Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Stories in Stories

Although the vast majority of my fiction reading these days is cozy mysteries, every now and then I like to shake it up. Earlier this month, I read Life of Pi. The first part of the book is, in my opinion, low stakes with little conflict, as Pi tells us about his early life. This is before the main action of the novel, so how does the author keep the reader engaged in this section?

There are a couple of ways the author keeps the reader interested. The first one is using a lot of solid details to bring the zoo to life. It's more than just invoking the senses; it's also the authoritative tone he uses to describe how to care for the animals. However, there's another technique to keep people reading. There are also miniature stories and anecdotes woven into this section of the book. The most dramatic of these is when Pi's father demonstrates to him and his brother exactly how dangerous the zoo animals are. Part of this involves making them watch a tiger hunting a goat. Other stories relate the kinds of things visitors feed the zoo animals (and unfortunately, how some of them are cruel to the animals). These stories add conflict and interest to prose that otherwise might be telling instead of showing.There are a few sections where the author stops the story to list things or the style becomes very simplistic; I admit I skimmed over those places. The first part of the book also contains italicized chapters written from the perspective of someone visiting Pi many years after the main events; I didn't think they added much to the story. But it's been instructive to observe how the author develops themes while providing us with background.

Have you read books that detail long passages of time where little happens story-wise? If so, what techniques kept you reading through those sections? Feel free to comment.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Patricia A. McKillip: 1948-2022

 It's always a little startling when you're mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and stumble on shocking news. That happened to me yesterday when I found out Patricia A. McKillip, one of my favorite authors, passed away last Friday. She was 74. 

I think the first McKillip book I read was The Sorceress and the Cygnet. I was drawn in by her wondrous prose, which raised every work of hers to the mythopoetic realm. The Cygnet duology remains one of my favorite works of hers, but I also particularly like The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. I met her at WisCon several years ago and have her autograph.You can see it, along with other books of hers, pictured below. 

Many authors can write fantasy, but there are few who can consistently infuse their work with a sense of wonder like McKillip did. She will be missed.




Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Writer Highs and Lows

 

 
 
May the Fourth be with you! Late April to late May is my favorite time of year will all the flowers in bloom. It's also a busy time of year as I prepare to celebrate my son's birthday at the end of the month and attend WisCon (which I will probably do virtually this year). Despite all this, there's still time to talk about writing and post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Learn more about them on their website and Facebook page

 
This month's post is inspired by Charles Dickens: It's the best of times; it's the worst of times. What are your writer highs (the good times)? And what are your writer lows (the crappy times)?
 
In no particular order, here are some of my writer highs:
 
1. Getting together with other writers.
2. Finishing a story.
3. Selling a story (or seeing that someone bought one of my books).
4. Hearing from a reader who enjoys my work or who gets what I was trying to do with a story.
5. Solving a problem I've been stuck on or making connections within a story.
6. Getting inspired for a new project. 
7. Getting a good review or being nominated for a reward.

And here are some of my writer lows:

1. Learning a story got rejected.
2. Bad reviews.
3. Getting stuck or having to discard hours of work.
4. Unsuccessful marketing campaigns.

Writing is the main way I strive to authentically connect with others and with something better than myself. Therefore, anything that helps me build connections is a win, while failing to make connections is a setback.

What are some of your writer highs and lows? Is writing about connection for you too? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.



Wednesday, April 27, 2022

April Writing Update

It doesn't feel like I have much progress to report this month. I've made little or no headway on revising Restaurants and Revenge or drafting Bubble Tea and a Body. However, I have a very rough draft of a hopepunk short story tentatively titled "Invasives." It's one of those stories that was inspired by an article I read recently. Depending how the story develops in the next week, I may submit it to the Imagine 2200 Climate Fiction contest, though I doubt that's the best fit for it. If it isn't selected, I have other potential markets in mind for this story.

I have made some slight progress on Jenna's story for the Season Avatars collection The Season Between. Yesterday, I came up with an alternate version for the overarching story that would link them all. The concept works better in a couple of ways than what I'd originally planned, though my characters' motives need to be developed more for it to work. 

