Monday, March 31, 2014

The Magicians: A conflicted book review

Have you ever finished a book and been completely ruined for all other books (at least for a while)? I love that “book coma” feeling, when I can’t bear to leave the world a writer has created.  But every once in a while I come across a book that, instead of making me pine after imaginary things, leaves me mystified.

Lev Grossman’s The Magicians was full of lovely, striking images.  There was magic, there was romance, and there were quite a few moments when I laughed out loud.

Yet for all that, I'm already set to jump into something new.  The book was good, yet there were a few parts I could have skipped without too many qualms.  The characters were brilliantly created and incredibly real, yet there were some who annoyed me.  Yet, yet, yet.

In short, I am in a dilemma. I can’t quite figure out how I felt about those magicians.

I picked it up (as a book on disk) because I read a Buzzfeed post that suggested people who loved Harry Potter would love The Magicians:

“Brooklyn teenager Quentin Coldwater of The Magicians likely grew up reading about Harry Potter. It’s the reason he spends his days wishing magic were real, and the reason he’s so excited when his fantasy is seemingly fulfilled by acceptance into the Brakebills Academy for magicians. But the magic world of The Magicians is a bit more tempered by reality — the studies are tedious, the practice is mired in bureaucracy — and even when Quentin discovers how far-reaching this magic is, he’s still not immune to some standard post-grad disillusionment.”
In fact, Quentin does grow up reading about a magical world: Fillory, a Narnia-esque place visited by a group of siblings from England.  Fillory itself plays a huge part throughout the entire book, though at first I thought it was just weird. Quentin begins the book at age 17, and all through his 5 years at Brakebills he thinks and talks about Fillory.  After a few mentions in Book 1 (the entire novel is split into four books), my “foreshadowing!” light clicked on.  By Book 3, my suspicions were confirmed.

Even though I *almost* expected it, Book 3 is a sort of not-just-out-of-left-field-but-out-of-the-parking-lot kind of twist.  Throughout the whole section I tried to decide if it even made sense in conjunction with the first two books. By the beginning of Book 4, I believed it did make sense. But now, at the end of it all, I’m not sure.

Grossman does a great job on everything from description to character reactions. The dialogue is a thing of beauty and very accurately catches what it feels and sounds like to live with all your best friends in the same building. As such, I know it was not his masterful handling of the craft of writing that has put me in this dilemma. I wish I could understand the strangely bittersweet feeling I have toward The Magicians. 

If you see The Magicians at the bookstore or library, pick it up and give it a read, and then shoot me a message! I’d love to see if others felt the same, or if I’m the only one left in a conundrum of feelings. 

This post was brought to you by Michelle, a copywriter and blogger who misses writing research papers and having deep academic discussions.  (That's probably why she loves Beyond the Trope so much.) She adores talking about books and makes a lot of things up.  All of you lovely people can find her here on Mondays. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Processing Ideas

If you tell anyone that you write fiction, you've probably heard someone ask where you get your ideas. If you're like me, you don't really have an answer to that question.

Some of my ideas come from other stories--a character type in someone else's book or comic or movie that wasn't explored, for example. Or a plot device that could fit with some characters I've already created.

Some of my ideas come from eavesdropping and people watching (I'm terrible at this). I tend to be a very character-first author, in that I create characters and then attempt to give them a plot, so watching real people and listening to how they talk has huge brainstorm potential.

Some of my ideas come from issues that I feel need to be addressed in society. Feminism, racism, homophobia, political disputes, war and poverty--these are things that can be explored in different ways via fiction, and some of them are rich idea-grounds.

Some of my ideas come from dreams (or daydreams). The unconscious mind is practically crawling with awesome images and symbols that we can draw upon for fiction. Assuming we can remember them when we wake up, of course.

So, when people ask me where I get my ideas, I just have to shrug and mutter something about, "well, you know…."

