Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Speed of Stuck

I think I’ve mentioned in a couple of posts that I’ve been stuck at this one particular point in my writing. I’ll look at it, go back a few chapters and change a little, then go back to where I am, clean that up a little, but no forward progression whatsoever except for maybe a sentence or two. I haven’t actually been stuck quite this badly for a while.

Then my attention turned to the fact that I was extremely behind in my reading–I was doing the Goodreads Challenge thing and decided at the beginning of the year to read 143 books. I’d been fine until I started writing a lot again, then the reading sort of fell by the wayside. I know it isn’t a huge thing, the world isn’t going to end (I think we’ve had enough of that for one year, thank you) if I don’t finish reading the number of books I said I was going to. But it bugged me. So far I haven’t really accomplished much this year, for various reasons which don’t need to be discussed, and I just latched onto the necessity of finishing the books for the challenge. I was about 27 books behind in the second week of December, and didn’t think I’d make it.

Being stuck in my writing and not being distracted by that, suddenly a lot of time opened up for reading and I’ve been on a mad reading marathon for the past two and a half weeks or so. I can read pretty quickly if I’m engrossed in the story, and luckily the books I had around from the library and that I’d bought but hadn’t had time to read were, for the most part, really good and interesting. (Just don’t ask me questions about details of a book I read last week). I read quickly, but my retention isn’t all that great. I read for the story, and often don’t pay attention to little details (that’s what second readings are for <g>) and get caught up in it, so I can read about 2 books a day if I really try, well, more of a read one, finish it, start another, finish it the next day… it depends on how thick the book is. I did not deliberately choose books that were small, by the way <g>. I can’t help it if City of Lost Souls has the equivalent of  14 or 15 point font in it. I think I possibly could have read that one without my glasses. I read a lot of last books in trilogies, some which ended satisfactorily but a little open-ended, so I could put characters together in a relationship in my head without feeling guilty if that was what the author intended or not. It’s the last book, after all. It’s open to interpretation, right?

On a side note here, I just have to make a couple of comments on City of Lost Souls, because I’m becoming sadly annoyed with the Mortal Instruments series. When Cassandra Clare first started writing this series, I stuck up for her and said it didn’t matter what she’d done in her fan fiction, because I didn’t see anything that she’d taken from anywhere in the first books, I thought they were pretty well written, and they were interesting. I expected the Mortal Instruments to end at the first trilogy, and was actually pretty annoyed when it turned out there were going to be three more books. I do have to say I like the Infernal Devices series better. I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s a time period I like, and it’s also different enough from the Mortal Instruments that you don’t have to read one series with the other. I was OK with City of Fallen Angels–I didn’t think it was great, didn’t think it was awful, but while reading City of Lost Souls, I really, really wanted to tell Ms. Clare to stop. It’s too late to go back and undo the damage COLS did–not to mention that it’s beginning to sound a lot like Twilight, which was really disappointing, but the characters were all doing things that didn’t seem like things they would do. We’re five books in, here. This whole Clary/ Jace thing is really beginning to grate on my nerves. I know I’m not the only one who feels that way–I read some of the reviews afterward and about half of them felt the way I did. That now it’s for the money and not in the interest of writing good books. COLS was getting sloppy toward the end, and it was beginning to get genuinely weird. I don’t mind weird if it’s conducive to the plot, but when it’s weird in the sense of drawing out a very thin plot, I do mind. I also mind, and this is where the Twilight thing comes in, so there are *****spoilers here if you haven’t read COLS and plan to, when the book starts to echo some themes I didn’t particularly like in the original book, in this case, Twilight.  (I’ve made arguments in defense of and against Twilight, just to play devil’s advocate). Yes, Jace is being controlled by Sebastian, but does that make his treatment of Clary forgivable? He’s been nasty to her at various points in the whole series, but it was worse in this one, to the point of being abusive, yet she just takes it and goes on about how much she loves him and she has to save him, enough that she’d make a deal with the Seelie Queen and start making extremely stupid decisions in general. It was getting to the point where I didn’t care if they destroyed the world as they knew it and took over. They deserved it. Alec became this paranoid, insecure boyfriend who was overly worried about his mortality, a theme that shows up all the time  when there’s a romance involving someone who’s immortal and someone who isn’t. He is still obsessed with Magnus’ past lovers (honestly, how many hundreds of years has he been around? Alec expects him to have taken a purity vow or something and wear a ring for all that time?). It’s normal to be curious about former lovers, and possibly jealous to an extent if they are still friends or if you feel your partner isn’t being completely honest with you. Their relationship was one of the more interesting things in this trilogy, and Clare has Alec ruin the whole thing. In the other four books he wasn’t so whiny or snivelly. And I think the things he does in this book are out of character–he becomes more and more insecure until he makes a very stupid choice. People do that all the time, I suppose. But most people aren’t involved with 800 year old or so (sorry if I didn’t get the age right) warlock, either. Most likely, they have a lot of baggage. At least too much for carry-on. So that part sucked for me. And I know that coincidences happen when you’re writing and someone else has a very similar idea that you’ve been working on and you think “Damn, now they’re going to think I copied them!” but I don’t know if this falls into that category. In order to separate Jace’s link from Sebastian, Clary kills Jace with an angelic sword that burns all the evil out of him–if there’s enough good left, he’ll survive. But meanwhile, as someone in another review put it, he’s basically the Human Torch for a bit, and then (jarring, horrific jolt back to Twilight) he glows. Yes, he glows now. No one is sure why, not even the Silent Brothers. Sound familiar? Maybe a little…sparkly? And then–personal statement injectment here: I do not condone having sex before a person is emotionally and physically ready to do so. It should be something valuable, hopefully, and meaningful. But let’s face it, it happens all the time in YA novels. We’re five books in and Jace and Clary have only gotten to third base, so to speak–something always happens to stop them. It’s clearly obvious that Jace isn’t a virgin, but Clary is, so in that respect we’re back to the “it’s ok for boys but not for girls” scenario. And now, ta da, due to Jace’s current state of glowiness, he says they probably shouldn’t do anything because of it (presumably until they know what it is). Does that sound familiar?  Through the whole course of the book everyone is terrified of saying anything to the Clave regarding anything they know about Jace because they will probably consider it treason and kill him. Serious, serious stuff. But when he’s back? Clary can’t see him for days until she finally just goes and does it, everything seems fine with the Clave, and suddenly the book is populated by paper dolls. Truthfully, I’m mostly sad about this. I probably will get the next one, just because I feel sort of committed at this point (or should be committed for continuing to read them) and am hoping the last one will redeem this one. Enough of that.*******

