Lessons from My Reading

M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Revising's Bouncing My Head Back and Forth

Learning from My Reading:  Out of all the books I bought over the Christmas holiday, I find myself reading Victoria Hanley's Violet Wings.  She uses an interesting structure of quoting a "genie historian" to fill in the back story of how fairy magic works.  Sometimes I kept it straight.  Sometimes I didn't and had to go back and check.  

Found it interesting since I used a similar device for Demons.  Only I gave clues to what the demons were plotting in the form of letters to the demon prince.  Wish I could say great minds travel in the same circles.  My using the structure was just beginner's luck.

Progress:  Started revising Emma.  No longer feel good about it.  Spent almost an hour on chapter 3 going over the same paragraphs until my head felt like a ping pong ball.

Maren.  Plan to start working on the characters tonight.  Nothing is on TV I want to watch so I might even get something done.

Trivia:  Company's gone.  Feels good to be writing again rather than talking.

Hippy, Hippy New Years

Monday, December 28, 2009

Still Celebrating ...

Learning from My Reading:  Spent the last few days reading Moyra Caldecott's young adult The Tall Stones triology set in still ring-worshipping Britain -- maybe Stonehendge though she doesn't name it as such.

Read the books in the late 70s, and my son brought them to light again because he remembered how impressed he was with them.  Boy, has writing changed since she published.  The first book was so bad, but the last two are mostly telling.  Cadecott has some interesting takes on spirit travel (very close to shamanism) but, to me, her characters were drawn in primary colors.  --  I like shades with even my evil comes in shades of gray.

Now, I'm old enough not to mind a fair amount of "telling" in the books I read.  But I'm finding telling slows things down.  Maybe movies and telling a story as if it is appearing on a stage have done us a favor.  Too much "telling" feels more like the outline of the story rather than a complete presentation of your imagining of the happenings in the story.  I know I'll keep "framing" the beginning of my action with a brief description of the scene, who's there, and any needed transition info before push my characters into action.  Still, now I have to go back and look for those "filter" statements (thinks and seems) in my first person narrative as well as where I lay on the back story.

Why is writing such work?

Progress:  Still on vacation.  The revision binder for Emma made it upstairs to my computer, but I haven't opened it yet.  Too busy watching DVDs, talking with visiting son, and looking at bookstores.

 Trivia:  Just got back from Denver where we visited yet more bookstores.  Crowning achievement?  We found two of Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series used, and I bought signed copies of Pat Stoltey's mysteries.  That and a great gyro meal at Pete's made for a satisfying day.  Even managed to avoid tight traffic.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

'Tis the Day Before Christmas

Trivia:  and the bread is doing its first rising.  The pies are baked.  The vacuuming of the spare room is done.  The washing is getting done.  The walks are shoveled after the foot of snow thanks to the old man.  And, we're thinking of driving to Brighton tomorrow???!!???

Mothers are sometimes crazy.

Lessons from My Reading:  Finished Kim Harrison's White Witch, Black Curse.  After my original bitch about her lack of tagging on the first page so I could figure where the people belonged in the story, it turned out to be a good, if slow read.  And, not only because the book is over 500 pages long.

Had another insight as I plowed through learning all the people she threw at us.  [MC's whole circle of friends and family gets involved in the story.]  Every writer should know that your characters have to overcome the obstacle in the way of achieving their want/desire/etc. in a book.  Light-bulb-time revealed that Harrison does this for most of her chapters.  There is always a new challenge for the MC to solve.  If I wrote it, it'd have all sorts of ends dangling from the ceiling.  Fortunately, Harrison isn't me and ties them all fairly neatly -- even the opening question of who killed her lover from the previous book.

Of course, the ending is open ended enough to lead into the next book.  I don't know if I'll be reading it.  My to-read-pile is over 30 books at the moment, and son is bringing more plus DVDs.

Progress:  Emma... Got the pencil revision done.  Now I get to transfer them all to the computer version, but I'm not going to think about it.  I have to get the rolls baked for tomorrow's dinner.

Have a merry, merry holiday.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Coming Up for Air ...

As far as I'm concerned ... 
Christmas is over (except for the easy part --
eating, and talking ... and revising???).  
Now, it's on to Los Reyos and more seasonal excess.
Happy Solstice, by the way.


Lessons from My Reading:  I'm slogging through Kim Harrison's White Witch, Black Curse, as a part of my best seller read-a-thon.  It's as dense as chewing taffy with dentures.  Of course, I'm jumping into book seven in a series, but I get a little annoyed when Harrison mentions a bunch of characters and proceeds with the action without giving me an idea of where she's going.  I started the first chapter at least three times.  I'm now 200 pages into the book.  It's a nice complicated story with several plot threads twining around each other.  --  But I think the editors should be on alert that not all readers of a single book ... have read all the other books in the series.

Guess I should define "dense".  Like on page one, Harrison mentions three characters -- Kisten, Ford, and Edden plus the narrator/MC Rachel Morgan.  You get an idea of who Ford is by the action in the next two pages.  You get an idea of who Rachel is by her first person viewpoint of the events.  Kisten's murder is mentioned, but not who he? or she? was.  Edden is just a name in the middle of a sentence.  Having reached the middle of the book, I now know that all these people were/are important continuing characters.  A simple tag (like what she used to describe "... Ivy, my roomate and business partner," on page 2) would have made following the text much easier.


Compare this to my current gold standard (along with Lee Child), Carol O'Connell.  On page 1 of Bone by Bone, she sets up one character the M/C Oren Hobbs.  On the second page, O'Connell introduces the secondary M/C, Hannah, around which the two related mysteries in the book intertwine.  She also begins defining the structure of the relationship between the two people mentioned.  --  In comparison, Harrison was still confusing me on page 3.

In plain English, I'm complaining about Harrison's handling the back story of the series.

Progress:  Emma.  The revision progresses.  Actually, I've almost finished going through it once.  But ... I'm thinking after I transfer my corrections to the confuser, I need to reprint it and revise again.  I may get a friend to read it to see if its a bunch of  *^#%*^@*.  Only, I don't have friends who read fantasy.  Or, I may see if I can find someone willing to read a full novel at the AW Water Cooler.   First, I have to decide whether I want to read a full novel in exchange.  Decisions.  (Or, is that just more work?)


