Tag Archives: writing

NSA Surveillance is Making Writers Self-Censor

 S-C Protecting you from what?tim-robbins-tim-robbins-i-think-the-enemy-is-self-censorship-in-a

Benjamin Franklin, 1722

Benjamin Franklin, 1722

Re-Blogged from GalleyCat 11/15/2013

NSA Surveillance is Making Writers Self-Censor


Eighty-five percent of writers are worried about government surveillance of Americans, and 73 percent reported that never have they been so worried about privacy rights and freedom of the press, according to a new report from Pen America.

The report found that writers are censoring themselves in order to avoid trouble with the NSA. The report found that 16 percent of writers have avoided writing or speaking about a particular topic due to concerns about the NSA.

In addition, the study revealed that 24 percent of writers have purposefully avoided certain topics on the phone or through email. And 28 percent of writers have avoided social media activities.

Here is more from the report:

Part of what makes self-censorship so troubling is the impossibility of knowing precisely what is lost to society because of it. We will never know what books or articles may have been written that would have shaped the world’s thinking on a particular topic if they are not written because potential authors are afraid that their work would invite retribution.

From Laughing at My Nightmare

Reblogging this from http://laughingatmynightmare.1000notes.com/

Shane Burcaw’s Blog, relating stories about his life with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. He is a talented writer and incredibly funny.

He just won an Emmy for his short film Happiness is Always an Option–which wouldn’t have been possible without the support of his loving family–they are all pretty amazing too.

Happiness is Always an Option

A Few Odds and Ends

I have posted a new link on the side for the “It Gets Better” project. They have a good blog on tumblr and on the web. I’m reblogging this from their web site (June 10th, 2013):

trans children

They support, as their pledge says: Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are. I pledge to spread this message to my friends, family and neighbors. I’ll speak up against hate and intolerance whenever I see it, at school and at work. I’ll provide hope for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other bullied teens by letting them know that it gets better.

Dan Savage and Terry Miller have a video up on YouTube:


It’s very cool.

On another completely different note, I am delving into the Regency era. I ordered a lot of 23 Georgette Heyer books (the woman who in essence started the Regency novel as we know it today). No pun intended, but that’s a lot of books. I also ordered a book by a woman who studied Georgette Heyer for her Ph.D. Her Ph.D, folks. That’s fairly serious business. But, she wrote it up, all of her research and notes on the Regency period (roughly 1811-1820)–it all makes perfect sense once I figured it out–the period between poor mad King George III, when he was no longer able to rule starting in 1811, with the Regency Act, until his son came of age in 1820 and became King. Seeing that, according to wiki, King George III had fifteen children, it’s a wonder both he and the queen consort didn’t go mad.

I found a page that looks to have a lot of potential but haven’t completely scoped it out yet:


There’s not a lot out there on being an editor. There’s a lot on self-editing. There are books on technical editing and scientific editing, but not so much on editing fiction. I’m guessing there are so many books on self-editing now because of the rise in self-publishing and the fact most people can’t afford to hire editors to go over their books.


Revelations and Black Holes

Lewis Carroll Memorial Guildford   Sometimes it feels as if you are revealing parts of yourself, splattering them onto the computer, and they simply disappear into black holes. Emails, blogs, works in progress, comments on forums. All the years it has taken to get enough courage to write to complete strangers in the faith that someone somewhere understands the gibberish you’re speaking through the help of a babel fish or something of the like.

I was going through images looking for something from “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” and found pictures of this sculpture. It is in Guildford, at the last place Lewis Carroll lived, although he didn’t write those books there. It’s a little sinister, I think. I don’t know what it would feel like to see it in person. No comments about Han Solo and carbonite.Memorial from the Front

What makes a person respond to another person, and what makes them ignore the person standing next to the person who’s noticed? It’s all very strange. There’s this thing in autism that’s called the “hidden curriculum”–basically all the little social cues neurotypical people pick up that people with autism don’t. How to take subtle hints when someone wants to leave, reading body language in a conversation, things along those lines. Things that we supposedly learned unconsciously. Sometimes I feel like I didn’t learn all of those things the way I was supposed to, even though I don’t have autism. I was just a sheltered nerd.

