Magical Fantasy Stories, Both Light & Dark

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Showing posts with label fiction writing lessens. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fiction writing lessens. Show all posts

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Setting as Character

The lovely thing about mysteries is they take you to lovely places, and more important, they give you a feeling for what it's like to live there. That's one of the charms about cozy mysteries. Whatever, I know that it's true for this anthropology-trained writer. I went all warm and fuzzy when I discovered Morag Joss's Bath-located mystery, Funeral Music, in a used book store. It's set in one of my favorite places: Bath, England.

Sara Selkirk, a world class cellist, is lucky enough to live in Bath. She's also unlucky enough to have lost her creative spark after her husband dies. On the night the a friend convinces her to play at a reception at the Pump Room, the museum director of the Roman Baths is murdered. Selkirk soon finds herself in the middle of the investigation not only because the detective investigating the crime is one of her cello students but she knows many of the suspects.

As she travels through the tangle of personalities, the city of Bath lurks in the background. You even get the feel for what it's like to shop at a British supermarket as well as taking an armchair visit to some major tourist attractions. The story line's also a nice journey because so many of the characters become red herrings. Joss' characterization skills transfers well to the suspects because the most likely, unsympathetic character isn't the perp. At the same time, the stealth suspect has a better motivation for the crime. -- I'd say more, but that'd be a spoiler.

Now that I've written this, I'm hoping I can find the posting spot again on the new Google+.
The links below are old, but still useful.

Busy?

Need some more excuses to social network? Cheryl Reif has posted a poll on "How Much Time Do You Spend Online".  The poll will make you think, but her summary of why you should spend time online plus her readers' comments are food for thought. 

Think social networking is just for your amusement? Don't have the confidence in your writing to think you don't need to social network yet. E. J. Wesley has some words for you on getting your game on.

And, then, there's your website.
You do have one, don't you? 
It's one of the keys to building your platform as an author.

As you might guess, I've been vaguely thinking about my website where the Far Isle Half-Elven roam. No revisions are going to happen to my website anytime soon. Too busy editing Dark Solstice for an agent. If you have your website up, you might check out Mark Lieberman's blog 10 Quick and Easy Upgrades You Should Make to Your Website Today.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Writing Quandries on Marketing the Non-Commercial

The Northern Colorado Writer's conference is coming up [March 30-31] which means I have to decide if I'm going to pitch or not. Bummer, because I'm not particularly interested in the pressure of commercial publishing. -[No, that doesn't mean I don't promote.]- Have a possible publisher of my MG manuscripts, but that leaves my Half-Elven in the breech without only my weak marketing skills to sell it. To add to the quandary, a fantasy agent is coming to the conference. Decisions. Decisions.

 Don't think I have to worry. I don't think the Half-Elven are really commercial enough. [Do I waste the agent's time or not? That is the question.] Or, to phrase it differently: I'm not commercial enough. Still, the Half-Elven haven't bored fickle-me yet after writing in their world for years.

If you're at the looking-for-an-agent-stage, you might read Rachelle Gardner's article: Is Your Book Good, Great or Hot? It gives writers an insight into how and why agents make decisions. [Yeah, if I pitch, I'll be going in, expecting to be rejected.]

Not commercial or hot enough? Another blog I read on "strong women" emphasized why my stuff isn't commercial ... even though I write strong women characters, I think.  [My son says Mariah doesn't kick enough ass, though.]

Anyway, check out J. C. Andrijeski's blog: "Strong" Female Characters and Why So Many Bug Me. It's one of the best thought out blogs I've read in a long time and continues my previous comments about "strong" women.

The above link is an example of why I like Twitter and visit it a couple times a day. I discover interesting points of view now that my following's inching towards 300. Once I skim though all the promotion stuff [ Yeah,I'm guilty of posting my Half-Elven stories there too.], I stumble upon retweets or links to information I might miss otherwise.

Hanging in the same pack can reduce your exposure to new ideas, however much you enjoy them. Preconceived notions are limiting and sometimes wrong. Had to chuckle when I crossed with a Galley Cat blog, thanks to Tamela Buhrke. It's a great listing of how many one star reviews besting selling authors gathered.  


No. Bad reviews aren't the reason I think I'm not commercial. My worst review was two stars for the free Gorsfeld short story. Complaint? The story was too short ... even though it's free!  Speaking of free. I've permanently made "Cavern Between Worlds" free too. Hopefully, both stories will lure more people to buy Taking Vengeance -- if I can break out of the "writer track".

