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.

.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Finished ... Tra-lah-lah!

Yeah.
Got Emma's Revision Done.
Now I gotta think.
To market or not to market.
Think I'll let her ferment for awhile.

Current Read:  Still working on the books I bought during my Christmas splurge.  (I let myself buy everything in sight.  Fortunately, my tastes and vices center around books rather than shoes.  Ferragamas anyone?) 
 
My current reads were a book of short stories which ended up on the trade pile.  I don't know where Shirley Damsgaard's The Seventh Witch -- an Ophelia and Abby mystery -- is going to end up.  I've read some titles in the series before.  Enjoyed them.  But don't think I shelved them.  I also didn't remember I'd bought the series before until I got to around page 10, and Damsgaard mentioned Ophelia's adopted daughter, Tink. -- Which goes to show the power of the back-of-the-book-blurp.  Of course, it hit my soft spot for Southern Gothic and sensible witches.

But, I'm thinking structure now.  I've got Maren chewing at me.  She's only in the "journaling" stage.  But, I have to think about where I'm going to start her book.  Damsgaard starts with a prologue featuring the villainous family, aka the opposition.  Maren has a short-story-length back story which would be hard to include in snippets to explain where she came from.  At the moment I'm thinking dividing the book into four or three parts, books-within-a-book so to speak.  Sort of what Jane Haddam did in Cheating at Solitaire.  In short, a series of interconnected novellas. --  Decisions.  Decisions.

As for the progression of Witches, the complications in the plot happen at regular intervals with new characters appearing (well-foreshadowed) as they are needed, including an ratcheting up of the romance between Ophelia and an FBI agent.  I also liked the relatively short chapters, and the lean writing style that brought the book in at just under 300 pages.  The book also offered a good object lesson -- what festering jealousy can do to family relationships.

Progress:  See above.  No, I didn't sprain my arm patting myself on my back for finishing my revisions of  Emma by the end of January.

Demons/Gargoyles/Britt.  Funny things happen after a manuscript is done.  Grandson told a story about Jessus, angels, dragons, and getting your chores done.  He reminded me of a crucial fact.  If angels have feathers, they must shed.  So I wrote another 600+ words (Freezing myself at 3 AM because I couldn't sleep without the scene appearing and reappearing.) having Britt counting coup against the demons and gaining a talisman.  I also intensified the romance between Britt and Cahal a bit, under the baleful eye of Britt's mother.

The only problem I see here is that I've really opened this up for a sequel ... series? ...  and I don't think I want to deal with the demon society I hinted at.  Too much of the demonologies are just avatars for Christain seven deadly sins.  --  But, as Scarlett said, I'll think about that another day.  I haven't sold the thing yet.

Maren.  I threw out the back story to the mercies of a critique group.  Unfortunately, the idea sailed -- the idea of an adolescent from an agrarian, magical  world being thrown into ours.  Talk about food for thought ... and of course, how to structure the thing.  Also, is this a cliche?  I looked on the shelves at B&N and didn't see anything on that order.

Trivia:  We are in salmon eating season.  First, NW coast siblings sent home-smoked, Indian-style salmon.  Then, another sibling sent Myers lemons to encourage us to eat fresh salmon.  In both cases, Sockeye which isn't really a salmon. Still, yummmm.
 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Getting Lost in the "Read"

The Latest Read:  Romping through Simon R. Green's Just Another Judgement Day, was like a warm fuzzy homecoming -- in spite of a self-appointed vigilante deciding to clean up the Nightside.  So what if the secret part of London is a pit of depravity.  Does that mean you can't find any "good" people living there?  Does it mean the good people automatically become depraved when they don't jump ship for holier climes?  Green seems to answer those questions when John Taylor, the defender of those the system fails, survives his confrontation with God's enforcer, the Walking Man.

Frankly, I thought the Nightside series ended when the Eddie Drood series began.  Judgement Day was a welcome sight ... and there is another hardcover (#10) waiting in the wings to become a mass paperback.  Guess Green drew in a new breath of wind and set Taylor off on another series of adventures while he contends with whether or not to become the director/enforcer of Nightside when the current one (Walker) dies.

