Four Fantastical Fire Pits for Fall

Last night I harvested the last of the corn from the garden. In the mountains, the leaves of the Aspens are taking on a shimmering golden glow. Like it or not, fall is in the air, and that means fire pit season is upon us!

Of course, you can light a fire in any old ring of stone, but why settle for the ho hum when you can have a fantastical fire pit instead? I scoured Pinterest and the interwebs for some of the best, and these were my favorites.

Dragon Fire Pit

 

 

The folks at the Fire Pit Gallery sell this beauty. Seriously, what goes together better than dragons and fire?  This is an original piece of art by Melissa Crisp – each fire pit is hand cut and numbered, and comes with a lifetime warranty.

 

 

 

 

The One Ring Fire Pit

 

Homecrux.com took the idea of a fire ring to an entirely new level with this gorgeous fantastical fire pit. The One Ring. In your backyard. You can even cook some hot dogs over the top of it, though I’m not sure I’d recommend such a thing. 😉

 

 

fantastical fire pit - witch kind of angmar fire pit

 

 

 

Continuing the Lord of the Rings trend is this Witch Kind of Angmar fire pit by the fine folks over at Burned by Design. I love the rough design of this fantastical fire pit, the heavy seams, the chain base… what a gorgeous pit!

 

 

 

fantastical fire pit - Phoenix Fire Pit

 

 

The Fire Pit Gallery does it again with this Phoenix Rising fire pit. I love the look of the flames licking through this Phoenix! Absolutely gorgeous! Much like the dragon above, this is a custom piece of art designed by Melissa Crisp. I adore her work, can you tell?

 

 

 

Do you have a fantasy themed fire pit you love? Share it in the comments!

 

Indie Author Month!

Across the Darkling Sea coverWow, what a start to the April celebration of indie authors! Only four days in but my reading list is already piling up! Thank you so much for joining us. I might be biased, but I think Indie authors are driving some of the coolest trends around when it comes to fiction. As a rule, they are a group of inspiring and talented authors interested in knowing every angle of the writing business. I knew from the beginning I wanted to go indie, and it is so much fun participating in this dynamic community.

If you want to start at the beginning (and I know you do) check out Zach’s post from April 1st. You can follow the chain from there! There are also a TON of other festivities this month, so don’t forget to check out our Facebook page for information on giveaways, read alongs and other cool book related geekery.

As for me, I like it weird. I’m a sucker for monsters, stories about bizarre folklore and superstitions, and the strange sorts of creatures born from the darker aspects of the human psyche. I write fantasy, but I often pull from folklore in my writing. I’ve discovered over the years that truth often is far stranger than anything you encounter in fiction. I’ve got an impressive book collection on the occult.

You can find some of my writings on these topics here on this blog. As a sampling, you can find stories about the Malleus Maleficarum (talk about some dark and scary stuff, all non-fiction), or horrifying stories about people’s belief in fairies and changeling’s that I dug up while researching changelings for my current series of books (more on this topic below). I’ve got all sorts of monsters over here, such as the the Naga dragons of Cambodia or the Native American Paisa. And of course, I’m a geek, so there’s plenty of geekery to be had here.

I also love pie. This might be the most important thing about me.

What else… I am a beekeeper. I’ve got two hives in my backyard, and when I go out to work on them I wear the full beekeeping outfit. I always feel like quite the fashion star while doing this. I’ve got a pretty large garden where I grow about every sort of fruit or vegetable that will grow here in Colorado, and I pickle it and preserve it all through summer. And I travel quite a bit. I’ve been to well over twenty countries. Also, I’ve eaten maggots. That’s a thing you now know. (Also, I feel compelled to inform you that I will not do it again. Except maybe in the event of a zombie apocalypse.)

Magicless book coverAnd of course, I’m also a fantasy writer. I spin magic into words, the way Rumpelstiltskin weaves straw into gold, and let them free in the world in the hopes of entertaining some of you fine folks. I have two books out now. The first, Magicless, is a stand alone YA fantasy novel. Across the Darkling Sea is the first in a new series I’m writing, the second book (A Dying Land) will be available in June of this year. I can’t share the cover with you yet, but I will be sharing it with my newsletter subscribers next week so sign up if you are interested. I’m also looking for advanced reviewers for A Dying Land. If you are interested in getting an advanced copy to review, please shoot me an email and let me know.

