The Spark Blogfest: Sparkfest

First things first – I know, I know. Today’s post was supposed to be about monsters. The sort of monsters that Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes would have a dialogue with under his bed. Am I breaking promises already?

Well, yes. I’m still working on this post, and I’m still excited about it, but it’s been postponed until Monday.

Why? Let’s just say that when I see the opportunity to talk more about myself and possibly win free stuff? The sort of opportunity provided by the the Spark Blogfest?

My response can only be –


Here are the Sparkfest blog challenge questions in all their sparkly glory.

  • What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer?

See this book? This book was my first science fiction book ever. My mother gave it to me during a camping trip, and I devoured it.

To be honest, I don’t remember much about this book now. I remember there was a smarmy space captain and a lady with attitude and they bickered a lot and without knowing this was hot, I knew it was hot.

Then there were those aliens on the cover, and even though they were supposed to look like that, I always imagined that they looked like adorable teddy bears. The smarmy space captain and the lady with attitude and a bunch of other space travelers befriended these adorable teddy bear aliens, and the teddy bear aliens responded by being adorable for a while, and then they started *SPOILER ALERT* killing people, and so 8/9 year-old Annalise learned an important life lesson about not trusting alien teddy bears no matter how adorable they are.

I have no idea whether the book holds up or not. I mean, in terms of stories that have been really really influential on me as a writer and shiznit, I would have to go with things like His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman and Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote and The Stone Boy by Gina Berriault and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and I, Robot by Isaac Asimov.

But Mote in God’s Eye was the book that started it all. I became a speculative fiction addict, and I never looked back.

Thank you so much, mother, for traumatizing me with this book.

  • What author set off that spark of inspiration for your current Work in Progress?

Um, the truth? Well, right now I have 2 major WIP, and I don’t think books and/or authors inspired either of them.

I’m particularly neurotic about my story KILL THE LAST ONE sounding like a Hunger Games knockoff, but the truth is that KILL THE LAST ONE was inspired by an anime. An anime that was more or less a knockoff of Lord of the Flies.

Infinite Ryvius is a late 90s anime about teenage space cadets who, through a series of extenuating circumstances, are forced to pilot a huge space ship all by their lonesome. They do a predictably good job at building a society, by which I mean they’re constantly on the brink of complete and utter anarchy.

I just saw this anime recently and I LOVED it. Highly recommended to anyone interested in such things. Actually, I would recommend it to anyone who needs some examples of good storytelling pacing, because the first 20 or so episodes? Gold star pacing, hooks and cliffhangers. The only downside to this anime is that parts of the dub are mind-numbingly awful.

It made me really really want to write a story about a bunch of kids and teenagers doing a predictably good job at building a society, by which I mean…

…well, I think you get the idea.

My other story, SPIDER AND BRIAR, doesn’t have any specific inspiration that I can think of. Maybe just fairy tales in general? But not any particular fairy tale.

It’s more like a weird conglomeration of every dark fantasy I’ve ever been exposed to, through various mediums. Probably owes a debt or two to Pan’s Labyrinth. 

  • Is there a book or author that changed your world view?

Yes. His Dark Materials, unquestionably.

If all books were about tomboys riding polar bears in dystopian steampunk worlds, then I think I could die happy. (Please don’t take me up on this.)

Pullman taught me that fantasy isn’t all about elves and dragons. I learned this lesson well, and then I decided to write a story about dragons. BECAUSE, OKAY.

I like dragons.

This is a dragon.

Leave a comment


  1. I like SciFi, but I’ve got to be honest, I’ve never heard of that first book! I love reading this series and finding out how many parents encouraged their children to read more than picture books from a young age.

    • It’s a good book! I think. It has decent reviews on Goodreads, so I think it probably holds up. Also, I like Larry Niven.

      My mother is strange. She gave me really traumatizing science fiction books (she loves sci fi) but thought Harry Potter was too scary. I don’t understand either.

      But yes, it seems a lot of writers had parents who influenced their reading. Helps to grow up in a family of bookworms.