I didn’t mean to go on about that for so long, it’s just that I finished a few series and was really satisfied with the way they ended–the Matched trilogy: Reached was far, far better than I thought it would be. I wasn’t so sure about the first two, they seemed a little hollowish to me but I thought they were alright, but Reached, I thought, was good enough that it didn’t matter–things made sense in the first two now that hadn’t, the characters were growing (some more than others, but still). The final book of the Seven Realms books, The Crimson Crown, was awesome. The Far West, concluding that series, was good. Quintana of the Charyn, and especially, although I know people are somewhat divided about this one as well, Bitterblue–both of those, but especially Bitterblue, I just sat there for a while after I finished it trying to soak it all in. I love Kristen Cashore’s writing style and her characters, and I loved how everything came together here. I didn’t want it to end. There were also some pretty amazing first books in trilogies (although it would be nice to get some stand-alones just so you don’t have to wait three years to finish a story): The Dark UnwindingGrave Mercy, Shadowfell, Defiance, Throne of Glass–I know I’m leaving some out, but there are plenty of books to look forward to next year. And I do recommend For Darkness Shows the Stars very highly. I started reading the unicorn series and didn’t like it so was hesitant about this one, but when I found out it was loosely based on Persuasion I was curious. Now I need to read Persuasion again.

Again, I’m straying from the original point. While reading all of these books in such rapid succession, the back of my mind was still thinking about where I was stuck, sort of poking it with a stick and trying to annoy into something workable. It was amazingly exhilarating to go through all those books so quickly–it was like being inundated with marvelousness. But I realized that’s what’s wrong with my book. I’m rushing it. Things happen before they should, I get impatient so I’ve rearranged things to happen when they originally didn’t, so not enough time has passed before important things happen. In my rush to get to the end of my book, I’m not paying attention to the details and things that I sometimes don’t pay attention to in other books because I’m so engrossed in the story, and read too fast when I should slow down and be more patient. So I’ve gone back (in my head, I just finished my last book for the challenge last night) to where I think I need to start slowing the story down a little, or at least letting things progress at a more natural pace. Yes, Madeleine can do such and such, she just needs to wait. She and Geoff are not particularly patient people, and he’s become more central than he was before, so I have two impatient characters telling each other not to be so impatient while I keep rushing them along, and now it’s turned into a log jam. So I’m curious, now that I think that’s what the problem might be, to see if it really is. Yes, the story does need to flow, but not run headfirst into a dam at full tilt. Plus, that would hurt.

