Making Introductions

*Warning: Spoilers possible for the books I discuss*

I’ve come to believe that there are two kinds of readers: those who read the introduction (if there is one) before the book and those who wait until after. I read it before. My logic is that if it were intended to be read after the text, it would be included as an afterward, not an introduction. Also, I find it can be helpful in getting my mind ready for what I’m about to read.

a1x0awyh35l._ac_uy218_ml3_But there’s an inherent danger in reading the introduction first: will the writer give away spoilers? If so, will they be major. Years ago, I read Anya Seton’s novel Avalon. I enjoyed it, which surprised me, because Philippa Gregory’s introduction gave me the impression that it wasn’t a very good book. She warned that Seton stuck too closely to the facts in this historical novel, and didn’t provide a resolution where she should have, because there’s no historical evidence of such a resolution taking place. As a result, I didn’t expect a resolution when reading, and I wasn’t disappointed by its absence. I was able to take the text as it was, and not judge it based on what wasn’t there. Should Seton have taken some artistic licence and resolved the story line even if it wasn’t historically accurate? That’s open for debate. But because I wasn’t expecting it, I wasn’t disappointed in that element. In that sense, even though the introduction included spoilers, it helped me to enjoy my reading experience more.

51mw0x9so4l-_ac_us218_More recently I read Gwen Bristow’s Celia Garth, which had an introduction by Sara Donati. In her introduction Donati says that the novel, which was published in 1959, and is set during the American Revolution, has a problematic depiction of slavery. All the slave characters in the novel are depicted as happy, well treated, and loyal to their master’s side in the conflict. The title character never questions the morality of the institution, nor does she ever wonder how the slave characters might be feeling. Since I’m sure there were people like the title character, I can’t fault the author’s depiction of her. After reading that introduction, I mentally prepared myself to read a book with some significant flaws and blind spots, with a character who I may not like. Again I’m OK with that. I don’t have to like a character to find him/her interesting. Unfortunately, when reading the book, I felt like Donati downplayed the character’s unlikeability in the introduction, and that the book expected me to like her and depended on that. For me, the problem was that Celia wasn’t just blind to the evils of slavery, she was complicit. I don’t hold Donati responsible for that. Her introduction warned that this aspect of the plot and character was problematic. How problematic it is might vary from one reader to the next. That’s why we read the book and not just the introduction!

81lrqhg4fgl._ac_ul320_ml3_I just recently finished Angel by Elizabeth Taylor, with an introduction by Hilary Mantel. In her introduction, Mantel tells us about the character of Angelica “Angel” Deverell, writer of trashy, turn of the century, romance novels. Mantel tells us that the character comes from humble beginnings and fantasizes about Paradise House, where her aunt works as a maid. She also tells us that Angel will later purchase this house once she’s made her fortune, and remodel it. But, Mantel warns us, in doing so, Angel is building her own prison. World events, changing literary tastes, and her own ego mean that Angel’s books don’t sell as well as they once did. Angel and her few companions eventually become recluses, financially trapped in a rotting Paradise House. In this case I felt like Mantel gave away too much in her introduction. She should certainly introduce the character and explain that the book is a rags to riches character study. She might also hint at the fact that Angel will ultimately be the architect of her own destruction. But to tell use how it happens, and how it ties into Angel’s childhood fantasies robs the reader of a sense of pleasure (albeit a somewhat sadistic pleasure) in discovery.

So where do you stand on introductions? Do you read them first? Do you think that an introduction has the responsibility of warning the reader of potentially troubling plot points? If so, are spoilers a concern?

Top Ten Tuesday: TBR Procrastination

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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September 10: Books On My TBR I’m Avoiding Reading and Why (maybe you’re scared of it, worried it won’t live up to the hype, etc.) (submitted by Caitlin @ Caitlin Althea)

Books that are intimidating because they’re really long

51saga5aeml-_ac_us218_1. Nor Gold by Kerry Lynne– Second in The Pirate Captain series 753 pages.  I’ve also heard it ends with a cliffhanger, so I’m not sure I want to start it until I have the next book nearby.