  2. OMG! I read the Mote in God’s Eye in college. It was some anthropology class about how science fiction social values and mores or something. IDEK. And I know I wrote a paper about this book and while I have no idea what my topic was (or let’s face it, what the book was even about!), I definitely, DEFINITELY remember the teddy bear aliens.

    • Yeah, I think the teddy bear aliens represent communism or something? Seriously. The book’s a lot deeper than my summary gives it credit, but literally all my 8/9 year-old brain remembers is that the aliens were adorable and then they weren’t so adorable.

      Teddy bear aliens are impossible to forget. *sage nod*

  3. Oh man, what a loaded post. I don’t think there was any particular book that made me realize I was doomed. :p

    Although, I do remember what sparked Paths of Magic. I was watching The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and I thought about how much more awesome Narnia would be if it had dragons. That is where Beltron came from. I bought Holly Lisle’s Plot Clinic and in February drafted my first outline on notecards.

    This year I also discovered the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. I was enchanted and it really made me think about how I could combine technology and magic. It was the first time I had seen it done really well in a book.

    Really nice dragon picture too, btw. 🙂

    • I love Narnia! And the Artemis Fowl series!

      You’re right, he really does combine technology and magic in some clever, innovative ways. I love that world, and Artemis is one of my favorite characters ever.

      I’ve been hearing about Plot Clinic. Don’t buy how-to writing books very often, but I might make an exception here.

  4. DUDE. I am totally going to steal these questions.

    Wow, alien teddy bears…WHAT is the world coming to? It’s so funny how the weirdest things flip switches inside of us, isn’t it?

    I used to watch a bit of anime; haven’t heard of Infinite Ryvius, though.

    And I’ve never read His Dark Materials. GASP SHOCK HORROR. I’ll put it on le TBR pile!

    • I know! They’re awesome, aren’t they? There’s still time to participate in the challenge and maybe even win some FREE LOOT WOOT!

      I heart alien teddy bears. And Infinite Ryvius is quite good and tragically overlooked IMO. It’s probably the only anime that’s ever made me pull an all-nighter JUST to finish it.

      His Dark Materials is worth the hype. It’s been about a decade since I read them, but my guesstimate is that they’re great, imaginative books with a kick-ass heroine. And SHE RIDES POLAR BEARS.

  5. Yea, for sci-fi. I need to find the polar bear riding steampunk. That looks awesome.

  6. Larry Niven = awesome. Philip Pullman = also awesome. I loved the His Dar Materials trilogy so much!! It’s just so amazing and beautiful and touching and… gah! Yeah, just awesome.

    Also, I’m so happy to meet another anime fan! I haven’t seen Infinite Ryvius, but I have heard its good. I’ve so many animes at this point I can’t begin to keep track of them all. Guess I’ll have to add that one to the list now though.

    • Isn’t His Dark Materials just the greatest?

      I’m a huge anime fan, I might even make some posts about anime recommendations…I definitely recommend Infinite Ryvius!

      Your anime TBW pile sounds a lot like my TBR pile…just so much stuff…

  7. Oh! Also, what is this Sparkfest thing anyway?

  8. Hi Annalise,

    Fellow campaigner here, stopping by to say hello.

  9. 1. OH MY FREAKING GOD, The Golden Compass/Northern Lights is one of my favorite books. Ever. I can’t even begin to describe the impact that story had on me, and I love the whole series too. Can we be friends?

    2. Hey look! We appear to be in the same fantasy campaigner group, so hi there! 🙂

    3. I may have to steal this post idea, because it is awesome. I hope you will take this in the spirit of “imitation = flattery”.

    • It’s not my idea, it’s a contest! So take it! I’m curious about your answers, and YOU MIGHT WIN STUFF. <– this trumps everything

      My favorite book in the series is The Subtle Knife. LOVE Will. Love love love.

      Hello fellow fantasy campaigner! *waves furiously*

  10. Hey, I’m a fellow Campaigner (from the sci-fi group) AND a sparkfest participant. Seems I was bound to find you.

    Is it bad that I can tell this dragon is the Bronze Dragon illustration from the DnD Monster Manual 3.5. I am an uber geek. *shame and pride*

    Also, I ❤ Iorek. SO MUCH.

