Belfast, Northern Ireland – Leaving a Lasting Impression

Belfast is so multifaceted with its history, thriving modern culture and many tourist attractions, it left a lasting impression on me. The city has multiple pubs that have live music in the evenings and The Crown pub, which still has its original décor from the 19th century. I also enjoyed the music and atmosphere in Robinson’s pub. Belfast also has what is known as Europe’s most bombed hotel and you can find the Big Fish, built in 1999, in Donegal Quay. It is covered in ceramic tile, which showcase Belfast’s history through texts and images and the fish also servers as a time capsule.

Europa Hotel

One of my favorite stories I heard while in Belfast was from a tour guide who told us about Queen’s University. And so the story goes (not a direct quote):

In 1869 Belfast prepared for a visit from Queen Victoria. While they made the city beautiful, they also named several streets after her such as Victoria Street, Great Victoria Street, Queen Victoria Street, Little Victoria Street, etc. in the hopes to impress her and thus encourage her to proclaim Belfast a city. Queen Victoria came to Belfast and officially opened Queen’s University as was the intention of her visit, but unfortunately she did not dub Belfast a city.

Queen’s University

The good news is that Belfast was proclaimed a city a few years later. Belfast was not what I was expecting with its beautiful city hall, clean streets and Victorian-style architecture. It was a modern city alive with shoppers and teenagers dressed in school uniforms, and interesting architecture. The locals were friendly and welcoming to tourists. They were happy to tell you some history, an anecdote about certain parts of the city or even just to chat.

Since, I am usually an off-season traveler so as to avoid major crowds and the higher prices, I was thankful that it was spring and the Botanic Gardens next to Queen’s University were in full bloom. The gardens have many different trees and flowers, which perfume the air with sweet scents. I couldn’t help but stop and smell the flowers on many of the trees with branches overhanging the walking path.

The greenhouse was warm and humid inside and the exotic trees and flowers were well kept and lush.

Botanic Gardens

Belfastian Lingo

As a native English speaker, I had no problem understanding their accent, but some people could have a hard time understanding their quick laid-back speech full of slang and particular sayings.

Walk into to a souvenir shop and you will see t-shirts with the sayings “Norn Iron” and “what’s the craic?”

Asking a local, I learned that “Norn Iron” is how Northern Ireland sounds when pronounced quickly. I said it fast a few times and the local confirmed that I sounded like a Northern Irishman.

“What’s the crack?” was the other saying I asked the man about and he said “drugs”. I asked in shock, “really?” And he said, “no, that’s the craic!” and starting laughing. “Craic” means joke, and I immediately compared it to the commonly used saying I’m familiar with: “you crack me up.”

City Hall

The Troubles

After a lesson in the Belfastian language, I took a tour of where the Troubles occurred: the part of the city where the Loyalists (Ulster/Unionists – self-identified as British & largely protestant) and the Nationalists (Irish and mainly Catholic) fought against each other. The Troubles lasted about 30 years and main actors were the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). These decades were a period of violence, tragedies and segregation. There is so much history, that I won’t try to cover it in one short blog post, but you can read about it online and in books and I also recommend visiting the Ulster Museum (no admission fee) for more.

UVF mural

I tour a tour bus into the area including, Shankill Road and Falls Road. There hasn’t been any violence in years and the area is quiet. The guide said that we could hop off and walk around the area because it was safe, although, I wouldn’t feel comfortable there are night with the murals and history marking the streets.

The Troubles began in the late 1960’s, which coincided with the creation of the UVF and the first bombs were thrown into Catholic owned businesses. Belfast saw thousands of acts of violence, riots, gunfire, a strong military presence, curfews, internments without trials, hunger strikes, and hundreds of bombs we set off in public places, which became part of daily life of the city’s residents for the next 30 years. Even to go shopping in the city center required citizens to undergo body searches and passing through security gates. Over 3,500 people were killed during the Troubles and most were civilians.

The murals painted during the Troubles are striking and give an instant message, in some places acting as a warning or a “keep out” sign for the opposing side. One of the most saddening things I saw was the great wall set up to divide the two sides with barbed wire lining to top of the wall, which still stands today. The murals on the wall makes you pause and think about what a time the families on either side lived through.

