Fan-Fiction Without Knowing It?

I’ve known for a long time what fan-fic is and what it’s not. I know what channeling is too. And we know what plagiarism is all about. Fan-fiction is an honored tradition of carrying on a single book, series or saga with well-known and loved characters in a similar setting to the original. 50 Shades of Grey actually started out as Twilight fan-fiction, and then developed a life of its own. Channeling happens when you’ve written something very similar to a book or story that has already been published. Channeling can happen unconsciously, an innocent retelling of a story that is dear to the author, with many of its aspects reappearing in the second version. Some say there is deliberate type of channeling, kind of a preemptive mini-theft of material. But that’s splitting hairs. Plagiarism is just outright theft of material.

But what if you have written a story that bears a remarkable resemblance to something already out there? When I say remarkable, I mean surreal or uncanny. A likeness that can make you uncomfortable. Because how in the Chuck Dickens could you ever explain yourself? My Planet Janitor was compared to Firefly, and I had no problem taking that it stride. I knew nothing about Firefly and it’s characters until I later investigated.

Now it seems I have another, more intricate doppelganger. On three different occasions over the past years my characters in Screamcatcher, Jory Pike and Choice Daniels have been called all but dead ringers for Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. For the sake of chronology, my book was written in later days of October in 2011,  It was just recently published on 4-23-2019. It took so long to see print because my agent suggested I make a trilogy out of it. It bombed out at the Big 5, but was offered contracts by 10 small presses within a 12 month period. We took Melange Books because they were so lenient and adaptable to our contract conditions.

The first Hunger Games book was published in 2008, then another in 2009 and the last one in 2010

The third time I was told about my book’s similarities to the characters in The Hunger Games was early 2018. I didn’t know who Suzanne Collins was, but I had heard of the enormous success of her trilogy. I’d only heard she was a TV exec or something, and that her series was pulling second rank just under Harry Potter, or had been doing so for a long time. I decided to investigate. Curiosity drove me to it, even though I was so dang busy with my own books and editing at that time.

I read the books first, then watched the movie series on a free channel. 

It smacked me right between the eyes. The last thing I wanted was to be compared to The Hunger Games. I had an oh joy! moment. Then I had a feeling of utter dread. Not only was Katniss unbelievably close, but I’d written Peeta, and his association wtth Katness, too. 

Jory’s similarities to Katniss.

Both are young teenagers, separated by a few years.
Both have Olive skin.(Jory is of Native America lineage)
Both have straight black hair (sometimes braided)
Both are graceful and surefooted.
Both are attractive 
Both are expert archers, with lightning fast reflexes
Both are unassuming and avoid the spotlight.
Both are independent, solitary but reluctant leaders.
Both have top-notch survival skills, knowledge of plants and animals
Both are avid hunters
Jory has a long bow, whereas Katniss has a high-tech composite compound bow.
Both have great intuitive senses.
Jory does have brown eyes, opposed to grey eyes and she is tall and lanky unlike the smaller Katniss

Choice and Peeta

Average height
Stocky, a bit muscular.
Same length hair, different color
Nearly same age
Loyal
Courageous 
Athletic

Attraction:

Choice’s attraction to Jory is intense but very subdued. He has a hard time not showing his attraction to her, and when he does he is rather embarrassed, sometimes internally infuriated.Jory is indifferent to him, not really in-like or in love. She’s not above using him to achieve gains. Her eventual commitment and love for him is a very slow romantic burn that culminates in their bond at the end of series story-line

My web world strings are called sectors, whereas in THG the state or territory divisions are called districts. Each sector has a deathly challenge–a true life or death trial before they can continue to the next sector. Likewise in THG they must advance to the next task or challenge. 

I could go on and on, because it just doesn’t stop. However, there are vast differences that keep these two stories from clashing into each other. I’m floored by how well THG was crafted, both in print and in video. It was truly one of the best books and movies I have every seen. I could never measure up to such standards as Suzanne’s craftsmanship. I can only say we were thinking about the same FMC and saw a place for her in her own tome. Katnes HAS to be fondly loved by Suzanne. I’m proud to have brought Jory to life. 