Although it's two months too soon for my semiannual reading report, I'm happy to say I've read 49 books so far this year, leaving me slightly ahead of goal. My reading does slow down in summer when I walk outside instead of using the treadmill, so we'll see how I fare by early July.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

WisCon Woes

Those of you who've been following my blog for a long time know I love attending WisCon, the feminist science fiction/fantasy convention held every Memorial Day weekend in Madison, WisCon. Unfortunately, like many other things, the convention has run into issues during the pandemic. I attended virtually in 2020, but I don't think I did last year. This year, the convention will be held both virtually and in-person. However, two of the guests of honor won't be able to appear (I'm particularly disappointed that Zen Cho won't be able to attend, since I enjoy her work), and the convention has had difficulties filling its hotel room block and selling virtual memberships. 

There is some good news in that the con has raised nearly $67,000 for expenses (read more about the details on their blog). Hopefully they'll continue to raise money leading up to the convention. I haven't registered yet this year because I'm not sure yet if my son will be attending Scholastic Bowl Nationals that weekend. His birthday falls on Memorial Day this year, so any celebrations he wants to hold will take priority. If we can't make it up to Madison that weekend, I'll probably get a virtual membership. (If you're interested in a virtual membership, you can register here.) Hopefully this convention will be around for a long time to come.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Mid-Month Mysteries: Birthday Parties


 Since my birthday falls in April, I thought it would be fun this month to look at cozy mysteries set at birthday parties. Here are a few that I found with a quick search. I haven't read any of these yet, so it looks like my TBR pile is going to grow again.

Birthdays Can Be Deadly is the first book in Cindy Bell's Sage Gardens Cozy Mystery series. It's set in a retirement village, where the guest of honor at a birthday party falls dead. Three members of the community join forces to figure out who did it.

Another birthday party ends in tragedy in Berries and Birthdays: A Cozy Murder Mystery. This is part of Leena Clover's Pelican Cove Cozy Mystery series. (The series actually starts with Strawberries and Strangers.) The victim just turned 100, and the mystery in this book is apparently generations old.

In Birthday Party Murder: A Lucy Stone Mystery by Leslie Meier, there are actually two parties being planned: one for a ninety-year-old former librarian, and one for a fourteen-year-old girl. The death happens during the planning stage, but Lucy must solve the murder before the librarian is targeted. This book is the ninth in the series, which starts with Mistletoe Murder.

Finally, Isis Crawford offers up recipes and a mystery in A Catered Birthday Party (A Mystery with Recipes), Book 6 in the A Mystery with Recipes series. (The series starter is A Catered Murder.) In this book, the birthday party is for a dog, but it's the owner who pays the ultimate price and the caterers who have to sniff out the criminal.

Here's hoping the next birthday party you attend doesn't end with someone facedown in the cake!

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

April IWSG: Audio Books

Welcome to April! If you're participating in the A-Z Blogging Challenge, I hope it's going well. These days, I'm challenged enough to keep up with a weekly blog, but I still have time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Learn more about the IWSG on their website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.  

Our hosts this month are Joylene Nowell Butler, Jemima Pett, Patricia Josephine, Louise-Fundy Blue, and Kim Lajevardi.

 Here's our question for April: Have any of your books been made into audio books? If so, what is the main challenge in producing an audiobook?

My science fiction books Lyon's Legacy and Twinned Universes are available as audiobooks. I produced them myself through ACX, which is no longer available. It's been several years since I made them, but I remember the main challenges (besides paying for them) were finding a suitable narrator (especially on a budget) and reviewing the audiobooks. I haven't sold many audiobooks, so I probably wouldn't bother doing it with my other books unless they become popular enough to justify the expense. If you're an indie author who wants to make audiobooks, Draft2Digital partners with Findaway Voices to create them. I would take that route if I decide to produce more books in that format. 

Have you created audiobooks of your work? If so, feel free to share the details in the comments.

 

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