Archives

Book Review: Creatures: A Novel

Hello my lovelies! Today I thought I’d talk to you about Creatures: A Novel by Crissy Van Meter. It’s the first physical book I’ve read in a while. I’ve read on my Nook, and physical magazines… but books? For enjoyment? Not so much.

On that last trip to Barnes & Noble, I found a couple of tables with “Buy 2 Get 1 Free!” Normally, I just walk on by. I enjoy reading on my Nook. It’s convenient. I can adjust the font size. But there is nothing quite like holding a book in your hands and smelling the pages as you read.

I picked up this one in particular because of the little sea creatures on the cover, and the setting being close to the sea (an island, so. Yah). The voice captured me, drew me in and held me even through the parts I hate.

And yes, there are things in this book I normally skip right out of. Drugs—especially parents using a lot of drugs. Van Meter handles it in a variety of ways. Time flows like the ocean, back and forward. The academic questions and answers regarding whales that explore Evangeline’s relationship with her dead father, who looms just as surely as the dead whale out on the beach. The innovation in the way the story is told, including an insert of the very far future (and only one! I wanted more!), is beautifully done. It comes organically from the story– which we all know means that Van Meter put a lot of effort into it. It was worth it.

Overall, the character’s voice drew me in and kept me, even past the time where I knew the subject matter wasn’t what I normally read. I was engrossed. I was rooting for Evangeline. Creatures is the perfect example of why it’s so important to find the right voice for our stories. Because that voice will carry even the most reluctant reader through.

Almost

Today I was deep in my feelings of failure. I’d received another rejection– a very nice one, one that told me how much the editor liked my story and it invited me to submit again to their anthologies.

As soon as I saw the email, I thought to myself: Great, another rejection. I hadn’t even read it yet.

My inner critic came up and attacked me. It’s not an editor– an editor improves your work. The Inner Critic trashes your work and your soul. “Great, I’m still almost good enough. Not there, never there, but almost good enough.”

It  was enough to make me cry.

Last week, I showed a very personal short story that I had experimented with to some beta readers. Ok, only one of them was really one of my normal Beta readers. Mostly, while they enjoyed the story, it confounded them. It almost made sense. I haven’t read the notes my regular beta reader sent me, but I think I will soon. She reads as an editor, not a critic. My other, who actually HAS edited my work, hasn’t read it yet. It’s out of my wheel house.

It’s real.

No dragons, witches or even an AI or space ship. No elves. Just something this side of way too real. I wrote it for one class, rewrote it for another and… people didn’t get it. I completely ignored the feedback from a classmate whose writing and crits I highly admire, though. The one that said I had spot on characterization, and the details of being cold were right as well.

The class that starts on Monday I’ve been looking forward to. It’s on writing linked short stories. I have read the course page backwards and forwards, and it didn’t say anything about the stories we write having to be in the literary vein– i.e. no fantasy, sci fi, speculative fiction. Can I catch a break? The last “normal” story I wrote confounded people.

So I did what any good, self respecting sulking writer does. I called my sister. She’s been a second mother to me all my life, and we’ve gotten a lot closer in the last few years. We talk Monday through Friday. And she told me what I needed to hear.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

You’re not almost good enough.

You’re almost there.

 

 

Authorial Intent & Readers

First, when speaking of authorial intent, I’m not talking about when you write a tragic love scene but somehow everyone who reads it is laughing hysterically when they should be crying.That is craft and beyond the scope of this 🙂

No, for today, we’re talking about the task of trying to figure out what a passage means (as dictated by the author), or who a poet is writing to. You know, fun stuff.

But is it? I know in college we had to play these games, and back it up with “proof” from the manuscript, but the truth of the matter is… None of it mattered. Not one whit, to my reader self.

My reader self saw a line from one of the cannon and went “oh”, quiet and small in the beauty of the phrase. I wasn’t concerned about the implications of the phrase, about who the narrator was speaking to, or any of that.

I was wrapped in the beauty of the words.

And that is what, ultimately, we writers want. We want readers to become wrapped up in our worlds, our words.

Does it matter to you who I wrote the following to:

 

We danced in
the kitchen,
sunshine just
kissing the sky.
The whole world
wrapped in my arms.
We sang your
favorite lullabye
before the day came
to take us our
separate
ways.

 

Does it matter who I wrote it to? What I wrote it about? Or does it ultimately matter more what you get from reading it? As writers, we map a journey. We do it artfully, with any luck, but we map it out. The reader must take the journey.