And, remember. You don't have to have an e-reader to read an e-story. You can download both into your computer at Smashwords.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Importance of Dead Ends

Okay. I'll admit it. I watch Castle religiously. It's one of the few TV programs that I allow to interrupt my writing. Why? Because the plots always lead to several dead ends as the detectives try to solve the crime. Makes it interesting as you try to second guess them. More important, I think the exercise applies to all fiction, not just mysteries. Your characters -- primary and secondary -- have to have to fail at reaching their goals before they succeed at the end.

Even though it's something of a ghost written-con, I still enjoy ABC's Castle novels. Just picked up Naked Heat, where the Castle clone, reporter Rook, is doing a profile of a gossip maven, who is billed as the most feared muckraker in Manhattan and who gets killed. The Beckett clone, Nikki Heat, starts stepping on celebrity toes to solve the murder. Character after character gets fingered as a suspect until they're ruled out. It was a fun romp, adequately written, but I couldn't see whether it crackled with sexual tension. Eh, consenting adults occasionally end up in bed. What's new?

Dead ends and red herrings make a mystery. Sexual tension, I don't know so much.

--[That's why I wouldn't make a good romance writer. Even though Mariah and Ashton, my main Half-Elven heroes, have the hots for each other, I "close the door on their activities".

As my son wrote of his recent critique of my current Half-Elven WIP, "Mariah and Ashton should be more passionate (weren't they horny elves??). How's he pleasuring her?? Can elves give us any tips?"

I do better at typos than tips.]--

Need a tip on getting out of the procrastination habit? Amy Spencer has a tip at her blog Real Simple: How to Stop Procrastinating.

My suggestion for avoiding procrastination is develop some writing buddies.  I find they do more than anybody to keep my fingers on the keyboard. Don't know where to start? Try a writer's conference near you -- if your local library or independent bookstore doesn't help writer's network.

L. D. Masterson has some good ideas on what to look for in a recent blog on writer's conferences. I'll be going to the Northern Colorado Writer's conference this year. Looks like they have a good slate of presenters this year. 

I'm going even though I don't have anything to pitch, unless I push the Half-Elven. Last year, I pitched an idea of a Color-a-Comic reader, a set of stories limited to short vowels only with the color book simple. Just got word that the publisher is scheduling it for June, 2012. Just have to get the contract back with their signature on it.

However I've improved my craft skills over the last couple years, I still need help. 

Trivia 

I make no secret about being a cheapskate, penny pincher or a saver. If you also have a frugal vein, I recommend you read Mariah Zannini's new book: Smart Budgets for Busy People. If you've got kids, they'll thank when they become adults for the habits you instill today.  -- Recycling can become a habit ... even for your writing.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Snagging a Reader

'Tis no secret. A thousand-and-one things clamor for people's attention. Don't think retirement will bring you the slow, easy life. I've never been so busy as I am now -- even when I worked, volunteered, and raised kids. Writers must work double time and weigh in with a tuna-hook to grab and keep my attention.

So, how's an author to grab my attention? A cover helps ... in both bookstore and scrolling down the new listings at the e-stores.But, the real hooker is an opening and situation that first grabs me and then keeps my interest. 

That said, I'm reviewing Mike Mullin's Ashfall, which starts out with a teen-aged boy throwing a sullen temper tantrum. I'm no fan of jerky teens, so the questions is: Why did I buy the hardcover, something I hardly ever do? The even bigger question is:  Why did I abandon my read-a-paragraph-here-and-a-couple-paragraphs-there pattern? Yeah, I sat down and mostly read through until I finished the book in one day. -- A terrible waste of money if you want your book to entertain you for a week.

First the opening two sentences: "I was home alone on that Friday evening. Those who survived know exactly which Friday I mean."  

The book then tells the tale of how a sixteen-year-old snot survived the eruption of the Yellowstone [like the park] volcano and became a man in the "... post Friday world of ash, darkness, and hunger."  The action centers around his long journey on foot to follow his family's trip [a few hours by car] to the next state to visit relatives. Along the way, he encounters many survival techniques. Some good, and some not so good, in my opinion.

The cover of Mullin's book caught my eye in a local bookstore. It shows two teens, a boy and a girl, looking into a cracked, dusty mirror. The boy wipes a clean streak across the mirror face, to reveal an eye looking back at them. Dark, grey tones add to the feeling of menace, for maybe "death by ash".

Yes, I bought the book in the early afternoon, gave it a deeper checking out, and read until I had to fix dinner, all without going upstairs to do the social media thing. After coffee and the TV news, I made the choice to read instead of writing, something I sometimes do on Friday nights. In short, I read the book in "one sitting". -- What intrigued me so much? Well, my family has visited Yellowstone Park ofter, over the years, and I always felt uneasy on each visit. My sense of danger always rose there, even when just passing through.

