Friday, December 23, 2005

The hallmark of re-readable science fiction and fantasy?

Hubby was reading a fave Mercedes Lackey book yesterday for the umpteenth time. I've been debating signing up for the new 2yn class. This combination led into a discussion that resurfaced several times throughout the day: the question of what makes a certain novel, or more specifically series of novels or even worlds of novels eminently re-readable.

Now I know that not everybody re-reads novels. I always have. It may have something to do with the fact that I never lived within reach of a public library until I was an adult. Even my schools didn't have libraries until I was in Junior High, but each classroom had a cupboard in the back with some books we could take home. So odds were that if I wanted to read (and I did) I was going to read something over again. Hubby didn't grow up in as rural of places as I did, but reading was always his escape. He reads faster than I do (and I don't read slowly) and a wider variety. He also re-reads.

And so we talked about the books that we re-read looking for common threads. Two authors that we both enjoy are Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey. I used to read through the entire Pern series every year. Lackey's Valdemar series hasn't received quite that much attention from me although I've read it twice. Most of her other series don't catch my attention, but hubby will read anything she writes. Some things he came up with were 1) her voice. That may be obvious; if you read everything an author writes, obviously you like her or his style. That's how I felt about McCaffrey for a long time, though I think there's been some slippage in recent years. 2) Intelligent animals working in tandem with people, be they dragons, horses, gryphons, or hawks. 3) Music. I don't think this one is as important for me as it is for Hubby., but then I'm not a musician or vocalist, and he is.

There's something more, something intangible (at least so far) that keeps us coming back to certain worlds, certain authors. Obviously both of the above authors had to resonate with enough readers early on to create demand for more stories set in those worlds. And that brings me back to the 2yn. How can I create that kind of world? Something that draws people back over and over again? Something I could write in for many years and keep sparking demand for, and drawing new readers into? Is there a magic formula?

Some authors have what I consider a magic formula but don't seem to catch on with the general public. In my opinion, Laura Resnick should be a household name. Her fantasy trilogy (published in 2000-2003) is set in one of the most complex worlds I've come across, with intricate built-in conflicts. It has all the hallmarks of great storytelling, and the worldbuilding is par none. Hubby didn't finish the series.

Ann Marston wrote a great little double trilogy in an innovative world in a similar time period. I love them, but they're out of print already. How many have heard of Ann Marston? How come her stories didn't break out?

As a reader, how do you gauge a story's power over you? If you re-read, can you figure out WHY that book, series, world, or author particularly calls you over and over again?

The real question is how to build that power into a story. That's what is mulling in the back of my mind.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Icy Rain

After several weeks of temperatures roughly ten to fifteen degrees below freezing, it started warming up yesterday. I could hear it raining during the night. And indeed, roads would have been pretty slick today if the sand trucks hadn't been out in full force. There had been some snow on the juniper hedge beside our parking area, but tonight you can see the little drips of ice on the needles near the Christmas lights. It's hard to hold the camera steady enough for a night shot, but I hope you get the idea. I think it looks pretty cool. Literally!

Our juniper hedge Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

*Only a Novel*

*Only a Novel* Two Year Writing Class has been nicknamed the 2yn. Taught by Lazette Gifford, the owner and site administrator of Forward Motion, this two year long hands on course is free and fabulous. Zette is a prolific writer. For example, she wrote over 200K during Nano in 2005, THREE complete first draft novels. She is an associate publisher with Double Dragon and has had several small press publications of her own. Now that we have established Zette's credentials...

Why a class on writing novels? To be honest, it is less a class ABOUT writing novels than it is a class WITHIN WHICH you write a novel. Zette posts a weekly lesson with an assignment and creates forum threads for each participant to post their responses. She covers six months of indepth pre-work from kernel of an idea, through the development of world and characters and through creating a working outline. A full year is set aside for writing the first draft, and the last six months of the class is focused on revisions and submission. I took the first offering of this course in 2004-05, and it resulted in my Christian sf novel, False Perceptions (due back from critiquers any day now).