 

 

41oulsn7jul-_ac_us218_2. Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn– Got really great reviews but between the heavy subject matter and the fact that it’s 768 pages I keep putting it off.

 

 

51qkdj8lpel-_ac_us218_3. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss– Second in the Kingkilller Chronicles. I loved the first, but this is 1120 pages. Also, number three hasn’t been published yet so maybe I’ll wait until then and finish the series when it’s complete.

 

51dyrlatcxl-_ac_us218_4. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey– First in the Kushiel’s Legacy series. It’s been recommended many times, it’s sitting on my shelf, but the premise doesn’t really grab me and it’s 912 pages.  I’ll get to  it at some point.

 

51q4v7d1rl-_ac_us218_5. Trinity by Leon Uris– This was recommended by several people but it’s a heavy subject matter and it’s 894 pages.

 

 

 

51bzo0tnhl-_ac_us218_6. Kristin Lavranstradder by Sigrid Undset– This is technically a trilogy of three normal sized books but apparently the translation matters, and I have the first book in the wrong translation. At some point I’ll try to read it and if it’s no good I’ll go for this edition which is supposed to be the “good” translation, but it’s all 3 books together making it a cumbersome 1168 pages.

61jrknqrsel-_ac_us218_7. A Column of Fire by Ken Follett– Third in Follett’s Kingsbridge trilogy. I liked the first two but at 923 pages it’s hard to dive into.

 

 

 

51wxqincjul-_ac_us218_8. The Revolution of Marina M. by Janet Fitch– I loved Fitch’s White Oleander and I’m  interested in this genre change (literary fiction to historical fiction) but the fact that it’s 812 pages makes it intimidating to get started on.

 

Books I’m hesitant to start because of content

51mmdwir-zl-_ac_us218_9. The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett– This is third in Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles series. I liked the first two but they’re filled with obscure references and we rarely get into the main character’s head so it takes a lot of focus to read.

 

a1yvcyz-l._ac_uy218_ml3_10. An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear- This is the fifth in the Maisie Dobbs series. I’ve been enjoying it but after a while the terrible things that these characters go through (so far it’s not limited to war, PTSD, drug addiction, illness, and death) make it a fairly depressing experience.

 

How Prolific Do I Want To Be?

Lately I’ve been wondering what kind of writer I am. In some ways the answer to that is obvious. I’m an indie author. I write fantasy. But in some ways I feel like I don’t measure up to other, “similar” authors. I put similar in quotes because these authors are also indie/self published who write fantasy in the same sub-genre but they write a lot more than I do, and seem to do it more professionally.

thumbnail_Elle s mIt took me about four years to write Beautiful, and another year to publish it. Some of that was because I had to figure out elements of publishing for myself, while working full time.  Now I’ve been working on the follow up, Frozen Heart, for about three years. It’s pretty much written, in that I have a manuscript with a beginning, middle and end. I’m somewhere between the second and third drafts  right now. I’d like it to be ready by early 2020. If I’m not able to manage that I might have to wait until the end of 2020. Beautiful was published in July 2018.

Indie authors usually try to write at least a book per year, preferably more. I’ve seen authors publish as many as three books per year. A lot of the research I did before publishing Beautiful actually recommended waiting until you have several publish-able manuscripts before publishing your first, so you have more ready to go. I decided not to do that because I wasn’t sure if/when I’d have a ready follow-up and I felt ready to send Beautiful out into the world. I don’t think that was a mistake but I don’t think I’ll ever be a writer who can publish one book a year.

I read a blog post once by an indie author who said she writes only one draft of each novel before having an editor look it over, making a few, small tweaks, and then publishing. I can’t imagine doing that. My first drafts are a mess! My second drafts are a little bit better, and so on.

I’m not criticizing anyone who can turn out great work on the first try! I’m envious! I don’t think that will ever be me.

Maybe as I go on, I’ll get better at self-editing. Already, I’m noticing improvements between my first book and my second. When I wrote Beautiful, I would see something in a draft that didn’t quite work but I’d stubbornly hold onto it until several beta readers had told me it didn’t work. Now I’m quicker to kill my darlings.

