Archive | October, 2011

WHO Wrote Shakespeare?

28 Oct

There’s a new movie coming out called Anonymous which will explain to all of us how Shakespeare’s plays were really written by Edward De Vere. Come on, guys. Edward De Vere was cute as a button and he could write passable sonnets, and — wait for it — he did know Shakespeare. But that basically is all the evidence there is. Everything else is willful misreadings of things in the plays to find secret clues where De Vere is supposedly announcing his authorship. The Da Vinci Code for theatre buffs.

But why stop there? I’ve decided to write up a theory that the plays of Christopher Marlowe were written by Truman Capote. And who says Moby-Dick wasn’t written by Ernest Hemingway? And Zelda FitzGerald must have written the novels of Jane Austen during her lucid periods. She wrote Wuthering Heights during her non-lucid periods.

Anybody else want to play? Who really wrote what?

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Maybe the Past Has a Future

21 Oct

I write mostly light paranormal these days. Which is fine. But what I like most is writing historical fiction. For which there is, unfortunately, no market in YA right now. The editors are persuaded, and they may well be right, that today’s kids are not interested in stories about the past. At least not enough to buy them in large quantities such as publishers love to sell.

But this is only a fashion, and fashions change. All that it will take is for one historical novel to become popular, and the new trend will be forward to the past.

Which is why I’m hopeful about online publishing. The economics of the new world of electrobooks make the risk of publishing stories set in the past viable again, and I am going to be testing them. I have a completed story about the Spanish-American War, another about a cross-country trip by car before there were roads (Which is also the old-time movie story) and a pirate yarn about the illegitimate children of Mary Read and Anne Bonney sitting unfinished on my computer. No one wants them. Which is to say, no one in New York wants them. But historical does well in adult and children’s writing, and who knows? One of my books may be the one to make the same true in YA. Anyway, it’s worth a shot.

How to Halloween?

13 Oct

Halloween is heaving into view, and this year the season feel stronger than usual. The shadows are blacker, the sunlight is a little more orange. It’s got me thinking about how to celebrate it.
Usually, I stay home and pass out candy to the kids. Tis can be great fun, but you have to be careful. Pretending to be clueless:”Oh, you brought me candy and you don’t even know me. How wonderful is that?” works with kids who’ve been around for a few years, but you can’t do it with the very young ones who don’t even know what they’re supposed to say yet: “PLEASE say trick or treat so I can give you some candy, will you?”
Fine. But this year I want to do something different. So the floor is open to suggestions. How do you like to spend Halloween?

Brave New World For Writers

11 Oct

I saw my agent yesterday. She told me that my editor at Harlequin Teen is very pleased with the number of online reviews, 60+ and counting, that The Juliet Spell has received. That is, she is very pleased with the level of response that my book has stimulated from a review source that didn’t exist a few years ago.
Sixty reviews. Ya novels used to get about four if they were lucky, all in professional journals for librarians. Then, perhaps, a passing mention in a newspaper column or two. That’s still the case, but now there is a whole universe of specialized reading interests orbiting around genre-specific blogs, and publishers have begun to realize that this is a good way to get the word out about their books.

But so much is going on in publishing as a direct result of the online revolution that the new relationship with the blogoverse seems relatively minor. The standard pocket-sized paperback is being replaced by the download. Kindles make it possible to carry a library around with you, and some of the available titles are amazing. Things that you would have to have access to a university library to read once can be had for free with a few taps of the keys. Everything is changing, and traditional publishers are confused and scared.
Or maybe it’s just the really big ones who are staggering like brontosauruses going down for the count.Indy publishing seems, from what I can tell, to be perking right along. In fact, as the big ones panic, rejecting titles they would have accepted two years ago, and dropping advances to a quarter to an eighth of what they were, the stand-alone get-it-done knows-her-business-and-her-market publisher looks better and better.
But the real new frontier is electronic publishing. The possibilities here are amazing. Self-publishing’s been around at least since William Blake, but now it’s coming roaring back, and the markets for it are emerging rapidly. There’s also going to be a new kind of on-line-only publisher, offering higher royalties on lower-priced items, a situation that benefits everybody except big publishers and lumberjacks.
For readers and writers, things are confusing, but they’re looking good.

