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Contemporary Dystopian

Dystopian

Dystopian – an imagined place where everything seems extremely unpleasant, or environmentally degraded.  (photo by io9.com)

I’ve read some, but not all dystopian novels. I’ve read Utopia by Thomas Moore. You have to have a bit of an idea of what an Utopian society is to really know what Dystopian is. With Utopia, it explores a fictional island society and looks at its religious, social and political customs. This gives a chance to explore a society that seems perfect, but it’s there to truly critique our own society, where ever it may be in time and space. Dystopian is the opposite, but not completely. We see a society of full of the extremes, but gives enough space to critique our own society as well. It isn’t all that simple. Why are we gravitated to this kind of literature in the first place? Since I’m more familiar with contemporary dystopian, I’ll answer the question with it. The horrible moment of 9/11, I believe, greatly influenced dystopian literature. The new texts became more than a critique of society, but also a way to deal with postmillennial anxieties.

This is why young people, as well as adults, are drawn to these kind of texts. News media, as good intending it may be in certain aspects, has increased our anxieties of the world around us, as well as opened our eyes to more negative aspects of our society. The Hunger Games and the Divergent series are some of the most notable for contemporary. There is also Battle Royale, that is a Japanese novel, which seems to be a precursor to The Hunger Games. There is also the horror dystopian novel, Bird Box, that hits home exactly what our anxieties come from (media/real world), and how we deal with them (confront the labyrinth). We feel unsafe, and we find refuge in these texts because it reminds us that we don’t have it as bad as it could be. Reading these texts gives us distance as well to explore while knowing we’re seemingly safe where we are. It’s somewhat like a travel narrative through our exploration of these fictional societies, but it’s more like a labyrinth or a maze.

The labyrinth in western culture has become to represent confusion within society, and the desire to search for self, meaning, or to feel safe. It also a form of development, this is why it calls out to young people, but also to ourselves, since we continue to struggle growing towards our potential. Ultimately reading these texts becomes a rite of passage. We are able to observe a system and find its flaws to help “beat the game.” We look to this literature to help us deal, but also to overcome more than one opponent, and navigate more than one labyrinth. No matter how you feel about the former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, he tapped into something that has been building within these contemporary novels. Our desire for revolution, but most of all, change social injustice. We need dystopians more than ever now with the current election, and politics. Where candidates are tapping into our anxieties, as well as our hopeful desires for a better world, towards their end goal of winning the election. We need literature to find ourselves, and decide how we will make the best decision(s) to improve our world.

testing

Yet a labyrinth originally was seen as a single route with twists and turns that isn’t meant to be difficult to navigate. There is only one path, one entrance and one exit. The only way one can safely enter is to have a tie to the entrance that will lead you back to the exit. With this in mind, the end goal isn’t the destination, but the journey. Exactly what these novels provide a journey for us to experience. At the same time, we have a maze, that is confusing and paths may lead to dead-ends. This is a puzzle that can be changed to different levels of difficulty and complexity. Mazes are used to see spatial awareness and sometimes intelligence. The Testing series uses both versions of a labyrinth, as well as the maze. As you can see from the first novel cover, mazes are large focus for the series. Without giving too much away, this series gives a different kind of critique of society, presenting the flaws of standardized testing in an extreme dystopian world. This society uses tests to determine who is qualified to lead the country. The series becomes a labyrinth the complex journey, while the characters confront not only labyrinths but also mazes to find out what they can do to survive, but also “beat the game,” what can they do to make their world change to be better.

We desire to read these texts, but also to write them. It’s a labyrinth and a maze at the same time. We want to provide these journeys to others, but also to ourself to find out our potential as well as explore how we can change our society, but most of all make aware of what could lead towards a dystopian society to prevent it from happening. Or are we already in a dystopian world finding our way out of it? It’s all really up to us, the readers and the writers.

