Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’


Trapped in Romance

My current pass on the book I’m revising is the “romance pass,” trying to amp up the main relationship. My editor was apparently drawn to the book by the romantic potential in it, while that was much more of a secondary thing for me. But I suspect that’s what readers will want, too, so I’m working to develop that.

I have this weird issue with romance in books, where I don’t see myself as a particularly romantic writer, while the publishing world has me firmly slotted into the romance category. I did try to make it as a romance writer, within the romance genre, and while getting five romance novels published doesn’t exactly count as failure, it was a constant struggle for me to live up to the expectations of the genre, and it was a huge relief to admit to myself that I didn’t really like writing romance and give up on trying. I owe a lot to romance because that gave me my start and taught me a lot about the business, but it’s not where I fit in.

I sort of fell into romance by accident. As I mentioned in talking about my influences, my real ambition once I decided to write seriously was fantasy. I hadn’t even read more than a few romance novels. I got into reading romance after I graduated from college. It took me a few months to find a job, so I was back to living with my parents. We lived in the country outside a small town that didn’t even have a library at that time, so when I ran out of things to read, I found my mom’s stash of Harlequin romances and started reading them. My mom suggested that I try to write one. After all, they published so many, they had to be looking for writers. But I was still focused on fantasy and working on various fantasy novel ideas. I did try starting one category-style romance, and it fizzled out quickly. After I got a job and moved to the Dallas area, I found a local writing group, and the speaker at one of the first meetings I went to was a romance author. She mentioned a group she was in, so I went to one of their meetings, and in that one meeting I learned more about the publishing business than I’d ever known. That group was a chapter of the Romance Writers of America, so I got involved in the romance world and started trying to write romance novels, always with the idea that once I got established there, I could move into fantasy. That was where I learned all about structuring a novel, plotting, pacing, character development, how to submit a book, dealing with agents and editors, etc. Maybe I should have seen it as a sign that when I entered writing contests, I never went anywhere with my romance attempts while I won the fantasy categories, but then I started selling romance novels, and it’s hard to imagine you’re failing at something and in the wrong field when you’re succeeding at it, and selling anything is a pretty big deal.

There was a romantic thread to the Enchanted, Inc. books once I started writing them, and RWA was acknowledging books that had “romantic elements” then, so I still fit in. But then they dropped that, and I realized that I would probably never write something that really fit the romance genre, so I dropped away from the romance world.

I do like a good love story, but what I like is something that develops along the way rather than being the focus. I think what I really like is essentially what happens in TV series “shipping,” where the relationship isn’t all that overt, so the audience has to read between the lines and interpret for themselves what’s really going on. Once it’s obvious and becomes text instead of subtext, it’s a lot less interesting to me unless the relationship is just taken as a given at that point and is part of the characterization without any worry about making it romantic. One of my favorite bits of “romantic” writing is what’s going on with Henry and Verity in Rebel Mechanics, where I’m trying to show that he’s falling for her while she remains oblivious, and yet the whole story is in her point of view, so I have to have her notice things that the audience can interpret but that she interprets a different way because it hasn’t crossed her mind that someone like him would see someone like her that way.

My problem is that the fantasy world has pigeonholed me as a romance writer, and they seem to overemphasize that aspect of my work, to the point they think there’s more romance than there is. I originally wrote Rebel Mechanics to be an adult fantasy, but the fantasy publishers rejected it as “too romancey” and suggested I send it to romance publishers. Never mind that there’s not so much as a kiss between the romantic couple and the relationship remains subtext until almost the very end. I had the same issue with A Fairy Tale. The fantasy publishers rejected it as too romancey, even though there’s no actual relationship between the two main characters because he’s married and focused on looking for his missing wife. If I have a man and a woman interacting at all in the first chapter, the fantasy publishers will say it’s a romance because that seems to be my reputation. It doesn’t help that the publisher of Enchanted, Inc. keeps classifying it as “paranormal romance,” and when they do a BookBub ad, that’s where they put it. I feel like we’re missing a huge potential audience in contemporary fantasy that still hasn’t heard of these books because they keep marketing it as paranormal romance when, again, nothing much happens in that first book.

