Tuesday, May 31, 2011

You Know You Write Historical Fiction When...

  1. You find yourself using "anon" in everyday conversation.*
  2. You have words like "bumroll" and "farthingale" added to your spell-check's dictionary.*
  3. You actually own a bumroll or farthingale.*
  4. You programed auto-correct to change all "qe" to "Queen Elizabeth." *
  5. You cannot stand perfectly good period movies because of the fabric choices.
  6. You have become more lax about food sitting out because, hey, five hundred years ago there was no refrigeration.
  7. You find yourself inserting interesting historical facts that have nothing to do with your story and feel like you are doing your readers a disservice when you delete the unrelated history lesson later.
  8. You cannot stand a perfectly good historical romance because of the fabric choices (and, in a disappointed rage, may or may not have written a strongly worded letter to the author about his/her responsibility to the reader to portray their era with accuracy).
  9. You understand why many authors do not touch on anything to do with hygiene.
  10. You think nothing is wrong with having a beer at breakfast.


Just in case you wondered what a bumroll was.
Feel free to expand upon this list.

Sidenote: This post could also be titled, "You Know You Take Renaissance Faire Too Seriously When..."

* I write Elizabethan historical romance. Please feel free to insert whatever era appropriate terminology to make this relevant to your writing.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Gray Area

Real people are never black or white, they vary in shades of gray. No one is perfectly good or perfectly evil.

In the world I create, my characters do not have much of a gray area. This is a problem. The characters intended to be likable are likable. The villains are dastardly. As much as I try not to be archetypal, I do type cast and can't seem to help myself. Certain characteristics lend themselves to certain types of people. At face value, they are either good or bad.

But not in real life. In real life the compulsive liar that always has to one up every thing you say also works in the nursery at AIDS outreach events. The Munchhausen syndrome old man who demands the spotlight always be on his ailments or suffering regardless of the situation is a Vietnam vet who lost his leg protecting a peasant girl from being attacked by one of his own platoon. The alcoholic young mother drinks to drown out her memories of abuse is a victim as much as she is an irresponsible abuser herself.  Real life is full of gray areas.

While I do feel my main characters do fall into the gray spectrum, the peripheral characters tend toward black and white. They are either my good guys or bad guys and never the twain shall meet. Until now.

I have a bad guy from the previous book who I really just love writing. In the previous book he was an attempted rapist and ready to sacrifice someone else's life in order to save his reputation.  In this book he's still the unforgiven brat prince, but the jolly side of him is more integral to the story. He, accidentally, solves everyone's problems - which is something that vexes him deeply since their problems were so much fun to watch playing out.  He's almost a good guy, but he's so bad.  Could it be that I wrote a gray character?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Her shoes, which were worn on her feet for both protection and style, had a polka dot design. Polka dots are a selection of dots which have a different color from the background.

This post is not actually about shoes. But I do love the shoes in the pic. Alternative titles for this post included:
  • Thank You, Captain Obvious
  • For the Stupid People
  • Redundancies and Redundancies
Now, for the actual post --

You wear these on your feet, in case you didn't know.
Whenever I read a book where the author recaps what just happened, I imagine an asterisk at the start of that section with a footnote indicating that part is for the stupid people.  This is more prevalent in sequels where they try to summarize the previous books just in case a reader decided to start on book three.  I hate the redundancies.

And yet my writing is full of redundancies and explanations of things that could easily be understood in context. As I go through edits, trying to "tighten up" my story, I am increasingly embarrassed that I made the mistakes in the first place.

The editor requested I cut my word count significantly and I was initially worried that I would be losing content.  Nope. I'm just losing the stuff that insulted the reader's intelligence. Seriously

When you edit, have you ever been embarrassed by yourself?



Friday, May 20, 2011

Dear Blog

Dear Blog,

I am sorry I have been neglecting you. I used to check you daily, read my comments, and check the blogs of everyone who left comments. I used to look at the blogs I followed and comment regularly. I used to write and schedule posts with pride, always appreciating that I had you as a forum for sharing my thoughts and interacting with other writers.

I know I let you down even though you are too kind to say so.  I will not make excuses or try to explain myself, I will simply apologize and promise to do better in the future.  In fact, I will schedule a post right now!

Thank you for being there for me.

Yours,
Erin Spock

Friday, May 13, 2011

Good Enough = Mediocrity


I don’t rant often, so please allow me this self indulgence.

As a teacher I am accountable to my students, my student’s parents, my administrator, my fellow teachers, and the State of California. There are standards I am expected to meet and if I fail there is more at stake than simply my job. People count on me to do my job and do it well. That said, no one has higher standards for my performance than I do. My expectations for myself exceed everything else. When I fall short, I am disappointed. When I am successful I am proud.

When I am published I will be accountable to my readers, my publisher, my editor, my agent, etc… but the same personal high expectations will apply. Even as an unpublished author I expect my work to be the best it can be.

