Romance and Writing What You Know

We’ve all had bad relationships. And most romance novels seem to be about romances that go bad, then redeem themselves. This is me speaking from the perspective of a person who is not primarily a romance reader, mind you.

So my question is, how does it interact? Like every writer, a romance author surely draws upon his or her own experience to craft stories, though probably not putting literal events from their own lives into the tale. But are there any romance writers who have rarely or never had bad relationships… or who are currently living a strong, loving, long-term relationship with good communication and no major hassles?

I suspect the answer is – both. I daresay both good and bad relationships teach us about relationships, and that’s what romance writing is largely about. Long may it wave.

Website Update and Link Exchange!

The site has a new look. I hope you like it! In addition, I’ve rearranged some things and put the previous free reads here on this site instead of hosting them at Deviant. My photos and prints are still at Deviant if you’re interested in them.

What do you think of the look?

Also, I would like to exchange links with other authors for mutual blogrolling. Let me know if you’d like to join in!

Featured Author – Dave Barry

Although long known as a hysterically funny humor columnist, Mr. Barry has recently moved into the world of fiction. I have to be careful with his collections of columns. It’s not considered polite, while in a restaurant or waiting in line at the grocery store, to suddenly burst out laughing. People edge away.

He has recently written, with Ridley Pearson and Greg Call, a pair of novels about Peter Pan’s adventures before Wendy showed up. I haven’t read those, although I hope to get my hands on them soon. Before that were a couple of really excellent crime novels, Big Trouble and Tricky Business. They were very much in a Donald Westlake vein, and I enjoyed them very much.

He has an enviable ability to be writing comedy that makes me giggle (one of the very few writers that actually does make me laugh out loud in public) and then suddenly, without transition, take a hard right turn into seriousness that is as powerful and poignant as it’s possible to be. He doesn’t do it very often, which is good; it would seriously confuse my tear ducts, to the point where they couldn’t tell whether they were letting out tears of laughter or sorrow.

Featured Author – F. Paul Wilson

He’s written medical thrillers, collaborations, horror stories and hardboiled supernatural thrillers. This last is mostly what I’ve read: the Repairman Jack series. I also, long ago, read one of his LaNague series, which I seem to remember as a blueprint for violent social revolution. It struck me as too preachy.

This is not a fault with Repairman Jack. The series is very popular, so I expect you’ve heard of it. I find it to be compelling, largely because of the characters. Jack’s no-nonsense, hard logic approach to violence and self-defense cut right through the whole debate about such matters as gun control, inner city violence, drug legalization and various other issues. They’re where Jack lives and he gives an opinion about them all eventually.

The writing is sometimes a little choppy, although fortunately it doesn’t suffer from Zelazny syndrome, quite (ie, putting a new sentence on every line, sometimes only a partial sentence, for paragraphs at a stretch, for overemphasis). It certainly has grab, that elusive quality of holding your attention, and it moves the story on quite quickly. It isn’t deep intellectual stuff, but it’s hardly escape fiction–it’s putting the headlines right there in your face. Which makes it very unusual for me to read; I generally read fantasies that, if they are true to life at all, are true to historical, emotional and sociological life, not today’s current events. So it has something that’s capable of grabbing me, far from a typical reader of such fare.

I think Robert Heinlein would have loved this series.

Fanning the Flame

As a fan of your favorite authors, how do you act?

I have some kind of weird, deep-seated dislike of acting like a fan. I confront this dilemma very soon, for one of my absolute top favorite authors will be at the Worldcon in August. It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that I’ll end up shaking her hand or asking her a question at some point.

Most fans I’ve heard of or seen would be all excited, jumping up and down. I’ve been to a few conventions, and what I’ve seen there was mostly in the ‘squee’ category. And the author or artist or actor in question would smile politely and be tolerant, very tolerant. And it would make me cringe.

Furthermore, I finally have some vague basis for thinking that someday I might be in their position: that of the author, not of the fan. Though of course one is always both.

So what is it that makes me cringe? I’ve once (only once) had the experience of being singled out as the author of a work after it was performed, and it made me horribly embarrassed. Would that effect continue, or would I get over it?

I think in large part, I just can’t stand to be ‘just another fan’. It’s not snobbishness, or not much I hope. It’s a  matter of preferring to be the author’s friend somehow, genuinely, by getting to know them–or nothing. Not this brief, just-like-everyone-else shaking of hand, grabbing of autograph, and gushing of “I’m your biggest” etcetera.

I don’t know. I’m not sure what’s going on in my head there. Anybody else feel the same way and have a better handle on why? Or want to defend gushing fen?

Featured Author – Paula Volsky

Probably best known for Illusion, an alternate history of the French revolution with a most logical magical system, Paula Volsky has a strong grasp of research, an excellent turn of characterization, and well-crafted plots.

Her characters speak in distinct voices, with mannerisms and sentence structures of their very own. Many of them have a wicked wit, with fine turns of sardonicism and humor. She has a rare talent for seeing into the minds of unsympathetic characters–making us see the world through the viewpoint of a petty, sulky, or loutish person. Her characters also change and grow, sometimes with absolutely catastrophic things happening around them. She pulls no punches, with side characters the reader has grown to like being destroyed if the plot calls for it.

Nevertheless, somehow she does not rank as one of my favorite authors. I’m not really able to analyze why, and of course these things frequently elude understanding anyway. But it’s a good mental exercise. It’s not her turns of phrase, which are always readable and occasionally brilliant. I guess I do find myself aloof from her characters, not fully involved in them, but that’s the only thing I can put my finger on.

I feel that she would excel if she turned her hand to humorous writing, rather than injecting a thread of humor into her fantasy work. Her sarcastic word choices would really shine!

Nevertheless, I do recommend her as a good read, full of action and excellence. Some of her other works include The White Tribunal, a scorching and sometimes ghastly display of witch hunt mentalities, The Wolf of Winter, and The Gates of Twilight. Good hunting!

Critiques – Part Three – Resources

Here are some useful sites. The first ones are critique-specific, while the rest are just helpful sites that can get your writing going. Remember my bias toward fantasy and related genres; many sites will be in that category.

I’d like to remind you at this point that I really need some critiquers myself. See my post as of June 4, 2008 for details.

Please let me know if any of these are not still active! If you have any other favorite sites that are related, please post them in the comments, and I’ll add them to this list.

www.critters.org – The main Critters Workshop site. One of the most useful sites ever in the history of fantasy/sf writing. Join if you can possibly spare the time.

www.critters.org/lib.ht – Also from Critters, the best set of resources on critiquing (and other facets of writing) that I know of on the web. If you don’t go to any other resources, go to this one.

www.deepgenre.com/wordpress/damon-knight – Submit 13 lines of your short story, get a critique. What could be better? Katherine Kerr’s site.

www.nanowrimo.org – National Novel Writing Month is September. Write 50K words in a month–you can do it! Support and tips in general.

www.lowchensaustralia.com/names.htm – The presenting site is for dog names, but there are name suggestions for a lot of other things. They can be very helpful when you’re stuck for a name for your character. Vampires. Names of famous Mexicans. Dragons. Pirates. Slavic. Norwegian. Etc.

www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/errors.html#errors – These are things publishers frown on. There are a lot.

www.erotica-readers.com – Resources for readers and writers of erotica. Also has a series of links with even more useful information.

www.ralan.com – A useful and up-to-date site listing many publication markets with response times and current news, such as whether they’re accepting submissions at the moment.

www.duotrope.com – Another market site, differently set up, including agents. This one’s searchable with parameters such as genre, length, etc.

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