Sunday, February 27, 2011

Another TBR pile selection down

My husband and I have been watching the Tudors as time allows (all hail Netflix) and so when I reached into my TBR pile again, I aimed for Phillpa Gregory's The Constant Princess. I've always enjoyed reading about this time period and vastly enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl. This book features the story of Katherine of Aragon, the flip side of the Boleyn story.

This beautifully told tragic tale rekindled my love for Gregory's books. No need to throw the book against the wall or start any fires this time around. If only high school would have taught history with historical fiction, I would have paid so much more attention. This book chronicles the lift of Katherine from childhood as the Princess of Wales to her quest to become Queen of England. The utter certainty of her character, conviction beyond what anyone else can understand, puts this strong woman on the throne where she belongs.

As a reader, I loved, loved, loved this book. The strength of character, so artfully portrayed is amazing. Having been thoroughly introduced to Katherine, I can now only wonder how different things would have been if spoiled, selfish Henry hadn't put her aside. Gregory's solution to the question of Katherine's actual relations with her first husband, Arthur, seems a logical one and plays into the princess's ambition to become queen.

I would recommend this book to anyone currently watching the Tudors. While Katherine is portrayed as a solid and devout force to reckon with on the show, we're given little hint as to what she had to endure to get to the throne and exactly why the people love her so much. This knowledge makes her battle against the corrupt church, her husband and the woman who wants her throne so much more tragic.

As a writer, this book is a excellent example of how to portray a sympathetic, loving, yet utterly strong and determined female character. It also illustrates why it is a bad idea to have pages of italic text (hard on the eyes) and convey thoughts with quotes (so very confusing!), especially within dialogue heavy sections of the book. The title caught my eye right away and when the first use of it came up in the book, I stopped to appreciate the 'ah ha' moment. Then it was used again, and again, and again... my head hurt from the anvils raining from the sky by the time I'd finished the book. Those little things didn't diminish the love factor, though, I'd certainly read this one again.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Venturing into the TBR pile

It's been awhile since I've picked up a book for fun, mostly because I get a little out of control when I go on a reading binge. I stay up far too late, work doesn't get done, writing doesn't happen, dinner gets burned, and I'm late for everything. Just one more page. One more, and I promise I'll put it down. Yeah, right.

My TBR pile has been steadily growing and I needed to do something about it, so being around Valentine's Day and all, I allowed myself to dip into the romance pile. My hand landed on the guilty pleasure of Christine Feehan's Lair of the Lion.

I've read many of her other books, mostly of the Dark Series, and had found them enjoyable, but perhaps a bit formulaic when read too closely together. Still, the perfect book for a glass of wine and a long, hot bubble bath kind of night. Lair of the Lion was a nice change. Still sensual but without vampires of any variety. It's a twist on the Beauty and the Beast type tale with a gothic edge.

As a reader, the level of romance was satisfying and the curse to be broken led me through a fulfilling mystery. There were even a few twists I totally didn't see coming, which I always appreciate.

As a writer, the repetition of description of the characters got on my nerves. The word 'strange' was used far too many times to describe the mysterious male MC's eyes and hair. The ending of the mystery felt slightly rushed, but the romance side of the plotline ended on the perfect note, full of character and without any of the dreaded overdose of HEA-happy-sparkly-rainbows-of-eye-rolling-gag-me. On the plus side, the book illustrates a good balance of incorporating enough foreign language to offer flavor without confusion or overdoing it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The waiting game

We write. We bleed on the pages. We wipe up the blood, format correctly and research our markets. We submit.

We wait.

We check email. We write. We check email. We go to work. We come home. We check email. We decree that we hate waiting.

We check average response times and discover we have a long time to wait. We sigh and write.

We fear rejection, but check email anyway. We feel positive, uplifted, because we had a good day, so we check email. We decree that we hate empty inboxes.

We check market websites. Responses have gone out. We check email. We sigh and write.

Days go by and the inbox remains empty. This just can't be right. We check email. It occurs to us, with a sense of dread, quelled by a sudden rush of utter optimism, murdered quickly by the second flood of dread, that we've not checked the spam folder in quite some time. We check the spam folder.

Rejected way back on day two. We decree that we hate the spam folder.

We write.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

From steamroller casualty to acceptance

I am utterly pleased to announce that my short story, "The Employer", has been accepted to The First Line magazine. The steamrollers have been vanquished and a gold star has been plunked on the top of my paper.

Thank you to all the wonderful people who critiqued this story. Your suggestions made it shine. As this story was part of my November writing frenzy, I can finally say that something I wrote during NaNoWriMo has become something worthwhile!

The Employer is the third story I've written for this magazine. The first two didn't make the cut. I was drawn the idea of the first line prompt and find them quite inspiring. It's one of those shove the prompt in the back of your head, percolate it for awhile and see what the old twisted mind comes up with things. Since they post the prompts for the year well in advance, there's plenty of time to ponder.

Not only do you have to write a story that hasn't been done a billion times, you have to start it with the same first line as everyone else. The trick is to think outside the box that all the other bunches of outside-the-box-thinking creative people are thinking outside of when they read that first line. Now, if that doesn't make your head hurt, you should go write down whatever just popped into your head, because its sure to be something you can work with.

The Battle of Snowman Hill

The neighbors might have thought me slightly deranged as I wandered amidst the hastily build snowmen with a paintbrush, but really, it's nothing new. Winter has brought penguins, dogs and dragons to my yard in the past, so why not a snowman battle?

