So I’ve been stripping down the blog to put it back up cleaner and meaner in organization, and it’s coming along nicely. And when Krissie was here, we spent time stripping down the house, and she took a lot of stuff back with her. And then it got really hot here and Mona was looking awful so I stripped her down, too. I will not be getting my grooming license any time soon, but she seems to have survived to bark at squirrels and snarf cookies, so I consider her a success.
How did you find basic happiness this week?
It’s Audiobook Month. Here’s a confession: I can’t stand to be read to, so I’ve never heard any of my books on audio. I have a feeling I might be missing out, though, if there are some books that are actually better in audio than in print. Any opinions out there?
I’ve been reading new romances, trying to figure out what makes a good one for me (not trying to establish a baseline for “good romance” since that depends entirely on the reader). The thing I keep coming back to is that although I love romance novels, some of them make me wince and think, Oh my god, that’s trite. And yet I keep reading anyway. (And some I throw against the metaphorical wall, but forget those.) One trope that fascinates me is the “we’re pretending to be in love/engaged/married” plot, which is really the contemporary version of the Marriage of Convenience. That plot always hooks me even though I know it’s a cliche, even though I know it’s ridiculous, even though I know that never happens in real life, it still gets me every time. I tried writing it once when I was writing category romance, and it was fun but I kept banging up against “this would never happen” so I’ve never tried it again, although I’m coming damn close with Nick’s proposal to Nita in order to give her his money. Since they don’t get married during the book, I think I’ve dodged that bullet, but they do move in together since somebody is trying to kill her, so I’m firmly in the “Can he protect her?” trope, which is a plot I actively hate (she’s not a victim, damn it), but it does get them in the same apartment and eventually in the same bed, so oh just hell it’s a Marriage of Convenience plot. Well, I do like that one, I’m just kind of ashamed of it. Sigh. Cowgirl up, Jenny. Own your guilty pleasures.
What did you read this week?
So you may have noticed that most of the blog disappeared. It’s actually still here, it’s just all in draft form now. There was so much miscellaneous stuff on here, much of it interesting-in-the-moment and then not so much, and all of it needing organized and tagged and linked. So I put it all back into draft form with the idea of slowly cleaning it up and putting only some of it back. A cleaner, better organized archive, if you will. If there’s anything you particularly want. to see reinstated, let me know, but since I highly doubt anybody spends much time reading blog posts from 2005, I’m assuming most of you don’t care.
So how did you work this week?
We haven’t been hacked, but it’s going to be weird for a day or two. Or weirder than usual anyway,.
Brenda Margriet’s Gateway Crescent, Book Two in the Bendixon Sisters Series, is available for only 99 cents! The ebook goes live June 26, so preorder now . . .
Jo Bendixon loves to sing, enjoys working in a coffee shop, and is secretly teaching herself to code. If only she could find a way to combine her varied interests into a career her sisters would approve.
Luke Donwell’s Catholic faith is the bedrock of his life. For as long as he can remember, he’s contemplated a vocation to the priesthood. Now it’s time to make a final decision about taking his vows.
When Jo and Luke end up working together, neither of them is prepared for the heat blossoming between them. Luke begins to doubt his calling, but Jo encourages him to continue seeking the truth. Her heart will break when he leaves her, but how can a girl compete with God?
I’ve been reading a lot of P. D. James’ later books, the ones I haven’t read because I’d stopped reading her years ago. She’s an elegant writer and a good plotter, but she is strangely devoid of humor. I’m not looking for comic mysteries, just for a writer with wit. Ngaio Marsh comes to mind, as does Allingham and Gilbert and Hill. The British are aces at dry wit that doesn’t ever become outright comedy (well, they’re good. at comedy, too; look at Wodehouse, Pratchett, and Monty Python), but somehow James just doesn’t have it. This may also be why I could never connect with Moby Dick. (Yes, I know Melville was American, but still not a laff riot unless you think Ahab got what he deserved, which I do.. . . where was I?). Anyway, I need wit in my writers, even the grim ones (like Stephen King, who is brilliant but who I cannot read more than once because nightmares. So I went back to Allingham and The Fear Sign/Sweet Danger and there was Albert and Amanda snarking at each other as they defeated Evil and I thought, “Oh, there we go.” Also James is terrible at romance, which isn’t a deal breaker since she writes mysteries, but her hero can’t bring himself to tell the woman he loves that he loves her (and since there is nothing on the page to tell you why except she’s extraordinarily beautiful you do wonder why) so he hands her a letter and then watches from a distance while she reads it. And she’s thrilled, although as declarations of love go, it’s mostly about him. I give up. I mean Albert was ten thumbs with Amanda, too, but I know why they’re together and that they love each other.
What good book did you read this week?
I have been writing for a long time, started self-publishing in 2012 . . . [G]iven that I have not yet found an audience, is it likely to kill me that all my stuff is not in the same style? . . . I’ve got romance novellas, romance-adjacent contemporary novels, historical novels. My published contemporary novels are in three (so far) different styles. Two are alternating-first-person POV. One is 3rd/omniscient. One is straight-up 1st person. . .
First, those things are not style. Style is the way you sound on the page, your word choices and rhythms and world views, and chances are great that your style stays the same no matter what you write. I write ghost stories, romantic comedies, caper romances, demons, etc. but they’re all in my style; they all sound like Crusies.
What you’re talking about is genre (romance, adventure, etc.).
You mentioned you needed to focus more on the Nita and Nick romance plot and less on the Cthulhu plot. Could you expand a little on how you do that? What makes the romance the main plot? My Cthulhu plots tend to take over.
The things that make the romance the main plot are that the major events and turning points are about the romance, the theme is tied to the romance, and the climax is about the romance. Okay, that sounds obvious, so let’s look at this using Nita as the example because ARGH that’s all I think about these days.
Here are the turning point events:
I know you’ve said that every writer has their own process and they must discover what works for them. Nonetheless, in your discussions of the craft of writing, you often speak of guidelines for writing or, at least, for the finished product. For example you speak of things to avoid, such as prologues or flashbacks. Have you encountered any occasions where the writer completely breaks the rules or ignores the guidelines that you’ve established (at least for yourself), and what shouldn’t work, works brilliantly?
All the time. That’s why I slap the “many roads to Oz” disclaimer on everything I teach.