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Borrowed Words Because I Have None

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

e.e. cummings

Beguiling the Beauty

Since I mentioned Beguiling the Beauty in my last post, I thought that now that I’ve read it I should make some comment on it. It will have spoilers, so for everyone out there rushing to buy it or check it out from the library, um, cover your eyes and just say la la la la la and I’ll put asterisks when I’m done. 🙂

There are some interesting characters in this book. The two main characters are Christian, the Duke of Lexington, and Venetia Easterbrook, with supporting characters being both of their families, mostly Venetia’s. Oh, I should note that the time period is late 1800’s, 1896, to be precise. Not a time period in which women made very many choices for themselves. Venetia is renowned for her beauty. She has been married twice and widowed twice by the age of twenty nine. Her first husband was somewhat cruel, accumulated a large amount of debt, and eventually killed himself. Her second husband was a friend of the family’s, much older than her, whom she marries not because she is interested in him, but so he and his male lover can continue their relationship in peace. Venetia’s brother Fitz refers to this when he is talking to Christian near the end of the book as a Marriage blanc, which I had never heard of. It’s a marriage that hasn’t been consummated, and is/was used as a way to help protect someone’s reputation who was homosexual or for some other reason. It also mentioned a lavender marriage, which is specifically a marriage when one partner is homosexual, for the same reason as above. I’d also never heard of that before. So I learned something new. And lost track of my point. There are backstories with Venetia’s family, one sister is seeing a married man, and her brother is in a marriage to a woman he married when she was sixteen because she had money and he/the family needed money. They have been married for eight years and haven’t consummated their marriage either–they set the time when they would “start relations,” and in the meantime her husband carries on affairs with other women, pretty much with his wife’s blessing. She is falling in love with him, but he had to marry her instead of the woman he truly loved and she doesn’t know if he’ll ever love her. That situation was not entirely wrapped up, but the eight year period was over near the end of the book and her husband, Venetia’s brother (I should have said that earlier) isn’t having an affair because of it. Minor subplot that I’m not sure exactly how I feel about.

But back to Christian and Venetia. Venetia is beautiful, but also intelligent, clever, and obsessed with dinosaurs and fossils. So is Christian. Christian fell in love with her at first sight–key word being sight here–and has been for ten years. He gives a lecture where he postulates that beauty in women is inherently a treacherous thing, and gives the circumstances around both of her husband’s deaths, completely unaware she is in the audience. He doesn’t mention her name, and the lecture is at Harvard, so she doesn’t think word will get back to London, but it does. The whole situation makes her miserable, and she considers getting even with him by making him fall in love and then jilting  him. She pretends to be a German Baroness on a voyage from America to England, and always wears a hat with a veil so he doesn’t recognize her. They have quite a torrid affair, and they actually do fall in love with each other, because, amazingly, they talk to each other in the midst of all of this. I think this may be the only time I have ever read a romance novel where the relationship is based on something more than great sex. As a present, Christian gives Venetia a slab of stone with dinosaur footprints, which he had brought up from the hold to show her and since she likes it so much decides she would enjoy it more.

Of course, a woman who was at the lecture happens to be at dinner one night and brings up the lecture and the comments he made at the end regarding Venetia, and while Christian deflects the woman and her mother, for Venetia the trip is ruined and she disembarks early. Before she does, Christian asks her to marry him. She turns down his offer. She’s miserable without him, as he is without her. She gets pregnant, which she didn’t think she could, because she didn’t with her first husband, and saw many doctors about it. Despite the fact the whole truth has come out about her double identity and now Venetia and Christian are incapable of having a truthful conversation with each other, Venetia goes to Christian and tells him. He marries her, but they are miserable. Eventually all the truth comes out and they end up happy.

So what are the lessons here? Beauty doesn’t matter, since Christian never saw her face during the whole voyage, for someone to fall in love. Lies snowball. People shouldn’t be intractable and rigid to the point where they don’t believe anything else a person has to say. Don’t fall in love with a woman (or man?) wearing a veiled hat? The veil is sort of blatant symbology–Venetia is un-veiled, and no longer acceptable, but when her beauty is veiled, she is. There’s a lot of emphasis on the fact that she’s not only beautiful, she’s practically the most beautiful, captivating woman in London who has men falling at her feet. I thought those extremes were a bit much. But, without the veil and as soon as Christian and Venetia are back in London, they fall into their old roles again. Venetia’s is even dubbed the “Great Beauty.”