I really don’t know what the solution is. I don’t mind that I have a big romance readership because romance readers are voracious and loyal, and as long as they’re okay with the low levels of actual romance and non-existent heat, then we’re good. I just hate being dismissed by the market segment where I actually fit on the basis of something that’s not even true.

writing life

Origins and Influences: Katherine Kurtz

In my ongoing series of posts about the origins and influences on my writing, I seem to have reached my teen years. That was when I really got into modern fantasy. I’d been obsessed with Narnia and had read Tolkien, and that had led into some of the “children’s” fantasy, such as Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series and the Oz books. When Alan Dean Foster, whose science fiction books I’d loved, wrote a fantasy series, the Spellsinger books, I read those. But I hadn’t delved into most of the other fantasy being published at that time.

Then a book caught my eye at the library, mostly because of the cover. The art was similar to that on the covers of the Alan Dean Foster books, but it looked like something out of a fairy tale. I picked it up to look at and ended up checking it out. The book was Deryni Rising by Katherine Kurtz. I plowed through that book, then got the rest of the series the next time we went to the library, and then bought copies of the series for myself. I was utterly obsessed with those books. I fell madly in love with the characters, and I loved the sense of history. It was like it was a real world whose history we were getting to read. I also enjoyed the thread of faith worked into those books (complete with Bible verses at the beginnings of chapters). It worked like in the real medieval world, when faith was pivotal to people’s lives, and while there were evil people who used faith as a weapon to help them maintain power, the good guys also had faith and tried to live in accordance with it. This is an element that’s frequently left out of fantasy worldbuilding, and the way it was presented in these books rang true to me as a person of faith.

That led me into reading other fantasy published in the 70s and 80s, in the initial wave that came after the Ballantine publication of The Lord of the Rings. Most of it, I don’t remember much of. I do know I read The Sword of Shannara and Elfstones of Shannara. But there were so many others, some of which are probably forgotten now because there was a lot of “disposable” fantasy.

Strangely, I didn’t read the other Deryni books for some time because when I looked at the second trilogy, I saw that it was set in the past. I wanted to read about those original characters, not about other people. During the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, I went with a friend to a flea market. She told me it was a great place to find books, but I hadn’t found anything to interest me. I did see a copy of the first book in that second trilogy, Camber of Culdi, and bought it just to buy something to make my friend feel better about dragging me there. It was a few months after that before I finally read it — and then fell even more madly in love with those characters and that time period than I had been with the original trilogy. Rhys Thuryn from those books remains my primary Book Boyfriend. I eagerly got the next two books. I was overjoyed when I learned that a new trilogy was coming out. I was so excited about these books that I bought a set to give to a friend just so I’d have someone to discuss them with (how I’d have loved to have the Internet then). When I went to college, I displayed these books in my dorm room and used that as an icebreaker. I found a few friends because I knew they’d be kindred spirits since they’d read them, too. I did a paper on the world of these books for my parageography class in college.

It was through this obsession that I decided that fantasy was what I wanted to write. My first attempts at writing had been science fiction. Then I’d tried to write spy thrillers. But I started seriously writing with attempts at writing fantasy novels. When I was right out of college, I even won the fantasy category of a writing contest a couple of times (I eventually finished those books but haven’t sold them). Oddly enough, I still haven’t sold a “traditional” fantasy novel along the lines of Kurtz, and I’ve only drafted a couple of attempts at one. Everything I’ve published has been contemporary or Victorian/Steampunk.

I’ve actually met both of the people who led to this obsession. Darrell K. Sweet, the artist who did covers for both Alan Dean Foster and Katherine Kurtz, was artist guest of honor at FenCon once. And I was a guest at a convention where Katherine Kurtz was a guest of honor. I had a major fangirl moment when I ended up sitting next to her at a booksigning, and I thought I would faint when she picked up one of my books to read the back. I eventually managed to pull myself together enough to mention what her books had meant to me, and I got to hang out with her some, which felt rather like an out-of-body experience. I actually ended up spending more time that weekend with her husband, since it turned out that we had similar backgrounds as military brats and had lived at some of the same places, so there was a lot of “did you ever go to …” going on.

I do still want to write a traditional fantasy along the lines of the Deryni books. It’s a harder sell these days because it’s been done to death and you have to find some new twist on it. Right now, grimdark seems to be the trend, but I’m not so into the blood-and-guts, life sucks thing. I may just do it and publish it myself so I can tick that box off my literary bucket list.

writing life

Origins and Influences: Narnia

I mentioned in the previous post about the influence of Tolkien on me as a reader and writer that I discovered C.S. Lewis around the same time—the fall semester of sixth grade. I’m not entirely sure which one came first.

