YA 101: Urban Fantasy

Today I finish up my series, YA 101 with what may be one of the most popular genres among YA fiction – Urban Fantasy.

Urban fantasy in a nutshell is all about mythical, fantastical creatures living in our contemporary times.  Writing about a vampire/werewolf romance in Forks, WA?  Urban fantasy (though I’d check on this one.  I think it’s already been done :-))  Have you got a shapeshifter haunting the streets of NY?  Urban fantasy.  Does your protagonist in Savannah, Georgia have tons of demons living around her that are all about to go to war and she’s the only one that can stop it?  Urban fantasy.

Rules to writing urban fantasy?

  • almost always written in 1st person.
  • don’t use magic as an excuse for plots – big or small.
  • make your ‘monsters’ different.  Vampires and werewolves in YA is overdone.  They still have an audience but look at other creatures you can use:  leprechaun, pixies, gargoyles.  The list is vast.  Experiment.  Be different.
  • Protagonists/heroes/heroines are usually sexy and there is some romance.  There doesn’t have to be  a lot of romance but there should be some.  Romance sells to young female readers which make up the majority of books sales in the age group.  Remember, the romantic partner doesn’t have to be gorgeous, but the reader needs to fall in love with him/her.

What are some of my favorite YA urban fantasy novels?


And the winner is?

Today, some lucky person who commented on  my blog between December 1 and December 29 is going to win an e-book of the Make Believe anthology.  I wonder who it could be.  Shall we find out?  May I have a drum roll please?


And the lucky winner is:

free glitter text and family website at FamilyLobby.com

Congratulations, Kourtney!  Please contact me at kford2007(at)gmail(dot)com  to provide me with the format you prefer.

I also have more bookmarks and digital signed e-book covers of the Make Believe anthology to giveaway so tune in tomorrow to discover if your name will be added to the winner’s list!

I want to thank all you for tagging along with me in 2012 and I look forward to more conversations in 2013!  

The Ingredients of a Good Fairy Tale

Today, I have a very special guest, Dr. Lesley Philips, author of The Midas Tree. She’s written a great article on the perfect ingredients for a good fairy tale.  Enjoy.  🙂



My new book, “The Midas Tree”, came to me as a vision.

I did not plan to write a book for a specific genre or audience. Rather the book was given to me and then I had to figure out what I had created. Those who have read it, liken it to a modern day fairy story, a fantasy adventure novel (e.g. Alice in Wonderland) or even new age fiction (e.g. The Celestine Prophesy).

It definitely follows the hero’s journey and has elements of all of the above and more.

So what makes a good fairy tale?

This is what JRR Tolkien says about them “The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords.”

I decided to do some internet research, reflect on Tolkien’s words and my experiences reading fairy stories as a child and compare them to “The Midas Tree.”

Is it the characters?

The first question is must there be fairies? It seems that the consensus on that is no. There must be some form of other worldly creature, but they don’t necessarily have to be called fairies.

  • The Midas Tree has nature spirits called devas, each of whom has a role within the tree and is the keeper of a piece of spiritual knowledge.

The second question is must there be talking animals? It seems to me that this is another common element. Sometimes they help and other times they hinder, but they very often feature in a classic fairy tale.

  • The Midas Tree has a talking woodpecker, bat, bees, ants, spiders, ladybugs, grubs, bluebirds and chipmunks.

Is it the magic and enchantments?

Perhaps there is a magical potion that puts the heroine to sleep or makes her taller or smaller. Maybe there is an elixir or everlasting life or a witches’ brew. These are all common elements.

  • The Midas Tree has a deva who lures the hero into sticky situations with her alluring whispers and exotic brews.

Is it the demons and tricksters?

The classic fairy tale always has temptations that entice the hero into a trap and finding a way out challenges him to the very core.

  • The Midas Tree has entrapments and trials of patience and wit; as well battles of the ego that must be overcome.

Is it the plot or the quest?

Commonly the hero or heroine is thrust against their will into an extraordinary new reality. They find out they are special in some way and are propelled into a journey where they must search for something or someone and on the way must overcome internal and external demons.

  • Joshua, the her of The Midas Tree, finds a magical acorn that transports from his home  to an adventure inside a tree. In order to return home, he must learn many lessons, so that he can turn the tree and himself to gold.

