Thursday, January 26, 2012

Romance Woes

I can't tell if the book I'm reading is self-published or not.

This could be considered a great stride in self-publishing: a book put together by someone who respects their work enough to hire a good editor and a good designer, someone who has been paying attention and decided to do it on their own and doesn't see any reason there should be any qualitative difference from something put out with the totality of A. A. Knopf's editorial team behind it.

In some cases, it would be.

But this is a romance novel.

So the cover's pretty okay, and the layout's pretty darned good, but the editing . . .

To be fair, if the editor did what I would have been tempted to do and took a shot for every sentence fragment, they'd have been dead of alcohol poisoning by Chapter 3 and none of this would be their fault.

The plot revolves around two lovers separated before they had closure, and their reunion and presumed eventual resumption of relations (I haven't read that far). She is in a non-threatening caring profession (she's not a cardiac surgeon or a Special Education teacher, but somewhere in between where the audience can nod along that yes, she has obvious nurturing qualities and no, we don't need to think about anything too difficult). He is in a highly-paid and highly-respected field that leaves him feeling somewhat isolated (sports star, business tycoon, whatever: that's not important either except for props). Her son is in the requisite 6-10 age range, smart and quiet (quiet because we can't have one of the obstacles to their relationship taking up too much dialogue).

This plot, with these characters, are practically a genre unto themselves. If I kept track, I could probably name a dozen with the same setup. Most of them are probably put out by some imprint of Harlequin. To give credit where it's due, Harlequin romances are often well-written. Rather, actually, comprehensibly written, because I am quite aware of the literary merit of cotton candy nailed to a page.

But with other romance publishers, I have encountered nightmarishly bad editing. The rub of it is, I wasn't particularly scandalized. If a sci-fi novel had been published with a similar startlingly vast array of problems, I'd have politely tweeted to the author that they had gone insane. But these are romance novels. So I take the warm-fuzzies of the inevitable happy ending, go to the next one, and forget I ever read it.

This time, I'll try to include a note to self that just because it's free from the Kobo bookstore does not mean I  am obliged to download it and read it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I usually post on Wednesdays. I've been in a pretty good groove about that the past six months or so, including queuing my friend Pat's post for the week I was on vacation.

I won't be posting tomorrow.

In fact, none of my blog is going to be visible tomorrow. I'm joining up with a whole bunch of other sites and going dark for tomorrow in protest of SOPA. A whole bunch of people have made more cogent arguments as to why it's bad than I have, and you can read some of them here and here. Wikipedia explains why it's going dark here. Read quickly, though: you only have three hours until it's down for the day.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

'Conventional Wisdom'

There's this conventional wisdom that a YA novel should be between 40k and 60k words, and a adult novel 70k to 80k. The thought process seems to be that young adults have shorter attention spans, and want smaller and more easily digestible bits of story.

Then conventional wisdom meets YA bestseller lists, and that all falls apart. Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games - all ridiculously long books, part of even longer series. Harry Potter was particularly eye-opening: after the series became a success, Tamora Pierce, one of my favourite authors going up and a mainstay of fantasy YA, brought out her new series as two long books rather than four short ones. The page count for the pair was higher than her quartets usually are, too. Harry Potter opened people's eyes to the fact that yes, young adults are willing to read much longer stories, and will in fact devour them.

This brought on another change, as well: YA has traditionally been defined as aimed at 8-12 year olds, or at least was in the labeled sections of Waterstones. Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events and Harry Potter and much of Tamora Pierce's work certainly fit that bill. But The Hunger Games certainly speaks more to a slightly older audience. So there can be seen to be two general audiences for YA: those graduating from our childhood reads of Berenstein Bears and Le Petit Prince (what, not everyone read this in French at age six? I don't understand), and those who read it because, while they are older, they still very much identify with being young and overcoming odds and still looking for a future.

It's this latter category that in some part explains the number of twenty-somethings who will happily dress up as Harry Potter or Luna Lovegood for a movie premiere. This category has free time and long attention spans. And it's as a sometimes member of this latter category that I hope more writers realize that YA means Young Adult, not child. Don't dumb down your prose. Don't limit your vocabulary. For the sake of all that's good and true, don't simplify your ethical conflicts.

And don't let 'conventional wisdom' dictate your word count.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Victoria Writers' Society AGM

I'm up for re-election again for my position as webmaster of the Victoria Writers' Society. Everyone who arrived at the meeting with their membership form already filled out was eligible to be entered in a draw. I, of course, despite putting that announcement on the website, completely forgot. We're having a reading after, an open mic night for all members. Up for re-election are all of the executive, including the members at large, and we get to approve the budget for the upcoming year.

The exec for 2012 stands as follows:
President Carol O.
Vice President Michael Mcgovern
Treasurer Laura Smith
Secretary Sheila Martindale

Members at Large:
Edeana Malcolm
Margo Malcolm
Eileen Young
Derek Peach
Jerry Hayes

Sheila Martindale won a thirty dollar gift certificate from Bolyn Books from the draw.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

First Of The Year

My year began with champagne, sleep, and my mother pounding at my front door to make sure I was awake.

Once I was dressed and out the door, we went to the levee at the Bay St Armoury, where I had breakfast in the form of athol brose. It has oatmeal in it, so it's breakfast. And probably healthy, too. One of the kilted officers in the Officers Mess ladled me some, and I got to wander the Mess. It has the feel of a gentleman's club as portrayed in a spy film set in the 1950s: billiard table, covered for this occasion, fully stocked bar that has won awards for its single malt list, heavy leather furniture and a large portrait of Princess Mary on the mantle. We proceeded to the NCO Mess, which is larger and brighter, with a TV and a smaller bar. I got to discuss the origin of the last name Young with a bekilted Sergeant-Major of the same name.

Then we went to Government House, which is the big one. We parked about a block and a half away. We were herded into a short tour of the downstairs, culminating in a coat check, before being herded back upstairs and through a receiving line to the ballroom. The receiving line was a few officers, including the head of the BC Ambulance Service for the South Island, and the Lieutenant Governor. The ballroom was stuffed with people and coffee and sausage rolls. The view from the veranda is spectacular: all the way to the water and the Olympic Peninsula.

I also managed to find the best cure for crowd anxiety: a pipe band in an enclosed space. Really. It was fantastic. They played a couple songs I didn't know, then Amazing Grace, and a few people were singing along, including me, though I forgot most of the second verse. Then they played Auld Lang Syne, and at least half the crowd sang along, and it was beautiful. A lone piper piped in the Lieutenant Governor and his party, and the Lt. Governor paid the piper - which involved sharing a stiff drink on stage. It was charming. The address put a good start on the year, too.

As we were leaving, there was a woman collapsed in the parking lot. I went to help, though there wasn't much I could do. I helped keep her propped up, got her a tissue from her pocket, and made sure she was breathing and had a pulse. I also made sure someone had gone for the head of the ambulance service, because, while I have my certificate, I have no license as a paramedic and no cell phone to call an ambulance.

The ambulance arrived quickly, and she was bundled on to the ambulance. A fire truck arrived as well, so they had plenty of help, and I left. The ambulance pulled out, and didn't have the lights and sirens on, so she's most likely going to be okay.

As an example of the upcoming year, I'm okay with this morning. I spent the early part reading, and I want to do more of that, and more writing. I very much want to get more into my paramedical training, and start working in the field - I think this morning will be impetus to do my licensing sooner rather than later.

And I can always appreciate more men in kilts.