One of the neat things about the book was the way Mullin planted his chapter hooks. He spent three chapters on the events of that Friday, 25 pages which included his house burning down. Here is the ending of Mullin's ending for chapter 3:

"Everything would be better tomorrow. I thought: a new day, a new dawn would have to be better than this.

I was wrong. There was no dawn the next day."

Yet, Alex survived and strengthened during his journey through this distopian world and even picked up a companion who saved his grits a few times. The companion's addition kept the book from sinking into a monotonous, teen-aged-boy, one-person point of view. Must admit the action would probably have kept me reading.

Yeah, I think this is an extraordinary book. If I did such things, I'd give Ashfall five stars.Even though this is a hard bound, it's well worth buying to study how Mullin constructs his pacing, complications, and surprises along the way. No, an e-book won't do -- unless you've a secret way to mark pages and make comments on an e-reader.

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Another take on pounding out 10,000 words-a-day by Zoe Winters at the Weblog of Zoe Winters. I like her steady writing approach. 

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Then, there's the glow I'm basking in. Just got another nice review for Taking Vengeance. Here's the tweet I posted about it. Or, is that share? Who cares about the terminology?

Swift ... clear motivations.Taking Vengeance. 22niel review: Info:

WolfSinger Press has even lowered the price on the ebook to $0.99. So, now's the time to buy it if you already haven't. It's at Amazon [USA and UK], Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble. Just search Theodoratus to find it. 

Remember: you don't have to have an e-reader to download e-publications. 
Just a computer ... and I know you have one. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

E-Publications: Are they Elitist?

While publishing trends are moving fast, I find the fact that parents continue to buy print books for reading to their kids comforting. Yeah, I find the overwhelming push towards e-publications disturbing. It makes reading, more and more, a past-time of the "haves", making those among the "haven'ts" do without -- except at school.

I can't think of anything more discouraging and limiting to a love for reading than to confine the excercise to the walls of the classroom.

Maria Zannini, keeper of the newsletter for the Online Writing Workshop for SF, Fantasy and Horror, set my mind along this track. She recently blogged about trends in publishing: The Apocalypse is Closer than You Think. All about e-readers and print trends -- which sent off this train of thought.

I'm finding the trend more than a little disturbing. See, I was one of the poor kids who got hooked into reading by cheap used paperbacks. The fantastic depiction on the cover [A. L. Merritt] attracted my attention at the army surplus store, back when the teachers still had me convinced I didn't know how to read. While my dad searched for the tool he needed, I spent my dime on the book. I still have the poor, battered copy as well as three other Merritt novels. I reread them regularly until when I decided I didn't like the way he portrayed girls. [Now, I re-read one or the other every other year.]

[A side note, the second novel I wrote was a counter to Merritt's need to rescue his beautiful female characters. My female character kept saving the male adventurer protagonist, and, I think, had a scar from getting too close to a knife. Too bad I lost the manuscript over time, but I do remember she had titian hair and green eyes. Wonder, if that was a cliche back then.]

I still have a hard time buying hardcover books, mostly because they don't fit into the chaos of my bookshelves. One hardback I recently bought: Mike Mullin's Ashfall -- about the consequences on a family after the volcano under Yellowstone Park blew its top.

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'Tis the season. I'm making Cavern Between Worlds available for free at Smashwords --
until the end of the season or someone tells me I can't offer it for free.
You don't have to have an e-reader to read it [or any other epub],
you can download it onto your computer ...
and I know you got one of those.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Getting the Most Out of the Short Stuff

Fiction Lessons:
Have had a couple short story collections sitting in the to-review pile [while I read a super-long mystery].  I enjoy reading anthologies for the mix of favorite authors and gaining new insights into characters I enjoy reading about.  1)  Unusual Suspects: Stories of Mystery and Fantasy edited by Dana Stabenow -- gave me a double fix of the two genres I read most.  2)  Songs of Love and Death edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois -- offered a potpourri of star-crossed lovers, all beautifully rendered by authors I seek out in the book stores.

One thought struck me as I read the stories:  how easy it was to watch the pieces of plot moving back and forth until the author resolved the problem --  happily or unhappily, as the case might be.  Sharon Shinn's short story, "The House of Seven Spirits" illustrates my point.  [in Unusual Suspects]

A lady, who was in the midst of a divorce, willingly moved into a haunted house since she couldn't see having a ghost hanging around was worse than living with a jerk while they tried to untie the knot.  Only she discovers the house contained seven ghosts, each with a different take on the murder/suicide that's the center of the story.  The clues lead you from one conclusion to another as the facts/interpretations are discovered.  You don't quite see them on the journey, but when the tale ends, you do. 