Must confess, I jumped so deeply into the story that I didn't notice the execution.  So, Green uses "was-constructs" a fair number of times.  Adverbs.  Some repetitive descriptions.  Who notices them while Green invents or morphs the nightmares of our culture into grotesqueries for Taylor's sense of humor to deflate and destroy.

Progress:  Emma.  Still revising ... and making progress.  I may very well finish the revision by the end of the month -- before I pay the bills.  Then, I have to revise again.  (The moaning you hear is coming from Maren, who is tired of waiting in the wings.)

Maren.  Sent my first draft/first chapter to my mixed critique group to discuss how to structure the thing.

Critique Groups:  Yeah, I belong to two plus one.  One is a serious speculative fiction local group.  The "one" is a very insightful young man, who I linked up with at Absolute Write.  The other group is sort of a default critique group I'm in because of a friend asked me.  I'm odd man out, but the ladies usually manage to put their fingers on things I should have noticed myself.

Demons/Britt.  Was rejected again.  Still, several queries out there.  May pitch it at the Northern Colorado Writers Conference in March.

Trivia:  Am disgusted with the US Senate.  Someone should send them back to kindergarten until they learn how to play with each other.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Revisions're Dragging On and On ... and On

What I'm Reading:  Am done romping through James D. Doss's mythical Ute reservation [Snake Dreams], where the Indians always outsmart the whites, except for when they don't.  Charlie Moon, supposedly a slow-top being one of the best examples at besting.  Still, I wonder where the elders who are investing in creating oil from algae are hiding in his books. 

Daisy Perika, Charlie Moon's aunt, is in high form ... interfering in a murder investigation while in on the accident that causes the second death (of a villain).  Over all, I like the plot development of having Daisey possibly moving into town and developing a new crony who may be as smart as she is.  Fortunately, the crony has more finesse than Daisy.  This alone may just have me buying the next book even though the omniscient POV grates.  Think of all those eggs being broken for omelets.

While writing series might be one way of insuring an audience, series present their own problems.  Keeping them fresh.  Seems like the Charlie Moon series still has juice.  Doss even kept open the possible future romance of Moon and Sarah Frank, Daisy's teen apprentice who has a massive crush on Charlie.  Doss conveniently got rid of Moon's love interest that  had been dragging on for several books in this one.  

Should mention Sarah's becoming Daisy's apprentice is also a new element in the series.   This situation is fraught with comedic implications.  In Snake Dreams, Doss milked Sarah's bright red birthday truck for several buckets.

One thing does bother me, though, with authors with long standing series.  They seem to get away with craft flubs that would pillory an apprentice writer.  One example:  Doss is writing in the POV of the town's chief of police who is interrogating a suspect at Moon's dinner table.  Then, he writes:  "Sarah could hardly believe her ears.  I've never Nancy call Mr. Wetzel 'Daddy.'"  [page 155]

Progress:  Next to none, though I've been working steadily.  I'm still submitting Emma chapters to my critique partners.  [I'm always amazed at how each one finds different problems.]  Last week I got bombasted for have several "was"s to a paragraph.  Quite rightly too.  Took care of the problem by deleting a couple paragraphs of description, but keeping the most pertinent sentences.  Also, changed the was with the more active verb form.

I'm clenching my teeth, waiting for this week's batch of mistakes.

Now I'm not a grammar fetishishist.  I really don't mind telling, to bes, and adverbs.  But, like all seasonings, they should be used sparingly.


Maren is starting to nag me again.  Like get on with it.  Like breaking into my concentration.  Maybe it's because both are set in the same world -- my fake northern California Gold Country.

Trivia:  Had something neat to say, but I forgot it.  Guess it's time to go cook the old man's lamb chop.  [I don't have to eat lamb (half-mutton, as it comes out of the feedlots), so I'll fix me an alternative.] 

Friday, January 22, 2010

Note the Changes

They say change is good.
Hopefully, this change will better reflect what I'm trying to do here.

What I'm Reading:  Finally bit the bullet and started James D. Doss' Spider Dreams, one of his Ute reservation mysteries featuring his detective Charlie Moon.  [ I know.  The number of mysteries I read may seem out of line, but I like my fantasies to solve some puzzle or other ... usually that means a murder or two. ] One of the problems, I've been having with Doss' more recent books is the omniscient, often first person, view point.  Yeah, it's just as annoying to me to read as many of the comments at AW say it is.

