Title: Silent in the Sanctuary
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Length: 552 pgs
Summary: Lady Julia Grey is back from her Italian getaway, where she recovered from the loss of her husband, the shock of discovering who killed her husband, the confusing emotions toward the detective hunting her husband’s murderer, and the smoke inhalation from the night all these factors came together in a literal blaze of fury. Home for Christmas in Sussex, Lady Julia is shocked to see among the guests Brisbane, the aforementioned detective, who is newly engaged to one of the silliest women she has ever laid eyes on. When murder happens in the abbey, it is up to Lady Julia and Brisbane to solve the crime despite their tumultuous history.
pg 158 – She proceeded to comment on everything we passed–the symmetry of the maze, the magnificence of the bell tower, the cleverness of the carp ponds.
And then she saw the gates. She went into raptures about the iron hares that topped them, the darling little gatehouse, the pretty shrubbery by the road. Another twenty minutes was spent on the straightness of the linden allee, and by the time we reached the village of Blessingstoke, my ears had gone numb with the effort of listening to her.
“So many words,” he murmured. “I did not think one person could know so many words.”
pg 482 – “That’s the trouble with women,” she said wonderingly. “We know what we oughtn’t do, but when a man comes along, we only hear his voice, and not our own.”
pg 497 – I finally ran him to ground in the library, gamely working his way through Pride and Prejudice. He sprang to his feet when I entered, smiling broadly.
I nodded to the book. “How are you enjoying Jane Austen?”
He waggled his hand from side to side. “She is a little silly, I think.”
Now I was more certain than ever in my decision. I could not love a man who did not love Jane Austen.
Why should you read this book?
Contrary to many of the reviews that I read on Amazon.com, I really liked this book precisely because the continued love-hate relationship from the previous book, Silent in the Grave, was in no way resolved, and in a way that was true to the characters. That’s genius, if you ask me, because it keeps the true fans of the series panting for more. This book is funny, charming, and portrays High Victorian Society oh so well. The setting is well-written without overtaking the plot, the characters are snappy, and my favorite device is used: giving tertiary characters their own subplots that affect the whole.
Read this book for a sophomore attempt that was as good (if not better) than the first, for a lesson in creating characters that don’t fit in their own society and yet seem genuine to the reader, a true puzzle of a crime, a charming and funny narrator, a passionate romance with no real sense of a happy ending (must continue to read the series!), and the only series in a long time that has an alpha romance lead that doesn’t make me want to shoot him.
Do you have information about how to write, edit, or publish?
Do you have favorite blogs that you read that I haven’t showcased?
Is there a genre you write that I haven’t discussed?
I’m looking for guest bloggers to spice up Worderella Writes. At the end of your post, feel free to advertise your own website/blog, especially if it has to do with the craft of writing, or the progress of your own work.
Contact me at my website or comment to this post with your ideas and I’ll respond to let you know the details.
Things to keep in mind: I try to keep my posts around 600 words. There needs to be a general writing, reading, research, history, or romance theme. I don’t post anything vulgar so don’t bother if that’s what you’re planning to do.
Agents, it seems, are the way to break into the traditional publishing field for authors. But how do you find an agent? More importantly, once you find an agent, how do you know they are a good one? This is not a decision for the faint of heart, as Susan Kearney points out at Plot Monkeys.
The biggest thing to keep in mind when looking for an agent, and once you get that agent, is that your agent is NOT your friend. You have a business relationship and it is their duty to do their best to sell your book.
Also remember that the agent is your voice to big name publishers. If you have a bad agent, this might damage your ability to break into the market. So don’t be afraid to terminate the contract if you and your agent can’t conduct business in a professional manner.
For more information on disreputable agents, add Writer Beware! to your RSS feeds, as well as look up your potential agents in their archives.
If you want an inside look to the life of an agent, agent blogs are the way to go. See BookEnds, Nathan Bransford, Jennifer Jackson from the Donald Maass Agency, Rachel Vater from Folio Literary Management, Nephele Tempest from the Knight Agency, and the snarkives of Miss Snark. At least…these are the ones I read.
Here are Susan Kearney’s list of questions that should be answered to help determine whether your potential agent will make a good business partner for your writing goals.Read More...
Title: Arranged Marriage
Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Genre: Short Stories
Length: 307 pgs
Summary: A powerful, eye-opening, easy to read set of thoughtful short stories set in India and the USA about the lives and loves of Indian women in the world.
pg 59 – You hate it when he talks like that, biting off the ends of words and spitting them out. You try to tell yourself that he wants to hurt you only because he’s hurting, because he’s jealous of how much [Mother] means to you. You try to remember the special times. [...] You try to shut out the whispery voice that lives behind the ache in your eyes, the one that started when you said yes and he kissed you, hard.
Mistake, says the voice, whispering in your mother’s tones.
