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.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The No Name Award

E. J. Wesley of The Open Vein [http://the-open-vein-ejwesley.blogspot.com] put me up for the No Name Award.  He's a YA/MG writer who blogs about writing and sometimes snarls when the world slaps him in the face.  Visit him.

Normally, I'd ignore this (and I have permission to), but since I think it's designed to increase readership, I'll pass it on.  It's also simple:  receivers reveal seven facts about themselves, and then list seven other blogs.  I don't know if I have to tell them I listed them, and if I had to, I wouldn't know how -- so you are excused if you never learn I gave you the award.  (I can't seem to get the message dealie to work when I want to welcome a new follower.  The system just wants me to follow myself.)

Seven Facts ... without stretching the truth.

1)  I had an imaginary friend named Jerome when I was three.
2)  65 years later, my brother, Jerry, is still bitching about it and wishes I had kept my mouth shut.
3)  I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut -- even when I'm trying to be polite.
4)  I hate store tortilla chips -- I rather fry my own tortillas.
5)  I wanted to move somewhere else two days after I arrived in town back 1966.  I'm still here.
(It's getting harder to think of something).  
6) We once had a Ford-made car, and I didn't get 80,000 miles out of it.  The Subaru has 140,000+ miles.
 (The Studebaker Lark got 200,000+ miles.)
7)  I think marketing a novel is a form of hell.

Seven blogs.  Any of my useful blogs are worth checking out, but I'll name people with less busy lives and fewer readers.  Warning:  I enjoy every blog listed below.

1)  Pat Stoltey:  http://patriciastoltey.blogspot.com
2) The Dark Wyrm:  http://darkwyrmreads.blogspot.com
3)  Jaime Reed:  http://jreedwriteordie.blogspot.com
4)  Kirsten Lesko:  http://disobedientwriter.com/  [Anyone who's disobedient has my vote.]
5)  Tim Northberg:  http://thedarthwriter.blogspot.com
6)  Haggis:  http://whatdoyoumeanishouldstartablog.blogspot.com
7)  Sarah Ahiers:  http://falenformulatesfiction.blogspot.com

There you have it.

Trivia:  I wasn't going to blog today, but E. J. Wesley made me do it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pacing and Conflict and Reasons

The Read:  Okay.  I think everyone can learn writing tips from Lee Child's newest novel:  Gone Tomorrow.  I mentioned I started to squirm at his NYC subway doors opening and closing as he traveled uptown, then realized how Child was wrapping the tension tight as Reacher kept comparing the Israeli suicide bomber profile with one on the passengers, an older woman.

Well, by about a third of the way into the book, the cliche has been turned on its head.  The woman worked for the pentagon and committed suicide with a gun within reach of Reacher.  After the NYC police investigate, Reacher had made contact with the the suicide's brother, a New Jersey cop, and learned her son was missing and may or may not be in danger.  Reacher is contacted by some goons who are working for a "principle" who wants to know if the suicide gave Reacher anything and dropped two names.  Some federal investigative goons, warned Reacher to forget what he saw.  He learns the suicide was delayed on the Interstate traveling from DC to NYC.  Reacher decides to investigate the names to discover one of them (a retired officer running for Congress) has some secret tucked into his military past.  So, Reacher goes to DC where the same federal goons tell him he's too old to mess with them and to go away.  --  I've enjoyed books that have less action in 300 pages than the 150 I just mention.  Best, Child is just starting to roll.

Then, there's the pacing.  I was just getting to noticing Child was using enormous amounts of dialogue with very little setting [which I assumed I was filling in by my own NYC experiences].  This at about 11 PM.  When I next looked at the clock, it was midnight.  Whatever, magic Child was weaving sucked me down the dark hole into his world.

Progress:   On my own stuff, none.  Hopefully, I learned something at the Northern Colorado's Writer's conference that will perculate through my fingers.

Trivia:  Don't ask my why, but the old man and I were discussing Madame Bovary.  I hated the book when I read it in high school.  I had figured out the many (most ?) adults were stupid long ago, but Madame Bovary was the most inane and stupid someone I ever wasted time on.  To read and to write.  By that time, I was a "published" author and had two "novels" under my belt [unpublished].  I knew how long it took to write a book ... by hand and by the typewriter I had somehow managed to pick up.

What no one told me at the time -- the problems caused by frivolous goals where the whole point of the book.  Maybe I can still dislike the book because it takes so long for her world to blow up in her face?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Nuggets of Wisdom

No read today -- though I started reading Lee Child's new mass paperback, Gone Tomorrow.   At first, glance you think the opening description is lo-o-o-o-ng, but before I was ready to skip pages, I could feel the tension building -- all with the subway doors opening and closing with Reacher contemplating the Israeli terrorist screening list.

