You may have guessed but I read a lot. It helps me improve my own writing (I hope!) and exposes me to a lot of styles and plot lines and ideas that I would never have thought of on my own. Honestly, that’s one of the things that has inspired more than a couple of blog posts. Like this one.
I was reading a mystery being, in theory, solved by a psychic. It probably will be, but I had to put it down because the book wasn’t really about the mystery. Oh, sure. The description certainly implied it would be. There are mobsters and murder and parents trying to protect their infant daughter and all that good thriller/mystery sort of thing, and I’m certain that there’s a dramatic climax where someone gets shot and the Bad Guys are brought to justice. But…
But I’m just over a third of the way through the book and the mystery solving is just getting started. So what have I been reading this whole time? I’ve been reading a story about a man whose father left him and his mother on their own before the man even learned to walk. He’s had thirty years to be angry, and the whole first third of the book is dealing with his own new fatherhood and with the complete shock brought by the long-missing father’s reappearance.
So when the man and the psychic decide to effectively drop everything- including these not insignificant emotional reactions- to investigate the case and clear the way for a happy family reunion, I had to stop reading. That, to me, felt like a betrayal of the characters in favor of the author’s priorities of Solving The Obvious Mystery.
I suspect this may boil down to a pantser vs plotter debate, ultimately. I think what happened is that the author carefully outlined the book, and put certain beats in certain places, and simply wrote the emotional life of her characters too well so that when she went to get the ball truly rolling on solving the crimes, the characters themselves weren’t actually positioned to do it. Still, it feels to me like a betrayal. These characters don’t feel like they are acting in ways that are consistent. I have no doubt that I’ll go back and read the rest of this book, even though I have a strong suspicion that the man
will readily forgive his long-lost dad, even though I personally feel like the guy can shove right back off to whatever hole he’s lived in for three decades.
What do you think, have you come across books like this? Or even individual
In other news, Quick Study is now live! If you want to find out more about the crazy girl I’ve been occasionally talking about, you can get your own copy almost anywhere you can buy e-books!
One of my pet peeves in a story is secrets. Let me elaborate.
In a story, there is always going to be some kind of tension. It has to be there or the plot won’t go. That tension can come from anything: Sauron chasing down the One Ring or Holden trying to keep his life free from phonies, to a guy reluctant to get off the sofa and actually order that pizza. There has to be some sort of tug of war that is what makes the story something people actually want to read. Sometimes that tension is sustained by one character knowing something and another character being kept in the dark.
Now, that’s basically the plot of every murder mystery ever written, and more than half of the thrillers out there. Which makes sense. A murderer who doesn’t want to get caught keeps facts as far away from the detective (or anyone else) as possible. Otherwise, they’re locked up and that more than likely defeats their purpose. However, there are many other thrillers out there— and it feels like about half the romances I’ve come across lately— where a secret is kept ‘for their own good.’
Keeping a safety secret from someone is a great way to get them badly hurt or killed. No, we can’t tell her that the stalker is out of prison! She’d be scared and wouldn’t go to the fundraising gala! And naturally, that’s where she goes, blithely unaware of the stalker waiting to snatch her on the way to the bathroom.
It makes me insane, and honestly, I think it’s incredibly patronizing, not just of the character in question, but of the reader. It assumes that the reader can’t imagine or believe any other way for the hero to be heroic, or for the victim to get into trouble.
So when I write (or look for a good book) I am looking for reasonable excuses for secrets to be kept: people who haven’t spoken recently enough to share information. Actually classified documents. A secret identity! A promise one character made to keep said secret, with a bonus for inner turmoil caused by wanting to reveal the information but also wanting to keep a promise!
I didn’t tell you for your own good, though? Not an excuse. What do you think?
In the last post, I wrote that was an actual post, I mentioned how much I hate finding politics in my fiction. I bet that a fair number of you wondered where I was finding all this political fantasy, and who was writing about wizards and werewolves running for office. (Side note, I have actually read a book about a werewolf running for sheriff.)