The class was so helpful that I have gone back through my notes in planning subsequent novels: Quest to be Queen and Marks of Repentance. And now Zette has opened the signups for the third class and is allowing those who have completed the program already to sign up again if they want to. At first I thought, I've probably learned all I can from the process. After all, I've used it twice more since! But I really enjoyed the class for more reasons than just the actual lesson material (which was excellent). I enjoyed the sense of community that came from working on this huge project with a bunch of other writers, hopping around between the threads, encouraging one another, asking questions.

And now I am leaning towards signing up again. I am poking at some brand new kernels of ideas, waiting for one to come to life in my head, ready to roll. A lot of the folks in my crit group have signed up, so we would be a community within community as well (but not a clique!) I'm not sure. But leaning....

If you're interested, hop on over to FM and have a look around. There's always room for one more.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

When I grow up, I want to be...Kathryn Mackel

I've read another innovative book lately. Outriders is the first installment of a new series called The Birthright Project by Kathryn Mackel. I'd say Kathryn is a master of the "what if" game that writers play to develop their stories. From Kathryn's website comes this teaser:

What if mankind finally went too far? What if our bombs and plagues and wars cast this world back into the dark ages?

What if only one weapon—cell lines that can mutate living matter—made it through the Endless Wars?

What if sorcerers and stronghold princes used this weapon—as magic potions—to transmogrify living creatures into hideous weapons? Hornets that soldiers could ride. Thorn bushes big enough and lethal enough to surround a kingdom. Spiders deadly enough to wrap a woman in its web.

What if the Creator finally said enough because, like Esau, humankind has despised its birthright? What if a new Ark was commissioned and hidden under the Arctic ice?

What if the Builders were too valuable to leave the Ark so they sent their teenaged children to track and preserve original species?

From this premise Kathryn builds a secretive society of Outriders, Trackers and Scouts whose task it is to reclaim God's birthright and preserve the original creation that is being mutated out of existence.

Kathryn isn't new to writing. Outriders is her third novel (though the first of this series), and she has screenwritten (is that a word?) for Disney and Fox. She knows her game.'s a darn good read. Definitely recommended.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Another crit done

I met my goal of having a second crit complete and out the door this week. However, when I geared myself for the run, my bosses hadn't yet asked me if I would be willing to work a few days next week. In actual fact, I'm supposed to have two weeks off starting today, but it's been fairly busy in at the shop still and thus the request. Because the guys have been so tied up with the new houses they've been flooring in the past couple of months, it has been several weeks since they last did any measures and quotes, so the file was growing. They've caught up with those this week, but that means lots of phone calls back and forth with the prospective clients as they ask questions, change their minds, place orders, wrangle about the bottom line, or argue about the projected time line (now into February). So, because Jim works till Wednesday morning, I agreed to work till Wednesday noon. Then we have six days off together over Christmas before he picks up his night shifts the week after. I'll go back to work on the third.

I took several paid holiday days in June for our trip to Victoria and again in August for my sisters' reunion, so I don't have a full two weeks' pay coming to me just now anyway. The 2 1/2 days won't make a huge difference, but being as it fits my schedule, I'll work them!

Our daughter and son-in-law arrived safely in Chile on Wednesday to spend a month with his parents and family there. The one email sounded like they're having a good time and adjusting to summer. Our son and daughter-in-law will be home Christmas Eve morning for eight day. They'll spend a few of those days with her mom who lives near here.

Maybe on my work days next week I can spend some more time researching agents, being as I'm out of crits to do. Hmm. That might be a good idea.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Landon Snow and the Auctor's Riddle

If you enjoyed Alice in Wonderland as a child, you will appreciate Landon Snow and the Auctor's Riddle. This beautiful hardcover children's book is R. K. Mortenson's debut novel. You can read the first chapter here. It's a .pdf download, so (on my computer) it takes awhile to load. Of course, I don't need to read the download, because I have the book right here beside me :)

Landon is an eleven-year old boy who likes to have reasons for everything. In this story, his mind is occupied with this riddle:
Could it be chance, mere circumstance
That man eats cow eats grass eats soil
And then man dies, and when he lies
To soil he does return?

