I just finished rereading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. Sigh. I have never reached the tipping point with any of my novels.
At some point you have to believe that it’s you and not just luck. Even though my writing has won awards and contests –heck, I’m up for the New England Reader’s Choice award with Mystic (two weeks from now)–I can’t seem to break out. And it doesn’t help that I see an acquaintance get excited about her first book. It has reached number four on some YA list. I’m am truly thrilled for her. Really. I am also wondering what the heck she did or didn’t do to get such word of mouth about her first book. I can’t get such reception on book fourteen!
Am I whinging? Perhaps. But as I said above, at some point you have to believe it’s your writing. You’d think that if you were truly good, people would have discovered you by now. I just don’t seem to generate word of mouth.
When I read a book I love I talk about it–to friends, on social media, in lists. I’ve talked about Ready Player One and Theft of Swords. I’ve loaned out my copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society until a friend spilled coffee on it and had to replace it for me. I’ve taught Dandelion Wine and bought From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler for my kids and will buy it again for my grandkids should I ever have any. I have recommended Jennifer Crusie and Julia Quinn when people claim romance is mindless. You want a scare? And Then There Were None.
I don’t claim literary genius, a case I can make for the above books. However, I don’t even seem to touch or reach the mavens (see The Tipping Point).
Do your favorite authors, or even the ones you just enjoyed, a favor. Become a mini maven. Leave a review at Amazon, B&N, or Goodreads, or wherever. Or tell a friend or twenty. Or tweet about it. Or whatever. Or send the author a note. That can make an author’s day. But word of mouth helps. It’s still the best way to build readership, and no one really knows how to create word of mouth except to write the best book you can.
Hope this wasn’t too self-centered and self-pitying.
I love language and languages. I especially love when I learn something new about it. Like the saying “getting his just deserts.” One “S”. Because it not about that sweet thing you eat after a meal and getting one that fits what you’ve done, although that makes sense and it’s what most people think, but because deserts is a noun form from the verb deserve, so it means getting what one deserves. (Oversimplified, but, hey, you get what I mean.)
Stuff like that probably makes me a pedant, but I wear that badge proudly. I like knowing things. It’s because I like learning things. I make mistakes. I know for a fact that at least one of my early books makes the mistake between loathe and loath. The copy editor didn’t catch it, so it’s in print that way forever. I know the difference now (loathe is the verb meaning to hate, and loath is the adjective meaning reluctant).
So back to the title of this post. You know the saying, “If you think …, then you have another…” and there I pause. We learn language by making errors. Little children will say things like, “I goed,” or “He drinked.” They have internalized adding -ed to make the past tense, but haven’t learned that irregular verbs have different forms. We internalize language and don’t think about grammar when we speak. We just speak.
So when someone makes an error on purpose, it’s hard not to try to correct it in our minds. The saying actually is, “If you think you’re right, you have another think coming.” Think about it (there’s that word again). It’s grammatically incorrect on purpose. It sounds strange to our ears to use a verb, think, as a noun, but doesn’t think make a whole lot more sense than thing? What does “You have another thing coming” even mean? Oh, we’ve tried to make sense of it, like the dessert vs desert thing (there’s that word again). Before I knew the true form, I always thought the saying meant you should get a punishment of some sort. But, really, how harsh is that for thinking something (Oooo, think and thing in the same sentence)? Thing is so vague, so meaningless. Yet look how often we use it, even in this post. Think makes more sense, when you analyze it. (I almost wrote “when you think about it,” but that would be excessive, don’t you think?)
But language is nothing if not fluid, and most people will tell you that the saying is “If you think you’re right, then you have another thing coming.” That’s our internalized grammar editor trying to correct an error made on purpose. We know English, and you can’t use the verb think as a noun. So using thing has become acceptable. You will hear thing used on TV or see it in books, but now you know better.
Perhaps it will drive you as nuts as it does me. >twisting my evil villain mustache< Bwhahahaha. Wait until I point out the difference between fewer and less.
I love a good story, so when my friends talk about a new TV show that is wonderful, I listen. And when I have time, I will watch it. But I am leery because many times the show, especially on the “premium” channels, will suddenly lose the story in order to show two people having sex.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve written romances, and mine all include sex scenes. I have no problems with sex scenes…when they are appropriate to the story. But too often the scenes on the TV shows are gratuitous. They’re there for throwing sex on the screen, not for advancing the story. They’re there because sex sells, not because it helps characterization, or plot, or conflict, all of which are good reasons for sex scenes. It’s a writing issue, not a moral judgment.