I happened to be in Belfast before the Queen’s Jubilee so the loyalist area was decorated with the Union Jack and the store windows had displays of British paraphernalia. I could imagine at night during the Troubles how scary it would have been for a Nationalist or Catholic person to walk in these neighborhoods on their way home from work. At the time, with clear territorial lines demarcated by murals, flags and armed men, a tour guide who actually grew up in the part of town during the Troubles mentioned that people would watch which side of the road you crossed turned down so they know which side you belonged to. There is a gate, which is still closed to this day in the afternoon and the peace walls still stand.

closed gate

The history of the city from the Victorian era to the Troubles is fascinating and it made me want to read more about it and then re-visit the city to appreciate it in a whole other light.

Have you visited Belfast? What was your favorite part? Did you walk around the Loyalist area?

Editorial note: The Troubles is a highly political issue and the author has tried to summarize the facts based on Belfast city tours and research. If any information contained therein is inaccurate, please email annotationseditorial (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Book Review: The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

The Red Queen by Phillipa Gregory was a book that I did not want to put down and I was sad when I reached the end.

The Red Queen, is the second book in a series Gregory wrote on The Cousin’s War focusing on the period between 1453 to 1485 is from the point of view of Margaret Beaufort born from the House of Lancaster (a red rose).

Synopsis:

Heiress to the red rose of Lancaster, Margaret Beaufort never surrenders her belief that her house is the true ruler of England, Ignored by her sainted cousin Henry VI, mocked by her mother, married at the age of twelve, and endangered by childbirth, she sets her hear on putting her son on the throne regardless of the cost to herself, to England, and even to the little boy.

The beginning of Margaret’s story where she is married at the age of twelve to Edmund Tudor, a man 13 years her senior, is touching. She is moved away from her mother to Pembroke Castle with the royal duty of producing an heir of the Lancaster line. When she nearly passes in childbirth, she is fueled to ensure that her son, Henry, remains in his rightful place as heir to the throne of England.

After the death of Edmund Tudor, she is married once again to a much older man of high standing, who is a reluctant actor in helping Margaret achieve her life’s work of putting her son on the throne. She keeps herself going with the letters she receives from her son exiled in Brittany and her son’s protector, Jasper Tudor (her brother in-law) and her devotion to God.

After the brutalities of war, Margaret is left a widow once again, but this time she is also completely alone, with no other family left around her and so she takes control of her own life’s direction. Marrying Thomas, Lord Stanley, a deceitful strategist during the period of the Counsin’s War, she finally gains the position she needs to plot and fight for her son and the House of Lancaster.

Margaret’s long-term struggle, undying faith, and belief that her son’s destiny is to be king, makes her a person that a modern-day woman feels some pity for. Her first two marriages were loveless and not her choice, she survives childbirth, and she must keep pushing herself to have something to look forward to. Margaret doesn’t have happiness in her life, she doesn’t even get the pleasure to raise or even visit her son very often throughout his childhood. As a piece in a chess game played by the men of Lancaster and York, Margaret maneuvers her way through as best she can and she waits for the game to be won, all the while urging and praying for her red rose to rule.

Gregory knows how to write a novel, there is action and suspense throughout the whole book. She writes war scenes surprisingly well. The scenes are tense, include details of strategy, time and place, as well as vivid images of carnage and victory. These scenes are a welcome contrast to the inner conflict of Margaret Beaufort who at times can become wearying to read because of her despair, desperateness and exhausting devotion to God.

The Red Queen was a book that enveloped the rise of Margaret Beaufort and held my attention from start to finish so much that I was looking forward to immediately reading the next book in the series. However, the next book in the Counsin’s War series by Gregory is actually a story pre-dating the Red Queen (2nd book) and the White Queen (1st book) so that it is basically a prequel. So I hope Gregory writes the sequel to the Red Queen.

Related post:

Have you read a book by Philippa Gregory? What do you think of her historical fiction? Have you ever read a book series that was written “out of order”?

