You don't need to know everything about an author. In fact, oft times, people don't even want to. They just want to read a book and not have even a picture of an author to colour their thoughts.
But I wanted to say a couple of things because it has been playing on my mind.
The handsome young man on the left is my son. He passed away near a couple of years ago at the age of 25. Not in combat, but certainly doing his duty. For a very long time I couldn't write at all.
The reason i bring this up is actually kinda funny. For a bit of fun I entered a competition for 'first lines', and it was merely a bit of fun, honing the craft so to speak. And one thing I noticed immediately was how many people opened their novels with death.
I'm afraid you join a special club when you lose someone close to you, especially someone so young and who is your son. Yes, I write about death, too, but for most (thank goodness) it belongs in the realms of fiction.
I remember years ago a kid at my youngest son's school, when Richard, in the picture above, went to speak to the children about being a soldier. Inevitably the first question a kid asks is, "Have you killed anyone?" because the misconception is that this is what soldiers do. And it is a misconception. A soldier defends his country. If he must lift his gun to do it, he will, but it certainly isn't his first priority.
And within the realms of fiction there are heroes who do just that. They defend what they believe in, and sometimes that results in a death. Although it is fiction, if that doesn't touch you, then you shouldn't be writing it. It doesn't matter at what age a person dies. It hurts. And I saw so many times in those opening lines that people really didn't understand that. They saw it as drama, as shock value, as a way to pull people in. Instead of being an integral part of the story.
I guess with all the vampires and zombies people often don't see death as real. And maybe it is because I have another perspective that I even see this at all. Maybe other people won't even care about what I care about. But, death is a last resort, not an opening salvo. It is when all other avenues have been walked down. So when writing about it, feel it, don't trivialise it.
A round up of books I've read during January and a bit of February.
The Death of the Necromancer - Martha Wells - I discovered Martha Wells through another writer's blog and boy was I missing out. I picked this up because I wanted to start at the 'beginning'. I wasn't disappointed. I love this lady's writing.
A Bullet for Carlos - Giacomo Giammatteo - This one surprised me, so well-written. The surprise was because I am not a mystery reader, but this kept me riveted.
Black Tiger - Greta van der Rol - read because I wanted to support Greta's cause to help save the tiger. Again, I'm not a huge romance reader but this was sheer fun. Just like her sci fi romances.
Shards of Honour - Lois McMaster Bujold - People go on about Bujold so I began at the beginning. I have read later novels by the lady but it is interesting to begin with a debut novel. I enjoyed it a lot.
The Siren Depths - Martha Wells - Third in the Raksura trilogy. Enjoyed as much as the others, what can I say?
Call of the Herald - Brian Rathbone - I picked this up because it was being blasted over twitter and I was curious as to what is out there. Not bad, although I would have loved to have seen what a good editor might have done. I found it a bit preachy and everyone was terribly nice while they were saving worlds.
Midnight at the Spanish Gardens - Alma Alexander - Picked up because of someone's review and because the lady was kind enough to do an interview for me. I am only halfway through. At first I wasn't sure I was going to like this. Not my usual 'cup of tea', but now I am hooked. I'll let you know when I finish it.
After @gioclairval posted this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-henry-sterry/mark-coker_b_2594203.html
on FB, it got me thinking again about all this book marketing nonsense. Which is why the photo is more appropriate than I first realized. Mark Coker is the founder of SmashWords and basically that post tells why he began the service. Because it is a service no matter how you look at it. But because of that service and Amazon's Kindle, the whole book world seems to have gone crazy.
Originally I was going to title this 'what the heck?' Because I felt like that after I'd trolled through some of Twitter and FB, overwhelmed by the number of people pushing their books. It wasn't just that, however, because you have to advertise to get noticed. Going back to the original article and some of the responses to it on FB, it seems the only conclusion people came to is that to sell books you have to put out money. On advertising, on giveaways, on jewellery, for goodness sake. Yes, not only do folk lure others onto their sites with all this, but shinies as well.
At conventions I have often seen people give away bookmarks, and that is a lovely idea. But socks and jewellery and...
So now, not only do I have to compete against a million other books, I have to start knitting and etsy?
How lovely, you might think as a reader. As a writer I am thinking, if I add up all the man hours it took me to write the book, add in a marketing professional and an editor, travel expenses and jewellery...the time I spend on twitter etc...
No. Just. No.
When do these people have time to write?
Look. Book giveaways I can see. Dropping the price of a book to encourage purchasers while you are finding your feet? Yes. Writers don't expect to make money on the first few books. Blog tours and talking, both locally and at conventions. It *is* a case of getting your name out there, getting noticed, hopefully because people enjoyed the BOOK, not because it came with shinies.
