Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Aurelio H. Almazan, Jr., DVM: 1940-2022

Just a brief note that my father-in-law, Aurelio Almazan, passed away last Friday. He will be missed. You can read his obituary here. We will be attending his wake this coming weekend and the funeral next Monday, so I may take next week off from blogging.

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

IWSG: Who Do You Write For?

How is it August already? It feels like July just started, but I've already started preparing for my son's return to school. (Of course, I normally start preparing for that as soon as school lets out.) Anyway, it's also time to prepare for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. Learn more about the IWSG on their website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here's our question for August: When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?

I have to be honest: part of the reason I write is because I can't always find the stories I want to read. The tropes that appeal to many readers don't always appeal to me. (For example, I personally don't care about physically attractive romantic interests who are controlling jerks. Once they make a poor first impression on me, they have a hard time winning me over. I prefer more equal relationships where the two people engage in banter.) However, I think whenever you write in a particular genre, you do need to meet certain criteria if you want to avoid reader rejection. For example, romances require a Happily Ever After or at least a Happy For Now ending. Genres like fantasy and science fiction certainly have their share of tropes, but originality has a place there. For example, the growing interest in genres like hopepunk and solarpunk show that many people are looking for stories that offer solutions to the problem of climate change, even if these solutions require changes in our way of thinking. Cozy mysteries do seem to have a more defined set of reader expectations: it's not just the mystery aspect, but there are also certain conventions about the setting, characters, and implied lifestyle that readers expect. I am trying to adhere a bit closer to genre conventions with my cozy mystery, but there are places within those parameters that offer me a chance to tell my version of these stories.

In general, I think most readers want to read the same types of stories many times. (I'm going through a similar phase in that I want to read cozy mysteries more than anything else.) They can offer comfort and predictability in an uncomfortable and unpredictable world. However, it takes something original to deal with an unpredictable world, and we all need to shake up our routines occasionally to change up our thinking. There's a need for writing original works and also for those that meet reader desires. Whenever someone offers you a dichotomy, seek a balanced, third way instead.

Where do you stand on the spectrum? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Writing Update

 I'm going to keep my blog post brief this week:

1. The main writing I'm doing is working on a short story featuring Kay for the The Season Between collection. I've had to start over a couple of times, but hopefully I'll be able to complete this draft (which is currently over 4,000 words).

2. I still have to finish editing the last several chapters of Restaurants and Revenge, but hopefully I can do that by the end of August.

3. I'm participating in an author takeover in a Facebook group this Friday. This is the first time I've done something like this. I've written several questions and planned a few giveaways, but I should probably take some pictures to include.

4. My submission to the library anthology was rejected. Apparently they had over 300 submissions, so they couldn't accept them all. I'll probably hold onto it for a while to see if I want to revise it or come across another market for it.

5. I was hoping to submit a flash fiction story this month, but the markets I originally targeted aren't open at the moment. I plan to watch another market and submit there if it opens. 

Hope all is going well with you and your writing!

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Mid-Month Mysteries: Erin Johnson

It seems like July just started, but we're already heading into late July. Hopefully it's not too late for a Mid-Month Mysteries feature. Today I plan to spotlight Erin Johnson, who writes several magical cozy mystery series. I first found her work through her Spells and Caramels series. (The first book is Seashells, Spells, and Caramels.) This series features a young baker, Imogen, who discovers she's a witch from a magical kingdom. She becomes a royal baker while traveling to other magical kingdoms, having adventures with her baker friends, and developing a romance with a prince. Other series from Erin include ones featuring a pet psychic, a cursed renaissance fair, and a tea room in Bath run by a vampire. I have to admit I don't like the heroine of the pet psychic series, but I enjoy Erin's other works. They're light reads featuring things I enjoy, like renaissance fairs and afternoon teas. If that's your cup of tea too, I recommend checking out her work. I've linked to Erin's Amazon page above.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

The Library: A Fragile History

If you like books, you're probably a fan of libraries as well. When I saw The Library: A Fragile History, by Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen, at my local library, I immediately borrowed it. Thankfully, my library grants automatic renewals, because this book took me a few weeks to finish.

