Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Insecure writer: changing point of view

Right now with my writing I'm debating which point of view to use in my next project, after I've heard rumbling from several different places (such as Authoress at the Miss Snark's First Victim blog) that the publishing industry is getting tired of first person present tense. A famous example from a book that probably influenced a lot of writers in recent years to choose this tense (including myself):

When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim's warmth but finding only the rough canvas over the mattress.

Authoress says she might rewrite her entire work-in-progress from first person present into third person past tense. Wow! Re-writing an entire book to change tense?

The first Wednesday of the month
 is time for Insecure Writers Support Group,
hosted by Alex Cavanaugh and his
excellent team. 
Ironically, at the same time I'm hearing this talk about how first present tense (made famous in Young Adult by The Hunger Games) is no longer in vogue, I started reading Dodie Smith's coming of age book, I Capture the Castle, written in 1948.

And written in first person present tense! (In the form of journal entries). And here I thought this point of view was a fairly recent innovation.  But it shows that no matter the time period or current trends in publishing, a really good story will trump anything.
I Capture the Castle
I think it's a good exercise to play with different points of view when you are getting started with a new story, finding which one is the perfect "fit" for your characters and the style of the book. I've never really given much thought to which tense I use: for my last story, I just jumped right into first person present tense instead of picking what was the most natural fit for my story, I was reading a lot of present tense in other books at that time. To be honest, all my most favorite books are written in third person past. (Though now that I've fallen in love with I Capture the Castle in present tense, I wonder....)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

My favorite summer vacation spot

This post is making me misty eyed, because I haven't been to my favorite summer vacation spot for over 30 years, but my memories are as vivid of Chippawa Lodge as much more recent vacation spots. I think there's just something about your childhood favorites that stick with you. One of my greatest wishes is to go back and stay in one of the cabins along Lake Kamaninskeg in northern Ontario, and swim along the beautiful white beach.
We spent a week every summer along this lake from when I was 4 to 12 years old (we stopped coming when the management no longer allowed guests to bring their pets: that was one of the special things about this resort is that you could bring your dogs; we even brought our cat along!). I swam for hours a day, or kayaked, or went sailing on our little sailboat that we hauled up every year. One of my favorite memories is fishing with my dad, except one time I didn't catch a fish, I managed to hook a giant snapping turtle that terrified me when my dad helped me pull it up on shore!

Another favorite memory was swinging on the "Tarzan rope" off a tree into the river. It would take me a long time to work up the nerve to jump!
Here's a picture of little me with my kayak. 
I could go on and on about this place (the pony, the sunken steamship, picking berries, picking wildflowers, the scent of sun-warmed pines...) but I think the best way for me to revel in great memories is to somehow work them into one of my stories one day. 

Many thanks to Lexa Cain and her co-hosts for dreaming up this blog hop and now I'm off to visit more wonderful summer vacation spots!

"My Favorite Summer Vacation Spot" Blog Hop is sponsored by Summer Reads that Thrill & Chill!
For the Linky List and Book Giveaways visit the 6 Co-Hosts:

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Throwback Thursday: coming home

I love to travel and visit new places. Not all the time, but at least three or four times a year if I can, and it doesn't have to be far away or require a plane ticket, though that's certainly a bonus.

One of the things I love about travel is coming home. After a few days seeing new places, sleeping in different beds, living out of a suitcase, filling my senses with new sights and sounds, it's wonderful to cuddle back into the familiar. Being away for a little while makes you see the familiar in a new light. I remember how my first semester away at college was sensory overload, but when I came home it was sensory overload all over again: processing all the familiar things in light of the different perspective I'd had to adjust to.
December 23, 1988
After my last exam, Mom & Melissa came to pick me up from Oswego. Before I knew it we were back in Buffalo, in my old familiar territory and I was craning my head out the windows to look at everything – all the ordinary streets, stores and houses I’ve taken for granted for most of my life. As we drove up to the corner of Morris and Parker on the way to Melissa’s house, I was too excited to wait and I jumped out at the corner and ran the rest of the way home while Mom dropped Melissa off. Leia was right there and so was Dad and I hugged her, then Dad, then her, then him, I was so happy. 

Something I'm facing right now is the familiar, the coming home, has forever changed.  My dad died a couple weeks ago. Now I am processing the familiar in a different way. Coming home is now bittersweet. Walking into my parents' home and seeing his chair empty. Hearing something that I know he would've have quipped about - except he's not there anymore with his ever-ready quips and puns.

I've been going through old photos and journals and crying over memories. Even though the memories are precious, they've become much more fragile without being able to share them with him anymore.

In a sense, I'm not really able to "come home" right now. I'm on this new strange journey where I circle endlessly around the familiar without being able to cuddle into it anymore.

Writing about it helps.

