Stepping into a book

Bookworm reading with familiarDo you ever wish you could spend time inside your favorite books? Step into that other world for real, and meet all your favorite characters?

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that no, I wouldn’t. The books I love to read tend to be jam-packed with conflict. I don’t want to flee through mosquito-ridden forests, fight enemies with my bare hands, or watch my best friends die!

Perhaps the neatest thing would be to step into a book once it’s done. Sort of at the epilogue stage? All that nasty conflict done away with, and plenty of time to sit down for a cup of cocoa and a chat. Talk about the characters’ adventures and their plans for the future.

Of course, books aren’t only filled with awful things happening, there’s also adventure, love and fun stuff. But I think I’d rather live through it vicariously by reading. That way, I get the good bits, but can avoid the dirt, pain and suffering. Live the adventure, skip the mosquitoes!

Perhaps that ought to be my author tagline. 😉

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Bookworms–from insects to readers

Cheetah and caterpillarThe other day, I had fun making the Bookworms picture on the left, and I got to thinking about the origin of the word bookworm. I’ve always been fascinated with how languages evolve, words changing meaning and spreading, and it stands to reason that bookworm once referred to some real sort of insect, but what kind?

Turns out there were several book-boring insects–including furniture beetles and the like, but that one major book-eating insect is actually the booklouse (so Wikipedia tells me, anyway. 😀 )! Here it is:

Book louse

Booklouse

Cute? Hm. Not so much.

Never seen one before? Well, me neither. Modern books are apparently not as tasty as they used to be–too chemical or something.

Maybe now in the era of electronic books, the background of the other bookworm (to mean “avid reader”) will soon be as obscure as the little floppy disk icon to indicate saving:

Floppy disk save icon
Screenshot from Microsoft Word

Yes, children, once upon a time we had little plastic floppy disks we had to carry around to access our data! 😉

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Possession at 1/4 mark

Colorful scarfs

Pretty scarfs like these come in handy when Ehna starts sacrificing bits of herself to take over Idh’s body…
Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

I started writing the first draft of Possession last Monday and so far, I’m having a blast. 🙂

The desert city has fallen, much to the dismay of Idh, my Guard Captain hero who’s tasked with keeping order. Worse, he apparently blacked out and nearly flogged one of his men to death. Meanwhile, Ehna, ill and dying, is rejoicing in the success of taking over his body twice now, even if the “compatible body” did turn out to be a guy, and a soldier to boot.

Now, of course, things are going to get worse. Someone has discovered the truth and is blackmailing Ehna, and it’s going to create a whole lot of trouble for Idh, who’s just joined the Resistance…

(Yes, you have to heap troubles on your characters. If they’re all happily getting on with their lives, you’d be bored in no time! But look on the bright side–this way we can see what they’re really made of.)

I’m following my detailed outline, and I’m happy to report furious writing this past week. As a result, Possession is now past 25,000 words, or roughly a quarter of the way through. I was pleasantly surprised that with a few tweaks, I could actually re-use some of the experimental scenes I’d already written, which made up about 10,000 of those words.

I am, *gasp* at the End of the Beginning! Next up is the Dreaded Middle, though in my case I’m more dreading the ending, because I haven’t planned it yet. But the unknown keeps me motivated! 🙂

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Gorgeous characters

Snow leopard admiring himselfIt struck me the other day just how many characters in books are gorgeous and I got to wondering why that is. Beauty is very rarely a key ingredient in the plot, after all, and the characters could often go about finding the killer, falling in love or saving the world without it.

Is it all just to enhance the wish-fulfillment part? As we step into the shoes of the protagonist and imagine it’s us kicking ass and winning the love-interest, we might as well be good-looking to boot?

Or perhaps it’s all a part of the “beauty bias“, making the attractiveness a shorthand for likable? (Iffy as the whole pretty=good, ugly=evil stereotype is.)

In a way, I’d expect books to be the ideal medium for including more plain or ugly folks. After all, if they’re the protagonist, we get to see their thoughts and fears, and should be able to judge them on something more than looks. And in a way, there may be an opposite effect going on–where the protagonists aren’t described as the hottest thing ever, but as we readers comes to like them, they become more and more gorgeous in our minds. (Beth Revis has an interesting article about that here.)

Some of my favorite characters aren’t good-looking at all–like Tyrion from a Game of Thrones (the book, not the TV-series!). Or how about Glokta from the First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie? (Once good-looking, but not since his torture.) Both are very intelligent characters, which is always a plus in my book (har har ;-)). Still, it seems more of an exception than not.

Looking at my own writing, I can conclude that several of my main characters are gorgeous, so whatever the “trap” is, I seem to be falling into it to some extent. 🙂 Of course, Ehna from Possession is dying and chopping off pieces of herself right and left to try and take over Idh’s body, so she would be an exception. Idh is more weird-looking than gorgeous (in the eyes of the other characters), but he’s certainly very fit, being a soldier and all, so he’d qualify as good-looking I think.

What about you? Writers, are your main characters good-looking? Readers, any favorite ugly characters out there?

Posted in Possession, Reading and Books, Writing | 6 Comments

6 ways to find the book you’re craving

Cheetah readingSometimes I get a craving for a specific kind of book, but don’t have anything on hand. For example, I want to read a meaty Christmas romance that’s not too sweet. Or an angsty fantasy novel set in the renaissance.

The problem with these extremely specific cravings is that there might be none or very few books out there that fit the bill. And maybe I already read most of them. For instance, I like other-world fantasy romance, but there’s not a lot of it out there.

