Monday, March 31, 2014

Abstract Thoughts: I Got Nothing

Writings of the Muse
Wow. So we didn't write anything at all last week. Nada. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Didn't even bother opening the Scrivener files at all. I guess Idea Salesman's notion about being positive didn't work out so well.

But I suppose he's at least right in that there is no point in dwelling. So, since I don't have much in the way of an update for you, here, have a cute cat picture.

http://cheezburger.com/3654572800

I wish I could say Renee had a good excuse for taking a whole week off. Something like being struck down by a tragic (though not fatal) illness and a (temporarily) debilitating injury.

Alas, all we've really got is there was a lot of toddler drama going on and epic levels of exhaustion and frustration. Not the most inspiring combination, sure, but I should have been able to help her push through it.

Bad Muse. No cookie.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Renee's Reading: 2014-03-15 through 2014-03-21

I had a binge reading week last week. We had quite a bit of toddler-related chaos going on around here and I was tired and frustrated. I find binging on romance novels is about all I'm good for at times like that.

There may have also been binging on ice cream. I admit nothing.

*hides empty Ben & Jerry's pints in the bottom of the trash can*

Wicked Intentions, by Elizabeth Hoyt
A MAN CONTROLLED BY HIS DESIRES

Infamous for his wild, sensual needs, Lazarus Huntington, Lord Caire, is searching for a savage killer in St. Giles, London's most notorious slum. Widowed Temperance Dews knows the area like the back of her hand--she cares for its children at the foundling home her family established. Now that home is at risk. . .

A WOMAN HAUNTED BY HER PAST

Caire makes a simple offer--in return for Temperance's help navigating the perilous alleys of St. Giles, he will introduce her to high society so that she can find a benefactor for the home. But Temperance may not be the innocent she seems, and what begins as a cold bargain soon falls prey to a passion neither can control--and may well destroy them both.

It took me a little while to get into this story. I don't know why. I guess the premise--Caire asking Temperance to guide him around St. Giles at night--just didn't seem plausible enough to grab me. A pretty big deal is made about how dangerous the area is, particularly at night, and neither character came off as quite desperate enough for late night jaunts through gin shops and brothels to sound like a reasonable idea.

That said, I stuck with it. The romance was good and the characters were both very well-written. Temperance dealing with her guilt and Lazarus his shame was fantastic, especially with the two of them playing off each other. I very much enjoyed watching them come to understand each other in the end.

The side characters were a mixed bag for me. I didn't find myself feeling much sympathy for Lady Caire, and the little flashes we got of Lady Hero were a bit meh. She seems like she could be funnier than she was, though that may be exactly what we were supposed to see.

Winter Makepeace sounds like he'll be someone fun to hear more about later; I love watching a good buttoned up character getting all twisted up. Plus I read the first chapter of his book as a preview in the back of the Princes Trilogy books last week and so I already know his big secret. That may have made him seem more interesting here than he was supposed to be, but that's the way it goes, I guess.

I have high hopes for the mystery brother, Asa, too. I sort of feel like a character who no one knows anything about that just sort of pops up for a few pages and then poofs away again pretty much has a big neon arrow hanging over their head in a series like this. LOOK HERE! FUTURE NOVEL AHEAD!

(It's always important to pay attention to the friends and siblings in a romance series, because, of course, you know those folks are almost always going to be starring in their own novels somewhere down the line.)

The mystery element of the story felt nicely paced. It kept the story moving forward without getting in the way of the romance, which, let's face it, is what we're here for. Speaking of the romance, as with all the Hoyt books I've read so far, this one had great steamy love scenes.

Even though the premise failed to really hook me in the beginning, I'm glad I picked it up. All in all, this was a nice afternoon read.


Notorious Pleasures, by Elizabeth Hoyt
Their lives were perfect. . .

Lady Hero Batten, the beautiful sister of the Duke of Wakefield, has everything a woman could want, including the perfect fiancé. True, the Marquis of Mandeville is a trifle dull and has no sense of humor, but that doesn't bother Hero. Until she meets his notorious brother. . .

Until they met each other.

Griffin Remmington, Lord Reading, is far from perfect--and he likes it that way. How he spends his days is a mystery, but all of London knows he engages in the worst sorts of drunken revelry at night. Hero takes an instant dislike to him, and Griffin thinks that Hero, with her charities and faultless manners, is much too impeccable for society, let alone his brother. Yet their near-constant battle of wits soon sparks desire--desire that causes their carefully constructed worlds to come tumbling down. As Hero's wedding nears, and Griffin's enemies lay plans to end their dreams forever, can two imperfect people find perfect true love?

I think I have to give this book some kind of award for best romance meeting ever. I mean, seriously, it's not every romance novel that starts with the hero and heroine meeting while he's having casual sex with another woman.

And if there are other books that start that way, I'm guess most of the time the charming well-mannered young lady in question usually squeals or faints or comes over all outraged and probably doesn't take note of his great butt. (Or at least she tells herself she shouldn't have taken note.) Don't mind me; I'll just be over here giggling.

Anyway, great opening scene.

This is the second book in Hoyt's Maiden Lane series and, overall, it was a good book. Good characters, charming romance, hot sexy times. I feel like I keep giving the same review for every one of Hoyt's novels lately, but she's just that consistently good at what she does.

My only complaint is that it did seem a little. . . disconnected from the first book. The series is called Maiden Lane, which is the location of the orphanage, and Wicked Intentions was so very focused on St. Giles and the orphanage. The poor neighborhoods and criminal sides of London aren't something you usually get more than passing glimpses of in an average regency romance; it's usually all whirling ballrooms and elegant townhouses. I really liked that Hoyt didn't just go there but she made St. Giles the main set piece.

I was hoping for more of that in this novel, but most of Hero and Griffin's time together occurred in the more traditional aristocratic settings. Not that I really mind whirling ballrooms and elegant townhouses. They're lovely and I wouldn't read as much regency romance as I do if I didn't like that kind of thing. It just wasn't what I was expecting here.


Scandalous Desires, by Elizabeth Hoyt
Can a pirate learn. . .

River Pirate 'Charming' Mickey O'Connor has lifted himself from the depths of the slums to be the King of St. Giles. Anything he wants he gets--with one exception. Silence Hollingbrook has been haunting his dreams ever since she spent a single night in his bed.

That the only true treasure. . .

Once Silence was willing to sacrifice anything to save the man she loved. Now a widow, she's finally found peace when Charming Mickey comes storming back into her life with an offer she can't refuse. But this time she won't be the only one paying the price for his sins.

Lies in a woman's heart?