I do remember how I discovered C.S. Lewis and the Narnia books. One day, there was something my mom and I were going to do after she got off work (I don’t remember what), so I was to ride the shuttle bus to her office after school instead of taking the school bus home. It must have been fairly early in the fall because I was wearing only a light jacket. I remember feeling very grown-up about riding the shuttle bus on my own, even though it was a green army bus just like the school bus (I was rather confused as a kid because books, TV, and movies all showed school buses as being yellow, but every school bus I’d seen was green). When I got to my mom’s office, she gave me a book she’d bought for me to keep me occupied until she got off work.

That book was The Silver Chair, and I was immediately captivated. That may be why I don’t remember why I needed to meet my mom at her office. Whatever we went to do, all I could think of was getting back to that book. I loved the idea of stepping into another world and going on a quest to rescue a prince, meeting up with all kinds of strange creatures along the way. I wanted desperately to find a way into Narnia. I really liked Jill as a heroine. For one thing, it was fun to have a girl a lot like me as one of the main characters. I’d read plenty of books with main character girls, like Nancy Drew, but they all tended to be people you could aspire to being, less people you could imagine being. But Jill was totally ordinary, caught up in all kinds of crazy things (gee, I don’t know where I might have gone with that concept in my own work).

I was really excited to find out that this book was part of a series, so there were even more books like it. I must have been rationing them so I wouldn’t get through them all at once and then have no more to look forward to, because we moved in February of the next year, and I know I didn’t read the last book until we were in the new place. The Lord of the Rings may have come into play for that because I know I read that whole series that fall, and that likely took a huge chunk of time away from potentially reading Narnia books. Finding both those series around the same time was what made me realize that there was an actual genre of books like that. Previously, I’d read by topic, sometimes by author, but it finally occurred to me that there was a whole huge category of books about magic and other worlds, and they could be very different from each other even while having things in common.

I did discover that I’d already read one of the books, The Horse and His Boy, during my horse phase, when I was checking every book out of the library that had the word “horse” in the title or had a picture of a horse on the cover. But that one’s a one-off that only tangentially ties into the rest of the series, and I was reading it as a horse book rather than as a fantasy book. I guess I got sidetracked into Nancy Drew during my witch book phase before I got to the L section where I’d have found The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

The Narnia books became even more important to me after we moved because I went from a place where I was happy, popular, had a lot of friends, and was involved in a lot of activities to a place where I was the new kid no one wanted (I later learned that the teacher told the class the day before I started in that school that the new kid was really smart and they’d have to work harder. So of course they hated me before they met me). They didn’t have band at the new school, so I had to stop that, and they wouldn’t let me in the choir because it had already formed. The school didn’t have a cafeteria (or wasn’t using it), so they had a weird “accelerated” schedule in which we had only a very short recess and you were supposed to bring a snack to eat at your desk instead of having a lunch break, and then the school day ended at 2. I would head straight home and escape to Narnia. I wasn’t writing down the stories in my head yet, but I did dream up all kinds of scenarios in which I ended up going to Narnia or to places like Narnia. For a while, it even shoved Star Wars out of my imagination (at least until The Empire Strikes Back came out).

I’ve re-read the books many times since then, and I was surprised when I re-read them as an adult how bare-bones they were. I guess my brain really fleshed them out. When I saw the recent movies, I found myself thinking that this was exactly how I imagined things, but then I read the books again and realized that I must have filled in a lot of details.

One thing I like is the way Lewis structured the series to be both standalone and series. You could read the books in any order, but you got more out of them if you read them in order. He had the same cast of main characters in the first two books, with a mostly different cast of Narnians for the second book. Then in the third, two of the main characters were out and a new character with a big growth arc was introduced. And then he became the main character, with another new character introduced. I may have to figure out a series that works that way. You could do more books without getting bored with the main character, there’s continuity between books to draw people through the series, but they can jump in at any point instead of having to start at the beginning.

I still want to write a portal fantasy. I love following a character from our world into a strange world, and it definitely is easier to write than a pure secondary world story because at least you have a frame of reference. You can have your viewpoint character compare the strange world to familiar things.

I wish they’d made it to The Silver Chair when they were making the Narnia movies. I like the BBC version from the early 90s (with Tom Baker as Puddleglum), but the special effects are so very old BBC. And I loved the kid who played Eustace in Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I really wanted to see him get to do The Silver Chair.

writing life

Origins and Influences: Tolkien

Last year, I started doing some posts on my origins and influences as a writer: the things throughout my life that made me want to write or that made me want to write fantasy. I’ve talked about making up my own stories to go with musical theater cast albums, girl sleuths who probably influenced the kinds of heroines I write, Star Wars and how it woke my imagination in a big way, and children’s fantasy.