Critiquing.  Finally got my obligations done.  Must say I like seeing stories getting fleshed out chapter by chapter.

Demons/Gargoyles.  Haven't heard a peep or seen an ejection. 

Trivia:  I'm baking pies for Christmas dinner ... for which we have to drive down to Brighton (CO).  We'll be picking up the NYC son ... so I probably won't be blogging much until the New Year.  Hopefully, I'll soon be able to get this thing whipped into shape.

Have a safe and comfortable Christmas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Written More than I can Chew???

Lessons from My Reading:  I've been reading best sellers lately.  (Wishful thinking?  Nah, I think I'm too much of a realist for that.)  Anyway, I picked up Jude Deveraux's Lavender Morning at the grocery storeThey make it easy to find best sellers.  1-10 are shelved in a row at the head of the book section.  

I'm guessing the book is what is known as "women's fiction" with a slight mystery about the secret of the MC's parentage while she's finding "true love" and "happily ever after".  The mystery isn't solved by the MC, but by the men in her life and delivered like a game carcass  -- something I think is a weak point considering the MC is a fairly strong woman.  Obviously, millions disagree with me.  So, what?  Different people look for different things in the books they read.  I only ask a writer capture my interest and keep it when I want to fall asleep.  The other hurtle?  Drowning out the evening news.

I' m beginning to wonder if writing 500 page books is a qualifier for becoming a best seller.  I'm not complaining about padding here.  Both O'Connell and Deveraux tell their stories in an efficient manner ... like they don't bog down in the verbiage.  -- You'll know when I start feeling paranoid ... when I start complaining that best selling authors are stealing resources from the wanna-bes ... like the delegates at Copenhagen.

Lavender Morning did have an interesting construction.  A major plot twist happened about every 100 pages ... or about every fifth.  So much for the three act structure.  Deveraux hit my soft spot for depictions of small town life with decently drawn characters -- even if I thought them a little cliched.  But I guess that's what goes with the territory.  Like reading the short stories in the women's magazines in the 50-60s.  --  Never thought of the form surviving in books after the magazine fiction had died.  Interesting.

The book made me consider the plot/characters in Mariah (Dark Solstice).  The fantasy has many of the elements of Lavender Morning ... if you take out the elven magic, genetic drift, border conflicts, and political plotting.  Talk about making a manuscript unsellable!  The relationship stuff, not the other.  (I should also add multiple viewpoints showing how different factions view the same events.  Probably, makes it even more unsellable.)


Progress:  I'm slow on the uptake.  Just noticed all I'm trying to do amidst the Christmas mess.

Emma ... Still in revision -- some chapters more than others.  I think I'm working around chapter 20 or so.  Ten more to go.  I'm beginning to think I might run it up the flag pole at the beginning of the year, ie send it out to a couple agents.  Which means trying to decide to send to not-so-dream-agents or to the ones I'd drool if they wanted to look at even a partial.  --  After working on adult novels, it feels like I'm doing the quick-step.

Demons aka the Gargoyles ... Really not thinking about them while the agents consider their ejections ...  though Britt and Cahal think they should have a sequel set when they are older.

Mariah and her discovery that her granddaughter wasn't the idiot, the child's maternal grandfather claimed...  I still don't quite believe it's a trunk novel.  Rather it's some sort of strange hybrid.  A fantasy family saga about a half-Elf ruling family thriller???  No wonder I can't think of how to market it.  I'm sure a sales department would have a harder time.

And then, there's Maren ... She's getting antsy.


Trivia:  We did our Old Town wander in the semi-cold today.  Four hours of puttering through shops and having lunch downtown.  Used to be we'd spend about $50. on lunch and whatever took our fancy. 

Now there are next to no shops (It's mostly restaurants now.), and we spent over $100. on very little.

The haul?  Cookies, a used book, a couple Putamayo CDs, coffee, and horehound drops.  Oh, forgot the 2 Froodles -- cherry and raspberry.  Looks like The Cupboard won the shopping sweepstakes.  The Stone House Grill came in second.

Monday, December 14, 2009

All Tyros

stand at attention and salute.  For what it's worth, I'm saluting Carol O'Connell's Bone by Bone.

Loved her Mallory series, but I was reading them for pleasure ... not looking for things I should do when I try to write.  Oh, I write ... but how effective I am is open to question.


Lessons from My Reading:  Finished reading Bone by Bone yesterdayI find I was right to read the book in chunks rather than bits-n-pieces.  The last 50 pages +/- tied all the questions together and answered them -- even the origins of the mysterious mother-goddess-counselor character.  What I thought were red herrings/superfluous secrets ended up tied to mystery-B which was related to mystery-A (the missing brother) by the relationships of the people involved.  What a story board O'Connell must have constructed to keep it all straight!

For the record, O'Connell fulfilled P.D. James' comments about detective fiction.  Plot is important but characterization is its equal.  All 20 or so actors came across as people.  Also, the one guy with the motive who sort of disappeared came back as a drunken-cop in the last third of the book.  The ending centered around torturing a confession from him without the main character laying a hand on  him.  Beautiful.

So, my jaw hangs (figuratively) as I wonder if I could have written so masterfully if I had turned serious about writing fiction in the 70s instead of the 00s.  Gives me something to think about as I structure Maren.

Progress:  Emma...  I'm doing whatever I'm doing in the middle of it now.  I no longer feel so comfortable with what I accomplised -- if anything more than an ending.

Demons... Did I say I submitted my revised query to a few agents?  I'm not holding my breath ... even about getting an ejection.

Maren ... She keeps opening the door of the room where I've shoved her, but she's mostly glaring at me.  Maybe telling me to get on with it?  It's kind of strange having this this person with her eyebrow ring and three tear drop tattoos staring at me.  Reminding me she's waiting for me to get my act together?

Trivia:  Christmas is almost done.  Still have to write the dreaded Christmas letter.  Maybe tonight.  We also have to distribute the local goodie bags, but that's mostly part of the fun.  Coffee.  Good conversation.  Etc.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The End of Christmas is in Sight

Trivia:  The packages went out this morning.  Then, we treated ourselves to coffee and a croissant.  Only one more batch of cookies to go (unless I make myself some chocolate chip ones) and a few packages to wrap.