I looked at some of the reviews on Goodreads, and it seemed that they were all over the place–people hated it, people loved it, from one star to five. I think it’s because while it has many typical romance novel qualities, it is different, not so formulaic. How often in books that are strictly romance novels is the heroine intelligent, beautiful, doesn’t care about remarrying–there is actually a pretty funny scene where the two of them, on the ship, discuss the fact she’d gone eight years without sex (in contrast, say to her brother Fitz or even Christian himself, who have their little affairs seemingly on a regular basis) and Venetia says she’s perfectly capable of taking care of her needs arising from arousal herself, and she doesn’t need a man. The veil has it’s advantages for her as well, she can say whatever she’s thinking and not have to worry about repercussions. But what I really did like is the fact that they simply talked to each other, and could once again after the whole identity/being angry at each other stage was over. The way you were talked about in “Society” could bring you up or knock you down, even now, to an extent. The two “truthful gossips” (is that an oxymoron?)  agree to not smear Venetia in their social circles, so all that’s settled. They approach Christian, however, not Venetia, and Christian tries to take all the blame of the “scandal” on himself to spare Venetia because he doesn’t want her hurt. Venetia bursts in and completely undoes everything he’s said, which is mostly truth, by what she ways, also mostly truth, but denying the fact he’d been in love with her for ten years so he wouldn’t have to live with that bit of information being circulated about. She even tells them she’s pregnant, and that’s the only reason they’re married at all. I realize those two last bits should be rearranged, but it’s starting to get late and I may stop making sense (a poster I did have on my wall when I was a teenager, even though not a fanatical David Byrne fan).

It’s short, it’s an easy, entertaining read. I don’t quite understand how someone could approach a book entitled Beguiling the Beauty and expect literary fiction that will be read for generations because of its magnificence, then give it one star. It’s entertainment. It’s a person’s own fault if they keep reading a book they don’t like. It took me years to realize I didn’t have to finish a book just because I started it. Truthfully, if I feel that strong a dislike for a book, I simply stop reading it and don’t rate it at all. Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean other people won’t. Look at my situation with Game of Thrones. Five times, still can’t get more than a hundred or so pages into it. Yet obviously many, many other people love it. I think I’m going through a repulsion/attraction phase at the moment with it. I don’t know why the books/series keeps coming up–I think it’s because I’m beginning to seriously question the whole issue of all the wars and fighting, and actually found a couple of articles today from Foreign Affairs, published by the Council on Foreign Relations, one entitled “Game of Thrones as History: It’s Not as Realistic As It Seems–and That’s Good,” and “Game of Thrones as Theory,” with the same subtitle. I haven’t read them yet, I was writing and reading romance novels (OK, only one) but they look interesting. I did see a call for papers for a book on Game of Thrones,” but am not sure if it’s simply adulatory (I was sure that wasn’t really a word but I’m not getting a red squiggly line, unless I’ve confused the computer) or if it is actual literary theory/criticism. Maybe we need (in case people are in need of more pages of material) spin-offs such as “Beguiling the Imp,” “Perplexing Cersei,” or, horrors, “Ravishing Joffrey.” How did I stick to the same family for that? Not a big Lannister fan, I suppose.

When I start to giggle at what I’m writing that’s generally a sign to stop and move slowly away from the keyboard. Only this one’s wireless, and I can take it with me.

And now I look at the back pages of the book and find out there’s another book, Ravishing the Heiress, which is about the whole relationship between Fitz and his wife who had been married eight years and still hadn’t consummated their marriage. And I want to read it. Because I’m curious–there’s just enough information in the first book to make you wonder about them, and then BAM there’s a book on them. It’s madness, I tell you, madness.

Good vs. Evil, and Beauty

I was going through my email yesterday and went to a link from one, PW Daily or something, then went to a link from there–you know, the link domino effect, where you keep getting distracted by other topics on the page and forget what you were originally looking for but end up finding other interesting things instead?

Somehow I stumbled across an article on villainesses and their physical attributes, versus the physical attributes of the  heroine, and, equally important, how self-aware each of them are of their own appearance. Alright, I found the actual link to the article after looking through my history (well my computer’s history, to be more precise):

http://www.heroesandheartbreakers.com/blogs/2012/12/dont-hate-her-because-shes-beautiful-villains-and-the-weakness-of-beauty-in-romance?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+HomeHeroesAndHeartbreakerscom+%28H%26H%3A+Front+Page+Partial+-+Blogs+and+Stories%29

I’ll try to briefly summarize for those too busy to look at the moment, but if you’re a Michelle Pfeiffer fan, there is a picture of her from Snow or Snow White or whatever the movie was called (mea culpa–I didn’t see it, or the Huntsman one). The blogger, Elizabeth Vail, has an interesting theory, that once I started thinking about, really does seem true, not just in movies and romance novels, but in fantasy as well. She uses a couple of examples, one being Snow and the other being the Wizard of Oz, where it’s pretty obvious who the bad witch is because she’s hideous.

That’s the way that it is in most fairy tales and older works (we’re not talking the seductress/temptress type of character here, but the ones that are truly the villains). Snow White is sort of an exception to that, though, now that I think on it–the queen only makes herself look ugly when she’s giving Snow White the apple (another caveat, the blog pretty much stuck to Disney villainesses, and there are more exceptions the more I think about it, but we’ll just stick to fairy tale princesses for now. It simplifies things.)

