7 Reasons to Keep Reading

Seeing as last week I looked at 7 reasons I abandon books, I thought this week I’d look at 7 reasons I fall in love with an author. And believe me, from the over-loaded bookshelves in my library and the length of my TBR (to be read) list, I like to fall in love with new authors. ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. Great characters. Unusual is fine, but I also like to return to more familiar “types,” too, just so long as the author has really fleshed out the character, gave it a strong voice and passion.
  2. Fascinating premise and world-building. I mention this one because it can sucker me into a book and even a series, but it does have limits. For example, if the premise doesn’t live up to expectation, or the focus is too strongly on premise and world-building.
  3. A touch of humor. What can I say? I like a touch of humor in my reading, no matter the genre, and no matter how dark or serious it can delve.
  4. Emotional depth. If an author can make me actually cry, then I’m probably already envious at how fantastic they are. ๐Ÿ™‚
  5. Skilled handling of plot elements without being obvious about it. I’ve read very well-plotted books that were good, but seemed a bit like an exercise in plotting. And I’ve read wonderful books which handled all the elements skillfully – so skillfully, you forgot they were there and what they were doing.
  6. A story or lesson that sticks with me. Maybe this is one scene, maybe the theme, a character, but something that resonates and sticks, long after the title of the book is forgotten.
  7. An author who continues to grow and improve in their craft. To me, there is nothing better than reading an early book from an author and thinking it was quite good. Then reading a later, and finding it better. And then reading a later book still and being blown out of the water. For me, this is the kind of author – and the kind of person – I want to be. Someone who never stops growing, never stops striving for improvement.

So, what about you? What are some of the reasons you fall in love with a book, a series, or an author? What makes you hungry for the next book and impatient for the next read?

Thanks for reading, and wishing you all a great week. Happy Halloween! ๐Ÿ™‚

Tropes: Love them, Loathe them

Every genre has their tropes, and the sub-genres, too. I must confess that I wasn’t familiar with the term until recently, but I knew what it meant. Google and Wikipedia define it as:

A literary trope is the use of figurative language. For example, the sitting United States administration might be referred to as “Washington”. Since the 1970s, the word has also come to mean a commonly recurring literary device, motif, or clichรฉ.

Here, you have some of the fantasy tropes according to someone on Wikipedia. Fantasy tropes and conventions.

The romance genre is a bit obsessed with tropes, as are the readers. When you pick up a book with say, the “arranged marriage” trope, you have some idea of what to expect. Paranormal fiction has its own tropes, like the vampire who refrains from drinking blood, the werewolf who wishes he were human, the “surprise! you’re paranormal” revelation, and many more.

Now, after reading a bit of discussion on tropes, I’m almost scared to tread into these waters, but I’d have to say that for the most part, I don’t mind tropes – so long as the author doesn’t let them become predictable. And yes, I sometimes avoid books when the blurb contains a trope I’ve had a bad experience with before.

Still, certain story ideas have become “tropes” (ie: almost clichรฉ) because they somehow work well within their genre, whether we like them or not. Perhaps one author did them so well (like Tolkien with his Lord of the Rings), and it forever changed the genre. There will certainly be authors who will try to emulate him, and those who have just been strongly influenced. While certain tropes will rise and fall in popularity like the tides, some remain or return perhaps because of the potential “what if” fun they contain.

What if you were engaged to marry a stranger? This may not have just been hypothetical to historic noblewomen. Many did marry strangers. And perhaps as we look back at this, we try to understand them, to understand their history and experiences, and how it contributes to making us who we are.

What if you were turned into a werewolf and became an uncontrollable beast at every full moon? I can see how this would suck. And I want to know: so what do you do next? What’s your plan?

That’s the excitement of the story for both the author and the reader. How will we answer the lure of “what if”? What journey will we take the reader on? And sometimes, as when it comes to tropes, how do you respond to the trope in a new and fresh way? What possibilities lay inherent? Because each of us plays the “what if” game differently, what we expect – along with what we get, and what we want – are going to be different. Including our love and hate for tropes.

So, what do you think? Do you mind tropes? Ignore them? Intentionally go after them?

Thanks for reading, and hope you have a great week. Oh, and like the post? Why not follow the blog? Have a good one, and happy writing to you. ๐Ÿ™‚

Some discussion on Romance and Tropes:

Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books: Romance Tropes by Heidenkind

Dear Author has lots of discussion regarding all kinds of tropes!

7 Sins to Avoid: Or, why I abandon books

Have you ever started out loving an author and their books, and ended up despising the books and the writing?

