I had great plans to read and recharge over the holidays. That didn’t happen, because I used all my spare time to work on my Golden Heart entry. I wrote a new opening scene—it took multiple attempts before I finally found one I liked. I figured out an opening sentence that made promises about the story instead of just plunging into the action. I filled in plot holes. I checked the etymology of every significant word to make sure it was appropriate to my world. I tailored my metaphors. I wrote a new synopsis that reflected Alexis and Kierce’s relationship arc instead of wandering off into the mystery sub-plot. And then—yay!—this week, I uploaded the lot to the RWA website.
I have a lot of work left to do on this story, but I needed a breather so I decided to treat myself to the book binge I didn’t get in December.
I wanted a break from my own story but I didn’t want to immerse myself in modern language, so I decided to stay away from contemporary and futuristic romances. I chose swords-and-horses stories so that my mind would stay with the vocabulary, the clothing, the rhythm of a life before guns and electricity, without being so close to what I’m trying to write that I would be in danger of borrowing.
This week was the perfect time to read Lois McMaster Bujold’s Chalion fantasy books – The Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls, and The Hallowed Hunt. I hesitate to talk about LMB here, because we have diehard Bujold aficionadi like Michaeline and Scott who do the job so much better. Suffice it to say that I’d read and enjoyed the three recent Penric novellas (see here for more about Penric and the Shaman, and here for Penric’s Mission) and wanted to know more about the World of the Five Gods. I wasn’t disappointed. The world-building is dizzyingly good, and the writing is intelligent, restrained, clever, funny and sympathetic. I never know where LMB’s going next with the story, but I never feel cross about being in the dark; it always makes perfect sense when I get there. Each story builds inexorably toward a grand confrontation and a satisfying victory with enough romance to content my heart. I couldn’t write fanfic for these books, let alone borrow from them, but I can admire and be inspired by them.
I wanted some romantic fantasy in my readathon, so I mixed up the Bujold with a Grace Draven. I love all her books, especially Radiance. My only complaint is that I wish she’d hurry up and write more 😉 . This week I re-read Master of Crows. Grace Draven’s writing is lyrical and I love the emotional power she brings to her stories. I also love her heroines, who are understated, subtle, smart, strong and brave. Her world of gods and mages is brilliantly drawn, easy to visualize, and never jarring to read. Her words slip into my brain like babel fish. I’d love to be able to do that.
I also read and enjoyed a long short story/short novella by Stephanie Burgis called The Art of Deception, after I read a post about it on Ilona Andrews’ blog (see here for original post). Ilona described it as almost Princess Bride-ish and I can’t do better than that. And a quick aside to Jennifer O’Brien—Jennifer, if you’re reading this post, I think The Art of Deception would be right up your street.
Last but not least, I finally got around to watching Dragon (Wu Xia), the martial arts epic starring Donnie Yen. Fantastic fighting, of course, but also gorgeous rural scenery, surprisingly sympathetic characters and an emotionally powerful plot that was more than just a device for the fight scenes. I especially loved the Sherlock Holmes-y detective. Not recommended for the squeamish, but filled me with good energy.
Today I might change it up with a little historical romance, unless I get any great suggestions in the comments – recommendations would be greatly welcomed.
So—that’s my week of treats. What gave you a creative boost this week?