I stopped watching a certain paranormal series for that reason. I was on the fence about the show, but was interested enough to continue. Then came the gratuitous sex scene. There was no reason for it except titillation. I stopped watching. It happened again yesterday. I was watching a show about colonial America, and two characters have sex. They have completed a dangerous assignment, and they are angry with each other because of how they had to behave. One of these characters has just learned her husband is dead, and the other has a wife. I get it. It’s the release, it’s the sudden revelry in success after danger, it’s a celebration of being alive. Except. Except the concept of honor and decorum which has been portrayed as huge elements of both their characters has been conveniently forgotten and thus undermined. I might have bought it if they were so caught up in the emotions of their success that they tear the clothes off each other and do the act without thinking, but it was a slow, relishing of each other. For me, it didn’t support what the writers have established.
The same is true for nudity. First of all it’s not a big deal. I have long thought we make too much of showing the human body. We all have one set of parts or another (generally speaking), and while we can enjoy those parts, parts are thrown on the screen just for the shock effect. Sorry. If I wanted to see a pair of boobs, I can look down my shirt. Does that sound hypocritical? First I say we make too much of it, then I say TV shouldn’t show parts. No, what I’m saying is that using body parts for shock effect is wrong. I believe it perpetuates the drooling culture, which should have disappeared long ago. When a show like Games of Thrones, an intricate, political, and gripping drama, can be reduced to nudity jokes by comedians, it’s a sign of gratuitous nudity.
Look, sex is boring unless you’re doing it (Of course, I have the same opinion of viewing sports). The act itself looks rather funny too. In writing there are only so many ways to describe a fairly basic act. It’s the reason I don’t read many romances any more. The sex is the least interesting part of the book and now there is an emphasis on the sex instead of the why. (That and the emotional baggage characters carry these days, so I can’t believe in a happy ending unless these people go through serous psychoanalysis.)
Maybe I’m a prude.
Books I’m reading now:
Harry Potter und der Orden des Phönix by JK Rowling
The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
In which I introduce my newest book available April 26.
Ta-da. I could probably hook up some sort of music file here to produce a fanfare, but music erupting from a web site can be pretty obnoxious, so I will refrain. However, you can help me. Right now, imagine a trio of horns blasting a triumphant fanfare as I introduce …
The Stone Key is my latest book, and it will be available April 26 as both an ebook and a print book. You can preorder it now at Amazon. (Or if not at this moment, any second now)
If you can’t tell from the cover, The Stone Key is a time travel novel.
Sworn to protect a powerful artifact, Arden of Throckmorton is reluctant to carry out her duty until the relic whisks her nearly eight hundred years into the future. Her only way home is to find it. Modern England is no place for a medieval maid.
Hawkins Arlington is a prominent medievalist and just the man to help her, once he gets over the whole time travel and magic nonsense. Besides, the chance to study a real medieval woman is too brilliant to pass up.
But when a villain from the past appears, Arden and Hawk race to find the artifact first, risking their lives, their homes, and their reputations. And if they find it, can Arden discover what her heart wants and will Hawk be able to let her go?
I hope you will check out this newest adventure of mine. More inside stories will follow.
In which I look at rebranding, revitalizing, and renewal. Perhaps a fitting post for the day after Easter?
I promised that you’d be seeing changes in me. Well. they are arriving. First, my website is being overhauled. Right now (today) if you visit my website, this, as in this blog, is what you will find. More is coming, but we’re not there yet.
Second, I’ve decided not to let the Gabi Stevens name die. After my three WISH books, it looked like Gabi Stevens was through. Not true anymore. Gabi Stevens writes paranormal (a lighter tone with heavy subjects–the kind of book and stories I like to read) and the voice that I love. I have big plans for her. Starting with …
…(Third) a reboot of THE FALCON AND THE WOLF.
I had released it under Gabi Anderson, but it didn’t fit with the non-magical historicals I’d written under that name. It is now available from Amazon and –this is the biggie–CreateSpace. That’s right! You can order it as a print book. Here is the link (I always find it wierd to create a link with the declaration of a link–it’s so meta.). A bit more expensive than the ebook, but what can you do? The link to the ebook is the caption. And I’m giving you a heads up–the listing hasn’t quite caught up with the changes yet; while, the author is now Gabi Stevens, it still is linked to Gabi Anderson, but you can find it on the Gabi Stevens author page, not the Gabi Anderson author page, but if you look up Gabi Anderson, it will still list it there too (Lots of buts). I figure it will take a little while to catch up. Maybe a few more emails.
And there’s a new cover. Looks much more fantasy, huh?