Landon learns that the word auctor is a Latin noun meaning creator or originator. Follow Landon's adventures in a fantasy sub-world of his local library as he learns the answer to this riddle.

If you have an 8-12 year old child on your Christmas list, why don't you look for this book? It would make a great gift. More Landon Snow adventures are forthcoming from Randy, starting with Landon Snow and the Shadows of Malus Quidam in the spring of 2006. I have no idea what a Malus Quidam is. Do you?

Monday, December 12, 2005

I'm bad at this

I don't seem to be a consistent blogger at the best of times, but when I'm not first draft writing, I'm even worse than usual. Maybe it's because I don't have any great progress to report? Could be.

December isn't turning out exactly like I'd planned. (Does any month? Never mind, I don't want to know the answer.) Still, I have gotten the big critique out the door, and I've promised to do another, smaller one yet this month. This week, actually. It's a short book, only 45 K, and I read through it last week so it's been rotating on a back burner for a few days. I think I know most of what I want to say, except for the line edit stuff.

My old HP810 printer has died; may it rest in peace. It was six and a half years old, and has churned out a lot of pages, mostly calendars and manuscripts over those years. A year and a half ago our new computer (at home) refused to play nice with it, requiring us to purchase a new printer for at home, and the 810 came to work with me to be an old age companion for my P-1 computer (also on its last legs). I've gotten rather used to not having to email everything home to print out in the meanwhile, but I guess I'm back to playing that game for now. I know a new printer doesn't cost much (not a fraction of what the 810 cost in its day) but I don't feel like springing for a new one until I've decided what I'm replacing the computer itself with. It makes big grinding noises at times, and sometimes refuses to shut down properly. I'm very good about uploading files on a daily basis, because one of these days it simply won't run.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

What's new in my little world?

Most of my usual writing time in the past week has been taken up by a novel crit, and I'm not done yet. This one is faster to do than most I've done, because the writer isn't look for a line by line edit, but more of an over all critique. Even that, though, doesn't make it an easy task. There are a lot of categories still to evaluate (using the general critique guidelines found at Forward Motion). Yesterday I finished formulating my rough draft crit of nearly 4000 words, which I'm now leaving sit for a bit before I go back in and edit it. I feel better now that I have *something* together, even if I know I've got a lot of polishing to do.

In other news, my first critique of False Perceptions is back to me now. The target date for the returns isn't until December 31, but the sneak peek at this first one tells me that I have got some work to do. Surprise!! (And here I thought it was perfect...okay we can ALL stop laughing uproarously now.)

I'm also compiling lists of agents who seem like decent matches for me, my novels, and my goals. So many agencies aren't taking new clients that it reminds me yet again of how tough this industry can be to break into. Still, if you've got the itch, you've got to try to scratch it. And the research gives me something to do, because, you know, without it I'd be bored. Right.

Jim's home just now, and last night we went out for dinner and to see the movie Chicken Little. That was amusing, but it does not mean Chicken Little bumps anybody off my list from the sevens down below. Mildly amusing is all.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Itch of Sevens

Thanks, Tina. I think.

Lest you all get the idea that I am into memes...I'm NOT. I reserve the right at any time to look at one I get pegged for, and say *No way, I am SO not going there.* Still this one looked thought provoking, so I'm playing along...and passing along! ;)

Seven things to do before I die
1. Get organized
2. Stop shopping primarily at Value Village
3. Catch up on scrapbooking
4. Get out of debt
5. Travel
6. Build a house
7. Have a book (or ten) of mine published.