But.  And it's a big But.  For years, Daisy Perika, Charlie Moon's aged aunt, shaman, and general grump, has been my main lady.  Who else, while shopping for Campbell's chicken noodle soup in a supermarket, would ask a ghost with a slashed throat if she was looking for the Band Aids?  

Doss does carry the absurd a little further when the ghost then appears to Daisy's apprentice as a face on a piece of ginger root to ask for help.  Sarah is so shocked she throws the ginger root away, knocking over a stack of Vidalia onions.  Yeah, I chuckled, but I had to wade through a lot of unfunny pages to get there.

Doss' writing is often funny but often flakes off into "dear reader" territory.  Again, while sometimes snide or funny, he is just as often rambling and pompous.  Pat Stoltey's cozy mysteries have more excitement than I've found in the first half of the book.  Think I'll be skimming for Daisy's scenes before the book goes on the trade pile.

Not that I've been tempted, but guess I'll stick to either first or third person viewpoint.  Wish I could write humor though.

Progress:  Not.  Oh, I've been revising my fingers off enough to make my back complain.  Still, Emma is stuck at chapter 26.  I've been slipping in various sentences here and there to supposedly heighten the excitement.  Also, have been looking for the scene that my main critiquers objected to.  Couldn't find it on my first run through of the chapter before I gave up and went down to read.  Maybe, I had already revised it.  I hope.

Thought I'd be done with this revision by the end of January.  Now I'm beginning to doubt it.

Trivia:  Nothing going on worth mentioning.    

Monday, January 18, 2010

Living Dangerously ...

Lessons from My Reading:  Am going to be brave and go for broke.  During the Christmas excesses, I allowed myself to buy any book I thought interesting -- including two hardback mysteries by a friend.  (With luck, she'll stay a friend.)  So, here goes my impressions of Pat Stoltey's The Prairie Grass Murders which I think is Pat's first published book.    

Yeah, to put you out of your suspense, I liked it even though I had a few nit-picks.  The biggest:  While I liked her using a deprivation clairvoyant for a secondary character (Willie, the MC's brother), I think she could have have given a sharper delineation of how it happened in the first chapter.  In two sentences or less, of course.

Basically, Stoltey's rolls through the story's three acts without slowing down, but it's a gentle ride in spite of two murders.  (Is that what they mean by a "cozy"?]  There are twists and turns, but I liked the ending.  Rather than the big confrontation scene, she drags the solution on until one of the suspects moves in next door to the MC (that's from Illinois to Florida).  Even better, the MC side-steps the co-conspirator's revenge.  [Which, I assume didn't bother the MC over much.]

Progress:  Really am concentrating on Emma, but  the manuscript keeps growing.  Last week, I had six chapters to go.  This week I have eight.

Have spent the last three days reworking one chapter with major flaws.  It's now two chapters after I took care of the questions critique partners asked.  Like my adventurers found their quarry much too fast and with little effort.  Tonight I hope to polish my revisions.

What's taking so long?  Well, I'm juggling changes in four different chapters.  Seem to have this fixation that chapters are supposed to flow smoothly ... even if I fall flat on my face. 

Have I mentioned that critique partners are worth their weight in gold?

Demons. (or Gargoyles, Whatever).  I think the ejections have started invading my in box. Got two today.

Trivia:  Granted there's serious stuff happening today, but we decided to celebrate Winnie the Pooh Day by going out to eat lunch at an Scots-themed restaurant.  A little dose of  innocence can't hurt you, can it?

Haiti.  Just thought I'd say, I'm enjoying the improvement on the delivery of the news.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Something Different

Lessons from My Reading:  Just finished a wonderful book, Faeries of the Celtic Lands, that the old man picked up at a bookstore over Christmas.  [Author: Nigel Suckling.  Press: Church Farm House, Wisley, Surrey, AAPPL Artist's and Photographers' Press Ltd.  ISBN 13: 9781 904 332749]  Sort of looks like it's self-published, but it's an easy-to-understand discussion of the historical development of faery lore.  Best.  It puts the legends of the Tuatha de Danann in a nice and neat linear historical perspective.