In sixth grade, I hit two things that had a huge impact on me. I’m not entirely sure exactly which came first because they were both in the same semester. That fall, I discovered J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (and at the time I didn’t know there was any connection between them).

I’d already read The Hobbit in fourth grade, when the animated TV version was on and my fourth-grade teacher read the book out loud to the class (and then I got impatient with the chapter-a-day pace, checked the book out of the library, and read the whole thing). But I hadn’t followed up with other books by the same author or even other books like that. I didn’t really think in genres then. I liked books about certain things or by certain authors, but I didn’t group books into categories. There were witch books and books with elves and books with talking horses, but I didn’t consider that they were all part of a larger category of fantasy.

Though I suppose one reason I didn’t find more books by Tolkien was that in fourth grade, I was using the elementary school library and the children’s department (its own room) in the post library, and I don’t think they generally put The Lord of the Rings in the children’s section. But when we moved to Germany right before I started fifth grade, the American school was divided up in an odd way. Kindergarten through third grade were in one campus and fourth through eighth grades were in another campus. That meant that our school library included books for older readers. I saw The Hobbit on the shelf, remembered liking it, and then saw that there were other books in that “series” and checked out The Fellowship of the Ring.

I was instantly hooked, though I must confess that my favorite part of that series is still the beginning, up until the party splits up. I just liked the travelogue through the world and getting to Rivendell. I wasn’t as fond of it as it got more serious and gritty. Still, I tore through all three books, then got very excited when I saw that they’d made a movie (the animated version), begged my dad to take me when it came to the base theater, then was very disappointed, especially when it just ended midway through the story. Still, the way they depicted the Ringwraiths was gloriously creepy.

Since I discovered the Narnia books at around the same time (though I think that will be its own post), this launched me into fantasy as a genre. I wanted more books about other worlds where magic was real. It was kind of like the fairy tale settings of the Disney movies, but made bigger, richer, and more real. I think my mental writing was still focused on Star Wars-related things at that time, but there were definitely some seeds planted.

I re-read the series in college when I was taking a parageography course and the professor referred to the books often, and I found it rather slow going. It’s funny, I tore through them when I was 11, but when I was 21 they were difficult. I think I may do another read next winter — they’re definitely fall/winter books for me, something to read with a cup of hot tea and a fire in the fireplace. I’m curious what I’ll think of them after seeing the more recent movies, after learning a lot more about Tolkien, and with many more years of life, reading, and writing experience.

There’s been some Internet noise lately after a clickbait blogger with an agenda picked up some tweets by an author I know about the disproportionate amount of shelf space given to Tolkien. It does seem odd how much shelf space this very old series gets in the chain bookstores, given that you can easily find all these books at any library and at any used bookstore. I don’t know who’s buying all these new copies. Maybe nice collector’s editions with lovely illustrations and leather binding, but paperbacks? I’m always tempted to hide a little bookmark in the backs of the books on the shelves full of Tolkien so I can monitor and see if those copies are actually selling or if they’re just taking up shelf space. I find it frustrating because the last few times I’ve gone to a store to buy a fantasy novel, a new release that really should be in the store, all I find are shelves full of “classics.” I hate buying books on Amazon, so when a new book I want in print comes out, I go to a bookstore. And then I usually end up coming home and buying on Amazon because the bookstore doesn’t have it but does have a shelf or two of Tolkien. Given the financials of the chain stores, I’m not sure they’re making the best merchandising decisions. But it’s dangerous to do anything that hurts the feelings of the manbaby whiners on the Internet. Apparently, it got brutal.

Pro tip: Even if someone outright insults your favorite author, it does not merit a death threat. Suggesting that maybe bookstores should devote a little more shelf space to something newer definitely doesn’t merit death threats or even attacks and insults.

And as influential as The Lord of the Rings was in forming my reading taste, I must say that if it’s still your pinnacle of fantasy, maybe you should read more widely. I really side-eye any bookstore staff recommendation tags for Tolkien. I would hope that a) a bookseller would have read more widely and recently and b) they wouldn’t waste that promotional opportunity on showcasing something that anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock has already heard of. And bookstores might make more money if they actually stocked things that you can’t find shelves full of in any used bookstore.