Has this ever happened to you, dear writer? Deja vu anyone? Could you swear that somebody else has ripped off your plot or characters? Or have you ever felt despair and felt like slashing your wrists because somebody beat you to the punch? Stephen King had a “Oh, damn it to hell!” moment when he heard the Simpsons had done a domed city story. Yet he raced on with his own story and it was well received. 

Am I going to compare my book to THG? Nope. The reviewers can do whatever they want. Besides, I like my premise BETTER. Bwahahahahahaha!

Portal v.s. Urban Fantasy–It’s War!

There really is no conflict between these two sub-genres. There is a difference, even if we’re splitting hairs. Charles De Lint first described urban fantasy with his story Dreams Underfoot in the early 90s, making it a relatively new genre, in retrospect to the times. In short, urban fantasy brings the fantastical into the mundane world or into the contemporary setting. It’s another dimension, another time and place, a different universe with it’s own rules. The magical invades our world, not the other way around. That’s the more precise definition. Examples might be well associated with the book,The Mortal Instruments. Writers like Laurell K. Hamilton, Jim Butcher, Neil Gaimen, Deborah Harkness and Anita Blake’s Vampire Hunter are prime examples of this sub-genre of fantasy. I think the important thing to remember is that in an urban fantasy setting, their world invades ours. Something crosses over and materializes. Sometimes this transformation happens with our knowledge, but many times it materializes unbeknownst to us. 

They say (who’s they anyway?) that urban fantasy is a Mixxmaster, mashup of science fiction, horror, dark fantasy, paranormal and magic realism where they all come together in a melting pot. Fair enough. What a mongrel, wot?

Portal fantasy. It’s also been termed “low” fantasy. But who in the heck uses those terms to describe their work to publishers, editors or the reading public? You don’t see it do you? My agent had no idea what I was talking about when referencing my works as such. She agreed that it might be a unique way to describe a fantasy sub-genre to a potential purchaser. My publisher blinked upon hearing the term, but did admit that she’d heard before. She confessed that it was doubtful that using the term might sway any reader decisions, or for that matter, having Amazon recognize it as a mainstay genre. Amazon is lazy–they fall back on urban.

So what’s a portal fantasy? It is our intrusion into another world, be it deliberately or accidentally. We’ll split hairs latter, but for now, think about Neil’s Stardust. Where is the gateway or the portal? Why, it’s across the stone fence, isn’t it? Things become fantastic, abnormal, magical on the other side. Our world has not changed, it is still a contemporary setting. The magical land did not come from Them over to our side–we explored or blundered into it–we trespassed, so to speak

Some classic examples of true portal fantasies: Harry Potter: now what is platform 9 3/4 if it is not a portal, opening or gateway into another land and realm? There are even portals within portals in Harry Potter. Some will disagree with me on that. Alice in Wonderland: don’t we have a mirror or rabbit hole? There’s your gateway. The Bridge to Terabithia: step across that bridge and you’re in a world of make believe. Hook: Isn’t it the second start on the right that opens up into a sf-ish type planet/land? The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: step through a closet and we’re in Narnia. I can actually remember a Twilight Zone episode where a character marks off a section of wall to define a mysterious entrance into another world (De Lint, you might have been a little late in discovering it).Coraline: doesn’t Coraline step through a secret door to enter another dimensional frontier?

How can Harry Potter split hairs on these two? Well, Harry travels back and forth from his world to Hogwarts, doesn’t he? He’s not a muggle, nor was he ever a muggle. He’s a wizard in training. So when he comes back into his contemporary setting, he brings with him some special talents that are defined as magic. Therefore, to some degree, he impacts his real world, changing it every so slightly as his years in school progress. The Matrix could be consider a double whammy–we go in and pull things back with us. Stephen King’s The Mist, is an example of our military opening up a forbidden gate (portal), and then suffering the consequences when the beast of that other world come barging in on our modern day setting.

Weird Science: We opened a dimension, and she steps through. Opposite affect here–we opened up the portal, but something came through it.

Tron: We trespassed. Portal. 

Screamcatcher: The kids sleep under a decrepit, malicious dream catcher, and it implodes, pulling them into IT’s world. It appears at first that their real world has turned into something strange and dangerous. However, it’s not really their world–it’s a separate entity upon itself. The rules of the world are governed by the Web and what it contains within it. 

