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.


books, writing

For readers and writers: the Melbourne Writers Festival


If you’re a reader, or a writer, who happens to live in the vicinity of Melbourne, then this event needs no introduction.

The 2014 MWF begins tonight with Helen Garner providing the Opening Night Address. Alas, my festival experience doesn’t start until tomorrow. I’m giddy with anticipation, as I know my mind (and my trusty old notebook) will be overwhelmed with story ideas by the end of the day.

This is my fourth visit to the Festival, and every year something magical happens. I sit there quietly in the audience and listen to an authors describe their writing process, their inspiration, and how their characters were born. And by the end of the talk I feel slightly changed.

I’m sure this harks back to the ‘olden’ days of sitting around in a circle, captivated by tales from the mouth of the storyteller in the middle. Oral storytelling is a little bit dead these days, so it’s nice to revive it for a while at a festival like this.

Now to the talks that I’ll be attending tomorrow (let the giddiness begin):

  • a conversation with Hannah Kent of Burial Rights
  • a discussion about the power of reading to change lives, and the downsides of a life without books
  • a look into selfie culture and the new book The Life of I: the new culture of narcissism
  • the hidden secrets of the museums and galleries, archives and private collections that fuel Stephen Fry’s QI
  • a conversation about love, obsession and desire in literature between American novelist Meg Wolitzer and Emily Bitto

And that is just the first day.


Demian: I live in my dreams

I live in my dreams – that’s what you sense. Other people live in dreams, but not in their own. That’s the difference.

Hermann Hesse, Demian


I read this book when I was a teenager while everyone around me with any sort of literary street cred was reading ‘The Catcher in the Rye‘. The story and style of Demian appealed to my senses so much more. I’d hate to re-read it though, in case the memory is shattered.

This quote appeared today as I flicked through my newly received first issue of ‘Australian Womankind’ magazine (another thought provoking must-read). Perhaps it’s a sign that I should be daring and retrieve the worn copy of Demian from my bookshelf.


Accessories for booklovers

Today I’m reflecting on the pleasure of reading, and the literary accessories that go with it:

1. The Book Seat

You’ve never heard of The Book Seat? You are missing out in a big way. It’s like a mini-bean bag to hold your book or e-reader. My Kindle loves it. I’ve had the ‘Cinnabar Red’ book seat for years, however I made the mistake of over-praising it to my husband and gave him mine “to borrow.” It never returned. A second book seat was purchased soon after.


2. Kindle Case

Yes, it was pricey, and yes, it is beautiful. It has names of cities etched into the cover and the texture feels wonderful. I’m generally fussy about book covers, and given this is representing ‘all the books’ in my e-collection, it has to be something I adore.

Kindle Case Verso Artist Series

3. ‘what i read’

A seriously small book, perfect for jotting a few notes on the books that I’m reading. I jot down things that I believe worked or didn’t work for each read, as checkpoints for my own writing. It fits nicely into my red handbag; there’s definitely a theme going on here.


4. goodreads

This is my favourite ‘virtual’ accessory. I love the range – there’s lists, quotes, trends, activities, personalised bookshelves, authors, people to follow, awards, widgets, and a really good newsletter. The reviews are fun; the love/hate relationship that people form with books is fascinating.



I collect loads of these, courtesy of friends, bookshops and The Book Depository (who, when they put a shout-out for people to design their own bookmarks, they received 4,000 entries). You can go see the talented works of the winning illustrated bookmarks.

  If there’s a bookish accessory that I have not included here, please educate me.

books, writing

On the shelf – screenwriting books


I had a little binge on screenwriting books, partly to help me through writing my first short film script and partly because they are books. You know.

  1. The Screenwriters Bible (by David Trottier)
    I went to a screenwriting workshop this year and apparently, this is the book to read, above and beyond all others. It’s hefty, but in a good way.Screenwriters Bible Book Cover
  2. Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting (by Robert McKee)
    The tome that every screenwriting person advises to read, and one that I have to read for my screenplay studies in December. Somehow I doubt that reading this will feel like homework.Story Book Cover
  3. The Psychology Of Screenwriting Theory And Practice (by Jason Lee)
    The basis of story telling is exploring the human condition, and this one sounds fascinating.”Numerous filmmakers and writers, including David Lynch, Jim Jarmusch, David Cronenberg, Pedro Almodovar, Darren Aronofsky, Sally Potter and Charlie Kaufman are explored. The Psychology of Screenwriting is invaluable for those who want to delve deeper into writing for the screen.Psychology of Screenwriting Book Cover
  4. Constructing Dialogue: Screenwriting From Citizen Kane To Midnight In Paris (by Mark Axelrod)
    I really, really, really want to get started on this one, but I have to wait (it’s not required reading, which is a very important thing when one is working and studying). It’s filled with examples of scripts and more importantly, analysis of dialogue. I have a feeling that writing great dialogue is something that requires a lot of practise.

    Constructing Dialogue Book Cover
  5. Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need (by Blake Snyder)
    Big call … the last book I’ll ever need? I’m curious about the unusual title; it has something to do with protagonists needing to have a heroic (saving the cat) moment as soon as possible in a film, so the audience will be on board with their journey, despite their crazy antics.Save the Cat