How fast was slow?  I thought I just barely scraped the beginning.  When I went back and looked, I was almost at page 100.  This even though I still had a headache from the bright lights at the NCW conference last night.

The Northern Colorado Writer's Conference
The following occurred in no particular order, so be warned I'm being my normal incoherent self.

First, I want to praise Kerri Flanagan, the director of the Northern Colorado Writers.  She's been doing the conference for five years, and each year some new useful new tool appears.  This year's gem was a spiral bound notebook with presenter info, session handouts, and lined pages to write on scattered through out -- all in alphabetical order.

Veteran conference goers said repeatedly that this was one of the best they've attended.  Summary opinion.  It's small enough to talk to a good share of the writers, and the presenters were all stellar.  I agree, but it's nice to know others agree with me.

Being me, I might quibble about the food -- but Kerrie didn't cook it.  (The Hilton people did.)   I'm lucky to live where I do -- even if I was ready to move from the place two days in coming here -- back in 1966.

Granted I couldn't go to all the sessions that looked useful,
but here are some nuggets of wisdom
from my notes.

Stephen Cannell (A-Team, The Rockford Files, and the Shane Scully mystery series) just happened to be doing a promotional tour through Colorado, and Kerrie snagged him for our keynote speaker.  I just listened without taking many notes.  Most important thing he said, in my opinion:  Don't take yourself too seriously. .

Mike Befeler, a mystery writer of "geezer-lit" (Paul Jacobson, "It's Murder ..." mysteries) won a medal of bravery for competing with the session:  Agents Read the Slush Pile.  His comment about mysteries -- that the murder has to occur in the first 20 pages -- applies to all books, I think.  Only one might say: something significant that changes your main character's world.

If you're feeling down, you might consider John Calderazzo (a multi-published writer who teaches at Colorado State University) words:  Writers seek the wonders of the world.  I think this is true regardless of genre.

Then, there's Trai Cartwright, a former screenwriter trying to convert to novels, who always blows my mind away.   Some of the things she said:
Focus on the hero (MC) and what s/he wants.
Something must happen in each scene to move the story.  
(characters facing conflict, a partial solution, and a reversal that makes things worse.)

Then, a whole quote from Trai:  "You know what your strengths are.  If you love writing dialogue but scene description isn't your forte, don't sweat it.  Write the scene to your strengths, knowing that after you get out the initial burst of inspiration, you'll go back and work on the other components in another pass."  This applies to scenes in screenwriting and chapters in novels.

Page Lambert, a mostly literary writer from the examples she read during her session on "Creating a Sense of Place",  gave the all important advise that writer's should use all the senses in creating descriptions.  More important, I thought she gave a neat device to eliminate back story:  Use an artifact to bring memory into the scene you're writing.  I think that'd also apply to something in the surrounding.  [A tip:  This is very similar to including action as your dialog tags.]

Todd Mitchell, a YA author (The Traitor King) and CSU professor, gave lots of many pointers:
Be sure your dialog is feasible.  Read aloud.
Subtext of dialog gives more info about characters than what's said.
You need to know what each character wants to have happen in each scene.

Joe Monti, of the Barry Goldblatt Agency, talked about why there are few books written for boys.  The circular reationship:  publishers don't think boys over 11 read, so they published few books for YA boys other than spy stuff, so boys don't read.  Who says marketing people know everything.

Monti did make one thing clear:  Your book cover is the most critical thing for your book's success.  So, if your cover sucks, make this the turf where you insist on something better, even if it's your first sale.

Those were the sessions I attended.  All were worth while -- even if I had to spend money to attend.   

My most fun moment at the conference:    
Got into line for food and discovered Rachelle Gardner, agent extraordinaire, in front of me.  I just had to mention the picture of the pristine desk she put on her blog.  She admitted the picture didn't show the over-stuffed bookcases in her office.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Age Appropriate or Unskillful Use of Language?

The Read:  When the family book trading box arrived, I was pleased to see a book by Diana Wynne Jones -- Witch's Business.  Her Chrestomanci series, Dalemark Quartet, and Howel's Moving Castle sit solidly on my top reads list.  [ I don't really call them favorites because the list is so long. ]  So, I looked forward to the book even though it was obviously a middle grade.

The fantasy is firmly grounded in reality.  In this case, what happens when you try to replace your allowance when it's impounded because you broke a chair.  The brother and sister set up a business but run afoul of the local witch who is in the same business.  The more the kids try to solve their problems, without alerting the adults, the deeper their problem grows.

