Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Great Moments from Last Night's Reading: The Black Hawk

Great Moments from Last Night's Reading
Book: The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne
Page: 41
Spoiler level: not at all
Note: both passages from heroine youth flashback.

A couple twitter friends and I were recently discussing the problem presented by a book by Joanna Bourne: do you read it slowly, savoring every awesome passage? Or do you tear through it, devour it, and THEN re-read? Also, if you are a writer, you have to try very hard for it to not make you feel inferior.

If you haven't read Bourne, start with The Spymaster's Lady and The Forbidden Rose, the two jewels in her crown, though My Lord and Spymaster is not so shabby, and features an awesome ferret sidekick and Lazurus, one of my favorite dark characters.

I am savoring her  latest, The Black Hawk. Look how early I am in the book! I may be reading it through Christmas. So, without further ado, a short great moment from last night:
If Leblanc were compounded of farmyard dirt and rancor, Madame was spun of steel. She wore a pale lavender dress, cut so low across the bodice that her breasts were clearly visible. Her dignity was such that it did not seem indecent. It was as if she came from a pagan time when the human form was sacred and nudity was without shame. Her hair, black and smooth as ebony, was swept  up with silver combs and allowed to fall free in the back. She wore no jewelry whatsoever. Not the least ring or trinket. 
I just died over this description, especially the pagan time reference. I so get that, so have known people like that, whose personality or presence--or whatever ineffable quality--is so forceful that what might be uncool or uncouth on one person is transformed, altered, made right. Oh, but why am I trying to re-explain this lovely passage?

Now I'm remembering descriptions I was wild about last night instead of doing my own writing. Here, this one. The passage opens as, in reference to a the heroine Justine's earlier comment about not knowing what to expect, Hawker says:
"Let's go expect it somewhere else. I don't like the smell of blood unless it's a throat I cut myself." 
Hawker was in many ways like a fine gun. At rest, well made, efficient and even beautiful. Pull back the cocking piece and the gun became deadly. This boy, elegant in motion, perfect in feature, cold as carved crystal, was the cocked gun. He was, in fact, rather frightening.  
"One does not slit throats in a public square." 
She had never, in point of fact, slit a throat, but she would not admit this to Hawker. He was the entirely genuine murderous spy, and she was not. With a small pang, she envied him. 
He strolled beside her, his pace relaxed, his posture all ease and enjoyment. His eye were amused and sleepy. Lies, all of it. The energy contained within this skin hummed in the air between them like a sound. He was more alive than anyone she had met. It was as if he carried an invisible top in the center of his chest, spinning strongly, that made her own nerves buzz in sympathy. He was not a restful person.
Uh, I could keep typing out wonderful passages from last night!  I just love where she goes with both of these descriptions: instead of cataloguing features, she reaches into imagination and the life swirling around these characters, and uses the things they'd be thinking about, or maybe have read about, or little bits from deep in the psyche of a street-smart French teen.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Head Rush Excerpt & Links

Phew! I finally got the Head Rush excerpt up on my site!

Excerpt here.
Links & ebook pre-order info here
Right now, it's only $3.85 at the Samhain store - all formats!

OMG, every time I visit my site I start revamping it (and the more I revamp it, the more I realize I need to revamp it!) Someday, it will look really amazing, and things will be beautifully lined up.

So, it's Thanksgiving this week here in the States - I hope everybody here has a wonderful and safe holiday, and that everybody outside of the states doesn't get too sick of us going on and on about turkeys, parades, and what we are thankful for. But there is a lot of be thankful for.

I am especially thankful for all of you, my fabulous reading and writing friends!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My nerdiest Great Moments from Last Night's Reading post yet

Wow, I haven’t done any Great Moments from Last Night’s Reading in forever! For those new to the blog, Great Moments is a post series where I discuss small writerly moves or specific scenes I admire in whatever book I’m reading.  This week (yes week, because I’m the world’s slowest reader. I camp out with the sentences!) I am reading If You Hear Her by Shiloh Walker.

Great Moments in Last Night’s Reading
Book: If You Hear Her by Shiloh Walker
Spoiler level: Low

I’ve actually been having quite a few great moments with IF YOU HEAR HER, the first book in Shiloh’s trilogy. Today, I want to talk fawningly about one of my favorite Shiloh Walker moves: how good she is at making the reflections of POV characters feel distinct from one another.

This book is written in multiple 3rd person POV (i.e. he said / she said). I’m a big admirer of authors who make the POV sections sound really different when they come from different characters’ minds (instead of all sounding like they come from the author mind). Kresley Cole and Joanna Bourne are also really excellent at this. 

Anyway, as I was reading this book, I was struck by how strong the different narrative flavors are, and how realistic it makes these people and their world feel.

One cool thing Shiloh does is allow speech patterns right into the narration (i.e. not in quoted direct speech) In other words, random reflections and descriptions feel like speech--it's a great trick and she never overuses it, mixing it with more conventional narration. It creates a really awesome effect. And then she tightens the narrative flavor even more by staying really cognizant of the priorities and life experiences of these characters in the way they put things. This is a tight POV ship! 

Here is an example from a section from the POV of Sheriff Nielson, who is doing some private thinking during a conversation with the hero, Ezra.
The man in front of him might well be a cop—being on leave was irrelevant—but he was also a man. It wasn’t just a cop’s interest that had Ezra in his office. Nielson knew it as well as he knew his own name, as well as he knew his town. 
Made things dicey.

I love  that lone line, all on its own on the page: Made things dicey. That’s what I mean by a reflection that feels like speech. It’s awesome for the masculine feel of it, as well as the feel that this is an experienced lawman who doesn’t need to elaborate. I know other writers do this but I think Shiloh really makes this little move work.   