World building is always a problem in writing fantasy.  Wished I had the book when I started Emma -- for when she arrived in Faery.  The book is a convenient one stop source if you want to include faeries or fairies in your WIP.  [If you want more suggestions on world building, check out the link to N. A. Sharpe's blog, Realms of Thought.]

What I liked best with the book was the correlation of the various names given to the same entities in different ethnic groups -- Irish, Welsh, Cornish, Scots, and sometimes Breton.  When I think of the hours I spent last year correlating the varies kinds of fairies, from trooping to solitary, as research for Emma, I turn sort of green.  Five books worth.  (Also gathered from the old man's library.  One of the benefits of being married to a guy interested in folklore.) -- Fortunately, I got the perspective right though I stretched a bit on making the spriggans the villains.

While I'm talking about it,  Flora Celtica: Plants and People of Scotland by William Milliken and Sam Bridgewater [Edinburgh: Birlinn Limited, 2004.  ISBN13: 978 1 84158 303 7] was another book I found immensely helpful with world building.  This time, the Marches of my Half-Elven which I've probably referred to my Mariah.  This is the 400,000+ word glop I would like to turn into a series someday.  --  First, I must figure out how to revise all the beginner mistakes.  [Did anyone hear me say "trunk novel"?]

Progress:  Not much.  Emma is coming down the revision stretch.

Critiquing.  I'm caught up except for the run-throughs.   Maybe I'm insecure, but I feel like I have to scan through my critiques a second time to make sure my comments are on target.

Trivia:  Haiti.  Am getting a little tired of the repetitive reporting ... even from the BBC.  Have any of the reporters left Port au Prince to report on other communities yet?  Granted the roads are sh*t, but isn't that what Land Rovers are for?  No one has a 4-wheel drive that can get to the other communities?  Or, are gas supplies so limited reporters are limited to the distance they can walk?  Whatever, I seem to be missing the names of neighborhoods that the cameras are showing in the backgrounds even with the atlas in front of me.

Doesn't any one of the hundreds of aid groups already in Haiti have generators they can fire up at night?  Were the Haitians, even in the middle class neighborhoods, so impoverished they don't have shovels and pry bars?

I keep contrasting the images of peasants in other countries after earthquakes rescuing their neighbors.  Doesn't anyone in Port au Prince have a basic tool kit.

Also, the fat and sassy reporters seem to be grandstanding while the people are suffering.  Granted they may be helping people behind the scenes.  Granted their publicity is raising funds. Granted, the reporters have "x" number of minutes to fill.  Too bad they fill them by repeating themselves. 

While I'm asking questions.  What are the officials in the other towns in Haiti doing?  Can there really be only one port capable of handling ships.  There are no fishing fleets from the other areas where make-shift unloading efforts can happen or can American ships only unload if cranes are available.  If heavy equipment is on the ground, why has the US Army created a second bush-type run way to allow more planes to land?

So much for my rant.  Guess I just wish the reporters were getting their hands a little dirty instead of standing around emoting.

PS, Addenda, or Whatever.  The news tonight concerning Haiti was more varied ... and shorter so we got some local news as well (even if it tended to bleed).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Nothing Day??

Lessons from My Reading:  Didn't accomplish much yesterday, but did finish Haddam's Cheating at Solitaire.  Looked at her rather sparse site this morning out of curiosity and discovered this is her 25th Demarkian book.  Guess you don't have to get elaborate when you got that kind of track record.  Still, 25 books with the same people in the same world???  I wonder if that's why the de-emphasis on the Armenian community, though references are made to it.

(I have a soft spot for well drawn communities.  Maybe that's why I like Charlaine Harris so much.)

Back to the point, sort of.  Solitaire is a snide look at the teen celebrity factor.  ala Brittany and Lindsay or whomever I saw on magazine covers while stuck in the grocery check out lines and can't remember.  (Being a compulsive reader can be a bi**h.)  Still, it's the camera hordes that come off pilloried ... even though Haddam recognizes that they have to make a buck.