Witch's Business had charm, humor, and a nice puss-and-boots twist, but I had problems with the simplicity of the plot.  Perhaps this is because it's aimed at 8-10 year olds, depending on their reading level.  The book was written in a simpler time (1973) and, maybe, for Wynne Jones' British audience, granted ... but for me, it just didn't ring true.  I can remember myself and my friends vividly in the 4th and 5th grades.  None of us were so naive as the "good guys".  Not even the densest of us.  ( I don't want to call him stupid, because he wasn't really.  Just dense.)

The "cussing" on the part of the bully bothered me the most.  While he used interesting non-cuss words which created vivid disgusting images like rat slime, slimy puke, and degutted brains-in-gravy, his swearing lacked rhythm.  There's an art to swearing that my friends had mastered even at that young age. 

Is it a good thing I write for young adults -- though I understand you have to be careful of your cussing for them too?

Web NotesTrue or false?  Are some writing truisms myths?  Kevin Hearne wrote a blog exploding three truisms common in publishing circles, especially among writers.  Hearne did a survey of  246 published SF and Fantasy writers and wrote about the results.  --  In his Writer's Grove blog --  http://kevinhearne.blogspot.com/2010/03/three-writing-myths-busted.html 
I took comfort from this result:
116 out of the 246 hadn't sold anything before they sold their first book to major publishers.

Progress:  None, in the usual sense that I wrote something.  I've spent the last two day exhausting my brain at the Northern Colorado Writers conference.  Learned lots of good stuff.  I'll try to post a sample of them tomorrow.

(I'm way behind on my time log for Maren, Lost and Found.  Did get a title to pop out of my brain.)

Trivia:  Had lots of fun at the conference even if my pitch sank. 

PS:  I'm sorry I can't get links to work on this thing, software, whatever. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Creating Characters that Stick

The Read:  I bought Cynthia Peale's White Crow about seances, murder, kidnappings, and romance at the Friends of the Library book sale, and my immediate reading pile got so low that it rose to the top above odd Thomas.  More important, while the book was copyrighted in 2002, I remembered the MC, Caroline Ames, from the previous two book, printed before 2002, which I had read in the past.  

Yeah, I have a soft spot for cozy mysteries with lots of cultural background.  --  Unfortunately, Nancy Zaroulis, the real name of the author, doesn't seem to have published any books after 2003.  But, I've read lots of cozies with and without paranormal overtones.  Why did Caroline Ames stick in my mind enough for me to buy the books and then read it?

Caroline Ames is a complex character who has several problems going on in her life at once, just like a real person.  She's a proper Victorian Boston upper crust lady who has a knack for finding herself in the middle of murder investigations and, worse, getting her name in the newspapers!  She also has a self-centered brother who she caters too, by making his home life too comfortable, against her druthers.  She's fallen in love with their boarder, a recovering-from-knee-surgery retired army surgeon on a small pension, who loves her back, but Victorian conventions get in the way of any declarations or actions.  She's got tons of relatives and contacts that firmly place Caroline on the outskirts of Boston society in spite of her poverty.  All that fodder, and I'm left hanging dry without any sequel.

I made a quick check, and the most recent reference to Peale was:  she was working on the fourth book in the series.  As far as I can tell, it was never published.  Darn.

Web Notes:  The Dark Wyrm playing Satan to my wallet by giving Patricia Brigg's signing schedule for her new hardcover of the Mercy Thompson series, Silver Borne, featuring Samuel, a former love interest of Mercy's and Mercy's problems in returning a fae book she borrowed, on her blog. [How's that for a run on sentence.  We're all college graduates, aren't we?] 

Why is this important?  Well, Silver Borne is out in hardback, and cheapskate here is faced with the dilemma of "to buy or not to buy".  So far, I'm not buying.

Then, Dark Wyrm, one of the few book review blogs I visit regularly, listed Patricia Briggs signing schedule
[ http://darkwyrmreads.blogspot.com/2010/03/wheres-patricia-briggs.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DarkWyrmReads+%28Dark+Wyrm+reads...%29 check it out in case you're a fan. ]

To get back to the subject of characters, besides creating one of my favorite characters of all times, Patricia Briggs, in my opinion, sums up the basics of character writing in one of her recent blogs:  "Mercy wasn't as happy with me but happy people don't make for good stories."  
[http://www.patriciabriggs.com/books/silverBorne.shtml ]

Progress:  Are you kidding.  I can't git the beginning to jell.  Maren's viewpoint still hasn't appeared, and I'm into the fifth chapter.  Gads!  [Actually, I'm thinking something more profane.]  At least I don't have a critique group meeting tonight so I can write.