Lessons from My Reading:  Bone by Bone progresses but haven't had any blocks of time to read.  500 pages (I think) and dense characterization needs concentration so you can figure out what's going on.  I'm far enough in that some of the secrets suspects are hiding don't all pertain to the murder of the MC's brother.  Then, there's the extra corpse in the grave.  Ya gotta love it.

To fill in the time -- during commercials and talking heads during the news -- I've been reading P. D. James' Talking about Detective Fiction.  Some where I think I read that it was a fund-raiser for some Oxford library which is good since as a book, it's over-priced.  The piece reminded me of the talks of Sandra Dallas, a Colorado fiction writer of note.  Whatever, James gives a good summary of the development of detective fiction as a sub-category of crime fiction.  She also delivers a good pep talk for the importance of characterization.

Progress:  Mariah ... Nothing like a 'trunk novel' popping out of the blue.  Or, is that the 'little grey cells'?

While I was dinking with my query for Demons, out popped a new take on Dark Solstice, the first of my Austel's Idiot trilogy.  I've revised the manuscript and have it out on submission to an e-publisher.  Sort of forgot about it after I put Tangled on the shelf.  (The second manuscript in the triology.) -- I still have two months before I'll hear anything.  Yeah, I'm expecting a rejection though other rejections said it had some good writing.

Demons ... I've submitted it to a few agents and already got one rejection  (I really like the simplicity of e-submissions.)  -- I don't think I'll sell this one either since some might think it skirts the edge of blasphemy.  Oh, well, but I like my fuddy gargoyles.  -- The main character is a human female teen with anger issues.

Now if I can stop dinking with the last three sentences ...

Emma ... Have begun revising my print out.  The thing is surprising me.  Either my critiquers took care of most of my problems or I've learned something about writing over the last five years.  I'm finding I have to add stuff rather than delete.  Maybe, I'll end up doing another revision where I delete like mad.  Ugh

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr..... & Bummer

Trivia:  Did errands and treated ourselves to lunch out after staying inside yesterday. Tomorrow we have to go out again.  While prancing through the snow, a lens dropped out of my glasses.   (No, it wasn't in the car.) Gotta get it replaced.

Lessons from My Reading:  Almost through with Carol O'Connell's Bone by Bone.  What a lovely bunch of twisting characters.  (I'm pea soup green with envy.)  I count five main characters, a couple of which could be the perp in the brother's death.  Plus, the several secondary characters are just as finely drawn ... with a couple more possible suspects.  So far, the guy with the strongest motive (getting the sh*t beat out of him by the MC/detective/suspect) hasn't appeared on the stage much.  Have some 100 pages left to go.  Really like the CBI agent -- who I think of as a cross between Miss Marple and and a gamer -- who's kicking the sheriff's butt.

Think of Cold Case on steroids here.  You couldn't possibly fit all the characters into a 45 minute TV show.  (The rest of the hour is eaten up by commercials.  Maybe this is a reason so many book adaptations fall on their face when compared to the books???)

Thinking of all the character development and motivations twisting around the inter-relationships, I can just see the overlapping plot board set up to keep everyone straight.  It must be as complicated as those used in real law enforcement to trace the progress of a case.

Also am eying P. D. James' Talking about Detective Fiction.  It came in today (one of the reasons we were running around).  She agrees with me about Agatha Christie's plastic characters. heh. heh.  I used to be considered sacrilegious because I preferred Dorothy Sayers' mysteries to Agatha's.  Christie was married to an archeologist (Murder in Mesopotamia).  It was an anthropological solidarity thing, I think.

Progress:  Demons.  Should get the last three chapters polished tonight.  So, if the sky falls on my head and an agent does ask for a full, I'll be ready to send it -- once I consolidate it into one attachment.

No.  My characters don't have half the twists that O'Connell's do.  But then, I'm writing about kids and gargoyles.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Baklava

is sitting on the table ... doing whatever it does while the syrup sinks in.  The end of Christmas is in sight.

 Lessons from My Reading:  I'm over 100 pages into O'Connell's Bone by Bone.  (About a fourth in)  She's still putting knots in the yarn.  I'm looking forward to some interesting twists.

Progress:  Who has time to write?

Another Day, Another Half-Foot of Books

Trivia: Had to get greens to make a salad for the neighborhood potluck ... actually, turkey dinner and pinata fest.  Since B&N is only a half-mile away, had to stop by.  The old man thought I might like the Susan Boyle CD ... even though I said the plastic floors were enough.  Susan Boyle stayed in the store, but I got Carol O'Connell's' Bone by Bone plus others.

Can't remember the other titles, but the to-read pile is growing at an alarming rate.  Do I feel a massive reading frenzy coming on?  Just to add to the confusion.  The son sent a box of books with a new fantasy series.  Haven't looked to see which one yet.  I think he returned my Butchers too.  (Oh, my poor groaning bookshelves.)


Lessons from My Reading:  Picked up Yasmine Galenorn's One Hex of a Wedding, the O'Brien wedding book I mentioned not buying before -- from the grocery store on Friday.  (I had to by nightlight bulbs for a friend which sent me right by the books which I try to avoid.)  

The clue arc, where we learn the mystery of the book isn't focused on O'Brien comes right on schedule in the middle of the book.  That doesn't mean that O'Brien isn't the focus of another side mystery that turns her life topsie-turvie just before her wedding.  A nice read which demonstrates books in a series don't have to become repetitive. -- Of course, she hasn't written twenty books with this character yet.  

(Funny how I tend to like the characters written before a writer's most popular series.  In this case, the D'Artigo sisters.  On the other hand, the popular series means the publisher releases the older ones.  I find these more creative than the "break out" series.)

Runesmark is sitting on the pile with bookmark in place.  A problem.  I have O'Connell tempting me.  The new book doesn't feature Mallory, but a new character.  Still, the premise looks interesting with bits of who might be MC's long lost brother, starting to turn up on the front porch.

Progress:  Demons.  The polishing has reached chapter 20 with me removing typos, putting the correct quotes and spacings in, and other manuscript faults.  I don't know what to think now that I'm almost ready to submit it to a few agents.  Do I see the faults in the thing or not?  At least it's not boring me.

