Saturday, February 25, 2006

Writing space

Ann Wesley Hardin posted about writing space, and the struggle to find the right space. Yep, I can relate to that struggle. When we designed our not-very-large house, I wasn't a writer. We also had to cut back on our plans, due to the high cost of building. The sunroom became my space - for my work materials, weaving, spinning and sewing equipment and stashes, and writing. It's a nice room, but it's crowded (two large looms don't help), and it gets stinking hot in summer during the day, and freezing cold in winter at night. Not to mention that in winter during the day the sun always seems to be shining onto the laptop screen.

The DH installed a wireless network, and I moved to the dining table in our living room. That was better temperature-wise, no matter the season, but the wooden chairs were uncomfortable for long periods, and if the DH wanted to watch TV I had a hard time not being distracted by it.

About this time last year, I moved my small desk from the sun room to the guest room, and bought an inexpensive, cushioned office chair. At first I put the desk into a corner beside the queen bed - but I found myself feeling claustrophic. I finally did a major clean-out, sorting out boxes that had been filling the small alcove which will, one day, house a piano. Now it houses my desk, and we've moved the DH's old bookshelf into the room so I have a place to store books and files. It's still not spacious, but it works much better. The window to my left looks out to bushland, and to my right I look down the passageway and out the french doors in our bedroom; I don't feel as claustrophobic. DH also hooked speakers up to my computer, so I can listen to decent quality music without having to wear headphones.

Here's a close-up: my favourite mug with tea, my knitting, Ann's blog on the screen, a pin-board with photos for my wip, Bats to watch over me, and yes, that's a giraffe riding on the computer ;-)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I don't think I'm going to be one of those writers where readers say all the characters are the same. They're certainly very diverse in my imagining. Occasionally I almost wish that I could write more stereotypical ones - or maybe I should say 'archetypal' - but each one of mine lands in my imagination with a strong and very individual emotional core, and I have to then build on that, keep the character consistent and true to themselves, and work out all the whys and hows of who they are.

I've mentioned before that I've been jotting notes and ideas for the second book after Shadows and Light; I really have to know in my own mind where I'll be going with this linked trilogy before I can proceed much further.

I can already tell that the heroine of this book, Mariane, is going to provide me with some significant writing challenges. She's a quiet, dedicated, academic historian, thrown as soon as the book opens into a world she's totally unequipped for - on the run from the CIA, MI6, and ASIS, not to mention a powerful arms dealer.

My challenge in this will be to keep Mariane real, without slipping into the convenience of traditional characterisations; she's neither a kickbutt heroine, nor a wimpy heroine who has to be rescued. Yet in the first chapter, she will be struggling in a world she doesn't understand enough to deal with - but I have to keep the plot real, too, without building in contrivances to enable her to show her strengths. (Yes, I know being on the run from assoretd intelligences agencies and arms dealers sounds very James Bond fantasy-ish, but that's not the style I write in ;-) )

It's just as well I've got a while to mull this over before I get serioulsy into writing it ;-)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Teeth grinding

A week or so ago, I bought Bronwyn Jameson's book, The Rugged Loner. The Harlequin and Silhouette books aren't published here until several months after the US, and so I'd been eagerly awaiting Bron's book - I don't read many books of that line, but Bron is not only a good writer, she's a wonderfully warm and supportive member of the Romance Writers of Australia and great company at conferences. (Plus she has a really great name ;-) )

So, I went into K-Mart to buy her book. They publish some of the Harl/Sil lines here in Australia as duos, so you get two stories in the same book. And my heart sank. Bron's book was packaged with an author whose stories I really don't like. I bought it anyway, of course, but I confess I did feel cranky with Harlequin.

The other author? Diana Palmer. I know that many people love her, she's a Big Name Author who's sold a gazillion books, and she's probably a wonderful person. But I've tried to read two of her books in the past and have been grinding my teeth by page 2. Those books just didn't mesh with my taste in reading. Obviously, she does appeal to millions of readers, which is fine, and just goes to illustrate that there's no right or wrong, and personal taste is subjective.

Anyway, after I read Bron's fantastic story, (woo-hoo Bron! Can't wait till the next one comes out!), I decided to try Diana's, thinking maybe I just didn't read her best ones previously. Maybe this one I'd enjoy....

I gave up on page 5. I wanted to throttle the heroine for being spineless and TSTL, and knee the hero. Not a great start for relating to characters and believing in the possibility of a HEA. I looked at the copyright page, assuming it was an early 1980s novel re-released. Nope, it was first published in 2005.

So, what's my point in relating this? The romance genre is wide, and the readership is not some homogenous lump of all exactly-the-same women. Diana writes, very successfully, books that appeal to some of those women. No writer - not even La Nora, or Jennifer Crusie - appeals to everyone. Some love them, some hate them, some are merely indifferent. That's more than okay - that's the way it should be. Diversity is wonderful! Without that diversity, our genre and our industry would be tiny.

So, with all due respect to Diana Palmer, I'm not going to try and finish her book. I don't wish her ill, or even really begrudge her the $$ I spent, but my reading time is too limited to read books I'm not enjoying.

What I do wish, however, is that Harlequin in Australian gave some more consideration to the whole publishing of two books in one volume thing. I don't know if others found the pairing of Bron's and Diana's books strange, but I wouldn't be surprised if they did - it would seem to me that Bron's gutsy, independent heroines and Diana's more traditional ones would appeal to different readers. Maybe that's Harlequin's ploy - get both readerships to buy the book. That's fine for Bron and Diana - but do you think I can send Harlequin the bill for getting my teeth fixed???