However, what is, according to Vail, the most important concept of this is while the evil character is very aware of the way she looks and uses that to her advantage, as a means to an end and a way to use beauty as manipulating other people, usually men, the heroine is possibly just as beautiful, though completely unaware of it until–and this is where it gets interesting–the man who rescues her tells her she is, and then she finally starts to believe she is because he tells her she is. She still isn’t a villain, now that she’s more aware of her attractiveness, because another key feature to the difference between the beauty of the villainess and the heroine is the means by which they achieve their beauty.

The villainess’ beauty is, as Vail puts it, artificial. She has to work at being beautiful to keep people under her power. The heroine is naturally beautiful, she just is without trying, though oblivious to it.

The basic point was, why can’t you have a heroine who is aware of her beauty, especially the effect it has on men, but is also intelligent, without making her promiscuous  or any other thing one might care to label a woman who is self-possessed and sure of herself? So the author mentions a book, a romance called Beguiling the Beauty, where the heroine is supposedly not a meek, beautiful little thing in the corner waiting to be saved, but a woman who is attractive and knows it, and in the end of the 19th Century, also knows how to use it to maneuver her way through a society run by men, for men.

So, now a little curious, and not just using it as a chance to read another romance novel as a way to speed along my Goodreads Challenge, which I’m not going to meet by less than twenty books, maybe ten. Maybe I will, but at December 12th, I’m not finding it likely. Writing too much and not enough reading. Anyway, I checked out the library and it was a new book on the shelf–and actually on the shelf when I got there–small side rant–I love our library, it’s the best library I’ve ever had, even though we live just out of the city limits therefore have to pay $120/year to use it. Which is definitely money well spent, I think. I use it a lot. But after having worked in two different libraries and a bookstore, I feel a sense of trepidation when I go up to see if a book the computer says is there is actually there, because very often it’s not. The computer says when the book is being shelved, so it’s not being shelved. Most likely, someone has taken it off the shelf and put it back wherever, and it won’t be found until the library does an inventory or something. This is particularly bad in the Young Adult section. I’ve started simply putting books on hold instead of going specifically to look for them, unless I’m there already picking up books on hold for me, because it kept happening over and over and I finally got fed up. It’s not the library’s fault, but it’s annoying. They know the best places to look and I don’t. They probably think I’m lazy–I always am putting things on hold, mostly things that are already on hold, but the things that are supposed to be there as well. I know from experience that people often think they’re helping by putting things back. Don’t! For one thing, the library keeps track of what’s taken off the shelf and keeps statistics. If a book is put back just one or two sets of shelves over, no one is going to look that far unless they are truly determined or desperate.

Back on track: I checked it out and started reading it last night, but am not far enough into it to have anything to report, except that both the heroine and the person I’m assuming is going t0 be the hero are both interested, seemingly, in fossils, which is a new one on me. The cover is interesting, though

Beguiling-the-Beauty-by-Sherry-Thomas174x281

I read another article at some point talking about how romance novels but some other genres as well do the head-cutting-off thing, both on men and women. I think it’s interesting that it’s always above the lips. If it’s above the eyes, I suppose it would be too disproportionate. So we’re left with lips and quite a well exposed bosom.

But yes, it does look sufficiently fleshy. And on a completely separate note (remember what I said about outlines? This is why I need them)–personally I have not read any Jim C. Hines, yet. But this man has to be one of the funniest fantasy/sci fi authors I’ve never read. I’ve read little things on his page and first became aware of him when I found a link to him re-creating poses of females on fantasy covers to see if they were even physically possible. He later did one on male poses. They are hysterical. He is a brave, brave man. He is doing one now for charity for a non-profit foundation on a rare syndrome that effects girls–Aicardi Syndrome, which I’d never heard of even after working for nearly 13 years with people with disabilities. Research on this syndrome is definitely a worthwhile cause.

Jim C. Hines’ website:

http://www.jimchines.com

I’m thinking of starting with The Stepsister Scheme.  I should see if the library has them. The above mentioned poses are in his blog section, and are his most popular blogs, so they shouldn’t be too hard to find.

