Monday, May 18, 2009

How things change!

So I went to visit my pal, Franny, of ParaNovelGirls and what does she do? She not only feeds me delicious things I shouldn't eat, puts me up for the night, introduces me to her gorgeous family and lets me hear a fox in the wild for the first time (VERY FREAKY when it's at two in the morning, on a full moon night) but when I was leaving she gave me a bag of books.

So what? I hear you ask.


Yeah, you read right, a garbage bag...

I could see the look on my husband's face when I walked in with it but, bless him, he said nothing. I was on hiatus from writing, and reading is just as good in keeping me mellow (that's my story, and I'm sticking to it).

That bag of books ranged from newer releases to some older stuff, and it's the older stuff that made me realise how things have changed in the last number of years, and also how true it is that you can get away with breaking some of the writing rules.

First I read a couple of old Nora Roberts books, Truly Madly Manhatten (2003) and part of the Donovan Legacy series, Entranced (1992). I'll be the first to admit I haven't read a Queen Nora in a while, although I have read several in the past. What did I learn from those older books? Nora Roberts head-hops- a lot - or used to anyway. But the only reason I noticed is because I'm a writer too. I never gave it a second thought when reading BD BW (Back in the Day, Before Writing). What Nora Regina has is the ability to tell a damned good story, and that reinforces what I've believed for a long time: a great storyteller trumps a great technician every time. I don't think it means I, or any other writer, can get away with sloppy craft. Just that if you have the gift of being able to pull the reader (read editor or agent, first and foremost) completely into the tale, maybe you can get away with some of the writing habits touted as 'verboten.'

Or is it that with so many of us striving for the few publishing spots, publishers/editors/agents can now be extra picky? Hmmm....

Another book I read was Donna Kauffman's The Legend MacKinnon (1999) and the first thing that struck me, as I read the back blurb was, "Why wasn't this a series?" Series seem to be all the rage now. Then I laughed to myself. I'm one of the people who really sees both sides of the issue, even though I don't like this particular trend much. On the one hand it's great for a writer/publisher to have a series of interconnected books coming out at intervals, hopefully with the readers salivating for the next one. On the other hand, what the hell is wrong with a stand-alone book? Sometimes I really just want something I can read all the way through without any unresolved questions. I also think some authors just don't know when to quit and series go on far too long, becoming either predictable or too complex.

And it seems a shame when I hear of a book being rejected by a publishing house because they can't figure how to make it into a series. Not everything should be a series...some books are grand just as they are. (And wasn't one of my books that was rejected that way! Such a cynical world we live in, I thought I'd just say...)

Sure, Ms. Kauffman might have been able to expand the three interconnected stories in The Legend MacKinnon into three books. There was enough plot there, although the timeline would have had to be severely altered. But would it have been as much fun to read? Probably not.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Word Power

I've been on a self-enforced and necessary break from my keyboard but, like any other addict, I just haven't been able to stay away from loops and feeds. Getting my fix of reviews, commentary and snark just never gets old. People, with all their myriad complexities, are facinating. And scary. The sneaky bitch-assery they do to get their point across blows my mind. The fact that they think they're being clever, even when the true intent shines through like a beacon, makes me chuckle. The overabundance of anger evident in some posts just makes me sad. I definitely don't subscribe to the "If you don't have anything nice to say" school of thought, but I also don't subscribe to the 'let me rip you a new one' school either. For me moderation, or a clearly defined style of snark, work a lot better.

And please note I said 'snark,' not vitriol/rage/destructiveness.

Whether we like it or not, words have power. Whether we like it or not, our opinions are simply that--OUR opinions. Just because I don't believe something to be right, or even true, doesn't mean someone else who holds the opposing opinion is necessarily wrong. I learned that a long time ago, forced into the realisation by circumstances and my wise grandfather's words:

"There are three sides to ever story; yours, mine, and the truth."

And often the truth resides in the gray areas we don't want to inhabit or even examine. In this hard-edged world people seem determined to be the blade, the stabbing point, the bludgeon. Slice, dice, obliterate the "enemy,"; be heard by screaming the loudest, even if what they're screaming is opinion, unsupported by anything other than conviction that they're RIGHT, DAMMIT! Often there is no hesitation, no apparent urge to temper a response, even though it will cause pain, escalate conflict, make someone else feel small or stupid. Debates aren't won that way; they're destroyed, and in the destruction is also lost the chance to listen, to learn and to grow.