Books about Writers

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I am preparing to make a major change in my life. I’ve been thinking about it for over a year.  I’ve been imagining what my new life will look like.

In my reading, I came across two books that prompted further research on the topic of What Does a Full-time Author’s Life Look Like?

The first one I read was Hemmingway’s A Moveable Feast. This was non-fiction. Then, as I was re-reading an old favorite, In the Midnight Rain  by Barbara Samuel, I realized the heroine of this novel was a full-time author.  Both books mentioned the writing schedule.

So I Googled/Goodreads-ed “books about writers” to see what I could glean. The answer: not much.

I read: The Accidental Tourist (Anne Tyler); Swimming Home (Deborah Levy); Cakes and Ale (Somerset Maugham).  Not what I was looking for. Then I re-read other books on my shelf and stumbled across more authors mentioning their writing schedules: Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence;  Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany by Frances Mayes. John Mortimer writes a novelist character in Paradise PostponedThe World According to Garp (John Irving). And of course Stephen King’s On Writing, The Shining, and Bag of Bones. I waded through The Brontes by Juliet Baker, which was a mistake because I’m looking for glimpses of a writing life, not an analysis of one.

Any suggestions?

Analyzing Other Authors

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Last month, or maybe the month before, I started re-reading JD Robb’s In Death series and making notes. I also purchased all the books I didn’t have, so I now have an up-to-date library of the series. It’s important because I do go back and re-read books I love.

For those unfamiliar with the series, the books are futuristic police procedurals. Yes, there is romance, but the primary story is the police procedural. The cop (Eve Dallas) and the (reformed) con (Roarke).

I started an Excel worksheet with a spreadsheet for each title. I realized about half-way through the series that I should have made better notes. Now I’ll have to re-read all the titles again to make better spreadsheets.  Life is full of tribulations.

I started re-reading because I wanted to see how her Nora-ness handles an ensemble cast. My current WIP, which is unlike anything I’ve done before, has an ensemble cast of characters that confuses the dickens out of one of my critique partners. I keep trying to explain that I am not writing a romance and I’m not writing a small town series.

I’ve been amused and/or intrigued by the author’s vision of the future. The series starts in 2058. A couple of examples include:

  • Discs-Everyone transfers data to discs, which may have been the rage when the series began, but now it’s flash drives. I’m sure by 2058 there will be something else.
  • Talking Cars-Eve Dallas, the female protagonist, plugs addresses into her car and the dashboard gives her directions, etc. So does my car! I feel very Dallas-esque when my dash tells me, “Toll booth.”
  • Tubes of soft drinks-I love this idea, instead of cans or bottles.
  • Real cow/pig/chicken/egg/coffee/sugar-because of climate change these commodities are rare and thrilling to the characters, who get to partake because Roarke, the male protagonist is one of the wealthiest people on or off planet, frequently feeds Eve’s co-workers.
  • Off planet correctional facilities-putting prisons in space? Intriguing concept.

There are also inconsistencies that niggle, but nothing major.

  • At least two characters’ names change from book to book.
  • There is an assumption that because Roarke is Irish that he knows Catholicism. But Roarke’s upbringing certainly didn’t include the Church’s rites of passage, so he wouldn’t be as conversant as he sometimes is.
  • Eve mentions several times that religion wasn’t taught in the state orphanages in which she grew up, but sometimes, when she’s not asking Roarke questions, she does mention things that a person unfamiliar with Christianity might not know.

The best thing about the series is how the characters grow from book to book. They learn from their mistakes.

I had started another popular series of books around the same time my sister urged me to read JD Robb. I eventually stopped reading those books because the characters never changed. They were awesome characters in the beginning, but after 10 or books, I wanted to see them learning from their errors instead of the constant buffoonery to which the series evolved.

 

My Favorite Tropes

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Writers, especially authors of genre fiction, love to discuss tropes. Tropes are those “commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works.”

One of my author friends is completely hooked on trapped in a cabin during a blizzard with a stranger.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • rain/thunderstorms
  • first kisses in the rain
  • old houses
  • haunted houses
  • twins, especially evil twins
  • secret identity heroes
  • jazz
  • south of France
  • Tuscany
  • Greece
  • wine
  • food

What are the story hooks that pull you in?

 

A Book Review: The Kiss Quotient

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I had read about Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient in a couple of different places, so I decided to check it out. I’m so glad I did.

I read some nasty reviews, comparing the book to 50 Shades. The people who wrote those reviews are ignorant. They saw the sex part and immediately made assumptions that  distorted their perceptions. Shame on them. The premise of 50 Shades was sex. The motivations in 50 Shades were sex. Not so in The Kiss Quotient.

Stella, the heroine, is motivated to overcome the issues her autism creates with dating so she can have a somewhat normal relationship with a man, get married, and provide her parents with the grandchildren they want. She knows she has problems. The logical solution is to hire someone to teach her.

Michael is willing to do just about anything to help pay for his mother’s medical bills. That includes becoming a paid escort. Which is how Stella found him and hired him to help her learn to be in a relationship–the dating, the touching, the intimacy.

Her autism creates many awkward or embarrassing situations, especially with Michael’s Vietnamese family.  The way Stella’s brain functions only adds to the hurt and misunderstandings about their cultural differences.

I loved this book so much.

A Book Review: The Sun Down Motel

 

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I did a search looking for haunted house books because I was in the mood for some ghosties. The Sun Down Motel popped up right away. I was intrigued because I also have a thing for old motels, abandoned motor courts, and the like.  Also, the book is set in upstate New York,  the area in which I live. I also happened to live in upstate NY in 1982, which is the year the protagonist’s aunt vanished.

I wasn’t expecting another The Shining (the only book I’ve ever read that scared the daylights out of me in broad daylight),  but based on the hype I expected a lot more than was delivered.

First of all, the book switched back and forth between 1982 and “the present”, muddling the story. The characters were interchangeable. Only the names changed. I kept having to stop and figure out in whose point of view/which year I was reading. The only distinct and memorable character was the motel itself. Needless to say, the motel was the only character even approaching likability.

I was also highly offended by the constant litany that 1982 was a different time and young women didn’t need to be as careful as “in the present.” I was a young single woman in 1982 in upstate New York. The time wasn’t that different. At least, not enough to use it as a justification for carelessness.

The story is billed as a mystery.  Nope. Suspenseful. What? I put the book down for days at a time because I simply didn’t care about the story.

My take? Don’t bother.