Also, I enjoyed how subtly the preceding paragraph characterizes, communicating long years of experience in a small town without ever feeling like an info dump. She could have said as well as he knew his hand, or his dog, but she used town. A lot of small things add up here.

Here is another example of a passage with interior reflection that feels like speech, this one from the mind of Hope, who is helping writer Law Reilly organize himself. She asks him about all these postcards he keeps.
“Possible book locations,” he replied, his tone absent. He had a glazed look in his eyes, almost hypnotized. 
She lifted her brows. “You plan on writing a book in…Adair, Iowa? What exactly is in Adair Iowa?” 
“Nothing…that I know of.” He slanted a grin at her. “That means there’s probably something. There’s always something, somewhere.” 
“You’re strange, law. Very strange. 
His only response was a grunt. 

Looking back at the postcards, she grabbed a pencil and the notepad she’d been using. If he was going to keep a running list of possible locations, he could keep them more organized, she figured. A photo album would hold them all just fine. Add that to the list of fifteen other things she needed.
The last paragraph is such a nice use of it, because it has a mix of action and conventional narration and then that last line with its little subtle dialogue-y attitude. Add that to the list of fifteen other things she needed. If I was writing this, I would have been tempted to say She added that to the list of fifteen other things she needed, which wouldn't have half the fun narrative flavor.

It’s the same animal as the Made things dicey from above, but feels so much like it’s from a different character’s mind.

Also, I partly put this passage up because I just LOVE when writers write about writers. Writing is such a lonely profession; it’s wonderful to be invited into the intimacy of another writer's office. I enjoyed speculating on what of this stuff Shiloh actually does, like if she collects postcards. It’s not a bad idea! Novelist Law Reilly is the hero of the third book in this trilogy, but totally my favorite character.

Anyway, as I said, I'm greatly enjoying the first installment for the many lively narrative flavors as well as characters, the world and story. (Also, FYI it’s very fresh in terms of trilogy structure in ways I won't reveal here.) Looking forward to the next, If You See Her!!  

Images: policeman by Brett Gustafson from wikicommons; writer at desk: Mary Pickford from wikicommons

Monday, November 21, 2011

Random things I'm thankful for + even more random Thanksgiving anecdotes

Hey friends!
Well, we're into Thanksgiving week now, and I'm over at the lovely and fun Paperback Dolls with a special Thanksgiving-themed post as part of their Thankful Feature.

It's a fun week there, with lots of authors stopping by and posting and giving away goodies!

Also, while there, Day has reviewed Head Rush and there's a giveaway...of a signed Mind Games OR a Head Rush audible download.

Read the review and enter here!!!

Image: Chapbook cover by Bradley Will; public domain image via wiki commons

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Contest, Q&A, and Cat pics!

I'm over at Kindle-aholics today!  As part of the festivities of her Disillusionist re-read, I'm visiting her blog and answering questions, and we're giving away a Head Rush digital ARC to one lucky commenter (to be delivered when ARCs become available, which isn't yet). You don't have to be part of the Goodreads reread group to enter, but you get an extra entry if you are!

Also, the Disillusionists re-read group she started on Goodreads is just beginning Double Cross, book #2, so if you want to join in or are just starting it, now is a great time. I understand they are having some fun discussions!!

And, what kind of a bookish girl writer would I be without showing you cat pictures? 

Here is Oblio, admiring my new desk light from Ikea. He very much wants to to bite it here, but apparently it's not optimally positioned. This was actually a moment of truth, because if he had found it satisfying to chew, I would have had to slather it with habenero tabasco sauce. If you come to my house, you will find mysterious red stuff on all cords. 

Here he actually is attempting to bite it. Luckily it didn't really work out, unlike, oh, my iPod recharging cord, which he bit in half yesterday. *sob* But, I think this is kind of a cool photo. 

Hey, I hope everybody has a wonderful weekend!!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Newsy Sunday items

1. The Lady's Secret, by my critique partner Joanna Chambers, releases tomorrow! This is a fun sexy awesome Regency-set tale about a failed actress who decides to do some undercover sleuthing disguised as a young male valet, and gets a position with the devastatingly handsome, melancholy Lord Harland. Full of delightful twists, fun reveals, and interesting things about classes and servants.   Read an excerpt here. 
**Win this ebook**(ed: contest closed) Leave a comment mentioning The Lady's Secret - Tonight before I go to bed, I'll pick two random commenters to win their own copies.

2. Kindle-aholics Disillusionists re-read (or for some, initial read) has begun! She organized this re-read and discussion in anticipation of the ebook arrival of book #3, Head Rush! The group is here on her blog, and also a public group at Goodreads! So, anybody can join!! This is just the hugest compliment to a writer, to have anyone want to re-read! But don't worry, I won't be poking my nose in, so if you catch any worldbuilding flubs or decide you hate cucumber kebabs, rant away!

3. Daylight savings time! It's amazing how many of my clocks change themselves these days. Thank you computer and smart phone.

One of the 3 things.
4. Three things I never in my wildest dreams imagined I'd need or want as a writer - I'm over at the League of Reluctant Adults talking about these three things, one of which is pictured at left.

5. All my best to my nano-writing friends! I am so impressed with all of you, and I'd join in if I wasn't in an editing phase. And look! I have advice: It is not necessarily a waste of writing time to sit in your chair and daydream and scribble notes and try scenes out in your head in different ways. For some writers, myself included, spending the majority of time on beforehand-thinking actually results in the personal-best wordcounts. But, every writer is different - that's another thing to keep in mind.

UPDATE: winners of THE LADY'S SECRET contest chosen and emailed. Congrats to amyT865 & eveningreen!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Contest winners

Woo hoo!
Blodeuedd & Ladysmith have won the books of their choice. Congratulations, you two!! Good luck choosing.