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Book Review: The Breakout Novel by Donald Maas

Welcome to Writers’ Uni-Verse-City (or WUVC for short because every university has an acronym), a place where writers/bloggers can meet to discuss the craft of writing in the Internet age. WUVC will involve independent research, setting a curriculum and hopefully finding other participants (like you – readers/bloggers/writers) to: chip in, give tips, suggest books and other materials for study, teach me the ways of the warrior writer, and offer to guest post here at Uni-Verse-City (contact: annotationseditorial@gmail.com).

The Breakout Novel by Donald Maas was a writing craft book that I was really looking forward to read and it had tips from cover to cover. The fact is that I took so many notes while reading that I plan to read it again straight through without any note taking.

In this book, Maas looks at the ingredients that make up a Breakout Novel:

  • The premise
  • The stakes
  • Setting – Time & Place
  • Characters
  • Plot
  • Viewpoints, subplots, pace, voice, endings
  • Theme

At the end of each chapter Maas includes a checklist of requirements that make a novel breakout from the rest. The checklists provided a short summary of the key points he mentioned throughout the chapter and serve as a good reminder or reference when reviewing your work.

I always like reading educational texts that include examples, whether they are examples of what to do and what not to do, they always seem to click the information in place. Maas uses some well-known novels as examples of breakout-level writing and why it was/is such a successful story.

As it always happens when I read a craft book, I get an explosion of ideas for my own writing and even reviewing the notes I took on The Breakout Novel lead me to write out another page or two of brainstorming. I know this book will be one I continually reference and maybe even re-read at least once a year.

Maas provides the recipe for a Breakout Novel, now its up to the writer to make it.

Have you read The Breakout Novel? Which tips resonated with you most?

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Book Review: A Year to Remember by Shelly Bell

Being the first e-published book I’ve read, I was not disappointed with A Year to Remember by Shelly Bell. I didn’t see one typo and the formatting was perfect, but that’s only the technicalities, the story captivated my interest and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened to the protagonist Sara Friedman.

Synopsis:

When her younger brother marries on her twenty-ninth birthday, Sara Friedman vows to the wedding guests to find and marry her soul mate within the year. After her humiliating toast becomes a YouTube sensation, she permits a national morning show to chronicle her search.

Sara Friedman, a 29-year-old Jewish singleton, embarks on a year-long journey to find The One. The YouTube viral video made the story feel modern, but the morning show’s chronicle played only a small role in the book, it could have probably even been cut out, but I preferred Shelly’s focus on the main character anyway. Following Sara experience the thrills and pitfalls that come along with Internet dating and speed dating was entertaining. The story is especially exciting when the potential Mr. Right entered the picture, I didn’t want to put the book down.

The only thing that made me stop for a minute while reading was the moments that there was too much happening with this character. Sara was so multifaceted that it was hard to keep up with all of her issues. For me, she was too flawed at some points in the story: she had anxiety attacks, she is a compulsive overeater, she was depressed, and she is searching for love – preferably Jewish – before her 30th birthday. However, with all these considered, I really liked Sara Friedman and for some reason I wanted to keep reading to know more about her and see what happened to her next. So I was thankful that I stuck with her and I will remember this story for a long time.

Even though there is a bit too much going on with Sara, she is so adorable and likeable that you’ll just have to follow her to see if she finds a man who is marriage material before she turns 30!

Thank you to Amy Sue Nathan at Women’s Fiction Writers and Shelly Bell for the blogiversary prize of A Year to Remember!

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Support Nicole Basaraba as a Samsung Global Blogger – 2012 London Olympics

Since its Wednesday, this would usually be my Writers’ Uni-Verse-City segement day, but I have been up to something special I want to share with you.

Since I finished the first draft of my novel for the Round of Words in 80 Days writing challenge, I’ve been working on some diverse projects such as competing to be a Samsung Global Blogger for the 2012 Olympics in London!

Representing Belgium (and Canada too of course), I would be tweeting, blogging and vlogging. That’s right, vlogging during the Olympics this summer to bring you the latest scoop and the most entertaining and funny stories I can dig up in London, which is also celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee!

