Monday, 30 September 2013

Do Not Fear Literary Fiction

Estella's Revenge will read literature.
Some she loves, some, not so much.
If you are a genre reader, do not fear literary fiction.

Yes, it can be difficult to read and understand if you’re not used to it.  Literary novels are about “being”.  Genre novels are about “going”. 

Literary fiction tends to be character-driven.  Plot takes a secondary seat.  Literary fiction is about getting to know someone(s).

Consider literary fiction a kind of “mystery”. Who is this character?  What clues are given to me? How are they feeling? What dilemmas are they facing?  As the world happens about them, how are they impacted?  Don’t worry so much about where they are going and their role in the plot, but rather dwell upon who they are, and why they are where they are.

Literary fiction is not meant to be read quickly. Take your time and revel in the beauty of the words.  Study the characters and get to know the whole of them.  Become emotionally involved.

Literary fiction plays with the English language. It pushes it to its limit. Sometimes it’s good to read literary fiction to see just how far English can go.
As part of her MFA from SoHK, Her Grace is currently reading and analysing Literary Fiction.  She has discovered that understanding leads to tolerance and respect.

Friday, 27 September 2013

TASE: Video Game Music

So, Talking About Something Else, a couple of weeks ago ABC Classic Radio spent much of their air time broadcasting Computer Game Soundtracks.

You heard me.  The music of video games.  Super Mario Brothers.  Final Fantasy.  Angry Birds.

I love movie music. Got a degree in the disciplines of movies and music.  For the same reasons I love movie music, I love computer game music. Its Romantic sensibilities add an emotional depth, making for a more immersive gaming experience.

One morning I listened to “Suicide Mission’ from Mass Effect.  (The version they played: London Voices; London Phil Orchestra X5 Music X5CD114 (The Greatest Video Game Music).  If you love video game music as much as I do, go buy the album and support the artists.)   

An online version of “Suicide Mission” you can listen to on YouTube: 

Oh, what a beautiful piece!  Jack Wall, I am extremely impressed! If I wasn’t a novelist, I would want to be a video game music composer

What I love about video game music is its ability to maintain a certain level of tension.  One trend I’ve noticed in video game music is the use of suspended dominants, similar to the classical cadenzas in a concerto, to maintain tension and expectation. 

This is a necessary function in video game music, where the plot beats are not necessarily at predictable, timed intervals, as they would be in a movie, or a novel.  How does one maintain emotional tension during a battle scene?  That is the challenge of the video game composer.

I could listen to video game music for hours.  In fact, I’m going to buy the album and do just that.

How does music affect your mood?  What's your favourite genre of music?

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

What Her Grace is Reading This Week

These are the books whose pages my eyes are grazing.

Soulless by Gail Carriger.  I already own Changeless (which I completely forgot to get signed at WorldCon a few years ago), and thought I'd read the rest of the Parasol Protectorate series.  Gail Carriger  does an excellent job of blending the best of early 21st century genre fiction elements into a delightful story.

Eats, Shoots, Leaves by Lynne Truss. Nabbed this from the shelves as a refresher on grammatical elements of punctuation.  Part of the necessary reading for an MFA.

First Things First by Stephen Covey.  A re-read, actually, to remind me how to order the things that are important.

Doctrine and Covenants.  Having just finished the New Testament, I thought I'd move on to this. This is going to take me a very long time.

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner.  Another recommended MFA read. I confess I don't read much literary stuff, but I thought I'd give this a go. Not reading it for entertainment value (literary does not "entertain") but to see one way the English language could be be used.  Sometimes one can forget there are many way to use the English language.  Some can be starkly beautiful.

Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton.  After mentioning this to Charlie Finlay last week, I thought I'd re-read this.  It never loses its charm and appeal.
Her Grace is currently upping her reading levels as a necessary part of the craft. You can find a complete list of her TBR pile, including past reads here.  Her Grace is also pursuing an MFA from the prestigious SoHK.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Bargain Bin Book

About a week after I acquired the last Bargain Bin book, I found another.

Australia Post is a very fascinating place, far more fascinating and useful than the United States Postal Service.  Australia Post really is awesome.

So I'm standing in line there the other day.  They've cleverly arranged merchandise bins along the way so you can browse during your brief wait for Barry the Postal Employee.  (He and I have a complicated relationship.)  While I'm waiting, hoping to get Helen the Postal Employee, my eyes spied a super-discounted novel in the Bargain Bin.

