Monday, November 01, 2010

A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts - UPDATE

From the "Wha...?" file: Mongrel already has a page at Goodreads. Publication date is December 8. You can read about it here. (By the way, this is more a category-length novel than a novella. The book is several thousand words shy of Dreamspinner's minimum for their novel category -- hence the designation "novella.")

The cover for Fugly has made it into the ELEVENTH ROUND of voting at Elisa Rolle's Rainbow Awards Cover Art Competition. It's been up against some stiff competition, so I'm really, really proud of Christine Griffin.

Still working on Visible Friend (or Keeping Tink Alive -- a title that may or may not stick, depending on what turns the story takes).

I've been getting in some reading lately -- heaven! -- and discovering chapter by chapter what I like and don't like in terms of style. (It's amazing how stuff jumps out at me when I've had little or no time to read for an extended period. I also seem to pay closer attention when I have a print book in front of me rather than a desktop monitor.) So my reading jag hasn't just been a treat, it's been something of an education.

It really bugs me like a swarm of flies when characters continually speak the names of the people they're addressing, especially when the dialogue involves only two individuals.

"You might not want to go there, Bob."

"I can take care of myself, Dick."

"Bob, don't make me call you stupid."

"Don't make me call you stupider, Dick . . . head."

I never thought I'd be particularly bothered by quirky constructions or modes of expression--I'm not a slave to grammatical convention--but when they're used repeatedly, I am indeed bothered. This one, for example, drives me crazy. Batty. Insane. Encountering it once in a while is okay. Tolerable. Acceptable. But overuse renders it annoying. In the extreme. To say the least. (Kid you not, I'm ready to tear at my hair just thinking about it!)

I've noticed, too, that character exposition and development sometimes suffer in stories that are heavy on action sequences. I've read a couple of books in which moving about is described in meticulous detail, down to the last slapping footfall, yet the characters' motivations and psycho-emotional makeups leave me puzzled. What's this guy about? Why does he have that attitude? What exactly is the nature of these men's relationship, and how did it get to this stage? If I don't grasp the dynamic between the heroes, I don't find the story satisfying.

Sex in the midst of or right after trauma, terror, or trouble serious enough to provoke scrotum sweat also has me mystified. I appreciate resilient characters, but not the ones who can sprout wood during or immediately following one hell of a scary and/or tragic event. Leaves me feeling kind of cold.

Then there are stories that seem to start in the middle rather than at the beginning, and stories that end so abruptly, I keep wanting to turn pages that aren't there.

I've come upon some delights, too -- smartly, sharply written fiction in which the authors' creativity, language skill, intelligence, wit, and sensitivity shine through. I just wish I could find more. (Oh, for another Wicked Gentlemen. It had me in readerly rapture after the first two pages.) But I have a mile-long TBB list, so there's hope!


Tam said...

I know what you mean about the name thing, I can't think if any off hand I've noticed but it seems rather fake. You SHOULD be able to tell who's talking without even "Dick screamed" after the sentence, although I read something recently with dialog breaks which USUALLY means the speech is bouncing back and forth but it suddenly didn't make sense and going back I found the same person spoke twice in a row without indicating it, thus throwing off the back and forthness and forcing me to reread to determine who was saying what. Not good. Don't make me reread unless it's for pleasure, not to clarify confusion.

Yay Fugly cover and for keener elves at Good Reads. :-)

K. Z. Snow said...

I see what you mean, Tam. Yeah, dialogue can be touchy. The writer must make it clear who's speaking and how, but without bombarding the reader with character names and over-the-top dialogue tags.

As I said in my post, I think this kind of stuff is jumping out at me because I simply can't read as much as I'd like to. I used to work as an editor, too, so I probably read with a more critical eye. I don't intend to; it just happens.

I discovered the identity of the "elf" at Goodreads. She's a new librarian there. I thought it was very sweet of her to put up a page for Mongrel without any prompting. (And I didn't have to pay her nothin' either! *g*)

wren boudreau said...

Have you been sacrificing to the Goodreads gods again, KZ? I thought I smelled smoke.

That's great about the Fugly cover! What kind of sacrificing does it take to get the beautiful covers your books get? I think I have a mouse under the cabinets in my kitchen...

I've read a few things lately where i had to go back and re-read to clarify, and like Tam, it bugged me. I'm trying to pay more attention to what I'm reading these days to look for things that will inform my own writing. My problem is, I often get caught up in the story and forget to think about it!

Jenre said...

I posted a comment here this (my) morning and Blogger ate it and I ran out of time. Now I can't even remember what I said!

I agree with the name thing. It drives me nuts too and is so false cos no-one speaks like that in RL.

It's funny how the more I read the more I notice in terms of little irritations. I've just read a book where the author gave me the same piece of information about 5-6 times in the book. Do you know what? I GOT IT THE FIRST TIME! I'm not stupid enough to need endless reminders. Grrrrr! I hate it when authors feel the need to sledgehammer the reader.

Hooray for the cover. It's a worthy contender :).

K. Z. Snow said...

We have plenty of our own mice, Wrenboo, just scratch-scratch-scratching away in the ceiling and rustling around in the cupboards at night. Been catching them, though.

The good thing about reading while you're writing (if, that is, you're secure enough in your own voice and style not to be influenced by others') is indeed the education-through-example. Sometimes it's positive and sometimes it's negative, but enlightenment is enlightenment!

I wish I could get so caught up in a story that I didn't notice the screw-ups. The books I'm so vaguely referring to (on purpose, obviously!) did have engaging plots, but I still couldn't help noticing the irritants. As I said, I'm probably in a "sensitized" state because I haven't been reading much.

K. Z. Snow said...

Curses on Blogger, Jen! I'll bet your first response was longer and more detailed. (I know when I have to repost, I'm so exasperated I only put up a portion of what I'd originally written.)

Interesting that the more you read, the more irritants you notice. I always suspected that being a reviewer and having to read a lot can make a person cranky after a while; you're forced to swallow a lot of shit along with the sugar. :)

Chris said...

I find that I have to read some meh sorts of books or I can't properly appreciate the books that are really good...

Have you read the two Lord of the White Hell books by Ginn Hale yet, KZ? I haven't, but I picked them up last weekend. Ginn's so cute you could just squee upon meeting her.

K. Z. Snow said...

Nope, Chris, haven't read those yet. But I read the first chapter at Blind Eye and was intrigued.