So if you’d like to show your support for me as a Samsung Global Blogger to read/see some amazing stories this summer, please feel free to:

  • click the “thumbs up” support button on my video 
  • re-blog this post
  • spread the word/link on Facebook and to your preferred social networks
  • annnd tweet, tweet & retweet the link to my video:

Support @NicoleBasaraba (#Belgium) as a Samsung Global Blogger: http://samsungglobalblogger.uk.msn.com/videos/2979 #samsungglobalblogger

My second video entry will be up shortly. In the meantime, you can find my audition video and give it the thumbs up here: http://samsungglobalblogger.uk.msn.com/videos/2979

Thank you to all!

How will you be keeping up with the 2012 London Olympics?

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Why write short stories? – A guest post by Edward H. Carpenter

Welcome to Writers’ Uni-Verse-City (or WUVC for short because every university has an acronym), a place where writers/bloggers can meet to discuss the craft of writing in the Internet age. WUVC will involve independent research, setting a curriculum and hopefully finding other participants (like you – readers/bloggers/writers) to: chip in, give tips, suggest books and other materials for study, teach me the ways of the warrior writer, and offer to guest post here at Uni-Verse-City (contact: annotationseditorial@gmail.com).

Today I’d like to welcome Edward H. Carpenter, who is giving us a few reasons why we should write short stories. 

Why write short stories? – A guest post by Edward H. Carpenter

There are potentially a lot of answers, but the first one that comes to my mind is “because there’s a story to be told!”

I can’t speak to how other authors come up with the inspiration for their short stories. Mine have generally appeared as the result of some stimulus from my immediate environment, or while reading, or often some combination of both. 

For example, my first short story, Seven Lives to Repay Our Country, sprang to life as a direct result of reading a passage in a history of World War II in which a Japanese General gave a final order for a suicide attack to his men, just hours before he committed ritual suicide rather than face capture. Being that I was living in Japan at the time and was an officer in the Marine Corps, the same organization that had fought those Japanese soldiers 61 years earlier, it just felt right to create a pair of fictional characters to explore those final hours on Saipan. The story wrote itself, as I recall, in the course of a long evening.

Another story came to me while watching mortar shells falling in the Arabian desert, and another from having read Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere while riding on the very London Tube system that features so prominently in that novel. Somewhere between Heathrow and Cockfosters, it occurred to me that in another world almost like ours, another man almost like myself might step off that same train and into history.

So that’s one good reason to write short stories; there’s a story to be told, and it’s simply not long enough to take any other form. Another reason that fledgling authors might consider this format is because it offers an excellent means of learning the ins and outs of both writing and publishing. 

Because if you can successfully write, edit and complete a single short story, then you are likely to be able to replicate that success with a novel. Moreover, you will have built up your confidence and experience, and gotten a lot of mistakes out of the way.

One great thing about short stories is such that they can be written in between your Great American Novel, (or Great Zimbabwean Novel, or what have you.) Once I’ve got the idea of a story in my mind, and have sketched some notes on paper, I don’t have to write it all at once, although that sometimes does happen. But more often, life gets in the way, and I have to return to it a time or two. Or twenty-seven. 

Short stories give the reader a perfect literary morsel to satisfy their craving for good writing in the space of a long commute by train, an airplane ride, or while waiting in line at the DMV. And it gives new authors a chance to learn the ropes, and more experienced writers an opportunity to explore outside their usual genres, give a favorite minor character in one of their larger works a voice of their own, or help to break through a case of writer’s block.

I wish you all the best in your writing, and great adventures in reading.

Edward H. Carpenter travels the world as a Marine Foreign Area Officer, enjoying both the jarring impacts of his weekly rugby matches and time spent quietly reading a good book. He has published three short stories to date; Seven Lives to Repay Our Country, Happily Ever After, and Lethargica. You can catch up with him at his blog, Facebook, Twitter or Goodreads.

Are you a novelist considering writing short stories? If you’ve written on both formats, how do you think they are similar? Different? Or how they help you in writing in the other format?

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Visit La Piscine (The Pool) Museum in Roubaix, France

La Piscine is located in Roubaix, France, a town known for its industrial past in the textile industry and known today for its fashion designers.