So.

Authorial intent.

I never really cared who Shakespeare wrote his sonnets to. I only wished someone loved me enough to try and pretend they had written one for me LOL

 

Have a wonderful weekend, my lovelies, filled with writing or reading. Or both.

 

 

Changing Voice

Picture this: Your favorite author writes a series that you love. You love his/her work. Then a new book, a new series comes out.

And you hate it.

As a reader I hate it when that happens. Beth Bernobich finished one series, then her next book was actually a collection of interconnected stories. She went from fantasy to steampunk. I like both genres… but I hated the second one. Did not care for it. At. All. The voice was too different from the one I fell in love with.

Sometimes a series can shift and change underneath you. I loved L.E. Modesitt’s Imager series. The last two… not so much. But the very last one… nope. The voice was the same, but the story fell flat. The voice was…stagnant.

As a reader, we can identify these things and bemoan the horrors! But as authors, we need to take careful notes. Some authors can skip through genres, or even different tones in the same genre (fantasy and romance are famous for that) and do it successfully. Others not so much. Some can write in the same tone over and over and still achieve the stretching that keeps writing fresh.

Because as writers, we do have to stretch. We need to reach with our writing, either in scope, genre or voice. Even if they never see the light of day, we need to keep honing our skills. Patrick Rothfuss wrote what ended up being the best non-story story I’ve ever read (The Slow Regard of Silent Things). While set in the world that his series is in, it is completely different. Rothfuss has taken a lot of flack for it, but here’s the thing. I think he probably would have written it regardless of whether or not it was published. Many mocked him for the “apology” that he prefaced his work with. I say this: he merely let rabid fans know that this was not what they were waiting for. It had meaning, but it was substantially different.

So what’s the answer? I don’t have it… but I know this much. The story I’m starting on now might have light and fluffy parts to it. But at it’s core it’s something different than what I’ve been writing lately. If  it’s published, cool. If not, at least I will have strengthened those writing muscles.

Till next time, my lovelies!

Guest Post: The Creative You

Please give a warm welcome to fellow pirate Steven Southard . You can catch him over at his blog, here, where he has been kind enough to interview several of his fellow authors (including me! )

Steve Southard photo

Thanks, Wynelda, for this opportunity. In one of your blog posts [April 21, 2014], you explained why you write, and I liked the part where you said you write because you “have to. A compulsion, a spilling forth of part of your soul…” I’d like to extend that further.

My theory is that everyone, everybody (yes, I’m looking at you, Reader!) has a similar, soul-born compulsion. Not necessarily the compulsion to grab a keyboard and pound out a novel, but an inner drive to create something.

For some of you, it’s a story; we humans love stories. For others it’s an abstract thought, an idea.   Whichever it is, you then turn to the problem of expression, of conveying that inner notion to others. Some turn to sculpture or painting. Others turn to music or dance. A few turn to writing. There are many creative outlets and each of you finds one to try.

Your first attempts are earnest, fueled by that soul-spark, but also a bit tentative and maybe even playful.

Then the problem starts. You get partway done, or maybe all finished, and you gaze at what you’ve made. You hate it. The real-life creation is nothing like you imagined. It’s crap. You know others would hate it too.

Moment of Truth time. What are you going to do now? Will you conclude, as with a thousand other failures in your life, you gave it a try, but you’re obviously no good at this?

Or will your inner fire find a voice that pushes through your feelings of inadequacy and disappointment? That voice might say, “I’m still here, deep inside. I’m not going anywhere, so you’re going to have to deal with me. Either put in more practice at what you’re doing, or find some other creative outlet, ‘cause I’m here to stay, and I’m going to shout even louder from now on.”

What will you do in your moment of truth? The world is out here hoping you’ll listen to your soul.

Seeds of Change

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably seen the analogy of the seed: that it has to allow itself to be completely undone in order to change into something else.

I’m debating this one, hotly, right now.

And yes, I am talking to myself again. Loudly.

I had major surgery back at the end of June. One week from today, I’ll go back to the day job. But I’ve had a lot of time to think, think, think… Especially when I was waking up all the time for pain managment (making sure I got the ibuprofins at the right time) and hot flashes (back chohate really works!). I thought of what would make me feel good about my writing, what would make me feel like things were worth it.

Let’s face it, right now I’m a sprinter. I can do the short story, and I enjoy writing them. Even when I was writing novels, however, I never saw myself as sitting at a conference selling books and signing autographs. Would I like to be on the best seller list?  Of course.