Sometimes the voice sounds different, not hers. It is a rushed intake of air, as just before someone asks a question that might change your life. You don’t want to hear the question, which might be how did you get yourself into this mess, or perhaps why, so you leap in with that magic word. Love, you tell yourself, lovelovelvoe. But you know, deep down, that word solves nothing.
Why should you read this book?
This is a powerful testament to Divakaruni’s talent as a poet and prose writer. The excerpt above shows how powerful her writing is; my theory is because she was a poet first and then turned to prose. You can tell how carefully she picks each word, how she puts them together to get just the effect she’s looking for.
Read this book for an example of how to organize your short stories/chapters in a way that is thoughtful and provocative and for heartbreakingly human characters. For those of you writing about Eastern culture, read this book for one author’s take on how to introduce Eastern culture to a Western reader in a subtle, sophisticated manner.
We all know Mark Twain for Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, etc. In literary circles he is known for his lambasting essay, The Literary Offenses of Fenimore Cooper, where he writes his Nineteen Most Important Rules of Literature. The essay claims that James Fenimore Cooper, another well-known American author, broke eighteen of them. How do you make out?
1. A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.
2. The episodes in a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help to develop it.
3. The people in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others.
4. The people in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.
5. When the people of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject at hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.
6. When the author describes the character of a person in the tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description.
7. When a person talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship’s Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a [slave] minstrel in the end of it.
8. Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader as “the craft of the woodsman, the delicate art of the forest,” by either the author or the people in the tale.
9. People of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.
10. The author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and in their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones.
11. Characters in a tale shall be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency.
Whoosh. Twain really didn’t like Cooper’s writing! And he isn’t done yet. Additional requirements for authors include…
12. Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.
13. Use the right word, not its second cousin.
14. Eschew surplusage.
15. Not omit necessary details.
16. Avoid slovenliness of form.
17. Use good grammar.
18. Employ a simple and straightforward style.
For the life of me, I can’t find the 19th rule, the one Cooper didn’t break. If you want to read Twain’s complete essay, check it out here. You have to admit, though, Twain is onto something here. Especially #5, where characters should only talk when they have something interesting to say that also has to to with the plot. So come on, fess up: How many rules have you broken?
We don’t remember Scarlett O’Hara for her beauty, we remember her because she survived countless marriages, a war, childbirth, poverty, sickness, the end of the world as she knew it, and heartbreak on a monumental scale. And she’s flawed, boy, is she flawed. And a brilliant character. You either love her, or hate her. So how do you make your own Scarlett?
It should be cliche at this point: Know your character. Sometimes you will only know your character after you’ve thrown a couple of bad situations at them. I really do suggest sitting somewhere with a journal, and ask yourself, “What if…?” What would she do? Who does she turn to? Inward for self-reflection, or outward for comfort?Don’t know what to throw at her? That’s okay, I’ve also provided you with a list of bad things that you can use as a starting point…
- Physical adversity. Death, dismemberment, sickness. Everyone will go through at least two of these in their life, so your character better have some experience with at least one of them.
Sometimes this is the worst thing that can happen to your character. But what if it isn’t? Don’t be afraid to pile on the adversity. The worse the situation is, and the more empathetic your character is, the more you hook your reader.
- Unfulfilled desire. No one ever gets things the way they want all the time, every time. What if your character is used to getting her way, and one day doesn’t? What if this moment completely alters her understanding of herself and the world around her? What does she do? Does her desire destroy her, does she rise above it? Does she ruin the lives of those around her in her quest to satisfy her desire?
Note this desire doesn’t have to be romantic in nature. In fact, if it isn’t, and you’re writing a romance, what a great twist to your story! Suddenly you’ve added a new dimension to your romance, making it all the more believable. No one in the real world has time to only worry about their romantic life, so why should your characters?
- Haunting past. Regrets about things you didn’t do. Regrets about things you did. Each of us is interesting because we have personal histories. For instance, many think I savor my food, or that I just eat slowly. I do this now, but it started because my baby brother choked many times as a child, and one time I panicked instead of remaining calm. My father had to perform the Heimlich even though I’d been trained by the Red Cross. From that moment, I realized how easily it is to be careless and put your life in danger.
See how much you learned about me just by hearing how I eat? The moral of the story is: Don’t discount the little things. They are the collection of moments that create our personalities and fill the prologues of our lives.
- Use the time period to your advantage, and against your character’s. The women of today are strong-willed and ready to shout it from the rooftops. The women of yesterday were just as strong-willed, but required the mastery of subtlety or they might suffer the rule of thumb. If your character wants to do something that she just wouldn’t have done in your chosen time period, don’t give it up for the sake of the time period.
Use the frustration to build your character, showing the reader just what sort of a person she is.
- Go with it. Sometimes you’ll surprise yourself with the scenarios you create. Actually, I hope you surprise yourself. In fact, you better surprise yourself. If your scenarios don’t surprise you, you won’t surprise your reader, and that’s bad.