So now you know a little bit about me. What about you? I’d love to hear some interesting tidbits about all of you, leave a little something in the comments if you would. Tomorrow, hop on over to www.jpcawood.com for some Love From Mars, as well as some other stories.

Happy Reading,

K.

 

 

10 Amazing Fantasy Authors Who Are Women of Color

women of colorLike most of you, I grew up on Fantasy. I’d have to verify this with my mom, but I’m pretty certain I came out of the womb with a fantasy novel in hand (much to her dismay). Also like most of you, for many years, the books I read took place in a European middle ages sort of setting, had male protagonists (always assumed white) and were written by white men.

This left an impression on me. When I first began writing, all of my stories took place in a middle ages European type of setting, they all had male protagonists (always assumed white), with as few women in them as I could get away with. None of those stories have even made it past my elementary school writing teachers. But they are back there.

In some ways, my winding path through fantasy over the years of my life has been about finding and discovering myself in the books I read. It has been an inspiring journey truth be told. There are some amazing women out there writing truly amazing fantasy. More recently, though, this search for women in fantasy has evolved into a search for something that seemed even more rare. Fantasy written by women of color.

For most Americans, we hear so infrequently about women of color writing fantasy that it would be easy to think they simply aren’t writing any of it. But you would be wrong.

Below is a list of ten authors, all women of color, you should definitely read this year if you’ve not read them already. And don’t forget, drop a review on Amazon and/or GoodReads after you’ve had a chance to read them. Reviews are gold for authors.

Sabaa Tahir

Sabaa  Tahir’s debut book, a young adult fantasy novel called An Ember in the Ashes, ended up on the New York Times Best Seller List and won several other awards in 2015. The second book of the series, A Torch Against the Night, is also available, and has also ended up on several best seller lists. These books are amazing. Don’t let the YA tag put you off, these books are gritty.

Octavia Butler

Truth be told, Octavia Butler is more of a sci fi writer than a fantasy writer, but many of her books blur the boundaries of these two, and I simply could not leave her off of this list. Regardless of which book you choose to start with, be prepared to head out on a deep and meaningful journey.

NK Jemisin

NK Jemisin burst onto the fantasy scene with The Hundred Thousand Kingdom’s trilogy and she’s not been out of the spotlight since. And rightly so. Her newest series, The Broken Earth, kicked into gear with The Fifth Season and won a Hugo for best novel in 2016. I’ve read her Dream Blood books and adored them. I’ll soon be sinking my teeth into The Fifth Season, I can’t wait!

Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson is a new name for me and I’ve not read any of her books. When I posted a query to a Facebook group I’m a member of, however, her name kept popping up as recommended reading. I’ll be starting my exploration of her novels with The Salt Road, a Nebula finalist. If The Salt Road doesn’t grab you keep scrolling, she’s got a number of books out.

Nnedi Okorafor

I recently read Who Fears Death, a World Fantasy Award finalist, and I instantly fell in love with its blend of folklore, tradition, and fantasy. It was a wonderful story, in a setting quite far from the usual rolling green hills of England.

Helen Oyeyemi

Helen is another new author for me. But again, her name popped up frequently when asking for book recommendations. White is for Witching is at the top of my list. It is set in England (Oyeyemi is a British author), but it’s explorations of race, nationality, and family legacies makes it a compelling read.

Alaya Johnson

Set in the tropics of Brazil, The Summer Prince is the book that comes up most often when I talk with people about Alaya Johnson. It’s described on Amazon as “A heart-stopping story of love, death, technology, and art set amid the tropics of a futuristic Brazil.” The setting alone is enough to draw me in, but the focus on art definitely sealed the deal.