This is probably why I like writing so much. I can give my characters the perfect thing to say as a retort in an argument because I have time to think about it, whereas if it were me, what I’d say would be more along the lines of, “Well, wha…I’m rubber and you’re glue and everything you say bounces off and sticks to you. Nyah.” If I could even come up with that. I don’t fight very often with anyone, not even my SO. I don’t like conflict, but there are some things I won’t back down from. I suppose that’s not even entirely true. I was so fed up with work, and tired of dealing with them–no one was on my side, and no one was going to listen to me. It seemed like quitting, while it fit perfectly into what they wanted me to do, was at least something I was doing to them instead of something they were doing to me. Of course, a little over a month later, I’m trying to be optimistic about finding a job that won’t send me into a tailspin again.

Remember Lief, the little boy with autism that I mentioned a while ago? Since then he’s had two open heart surgeries because the machine that keeps his valve pumping keeps clotting, then his blood antigen levels went to 100%–which meant his immune system could fight anything, including the heart transplant that he needs, because no heart would match as his body would fight anything. The doctors decided to try something on the chance it would work after nothing else did–they gave him the treatment that transplant recipients usually receive after they’ve had the transplant, and his blood antigen levels went down to 11%, which meant he was back on the path to being able to get a transplant again. Then the machine for his valve clogged again, and Saturday he had a stroke which affected the left half of his body. It wasn’t a bad stroke, he can still communicate using his keyboard pad, and he doesn’t seem to have suffered any cognitive damage. He’s had his 10th birthday in the hospital. This ten-year-old has been through more than many adults, and he keeps soldiering on. There was talk of palliative care at one point, but he didn’t want it. I called him the Energizer Bunny sometimes when I worked with him, and gods, is he ever. He really hasn’t changed much since he was six, except now he can communicate, which is wonderful. So while I feel a little down, I just keep trying to remind myself, “If Lief can do it, I can do it.” He is one incredibly special little guy, and if everyone who reads this could stop for a second and send him a happy thought, that would be nice. It doesn’t matter where you are, he’ll know.

An Author’s Responsibility

I posted this review at Goodreads and Amazon after starting and getting about 140 pages into Forbidden, by Syrie James and Ryan M. James:

I didn’t actually finish this, I only reached page 137. It is your average paranormal high school angel romance, enough that I would have finished reading it, most likely, and probably given it a decent rating. So why did I stop?

I have noticed an increasing trend in young adult books using derogatory terms in reference to individuals with developmental disabilities, in this case, on page 137, “Holy crap,” Erica said. “We’ve been so short-bus about this.”

Teenagers probably think this is funny and just read it, laugh or not, and go on. As someone who writes and also works with children with disabilities in an elementary school, where we are trying to stamp out bullying and engender understanding, it truly dismays me when I see this happen in books that have recently been published. The children I work with are kind and loving, they are just different. They have autism or cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, in some cases other syndromes. There are some wonderful students at our school who come and volunteer as peer buddies to students in our class, and become their friends and understand their differences better.

Yes, sometimes people with disabilities act differently in public, make strange noises, or do strange things. They are honest, they don’t hide who they are. Just because some of them can’t speak doesn’t mean they don’t have things to say, they just need people willing to take the time to listen.

Authors have a responsibility, to an extent. If we put something in a book or story that’s derogatory, there needs to be a good reason for it, not simply put it there to make fun of people at their expense. There’s nothing wrong with people who are gay, lesbian, bi, transsexual, transgender, bi-racial, a difference race than our own, etc. etc., and if comments were made about anything like that, there would possibly be a stir about it, but often if it’s making fun of disabilities, it doesn’t get mentioned.

It is not open season on people with disabilities. Authors need to remember this, think about their audience, and remember that what they write sinks in. It encourages further devaluation of a population that doesn’t deserve it, and includes some of the best people I’ve known.

It’s truly a shame, because I think this book has promise. I just think that authors, editors, and publishers such as HarperTeen should think about these things a little more closely. Just because someone with a severe disability might not be reading your books, someone who loves someone who is might be.

