Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wherein I Muse about Writing

Despite going back to work last week, I have managed to continue working on the current WiP, which is satisfying. Lately writing has been functioning as my escape. It's not always like that--I'm far more likely to retreat into the Sims 3, but I've had to set that aside because the game has so outpaced my poor computer's abilities that without an upgrade the game is unplayable. Which means I have to resort to writing to get away from reality--and lately reality has been giving me reason to want to get away (see my recent entries in my family blog if you want details about that).

I've set aside the decopunk serial for the moment because I wrote myself into a corner with it and I decided I need distance before tackling it again. Instead I've written about 40K words of the third novel in the Veronica Barry series. I'm still wrestling with the title. Something to do with clouds. I have a whole elemental symbolism thing going--first water, then fire, now air. Next will have something to do with earth. Maybe the fifth will have to do with spirit. Or maybe I'll switch to feng shui elements and have metal and wood. Or some combination.

So far, the novel is moving along nicely, and I've managed to bring together several elements that I'm enthusiastic about, so that's cool. My only regret is that I didn't write The River and the Roses in first person. Ever since working on the decopunk serial, which was in first person, I've decided I really prefer it. However, River, Fire and Veronica in Paris are all third person, so it doesn't make sense for this book to suddenly switch to first. Oh well!

Veronica is, by now, like an old friend, and I can see returning to her over and over to tell more stories about her. I have a lot of other plot bunnies bouncing around in my head. I really want to write a romance, for one. Maybe an Edwardian romance, since I just love Jane Austen. Plus, I sometimes get tired of the violence that necessarily comes with writing a Veronica book (other times I'm in the mood to write horror and it really works--lately that hasn't been the case, though, because I really feel like there's too much violence all around us these days). So I figure a romance would be a good genre to choose if I want to avoid writing violence.

Romance is a challenge for me. I tend to be very cynical about romance in real life, and to find a lot of fictional romances unoriginal. Then again, I almost always enjoy romantic comedies, so I suppose that's the exception. I'm not sure I have the skill to write any kind of comedy, though. I can be funny, but it's sort of this out-of-nowhere thing that happens sometimes, not something I can sustain. So I'm really not sure I could actually manage to write a romance. But it's something I'd like to try one of these days.

I've always loved soap operas, and I've often thought it would be fun to write a series of novels, or maybe even another serialized novel, that emulates soap operas. I'm not sure how that would look, though. I mean, to really emulate soap operas, you have to be willing to go the whole hog. Baby switches, returns-from-the-dead, improbable-relative-revelations, etc. Would that work in written form? Maybe I'll give that a try one of these days. It would probably work best slightly tongue-in-cheek, but I wouldn't want to go too over the top with silliness, because then it wouldn't really be sustainable, would it?

What genres have you thought about trying out? Have you jumped in and tried one that was new to you? How did it go?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Blogging Stats

So it seems this blog is modestly popular with folks in Russia. More popular than with folks in the U.S. or U.K., according to my blogger stats. And this isn't just a random blip, I've consistently had more readers from Russia than anywhere else (sometimes twice as many Russian readers as American, the runner up) for the last three months. I don't know why this is, but I'm not complaining. I just wish Amazon sold my books in Russia. If you all like my blog, you'd enjoy my books, I think!

Anyway, Здравствуйте!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Review of Naamah's Blessing by Jacqueline Carey

I had hoped to be able to provide a little interview to go with this review. Alas, Ms. Carey is working towards a publishing deadline and declined my request for the interview. Oh well! Here's the review, in any case.

Naamah's Blessing, by Jacqueline Carey, is the third book in the Naamah trilogy and the last of the Kushiel's Legacy novels. For me, this latter fact is very hard to accept. Like many, many readers, I have loved Terre D'Ange and the elegant prose of the novels Carey has set there, waiting anxiously for the next installment.

The Naamah trilogy takes place several generations after Phedre and Imriel's stories, and this, at first, discouraged me. I loved them both so much! But I came to love Moirin as well, the "jade-eyed witch" who narrates the Naamah novels. Moirin, half-D'Angeline, half-Maghuin Dhonn, travels the world following the spark of her soul, and getting into a lot of trouble as she does. In Naamah's Blessing, Moirin finds that despite her many adventures, her greatest challenge lies ahead of her, and she must travel to the equivalent of the Aztec empire. Carey soon connects the challenges of this new setting to mistakes Moirin made in the first novel, Naamah's Kiss, pleasingly closing the circle of the plot.

I have always found that Carey's Terre D'Ange novels tap into my personal tastes--often right at a point in my life when I've been thinking about just the sorts of things her stories happen to address (for instance, I was seriously considering adopting a child at about the time I picked up Kushiel's Avatar). The Naamah trilogy was no exception. That said, I did pick up on a sense of fatigue in Naamah's Blessing. Perhaps it was because I knew it was the last one--perhaps had I not known that, I wouldn't have gotten that sense at all. However, Moirin herself has had enough of adventures by the time she reaches the Terra Nova, and she seems to really only want one thing: to settle into a monogamous marriage with Bao, so they can start having plump babies. I can't fault her for that; in my experience, a loving marriage and a plump baby are the keys to heaven on earth. Still, I think the novel lacked drive; it was certainly compelling, and a good end to the series, but it was no Kushiel's Dart.

I do have to say that I admire Carey's handling of the Aztecs and Incas. Some reviewers on Amazon complain that the portrayals were too flat or stereotypical--I didn't think so. Sure, I would have loved more description, for the novel to delve even more deeply into their culture. Perhaps this is one was in which it communicated fatigue. However, thinking back to the discussion some months ago on this blog about orientalism, I have to say that Carey sidestepped that pitfall very gracefully. [Spoilers ahead.] The characters travel to a strange, intimidating place, but it is not the Aztecs or the Incas who are sinister and evil. It is a D'Angeline, wielding power he attained through a demon Carey created and he accessed while still in Terre D'Ange. Yes, his weapons are the fearsome fire ants of the Amazon, but it is his evil that drives them. The Aztec and Inca characters themselves are multidimensional, believable, and range from honorable and brave to treacherous and villainous. This confirms my earlier realization about writing adventure stories: the big bad needs to be from off-world or a complete creation of the author's, in order to avoid any taint of exoticization and the like. This was quite effectively handled in Naamah's Blessing.

I absolutely recommend this novel, but if you haven't read Kushiel's Dart, start there. And give it about 330 pages before you make up your mind--there's a pretty sweet plot point that really throws the reader for a loop--one I very much enjoyed.