Trivia:  It snowed -- maybe 12 inches at our house.  It's a little hard to tell since first it rained and then a lot of the first snow fall melted.  Still, my old man brought in the first adventurous daffodil, stupid enough to bloom, and put it into my only champagne flute.

Gotta love the Spring,
the snow's melting! 

Monday, March 22, 2010

How Now Research?

The Read:  Research?  I've been have fun reading a middle grade adventure story about a girl who travels through a portal to Clovis times in the Texas Hill country.  This is definitely a time period where current fiction writers don't have personal experience, so how do you make it real?   Do you think it's even important to get your facts straight?

The book:  Peni R. Griffin's 11,000 Years Lost.  Is this fantasy?  No more than any daydreaming kid, I think.  Here's an example of how kid lit has always skirted the boundaries of the the real and the imaginery.

Griffin's end notes on her research were notable -- she hiked the Texas Hill country were her MC tramped with a Clovis band chasing mammoths, their favorite prey.  Time/distance ratios change if you travel by car or by foot.  I also think you have to try hiking all day to get an idea of how each aching muscle reacts to the terrain.

While there is a lot of personality conflict among the band members open to change and those who aren't, one thing stands out loud and clear in the book:  how central food is to hunters and gathering bands.  The MC has problems adjusting to to the limited diet, bugs, dirt, and limited world view of her adopted band members, but her biggest problem is how she can return to her own time.  Griffin does a good job in foreshadowing the pieces of the solution as well as coming up with a realistic one.  --  A nice example of effective novel construction.

Web Notes:  Are you looking for an agent?  Do you want to do it right?  If so, it's important you don't piss the agent you query off.  To prevent this, you might look at this The Guide to Literary Agents link to four articles discussing agents' pet peeves:

The blog is among my extra-useful links and is always worth reading whether Chuck or a guest is the author. 

Progress:  Maren is learning English.  The problem: how does she do this without pages of showing.  Also, does her magic help her learn fast?  I think so ... or else I'd get bored writing it.

And Emma popped her binder open when I mentioned research.  Emma might be called a historical since it occurs in 1921, but research thing was crucial here when considering the material environment that was similar to our own but very different.  For example:  This was about the time various people were experimenting with selling peanut butter in grocery stores.

The internet was a great place to find dates and pictures of artifacts (appliances, decor, clothes, foods, etc.).  The surprise came when I realized I used a lot of my personal experience for the background.  I knew that I channeled my mother (who had me late in life) for expressions, but I didn't realize my mom was 11 in 1921 until one day I did the math.  I also grew up with people who lived in houses that had been much remodeled beyond when they were build in the 20s.  Guess, your life experience shows up in your writing even when you don't consciously try.

Trivia:  Another nice warm day, but snow is lurking in our future.  It's spring in the Rockies.  --  The snow/freezing better not kill my peaches this year.  I don't care about the apricots.  

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Facts and Opinions about Publishing

The Read:  Karen Marie Moning leaves Mac in a pile of hurt and in a situation she's been resisting since the beginning of the fever series -- a sex-slave to a fae.  Actually, I'm having a little problem understanding why the publicity stresses the sex bit.  A lot of the comments I've read about the books emphasize the sex too, but there's really very little sexual activity ... just smoldering.  At her site, Moning does assure her fan base the sex is coming; that she hasn't totally given up on romance.  [The genre of her Highlander series.]

Faefever leaves the reader hanging with Mac under the thumb of the renegade fae who killed her sister.  Just the "low note of despair" to leave you MC in the middle of the series.  Halloween has happened, and the rituals to keep the walls between the fae and human worlds have failed.  Riots of Unseelie fae and humans are occurring in spite of police efforts.  Mac decides to retreat to her bookstore safehaven, but the lights are out.  Then, when she calls her fae prince's name, it falls to the ground and disintegrates.  Mac's on her own what may be the most dangerous night in human history.  In short, a fantastic mid-point series ending which ties up all her efforts to save the world ... and let's them disintegrate in her hands.   I'm sure it pulled in lots of sales for the hardback Dreamfeaver which is the fourth book in the series.  (Cheapskates must have strong backbones to wait for the mass paperback.)

Moning used a wonderful twist to push Mac out of her safe place and make her vulnerable -- shooting out the flood lights that kept her safe from the human-eating dark shades, a nice quick way to introduce the implications of modern technology into tradition-based fantasy.  For two books, the floodlights worked to keep away the human-eating dark shades that have created swathes of "dead zones" in the middle of Dublin.  The lights have just sat there in plain view unless they were turned off in a previous attempt to kill Mac.  Then, one of the bad guys comes along and shoots them out.  Gotta love it.