When his past comes back to torment him, Mickey must keep Silence safe from a merciless enemy, while wrestling with the delicious hold this widow has on his heart. And in the face of mounting danger, both will have to surrender to something even more terrifying. . . true love.

What a fantastic read! Hoyt definitely took the series up a notch with this one.

Silence and Mickey are such fantastic characters and they grow beautifully together over the course of the story. They complimented each other just perfectly. I loved that they broke up each other's illusions and reevaluated what they wanted out of life without ruining one another. They're both way too innocent about themselves for such jaded people, which was an internal conflict I found very intriguing.

We also got to go back to St. Giles with this addition to the series, which I very much enjoyed. The isolation of the characters could have made this book another disconnected entry in the series, at which point I'd have to really start wondering about the whole series idea here, but we got just enough interaction with the other characters to keep the overarching story grounded.


Thief of Shadows, by Elizabeth Hoyt
A MASKED MAN. . .

Winter Makepeace lives a double life. By day he's the stoic headmaster of a home for foundling children. But the night brings out a darker side of Winter. As the moon rises, so does the Ghost of St. Giles--protector, judge, fugitive. When the Ghost, beaten and wounded, is rescued by a beautiful aristocrat, Winter has no idea that his two worlds are about to collide.

A DANGEROUS WOMAN. . .

Lady Isabel Beckinhall enjoys nothing more than a challenge. Yet when she's asked to tutor the Home's dour manager in the ways of society--flirtation, double entendres, and scandalous liaisons--Isabel can't help wondering why his eyes seem so familiar--and his lips so tempting.

A PASSION NEITHER COULD DENY

During the day Isabel and Winter engage in a battle of wills. At night their passions are revealed. . . But when little girls start disappearing from St. Giles, Winter must avenge them. For that he might have to sacrifice everything--the Home, Isabel. . . and his life.

FINALLY!

As I mentioned in my review of Wicked Intentions I started reading the Maiden Lane series because there were previews of this book in the back of all the Princes Trilogy books I read last week. I read the first chapter of this book then and was hooked. I can't help myself; I love the masked vigilante thing.

But, knowing my own compulsions as well as I do, I made myself read the first three books in the series first.

I'm so glad I did. As I mentioned in my reviews of the earlier books, I really liked the setting Hoyt created in St. Giles and the Ghost of St. Giles was a big part of that. So dashing, so mysterious, so much potential.*

And Hoyt nailed it. Winter Makepeace was just perfect. And Isabel was just perfect for him. I loved their dance around each other in the beginning. The sexual tension built beautifully and holy moly the love scenes were great. They were such a great blend of heat and heart. Virgin-hero is another one of my favorite tropes, so this books was like a two-for-one special for me. :-)

The action was really well done in this one as well. If you're going to write about a masked vigilante, you have to write about him out stalking the streets at night, doing his lonely crime fighting thing. Some romance writers can't pull that kind of thing off very well, but Hoyt isn't one of them. The fight scenes were great, the chase was exciting, and the mystery unfolded very well.

*Because I'd already read the first chapter of this book, I looked at all the Winter Makepeace scenes from the earlier books differently than I probably would have. I actually thought there was a mistake in the first book because of that, but Hoyt solved that problem neatly at the end of this one.


Have you read any of these? What did you think? Read anything else lately that you want to discuss?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Abstract Thoughts: Let's Focus on the Positive Here, People

Brilliance from the Idea Salesman
Okay, so we've been having a rough time lately. That's been covered, I think probably more than it needed to be, by the Muse and the Inner Editor.

Ladies, ladies, ladies, please. Can we at least try not turning our corner of the blog into a whining room?

But, Idea, wine pairs so well with all that cheese you insist on bringing with you.

Quiet, Muse, it's my turn to blog.

What does that even mean anyw--Hey, that is not cool! I don't pop up in your blog posts and call what you do cheesy, do I?

This is exactly what I'm talking about. Things are getting far too mean-spirited around here. No more of this sniping and complaining. Muse, I know you're tired. Inner Editor, that headache you've got building sucks. But Renee is getting discouraged.

Plus, someone--and I don't want to name any names here, because this is a safe place where we shouldn't focus on blame--someone has been slacking off tying their knots lately and the Critic keeps getting loose. Not good, people. Very not good.

We've gotten a little spoiled, I think, by how well things were going for a while there. But think back, ladies. There used to be whole weeks that would go by with no words. Heck, I remember a time just last year when Renee went a whole month without opening her WIP at all.

Times are tough and words are thin on the ground these days. We all know that. But we need to spend more time encouraging each other, and Renee, if we're going to get through this.

I'll start. Hey, did you know we netted over 1500 new words last week!?! Sure, sure, that might not sound like much, especially since the target is 5000. But it's 1500 more words than we had the week before! Go us!

Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint, and as long as we're still moving forward, I'll count it as a win. So the words aren't flying onto the page right now. So the WIP is fighting us at every turn. At least we're showing up every day (weekdays anyway) and poking at the darn thing.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Renee's Reading: 2014-03-08 through 2014-03-14

It was a very eclectic reading week around here. A little romance, some dystopian adventure, a couple of unhappy ghosts. . .

The Raven Prince, by Elizabeth Hoyt
THERE COMES A TIME IN A LADY'S LIFE. . .

Widowed Anna Wren is having a wretched day. After an arrogant male on horseback nearly squashes her, she arrives home to learn that she is in dire financial straits. What is a gently bred lady to do?

WHEN SHE MUST DO THE UNTHINKABLE. . .

The Earl of Swartingham is in a quandary. Having frightened off two secretaries, Edward de Raaf needs someone who can withstand his bad temper and boorish behavior. Dammit! How hard can it be to find a decent secretary?

AND FIND EMPLOYMENT.

When Anna becomes the earl's secretary, both their problems are solved. Then she discovers he plans to visit the most notorious brothel in London for his "manly" needs. Well! Anna sees red--and decides to assuage her "womanly" desires. . . with the earl as her unknowing lover.

Reading The Serpent Prince last week made me all nostalgic for the earlier books in the series, so I figured a little rereading couldn't hurt. I remembered that I enjoyed this book, but I'd forgotten how much.

Even the second time through I felt like the bit with the brothel was a little silly. I'm all for women owning their sexuality, and the idea of the heroine going to a brothel to secretly have sex with the hero was all well and good, but I don't get how he doesn't recognize her. Also, that's one heck of a secure mask, I guess. But Hoyt made it work somehow. Probably by writing some very hot sex to distract me from all the logic. ;-)

I really loved the characters in this book. They were complex and simple at the same time. Poor Edward with his grief and insecurity, but also his almost ridiculous confidence in everything else. I'm sure he thought deep down it would be his scars or his temper that tripped him up someday. He just wasn't ready for a woman like Anna. Speaking of Anna, what a great heroine. She's smart and confident and once she decides to be independent, man, she just really goes for it.