2nd Half of my Favorite Books of 2012

Series: His Fair Assassin**

#1: Grave Mercy

#2: Dark Triumph (4/2/13)

LaFevers, R.L. YA, assassins, convents, nuns, weapons, poisons, mystery, intrigue, romance
I was able to read this as an eGalley before it came out, and I was unbelievably excited about it. I think part of what caught my attention was the tagline, “Why be the sheep when you can be the wolf?” It may sound a little corny, but the premise of the novel is a convent who takes girls and young women in, rescuing them from abusive or other bad situations, and teaching them to be assassins. They learn everything depending on their talents, Ismae, our heroine (it gets interesting when your heroine is an assassin) is exceptionally good at what she does. The nuns of the convent of St. Mortain, the ancient god of death, wait for a sign from him to send out one of their assassins. Or, when things are slow, when there are problems in the capital and the Duchess needs protection. Ismae ends up in the retinue of Gavriel Duval, the Duchesses’ brother, as his lover, which she is not happy about, but they decided it was the best way to get her into the castle with a reasonable excuse. And boy, are there a cast of characters there, all scheming and plotting and trying to win the Duchesses’ hand in marriage. This book is so incredibly well written—the characters are fully fleshed out, and you truly feel for them when things go wrong. All the struggles for power are illustrated beautifully, circles within circles until it is no longer clear who the Duchess can trust. I liked the contrast between the convent taking in girls who are powerless vs. the situation the Duchess is in. Yes, her life is much better than the girls who enter the convent, but no one listens to her despite her position—everyone wants her to marry so a man can speak for the Duchy. She is not considered worthwhile or smart enough to rule on her own, and until she marries, will be constantly vulnerable to attack from numerous enemies. This was a very different kind of book than the ones coming out at the time, the fluffy somewhat no-brainer romances with various fallen creatures, etc. etc. and it was so refreshing that not only was it different, it was good. The sequel is about a new character, one we were introduced to briefly in Grave Mercy. I had wanted to see more of Ismae, but this could be interesting as well. I highly recommend this one.
Series: Lumatere Chronicles

#1: Finnikin of the Rock

#2: Froi of the Exiles

#3: Quintana of Charyn (4/9/13)