 

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Tips on Drawing on Inspiration to Write



Hello! You’ve arrived at the next stop of the Brazen Blog Tour. I’m excited to celebrate the release of the final book in the GILDED series written by Christina Farley. For those who are interested in learning more about writing inspiration, or just curious to see how the GILDED series was inspired, you will enjoy reading this interview with my friend Christina Farley. I really appreciate the opportunity for my blog to be part of the this amazing book release celebration. I can’t wait to delve into Jae’s story once again, and see what Christina writes next. If you have arrived to this blog post and have no idea what the GILDED series is about, I recommend reading this wonderful fantasy series with a contemporary look at Korean mythology. If you’re a fan of Rick Riordan’s YA novels, you’ll find a familiar yet unique story with Christina’s series that will make you curious to learn more about Korean culture and myths. Also a strong female lead that inspires readers of all ages that they can do the impossible. After the interview, you will find all the information you need to enter into the special giveaway.


To learn more about this series, visit the Gilded Series websiteWatch GILDED’s book trailer here!

Be sure to pick up the letter for this stop at the end of this post to earn extra points in the Kindle Fire or $50 Amazon gift card giveaway! Collect all the letters during the blog tour to spell out the secret message to earn more points.


About the Book:

Find it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads | Indie

Tips on Drawing on Inspiration to Write



Interview:


1.     Where do you draw inspiration for your writing? How do you find ideas for your stories?

   


Photo taken at Mont Saint Michel

Every story that I’ve written so far stems from my travels. I love to travel and I find so much inspiration in it. Whenever I go on a trip I make sure I bring with me a journal. I make every attempt I can to make notes of the architecture, the dress of the people, the way they interact with each other, their tone of voice. I make sure I visit as many museums of history and culture as I can so I can learn about that area’s past and discover what made them to be who they are today.
Here’s a video I made about tackling writer’s block:


2.    What drew you to create the GILDED series? What surprised you the most when you wrote the series? What is your favorite scene from each of the books?


It was the Korean myths and the Korean culture that really sparked my interest in writing the Gilded series. When I came across the myth of Haemosu and Princess Yuhwa, I was completely riveted about the what if’s of that myth and what happened next. I originally hadn’t expected it to be a series, just a standalone but as I started revising GILDED, I realized there was SO MUCH MORE to this series. So I kept writing!
Here’s a video clip where I talk about the inspiration of GILDED.
I’m a sucker for writing fight scenes. So my favorite scene in the series is the last two chapters of BRAZEN. I was completely inspired when writing it. I remember not being able to type fast enough to tell the story that was unraveling in my mind.


3.    How did the process go to publish your series?


It wasn’t an easy journey, that’s for sure! I started out writing to fulfill one check mark on my bucket list. But once I started writing, I was hooked! So I started off writing for magazines, writing short stories and articles.
Then I took a class with Jill Santopolo and learned how to write a young adult novel. I wrote a lot of books! But when I started writing GILDED, I knew deep down inside that this was the one and I told myself I’d do anything and everything to get it published.
So I revised heavily and then sought out an agent. I got three agent’s who offered representation and choose Jeff Ourvan. We went out on sub a few months later (after revisions) and sold five months later to Skyscape/Amazon Children’s.
This video pretty much sums it up!



4.    What is the most memorable reader/fan interaction?

I’ve had so many memorable moments. But going on an author tour to Korea was incredibly impactful. Not only did I get to return to the roots of Jae Hwa’s story, but it was so neat talking to students. One high school boy at Chadwick International came up to me and said, “I’m Korean-American, a black belt in tae kwon do, and I’m from California. Jae Hwa’s story is so much like mine. Thank you for writing this book.”
I was like WOW!!!
And then I got to meet a 7th grader from Seoul Foreign School (the school that’s in the books) and her name is Jae Hwa Lee!!! How crazy is that?
Such an amazing experience. You can watch my video here that reflects on the trip.





About the Author:


CHRISTINA FARLEY is the author of the Gilded series, a YA contemporary fantasy series set in Korea. GILDED was nominated for Korea’s 2014 Morning Calm, Ohio’s 2015 Buckeye award, and the Tome’s It List. As a child, she loved to explore, which later inspired her to jump on a plane and travel the world. Christina’s adventures sparked her to write stories, infusing the real world with fantasy. Currently she writes from home in Clermont, FL with her husband and two sons—that is until the travel itch whisks her off to a new unknown.

