Friday, May 23, 2014

Books I Desperately Want to Read!

My friend keeps telling me "not enough hours in the day" and she's usually correct.  There simply aren't enough hours in the day to play, to read, to watch a Game of Thrones marathon, to write, and do most other fun things that we humans of the nerdy persuasion are want to do.  And so, surrendering to the lack of hours in a day, I'm pushing off a pinch of homework to compile this list.  These are the books that make me want more hours in the day.  I'm planning on reading some this next semester, but what I really want is to already have them happily devoured and snuggling into my subconscious like the miraculous brain food I know they'll be.  I own the first one and am borrowing the second one from my aunt.  I reckon I'm going to just have to buy it, along with the last two, and feed my ever-increasing library. (Note: the book descriptions are taken from

Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in the use of alchemy, finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict between gargoyles, the Mechanics, and the Alchemists. With the old order quickly giving way to the new, Mattie discovers powerful and dangerous secrets - secrets that can completely alter the balance of power in the city of Ayona. However, this doesn't sit well with Loharri, the Mechanic who created Mattie and still has the key to her heart - literally!

Geralt of Rivia is a witcher. A cunning sorcerer. A merciless assassin. And a cold-blooded killer. His sole purpose: to destroy the monsters that plague the world. But not everything monstrous-looking is evil and not everything fair is good. . . and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth. The international hit that inspired the video game: The Witcher.

Eight Neanderthals encounter another race of beings like themselves, yet strangely different. This new race, Homo sapiens, fascinating in their skills and sophistication, terrifying in their cruelty, sense of guilt, and incipient corruption, spell doom for the more gentle folk whose world they will inherit. Golding, author of Lord of the Flies, won the 1983 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Winner of the 2013 Hugo award for Best Graphic Story! When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. From New York Times bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Vocab word of the week

brawn·y  [braw-nee]
adjective, brawn·i·er, brawn·i·est.
muscular; strong.

1375–1425; late Middle English;  see brawn, -y1

Monday, May 12, 2014

Vocab word of the week

pal·pa·ble  [pal-puh-buhl]
1. readily or plainly seen, heard, perceived, etc.; obvious; evident: a palpable lie; palpable absurdity.
2. capable of being touched or felt; tangible.
3. Medicine/Medical . perceptible by palpation.

1350–1400; Middle English  < Late Latin palpābilis  that can be touched, equivalent to palpā ( re ) to stroke, touch, palpate1  + -bilis -ble

Monday, May 5, 2014

Vocab word of the week


noun, plural con·tral·tos.
the lowest female voice or voice part, intermediate between soprano and tenor.
the alto, or highest male voice or voice part.
a singer with a contralto voice.
pertaining to the contralto voice or its compass.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Vocab word of the week

For guttered


a channel at the side or in the middle of a road or street, for leading off surface water.
a channel at the eaves or on the roof of a building, for carrying off rain water.
any channel, trough, or the like for carrying off fluid.
a furrow or channel made by running water.
Bowling. a sunken channel on each side of the alley from the line marking the limit of a fair delivery ofthe ball to the sunken area behind the pins.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Vocab word of the week

os·ten·si·ble  [o-sten-suh-buhl]
1. outwardly appearing as such; professed; pretended: an ostensible cheerfulness concealing sadness.
2. apparent, evident, or conspicuous: the ostensible truth of their theories.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Vocab word of the week

in·noc·u·ous  [ih-nok-yoo-uhs]
1.not harmful or injurious; harmless: an innocuous home remedy.
2.not likely to irritate or offend; inoffensive; an innocuous remark.
3.not interesting, stimulating, or significant; pallid; insipid: an innocuous novel.
1590–1600;  < Latin innocuus.  See in-3 , nocuous

Monday, April 7, 2014

Vocab Word of the Week

quix·ot·ic  [kwik-sot-ik]
1.( sometimes initial capital letter ) resembling or befitting Don Quixote.
2.extravagantly chivalrous or romantic; visionary, impractical, or impracticable.
3.impulsive and often rashly unpredictable.
Also, quix·ot·i·cal.