I think idea-gathering, like writing in general, has different processes for different people. Some people soak ideas in like a sponge and immediately start planning books upon books. Some people let little story-sparks sit for a long time without writing them down (and some people, like me, subsequently forget some of them). Some people write down those ideas and work on other projects in the meantime.

Honestly, it's fascinating to see what works for other people, whether you're a plotter or a panther, a write-ideas-down-er or a forget-everything-er. Maybe it's just part of my people-watching nature, but I love figuring out how other people work.

So, humor me, will you? How do you gather ideas and turn them into finished projects, whether you write or draw or do something else entirely?

This post written by the ever-distractable cyborg halfling, Emily. When she's not creepily people watching, she's probably avoiding blogging at or attempting to actually find a writing process that works for her. Stalk her on Twitter as @emilyksinger or send her an email through

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Creative Process

"I could write a book!"

Many people say it, and some of them actually follow through. And I genuinely believe that the following statement is true: Anyone who actually sits down to write a book CAN write a book. Have a beginning, middle, and end with a discernible story arc? Is it over 65k words (50k is only "long enough" for Middle Grade, so anything shorter only counts as a first draft with LOTS of stuff to add)? Congratulations, you wrote a book!

Now here's the tough question: How good are you at editing? I may have heard people say that once the "creative process" is over, it's time to start editing. But if you aren't a creative person, you won't be able to edit or revise creative writing. Yes, there is a mechanical science to editing, especially when it comes to grammar. But the creative writing process REQUIRES revision. Unless all you want to do is write a book, stick it under your bed, and start over.

So, can you write a book? Maybe. If you sit down and work at it. But can you PUBLISH a book? With self-publishing as a truly viable option these days, you could get published. And a few people may even buy it.

The success, however, lies in the hard parts of the creative process. The revising, the editing, and then THE MARKETING!

I imagine creativity accounts for close to 50% of the entire publishing process on an author's end. But just because something isn't directly related to writing or revising, that doesn't mean the creativity can end. In fact, the only places you DON'T want creativity are in contract negotiations and dealing with money. Be as mechanical as possible with those to avoid getting taken advantage of (with contracts...though that's not as common as the horror stories might imply), and to avoid PRISON or hefty fines (with money and taxes).

Everything else requires one or another level of creativity. AND WORK. VERY HARD WORK!!

I cannot emphasize that enough. As fun as the creative process is, sitting down to finish the first draft is ONLY THE BEGINNING. And even that takes work.

It's right there in the concept: the creative process. Process. So process that, then get to work.

This wizard's boots were made for flying. Up and away. And that book isn't causing magic, it's sucking his soul. Like a demented journal, only for safe-keeping. And it didn't require this wizard to kill anyone.

Monday, March 24, 2014

How I Write a Book

About five years ago I thought my book was done.  It was the first draft, and being a cocky sort of amateur writer, I was sure it was ready for a quick final proof and an agent (followed quickly by a 10-figure book deal and millions of screaming fans, of course). 

And then…oh, yes…the pain began. The realization that I had so much to learn and edit hit like Thor’s hammer.  I tossed the book out on its backside, tried another story idea, killed it, and just stopped writing in general.  Then my parents kindly told me they would disown me if I didn’t go to a writers’ conference.

At first I rolled my eyes at the suggestion.  How could the problem be me?  I was just fine doing things the way I always had (remember: cocky).  My process from age 5 to age 23 was consistent and very simple:
  1. A brilliant idea springs to life in my brain!
  2. All the characters! All the problems!
  3. Writewritewritewritewrite
  4. Oh, my gosh.  I am so good at this.  I rock! I'm the best!
Going to RMFW completely changed how I approach writing.  Thankfully, it also taught me a few lessons in humility.  As a kid I had no idea that there was more to writing a book than having a way with words and knowing where to put quotation marks.  In college I knew it took more work, but even then my perceptions of the publishing industry weren’t what one might consider “accurate”.