And I'd forgotten how intriguing the Coral character was. Talk about smart and confident, and damn near brittle without being overdone. You just know there's so much more there than you're seeing. I was happy to discover she eventually got her own book. (More on that later.)


The Leopard Prince, by Elizabeth Hoyt
THE ONE THING A LADY MUST NEVER DO

Wealthy Lady Georgina Maitland doesn't want a husband, though she could use a good steward to run her estates. One look at Harry Pye, and Georgina knows she's not just dealing with a servant, but a man.

IS FALL IN LOVE. . .

Harry has known many aristocrats--including one particular nobleman who is his sworn enemy. But Harry has never met a beautiful lady so independent, uninhibited, and eager to be in his arms.

WITH HER SERVANT.

Still, it's impossible to conduct a discreet liaison when poisoned sheep, murdered villagers, and an enraged magistrate have the county in an uproar. The locals blame Harry for everything. Soon it's all Georgina can do to keep her head above water and Harry's out of the noose. . . without missing another night of love.

This was another reread for me, as I mentioned in the review of The Raven Prince, and I found again that I enjoyed reading this book just as much the second time. Very well written characters, very hot sexytimes, and lots of great humor to keep everything nice and light.

There are an awful lot of crazy people running about this particular bit of the countryside, but I suppose that's to be expected, what with everyone pretty much being related to everyone else. (Seriously, just about every character we meet is related to either Harry or George. This person is her sister, that person is his brother, and they're also half-brothers to this other person, and all that is before George's three brothers come riding into town. . . I suppose I should just deal with it and be thankful Harry and George aren't related to one another.) No one gets angry like family, I guess, and with everyone and their brother carrying a grudge, all the random poisoning and arson didn't really surprise me.

Crazy villagers bearing hemlock aside, the story was good. And I love the way Hoyt used the conventions of society as reasonable obstacles for her lovers, rather than getting them stuck on really stupid non-issues. She used Violet marvelously to showcase the distinction. Violet is such a snob and her objections to the very idea of Harry as a serious suitor for her sister are presented as utter ridiculousness. Seeing all the real problems Harry and George have in navigating their relationship, we get to just roll our eyes at the notion of something like not knowing the proper fork being something worth anyone's time or attention. Harry and George are from different classes and that impacts their relationship. Nothing more, nothing less. It was very nicely done.


Divergent, by Veronica Roth
In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she love. . . or it might destroy her.

I will confess, this book did not catch my eye at first. I'm not a huge fan of dystopians in general. But when I set my reading goals for the year, I decided I wanted to read more young adult, more science fiction, more new-to-me authors, and I also challenged myself to read more NYT bestsellers for some reason. Divergent hit all of those with one book, so that's just good time management.

When I first started it, I was more than a little concerned. Not only was this dystopian, it was also in present tense. I hate present tense. I know it's the thing right now, but it just rubs me the wrong way. The point, I think, is to get the reader feeling a sense of immediacy about the story, because this is happening now. For me, it just throws me out of the story at the wrong moments and kills my momentum. I have a hard time getting lost in a present tense novel and that makes it hard for me to really enjoy them.

But I did enjoy this one. For one thing, Roth writes action really well and the challenges Tris faces, both in terms of the literal physical challenges and of the more character-development variety, were constantly changing. That kind of thing can go horribly awry if done poorly, but in Divergent it kept me on my toes, wondering what was going to happen next.

I was left at the end of the novel with a number of lingering questions about the worldbuilding, particularly with regard to the economics of it, but I don't consider that a fault of the novel. It would make no sense, after all, for a sheltered sixteen-year-old to have that information or to be interested in finding it out, given everything else that's going on. If you're young and scared and people are throwing knives at your head or threatening to push you off cliffs, you're not going to be thinking about the resource management approach of the general society. Getting bogged down in that kind of detail would have been a disservice to the character and the story. Still, I'm hoping Roth found a way to include more details in the future books.

Because, yes, I will be reading the future books. I've already got Insurgent on hold at the library. I'm something like 75th in line, so it might be a while, but I'll get there eventually. In spite of my lack of love for dystopians and present tense, I find I need to know more about these characters and what happens next. Which is, for me, the best possible thing to feel at the end of the first book in a series. :-)


The Ghosts of Bourbon Street, by Seanan McGuire
Verity Price and Dominic De Luca are currently putting their relationship through what can only be termed the ultimate stress-test: they're traveling from one side of the country to the other in a rented U-Haul, accompanied only by Verity's colony of Aeslin mice and the contents of her iPod. (Dominic is receiving a crash course in modern dance and pop music.)

But what's a road trip without a hidden purpose? Verity knows she's driving Dominic toward the biggest confrontation of his life--her parents--and that means she needs to start easing him in gently. What better way than with a stop in New Orleans to drink layered cocktails and meet her fun-loving Aunt Rose, who just happens to be a Predeceased American?

Poor Dominic didn't set out to become part of a ghost story, but it looks like that's exactly what's happening, as the old, new, and undead collide all over Bourbon Street.

This was a fun little short that Seanan McGuire posted for free on her website. (There are quite a few of them there, by the way, featuring different characters in the Incryptid universe. Click the title link above for them all.) As I mentioned in my post last week, I really enjoyed reading about Verity and Dominic in the first two books in the Incryptid series, so it was nice to go back to them for a bit.

Poor Dominic. He's so out of his depth with Verity most of the time. It's fun to watch him try to cover up his flailing in that dignified broody manner of his. And Verity must enjoy that as well, because she always calls him on it. They're adorable.

I loved Rose. All the women in this series are tough and smart and strong and Rose is no exception. I've preordered her book, Sparrow Hill Road, which comes out May 6th. I understand the story was already published as a series of shorts a few years ago, but that was before I discovered McGuire's writing, so I missed it. Yay for second chances!

The story is just a quick glimpse, a little mini-adventure in New Orleans. It was a good mix of humor and darkness, with really fascinating details about the ghosts. I love the way McGuire layers in her worldbuilding, giving you just enough to ground the story with enough unsaid to capture your imagination and leave you sort of wishing she would write a whole series about everything just so you could know more.


The Ice Princess, by Elizabeth Hoyt
SEVEN NIGHTS OF SIN

As the madam of Aphrodite's Grotto, the most infamous brothel in London, Coral Smythe knows everything possible about men's needs and desires. Yet she's never experienced the love of a single man--not even that of Captain Isaac Wargate whose hawk-like eyes stare at her with both condemnation. . . and lust.

