Nancy: On Book Clubs, Best-Selling Fiction, and Career Advice You Might Need to Ignore

Over the past 10 or so years, I’ve tried to get on the book club train three different times. Each time, I left the group after only one meeting. That choice wasn’t because I took issue with the people (they are readers, and therefore inherently lovely😊), their passion for the books, or even the wine. It was because I, as a writer, read so differently than non-writers that I was looking for things in a book discussion that the other members wouldn’t find interesting. Ergo, I had nothing to bring to the book club party (other than the wine, which is important! but not really the point).

The real problem I and many other writers have in joining book clubs is that we’re not looking for book discussions at all. We’re looking for book dissections. Writing craft deep-dives. Story geek deconstructions.

That’s why I’m so glad I agreed to join an online book club with one of my writing tribes. We are all long-time writers, with multiple years and manuscripts-worth of experience. Most of us either are or are in training to become book coaches who work with other writers on a regular and ongoing basis. That training has given us a common language and shared tools we use to evaluate writing. Last week, we had a one-hour online video chat to discuss our first group book, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Our discussion was wonky and geeky and made my little writer heart sing with joy.

Interestingly, though, when I found myself thinking about the book and our discussion in the days that followed, it was usually in the context of current writing career advice and “truths”, how Delia Owens ignored (intentionally or otherwise) much of it, and how none of it is applicable if it isn’t relevant to you and your process. Continue reading

Michille: What Did You Read Thursday?

stack of booksI am jumping on Elizabeth’s reading bandwagon, but looking at it from several angles. I understand that writers need to read, but I often see my reading time as procrastination of my writing time. I’ve also found some new authors I’d like to read, some have been on my list for a while because I found them charming at a writers’ conference, and some because they were repeatedly recommended. Re-reading Jennifer Crusie (several of her stories) and Loretta Chase have joined the list because aspects of their writing came up that I want to go back and review (reading like a writer). I’ve also added some nonfiction to my list. Continue reading

Michaeline: Review of the new Bujold “Knife Children”!

(Note: no spoilers in the post, but there may be some in the comments. You’ve been warned.)

It’s been a bad few years for reading for me. First, I blamed it on my eyes, but now that I’ve had my reading glasses for a little over a year, I have come to realize it’s only partly about my eyes. Next, I blamed it on the internet – short, addictive bits of reading that reward almost instantly – and if they don’t, well, there’s another post or article to read. And hand-in-hand with the internet is the absolute drama of the past two years in the real world. Trump, Brexit, #MeToo – all that drama, all that conflict. Do I really need a real story when I’m sated with cat pictures on the one hand, and gutted by all the real world on the other?

It turns out, yes, a real story does hit the spot, and Lois McMaster Bujold published another e-novella in her Sharing Knife series on January 24, 2019.

 

"Knife Children" cover

A new book from Bujold! (Cover via Amazon.com)

“Knife Children” has that easy-going rhythm that is part and parcel of the Sharing Knife series. It touches on old Bujoldian themes such as taking responsibility, and the ever-present possibility of redemption. It also deals with the “one damn thing happens after another” aspect of life, and “go lightly over the rough ground”.

On the surface, “Knife Children” is Continue reading

Michaeline: New Stories from Bujold and Crusie!

A lady reading at a desk in her bedroom. She's wearing a warm robe.

It’s going to be a good year for reading! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Since Christmas, I’ve been on internet half-rations – I’ve only checked the news, the blog and some YouTube. Yesterday was my first day back, visiting my usual haunts, and boy, the stuff I missed! (Trigger warning: FOMO!)

On December 25, 2018, Lois McMaster Bujold announced a new novella on her Goodreads blog! The story, set in her Americana Wide Green World universe, features Lily and Barr. She says it will be a stand-alone, but since she’s aiming to self-publish the story in “late January”, there’s time for long-time fans to have a leisurely re-read of the four Sharing Knife novels (starting with Beguilement; link to Amazon here). Whoo-hoo!

And on January 1, 2019, Jennifer Crusie wrote on her blog, Argh Ink, “Happy 2019, everybody. I’m gonna finish a book this year.” Well, a happy new year to all of us fans, too! I’ve been following the book-in-progress on her blog from its conception, and the first act promises a lot of fun: demons, cops, murder mystery, romance and some really excellent vicarious diner food. The Nick-and-Nita book may not be out in 2019, but at least it’s almost out of Jenny’s hands – she has excellent taste, and I think the biggest barrier to more Crusie out in the wild is that she doesn’t let ‘em go until she’s reached a point of satisfaction. It’s probably for the best. We fans are voracious, and the most frequent response to a new story is “more please”, which is simply not sustainable. At any rate, in a few weeks (according to an ETA on Jan. 4), it’ll be in her editor’s hands.