Now my writing process is a bit more involved:
  1. I see a piece of a scene in my head.
  2. I work backward from that scene and figure out how a person could get there.
  3. 3/4 of the cast is born.
  4. 10,000+ words manifest with no road signs, outlines, or planning.
  5. The other 1/4 of the cast appears and reminds me that I should write with them in mind.  
  6. Hark! A plot, a plan, an outline, and motivations for everybody.
  7. I go back to the beginning and send chunks to my critique group until the whole thing is done.
  8. Edit, edit, edit. Oh, and cut.  There is lots of cutting involved.
I’ve found that outlining from the very beginning makes me feel cramped and uncomfortable, but forming an outline in the first quarter of the book feels just right.  Coming up with an opening scene proves futile – I always change it the second, third, or even fourth time around.  I want a story that develops naturally.

My writing process parallels my approach to any creative project, be it knitting or building a chandelier out of felt. I practice a little, get my feet wet, and experiment with ideas before I go gung-ho and dive fully into a project.  I rely on my critique group and beta readers like some people rely on black coffee every Monday.  And who knows?  In a year or two I might invent a totally different method.

What about you?  How do you approach your creative projects?

Michelle's childhood novels involved a lot of dolphins, many wolves, and more than a few white tigers. She has the folder of stapled papers to prove it. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fears and Facing Them

It's funny how many authors (actually, creative people in general) I talk to that are afraid of something relating to their work. Like deathly, I-would-rather-die-than-face-this-fear type stuff. Giles talked about some of his fears on his personal blog earlier this week. Our guest for the recording session this weekend, Aaron Michael Ritchey, talks about his fears all the time if you hang out with him in person. I have a boatload of fears and insecurities, too.

Is it something to do with being creative? Is it part of just being human? I don't have an answer. But that's okay, I think. What matters is that, when we delve into the depths of our own terrified despair, that we remember we're not alone.

Even big-name creators have fears (if they say they don't, they're probably lying). I'm pretty sure everyone's looked back on something they've made and thought "dang, I could have made that so much better." Because that's the nature of the beast--we're always growing and learning, and bringing our current knowledge to past projects makes them look terrible.

My most recent Big Fear centers around submitting creative work. I wrote a piece to submit to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers members anthology and spent two weeks freaking the heck out. I think I might have sobbed at Michelle through text every day. I was terrified that my piece wouldn't be good enough, or that I had missed some glaring error that would have been easy to fix. Long story short: I was a total wreck.

But I did what all of us creators have to do--I picked myself up, moved on, and submitted the story. I won't know for a while yet if it was actually good enough to get accepted, but I think I'm finally at peace with that.

Sometimes, the single biggest thing we can do to expand our creative lives (and, really, our lives in general) is to face our fears and force ourselves to walk through them. Oh, I know it's scary as all get out. That's why they're called 'fears' and why it's so much easier to just settle into our comfort zones, even though said comfort zones don't lead themselves to much of anything interesting.

You want to be a creator of any sort? Pick a fear and try to face a bit of it this weekend.

Me? I'll be working on my fear that my writing will never be good enough by actually writing.

What fear would you like to try to face? How do you want to go about it? Let us know, and come back to tell us how it went!

Emily talks a big game, but she's still just getting started. Of course, having some awesome cyborg implants helps with the confidence issues. If only they would help her figure out how to be more efficient. 

Find her at, on Twitter @emilyksinger or on Tumblr for a geek party as Gallifreyanlitgeek.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Let Stories Be Stories

A new UK campaign makes me want to switch countries.  It’s called Let Books Be Books, which is a nice way to say “Just let people decide what they want to read without pressure from anyone else”.  Let Books Be Books is part of a larger group called Let Toys Be Toys, an organization that fights gender-stereotyped toy marketing.