SEVEN NIGHTS OF ECSTASY

Captain Wargate heartily disapproves of the sensuous madam who always wears a golden mask. She lures his officers from both his ship and their duty. But when Coral herself is offered up as the prize in a game of chance, Wargate impulsively enters. . . and wins.

SEVEN NIGHTS OF LOVE

Now the puritanical navy captain has just seven nights to learn everything he can about the mysterious madam and what she knows of a man's desires. But when Coral is threatened by the new owner of Aphrodite's Grotto, will Wargate take a chance on the woman beneath the mask. . . and on love?

Sometimes when you're intrigued by a side character and you find out they got their own book later in the series, it's smiles all around and a big win for reading. They turn out just as interesting as you thought they'd be and the new book becomes one of your favorites.

Other times, there is this.

I'm not saying this story was a bad one. But it was just kinda. . .  meh. The loves scenes were steamy and all, but we don't really learn anything new about Coral in The Ice Princess and that's what I was really hoping for. Both Coral and Isaac grow quite a bit as characters by the end of the story, though that didn't really seem to happen on the page, so it rang a little false for me.



But, as I said earlier, I think the story was fine and the love scenes were good. Isaac is a good character and I liked reading about him. It wasn't what I was looking for, but this novella was still a nice little story to read while decompressing after a particularly rough day with my kids.


So that's a couple of rereads, one story I didn't expect to like and really did, one I expected to really enjoy and didn't, and a short story that ended up being a teaser for a new book I now can't wait to get my grubby little hands on. Not a bad week for me.

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Read anything else lately that you feel like sharing with the class?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Power of a Name

Writing is full of tricks and challenges. Some of them are universally abhorred (synopses, I'm looking at you) (though I still love you, so maybe you're not universally abhorred) and some are only mild annoyances. Most seem to slide back and forth on the continuum.

And by that I mean they're usually regarded as mild annoyances until they pop up in your own life and become something you have to deal with personally, at which point they shoot straight across the graph to inspiring I-will-kill-you-until-you-die-from-it levels of seething rage.

One of the most common of these challenges has to do with names. I often see authors on Twitter or around the blogosphere lamenting the naming a character. (Or a monster, or a novel, or a series.) Last week I saw that poor Rachel Vincent had to come up with two names in one day.
People often respond to these kinds of laments by throwing out every name they've ever heard, or even just random words from the dictionary in the case of a title. From what I've observed, 99.9% of the time that doesn't help, by the way. Because it's not just a matter of finding a name that sounds cool. It's never that simple.

Because names have power.

We hear that all the time, right? It's one of those universally acknowledged truths, cemented into human consciousness through repetition and belief.

It's certainly a recurring theme in fantasy, particularly in faerie stories. Knowing a faerie's true name almost always gives you some kind of power over it. True names are also how demons get summoned and magical bindings get sealed more often than not.

We see it in horror too. How many times have you read a story or seen a movie where the girl isn't really afraid of the creepy guy following her until he says her name? There are so many of these I couldn't even narrow it down to my favorite example. "You know my name? How do you know my name?" she whispers, suddenly terrified. Because he could have been following her everywhere, watching her sleep and planting cameras in her office and her car and her bathroom, but somehow his knowing her name is what makes the whole thing real.

Doctor Who has been all about names lately, but I thought I'd use an example from a little further back.

"The Shakespeare Code" is one of my favorites.

Teenagers rebel by changing their names, or taking on nicknames.

In George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, there's a culture (and I sadly can't remember which one right now and I don't have a couple of years free at the moment to comb through the whole series to find what was probably just a casual reference to a random tradition) that doesn't give babies names until they turn two. Because even though they might love their children more than anything, the infant mortality rate is so high, and so the baby isn't considered really alive until it reaches its naming day.

Supervillains and superheroes alike put a ton of time and energy into protecting their secret identities, keeping their names to themselves and operating under a title instead. They tie everything they truly care about to that hidden name, and discovering it becomes the ultimate threat.

Expectant parents often say they don't really feel like the baby is real until they settle on a name.

And the idea isn't a new one either. You can go all the way back to the Old Testament for this. One of the first things God does after he creates Adam is have the man give a name to everything. (Regardless of your religion, I think we can all agree that the story itself has been around for an awfully long time.)

Names. Have. Power.

So of course naming things is hard. To name something is to give it life, to take control of its fate, and to seal its identity. People often describe writers as having set themselves up as gods of their own personal little universes. Well, if that's true, then I think naming things is probably the most godlike thing we do.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Abstract Thoughts: Muddling Through the Middle

Wisdom of an Inner Editor
I am not looking forward to revisions on the section of Guardian Renee is writing these days.

Every novelist has that one part of the writing process that they hate, that one point where all the joy is leeched out of the process and every word becomes a fight. Some authors struggle with building momentum in their openings, others have a hard time getting all the various plot threads to smooth out and braid themselves into the conclusion. But Renee hits her slog in the middle.

It would be nice if she enjoyed the middle as much as she does the shiny new beginning and the adrenaline-laced race to the end. I would certainly prefer that she got caught up in the slow march uphill to the climax, and really loved introducing subplots and side characters, building the tension, and planting the seeds for things to come.

I'm not being altruistic here, just practical. Writers write better when they're having a good time, and better writing in the zero draft stage makes my job easier when it comes time for revisions.

Alas, if wishes were horses. . .  well, if wishes were horses, I suspect Inner Editors would get stuck mucking out the stables, so maybe we should stop using that particular cliché.

The point is, Renee is going through a rough patch right now. I'm getting a migraine just thinking about how much work I'm going to have to put in straightening this mess out once everything is all said and done. As the Muse discussed last week, the characters are disagreeing with the outline and we're having to do a bit of restructuring just to keep things moving forward.

And moving forward is costing a lot of effort.

I don't know how many words we wrote last week. We logged the information every day, but we've stopped letting Renee look at the goal tracking spreadsheet. We all know the words are coming brutally slowly at the moment and Renee's motivation is already thin enough.

This isn't the time to look at the big picture. Every single step forward hurts just now, so it's probably best just to put our heads down and focus on the patch of ground at her feet. And periodically remind Renee that this happens every time and it always gets better eventually.