Emma.  Keep making notes to myself at the chapter headings of things that pop into my head.  It's a toss-up of who pesters me most when I "lap" the cat -- Emma or Maren.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cookies Winding Down

Trivia:  Finally.  I've broken some cookies scraping them off the sheets.  The old man gets to munch to his heart's content.  Now, he's only complaining I haven't burnt any of them yet.  He ignores me when I say I only the burn the last batch for him.

Me?  I sample continually from each batch.  Have to make sure they turned out right, don't I?

Lessons from My Reading:  For some reason, I haven't been reading much.  Only a couple chapters of Runesmark.  Really enjoying it now.  (And, envious at Harris' inventiveness.)

Have to chuckle at myself.  At the Northern Colorado Writers ( ) blog, the director placed a challenge to read a book a week in December.  I bragged I read a book or two a week.  (Yes, usually, I really do.  Now, ain't that a nice writerly sentence?)  I think I've been on Runemark for over a week now.

Granted, it's a 500+ page book.

Granted, I've been baking 50 dozen cookies. (Only a slight exaggeration.)


Progress:  Working on queries.  *$#(&^$ things.  Emma and Demons.

Demons:  Most of my efforts are concentrated on reading through it and making minor (thankfully) editings.

Maren:  Keeps jumping out of my mind.  I swat her back.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Puttering, Muttering, and Baking

Trivia:  Welcome to December -- the busiest time of year and the worst for writing.

The baking of the koulourakia is coming to an end -- or at least, the end is in sight.  Still have at least three more batches.  

(Don't think Christmas is over for us when the baking's done.  There're the pesky cards/once-a-year-letters [even with email] and the wrapping of the presents [shudder].  We have decided that the plastic floors are my Christmas present, and I don't have to wrap them.  *smile*)


Lessons from My Reading:  Am about 2/5ths through Runesmark.  The story has really picked up with a smidgen of multiple viewpoints so we know what the bad guys are thinking.  Not very much telling going on anymore so it'd read much faster if I had time to read.

The books reminded me of a couple things.  1) I hadn't thought of the word cantrip in ages.  Spells, flaming sigils, etc., yes.  But cantrip, no.  Harris uses it regularly, but unfortunately she tends to mention the word with around three synonyms together.  Makes me want to get out my red pencil as I read.

(Mostly because it's too similar to my worst habit:  Showing something -- putting a comma -- then telling what the action was supposed to convey.  Redundancies, anyone?  I can give you plenty, but I usually just delete them.)

2) Using the word "colors" (or is that colours?) for auras.  I'm using auras in Maren.  It's the one "paranormal ability" that was hers.  Since auras are indeed tell-tale colors to those that can see them, I think I'll use the word "colors".


 Progress:  Emma is resting.  Waiting.  Fermenting.  Generally being ignored, except the local critique group met today.  Generally, they think the middle chapters submitted are okay except for some minutia that need to be tinkered with.  Discussed it, but won't put my notes into action any time soon.

Have to love this comment:  "Nancy is a complete bitch, almost unbelievably so. I think you may need to tone her down just a smidge."  Sorry, she's strong willed and has a grudge which she bitched about in her first appearance.

Demons is being edited again.  First, I edit the first chapter.  Then, I edit a subsequent chapter.  Currently, I'm on Chapter 5.  When I get half way through, I'll query a couple agents.  

I don't know if I have the nerve to query my favorite agent.  (Before you think I'm crazy, the book is only peripherial to her interests, even if it was written well enough.  No, I have never been an optimist. ) 
 

Monday, November 30, 2009

Another Batch of Cookies Down

Trivia:  Doing single batches of koulourakia is much easier on my hands.  I should have done it last year ... but then, I'm a slow learner.  Slow but sure, though, has filled the canning kettle.  Figure I still have four more batches to go ... plus the baklava.

(I'm avoiding thinking about wrapping presents.)

Lessons From My Reading:  Have started Joanne Harris' Runemarks.  Did I say somewhere that the Brits do fantasy well?  Well, they do.  This one is delicious ... after I slogged through all the explanation the beginning. --  Outcast girl with a forbidden magical rune mark meets up with a supposed-to-have been-exorcised Odin to change/save the world.

On some blog or forum, I read that paranormal and Nordic themes were "in" now.  The book was originally published in Britain in 2007 and here in 2008.  Maybe the book was part of the vanguard for the trend.

The writing styles British writers are allowed differ from the American blog/forum recommendations.  The beginning was larded with telling and about as interesting as an anthropology text even though the MC was chasing a goblin out of the cellar.  It took me several tries before the action/danger picked up speed for me to read it after the news.  By the time the local bully was following her into the hills after she got fired by his mother, I was into the story.  --  The action really picks after she meets Loki, about 80 pages into the book.

Nice to see Nordic mythology featured rather than Celtic, though.

My reaction to the beginning is ironic.  After thinking and comparing the beginnings of Emma and Demons, I'm beginning to wonder if my own fascination with milieu won't keep me from ever being published.  Of course, I think my action moves faster.  Oh, well.


Progress:   Maren:  Got the first chapter drafted -- POV: Faithfull Alice Sweet's journal.  It just bubbled out.  (It was an expansion of the paragraph mention in a previous blog.)  Now, I'll probably chop it.
 
Perhaps, the draft opening is too much like a prologue with too much telling.  Still, Sweet is a crucial antagonist to the human villain and Maren's defender/mentor in modern ways.   Of course its super short, but it names two more characters.  Forde Travers (sheriff) and Faithfull Alice Sweet.  The next chapter is more like ... 3rd person from Maren's POV.  It's not written but part of the 3rd chapter is.

Playing with and getting to know my characters is my favorite part of writing.  How I implement the ideas is another matter entirely.

Emma: is printed/off the computer. --  I've glanced at the first chapters.  They still don't flow evenly so I have a lot of work cut out for me.  I'm sure it'll go downhill once I get to the middle.  --  I'm using a couple of articles I tore from the Writer's Digest as editing crib sheets.

Need to get the Emma query going to help focus the first part of the book.  (I stink at writing fiction queries.)