La Piscine (The Pool), a huge pool and public baths were built between 1927 and 1932 for the health and well-being of Roubaix’s textile workers. La Piscine was closed in 1985, when the roof became unsafe and in 2011 it was restored and reopened as Roubaix’s Museum of Art and Industry (source).

The way they transformed a public pool into a museum is so creative and pretty. The  small change rooms and showers are now empty. Some are left as they were with coat hangers built into the tiled walls and the soap dish in the shower area. It was so interesting to see how small they were. Other change rooms and showers had textiles on display and other pieces of art.

The museum also had paintings on the walls where the change rooms and showers used to be. Roubaix was a famous textile town, and my favorite painting was the one of the ladies working in the wool factory in 1910.

The pool area of the museum has a permanent collection of sculptures, porcelain vases, textile samples, clothing, hats and other fashion accessories. Looking at the dresses and small handbags from the 1950s, it made me want to buy some of the finery on display.

Fabric samples

Ladies swimsuit

What I also liked about this section of the museum was that on occasion they would play a soundtrack with the sounds of children and people swimming and playing in the water. The echo of the large room, makes it sound real and adds to the experience of walking in the old pool.

A special collection of photographs be American photographer, David Douglas Duncan, along with nearly 100 original works by Picasso are currently being exhibited at La Piscine. See pieces of art in real life and then in the photographs adds so much more to seeing Picasso’s works. You can appreciate their detail and beauty as they stand alone, but also see them in context – how the artist placed them in his own home. Duncan photographed Picasso at work even from the first brush stroke.

Picasso painting - photo by David Douglas Duncan

Picasso painting – photo by David Douglas Duncan

Baigneurs a la Garoupe (1957)

See the Baigneurs a la Garoupe in the background

Ville La Californie – Picasso’s home in Cannes, France

I’d have to say that Picasso was a bit of a messy guy. An artistic genius who had so much artwork surrounding him, it looked like a warehouse of treasures. If you can call the Villa La Californie a “warehouse” located in the lovely Cannes, France, most of Duncan’s photos show the Spanish artist working and playing in only his shorts.

I’m no expert on art or artists, and I don’t even know that much about Picasso, but from what I can see from Duncan’s photos, he looked like an artist who really had a vision. Duncan captured Picasso frowning in concentration and it looks like he thought about what he was going to paint before he started and he made each stroke carefully and correctly the first time.

Its a very interesting experience to get a wider picture of Picasso and his work through Duncan’s intimate photographs of him working. I felt lucky to have the chance to see this exhibition knowing how many people out there adore Picasso’s work. Even if you can’t make it to see the Picasso/Duncan exhibition, La Piscine is still definitely worth a visit.

What was the most moving art exhibition you’ve visited? Have you been lucky enough to see something many people haven’t?

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Spring is here – Festival of the Iris in Brussels

Two days of free concerts, activities, clowns, magicians, costumed performers, and buzz in Brussels center is happening this weekend. The Festival of the Iris/Iris Day (Fête de l’Iris) is a celebration of the symbol of Brussels.

On January 12, 1989 a new law created the Brussels Capital Region on the territory of 19 municipalities and the Brussels Region then started its own legislative and executive institutions. The Iris was chosen as the symbol of Brussels in 1991 because it was widely found growing in the region. After a big public contest was held, the emblem designed by Jacques Richez was selected as the winner.

As a Canadian in Brussels, when I saw the Iris symbol of Brussels, it reminded me of the Fleurdelisé – flag of Quebec. It seems that flowers are a popular symbol because Alberta, the province in Canada where I’m from, is known as “The Wild Rose Country” because like in Brussels, the wild rose can be found growing naturally in Alberta.

Last year I stumbled upon the festival while wandering around the Royal Place and down towards Grand Place. It was warm sunny day which added to the excitement. We can cross our fingers that the sun will push its way through the clouds this weekend.

You can pick up some swag adorned with the Brussels Iris at the blue tents or you can hop on the small train that will take you on a short tour of the city center.

The costumes are bright and elaborate. It was hard not to stare and I wasn’t the only one. Children and adults alike were fascinated by these women who looked like creatures from another world.

One of my favorite parts of the day was walking by this lady dressed in blue who was handing out an iris to each person passing by. She was also happy to smile and take photos. I’m sure this dress is not easy to wear for hours under the sun.