1805–15;  ( Don) Quixote + -ic

Monday, March 31, 2014

Vocab word of the week


fire·brand  [fahyuhr-brand]
1. a piece of burning wood or other material.
2. a person who kindles strife or encourages unrest; an agitator; troublemaker.
1175–1225; Middle English;  see fire, brand

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Highlights from Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy by Crawford Killian ~ Part III

“When you’re tempted to write about a dream come true, be sure that the dream turns into a nightmare as quickly as possible” (Killian 26).

“Kurt Vonnegut observes that only teenagers and SF writers think about the Big Issues like the meaning of life and the fate of the universe; the rest of us are too busy saving for retirement and fighting traffic to reflect on those issues” (Killian 34).

“You don’t have to invent your own languages, but your use of language should be very conscious. If your story portrays an oppressive bureaucracy, let us hear the bureaucrats mumbling in euphemisms and bafflegab while you’re hero speaks plain, blunt English” (Killian 37).

“At the same time we realize that both genres are really about the here and now, not some magical realm or the far future […] Given the current pace of events, however, it’s hard to find a ‘present’ that isn’t ancient history by the time we’ve dealt with it in print” (Killian 40).

“However you organize your fantasy world, then, make it as gritty and real and ordinary as you can; the more ordinary it is, even in its marvels, the more marvelous your readers will find it” (Killian 48).

“Establish the setting – where and when the story takes place. […] make this clear without a lot of chunky exposition. You’ll show it to us through the eyes of one or more of your characters, who will usually take their surroundings for granted” (Killian 71).


Kilian, Crawford. Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. U.S.A.: Self-Counsel, 1998. Print.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Highlights from Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy by Crawford Killian ~ Part II

“An isolated society could be on an island or a remote mountain region that is very difficult to reach. It is often portrayed as the geographical equivalent of a womb, which may or may not be an agreeable place. Utopia, St. Thomas More tells us, resulted from the cutting of a canal across a phallic peninsula, creating a uteruslike island: all the major cities are on the shores of an inland sea, which travelers enter through a narrow an dangerous strait” (Killian 36).

“Bear in mind that literature gives us a chance to create two different kinds of world: the demonic world where everything is hostile to human needs and desires, and the paradisal world where everything serves and supports those needs and desires. Typically, the fantasy story begins in a paradise, though it may be an ironic one. At any rate, it’s some kind of stable society” (Killian 43).

“I suggest that you start with some kind of symbolic reason for the kind of world you want, whether in science fiction or fantasy – a world that is symbolically a paradise, changed to (or at least threatened by) a demonic world” (Killian 44). 

“Think also about some of the geographical conventions of science fiction – especially the womblike world, closed off from the outside” (Killian 44).

“No matter how bizarre your aliens or demons, they will ultimately be much like us; otherwise we wouldn't be interested in them” (Killian 44). 

“But remember that you’re not creating curiosities; you’re trying to evoke in your readers a wider, deeper sense of what is natural, not just what is weird or bizarre” (Killian 45).

“You may have more freedom to set the rules of such worlds, but they must make some kind of sense in human terms. And once you set your rules, you have to abide by them” (Killian 45).


Kilian, Crawford. Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. U.S.A.: Self-Counsel, 1998. Print.

Highlights from Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy by Crawford Killian ~ Part I

As I've mentioned in past blogs, I'm currently working on the critical thesis part of obtaining my MFA in creative writing.  Part of this process includes reading different craft and fiction books so that I have a wealth of source quotes to add credence to my assertions as well as make the paper much more interesting and colorful.  I've mentioned this book before: Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy by Crawford Killian, but it's worth mentioning again.  A good deal of the information contained within (as is the case with most specialized craft books) is common sense to serious writers but it's never a bad idea to go back to the basics from time to time.  I found numerous gems in this book and while I'm including a variety of Killian quotes in my paper, I simply cannot include them all.  I decided to share these with the contributors and readers of this blog.  May they ignite your imagination, provide clarity, and inform.