Must there be a moral at the end?

Aesop’s fables and biblical parables share many of the common elements of the fairy story; as they provide an analogy of life and aim to teach an important moral lesson by presenting some sort of ethical dilemma or challenge of the ego.

  • Each chapter within The Midas Tree is like a story within a story, in that it presents a unique spiritual lesson, and provides the tools and techniques necessary to learn it.

Does the story have to be short?

I don’t believe there is an ideal size for a fairy tale. Many are quite short, such a “Little Red Riding Hood” but some are full length novels like “Lord of the Rings.”

  • The Midas Tree is a full length novel, although as mentioned above there are many shorter stories within the main story.

Must it be for children?

According to Wikipedia, the older fairy tales were intended for an audience of adults, as well as children. They were part of an oral folklore tradition. More recently, they have been more closely associated with children.

  • The Midas Tree is for children of all ages. It has been read and enjoyed by everyone who has read it from twelve years old and up.ü

So at the end of this, my conclusion is that The Midas Tree could be viewed as a modern-day fairy tale. Although this is a genre that crosses over into action, adventure, fable, fantasy, parable and more. I think my book has elements of them all and I am looking forwards to finding out where it will make its home.

Dr. Lesley Phillips is a speaker, author, workshop leader, spiritual and meditation teacher based in Vancouver BC, Canada. Her book “The Midas Tree” will be published on November 11th 2012. She can be reached at:




Twitter: @DrLesleyP



For the love of reading – a fun exercise for Hump Day

I remember reading a blog somewhere a long time ago that hosted something similar to what I’m doing today. For the life of me, I don’t remember who it was, otherwise I’d recognize and credit them. Whoever you are, thank you for the idea and I hope you don’t mind me carrying it forward.

As a writer, I love to read. Reading is a must if one wants to learn to write well. Heck, there are some books that I have pages highlighted because I loved the way the author worked the scene. When I struggle with a similar type scene, I’ll return to those pages and study how the author did it. How did (s)he make me connect with the character, the scene, the plot?

To honor that love for reading (and learning), I would like all of you to do the following:

*Grab the book nearest to you. Not your favorite. Not the one you think will be the most intriguing.  The closest one to you.

*Turn to page 60

*Find the sixth sentence

*Post your sentence in the comments section here. To make it more interesting, please don’t tell us the name of your book. Let’s see how many people can guess it.  

Also, if you want to keep this going on your own blog, that’s cool, just make sure you link back to this post.  🙂

Here is my contribution. Any clues?

“It may be only small injustice that the child can be exposed to: but the child is small, and its world is small, and its rocking-horse stands as many hands high, according to scale, as a big-boned Irish hunter.”

G is for Gandalf versus Dumbledore

This is a continuation of the A-Z blog challenge.  Click here to see the list of all 1935 participants!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series as well as watched all the movies, and each time I’m drawn to the parallels between the two. As a writer, it has been drilled into me how important it is to make my characters and my story unique, to not let them be like something that has already been done. Yet here I am, looking at these two stories, both unique in their settings and story, and I can’t help but compare two of the prominent characters: Gandalf and Dumbledore.


– They both have long white hair and beards
– They are both the greatest, wisest and kindest wizards of their time.
– They rally around the underdogs and help them to defeat the “Dark Lord”
– They care about those less fortunate than them
– They are both guides, counselors
– They are both very well respected
– They both like to interfere
– They are both courageous
– They both fight fearsome enemies
– They are both unmarried