I suppose, getting back to the original subject, that what startled me was that I have done the same thing with my female characters (which I am trying to introduce more of). At first the only one was Gwyne, who Madeleine didn’t really relate to because she had grown up knowing she was going to marry Brion, accepted that role, and was, in most people’s eyes, living it as she should be–the good monarch’s wife who bears him heirs. They don’t realize how much influence she has over him, not a bad influence, but more of a ‘use your brain’ influence. The other brain. Brion’s habit of talking before he thinks is very much like his father’s, which isn’t a good trait for a King. So Madeleine grows up a complete tomboy, used to being around only her brothers and avoiding girls because they think she’s some sort of freak because of both her appearance and her way of thinking, and her complete lack of social etiquette. She is beautiful but doesn’t believe it, doesn’t like the way she looks and doesn’t even use mirrors. I think there’s more to the latter than avoiding her appearance, though. In a way she’s avoiding an identity by refusing to stop and really look at herself. In a scene that was edited out that I liked, Elvan tells her to go look in the mirror and stay there until she figures out what she has missed–the fact that one of her brothers is really a full brother and everyone has figured it out except her, including the brother. Maybe I can try to work that back in. Everyone tells her she is pretty, but she doesn’t believe them, possibly because the fact that she’s so short bothers her enough that she doesn’t believe the fact that she could be appealing. As in the blog above (not an article, sorry) where the heroine is naturally beautiful but doesn’t believe it–only Madeleine doesn’t believe it when men tell her. She looks at other women and realizes she’s completely unlike them physically. Miadryth, her cousin on the Vaundenbourgh side who Geoffrey married, is the opposite–very conscious of her appearance, her dresses, fashion, the very strong belief that she is entitled to more than she has–is meant to have more than she has. She is very beautiful, something that attracts Geoffrey to her immediately. She finds him attractive as well, but also his position and the possibility that he might elevate her status. Being around Madeleine tempered some of those beliefs for a while, but she goes back to being her original self, and more is revealed about her character that makes her seem somewhat two dimensional–she wants money and position, and wants it through an Aithin husband, not Geoffrey. Despite the face that he is a prince, which is something I tend to forget about all of the Lockienhylms other than Brion–I suppose the only one left is Adrian. Brion cares, position matters to him, but not of the others really do.

While Mia is cruel, I’m not sure she’s evil, just not a very nice person. She’s not ordering anyone killed. But not even her older brother can stand her anymore, hasn’t been able to for quite some time, and lives at Elverliane. She is very self-confident, the only person she’s afraid of is Antony. She and Madeleine were friends, though, and it still hurts her that Madeleine cuts her off once she realizes the situation with Mia and Geoffrey.

Bettina is an older, wiser woman who was originally hired by Kalliandra, Madeleine’s mother, when Kalliandra sill lived at Lherghard. She was Madeleine’s nanny, so she does try to improve her manners. She’s the one who comes up with the idea that Madeleine will only wear dresses when she’s at Elverliane. She’s the Head of House but also, and not very well known, the Seneschal. Adrian knows, obviously, as he knows all of the Seneschals, but he doesn’t say anything, figuring that there must be a reason she goes under the title Head of House instead.

The other two main female characters, Stasia and Deirdre, both have come from the same House. While Stasia has been a Courtesan for years, Deirdre only has been for the past four years, and since she was twelve, worked in the streets. Stasia is intelligent and knows more generally than Deirdre, whose focus for so long was staying alive and trying to avoid being killed. They’re both beautiful because they were both Courtesans, but people have a hard time seeing past that, which Stasia realizes can actually be used to her advantage at times, as she’s not expected to be able to think on her own by people who aren’t aware of the difference between Courtesans and the prostitutes on the street. Courtesans are generally better educated, and know more about both what is going on in the world around them as well as being able to carry on intelligent conversations. Stasia worried for Deirdre, an Empath, knowing that this situation is completely wrong for her but not wanting to put her back on the street.

So it is still a world mostly peopled by men. I think this is a result of the fact that I don’t always understand women very well myself, having been much more like Madeleine growing up. Except without the brothers. And being the oldest. I’ve thought a lot lately how would be nice to have an older brother somewhat along the lines of Adrian or Julian. It would be nice to have a place to go where acceptance isn’t a question, and the love is truly unconditional.

That’s possibly why my characters aren’t trying to kill each other off for the throne. I don’t want a Game of Thrones type scenario where no one can trust anyone. It becomes a little too much at times. I want a land where after years of distrust, they are trying to move forward, with a few stubborn people who still try to play the old games of stepping backward, and the process of discovering who they are and trying to bring them to justice without turning fields to trampled, muddy, blood-stained wastelands. I’m not putting Game of Thrones and on down, I have tried to read the first one, started about five times, and just haven’t been able to get into it. Sometimes that happens and I’ll read the book again later on when the time is somehow right and it clicks and I’m totally sucked in. I watched the first season, which renewed my interest in it, and not being phased by spoilers and wanting to know more what happens to the characters I’m interested in have looked that information up. Which I then cannot breathe a word about because my boyfriend hates spoilers.