We will get through this.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Flash Fiction: A 50-Word Story

PROMPT/CHALLENGE SUMMARY: This week isn't really a piece of flash fiction. It's more like a writing exercise, and one which writers pretty much universally abhor. I've been working up blurbs for my current writing projects lately. Distilling an entire novel down to ~50 words is tough. Doing it in such a way that it's intriguing without being confusing is tougher. That said, it must be done, and this is what I'm using these days for my current WIP, an urban fantasy novel with the working title Guardian.

Charlie's best--only--friend is dead, but there's no evidence she can take to the cops. ("The immortal power stuck on my soul told me!" would open commitment hearings, not a murder investigation.) So she's stuck finding the killer herself--without alerting the secret organization she escaped two decades ago.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Renee's Reading: 2014-03-01 through 2014-03-07

Let me start with a little housekeeping note. I realized when I sat down to write this post that there's going to be a little bit of a lag on these, because I snag time to blog in bits and pieces all week long, and it takes time to pull together the links and images and stuff. The idea of one week's post covering 10 days and the next week's only covering 4 if the timing didn't quite work out sat badly in my brain, so I'm cutting them off one week back.

And now, without further ado, welcome to my first weekly reading review!

The Serpent Prince, by Elizabeth Hoyt
WHEN THE DEVIL MEETS AN ANGEL

Country bred Lucy Craddock-Hayes is content with her quiet life. Until the day she trips over an unconscious man--a naked unconscious man--and loses her innocence forever.

HE CAN TAKE HER TO HEAVEN

Viscount Simon Iddesleigh was nearly beaten to death by his enemies. Now he's hell-bent on vengeance. But as Lucy nurses him back to health, her honesty startles his jaded sensibilities--even as it ignites a desire that threatens to consume them both.

OR TO HELL

Charmed by Simon's sly wit, urbane manners, and even his red-heeled shoes, Lucy falls hard and fast for him. Yet as his honor keeps him from ravishing her, his revenge sends his attackers to her door. As Simon wages war on his foes, Lucy wages her own war for his soul using the only weapon she has--her love. . . 

I checked out the first two books in this series a while back, but this one wasn't available at the time and it fell off my TBR somehow. I was reminded of it a few weeks ago, when Victoria Dahl listed the second book, The Leopard Prince, as one of her "10 Dirty Romance Novels" for Publishers Weekly. I don't usually let a series go half-read, particularly not one I enjoyed, so I put a hold on this (because it wasn't available again) and my turn in the queue finally came this week.

I'm so glad I got the reminder and put a hold on it this time. I enjoyed this book. Simon tortures himself beautifully, and I do love it when an author really messes with a character's head. The romance was charming and just realistic enough to make me smile. The love scenes were nice and steamy without being too over the top.

I didn't really get into the action/suspense side of the story very much. It was well written and all, and interesting from a psychological perspective in some cases, but it wasn't really my cup of tea. I would also have liked to see a little bit more natural interaction with some of the characters from the previous books in the series. I know there's an expectation in this kind of series to pop a few cameos into the story here and there to connect everything, but if they're going to be there, they should be there for a reason. Harry Pye's cameo particularly seemed a little forced. He just sort of walks into one scene, drops a couple lines of dialogue, and then walks back out again.

Overall, as I said, I enjoyed the book; it was a nice romance novel that made me smile and kept me company for an afternoon.


Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire
What do gorgons, basilisks, and frogs with feathers all have in common? They're all considered mythological by modern science, and some people are working very hard to keep them that way. Alexander Price is a member of a cryptozoological lineage that spans generations, and it's his job to act as a buffer between the human and cryptid worlds--not an easy task when you're dealing with women who has snakes in place of hair, little girls who may actually be cobras, and brilliant, beautiful Australian zookeepers. And then there's the matter of the murders. . .

Alex thought he was choosing the easier career when he decided to specialize in non-urban cryptids, leaving the cities to his little sister, Verity. He had no idea what he was letting himself in for. It's a family affair, and everyone--from his reanimated grandfather to his slightly broken telepathic cousin--is going to find themselves drawn in before things get any better.

This one was dropped off by the Preorder Fairy overnight and was waiting for me when I woke up on Tuesday morning. I had to force myself to get any work done on Tuesday at all, because all I wanted to do was sit down and read. Good thing Tuesday was an easy scene to finish. I managed to get my words for the day down in almost record time.

I love this series and this book was another great addition. I was a little nervous going in, because I knew the narrator and venue were changing and I had come to love Verity and her adventures with New York, and Dominic, so much. But Alex and Shelby are fantastic; I had absolutely nothing to worry about.

Alex is such a charming nerd. I adore him. I'm not big on lizards, myself, and you'd never catch me tromping around a swamp in a million years, but he makes it work somehow. And Shelby. . .  well, I just see her shaking her head and laughing at the whole mess, incredulous but still hanging onto her gun while all the secrets she thought she was in on get turned on their ear and everything just sort of burns to the ground. Literally, in one case.

The great mix of action and humor I've come to expect from McGuire's writing was out in full force in this book as well. The story yanked me from page to page until the very end with no real "dead spots" where I wanted to put it down.

I loved every moment we got to spend with Sarah as well. I'm so glad we're getting to follow her after the events in Midnight Blue-Light Special, because that's a story element that just tugs at me.

I do wish we'd gotten more information about the Jonathan and Fran story that was hinted at, or about why some notes were apparently burned, but I'm not going to really whine about an author traipsing down a bunny trail that happened to catch my eye but wasn't actually relevant to the plot. (Plus, I'm hopeful that maybe that's all in an upcoming short story or something.)

Speaking of the mice--yeah, I know I wasn't actually speaking of the mice, but if you've read the book, you'll probably get the transition my brain just made--I do wish we could have seen more of the mice. I'm not sure that's a realistic criticism either though, because I'm betting McGuire could write a whole novel about nothing but the Aeslin mice and I'd finish it saying I wish we could have seen more of the mice. I love those little guys. And I don't even like mice.

And finally, there was this:
I love Marvin the Martian. Even if I hated everything else in this book, McGuire would have had me at "kaboom". I have officially declared her my leader.


Wayfarer, by Lili St. Crow
The Charmer's Ball. Midnight. And one glass slipper. . .

Newly orphaned, increasingly isolated from her friends, and terrified of her violent stepmother, Ellen Sinder still believes she'll be okay. She has a plan for surviving and getting through high school, which includes keeping her head down and saving any credits she can earn or steal. But when a train arrives from over the Waste beyond New Haven, carrying a golden boy and a new stepsister, all of Ellie's plans begin to unravel, one by one.

Just when all hope is lost, Ellie meets an odd old woman with a warm hearth and a heavenly garden. Auntie's kindness is intoxicating, and Ellie finally has a home again. Yet when the clock strikes twelve on the night of the annual Charmer's Ball, Ellie realizes that no charm is strong enough to make her past disappear. . .