    • Why, hello there! Wonderful to meet another science fiction campaigner. And sparkfest participant!

      I didn’t know that about the dragon! Never played DnD, although it has always interested me.


  11. Interesting! And there’s no shame in liking dragons – dragons are the shiznits. I mean, come on! They’re beautiful in that scary, I’m-gonna-devour-you-for-a-midday-snack kinda way, they’re tough and strong, and, hello, they breathe FIRE! How much more awesomeness does one need?

    In case you can’t tell, I ❤ dragons. 🙂

    • I agree, dragons are pretty awesome. Big sharp teeth and wings and FIRE. Hello.

      Let’s be dragon groupies together! Hopefully we won’t end up as any midday snacks.

      • Ha ha ha! Dragon groupies it is! I’m sure we’ll be able to tame them… 🙂

  12. Hi Annalise,

    I’m in your fantasy group for Campaign! Nice to *meet* you. I never really got into Philip Pullman’s stuff, but your last comments about dragons cracked me up. So true! Gotta love ’em!

    • Hello! Nice to meet another fantasy campaigner. I love Pullman, but actually couldn’t get into the Golden Compass the first time I tried to read it (I dunno) and the 3rd book was…eh.

      Dragons are the best!

  13. Hello Annalise!

    I’m in your fantasy group for Campaign too. And, also being a Dragon lover, felt I had to echo Nicole’s comment. 🙂 Pretty much 100% of my books include Dragons in some form!

    • Hello fellow fantasy campaigner! Glad dragons have been such a big hit. They are pretty cool.

      • Indeed they are! On that note, I am looking forward to this post you speak of that will be about monsters… for I am intrigued by them as well. They have much of the terror and glory and fascination of Dragons, but with none of the majesty or the beauty. I like both 🙂

  14. I’m so bummed I didn’t catch this blogfest, but I’ve been having fun reading everyone’s sparks none-the-less! The Golden Compass was amazing! I love the picture you chose, not to mention the dragon picture. Pictures like that make me want to drop everything and write a dragon scene.

    • Wasn’t The Golden Compass amazing? Especially when she goes to the North. And rides polar bears. I just ❤ it.

      I get to write some dragon scenes for one of my WIP! They're always fun. Such majestic (fictional) creatures.

  15. I, Robot was the first book by Isaac Asimov I ever read. I love it. (Though I really did not like what they did with the movie, since the main character in the movie doesn’t even exist in the book.)

    I’ve never heard of The Mote In God’s Eye, but since I love SF, I’ll have to check it out. 🙂

    • I love I, Robot! My first was the Foundation series, which I did not love as much. Yeah, the movie was very disappointing – okay as a summer action flick, but as an actual representation of the book? Um, no. And they ruined Susan Calvin, who is one of my favorite characters ever.

      Check out The Mote in God’s Eye! And please let me know if it is as good as I remember it.

  16. Hi, Annalise. I know this isn’t really part of your Spark, but I love Calvin and Hobbes!

    Hope you have a great weekend! 🙂

  17. Love the dragon and the anime. I’ll have to check out Infinite Ryvius. Right now my husband watch a ton of them on Netflix. Anyway, enough about me. 😀 I’m here visiting your blog cause I’m a fellow campaigner from your fantasy group. I look forward to perusing your posts. 🙂

    • Nice to meet you! Looking forward to perusing your posts as well. 😀 If you check out Infinite Ryvius, I hope you enjoy it – and yeah, there are a lot of neat anime offerings on Netflix at the moment!

  18. Hilarious. Absolutely. I’ve never seen this anime, but it sounds like I’m going to have to check it out.

    Also, I must have been an idiot for not seeing the steampunk-ness of His Dark Materials…? That explains why it showed up in the movie…it kind of flew over my head when I read the books.

    Thanks for sharing your unique sparks. This entry was a lot of laughs 😀


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