Find
Christina Here:


The Giveaway:


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To celebrate the release of BRAZEN, Christina is giving away a Kindle Fire (US only) and a $50 Amazon gift card (international). The letter for this stop is SCollect all the letters from the blog tour to earn more points!

Experiencing ‘Walden’

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Photo by Christy

  “The earth has music for those who listen.” – George Santayana

 It’s important some times to stop what you’re doing, and go explore the nature around you. I usually don’t have much need of persuasion to go out into nature, but some times because I’m worried about life, I forget that God has created this amazing beauty for me to enjoy.

As I mentioned previously, I’ve been reading Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, in preparation for the comps exams (basically exit exams for the Masters program), but also because of the web series, Classic Alice. I’ve mentioned this web series before, but I’m very excited for the upcoming new episodes that will start June 9th. So far I know they plan to cover Walden. This web series is a bit different to other literary web series in the fact that they cover more than one classic story. Yet like others, they take a modern twist. What excites me about this amazing web series is the fact that they really promote the reading of classic literature, and find new creative ways to imagine these texts while also creating a unique story. The reason is that they are able take some aspect, or several from the text, and advance the characters stories. The main character literally grows from experiencing these classic texts. When I found out that Classic Alice was planning to cover Walden, I was so excited that my best friend Tabitha couldn’t believe it. She actually didn’t like the novel when she had to read it for class, but then again, she had a tough class to begin with. The reason why I was excited was because the show would be covering a book that I would need to know for the comps exams. So in a way, they are kind of helping me study. Now that I’ve read half way, I kind of see what my best friend was talking about, but at the same time, see why it’s so important for Classic Alice to cover this text. Why? Because it’s not a story per say, but an account of someone’s experience with nature and life. This can seem for some as “dry” because they are used to an interesting narrative with plot that affects the characters and they grow as the story evolves. This text has a different purpose, it’s more personal. The author intends to explain how much nature has impacted him, for others to also go out and explore. He wants personal change for the reader, as well as give us a better appreciation for the nature around us.

Like Alice Rackham, from Classic Alice, who makes life decisions from classic texts. I decided after reading part of the text that I would go explore nature with Tabitha. Don’t worry, I’ll finish the text soon. Anyways, this past Tuesday we went to my favorite beach location, and to a local duck pond. Besides enjoying my time with my friend and taking pictures, I was determined to look at the nature through Thoreau’s perspective. Obviously it’s not going to be the same as his since he lived out there for a period of time, and didn’t have technology with him. As well as being basically on his own most of the time. A way to help you understand his perspective, I’ll let you know two of his best quotes from the text:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” “We need the tonic of wildness… At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough nature.” 

This made me look at nature differently. God created the world around us, most importantly nature. We can’t ever forget that. By reminding ourselves of this amazing beauty, should be something we help share with others. We need to do our part to protect the environment for everyone. The only way we can do that is to know what we’re fighting for. At the same time, when you’re out there exploring nature, you’re also exploring yourself. Leave everything of worry behind, and remember who you really are. Yes, it’s just a beach and just a pond with ducks, but if we look at it closely we can see art, wonder, happiness, life, and remind us what’s truly important in our lives.

Earlier this year and recently, I’ve been inspired to write a bit of fanfiction thanks to some of the shows I’ve been watching. It’s not likely I’ll stop any time soon. Besides that, I’ve been recently inspired to write about nature. I haven’t yet, but hope to do so soon (possibly poetry). I think it’s come from reading Walden, as well as exploration of nature this past week with my best friend as well as with my family. This has also reminded me of two professors I used to have that were really drawn to writing about their experiences with nature that they wrote journals, poems & stories. From what I can tell so far from Classic Alice, Alice is inspired to write more as well from her experiences. Which is amazing how much a character, though different, can be similar when you take a simple step as seeing a text from a different perspective.