It’s a funny thing that I think about sometimes, being a writer myself. I try to be very forgiving of authors, because goodness knows we aren’t perfect. And I don’t expect an author to be perfect, but there are some things that drive me to close the book and walk away. And usually, I need more than one of these reasons before I finally give up. I don’t want to be “that” kind of writer, and indeed, I doubt any author does. So here it is, my list of 7 reasons I’ve abandoned an author and their work (and which hopefully we can all avoid in the future!)

  1. Sloppy writing. This isn’t always the author’s fault, certainly, but they didn’t improve matters did they? I can live with a few typos, butย  POV and tense shifts, unclear POV changes, these make me grit my teeth. This is especially frustrating when earlier books were fabulous … and later ones aren’t.
  2. Large sections of characters telling stories or histories that have no bearing on the current plot whatsoever. This is boring.
  3. No character growth arch. Especially in a series with one primary character, it becomes very frustrating when the character makes the same foolish mistakes again and again, and doesn’t seem changed by any of the events in any of the books. Characters are supposed to be people (or people-like), which means like people, they need to grow and change.
  4. Killing beloved characters off for good. Certainly there are fantastic writers out there who disagree with me, and I have read the lists of reasons why it’s good to kill off characters (Yes, Mr. Whedon, we know you love to kill off the nice ones.) As a reader, after investing time and caring about the character only to have them die feels like a cheat. There are always exceptions, and it’s especially annoying when there’s no good reason for the death.
  5. Returning characters who bear no resemblance to who and what they were in previous books. Especially when a series is written over a long period of time, I know myself how difficult it is to maintain those characters, but the inconsistencies “steal” the character we fell in love with in earlier books.
  6. Unclear logic patterns, and poor management of plot and story elements. It frustrates me as a reader when I can’t follow the twists and turns of a plot. Twists seemed to come out of the blue and don’t fit with anything the author has shown me about the world, the characters, or the story. Sprinkle a few breadcrumbs, and I’ll follow, I swear! All writers are different, and we all handle the elements differently – as we should. However, sometimes this makes the story hard to follow, creates inconsistencies, or can detract from the story as a whole. When you start wondering if there was a climax in a book that seemed to be heading for one, it’s kind of annoying.
  7. Lecturing and soapbox oration in fiction. Please leave the soapbox at home. I’ve come for a good story, not a lecture or a political argument. While these can certainly be woven into the story, the story must come first.

Anyway, those are a few of my pet peeves, and why I’ve abandoned authors and series.

Now I turn it over to you: why will you abandon a book, a series, or perhaps the author entirely? What are some of your pet peeves as a reader? Share, so we writers can try to avoid them! ๐Ÿ™‚

Thanks for reading, and hope you have a great week. Oh, and hey, like the post? Why not follow the blog? Have a good one.

The Need for Power: Telepathy and misunderstanding

So now I’ve missed two posts inย  row, with last Friday and than this Monday. My only excuse is for Monday, which was a holiday.

But it’s been that sort of week where I have determined I very certainly need a superpower. I choose telepathy, where I will have the ability to drill my thoughts, feelings, and interpretations into your head via psychic link – even via the internet and over great distance (actually, especially over such great distance, when such seems to compound the chance of misunderstanding.

I do not wish to be misinterpreted or taken to be far bitchier than I am. Have you ever heard the Weepies song “Hideaway that has the line:

Some will call me all kinds of names
Some will say I don’t play the right kind of game
I try to be honest, try to be kind
And honestly leave when I know that it’s time
I know that it’s time

So I suppose that until I develop my super telepathic powers that will allow tone to be always and accurately conveyed in every email, and every laugh to be interpreted correctly, I will have to just try to be honest, try to be kind … and accept that life is as it is.

Are you misinterpreted frequently? Fan of the song?

Thanks for reading, and hope you all have a fantastic week. (And I’ll try for my Friday blog, I swear). ๐Ÿ˜‰

What I’m Reading: Libriomancer

I have a book recommendation for you. It’s a fun one, and be warned: this is the kind of book that will make you want to forget all the things you should be doing and just go off and read. ๐Ÿ™‚

51hecROhA8L._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_To follow with my recent love affair with urban fantasy, I’m reading Libriomancer (Magic Ex Libris, Book 1) by Jim C. Hines. I saw the recommendation on another author page with an interview with the author, and it moved up quickly on my TBR list. And I’m glad it did.

Here’s the back copy:

Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of the secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg.ย  Libriomancers are gifted with the ability to magically reach into books and draw forth objects. When Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the pages of books into our world, he barely manages to escape. To his horror he discovers that vampires have been attacking other magic-users as well, and Gutenberg has been kidnapped.

With the help of a motorcycle-riding dryad who packs a pair of oak cudgels, Isaac finds himself hunting the unknown dark power that has been manipulating humans and vampires alike. And his search will uncover dangerous secrets about Libriomancy, Gutenberg, and the history of magic. . . .