– Gandalf’s and Dumbledore’s magic are not the same, nor are the reasons they use it.
– Gandalf has one wizard to face: Sauron. Dumbledore has many running around who want to see him dead.
– Dumbledore is more passive than Gandalf. He’s more of a ‘let me teach you the skills, but you’re going to have to do the rest’ kind of guy. Gandalf doesn’t have time nor the inclination to teach magic. His focus is defeating the bad guy and he’ll get in the middle of the action and put his life on the line to do it.
– Gandalf rides horses and wields a wicked sword. Dumbledore can vaporize you with a thought?  Why does he need a sword?
– Gandalf comes back from the dead. Dumbledore…yeah, not so much.
– Gandalf and Dumbledore are both fatherly types, but Gandalf is more stern. He’s more of the sort who’ll bop you over the head for doing something foolish. Dumbledore will talk to you, make you see the errors of your ways.
– Dumbledore’s knowledge is limited. Gandalf’s is vast.
– Dumbledore had a brother. Gandalf didn’t
– Dumbledore was mortal. He could rid himself of this world. Mortality, however, was not a gift Gandalf had. He HAD to make sure the underdog succeeded. If he failed in his task, Sauron would have taken over Middle Earth, and without the Valar’s intervening, life would have been much worse. The whole world was a risk. If Sauron lived, Gandalf would have to live with his own failure forevermore. Gandalf had much more at stake should he lose the battle for Middle Earth. Dumbledore got off easy because he could die.

There is a whole other list of character similarities between Harrry Potter and Lord of the Rings:

Harry = Frodo
Ron = Sam
Voldemort = Sauron = Dark Lords (please)
Dementors = Ringwraiths
Horcruxes = The Ring
Fred and George = Merry and Pippin
Sirius = Aragorn/Faramir
Hagrid = Gimli
Regulus = Boromir

But I won’t go into that today. What I do want to say is that it’s okay to recycle characters when you write, so long as you make the characters and stories ‘yours’. Make them unique to you, to your world. Give the reader something they don’t expect. Study the past characters. What can you do to make yours different from what’s been done? Give your characters vulnerabilities. Strip away the clichés and define your characters, your story. If you’re lucky, someday someone may compare your best-seller novel to a classic. I could think of worse things to happen.

And now for your entertainment needs:

What is your most valuable book?

I love old books.  There is so much history surrounding them.  Who was the author?  Where was it printed?  Who was the original publisher?  What year was the book printed?  The imagination can run wild as to who the original owners were.  Did they like the book?  Was it actually owned by someone related to the author?  Did it travel across oceans?

There is quite a bit of money to be found in antique books, but there is no price tag high enough for two finds in my collection that literally cost me $2.00

My first book is a pocket book of The Holy Bible.  My husband found this book when cleaning out an old house that was abandoned and the new owners needed work to be done.  He brought it home to me and it has become one of my most treasured possessions.

As you can see from the copyright (MDCCCLVI – 1856),
this book is 156 years old.  (Hmm, wonder what Kindle or Nook will ever survive 156 years or more).  This particular pocket bible was printed by G.E. Eyre and W. Spottiswoode, Printers to the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty.  It is a rare book, affordable at the time by only the wealthy and it shows in the binding and cover.  Look at the beauty in this book’s leather design and in the gilded page edges.  You’ll never, ever, EVER get that with a Kindle.

But the beauty doesn’t stop there.  Inside I found remarkable insights to the owner:  four-leaf clovers, a clipping from a newspaper, a red feather, and a tiny patch of hair, tied neatly in a string. 

Inside the front and back cover are references to family history.  The owner was born in Londonderry, Ireland and was given the bible by her mother when she departed Liverpool at the age of 16.  She arrived in Ellis Island aboard The Teutonic on April 25 1894.

She married in 1926, settled in Oskaloosa, Iowa, and had 5 children.  Her last baby, a boy, died at the age of 8 weeks.

Kindle and Nook and all you other e-readers…Blah!  This is proof there is more to books than the story the author intended us to read.  Books have history.  They’ve traveled, they hold treasures untold.  e-Readers just turn it all into black and white.  For me, I prefer the color, the imagination.

My next treasure is one I picked up for $2 at a book store in Atlanta, Georgia.  It is The Sketch Book by Washington Irving.

The cover is a bit worn, but folks, it’s suede.  Suede.  What books nowadays have suede for a binding?  Look at the gold floral embossment. Stunning.  And look at the inside?  Look at the artwork!

After doing some research, this book is 164 years old.  It was the second printing, published in 1848, and includes 2 previously unreleased short stories:  “A Sunday in London”, and “London Antiques”.  Other short stories include “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”.  In addition, there are several pages that are still connected to each other at the bottom, see?