I think it’s more a case that I simply couldn’t manage a world that large, with so many characters. I write what I’d want to read (I know that sounds cheesy), and if I want to read about wars and people dying, all I have to do is read about Syria or Afghanistan, to name a couple. Last time I checked, which was a week and a half ago or so, over 408,000 refugees had fled Syria into the neighboring countries, Turkey being a popular destination, among other places. In a country where President Assad says Democracy is at work. And refuses to step down. NATO finally stepped in at one point when Syria was threatening to use chemical weapons against Turkey, lobbed a few missiles over. But no one is really doing much as a large unit–I finally stopped following it so closely because it was so disheartening. Is the basic idea to let them kill each other off? I can see that as a strategy. The younger Geoffrey would have endorsed it. The older one might, but only if it was the last possible course of action. Eventually, Rial Oman does take in refugees from what is basically a war of persecution, not unlike the war against the Aithin years earlier under his father. It’s one of the first truly ethical decisions Brion makes at the opposition from his council for support from the provinces over a war too keep one boy safe–in the short term a decision that may not make sense to them, but in the long term, the key to how the two nations will relate and for a safe future for everyone on both sides.

What happens to the refugees in Game of Thrones? Are there none? Are they all simply killed? That’s one way to deal with it. It is a fantasy, and I haven’t read the books as of yet. Maybe I’ll wait until all eight, or nine, or however many are done. Not that I’m one to talk. I’ve been working on this second book for two years now. I guess I’m not an epic battle scene kind of gal. Instead I have a family that doesn’t vie for power, mostly because they either don’t want it or already have it to the degree they’re comfortable with. While they may not have agents in the field, Adrian and Elvan are becoming quite a formidable team, along with Antony to keep Brion calm so he’ll listen to them. There is truth to their discussion that Antony and Adrian together have equal power to Brion, both an interesting and somewhat treasonous idea. Neither Antony nor Adrian want Brion’s position. The two of them consider Gwyne a crucial part of this–they understand how important she is. And Elvan’s role is growing.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of the things I had hoped to fit into book 2 are going to be in book 3, which does have a name, I just don’t remember it off the top of my head. I’m also beginning to think the name I had originally for the second book, Cael’an, isn’t really going to work anymore, which is disappointing because I have a terrible time coming up with titles.

And how did we get here from villainesses? I don’t know. Good vs. Evil, I guess. I read a bit about the characters in Game of Thrones and I really did like one thing that George R.R. Martin said about Tyrion Lannister. He’s grey. Not totally good, not totally evil. That, I think, is one truth in the world.

Writing a Writer’s Biography

People are going to collapse in shock that I have two posts in one day after disappearing for so long. I’m trying to write a biography for the Goodreads Author’s page, and it isn’t working. Their tips say to be professional. I have an extremely hard time being professional, and this may be an indication that it’s something I need to work on, but filling some of the things out, such as influences, made me start thinking about things. This was my first attempt at a bio which I don’t think I’m going to use, but is really me:

I’ve always had an active imagination, and never felt that I quite fit in. That sense has only gotten stronger as I’ve grown older. I think that’s why I’ve always been drawn to fantasy, because there, the people who don’t fit in are usually the ones who end up being special in some way–magical powers, a long lost heir, being able to fly dragons–being discovered and recognized, at some point for saving the world, country, castle, because whatever made you different gave you the ability to be more than you were in real life.

So, now that I haven’t saved the world or anything spectacular like that, I can still make up people who can. Other people who do this are usually considered a little strange, but I’ve discovered that when you write, while it might be embarrassing to be caught having a discussion between two characters in your head, having, say, a heated conversation, complete with all the gesticulating that takes place, it’s much easier to say, “It’s just a scene for my book that I’m going over.” I’ve been asked if I was OK while doing this.

That’s as far as I got. I have an odd list of authors who influenced me, the ones I read in my “formative years” (I think one could argue I’m still at that point). Those are the authors I read over and over, and while I’ve never really had elves or dwarves or the ultimate evil of Sauron in any of my books (I’m finding I’m not alone in having a good amount of things written, some completed, some not, hanging around). I don’t know why James Herriot was such an influence on me–I wanted to be a veterinarian for a long time. I also loved horses when I was around 12 or so, so after seeing Flambards and reading the books, why shouldn’t there be a big family with a youngest sister and a bunch of older brothers, some of whom flew planes and some who were veterinarians? It made perfect sense at the time, and while it isn’t exactly fantasy, it’s certainly fantastical.