Ooh, Mary Higgins Clark!  And mere pennies (well, gold coins, really).
I think the cover art is merely
to fill in the negative space around
the name and the blurb.
Oh, there seems to be a title.

The cover art was meh, but Mary Higgins Clark!

The title: WHERE ARE YOU NOW?  Is that intriguing or what?
Loved the logline on the cover: "How long would you keep up the search for your missing child?"  Oh, that plays the heartstrings.

The back cover blurb also featured this: "How far would you go to keep a secret?"

The blurb was also hooky.  First few pages I found a bit info-dumpy, but I was willing to persist. After all, MHC has a well-deserved reputation for thrillers and suspense.

What books have you pulled out of the Bargain Bin?  Were they worth it, or did you overpay?

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Avast, me hearties!

It be "Talk Like A Pirate Day"!

If ye canna talk like a pirate, sing like a drunken sailor.

For those scurvy dogs who dinna like pirates,  here's a ninja for ye:

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Bargain Bin Rescue

When one works at a library from time to time, one tends not to purchase too many books.  One suggests to the acquisition librarian to buy them for you so everyone can share the joy.

Despite this, I do purchase the occasional book.  Sometimes I get my hands on them as soon as they are available (The Girl of Fire and Thorns, anyone?).  Most of the time, the books I buy, at my leisure, are because I personally know the author.

Once in a while, I'll pull one out of the Bargain Bin.  In Australia, books tend to be on the expensive side, so if you can nab 'em cheap, why not?

We've all seen them.  Those boxes or tables of unwanted, oversurplus, unsold books, the last stop before being donated to some charity shop (alas) or stripped of their covers and returned (alors!).

I had a conscious reason for browsing the Bargain Bin at a grocery store.  A daughter's friend was having a birthday party. I'd already bought several trinkets sure to please someone of that age, but why not a few more?

"She likes to read, doesn't she?" I asked the daughter.

"Yeah," she replied, less than enthusiastic.

I dug through the Bargain Bin.  Most books were too tedious or boring for a young teen.  But one caught my eye, one I would have devoured in a New York Minute at her age.

FALLEN by Tim Lebbon
Dontcha just love that cover?

Huh.  Never heard of him.  (Yeah, yeah. I've been living Down Under a rock.)  Pulled the book out, liked the cover, read the blurb, looked at the price, and tossed it in my basket without a second thought.

A week later, well after the party, I see the book on my desk. In a deliberate act of forgetfulness, the daughter did not give the book to her friend.  (I guess she knew best.)

So I crack open the cover and read the first few pages.   Nice mastery of the craft, but not as hooky as I needed in that moment.  (A later google showed this to be book 4 in a series.  D'oh!  I really wish they'd say these sorts of things on the cover, or inside, or, or... somewhere.  Toss me a frickin' bone, here, man!)

Still, I haven't lost complete interest in this book written by a New York Times Bestselling Horror Author.  (Again, why didn't I pick up on the name?)  Eventually, I'll read it.  Preferrably after I've read the first three.

Monday, 16 September 2013

What Makes a Good Romantic Heroine?

I doubt you recall our "What Makes a Good Romantic Hero" post (hint: includes "Must not kick puppies.") Go review it and either agree or comment.
Robert Anning Bell [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
La Belle Dame Sans Merci, but
she'd better have other qualities
or we shall not call her Our Heroine.

Here is our list of what makes a good Romantic Heroine.

