Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Twisting the Reader's Expectations

When Excalibur landed on John Taylor's Nightside table, I expected  A Hard Day's Knight would be the lead-in to a mini-series within a series. The first novel: Excalibur finding where King Arthur might be, then finding King Arthur, and last, the grand battle against some evil or other. Simon R. Green took care of all the options in one book in his usual chuckle-out-loud style.

The book was the perfect book to read while I was too sick to cope with Carol Berg's dense novels and too aware to wadtch TV. Actually, I went from sleeping to watching a few True Blood DVDs to reading Green. Was slower than usual, but I got the book read. 

One of the things I liked best in this book was Green's use of portals from one imaginative world to the next.  Not only does Green have London hosting the Nightside, but the whole world of the descendents of the Knights of the Round Table. Nightside is also the gateway to many other worlds, curtesy of the Doormouse. Green also managed to eliminate elves by sending them to a new un-inhabited world where they can fight among themselves in peace -- after Puck kills Queen Mab, that is.

So, writers be warned. Queen Mab is finally dead. I wonder if Jim Butcher's heard?

Do have one bitch about the book. I saw the book in several places but never bought it because the first chapter was familiar. I thought I'd read the book already. Luckily, before I went into the hospital I picked it up to maybe send it too a friend. Ended up reading the book myself, and will keep it if I can find the rest of my Green books on my chaotic bookshelves.

Was going to spend my afternoon, working on a new story. Guess where I am ... fiddling with my blog. Think it's because I'm feeling a little guilty about not writing my review of A Hard Day's Knight  on Sunday or Monday. I'm really toying with the idea of only blogging once a week -- at least until my energy level re-appears. Problem? I notice my readership drops off.

Have you wondered about the readership levels of your blog? Do you wish you had more participants? [If so, you're more gregarious than I am.]  Whatever, if you're looking to increase your blog traffic, you might check out Lisa Dale's blog about Six Ways to Resuscitate a Dying Author Blog.

I have been reading lots of blogs. Perhaps, the one I like best was Jessica Faust's Is Your Promotion Making Sense?  I savored its permission not to social network. [Actually, that's a twist on what she said. I think she was really saying that you need to be sure your efforts are productive.   

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Writing and Social Networking

Do you wonder why you continue writing or social networking in spite of all the frustration and rejection? Is you answer among Pat Stoltey's reasons? Over at the Chiseled Rock, she listed Ten Things About Writing Most Writers Don't Love all of which is true. On the other hand, I'm feeling positive. All the projects I'm working on progress. Why do you persist in writing when so much can go haywire?

Why do I write?
My brain itches when I don't.

While you're thinking about why you're writing, a better question might be: Why are you blogging ... or fiddling with all the other forms of social networking. L. M. Preston did a blog on the benefits she finds in blogging. Can you say the same ... or is it a waste of time?  For a wider picture of how social networking scene can help a writer, check out Allison Pang's blog on the Buzzing of Bees.

Social networking and reading other writers' blogs can yield an unexpected chortle. Background, I've submitted my There Be Demons manuscript to a publisher, within which there is much swearing, mostly in Spanish. [Yeah, I swear as much in Spanish as I do in English, only I don't remember much Spanish, normally.]

Anyhow, while scanning through the opening hooks of my blog list, I discovered Amanda Bonilla's blog at Magic & Mayhem: The Nuances of Swearing. Seems to me that how a character swears would be a great way to delineate them from others in the story. Think what kind of girl would throw f-bombs right and left.

[My favorite expletive is sh*t, and has been since I changed my first child's first diaper at home.
Yeah, motherhood converted from the f-bomb.]

I wrote the above before I ended up in the hospital for 
exploratory surgery on a bleeding kidney.
End result. Best possible result from the kidney [no cancer cells found in biopsy], but I'm on a year watch to see if everything stays find. As usual, the hospital stay was worse than the surgery. Slowly, getting back to speed. Did get edits back to the publisher for Pat, the Pet -- a color-a-comic pre-primer.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Avoiding Pitfalls: Stuff Writers Should Know

Let's talk about some pit falls of writing.

Since I'm dyslexic as a coot, I often get thrown by book cover typefaces ... most often at Smashwords where there are a lot of self-publishers. Bottom line: I can't read the type. The author loses since I don't pick up the book of the shelf or click the link unless the cover art is super-stunning. If you want to be sure your book cover is readable check out what Joel Friedlander has to say in his blog: 5 Great Fonts for Book Covers.  