The shiny, surely, are the words you have written for others to enjoy. Is that no longer enough?
Has everybody gone mad? Or am I incredibly innocent?
Today's photo: Tank in a dust storm - Afghanistan - Richard Curnow
The door opened, the draft making the candles flicker sideways on the table. A man walked into the restaurant. Blond and blue-eyed, Nordic-looking. This was southern Italy, where the men were neat and dark and quick with their gestures. This guy looked like he'd lost his longship somewhere, along with his horned helmet, round shield and battle axe...
Today's picture - Stump Lake B.C.
I have always striven to be honest about my work. Having a novel published is a wonderful, yet sometimes frustrating journey. There are the halcyon days when it first comes out to the depressing idea that no one even read it.
No, that isn't true or I wouldn't be writing this post. I am not going to go into the frustrations of getting readers, I've addressed that before. Rather, just to blow my own trumpet over people's thoughts.
I've had very few written reviews, which did at first alarm me, and then I began to get feedback via friends and acquaintances. It has been a slow trickle, but all very worthwhile and uplifting.
"Games" is very much a debut novel, in that it has flaws here and there. The irony here is that now I have stepped away from it, I can see them too, but I couldn't at the time. Even so, I can honestly say I am proud of what I have achieved.
One of the things which has delighted me most of all has been the response to my 'style'. I've always striven to have an indivudual voice, while not letting it overwhelm the story. Yes, I have been known to be a touch purple, but with a good editor's help I've hopefully smoothed that out.
Most readers have found the opening memorable, which pleases me no end. It left a mark and made people wish to read on. They very much enjoyed the characters and wanted more of them.
It has been pointed out to me that I do have to strive for a touch more clarity in places. A real case of the author knowing what is going on and not conveying it clearly enough to her readers. Duly noted, I will definitely work on that, focusing much more on every scene and the importance within it.
That said, the majority have loved the novel and wanted more. W00t! Of course I want to hear that.
But, to quote a couple of reviews - "A refreshing read - Her writing is beautiful. Sparse when it needs to be, and perfectly descriptive when it calls for that. "
"Loved it!" (Liked that one along with "Better than cheese" lol.)
Another one which touched me: "In a way that is deeply sympathetic to prisoners of war and soldiers exposed to terrible hardship everywhere, the author speaks to the heart of the reader with truth as well as compassion."
"I so admire your creative imagination!"
And lastly "When is the next one coming???"
So, yes, I have a huge grin plastered on my face. Flaws and all I've touched some hearts, and that is everything I wished to achieve.
When someone starts writing, the reason often is, because they loved reading. I suppose in some ways it is like fan writing, because you attempt to emulate what you've enjoyed most. The other aspect of this is, you think you can do better.
That's when you realise that the ease with which you read is an artform a writer has perfected. It is why they are many not-so-good novels out there. Because believe me, it ain't easy. It really is blood, sweat, and tears, and maybe a few tantrums.
Even so, it doesn't stop you. Well, it didn't stop me. Now and then I will whinge and whine louder than my wolfhound, but mostly, I keep going.
So I got to thinking who influenced me most.
As a child it was all the Enid Blyton stories and Elyne Mitchell's Silver Brumby stories. I found Dorothy Dunnett at around eighteen and devoured everything she wrote. But it was also people like Robert Silverberg and Piers Anthony. Later it was CJ Cherryh.
I put a dedication in my novel to just a couple though. It was CJ who really stoked my imagination, followed by Janny Wurts. Very very different styles yet both with depth and characters you really wanted to follow. Then there is Kate Elliott and CS Friedman.
I hadn't realised that all my favourite authors are women. It wasn't intentional, but I guess I just empathize more. There are gentleman writers I like, but when I looked at my bookshelves there are definitely more ladies. But these are the main ones who mistakenly influenced me to write.
How about you?
Today's image is a stock image by Fernando Cortes De Pablo
Life has a funny way of showing you things
There was me, sitting watching tv over my laptop, as is my norm, when the phone rings. It is the lady where I keep my horse. First thought is, oh my, has he slipped in the slushy snow - because I am a panicker like that. But, no, it isn't that. Her first question was, have you got any more books? Meaning "Games of Adversaries". I do as happens, since the crystal store wanted to do a display but I haven't had time to get out there yet.
Long story short, the local library had heard that I was a local author and wanted one, plus someone else did, plus horse lady's own copy had been 'stolen' already. So for all my mini ranting yesterday, good old word of mouth got me at least six more sales. And even if that is a little weed trying to poke through the forest detritus, it is a beginning. The next question was - would I do a talk at the library? Oh my. Why didn't I write a kid's book. I could talk to kids...
Today's picture - Merlin and friends at Ghost Lake Ranch.