If you want to study how to develop plot twists, this story is a great primer.  It's short and, once you've read the story, it's easy to see under the magician's bandana.       

Web Promotion & Other Stuff:
Found a group blog about the intricacies of e-publishing from the readers/reviewer's point of view.  MarkG was looking for a e-horror to review without much success.  His adventures are an interesting read.  If nothing else,  his experiences gives writer's a heads-up on what not to do. 

He also made a comment about a beginning writer might have a salable novel if they removed the first three chapters.  I LOLed because I've done the opposite.  I removed the first three chapters and sold them.  The first Half-Elven novel still languishes.

A recent critiquing session spent a lot of time on description.  How much is enough?  Then, Mary Kole, an agent at the with the Andrea Brown Agency, did a blog on writing description.  If you're getting ready to revise, you might take a look to double check on some of the things agents look for.  As for me, I'm glad she sort of agreed with us.  --  No, we didn't cover all the same points but enough of them to cover the basics.

Then, while thinking of revising, you might check out Mac Wheeler's blog.  He gives a great picture that demonstrate the difference between "showing and telling".  It even puts "backstory" in its place.

Progress:
What constitutes "progress"?  I work on my stuff every day, but I'm revising.  I'm starting to get the writing itch, though.  I'm wondering what will pop out when I actually let go.  I've several ideas fermenting in my idea files which keep nagging me while I give Wiggles his "morning lap time".

Another annoying part of writing:  studying the markets.  Just got through I bunch of market round-ups looking for short story publications that are interested in the stuff I write.  What a time slurp.  Finding out who they are, what they pay/etc., on to the AW Water Cooler to check the rep, and try to get an idea of what they prefer.  Fast response times are appreciated.  --  I'm still in the process of doing the same for small fantasy publishers.

Actually, my writing time is getting eaten by my life.  A good friend, without children, went into Hospice care, and I'm one of the legal care monitors.  While that's under control with sadness, I'm feeling guilty about the AZ challange.  I just don't have time to blog every day -- even though I asked at two difference places to be removed from the list.  If anyone knows how to get me off the list so I'm not "blogging under false pretenses", I'd appreciate it.  Hey, Steve ... are you out there?

Trivia:
The fruit trees are budding under the bedroom windows, and the old man was feeling so romatic, he left the first dandelion of Spring on my plate.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Pause That Annoys

The book trailer saga complicated itself again.  Thought I had all the pieces together so that I could start on the thing so it'd be ready to to place it just before the novella is published.  1)  The publisher hasn't gotten back to me with answers on book cover and publication date.  2) The artist wants royalties.

Simple enough on the face of it, but it just means more work.

I want to write.

In the meantime, I'm editing "Dark Solstice", yet again.  About half done.  I've delete some verbiage that slowed down a couple scenes.  Bottom line:  It pays to let a manuscript lay between revisions.  You notice the clinkers better.

Now, since I don't have any emergencies screaming to be solved, I'm going to read blogs.  I may even leave some comments here and there.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Simplistic vs Tangled Plot Structures

Fiction Lessons:
Most of the books I read have linear plot lines.  Many consider such books simplistic even if the relationships among the primary and secondary characters are complicated.  Must say I rather prefer events to flow in one direction ...  with maybe some time outs for flashbacks.

Then, I read a book that a couple book-group friends praised:  New York Times Bestselling Author Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden.  The book started out with a lovely hook -- a small, pre-school English girl stranded on a boat heading for Australia and the ensuing events when she tries to determine her origins after she grows up.  In other words, a what-happened book instead of a who-done-it.

Most writers would use a nice linear structure to solve this mystery piece by piece, and the character would live happily or unhappily ever after.  Morton hops around in time like a skitterbug.   The time line jumps from pre-WWI to the 70s to the mid 2000s and back again.  In the end, it's the granddaughter who solves the true identity of the abandoned little girl [after she dies] and the dysfunctional family relationships that sent her on her voyage. 

Different sections explore the motives of each of the major characters  How did the writer do it?  With chapters written in different viewpoints in different times and "hatches" [#] to indicate breaks in the action within the chapters.

This all may sound rather lame, but I found the book a satisfying read ... though I doubt if I'd ever write anything that jumbled events [in an organized way] so often.  One thing bothered me though -- the curriculum questions at the back of the book.

Web Promotion and Other Stuff:
Cliches:  Ideas to avoid while writing.  So, why do I have four of them in one book manuscript.  {There Be Demons}  Whatever, I picked up a blog on Twitter by Elizabeth Briggs on major YA/MG cliches.  You might be interested in looking at it since it also applies to adult SF/Fantasy.

