Friday, 12 September 2014

What Novels are REALLY About

Think about a Really Good Book, perhaps your favourite novel, or something you read last month that captured your heart. You know the one. You're still thinking about it. You would read it again, if you could.

What is it you like so much about that book?

Chances are, it's a character. Sure, books fall into two categories--plot-based and character-based. I know people who detest character-based book "because the plot doesn't go anywhere". (Fair enough; I understand.) Consider this: in plot-based books, the plots are going somewhere for whom? The characters. They're the most important part.

Ultimately, books are all about the characters. It's to the characters we relate, we cheer for, we follow and we have our hopes, our dreams, our anxieties. We don't emotionally invest in plots. We invest in characters.

I've belonged to an Online Writing Workshop for the past, oh dozen years or so. I've had the opportunity to read hundreds of chapters of dozens of books. Those books that are memorable, even years later, are those that had strong, well-rounded characters.

In the workshop I came across chapters that had vast sweeping plots of beautiful complexity and very forgettable characters. When this happened, the whole book fell flat. The plot couldn't save it. It just couldn't keep my interest. I couldn't invest.

Characters are everything and need to be well-developed. Give me a book with a richly-developed character going places, and I'm yours.
Her Grace acknowledges your mileage may vary. She dares you to tell her about a book you love where any of the characters aren't terribly memorable.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Me vs Sucky Reality

In the first corner, at a hundred and fifty pounds and seventy-five pence, we have Me (aka Mighty Heidi, aka Hey You).  Dressed in dreams and other grandiose ideas, she is destined for great things... if only she had the time (and a really lovely smooch from Richard Armitage).

In the other corner we have Sucky Reality, as heavy as a wet blanket, as dour as an old maid schoolmarm from 1887, and armed with a big, thick Reality Clue Stick.

Long-story-short, my blows lead with:
  • Having a novella out in the end of 2014.
  • Plans to go to grad school in 2015.
  • Win over one of the twenty Dream Agents I've been researching.
  • Convince the "You're publishable, Heidi" editors to move from from Tell to Show.
  • Pass Grade 6 Piano.
  • Get a good night's sleep.
Sucky Reality counters with:
  • Stomach flu.  An entire weekend gone down the loo.
  • Temporary full-time promotion. Talk about a time-suck. I have time for nothing that truly matters, like writing, and piano, and keeping the loinfruit clean and fed. This complex move came with a most excellent feint called "increased income", but don't be fooled, because the one-two punch includes...
  • Medical bills. Whilst Australian Medicare is vastly superior to anything the US currently has on offer, it doesn't cover all possible medical bills. Sometimes one has to fork out. Bye-bye extra income. Thanks to...
  • Injuries. Curse you, body, for getting too old to go for a jog. How will I keep up my cardiovascular fitness?  After all...
  • Diet and exercise is a Lie (just like the cake)!  Especially when plagued with PCOS.
  • Grad school entrance quals change. Forget the fact that I've budgeted my time to include Grad School for 2015. If I don't apply by Semester 2 of 2014, I don't get in at all. (Really, a musician can study astronomy. Really. They're quite closely related.) One cannot work full-time, study part-time and still have any time for writing. Sorry.
Lest you think Sucky Reality has completely knocked Me for ten, thanks to the double-blow of Full-time and Medical bills, a fall to the mat has put me in an excellent position to lash out with my (uninjured) leg and deliver a crushing blow to Sucky reality's knee.

And she's back in the game, with a Good Night's Sleep!  That move alone means that at this point, it could be anyone's game.

Who will win: Me, or Sucky Reality?

Stay tuned...

Her Grace has learned many valuable things over the course of the past few months:
1. She does not want to work full-time. Unless it's to be a full-time author. That would be okay.
2. She definitely wants to be an author and dedicate her life to that pursuit.
3. Grad school is really hard when one doesn't have enough study time.
4. Playing the piano is like riding a bike--not as bad for your joints as you would think.
5. How's your math:  T>$ when $>X when X=financial needs.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Because I love them.

I want y'all to read my stories. Not necessarily buy (though that would be nice) but definitely read.

Why?  Because I love them so much. My stories make me so excited. They thrill me.

I'd very much like you to feel that way too. That is one of the biggest reasons I publish my stories--to share and to make happy.