“But even the humblest hackwork requires a certain level of craft, and that means you must understand your genre’s conventions if you are going to succeed – and especially if you are going to convey your message by tinkering with those conventions” (Killian 14). 

“The characters are moved from a state of ignorance to a state of knowledge, and defining their identities by their actions” (Killian 15).

“A science fiction or fantasy story provides similar evidence for a mythic vision of a world we imagine living in” (Killian 15). 

“But you may also may also make your fantasy or future worlds just a little too cozy and similar to our own – when the whole purpose of the genres is to show us the familiar in a context of the new, the strange, and the wonderful” (Killian 15).

“The far-future story often tends to the mythotropic, portraying persons and societies acting out their deepest urges, with the scientific resources to do so. The fun arises in seeing how holding enormous power makes little difference to people who are still enslaved by the same drives that we are” (Killian 23-24).

“Such books are often fun, but beware of the liberation movement that wants to solve its dystopian problems by going back to the U.S. Constitution or some other current document. We would not think much of a current rebel movement that wanted to rescue us by restoring the Roman Empire, adopting the social structure of the Incas, or imposing the Wiccan religion on everyone. So why should we suppose that our political institutions and values will be suitable to the societies of the far future?” (Killian 26).


Kilian, Crawford. Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. U.S.A.: Self-Counsel, 1998. Print.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Vocab word of the week

en·tro·py  [en-truh-pee]
1. Thermodynamics .
a.(on a macroscopic scale) a function of thermodynamic variables, as temperature, pressure, or composition, that is a measure of the energy that is not available for work during a thermodynamic process. A closed system evolves toward a state of maximum entropy.
b.(in statistical mechanics) a measure of the randomness of the microscopic constituents of a thermodynamic system. Symbol:  S
2.(in data transmission and information theory) a measure of the loss of information in a transmitted signal or message.
3.(in cosmology) a hypothetical tendency for the universe to attain a state of maximum homogeneity in which all matter is at a uniform temperature (heat death)
4.a doctrine of inevitable social decline and degeneration.

World English Dictionary
entropy  (ˈɛntrəpɪ)

— n  , pl -pies
1. See also law of thermodynamics S  a thermodynamic quantity that changes in a reversible process by an amount equal to the heat absorbed or emitted divided by the thermodynamic temperature. It is measured in joules per kelvin
2. a statistical measure of the disorder of a closed system expressed by S  = k log P  + c  where P  is the probability that a particular state of the system exists, k  is the Boltzmann constant, and c  is another constant
3. lack of pattern or organization; disorder
4. a measure of the efficiency of a system, such as a code or language, in transmitting information

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Vocab Word of the Week

co·pa·cet·ic  [koh-puh-set-ik, -see-tik]
adjective Slang.
fine; completely satisfactory; OK.
Also, copasetic, copesetic.

1915–20,  Americanism; of obscure origin; popular attributions of the word to Louisiana French, Italian, Hebrew,  etc., lack supporting evidence

Sunday, February 23, 2014

World Building!

For my Critical Thesis for the MFA Program, I'm focusing on world building in Dystopian fiction.  I've read some great craft essays and books that deal with the subject of bringing the reader into the world of the story and I wanted to share a few of my personal discoveries with our contributors and readers.  First of all, these books are a must have for anyone who writes, especially if they branch out in genres such as science fiction and fantasy: Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy by Crawford Killian, Burning Down the House by Charles Baxter, and Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway.

