Author Guest Post: Alex Bledsoe on World Building!


by Alex Bledsoe

World-building is a cornerstone (heh; building pun) of fantasy. Starting with the assumption that something unreal exists—vampires, dragons, elves, whatever—we then expand into the ways it influences the world in which the story happens. I’ve done it in three different ways.

The most obvious way, in my Eddie LaCrosse novels and stories, is to create an entirely new world from scratch, one that has no connection with our own, either in history, culture or religion. It’s called a “secondary world” in fantasy-speak, a term coined by Tolkein to differentiate a setting from the real, or primary, world. I’ve always disliked that term, because it implies a diminution, as if the fantasy world was somehow less than the real world. Granted many times it is, but when it works, it’s as real, as primary, as the one I’m sitting in as I type this.

When I created the world of Eddie LaCrosse, I made a couple of decisions up front. People would have regular names (i.e., Eddie), they would not speak in either faux Shakespeare or cod-Bilbical (“Behold, he is the Chosen One, who will fulfill yon Prophecy!”), and that the characters would all have identifiable jobs. I chose all this because I wanted to write the series in a voice similar to the great noir writers (Chandler, Parker, Vachss). It’s hard to do that seriously with Tolkein-ish names (“Eowyn walked into my office with a stride like a prize Rohan filly”—see?).

My Tufa novels take place ostensibly in the “primary” world, but deal with a unique fictional culture that exists within it. To make that work requires a balancing act between things the reader knows (cars, farms, families, et al.) and things they likely don’t (fairies, dream time, etc.). There’s no guide for this sort of thing; it either feels right, or it doesn’t. Sometimes it feels right at first, then goes wrong as you develop it further.

This is very close to the concept of “magical realism,” a term often used by literary writers who don’t want to be classified within a genre (i.e., “speculative fiction” instead of “science fiction” [I’m looking at you, Cormac McCarthy]). It was first used to describe the work of Latin American authors such as Isabel Allende, and has an appropriately nebulous definition. But I read a great description once (don’t ask me where) that said, in paraphrase, “It takes the world as everyone knows it, except for one aspect that’s slightly askew.” Think the magical cooking in Like Water for Chocolate, or the clairvoyance of The House of the Spirits.

This approach has the beauty of maintaining the sense of wonder that sometimes get lost when “paranormal” elements are accepted as part of the world, as in much of urban fantasy. The lack of overt explanation for either the reader or the characters means that they share the surprise at any “magical” occurrences.

I wrote two vampire novels set in 1975 Memphis, and that presented a challenge not unlike building a fantasy world. Although I lived through that period as a child, I wasn’t attuned to the subtleties of it; my memories are mostly of pop culture references. I had to research events, attitudes, even Seventies clothing (AGHHH!) in order to create—or in this case, recreate—the world. And as Michael Cimino said about Heaven’s Gate, “One uses history in a very free way,” so there is one glaring (to me, at least) anachronism that so far no reader has mentioned.

I’ve written about other “worlds” in various short stories, including westerns, horror, and of course, fantasy. Through all this, I’ve learned one thing: you can’t take the world for granted. Even in an entirely contemporary, entirely mundane story, you may be creating a world that a potential reader has never seen. It’s your job to figure out the details that will conjure that world in the reader’s mind so that they can inhabit it as fully as your characters. If you achieve that, then you have built a world.

Box Review: Bam Box – August 2016

Bam Box

The Bam Box was founded in 2015 by Bloof, the same team of geeks, comic book lovers and pop culture collectors that started We love collecting. We love the thrill of it, the mystery of it and especially that feeling you get when you have a collectible in your hands that you are really excited about. So we set out to bring something different to everyone.

There are some great subscription boxes on the market, but we felt there was still something missing. We went to the drawing board with the goal of creating the box we would want to show up on our doorstep. After a lot of ideas and prototypes we arrived at the Bam Box. From the design of the box to the items inside to the instant winners we send out, we accomplished what we wanted to do: give you the subscription box we would be jealous of.”

