Posted in writing

The Crowthistle Chronicles–a critique

iron-tree-cvrOn and off for the past two weeks, I’ve been reading on Cecilia Dart-Thorton’s books. I’ve only read books one and two of her Crowthistle Chronicles, and if the library has books three and four, I hope to finish out the series soon.

The Crowthistle Chronicles follows the Jovanson family, starting with Jarred Jovanson. Jarred leaves his desert homeland in search for adventure, and falls in love with a girl from the marsh. His heritage, however, continues to haunt him, as he is the grandson of a powerful and evil sorcerer, and the world will not leave him alone. Nor will it leave his daughter, or his granddaughter, or any of his other family, alone.

Dart-Thorton is a talented writer, who kept me turning pages well after my bedtime, and who made me cry at the end. I also marveled at all the research she had to have done, because her world is full of faeries, trolls, witches, and every other folk-tale creature that goes bump in the night. These creatures are many and varied, and she weaves them into her story seamlessly, creating a full-bodied universe I would love to keep exploring.

I really hope the library has the other two books, because I want to know how Asratheil, Jarred’s granddaughter, breaks the family curse. If not, well, I guess I’ll have to suffer. Or order the books.

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Posted in daily life

Why I don’t buy books:confessions of a book addict

Like many writers, I love to read.

lost-in-a-book-2Books are my drug of choice. I especially love romances–comedy, suspense, paranormal if I have to pin down sub genres. I also love fantasy, urban fantasy and science-fiction, though I’m more particular about which of those I read. But good luck getting me to read a mystery or any other genre. Sorry, but I’m a little discriminating.

However, if you were to look at my book collection, you would frown and say, “that’s all you own?” You see, my book collection is pitifully small compared to my so-called appetite. And my appetite is large. Give me a stack of books I’ve never read, and I’ll have then read by next week. So I try to own books I know I’ll re-read a million times.

I love to read, but I don’t buy books.

Why not? Simply put, I read too fast. Some people love to read but have no time for it. Others love to read but read too slowly. Not me. I’m a quick reader. Give me a 350 page book, and I’ll have it read in 5 hours. Easy.

Case in point: in the past twenty-eight hours, I have read two novels, each 360 pages a piece. And I only have one left.

It’s true what they say. If you love to do something, you’ll make time to do it. And God has blessed me with all the time I could ever want to pursue my love for reading. If I had all the money in the world, I’d do nothing but read. Assuming I had enough books to keep me satisfied. But when you’re addicted to reading, there are never enough books.

Do you understand now?

Maybe you don’t. Maybe you don’t understand why being addicted to reading is a bad thing. And maybe it isn’t a bad thing. But let me tell you, when you go to the bookstore, spend $60 on twelve books (that would be nice. 12 books would probably cost more like $120) and then read them all in a week and a half–but then can’t go back to the book store for another three weeks because that’s when your next paycheck comes in, that hurts.

You want to know what hurts more? Going back to the bookstore and realizing there’s nothing to read. You’ve already read everything the books store has to offer. All the good stuff, at least.

And in the mean time, the book withdraw is no picnic, there are no clean dishes left in the house, and the trash stinks to high heaven. You’re walking on dirty laundry and not carpet, and what clean laundry you have has replaced the blankets on your bed. All of which has happened because you did nothing but read for five days straight.

If this doesn’t bother you, then maybe reading isn’t a problem for you.

Or maybe you just don’t give a darn about having a clean house.

Me? I go back and forth between the desire to live in a non-stinky house and to live between the pages of the next novel.

I know, I know. I’m a poor, pitiful baby. Be quiet. I’m trying to read.

 

Posted in writing

Lessons about writing I learned from reading

Why Should Writers Read?

lost-in-a-book-2Aspiring writers receive many pieces of advice. One is if writers want to improve their writing, then they need to read as much as possible. There’s a reason for this.

An observant reader will pick out mistakes from what they read. They will notice what makes their favorite stories work. Readers will develop likes and dislikes, and if those readers also happen to be writers, they will incorporate the lessons they learned from reading into their stories.

I’m not the most observant of readers. I have the tendency to read primarily for pleasure. Learning from what I read was a bonus. However, even I have learned a thing or two from the things I’ve read. Let me explain.

Complex characters are more interesting than flat or cookie-cutter ones

I love well-developed characters. I love reading a book and seeing how characters grow and become these awesome heroes that just decimate their enemies. Or whatever it is they’re fighting. I love it when characters change and overcome. Characters who get put through the wringer work their butts off for what they want–they deserve their reward.

Flat or cookie-cutter characters annoy me to no end. I look at them and I’m disappointed in the writer. Couldn’t that author have worked a little bit harder and given their character more depth? A history? And why do writers re-use their characters? It’s like they pick up John Doe from Book X, dye his hair and give him contacts, and then place him in Book Y. Same character and almost the same book.