Recent Reading: Spinning Silver

I haven’t done a recent reading/book report post in a while, but I have a cool one today because it’s about a book that’s releasing today. I got an advance copy and managed to actually read it before it was released, which is rather different for me (I didn’t read my advance copy of A Game of Thrones until after the first season of the TV series).

The book is Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. It’s a standalone (at least, so far) fantasy novel with Russian/Eastern European influences, playing off the Rumpelstiltskin story. Only, in this case, the one who turns things into gold is our heroine, the daughter of a moneylender, who notes that the fairy tale is a story about someone who made a deal and carried out his end of it being cheated. Her father’s not a very good moneylender, since he hates to ask for payment, and therefore everyone in town is cheating him and the family is poor. Fed up with going hungry, his daughter pulls together the account ledgers and starts collecting debts. Then she invests the income and makes a profit, turning the silver coins she collects into gold pieces. At one point, she boasts of her ability to turn silver into gold … and the wrong person hears it, and takes it literally.

This story is interwoven with the story of the girl whose father can’t pay his debt to the moneylender, so she’s working it off in service to the moneylender’s family — and finds that this is the best thing to ever happen to her as she finds a family happier than her own. And then there’s the young noblewoman forced to marry the cruel young tsar, who turns out to have something terribly wrong with him that she might be able to do something about.

As you may have noticed, I love fairy tale retellings and new stories that feel like old fairy tales, and this is a bit of both. It’s magical and atmospheric, and you can almost imagine someone telling you this story by the fire on a cold winter night.

Winter is actually a big part of the story, as the magical folk (very fae-like) have created an eternal winter. That’s one of the things our heroines have to deal with. I imagine this book would be nice to read while snuggled under a blanket with a hot cup of tea or cocoa, but it was also nice to read on a hot early summer day, when the descriptions of snow piling high made me feel a little colder.

There’s a touch of romance in a couple of the stories, but very slow build (so just right for me). I wanted to see how it ended but didn’t want it to end.

If you read her earlier Uprooted (one of the books that benefited from my Nebula good-luck charm, as she was sitting next to me when she won), this is along those lines, but is an entirely different story, possibly in a different world.

So, go find it. I really liked this one.


Recent Reading

I’ve been so busy lately, and it’s only getting worse! Last week, I finished the book I was working on and sent it to my agent Monday. I’ve already started a new book and have written 8,000 words — all in one day. Now I want to top that number, so we’ll see what I manage to do today. Then I have an event every other weekend until November. This weekend is FenCon in the Dallas area. I have a weekend off after that, and then I’m going to the Missouri Library Association conference. I get a weekend off, and then I’m going to Necronomicon in Tampa. I get a weekend off, and then I’m going to the World Fantasy Convention in San Antonio. Probably not the best time to start writing a new book, but I’m behind and am trying to get back on schedule. A few 8,000-word days will help.

But I have also made time for reading and discovered a new-to-me series, the Sanctuary books by Carol Berg. These are set in an Italian Renaissance-like society in which the magical people consider themselves superior to the “ordinaries” and set themselves apart to the point of having strict rules about interacting with nonmagical people. They even wear masks while in public because it’s forbidden for nonmagical people to see their faces. In the first book, Dust and Light, our hero, a young artist, finds himself suddenly demoted from his job painting portraits of the elite and sent to work for the city’s coroner, using his magical talent to paint a subject’s true self to create portraits of the dead for use in identifying them and possibly solving their murders. That’s bad enough for him, but things go downhill from there as his life is totally upended by a vast conspiracy. It seems his talent has an element he wasn’t aware of — he not only paints his subject’s true self, but things from that person’s history also tend to show up in his paintings. That means some interesting things showed up in his portraits of the elite that they would rather not be made public.

It’s hard to talk about the second book, Ash and Silver, without spoiling the first one, but it does involve one of my favorite fantasy tropes, memory loss. More specifically, the question of what would you be if you didn’t know who you were? (I’m not a fan of the more romance novel style amnesia plots, but I love it when magic is used to erase identity. Go figure.) There’s an order of magical knights, and part of their training is to have their identity and memories associated with their identity erased so that they focus on training without personal baggage like status, loyalties or history. After training, they get their memories back so they can decide whether to enter the order for good or return to their old lives. I find that a really interesting concept because it’s all about these men discovering who they really are in the course of training and choosing who they want to be.