So keep watching. There will be another Gabi Stevens book before the end of April. Brand new, never seen before. I’m excited about this one.
In which I look at bucking the trends and its consequences, especially when it comes to series.
My career took a twist when my agent left me. I took stock of my career, regrouped, and have decided to take the direction I was pointed in. But I still don’t “follow the rules” in a lot of ways. I will be releasing a new book soon (stay tuned–I’m not giving information now because I want to give it a big send off, but here’s a hint: Daylight Saving Time has nothing on this book) and unlike everything they tell you when one self-publishes, it is NOT part of a series. It is a stand-alone novel. A complete story in one book.
I have a lot of stand alone books. It’s not that I don’t understand the appeal of series–I do. I’ve written three trilogies myself (although one only has two books in it because the third book was never optioned. Someday I will write that third.) It seems nowadays every book is the starting point for a series. Heck I have a fantasy making the rounds right now that is the start of a series. But it’s a planned three books and it’s done. I suppose I could continue in that world if it takes off, but this story is three books. I was prepared to continue all my series if they took off, but they wouldn’t have been the same characters, just the same world. And I wrote stand-alones too.
Look, a series is great, but frankly after about three books, I’m bored with reading them. I want to get to the end. Harry Potter is an exception. I loved every one of those seven books and couldn’t wait for the next one to come out when they were, shall we say, fresh (although an argument can be made for Order of the Phoenix as being a bridge book). But, and perhaps this is blasphemy to the Potterheads, I’m glad the series is over. I loved every minute of it, but the story is now told. I would happily read (and have) other works by the author, but Harry Potter has an end and I’m glad for it. It’s wonderful for what it is and more would just ruin the experience (for me, but this is my blog). Frankly, I made it through Chronicles of Narnia only once (re-reading is my metric for excellence) because I didn’t care after about book three. The same is true for many of the ongoing romance series. Love the first few, but then I’d had enough. In fact, sometimes I resent having to read several books to finish a series just because I want to know what happens. I usually end up skimming.
When I make a list of my favorite books, many are stand-alone : Ready Player One, To Kill a Mockingbird (look at the controversy its sequel started–I ignore the sequel), And Then There Were None, Dandelion Wine (although there is a sequel, but it’s not as good, so I ignore it as well). Some are part of a series: Huckleberry Finn (but it is so different from the first book in the series, and nobody reads the Tom Sawyer Detective novels), Bewitching (but the second book didn’t make nearly the impact). I would say the one area where I am willing to read more than three or so books is mystery. Agatha Christie is wonderful, and although she hated Poirot , I enjoyed the character, but each story was its own and there wasn’t a never-ending story arc.
There is a famous fantasy series that I have never started because it’s too long–too many books. I’m sure they’re fun, but really, I want a story to end, and then I want to move on to something new.
But that’s me, and that’s what I write. I complete a story and move on. If I like an author I will try their other books. It’s the voice that draws me in, and the voice will appear throughout the author’s body of work. I don’t need the same story dragged out. And if stand-alone books is the reason I don’t become huge, I can live with that.
I break other rules too–like being almost impossible to market (look at the covers of my last series)–but not writing in one series is the biggie.
Today I’m thrilled to have Nicole Winters here with her new book The Jock and the Fat Chick. It comes out today!This YA Romance sounds funny and fantastic. Just look at this summary:
No one ever said high school was easy. In this hilarious and heartwarming debut, one high school senior has to ask himself how much he’s willing to give up in order to fit in. Kevin seems to have it all: he’s popular, good looking, and on his way to scoring a college hockey scholarship. However, he’s keeping two big secrets. The first is that he failed an assignment and is now forced to take the most embarrassing course ever–domestic tech. The second is that he is falling for his domestic tech classmate, Claire. As far as Kevin is concerned, Claire does have it all: she’s funny, smart, beautiful, and confident. But she’s off-limits. Because Kevin knows what happens when someone in his group dares to date a girl who isn’t a cheerleader, and there’s no way he is going to put himself—or Claire—through that. But steering clear of the girl of his dreams is a lot harder than Kevin thought…especially when a cooking project they are paired together for provides the perfect opportunity for things to heat up between them outside the classroom….
To help you get to know Nicole better, I’ve asked her some questions. She even included some links to some of the things she mentions in her answers.
Nicole: Coming up with titles is weird for me, it’s like playing darts. Either I miss the board completely, or it’s a bullseye. In this case, the title was mine.
Which character did you like writing about the most, and why?
Nicole: I liked writing Claire and Kevin equally. Kevin, because he transforms from being physically and emotionally starved to nurturing himself and standing in his truth. Claire was fun because she knows who she is, where she is going, and loves the skin she’s in. They’re also two characters who love to laugh, so writing scenes with them together were pretty fun.