So if you’re in Brussels or nearby, come out on Saturday and Sunday 5 & 6 May 2012 to enjoy the festivities and maybe go home with an Iris flower and some swag.

How do you like to enjoy the beginning of Spring? Is there a flower featured as a symbol or marker in your city or region?

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Literary Genre Blog Series A Success!

Welcome to Writers’ Uni-Verse-City (or WUVC for short because every university has an acronym), a place where writers/bloggers can meet to discuss the craft of writing in the Internet age. WUVC will involve independent research, setting a curriculum and hopefully finding other participants (like you – readers/bloggers/writers) to: chip in, give tips, suggest books and other materials for study, teach me the ways of the warrior writer, and offer to guest post here at Uni-Verse-City (contact: annotationseditorial@gmail.com).

I’ve met a lot of writers through blogging, twitter and participating in A Round of Words in 80 Days – “The writing challenge that knows you have a life” – and I’ve noticed that there are quite a few writers out there who don’t often talk about the genre they write it. I’ve read countless blog posts and books on the writing craft, but the topic of specific literary genres rarely comes up.

So as we’re all here to learn at Writer’s Uni-Verse-City, I have been fortunate to host several guest bloggers in the past few months in my Literary Genres Blog Series. Thank you to all the fantastic writers who participated and provided their expertise.

Genres are classified by writing style, authorial tone, the content and even word counts play a role. There are crossover stories that combine elements from more than one genre, but what makes a book fit into one genre over another?

This was the overarching question that the following writers took into consideration when writing their guest posts for this series. So to have everything in one place, you can find the Literary Genre Blog Series links below.

Elizabeth Craig – Tips on Writing a Traditional Murder Mystery. Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin/Berkley (as Riley Adams), the Southern Quilting mysteries (2012) for Penguin/NAL, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink. She blogs daily at Mystery Writing is Murder, which was named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2010 and 2011. You may also know her from the “Writer’s Knowledge Base” and her amazing posts of writing links “Twitterific”.

Barbara McDowell - We want to make you Scream: Writing Horror. Starting with poetry being inspired by Emily Dickinson in her elementary school years, and then discovering Steven King, Sylvia Plath and Shakespeare Barbara’s poetry took on a less romantic tone. Poetry soon evolved in to fiction that had dark, human themes with suspense at each corner and horror waiting at the end. Today, Barbara writes for thrills and chills and blogs about pop culture, writing, music and life at Life Can’t Drive 55.

Marcia Richards – Historical fiction has it all. Marcia is creating her debut historical trilogy covering the years between 1917 and 1975. The Donnellys, an immigrant Irish family, struggles with economic troubles and personal tragedy, while striving to maintain their dreams. The trilogy highlights three generations of strong, young women fighting their way to the fulfillment of their dreams, learning who they are along the way. Marcia Richards’ blog Sexy. Smart. From the Heart, offers posts on writing, mid-life, history, and content that’s sexy and smart.

Amy Sue Nathan – The Women’s Fiction Mystique. Amy’s debut novel THE GLASS WIVES will be published by St. Martin’s Press in Spring 2013 and is represented Jason Yarn of The Paradigm Agency. Amy keeps a blog, Women’s Fiction Writers, which features interviews and guest posts with a published women’s fiction author and posts on the craft and business of traditionally published women’s fiction.

Roni Loren – Oh you write THOSE books – On Writing Romance. Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. Her debut novel, CRASH INTO YOU, is now available from Berkley Heat. She also has a passion-fueled blogs: one for writers at Fiction Groupie and another racier blog for romance fans.

Laurence O’Bryan – Writing a Conspiracy Thriller. Laurence’s roots go back to a small estate deep in the Mountains of Mourne in County Down, Northern Ireland. In 2007, he won the Outstanding Novel Submitted award at the Southern California writer’s conference. Laurence’s book THE ISTANBUL PUZZLE is the first in a new series from Harper Collins as was released on January 19, 2012. He also writes a blog at Laurence O’Bryan – Crime & Mystery Writer.