It might have been the cold medicine, or perhaps a hope to engage my laptop bound son in an outdoor activity, but the snow was right and the temperature just above freezing so I indulged my creative urges. Bundled up and fortified with hearty Sunday lunch, I headed out into the front yard.

Why not the back yard? Because my son spent about five minutes outside, not helping, and I wanted him to have a good view of what he missing out on as he sat on the couch with his laptop in the warm comfort of our home.

My daughter helped instead. Which was nice, but she's much smaller and my cold wracked lungs were well worn out by the time I'd rolled most of the six snowmen's bodies, traipsed through the previously unmarred feet of snow in the backyard to the woods at the back of our property for appendages, and slopped all of the snowmen together. But she was having a merry time gathering icicle weapons for them and I was gaining good mommy points by the minute, so I persevered.

For the record, paint doesn't last long, not in the form you first paint it anyway. Good thing I grabbed the camera the moment we were done because they're faces lost all definition within ten minutes. The blood spread nicely though. Yep, snow men bleed red. Who knew?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fanfic attack

Ms. Wildstar nods toward the young man who has paused up the paperwad-lined path to examine an excerpt. "When did we drop into a western?"

Xander cocks his head and takes in the sight of the native american man in dusty, well-worn pants, shirt, vest and obligatory cowboy boots. "No idea. What the hell is a western?"

"Sorry, I forgot you've never technically been to Earth." Ms. Wildstar's brow furrows. "But we're on Earth, so you have. But your character hasn't, but you are right now... and you are your character." She rubs her temples. "All this thinking hurts."

Nekar slips out of the shadows. "I don't care where he's from. Does he have any weapons? These Barthromian slingshots are worthless."

"I think he has a knife. Maybe a gun." Xander sighs. "Probably only has a few bullets though. Look at him, he's got nowhere to store ammo."

"He's got pretty long, black hair. I want to go run my fingers through it." Ms. Wildstar smiles dreamily.

Nekar rips the adverb from her lips. "We don't even know this guy. Besides, I thought you were seeing Xander."

"Yeah. I thought so too." Xander glares at the wistfully gazing young woman beside him.

"But, but, he's so handsome and wild and can't you just see the social angst and emotional baggage he's carrying? I must go soothe him." She runs toward him like a horrible cliche about magnets being drawn together.

"I need to pack more emotional baggage," Xander mumbles to himself.

"Wouldn't help." Marin jumps down from a nearby pile of paper.

Nekar whips out his slingshot. "I thought you were dead."

"Hardly. Just forgotten about for awhile." He laughs at the slingshot. "No need for that. I'm just here to conveniently deliver some infodump."

"Oh. In that case, carry on." Nekar puts his slingshot away.

"Our dear creator..."

"She's making you say that, isn't she?"

Marin nods and plows on as if he can't stop. "Went through a fanfic writing binge a few years ago. I ran into that fellow in my adventure behind the desk. Must have taken him all this time to amble--those western folks like to amble, meander, and wander, you know--out here from the black void. He taught me the ways of the dustbunnies that allowed me to escape mostly unharmed. Though there's this nervous twitch thing...

A thunderous racket blasts from the almighty desktop.

"Right, moving on. She found that playing with an established world and characters allowed her to concentrate on improving other aspects of her writing, such as believable dialogue, conveying a setting, incorporating senses, and experimenting with short stories since she'd really only written novels before."

Xander leaps back into the conversation before Marin can draw another deep breath. "But if he came from a fanfic, why is he here?"

"Oh, he's not from the fanfic." Marin laughs wickedly. "He's an original character created by that thunder making puppeteer up there when she considered turning one of her fanfics into an original piece. It didn't pan out so she chalked it up to a learning experience and abandoned the project after the first chapter."

Nekar sees his own terror reflected on Xander's face. "But that means he's an incomplete character and he's been wandering around here for over a year. He's a zombie!"

"Yes, he is." Marin laughs in assorted evil adverbial ways. He leaps back up onto the paper pile and disappears.

Ms. Wildstar reaches out to pet the newcomer's hair. He turns to her, revealing vacant eyes and a seductive smile. She screams.

to be continued...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Vlog excerpt: Not Another Bard's Tale

Today, we have a special treat. Elena over at You're write. Except when you're Rong, has posted a vlog excerpt of my WIP, Not Another Bard's Tale.

Lying about defeating a dragon will come back to bite you, literally.

Bruce Gawain, knight of questionable reknown, sets off to the wall of Nok to retrieve a stolen jewel and free a village from a hungry dragon's fury. In order to finance his quest, Bruce travels with the sword-brearing Olga and her curvaceous sister, Svety, chosen one of the Sheep God. They journey to Gambreland to stake out prospective locations for Svety's Holy Mutton serving Inns, save the country by reuiniting an over-achieving Evil Overlord with his long lost son, and find the dragon's stolen treasure before it eats everyone in the village.

This NaNo Novel from 2008 is the product of my efforts to have fun with as many of the items from The Fantasy Novelist's Exam as possible with the intent to end up with a coherent story. As you see by the WIP status, that's still up for debate, but I had a darn good time writing it.

Elena did a great job picking up on the silly humor of the piece. I hope you enjoy the opening scene.

If you'd like to see your excerpt brought to life, fly your dragon over to Elena's blog.