Cost: 1 month plan starts at $24.99 plus $7.99 s/h

* received a box for review purposes.

Bam Box

There is a handy sheet included with a description of all of the items in the box and any possible 1-Ups!

This month’s theme was “Crazy”!

Bam Box

I received a pin of Ace Ventura. It’s a strange design – I wouldn’t have guessed the character ever.

Bam Box

EXCLUSIVE RELEASE: Batman The Killing Joke Soundtrack – This is a 2-song 45 EP. I don’t know anyone with a record player, but it’s a fun novelty if you do.

Bam Box

Hannibal Lecter Mask – Creepy! This would make an easy Halloween costume.

Bam Box

What’s in the box?

Bam Box

Ahhhh! I had a good laugh about this one. Like everyone who has seen it, scenes from Se7en are burned in my brain.

Bam Box

Harley Quinn Print by Nathan Szerdy – This is a pin-up style that obviously does nothing for me – except make me roll my eyes.

Katana Signed Photo – Signed by the actress herself, this was pretty cool!

Bam Box Bam Box

I was an instant winner of a hand-drawn and airbrushed sketch card from Bianca Thompson. It’s definitely not my style nor do I know who this is supposed to be. Any guesses? Weird.

Summary: This was obviously not my favorite box. But the theme was a hint that it wouldn’t be for me. Hopefully, next month’s theme will be more up my alley with items I’d be more apt to keep around.

Received in August

The following are the books, movies, television shows, etc. I received in August for review and/or giveaways:

Mystery Box:
The Bam Box

Into the Guns by William C. Dietz

Lantern City Vol. 2 by Matthew Daley

Arc Manor / Phoenix Pick:
Soulmates by Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn

Disney Hyperion:
Star Wars: Ahsoka by E. K. Johnston
Saving Hamlet by Molly Booth
A List of Cages by Robin Roe
Lockwood & Co., Book Four: The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud
Eden’s Escape by M. Tara Crowl
The Shadow Guard by J. D. Vaughn
Cupcake Cousins, Book 3: Winter Wonders by Kate Hannigan

Little, Brown:
Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Penguin / Blue Rider Press:
The Watchers by Jon Steele
Angel City by Jon Steele
The Way of Sorrows by Jon Steele

Penguin Young Readers / Putnam / Razorbill:
Between Worlds by Skip Brittenham
The Last Star by Rick Yancey
Iceling by Sasha Stephenson
The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

Random House Kids / Crown:
100 Dresses: If the Magic Fits by Susan Maupin Schmid
Thrones and Bones: Skyborn by Lou Anders

Masked City by Genevieve Cogman

Bionic by Suzanne Weyn
Key Hunters #3: The Haunted Howl by Eric Luper
Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison

Shadow Mountain:
Mysteries of Cove: Gears of Revolution by J. Scott Savage

Simon and Schuster / Saga:
The Cold Eye by Laura Anne Gilman

Simon and Schuster Children’s / Aladdin / Simon Pulse:
The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner
Swarm by Scott Westerfeld

Subterranean Press:
Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi by John Scalzi
Coco Butternut by Joe R Lansdale

Navigators of Dune by Brian Herbert

Tor Teen / Starscape:
Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians: The Dark Talent by Brandon Sanderson

Book Giveaway: Black Rain


Courtesy of 47North, I have a copy of Black Rain by Matthew B.J. Delaney for one (1) lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends September 23. I’ll draw a name on September 24, and notify winner via email.


Good luck!

Continue reading Book Giveaway: Black Rain

Graphic Novel Review: Adventures of Supergirl Vol. 1

Adventures of Supergirl Vol. 1 by Sterling Gates and artists including Bengal, Emanuela Lupacchino, Carmen Carnero and Emma Vieceli

Kara Zor-El escaped the destruction of her home planet Krypton, but on the way to Earth, her ship took a years-long detour. Taken in by the loving Danvers family upon her arrival, she’s been taught to keep her incredible powers a secret.

But with her cousin Superman winning hearts and saving lives all over the world, Kara can’t keep the secret forever—not when her powers are the only thing that can save the people and the city she loves.