The plot unfolds against the background of rampaging paparazzi.  As for the construction of the book, there was a part 3.  The prologue introduced the characters as they wandered about Margaret's Harbor, small isolated island community where a movie was being shot.  Part 1 introduced Demarkian (with the preparations for his upcoming wedding), took care of the first murder, and presented the first red herring.  Part 2 introduces Demarkian to the town and ends with the second murder/death/red herring.  Part 3 wraps it up with the loner islander being the culprit of the first murder with the other stuff being complications.  The epilogue sets up the simple wedding of two of the characters as a contrast to the Demarkian's upcoming wedding spectatucular.  All in all, I'd  put this in the common "three act structure".

Frankly, I found the book a small disappointment.  I had the culprit (The term villain doesn't fit here.) tagged in the prologue when Haddam was introducing everything in Margaret's Harbor because he was the only one that fit the profile.  The tension was reduced because of it.  The paparazzi did destroyed one crime scene in a rather grotesque manner, but they were not a murderous horde pillaging the city.  Mostly, they just made lives inconvenient.

Progress:  As I said I didn't accomplish much.  Did finish all the run throughs for revising one chapter of Emma (the new additional chapter 19.)  Was a page into the second run through on chapter 20 when I realized my brain was mush.  So, I played a couple games of spider solitary and went down and read.

Critiquing.  Did get one critique done.  Now have to read through it again.  Two more to go for this week. 

Trivia:  Actually, it's not trivia.  Haiti is so terrible that it got into my wallet as well as the local food bank.  

When the US economy turned sour,  I decided to concentrate my contributions in one place.  Since the conservative good old boys of my county have a problem admitting poverty is a problem, even for working people, I decided on feeding locals.  I'd hate to come face to face with a hungry kid when walking to indulge in coffee.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Watching the Slow Carousel

Lessons from My Reading:  Still ploding along with Jane Haddam's Cheating at Solitaire.  Don't get me wrong.  The book's slow reading because there's so much in it.  Location background.  The characters interacting with each other and their heads.  Then, there's the murder mystery.  Somewhere in all the movement, clues are hiding. 

(Sometime I'm going to have to do a little research to see if real murders are as interesting as fictional ones.  Also, how the number of fictional murders compares to the real murder statistics.  The schemed ones.  Not the stupid or emotional ones.)

One thing made me pause in my reading.  The divisions of the book.  The prologue I understood.  Then, Haddam has a Part I and II.  I can be generalized as more character introduction, including detective Demarkian.  II seems to be concentrating on Demarkians reaction to all the significant characters.  I flipped through the pages and didn't notice any Part III, though there is an Epilogue.  I don't understand dividing the book like that.  Seems to me following the story from beginning to end is simpler.

Did like the assigning of numerals to the changes in point of view within the chapters though.  Made as much sense as using the "###" convention.

Progress:  Emma.  Am half way through my revision.  Also, writing a lot of notes to myself about things I need to do in upcoming chapters.  I find the revision process fascinating ... sometimes I cut out whole paragraghs because they sit like a rock in the narrative flow.  Fewer times I add one.  Always I look to replace a bunch of verb parts (to be forms mostly) with one verb.

Emma's paused on the edge of entering Faery, and I'm dreading revising the next section.  How do you make a magical place unique and different.  My critiquers have already said I don't convey enough sense of wonder.  But then, Emma is a rather phlegmatic character.  --  Think selling the book will rest on how well I accomplish the above.

Trivia:  Watched a rerun of Castle last night and am looking forward to Monday's new episode.  I like the way Castle's family life frames the detection part of the story line. 

Thursday, January 7, 2010

It Snowed ...

Lectures from my Reading:  Have gotten all the way into Jane Haddam's Cheating at Solitaire to page 120-something.  As I said before, it's a dense read.  Not only are her paragraphs long, but the sentences too.  I didn't do a readibility analysis on the text (Too lazy, and I don't think it's important enough for the effort.), but I'm betting it's way up in the upper high school grades.  --  (I naturally write about the sixth-seventh grade level with short paragraphs.)

Example from when Haddam is describing a media feeding-frenzy (which I found funny):  "And Al Jazeera," Stewart said blandly.  "Great story about the decadence of the West with a great excuse to run pictures of girls in their underwear."  --  (That was a quote from dialog.  Note she got away with the dreaded adverb.)