1. She must have some wit.  
Dull chicks need not apply. For me, the more appealing Romantic Heroines must have two brain cells to rub together, and sometime over the course of the book, she needs to use her wits to solve a problem without relying on the Hero.  (Echoes of the Bechdel Test.)  I like 'em smart.
2. She must be open to the concept of love.
That's the whole idea behind a good romance novel: that love can happen. Conflict will happen between Our Heroine and Our Hero. Only boring  novels have no conflict.  But she must be open to the idea of love. Otherwise, I have a hard time believing that she's deciding to love, and not being coerced into it.
3. She must have some depth of character.
If I met her in real life, sans boyfriend/husband, would I find her interesting?  I hope so. I've read romance novels (albeit during the 1980's) where the heroine was some fiery-tempered chit who's turned by some shirtless beefcake hero into having sex.  Suddenly she's in love.  Lame!  I found it hard to suspend my disbelief for something of this type.  When a character--any character--reacts to the world in a certain way, it's due to their personality and their life experiences.  The aforementioned chit? What got her ire up so much? I doubt a tumble with a well-endowed man (*especially* if she's a virgin) is going to smooth her ruffled feathers after a single night of passion.  Yet I've seen books where that happens. I hope 21st Century Romance literature has evolved beyond that.
Punch, or the London Charivari,
got her number. We ain't fooled.
Volume 159, December 1, 1920
4.  She must not be a bitch.
Bitches are disagreeable. They rub people the wrong way.  Sure, the heroine can rub the hero the wrong way, and they get into arguments, and that can be an element of tension in a plot.  But she can't rub you the reader the wrong way. You want her to have spirit. But leave the bitchiness on the cutting room floor.
5. She doesn't have to be beautiful.
I prefer that she's not beautiful, but that's just me. She needs some distinguishing features, and the hero's got to have some sort of attraction to her.  Character is far more important than Just Another Supermodel.

Anything else you'd like to add?  What's important to you when it comes to Romantic Heroines?

Friday, 13 September 2013

The Value of... um..?

(Note: the following story is not true.)

The value of... keeping your mouth shut?  Of not saying anything stupid? Of knowing when to blush?  When not to blush?  You tell me.

So the other night I'm at a Hen's Party (aka a bachelorette party).  We dressed the poor blushing bride up in ridiculous tiaras and banners and other embarrassing things and hit the town.  Visited a few restaurants and made general fools of ourselves, as much as a bunch of teetotalers can.  This mostly involved the naughtiest jokes we knew and forcing the bride to get her picture taken with random strangers.

After discovering that the only Adult shop in town was closed for the evening (Sorry Clemmie, no Naughty Nurse costume for your honeymoon), we retreated to a local fast food restaurant for ice cream and ribald conversation.

This particular fast food joint was just across the parking lot from the local watering hole.  All the local bogan nightlife were coming out to party.  I had a most excellent seat at, facing the window looking out of the parking lot, and my back to the door.  I saw all sorts of interesting creatures walk by.

One particularly tarted-up sheila wobbled towards the pub on her obnoxiously high-heels.  "Hey, look!" I called out to my fellow partygoers.  "The stripper's here!"

Instead of turning around to stare at some hapless young lady, every woman at my table went real quiet. "Your Grace," one of them hissed at me, sotto voce.  She pointed behind me with a clandestine finger.

"What?"  Only then, did I turn around to see two policemen having walked into the joint.

Oh yeah.  They'd heard me.

Lucky for me, stupidity is not a crime.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Wanna Publish Your First Novel?

Are you a newbie apprentice writer who has finished your first book and wanna get it published?  Before you send out your firstborn to the cruel, cruel world, get a bit of perspective first.
  1. Have someone else read your book. Heck, have several someones. These are called beta readers. These are the people you should have read your book:
    1. Your momma. Really. Her opinion will be uninformed and extremely biased, but at least there will be someone who will tell you it’s a great story. Tuck that well-meaning compliment away, to bring out later on a rainy day. You’ll need it. Now, if your own mom tells you it’s a terrible book, either yo’ momma don’t love you none, or it really is a terrible, terrible book. If so, you should go write another one. (Oh heck, even if it’s the most brilliant thing in the world, go write another one anyway. It’s good for your soul.)
    2. A mate (aka buddy) who ain’t afraid to give you the straight dope. Let 'em know it’s okay if they tell you the parts that work and the parts that don’t. Remember, they aren’t dissing you, just the bad parts of your book. And the bad parts need dissin’.
    3. A fellow writer, preferably one with a better mastery of the craft than your good self. This is the person who’ll give you useful feedback. In fact, finding a good critique group is worth its weight. (A bad critique group ain’t gonna do you no good.)
  2. Put the book away. Let it sit and age for a while. This could be weeks, months, or even years. The publishing world isn’t going to disappear tomorrow. There will always be a market for books. Just let the sucker be and get on with another project. Later you can come back to your book with fresh eyes. You will see stuff your brain glossed over before. Then won’t you be glad you didn’t sent out such an unfinished book!
  3. Assume you don’t know everything about the craft. ‘Cause really, you don’t. None of us do. Okay, some of us know more than others. But it takes a very long time for us to leave our apprentice phase, our journeyman phase, and enter into true mastery of the craft. So get it into your head that you’re not the most brilliantest writer in the world. But You Could Be. Go study the craft. Go research stuff online. The neat thing about writers is that we’re not jealously hoarding our writing tools. We’re more than happy to share everything we know with every other writer out there. Collectively, we can become mighty.
  4. Work on that query letter. Write a concise synopsis. Draft a single log line. Test market it to your FB, your Twitter feed, your online writing workshop. Did anyone bite? If not, review, revise, rework.
  5. Research potential agents/publishers. Come up with a dreamlist of your top 100 preferred agents/publishers. Remember, the shorter the list, the shorter your chances of success. So make it long, but targeted. (No use sending that hard Sci-Fi novel to Janet Reid.)
  6. Write another novel and pitch that. Second novels are better than first novels.
Got it? Okay, go ahead and send it out. But don’t be too hurt if it is repeatedly rejected. That’s on par for the industry. You’ll have better luck with your second, or even your third book.
 P.S.: If you have no intention of writing a third book, you probably don’t belong in the publishing industry. Go do a small Lulu run of your one-and-only magum opus and impress your friends and family instead. It’s okay. We don't mind.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Oh, the Scandal!