This movement asks publishers to remove gender labels from books.  They don’t want to see any more pink-glitter covers with the words “For Girls Only” stamped on the front.  They’re tired of seeing book titles tell girls to steer clear of dragons and battle scenes. 

I support it based on the simple fact that when I think reading makes you a better person.  And when you limit your interests because someone else tells you that you should, you’re not living up to your potential.  What if you miss out on a story that could change your life? Every time a book is dedicated to a certain gender, I cringe and mourn the tragedy of a lost experience.

Gender-based marketing tends to reinforce a bullying culture.  Go ahead and Google “books for girls” or “books for boys” and see what you come up with.  It’s fascinating just to look at the differences in cover art, much less the titles and subject matter.  It makes me sad to think that boys might miss out on Eleanor & Park or Cinder and girls might never read Stormbreaker or The Hobbit, all because someone might say, “But that’s a girl book!”

Maybe one of the reasons men appear to be from Mars and women seem to come from Venus is because women only read books marked “Venus” and men only grab things labeled for “Mars”.  But who cares? Marketing is just a fancy way of telling people what they want.  Why not let the books speak for themselves by marketing them to the entire population? 

Imagine a world where everyone reads everything and it helps them understand the people around them better.  I’ve never thought about my writing as “for girls”, even though I haven’t written a male protagonist in about ten years. And as a reader, I will read just about anything that’s well-written.  So instead of writing a book that is only for a certain gender, why don’t we just create people readers want to hang out with? 

What do you think? Are publishers wrong to market books specifically by gender?

Michelle grew up reading a lot of books that, looking back, were definitely supposed to be for boys.  The only permanent damage has been a voracious reading appetite and a tendency to love action movies.  She blogs at Beyond the Trope on Mondays (this Wednesday post is an exception). 

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Art of Critique

Over the past couple of months, I've really stepped up my study of the English language and the writing process. I already finished one book on writing, and I'm well on my way toward finishing a second for the year.

For those who know me, they know I don't have a lot of time for reading, and (as a necessity), I have to spend a good deal of time focussing on fiction since reading fiction is one of the best ways to understand the art.

Anyway, these books are giving me a new perspective on writing, which means my critiquing methods are changing and becoming more focussed on ways to improve my friends' writing. In many ways, I feel bad for pointing out things that come across as failures in the writing. I don't want to be a know-it-all, and I know that my critique group knows that my suggestions are just suggestions that they can ignore or take under advisement as they see fit.

And that's where the art of critiquing comes in. I'm not an "authority" on proper writing. My word is not gospel. It's simply my perspective based on things that I'm reading and things that I think work for the writing in front of me. And when I make notes, I try to make sure that it comes across as my opinion. I don't attack the writer or say that something sucks, I say something like, "This feels wordy, it slows the narrative (with a 'for me' implied)," and then I make a rough suggestion on a way that might help them brainstorm ideas to reword it. "Maybe say something like , only do it well." And I say that to make sure I'm being helpful, but also because I'm not putting in as much effort as they need to to make the writing polished and enjoyable to read.

The flip side of that is when I sit down to GET critiqued, it's important to remember that they're showing me the exact same courtesy. They're not attacking me or my writing, they're picking it apart to help me make it better.

The only thing we do differently in our group is that, when appropriate, we're allowed to speak up for our work. But not to defend it! When someone says something doesn't work, we're allowed to (when the critiquing member is finished speaking) explain what we were going for with that particular passage. And at our group, we recognize that this is each other's way of trying to brainstorm ways to make sure that scene works AS INTENDED. We're not defending bad writing, we're trying to understand how to FIX bad writing by working WITH the other members of the group. And the biggest reason we jump in in the middle of a critique to ask those questions is because, even with note-taking, waiting until the end opens up way too many opportunities to forget the most important questions.

This post was written by Giles and originally posted less than ten minutes earlier at High Aspirations. As real team player, he volunteered to help out our Regular Monday Blogger when something made her blog post disappear into the pit of lost ideas.

