Category Archives: Reading

An Editing State of Mind

I just spend well over an hour organizing my e-mail. My brain is looking for structure and organization, and by imposing order on the world, it is easier to impose order on itself. A mindset that doesn’t lend itself overly well to writing new things, but which works perfectly well for editing. And reading. Which I have both been doing.

On reading, I have greatly enjoyed Anne Bishop’s new book, Lake Silence, which was set in the world of the Others, but featured a new set of characters. The book really shows off her world-building, something I believe she is one of the very best at of all the authors I have ever had the pleasure to read. The new story is interesting as always, and I like that she has a main character that is both a little older and damaged by the world. A lot of successful books in Urban Fantasy have a young and supremely attractive main character, so I greatly enjoy it when someone breaks this pattern.

Next, I also read the new book by Patricia Briggs, Burn Bright, in the Alpha and Omega series. Every time I wonder how she manages to keep building on her world, expanding the story and the characters evermore, while still drawing from her existing character-set. This is extra impressive because she is a master at information management. She provides her readers with the information relevant for the scene, slowly unfolding the story throughout her books, but generally little more. To the point that if what feels like a side-story or a side-note always ties back into the main story arch, and that I have started spotting upcoming plot-twists by the side-stories taking up too much space…

Outside of that I have gone back to Obsidian, once again. I want to send it to a publisher and an agent somewhere in the next month and a half. I have polished so often, that that should be enough time(I know, I have been intending to do this ‘soon’ ever since I started this blog – one day I will manage).

Afterwards, I want to take a stab at finishing one of my many unfinished novels. In the end, I am more of a novelist then a short story writer. If new stuff comes up, though, I may start on a submission to the Paul Harland-contest, a Dutch contest for speculative fiction. I have been intending to participate again. But I am getting ahead of myself. First thing on the menu: editing Obsidian. Once more into the breach 😉

Playing with tradition lore

A lot of writers in the (urban) fantasy genre use forms of traditional supernatural elements, like the vampire and the fae, people or beings from folk tales, myths and sagas, and sometimes even from influential writers of the past. Generally, they give it a bit of a twist. Sometimes that twist is minimal, sometimes it is so drastic that it’s barely a reference.

One of the things I find myself very enthusiastic about, and one of the things I thoroughly enjoy, is seeing the different incarnations of lore-twisting. How an author re-invents vampires, werewolves and other were-beasts, witches and fae. How they make the lore their own, pick, choose and reimagine to suit their story-world. Especially when they manage to do it in such a way that it reinforces the story they’re trying to tell.

One of the books I have recently read that did this right was the All Saints trilogy by Deborah Harkness, of which the first book is A Discovery of witches.

Press more to read on, but be warned, it contains potential spoilers
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Life Strikes Again

So. Life has really been catching up on me this year. After a really rough patch, I entered a really good one. I got to move to a bigger house. Which my love and I, being the avid collectors of books, movies, and items for our interactive theatre hobby, really, really needed. However, writing, when I could barely reach my computer past all the boxes… not so much… Then, when the writing was slowly returning as we were clearing boxes, my grandfather passed away. Which cluttered up the writing even more and slowed down the disappearance of boxes…

So a couple months of silence. Doubtlessly, though, when there are less boxes and I am coming to terms with the new house (I love the house but moving is not something I am particularly good at) there will be lots and lots of writing again.

For now, I have spent a lot of time watching tv, rewatching old movies and shows. Firefly and the Chronicles of Riddick work excellently for me at times like this. Slowly I have started watching new things again as well. This seems to be a really good year for science fiction. I am loving it.

Also, I picked up a new book. It took me a week to get into it, but A discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness got its grubby little claws in me, and I finished all three books in the series in no time. I really liked what she did with several kinds of supernatural lore, but I will go into this in a separate post.

The Relativity of Time in Narratives

Something I find tremendously interesting is how time is treated in different types of narratives. I’m currently reading a book where they’re playing with the flow of time. Time does not progress at the same rate in different areas of the story’s world. But this is by far not the only way an author can play with time.

The way we experience the flow of time, varies from day to day, year to year, activity to activity. Everyone knows the hours that feel like forever, while sometimes years go by in what feels like an instant. By slowing part of the story down, interestingly enough generally achieved by using more words to describe a certain scope of time, authors can change and/or increase the feel of the experience their readers or viewers have.

An author can also change the flow of time for only one of the characters, like for instance the reversal of aging in Benjamin Button. Another example of this is the brief flashes of forward moving time that were out of the ‘normal’ sequence for one of the characters in The Time Travelers Wife.

Another possibility of manipulating time is not in the manipulation of the flow of time, but in the sequence of which the story is told. A particularly memorable example of this to me was the movie Memento. How there was just enough information provided for the story to move on, while keeping it exciting until the very end, is something that still deeply impresses me.

A recent example I encountered of how time can be manipulated was how extreme speed and the time continuum can affect each other. It proposed the question: if you go fast enough, would you travel to the future or the past?

I try to play with these effects when I am writing myself, although I do not do this in every of my stories. This is mostly because I find most manipulations of time work best if the manipulation of time is the central element of the story. Also, balancing your time-continuum can be… tricky. I totally love to read books and watch movies that play with the concept of time, though.