Blog:   Note I changed the title.  Since I started this in September, I've been trying to focus the blog on some target.  I think I'm getting there.

Demons:  Am still trying to put the agent query together.  Just chopped half a page out of the five page story sample.  (Makes me worried about the rest of the manuscript.)  Maybe between the last of the Christmas shopping .... ?????

Sunday, November 29, 2009

One Batch of Cookies Down

Trivia:  It's the time of year when my world narrows down to baking cookies and making baklava.  This year it'll take longer since I no longer can handle double batches of dough. (Getting old catches up with you.)

Baking and Christmas was the reason I was so panicky about getting an ending on Emma.  At least, my shopping's done except for the peanut brittle.  Now I've got to wrap the stuff.  Ugh.

Lessons from My Reading:  Finished Mary Balogh's A Precious Jewel.  Cousin Oswald didn't appear again -- but a pregnancy did -- so I guessed wrong.  I marvel that Balogh is able to create characters well-rounded enough that you get teary-eyed even if you know what the ending's going to be.

Didn't guess wrong about the beta-male bit.  While flipping through the book during the news (better than sleeping like the old man), I discovered a 'Dear Reader' note at the beginning from Balogh giving the history of the book.  Mostly about breaking conventions by writing about the tribulations of a beta-male finding his HEA and how the book broke new ground back in 1993. 

Now it's time for all wanna-be writers to take a break and feel *something* about such a long career.  I'm impressed.  Balogh's new books are still lean and wry, compared to other authors who seem to expand the verbiage with each book.  Let that be a lesson for us all.

Truth in reading, I have at least 15 books by Balogh on my keeper shelf -- though some of them will be going out to trade if I ever get ambitious enough to prune the bookshelves.


Progress:  Not much.  I'm stuttering over editing the query and sample pages for Demons.  I'm not an efficient writer.  I re-read and re-edit until I stop finding things to dink.  So far, I've got one sentence that won't flow.  It sits there in the middle of the query like a lump of concrete.  -- The sample pages flow quickly and smoothly ... but are probably a trite beginning.  -- Sometimes I wonder why I even bother.  The whole voice thing and pulling the right character bits out of the story mystify me.

Maren keeps perculating.

Emma is waiting for my first manuscript comments -- from my alpha readers??  After I get the bills paid, I'll print it out and begin playing with it.


Blog?  It's sitting here with all its warts.

PS:  I'm getting some Christmas presents early.  According to the NY Times, P. D. James has a new book out  -- talking about detective fiction.  

Carol O'Connell also has a mass paperback on the best seller list, a new series it looks like.  Loved her Mallory series.  Maybe I should reread Find Me, the last of the series. (Maybe.)


 

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Minor Mystery

Trivia:  Think I've recovered from Thanksgiving.  Too much eating, yes.  (Though I only ate one meal [which lasted several hours]).  The sitting was the worse.  After our family went home, we went to a neighbors for "pie night".

Americans can't be the only ethnic group that practices mass gluttony.  Can they?

Lessons from My Reading:  I keep thinking this should be the title of the blog, but I rather mutter.  I enjoy talking to myself.

The mystery:  Why the h**l am I reading Mary Balogh?   I've stated I don't even care much for romance any more.


I have a very nice YA fantasy filled with runes and Nordic mythology set in an English-ish background by an English author.  Even was getting into the story line after I waded through the backstory and telling.  

(Another side mystery:  Why do the British write such good fantasy?  I've been reading a variety of writers since the 70s ... if you don't include Tolkien who I read in the 60s several times.)

Maybe the question should be:  Why am I reading Mary Balogh's A Precious Jewel, a Regency romance in its pure form (no thriller, mystery, etc. to dilute the relationships).  I hadn't intended on reading it.  I just saw it at the grocery store ... wondering what series she was doing next without looking to learn it was a reprint.  Then, after finishing editing Demons and sending the gargoyles on their way, I picked it up to fill in the time before the 10 PM news.  I was still reading at 11:30 ... when I decided I was tired and didn't want to stay up 'til 2.  (Yes, I considered staying up and finishing the thing.)



Why?  Well, first you have to appreciate the irony of a fallen woman discussing Jane Austin with her madam over tea.


My real answer revolves around characterization.  The people come off the page as possible people, not contrivances.  Also, I discovered one of the few un-hunk heros -- who is struggling through feelings of abandonment.  I think romance writers would put this in a discussion of alpha and beta heros.  Anyway, since it's a romance and HEA (happily ever after) is looming at the end, I assume a nice ordinary, not so good looking Regency guy is going to find happiness.


I'm waiting for the heroine to have the confrontation with the cousins who inherited her fortune by default and forced her "onto the streets".  I'm sure it will be handled with Balogh's usual sense of ironic humor.  Probably tonight.


Progress:  As hinted above, I finished editing There Be Demons from 65,000  words down to 61,000.  I was surprised I didn't get bored with it.  The ending even surprised me, sort of.  So, now I get to market it to agents again.  So, after the holiday market and baking cookies, I get to search through the fantasy agents to find ones that do fantasy and don't mind congenital anger. 

(First, though I'll send it to my 'fantasy agent'.  Rational:  It's sort of a thriller under the YA urban fantasy, and she's said in her blog:  If you have any doubts, send it.  All she can do is say 'it's not for her'.  Also, I've read about another YA agent who says she's their agent.)


Emma's still resting though I have to print her out soon to start major revisions.  I should print out Mariah too since I've changed a huge amount, and my current printout doesn't reflect the book any more.  One reason, I've been ditching prologues.


Maren is still in the research stage.  Have learned that you can do DNA analysis on charred remains (even from the inside of a tooth) as long as it isn't ash.  Thanks to a NCW member for that info.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Impersonal Mentoring

Trivia:  I've decided my life is boring.  I like it that way.

'Tis the Season of the Stuffing -- of the gobblers sitting around the table.

Lessons from My Reading:  Went to the Northern Colorado Writers coffee this morning.  Since they are local, I won't talk about them.  But, I came away with a flaming insight -- I get craft input from more than the books I read.  Online peer group forums are a great way to learn your writing craft and industry scuttlebutt.   My favorite is Absolute Write Water Cooler (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/).  And not just because it's free.