How did you celebrate “getting the call?”
Nicole: It was one of those beautiful winter days — no snow, no wind, the sun was shining — and after telling close friends and family, I shoveled off the balcony, grabbed a few blankets, my cat, a cup of tea, and enjoyed a gourmet cookie from The Chocolateria. http://www.thechocolateria.ca/#/HOME-01-00/
Who are your non-writer influences?
Nicole: Non-writer, huh? Hmm… I like Marie Forlio (http://www.marieforleo.com) for her videos and practical advice. I love her tagline: “Stay on your game; because the world needs that special gift that only you have.” I also like British illusionist and mentalist, Derren Brown.( http://derrenbrown.co.uk) What a showman, I’d love to see him perform live.
If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors (who would not appear in zombie form, but in their whole body selves), whom would you invite to the table?
Nicole: Dorothy Parker, Charles Dickens, Virginia Wolf, Lucy Maud Montgomery, David Foster Wallace
Which ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?
Nicole: James Joyce’s ULYSSES; George Eliot’s MIDDLEMARCH: A STUDY OF PROVINCIAL LIFE
What is in your To Read Pile that you are dying to start or upcoming release you can’t wait for?
Nicole: Julie Murphy’s DUMPLIN’; Ron Rash’s ABOVE THE WATERFALL; Tommy Hays’ WHAT I CAME TO TELL YOU; John Dufresne’s NO REGRETS, COYOTE; Amy Willoughby-Buke’s OUT ACROSS THE NOWHERE; Gale Deitch’s A FINE FIX (And the list goes on; not enough time!)
If you could choose a superpower what would it be and why?
Nicole: It’d be the ability to stop time. I could read all those books on the stack, and I’d write all those stories piling up in my head. Hmm… maybe this is how James Patterson cranks out so many books in a year?
What’s next for you?
Nicole: Going back and polishing other novels (I hope to break into the middle-grade market) and I am delving into the world of magicians and magic (close-up, parlor, stage, illusions) for my next YA adventure, working title, THE CONJURER.
If that’s not enough for you, here’s a brief bio:
As a C average student with a learning disability, Nicole was herself a reluctant reader. That changed when, at the age of twelve, she was assigned S. E. Hinton’s classic YA novel The Outsiders. After devouring the book in a single sitting, Nicole came to understand how the right story can capture the imagination and enthusiasm of anyone – reluctant reader or otherwise. From there, Nicole gravitated towards tales of adventure, suspense, romance and horror. Her works focus on human relationships and the personal journeys of the characters, creating stories she hopes will excite and inspire readers. Nicole enjoys traveling the world, but calls Toronto home. She is the author of TT Full Throttle (a YA road racing novel) and is currently at work on her third novel, The Conjurer.
…well, yes, the book, but this is my opinion on the “sequel”) In which I give you my take on Go Set A Watchman.
You may read whatever you like. Let me just put that out there. If you are waiting to read Go Set A Watchman, go right ahead. I will not be joining you. First, from everything I’ve read, it’s not clear that Harper Lee actually wants this book published. She’s in a nursing home. Her older sister/lawyer/caretaker/protector died, and SUDDENLY (bad writing form) they’ve found the long lost novel. I don’t trust that version of the story. Second, from what I’ve read, this “second book” is actually the first rejected version or rough draft where you are still figuring out who your characters are, where the story is going and what your theme is. I don’t want to read my own first drafts. They’re that bad. Third, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all time favorites. I don’t want to ruin it.
It might be too late.
Whether I read GSAW or not, I know it’s out there and spoils the image of Atticus. I can’t pretend it doesn’t exist when it does. I know, not through first hand knowledge but from critiques and reviews that hero Atticus is no longer a hero. I can’t get that fact out of my head.It’s sort of like the reason I didn’t like the first three (as in episodes, I, II and III) of Star Wars. I already knew that Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader.* Totally spoiled the whole premise for me. It made me not respect Obi Wan as much, and I couldn’t root for Anakin because I knew he was evil (yes, yes, he gets redeemed at the end**, but it took the joy of discovery out of the whole story. I’m not even talking about the whole “too much backstory” aspect. If the book was put out there as an academic study of the evolution of TKAM (which I’m told many people are taking it as), I might have accepted it better, but it’s being marketed as a sequel, so that’s that.