Writing Environments

6 Oct

That is to say, the environment or environments in which we do our writing.

I was writing to a friend a couple of days ago about the early onset of the rainy season here (we hope it is the early onset of a season and not just a flash in the pan before a winter drought.) She said wether like this, i.e., rain, made her feel more driven to write. Given how much this young woman seems to turn out already, any increase must cut seriously in to her sleep, but she sounded happy, the way writers always sound when writing is going well.

It made me think of a discussion my listserve got in to some years ago in which we talked about the environments we created around ourselves to make writing easier/more pleasant/possible. There were a lot of surprises. There was a Navy chaplain who had a room done up Indiana Jones style, and a famous writer who worked in a purple room. A lot of us wrote to music, which I find almost impossible.

Christopher Fry, the English playwright, was perhaps the most environmentally sensitive writer. wrote a quartet of plays, each of which was supposed to be emotionally tied to one of the seasons, and is supposed to have written outside whenever he could. Hence, The Lady’s Not For Burning. I wonder how he managed to write the winter play, though, given what English winters can be like.

For myself, I seem to need three things: a computer, a flat surface, and quiet. I have a room to myself for writing now, but if we have to move, I can shoe horn into a corner somewhere and carry on, which is a comforting thing to know. I wrote two good books at a small desk in the corner of the guest/family/Douglas room in our last place, and was very happy there. My neighbor raised beautiful flowers that grew up over the fence and smiled at me. I had all that color without any of the work. Lovely.

But the best advice I ever read on writing environments was, “Don’t have one.” This came from a Jack Woodford book published back in the 1930’s. Jack Woodford was a pretty successful hack who turned out short stories, novels, and screenplays. His take on the subject was, the more sensitive you are to your surroundings when you’re writing, the less able you’ll be to write when you need to. He had a point. Lope de Vega, the famous Spanish playwright who was a contemporary of Shakespeare, claimed to have written over 1100 plays in his long life, and the claim is probably true because we have almost 750 of them. He trained himself to be able to write anywhere, even inside a lurching coach. How did he manage that with a quill pen and some ink? I don’t know, but he did it.

Maybe the great principle here is to be aware that environment is important, and depending on your circumstances, either discover exactly what you need to get the job done, confident that you’ll always be likely to have it, or to learn to write in a 16th century stagecoach with a quill pen and still get your word count done for the day. Because at the end of the day, that’s the thing that matters most.

Fall Writing Flash Mob

4 Oct

It rained last night, the first of the season. For some reason, maybe the inherent introversion of a gray sky, it seems to call for a literary response. So over on Twitter I’ve suggested that we offer a worst first sentence for a non-existent novel. Multiple entries are fine. My first, in case it helps you to head over that way: “No one could say precisely why Yancey Wilmerding left her husband, Don and ran off with a trained seal, yet it was so.”

American literature is waiting.

When In Doubt, Make ‘Em Hurt

1 Oct

There is one sure-fire way to make your stories more interesting: Hurt your characters. They more they hurt, the more involved we are likely to be.
“But wait,” I hear someone saying. “I write comedy.”
Know what the difference between comedy and tragedy is? In tragedy, you hurt your characters. In comedy, you hurt them, then laugh at them.
Pain. It’s the only thing Hamlet has in common with The Three Stooges. And it works for both.
When you’re trying to think your way into or through a story, think about what painful things could happen to your characters. What happens to them, and how they respond to it, define both the tale and the character. It doesn’t matter if it’s a charming new middle grade novel like Mo Wren, Lost and Found by Patricia Springstubb, or The Night of the Iguana by Tennessee Williams, (BTW, I recommend studying Williams for superlative examples of what I’m talking about.)
We know who the characters are by what pain they’re feeling, why they’re feeling it, and how they respond to it.
So, be excellent to each other — and hurt your characters.