What do I like about it? I really love how much this author clearly loves books; this book reads like a near homage to other paranormal, urban fantasy, and books in general. The writing is cute and funny with a quirky character voice, and I figure it has to be cute that I even find myself fond of a very large spider. Lots of fun, lots of pop culture references, and if you read in this genre and sub-genre, I imagine you’ll enjoy it even more. Personally, I’m finding it rather hard to be a good girl and do my work instead of just curling up and reading until the last page. ๐Ÿ˜‰

So, any good books you’d recommend? I’m a decent way through the Harry Dresden books thanks to my brother, and also done most of The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. If only I could read faster!

Thanks for reading, and have a great week. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Writing Past Fear, Past Exhaustion, Past Excuses

I write this Friday night as I’m trying once again to be one top of things. We’ll see if it last until Wednesday. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anyway, I’ve been reading a few great blogs recently about fear, carpe diem, the things that can hold writers back and the things we need to remember so it doesn’t.ย  And I’ve been considering writing and fear.

Pop on over and read:

Kait Nolan’s post of a video about the Masks Writers Wear

A Challenge to Ride: Live to Ride, Ride to Live by Laura Drake at Writers in the Storm

Not Today … by Cristian Mihai

As you probably know if you’ve been reading this post, I’ve been working through the longest rewrites I’ve ever experienced that have now tipped on past the one year mark. This book has certainly forced me to grow in my craft and as a writer, but I certainly never want such a horrible rewrite again! And, it’s also taught me more about the fear involved in writing than I’ve experienced before.

I have never feared the blank page before, but embraced it. Yet suddenly I found myself worrying if this book will ever be done. If I’ve actually made it better. If I’ve made a serious mistake by sticking with this rewrite despite it all instead of just moving onto something new. I worry that I won’t be able to start something new, or will take too long to figure out whatever that “something new” will be. And I’m terrified of ending up in a never-ending-rewrite like this one again.

The result of all this fear?

The rewrite has gone even slower. I’ve second and third guessed myself so many times, I can no longer tell which way is up. It is only some days, that I am able to look up and beyond the fear and know I am almost done. Yes, it is better. Yes, this was worth it for the growth it’s given me. And yes, I hope this is the best book I’ve ever written … and I want to make sure the next book is even better.

It would be easier to be able to identify where this clarity comes from, and to do that, I have to go back to a clear time I felt terrified. To something I’m still terrified of.

When I was just eighteen, a few weeks after graduation, I took out my vehicle with my brother and my cousin, and scarcely a block or two from home, I miscalculated a turn. The small truck rolled, us with it. I don’t remember much of the actual happening, but I do remember the ambulances coming to take each of us away separately, my brother the most seriously injured to the highest care possible at the university. My mom ran from home to the accident scene, that’s how close we were. I remember wishing it had been me – I was responsible, I was driving, of course. And I gave my parents my driver’s license and never wanted to pick it up again. I didn’t deserve to.

And then as I tried to decide what I needed to do with the rest of my life, I got a job and to get there, I’d have to drive. When I wanted to volunteer and eventually work as a costumed historical interpreter, I had to drive. My parents weren’t going to taxi me around.

So I started driving again. Comfortable for a long time only in my dad’s truck because it was big, and I figured I’d probably live when the worst happened again (and yes, I did believe that). I had near panic-attacks when I had to drive an unfamiliar car, and worse, a stick-shift and got stuck in traffic and had to not only coordinate my shifting but also navigate into aggressive rush-hour traffic around the stalled vehicle and get myself home – in the same intersection I’d had my accident. And I survived, and I did my best to be a good driver … then I got married and didn’t have to drive for a few years.

Until I moved out of the city, and if I didn’t want to be trapped there 24/7, I needed to drive. Then I had a child, and now I was responsible for not just me, but for this dependent, fragile creature too, in my vehicle. And you know what? Every time I get behind that wheel, I have to push the fear aside and do what’s necessary, because for me, it is necessary. The fear can’t win.

And writing is the same way.

Yes, you can acknowledge the fear. You can – and should! – be proud of yourself for each time you overcome the urge to give in to that fear, to believe the insidious voice that whispers terrible things in your head, that knows your worst nightmares. Give yourself a little pat and assure yourself it will be okay, you are okay.

Then tell the fear to leave you the heck alone, because you have more important things to do, more important things to be. Because that’s the only path forward.

What about you? Have you had to overcome fear? How do you move past it? What motivates you?

Thanks for reading. And wishing you a terrific week. And hey, like the post? Why not follow the blog? Have a good one. ๐Ÿ™‚

Glossary of Wacky Words I Love (And Use)

This week’s post is technically just about the Regency Period. Instead, I wanted to provide a brief glossary of words I enjoy, and which I use (sometimes to the confusion of others).ย  Please forgive my definitions, as any mistakes are certainly my own.