But I want my published novels to reflect my best work. In order to do that, it takes me longer to write a book than is generally recommended for indie authors. Obviously the more I publish the more opportunity I have for sales, but right now, compromising quality doesn’t seem worth it to me.

Do you prefer authors to be prolific or careful with what they publish? Does it have to be an “either/or” situation?

 

Beautiful: Reader’s Guide

The Reader’s Guide to Beautiful is now available on the books page of my website.  It features some discussion questions, a bit “about the author”, some information about the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, and a sneak peak of my upcoming novel Frozen Heart. It’s free so check it out!

Coming Soon!

I’ve been working on a reader’s guide to Beautiful. I had initially planned to have it out by the book’s first birthday but some other things go in the way. But it’s coming soon, so keep an eye on the “books” page of my website. I’ll also share on my blog when it’s up. But it’ll have:

  • Discussion questions
  • Background information
  • A sneak peak of Frozen Heart
  • more…

Plus it’s free!

Happy 1st Book Birthday to Beautiful!

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A year ago today I published my first novel, Beautiful: A Tale of Beauties and Beasts.  It’s been a good year as far as writing goes. I learned a lot about publishing and I think that I’ve gained some confidence as I work on my second novel.  Here are some posts that I’ve written over the year about my journey with this book.

Why Authors Love (and Hate) Reviews

Why You Should Read My Book

Research When You’re Writing Fantasy

What I’d Tell Myself About Writing A Book…

Why I Write What I Write

Publication Day!

Pre-Publication Jitters

Hopefully by this time next year Beautiful will have a book sibling!

A Call To Action

Since the 2016 election I’ve been reflecting a lot. I’ve always had strong political beliefs, I’ve always voted, but I’ve never been comfortable being openly “political”. However since Donald Trump was elected I’ve been participating more in political discourse. I’ve called representatives, I’ve blogged about issues that concern me, and I’ve protested. But lately, I’ve been asking myself if I’m doing enough. Am I simply being a “good German” while things that I know are wrong go on? Is calling my representatives enough when they are allowing these things to happen? I’ve been watching in horror this week as leaders argue the semantics of what constitutes a “concentration camp.” I think that if that’s even an argument that people are making, we’re clearly in the wrong.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I know that we all have different resources. If you are financially able to make donations, I urge you to check out some of the links below. However, I know that everyone isn’t able to donate. So I wanted to share some information about other things that you can do to help. I am going to try to do some of these things I urge others to do the same.  One way that I feel like I can help is to spread the word to others about ways that they can help. I feel like we have an advantage now in that it’s so easy to share information widely. It’s harder to do things in secret. It’s my hope that everyone does what he/she can do and that adds up to a big difference.

  • Get involved with your local chapter of Sanctuary Not Deportation, which allows faith groups to offer sanctuary to immigrants fleeing ICE.
  • If there is a detention center near you, there are many rallies directly outside them that you can attend. It’s important that people keep physically going to these places.
  • Host a refugee if you have room. The Room for Refugees project is still trying to build a network in the US.
  • Learn the rights of immigrants. Keep this toolkit on your phone for easy access and share this information.
  • Municipal policy can make an immediate impact, so push your local politicians to support or build sanctuary city initiatives.
  • Help legal organizations near you that help immigrants.
    • If you’re close to NYC the New Sanctuary Coalition needs volunteers and donations. One of the most important thing that the NSC does it to organize rapid response to ICE raids. There are many rapid response networks already in place, but if your city doesn’t have one, here is information about how to organize one.
    • If you live near our southern border get involved with the Texas Civil Rights Project.
    • If you’re near Grand Rapids, MI, the Grand Rapids Rapid Response to ICE provides aid to families affected by ICE violence.
  • Plan. If you’re a mechanic will you to service buses transporting migrant children? If you’re in construction will you refuse to build tent cities? If you own a restaurant will you turn away politicians that support these policies? You may be asked to go along with injustice in some way.  You may not have time to think in the moment. Take some time now to think about where you will draw the line and how. Sometimes just clogging the works can help. I know this sounds a little silly, but remember at the end of The Sound of Music when the nuns messed up the Nazi’s car at the convent? That gave the Von Trapps a chance to escape. Losing paperwork can help. Calling journalists and delaying things until they get to you can help. Don’t get caught up in perpetuating something that’s wrong simply because you don’t know what else to do.
  • Share this information. Share this post. I think that a lot of people out there are frightened but want to help, but don’t know how.