Jewelle Gomez

I stumbled on Jewelle Gomez’s The Gilda Stories earlier this year while seeking out books to read on my vacation. I do like vampires, but I’m pretty picky about them. (They can’t shimmer in the daylight, as an example.) While The Gilda Stories didn’t have the same erotic overtones as other vampire novels, I believe that is exactly the point. I greatly enjoyed this book. It was sort of a Dickens meets Interview with a Vampire, and was quite wonderful.

Larissa Lai

When Fox is a Thousand hit my reading list in February. I’ve not had a chance to dig my teeth into it yet. I’m really looking forward to a lazy Saturday afternoon with this book open on my lap. Magical, poetic, rich with folklore and fairy tale are how others describe this book. I love the blending of folklore into fantasy, so this book is right in my wheelhouse.

Marie Lu

My first run in with Marie Lu was at a writers conference in Colorado a number of years back. She was delightful, and after hearing her speak and chatting with her I decided to pick up her young adult novel Legend. I was instantly hooked. She’s completed the Legend series, and has a second series out as well called The Young Elites that I’ve not had the opportunity to read as of yet.

 

I’m a book worm. I’d love to spend more time reading, but like most of us, I squeeze my reading time between my day job, my writing time, and trips to the gym. There are always more books being added to the leaning pile of books than I take off. This, however, is a wonderful problem to have! What are some of your favorite fantasy novels written by women of color?

k

Six Amazing Fantasy Pinterest Boards

fantasy pinterest boardsI love Pinterest. Yes, I do use it to house an ever growing list of recipes. And, yes, I do use it to get ideas for party themes and decor (I’m a huge Halloween fan, and throw a massive party every year). But I ALSO use it to feed my geeky fantasy loving soul. Here are some great fantasy pinterest boards to help you get your geek on!

Lego:

Oh lord Cthulu is there some awesome stuff on this board. Look, I don’t play with Lego. I also don’t have kids. But this site is filled to bursting with the sort of creative geeks that make us all swoon. Star Wars? Check. Terminator? Check. Dwarves? Check. Chickens with uzis? Yep. This board as 2,300 pins to keep you entertained, and 1.4 million (MILLION) followers. It’s well worth a visit.

Read more

28 Best First Lines in Fantasy

best first lines in fantasyThere is nothing like opening (or tabbing) to the first page of a fantasy novel you’ve just picked up and reading a first line that jolts you like a stab of lightening. It’s like the author reaches out of the page and wraps their hand right around your throat, yanking you right into the book. Or squirts gorilla glue into your eyeballs, pinning them open and focused on the book in front of you.

I’ve pulled together 28 of the all time best first lines in fantasy below, and at the bottom, what has to be my favorite all time opener. Sharpen you pencils! (Er, um… ready your keyboard.) Your to-read list is about to get a boost.

Read more

I Love My Pop! Funko Doll

Groot Pop! DollFor the first time in my life, nerd culture has become mainstream. In many ways that is so awesome! It’s never been easier to be a fan girl. With that mainstream popularity comes merchandizing like we’ve never seen before. There are entire stores these days that sell nothing but fandom merch. Even big box stores like Target are filled with it! I’m not much of a chotchky sort of person. I hate clutter. But if I’m going to make an exception, it will be for a Pop! Funko Vinyl.

They are just about everywhere and I love them. That simple squarish face with those big eyes… it’s impossible to pass them up! My absolute favorite? Groot. I’ve got a total  crush on Groot, not gonna lie, and I’ve got two of these awesome goodies.

The Company and How it Got Started

Funko, creator of those adorable, huge-headed figures, was founded by Mike Becker in 1998. He originally wanted the it to be a small project with the goal of bringing back nostalgic, low-tech toys to help combat a world obsessed with high-tech doobobs. The very first Funko bobblehead toy was the Big Boy bobblehead because Becker was in the market for a vintage coin bank depicting the mascot, but couldn’t find one for a reasonable price. He decided to produce his own replica by outsourcing the construction to China. The company, creating bobbleheads, banks, and hand puppets, began from this one little figure. (Side note: Remember Big Boy? It turns out, they’re still around. I had no idea!)