Kind of fun exploring these things. No harm done. No segregation. But I’m going to describe my trilogy as portal fantasies. Just you wait for the last book in the series called The Shimmering Eye. It was based on the true life scientific investigations of the Skinwalker Ranch, as reported by George Knapp, investigative reporter out of Las Vegas. I’ll need a new genre for it!

Red-shifting. 

Screamcatcher Reviews

Screamcatcher: Web World by Christy J Breedlove

April 23, 2019

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Screamcatcher: Web World

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My Rating: 4/5 stars


About the book:

Four sleepover teenagers get sucked into a nightmarish world when an ancient dream catcher implodes and lands them in a realm of demonic and monstrous entities. Have they gone to hell? They must search for the light, the center of the web, the opening where all good things are allowed to pass. Their survival depends upon it.

My Review:

In a never before plot, our main characters get stuck in a living nightmare through an ancient dreamcatcher. Jory has recurring nightmares about her parent’s death and no matter what she does or what her grandfather does to stop these bad dreams, nothing seems to be working.

The book is entangled with Indian lore so when Jory’s friend Choice wants to give this old family heirloom (a dreamcatcher) a chance, there’s no point in avoiding it. But things go south when Jory and her friends go to sleep in Jory’s house but wake up in a hellish world.

Plot:

I loved the plot. It was so unique and fast-paced. After every chapter, I was waiting for new twists and turns, just expecting to read what new amazing instance the author’s imagination could conjure up this time. I especially liked the second half of the book. It was definitely more action-packed than the first half.

Characters:

There is just some wrong vibe I got from Choice. Every time I would read about him, I’d find more and more reasons not to like him. But Jory turned out to be the most likeable character in the book despite everything. I liked the presence of her grandfather in the book as well.

Writing:

The writing was the most interesting part of the book and though I liked the world-building and the characters as well, the book would have been nothing without great writing. The dialogues were well-managed and the prose described the emotions of the characters perfectly. Plus, this book was quite easy to read and I could picture all the scenes as if they were playing out like a movie.

Climax:

Ah, the endings are often something that leads to disappointment. And even in this book, it was somehow the same case. I found the ending to be a little predictable and though there is nothing particularly wrong with that, I just really think there was scope for a major mind-blowing twist at the end.

About the author: Christy J. Breedlove, originally born in California, moved to Sylvania, Alabama in 2009. Her occupations have included newspaper editor/reporter, astronomer, federal police officer and part time surfer girl. She has been writing off and on for 36 years, having officially published books beginning in 1988. Today she writes in her favorite genre, Young Adult. She was a finalist in the L. Ron. Hubbard Writers of the Future contest, and just recently took the first place grand prize in a YA novel writing contest for The Girl They Sold to the Moon. She writes the popular blog, Guerrilla Warfare for Writers (special weapons and tactics), hoping to inform and educate writers all over the world about the high points and pitfalls of publishing Christy’s Website|  BlogFacebook | Twitter

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Young Adult Series Blockbusters

I swear and, as God is my witness, I had a terrible prejudice against anyone who wrote a series, or planned to write one before their first book was even picked up. I laughed at anyone who wrote a complete series and had no agent to push it. Back in the day, series books weren’t as popular as they are now. Today, it’s almost a given that large independents and big publishers love to sell a series. Two-book, trilogies and large series packages are more popular than EVER. Multiple books are actually favored by publishers–it seems to be the advantageous way to hook  readers, build a fan base, and at the same time launch a debut author. If you’ve written a standalone today, chances are excellent that you will be asked to follow it up with a sequel or more books that belong to a series–your special universe. I was left in the dust, from my own account, all those years ago, up until fairly recently.


So, I want to formally APOLOGIZE for my narrow view and ridiculous exclamations.


I completed the first book, edited  it with my agent, and put it out on submission. Multiple offers for it came in rather quickly. A lot of offers. My agent thought we really had something and ask if I was up to writing sequels. I said that I would give it a shot and did. But I was nervous. Meanwhile my agent would hold off the buyers.