What I found most humorous in the book is what was written in the Preface to the revised edition.  Authors, you will appreciate this excerpt from a famous author as he takes you on his adventure into publication (have fun with the Victorian English).  In this excerpt he is speaking of a few of his short stories he sent to the United States for publication because he felt that “…much of their contents could be interesting only to American readers”.   The bold, underlined parts are what made me chuckle.  Enjoy. 🙂

“By the time the contents of the first volume had appeared in this occasional manner, they began to find their way across the Atlantic, and to be inserted, with many kind encomiums, in the London Literary Gazette.  It was said, also, that a London bookseller intended to publish them in a collective form.  I determined, therefore, to bring them forward myself, that they might at least have the benefit of my superintendence and revision.  I accordingly took the printed numbers which I had received from the United States, to Mr. John Murray, the eminent publisher, from whom I had already received friendly attentions, and left them with him for examination, informing him that should he be inclined to bring them before the public, I had materials enough on hand for a second volume.  Several days having elapsed without any communications from Mr. Murray, I addressed a note to him, in which I construed his silence into a tacit rejection of my work, and begged that the numbers I had left with him be returned to me.  Two days, Mr. Irving?  Seriously? You’d never survive in today’s publishing world The following was his reply: 

MY DEAR SIR:  I entreat you to believe that I feel truly obliged by your kind intentions towards me, and that I entertain the most unfeigned respect for your most tasteful talents.  My house is completely filled with workpeople at this time, and I have only an office to transact business in; and yesterday I was wholly occupied, or I should have done myself the pleasure of seeing you. 

If it would not suit me to engage in the publication of your present work, it is only because I do not see that scope in the nature of it which would enable me to make those satisfactory accounts between us, without which I really feel no satisfaction in engaging.—but I will do all I can to promote their circulation, and shall be most ready to attend to any future plans of yours.

With much regard, I remain, dear sir,

Your faithful servant,

John Murray

Quite a rejection letter, wouldn’ t you say?  LOL!

He goes on to write about his ventures into publishing, including sending his works to Sir Walter (then Mr.) Scott.  Irving goes on to tell the story of multiple rejections by publishers until he finally decided to publish the first edition of The Sketch Book, “at my own risk”, with a bookseller of unknown fame, “…and without any of the usual arts by which a work is trumpeted into notice.”   Finally, after much to do, Sir Walter Scott convinced John Murray to undertake the publishing of The Sketch Book.  It was printed in Philadelphia by the Henry Altemus Company.  In Mr. Irving’s own words, “…under the kind and cordial auspices of Sir Walter Scott, I began my literary career…”  It helps to have friends in high places, even in 1848.

Is it any wonder why I treasure this 164 year old book?  It is this, this holding of history in my hands that keeps me from moving into the electronic age of Kindles and Nooks.  My heart grieves for the day when there are no more tangible books.  The words may remain, but the hidden history within the bindings will be gone.  It is my intent to all authors, to keep books around for as long as possible.

By the way, the bible has been appraised at close to $300 and The Sketch Book, even in the tattered shape it’s in, almost $100.  To me…they’re priceless.

Do you have any treasured, valuable books in your collection?

I want the fairy tale…

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve loved fairy tales.  Not just loved them.  I devoured them.  There was something about the romanticism and fantasy that fed my soul.  I was drawn to the magic, the fairy godmothers, the possibility of finding the prince of my dreams, getting married in a beautiful white sparkling ball gown and living happily ever after.

My favorite stories were Sleeping Beauty, The Princess and the Pea, the Ugly Duckling and Cinderella.  The Wonderful World of Disney managed to fuel my imagination even more with their versions of my favorite tales.  In fairy tales, good always triumphs over evil and the antagonist always gets his or her just reward.

Why can’t real life be like fairy tales?

Imagine a world where bullies learned their lessons, where every teen girl was noticed for the beauty inside, not out.  A world where abusive parents were punished for their atrocities, and teen boys could be heroes with super powers to save the world.  Imagine a world with no drugs, no teen suicide, no eating disorders, a prince for every princess, a happily ever after for everyone.  It’s a dream I have.  Maybe someday my dream will come true.  Until then,

What about you?  Do you wish for the fairy tale or do you live for the challenges of reality?  What is/was your favorite fairy tale?