In a city where Twisted minotaurs and shifty fey live alongside diplomats and charmers, a teenage girl can disappear through the cracks into safety--or into something much more dangerous. So what happens when the only safety you can find wants to consume you as well?

I got a bonus, not-Tuesday, new book day and another visit from the Preorder Fairy this week, because Wayfarer came out on Thursday! It's Lilith Saintcrow and I really liked the first book in the series, so I had to almost physically chain myself to my desk in order to get any work done. Words at the end of the week were tough this week and I wanted to curl up under a blanket with this book so badly, which combined to make my writing time on Thursday and Friday take forever. :-(

(If I hadn't already been eye-twitching exhausted from an incredibly long week, I probably would have pulled an all-nighter for this one. But there are kids to mind during the day and such and I'm not as young as I used to be anyway.)

It was worth the wait. I loved this book! The whole story was so beautifully dark and sinister. By the end, even with all the cynical genre awareness I could muster, I was right there with Ellen, wondering how in the heck anyone could expect this story to resolve into an even remotely happy ending. It's a young adult fairy tale retelling, so there has to be a happy ending, right? Right?!? But it is Lilith Saintcrow, so maybe. . . not. . . ?

Ellen was missing from large chunks of Nameless (which makes perfect sense, as cutting the victim off from potential allies is pretty much boilerplate for abusers) and so I didn't really know what to expect from her. Ellen is a wonderfully written character, portraying the mental and emotional chaos that comes with child abuse without being a "statement" about the mental and emotional chaos that comes with child abuse. She's faced with all horrible choices and crippled by exhaustion and pain and flawed reasoning, and my heart bled for her through the whole thing.

Rich, compelling worldbuilding is coming to be a standard expectation for me where Saintcrow's writing is concerned and I was not disappointed by this story one bit. I would say I could practically see myself living in New Haven, but I won't, because that's a boring cliché. And it's one screwed up, terrifying, creepy place and I don't think I would last a day, possibly not even an hour, in the world Saintcrow has created there anyway.


I read three books last week and I liked them all; I'll count that as a win! What about you? Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Read anything else interesting lately?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I'm Trying To Be Professional over Here

I'm not a professional writer. No one pays me to do it yet, so I, in my opinion, can't use that title yet. But I want to be a professional writer someday. That's my goal. And I firmly believe that in order to make that happen, I have to act like I'm already there. Dress for the job you want, as it were. I have to treat my career now with the respect I want it to someday garner.

Long-Suffering Husband and I had a lot of talks about ways to make this work and the kinds of support I would need. There are certain things about our life and family dynamic that neither of us is willing to sacrifice, so it's not like I could just wake up one day, declare myself a writer, and then lock myself in a room with a typewriter and a bottle of whiskey.

I make myself get out of bed at ouch o'clock in the morning to write so I can get, hopefully, get my words for the day down before the kids wake up. And he treats it like I've left the building, meaning he minds the kids if they need something during that time and he does his best not to distract me, even though I'm sitting just across the room.

Still, while Long-Suffering Husband understands that I consider this to be my second job, it's difficult to get others on the same page. I find that much of the time I have to hide a lot about how hard this is, which is very frustrating. (I suspect bottling up all that frustration is why I end up whining here on the blog so often.) Because if, for example, I complain about how tired I am, and I get told I should just give up the writing thing and sleep until the kids get up, instead of waking up so early in the morning. Maybe I could come back to it once they're in college.

If I worked outside my home, if I had a job as. . .  an early morning barista at Starbucks or something instead, I suspect I wouldn't get this kind of crap. I hear similar things from other people who work from home. (I can, happily, complain to those friends about being tired. Because they get it.)Those of us who try to make our livings from our living rooms just don't make much sense to people with "regular" jobs.

It probably also doesn't help that I'm not making any money at writing yet. It's all theoretical at this point, which is even harder for the "regular job" folks to understand. (And I've got a double whammy in that department, since my day job--being a stay-at-home mom to two toddlers--also doesn't come with a paycheck or much in the respect department either. But that's another topic for a different blog.)

I've taken to likening my writing career to starting a business manufacturing custom rocking chairs.

No one wakes up one morning and opens an instantly successful rocking chair manufacturing business. They have to first spend a lot of time learning how to make a proper rocking chair, experimenting with different models and materials, studying and incorporating the techniques of other craftsmen, learning how to use different kinds of tools, etc. And then, once they've gotten themselves to the point where they have a rocking chair they think they can sell, they have to invest even more time finding people to buy said chair or stores to sell them on their behalf. All that and more has to happen before they can actually make any money as a professional rocking chair manufacturer.

All this to say nothing of the work they'll have to put in to overcome the stigma that results from big name retailers who sell cheap, ready-to-assemble furniture, who are trying to convince the world that everyone with an Allen wrench and access to an IKEA can build a rocking chair, but that's a whole different level of this metaphor.

I'm not going to be making big money in rocking chair sales any time soon. I'm still learning how to make my rocking chairs, and it'll probably be a few years before I have one that won't collapse as soon as someone tries to sit in it. But that doesn't mean I can just keep spare rocking chair parts in my garage and hope they'll put themselves together while I'm busy doing something else, or that I should give up the whole idea and move on to something more. . .  conventional.

All it means is that I have to devote serious time and effort to my craft on a regular basis if I ever expect to make any progress. It means I have to take it seriously, and invest my time and energy as wisely as I can, because there's never enough of either and life just keeps rolling right along whether I want it to or not.

Which is why I get ticked off when I'm stressing a deadline and someone dismisses it with something like, "well, it's not a real deadline anyway; it's not like it matters." It matters. Even if it doesn't matter to anyone else right now, even if it never matters to anyone else, it matters to me. That makes it real.


What about you, readers and reader-bots? Do you have this same trouble? How do you handle it?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Abstract Thoughts: Two Steps Forward

Writings of the Muse
The Inner Editor is upset with me. She claims I keep messing up her outline. She's demanding an apology and is considering lodging a formal complaint.

I'm not sure who the complaint is being lodged with, exactly. Probably Renee. Poor Renee is pretty much always drowning in complaints from at least one of us. Though I suppose it could also be with her local chapter of the Inner Editors' Union instead. They do love their paperwork.

But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter, as I won't be apologizing either way. Because, of course, I'm not messing anything up. Her outline is wrong.

It wasn't always wrong. It was just fine when we were starting out. But we've gotten into the messy bit of it now and things aren't quite. . .  right. The characters have gotten to know one another. And, well, they just don't want to do things the way we originally thought they would.