Puck had his number, all right.
Could have been worse.
He could also have been twerking.
On 8 September 1890, several members of the Marlborough House set, including HRH the Prince of Wales (eventually King Edward VII) partied hard at Tranby Croft.

Whilst there, Sir William Gordon-Cumming cheated at cards... And Got Caught.  (Should I mention that gambling at baccarat was illegal at this time?)

A few of the guests thought this was not cricket.  On 10 Sept they approached HRH with their concerns.

In the end, everyone made Sir William sign an agreement, duly witnessed by all present, including HRH Essentially, he would never play cards again in exchange for everyone's silence.  A gentleman's agreement, in other words.

Shame it was a Lady who broke it.  Daisy, Lady Brooke, Countess of Warwick and current mistress to HRH  (yes, THAT Daisy), had to go and gossip about the whole thing.  Babbling Brooke could never keep her trap shut about anything.

Within forty-eight hours, the whole on-dit was all over the ton.

Sir William, terribly embarrassed, sued every signatory on that agreement for slander.  Eventually, HRH got dragged up as a witness and severely chastised.  After all, he knew something illegal was going on, and according to Queen's Army Regulations, he should have dobbed in a fellow officer.  (Not the first time HRH had been dragged to court as a witness in a scandal.)

Poor Sir William was found guilty, and that was pretty much the end of him in Society.  He retreated to Scotland to cry in his whiskey for the rest of his life.

Meanwhile, the Queen was Not Amused at the shameful behaviour of her son. There was quite a to-do about that.  HRH never did recover from this one.

Lessons learned:
1. Don't play illegal gambling games.
2.  Don't cheat at cards.
3. Don't get caught.
4. Don't sign anything that can come back to bite you.
5. Don't sleep with other men's gossiping wives.
6. Don't gossip.
7. Don't piss off the Queen.
8. Don't go up in court against a member of the royal family. Everyone will take his side.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Wherein Her Grace Gets All Twittery

By Hdepot (Own work)
via Wikimedia Commons
Attribution length: 107 characters.
Okay, I'm trying to wrap my head around this Twitter thing. Along with Facebook and Tumblr and a whole slew of social networking sites, it's one of the It Things, apparently.

I'm not so sure how I can make it work effectively for me.  Especially professionally.

No, I don't have my own Twitter account. I'm not game. Reasons why:

  • It's rather short.  Rawther.  I'm not confident I can squish significant meaning into 140 characters every tweet, and I have no wish to sound trite the rest of the time.
  • I'm not impressed with its signal-to-noise ratio.  Many tweets seem to be vague three word replies stuck to multiple hashtag conversations. Kind of hard to follow, really.
  • The tweets that are interesting usually consist of a tiny url leading to something that is, actually, fascinating (and definitely more than 140 characters).  Almost makes Twitter little more than a redirection service.  Maybe that's its best use.
  • I don't have the timely time to participate in a meaningful conversation.  My internet usage is sporadic. By the time I get around to reading Twitter, I'll be woefully out of date. Alas.
  • Not convinced it's usefully more than a time-waster and another incarnation of gossip-around-the-watercooler.  (On the other hand, word-of-mouth networking (aka "gossip") is useful in the writerly community.  Especially if it uses the words "nice deal".)
Though I confess, I sometimes follow a couple of interesting people, sorting through their LOLs and other bits of lopsided conversations to find some really fascinating things.  Platform aside, they're charming no matter what social networking medium I read them on.