The Library: A Fragile History starts with a disturbing premise: libraries aren't fixed, unchanging temples of knowledge, but are as prone to destruction and decay as any other human endeavor. (The specific example cited in the Prologue describes the ruin of a sixteenth-century Holy Roman Emperor's library as described by the newly appointed librarian.) However, libraries have adapted and changed throughout history, and it's this process the authors trace in this book. (This book is primarily focused on Western culture, with little or no mention of any libraries or their equivalent elsewhere.) They look at some ancient libraries in the first chapter, including (but not limited to) the library of Alexandria. From there, the authors discuss the evolution of libraries, from collections of religious scrolls stored in chest for easy transport to the modern library. One of the great themes of this book is how collections shift as people's interest change. For centuries, collectors focused on religious, classical, or other scholarly texts, for personal use or at a monastery or university. Librarians and collectors might acquire works from other collectors, but what one person valued might be considered waste material by someone else. (For example, some collectors kept copies of pamphlets and had them bound.) Old books aren't always seen as valuable or kept under conditions that might preserve them. As we advance toward the modern era, fiction becomes more popular, especially as libraries become more accessible to the common person. However, collections may be censored for religious or political purposes. 

Libraries have always had to adapt to their environments. Although books compete with plenty of other distractions in the twenty-first century, they will undoubtedly continue to evolve as long as readers and collectors exist.

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

July IWSG: Any (Book) World That I'm Welcome To

 Here we are at the beginning of another month, so it must be time to encourage other writers with an Insecure Writer's Support Group post. Learn more about the IWSG on their website, Facebook, or Twitter feed.

Our hosts this month are J Lenni Dorner, Janet Alcorn, PJ Colando, Jenni Enzor, and Diane Burton.

We have an interesting question this month: If you could live in any book world, which one would you choose?

If I'm allowed to pick my own work, I would choose the gaslamp country of Challen. The tech level is similar to late nineteenth century England, but the Four Gods and Goddesses of Challen have gifted Their Avatars with magic to heal people, help plants and animals, and control the weather. It's a feminist society that offers niches for people who don't want to marry or have children. I came up with this world and my "Fem Four" around 1996, and I wouldn't still be writing stories in this setting if I didn't care for it.

If I were to pick another author's world, I'd probably select Becky Chamber's A Psalm for the Wild Built. You could consider it a cozy science fiction book or part of the hopepunk genre. (I haven't had a chance to read the sequel yet.) It's set on a colonized moon, and the people are accepting of each other, know how to build cozy homes, and appreciate the calming power of a cup of tea. 

I'll end this post with Steely Dan's "Any World That I'm Welcome To."

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

June Writing Update

June was another slow month for me writing-wise. Part of that is because I still have so many household chores when I get home from work that I generally don't get to my computer until eight-thirty or nine at night. (These chores can involve preparing three different meals since everyone eats something different, washing and drying dishes, cleaning appliances as needed, making lunch for work, setting the table for breakfast, setting things out for evening smoothies, and cleaning up after the smoothies are made. That isn't a complete list.) By that point, it's hard to pants a plot into existence (since it's hard these days to pre-plot/think about stories in my head before getting to the laptop). However, I did manage to write and submit a short story (less than 3,000 words) for an anthology about librarians, so I wasn't entirely unsuccessful. We'll see how it goes. A couple of markets I'm eyeing for completed short works will open in July, so I plan to submit to them.

I've been mostly working on the Season Avatars short story collection. Currently, I've been working on a short story featuring Kay, but I find myself blocked and thinking I need to start over with a different plot.

I haven't done anything lately with revising Restaurants and Revenge. I don't feel that the ending quite works yet. Maybe I need to reread that part of the story (I should have some time for that over the holiday weekend), or maybe I should just find a couple of beta readers. I'm still looking for people who will finish the story and give me useful feedback on it. 

I hope your writing is going better than mine. Hopefully next month I'll have more to post.

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