Writers of all skill levels gather at the "cooler".  You can lurk (just read).  You can post.  I do a bit of both.  I think I've posted less than 200 times in the two years I've belonged.  Others have posted thousands.  Whatever, one of their forums is Bewares and Background Checks (or something similar) where there are lots of threads on agents and publishers.  Another name for the forum might be Avoiding Scams 101.


Can't resist talking more about NCW. (http://www.northerncoloradowriters.com/)  It's a great place to talk with writers who understand what you are trying to do -- even if you don't accomplish it.  The director had us bring a writing question we wanted answered.  Mine was 'which paranormal ability would would like to have?'.  

Most responses wanted to control time in some way -- probably useless when trying to appeal to teens.   But then, the participants were at or near retirement age.  Guess I have to go crawling online to get out of my mind-rut.  Why is this pertinent?  I'm doodling with my next book (Maren) and need some abilities for my secondary characters.  Age-specific characteristics.


Progress:  Emma is resting before I start revising.


Blog.  I'm thinking of upgrading this in some way, but will worry about it after the holidays.  After doing it a while, I think I can sustain frequent input here ... even if I'm talking to myself.  

(I do that very well.  I even answer.  Worse, I enjoy the more than talking with some real people.)


Maren.  I'm gathering binder pages and file input (computer file, that is).  All sorts of things are free-associating.  Who knows what will appear in the manuscript.  At the moment, I'm strengthening my villain's organization.


Gargoyles.  Yeah.  It's the manuscript I thought was ready for agent submission.  Got a couple bites for a partial.  No fulls.  --   So, I dumped the prologue full of back story.
  
At the moment, I'm half way through editing it -- eliminating typos, passives, replacing phrases with single verbs, chopping redundencies, etc.  etc.  Then, I'll send it out to agents again.  There're still gobs of them I haven't submitted to.

 

  

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Addenda to Yesterday

Trivia:  Finished one of the short stories mentioned in "Lessons from My Reading".  Discovered the "charm"?  The stories are what I call "soft porn", complete with unbelievable situations.  But, then ... isn't porn unbelievable by definition? 

Progress:  Am revising a manuscript I thought ready to submit.  (THERE BE DEMONS).  Can't believe the typos and redundancies in the much revised manuscript.     

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Still on Vacation

Trivia:  The end-of-draft happy dance for Emma still keeps popping out of the back of my mind.

Got the recycling done.  The junk mailed to the New Yorkie kids.  Coffee where I enjoyed my usual side-show:  the old man trying to put the lid on his coffee cup.  (My bad.)

Lessons from My Reading:  Just finished watching all the Lord of the Rings last night ... actually this morning.  So, haven't been reading much ... except research for Maren.

Bought a couple books at the grocery story since #1 daughter is coming up on Sunday.  (No bookstore browsing this weekend.)  A romance and a paranormal.  The romance was one of those short story compilations by popular authors (I never heard of).  Got half-way through the first story with its trite plot which I think Georgette Heyer used a couple times.

Okay, I used to read romance, especially Regencies since it was the time when "modern" thinking (aka education) reached a significant portion of the population.  Also, women started to noticeably think for themselves ... publicly.  Think Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft.  Maybe the thinness of plots comes from that fact that the number of romances written equaled the number of the "10,000" long ago.  It's like there're probably more fictional British dukes than ever existed in history.

Will skim the short stories to see if any catch my interest.  Doubt it.

Progress:  Outside of "Emma Kloken, Hero" having an ending.  heh, heh, heh.

Emma's resting quietly while I think about baking the first batch of koulourakia ... perhaps.

Maren has a prequel.  I thought it might be a short story, but the plot line is too mundane.  Probably would be too much work to change the telling to showing. -- Not that I'm against telling.  Sometimes, it's the quickest way to get from here to there.  Besides the "#####", that is.

Even have a rough draft of the opening paragraph:

"The accident dominated the news for a week.  Five cars blasted into melted slag on the highway without a hint of a vin number.  The charred body parts of the locals were identified by DNA. (check if possible).


"Police combed the missing persons data banks to identify the one survivor -- a teen-aged girl with amnesia.  The detectives were hopeful.  How many thin, almost six-foot teens with long silver hair could there be?"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hallelujah! I may be a writer.

Got an ending on "Emma Kloken, Hero"!!   
I even rewrote the last two chapters so they didn't sound so crappy. 
(Yeah, I hear all the stuff I write.  Sometimes it gets real noisy between my ears.)

Trivia:  We're going to celebrate by going to the Charcobroiler.  We were going there tonight since the weather is nice, and we do it for the holidays anyway.  This just makes me feel more comfortable spending the money.

Writing:  The above doesn't mean I'm done.  First, I have to go back and write to eliminate all the little red notes at the beginning of chapters about things I need to check.


Then,  I got to print the manuscript and start tearing it apart.

Excuse me while I do a little dance.









 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

$(&^%@_*) Ending

Not doing much.  Still staring at my ending of Emma.  Maybe writing 250 words a day, if I'm lucky.  I'm not writing here until I get an end on the thing.


Unfortunately, Maren keeps intruding.


Addenda.  We did the errands.  Warm tortillas and Greek-made feta.  Yummy.  Yummy.  Is that a symbol for our family?


Reading:  Not.  I've been watching last year's Castle episodes, my Christmas present.  I think my oldest daughter will get it for Christmas viewing.  On loan.  I'll share, but I want it back.


Surprised the TV watching can be useful to writing.  It's all in the hooks ... which I can't seem to find in my own writing.  Anyway, a hook before commercials prevents the viewers Straying.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wrapping It Up

Trivia:  The week's ending -- and I haven't accomplished anything.  Until I look at Emma, that is.  A chapter and a half to go.  Even figured out a way for mortal kid Emma to best a magical spriggen.  Better yet, I've foreshadowed it all along through the manuscript so I don't have to go back and seed info.

Guess, I can treat myself to Red Lobster and shrimp as a reward.  The old man doesn't like shrimp so I've stopped cooking it at home.  Too much trouble juggling portions.

