Tuesday, 31 March 2009
handled by having one character tell another- very briefly. I need that scene to give the whole a better balance. So tomorrow it is back to the drawing board and thinking caps on.
However, let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed Janet Mullany's The Rules of Gentility. It's a Regency, but a Regency with a difference and a sly sense of humour. I must admit I've tried it before - only once - and put it away after the first few pages. But this time I must have been in a better mood, or a mood that matched the writing, and I loved it.
The opening lines will give you a taste of the style - after opening with the "truth universally acknowledged" line the heroine veers off into this: "I consider the pursuit of the bonnets and a husband fairly alike - I do not want to acquire an item that will wear out, or bore me after a brief acquaintance, and we must suit each other very well.....and of course, with a gentleman you cannot replace the trim from another to make the perfect object..."
I've begun Labyrinth (Kate Mosse) but I'm not sure about it as yet. It seems to take pages and pages to get at a chunk of story. Already I've begun to skip over the descriptions (endless, it seems) of food. And the little vignettes of everyday life in Caracassone. I may find they all tie in to the main storyline, but so far I doubt it. If I turned writing like this in to my critique group, I'm sure they would be wailing Too much - info dump - cut to the story. Yet because I enjoyed Sepulchre, I picked this volume up with great eagerness. Let's hope I get into the long swing of Labyrinth before too many more pages.
PS If you saw yesterday's photo, you should recognise today's close-up!
Monday, 30 March 2009
I am working hard on editing KT and doing it carefully so as to increase pace. Some subtle plot twists are going in too, minor things, but important. Motivation, where it is lacking, I am firming up. It takes a lot of concentration. Writing first drafts is so much easier!
A kind friend loaned me a copy of Writing Romance by Vanessa Grant and I wish I'd read this before I tried to write for Mills & Boon! So much became clear as I huffed and puffed my way through. My reading was full of little light bulb moments as things I thought I'd understood became clear at last. It explained pacing, too.
I want to get this draft finished and sent off before Easter, and I should manage that. If I work hard and concentrate.
The picture is of All Saints church on Akenside Hill, taken from the Quayside. The body of the church is circular in shape, which is rather unusual. It was built 1786-96 to replace a medieval church on the site which dated from the 1200s. Deconsecrated in 1961 it was converted to offices and auditorium in 1983-84. I don't know what is happening to it at the moment, but it had scaffording around it not so long ago. I can sense another walk in the offing...
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
Monday, 23 March 2009
Friday, 20 March 2009
Before I forget - I have an excerpt on Unusual Historicals today - or maybe yesterday now! Do have a look. It's a bit from Dark Pool, my story set in Viking Dublin.
The weather has been so good this week that I've been out gardening every day, but now it is time to get back to work. I've been having doubts about the opening chpaters of KT so whilst gardening I've been simmering about what to do. I've had the old notebooks out, checking the words of masters like McKee, Bransford and Maas on things like pacing and conflict. I've pickedup some lovely quotes along the way. "Pacing is the rhythm of a novel." Well, yes, but it doesn't tell you how to achieve good pacing, does it? "Pacing is the length of time between moments of conflict." That gives me a clue. "The rate the reader reads." "The speed at which the novel events occur and unfold." What speeds up pace? Dialogue. Now we're getting somewhere.
Bradbury says: "Start where things start to go wrong." So, I'm rethinking the opening pages. Much as I love them, there is no real hook there to grab the reader, no hint of plot. Of course, this book started out as a romance, pure and simple. Now it has morphed into something else. Since I'm a start-at-the-beginning-and-work-through-to-the-end sort of writer, then those first pages are the oldest bits of writing.
Bransford says "without conflict the book is DOA." His way of putting things is sharp and dead on the money, and I must now go back and look at my beginning.
Monday, 16 March 2009
Thursday, 12 March 2009
The story is set in Shetland and the heroine is Tora, a consultant obstetricain who longs for her own baby but seems destinied not to conceive. In chapter one she unearths a corpse, obviously murdered. Well, the heart has been removed, so it seems a reasonable assumption. The woman gave birth days before dying. Her body bears runes carved into her back - runes Tora has seen carved into the mantel in the cellar of her house.