But that’s not the kind of politics I mean. I’m not especially fond of election process badgering, what with having grown up so near Washington D.C., but that’s not what I meant. I’ve been trying to explain for so long that I had to resort to looking up the definition
4. political methods or maneuvers:
6.use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control, as in business, university,etc.
So when I talk about ‘politics’ in a story I’m really talking about a character trapped by arbitrary rules and traditions that are in place only to prolong the plot. The characters in these stories ruled by political machinations usually refuse to consider an outside-the-box solution. “The elders have forbidden us from drinking well water, so I’ll sit here next to the well and die of thirst! Alas!” “I am a mere apprentice and so touching the Master’s crystal ball means death by law, even though the only way to save the city is to shift it one inch to the left!”
These stories are usually pretty easy to pick out, though. They often start with a lengthy explanation of how the world society is set up specifically keep the main characters down in one way or another. Three pages about how the rulers of the magical kingdom wrote the laws to keep apprentices firmly away from any real tools of power because of one guy who did a thing two thousand years ago or some such thing.
I’m sorry. I simply don’t have the patience for that nonsense. It’s entirely possible to write a story where the heroes must fight tradition or The Man— frankly just about any lovable rogue is doing exactly that and I do love me a lovable rogue— but when the whole world is crafted around laws and traditions, that’s going to a place I just don’t want to follow. It grates too hard on what remains of my faith in humanity.
A bit of a note: on Wednesday, April 17, the Spirits of Los Gatos box set–the first three complete books– goes on sale for $0.99. Go pick it up while it’s on sale!
So apparently I was a bad, bad writer. I guess. At least this is the case according to Amazon. When I went to get the preorder for Spiritkind together the other day, I was unceremoniously informed that I am ineligible for creating preorders. The reason? ‘Past preorder activity.’ I have no idea what that actually means, though, so…
What this means is that I can’t, at the moment, put any of my upcoming books up for preorder, which sucks, since that’s easily my favorite way to handle launches and it makes my life rather more tricky. It also means that I am letting you guys know now— if you didn’t already know— that Spiritkind launches on Thursday, and I’m going to mention that again next week, so fair warning.
I’m not sure how I’m going to handle my next few books. It’s a pretty major inconvenience, to be honest, and it seems pretty random. I’ve read reports that some people managed to find out why (mostly due to canceled preorder processes and failure to post the final manuscript before the launch date,) and I’ve heard that a very small number of people have gotten through to an actual human at Amazon who is sometimes able to get the prison sentence reversed.
I doubt I’ll be that lucky, so I’m more than likely looking at a year of this nonsense. I’m not sure what to tell you other than keep your eyes out on Thursday. I would, however, suggest that you join my newsletter since that’s where announcements go out first and I might just have a few sneaky presents and things planned out for the next few months for newsletter readers. Just saying.
Me, until very recently. Photo credit: quinn.anya on Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA
I’m not dead, I swear! I’m sorry for not posting for so long, though. I hit a point where I needed to let a few things go, for my own sanity, and the blog is one of the things that didn’t make the must-do cut. (I’d kind of rather I could have blogged and stopped doing the laundry instead, but everyone else disagreed.)
I’m not going to lie to you. It’s been somewhat tough the past couple of months. The Boy is essentially homeschooled, which means he’s at home all the time, and as much as I love the kid, he’s pretty high energy and needs a great deal of my attention. That makes it tough to get any of my own work done, including writing. I’ve got so much of my mental and emotional energy focused on my son that I don’t have much left over for poor Kai’s little problems. As a result, I haven’t been sleeping well and I’ve been reluctant to socialize at best and grumpy and snarly at worst. Not fun.
That said, I have been making headway on Book Five (you’d think by now I’d have thought of a title for it…) and have started going over some stories I banged out last summer. I’m going to get those whipped into shape for you fine folks, and I’ve got an idea that’s been stuck in my head for a while that actually fits nicely into the new universe as a side-series. If I can get myself sorted out just a bit better, 2019 is going to be super exciting and full of new books.