Seven things I cannot do
1. Read (or see) without my glasses
2. Keep up with vacuuming cat hair
3. Love driving in winter
4. Get used to hubby working out of town
5. Sing on key dependably
6. Catch up on reading
7. Imagine God's love for me

Seven things that attract me to my significant other
1. His gentle spirit
2. His beautiful singing voice
3. His musical ability & guitar playing
4. His strength
5. His love for God
6. His sense of humor
7. His encouragement and belief in me

Seven things I say most often
1. Well, that's how it is In My Little World
2. Enquiring minds want to know
3. I am SO not going there
4. Sounds like a plan, Stan
5. I love you
6. Please turn the tv down
7. Drive safe

Seven books or series that I love
1. Kathy Tyers' Firebird trilogy
2. Karen Hancock's The Light of Eidon(and following)
3. Laura Resnick's In Legend Born (and following)
4. Ann Marston's Kingmaker's Sword (and double trilogy)
5. Tad Williams' The Dragonbone Chair (and following)
6. Orson Scott Card's Ender's Shadow (not so much the rest of them)
7. Anne McCaffrey's Pern novels

Seven movies I would watch over and over again
(for the record, there aren't ANY movies like that, but these come close-ish)
1. The Incredibles
2. Bride & Prejudice
3. Chicken Run
4. The Sound of Music
5. Fiddler on the Roof
6. Princess Bride
7. Shrek

Seven people I'd like to join in the fun
1. Mar
2. Maripat
3. EJ
4. Lisa
5. Jean
6. Debbie
7. Erin

My talented daughter paints windows!

My daughter painted this scene in the window of a Tim Horton's coffee shop Posted by Picasa

This is the other side of the door. Posted by Picasa

In a used bookstore window. Posted by Picasa

It's hard to take photos of windows! She has several other projects on the go as well, but these were the only ones we could get pictures of at all.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I guess I should verify...

that not only did I complete Nano, I completed the first draft of the novel. I was aiming at about 60-65K for this one, being as it is a contemporary inspirational romance, but as always, it came in short, at 51690. Sigh. It was an interesting experiment, but now the book dives to the bottom of my revision pile and gets to wait its turn. It'll be lucky to see the light of day sometime in 2007. Will it still be contemporary then? Hmm.

It's actually causing me some loose ends. I really thought the first draft would take me a week or two into December, and then it would be nice to have a little break before all my critiques on False Perceptions (2yn) appear in my inbox. Third round of FP is first up for 2006, as I really want to get SOMETHING kicked out the door making rounds to agents/publishers.

It's kind of a shock to look at an entire empty month. I can't very well hurry up the critters, but a month isn't long enough to tackle a different revision in, either. And it only took me one day to clean my desk, so that's already taken care of!

So, let's see. A novel crit for a friend. Some goal-setting. Some pre-planning for a new writing project.

Oops, that's a brick wall. What will my next writing project be? Will it be the sequel to Marks of Repentance? Or should I write a stand alone? Because it really is my goal to have a career in publishing, which would be the better career move, to have two books ready in a series, or to have two totally different options to present? I don't know. For what it's worth, False Perceptions is in its own little universe, so it will be a standalone. I don't have any plans for anything else there, though I suppose I could one day, if readership demanded it. (Come on, readership, start demanding new books of me...what do you mean, you haven't ever heard of me yet???) Another option is to choose a new cast of characters in Shann's world (MoR) and write a standalone in there. It's the option that is most appealing to me at the moment.

Some writers have huge files with half-baked story ideas jostling for position to be written next. My cupboards look pretty bare, without even the ingredients. So far I've always found a new idea when I needed one most, they just don't line up and beg for spaces in advance. I'm not too worried about it, but...

Also, some of my books would be targeted more to Christian publishing, others would fly equally well in either airspace. And the idea of multiple book contracts seems more common in CBA. Dilemmas. Guess for now I'd better just keep writing and revising and start submitting and test the waters for myself.