Haddam must of had great fun poking (skewering ?) the celebrity scene complete with legitimate news and the paparazzi chasing the same non-story.  No chihuahuas as yet, but I think they've all been exported to Colorado to find normal homes.  (Local readers know that Denver shelters have been getting shipments of unwanted chihuahuas from LA for adoption.)

As always, the writing is for savoring as Haddam puts her characters on a POV carousel, each commentary inching the action forward.  I know the clues are embedded in each character's soliloquy, but they're rather difficult to find.  So far, I've caught only one dissatisfied loner who might meet the culprit profile.

Progress:  Emma.  Am up to chapter 10 and should get more done today.  No TV programs I want to watch tonight, outside the news.  Did get critiquers comments transferred too.  *ducks head in embarrassment at the mistakes*  (Honest, I did proof the stuff before I submitted.)

Critiquing... Got caught out doing a bunch of stupid mistakes.  Maybe not stupid, but things I know I shouldn't do ... or know better ways of doing.  --   I wonder if anyone has ever written a marketable book making every craft error imaginable.

Maren ... I've given up on actually trying to draft the first chapter.  My brain can't handle the two projects at once.

Trivia:  Chickened out of driving fifteen miles in the snow to have breakfast with a friend.  We rescheduled for lunch tomorrow.  The old man is amusing himself chasing a persistent squirrel out of our linden tress.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Seeking An Launching Pad

Lectures from My Reading:  I hear over and over how people hate prologues.  Then,  Jane Haddam has a 48-page one in Cheating at Solitaire -- describing possible suspects wandering through an afternoon until she ends with the discovery of the murder victim.  

Next, she "starts" chapter one back on Cavanaugh Street (in a former Armenian ghetto in Philadelpha) with Gregor Demarkian, her detective, wondering how he can avoid the preparations for  his wedding to Bennis Hannaford, with whom he's been living and solving murders with for years.  The fussiest of his wedding preppers is tired of his fidgeting and suggests he go find a police department that has a murder they can't solve.  The book is off and running.

(I'm looking forward to a lovely read.  But, Haddam's writing is dense so it'll take me longer than most books.  We're talking page long paragraphs here.)

Still, Haddam has given me a possible idea for starting Maren with multiple viewpoints as a way to fill in a lot of backstory since her being shoved through a portal to earth starts the story.  I don't think I'm going to set up a series with Maren as the mystery solver,  but it may help me launch the chapters in my first draft.  Wonder how many people I can turn off by that.  --  Oh.  It's all in the execution, AWer's say.  Now I have to wonder about writing it right or executing my chances of getting the finished project published.

Progress:  Emma.  Revised chapter 6.  Wishing I wrote faster.

Maren.  Thinking more than anything else, but taking some notes.  Have to go back and try to clean my second card table so I have more room to spread out my notes...

Critiquing.  Am behind for the local group which meets Wednesday night ... in a predicted snow storm.  Waiting for a new chapter from my on line critiquer.  Decided I'm too busy and not ready for a beta reader.

Trivia:  Enjoying the same old rut.  Chiropractor on Tuesdays so I can sit at my computer and still unbend when I get up.  More important.  I'm meeting with a website person to polish my blog.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

In My Comfortable Rut

What My Reading's Telling Me:  Finished Victoria Hanley's Violet Wings.  Must say I liked it better than other books of hers I read.  And, not only because of the short chapters.  Hanley has an interesting take on faery and a neat, non-conforming main character, Zaria, who ends up endowed with the highest level of magic to the consternation of the fairy establishment.  (Sounds like a cliche, but it isn't.)

Though she doesn't go into much over-explanation/description in the story line,  I'm assuming her fairies are human sized from Zaria's experiences in the human world.  Also, liked the way the back story was handled by quotes from a "history" text.
 
Hanley uses total desperation to free Zaria from the climatic confrontation.  The villain has Zaria confined in a Troll-magiked robe unable to use her wand's magic and all her friends give testimony against her as the villain manipulates the crowds and council.  In short, everything evil is Zaria's fault, and it is assumed the villain wants Zaria's magic.  More important, Hanley neatly foreshadowed the crucial pieces of information that free Zaria in the historian's discussions of food and the symbiosis of human and fairy worlds.