Small incidents escalate, rattle the nerves and arouse Tora's fighting spirit. What happened to the woman, and the child? What is the connection to the house she lives in? Why is there a strange reticence among the population of Shetland to discuss the problem? When she hears of other women who have disappeared when pregnant, she cannot leave the problem alone.
It is beautifully written - the sort of writing you don't notice over much because it is so fit for purpose. The deeds are spine-chillingly awful but the author does not describe gory details, for which I give thanks; to hint and leave to the imagination is often better than blood following the knife. The grand final is nerve-biting and kept me turning pages to find the answer, reading late into the night. As a first novel, it is astonishly good. I shall be looking for the next title - Awakening.
Monday, 9 March 2009
After a dearth of good reading matter, I've found something that is holding my attention. Sacrifice by S. J. Bolton. New author, not anyone I know anything about, and a thriller rather than a romance. Hints of the paranormal, or is it men up to no good? Page 199 and I can't tell yet. Tell you more when I reach the end. So far it had me reading till almost 3am last night.
I bought/downloaded one of Jo Beverley's titles yesterday. It is ages since I read one, and now I have my Sony reader, I really ought to download more. However, I find I get annoyed when publishers expect me to pay the same price for a download as I would for the paperback. To my mind, that is not on. The paper, printing and distribution costs have vanished, so why is the item not at least half price? One effect of the recession is supposed to be that people will turn back to reading as a relatively cheap form of entertainment ~ as opposed to a meal out, a cinema ticket, a few drinks at the pub. Another is that it will also favour e-books, as they are cheaper still. I may be alone in this view, but if the cost of the download is the same as the paperback, then I'll wait and buy the paperback. Then at least I will have a real book in my hands.
Having never read Mrs Gaskell, Larkrise to to Candleford is a real joy to watch and brightens my Sunday evenings. Something tells me I ought to read the original, but in a way I'm almost afraid to in case I don't enjoy it. Every library I've ever worked in had a copy on the shelves, but few ever borrowed them, and hey - I never read what I was supposed to read. I was the one always delving in odd literary corners to find the unexpected. I've managed to get by without reading Dickens (except for A Christmas Carol), most of Thomas Hardy (only the Trumpet Major) and instead found small masterpieces such as Farewell Gul'sary, A Speckled Bird, Oblomov, The Small Dark Man by Maurice Walsh and many more. I really must look them up and see if I can still find them, even if I can't remember the name of the authors.
Friday, 6 March 2009
The news yesterday ~ Barnes & Noble have bought out Fictionwise. I have two titles there and so do many other e-published writers.
Here's a few sentences from the press release:
Barnes & Noble, Inc. the world’s largest bookseller, has acquired Fictionwise, a leader in the e-book marketplace, for $15.7 million in cash. Barnes & Noble said it plans to use Fictionwise as part of its overall digital strategy, which includes the launch of an e-Bookstore later this year.
Headquartered (another of those noun into verb contortions I've been noticing lately) in New Jersey, Fictionwise was founded in 2000 by Steve and Scott Pendergrast. Barnes & Noble intends to keep Fictionwise as a separate business unit and the founders will continue to operate the business.
Barnes & Noble, Inc. operate 799 bookstores in 50 states and (http://www.bn.com/), one of the Web’s largest e-commerce sites.
It seems that the bookworld in general is in favour of the move and sees it as another big push for the e-book market. Nathan Bransford, if I'm interpreting his blog comments correctly, sees the worldwide recession as a boost for e-books since they cost considerably than paper books at a time when people have less dosh to spend.
So, maybe a good thing for authors to keep a foot in both camps.
Wednesday, 4 March 2009
So, I concentrate on working. I have three completed stories and I'm working on them all.