She'll be filling in on Wednesday this week, rocket-launcher in hand and ready to explode brilliant, new ideas all over the place!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Theater Fangirl

I'm a theater nerd (among other things), so the rest of this post shouldn't really be all that surprising. In high school, I wanted so badly to be part of the theater clique, and I continued acting in college, when I could. If I can ever get my act together, I'd like to audition for a community theater production, too. What can I say? I miss the stage.

Among the egos and craziness of any theater production, there's also a ton of inspiration. The actors have to read a show and craft how they want to play their characters. The tech, including producer, director, costumers, etc. have to help design the feel of the show and give the actors a world to populate (seriously, if you're an actor, go thank your techies right now). Theater is an insanely creative pursuit--which feeds other creative pursuits in a beautiful circle.

The human mind is wired for story and acting is one of the oldest forms of storytelling in the world. There's a reason Shakespeare's plays have lasted as long as they have (and it's not just because of the amazing language): they're beautiful stories, shows we can all relate to in one way or another, and the characters are fascinating skins for actors to slip into and audiences to watch.

Honestly, there is nothing like watching a well-done, live Shakespeare show. In Colorado, we're lucky--we have a great Shakespeare festival at CU Boulder every year, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts generally puts on a Shakespeare show on a regular basis, and we have a zillion high-quality community theaters. Do some research and find something that sounds fun, then try it out.

And, hey, Shakespeare isn't for everyone--I get that. But I do highly recommend giving The Bard a shot, whether it's live theater, a reading with close friends, or a movie.

Of course, there are other amazing playwrights out there, too. We'd love to hear some of your favorites, so drop us a line!

Though she adores the theater, Emily is glad she's chosen a more lucrative life-path: fiction writing. Okay, so 'starving author' isn't really that much better than 'starving artist,' but her active imagination can pretend it is. 

She tweets as @emilyksinger, collects nerdy things at, and sometimes blogs at

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


I love Hamlet. It's one of my favorite stories. Of all time. If you listened to Episode 3 already, it's obvious why. If you haven't, you should. Until then, know that Hamlet was the first Shakespeare play I ever read.

I never read Shakespeare in high school. Or junior high. My first experience was in college. Since I chose to go to school, and I chose the classes I wanted to take, I knew what I was in for. I expected Shakespeare to be difficult to grasp, but something I could warm up to and enjoy.

Because of my youth spent reading books way above my grade level, I found Hamlet to be quite accessible. And exciting. And inspiring!

Now, I read Shakespeare less than I should, but when I do, it makes my brain move in ways that it's not used to. And that gets me amped up to write. Not just my own, formulaic stories, but clever, witty, mind-bending stories that reinvent the oldest stories in a completely new way.

But Shakespeare is more than inspiring, it's transcendental. Each play reminds me of several other stories, takes me to far-off lands, and teaches me something about myself and the people I interact with every day. Every play the Bard wrote is a window into multiple universes. And I think it's why I can't stop geeking out about him.

My favorite tragedy is Hamlet, and my favorite comedy is Taming of the Shrew. What are yours? And why?

At some point I considered writing this bio in iambic pentameter. Then I remembered that I'm not nearly as talented as that. I might be able to put something together in the course of a week or two. But let's face it, you're better off reading Shakespeare for that experience.

To see more of my random thoughts, check out High Aspirations or follow me on twitter @gileshash

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Beauty of Books: A Journey to Shakespeare

Hundreds of books have molded the kind of writer and reader I am today.  From the historical fiction of Indian Captive to the dark 1984, I can say that the books I love span a smorgasbord of imaginary worlds.

Yet, for all my Musketeers and opera phantoms, few worlds have impacted me the way that The Giver has.

To be honest, when I initially wrote that previous sentence, I ended it with “Shakespeare”.  I was going to get very eloquent about The Tempest and interpreting plays and the majesty of iambic pentameter. After all, it’s Shakespeare week here at Beyond the Trope, and I like to stick with themes.