Got a lecture recently on how e-self-publishing is the way to go.  Amanda Hocking was given as one of the arguments why.  So, when Writer Beware had a link on Facebook,  I had to look.  You might like to look at her blog too, so I've included a link to her recent blog on her thoughts about self-publishing -- after she just signed with St. Martin's Press, one of the big print boysSounds like she's a writer instead of some icon.

Of course, if your going to promote you have to have something to market.  You have to create something real enough to engage the emotions of your reader.  Nancy Williams did a blog on the elements of Revenge recently.  It's not as simplistic as many writers construct it.  So, take a look at Nancy's comments and see if your characters measure up.

Last but not least, I just discovered why I get so confused about all the publishing possibilities.  Again thanks to Writer Beware, I found a link to a blog by Lynn Price, of Behler Publications, on how the various definitions in publishing are changing.  So, the next time you think writer's have it hard, publishers are in the same boat.  I don't think anyone really knows what's going to happen very far into the future.

Progress:
To add a discussion to e-publishing:  I've submitted "The Noticing One" to Untreed Reads.  Yeah, I totally expect a rejection.  The piece is probably too short [... even though they want short stuff ...] and maybe not written well enough.  It's been out only a couple of times ... and got a long explanation why the editor didn't buy it, so maybe there's hope of a sale. --  If so, that means I'll have two publications up in the e-o-shpere.  Why submit as a short story stand-alone?  Well, in the e-publishing it seems that if you have more than one offering, you get more sales.  [I assume that's if you've told some good stories.] 

Also got "Dark Solstice" out to Angry Robot books.  In case you hadn't heard, the British publisher was taking unagented manuscripts during the month of March.  Guess I'm sort of at the bottom of the heap.  Did re-edit the submitted chapters and was surprised at how well they stood up.  Made very few changes.  Maybe they'll ask for a full.  [That's the height of my ambition.] 

Can't wait to get back to revising Emma. [Psst.  I'll tell you my secret fault.  I downplay my VP characters' emotional reactions to the action, which means I add rather than delete.]

Trivia:
 Nothing much different is going on.  I'm just a little squirrel running in her wheel.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Moving Your Plot Character by Character

Fiction Lesson:
"The characters are cardboard.  The plot's so simplistic," people have complained to me for years about the fantasy I read.  I've never apologized for reading fantasy.  I enjoy it.  Never joined a literary book group either.  Maybe I'm a reverse snob, but I thoroughly enjoyed my private Anita Blake book fest the last week.  [I took a break from serious reading after attending the Northern Colorado Writers conference.]  

The books I read came from what might be called Laurell K. Hamilton's middle phase before Blake become an all out "sex machine" and where she's learning to control the various vampiric skills infecting her.  The books:  Blue Moon, Burnt Offerings, Cerulean Sins, and Incubus Dreams.

Sterotypes are difficult to remove from people's  minds, but I can't see where Hamilton's books are simplistic on any level.  Even some of her sex scenes take three chapters.

Let me count the ways the character groupings that interact with Blake to move Hamilton's plots forward:
     --  the main triad of Blake, Jean-Claude and Asher, who keep the vampires of St Louis safe from the big bad Vampire Council in Europe;
     --  the were-panther pard with Blake, Micah, and Nathaniel living together with others of the group wandering in and out of her house and Jean-Claude's businesses;
     --  the triad of Jean-Claude, Blake, and Richard Zeeman which is close to non-functional because of personal issues over loathing of being a werewolf, differing sexual parameters, and proper relationship roles among other things;
     --  as Jean-Claude's human servant and as her powers grow, Blake forms her own triad [vampiric servant - animal to call -"dinner"] with three other characters.

Each book develops aspects of these relationships as it progresses.  The different characters grow in each book.

You also have to add various friends and family who pop in and other of Hamilton's plots to complicate things.  Granted Hamilton has a series featuring the same character so there is a time line involved, but she has complicated Blakes these situations in each book she completes.

As if that's not enough, Hamilton develops other relationships that add texture to Blake's life.
    --  the animator business that supports Blake and the people involved with it;
    --  the miscellaneous vampires that form Jean-Claude's empire as the Master of the City of St. Louis and the various weres that guard them;
    --  the cops -- local, federal, and private [including Edward, the arms supplier] -- where Blake acts as the Executioner in her role of solving preternatural crimes;
    --  miscellaneous bad guys passing through St. Louis;
    --  various trips outside of town where she encounters new complications;
    --  the local werewolf pack where Blake has performed various roles through the books;
    --  an organization to protect the 'furry challenged" of St. Louis from hate crimes;
    -- the Vampire church that's run by a master vampire not affiliated with Jean-Claude; 
    -- and last by not least various members and servants of the European Vampire Council who show up regularly to cause consternation and mayhem.