The wrap-up leaves a huge gateway open for a sequel.  I hope it's the book Hanley's been revising.  Though I'm cringing at the thought of buying another hardcover book.

Progress:  Emma.  Still revising.  At Chapter 4 still.  But I find I'm going over each chapter at least three times.  

Also, cleaning my "desk" (two card tables set together).  Only one of them is piled with print-outs and notes now.  I have a waste basket full of recycling the next time we go.  

Trivia:  Didn't do any work last night.  Watched a re-run of Castle.
Find I'm reading Jane Haddam's Cheating at Solitaire, with all it's rich characterization.  One down from the to-read pile.  Some day I should read all her Demarkian mysteries in sequence.  Won't be soon since they are scattered all over my disorganized book shelves.

Friday, January 1, 2010

In the Groove???

What My Reading Tells Me:  I forgot to mention something in my last post.  I took a YA fiction class from Victoria Hanley last year (2009).  I learned almost enough to know what I don't know ... if that makes any sense.

Anyway, on to the structure of Violet Wings.  The book has my favorite kind of protagonist/main character -- a non-conforming achiever.  All three of my kids fit the slot.  My friends' kids did too.  (Some of my favorite memories are of coffees where we dissected the public schools lack of support and understanding of our darling weirdos.)  

In Violet Wings, Zaria, the main character, ends up with an extraordinary amount of magic as does her self-centered friend.  More important, the friend is set up to complicate the story arc in several ways at the beginning, including contacts with forbidden humans.  You just know the kid's going to be up to her violet wings in hot water, -- or is that iron?  The first third of the book sets up most of the characters (I think.), and the action hints at a number of coming problems.  

In the middle of the book, the problems come crashing down on Zaria.  Also, the real antagonist appears from among the annoying authority figures.  The villain seems to have something to do with the disappearance of Zaria's family in spite of being a fairy council member.  More important she tries to control Zaria's learning how to use her magic.  

Only, sneaky sneaky Zaria has a hidden talent -- the ability to work spells independent of the archaic language formulas which only the villain is supposed to teach her.  (Wouldn't Harry Dresden love that!  No correspondence course Latin.)

The last third?  I'm still reading, but I'm looking forward to an interesting confrontation with Zaria, humans and the villain.  (Unwanted bills sucked up my time, but I still got the minimum revisions done.  I'm just sitting here wondering why I can see the structure in Hanley's book but am having problems seeing it in Emma. )

Progress:  Emma.  Have stumbled over the block presented by Chapter 3 without landing on my face, I think.  Problem?  It's the transition chapter from Grandmama's to new town.  Also have to convey a feeling of menace while introducing Hardscrabble. -- One consolation: a critique partner did see at least a hint of  foreboding.

I can just hear everyone screaming:  start the book with chapter three.  Only Chaps 1 and 2 set up Emma's antagonism for her grandmother, and the reason why she takes off into the hills with possible enemies later on.  ... So, what is a novice writer to do?  I'm leaving Chaps 1 and 2, like they are.

Demons:  Haven't heard a squeek.  As if I expected to over the holidays.  Hopefully, I'll slip in at the beginning of the line and get read before the agents get too yawny.

Maren:  Setting up my characters with their auras.  I'm going to try writing a fantasy thriller.

Have the first chapter in process ... with the protagonist in the hospital with main helper/interpreter watching with her knitting needles slithering away.  Madame LaFarge, anyone?  Only Faithful Alice Sweet is one of the good guys.  Also, I think waking up in a hospital bed is a cliche.

Short Stories.  Don't think I mentioned them, but I wrote several short and flash fiction pieces last year.  (One of which was the chopped prologue of Dark Solstice.)  All were gather mold at publishers.  Sent some of status queries, one of which hadn't any record of receiving  my story.  So, I resent.

Trivia:  New Year's Organizing.  New Year's Eve:  We did the recycling and took stuff to Goodwill, but didn't clean the linen/towels closet.  Got rid of some books to the Friends of the Library too.

Think we'll go out to eat for New Year's day.  I'm tired of eating leftovers.  Only we'll end up with leftovers if we eat out since the old man and I can never agree on what we want to eat.