There's not much out there that's free at the moment, as anything older than about five years... the archives don't seem to exist any more. Alas. But you could read my story "Erasure" in Moonlight Tuber #1 and What to Do when your Husband is Zombified in the post-apocalyptic housewife's domestic companion, issue 2. If you haven't read these two quirky little pieces, go read them right now.

And for something more recent, of course there is always "As Good As Gold", and soon my next novella "For Richer, For Poorer" will be released by The Wild Rose Press, real soon now. I've got pretty cover art and everything.  Also coming out soon in the Aphrodite Terra anthology is my short story "Goldilocks Zone", out from Whippleshield Books later this year. It's science fictiony goodness.

Her Grace has lots of stories yet to be published that she hopes will continue to thrill others as well.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Right book + Right time = Book Loff

The Day Job has bumped my hours to full-time and this means I've got pretty much NO free time AT ALL for anything, and I've had to steal time from the writing career and the volunteer work and everything else.
So yes. I apologise for my blogly silence.

I've been robbing Peter to pay Paul. (Now, the Peter in my life is a really tall Army Sergeant who takes no nonsense. He would get on my case for how I'm burning the candle on both ends.) I've figuratively maxed out the Time credit card and someday soon it's gonna come back to bite me. Okay, enough with the cliches. I'm so busy I can't even come up with my own metaphors.

And yet...


I am squeezing bits and pieces of moments in for reading. We're all readers. We all know how reading is both relaxing and invigorating at the same time. Because I'm so busy, I need this two-birds-one-stone escape from the ol' grind. (Okay, I'll quit with the cliches.)

It doesn't help that the beautiful Baldivis Library has just opened and I can't stay away. (Ooh! Books! Shiny!)

I got a noir novel based on a true story--"Bury Me Deep" by Megan Abbott.  Normally I don't read noir, but the cover was so evocative, I had to pick it up.  (Just goes to show you what a great cover design can do).

Overall, I enjoyed the book and you can read my review on Goodreads. I've put another of her books on hold and will pick it up presently at the library.

It got me thinking. (Good books do that.)  Why did I enjoy this book so much? What intrigued me? Why don't I read more noir?

When I reflected on that last question, I had a revelation, an epiphany, if you will.

  1. I don't read much noir because the characters tend to dwell in deep, dark places, and they never leave. 
  2. I have the same issue with most Literary fiction. The characters occupy the nadir of human existence and they either fail to realise they need to change and grow, or they fail to leave that Black Doghouse, despite their misguided efforts. This is depressing, especially for a Meritocratic Idealist who reads for Escapism.
  3. Novels are all about the characters. Even the plot-based ones. (More on this later, possibly next week.)

 This has confirmed to me that I'm all about the HEA (Happily Ever After) or, in certain cases, making such an impact on the world it can't help but change. Eucatastrophe. (Doncha just love that word?)

EVERY character goes through darkness and despair. It's necessary for the tension of the book. If everything were light and bubbles, it would be one boring book.

My taste is that the characters don't remain there. I want them to get to the HEA or at least appear that they're gonna make it.  I want them to be proactive in their fate. They've gotta do something, even if that something doesn't turn out the way they expected.

I want my books with characters making stuff happen, not just having stuff happen to them, or worse, happening around them. And if they are successful, all the better. HEA, The End.

So why am I all gushy over this noir? 
  1. It takes place in 1931, at the beginning of the Great Depression, and the dead-dog-party end of the Roaring Twenties. Prohibition! Loose morals! Lost flappers!  This is sufficiently different from my current lives to satisfy my need for Escapism.
  2. Despite everyone's spiral into darkness, pretty much all the characters (barring a couple) have redeeming features and intriguing quirks. Roundness is good.
  3. Plotty goodness.  Okay, this was more character-driven than plot-driven, but there was plot, and there were characters trying to take control of their destinies to some degree.  I can accept that.
  4. The ending had a sad wistfulness at the end of it, with a lost love flavour to it. I am a sucker for lost love. 
So there you have it. I have learned that I can fall in love with a story that's outside my usual preferred genres, if it strikes the right chor-- hits the nail on th-- ticks all the box--.

Aw heck.  I like something if it's got the right stuff.