Jenny Hansen – Lessons I’ve Learned About Memoir Writing. Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after the newly walking Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing. Jenny writes at her personal blog, More Cowbell and at her group blog, Writers In The Storm.

Lena Corazon – My love of Steampunk began as an accidental affair. California-based author Lena Corazon writes speculative fiction with a focus on fantasy and steampunk. She builds worlds filled with beauty and danger, populated by fierce women, dashing men, and delightfully evil antagonists. Lena is in her fourth year of graduate school for a PhD and she still find time to write towards her novels and keep the blog at Flights of Fancy.

Kait Nolan – How Paranormal Fiction is Like Garlic. Kait is stuck in an office all day, sometimes juggling all three of her jobs at once with the skill of a trained bear—sometimes with a similar temperament. After hours, she uses her powers for good, creating escapist fiction. The work of this Mississippi native is packed with action, romance, and the kinds of imaginative paranormal creatures you’d want to sweep you off your feet…or eat your boss. Kait is represented by Laurie McLean of Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency in San Francisco. A passionate believer in helping others, she has founded a writing challenge designed for people who have a life: A Round of Words in 80 Days and she also blogs at Kait Nolan – action-packed paranormal romance.

Stacy Green – Suspense vs. Thrillers. Stacy grew up watching crime shows with her dad and soap operas with her mom (R.I.P As The World Turns and Guiding Light), so it’s no surprise that she’s a sucker for a good suspense novel with some romance thrown in. She has completed a suspense novel of her own set in Las Vegas, titled INTO THE DARK. She also blogs at Stacy Green – Turning the Page.

Piper Bayard – Everything I Need to Know about Sci-Fi, I Learned from Star Trek. Piper Bayard is a recovering attorney with a college degree or two. She’s also a belly dancer from waaaay back, and she currently pens post-apocalyptic sci-fi and spy novels when she isn’t SCUBA diving, blogging, baking cookies, visiting Hospice patients, and chauffeuring her children to their various teenaged immediacies. You can find Piper at her blog “Author Piper Bayard“, on Twitter at @piperbayard or on Facebook.

Julie Glover – A Look at Young Adult (YA). Julie writes adult mysteries and young adult fiction. As a city girl from the Lone Star State, she owns both go-go boots and cowboy boots. Julie is currently seeking representation for a mystery, GRACE & FIRE, and completing a middle grade novel, A YEAR OF FIRSTS. Julie blogs at Julie Glover, Author and writes about the wonders of language on Amaze-ing Words Wednesdays and on various pop culture topics (movies, books, and more) on Deep-Fried Fridays! You can also find her on Twitter.

Sonia G Medeiros – Living the Fantasy Life. Sonia G Medeiros is a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. She’s the author of more than a dozen short stories and flash fiction pieces, blogs at Sonia G Medeiros, and is working on her first novel, a dark fantasy.

And so there we have it, an awesome line-up for the blog series. Thanks again to all contributors!

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Living the Fantasy Life – by Sonia G Medeiros

Welcome to Writers’ Uni-Verse-City (or WUVC for short because every university has an acronym), a place where writers/bloggers can meet to discuss the craft of writing in the Internet age. WUVC will involve independent research, setting a curriculum and hopefully finding other participants (like you – readers/bloggers/writers) to: chip in, give tips, suggest books and other materials for study, teach me the ways of the warrior writer, and offer to guest post here at Uni-Verse-City (contact: annotationseditorial@gmail.com).

Today I’d like to welcome Sonia Medeiros who is the last of the talented writers we’ve had as guests for WUVC’s Literary Genres Blog Series. Sonia’s giving us some into writing in the Fantasy genre. 

I’m thrilled and honored to be part of Nicole’s writing in different genres blog series. Sharing space with all the wonderful writers here is more than fantastic and I cannot thank Nicole enough for inviting me.

Living the Fantasy Life by Sonia G Medeiros

Dobryna - image via wikipedia

Dobryna - image via wikipedia

I blame my parents for my obsession with love of fantasy. As a child, I had what you might politely call an active imagination. I was often in trouble at school for daydreaming (though, really, I had already finished the work…usually). But did my parents act quickly to contain this? Did they enforce the boundaries of reality and the dangers of  dwelling in imaginary worlds?