What’s really great is when a character surprises herself. But again, you need to know your character well enough to know when she can surprise herself. As a hint, use your research to spark your imagination. Read old newspapers and be amused and shocked by what happened back then. Truth really is stranger than fiction.
I’m using all of these techniques against my character, and while it pains me to write scenes where my character suffers, I’m also ridiculously proud of her stamina against adversity.
So tell me, what is the worst situation you’ve thrown at your characters? And how did you feel while writing those scenes: timid, worried, daring, jubilant?
Title: The Deception of the Emerald Ring
Author: Lauren Willig
Genre: Historical Fiction, Chick Lit
Length: 387 pgs
Summary: Modern day – Eloise Kelly, like any good graduate student, is neck-deep in research for her dissertation about the Pink Carnation, attempting to prove the English spy existed. 1803 England – Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe, an English operative in league with the Pink Carnation, is ordered to Ireland to prevent an Irish rebellion and catch the Black Tulip the same night he means to elope with the beautiful Mary Alsworthy. When the carriage door opens, however, it’s not Mary that steps out but her sensible sister Letty determined to stop the happy couple. The ensuing scandal forces Letty to marry Geoffrey, and when he leaves her on their wedding night for Ireland, she’s decided enough is enough and follows him, unaware she is about to stumble into the world of espionage, and even romance.
pg 2 – One day. It had only been one day by the calendar, two years in terms of agonized phone staring, and about half an hour in boy time. It is a truth universally acknowledged that time moves differently for men. There was, I reminded myself, no reason why Englishmen should differ from their American counterparts in this regard.
pg 100 – There’s nothing so attractive as a blank slate. Take one attractive man, slap on a thick coat of daydream, and, voila, the perfect man. With absolutely no resemblance to reality.
pg 310 – He looked down into her flushed face, framed with its tangle of hair that alternated between copper and gold in the candlelight, and knew that no number of compliments would convince her. With her sturdy common sense, she would write them off as pure flummery. To a certain extent, she would be right. She would never be a beauty by the accepted standards. Pretty, yes. Even lovely. But she lacked the stateliness and symmetry society demanded of its chosen goddesses. …One might admire a well-carved statue, but it would be deuced uncomfortable to cuddle up with at night.
Why should you read this book?
This is my favorite book out of the Pink Carnation series, perhaps because the historical heroine, Letty, isn’t a madcap adventurer like Amy, or a self-indulgent younger sister of a great English operative… she’s a nobody, a younger sister that no one thinks of despite the fact that she makes sure everything is good for everyone else. Finally, we get to see a little about what other people think of this Pink Carnation character, who have no connection with the operative. This romance, despite its hasty beginning, is more organic to me, much more believable, because it seems the characters are actually meant for one another. There are obvious clues that let you think this, whereas the other books…well, the first one was “lust first, love after,” and the second was “childhood friends turned lovers.”
As always, an entertaining series, well-written, a good amount of history and other allusions thrown in, something great if you want a bit of fluff in-between your heavier reading. I look forward to reading the next book, The Seduction of the Crimson Rose. Writers should read this book for a believable burgeoning romance between previously unknown persons.
It turns out that if you’re self-published, you’re considered self-employed. If you’re self-employed, you need to report your income if you accept more than $400 a year for your services (as seen on the form, here).
Some of you may know this already. But let me tell you, back when I was a naive, trusting seventeen-year-old (as opposed to the naive, not-so-trusting twenty-two-year-old I am now), I was completely bummed out that if I became the author I wanted to be, I’d have to pay taxes on my hard-earned royalties. This includes selling your books online, through PayPal, etc.
So for you writers that are either self-published or vanity-published, here are some tax forms you might want to take a look at.
- Publications and Forms for Self-Employed Individual: These are all the forms that apply to any sort of self-employed writer. Self-employed in this case would imply self- or vanity-published, because you are putting the money into having your work produced.
That is the key distinction: you are producing your work. Otherwise, you are working with a small press or traditional, large press, who pays all of the production/marketing costs and eke out a small royalty your way.
- Filing Requirements for Self-Employed Individual: This page lists the different forms you may have to fill out in order to be kosher with the Tax Man.
- Business Use of Your Home: This page gives you some idea of what is considered a business in the home, and what benefits you can get by claiming your home office as such. Keep in mind, you need to keep separate receipts, as well as make sure that your office is specifically for your writing, etc. If you’re going to have a business office, keep it a business.
For more information, check out Taxes and the Writer, which goes into more detail (and in paragraph form) about allowable deductions, home offices, retirement plans, etc. And read Death, Taxes, and the Writer for an emphasis on the importance of filing your return, even if you only made $401 in income the previous fiscal year.
P.S. For those of you needing a bit of extra help with your writing, I’ve begun re-compiling my general writing notes on my website, along with all the quotes I’ve compiled over the past couple of years. Stay tuned for more goodies!