Sunday, December 31, 2017

Books read and books anticipated.

Same old me, but with new goals. I'm not counting the books I read anymore. I just need to escape into them.

Last week, I posted about the books I'm hoping to write. This week is about reading!

First a look back. Of course. I stopped keeping track of everything I read months ago. Usually, either Goodreads or my personal spreadsheet has (approximately) everything. I think because I was doing so much re-reading? Or because it was extra work to go to my computer to log it instead of downloading a new book? Anyway.

Some of my favorites were my multiple re-readings of Sarina Bowen, especially her college hockey series, Goodbye, Paradise and Hello, Forever and her collaborations (more hockey) with Elle Kennedy: Him, Us, and Good Boy.

So that's how I started reading more Male/Male romances - Cat Sebastian, KJ Charles, Megan Erickson, Santino Hassell, and so on.

I re-read Alyssa Cole's post-apocalyptic trilogy and then read her Civil War historicals. Anything she has coming out is now an auto-buy.

I've also re-read all of Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooters one and a half times (waiting for book 13 to come in from the library. I own the first 10 or so in paper and ebook). There are still some in the series that I'm not a huge fan of, but she is maybe back on track with the newest one, Some Kind of Hero. I had a few problems with it, but it was a good read. Her best work recently, though, I would say was the trilogy of novellas starting with Free Fall. Honestly, though, it was clear she was trying to get out of the Troubleshooters rut with her paranormal/futuristic/suspense/romance book, but when it was panned (because, seriously, it wasn't that great and her world-building was mostly just confusing) and she got busy with other projects, her writing came to a halt. It appears, anyway. I don't know her whole story, but with the heroine of that book being and author who's just getting over massive writer's block, I'm guessing.

I was fascinated by Hillbilly Elegy, as a slice of life of the exact part of the world I grew up in. I strongly disagree with his conclusion that everyone should pull themselves up their bootstraps and the only way out is to have a strong family member who raises you right. Well, maybe it is, but having sh*tty schools and no food is definitely NOT the way, either. Giving the kids with no support network decent nutrition and an education sounds much more sensible to me. Just because he claims schools gave him nothing much (because he was busy being angry at his family and the world?), doesn't mean the schools themselves are to blame. Schools give back about as much as you put in and most teachers are trying really hard to bring in all the kids and get them to put in more.

I loved The Alice Network, but am having a hard time getting through The Lilac Girls. Both are about women spies and war.

I'm trying to think of what else I've read that I loved. Without writing things down, it's pretty hard!

So what am I looking forward to? 

Courtney Milan's Worth series doesn't seem to be moving forward. I adored the first book and the novella and then.... she did other projects, which are all fine, but I need those Worths. So maybe one of those this year, I hope?

And whatever the next Bowen/Kennedy Canadian WAGS hockey collaboration book is? Are there more?! I haven't been as entranced by her other collaborations, though I am, of course, along for the ride whenever she publishes anything at all.

Alyssa Cole's next Civil War book? I bet there's another one? Pretty please?

Monday, December 25, 2017


I've been working for the past nine months and have missed a total of 1.5 hours due to various appointments. I haven't been sick enough to take a day off and thankfully, no one else in my family has either. I've done a ton of overtime.

What I haven't done much of is writing.

I've abandoned the last books in my French series, because the first five haven't sold well and I just can't get up the creative energy. If anyone wants to know more about the next generation, there's a very rough rough draft for Francoise and a couple different partial attempts at Dario's story.

I have two books in my Oldies series (college kids, one of whom listens to 60s music, so the chapters are centered around the albums she likes best). I started a third one, but got bogged down in despair, when I can't even get an agent to look at the first one. I might be self-publishing these. I need a good editor, though.

I also started a fun Christmas novella that got too complicated. I have been working on it off and on for a couple of months now and am trying to simplify the backstory parts. It's going to be my main focus for the next little bit. I have to power through the first draft to figure out where it's going. I'm only on day 2 of the 12 days of Christmas, but I think I know where it's heading. I mean, other than through the next 10 days of Christmas. ;)

So now I'm going to use my blog as self-encouragement.

Happy Christmas!


Thursday, August 17, 2017

How reading informs my writing

I'm one of these people who needs to learn by DOING, rather than by OBSERVING. 

