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May. 11th, 2010

I'm taking a platform building class over at 1st Turning Point a website community devoted to helping even unpublished authors get a handle on marketing themselves and their books. It has been really interesting and eye opening. While I have had vague notions about my target audience, and how to reach them, it has been really illuminating to think about the specific niche I write in, and how I can serve those readers, even before I have a book on the shelves. I expect this blog will be getting a much needed face lift soon.

I also joined Goodreads as a way to connect with authors and readers, not to mention categorize all the books I love to read.

What I read in 2009

I decided to keep track of the books I read this year, just to see if I read as much as I think I do. I did not count books that I read aloud to the kids, though I did count picture books that I read to myself for research. I also didn't count any book I started but didn't finish, or merely skimmed.

Favorites

Top recommended reads:

  • The Obesity Myth by Paul Campos--everyone in America should read this book about how weight and health have very little to do with each other.

  • World War Z: an oral history of the zombie wars by Max Brooks--I'm not that into zombies, yet this was absolutely fascinating

  • Simply Love by Mary Balogh--complex and compelling characters, realistic without being gritty

  • Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy--a peek at the insanity of the current parenting climate


Best Series:

  • The Sharing Knife by Lois McMaster Bujold

  • Fables by Bill Willingham


Best Author Discovered:
  • Mary Balogh

  • Bill Willingham

I'm also very excited about Jessa Slade's next book. She's a debut author this year though, so I wasn't able to go on a Jessa Slade binge, which is the true test of a great new discovery.

Totals

Graphic Novels: 6
Traditional Novels: 33
Picture books: 7
Adult Non-fiction: 4

50 books read all together

Lightest month: 1(February)
Heaviest month: 6 (April and July)

Details

I've broken these down by month more to keep a record for myself than anything. Included are title, author, and my two second impression of the book. I might do a rating system of some kind next year. 50 books makes for a long listCollapse )

I <3 RWA

I just got back from my first monthly chapter meeting of the Rose City Romance Writersand I'm super jazzed up. There is just something very exciting about being a room full of people who have the same goals and aspirations that I do and are at all different stages of making those dreams a reality. It was just awesome, and now I'm itching to both delve into the WIP (I recently passed the half way point and was some what snagged by the dreaded sagging middle syndrome) and to whip out the "finished" novel to give it another spit polish and send it back out into the trenches of querydom. One of the published authors there today kindly offered to look over my query letter for me which I'm also super excited about, since I'm convinced my query letter is tripping me up. It's possible the book itself is also problematic, but it is hard to tell that when my submissions never get past the query letter stage. And as a test of the book itself, I'm determined to enter a few contests this year, just to see if it holds up amongst strangers as well as it has among people who know me.

Beguilement (The Sharing Knife, Book 1)

I spent the day yesterday reading book one of the Sharing Knife by Bujold. It was wonderful, so wonderful that ending it primarily filled me with a sense of frustration. Because it is book one, in a four book series, and while the ending wrapped up nicely for the first book in a series, it is not really a stand alone book. So now I am both craving and dreading the next book. Because it won't end the story either, and as it turns out I really value the ending part of my HEA when I'm reading a romance. I'd rather read one book about a couple, and then move on to the next, and if the author wants the earlier couple to make a cameo or something in a later book that's fine, but I really don't need a whole 'nother book (let alone three more books) about their relationship struggles, or even their struggles outside of their relationship. Once they find true love and get married, I'm pretty much done, and I want to be done in one book, not two or three or four. It's not realistic, of course, because relationships continue to grow and change along with the people in them, but it's what I want from my romance novels. It's just frustrating to find a book that is so good, so well written and compelling and full of win, and have it fall just short of my ideal.

In one of the bios for a romance author, I can't remember which one, Christina Dodd maybe, there was a line, “she couldn't find the kind of book she wanted to read, so she decided to write it,” which is pretty much my inspiration as well. But it is a lot harder to write a book than to read one, and it's a different experience reading a book I've written than one off the shelf by another author. These days I can't completely turn off my internal editor even when reading for fun, and her voice gets a lot louder when I'm reading my own works. Maybe it would be different reading my books in published form, where correcting a problem is no longer an option. All I know is that I crave to read what Bujold almost wrote, and that almost is the hardest bit to bear. Of course, Bujold is also a master of the craft, and so while I can write a book with a more satisfying structure, I'm not at all convinced I can write a better book. All I can do is gnash my teeth and try.