Reading Lessons:  Haven't been reading much either.  Did read Berk Breathed's Flawed Dogs.  A sort of Westminster dog show meets Gaiman's graveyard.  Laughed out loud many times which may have made it worth it.  Still, it left me down.  Wishing for Opus?  Not really.  I don't think I'm really into "dark".

Also, have given up on Phaedra Weldon's Wraith.  Really loved the premise of someone who could travel outside her body and solve crimes (specifically murders).  The secondary characters were promising too.  But the voice.  I'd be sinking into the plot, suspending belief, and then, the character would grate me molars by her observations.  

In short, Zoe Martinique isn't someone who I'd go out of my way to have coffee with.  -- A disturbing thought.  Since it probably is an indication of my chances for getting published.  Not very many people would go out of their way to have coffee with me a second time.  (Think of Ms. Snark in a bad mood.)


So, what have I been doing.  I finished up my unviewed episodes of The Omega Factor and The Dresden files.  Omega is a 70s supernatural show with low-budget, low-tech effects, but scary as all get out.  Since it  was written for a different marketing set I won't mention more.  

But, Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files.  I'm going to be spending part of my week-end studying the pacing of the things.  Something made easy by what I think were commercial breaks.  Just like a chapter should, TV shows leave a dangling hook just before the break.  (Gotta bring the viewers back after they've channeled-surfed the commercials.)


Progress:  Tangled critiques.  Getting good pertinent comments.  Since my critiquers are showing me why things remain "trunk or under- the- bed novels", I'll continue chopping because I'm learning so much from the exercise.   Critiquers telling me where I come up short is a bonus.  More important, the lacks in the characterization/plot has made it difficult (impossible) to write a decent query.  -- I think that gives me a clue for further revision if I get around to it.



Emma.  Am finally feeling good about it.  I'm going to write a new novel this year after all.  Of course, I doctored the board.  Turned it into MG which only needs some 35,000 words.


Maren.  Got the short story prequel drafted except for the fight scene.  Over the Christmas slow down, I'll have to think more coherently about the book for 2010.


I keep my pace of about 500 words plus backtracking (aka revising/editing) ... I could never do NaNo.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I lied...

Trivia:  when I said I was watching old episodes of the Dresden Files instead of reading.  Am in the process of pruning my overgrown bookshelves and took books to be traded.  Then, I discovered the Castle spin-off novel, Heat Wave.  Took a vacation yesterday and read it.  (One of the benefits of having no kids at home and being retired.)


The book, itself, is well written.  Good plot, well-rounded characters, if somewhat superficial.  To me it felt more like a well-done TV episode ... which may be a clue to who ghostwrote the book.  I know there's a discussion at the Absolute Write Water Cooler about who wrote it.  Think I'll be following the thread to see if anyone discovers something.


Oh.  ...  Gave up on the Dresden episode last night.  I just couldn't take the way the characters were being bended to fit into production guidelines.  Re-watched Pride and Prejudice instead.


Progress:  Said I took a vacation.  Still, got my chapters out to my critiquing partners though.  (One had to remind me I hadn't sent it yet.)


Emma:  ?  I'm trying to see if I can get her to hug her grandmother in the final chapter.  Don't think it'll go with the flow.


 

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The End's in Sight

Trivia:  Spent part of my coffee drinking time watching a flicker try to get birdseed out of our feeder.  The feeder is designed for small song birds and squirrel proof.  The flicker kept hopping around the trellis and on the feeder trying to break into the food.  It finally gave up.  

Now, all we have to do is wait for the finches etc. to find the feeder.  The cats want their TV.

Lessons from my Reading -- rather, Watching:  I'm flitting from book to book at the moment, much like the flicker.  None of them have caught my attention, so I went back to an old favorite -- Jim Butcher's Dresden Files.  The TV series which my son and daughter sent me after they had watched them.

I'm enjoying them, but ...  I think I'm getting an object lesson in the "dumbing down of America".  The books are rich in plot, subplot, and character.  The TV series views like hi-lo reader.  One simple plotline with Dresden often standing around looking like a doofus for about 40 minutes.  (Guess commercials are eating up more and more of the story time.)

Comments:  The lycanthrope episode did feature FBI agents but not the scarry group who used belts to change.  Billy and his pack were no where in sight either. --  I did like the expanded role of the slightly monastic Bob, but a Jeep instead of the Blue Beetle?  I missed the image of a six-foot-plus guy squeezing into a bug.

The simplicity of the stories makes me wonder how much input Butcher had in the series.  (Maybe I should have looked at the production credits instead of turning the player off.  My bad.)  Still, TV/movie adaptations often disappoint which is why I tend to read the books without seeing the movie.  At the moment, I can only think of two movies that did the books justice:  The Lord of the Rings cycle, Smoke Signals, and a couple of the Harry Potters.   (Which Potters, I can't remember.) 

(Disclaimer:  The above is all based on memory.  The books in the series are on loan to the same kids above.)


Progress:  Critiquing.  I forgot to send out my chapters to both of the groups I work with.  Oh, well, got to get on the stick.

Tangled.  Lanquishes.

Emma.  The end's in sight!  Maybe two-and-a-half chapters to go, unless some complication I don't know about shows up.  I was despairing of ever getting an ending on the draft.  A nice feeling to know that I'll have drafted another book this year (with another lurking in the wings).

Now I've got to do some serious rewriting.   And, maybe, try some marketing?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Busy Day ( for me that is )

Trivia:  Going to the chiropractor so I can continue sitting in front of the computer.  Had to change the standing appointment, though.  We're taking a friend to a birthday party at an "independent" living center for another friend -- in worse physical shape.  Oh, the joys of being old!

Lessons from My Reading:  Am searching for a book to read.  So far, I've taken down about five from my to-read pile.  (I'm saving Doss's new Snake book and Daisy for a real emergency.)  It's really bad when I can't find a book.  A new series with Zoe somebody fizzled and after one more try will land in the trade pile.  (Two new books.  Ouch.  But, a 25+/- woman sounding like the kids in the food court?  Give me relief.)
  
Almost bought another author with cover art that was vaguely iconic.  Had a real interesting scene with the MC confronting at old lady with a globe hanging over her head and a savage dog -- as the promo page.  Then, read the first paragraphs of the book and she's cooking too much food for her father?  Sorry.  I must confess I mis-shelved the book on my way out the door.  (My son would shoot me since he once worked at B&N.)