What a convergence of the stars! My two favorite living writers are going to release new stories! And I know a lot of my favorite bloggers (right here on Eight Ladies Writing) are also going to release new stories in 2019! (Please comment, Ladies!) And of course, keep an eye on the Friday writing sprints here on 8LW. Our readers are welcome to play, and of course, our Eight Ladies often put up a short, sweet nugget of fictional delight. Are there any new stories that you are keeping your eye on?

It’s going to be a good year for reading, y’all! Get your reading glasses polished!

Michaeline: “Inconceivable”

William Goldman (left) and James Caan in 1976. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

“Inconceivable.”

The creator of The Princess Bride is dead. William Goldman, the writer of the 1973 novel and the screenplay of the 1987 movie, died in his sleep at age 87 Friday morning after a battle with pneumonia and colon cancer, according to the Guardian and National Public Radio (US) reports.

I came to The Princess Bride late, and I don’t like the romance – let me just get that out in front. But as a buddy movie, The Princess Bride is full of fun and adventure. Who can forget old tropes transformed into new tropes? The Dread Pirate Roberts, the Spanish swordman bent on revenge, the Gentle Giant, monsters like Rodents Of Unusual Size, the evil King and his henchmen, the wise wizard and his wife with their own deep backstory, and of course, the love interest: Buttercup. The trophy that symbolizes love – the greatest motivator of all.

“Wuv . . . Twu Wuv . . . wiw follow yoooou . . . fowevaaaah!” as Peter Cook as The Impressive Clergyman says. (YouTube: 11 seconds down memory lane.)

William Goldman was famous for great friendship stories. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was another great. He wrote the screenplay for The Great Waldo Pepper (one of my parents’ favorite movies). And he wrote the screenplay from Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives. Friendship perverted.

So, to mark his passing, let’s add a little of that buddy magic to our writing today. If you are stuck on a NaNo scene, phone a friend. If you are putting butt in the chair for your regularly scheduled WIP engagement, add a playmate to the mix, or bring a bosom companion forward.

Michaeline: Settings in Space

book cover

Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space by Kitmacher, Miller and Pealman, goes on sale on October 30, 2018 (image from Amazon)

I know at least one other Lady has set a story in outer space (Kay Keppler, Zero Gravity Outcasts), so this may be of interest. Friend of the blog, Ron Miller, is coming out with a new book on October 30 about the art of the space station. Time magazine calls Ron “one of the most prolific and celebrated space artists of our time”. His co-authors are Gary Kitmacher (one of the architectural managers for the International Space Station according to the NASA website) and Robert Pearlman (space historian and collector, according to NPR’s Planet Money, in an interesting segment about what astronauts did for life insurance – it doesn’t involve an insurance agent!).

The book, Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space, will cover both real and fictional space stations. The Amazon blurb says the work covers early 19th century ideas of what a space station would be like, so that’s fertile ground for steampunkers, and the book also goes into the future. We’ll also see how people actually live on a space station.

book cover

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach came out in 2010. (Image from Amazon)

If you are planning a space story, and would like even more quirky details, I can recommend Mary Roach’s excellent Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. In all her non-fiction, the woman asks the questions that I never knew I wanted to know. She reports on all sorts of things that leave quite a permanent impression. There’s this bit that I’ll never forget about how scientists determined how long an astronaut could wear an undershirt before it dissolved under the astronaut’s own grime and movement. Roach writes with humor and verve, and always manages to dig out some little-known study that provides the real, gritty details of whatever topic she’s writing about.

Even if you don’t want to write about people in space, it’s worthwhile to think about the setting, architecture and funny little stories that accompany your book. Monty Python’s medieval sketches wouldn’t have been quite as funny if they weren’t anchored in Terry Jones’ scholarship. (Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives is a beautiful book, and a great read, as well.)

Also, just because Halloween is coming up on Wednesday, here’s a link to a Dracula cover on Ron Miller’s website. (-: The image is gorgeous, and you just can’t help smiling at the humor.

Elizabeth: Author Squee – Judith Flanders

When my son was little we had a rule when trying new foods:  you can’t say you don’t like it until you’ve tried it three times.  That meant a number of foods that were disliked right off the bat because they were “different”, actually wound up getting a, “hey, not bad, I like it”, by the third try (mushrooms, I’m looking at you!).

While I don’t have a 3-time rule for reading, I have found that sometimes it pays to give a new book or author a second (or third) try before writing them off.

A case in point would be Dogs and Goddesses by Jennifer Crusie Lani Diane Rich, and Anne Stuart.  The first time I read it, I didn’t like it at all and may have envisioned dropping it in the wood-chipper.  In hindsight, it wasn’t that the book was bad rather that it differed from what I had been expecting.  When I read it again (for school) sometime later, I really enjoyed it, because I knew what to expect.  If I hadn’t given the book a second chance, I would have missed a good story (thank goodness it didn’t wind up in the wood-chipper). Continue reading