Her Grace needs a clichectomy.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Randomosity on the Weekend

Words make books, now books make words. Check out this Folded Book Art By Luciana Frigiero--->

I may get an old throwaway and give this a try.

I must confess, this is something a print book can do that an ebook cannot.

Her Grace has added Folded Book Art to her neverending wish list.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Bulwer-Lytton Contest winners 2014

...are here. They are so worth a read. This year's winner, Betsy Dorfman, Bainbridge Island, Washington State (for a moment, I read, "Western Australia") is truly deserving of her win. Her entry is subtle and clever. Check it out.

Dear Michael Shaw of Rockville, Maryland,
Your excellent prose was poignantly beautiful. You made me cry for all the right reasons.
Her Grace
His excellent entry:
The tears of her loneliness rolled from her cheeks and fell upon the steaming pavement outside a second-rate shopping center in Torrance, California, those tears quickly evaporating in the heat and turning into molecularized water vapor that was gradually pulled into the upper atmosphere and slowly dispersed across the planet until, many years later, a few of the molecules descended upon Riomaggiore, Italy, where they were inhaled by her soul-mate, Giorgio Abatangelo whom she would never, ever, meet.

Doesn't that just break your heart?

Her Grace wishes she could aspire to the truly awfulness of the Bulwer-Lytton.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Girls Don't Spoil It. Others Spoil It for the Girls.

It speaks to the child in us all
I recently read this thought-provoking article by Kelly Jensen about "Girls Ruin Everything: Stephenie Meyer, Lois Duncan, and Childhood Nostalgia".  You need to read it too.

She opens with reference to some others' opinions about Stephenie Meyer producing films of other author's work, those opinions being that Meyer's "reputation" will "ruin" the works.  Jensen disagrees with them and so do I.

Really, people?  Honestly? Meyer's reptuation is so bad it will ruin another author's? Are you serious? Or are you just being stupid?

I've seen quite a bit of Meyer hate being flung about the past few years, but not from me. Never from me. I'm no Twi-hard; I confess I'm rather indifferent to her books (maybe one of the few people in the world who is), but I admire her as a fellow author who managed, much to the surprise of her critics, to influence a surprisingly high number of reader.

That's cool in my books.

Sometimes I wonder where all this vitriol comes from? 

Is it because she writes YA?  (There's a bit of a YA kneejerk movement going on in some obscure corner of the Internet. They just don't get it.) 

Is it because she's a woman who's going about empowering other women's dreams?  (You know, that whole feminist thing is pretty scary stuff.  And Meyer comes from a culture with a two hundred year history of feminism.) 

Is it because she's a Latter-Day Saint (aka Mormon)?  (Just ignore the fact that Mormons tend to be highly-successful people on the whole with a reputation for generosity & honesty who tend to live about ten years longer on the average.) Personally, I'm rather fond of Mormons.

Is it because she's a successful author? Quite probably. Jealousy often brings out the worst in people, sometimes without them realising it.  Is she hogging the limelight?  Heck, no! Just like JK Rowling isn't hogging the spotlight (despite the fact that others have accused her of that, and suggest she should back down and let others "have their chance").

That must be it. After all, the publishing industry isn't exactly a meritocracy. It's an industry of sheer dumb luck. So Meyer hit the market at the right time and right place with the right product.  If anything, her success is evidence in my eyes that Rowling wasn't a Once-in-a-Lifetime miracle.

If Meyer can do it after Rowling did it, maybe I can.

Okay, the reality is I'll end up as a midlister with a small core of rabid ne'er-say-die fans whom I'll love to bits, but because lightning's struck twice, that gives me hope.

Some day I'll be one of those household name authors (shh... let me dream) and when I am, I, like Meyer, will take my earnings and turn them to the benefit of others. She's producing movies. (I watched Austenland and enjoyed it.)  Me, I'm going to hit the crowdfunding sites and hand out scholarships. I'm going to hit the microloan sites and fund worthy causes.

And when I do these things (make it big and dole out cash), am I to be the target of disgruntled green-faced people with no sense of nobility and too much time on their hands?


Just letting you know now it's them, not Meyer, not Rowling and not me.

Her Grace might not hit it that big, but she will still find a way to fund scholarships.