If you haven’t seen Classic Alice yet, I recommend doing so. From what I’ve experienced of the show so far, it has inspired and given me a new perspective on how to experience literature. If you have, re-watch now before the new episodes start. It’s worth watching, and especially reading along. Additionally, the series is interactive online through trans-media aspects by story telling via Twitter, Tumblr, & podcasting, along with the episodes on YouTube. I can’t wait to see what other books they end up covering this season. I hope you’ll experience the amazing ride along with me.

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Photo by Christy

Some stories are hidden in the past…

Local Greek Festival - 2012Photo by Christy

A local Greek Festival – 2012
Photo by Christy

I’ve always been curious about the world around me, but also my family history. My mother was born in Mexico, and became an American. Her family roots come from Italy and France, from what we know. Even though my father was born here, his grandparents came from Mexico, Spain and Greece. By having a Greek last name, there was something that always made me curious about my Greek heritage. I’ve wanted to know about the history, the culture, and my great-grandfather as well as my ancestors. It wasn’t only Greek, but it was a stronger influence than my other family roots, possibly because of my Greek last name.

Last year I learned that March is Greek-American Heritage Month. If you walk around in the stores this month, you won’t see much about it. There is more focus of Irish-American Heritage Month. The main reason is the popular Irish national holiday that celebrates Ireland’s patron, St. Patrick (March 17th). Though both the Greeks and the Irish share this month, thanks to Former President George H.W. Bush and Congress in 1991. It gives honor to both cultures for their contributions and achievements to the US. They chose to have Greek-American Heritage Month in March as well because of Greek Independence Day is March 25th.

I knew a bit about my Greek heritage through local annual Greek festivals in Texas. It’s a wonderful experience to go with family and enjoy the great food and music offered. They even have a little store where you can buy products from or about Greece. Though I love going with my family every year, it only has given me a glimpse of the culture that I really wanted to learn more about. When I was younger, I read myths from different cultures, but my focus was on the Greek. In my studies, I’ve read the great Greek epics like the Iliad and the Odyssey. Later, I read on my own the Percy Jackson series, that are based on the Greek myths. I knew that there were stories out there that focused more on the country than the myths, and those who immigrated to the US, but… where were they?

The Greek Americans

That began my search to see what I could find in literature, music, and in history. The first thing I found was two book lists, one from 2009-2011 and another from 2012. It gave me a starting point. I continued my search online and found the Greek American Foundation. I also found books in the public library, such as Corelli’s Mandolin and a history book on Greek-Americans. My search even went to finding songs on Spotify. I learned that my great-grandfather arrived in the US at Ellis Island, and even found the name of my great-great grandmother in the records from Ellis Island. We didn’t know if he had arrived at the port on Ellis Island, or another one, and when I found a book on searching through the Ellis Island Records online. I realized that I didn’t have to travel far to find out. Learning that he came to that port, made a difference because by searching the history of Ellis Island I could learn more about what my great-grandfather experience as an immigrant to the US. It was wonderful to do my own research just to learn and experience my heritage. It’s even made me want to pursue studying Greek-American literature in grad school.

Now it’s another March, now I’m wondering what can I learn and read relating to my Greek-American heritage. Though I’ve found some interesting fictional books (The Island by Victoria Hislop, Lipsi’s Daughter by Patty Apotolides, Falling in Love with Sophia by Robert Krantz, and The Green Shore by Natalie Bakopoulos). I’m sure there is more that I don’t even know about, that includes relating to history. It’s just a bit harder to find, unless you’ve studied it. I’ll keep searching this month, and explore what I find. 

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

I’ve thought about traveling to Europe, especially Greece. To learn more, but also to give me another setting to write about in my stories. Though I can’t afford traveling right now, maybe doing a some research could help me start writing stories about Greek-Americans, and Greece. I’ve written a poem about my desire to learn and experience Greece. One of my former professors even suggested to me that I could write a story similar to my great-grandparents, and he was also the one that told me that if I truly wanted to go to Greece, what was stopping me from doing so. I kept telling him that it was the cost, and he insisted that wasn’t a good enough reason. He said I could save up enough money to travel to Greece. As much as I try to save up money, I don’t think I’ll be traveling to Greece any time soon. Though I realized last year that there were other ways to experience Greece, without spending a lot of money. I had it all near by… the festivals, books,music and food. It not a lot, but for now it’s enough. Plus who knows what stories I might write with Greece as a focus.