Marchetta, Melina YA, royalty, rightful heirs, adventure, travel, romance, relationships, family
I do have a confession to make here. The third book came out in September of last year in Australia, so I bought it then because I was unwilling to wait until April 2013. When I do anything like that it always involves this odd little ritual of calling my bank and telling them I’m going to be buying something from Australia, in this case. If I don’t, they put a hold on my card because they think someone has stolen it and the purchase is dubious. I had to do it before I went to Canada for a week too. Now, while I appreciate their concern, I’m slightly insulted by the fact they don’t think it’s possible that I could have popped over to Australia and bought it in person there. That would never, ever happen (it would be fun), but they don’t have to remind me of that fact. I can dream. I picked up Finnikin of the Rock on a lark because it was in the shelf in front of me at the library. I devoured it in one day. I loved everything about it, the way it was written, the way the character interacted so believably, all the little mysteries that started to clear up, the willingness of people to give others a second chance even when they had done something awful, with the knowledge that it still wouldn’t be forgotten, just shelved. The world Marchetta creates is so lifelike and real, the groups of people so distinct. I know she does a lot of research looking for places she thinks resemble what she imagines her world to look like (so she gets to go to some pretty cool places). None of the characters are flawless. They can work to remedy their flaws, but they still never get rid of them completely. There are fantastic characters in the last book, two of my favorite being the estranged elderly twin brothers who live across the courtyard from each other, come out to see each other every morning, then go back inside. Quintana is quite the character herself, very complicated, and as more is revealed about her childhood, etc., it’s easier to see that yes, she still may be a little crazy, but there’s a pretty darn good reason for it. This is also a book about forgiveness, and realizing the consequences of one’s actions—things happened in the first book that had long reaching effects they were never aware of until the third book. I absolutely love these books, and Marchetta has written others as well, some of which have won prizes and are very well acclaimed. I have tried to read those, but I can’t get into the real world stories, for some reason. I think it shows her talent that she can do an excellent job in YA fiction, even though it’s not my taste, and then write a YA fantasy series written so differently I have no issues with it at all, and that these are some of my favorite YA fantasy books (although there is a lot of crossover these days).
Flame of Sevenwaters Marillier, Juliet Adult, myth, druids, fey, magic, relationships, family, love, second sight, betrayal
This is the latest installment of the books beginning with Daughter of the Forest, the one that first addicted me to Juliet Marillier. A couple of generations have passed since then, and Sorcha, the main character of that tale, is the grandmother of the heroine of this one, Maeve. Maeve was in a fire ten years earlier which disfigured her face to a degree and rendered her hands useless, so she is dependent for help with nearly everything from her wonderfully portrayed maid (who is more of a friend). She has, however, an incredible gift with animals, which is possibly some consolation from losing her dog Bounder in the fire that injured her. Returning home for the first time in ten years (she had been living with her Aunt and Uncle—her Aunt, her father’s sister, is a Healer of some renown and they had hoped she might be able to help with Maeve’s hands). Coming home is as awkward as she was afraid it was going to be, with the exception of a few people. Maeve starts out as a character who seems to have settled for her lot in life—she’ll never marry, never have children, and lead a solitary life dependent on others. She doesn’t seem particularly self-pitying, and if she does, it’s more out of anger than anything else, why can’t she have those things. She overhears some of the men at her father’s talking about her and how her hands make their skin crawl, and it shatters any hope she had been building up. Her 7 year old brother Finbar, a boy who will most likely grow to be a very strong seer, is fascinated with her. Maeve worries he is too serious for a boy his age—he has a tutor/ bodyguard, Luachan, a druid her Uncle Cíaran (the interim head druid) chose. A terrible event has taken place—a large group of men from the neighboring Lord’s lands has disappeared, including his two sons, while they were traveling through her Uncle’s lands. Everyone at Sevenwaters believes it is Mac Dara, who kidnapped Finbar when he was a baby to try to get his own son to come home, but they try to keep the fact that Sevenwaters has this mystical/magical place within it for fear others wouldn’t understand. This time, Maeve is drawn into the forest, with no one to depend on but herself and two wild dogs she has tamed and named Bear and Badger. She realizes she does pretty well on her own, and gradually starts to piece together that everything isn’t right in the forest. The story is interesting, and the characters well-drawn. For anyone familiar with the Sevenwaters series, it’s like coming home again. I’m a sucker for happy endings. Maybe I shouldn’t say that, because others might not be. Terrible, terrible ending. Death, destruction, the end of civilization as they knew it as Sauron drags them into a new age…oh, wait, wrong book. It works as a stand alone book, but really these are best if you start from the beginning and read them in order, because they build on each other. This is a review gone horribly wrong. It’s a good book, definitely worth checking out.
A Monster Calls Ness, Patrick YA, adult, death, coping, guilt, resolution…
I don’t want to say too much about this one. I kept seeing it mentioned and finally put a hold on it at the library. It was not at all what I expected. I think everyone will have their own, personal reaction to it—reviews seemed to range from “best book ever” to “this book wouldn’t have helped at all, it sucked.” It’s a book I would want to give as a gift to someone who might need something like it, but I would be hesitant. It’s written in a spare style but isn’t so bare bones it has no flavor to it. The emotions of the characters are muted—the characters themselves are muted. The story isn’t complex and full of riddles and mysteries to be solved—it’s very straightforward. Not jarring, but flowing like thick cake batter toward its imminent resting place in the pan. (there’s a reason I’m not a poet). It doesn’t seem like it’s pulling you in, but it is, and when you reach the end it’s such a feeling of relief, to say what you feel out loud. I don’t know what else to say—if you have been a caregiver, a relative, a friend, a child, of anyone who has had a long term terminal illness, I would suggest this book. It might not have the same resonance for you as it did for me, but maybe it will.
For Darkness Shows the Stars Peterfreund, Diana YA, adult, dystopian, freedom, genetics, loosely based on Persuasion by Jane Austen, luddites, technology
I didn’t expect much from this, truthfully. I had read the author’s unicorn books (well, one and a half of them) and hadn’t really gotten into them. Then I heard it was loosely based on Persuasion and decided to check it out, which is a little ironic since that’s one of the Austen books I haven’t read. Now I want to, though. The novel has an interesting structure—the narrative goes along, and then there will be letters between Kai, the worker boy on the farm, and Elliot, the privileged daughter of the owner of the farm. They were friends since childhood until he decided he couldn’t stand it there anymore. She couldn’t run away with him, and that was the last she saw of him. She thought. While her father and older sister are supposed to be running the farm, Elliot is actually the one doing all the work, and a little more. She has been trying to genetically modify wheat so it will produce more, ensuring their workers won’t go hungry and possibly even having a little left over to sell. Her family is Luddite, as are all the landowners, and such meddling is prohibited. Her father discovers it and plows it under to keep anyone else from finding out—he’s going to put in a race track. Knowing they desperately need money, Elliot looks through her father’s correspondence and finds a letter from a well known adventurer, looking to rent the dock her grandfather owns for however long it takes for them to build a new ship. Elliot completes the rental agreement, even though it means moving her grandfather out of the only home he’s ever lived in to make room for the new tenants. Elliot’s grief, frustration, and disbelief at her father and sister’s behaviors are completely convincing. All of the characters, even those with minor roles, are fleshed out just enough to make them believable and real. Elliot truly does care for the people who work for her family, but her view has always been from the view of being the privileged one. When their new tenants arrive, Elliot is at a complete loss at the identity of one of the Captains. Ultimately, this is a story about moving forward and forgiveness, both on a personal and a technological level. The acceptance of things beyond our realm of imagination. The door-stopper stubbornness of the hero, as in the Austen novels, to do anything to indicate his true feelings that makes you want to whack him over the head with a broom—see, the writing really does pull you into the story, when you want to start hitting characters with cleaning implements. Not that Elliot isn’t stubborn herself. There is just enough detail to make everything seem real—to get really angry at the “bad” guys and cheer the “good” guys on.
Series: Sarah Tolerance**

