books, writing

Delving into urban fantasy genre with a five book challenge

I’m taking some (writerly) advice: read lots of books in the genre you want to write. Pretty obvious really, however narrowing down my intended genre has been a challenge.

If I were to name the first five books that spring to mind when someone asks me what I like to read (and this loosely translates into: what I’d like to eventually write), I would say:

  1. Every Day by David Levithan
  2. The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger
  3. Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
  4. Night Film by Marisha Pessl
  5. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

From memory (and it has been a while since I read most of these) I would consider most of these to contain a blend of urban fantasy and science fiction. They are all set in a real world urban or city environment with a twist of mysticism or fantasy.

However, a quick googling tells me otherwise – here are the suggested genres for each of these titles:

  1. Every Day: young adult / fantasy / romance
  2. The Time Traveler’s Wife: science fiction / romance / speculative fiction / novel
  3. Pattern Recognition: science fiction
  4. Night Film: mystery / thriller
  5. The Shadow of the Wind: mystery

Hmm. Not an ‘urban’ amongst them, even though ‘Shadow of the Wind’ contains magical elements, ‘Every Day’ is set in, well, everyday urban settings as the protagonist keeps swapping bodies (so why isn’t this also considered science fiction?), and I would not restrict ‘Pattern Recognition’ to the sci-fi realm without mentioning the urban settings and mystery elements.

I’m a little conflicted, and that means only one thing: setting myself a little reading challenge to read five “urban fantasy fictions / novels” to help me better understand what the genre is capable of, and to identify if my intended novel fits into that genre.

It’s also a little bit fun because, for the next few months, I get to change my reading habits. As I settle into the world of urban fantasy, I’m beginning with this one:


Borderline by Mishell Baker is clearly defined as “urban fantasy with a cinematic punch” according to NPR’s review, and it gets quite the write up.

The cover caught my attention immediately; it’s reminiscent of the tone and style of my copy of ‘Pattern Recognition’. The second drawcard is the female author, and that’s important for my project. The third attraction is the diversity in the characters and themes (okay, that’s really four great reasons to read this). For example, the protagonist lives with BPD (borderline personality disorder) and a disability (two prosthetic legs after an attempted suicide). The setting is downtown LA in the film world with an overlaying fairy fantasy world. It sounds fantastic!

Funny, when I googled ‘Borderline genre,’ it suggested: dance / pop (Madonna, anyone?)

Let’s see how this goes – more details later on the other four books. I have some reading to do.


creativity, writing

wise words wednesday

Words © jen thomas (avisionofwords)

The best time for planning a book is
while you’re doing the dishes.
– Agatha Christie

Or while washing your hair, or taking a road trip, or sitting solo in a cafe sipping coffee… these are the times when my imagination begins to spark and the world-building plans start to form. The only problem is, I can’t take a notebook into the shower.

When does the planning fever strike you?


There are no new (story) ideas in the world


Discovering a book that is suspiciously like the story you are trying to write, down to the protagonist having the same name as your character, is almost enough to put you off writing.

Or at least, to make you question whether you are just a book-reading regurgitation machine rather than a legitimate words person.

This is the second time (this year) the universe has delivered me this lesson. In January, I was all set to scribble away at my amazing, ingenious, unique story idea and thought to do a bit of research to see if anyone else could have possibly written anything like it already.

Yes. Yes, they had.

The same genius idea, the same unique plot line, the same set of characters, all there for the world to read. I was put off, to say the least, at having to scrap all the exciting material I’d been working on because someone else had beaten me to the publishers.

When I wised up and caught sight of Austin Kleon’s ‘Steal Like and Artist’ on my bookshelf, I was humbly reminded that there really are no new ideas in the world. Sure, I thought I’d come up with something unique and worthy, but so have millions (nay, billions) of other literary lovers around the globe.

This is the lesson the universe has delivered. Did it have to happen to me twice in a matter of months?

Yes. Yes, it did.

Just now, I browsed for ‘urban fantasy for adults (not YA)’ to get a better idea of existing stories, and I came across a few interesting titles I’d never heard of. And there it was again, the universe slapping me in the face with a story idea that is somewhat similar to my new story, and a character with a name somewhat similar to my own protagonist. Somewhat. That’s better than exactly. I may be getting somewhere.

It is going to take more time and practise for my ‘unique’ and ‘genius’ work to not simply be a regurgitation of everything I’ve absorbed over my forty year life span. How easy it is to forget that lesson. Instead of throwing my stack of papers into the shredder like I may have done last time (writers are also known to have tantrums apparently) I am going to rename my protagonist and look closely at how to add a fresh take on a story idea that may have been done before, and will no doubt be done again and again.

creativity, writing

inky type is now ‘a vision of words’


I did it! I have taken the leap and changed my blog name. Risky, I know – but absolutely necessary.