Next week I’ll have a review up for one of the books I plowed through in the past month, and keep your eye out for sneak peeks in the next few weeks. I’ve got a poll up on my Facebook page if you’d like to tell me what to post first. And, of course, I’ll have to write about our first holiday season in Tokyo. It’s already proving very strange: our Christmas tree is just about a foot tall and is sitting on top of our PlayStation 4.
At least there will always be cookies. That will help with pretty much all these problems!
Photo credit: piermario via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND
One of the last shows I worked was a student showcase. A bunch of college students— maybe 25 of them or so?— had a few weeks of master classes and what have you, and I got to run a spotlight for their culminating performance. There were a number of excellent voices and some very, erm, interesting choices of songs, and frankly a few terrible monologues, but then the kids didn’t write the things themselves so that’s not on them at all. One of the songs came from a show I helped to premiere, and the young lady did a fine job on it, so that was fun!
The thing is that shows like this always leave me feeling unsatisfied. It could be a string of history’s greatest divas, and I’d still feel weird about the whole show, and I finally figured it out halfway through the tech rehearsal. It’s that every single number in the whole show was written specifically to support a story, and it’s been ripped away from its foundations to attempt to stand on its own. There’s nothing to hold it up, and it doesn’t much matter how amazing the voice of the singer, or the acting abilities of the performer, the song is just going to hang out like a flag on a windless day, limp and kind of sad.
It’s a shame, really. Since these kids deserve to get the experience under their belt and a chance to prove themselves as performers. But I’m willing to bet that the audience isn’t going to care at all about my concerns. They probably go home humming their favorite tune from the concert, and perhaps when that show tours through town or is put on by a local theatre, they’ll get tickets. And really, in the long run, it’s all just for fun, isn’t it?
Just a reminder that Finding Insight is still at the $0.99 launch price. If you’ve picked it up, please consider doing me a gigantic favor and leaving a review!
Photo credit: OZinOH on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC
I owe you all an apology for this week. I’m sitting here, in the electrics ‘office’ writing down a few thoughts before we get rolling on today’s rehearsal. It’s been a somewhat rough show to work on, etching it in fits and starts, but we finally put it all together last Sunday to run the show beginning to end and it was pretty hard to take. We had our first preview last night, and no doubt there are things we need to touch up and refine now that we’ve had a taste of what the show feels like with an audience.
I have to tell you it was not easy.
I suppose I should back up a bit. This is a good show. It’s performed by some incredibly talented and brave people, and I’m genuinely glad I get to be a part of it, but it’s really forced me to remember that ‘good’ and ‘fun’ aren’t synonymous. See, the show I’m working on is The Scottsboro Boys, and it’s a peppy, upbeat musical about an actual godawful train wreck of the so-called American Justice System in Alabama in the thirties. There’s a disturbing, beautiful, upbeat song and dance number about sending a 12-year-old to the electric chair, so you have some context.
I’m glad to be a part of it, like I said, since it’s a damn good show and an important subject, but it has seriously impacted my ability to get any of my own work done. I missed Monday’s post (as you no doubt noticed) and didn’t even realize it till it was far too late to rerun something. Even this post has been a bit of a struggle. And I know it’s not going to get easier this week at least.
So I’m going to fall back on doing some line edits and get out into the fresh air (when it’s not pouring down rain and hail outside) and then, hopefully by next week, I can start working on some outlines. The assistant designer and my fellow spot-op have sparked an idea for a series of short stories that may amuse you all. I’m looking forward to being able to work on them soon.
Just not this week. I hope you can forgive me.
Photo credit: piermario via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND
Well, I’m in tech again. Probably even as you read this, I’m sitting in the dark, slaving over a hot follow spot, waiting for someone to tell me where I’m pointing. It’s probably my last show as a technician, though I’ve said that before and look how that turned out. Still, I’m moving out of the country, and away from the few people I still know well in the D.C. area theatre scene who would think to hire me, and that’s okay.
I mean, it’s kind of sad, really. This is what I got my degree in lo these many years ago. I spent all that time and energy (and student loan money) learning the skills I would need to propel me through an industry that I’m leaving behind. But really, when I step back and think about it, I’m only leaving part of what I was interested in. Because what is theatre about, really?