So, what to do when you want something specific but it won’t present itself? Here’s my handy list:

  1. Who do I know that’s written this stuff before? Check if they have anything new out.
  2. Check what my google-fu can dig up. This can for example lead to handy suggested reading lists in forums I never heard about.
  3. Check out similar books on Amazon or Goodreads and see if anyone made a list
  4. Badger friends for recommendations.
  5. Ask Twitter for assistance.
  6. Ask a genre guru, like a review blog or Facebook page.

What about you, do you have any handy tips to share?

Posted in Bookworms, Reading and Books | 4 Comments

Jet-lagged but happy

I’m home again, and as usual exhausted from the jet-lag and lack of sleep. What do you do to feel human again after a grueling week? Me, I love to snuggle up with my husband and watch a good movie or play a video game. If I’m too tired, he can play and I’ll watch. 🙂

The long flights certainly helped with the writing though. I had time to visualize the entire book without interruptions–imagining all the scenes like a movie. The big turning points are all in place, but I still have some things to figure out for the rest. Also, more desert-related research and worldbuilding. For instance, how do the wealthy travel through the desert in my world?

Also, I’ve given my main characters names! Now, I can’t guarantee they won’t change with the writing of the book–it’s been known to happen before 🙂 –but, I’m calling the beleaguered Captain of the Guard, the one who gets possessed, Idh, and the woman who steals his body Ehna.

My husband’s comment–do all your main characters’ names start with vowels? I pointed out that Marak, who’ll feature in the next book, starts with a consonant. Admittedly, he’s the only one. Maybe I have a vowel-fetish? 😉

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Recognizing Boston–gaming fun

I’m off traveling the US again (for business), and am having fun walking around Boston and recognizing places. From where, you might ask? Well, for one thing, I recently watched Boston Legal, and for another, I’ve started playing The Last of Us – Remastered, and there’s one early chapter were you go around downtown Boston, all crumbling and destroyed roughly 20 years ago from a zombie apocalypse. OK, so it’s not 100% accurate in how buildings are placed geographically (check out this post e.g.), but it’s still very recognizable.

Check out this image from the game:

"Capitol Building" from "The Last of Us"

And the reality from Wikipedia:

State House

Pretty cool, eh?

Posted in Games, TV & Movies | 2 Comments

Likable characters don’t need to be nice

Thank you for smoking movie posterI recently watched the hilarious movie Thank you for smoking, the 2005 satirical film about a tobacco industry lobbyist, and I got to thinking about the common writer advice to create likable characters.

‘Likable’ is, I think, kind of a misnomer–it’s too close a cousin to ‘nice’. And ‘nice’, in turn, can edge dangerously close to ‘boring’. Nice friends–bring them on. Nice characters–meh.

Nick Naylor, the protagonist in Thank you for smoking, is not nice. Or how about this quote from the movie:

Career day in school:
Kid : My Mommy says smoking kills.
Nick Naylor: Oh, is your Mommy a doctor?
Kid: No.
Nick Naylor: A scientific researcher of some kind?
Kid: No.
Nick Naylor: Well, then she’s hardly a credible expert, is she?

It’s just so wrong and yet so funny. 😀 Who could get behind him in real life? No one. Nick is the furthest thing from politically correct. And yet, the movie sucks you in and pretty soon, you’re cheering and laughing with this guy. Because, despite his moral agility, he’s just so darn charming and energetic and smooth-talking. And the fact he is those things while simultaneously representing  a cynic, dubious industry is fascinating. He is not nice. Is he likable? Maybe. Certainly he isn’t wholly unlikable. But what he definitely is, is interesting.

And that, in my opinion, is way more important.

Do you have any favorite “unlikable” protagonists?

Posted in TV & Movies, Writing | 2 Comments

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! Here’s a greeting from your favorite bookworms. 🙂

Building a snowman

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Looking back at 2014: Tough choices, new direction

Still wishing for books...Another year has gone by–would it be too cliché to say it seems time flies?

Looking back on this year, I think it’s safe to say that day-job-wise, it’s been the most stressful year of my life and I finally realized I had to slow down a few months back. I’m still in the midst of doing that, but boy am I glad I took this step! When you start to get frustrated with all your friends finishing phone calls with “And don’t work too much!”, then heed my advice and take a good hard look at what you’re doing in your life.

Writing-wise, 2014 has been a year of many choices. My very first novel, The Binding, despite getting some wonderful comments from all sorts of editors I admire, ultimately did not sell. I knew this book in many ways was–and is–my most unconventional novel, but needless to say this was still a big disappointment.

This year, I also finished my first novel-length erotic romance Before and After the Wedding, and my first plan was to get that one out there next. However, my fantasy ideas were nagging at me for attention, and I realized that focusing on two genres simultaneously would really make any series novels appear very far apart. This didn’t seem like a very good idea.

All this put me at a crossroads of sorts–what did I want to work on next? I had plenty of options, and several novels in the works–Imprisoned and Coma on the romance side, Dual and Possession for fantasy.

After some soul-searching, I decided to simply follow my heart–and while I love both genres, my fantasy ideas were the ones currently keeping me awake at night. I have no doubt I’ll be returning to romance one day as well, but right now, I’m itching to finish this trio of fantasy novels set in the desert city of Zier–Possession, Dual, and the still unnamed #3.

So, since I’m now back and focused on fantasy for the moment, I’ve decided to put Before and After the Wedding away for a bit. I figure it’s not going anywhere. 🙂

And that has been my main writerly journey of the year! Lots of choices, but I feel I’m on the right track, and I’m already hard at work on Possession–even trying out plotting!

What things, great and small, have characterized your 2014?

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