Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Five -- Tudor Edition

1.  My favorite Tudor historical fiction:  WOLF HALL by Hilary Mantel.  The book is brilliant, Ms. Mantel is brilliant, and her version of Thomas Cromwell makes him sympathetic and even likable.  I'm both thrilled and terrified that the sequel, BRING UP THE BODIES, will be published a week after GILT.  And disappointed because I won't let myself read it until after I've finished the Royal Circle series -- her characters are so strong and well-drawn, I don't want them to bleed into mine (pun intended).  There is also a BBC drama planned.  Be still my beating heart.

2.  My favorite Tudor non-fiction.  This has got to be a tie between David Starkey's SIX WIVES and Alison Weir's HENRY VIII: THE KING AND HIS COURT.

3.  My favorite Tudor film or television show.  A Man for All Seasons.  Never been a big fan of Thomas More, but the film is brilliant.

4.  My favorite Tudor wife.  Sorry, can't answer that one.  I have great compassion for Anne of Cleves, love Anne Boleyn's vivacity, Catherine of Aragon's strength, Catherine Parr's intelligence.  I wrote a novel about Catherine Howard and wonder how Jane Seymour feels, laid to rest with Henry for all eternity.

5.  Favorite Tudor.  Leaving the realm of the family itself, as well as Henrician times, I'm going to choose Bess of Hardwick.  A tough, intelligent woman who rose from nowhere to become the second-richest woman in the realm (after Elizabeth).  Not an easy thing to do.  My hat goes off to her.

So, what are some of your Tudor favorites?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Finishing the Hat

Due to a scheduling fail, I posted yesterday rather than today - which turned out to be a good thing. Thank you for your gracious and supportive comments!

Which means today, my post will be shorter and less prepared. I first saw Sunday in the Park with George when I was in high school. I love musical theater, and this is one of my favorites. It's a story of art and obsession, a love story, a moment of history. George Seurat was a pointilist in Paris during the explosion of Impressionist art. He created massive paintings by using tiny dots of color. The eye blends them into figures and structures -- turning red and blue into black and white and orange into light. Sondheim captures this in his music.

My reason for sharing this today is because in the play, one of the reasons George's girlfriend leaves him is because he has to "finish the hat". He works all the time. On these tiny little structures, hoping that the combination will make the finished work perfect.

Writers are like that (though hopefully not to the point of shutting out our loved ones). Each word, each phrase, each image, each paragraph has to be placed just so in order to complete the whole. I'm working on a revision right now and spent all of yesterday on one scene.

Isn't writing amazing when you can lose yourself in "finishing the hat?"

ARCs and Everything After

One of the things I’ve learned on this crazy road to publication is that ARCs (Advance Reader Copies, galleys, uncorrected proofs, review copies, etc.) are like gold.  Because they have a small print run, each bound copy is expensive.  Publishers dole them out carefully – some authors only get two copies for their own marketing purposes.

This makes them very important.  And the choices we make with them as authors have to be equally important.  I don’t have extras.  Every single one is dedicated and for a purpose. It’s not easy to choose when you want everyone to be able to read your book.  When you want bloggers to shout about it.  When you want to be accommodating.  But choices must be made.

And then, yesterday, one went up for sale on eBay. (cue Psycho-esque slasher music).

This just kills me.  I know it happens.  It’s immoral, it’s wrong, it’s ridiculous.  It is, in theory, stealing money from me because I don’t get the royalties from the sale. But, you say, maybe this shouldn’t bother me so much because at least someone is eager to read my book.  I don’t get money from used book sales or from the 101st library reader, either.  It’s the readers that matter, right?  Well, yes and no.

What matters is one word.  “Uncorrected.”

ARCs are uncorrected proofs.  They contain mistakes.  Some are just typos, some are word choice.  In my case, there is a scene that I altered after the ARCs came out that makes the book better, makes the characters more clear.  It’s not a huge change, just word order and scene structure.  But to me it’s important.

I don’t want anyone to have to pay good money for my mistakes.  I want my readers to get the best story I can possibly give them.  That will be in the final copy.

There’s not a lot I can do about eBay sellers or used bookstore sales of ARCs.  There is no ARC police.  I can alert the seller.  I can tell my friends who do the same (thank you, Class of 2k12!).  And I can let you, my readers, know how I feel.  So that when you see an ARC for sale – mine or anyone else’s – you can make your own choice.

Update:  The lovely Kelly Jensen over at Stacked has blogged about this very same issue -- with much more depth and a little more perspective.  If you're interested, please see what she has to say here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Change of Scenery -- Part 2

Last Wednesday, I wrote about how inspiring it can be for me just to change location -- something about the movement and the perspective can often knock something loose and start the creative flow again.

For me, one of the most inspiring location changes is the beach.  I grew up in a coastal town.  There wasn't much to do there (legally) as a teen except drive around.  We had a sometimes-open teen club that was sometimes 21-and-over.

And we had the beach.  I consider myself lucky that I grew up with a batch of people who felt the draw of the water as strongly as I did.  We spent days (and nights) at the beach -- walking, talking, building sandcastles, swimming, lighting bonfires and drinking copious amounts of coffee.  We watched the waves bring in the phosphorescence and light the sand with green stars at night.  We watched the (two) surfers struggle to make sense of the cross-currents during the day.  We got our feet wet and checked the rock pools for sea stars and anemones.  To me, the beach is full of magic.

So last week, a dear writer friend invited me to a revision retreat on the coast.  It's a different coast from the one I grew up on -- the sand is lighter, the harbor more populated, the seaside restaurants a little more cosmopolitan.  But we worked to the sound of the rocking boats and the foghorn.  And one afternoon, I sat on the balcony and wrote until my fingers grew too cold to type.

It was magical.

I'm inspired by other landscapes, too -- deserts, snow-capped mountains, river water on rocks through canyons, the rolling hills of the English Downs.  But the beach and the sea are probably my first loves.  And I can always find my self there.

How about you?  What landscape or perspective inspires you and makes your creative self sing?