The first one on the list has been instrumental in giving me ideas and source quotes for my paper as well as informational in my own endeavors to create bigger, better, more concise worlds.  The novels that I'm going to use as primary sources in my Critical Thesis include Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, Feed by M.T. Anderson, and either The Windup Girl by Paola Bacigalupi or Battle Royale by Koushun Takami.  I might use all four but that depends on length and on what new ideas and examples each book brings the table when it comes to world building.  Just to give you all a taste of what I'm working on right now, please enjoy a snippet from my four page intro:
What does it take to make a world? It takes time, lots of it, and a certain amount of chemistry. And what does it take to destroy one? According to Star Wars, it takes a Death Star. But the real answer is much more complicated and raises more questions than it answers. Is it too much power? Not enough? Too many cooks in the kitchen? Or perhaps no one in the driver’s seat? Historical precedent indicates that a man-made or natural disaster is often the cause, but even something as seemingly localized and specific as a political rising or falling can destroy the fragile balance of what we consider to be civilized and humane existence. Dystopian fiction deals with these unmade worlds.
Merriam-Webster defines dystopia as “an imaginary place where people are unhappy and usually afraid because they are not treated fairly,” or “an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives.” Utopia, on the other hand, is “an imaginary place in which the government, laws, and social conditions are perfect,” or “an imaginary and indefinitely remote place.” In a nutshell, dystopia is the anti-utopia. Both extremes are defined as imaginary, but of the two, only one is make-believe; there is no such thing as a real utopia. Ideals are impossible to achieve, but dehumanized and fearful societies happen all the time. One of the reasons that dystopian literature has become so popular and even controversial over the past century is because it holds up a mirror. The reflection back depends greatly upon the novel. Sometimes we see the horrors of our past, sometimes the injustice and terror of the present, and, quite often, the mirror gives us a glimpse into a plausible future. ~ Amanda LaFantasie

Amanda LaFantasie © February 2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Vocab Word

You can always count on Sherlock (the show) to give us a interesting word.  This particular word comes from dear, Mycroft, talking about his brother, none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's darling Sherlock.


1. unwilling or refusing to change one's views or to agree about something.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Critical Thesis Journey Begins

I'm working on my MFA through Pine Manor College, and the focus of my current semester is a critical thesis between 30 and 35 pages in length.  I'm not too worried about generating pages.  I'm fairly wordy.  I think I'll probably end up with a forty page paper that has to be trimmed down and polished until it falls within the parameters.  The goal of this project is to help students/writers really examine things that they either struggle with or want to know more about as a means to improve their creative writing.

I had several wonderful topics selected last semester and even ran them by my second semester mentor, but in the end, the thing that I'm most interested in right now - and that I need the most help with, it seems - is Dystopian World Building.  My first semester mentor, Steve Huff, ran a workshop this past residency and he introduced the idea to me.  At first I thought 'isn't it a cop out to do a critical thesis on something so directly related to what you're currently writing?' and I also thought, 'but that sounds like too much fun, how can that possibly be a critical thesis?'  But then I realized that the critical thesis should deal with your creative work and it should  be fun!   Thank you, Steve!

In preparation for this essay I'm reading many wonderful Dystopian novels.  I just recently finished Feed by M.T. Anderson and am working on Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, and I'm also revisiting A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess and Battle Royale by Koushun Takami.  I have several craft books that I'm looking at as well.  My goal is to get the thing done in the next two months so that I can keep working on my creative work before hitting the final semester.  Wish me luck!

Amanda LaFantasie (c) January 2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Weekly vocab word

vac·il·lat·ing  [vas-uh-ley-ting]
1. not resolute; wavering; indecisive; hesitating: an ineffectual, vacillating person.
2. oscillating; swaying; fluctuating: a vacillating indicator.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Weekly Vocab word, 1st for the New Year

This one is because of one of the blogs I follow. Her title is Ms. Misanthropy and I was curious about the meaning of the word. I think her kind of strange since she doesn't give off that kind of mentality when she posts. But hey, I learned a new word!

mis·an·thro·py  [mis-an-thruh-pee, miz-]  
hatred, dislike, or distrust of humankind.
Origin: 1650–60;  < Greek mīsanthrōpía.  See misanthrope, -y3