I kept the family, threw everything else out, and after as many revisions and edits as Book 2 is getting (and truthfully, I wish Aithin had another revision–I worked halfway through one and everyone bugged me that they liked it the way it was. Even my grandmother. Really. My grandmother recommended Aithin to someone while she was getting her hair done in the tiny town she lives in in Oklahoma), ended up with Aithin, which I started when I was fifteen and finished (sort of–committed it to printing not my own) nearly twenty years later. There was a break in there when I was distracted by the myriad of things I wanted to be but ended up not doing, from Forensic Photographer and Probation Officer to a Nurse or a Sonogram technician. That would have been a good one to stick with. I took classes for all of these things–a good chunk of photography and administration of justice classes. I still do have a morbid fascination with shows like Wire in the Blood, Touching Evil and Second Sight. I couldn’t write those, though.

Meanwhile, my aforementioned  family. They’re safer now that no one is flying. They’re probably in the most danger when I get in the, “hm, should I kill somebody?” mood. I killed Brion once and Adrian became King, and it was an utter disaster from there. That was one of the discarded story-lines. Adrian isn’t a King and he turned into a really nasty and confused person. Stefan left him. He was also confused, and hurt. Then in one, more than one, Geoffrey and Julian bond (quick explanation–bonding is when two people who may know each other well, may not, end up ‘attached’ to each other emotionally, it only happens if you’re Aithin, and is usually just between two people) to the same woman, so they have to figure out the boundaries between the three of them…you don’t want to know. Maybe I am saving the world–by not letting anyone read these things.

Alright, I think I’ve gotten that out of my system and can write a properly professional biography.

Finding an Ending

I truly don’t understand why I am having trouble with the ending for the second book. It’s as if there is an invisible bubble and anything I write is simply deflected away from it.

I want to finish it. There’s more work to be done and my brain pops ahead to it and then I think, “but I can’t do anything about that yet, you’re still on Chapter 17 of the revision, remember?” I think I have literally written at least five different endings. One was 700 pages long, and is now sitting in a ‘cut scenes’ folder. It’s not that I don’t have an idea where I want it to end, the characters keep changing their minds (easy shot, isn’t it–they can’t defend themselves) about how they want to do things. I’m worried I’ve made them all the same character in different people’s bodies. They’re all possessed. Maybe it needs an exorcist. I will say, though, there are no exorcisms (at least currently) in any of the books. And no zombies. I’m not sure how I’d work that in.

Actually, to deviate for just a minute, has anyone read Kenneth Oppel’s series starting with This Dark Endeavor? It was a little bit of a struggle for me to get through them, but they’re his version of what a young Victor Frankenstein could have been like, which was really fascinating in terms of characters. The idea and the story are good as well. It’s sort of like a modern day story, only set back a hundred years, and instead of the angst of today’s choices for young adults, some of which are the same in the books–jealousy, coveting your brother’s girlfriend, having a friend who’s also interested in the same girl… that all sounds typical (it’s more of a love square than a love triangle). But trying to figure all that out while attempting to raise the dead through alchemy and physical sacrifice, confronting evils of your own creation, while a giant something is incubating in the cellar in an alternate dimension are all things I would never have put together. I truly don’t know why I had the trouble I did, maybe it was just a different writing style than I’m used to, but the more I think about the first two books, the more amazing I think they are. When I was somewhere between eight and ten (I think) I had the comic book version of Frankenstein, which fascinated me, and then years later when I was working on my English degree I used the novel as one of my books for my emphasis on Gothic Fiction (there’s a whole argument about whether or not it really falls into that category or not). At the time I obviously thought it was, since I included it. It all depends on your definition of Gothic Fiction, and that was so many years ago I’m not even sure I could have a decent discussion about it anymore. I was just thinking about characters and that little mini-review popped out. Sometimes it seems like there’s a dearth of unique YA novels out, and lately the past five or so I’ve read have all been good.

Another reason I’ve been thinking about the whole finding an ending/revision process is that twice in two days I’ve read blogs on finding critique partners–there was one site that even had a sort of classifieds for critique partners wanted. It’s very hard for me to let other people read things while I’m working on them, except for a few people. My computer literally faces the corner of the room (almost) so someone has to come up deliberately to see what I’m doing, because I don’t even like people looking at it–I don’t know what part they’re looking at, and what if it’s some part of a romantic interlude that will most likely be edited drastically later because I’m not good at writing them? Not as bad as the award for worst sex scene in a book for the year. No one’s riding any saddles here, sorry.

I’m on Chapter 17 on a book that has, at the moment, 27 chapters (some of them should probably be about three chapters in themselves). I’ve literally been cutting whole chapters and putting them in the ‘cut scenes’ file. Just the insides of the chapters. It had a frame, just nothing in it. And sometimes when I’m writing something I’ll think to myself, “Why are you doing that? It’s only going to make things harder later on. I think this is where an outline would be useful. I’m not good at outlines, but desperate times call for desperate measures.