And then I looked at my bookshelf – those piles of others worlds – and realized that in order for me to ever appreciate Prospero, Iago and Sebastian, I first had to encounter a different world.  Something had to launch me into books that were more involved than the typical elementary readers.

Lois Lowry’s The Giver was one of the first books I read that challenged me, both in terms of reading level and imagination.  I was relatively young when I first read it, and the imagination required to conjure a dystopian world ignited something in my soul. Think of opening the wardrobe in the spare room and finding yourself dealing with dragons – not only is it not quite what you expected, it’s a bit scary.  Jonas’s story is beautiful, but with a velvety, dark side.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I read most of The Giver with my mouth hanging open.  I devoured it like I hadn’t read in weeks, or ever.  Then I sat in a two-day book coma before going straight back and reading it again. My Boxcar Children and Babysitter’s Club books had given me fun stories, but they had never shown me something like this.

Suddenly I had to have more.  I needed more imagination and stranger worlds to wrap my mind around.  This is why I can say The Giver encouraged me to seek out and read more and more difficult books.  That is how I discovered The Tempest, my first Shakespearean love. Afterwards, I immersed myself in the lyrical prose of the master, and I chomped my way through most of his plays and sonnets.

There is nothing wrong with fun, encouraging characters in easy-going stories.  I don’t think I would have noticed if I had continued to read as I had – I could have traipsed on until high school forced greater works on me.  But because of Jonas and his world, I was able to enjoy old English plays before they became mandatory homework assignments.

In my mind, Lowry led to Shakespeare led to everything else that is.  The challenge of reading something new proved to me that the imagination, once awakened, thrives on the beauty of books. If you haven't read The Giver (or anything else by Lowry), go read it!

How have books changed your life?  Do you think your perspective would have been different if you had found different stories as a child?

When Michelle isn't talking to herself and her manuscript in the middle of the local coffee shop, she's generally thinking about food.  (Especially cornbread.)  As much as she loves food, the way to her heart is through words.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Shaving My Head, Writing, and Changing the World

I'm participating in a St. Baldrick's fundraiser for pediatric cancer research through my day job at the cancer awareness program Catch It In Time. St. Baldrick's Foundation raises money to fund research for children's cancer via shave-a-thons where participants gather pledges and subsequently shave their heads (I mean, who doesn't want to see a bald, crazy hobbit-writer, right?).

Great, Emily, but what does this have to do with writing, creating, and this podcast?

Because it's all about changing the world.

Part of the reason I, personally, write is because I hope to help people find representation in fiction. I adore attempting to create more diversity in my writing, and making it a normal thing. For instance, the urban fantasy novel I'm working on right now stars a lesbian, but it's no big deal--her romance arc isn't anything more or less than it would have been if she were straight. Because representation is important. (We're probably going to do a podcast episode on the topic of diversity in fiction at some point, so keep your eyes open.)

I write underdog stories to give people (including myself) hope that the world can change. As much as I gripe about various aspects of society, I am, at the core, an optimist. I strongly believe that things will eventually get better, but we have to start somewhere.

Whether that starting point is fiction or shaving your head to help kids with cancer doesn't matter. What matters is deciding to take that first step.

Art isn't always a revolutionary tool, nor do I think it should be. But it can be useful to get people thinking, or to provide insight into something they might not have considered before.

I try to make the world a better place through my writing (mostly). What do you do to improve the world you live in? If you don't currently do anything, what would you like to start doing (hint: start with a $10 or $20 tax-deductible donation to St. Baldrick's before March 16th in return for a bald Emily)?

Stronger on the inside than the outside, Emily is waiting for the day she can actually become a cyborg. She gets mushy over nerdy things, diversity in fiction, and supporting other 'geek girls.' 