#1: Point of Honor

#2: Petty Treason

#3: The Sleeping Partner

Robins, Madeleine E. Adult, mystery, alternate historical setting, fallen women, brothels, private investigators
These are all well-written, interesting reads. It’s interesting to see the juxtaposition of Sarah’s world as an investigator with her Aunt’s in the bordello. Sarah fights to be respected for her choice of profession, and the fact that she is as smart as any man who might be doing the job. She’s clever and quick thinking, and is able to fend for herself. Occasionally her business ends up involving her Aunt’s in some way, usually not in a good one. I’m not a huge mystery fan, but I really liked these (the third was the one I read this year). The dialogue is engaging, and by the third installment I felt like taking her brother and shaking him—yes, he’s in politics, but she’s still his sister. Maybe because I’ve been so much into family ties lately. Robins doesn’t go overboard with anything, it’s all just right. One thing that might be a little confusing—the first two are published by major publishing houses. The third is published by an Independent publisher, which is why it’s more expensive than the first two. It’s well worth the money, and the knowledge that by going to an independent publisher Robins had more creative control, along with the wisdom to know people did want more of Sarah Tolerance, is a good thing. I think authors get pushed into the “it has to be commercial” corner too much. I didn’t list publishers on here, because most of them are mainstream, but a few aren’t, and I think that’s a good thing. Robins is a talented author whose work is well above average and completely enjoyable. I highly recommend all three.
The Replacement

The Space Between

Yovanoff, Brenna YA, dark fantasy, fairies, alternate worlds
The first thing I thought when I started reading these was, “this is really different.” If you’ve seen a picture of Brenna Yovanoff, she looks like a woman who would write about sweet, happy romances, with rainbows and unicorns (ok, maybe that’s taking it too far), not dark, scary, dystopian worlds with dolls missing an eye or a limb lying in puddles. With incredibly unique and original stories that grab your attention and keep you reading, sometimes because you’re too interested to stop, sometimes because you’re too afraid to stop—what will happen to your hero or heroine if you leave them alone? Will the words squirm around and rearrange themselves if you close the book? This probably sounds creepy, and the books are creepy—these two aren’t a series, I just read both of them this year, but they are in chronological order as to publication. Given all this, the sense of atmosphere is very well developed, as well as the characters. The amazing thing is that while they are so different from everything else out there, her own books are so different from each other. They do follow the general main character gets into trouble of some sort/needs help getting out of it/someone will help but there’s a cost/eventually everything’s sorted/relatively happy resolution. That’s pretty much what all stories are. There’s the saying that there are only a certain number of stories in the world (5? 7? 11? Something like that) and it’s up to authors and storytellers to recreate them in different ways. Yovanoff has gone above and beyond—maybe I was just so disturbed it just felt different. I think that’s legitimate. The story is still there, in its cohesive state. The characters are still there. Sometimes they notice their environment, sometimes they do. The times they do are a validation of what we’re reading that seems so unreal, but the characters are seeing the same thing, so for this delineated world, that must be the norm for that particular spot. At times it feels as though the characters are just floating along, being propelled by the story until they take a hold of it again, when they’ve finally figured something out that allows them to take control. I think I should stop there. I found these both to be well-written novels, in artfully constructed worlds, each with their own separate voice. Or maybe that was the bug hiding in the spine of the book calling “help me, help me!”

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.

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):


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


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:


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.

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