It’s people getting together and telling stories. It’s characters and scenery and dialogue and action and all that amazing stuff, and I still get to do that, which is amazing. I sort of fell into theatre by accident— thanks to my brother mostly— back in a time when real writers were the people who could get an agent to convince a publisher to spread ink across paper in the shape of their words. Blogs became a viable thing when I was in college already, but by then I’d had my attention redirected. It wasn’t until I was in California, raising my son as a stay at home mom that I got my first Kindle. (My husband, bless him, had no idea what he was starting when he got it for me…)
With that Kindle came an epiphany, and I dipped a toe into the Wild West of indie publishing. So, while I’m going to feel a hole in my heart where theatre has been for the last twenty years, I’m still going to be in the business of telling stories. I just won’t be surrounded physically by an amazing group of like-minded people with the same goal: a great performance.
On the bright side, I’ll have my weekends back. Monday is an odd day to have off.
So I got a little lost in the week. I’ve been busy, doing my re-writes and getting the book ready to send to my editor and whatnot, and apparently got totally lost in the moment rather than remembering the whole of the week and preparing stuff for later. Like blog posts. Whoops!
Basically, I’ve been either deep in the antics of certain residents of Los Gatos, or over at my son’s school helping to set up a New Tool for him. You see, The Boy is ADHD, and has been diagnosed as on the autism spectrum. Personally, I don’t care about the labels the school system has to use to get him the help he needs. I just want to make sure that by the time he’s an adult he has all the skills necessary to function in the world.
That, however, includes paying attention in class and actually doing his work, among other things. So this week they’ve started an experiment. (That’s how I’ve presented it to him because science is a motivator in his case.) . They’ve decided to try putting a ‘bug in his ear’ during class. I know, gross, right? Really what they mean is that they’re adapting a system they brought in for heard of hearing kids and are trying to see if it will help The Boy. His teacher gets to wear a fancy microphone necklace and he wears the receiver and a fancy headset, so when she needs to make sure he’s on task but she herself isn’t near him, she can just hit the button and talk right into his ear.
Fancy! And if this works for The Boy it might help other kids who are deeper into the spectrum than he is. The Boy’s teacher is hopeful and encouraging him to give it a chance. I’ve been on the phone and emailing both her and the special education specialist who watches The Boy’s case, and basically, when my brain isn’t in editing mode, it’s been following the exciting adventures of the bionic boy. We’ll have to see if it helps… so tune in next time for further updates!
This is basically everyone I know this spring.
So it’s been a rough spring for just about everyone I know. Illnesses and deaths and housing issues, and in one case scholarship/paying for school scare. I’m not going to whine about what’s going on in my family, but suffice it to say it’s sticking to the season’s theme.
On top of the unplanned difficulties, our family is working toward finally moving to Tokyo to rejoin my husband, which as you can imagine is fraught with bureaucracy from not merely one but two countries. Woohoo!
Anyway, my point in all this is to explain why I’m not telling you about the next book to look forward to. Yet. I know I’ve said that Brian finally cooperated and I got to finish his next book, but… well, it’s now wallowing pretty heavily in the editing process. And I can’t find a decent title to save my life. It’s been painful, and I’ve subjected my family and friends to moaning complaints about it repeatedly for months now. They love it when I start complaining about demons and hard-boiled detectives and what have you. I may be driving them to drink…
But there is hope! The next Los Gatos novel is working out much better. Sebastian is a bit thorny, and while I’m still writing the ending of it and it has to go through edits, but it feels much closer to ready. So I’ve made an executive decision to swap the releases, and you’re going to get a new Los Gatos book at the end of May or beginning of June, depending on how fast editing goes. And I’ve got a few ideas bubbling away for later on down the line going on over there in the Bay Area.
Brian… well, Brian will reappear when he’s ready. He’s clearly got a few things to work through still, and I think it will be worth it, but patience seems to be key with that guy.
So there you are. The state of your author.