Nope.

In fact, fueled by their passion for science fiction/fantasy, they fed my taste for the unreal with a steady diet of A Wrinkle in Time, Narnia, King Arthur, Wonder Woman, Conan, Lord of the Rings, Edgar Allen Poe, The Twilight Zone and WWF Wrestling (my dad *shrug*). They encouraged me to tell them my odd little tales and allowed me to pretend that I was a warrior princess from a magical world sadly marooned in this one without my powers.

Despicable, right?

Okay, okay. It’s not all their fault. They had some help from my grandfather who, while he may outwardly appear all CNN and Sunday Morning, further indulged my growing predilection for the fantastic by charging me with the task of collecting all the alien pods (actually the fruit of the sweetgum tree) from the lawn (a mighty sneaky way of getting the yard cleaned, if you ask me), listening to my sprawling Smurf epics and allowing me to watch The Neverending Story something like 642 times (although I’m sure he never intended me to make a career of all those wild imaginings).

Pain Inducer (Sweetgum Pod) by Jeff Kubina at Flickr

So, there. As you can plainly see I have my parents (and grandfather) to blame for not being able to keep my feet on the ground or my head out of the clouds.

And I thank them for it every day.

Wikipedia neatly defines fantasy as “a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomenon as a primary element of plot, theme or setting” and distinguishes fantasy from two of its closest cousins, science fiction and horror, in that it generally “steers clear of scientific and macabre themes”. Yet, the overlap between fantasy, science fiction and horror is sometimes so great that it may not always be possible to tell where one ends and the next begins.

Ring21 - image via wikipedia

It seems generally acknowledged that science fiction accepts the natural laws of our universe and so is about stuff that could really happen, fantasy often flagrantly ignores natural laws and is therefore about stuff that couldn’t really happen, and horror could go either way.

I’m sure I don’t have to point out the problem with such a definition.

It’s true that fantasy is full of created worlds where magic reigns, and where there are dragons, wizards, elves, heroes of prophecy, Excaliburs, and kingdoms under siege by Dark Lords. But fantasy isn’t about any of those things as much as it is a way of looking at the world with a childlike openness to Mystery. It does not seek to limit what could be by what is generally considered “real.” The passage to a mystical realm could really be behind that cupboard door, never mind how many times you may have opened it only to find the cereal bowls. Fairies exist even if we never see them. And toys have a secret life.

This openness cuts both ways of course. The child accepts the horrible right along with the delightful. A monster might live in your closet, no matter what your parents say.  That passage to another world could leave you stranded there forever. And the world is different in the dark.

Fantasy looks at the world with all the wonder and terror of raw childhood.

While science fiction insists on an explanation and horror is often about what should be unreal intruding on the real world, fantasy allows the world to simply be. What is fantastic isn’t necessarily in violation of the natural laws of the universe or unexplainable but neither is essential to the story (besides, sometimes the real seems at least as implausible as the fantastic…quarks, anybody?). Fantasy is the genre of limitless possibilities and the freedom to explore them, whatever the story consequences.

I love science fiction and horror but fantasy holds the dearest spot in my heart because, like Mulder, I want to believe.

A few fantasy suggestions to tickle your fancy:

  • Piers Anthony’s very punny The Magic of Xanth series.
  • Patricia Brigg’s urban fantasy Mercy Thompson series (yes, it contains hot werewolves and vampires…but they don’t sparkle).
  • Greg Keyes Kingdom of Thorn and Bone series, especially The Briar King.
  • Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story. As much as I loved the film version as a kid, the novel is vastly superior in every way.

What is fantasy about to you? What are your favorite fantasy stories, movies or television shows?

Sonia G Medeiros is a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. She’s the author of more than a dozen short stories and flash fiction pieces, blogs at WordPress, and is working on her first novel, a dark fantasy and a post-apocalyptic zombie novella. When she’s not wandering along the tangled paths of her wild imagination, she wrangles home life with one fabulous husband, two amazing, homeschooled children, one part-alien half-chihuahua, and two cats who battle each other for world domination.

You can find Sonia on Twitter and Facebook.

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