Monday, 31 August 2015

What will make you put down a book?


While Agent Extraordinaire Janet Reid (aka Miss Snark, aka Query Shark, aka Queen of the Known Universe) is on vacation, she left some topics for us exiles of Carkoon to mull over.

Today's topic: What'll make you not finish reading a book?

Yup, we went to town in the comments.

As Heidi-come-lately, I weighed in with my opinion at the very end, as I'm 12 hours out from everyone else. I thought I'd expand on those thots here. Also, I would like to know what would make you put down a book?

Some of us readers are die-hards. Once we start a book, we are committed to finishing it. (I was once like that, then I got old.) For most of the rest of us, we realise that life is too short to waste on books that simply aren't doing it for us. I have no compunction over not finishing a book if it's not working for me.

Things that'll make me put a book down:
  • Voice'n'style that's difficult to read (including too many grammar/spelling errors--common in indie books published before their time, alas). I love a voice with rhythm and pace, something that carries me along. It's got to have a certain cadence. 
  • Too many swear words. Swear words are powerful, especially the F-bomb. That's why they're used as swear words. Because of their strength, I feel their use needs to be limited. If a text is peppered with them, it throws off the power balance and ruins the tension of the scene for me. But the occasional one, placed for best effect, in my opinion, works very well. 
  • Unlikeable characters. Why on earth would I want to know their story? If I find a character unlikeable, I don't want to spent too much time in their company. And that may mean putting down the book for good. 
  • Rape scenes, more for the unlikeable character aspect, rather than the violence (though that is also a big factor). A rapist is a pretty nasty character. Why would I want to spend company with him or have to cope with the emotional devastation he's racked on his victim(s)? 
  • Sex scenes that don't have significant impact on the plot. I know, I know, I'm a Romance author, but sex scenes for titillation's sake just doesn't do it for me. If a sex scene furthers the plot, I'm okay with it. (Currently, I have no sex scenes in any of my Romance novels, but have a few in my Fantasy novels, and they do serve to forward the plot.) I will skip through some of the more graphic sex scenes in Romance novels as I tend to find them dull. If the novel is mostly sex scenes and the plot or characters aren't working for me, I'll put it down. 
  • Lack of optimism--One of the reasons I refuse to read most literary novels. I've encountered far too many that are all doom'n'gloom with no light at the end of the tunnel. If I'm reading any book (regardless of genre) and it's not got any hope or light or hint of positivity, I'll give up. I read for escapism. I've got enough grief in my life; I don't need to add to it through fiction.
  • Pacing too slow. Ain't nobody got time for that. I like my fiction groove to moove. 
  • Dull plot with no other redeeming characteristics. I love plot. If you don't have a good enough plot, and you don't have anything else to make up for it, it's bye-bye.

I recently read an indie author who had a hooky voice'n'style and appealing characters, but was absolutely hopeless when it came to plot. I read to the end, but felt disappointed in the tepid plot arc. As his voice was a MAJOR redeeming feature for me, I attempted another of his novels. This one was more character-based, and worked better. Still, I believe he could have been one of our literary greats, if it wasn't for his appalling plot skills. So sad.

_________________________________________
Her Grace wants to know what will make you put down a book?

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Turning of the Tide by Charles Dana Gibson

The contract for "Marry Me" has been turned in and now I get the lovely job of coming up with notes for my cover artist.

While researching links for her info sheet, I came across this beautiful sketch by Gibson (yes, the guy who invented Gibson Girls) that fits the mood of my story perfectly:



No, this illustration will not end up on on the cover, but oh, it so evokes the mood!

_________________________________________
Her Grace just might swoon with delight.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Come Party with Long and Short Reviews

Long and Short Reviews is celebrating their 8th Anniversary, and my books are part of the fun!



Have a look at For Richer, For Poorer and As Good As Gold, for your chance to win prizes like Amazon or B&N gift cards, books and more, thanks to LASR.

_______________________
Her Grace loves a good party.

Monday, 17 August 2015

I'm on Facebook

Love Facebook?  Come like Heidi Kneale, Author and keep up with the news, including project status reports, upcoming promotions and other goodies specific to this up-and-coming Fantasy Romance author.


__________________________
Her Grace loves to escape from reality with a good book. She's got one coming out in February 2016.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Interview: Maggie Elizabeth Marshall

Today I welcome literary writer Maggie Elizabeth Marshall to Romance Spinners. I met Maggie in the My 500 Words writing group. Maggie writes literary short stories and non-fiction articles. We look forward to more inspiring works from her in the future.

HWK: I was interested in your use of patterns in your short story L-A-C-E-Y. What fascinated you so much about Mr Greyson's obsession with the number four?