It’s time to “align my vision” and all that jazz… Really, I just want a name that’s a little more in tune with my love of words and moving pictures.

A vision of words is something I experience on a daily basis.

Oh the words… they are everywhere. I love them and curse them, and these days I’m trying to wrangle them into book form. More on that soon.

So I bid farewell to the name inky type … and welcome in a vision of words.



Real life Writing Groups – yes or no?

“I think I need to join a writing group.”

These words were spoken aloud once. Recently, in fact. To my husband.

You may know where I’m going with this, all you isolated writers out there. I was suffering from what I like to call “writer loneliness,” which I’m certain is a real thing, and surely it affects words-people everywhere in their early stages of writing. Doesn’t it?

I had just been hit with an idea better than any other writing idea I’d had before, and poor husband was at my mercy.

It was his expression that did it. The same expression I probably give him when he starts hyperventilating over V8 Supercars. I’m excited ‘for him’ but would rather he go find a car enthusiast support group, or phone a friend than expect any intelligible response from me about lap times and other car thingys.

I guess that’s what I need too; not a car enthusiast support group, but a connection with other like-minded words persons who are in the same early stages as I am, so we can geek out together..

I have an idea for a first novel and, as I scribble down notes and character sketches,  I find myself in that horrible, ‘Am I doing it right?’ phase where I just need a bit of reassurance – a bit of a group hug.

Scratch that last bit – what I really want is a glimpse into other people’s early phases and some interaction about it. You know, what blogging used to be really good for.

After reading this rather blunt insight on writing groups, and from my own experiences at weekend workshops, I’m less inclined to run to my nearest community centre on a week night when really… loneliness is a general unpleasant part of life that can steep into many facets, including our hobbies and interests. Finding like-minds is crucial, no doubt, but the right type of interaction for your personality, timeframe, accessibility and all those other things, is also something to consider.

Maybe I’m being too closed-minded about it – there may be some great online writing communities just waiting to be found. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I’ll forge on, sans writer’s group for now. There are plenty of podcasts about fiction writing that have caught my attention (more on that next time).


Creative workshop addictions (and procrastination) can be useful

Do you sign up to a stack of online creative workshops when you know you don’t have time to do any of them? Just me? Oh.

It may have something to do with my personal craving for accountability – anything that might help me sit down and make something. However I think it has more to do with FOMO (which is, as I continually remind my husband, a Fear Of Missing Out). Last week I signed up for four new workshops. Four; in a week. How many have I started? Just one.

And that’s okay – they don’t have strict timelines. Some hosts send a little guilt inducing ‘hello? are you there?’ by email each week, but I’ve learnt to flag them all for later when … I end up deleting them.

This started out as a confession post really, to relieve some of the guilt, or maybe to get myself back in the swing of blogging about process. Yes, let’s go with that excuse.

Creative process is messy, unpredictable, a tad hit and miss. Just to be clear, I’m talking about my own creative process. What does it look like? A bit like this: I sign up to random creative things; I wander to and fro around the craft table hoping my backside will put itself in the chair long enough to create something; I turn on the TV the second after I decide I want to start writing a chapter in my supposed novel; I skim three magazines and start three new books all at once because I’m not sure which will give me the right boost for my own creative works; I let my coffee go cold while painstakingly prettying up the two feet surrounding it with anything Instagram-worthy; I write a blog post about procrastination (pretty much) instead of writing down that idea that just popped into my mind about a character for a future screenplay I may never write… and on and on it goes.

See? Messy. But all absurdly useful… because I enjoy these things. I enjoy this process, and when I do put my pen to paper, good things do happen.

I guess it takes time to learn what your style is, and at this stage of my life, I’d have to label it ‘rebellious’ (for the record, I’m a fully fledged adult; my angsty days are well behind me). It works for me. I’ve tried being all structured, starting workshops on time, reading the right books and following everyone else’s prompts and timelines, but there is always resistance. To the core. It’s part of my nature. And I’m okay with that.

If you’ve learnt nothing else from this insight into my messy mind, it’s that I’m quite content to continue on the path of colourful discovery with borderline eccentric tendencies. It stirs my soul and, despite the plethora of folks promoting otherwise, I’m keeping it messy.

(To the point where, hey – I’m not even going to re-read this post for edits. I’m hitting “Publish” right now.)