Now she’s taken to the skies above National City as Earth’s newest superhero, but sinister forces, both human and alien, want to ground her for good. Who will take a stand to save her family, friends and her adopted planet from the forces of evil? This looks like a job for…Supergirl!

Based on the TV series, this graphic novel is a new story arc focusing on new villains. All of Supergirl’s friends take a backseat in this story save for her sister who has a major part to play. I thoroughly enjoyed this storyline, except for one character who reminded me a bit of Indigo but much less powerful.

The artwork was fitting and flowed well. And the story was full of suspense and drama. This action-packed story never got slow or dull. I only missed more interaction with Supergirl’s work colleagues, as they are my favorite characters from the show. I hope Gates continues to write this series, as he always does a great job with Supergirl. And this tv series line is very endearing.

Box Review: Marvel Collector Corps – August 2016 – Spider-Man

Marvel Collector Corps

This is the August 2016 box from Collector Corps and the theme was Spider-Man! The Marvel Collector Corps offers these boxes starting at $25 plus s/h.

Marvel Collector Corps

Each box comes with an exclusive badge and pin.

Marvel Collector Corps

And a card detailing the contents of the box with a look at early concepts.

Marvel Collector Corps

Spider-Man Hat (Retail $10?) – Blech. These need to go. Bring back the t-shirts, because very few people would want these.

Amazing Spider-Man #16 Comic (Retail $3.99) – Always a hit.

Marvel Collector Corps

Exclusive Spider-Man Pop (Retail $10+) – This is a great design. It reminded me a bit of the Deadpool POP from a few boxes back. But Spidey’s fingers are splayed out like he’s about to shoot out a web. Very fun.

Marvel Collector Corps

Spider-Man Fabrikations (Retail $17.98 on Amazon) – This was a nice pick over a Dorbz. I still don’t collect these, but it’s a higher value item, so I appreciated it.

Summary: They really need to ditch the ugly hats and get back to tshirts. Otherwise, this was a decent box. Looking forward to the next!

Next month’s theme is Doctor Strange, just in time for the upcoming film!

Fantasy Book Review: The Killer In Me

The Killer In Me by Margot Harrison

Hasn’t he lived long enough? Why not? I could take him like a thief in the night.
This is how the Thief thinks. He serves death, the vacuum, the unknown. He’s always waiting. Always there.

Seventeen-year-old Nina Barrows knows all about the Thief. She’s intimately familiar with his hunting methods: how he stalks and kills at random, how he disposes of his victims’ bodies in an abandoned
mine in the deepest, most desolate part of a desert.

Now, for the first time, Nina has the chance to do something about the serial killer that no one else knows exists. With the help of her former best friend, Warren, she tracks the Thief two thousand miles, to his home turf-the deserts of New Mexico.

But the man she meets there seems nothing like the brutal sociopath with whom she’s had a disturbing connection her whole life. To anyone else, Dylan Shadwell is exactly what he appears to be: a young veteran committed to his girlfriend and her young daughter. As Nina spends more time with him, she begins to doubt the truth she once held as certain: Dylan Shadwell is the Thief. She even starts to wonder . . . what if there is no Thief?

Nina is a troubled girl. She sees brutal murders through someone else’s eyes. And whatever she does, she can never seem to stop him. She’s not even sure if he’s real. But she has his name and residence, so she decides to trek across the country to find him and get answers.

The Killer In Me is an exciting and captivating psychological thriller. With a couple of shocking twists along the way, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. The characters are vivid, and there is plenty of mystery, suspense, and drama. Young adults on up should enjoy this mind twister.


Courtesy of DAW, I have a copy of This Gulf of Time and Stars and The Gate To Futures Past by Julie E. Czerneda for two (2) lucky winners!

Contest is open to US and Canadian residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends September 16. I’ll draw names on September 17, and notify winner via email.


Good luck!

Continue reading Blog Tour: Book Giveaway: THIS GULF OF TIME AND STARS and GATES TO FUTURES PAST

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