much as stuff he does. Sam added to this, saying how things we liked as kids we may be ashamed of as adults (he likened Dragon Lance to porn as an example and got a great laugh)

Next Brent moved on to individual questions, starting with asking Django to talk about military fantasy. He said GRRM was a direct inspiration, and liked how he took things back to their roots, referencing the Napoleonic wars, etc. Also, some things were a result of HP, the idea of wondering what it would be like if the mentor was untrustworthy (i.e. a sketchy Dumbledore, which also got some laughs).

LMZ_8692wBrent used this to transition to Robin, asking her how she’d describe her writing and how she thinks she fits into the GRRM era. She said simply that she’s trying to tell a story. She’s not trying to change your mind or inspire you, and there are really no boundaries. No one can tell the same story the same way, and on top of that, all artists are thieves. Ray added to this, saying that you can’t predict success with this. GRRM cheats. He cheats. All writers cheat (the example he uses is a scene in one of George’s books with soldiers that isn’t historically accurate, but works to drive the story forward). Writers cheat so they can focus on what’s most interesting, Ray continued. They hope what they write is interesting to others too.

Morgan was up next, and Brent wanted to know what made her want to write her YA fantasy book, as she’s sometimes seen as the YA GRRM. She’s new to fantasy, having written in the paranormal genre for a while, so she wanted to pull from fantasy she loved, like the movies Willow and Legend, and even Disney princesses. And then she started watching Game of Thrones and was like WTF?! It all went into her melting pot. She’s not trying to write for anyone specific, it’s just the story.

At this point Joe interjected that it’s amazing to him that no one has mentioned Tolkien yet. A few years ago it was Tolkien and only Tolkien. Pat added to this, talking about how things seem to swing in four-year intervals. It was Harry Potter for a while, and then it was the LOTR movies, and now Game of Thrones. He said it’s hard in the moment to say if it’s an overall shifting of genre, or if it’s just this moment in time. Django added that Harry Potter made people see YA and MG in a new way, and the post-HP world is very different.

Sam then wondered why GoT is different, the appeal is different. Usually the good guys win. GoT changed the rules. Everyone was like “You can’t DO that!”, and maybe that’s what makes it appealing. Robin added that it’s great because GoT brings in a new readership who haven’t read anything like it, or their work, before. Pat got a laugh with the reference that people still refer to fantasy as ghetto. First LOTR, then HP, now GoT. At some point you have to stop saying it’s ghetto.

At this point there were some audience questions, most of them directed towards one author or another vs. the whole group. But the energy was jovial and the audience seemed to really enjoy the panel. I also had a great time, and really loved the insight of how the genre is evolving. This panel had some of the great fantasy writers of our time, and it was wonderful to get a peek into their minds and their worlds. I’ll definitely be curious to see what big thing of the genre will be latched onto next, but for now we will have to wait and see!

Book Editorial, Book Events, Books, Editorials, Events

SDCC14: Best-selling fantasy authors talk “End of a series … or not?”

L to R: Hart, Flewelling, Grossman, Taylor, Mayberry, Winters, Cole, and Bardugo
L to R: Hart, Flewelling, Grossman, Taylor, Mayberry, Winters, Cole, and Bardugo

One of the panels I was most looking forward to at San Diego Comic Con this year was the one titled “End of a Series … or not?” Moderated by Maryelizabeth Hart from Mysterious Galaxy book store the panel consisted of Lynn Flewelling (Nightrunner series), Lev Grossman (The Magicians series), Laini Taylor (The Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy), Jon Maberry (the Rot and Ruinseries), Ben Winters (The Last Policeman Trilogy), Kresley Cole (Immortals After Dark Series), and Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha Trilogy).

The first question up: what decides if a series is finite or not- is that pre-planned? Do you destroy the world or leave the story open-ended? Lynn started us off, saying she has a seven book series and one that’s three. She said it’s painful to end a series. Her big series books are more episody vs main overall arcs. But her gut told her it was time. Lev said that stories have structures. He wanted to write about magicians after their education, the unknown parts. For example, what is magic for if no one is threatening the world? Once his characters figured that out, he stopped.

Laini spent five years planning, out of fear, vs. spontaneous writing. But even half way through book two she had no idea about the end. Some things are still open, she said, but she wanted to finish the main story arc. For Jon the ending point was about character growth. He wanted to tell the story until he liked the main character (who started out the opposite). It took him four books for that to happen. Ben got a laugh, because part of his series is about an asteroid colliding with the earth, so he knew it was a trilogy and where it ended—anything past that would have been BS, so he had to stop. Still, he needed to keep the character doing work.

LMZ_8687wKresley has a fifteen book series that isn’t done yet, which has had a continuously pending apocalypse (Leigh’s disgruntlement over this got a lot of laughs). She had the beginning and the end plotted out, but the stuff in the middle she said she’ll keep going with until people don’t want to keep reading. Leigh likes shorter series; she could have gone longer, but decided three was enough. Sometimes limits make things hard, however, because you have to work within those parameters (she wants a sky fortress and a secret island).

The next question was about sustainability. What keeps readers engaged? Leigh said that authors have two choices for character: a character that has everything and you take from them, or they have nothing and you take more. Also, story is always king over world building. Kresley likes to introduce secondary characters like a villain or godmother and switch up expectations. In Ben’s first book in the series the character was young in a lot of ways and had to grow up. What makes people stick is that the characters are still growing. Jon mentioned how we always enter a story with a limited world view. For example, his main character in the Rot and Ruin books is angry all the time, and why he’s mad is part of his limited world view. But once exposed to a larger world view it changed his life. World view isn’t entirely the character’s fault, but as there’s more exposure the view adjusts. Laini said she likes a tight narrative where certain questions are answered. Also, if the writing is beautiful, the reader wants to sink into it.

Lev wrote The Magicians as a stand-alone, because he wasn’t convinced it would be published. But he had to send his characters back into that world. He wanted to know what happened next. Lynn said she also wrote a stand-alone that became two books, and then her editor asked her if she wanted it to be more. She invested so much, and there was more to tell. She writes for herself, as writing is hard, so she needs to love it.

The floor was opened up after this, and some of the questions were about legit cliffhangers (needs not to be done like a cheap-shot, but can be done) and prequels (hard sometimes if the ending is already known). The panel was funny and engaged, and the audience asked great thought-provoking questions that spurred interesting discussion.

I’m so glad I made it to this panel. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the different angles the authors came from regarding series, and though there is no one right way it was wonderful to get some insight into what helps make a series successful.