I can’t tell you what kind of hard work this project cost me. It was a mountain of writing, revising, editing and titling.I was hesitant every step of the way, wondering if all of this effort could possibly pay off. Then I realized, what did I really have to lose? I’d made them stand-alones, with only slight references to each other that could be removed very easily. So I just about guaranteed myself a possible sale–somewhere–even if it was small press. When the work was done, I was satisfied, and so was my agent.

The whole package sold to Melange Press, the young adult Fire & Ice division.

I can remember J.K. Rowling penning (starting) Chamber of Secrets before her first book was picked up. Now that’s MOXIE! Or call it blind faith. Not only that, it was her intention to write seven books! Look what happened to Twilight, Hunger Games, Wool, Divergent–they went on to success–becoming huge breakouts. 

Now that my YA trilogy is over, I mourn it. I miss my characters. Terribly so. I can’t believe that I did this, stepping up to the plate and accomplishing my most difficult writing project ever. They’re little books. They’re a family. And it just so happens that the first in the series, Screamcatcher: Web World, just went on sale two minutes ago as of this writing. The two remaining books are subtitled Dream Chasers and The Shimmering Eye. If you like teenage paranormal investigators, this just might be your cup of tea. Enjoy!

My Bio

Christy J. Breedlove, originally born in California, moved to Sylvania, Alabama in 2009. Her occupations have included newspaper editor/reporter, astronomer, federal police officer and part time surfer girl. She has been writing off and on for 36 years, having officially published books beginning in 1988. Today she writes in her favorite genre, Young Adult. She was a finalist in the L. Ron. Hubbard Writers of the Future contest, and just recently took the first place grand prize in a YA novel writing contest for The Girl They Sold to the Moon. She writes the popular blog, Guerrilla Warfare for Writers (special weapons and tactics), hoping to inform and educate writers all over the world about the high points and pitfalls of publishing

The Story Behind “The Girl They Sold to the Moon.”

The Little SF Dystopian that Could and Came out of Nowhere

I’d been a slave to the keyboard and typing chair for six months, having not been out of the house. So I jumped at the chance when my niece, Jamie, ask me to come along for a ride. Driving down a back road with Jamie and her daughter, Fia, on a balmy summer day, we were discussing how low our gas was and if we could make to a town called Fort Payne. Fia was acting up in the back seat, broadcasting 180 decibels from the hole in her face. Jamie reared her head and said, “Shut the hell up, please. Or we’ll pawn your azz for gas money at the next pullout, I swear!”

Fia tried, “But I was just–”

“Shaddap!”

I thought about that outburst for a minute. My ears were still ringing. Then it hit me… What if, I mused, that in a distressed (dystopian) society, heads of households were allowed to pawn dependents to a company called Family Trade & Loan for huge cash advances? And what if that dependent was a teenage girl who ended up with a six-month sentence at the Tranquility Harbor Moon base on Luna, assigned to a rough and tumble mining company filled with slobaholic miners?

Wait. What about a Burlesque  in Space? ‘Cause maybe she’s forced to work as an exotic dancer and given an “Attractapeal” rating for her physical attributes. Oh, gawd, yea. And let’s give her a tin number tag and a jumpsuit that identifies her as a Sunshine Class (12 to 18 year-olds) ward.

All this brainstorming materialized in about 20 minutes and all I could hear was white noise in my head–I’d tuned everything else out.

Phuck…

I couldn’t get home fast enough to start pounding plastic and scribbling notes. I’d heard plenty about the sex slave market but this would be a sanitized, legal work program sanctioned by the government. What kind of abuses could such a powerful entity inflict upon its slave labor wards? Unlimited, I decided. Because most of the cash advances levied out were screened to force the payment of huge delinquent back-tax settlements.

Out of sight, out of mind, wards wouldn’t stand a chance in hell. Let the personal rights and freedoms be damned and trampled.

And that’s how it all began for The Girl They Sold to Moon, a young adult dystopian thriller.  The cover art is stunning, filled with glitter and soft hues. It has large font for easy reading. The e-copy will come out for the official launch right around July 1rst.

I think the lesson here is that lightning can strike at the most uneventful and unexpected times. Rides, walks, runs and vacations–they’re all ripe for the muse to appear and start the creative dance. Get out and change your scenery. It’s good for what ails you if you’re blocked. It sure busted me out of a creative freeze.