Is Hamilton's fantasy world an anomaly?  I don't think so.  I think I could go through the same process with Karen Marie Moning, Patricia Briggs, and Charlaine Harris among others with the same results.

How does the structure of your books stand up to this standard?   I think the bottom line is that you're most likely to sell if your people live in a real world and interact with the other people within it.  The huge sigh of relief you heard was me.  I write middle grade ... so my world isn't as complicated as the adult world ... but it still needs to be real.

Promotion and Web Stuff:
I'm pulling the bags forward.  Don't have links today since the above was so long and I've been running out of time ... every day.

Progress:
I'm just about to combine two chapters of Emma to make the plot move faster.  Now my guilty conscience is wondering if that'll count as one or two chapters completed.

Got my short story, "The Noticing One", rewritten but still have to dink with it at least once again.  Then there's the pain of submitting it ... somewhere.  ...  Don't mean the rejections are painful.  It's going through the list of the various publications for their current requirements and deciding which one to send it too.

Trivia:
The Christmas cacti are blooming again.  Nice to have them joining the daffodils, squill, tulips, and crocus, even if they stay inside. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Finding Something to Read

The Read ...
Yeah.  I've been reading ... and putting the book down ... and reading ... and putting the book down.  Did I finish anything.  Well, yeah ... but the book I read puzzled the heck out of me.  What puzzled me more was the books I put down.  

I remember being an avid reader of Patricia Wentworth back in the day.  She had a British spinster sleuth in the Miss Marple vein.  She told a several good tales [it seemed from what I skimmed] about the vices of the gentry, but I couldn't get interested in them.  Maybe it was the amount of telling in the story line.  I'm guessing screen writing has had a greater influence on my reading than I thought.

What did I read?  C. S. Harris' When Gods Die which opens with Prinny [George the IV while his father was still alive] talking to and clutching a corpse.  The characterization was so sharply drawn, Harris drew me into her story of would-be revolutionaries capitalizing on the Napoleanic Wars, the main character/sleuth's discovery that his mother is still alive after he thought she'd died when he was a child, and other subplots that keep the action popping.  Harris really knows her Regency history, unlike a thousand other writers I can't name.  More interestingly, she gets her characters out of the drawing rooms and into the sewers ... literally. 

So why did this surprise me?  Well, I bought three books in the series on the basis of a review ... and put the first one on the to-trade pile without getting more than a couple chapters into the book.  Read the second that had been languishing at the bottom of the to-read pile.  Started to read the third, and it went on the trade pile.  There's a fourth where the MC solves a crime with the daughter of the MC's nemisis.  It looks intriguing, but I doubt if I'll go looking for it.  Stephanie Laurens did something vaguely similar in one of her later Cynster novels.  

Web and Other Stuff ...
A  Twitter link underlined one of the questions rotating in my mind.  What the heck should I blog about to interest people.  You might read Dawn Rae Miller's blog about:  you shouldn't be writing about writing.  Miller has some serious credentials on building platforms, so I think her opinion is worth thinking about.

If you've been pressed for time [like I have been], you might check out Brooke Favero over at The Writing Bug, the blog of the Northern Colorado Writers.  She's gleaned some good posts from the blogosphere from last week.

If you want a second opinion, you might also check out Patti Struble's blog, The Writer's Bump.  Patti offers her on take on the week in her Friday Mash-Up.

One last promotional thing:  N. R. Williams has been doing a blog book tour for her new fantasy book:  The Treasures of Carmelidrium.   You want an example of good promotion?  Go spend some time at Nancy's blog reading her posts and following her links.  She made me tired just twirling my mouse. 

Progress ...
The more I work, the behinder I get.  Or, at least it seems that way even though I finally figured out a framework and did the revision for another Renna's Tale.  Check it out.  It'll take you a lot less time to read it than it took me to figure out how to write it.

Had a 2000 word first chapter for Maren and was all set to jump into chapter two.  Only new ideas kept popping out of my brain.  Of course, I ended up making revisions as I inserted the new ideas into the text.  The chapter is now over 3,000 words long ... and I still have some scribbled notes for additions.
 
Trivia ...
Spent waaaaay too much time in nursing homes ... checking out the facilities.  At least, they let me out again. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Lure of One More Chapter

The Read ...
Loved Rebecca York's Day of the Dragon as it lured me to read one more chapter .. long after I should have gone to bed.  When your life's a time crunch, it's hard to do all you want to ... and that includes reading.  Seems the last two books I read were easy to put down.  Oh, they were interesting enough to pick up again.  But, when it came time to go to bed, I had no problems picking up a bookmark.