Also, some people claim it has value. As they have more experience than I with Twitter, I'd love to know how they make it work for them.

Things I would say, if I was tweeting:

  • Humour for writers.  Ya gotta laugh.
  • Nobody with Internet access has any excuse not to research.  Go work on your Google Fu.
  • Being a writer means that you are giving permission for someone to misunderstand you.
Everything else I say is long-winded.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Piano Playing (Taking About Something Else Day)

Friday is “Talking About Something Else” Day here at Romance Spinners.  C'mon!  It can't always be about writing.

Sergei Arsenevich Vinogradov [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
"Girl Playing the Piano"
by Sergei Arsenevich Vinogradov
I'll bet she had to play Hanon as well.
We writers are a fascinating bunch. Naturally, we have outside interests.

I play the piano.  Take lessons, have a regular gig on the weekends, and everything.

Piano players everywhere are familiar with the Hanon "The Virtuoso Pianist" piano exercises. ( No, I can’t play it as quickly as in the Wikipedia example.)  It’s considered part of the basic “chops” every piano player has to do including scales, arpeggios and Heart ‘n’ Soul

So I’m reading through the preface notes, and one of the final paragraphs says this: “This entire volume can be played through in an hour; and if, after it has been thoroughly mastered, it be repeated daily for a time, difficulties will disappear as if by enchantment, and that beautiful, clear, clean, pearling execution will have been acquired which is the secret of distinguished artists.

So I’m thinking, “What?  An entire hour every day on Hanon alone?”  Then I remember that I will cheerfully spend hours a day cranking out rough draft on a novel.   Either way, me and Anastasia the Piano Player spend hours wiggling our fingers over keyboards.

I guess it all depends on where your heart (and soul) lies.
Her Grace has studied piano three times in her life: for a few years as a child, for a few years in university, and for the past eight years as an adult.  She has studied other fields of music, such as violin and voice and minored in Music at her alma mater.  Currently she is working towards her AMusA degree and occasionally teaches other people how to tickle ivories.  But really, she'd much rather be writing.  Don't tell her piano teacher she said that.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Get a Hobby

By Enoch Lau (Own work (photo)) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Game of cards, anyone?
Enoch Lau might play with me.
Writers need hobbies. They really do. While it can be tempting to spend all your free time on the novel, a writer really needs to nurture other interests. It’s good for the soul to have a few interests. Gets the brain working in different ways. It’s like stretching the ol’ mental muscles.

You are a better writer when you have other interests that engage your heart. Working at a day job you dislike, or housecleaning you detest, or watching TV as your only other interest, will not work. It’s important to find something you like, preferably nothing to do with writing. Stuff I do:
  • reading outside my interest (non-fiction, different fiction genres, etc).
  • Exercise. There is a strong correlation between exercise and mental function. Don’t believe me? Try it for a week.
  • Play piano.
  • Do volunteer work.
  • Play games.
  • Other stuff.
If you’re working the Day Job by day, and writing at night, and that’s your whole life, you really need to get out and get some hobbies. Don’t worry that an interest or two will cut into your writing time. Believe me, it’ll help make what writing time you’ve got higher-quality time.

 Far too busy to take on a hobby? Sit down and analyse your week. To a time audit to find out what you’re spending your time on. Consider whether all the little things you are doing are Important. Don’t confuse Urgent with Important. (You may wish to learn more about an Importance/Urgency matrix.)

 Ditch all the stuff that’s not Important. Really, you don’t need it. Your novel needs you more, and your Craft needs you to spend some time outside it on worthy projects.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Grocer's Apostrophe

The Apostrophe Demon
By C. Williams
(Library of Congress[1]) [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Apostrophe use can be pretty hellish.
Sometimes a grammatical error becomes so common it gets its own name.   I give you the "Grocer's Apostrophe".

Just because there's an official name for the usage doesn't mean it's a legitimate use of the language.

Fascinating, n’est pas?

People making fun of apostrophal misuse:

Not sure how to use an apostrophe?  The Oatmeal explains all.  Will illustrations.