MEM: Psychology is a relatively new fascination of mine. I love the mind and all it can do and am fascinated in how things go “wrong”. The idea of obsessions is particularly interesting – how the mind can latch onto something so useless. It’s funny, because I was actually diagnosed with OCD a year after I wrote L-A-C-E-Y. I’ve learned a lot about OCD since. While that piece is highly accurate to the OCD experience, my own experience differs very much. While Mr. Greyson ruminates on the number four and is highly concerned about germs, I ruminate on imperfect social situations and whether or not I’ve hurt people. Because of this, Mr. Greyson has become a particularly special character to me. And, as for his obsession with the number four, that was an accident, actually. I picked a random number and it ended up fitting perfectly with the theme of the story – the difference between love and obsession and whether or not they’re even separable. His compulsion – counting – is actually a way to relieve his stress caused by the obsessions. The thing about OCD is that the compulsions themselves become sources of stress when their calming effect wears off, usually almost immediately after the compulsion is acted upon. It’s as painful if not more painful than L-A-C-E-Y makes it out to be.

HWK: I see you have a love of the literary genre. What draws you to this genre?

MEM:I love the idea of writing about realistic situations. I, of course, dabbled in fantasy and historical fiction, but I never felt fully comfortable until I entered the literary genre. I think there is something so fantastic about creating an outrageous situation out of something that could be real. Granted, not all literary fiction is realistic fiction. So, perhaps it is better for me to explain it this way: I love when a story does more than entertain. I love when it makes you think. When it causes you to question things you thought were set in stone. When the language itself has beauty and is crafted just as well as the story. For me, writing in a way that focuses on every tiny aspect of the craft is more thrilling than writing just to entertain.

HWK: You've got quite a few non-fiction article credits to your name. Do you have a preference of fiction or non-fiction? What is your ultimate love?

MEM:My ultimate love is fiction. I have a few half-written fiction novels I hope to publish. I love writing short stories. I write articles for fun and really enjoy it, but it’s not what drives me. Most of my creative non-fiction is driven by my circumstances in life. In fact, almost all of the short, creative  nonfiction pieces I’ve had published were written during a very difficult time in my life. I can work at creating fiction, while nonfiction comes when it comes. And though I enjoy writing articles and running a blog, it is a job to me – something I must do to get by until I can publish my fiction and make that my job. But I’m lucky enough to enjoy the journey to get there!

HWK: What do you consider the greatest benefit of reading is to Humanity?

MEM:Wow, this is a heavy questions for me! I think reading provides so many things, but most of all it provides knowledge about humanity. As a fiction writer, I truly believe that fiction can portray truth in a way even nonfiction cannot. Fiction has a way of creating a story that highlights the truths of humanity, or even the existential questions of humanity. Fiction creates a story that forces readers to acknowledge these truths and questions and deal with them, when so often we are unable to see them in real life. Like L-A-C-E-Y – I hope readers question the connection between love and obsession, as well as see that Mr. Greyson may live a different truth than we do. These connections and viewpoints are almost invisible when we walk around in our own heads. We can’t read our neighbor’s mind, but we can read the mind of a character if the author allows it.

HWK: You have grown deathly allergic to dogs. What other animal do you choose to guard your property?

MEM:I think I would like a vicious peacock or a crazy flock of hummingbirds.

HWK: Preach it! If you could convince the world of any one thing, what would it be?

MEM:I would love to convince the world of the importance of kindness and awareness. We are so stuck in our own heads. We are all guilty of being selfish, of ignoring others, of thinking our issues are more important. I am guilty of this too! But kindness and awareness go such a long way. Realizing the people around us are not just props in our own play – they are real people with real minds who hurt and cry and suffer just as much, if not more than we do. If we all lived in constant awareness of others, not only would we help others, but we would be helped by others. I see it all too often: someone is hurting and their friends are more concerned about the burden the friend is upon them, rather than the pain that friend is dealing with. If we could reverse that, the world would be a much better place. The only way to relieve the burden off yourself is to also relieve the burden off the other.

____________________________

We wish Maggie Elizabeth well as she embarks on her adventures at graduate school in creative writing.

Visit her webpage, chock full of really good posts, at http://www.maggieelizabethwrites.com/

Saturday, 1 August 2015

What Writers Want You to Know About the Writerly Life

I've got a head cold that's not going away. When I get sick, I get a bit ditzy, so the simplest things make me giggle.

I'm getting a kick out of the Twitter tag #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter. Yeah, it's awfully long for a tag, but writers are adapting just fine to the truncated tweet. Give it a read and have a window into our secret world...

Journalists are getting a kick out of watching their fellow writers moan about how their writing careers are perceived by non-writers: BBC has a good article, and The Observer was pasted all over the place.

So, here is my list of things that we writers would love you to know about the writerly life:

1. We write because we can't not write. That, and variants on that theme, are the primary reason we do it. Stories fill our heads. Characters natter in our ears. We are perpetually plagued by the question, "What if...?" Something in our souls yearns to be released, and it's through writing.

2. Money is not our meter stick. Granted, it's nice when we get paid for our work, and many of us aim to become financially independent, but it is not the primary driving force behind our career choice. (See #1) This is not a career you enter expecting to be well and equally compensated. But if you want to tap into the more lucrative side of writing, try magazine articles or copywriting. Just know that most of us are in it more for the love than the lucre.