Is there something about your family past that makes you curious to learn more about? If this applies to you, I recommend doing your own research and learning everything you can. You may never know what you might find, and what stories or poems might appear.

Reflecting back, what made an impact?

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming  Image by ABC's Castle

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
Image by ABC’s Castle

A thought occurred to me as I was watching the latest episode of Castle. Without spoiling the episode, I’ll just hint to where the thought came from. Closer to the end of the episode, Richard Castle was reminded about the book that caused him to become an author. He said that when he read Casino Royale he was inspired to write his own spy novel. Which he ended up writing a spy series, and later a detective series. It was a really sweet moment in the episode, but it caused me to think about what book caused me to become a writer.

I couldn’t really narrow down to a certain book. It really surprised me. Though I’ve always enjoyed reading, though it was a bit difficult for me to read for school (to remember details for exams). It all started with my parents. When I was little they read to me stories in English, and in Spanish. Then when I started to read on my own, I started to drift towards series. Though I’ve read books that weren’t part of a series, none that I could think of really persuaded me to write. So the first series that came to mind that made me want to be a writer was Harry Potter.

jk_rowling

J.K. Rowling wove an amazing story through seven books that have made impact in so many lives. For me it wasn’t just the story, but also the author’s own personal story that persuaded me as well. Even at the most difficult part of her life, she wrote the first book. Even after she finished it, it was turned down by many publishers (which I’m sure they regret it now). That didn’t stop her. Some how her character’s story appeared on the shelves. She couldn’t even imagine how that story would make an impact.

Then there are certain authors that I started with one of their books and continued to read more of their books, such as Jane Austen and Nicholas Sparks. It wasn’t very common for women during Jane Austen’s time period to write. Though she still wrote her stories, and kept writing even on her death bed. Nicholas Sparks is very well know for his novels, especially the ones that turn into movies. He started writing after he got a sports injury and didn’t have anything to do. So he decided to write a novel to see if he could do it.

It doesn’t matter to me if I’m “famous.” That’s not how I perceive success. It’s all about the story, and what the readers receive from it. The reward should be seeing your work finally on the shelve for others to read, and receiving feedback and reviews on it.

Jo March and Professor Bhaer in Little Women

Jo March and Professor Bhaer in Little Women

Reading a great story can really inspire you to want to become a writer. It can also be a character that happens to be a writer, or a reporter. So that reminded me of the book, Little Women. My favorite character was Jo. She was a writer, who wanted to write a novel. It was one of my favorite stories when I was younger. The characters don’t really have to come from novels either. Lois Lane inspired me to become a reporter. Though I’m not a reporter now, the newspaper experiences that I had in high school and a bit in college have taught me skills to write as well.

Lois Lane and Clark Kent in the TV show, Smallville

Lois Lane and Clark Kent in the TV show, Smallville

It can also be the people around you that inspire you to become a writer. I had a friend of mine that inspired me to write in the school newspaper and literary magazine in high school. That was a stepping stone to what I would study in college to have a degree in Liberal Arts (English, and minor in Journalism). If it weren’t for a few friends in college that made me realize that I should study English. That gave me the opportunity to be taught by some amazing professors about literature, poetry, creative writing, and so much more. If I hadn’t made that decision to switch my major after my first semester, I might not be the person I am today. I might have graduated with a Business degree.

So why does this really matter, you may ask. Well, just as someone desires to know their family past to learn more of who they are. I believe each writer should learn, and/or remind themselves, what cause them to love writing. Which causes you reflect where you came from, how you’ve improved, and what you need to do to improve. That way when you have difficulties in writing, or in publishing, you can remind yourself why you love your craft. For it’s the craft, and the experience of creating something, that really matters more than any bump in the road.

