I would like to be on a fantasy reading kick. I really would.
I'm caught up on George R.R. Martin and Jim Butcher, and only Cthulu knows when they'll finish their respective series. I'm waiting on my friend Angela Penrose's next short story. I'm trying not to finish Jonathan Moeller's Ghost in Exile series too fast, or I won't have anything to look forward to over the winter. I've bought last year's edition of Diana Rowland's White Trash Zombie, which I'm saving for after I finish edits on Zombie Goddess or my birthday, whichever gets here first.
And therein lies the problem. I'm waiting to savor Diana and Jonathan's books because I don't have any other fantasy novels to read.
Let me amend that--I don't have any adult fantasy novels to read.
Don't get me wrong. I read some young adult. I read a lot of romance. But I'm having a hard time finding something I like in the sf/f category that isn't a young adult romance dressed in a fantasy setting.
Maybe it's part of turning fifty and being in a relationship for nearly twenty-five years. Maybe it's wanting sheer escapism in the scary atmosphere this election has created. But I want something a little more grown-up, and I'm starting to see why so many people are bitching about the rampant juvenile romance that's taken over fantasy.
It's not so much the protagonists' age as their attitudes. I want them to solve realistic problems instead of obsessing over which boy to kiss. I want adventures and excitement without the entire cast dying.
Maybe that's why I've been re-reading old favorites (please note, I'm only giving the year the first novel came out):
Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars, aka Barsoom, series (1912)
Sure, John marries the princess in the end, but the majority of the story is John simply trying to survive in an alien, hostile world.
Anne McCaffrey's Pern series (1968)
Again, there's a little bit of romance amidst a lot of political intrigue, but neither overrides the main problems of the first books-defending Pern against the Ninth Pass of the Red Star and Threadfall.
Katherine Kurtz's Deryni Series (1970)
Other than a little lust-at-first-sight, the focus on these novels is the political rivalry between Deryni and normal humans contrasted with the rivalry between the kingdoms of Gwynedd and Torenth.
And this is where the writer in me kicks in. I write the stories I'm looking for and can't find. So I need to finish the Bloodlines series so I can get back to Issura and ...
I've been in what DH calls "In The Zone" for the last week. It means I can't put down the writing. As in, I wrote in the car on my phone while we made a coffee and gasoline run Tuesday.
Normally, "In The Zone" means one book at a time, but in this case, I'm essentially writing the last three books of the Bloodlines series at the same time. Sort of.
Resurrected has taken over my attention. While it's unusual for me to write a large chunk in the guys' point of view, it's primarily Tiffany's story. She does some bad things for the right reasons though her motives are pretty bad as well.
It all comes down to her anger and self-esteem issues, things that have been on display since Blood Magick, but don't really come to a head until the last book in the series. Ironically, some of the themes of motherhood and enforcer crystalized when I read an essay by Kameron Hurley last night.
I crossed the 20K mark on Resurrected yesterday. I have a feeling the writing will go even faster after consuming Ms. Hurley's wise words.
I was on a roll writing last night. Going to bed very late means getting up very late. But while I'm riding the wave to finish the last three Bloodlines books, blogging may be sporadic the next couple of months. That's not to say I'll be totally quiet...
Who do you write for?
It's a simple question, right? Or is it?
"I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it." - Toni Morrison, author of Beloved
I totally understand where Ms. Morrison is coming from.
Most writers can answer the first question of writing, which is "Why do you write?"
And regardless of the answer, it raises a second question I find most writers, old and new, don't ask themselves. "Who are you writing for?"
Some writers will answer, "For the readers."
Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing. But do they really understand what the readers want?
I see and hear so many writers, particularly the new ones, jump on a particular bandwagon because the subject matter/genre are what sells at the moment. Then they are shocked when their "perfect" story for a subject matter/genre doesn't sell.
I've read some of these stories. There's no passion. No spark. Nothing to set them apart from the crowd. In fact, there's times where the contempt for the subject matter shines.
Want some examples of the badness?
Let me start by saying I love Meg Cabot's writing. Absolutely love her! And I love vampire romances, which is why a friend gave me Meg's book Insatiable for Christmas of 2010. Two of my favorite things should be better than those two-pound Reese's cups Hershey puts out for holidays, right?
Ah, no. If you want to read the Amazon reviews, many readers thought the same thing I did. The characterization was piss-poor, and the heroine's constant derogatory comments about the genre did not sit well. Now, maybe Meg was trying to do a witty parody that fell flat on its face. However, I suspect a gun was held to her head by her publisher and/or her agent who told her to jump on the vampire train or else.