Donations

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Please tell me what you’re doing to help and what other ideas you have for helping. If you have other resources that might be helpful, then share those.

This quote has sort of been my mantra during this period. It reminds me why it’s so important to have these discussion, even when we don’t want to:

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

I’ve Been…

  • Going through a career change. Teaching was so draining that I felt like I didn’t have the energy for anything else: writing, a social life, etc. I’m doing content writing and curriculum development now. It’s been an adjustment. It still is, but I’m starting to feel a bit more confident. I’m nervous even writing that because I don’t want to jinx myself!
  • Slowly working my way through beta feedback on Frozen Heart. It’s always difficult opening yourself up to criticism, and in a way, beta feedback and editing is like going to someone and saying “please rip this apart” and then cringing while they do. The most painful feedback often ends up being the most helpful though. One beta reader was very critical of this draft of Frozen Heart but I think she also pointed out some issues that I’m glad that someone noticed before I published it. But it’s hard get yourself in the right headspace to tackle those criticisms.
  • Writing some short stories. I haven’t really decided what to do with them yet, but for some reason I had several ideas that lent themselves to short fiction (not my usual medium)
  • Discovering the joy of “have done” lists. I’ve never liked keeping “to do” lists. It feels daunting to see everything you  haven’t done yet listed in front of you. I feel like I’ll never get it done. But when I keep a list of things I have done I feel accomplished at the end of the day.  Even if the things I put on aren’t major things, seeing them written down gives me a sense of satisfaction. I’ve even started doing things that I’ve been putting off because it means I’ll get to write it down on my list!
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    Reading good books. In addition to my Persephone Readathon reads (Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski and Flush by Virginia Woolf, both of which I recommend highly) I’ve recently enjoyed:

  • Binge watching
    • Schitt’s Creek– How have I not seen this show before now? It’s silly but it’s great for turning off your brain and having a laugh.
    • The OA – Weird. Very weird.
    • A Discovery of Witches– I definitely liked it better than the book (which had too much filler) but it’s still not my cup of tea.
    • Bodyguard– I’d had this as a “to watch” for a while but I hadn’t gotten around to it. Glad I finally did.

What’s The Good News? Part 3

I’ve had a rough week, and once again it seems like the world has too. So here are some reasons to be happy:

  • A 10 year old boy walks a blind deer to a new patch of grass to make sure that she finds food, every day, before he goes to school.

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  • Bored teens like this one took a challenge to clean up an area that needed it.

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  • Doctors in Denmark have discovered that premature babies who cradled a crochet octopus toy had improved breathing, regular heartbeat, and strong oxygen blood levels. It’s believed that the tentacles remind the babies of the umbilical cord, and the toys have calming effects.  Babies with these toys are less likely to pull on their tubes. (x)

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  • A London HIV patient has been cleared of the virus following a bone marrow transplant, making him the second person ever to be “cured” of HIV. While the procedure can’t be used as a general cure, due to risks associated with stem cell transplants, it has the potential to be a crucial step toward finding a viable, large scale cure. (x)
  • Paul Barton is a volunteer at a rescued elephant sanctuary in Thailand. He plays classical music to the elephants on the piano. They find the music calming and soothing. (x)

  • An Indiana elementary school partnered with a nonprofit called Cultivate to repackage unused cafeteria food and give out on Friday afternoons to students who otherwise wouldn’t have enough to eat over the weekend. (x)
  • In Wales and Scotland a “Climate Emergency” was declared to address climate change, in response to protest. Both nations plan drastic reductions in carbon emissions.