I mention this because I do not see this same personal accountability in the current *generation. Most of them have a ‘good enough’ attitude. There is no pride of accomplishment. If they are not successful, it is always someone else’s fault. There is no drive to become better. No need for effort.

Is this the next generation of artists? No, it can’t be. An artist has vision and is willing to work toward that vision. Young adults who feel entitled to handouts do not know what it means to apply themselves in order to accomplish something. I have written two books and am finishing a third; even though they are not published, I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment about them. The current generation would consider me a failure because they only value the grade, the paycheck, the carrot, the external recognition. Without the drive to achieve or the ability to find validation from within, there cannot be real creativity or true quality.

Thank you for listening.  I welcome any thoughts or responses. I hope that someone has a different opinion – it will give me a sense of hope.

*I am making a generalization. This does not apply to any specific person, nor does it encompass all members of this generation.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Characters Wanted

She must be more than just a chambermaid.
My critique partner once asked me to choose my favorite books and figure out what about them drew me. What did the author do that made it a great book?  It has been hard for me to pinpoint any one thing. I love the setting, the story, the passion... I even the love costuming.  In short, I love everything.  How does that help me determine my own style? It doesn't.  I needed to pinpoint something that made my favorite books, the ones I can read over an over again, a notch above the rest.

I finally started reading When Beauty Tamed the Beast.  It has been on my shelf for over a month and I just have not had time.  Luckily (or unluckily) the need for dental work gave me some quiet reading time and I am loving this book.  This is not a surprise as I have loved every Eloisa James book I have read.  What is significant about this book is that it helped me realize what it is that draws me in to her stories.

The characters.

I immediately get a sense of who all the players are.  I mean ALL the players.  No character is too minor to be developed. I remember their names long after the book is finished.  I want to know what happens next.  They are each distinctive, very real and yet larger than life.  This is what I expect when I pick up an Eloisa James novel, and she has yet to let me down.

This holds true for the movies and TV shows I enjoy -- they have characters that are so much more than an archetype.  The USA network promotes their shows as being character driven and, in many cases, this is true.  The Closer would be just another cop show without each distinctive member of the Major Crimes team. 

Am I making all of my characters real? Distinctive? Memorable? Obviously that is something that is important to me. I look for it in other books, so I should apply it in my own work. But I think I cut corners. The periphery characters are just that, fuzzy and off to the side.  They exist because I will them to and serve a function, but my focus is on my main and supporting cast.  Although this realization means extra work on my part, I do not begrudge it if it makes my story higher quality.

What, specifically, about your favorite books make them stand above the rest?  Do you look for that in your own writing?



Saturday, May 7, 2011

Born This Way

I am not a big Lady Gaga fan, but there are songs of hers I enjoy. I find her interesting; sometimes I enjoy her avant garde-ness and sometimes I don't.  Either way, she does effect an emotional response in me and that is the nature of art.

I am a big fan of Glee.  A recent episode dealt with self love and, more significantly, self loathing. In the final song all the students wore t-shirts with words that they had used to negatively define them. The idea was to take what you hate about yourself and embrace that it is what makes you unique.  They sang the Lady Gaga song "Born This Way." Although it does seem to address homosexuality specifically, it is a great message about just being who you are, whoever or whatever that is.

I wondered what would be on my t-shirt.  I wear glasses, but that doesn't bother me. I have a prominent nose, and while it bothered me as a child, I don't dislike it now.  I am quirky, eccentric, sometimes inappropriate, loud, and a little twitchy. Of course I could be thinner, prettier, richer, etc... but do these things define me?

Finally I realized my biggest frustration with myself.  Ladies and gentlemen, my t-shirt of shame that I need to embrace is:

 What's on your t-shirt?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Once More Into the Breach

The A-Z blogfest really worked a number on my goove.

I usually check my blog, write and schedule a couple to post, respond to comments, and check the blogs I follow before I get settled in to a writing mode.  It can take a while, but it keeps me connected and allows my train of thought to settle on more writerly thoughts.

With the A-Z blogfest I wrote twenty-four posts and scheduled them before the month of April began. The only posts I wrote during the month were M and Q.  Coupled with April's ridiculously busy schedule, this meant I spent a very minimal time in the blogosphere. I was terrible of checking the other A-Z posts and did not even follow up with my own comments until after I had completed all 26 letters.

While this was not good in the world of blogging, it was even more detrimental toward my current projects. I have hardly written anything for a month. A month! I had hoped to finish Courtly Abandon by the end of the school year (6/10) and that day is rapidly approaching. So, with this blog post I hope to reestablish my mojo and jump back into the fray. I will post this shortly, then check other blogs, then (duh-duh-duhhHH!) write.  Tonight I will write a good thousand words of quality story. I will write forward without going back to add Jane's father into chapter five or change Baron Whosit's name.  I will press on and be productive.  It will be wonderful.

That said, now I have to actually do it.  So, without further ado, here I go.

Wish me luck. :)
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