Find her at or on Twitter @emilyksinger 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Why I Read Comics

Comic books were never something I got into. As a young kid, I wasn't allowed to read them because of the "violence" they contained (back in the late '80s when that was the parental concern because violent video games hadn't caught the eye of the parent groups). When I got old enough to make the decision on my own, I'd delved deep enough into different interests that my money got spent elsewhere.

Then I moved out on my own, got laid off from a job, and found myself with a ton of free time. And an internet connection. That's when I got introduced to webcomics. They made jokes about video games, being a nerd, living life in a world where technology was evolving faster than we could have ever imagined. And I was hooked!

I started out simple with Ctrl+Alt+Del, then moved to the now-defunct Apple Geeks, Questionable Content, and Penny Arcade. Over the years, I followed several other comics, but those three links are the comics I read as soon as they update. They distracted me when I was depressed about job-loss, and two breakups. Then they, along with MegaTokyo (which I no longer read due to a change in taste), inspired a short-lived web-serial that I wrote many many years ago.

From there, I branched out and flipped through a few graphic novels that I genuinely enjoyed as much as any first-rate traditional novel I've read. And the art fascinates me.

All of this is to say that, as a kid, I didn't understand comics. To an extent, I still struggle with the concept on a small level (like why someone would read the old-style comics rather than wait for the glossy-sheet compilation of the entire storyline). But they inspire me. I want to write better stories because of them. I want to encourage other people to READ because of them. And some day, I'd love to get involved in a comic project. Somehow.

So I'll leave you with three questions: do you read comics? Why or why not? And would you be willing to read one based on the recommendation of a friend or acquaintance?

This picture represents a lifelong ambition to draw comic books, stemmed from a childhood of visualizing stories and never picking up the ability to draw, no matter how hard I tried. Instead, I create pictures with my words and talk about other art forms that inspire me. Like comics. If you missed that, read the non-italicized words above.

Also, you can find me over at High Aspirations on Mondays and Fridays. Or on twitter @gileshash.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Artists are Just the Coolest

I have a dream.  It involves my words and someone else’s swoon-worthy skills with a pencil.

Writers spend years inside our own minds, imagining people and places and things that only partially exist in real life.  I can draw, but…well, I’m just not the best.  I can barely draw two eyes that match.  It only makes sense to find someone who can not only make eyes that are the same size and shape, but who can read a page of dialogue and transform it into a completely new piece of art.

So I decided to compile a very short list of some fantastic artists who I think are just the coolest. This is by no means my complete dream list, but it is full of talented people whose work I have gone back to again and again, sometimes to read and sometimes to just to stare at with my mouth hanging open.  When I imagine my words interpreted by their brushes and pencils, the fangirl inside me develops stars in her eyes.

Scottie Young
Young’s unique, dark-edged style gives me such joy.  Click his “Random” link once and you won’t be able to stop. In fact, better set aside a couple of hours right now. 

Aaron Diaz
I just…I can’t look away. Check out Diaz’s Silmarillion Project if you want to blow your mind with awesomeness. His work is breathtaking and snazzy. 

Rob Guillory
I see Guillory’s work and it’s like coming back to life.  It’s just so beautiful and gritty, and after a few seconds I devolve into pining after his mad skills.

Li Chen  
If I could accurately describe to you how much I love this girl, I would simply say, "If I were an artist, this is how I would do things." ‘Nuff said.

Mark Brooks  
In my dreams, Brooks’ illustrating and my writing fall in love and get to work making babies almost immediately.  And they live happily ever after.

OK, OK.  My writing tends to have, well, dark elements (case in point: my current serial novel). But I just can't help but have a thing for imagining my world as told through the lens of Stewart's JL8 style.  

How would you pair your favorite books with illustrators?  And can someone please find me some kick-butt female artists to admire? My list is sorely lacking!

Carved into the blogosphere by Michelle, an appreciator of banana chips, rainy days, and graphic novels about robots.