Cheers,

Chris

My Dream Catcher Story

Dream catcher at sunset

It all started here. This iconic item, which is rightfully ingrained in Indian lore, is a dream symbol respected by the culture that created it. It is mystifying, an enigma that that prods the imagination. I once wondered what would happen to a very old dreamcatcher that was filled with dreams and nightmares. What if the nightmares became too sick or deathly? What if the web strings could not hold anymore visions? Would the dreamcatcher melt, burst, vanish, implode? Something would have to give if too much evil was allowed to congregate in one spot. I found nothing on the Internet that offered a solution to this problem. So I took it upon myself to answer such a burning question. Like too much death on a battlefield could inundate the immediate location with lost and angry spirits, so could a dreamcatcher hold no more of its fill of sheer terror without morphing into another dimension. What would it be like to be caught up in another world inside the webs of a dreamcatcher, and how would you get out?

I’ll let my character, Albert White Feather Pike explain what this precious heirloom is, as he explains it to a curious boy.

Dreamcatcher Stock Photo
Photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

            “It is said that Iktomi, the great trickster and searcher of wisdom, appeared to an old spiritual leader in the form of a spider. Iktomi, the spider, picked up the elder’s willow hoop, which had feathers, horsehair and beads on it and began to spin a web. He spoke to the elder about the cycles of life and the many forces–some good and some bad—and how it was important to listen to the clean, good forces and to avoid the darker ones that could hurt and lead you astray.”

            “The big spider was the teacher, then?” asked Choice.

            Jory rolled her eyes, having heard the legend before.

            Albert’s eyes became slits. “Yes. When Iktomi finished the web, he returned it to the elder and said ‘The web is a perfect circle with a hole in the middle. All of the bad forces, visions and dreams enter onto the web where they are trapped and held. All of the good forces find their way into the center and slip through, to travel down the feather and bead path, arriving upon the sleeper. If you believe in the Great Spirit, the web will filter your visions and give you pleasant dreams. The bad ones will never pass.’”

            “But, Grandfather, said Jory, “the dream catcher was used for babies and small children to comfort them. They were used above cradleboards.”

            Albert seemed not to have heard her words, having focused on Choice. “And when the sun rose the next morning it would wash all of the bad spirits from the catcher, cleansing it for another sleep cycle. It was always made to fall apart and wither after years of use so that it would never be filled up with the dark things.”

            “Damn,” said Choice. “What’s it made of? Little sticks and strings?”

            “They were made for adults too,” said Albert, looking at Jory. “The hoop is made from the twigs of the red willow, formed and dried. It is woven with the thread from the stalk of the stinging nettle. The very old ones have sinew for web. The beads are a decoration, and only one gemstone is used to show that there is only one creator in the web of life. Long ago, the government of this country outlawed the use of real eagle feathers, so most are made from feathers of other birds.”

            Choice nodded and waved his hand at the board. “Then they’re just copies?”

            “Not these,” said Albert. “I made many of them as a youth when no such law existed.”

            “You’ve got the real deal then,” said Choice, his eyes roaming over the board until he looked up toward the ceiling and saw an enormous dream catcher hanging from a rafter. Jory had seen it before. It was as large as a basketball hoop, trailing long, elegant feathers. But it appeared that it hadn’t been cleaned or dusted, which gave it a brittle, antique appearance. It looked like thick strings of gut or leather had been used to fashion the web. A few talons and claws hung from individual strands, a marked difference from the construction of the others.

            “Where did that one come from?” asked Choice, indicating the large catcher with the flick of his eyes.

            Albert steadied himself with a hand on the counter to look up, his voice a mystic whisper. “It is the oldest one, the one passed down from the ages, from the time just after the great turtle. It was not meant to be used, but only copied. It is the one that carries the design for all to learn from…the one you would say is the…I have not the word for it.”

            “The prototype,” said Choice. “The original.”

            “Yes,” said Albert. “It was considered a treasured heirloom. I cannot say whether it was used to capture the bad spirits or not or whose hands and tribe it passed from. I only know it is the greatest grandfather of them all. It represents all the nations of all the human beings.”