But it was never my main dream.

Every time I let myself drift and dream, I find myself imagining not scores of readers… but talking to potential writers. Poety. Journaling. Story telling. All of it. I want to share my passion for words and how they have helped me every step of the way.

My seed hasn’t come completely undone. Perhaps it already had done that a long time ago. Instead, my branches are reaching for a different part of the sky. Maybe not the part you’re reaching for, maybe not the part others like… but the little slice that is mine.

Now… how to go about doing this? I have some preliminary plans in place… we shall see if they go anywhere. But I’ll never know until I start.

(The hilarious part is I’ve always shied away from teaching because of the public speeking part of it. Wheeee!)

Keep your mitts off my books!

There’s been a ration of poo slung around this spring/summer regarding women in fantasy fiction and, more recently even romance. I kind of have to shake my head at these posturing potential potenates…. who don’t realize that if the conversation were fictionalized and thrown into a fantasy setting… well. They would not be the hero. Oh, no. They would definitely be the evil wizard/king/crybaby trying to force everyone into their own way of thinking. You shall not pass.

I mean really. Are you truly trying to tell me that Robin Hobb, Lynn Flewelling, Carol Berg and Mercedes Lackey are… lacking? Shame on you! Don’t like the new crop of fiction coming out? Don’t read it. But don’t presume to know what’s good for me.

What really saddens me is that these kind of arguments have been going on for a very long time. Because something is popular with them, the masses, women it must be inherently bad. Suck it up, buttercup, cuz those readers are still going to read the books they want to. They will buy them in droves, propelling them UP the NYT Best Seller list while your own languishes in the stacks. 
 Oh, and by the way? Shakespeare? Wildly popular with the masses. All those bawdy jokes, don’t you know.
While I was at CSU, I often hid what I was reading due to jack asses. Fantasy was fine, but let someone catch me with a romance? I cringed at the thought. Until someone tried to book shame me, in my creative writing class, and the professor said something to the effect of… well… You can support yourself with that sort of writing. Live very well, if you have the talent.
This was the same instructor who told us on our first day not to even try genre fiction (especially horror or sci-fi / fantasy) in his class. I was terrified when I went up to speak with him. But I write fantasy, I said. “Prove it,” he told me.  Turns out he’s not against the genre, just the bad habits of new writers. I wrote my first novel under his guidance, a work of fantasy fiction.
A lot of what I read and write has to do with belonging. About taking what you’ve got and making it work. Finding a way through the darkness. There are books who have held me up (Anne Bishop) during the worst time of my life, and others that echo those days and reinforce that we are survivors (Cathy Lamb). There’s the joy of love (Eloisa James, Julia Quinn), and family and friends.
If you’re so afraid of women in fiction, then I kind of have to ask. What are you so afraid of?
No matter the answer, keep your mitts off my reading material. I don’t need that sort of help.
Ogres need not apply.
 

Book Review: A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent

 

Anyone who knows me, based on the title and cover of this book, would think that I would be stark raving bonkers over it. Madley, passionately letting my inner geek out to play with the dragons.

Eh. Not so much.

This is one of those novels that I circled around forever. Sometimes, when I finally bite it is a great read. This time, it was a pretty good story, but the voice in it kind of… hmm… how to explain it.

The voice of the character is spot on. Isabella is writing after a long career, obtaining and sharing knowledge of her beloved dragons. A pragmatic scientist in a country and time that didn’t allow easily for women to do such… well… she finds a way. Through her husband.

Using Lady Trent’s voice is both brilliant and little bit off putting. There are clues hidden here and there, among things that she says to her readers or about her editors. Things that contemporaries of hers would know, but we the reader wouldn’t. Such as the following:

(SPOILER ALERT BELOW>> SPOILER ALERT BELOW)

The careful reader will remember that she signs the preface as Isabella, Lady Trent. But her husband wasn’t anything beyond a Mr. Hmmm….. I knew what was coming before it did, but even still…. it just was… too remote.

The voice, however, also puts a wall between action and emotion. It’s a little old fashioned that way. I wasn’t as intently invested in this book as I have been in others simply because of that wall. I may be a lazy reader, but I just didn’t feel like breeching the wall and taking apart the book piece by piece.

I did end up reading it all the way through— if it had been atrocious there was no way that that would happen.

Mixed feelings on this one, peeps. Have any of you read it? What did you think? Have you read any books that you couldn’t decide if they were good or not?