Kay: Altered Books, Altered State of Mind

Most of us who come to this site are readers. We get a lot from books, starting with pleasure and comfort and ranging to education and creative stimulation.

I recently went with an artist friend to a juried exhibit of altered books. The artists had taken books as a starting point and cut them apart! Glued them down! Stitched them up! They created a whole different set of artistic variables with the texts and covers to view the book elements in new ways, and I think, to investigate reading and the value of books.

I loved some of the pieces. One of my favorites was a wholly new creation—a wooden, hinged “book cover” encasing pages showing a series of graphics all done in the same color scheme, of a figure leaping a mountain in joy. There was a tree made with the fanned, sculpted pages of a book. Also a giant bug made of sculpted book pages with human legs. There was a rather unimaginative (in my view) framed sequence of Harlequin covers, one from each decade. There was a way-too-large stack of annotated titles, an homage to banned books, and another about piece about resistance that had thorned rods running through the pages. There were one or two pieces that I thought were a waste of a perfectly good book.

(I apologize for the quality of these images: they’re enlarged screen grabs from YouTube, because I forgot my camera.)

It was fun to see the exhibit with an artist and to get her take on the objects. And it was fun for me to see how an artist had interpreted, and altered, books like Mother Goose and Naked Lunch. (Here’s a link to a one-minute video showcasing the exhibit.)

Did it stimulate my thinking? Absolutely. Did it stimulate my creativity? Well, better ask me later, when I get that WIP finished.

What about you? Have you guys seen any exhibits lately that made you think about your writing life?

Kay: What Readers Want

Photo: Black Milk Women

I recently ran across a survey that I thought the other Ladies and their fans might be interested in. The (very) informal survey was conducted by Barbara Linn Probst, a novelist and researcher who holds a Ph.D. in clinical social work. She wanted to know what elements of a novel made a reader love it.

Probst said that the idea for the survey was triggered because as a novelist, she felt that she was thinking like a technician, not a reader. She said that while she focused on characterization, plot development, and pacing, she said that she believed readers didn’t pay attention to those things—unless some massive failure drew a reader’s attention to them. Continue reading

Kay: Keeping It Fresh Forever

Photo by Leonardo Quatrocchi from Pexels

My long-term project (probably years long, the way I’m going) is to read all the books on the bookshelves in my office and then afterwards, move them, and eventually the shelves, out of the house. I’m going to need the space for other things.

The first book I assigned myself was a Virago Modern Classics reprint. These are books by female authors, originally published at other houses, some from many decades previously. Virago has published its Modern Classics imprint since the 1970s, and the [many] books I own are all from this period. So far, they’ve been rather hit-or-miss in terms of how well they’ve held up to #MeToo and #TimesUp sensibilities. Continue reading

Kay: The Plot Thickens

Photo: The Harris Poll

It’s always something. Just a few days ago, Jeanne talked about how she used enneagrams to clarify who her characters are, because she thought they weren’t behaving consistently. I usually have a pretty good grip on my characters right from the start—that’s almost always why I write a story to begin with. Somebody out there speaks up.

My problem is plot. And conflict. Which, if I had enough conflict, I’d have more plot. It’s a vicious cycle.

A few months ago, when I was ready to start a new project, I didn’t have any new ideas. Nobody spoke to me, demanding to be put on a page. The girls in the basement didn’t send anybody up. So I decided to write a story that’s been noodling around in my brain for a few years. It would be the continuation of a two-book FBI series, of which the second book was finished in 2012. Continue reading

Kay: The Juggling Act

Circus tapestry by Ambesonne

I’m not one for multi-tasking. For me, it doesn’t work. I can toss junk mail while I’m on hold, but I have no illusions that I can do two tasks at once and do justice to either.

So while I’ve sometimes envied authors their giant traditional publishing contracts, I’ve never envied them their workloads: the writing of a complete book in three months, during which time they make revisions on the previous book, proof the galleys of two books ago, and plot the next book. I could do all that sequentially, but not concurrently.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself, as an indie author, in a similar situation.

I finished my three-book series about the haphazard CIA agent—when? Last winter? It’s only been months, but it feels like years ago. I have the revision letters of all three books from my dev editor sitting on my hard drive. I have begun changes on the first book. I’m about 10% in on that one. Continue reading

Kay: Finding The Voice

Copyright: Konstantin Sutyagin

The other night I watched a three-part mini-series on Amazon Prime called David and Olivia. Part One opens with a guy (David, we learn later), getting into his car and driving away, not noticing that there’s a naked woman (Olivia, we learn later) asleep on the back seat.

Great premise!

She wakes up and keeps herself more or less covered with a large, bulky, plastic bag she’s carrying. I think it takes too long for him to notice her, but when he does, he’s startled and then solicitous. Olivia says she’s on her way to Edinburgh; will he take her there? David says no; he’s taking his girlfriend’s passport to the Glasgow airport because she’s on a business trip and she forgot it. Continue reading

Kay: To Revise, or Not to Revise

Image from Electric Literature.com

Some time ago I heard a woman tell a story about how she’d sent a manuscript to her publisher, and her editor sent her a 17-page, single-space revision letter. That would be a revision letter approximately 12 percent of the entire length of the manuscript. Hearing that made me happy, not for the first time, that I didn’t have a publishing contract.

However, self-pubbing is not for the faint of heart, as most of us attest to every day in these posts. The other day I got the revision letter from my freelance editor, a woman with many years’ experience editing romance at a big publishing house, and it was a winner, as far as I was concerned: only six pages for a 269-page manuscript. Not nearly the work of my fellow writer from the first paragraph. Continue reading