Web Comments:  Ever wondered about which way was best to sell your novel?  Jim Hines, a fantasy author, did a survey on how over 200 authors sold their first novel.  Everybody seems to have theories about what's going on in publishing, but he's offering us some actual data on the importance of agents and whether you need to sell short stories before you sell your novel.  Check out:  http://tinyurl.com/yhmyltg  [In case the tiny url doesn't work:  http://www.jimchines.com/2010/03/novel-survey-results-part-i  ] 
I liked the survey because it offered some facts to back up the opinions.

One another web note:  you might want to check out Moning's website:  http://www.karenmoning.com/
I think this is well done, if a little garish at the moment, and you may gain some insights from it.

Now for the non-publishing part ...

Progress:  Went into retrograde for Maren.  I went back over the four chapters I drafted and revised, mostly removing inconsistencies and explaining things better.  Or, should I have said, showing things better?  Whatever.  I've got over 6,000 words down and a third of the month to go, so I'm behind.  I figure I need to get 12,000 words a month into the computer in order to finish the draft in a reasonable amount of time.

Trivia:  Am going down to Loveland again to check out the Susan Wechsler mosaics.  I found a spot on my office wall where a small one might fit.  Am I the only one who would spend a couple hundred for a piece of artwork and hang where no one will see it but me?

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Fast Read ... Alert

The Read:  Heh, heh, heh.  Karen Marie Moning's series about fae [Seelie and Unseelie] running amok in Dublin gets better and better and darker.  Or, is it that Mac (the main character) is losing her Georgia peachiness or, is that naivete.  The book is 400 pages long, and I'm already 2/3s of the way through it.

Mac has a lot on her plate so far:  wondering what kind of non-human her protector is, a "romantic triangle" between the protector and a death-by-sex fae prince, the antagonism of the organized group people who can see fae who lost the Unseelie book that Mac is seeking for the protector and the fae prince ...  and that's just the "good guys".  The villains appear too, including the "Lord Master" who killed Mac's sister and brought her into the Dublin confusion.  With plotlines like this wrapped around each other, are you still in the dark about why Moning is a popular writer?

Oh, one more thread.  The MacKelters of the Highlander series make an appearance too.  They're chasing the same artifacts as Mac's protector with the intent of saving humans from the Unseelie (dark fae).  The next book should be a whopper of a show-down unless Moning draws out the action.

Blog Comments:  Victoria Strauss gives a couple commentaries about modern publishing on issues every writer should be following.

On self-publishing:  A Boulder, Colorado bookstore is selling self-published writers shelf-space for five books which they have to keep stocked by themselves.  They offer other promotion packages at higher costs, including a reading and signing gig.  --  Hey, promotion costs even if you are published by a royalty publisher. 

The other part is about Amazon doing the bullying thing by turning off their buy buttons.  I'm glad they're getting competition.  I'm not buying an electronic reader under they function like CD players.  Also, I can buy content and it's mine and I can buy it wherever and whenever I want. 

Check out what Victoria has to say at Writer Beware.  [ http://accrispin.blogspot.com/]  Piece is called "Tidbits", and there should be a link in my "useful section".

Progress:  Actually made some.  I'm 6000 words into Maren and it's only 2/3s into March.  I even know where I'm going for the next five/six chapters.  A real comfort for someone who writes by the seat of her pants.  [I think that'll be about 13,000 words total, not quite a fourth of the manuscript.]

Short Stories.  Maybe I'm starting to some responses to stories that've been sitting on editors desks since last July (09).  One was a rejection.  The other made the first cut and is still under consideration.  No, I'm not excited.  I've been a bridesmaid before.  

No, I'm not upset by the slowness.  From what I read, publishing workers are floundering in less than adequate working conditions like all the other wage-slaves in the U. S. of A ... but this isn't the place for politics.

Trivia:  The big spring snowstorm has arrived, but is melting on the road and sidewalks.  Sounds nice now, but it's supposed to snow until midnight tonight when the stuff will turn into ice.  Fortunately, we'll go out to lunch and do errands around noon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What's Your Ending?

Let's give thanks to the Irish
the post-Roman Irish who copied every book they could find so
ancient knowledge didn't end when the Romans imploded.
Without them, we wouldn't be writing what we write.
(Thanks to a New York Times opinion piece by Thomas Cahill for reminding me.)
The Read:  The ending didn't disappoint me, actually ... but Cinda Williams Chima's The Warrior Heir finished just about like I expected.  The great battle happens and the rules of the Wier change to treat the modalities -- wizards, sorcerors, enchanters, and warriors -- more equally.  The fact that the wizards killed off most of the warriors in the tournaments (the event which supplied the climax) added a little poignancy.  The MC opponent in the tournament was also telegraphed, but the writing overall carried the predictability forward to the end.