Right now at work, I'm learning the core data entry tasks. While I have been working with our computer system for 4.5 months and have job-shadowed people for a couple of days, I am learning mostly by having to do it myself. It's nit-picking, detailed stuff. If you missed that the member ticked a box saying they receive SSI payments, or if you didn't check if the state verified the member's citizenship, it changes everything.

I have been a voracious reader for most of my life. It wasn't until I started writing books about ten years ago that I learned how a plot is supposed to work. Sure, I could identify a plot generally in a  book; we learned that in middle school and high school. Rising action, turning points, climax, denouement, all of that.

It wasn't until I had to figure out what happened next in my books and/or edit what I write in a messy first draft that I've started getting a handle on how to create it. It's still too big a job for me sometimes. I have great attention to detail, but making my turning points really dramatic and really, uh, turn-y point-y? That's hard. Knowing which scenes need to move or change or be deleted? That's SUPER hard.

But on the other hand, sometimes reading other peoples' books gives me clues on what NOT to do. 

I almost abandoned (gave up on, but eventually went back to and finished) a book with a sportsing hero (not gonna say what sport or the title or the name of the bestselling author).

First off, I am not a big sportsterating fan. I guess the ritualized combat plays some role in peoples' psyches, but the squashing of academics in high schools and universities in favor of plowing money into MASCOT PRIDE, the exploitation of thousands of young people in schools, universities and even the pros (because those few who make it might play a year or two and then are 'let go' and have no qualifications for anything else, plus in certain sports, they likely have brain injuries that will dog them for the rest of their lives), and the glorification of superstars 😎 all add up to me wondering where the bread is to go with our circuses.

All that said, I like quite a few of the sports romances I've read. (I blogged about sports and diversity a few months ago, even) There are hockey, basketball, baseball, football, and every other type of sportsy dude (not so often the sportsy lady - a reflection of the wider attitude toward women's sports, I guess).

So anyway, there's this sportster star guy who lives for his sport (but keeps showing up late to practice and getting suspended), only it's barely mentioned as something he does every now and then, mostly an inconvenience to going on a date with the heroine (though he had plenty of time to bang every other woman in the whole city and cause scandals). It is more like a check box to say he's rich and famous, but I don't really get the feeling that he's a sporty guy.

Then the heroine's personality is like the author looked up the trope file for Manic Pixie Dream Girl and ticked all the boxes. She works in the quirkiest coffee shop ever! She plays the ukulele! (And I just re-read the Salon piece by the guy who came up with the term - and who HATES the term and the sexist way it plays out in movies and public discourse) Anyway, I'm just not feeling the love for them.

So I am trying even more than usual to make my characters well-rounded. What does my character do for a living? Do they love it? Are they just getting by with it because it pays the bills? What is their dream job? Is it a realistic dream? What do they have to do to get that dream job? Does it involve a ukulele?

In one of my unpublished contemporary books, the hero is a botanist. He loves plants more than he likes most people. His dream job is to dig in the dirt of the botanical gardens, but right now he's making a good living as some sort of management in a company that works with a university doing botanical research for pharmaceutical companies (I need to figure out exactly what he does, to be honest. It's not his dream job - his parents are the ones who want him to succeed in business). He's not even in the lab. His office and apartment are humid and warm because of the hundreds of plants he's growing. The heroine is a high school English teacher. She goes to work every day, lives on a fairly small salary, has papers to grade, and she's bossy and creative and her ambition is to be a principal.

The novella I'm writing now is anchored on the family's secretary. He's ambitious and has made a name for himself putting other peoples' affairs in order, pulling nobles out of bankruptcy, and ruthlessly taming their expenditures. Now he's working for the de Bures family (The ones from Indispensable Wife) and they don't need all that much help as they are comfortably rich and competent as a couple in both estate management (the husband) and politicking at the king's court (the wife). Their son is good at the schmoozing stuff, but really needs to learn how to run the estate, though the father could live for a long time still. They've hired the best secretary around, who took the job to gain influence at court. He has ulterior motives and ambitions, too.

All this to say that part of creating a character is knowing them well.

And knowing your characters and making their lives hard is what creates plot. And making absolutely everyone charmed because she plays the ukulele? Come on, someone in there has to roll their eyes and not be labelled the villain.

The ukulele.

Come on.

No ukuleles anywhere! Just some minor magical incidents and an overbearing Tartuffe-ian dad!

Melisande is out now!