Bow Street – reference to the Bow Street Runners or Bow Street offices, which were formed in the late eighteenth century and disbanded by 1827 with the arrival of the London Metropolitan Police. They were somewhere between a private detective company, thief-takers, and formed one of the primary methods of crime investigation prior to Robert Peel’s Metropolitan Police.

breeches – a type of men’s clothing, these were often a very tight pair of pants (guess skinny jeans have brought that back), and if “knee-breeches” came just below the knee, often help up with bracing. Black breeches were an essential part of formal attire for a good portion of the Regency era, especially in more conservative settings, before thankfully being replaced by black trousers (thanks to the style of Beau Brummel).

chocolate house – chocolate finally reached England in the 1650s, and the cost meant it was a treat only for the wealthy. There were shops dedicated to serving this as a beverage (the drink formed from blocks of solid cocoa), served alongside ale, beer, snacks, and coffee. One of the most famous Gentleman’s Clubs, White’s, originated as a chocolate house when it first opened in 1693.

flip – a hearty drink consisting of beer plus some variety of stronger alcohol mixed with sugar than energized by a red-hot iron thrust into the middle of it.

gold sovereign – not just gold-painted royalty (sorry, couldn’t resist), this was a description for a one pound coin, a decent amount of money at the time.

greatcoat – although this can reference other types of men’s clothing, when I use it inย  a Regency setting this refers to a multi-caped long coat (with sleeves, it wasn’t a cape) that was an essential in most Regency bucks wardrobes. This is a generic term, describing coats that were long and room, had big pockets, and were usually waterproof (handy in London).

hell – in Regency terms, this could refer to both the Christian hell, and a place of gaming and vice, that is, a “gaming hell.”

rake – not useful for clearing leaves, this was a slang term for men during the Regency (a shortened form of “rakehell”) who were known for their vices, especially seducing and bedding numerous women. From this reputation, despite the modern romantic connotations, I suspect they were also rife with various STDs.

sidhe – in the most basic of terms, a fairy. Pronounced “see-lee.” This harkens back to mythology and different groups of fairies, amongst them the Tuatha, and you had the “seelie” and “unseelie” court.

The Watch – Another form of law enforcement / prevention in England and London.ย  These were men who were on guard to “watch” for crime and take reports of fires and other crime when it came to them in their watch-boxes, positioned throughout London. While they had a reputation for being inept and essentially useless, there were some men within the Watch who were very effective at their duty.

topper – another slang term used to describe a beaver hat, ie the classic black top hat.

รผber – actually a German word, but used in informal English as a prefix usually for emphasis. It means above, over, or across, but can also be meant as the best, ultimate, superiority or excess.

So what about you – any favorite words? What about those that people confuse or misunderstand all the time? Do share, so then we won’t make the same mistake!

Thanks for reading, and wishing you a fantastic week.

Paranormal Utopia

While my original intent was to consider dragons, considering the kind of week it’s been, I’ve decided I wanted to look at why I love paranormals and their magical powers, especially writing them.

Because I get to be a god.

Okay, so that was a bit short, hmm? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Let me explain. See, life is full of kids that need caring for, houses that never stay clean, bills, rain, weeds, so on and so forth. And that’s real life, and it’s far from all bad.

And then there’s the paranormal world. It offers a way to escape and run away from all those things. I mean, how often did Buffy the Vampire Slayer have to stay home and clean her room? How often do characters need to pay bills? Or weed their garden? Seriously, my garden at this point is a horror-story in itself, but I’ve never seen anything like it in a book.

And yet at the same time, sometimes we do see paranormal characters having to deal with being magical, kicking butt, saving the world AND paying the bills, cleaning the house, dealing with normal life. Those are probably my favorite, because frankly I know their lives are far more complicated than mine. And isn’t that just awesome? ๐Ÿ˜‰

When I get to write paranormals, I get to populate my world with all sorts of beasties and magic. I don’t have to choose which religion or myths I believe in and start a fight with someone. Instead, I get to decide that all of them are true to some extent. And while this is what I believe in real life too, in fiction all those myths, religions, and heritages are able to muddle along together, finding unity instead of discord. Because they all have something in common (usually their magic or supernatural nature). The paranormal world allows me to create, envision, and live vicariously in a kind of utopia. Is everything perfect? No. But frankly, it’s often a lot less complicated than this world, and in the end I always know a happily ever after is waiting.

What do you think? Do you think paranormal worlds – and indeed, fiction in general – can provide us with a utopia we can’t find elsewhere?

Thanks for reading, and hope you have a great week. ๐Ÿ™‚