The next book in the series is The Wizard Heir, I think.  (I'm not going downstairs to check.)  I'm debating whether or not I'll read it even though the first chapter develops an intriguing character.  I have a Diana Wynn Jones waiting to be read.  Then, I discovered that Karen Marie Moning's Faefever is out in paperback.  While the series is called "delectably dark and sexy", I'm glued to the development of the MC from sunny Southern belle (a Georgia peach?) to a hero who can give the Unseelie court headaches.  As much as I admire Moning's writing, I missed this when it came out in mass paperback last year.

Blog Comments:  Discovered a wonderful resource ... for romance writers, The Passionate Pen from reading The Turning Point today.  [Jenna Petersen's website which she updates about once a month: http://www.passionatepen.com/]  Lists of publishers, lists of agents, the experiences of published writers -- what's there not to like even if you don't have a romantic bone in your body.  [Like me.]  I'm green with envy.  There may be such a site for fantasy writers, but as far as I can tell, the same info is scattered over many sites.

If you're interested in fantasy writer blogs, you can check AW Water Cooler's Fantasy and Science Fiction section for a list.  Read all the postings since people are listing their blogs there.  (Yes, they included mine, thank you.)

Progress:  I think I've muddled my way out of the first three chapters of Maren.  They've gone from an outline ... to a chapter ... to actually several chapters where I tried to decide where to start.  While I'm a "seat-of-my-pants" writer, I have to know where my characters are starting from and who they are.  All sorts of people are starting to pop out of the woodwork.  --  Some I never guessed at when Maren nagged me to get on with her story.

Biggest revelation:  I needed a reasonable way to allow Maren, as a pseudo-American teen, to travel all over the county she landed in.  Guess what?  Her guardian/foster mother decided to run for county commissioner (in a backward county).  All I have to do is not be too specific about election law, and I've got it made.  I used to be active in politics.  Don't know a pinch about police procedure, but I know something about people and the stupidities of politics.

Trivia:  It's Saint Patrick's Day, and I'm not wearing green.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Increasing the Pace

The Read:  Slow starts can pick up speed, thank goodness.  Am halfway through the current read, and Cinda Williams Chima's The Warriors Heir has finally picked up steam with the two factions vying for power trying to capture our hero -- plus his relocation from his US hiding spot to England.  Liked his encounters with the ghosts of previous knights/ warriors who died in the continuation of  the War of the Roses which continues down to the present day for the Weir.

Interesting thing.   I think there was more description in describing London and the "evil doctor's" office than in the first part I thought so slow.  I need to go back and check if that comment holds, but that's my impression as I write.

Blog Comments:  Hooks have reared their snaggy heads.  Think I've reached some sort of critical mass on the blogs I follow.  I find I'm skipping some of them if the topic revealed in the notice doesn't catch my interest.  I suggest a review of your openings.  Example:  This blog first started with "halfway".  I don't know if the first sentence snags any better, but I thought it an improvement.

Progress:  Maren plods along.  My first chapter is now three.  Am thinking I need some more description.  In short, I write s...l...o...w.

Trivia:  Still savoring Susan Wechsler's mosaics in my head.  They're worth the time to Goggle her.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

When Is "Slow" Good?

The Read:  Slow food has become a popular cause among "foodies".  (Turns out I've been a practitioner for my life since I'm too cheap to buy the packaged stuff.)  However, Cinda Williams Chima's book, Warrior's Heir, had me squirming in my seat  -- sort of wanting her to get on with it or wondering if I should go read another book.  (Four wonderful prospects are sitting at my elbow as I read.)

Hey, I don't mean that the book is bad; it's ... just ... slow.  I'm only 150 pages into it, and the main plot about the serious conflict with the Weir (ware, for aware?) establishment is now rolling along.  The first 100 pages mainly set up the situation and the high school characters.  Grounding in a real world is important so your story is believable.  While Chima does a good job of setting up a former girlfriend choosing the bully who picks on the MC (and others) as a subplot (and I assume it will come into play later in the book), the ... book ... is ... slow.  --  Actually, I think having conflict in two parts of a hero's life a nice idea.

Guess I'm not much for appetizers, but I'll keep reading.

Realms of Fantasy:  Found a copy at the B&N yesterday.  So, Chima has more than normal competition for my time.

Blogs of Note:  On Saturdays, I take it easy ... catch up on dangling ends ... have a little fun.  Then, Justine Musk comes along with another blog that makes me think:  http://tribalwriter.com/2010/03/13.  It's all about 5 ways to use minor characters to add depth and clarity to your protagonist.  Not only do I like her books, but she's very generous in sharing her craft skills.