Also, the cards and memories friends and family shared have helped. My mom and I received a letter from one of Dad's friends for over 50 years. He  listed memory after memory, and I was so grateful. Some of his memories overlapped my own (making them less fragile!) and some were entirely new to me, new insights into my father. It's amazing how you can know someone your whole life, and never completely know him. There's always more to discover - and does death end this? Absolutely not, I am convinced. Our bodies wear out, but our souls are eternal.
But when this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;  but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  (I Corinthians 15:54-57).
 One of my favorite photos of me and my dad from 1992:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Five ecstatic stars to Uprooted by Naomi Novik

As a huge, huge fan of the Temeraire series, I am so excited to share my review for Naomi Novik's new book, Uprooted (releases today).  5 ecstatic stars!  


Temeraire is a re-imagining of the Napoleonaic wars if dragons were used in combat. Like a mix of Master and Commander and How to Train Your Dragon. Now, there's only an occasional reference to dragons in Uprooted, and it was a lot scarier than anything I've read in the Temeraire series, but oh my goodness I loved this book! It had the classic feel of my favorites: it had a feel of Lord of the Rings in it, especially the forest parts (Old Man Willow!);  it had the awkward, strong girl hero like in The Blue Sword; it had the darkness and danger and complicated magic of Sabriel in it; and it's got an interesting romance and a wonderful story of the friendship of two girls, Neishka and Kasia. And that ending, oh, it had a surprising, beautiful, soul-wrenching quality to it that reminded me of the climax of A Wrinkle in Time. 

The main character Neishka is so unique I can't think of another heroine to compare her too. I loved that she was at one point mistaken for a young (and more trustworthy) Baba Yaga; she had that orneriness about her. (Speaking of Baba Yaga, this book had the wonderful feel of Eastern Europe and Russia about its edges and in its names). Neishka also reminded me of Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, or Anne of Green Gables always getting into one of her scrapes, if these girls had been a little older and allowed to run more frequently barefooted through the woods and track mud back into the house. 

Which brings me to the Wood, and what an enigma it was. It was evil, oh so very evil, and I really struggled with that because, you know, Ents!! And even Huorns (scary things, but they used their dreadful power to destroy evil). This Wood was like that scene of Snow White running through the forest with the trees snagging her dress and trying to grab her that terrified me endlessly when I was 5 years old. This Wood made you feel five years old again, surrounded by trees with horrible eyes staring out of them. This was much worse than the Old Willow trying to swallow up Merry and Pippin. This was so WRONG. But there's a reason for the wrongness that finally makes sense in the end. 

Then there is this interesting tangle of a - romance? - not quite the right word! about it too. I expect a lot of people to go up in arms about 17 year old Neishka taking advantage of 150 year old Sarkan; I expect even more outrage over the horrible way he mocked and name-called our heroine, but I've thought about it carefully and I think the author took care to explain the complicated creature that was the Dragon (Sarkan). He was like an army drill sergeant in charge of shaping a spindly raw recruit into a fighting machine, only to discover she was his equal, but in an entirely unexpected way. It was when they discovered that their magic was so different but complimentary that I truly fell in love with this story. And Sarkan's crankiness is so very adorable (in a sort of Gandalf way), because along with it we'd get these tantalizing hints that under all the crusty salt he was golden:

I darted a quick glance at him. He was staring down at the dough trying to keep his scowl, and flushed at the same time with the high transcendent light that he brought to his elaborate workings: delighted and also annoyed, trying not to be.

Oh another thing I loved about Sarkan are all the spells he planted in his tower. Neishka is creeping down one of this hallways when this really cool, scary thing happens (see my longer Goodreads review if you want hint of it). 

And oh gosh there is so much more that I love about this story. There is a wizard's library, the Charovnikov, and Sarkan has a library too in his tower. Neishka isn't like Belle in the Beast's library, though. She's too unique. She goes after a book about Summoning the Truth, and how she and the Dragon summoned Truth in this story gave me happy chills. 

I had the feeling the Summoning wasn't really meant to be cast alone: as if truth didn't mean anything without someone to share it with; you could shout truth into the air forever, and spend your life doing it, if someone didn't come and listen.

This was just one of the themes running through this book like the river Spindle running through the valley and the Wood. Of all magic spells, Truth is the strongest but how many people actually want truth? How many of us seek illusion instead? And how hard it is to face Truth in another person, how they REALLY see you? What Neishka and Kasia had to face in each other? 

Note: this is not a young adult book, even though Neishka is 17 years old. There are two extremely violent battle scenes and two sex scenes.

I received a digital copy of Uprooted for my honest review. I was not paid or in any way compensated for raving about it. I truly, honestly, deeply enjoyed this book. I plan to buy myself a copy to always keep, but thank you to Del Rey and Net Galley for giving me a sneak peek.


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