I did try to follow the outline. I really did. I pushed and shoved and cajoled and outright forced those characters to march through the planned out scene. I'm not going to lie; it hurt me to do it. And it hurt Renee as well. Those words scraped themselves out of her skull like shards of broken glass. Shards of broken glass that also just happened to be on fire.

Can shards of broken glass be on fire? Hmmmm. . . . I feel like that's probably not a thing that can happen. Glass seems like something that's probably fireproof. Otherwise things like light bulbs would be a really bad idea.

Never mind. Back to the point. It's a metaphor anyway. You get the idea.

But after a couple of days of banging out these words that hurt and really just felt flat out wrong, Renee and I decided it just wasn't going to work. We scrapped the whole last scene--not set it aside, not excised it and sent it to the graveyard, just full out Ctrl-A, Delete scrapped it--and started over.

There's a school of thinking that says you should never delete anything while you're writing the first draft. There are Muses out there who won't even let their writers read what they've already written, for fear that said writer will start hacking away at the thing instead of moving forward.

And that last bit is the key, really. Moving forward. Because that's where most writers foul it up. They spend so much time fixing what's come before that they lose sight of the important thing. Advancing the story.

They delete a bit, write something new, and then realize the new bit messed up something else, so they have to go and delete that bit and write another new thing, but now that new thing messed up the first new thing, and so on and so on and so on. The "messed up" scene, which may or may not really be messed up, becomes quicksand.

Earworm alert! I'm hearing a flash of an old country song from Renee's youth. . .  "One step forward and two steps back; nobody gets too far like that."

Whole novels can be tanked by one bad patch of quicksand. Whole careers. And then Muses have to start doing things like making rules about not reading what you've already written.

Renee used to be a quicksand magnet. It took years before she finished anything, because she'd basically just flounder around from one patch of muck to another. But she's getting better about it now.

We both felt the scene wasn't working, that the characters would never actually have the conversation they were having, but we wrote it that way anyway, just to check. Sometimes those niggling little doubts are, after all, just doubts.

(We try to keep the Critic locked up in a soundproof room where Renee can't hear her delusional ranting, but sometimes a snippet or two slips through the cracks.)

When it became apparent that the characters were being stubborn for a reason, we stopped--no sense in making Renee continue to write something once I know it isn't going to work--thought the problem through for a couple of hours, and came out of it with a better scene.

It makes more work for the Inner Editor, because she's got to adjust her outline and such now, but in the end, she'll save time. I imagine it's a lot easier to rework an outline than it is to untangle a bad subplot once it's firmly knotted itself all through a completed manuscript.

But the important bit is that even with the slash and burn, Renee and I still ended the week with a net of 2000 words (the goal, by the way, is 5000 words a week right now, Idea Salesman) and a scene checked off the to-do list. We went back a little and tried something different, but we didn't stall out there.

No, we didn't make the word count goal for the week, because that backtrack cost us some time, but in the end we were further still along on Friday than we had been on Monday. No flailing around in the quicksand. Instead, we were. . .

Oh dear. I think I've pulled this metaphor too far. We were. . .  doing whatever the opposite of flailing around in quicksand is.

Two steps forward and one step back is still one step forward, after all. Though it would make for a very boring song.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Renee's Reading: A New Feature for Fridays

A while back the Idea Salesman asked for feedback as to what people would like to see more of on the blog. The goal for the year is to get up to four posts a week and having a loose sort of theme and schedule helps keep me on track and cuts down on blank page paralysis.

Besides, there's only so much whining about how my writing is going that I can do.

He did not, unfortunately, get any feedback. Probably because bots are notoriously lax about commenting. So I sat down and pondered this question on my own and now that I've decided what I'm going to do, I'm sharing my reasoning with all of you.

I'm not entirely sure why. As punishment, maybe, for not suggesting ideas of your own?

The flash fiction posts seem to draw in the most readers, at least in terms of those who appear to be actual people rather than bots. But I have enough trouble getting in the word count on my WIP and then churning out one extra piece of flash fiction every week. The idea of writing two made both the Muse and the Inner Editor cringe.

The Idea Salesman volunteered to write his own weekly column, instead of (or in addition to!) sharing space with the other abstracts. Because he's a giver that way. I think we can all agree that the Idea Salesman, while wonderful, is best taken in small doses with several weeks in between.

I'd offer up the slot for guest posts, but there aren't exactly people beating down my door begging for space here. I don't have much in the way of human readership, and I'm not sure I'd have anything to offer anyone. And I don't really have time to run around the internet finding people and begging them to write for my blog. I can barely get people to read my blog, let alone contribute to it.

Plus, then there would be deadlines I'd have to hold other people accountable to and tracking down late blog posts and such. Just thinking about that possibility gave me a headache.

I used to do book giveaways on one of my old blogs. That certainly drove traffic to the blog. People always tend to show up when you're giving stuff away. But between buying the books and paying for shipping, it got a bit expensive. Until this writing gig starts to actually pay out, I just can't afford that kind of investment.

But that did at least lead me around to an interesting idea. I write stuff, and the abstracts talk about how that's going. I try to get other people interested in reading the stuff I write, and the flash fiction posts are part of that. I spend a good bit of time learning about writing and publishing, and the Wednesday posts usually reflect that. That pretty much covers my whole writing life at the moment. But there is one other bookish thing that I do which, while not directly related to my writing, is certainly a factor. I read.

I read a lot.

And I thought maybe some of you might be interested in hearing about what I'm reading and what I'm thinking about it. I do one review post a month right now, when I talk about the writing book of the month, but plenty of other books flash through my Kindle app too. And beginning next week, that's what I'm going to blog about on Fridays.

I'm not going to do full in-depth reviews of everything I read. I don't have the time or the expertise for that. But I thought a few sentences about each book could be interesting. And who knows, it might actually spark some conversation in the comments, which is something this blog hasn't really managed very often yet.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Reading About Writing: On Writing, by Stephen King

What Writing Book Did I Read This Month?
On Writing, by Stephen King

"If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write."

In 1999, Stephen King began to write about his craft--and his life. By midyear, a widely reported accident jeopardized the survival of both. And in his months of recovery, the link between writing and living became more crucial than ever.

Rarely has a book on writing been so clear, so useful, and so revealing. On Writing begins with a mesmerizing account of King's childhood and his uncannily early focus on writing to tell a story. A series of vivid memories from adolescence, college, and the struggling years that led up to his first novel, Carrie, will afford readers a fresh and often very funny perspective on the formation of a writer. King next turns to the basic tools of his trade--how to sharpen and multiply them through use, and how the writer must always have them close at hand. He takes the reader through crucial aspects of the writer's art and life, offering practical and inspiring advice on everything from plot and character development to work habits and rejection.