One benefit for doing a blog:  I find I'm finding my typos faster.

Progress:  Emma is printed and shelved until I can figure out what I want to do with the query.  The old query is still out to most of the agents I sent the trial balloon too.  

One of whom I believe doesn't respond if it's a rejection.  (In such cases, I think the agency should have one of those automatic responder thingies that tell you they got the query.  Then, if you don't hear from them, you just write it off as another rejection.)

Maren.  I'm struggling to get out of the first two chapters.  Problem?  I know what I want it to read like, and it doesn't.  --  Yeah, I know I should just go ahead and write the next chapters even if they sound/feel/read like outlines.

Trivia:  We have another good day before the storm:  "Springtime in the Rockies".  We're going to a regional museum today ... and out for lunch again.  (I'll do anything to avoid the polenta in the fridge.) --  Lunch:  the restaurant had their Spring Fest so the German genes not only got a cabbage fix but more than enough umm-pah-pah.)

The museum exhibit in Loveland (for those of you in Northern Colorado) blew my mind, especially Susan Wechsler's mosaics.   (Yes, we visited the bookstores too ... and I bought.) 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Slowly Changes the WIP

The Read:  Am getting into the new read:  Cinda Williams Chima's The Warrior Heir -- after stumbling through the prologue.  (Hey, the science magazines are coming in so the books have more competition than usual.)  I'm far enough into the book to see where the back story is important, but I think this is a case where bits and pieces inserted into the text would have served just as well.  --  But who am I to say anything.  I'm not the published writer.

For a change, this is a young adult fantasy with the premise that secret magic workers live among us -- only to be sacrificed by rival factions seeking political dominance.  (I think.)  An interesting concept as far as it goes.  I haven't determined who're the good guys yet, only the potential victims.

Locus (the "journal" of science fiction and fantasy) came today bearing good news.  Three writers I drool over are coming out with new books which hooked good reviews:  Patricia Briggs (Silver Bourne), Jim Butcher (Changes), and Kim Harrison (Black Magic Sanction).  The bad news for cheapskates like me --  they're hardbacks.

Progress:   Emma is slowly filling a binder of her own so she can be filed away.  Printing is taking a long time because of the slipping roller in the printer.  (Guess who's too cheap to buy a new one.  "Wasn't a monitor enough?", she whines.)

Maren.  The scenes in the first chapter are starting to make sense.  I may have two chapters done by Saturday.  --  Don't get impressed.  I prefer short chapters.  So far, the YA chapters are only slightly longer than the MG ones.

Blog.  I guess regularly posting a new blog up is progress of a kind.  So, I'll take the credit.  ;-)

Trivia:  I martyred myself and made some polenta stuff since the old man kept asking about the three unopened packages in the pantry.  Slimey.  Or, have I insulted you because you like the stuff?  Better yet, do you have an edible recipe for it.  No?  Scrambled egg sandwiches, here I come.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Stuck Procrastinating

The Read:  To be truthful, I'm not reading.  Remember the Witchblade DVDs I was watching ... and gave up for boredom?  Well, I'm skipping through them to see if I can pick up my interest.  No such luck ... so far.

Guess they made the argument for not repeating your storyline with different endings --  unless you want to get rid of your readers.

Progress:  Have to get my critique done.  I'm still behind from when my system went on vacation.  Have to excuse the desktop, though, since it was the monitor that died.  --  At least, I was able to find someone to come fix it.  A former graduate of the Berkeley Music school who supports his family fixing computers.

Emma.  Maybe I'll be able to ignore her after I finish printing a hard copy.  I'm thinking that changing the title  --  "The Bad Luck Magnet" from "Emma Kloken, Hero" --  may lay her to rest. 

I wonder if other writers have such a hard time thinking up a pertinent title.

Maren.  After all the nagging, she's slumped against a broken cart wheel in the middle of a battlefield ... and won't budge.

Trivia:  The clouds fly high and forget to deliver on the promised rain.  Guess there are worse things than being a writer.  You could be a weatherperson.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Laugh on Me x 3

Progress:  Just look at my Emma info.  I'm pitching "There Be Demons" at the Northern Colorado Writer's conference so I have to do a new pitch.  Fortunately, I have critique people standing by.

Also checked my ending on THERE BE DEMONS.  I already changed the ending and like the changes better than what popped in my had this AM aka the middle of last night.

 Sorry can't get the extra space cleaned up

Apocalyptic Writing

My Computer decided to stop talking to my monitor.
I bought a new one and sent the old one to recycling.
Believe it or not, it didn't give me more time to read.
I did the taxes.