These are definitely “put your characters in a tree and throw rocks at them” books, so sometimes they got a bit intense with the hero’s suffering. I just wanted to give the poor guy a time out to rest and have a cookie and not have everyone scheming against him for maybe five minutes. So, perhaps not the best read if you’re feeling stressed and can’t deal with suffering, unless that sort of thing puts your own life in perspective. There were parts I kind of had to to read from between my fingers, and I ended up flipping to the end to make sure things would be okay before I could continue reading. On the other hand, that’s a good sign that I was invested in the character. It was fascinating watching him grow from all he endured and figure out who he could and couldn’t trust.

Apparently, these books are set in the same universe as one of her other series, so I’ll have to look for those. The worldbuilding is really intricate, and I’m intrigued by that world.

Meanwhile, I’ve found myself wondering if there’s a market for whimsical, tame, low-stress adventures for reading when you’re too stressed to deal with life-and-death sakes in fiction. There are days when I’d be all about an entire book about playing with a basket of puppies, because that’s about all the stress I can take at the end of the day.

writing, TV

The Supersonic Raven Fallacy

I’ve noticed that some writers have a tendency to get defensive when they’re called out about something that doesn’t quite work. There’s a particular tendency among some writers of fantasy to question “nitpicks” in a fantasy work — if you can believe in magic, why can’t you accept these other things? It seems to be more of a trend in TV writers than among novelists, which may have something to do with the way novelists approach worldbuilding. At any rate, this arose again this week, thanks to events on Game of Thrones, and I have now dubbed this particular argument the Supersonic Ravens Fallacy.

The argument goes: “You can believe in X, but you can’t believe in Y?” where X is “big fantasy element” and Y is “mundane thing that doesn’t quite work the way it does in the real world.” For example, “You can believe in dragons, but you can’t believe in ravens that had to have flown faster than the speed of sound in order to deliver a message in that amount of time?”

The defensive writers blame the audience for being nitpicky or unwilling to suspend disbelief, but I think it’s the writers’ fault. If the audience doesn’t believe in Y, it’s because the writers didn’t make them believe in it. They believed in X because the writers built it into the world. The disbelief comes when the writers fail at building something into their world or portray it inconsistently. The audience wouldn’t believe in X, either, if it was written inconsistently.

It’s a false equivalence because the big fantasy element and the mundane thing that don’t work right aren’t on the same level. The suspension of disbelief that allows the audience to buy into the big fantasy element isn’t transferable. It only applies to that big fantasy element. Writers have to make the audience believe in every single aspect of the story, and it’s usually the easy stuff that trips them up. You don’t have to explain “ordinary” things to the audience. They take those things as a given. If you don’t show us that these things aren’t the ordinary things we’re used to, then we’re going to assume they work the way things in the real world work. We get annoyed when they don’t work the way they work in the real world.

So, say there’s magic in your fantasy world. You’ll show us that magic is a part of this world, suggest who can use it and who can’t, show how it works and what it can do, and give an indication of what people in this world think about magic — do they know it exists? Do they like it? Fear it? If a character suddenly uses magic to get out of trouble when you haven’t established that magic exists, then that surprise needs to fit into your world. You can’t have a character with no magical powers in a world with no suggestion of magic just suddenly use magic to get out of trouble without that being a big deal — “OMG! I have magic powers! How did this happen? What do I do now?”

Meanwhile, if you have horses in this world and haven’t given us any indication that they’re different from horses in our world, then they have to act like horses in our world and have the same needs, abilities, and limitations. We’re going to assume they need to eat, have to have rest and water every so often, and they walk on land. If a horse suddenly flies when your plot requires it and you’ve given no indication that horses in your world can fly or are at all different from what we know of as a horse, then we’re not going to believe it, even if we believe that there’s magic in your world. You’d better have a good explanation, like the horse ate enchanted hay or someone did a horse levitating spell, and people better be surprised about the horse flying. Otherwise, if you need the horse to fly to get your character out of trouble, you’d better establish previously that horses in this world can fly, and you need to show how that affects your world — people carry really sturdy umbrellas, there aren’t as many roads, etc.

Basically, it comes down to the fact that you can’t change the rules of your world to fit your plot —especially not to get your characters out of trouble — whether it’s the magical elements or the mundane elements. If you can set up the fact that ravens serve as the messenger system, then you can set up the fact that maybe there are special ravens to be only used in dire emergencies or there are spells to be cast on ravens to make them fly faster, or there’s a special supercharged raven food. But if the ravens have acted like our ravens, other than the fact that they work as the Internet, then they need to keep acting like our ravens and not flying thousands of miles in a few hours.