 Once you have any sort of web presence, you should check what's appearing under your name -- regularly. If you come up with the shock of someone else using your name or tagging your name, you need to protect it. You do have resources. The Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes blog did a bit recently on removing internet tags from your name. Maybe a good thing to bookmark it. I did.

In my last blog, I mentioned that the Regency was one of my favorite time periods. My least favorite, though I've read and enjoyed many books set there, the Victorian period both early and late, is my least favorite. The hypocrisy sticks in my craw. Why? The Victorianst gives a good example why in a posting of a polemic ranting against a man marrying an irreligious woman from the period. Which makes me wonder if a writer can write in a period where they are uncomfortable.

Even though I don't particularly like the period, mystery writer Anne Perry has drawn me back again and again to her world set in the Victorian period with her Monk and Pitt series. But then, one of the main themes of those books is a strong woman fighting against convention. Of course, Perry writes great mysteries wrapped up in lush historical detail.

Perry writes in series, which is sort of a norm for mystery writers, and now, other genres seem to have followed the pattern, especially the paranormal. This makes sense to me because you have most of your characters set up before you start writing. You just have to make them grow.

Seems to me that for a character to grow, s/her must be solidly visualized. Gail Carriger posted a series of pictures on her blog of the queen of her Westminster vampire hive. Check out the Countess of Nadasdy and see if you can visualize your characters so vividly. Tumblr might help.

Can't believe I came up with another justification for spending less time with my own writing.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Appealing Historical Settings

What historical period appeals to you most? 

The Regency, or perhaps more accurately the Enlightenment, has been my favorite time period since I was old enough to be aware of such things, though I like novels in any well-developed historical period. I empathize with the mind-set, but more, I ended up liking English/Scots politics in spite of their rigid class system. 

Don't know where I read it, but the French of the time were doomed in my affections because of their taxation policies. The British taxed the aristocracy by the number of the windows the owned [hard to avoid] while the French didn't tax their aristocracy at all. 

The fact was enough to turn me into a froggie-phobe, 
in spite of a thin Marlon Brando playing Napoleon in Deserie [sp?].
Then, the French indulged in a rather bloody revolution ...
[ah, the twists and turns of politics, which I'll now ignore.]

This high-falooting introduction is my justification for why I often choose "mindless" Regency romances as an escape. Of course, I'm very picky about the authors I read ... they have to be historically accurate no matter what fantasy they're weaving, sorry, writing. 

None did/does this better than Georgette Heyer.  During the 70s, I managed to collect all her titles in paperback, though I have since culled some of her lesser works. [I never cared much for her mysteries either.]

Over the Christmas book-buying-binge, my son discovered Jennifer Kloester's Georgette Heyer's Regency World, a combination history and trip down memory lane. Kloester's book is a social history of Regency Britain, told through the situations and actions of the characters in Heyer's novels. A light, fun read.

How good a writer was Heyer? Well, I don't think I've read more than a couple of her books in the last decade, yet I was able to recall and add details in Kloester's discussion of the Regency social milieu. How good is Kloester's book? With the excellent its many illustrations, I think it's a great little reference work to quickly check details if you write in the Regency period.

All this has me thinking about somehow combining the Regency mores with the Fae in some way -- sort of a juxtaposition of folk beliefs and scientific reasoning. I put that interesting thought in my idea book -- though it's not as intriguing as having Jesus Christ and Bridgett, the Irish goddess, encountering each other as the only two "humans" who ever turned water into alcohol, [wine and beer respectively].

While I'm confessing, I must admit I just finished Stephanie Laurens' The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae, the concluding Cynster novel about the adventures off Martin Cynster's three daughters. After a relatively weak second book in the series, Capture came on strong with all the elements that keep Laurens on the best seller lists. [Yeah, I think I read all the Cynster books although I know I've traded some because they were too trite, slight, weak, ???] 

I like the way Laurens' uses strong women to "tame" strong men while they solve a mystery together. Under all the emotional goop, Laurens presents interesting female/male partnerships in an era where they weren't the norm. It's the strength of the mystery that determines whether I keep a book or not.

Of course, if you like sex scenes that's an added draw in Lauren's books -- though I find them a little over the top when she bogs down describing the "glory" of love-based sex. Of course, if you don't like sex scenes, you can skip them.