The Read:   Is the 2012 end-of-the-world theory responsible for the increase in paranormal fiction over the last ten years?  Thinking back on the books I've read recently, I'm beginning to wonder.  For example, the plot of Justine Musk's book Blood Angel revolves around stopping an apocalypse caused by the man-eating demon (mentioned in my last blog) who plans to invite demons across an inter-dimensional rift so they can cleanse the earth of human venality (ie: eat 'long pig').  Who's going to stop them?  Why a novice mage, who must be taught to use her magical talents yesterday by a burned out mentor/lover (?) before the demons come pouring through the rift.  Sounds like a chiche, but I didn't read it as such.

Blood Angel is one of those "I wish" books ... meaning I wish I could write like that.  Love the images Musk conveys without resorting to "purple prose".  Examples from mentor reading the demon's grimorie, written almost a 1000 years ago:

1) "The books were repulsive to the touch. ... pages made from human skin, bearing inks and dyes mixed with both human and animal fluids: saliva, semen, blood."

2) "He read through each book, the parchment sighing and squirming beneath his touch, as stray phantom-bits
crawled off the pages and rose like smoke in the air around him: dark, distorted shadow faces, hollow eyes and gaping mouths, retreating to the corners and watching from the dark."

Turns out Musk is a dark fantasy/horror writer who published between 2005 to 2008, then sort of disappeared in spite of favorable reviews.  I can't remember seeing her in B&N recently.  Can't help but wonder if a divorce turned her writing life up-side down.  Whatever, her blog (http://tribalwriter.com) indicates she working a new thriller, The Decadents plus had some useful comments on the two blogs I scanned.

Progress:  With the computer doing a black out, most of the work on Maren turned into sorting all the pieces of paper I accumulated about her and her world.  Result:  two feet of bare wood has appeared on one of my desks.  My circular files have filled with excess paper from as far back as 2002 since I cleaned 1/5 a file drawer.

Also woke up at 3AM with a new title for Emma:  "The Bad Luck Magnet".  Am getting ready to pitch it at the Northern Colorado Writers conference at the end of March.

Might as well include the rest of the eye-popping-open episode.  Also came up with a few more comments to tack onto the end of Britt and company.

Trivia:  The old man is complaining about these new informal "political parties" -- the Tea Party and the Coffee Party.  He wants to join the "Little Brown Jug Party" because he thinks it has more class than the "Mason Jar" Party.  We used to get good corn whiskey in our western town, but the stores don't stock it no more.  At least, we'd have a decent cause.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Searching for a New Read

The Read:  is being elusive.  I've picked up three different books and nothing hooked me.  I couldn't get through the first few pages  -- except for the last which made me sit up and notice when the hitchhiker ended up eating the picker-uper who planned to torture and rape her.  (Gotta like those demons.  At least, I'm assuming she was a demon.)

The acclaimed Graceling by Kristin Cashore didn't catch me at all.  Tried for a week to get beyond the first 20 pages and failed.  Didn't mind a human eating demon, but got turned off by a reluctant adolescent super-powered killer?  Is there a disconnect somewhere in there?  Maybe it was the info dump?  Also, the opening didn't present the MC with a clear and present danger, just an exercise.

Next:  Lisa Jackson's Sorceress caught my eye in the supermarket.  Medieval Wales and magic.  What more could you ask for? 

Well, Jackson lost me between the prologue and the opening.  The book bounced from a priest killing a supposed witch (the prologue) to some kid running away from his father who is trying to kill him (chapter 1).  Again, the hook slipped free.  I read and went back to skim but didn't find the relationship between the two parts before I lost interest.  Maybe this explains why prologues are out of favor?

So, what am I reading?  Blood Angel by Justine Musk, her first published novel.  At first glance, it seemed a run of the mill paranormal romance with some hunky guy looking for the MC in the second chapter, making me glad I bought the book used.  But, I ended up reading 50-pages yesterday -- in spite of it being a busy day.  So far the structure seems to be bouncing back and forth with three story lines/points of view/whatever.  Should prove interesting when the three parts intersect.

Progress:  Emma  is firmly on the back burner ... but I still have to print out pages for my hard copy. I may even break down and let a friend read it.  (Every once in a while, she hints she'd like to read something I write.)

Maren's limping along even though the first chapter draft has a 1000+ words in it.  Some of my previous assumptions are changing as I write.  I'm trying for an end-of-the-battle opening, but convention tells me a chase scene would be more exciting.  --  I try to write lean so I might still be underwriting.

Trivia:  The German in me reared its cabbage head when I contemplated the stew meat last night.  Made an interesting Moroccan stew featuring cumin, saffron, lemon juice, and a "pinch" of chili.  I'm willing to eat the leftovers again -- instead of scrambling an egg.