I understand where the publishers are coming from. They’re all about the bottom line. GSAW will earn them a boatload of money. I’ve faced that unforgiving bottom line in my own career (maybe “butted heads against” is a better term than “faced”) and while I don’t agree with the decisions that follow looking only at the unforgiving bottom line, I do understand it. Maybe corporations should put a line in their charters about serving the public good instead of profits, but I get it.
So I’m not reading it. And I’m not sure I can go back to TKAM without prejudice either. I taught that book and it was so lovely. Now it has a bad stench associated with. At least for me. But then again, this is my blog and my opinion. I hope the rest of you aren’t as neurotic as I.
*First, if this was a spoiler, too bad. It’s been common knowledge for decades. Catch up. And second, I misspelled Anakin and didn’t capitalize Darth on the first attempt at typing. They were flagged as incorrect words by spell check. Once I corrected them, they weren’t flagged at all. What does that say about the integration of Star Wars into out culture? Pretty cool, I’d say.
… In which I ponder why Romance has a bad rep and rant just a little.
In today’s paper I read a book review for a book I will never read. It’s by a male, and I imagine the book is doing/will do fairly well since it’s being reviewed in major papers. It’s described as a “sweeping, romantic novel.” In the brief description of the book describes the main characters, “once married and now divorced, who encounter one another after decades of mutual avoidance. The fight that ensues–and the subsequent fall to their deaths from a rocky ledge–occurs in the novel’s opening pages.” (ABQ Journal, Sunday, June 7, 2015, Book page)
How is that at all romantic? Apparently the story then proceeds in flashback to how this couple became a couple and what happened. The author of the article even calls it an “ill-fated romance.” Yeah, I’d say.
Look, if you like to read stuff like this, more power to you. You’re allowed to read anything you please. And the author is allowed to write anything he pleases. But seriously, don’t call this a romance or romantic. That would be like calling Psycho a romance because Norman has feelings for Marion. I could name the book in question a family saga or relationship drama, but not romance.
I admit I like my endings happy, or at least satisfying (I love a worthwhile tearjerker and am not above killing a few characters myself. I’ve sobbed more than once while writing some of my books.). Give me the endings I can cheer for–in movies: The Avengers, Notting Hill, Shawshank Redemption, Jurassic Park (which I just watched again on Friday–great film, great characters), The Princess Bride; in books: Harry Potter, To Kill A Mockingbird, Bewitching, Ready Player One. Call my tastes plebeian; I don’t care. I’ve read my share of literature and seen most of the highbrow films too. I don’t enjoy them. There is enough horrific stuff in the real world that I don’t have to have it in my entertainment. So help me, if Game of Thrones doesn’t give me that satisfying ending at the conclusion of the series (the books first, and then the TV show), I will be more than angry. Right now I don’t care how many characters have been killed because I trust the author will give me that ending that makes all the suffering worthwhile (Hear that, George?)
It’s called reader expectation. I know what I expect from my fiction. That’s why I avoid books like the one I opened this blog with, or what used to be called Oprah books, or those about which everyone mentions a surprise ending (Those books/movies are the ones I always go to spoiler website to “cheat” because I won’t waste my time on an ending that will piss me off. [Are you listening, George?] And no, it doesn’t spoil the experience for me. I always read the end of a book before I finish it anyway. And there’s a study that says spoilers actually enhance the experience.)
Enough. I know I’ve written about this before, but that book review just set me off. Again. Back to my deep breathing exercises.
. . . In which I examine my own thoughts about writing fantasy.
I am trying to switch genres from Romance (though I still love it and am currently working on one) to fantasy (Although my next manuscript will be more science fiction–it’s the process of “throw everything out there and see what sticks”). I love fantasy and have since I was a child. I am currently shopping a fantasy romance (which I love!) and a straight fantasy (which I also love–two books of the heart) So here are my top ten quick tips about writing fantasy.
Read in the genre–there are all kinds of fantasy. Read, read, read. (That’s true for any genre)
You can’t just throw in a dragon– although dragons are great, right?
You must build a world–as the author, you have to know the rules of the world and stick to them.
Logic must still prevail–just because you’re making up a world, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to make sense. (Almost the same thing as 3, but not quite)
The characters are more important than the flash and decoration– a reader still wants and needs to identify with at least some of your characters.
Writing rules still apply–If you’re going to be wordy, you’d better have a good reason to be so. (Like not using contractions–works great as a characteristic for Data, but not so good for other characters)
Know where you’re going–especially if you plan several books. You have to know the destination.
Avoid story clichés–they’ve been done to death.
Actions have consequences– don’t forget to show them. Rarely is anything black and white. Gray can be a much more interesting shade.
Research is essential–yes, even for a fantasy, you must do your research.