The Fine Line Between Fiction and Fact

article image I think it’s always difficult in writing to make the story accurate.

According to this article from BBC News, our nation [the USA] has a top science organization, the Washington Academy of Sciences (WAS), which hands out seals of approval to books that present science correctly. This seems like it would benefit writers, just as much for readers. Though, what if we learn that what we thought was wrong was really right? It’s happened before in history. We did use to believe that the Earth revolved around the Sun. Which items does science say is correct now that we might learn later was wrong?

So how much accuracy should our fictional stories be accounted for?  Writers try to make their stories, though they are fictional, rooted in reality as much as possible.This is why research is an important factor for those who don’t have complete knowledge about a certain subject that will influence the story. Though if we use Science Fiction as an example, some things that are covered in those stories that were more fiction than fact caused an exploration of science advancement, such as ten inventions inspired by Science Fiction. It seems like there should be enough to make the idea credible, or make everything consistent to the story for the idea to seem real. Remember sometimes the truth can be stranger than fiction. Though we have to show which ever idea in a way that will advance the plot, so the readers can immerse themselves into the story. If we know our strengths and weaknesses are, we can find away to improve our stories. So if we’re not good with accuracy, then maybe research might help, and at the end of it all making sure the story is a good one. If the story is good, then the readers might not mind a few inaccuracies.

This topic of accuracy usually comes up when I watch TV shows related to crime, for example Bones. The show is centered on science, but… is it all correct? The crime shows usually have consultants to make sure that what ever they cover is accurate. I know the show has a well-known consultant, but someone who studied Criminal Justice mentioned to me once that shows like Bones were filled with inaccuracies. It kind of surprised me for some reason. I had believed what I was watching had accurate science, even though the story was fictional. I know we can’t all be perfect, but we hope for something close to it. I usually try to watch these shows for the story, and hope that it’s accurate. That’s how I treat the stories I read as well. Do we as an audience and as readers choose to focus on the story, and ignore the inaccurancies? It all determines what you know. Like with the character Sherlock, if you know the subject, you will observe more inaccuracies than others. It’s just like those who have read a book that has been adapted to film who notice what others might not. It causes some to shift away from the story because they are focused on something that is disconcerting.

Though if we focus on making every thing plausible, could we be losing the appeal of fiction? I’m sure there are plenty of people who read fiction to experience a world unlike their own. So as long as the story is interesting, that’s where our focus is. Plus if we write only what we know, we place ourselves into a little box (and not one that is bigger on the inside…). We could be closing off the possiblities for our stories (as well as possible inspiration for future science advancement!). When you write a story, focus on what you do best, and then get help on the rest. Remember that fine line between Fiction and Fact is imaginary. You can place it where ever you choose, because you’re the writer. There will always be room for improvement. So I believe that this science organization can be used to help writers improve, but they can’t have the veto power over what is best fiction.

Certain puzzle pieces are just meant to be together

If there is no reading, then there is no writing… If there is no good writing, then there isn’t any reading…

The defintion of good differs between people. What I feel determines a good book is that it causes someone to read the entire story. A great book causes you to be interested in reading. An amazing book, trilogy, or series causes someone to have a love of reading forever.

“There are books full of great writing that don’t have very good stories. Read sometimes for the story… don’t be like the book-snobs who won’t do that… But when you find a book that has both a good story and good words, treasure that book.” – Stephen King

Reading and writing will always be together, and need each other. Reading gives us a chance to learn how others write. Your favorite amazing novel that you loved reading could be your best example to teach you what you want to learn. Or there could be several books can can show you different parts on the best way to write a story, such as creating style, background, theme, framework, characters, dialogue, new worlds, etc. So it makes sense why so many authors (like Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling…)  would recommend reading as much as you can. Ray Bradbury mentioned that his best education was reading an entire library. I’m sure it would be much difficult for us to read an entire library, especially one that continues to grow. There are some books that aren’t our cup of tea, but we also have to be open to reading some times out of our comfort zone too otherwise we might miss out on some great stories and learning experiences. (more…)