Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book reviews?

Elen Grey and I were discussing book reviews last week. Is it a good idea for one writer to review another? Given how subjective the entire process is, it's a tough question to answer. I tend to like reviews - by people who think like I do. It takes some experimenting to figure that out.

I read a book recently that entertained me to the end. I adored the characters. The drama was real and intense. Yet one character had the ability to shut the story down halfway through the book - and the author never addressed it. I won't review the book because it's a big glaring mistake It didn't bother me until the day after I'd finished the book. I waited for the author to pull that trick out of the hat at the end of the book but the magician used other magic. Excellent, satisfying magic that dazzled and delighted me.

There are some people who would have thrown that book against the wall. The omission would have overshadowed everything else.

I couldn't review the book without mentioning that problem. If I mention it, the reader's enjoyment is diminished as they search for something that might not have bothered them in the first place.

Would it bother you? Does the storytelling supercede the plot?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lazy Sunday

I'm sitting at the dining room table with two dogs at my feet - Ky and his Golden friend, Gracie Allen. My friends are out for brunch and I've just had a delicious bowl of bean barley soup. The sun is shining. The air is brisk. Adele is serenading me about daydreams. The laptop is opened on a word document and the wip in question is waiting to be input.

It's a beautiful, relaxing Sunday. I'll take advantage of the peace to do some revisions before the conversations about good writing, marketing, the industry and life fill the rest of the weekend with their intelligence and enthusiasm.

It's odd to be both stimulated and serene simultaneously but I'm enjoying it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


I despise confrontation. It makes me incredibly uncomfortable and the anxiety makes me forget all of my good points. Rarely do two people get into those situations prepared to listen to what the other person is saying. It makes me crazy because I do listen. I do consider the other person's position. Partly because I grew up behaving like Switzerland, always neutral. I didn't pick sides in debates. Don't get me wrong, I had my own opinions. In fact, my dad and I would get into yelling matches about a variety of subjects. I lost all perspective when he opened his mouth.

It's that very dichotomy that gives depth to my writing. Unless I'm writing first person, there's always more than one perspective to every scene. I may not write from both points-of-view but I definitely need to know and feel what each character believes to be true. The more passionate they are, the more committed the arguments and the decreased possibility they are listening to each other.

The same is true for three dimensional human beings who live and breathe with contradictions. There are more sides to a story than you can ever possibly imagine. There are triggers and flashbacks, misunderstandings and focus issues. Sometimes there are health considerations as well. No matter what you believe otherwise, unless you authored all of the players (and sometimes not even then) you have little idea all that is at play in any given scene.

I listen to my dad now, even when he says something I find abhorrent. His life experience is so different from mine. On a couple of subjects he used to believe exactly what I do. Then he lived inside a situation that showed him three different points-of-view. How all the players handled things changed his belief system. I'm being deliberately vague. It's a volatile political debate within these four walls, never mind out in the rest of the world. My point is more about how we shape our views than the specific detail of that view. I still don't agree with him but we don't fight about it anymore. I understand his point-of-view, and respect it.

I imagine all of that comes across in my writing. I take characters who are polar opposites, throw them into situations and circumstances in which they rely on each other in order to survive so that in the end they have a better understanding of each other. I don't know that they change their basic differences so much as they focus on their commonalities.

Sunday, February 05, 2012


I try not to swear. First and foremost, I have a parrot that repeats most everything we say. Someone jokingly said to him, "Come here big boy," once and it's now one of his favourite expressions. The second reason I try not to curse is that swearing shows a decided lack of imagination. Or a limited vocabulary which is horrifying to a writer.

So the other night when my phone rang at 1:30 in the morning, my first thought after concern for family was relieved by caller ID was "inconsiderate assholes". The caller was a 20-something male looking for a family member who was sleeping. Some verbal abuse followed my refusal to wake them. I was quiet and polite when I took them to task for calling so late and being rude. Then I hung up.

For the next half hour, I stewed and cursed them out. Lowlife, piece-of-shit, pond scum. But pond scum is superficial and can be skimmed off the top of the water. I usually toss it into the garden to become fertilizer. That didn't seem vile enough for my opinion of the caller (whose late night call merely underscored my already bad impression of his character) I also didn't like that I'd been reduced to cursing in the dark. Scum of the earth can't be scraped off, it's internal and runs deep. Lowlife, piece-of-shit, scum of earth doesn't have the same rhythm. I played around with it, substituted lying for piece-of-shit, which made me happier about losing the swear word. Too many syllables.

It amused me greatly that my bad mood was overwritten by word play. Two AM and I'm fighting the good fight. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword. Just as I decided that lowlife, lying scum-of-the-earth packed a nice punch even with the extra syllable, the phone rang. The little shit miscreant had called again. Other than trying out my expanded vocabulary, I didn't see any point in picking up the phone. So I didn't.

Instead I thought of new descriptions:

rascal (too mild)

I could have spent hours adding to the list but that wasn't bad for a sleep-deprived middle of the night instant thesaurus. Feel free to use any of the afore-mentioned titles. I only hope you don't need them at the same God-awful hour I did.