So, what was different about Day of the Dragon.  After all, I hadn't bought the previous book in the series even though I think I've read most of the books in the Marshall's [a family of werewolves who are fighting to form more supportive relationships with their women -- and a way to save their children from death when they reach the age to change.] world.  Well, the action begins at the begging with a couple of goons watching the arrival of the love interest/archeologist who might or might not have answers to the were-dragon main character's past.

The action picks up speed when the goons try to kidnap the archeologist, who strikes a magical chord in the "dragon's" soul [not unexpected a romantic suspense paranormal].  From there, the book takes on a cat-chasing-mouse-game with the dragon saving the archeologist from one danger, only to fall in the another deeper pit.  The real plot turn comes when, after the first villain is defeated, another more dangerous villain appears on the scene.  When a writer creates complex characters who are fighting to stay alive, you just gotta read another chapter.

Web and Other Stuff ...
 To pitch or not to pitch.  I'm going to the Northern Colorado Writers conference in March.  They've got my money.  I have no other choice, besides I want to go.  I'll be fun talking to my various friends and meeting new people who are interested in writing and understand how I spend much of my day.  But I'm wondering if I want to bust my behind revising one of my completed manuscripts to pitch.  For those of you who have something ready to pitch at whatever conference, you might look at agent Janet Reid's blog on the difference between a pitch and a query.

Most people do their pitches after they've written the book.  Can you guess I do it backwards?  I tried using the pitch to set the structure of my last WIP, and it worked for Voices of Ghost Creek (Kaffy Anne).  It's too early to see if it helps with Hidden in Plain Sight (Maren).  -- While a pitch is short, it also focuses on the main character's primary problem.  A useful tool in staying on track while letting your creative juices flow.

Once your pitch interests someone, you have to send them a manuscript.  Publishers and agents may want to have submissions look a certain way.  But, do you know the generally formatting criteria?  C. A. Marshall, a freelance editor, gives writers pointers on How to Format Manuscripts.

Haven't been spending much time twittering or on the blogosphere.  I've been spending my time looking for YA/tween publishers, but can't raise much enthusiasm for the process [even though I should be marketing There Be Demons].  Why not query an agent?  --  I'm thinking my main attitude problem is bubbling to the surface.  I don't like to jump through other people's hoops.  Amusing myself creating stories about characters than interest me is another can of worms -- because you never know which way they'll wiggle even if you stay on track.

Progress ...
Have the action outlined for three chapters of Maren ... and came up with two villains I didn't know existed last year when I gave up.  The book that's working is the back story in the previous attempt.  Figure that one out.

Also trying to revise and post another installment of the post-Rebellion Half-Elven stories, a Renna's Tale.  Tentative title:  Pulling the Dragon's Tail.  You'll see how successful I am when I write the Monday Half-Elven blog.


Trivia ...
My growling corner is looking more and more attractive.

In the meantime,  I think I'll be only posting this blog once a week, close to the week-end.  For some reason, my "mind-flow" is changing back to mornings ... and I need that time to create ... rather than diddle my time away on the web.  --  There I said it.  I've tried seriously for a half year, but I just can't get very enthusiastic about social networking.  I've always been the type to have a few close friends rather than a million best friends.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Golden Oldies: The Wool-Pack

The Read ...
My reading enabler son has an oldie fetish, especially paper back cover art.  In one of his haunts of used book stores, he discovered the British, Carnegie Medal winning writer, Cynthia Harnett.  One of the unexpected Christmas presents he left was The Wool-Pack from the 1950s, billed as "deception and intrigue in the fifteenth century." 

How styles have changed.  Would your first sentence be:  "Nicholas Fetterlock lay on his back on the hillside, gazing up into the young leaves of an oak tree."?  If you did, would an agent and/or publisher be likely to take it if the subsequent two paragraphs were mainly description of the bucolic surroundings?  The first hint of a problem comes on the second page when we learn that Nicholas is playing truant, aka hookie.

Historical fiction, beyond bodice rippers, seem to be in disfavor, the Tudors not withstanding.  At least, I don't see many reviews for them, especially for juvenile fiction.  Part of this is fad.  Part of this may also be lack of scholarship.  How many writers understand post-War of the Roses Europe enough to be able to incorporate how the Lombard banking system, the English wool trade, early betrothals, obedience to superiors, the rising mercantile system, and other social changes following a peace after years of civil war can impact the life of a well intentioned boy who solves the mystery of why his father's wool packs are being contaminated in time to save him from the dungeons.

The Wool-Pack does all this in under 250 pages complete with many line drawings depicting 15th century British life.  No.  The book was not a heavy slog even though the paragraphs and sentences were rather longer while presenting lots of historical detail.