So, what am I reading?  An anthology called, Winter Moon.  Not really reading it.  More like skimming during the news.  Got through Mercedes Lackey and Tanith Lee, since I do occasionally try to write short fiction.  C. E. Murphy hooked me with a cop with reluctant psychic abilities.  The story?  Banshee Cries, which is set in between two novels.  I think I'm going to have to look them up.  I know I've passed over this author before.  Guess I'm going to have to take another look.

Lesson:  Write good characters with baggage that're doing something besides obsessing.  (Leave that to those literary folk.)

Progress:   Critiquing.  Really savaged them this time around.  Mostly for being too wordy and/or not presenting their characters with a clear danger.  There was other stuff, but that sums up the larger faults I found.  Typos excluded.  I mention them -- only because it's so hard to find them yourself when you read your own manuscript.


Tangled.  Sending another chapter to my out-of-town critiquers.  I'm going to have to start chopping some new stuff soon.  Still, they both are showing me where I've left dead wood.


Emma:  I'm writing new stuff, at about 500 words a sitting.  Progress!  Turns out I was closer to the end than I thought.  The ending of this chapter has my adventurers escaping from a dungeon.  Then, maybe three more chapters.  Encountering the elves.  Rescuing the Hobgoblin.  Confronting her grandmother. 

Thought of a wonderful ending, but didn't write it down.  (Stupid.  I know.) Hopefully, something similar will pop out of my brain.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

It's Colorado, The Snow's Melting

Trivia:  It's Halloween!  We made the dentists happy and gave out candy to all the little beggers.  Actually, the old man did in his Basque beret.  I went upstairs and wrote.

Lessons from My Reading:   Thoughts on Series... Managed to read the next two of Yasimine Galenorn's mysteries -- Murder Under a Mystic Moon and A Harvest of Bones -- since my last blog.  The likeable characters had me ignoring the news and reading.  Of course, plot and a fast moving story line had something to do with it too.  Each of the important characters appeared in each book with an added dimension to their previous appearance.  Hey, even the cats get their due.   

Still liked the series enough that I thought about getting the next in the series -- One Hex of a Wedding.  Hints inserted into the Bones book suggest it'll be as interesting as the others.  However, the two bookstores I checked didn't have it so I was saved.  I get to mine my "to read" pile.

Since publishers keep doing series, I assume there are a lot of people out there who like returning to comfortable worlds, even if they have their scary moments.  The mystery and fantasy genres are filled with series -- which is great for me since that's what I mostly read.  From a writer's point of view, I'd think economy of effort keeps them going.  From a reader's, you know you're going to get a good read -- at least until the writer works their ideas into the ground and start repeating themselves. 


Galenorn's an interesting case for me.  I've read in two series of hers:  Emerald O'Brien (human psychic) and the D'Artigo sisters (half-fae witch, vampire, and shapeshifter).  I'm willing to read more in the O'Brien series, but not the D'Artigo one.  Reason:  The mystery in each O'Brien book is significantly different from the the previous ones while the half-fae story lines felt repetitive.  

My Progress (if any):  Critiques:  Critiquing amuses me since I am set up as having some expertise by default.  So far, my comments seem to be appreciated ... which feels strange to me since I never had an English class and wouldn't know a theme from a hole in the plot.

Tangled:  Lanquishes.

Emma:  Have revised the previous draft into a middle grade format.  On Monday, I get to draft new stuff.  The end.  Lucky me ... if I can decide what the ending is besides a bunch a swirling possibilities.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's Snowing, Major Big Time

Trivia:  What a day to stay in and read and drink the coffee pot dry!  The Colorado weather people are hinting we may have a record setting October storm.  There's around a foot of snow here now and another ten inches +/- are expected.  Someone should have warned our stupid apricot.  It's standing out in the cold with drooping branches even though the old man knocked the snow off the leaves several times.

Writing Lessons:  Well, I got Hamilton's Burnt Offerings and Galenorn's Jade Dragon read.  [I've almost finished Galenorn's Mystic Moon today since I didn't do errands.]  While I liked both books, I realized that Hamilton constructs a more complex read, ie. multiple plot lines.  This may be one of the reasons I reread the Blake series and not Galenorn's.

Galenorn gives us a mystery set amidst a group of friends in a cozy small town setting.  O'Brien's paranormal abilities operate as a personality trait rather than something dark and dangerous.  Some people laugh a lot.  Some people scratch.  O'Brien sees auras, among other things.  

In this book, O'Brien must free herself and her kids from an ancient curse while protecting herself from the more mundane tasks of preventing more robberies and her son's kidnapping.  The writing follows O'Brien through her days in a linear sequence until she saves her son and converts a potential enemy into a friend.

In the middle books in the Anita Blake series, Laurens' plots tend to spiral around the various aspects of Blake's life:  her animator job where she raises zombies and fights with her boss, her contacts with the various lycanthrope communities and her role as the werewolf lupa, her uneasy relationships among the vampires, and her consulting with the police investigating paranormal activities.  

In Burnt Offerings, the major problem revolves around the attempts of Blake and Jean-Claud [the vampire master of the city and Blake's lover]  to save their people from the plots of visiting representatives of the vampire council to destroy them and their dependents.  Minor problems in the various areas of her life are directly affected by the visiting vampires.  As she solves the problems, Blake gains insights that help her in defeating the vampires for this round.  For all the supposed darkness of the Blake books [dealing with monsters of various kinds], the books offer a set of warm relationships every bit as cozy as Galedorn's.

[The lack of complexity as I draft Emma has been bothering me.  Maybe now that I'm changing it to a middle grade novel, I can accept the linear plot line.]


Progress:  I've started my critiques, one of which is lo-o-o-ng.  Much longer than our original submission agreement.  I'm going to be obnoxious and just do half it for the first session and the rest for the second.


Tangled:  It's sort of on the back burner.  Translation:  I'm not writing, editing or revising, but I think a lot about the characters.


Emma:  Is rolling along.  I'm almost to the end of the changes to my original draft. Then, I think it's 3-4 chapters to the end.