Review of Dark Needs at Night's Edge

Dark Needs at Night's Edge by Kresley Cole is a paranormal romance that I picked up from a recommendation, I think at Smart Bitches, where I get most of my romance recommendations these days. Since I write "paranormal romance" (albeit in a very different vein) I occasionally pick up new authors in the sub-genre. My biggest problem finding good paranormal romance hasn't been that it's not out there, it's been that I'm pretty much completely uninterested in vampires (or werewolves or demons or other dark edgy creatures) as romantic heroes, which means that 90% of paranormal romance doesn't interest me. I mention this mostly because the hero of DNNE is, you guessed it, a vampire so this review is going to be naturally tainted by my bias. I actually enjoyed the book a lot, given my prejudice.

What always fascinates me about vampire based paranormal romance (and what distinguishes it from a lot of urban fantasy in my mind) is the lengths the author has to go to in world building in order to make vampires into romantic heroes. Since romantic heroes are generally good, if misunderstood, guys who fall helplessly in love with the heroine, it doesn't really work to have them be soulless fiends looking for a meal. Cole goes to some pretty amazing lengths to turn vampires into sympathetic heroes. In her world vampires that kill while feeding become tainted by the minds of their victims and generally go insane because of the voices in their heads. Their eyes also convenient turn blood red, because what's the use of evil if it isn't immediately recognizable as such. The other convenient addition to vampire lore are the vampires' Brides. When a vampire meets his* Bride (AKA his twu luv) he becomes Blooded which means his heart starts beating and he can finally get a hard-on--which is really taking the whole hero only really enjoys/has meaningful sex with the heroine thing common in romance novels to a whole 'nother level.

spoiler alertCollapse )


*In the Cole universe vampires are all men because women don't survive the transformation process for reasons that I'm frankly unclear on.

linky linky

I had an awesome and inspiring weekend at a local RWA writers workshop. It was such fun, that I've been poking around the RWA chapter sites this evening, and I stumbled upon this goodie.

http://lilliancauldwell.podbean.com/2009/01/06/crazy-tuesday/

It's a radio interview about writing across genre lines with such notables as Mary Jo Putney and Agent Kristen Nelson. It's long, about 2 hours, and I've really only scratched the surface, but what a fabulous thing to listen to while working on laundry.

rules are made to be broken

"The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet." --Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

That sentence right there is pretty much in passive voice, a big writing no-no, but it is also evocative and beautiful, in a horrible kind of way. Of course, Neil Gaiman is a master wordsmith--he understands all the rules and exactly how and when to break them.

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shiny

I'm excited to have found a nice tracker for my word count on the WIP. Giving free reign to my anal retentive side, I'm pondering how many sigfigs to give my word count. On the one hand 90000 is a very approximate end goal for the novel, and I'll certainly round off the word count when it comes time to query. On the other hand rounding up feels like cheating, and today at least I couldn't bring myself to round down from 34,695 to 34,000. Perhaps rounding to the nearest hundred will turn out to be the happy medium.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
34,695 / 90,000
(38.6%)

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the art of the hook

Sometimes I just think I'm too honest to write a good hook. raleva31 recently did a big round of feedback on hooks and she had some interesting things to say at the end of it all. One thing she mentioned was reading the back of book jackets to discover what hooks you, and then she talks about writing synopses for books you enjoy. These are not bad ideas in the slightest, but reading the back of books often leave me somewhat dismayed.

I finished a novel last night that I really enjoyed, but the plot was convoluted to say the least, and I was intimidated by writing an outline, so I thought I would read the back jacket and see what various plot elements were considered hooks by the publisher. (I had picked up the book because I like the author and hadn't even read the jacket.) The answer in short is none of them. Some of the basic facts are there--the characters names don't change, for example. But most of it is either so vague as to be meaningless or just plain wrong. I just don't think I could ever write a hook like that for my book. The inaccuracies would make me cringe. This is just one example of course, and I really should go to the bookstore or library with a notepad and pen and really think about what works and what doesn't in the way of hooks. It is also frustrating because book jackets are not written by the author, and they aren't really what agents want to see, but they are the best examples of hooks authors have ready access to. And so we muddle through as best we can.</a>

I hate waiting

I currently have an e-query out to an agent (okay technically two, but one of them makes no promises whatsoever about when they will read my query, so I'm expecting a looooong turn around time on that one, and have successfully pushed it to the back of my mind) The other agent claims a two week response time, which has come and gone. And now it's Friday, so if I don't get a response today then I almost certainly won't get a response until Monday. *sigh* I know I should be focused on the next thing--the next book or the next query. But all I want to do is obsessively check my email. Waiting is hard!