3. We write more than novels. Early in my career I wrote short stories, non-fiction articles, screenplays and more. (If you're still stuck on #2 above, know that my biggest paying job to date was a non-fiction article for a popular parenting magazine. Less than a thousand words, more than a thousand bucks.) Writing covers all sorts of things. This is why writers squirm when, after telling you they're a writer, you ask, "So, what novels have you published?"

4. Publication is not the justification gold standard. Just because a writer is unpublished (or pre-published) doesn't mean they're a bad writer. It simply means they have not (yet) been published. That's all. Took me a few years.

A cold, hard, sad fact is that most writers have to put in some serious chops working and perfecting their craft before publication comes along. Also, publication doesn't automatically happen once you've finished something. It's a demand market, and often there are more really good pieces than there are publication spots.

That said, the deghettoisation of indie publishing has gone a long way towards giving many, many good writers an opportunity to reach readers. I've read some spectacular indie-published books. Don't let the fear of getting a dud keep you from picking up an indie book. Like agents and editors are the vetters for traditional publishing, your fellow readers vet indie works very well. Check out a book's ratings on Amazon or Goodreads if you want an indication of its quality.

5. Writing is a real job. Sure, lots of people have it as a hobby. But some of us make a career out of it. Because it takes time to go through our apprenticeships and journeyhoods before we are able to write a quality novel, we are putting in a lot of work before the financial payoff (if any) arrives. Until that happens, we need to source money sufficient for putting food in our bellies, a garret over our head and clothes on our backs.

Gone are the days of rich, titled patrons who sponsored us. Now, it's a tolerant spouse with a full-time job, or arts grants, or working what we fondly call, "The Day Job". So yeah, often we are working at least two jobs so we can pursue what we love and still eat.

6. Writing is not easy. Especially if its good writing. Heck, even slapping down horrible first-draft copy can be difficult at times. A novel is a complex piece of art with many components. Don't think that it's a doddle to write, and the first words that flow from our fingertips are brilliant works of timeless prose. It takes much effort to get it to the lovely stage you see in a printed novel.


Dear readers, we love you. We love you very much and we write marvelous stories to lift your hearts and take you away. A career as an author doesn't follow the same career path as a middle manager or an accountant or schoolteacher. We are the children of the muses and dance to a different tune.

Just thought I'd let you know.

_____________________________
Her Grace is a career author. She's got two novellas currently published, another novella coming out in February and a full-length novel out sometime near the end of the year, followed by a second in the new year.

Go buy her books. Otherwise, convince someone else to buy her books:

AS GOOD AS GOLD - historical fantasy romance - 4/5 stars
FOR RICHER, FOR POORER - SF/Fantasy romance - 4.5/5 stars

Out from The Wild Rose Press and available where all good ebooks are sold.


Friday, 24 July 2015

Regarding yesterday's funeral

I went to a family funeral yesterday.

Arthur "Jack" Johnson, age 92 was laid to rest. He was the patriarch of the Johnson family, to which my nieces belong. I was considered a close enough connection to be able to sit with the family and help attend the nieces while their father helped with the funeral and their mother mourned her grandfather.

I've known Jack, his wife Josie and their family for more than fifteen years and have been connected to them by marriage for nearly as long. Jack was one of those men with a great sense of humour, who instantly brightened a room when he entered it. His pockets were full of lollies and his heart full of jokes.

This is a guy who will be sorely missed.

An interesting thing about Latter-Day Saint funerals, they're  not as grief-stricken as you'd expect. It comes from the Latter-Day Saint beliefs regarding an afterlife and of the eternal nature of family connections. Sure, you'll miss someone when they're gone, but it's not a forever thing. Families are forever. That's what's forever. Not separation, not death.

I thought it was lovely that the great-granddaughters wore pink. Grandma Josie wore green, in which she always looks good. Aunt Margaret, who couldn't be at the funeral because she was on the other side of the planet, sent along a video so she could be part of it. All the men wore a sprig of rosemary for remembrance; I had to explain its significance to a niece, because she thought they'd all lost the flowers to their boutonnieres.

The music was lovely, the jokes were appropriate and the floral tributes were tastefully nice.

Bowra & O'Dea did the funeral and they did a nice, respectful job.

After the funeral we went to a beautiful cemetery for the interment. There were peacocks, which delighted all the grandchildren. For Grandma Josie and a few of the more pregnant members of the family there were chairs.

A few good words were said and the grave was dedicated as per Latter-Day Saint ritual. Then, to some very Jack-appropriate music, the coffin was lowered into the grave, and the family got to toss in rose petals.

Then the tarps were removed from the gravedirt and the men of the family didn't just toss in a symbolic shovel. They got to completely fill in the grave. I thought this was a lovely, cathartic practice. I want this at my funeral.

Lives begin and lives end. I aim to do the best I can in between to make sure my life has as positive an impact as Jack's did.

Rest well, Pappy. We'll see each other again (just, not that soon).

_________________________________
Her Grace is all funeralled out.