Serialized in the New Yorker to vivid acclaim, On Writing culminates with a profoundly moving account of how King's overwhelming need to write spurred him toward recovery, and brought him back to his life.

Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower--and entertain--everyone who reads it.


Why Did I Pick That Book?
This is the most consistently recommended writing book I've ever seen. Every time I mention that I'm looking for a good writing book, this one gets at least one mention. It makes sense, as Stephen King is one of the best known authors in the world. I imagine even hermits have heard of him. So if you're looking for advice on how to make a career out of writing, King certainly has a solid case in the experience department. (Understatement much?) It seems like everyone I've ever met/heard speak/read about who has any connection to the publishing industry has read this book. So I figured, you know, I should probably read it too. It's one of those word-of-mouth advertising meets peer pressure things.


What Did I Think of It?
I liked it. It was a good collection of practical information and an enjoyable read. I wasn't expecting the "CV" section of the book, which was very interesting for me. I've head of Stephen King (obviously) and I've read some of his books, but beyond knowing that he's a guy who writes good books that often get made into movies, I didn't actually know anything about his life.

The how-to section of the book was very no-nonsense, which I loved. Rather than waffle along telling you how you might do something and then following it up with something completely different in a positively Clue-like "or you might want to do it this way", King just sets out how he does things and lets us decide if we're going to go that route or not. Some people take this book as gospel anyway (oh, how I mourn all the poor adverbs a certain CP of mine has ruthlessly slaughtered in King's name!) but that's certainly not based on any pretension of grandeur I found in this book.

I also liked it--prepare yourself for a moment inside my very silly brain--because I had to read Strunk & White's Elements of Style in high school and two pieces of information from that book permanently attached themselves to my brain: the difference between nauseated and nauseous, and Omit Needless Words. King really liked that second one, and references it several times, which made me smile every time. It's always nice when you get the reference, and it feels a little bit brilliant when the reference is being made by someone widely regarded as an expert in your field.

Of course, I'm probably no more likely to take that little tidbit to heart now that I've heard it from Stephen King than I was when it was presented to me all those years ago by William Strunk, Jr and E.B. White. I'm convinced that all those poor lost needless words other writers are so busy omitting are being picked up by my Muse and given a warm new home in my own writings.


What Did I Learn from It?
So, so much. As I said above, there's a good collection of practical information in this book. King lists out a number of things he feels you need to do to be successful at writing things people would actually be interested in paying money to read. I learned some good nuts and bolts stuff. My favorite little tidbit was probably the 2nd draft = 1st draft - 10 % rule of thumb. I'm... verbose. Writing word-limited flash fiction is helping me learn to tighten things up, but that doesn't stop me from flinging ALL THE WORDS at my rough drafts.

On a more... philosophical level, I learned a lot about being in the mindset of a career novelist. In giving so many examples from his life, King paints a very deep picture of what it's like to be a writer at every level of the game. I felt it was good for me, to be able to point to stages I've already been through, the place I'm sitting at now, and, of course, the place I'd ultimately love to be. I have a feeling that aspect of the book will keep it relevant for me in later years, when (not if!) my career progresses from aspiring novelist to professional.

Before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, by the way, I'm not saying I'm just like Stephen King. We've lived very different lives. We're traveling different roads, just like every other human being on the planet. We might not agree on much if we ever actually met, or even be able to understand one another on any but the most superficial of levels. But we have this one thing in common, this great love of stories, and I think it's important to keep that in mind. Writing is such a lonely game most of the time if you lose sight of that.

Oh, and if you ever want a really nice example of "show, don't tell", I think the "C.V." section of the book words very well. It kind of makes me wonder: did King set out to create a showpiece for the advice he would give in the book when he wrote that? Or is good storytelling just so ingrained in him at this point that he did it unconsciously? In other words, genius or SUPER genius?


Would I Recommend This Book to Another Writer?
Yes I would. Not that I think I'll need to. As I said at the outset, every writer I've ever met has read this book, and it seems I'm the last one to join the party. But just in case I ever happen upon someone looking for good writing books who hasn't yet discovered it, On Writing will definitely be on my list of recommendations.

Have you read On Writing? (Of course you have. Again, everybody has.) What did you think of it?


This experiment of reading one writing book a month is working out really well. You'd never know I was someone who generally hates writing books. After all, I have yet to pick a book for one of these features that I wouldn't recommend, which is making me wonder if maybe I was just picking up all the lousy writing books before.

Oh, and next month I'll be reading either The Kick-Ass Writer, by Chuck Wendig, or Writing 21st Century Fiction, by Donald Maass. I can't decide which one. Anyone have an opinion there? Or have another writing book (about writing, editing, publishing, etc) they'd like to recommend for the future? Feel free to let me know in the comments.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Abstract Thoughts: Oops

Brilliance from Idea Salesman
Ahem. Pay no attention to the random unexplained blog absence. Nothing to see here, folks. Move it along. Return to your lives, citizens.

Actually, you know what, ignore that last bit. I probably shouldn't be shooing you back to your lives at the beginning of my blog post. No need to move along. There's plenty to see here and such. Going forward, you know. There just wasn't anything for a little while there. Because of reasons.

*pauses*

*forces self to stop rambling and get back to the fleurking point*

Renee and the gang have been absent from the blogosphere for the last couple of weeks because of, well, life stuff. On occasion the life stuff swells up and gets overwhelming and the blog is, sadly, the first thing to suffer in those instances.

Well, I suppose that's not entirely accurate. I'm sure Long-Suffering Husband would say that the blog is by far not the first thing to suffer. (He is the expert on suffering around here, after all.) But it's the first thing I care about, and, since this is my blog post, that's really all that matters. I don't give a hoot how long it's been since Renee cleaned the downstairs powder room or what percentage of the family's dinners come packed in Styrofoam boxes or wrapped in greasy paper.

Anyway, there was life stuff and it was overwhelming and things got a little off track. But it's all good now. Guardian is rolling right along, with couple thousand new words in the can last week, Renee's office has been moved downstairs and caged into a corner of the living room so she can work while "watching" her kids during the day, and we're back to blogging regularly and tweeting and such.

Hopefully the life stuff is safely squashed into its appropriate corner and will leave us alone for now.

So, sincere apologies, Readers, from me, Renee, and the rest of the abstract team, for letting you down these last few weeks. It'll be better going forward. We even have a new regular feature debuting this week. Look for more on that on Friday.