Web and Other Stuff ...

Travel Alert:  Granted not all people are as amused by bed bugs as my old man ... but you might be interested in this Bed Bug Alert site.  Not that I think you can do anything about them.  Does anyone know if borax works on them?

Writer Beware included a link on Facebook to the Shelf Awareness blog that discussed e-pub vs print sales.  I thought it interesting even though they don't mention my reason for preferring print.  After looking a screen for much of the day, I rather not look at a screen when I relax.

Want an example on how publishing has consolidated after the couple decades? And, the ways they still need to change?  Eric at Pimp My Novel has an interesting discussion of branding and the publishing: "A Lesson in Brand Management".  Writers are urged to build their platform.  Seems publishers are facing the same chore.

Back to general living.  Have gas prices been rising in your area?  I recently found a site that lets you find the lowest gas prices in your area.  

Progress ...
After nibbling my fingernails over Spectra Magazine's hiatus ... I got another email from them.  Once they get their ap problems settled, they do plan to publish since they have the next issue laid out. ....  No one seems to know how long the delay will be.

Got two more short stories rewritten [ a great achievement since I seem to go through each one at least 20 times after I first think it's finished ] and sent out.  I won't hold my breath as I wait for the rejections.  

At the same time, my notes for Maren are growing.  I'll be interested in seeing how many of the ideas I use when I put my fingers to the keyboard.


Trivia ...
After a week of cold, snow, and ice, I'm going to enjoy the week of 40 degree weather until the next storm comes blasting through.  One good thing.  Since it's the middle of January, the time between storms will get longer and longer ...  until we get one last arctic blast in April ... or May ... or June ... or even July.  It has snowed on the Fourth of July in our town in the past.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Adding Texture with Sub-Plots

The Read ...
Sank into Julia Spencer-Fleming's cozy mystery I Shall Not Want, and discovered a number of sub-plots involving various characters, in addition to the "forbidden" romance complication between an Episcopalian minister and the local chief of police.  I love sub-plots involving the secondary characters in a cozy mystery.  ...  They add texture and depth to the puzzle of solving the mystery beyond just unraveling the complications tying the plot in knots. 

I had read several previous books in the series and discussed them with a friend ... and she sent to book to me for Christmas.  The book was a satisfying read ... when I wasn't watching Castle episodes.  Surprisingly, the book and TV show both use secondary character subplots to create texture beyond the mere solving of a crime.

Fleming has a mildly snarky tone I enjoy.  One example from the minister's observations of one of the plot complications flirting with a male member of the vestry:  "They had discovered they shared similar tastes in buildings (historic), liturgy (formal), and literature (nothing written before 1890).  Clare wasn't sure if Elizabeth [a subordinate priest] knew she and Summer also shared the same tastes in men."

Web and Other Stuff ...
E-Readers are the big thing at the moment, but I think the technology is a long ways from finding a set pattern.  Writer Beware posted a link of a blog by TeleRead about the various types of tablets (aka e-readers) that turned up at a trade show.  80.  You might want to read the article and follow the links and comments. 

I think this shows just how far the e-reader technology has to go.  Maybe there are that many different models of televisions.  But, they all receive the same signal. ... Even if you still have an analog television set, the converter box or cable takes care of the signal for you.

Progress ...
Yeah, I've started working on Maren, now called "Hidden in Plain Sight" for the moment.  The opening sentence features overheard curses, and then, launches into the chronic unwanted suitor cliche.

I'm still cleaning up loose ends.  Did put up a free Half-Elven Renna tale on Wattpad to test the promotional waters.  This is a display site, and I know the consensus is that they are somewhat useless.  Still, I'm trying to find a simple, non-time-slurping way to use social media  [ aka re-inventing the wheel ].

Have read several of the posted stories on Wattpad.  My opinion?  The stories, while showing some interesting ideas, needed both critiquing and editing.

The level of my own writing?  Well, here's from an editor at Samhain who rejected Dark Solstice ( the Half-Elven book I'm marketing):  "While I did think the writing was very good, unfortunately the romantic elements aren't strong enough for our particular readership."  The letter went on to say they don't give personal criticisms.  I gather from what I've read elsewhere that personal comments have exploded in the editor's faces too many times.  --  Oh well, someday I'll find an editor who likes the stuff I write.  I'll be continuing the quest after I finish this blog.

Trivia ...
My evil twin is wondering whether the old man really needs implants to anchor his lower partial ... when she wants to go to the worldcon in Reno.  I could go, complete with a trip over the divide to visit my brother, for a whole lot less money than the implants.  ...  Then, there's the matter of a laptop.