What was the most memorable way an author manipulated time that you have encountered?

A Community of Books

The last couple of months, I’ve been going to more cons. In part this was because of convenience, since there were wild cons appearing almost in my backyard, so it was very easy to attend. Most cons sell cool things, and provide a convenient platform to discover new things. In part, though, I guess it is also because I have been looking for something.

Both reading and writing are fairly solitary exercises. This fact is fine on it’s own, but if you love reading and writing and want to talk face to face about the things you are passionate about to others, it is problematic. There are many websites and online communities that offer platforms to talk about both. But while talking to others online is fun, educational and worthwhile, I find that talking to physically present people about books and writing every now and again is important to me as well.

For writing, I’ve mostly got this covered with my writing group. We meet regularly and discuss the things related to writing that occupy our minds at length. For reading, I have also gathered a small group of people, but we just can’t seem to manage getting the group together. So I’ve been looking for places where other book-enthusiast congregate. Looking for places where people exchange ideas about reading, books and stories. A community of book-fans.

So far, it has been a partial success. I find that if the con has an extensive program with smaller program items, not just the items for hundreds of people at once, I find what I am looking for. The exchange of ideas about reading. But the massive things, while fun, are too anonymous for this. The irony is that it’s the bigger, more established cons that so far appear to have more of the program items I am looking for. Not the smaller or the newer cons. The disadvantage of wild cons appearing, is that they tend to be either on the smaller or the newer side, or both. Fortunately, if they’re successful, time tends fix both these issues. Here’s to hoping for the future 😉 And perhaps in the meantime I’ll try a more established con abroad.

Admiration

Today I visited Imagicon, a local and, compared to the other fantasy and science fiction cons I’ve been to, slightly smallish con. I ended up getting to talk to a friend that is slowly becoming quite the excellent author, after which I went to a lecture by an author I had never met before but who had written a bunch of very cool books. Between the lecture, the conversation, and something another friend of mine pointed out a couple of months ago, I had a bit of a realization. We don’t always let the people that do things we value know we appreciate them. This goes for friends that organize parties and gaming days but also for the authors whose books we thoroughly enjoy.

Now, I am quite the ferocious reader. I love to disappear in the world of a story. There a quite a few books that I’ve read more then once, just because I couldn’t get enough of the book, the characters and the world depicted inside. I firmly believe in voting with my wallet. So I tend to translate my admiration of the work of an author into purchasing more of their books. But just because you’ve bought a book, doesn’t mean you liked it and appreciate the author for the grueling work of writing it. Putting in my part of enabling them to write more is not the same as a simple note saying a heartfelt ‘thank you’. And since authors are human too, the second bit should not be forgotten.

That leaves the bit of ‘but I don’t want them to have to take time out from their lives in order to answer me’. They write their books. That’s enough for me. But then again, they don’t have to answer me. They don’t even really have to read the message I’d send them. Giving them the opportunity to read it and learn they’re valued for what they do, is actually enough.

So I guess I have some letters to write in the coming weeks. To let people I can’t say it to in person, know I appreciate them for what they do.

The Added Value of Bling and Pride

Last week, I got to attend a book-gala (by verge of e-mailing them ‘I would like to attend’ in time, no special circumstances or anything) organized by a newly founded local initiative for promoting the fantastical genre. There were a couple of writers there I really admire, and a very large of aspiring writers like myself.

One of the big things where they deviated from earlier book events I have attended, was the dress code. We were supposed to dress up for this event.

Now, I have a slightly troublesome figure for affordable black tie dresses, since the waistline tends to be too high for my figure, or the chest-space too small, so I figured I’d make one myself. I didn’t manage in time, so I had to settle for more of a cocktail dress(those tend to be more figure-hogging and thus work just fine). Still I dressed up, and so did almost everyone else.

I thought it was merely just fun to dress up, until I was at the event. The atmosphere had somehow transformed from a group of people hanging out, to an official event. Instead of feeling like an enthusiastic hobbyist, I felt like an aspiring professional. That was a very magical feeling. I realized it was something that mattered to me, and that while growing from an aspiring writer into an actual writer might be hard and in the end might even prove impossible, it is something truly worth aspiring to, to me.

This very personal realization was not the only the only realization I had at the event. One of the people hosting the event, and one of the founders of the initiative, said that he wanted people to be proud of writing fantasy, and proud of reading it. Even though there are a lot of people enjoying fantastical tales, and most works within the genre is not what you’d call ‘light’ reading, especially not in the literal sense, and even though it is a big part of books for children where fantastical tales are celebrated openly, there is not a lot of pride in reading these books for adult. Sometimes, a lot more frequently then I’d like, when people speak about books in the genre, the fantastical elements are downplayed as unimportant. Like it’s uncool to read or write fantasy, and the related genres. You have to ‘look past’ those elements. Like it’s easy to craft a well developed world, or like you can not tell interesting, worthwhile and inspiring stories through fantastical tales. He wants to change that reputation, and I wholly support this initiative. Besides all the other things I read, I read and write fantasy, and I am proud of this.