Want another example? Fifty Shades of Gray gives a perverted view of the BDSM lifestyle by indicating something is wrong for a person to enjoy it. BDSM has its own rules, none which were in play in this book. The heroine "saves" the hero from his "bad" choices through her "love" at the end of the series. E.L. James didn't bother to do any research, and there's a tangible contempt for anyone who likes BDSM.
But, Suzan, I hear you say, both of the books you mentioned ended up on the New York Times Best Seller List!
Yes, they did. Insatiable based on Meg's reputation. FSoG because of it's basis as Twilight fanfic and the novelty of a taboo subject.
Now, without going to Amazon.com or any other website or bookshelf, name a follow-up to either of those two books in the same genre that did just as well or better. I'll be extra generous; if you can name one book published after 2010 in the comments, I'll revise part of my opinion and give you full credit.
But the part where these books were painful to read because these two authors didn't enjoy writing them? I definitely stand by that opinion.
And I have to wonder if this is where part of the tortured writer mythos is coming from. You must drag yourself to your desk everyday, crafting a story you neither respect or find desirable to read if someone else wrote it, and only when you write the perfect story, the perfect paragraph, the perfect line, on a subject you hate will you find fulfillment.
I'm a proponent of write what you love. If I'm not having fun, it shows. In fact, I rewrote "Diplomacy in the Dark" after my beta reader pointed out, "This wasn't as good as 'Justice'."
I didn't expect them to point out craft flaws, but I did ask some pointed questions. The response came down to, "It felt like you were going through the motions."
And they were right. The first draft was too much like something George R.R. Martin would write. I was trying too hard to emulate someone else's success. And frankly, I didn't enjoy writing it.
So I started over from scratch. On the second try, I got "Now this reads for like a Justice Anthea story!" from my beta.
And while different people like different characters in the Bloodlines series, the overwhelming favorite is Sam Ridgeway. I have fun writing her, and it definitely shows to the readers.
You see, I wrote Sam for me when I was in a very bad place in my life. Complications from my first pregnancy left me unable to have any more children. My marriage was falling apart. My first business had failed due to economic circumstance truly beyond my control.
What it came down to was I needed something, anything, fun, or the depression would have consumed me. And Sam was fun.
But she was also my lifeline. My inspiration. If she could climb out of the hellhole of her death, I could find a way to deal with my own problems.
So I wrote to entertain myself first. And I continue to write for me. It doesn't mean I don't care about the readers. But if I'm not laughing and crying along with my characters, if I'm not enjoying the story, I know my readers won't either.
My unconscious resentment of writing something I don't like will show in the story.
One of the best piece of writing advice I've received was from Tobias Buckell. At a talk he gave, the subject of his work in the Halo universe came up. He said some writers will produce contracted tie-in stories just for the paycheck. Tobias's criteria was "Will I have fun doing this project?"
I think the fun quotient is important for a writer no matter who signs the paychecks.
Yes, I've been rather quiet over the past week. For all of you readers who have patiently waited for three years, I'm working hard to get the last four books in the Bloodlines finished before the end of 2016.
If you're a writer though and are seriously thinking about a trad deal, here's an excellent little handbook from David P. Vandagriff. If the name is unfamiliar, he also goes by The Passive Guy, the head honcho over at the think tank otherwise known as The Passive Voice.
David's book is not legal advice since contrary to what certain people tell you, not all contracts are the same. His tome covers the ickiest provisions of publishing contracts, provisions designed to take all your money, your hard work, and your career away from you. He also gives you tips to avoid these soul-wrenching clauses. If nothing else, the book is great conversation starter for you and your attorney.
We're closing is on the last quarter of the year, and I feel like I'm slipping farther and farther. The list of tasks to get done in 2016 has quite a few things crossed off as of today, but I still have over half the list left to go.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
My old anal self would be despairing at this point for not being three quarters of the way through the to-do list by now.
But my new self? Well, she listed everything that's come out, or is about to come out, this year to an old friend over dinner last Friday. The friend, who is not a writer but is an attorney looking to change careers, was impressed because to her, writing is tedious and time-consuming.
And I realized my old self had been doing something stupid. I'd fallen into the same trap I'd warned other writers about--comparing myself to other people. Failing to keep up with other writers didn't necessarily mean I had failed.
Already, I've written more this year than I had last year or the year before. I'd definitely published more this year than I had last year or the year before. Maybe I wasn't as caught up with my business plan as I would have liked, but I wasn't sitting on my hands either.
This last week alone, I uploaded the print version of Justice: The Beginning, reviewed my portion of the galleys for Sword and Sorceress 31, organized my blurb sheets for each published story (which was a way overdue task), edited a bit more of Zombie Goddess, and wrote a bit on four different novels.
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