Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reader Powers Activate

While in the querying mode (and searching for my inner calm happy place), I’ve been doing a bunch of reading. To me, it is the most effective cure for all of the powerlessness I feel once I press send and allow the query birds out of their cages. After all, I wouldn't be a writer if I hadn't first loved the power of storytelling. I’m that person who, when I love a book, pesters everyone around me and random people in stores to get on board and support the story/author. I have a dedicated team of people who read whatever I recommend and who sometimes wait to see if it gets my seal of approval before purchasing. They then pass on the recommendations to their friends. All this makes me feel very powerful and happy with my place in the reading universe.

Lately though, I’ve struggled a bit with my powers because the one thing I can’t stand in books is the one thing I’ve been finding a lot, especially in the final books of series: hopelessness. I’ve blathered about this in the past, but I think the world is hard enough without fiction to bring me down. Because of this fear, I greeted the final book in the Wicked Lovely series with some trepidation. I love these books and Melissa Marr’s writing and characters (particularly Seth... whom I swoon for), and I was terrified because of my experiences of late and the dire nature of the conflict that would reach its resolution in the final book.

However, not reading the final book wasn’t an option either, and I knew I had the sixth book in the Anne of Green Gables series to pick me up if my favorite faeries and their keeper let me down.

Reader powers activate because I am here to tell you that Ms. Marr is awesome. The final book is magical and the ending incredibly satisfying. It was dreamy and wonderful and everything I could have hoped for. Gush much? Well, yes I do. This book renewed my hope for... well, hope in YA books.

The dark side of my reader powers is that when an author lets me down, I won’t read another of their books... ever. I lose faith in them and don’t ever again want to be dragged to the depths by caring for the characters they create. Now, this isn’t to say that killing off characters or having a story reach its natural conclusion equates with hopelessness. I kill off characters in my books (more often than my readers forgive me for), but death is sometimes the necessary end, the sacrifice that provides the power to the story. But all too often (see network television), annihilating characters is a ratings device, a sucker punch, and feels contrived and inauthentic to the story world that was created. Let’s just say, we know when we’re being played.

The most obvious example I can come up with isn’t from my reading, but from my movie watching. I love the writing/work of Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame. I especially love his ill-fated Firefly series, up until the point he made it into a movie and slaughtered half the characters for no real reason. I won’t give any specifics, but I was ready to acquire a Joss Whedon voodoo doll after the event that followed a favorite character saying, “I am a leaf on the wind - watch how I soar.” It was just unnecessary, and the emotional resonance was completely lost on me because I was too freaking mad to care anymore. After much introspection and brain control, I have blocked the movie from my memory and believe that the crew of the Serenity is alive and well, stealing stuff and shipping cattle beyond a distant terraformed moon (and Mal is still wearing those pants).

Back to Darkest Mercy, wherein Melissa Marr gives the gift of a well-crafted, incredibly imaginative tale, with absolutely amazing characters that is worth reading... again and again. Speaking of the characters, I must say that while I loved most, there were a few I didn't really like, and wouldn't you know, Ms. Marr deftly changed my mind about them, defying my long-held opinions and ultimately making me root for those I thought 'unrootable.' The book's only flaw in my mind was that it was the ending of the series (although one character made a little deal with a faery that wasn't resolved and made me wonder if we'd someday see how that works out). I can certainly hope. But even if we don't hear any more from The Wicked Lovely world, I still have a favorite author's work to follow, hopefully for a very long time.

Quote for the Day from Unknown (A mantra for all those who are querying or have books on submission)

When the world says, “Give up,"

Hope whispers, "Try it one more time."

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Quandary

First things first. My new project has left the nest, with story birds flying through cyber space on their way to the inboxes of Agent World. They bravely risk SPAM filters, challenging stares, and perhaps even “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” It is an exciting time for any story parent, I’ll say that, but my current quandary isn’t about that project, it’s about the next.

I have several first drafts ready to enter the next phase (I binged a bit on first drafts in the past year or so... because I love them and can’t ever get enough), and I have many new ideas clamoring to get free. And I’m really not sure which story to favor. In helping me with this decision, you must know that my process is to write a first draft, learn all the ins and outs, and then start on page one and write it over again, attending to all I’ve learned. So, whether I pick to write a second draft or a new first draft, the process will be the same. But my question isn’t so much about the process as much as the ideas. In the past, I’ve striven to take a completely different journey with each book I ready for market. My previous effort was YA fantasy; this one is apocalyptic YA. The next one could be post-apocalyptic or urban fantasy, or another I’m not sure how to categorize yet.

Please help. How do you pick the next story? Do you think about what’s going on in the market (which is my guess as to why I’m floundering in this decision making... too much thinking about business)? Do you go on the journey that is the pushiest? Do you start two (or three or four) and see which one wins the Story Gladiator Wars (I’ve done this before and it made my brain a little murky)?

Do tell.

And please cross fingers, toes, tentacles (hey, I’m not judging) that this story finds a receptive and eager agent. It would be lovely to get to the next step. :)

Quote for the Day from Betsy CaƱas Garmon

“To decide is to walk facing forward with nary a crick in your neck from looking back at the crossroads.”