Flat or cookie-cutter characters don’t change. They don’t grow. If they do, it’s because they’ve been reused and are growing in the same way. Ug. Give us readers a little bit of variety, people.

A well written character does more than just act the part. They drive the book, map out their own plots, and send conflict skyrocketing. You’re plot doesn’t make the characters–you’re characters make the plot.

If your character must be cookie-cutter or personify some stereotype, make sure you do the best job you can. And dent the cookie-cutter while you’re at it. Make this character your own. Every author is different. Make your books different, too.

That’s why I never hesitate to torture my characters. I enjoy it too, and rarely feel sorry for what I’m doing to them. In then end, I know I’ll have a better story.

If the scene doesn’t contribute, get rid of it.

I can’t tell you how many times I read a scene and think, “why is this here?” Romance novels can be bad about this–which is sad, because I love reading romances. All those sex scenes–are they really necessary? At what point to they become redundant?

I’m not a romance writer, so I can’t answer those questions. However, as a writer, I can tell you that superfluous scenes get added or left in for a variety of reasons. Maybe the writer needs to pad their word count, make the story longer. Maybe the writer honestly thought the scene necessary to the story.

It’s always easier to add to a story than to take away. Make sure whatever scenes you include in your story drive it someway. If it doesn’t do anything, do your own editing and get rid of it. This way, when the editor comes along with his or her evil red pen, they’ll have less to get rid of than before.

Avoid info-dumping at all costs

Info-dumping: the process of dumping as much information onto a page as possible.

You’ve probably run into this yourself. You’re reading a book–maybe a scifi or fantasy novel–and you’re character comes to a new place. Suddenly, you’re reading not just what the place looks like, but who built it, what he looked like and what he had for breakfast for thirty years. Info dump.

Information dumping can be boring and unnecessary. Granted, some info-dumping can be necessary for world building. Science fiction and fantasy novels typically have a lot of world building to do, and if they want their readers to understand the environment, details are necessary.

The thing is, there is a difference between info-dumping and telling readers what they need to know to understand the scene.

When world building, most of the details of that world will never make it into the book. I’ve got a file of world-building notes from my last book that is almost as big as the book itself. As an author, I will need every single one of those notes. My readers do not.

When you write your story, do not dump all the pertinent information all at once. Tell what the readers need to know and no more. Do they need to know what the temple looks like? Fine, but don’t give them so much that the information stretches on for three pages. That much detail isn’t necessary. Is it necessary for them to know why the temple is there, or about the battle that was fought at that location a hundred years ago? Fine, but put it someplace else, later on in the story–maybe during a conversation.


What did you think? Feel free to leave your comments below.

 

 

Posted in book critique, writing

My new favorite author this week: Catherine Asaro

catherine asaroThis week, I went to the local library and found a new favorite author.

Her name is Catherine Asaro, and she’s written multiple sci-fi and fantasy books. I have just finished reading her Lost Continent series, and I have to say, I’m sorry to see them go. She created a fabulous, wonderful story world for her characters to play around in. Her books kept me up all night because I had to know what happened next. The romance portions of the stories were clean and some of the best I’ve read in a while.

If I had my way, I’d do nothing but read them all day. Alas, someone has to clean the house. Unfortunately.

Posted in writing

Why I like Mercedes Lackey

mercedes lackeyI actually haven’t read too many different fantasy authors. For most of my teenage and college years, I read romance. Now that I’ve decided to write romance, I’m trying to change that. Today, I’d like to talk about a fantasy writer that is going on my favorites list: Mercedes Lackey.

I haven’t read all of her books, but then again, she’s written a lot of books. According to her website, she’s written more than a hundred stories in two decades, and is still going. That’s a lot of books, and also the kind of career that every author would dream of.

One of the things that I like about her books, is how she takes fairy tales and re-imagines them. She takes the helpless heroes and heroins of the tales and turns them into competent characters who can take care of themselves. These characters all live in fully-fleshed out worlds full of color, magic and excitement. I like the way her fairy tales go because while these stories are certainly inspired by the ones you heard as a child, they aren’t the same ones you saw in a Disney movie: they’re better. Her Little-Red Riding Hood kills werewolves. Her Sleeping Beauty talks to animals and falls in love with a blacksmith. Her Cinderella never marries the prince but becomes a fairy godmother.

One thing Mercedes Lackey has taught me is to think outside of the box when you’re telling a story. Don’t just tell the same tale that everyone else is hearing: tell something different. There is one unique thing about each story you are writing, and that is you. I couldn’t write like her to save my life, but then again, I don’t need to. I just need to write like me, and to think outside of the box.


 

What authors have inspired you? Let me know. I’d be happy to hear!