It's not exactly revision, except for Shadows. An e-publisher in the States has asked if I can escalate the internal conflict between H/h, so I'm going through and giving the pair of them a tougher time. Keep Trust lacks plainly stated goals/motivation on the page, according to my critique group, and I think they're right, so I'm going through and doing that before (I hope!) I get any bites from the partials out on the story.
Happily I finished my final revisions on Till The Day Go Down yesterday and it is with my publisher awaiting his comments. So now I'm working on two stories instead of three. It works quite well, for switching, I find, prevents boredom.
I read an interesting comment yesterday about the difference between marketing and publicity. The former is mostly selling what you don't have and teasing peoples' interest in it. The latter is selling something you do have. So once a book is published, Marketing becomes Publicity.
Marketing is the interesting bit. We're told to Pitch to Editors - should we ever see these rare creatures. If I lived in London it might be a possibility, but here in Tyne & Wear I doubt there's two to meet together. There is a poetry publisher - Bloodaxe Books - and I remember the man who runs it was at uni when I was there. There's also Myrmidon and Ed Handysides, but I hear little of them and he is not into publishing romances.
Back to the main point. Pitch to Editors. Boil our story down to a couple of sentences we can tell others and get them interested. Invent a catchy slogan or a tight logline that hints at the beginning, middle, and end of our hero’s adventure, and this will give a better chance of selling the project. They say the discipline of doing this makes the writing of the story so much better as well, but since I haven't come up with a good logline yet for any of the three books I've written, I can see that disaster looms on the horizon.
So, life was never so easy as to cross a field.
Sunday, 1 March 2009
First of all, fiction divides into literary and commercial.
Commercial fiction is broad and covers subgenres such as mystery, romance, legal thriller, western, science fiction, and so on.
Examples: John Grisham, Sidney Sheldon, Danielle Steele, and Jackie Collins.
Literary fiction appeals to a smaller audience. It can fall into subgenres but excellent writing, originality of thought, and unusual style makes it different from commercial fiction.
Example: Charles Frazier, Toni Morrision, Barbara Kingsolver, John LeCarre, and Saul Bellow.
Mainstream fiction describes both commercial and literary works. Usually set in the 20th or present-day 21st century and with a universal theme such as family issues, coming of age initiations, courtroom dramas, career matters, physical and mental disabilities, social pressures, political intrigue, and more. Regardless of original genre or category, most of the novels that appear on the bestseller list are considered mainstream, whether the author is Sue Grafton, Arundhati Roy, Michael Crichton, or David Guterson.
Popular fiction has defined categories of appeal to specific audiences. These are classed as genre fiction, each with its own set of rules and conventions.
Mysteries focus on a crime, usually murder. subgenres include spy, detective, and crime stories. Examples: Carl Hiaason, James Ellroy, Robert Parker, James Lee Burke, and Elmore Leonard.
Romance, the largest, most diverse, and most popular of the commercial genres diverts and entertains women. Romance novels contain elements of fantasy, love, naïveté, extravagance, adventure, and a hero who overcomes impossible odds to be with his true love. Subgenres of romance include regency, historical, bodice rippers, and contemporary. For historical detail and settings, read a regency or historical romance. For tempestuous relationships you want bodice rippers .
Example: Barbara Cartland, Jude Deveraux, Victoria Holt, Daphne Du Maurier, and Danielle Steele.
Publishers and booksellers have identified a category within the mainstream that they classify as Women's Fiction. Some key characteristics include a focus on relationships, one or more strong female protagonists, women triumphing over unbearable circumstances, and the experiences of women unified in some way.
Examples: Barbara Taylor Bradford, Anne Rivers Siddons, Alice McDermott, Judith Krantz, Anne Tyler, Rebecca Wells, and Alice Hoffman.
Category fiction is often used as a synonym for genre fiction such as Westerns or Thrillers. " Category romance are short and published in clearly marked categories, often labelled sequentially. Harlequin/Mills & Boon is the biggest publisher of category romances, releasing 500 titles a month in 25 different languages.