Becker sold the company in 2005 to Brian Mariotti. Mariotti has more or less kept the dream alive, but they’ve increased the scope of the products ten-fold. Funko LLC has around 180 unique licenses from movies, TV, comics, video games, sports, and other cultural icons. They have licensing deals with all the biggest players:

Marvel     DC Comics     Lucas Film     Sony Pictures     Paramount     DreamWorks     Hasbro

 

Warner Bros     Disney     HBO     Peanuts     Ubisoft     2K Games     Bethesda Games     and more

Mariotti says it used to be hard getting companies to agree to sign on with them. But now, brands are banging down their doors to get their characters as a Pop!  The vinyl dolls are still their biggest seller,  the company made about $40 million in 2013. In 2016 that number was $425 million. Pretty impressive if I do say so myself.

The Products

The vinyl bobblehead dolls we’ve all come to love and recognize haven’t changed much over the years. The first few characters included Betty Boop, Cap’n Crunch, and The Cat in the Hat. Over the years, the dolls took on human characters, exaggerating the heads and eyes. They are 3.75 inches tall with a square head and rounded edges.

Now, you can find a Pop! Vinyl Doll of almost any character you can imagine, even minor characters. The dolls aren’t limited to fictional characters either. You can find Pop! Vinyl culture figures like Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols and Tupac Pop-ified, too!

The vinyl dolls have branched out to include Mystery Minis, Hiraki, Legacy Collection, Mopeez, and Home & Accessories. The Home & Accessories collection specializes in ceramic mugs, which are basically just glass copies of the heads of popular figures, hollowed out with a handle on one side. Vinyl Sugar was announced at Toy Fair 2015, with offshoot lines including Dorbz, Vinyl Idolz, Vinyl Vixens, and Super Deluxe Vinyls.

From their first introduction at Comic Con in 2010, Pop! Funko Vinyl Dolls have blown up to include almost 3,000 unique pieces and 40 million units. They all have the recognizable Pop! Funko Vinyl style while boasting individual characteristics that make the character recognizable. They’re intensely collectable. Selling at only $10, you can build a huge collection quickly. There are also extremely rare, limited edition Pop! Vinyl Dolls. Funko created a Pop! Of JJ Abrams just for Kathleen Kennedy.

“You have to have the huge Walking Dead or Game of Thrones items that everyone wants, but you also need to do Firefly or Dodgeball. There are fans looking specifically for that and we might be the only company offering something to have on their desk,” says vice president of creative Ben Butcher. “It’s very important that we’re not just going for the big home runs.” Adds Mariotti: “If it doesn’t sell out, that’s okay. If everything was bottom line-generated, our line would be boring and probably wouldn’t be half as successful.” (I had to bold that out. It’s rare to find a company of this size that is willing to step out and take on a niche in this day and age.)

Next time you walk into a store that has Pop! Funko Vinyl dolls on display, take a closer look. It’s hard to come across a rare one and new reboots, new shows, and new movies mean Funko will never run out of source material. But know that each doll came from the singular idea to create something simple, fun, and cute for the fans.

k.

 

Additional Info:

Ever Hear of Funko?
Funko on Wikipedia
The Incredible Rise of Funko Pop!

I Hate Fan Theories

I hate fan theoriesI have a confession to make. I hate fan theories. Whether about film, television, books or any other medium, I can’t stand them.

I get it. I really do. When I fall in love with a book the first thing I want to do (after I mourn leaving the world behind of course) is find other people who loved it as much as I did. I want to talk about the characters, I want to get their thoughts on that store twist I wasn’t expecting or the plot tidbit that was not wrapped up at the end, and malign the big bad, or whatever. The point is, I want to connect with other readers who loved the book too. Read more

A Harry Potter Themed Babies Room To Die For!

Harry Potter Babies Room

I am most definitely a Potterhead, but without question, hands down, my SOs daughters have me beat. One of them recently had a baby and put together a harry potter themed babies room that was so damn cute I had to ask her to do a write up on it. Can you guess the inspiration behind the munchkins name? Eat your heart out Potter fans! 

It’s finally finished! Just in time for the Fantastic Beasts premier and about two months after our little muggle-born arrived, all mischief has been managed in Oliver’s nursery (or it’s about to begin!). Read more