Sunday, September 18, 2011

Craft nosiness, ape-men, scaffolding, and digging up corpses


I DNFed a book last night, but I will still read it, though I quietly took it off my Goodreads shelf. This is a really popular historical romance, and I have loved others written by this author (and that's all I'll say, so don't ask, my friends!) But in my mind, this one of hers went all wrong - for me, anyway (and if it went wrong for me, it went wrong, since I can only read and write for my tastes). Anyway, it felt paint-by numbers, as though the life didn't spark. I've read books that have the same general set-up, some I've loved to death, but this one fell.

What makes one book work and one book not work, especially when they are similar?  What makes a book a living thing? I think there is a kind of magic in the best books, but there's more than that.

So I'm going to keep reading this DNF - I'll F it for the same reason people in the middle ages dug up graveyards and cut apart dead bodies--out of a keen desire to know what the heck went wrong!

It will also show me what went right with the books of this author that I have loved and embraced. I think sometimes good writers get under pressure to produce too fast, and my favorite writers take risks sometimes too - ones that don't work out - but that spirit of risking is what make them good, and I always look.

It's a kind of nosiness, I suppose. And hell, maybe I'll come to like the latter part of this book better, and I'll get the writerly learning experience along with some readerly pleasure. Maybe the book will spring up and run around and be okay. It will still show me something. Do other authors do that? Read for what went wrong? I guess I assume so. Maybe not!

Awesome Armstrong in a
minimalistic mood.
The less popular series: hidden dimensions
Another thing I enjoy, which is kind of along the same writerly nosiness lines, is that I look at the less popular series of authors I love, because sometimes those books show me how they pull things off in a more plain and straightforward way than than their popular series do.

For example, Kelley Armstrong's wonderful hitwoman series - the Nadia Stafford Series (an awesome series that I'm dying for her to continue beyond two books) - gave me a lot of insights into how she differentiates characters with language. It's almost like  you can see the scaffolding of her character magic; part of this, I think, is because the hitwoman books are quite simple and minimalistic, and about humans, too.

Same thing with Charlaine Harris' less popular series, the Grave Series (reputed to be the author's favorite of her series, and it's certainly my favorite of all her series).

The other Bon Temps
These books gave me a strong sense of the underdog and embattled character themes that are present on a more subtle level in her Sookie series. It is also interesting to get this dimension on small towns from Harris; it's as if the Grave series is the small town dark side of Bon Temps. The Grave series is far riskier, and the hero is a total beta. Is that why it didn't fly like Sookie?

Anyway, an author's body of work shows me things about individual work. What I mean is that the Grave Series shows me things about the Sookie Series that would not be revealed in the Sookie Series alone. This small town bit, for instance. Oh, wow, have people fallen asleep yet? Is anybody reading this sentence? Do you ever feel like that on blog posts? ahem, back on topic!

Hello ape man?
The first books: ape men
This week I finished Dreams of a Dark Warrior by one of my top favorite authors, Kresley Cole, and I then did something I've been meaning to do forever: I ordered Kresley Cole's McCarrick brothers series.

After that, I'll read her Pirate series. You can't imagine how excited I am to read them. I've noticed that in early books, authors can sometimes be viewed trying out themes and exploring techniques that they later perfect and smooth out.

I'm sure I'll enjoy both these series - it's unimaginable to me I wouldn't enjoy something Cole writes, but will reading her early stuff be like the missing link? The ape-man version of what is today her very highly-evolved writerly wonderfulness? Let's hope! I am nosy that way!

Stiltwalker image: Masquerade on the pumpkin festival (Festa della Zucca) in Verzone, province of Udine, region Fruili-Venezia Giulia, Italy by Johann Jaritz


Shannon@BooksDevoured said...

I totally agree with you about Exit Strategy!! I love Nadia! I keep holding out hope that there will be a third book and more in this series!!

Chris said...

You are so full of questions and ponderings today! Maybe it's the weather. :)

Carolyn Crane said...

Shannon: Wouldn't that be great? And...with Jack in there? Please, Kelley!

Chris: too many ponderings? lol

Sullivan McPig said...

I have the second Nadia book somewhere in my tbr pile, but haven't picked it up yet as I'm wondering if I need to read book 1 before reading this one.

And I do not read on to see what went wrong. I do read on sometimes in hope a book that went wrong will redeem itself though.

kara-karina@Nocturnal Book Reviews said...

My fave from Charlaine Harris is Lily Bard series, it was such a pity she stopped writing them :(
The last book I nearly DNFed was Dark Predator Feehan, but I kept on reading it just to see how bad it could get. Turned out, - really bad.

Carolyn Crane said...

Sullivan: I would read #1 first. I think it would be best in this case.

Kara: I just read a review on Dark Predator - really sounded extreme!

Tez Miller said...

Kelley said that she plans to releases a third Nadia story as an eBook. No word of when.

Vickie said...

I love Charlaine Harris' 'Lily Bard/Shakespeare' series best of everything she writes. Then Harper Connelly series, then Sookie Stackhouse. Not overly fond of Aurora Teagarden.

Now I need to go find this other series by Kelley Armstrong!

Carolyn Crane said...

Tez: No kidding! That is some fantastic news. You are always so up on things!

Vickie: Another fan of the Lily Bard! I think I may not have given that series a fair shot.

Tez Miller said...

She mentioned it at an event when she came to Melbourne last month ;-)

Marg said...

Well. Tez beat me to it! I will be really excited when the next Nadia Stafford book comes out!

Stella (Ex Libris) said...

Yay! Finally someone else who loves Kelley Armstrong's Nadia Stafford series! Of course I also just discovered them because I was a huge Women of the Otherworld fan and didn't have any more novels to read, but oh my! I fell fast and hard! It was completely different since here the setting is realistic and because ther is no supernatural element at all. I hope so much Kelley Armstrong will continue this series because there just arenb'T enough kickass stories about hitwomen (and want to read more about Jack too! ;-p lol)

I'm usually like you with DNFR books: I tend to force myself and chug along until I can't take anymore or time has run out and I have to read something for a deadline review. I like to hold out hope it will get better. Sadly I realized that most often than not I'd have better stopped and not wasted so much time. But can'T wait to hear if this novel will redeem itself.

I've also had Kresley Cole's other series on my TBR shelf but haven't gotten around to read it yet. Hope you'll like it! :-D

Carolyn Crane said...

Tez: Oh, so that is REALLY inside info! How exciting.

Marg: It is so great to see how many other Nadia fans there are!

Stella: I think you are an optimist on things like I am, to keep going with a book like that. Also, did you see above on the comments that Tez sez Armstrong may put out a Nadia #3 in ebook? I'm going to totally monitor this situation!

Hilcia said...

Hmm... DNF'ng... My DNFs used to go back on to my TBR pile. At some point I also read them. Like you, I almost always like to know why that one particular book didn't work out for me. These days I don't seem to have to time to go back to them, though.

RE: the McCarrick brothers by Cole. I enjoyed that series as a whole. Enjoy.

Carolyn Crane said...

Hilcia: Right, because there is always a more inviting book at that point. Hey, so glad to hear you enjoyed that McCarrick series. Really looking forward to it!

Mardel said...

I used to read a lot of historical romance novels, and had some favorite authors. After a while though (as with some of the urban fantasy and most likely other genre) after writing 20 or more books in a series or genre sometimes the books get a bit boring. Probably because we've read so many of their other books.

I think it's a trip how one author can write two or three different series and have a different fan base for each one. To me it also shows a great talent for storytelling - being able to write so differently, change it up enough to reach many different audiences with a few series.