Tuesday, October 28, 2014

My Blogging Voice

I have no idea how long it's been since I started working on my writing voice. I remember a college paper getting marked down for my 'exuberant' tone. Obviously I had my priorities straight! I feel a lot more confident about my voice now than I did then, but it doesn't change one important thing. I still have to find a blogging voice.

Blogging has been an adventure. As I've been doing this I've been struggling to develop the ability to speak engagingly but authentically. Being authentic to myself isn't something that's really important when writing novels. I need to be true to my characters and my story. My narrator's voice matches the voice of the characters, especially in first person. While it has flavors of me it's not me, not completely.

In blogging I need to be myself. The trouble is that the real me is nowhere near as engaging as the narrators I come up with. I'm sometimes funny, but I can also get really technical. Or whiny. Or brain dead. Do I want to portray that on my blog?

The answer for me is yes. I guess I don't feel confident enough in my 'skills' to try to create a new person. I can maintain a voice over the course of a novel. I don't think I can maintain a fake me indefinitely. I'd rather run the risk of not engaging readers by being myself.

I'm not saying that's the only choice, just that it's mine. Like all things it's an experiment. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Jennavier Recommends: Split Second and Pivot Point by Kasie West

Some writers are good, others are so good they can only be described with adjectives. Kasie West is electric. Her writing is amazing. She does things that have done before but when I read them it’s like I’ve never come across it before. I haven't read her contemporaries yet but I hope to soon. Until then I'm going to tell you why her paranormal duopoly is so amazing.

Her Split Second duology is about the Compound, a place where people with special abilities live in a culture advanced from their counterparts in the US. Addie is the heroine, although her friend Layla gets viewpoint scenes in book two. The story matches Addie’s special abilities. It’s told in two stories, as Addie looks into the future to see what choice she should make. Both are fascinating and the final decisions is as heartbreaking as it is necessary.
Addie is fun and different as a character. She’s conscientious to a fault, something you don’t come across very often in a YA character. As she challenges her own assumptions she grows as a person, making me as the reader very proud of her. Layla is a bit more traditional. She’s rebellious, pretty, and loud. But where she shines is when West shows you who she really is underneath. Her ultimate love story in Pivot Point hit all the right notes for me.

The books are well paced and well drawn. The world felt absolute. It was rich and deep but never commanded the story. It felt like something that was obviously real as soon as I was introduced to it, which sounds boring but was in fact a masterful stroke.

The series feels like this could extend even though the major plot lines are wrapped up. If West never returns to the world I would still enjoy that aspect. It feels like it’s continuing without us. Maybe someday we’ll get a different window inside.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Shewolf or When It All Comes Down to Tragedy

It’s interesting how something I read that has little or nothing to do with what I’m living or writing can change how I think. I was reading a book about Queen Isabella of England. She was a medieval British queen who was often called the She-Wolf of France (not in a nice way. People had a thing against strong women). She held power for only a few brief years, after which her lover was murdered. Having been in a loveless marriage for seventeen years and spending more then thirty years in “retirement” afterwards that period of time where she was free must have seemed so brief. In the middle of it did she think it would never end? That she could be free to love who she wanted, rule as she’d hoped, and never fear someone’s power over her? All of those ended abruptly in a coup that wrecked everything. She lost her money, her power, her unborn child and it’s father. The words of the poets have attributed this saying to her: Now, Mortimer, begins our tragedy*.

How many of us will begin our tragedy?  Having survived storms I find myself terrified of enduring another one. I must live my life with the knowledge that every good thing that I receive or build can be lost in an instant. Yet if I keep that awareness of tribulation I risk souring the times when it’s not around. It’s one of the paradox’s of being human, knowledge mixed with action and inaction.

At the same time we struggle with reading about truly tragic characters. Yes they may experience dark times, but the end always needs to be a happily ever after. The problems is that I’m not sure what constitutes a happily ever after, and I’m really not sure that they’re the best thing for all our stories.

It’s a difficult world we live in. No human being makes it through unscathed. How that comes across in the stories we tell shows more about us then our characters.

*from the play Edward the Second by Christopher Marlowe. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Kitty Comes Home

Sleeping after her long flight.
 Didn't take her long to find my side of the bed!
A long time ago in a land far far away (seriously, Billings MT is a long way from Philadadelphia) my poor desperate parents couldn’t think of what to get me for my birthday. Seventeen is a rough year for presents, especially since I’d already graduated but couldn’t yet move out. So they decided to get me a cat.

It was an awesome present. I’m a tried and true cat lady and my last cat had died two years earlier. The overcrowded shelter my mom took me to was Nirvana for a cat lover. It took me over three hours to pick Willow. I thought she was a quiet cat who hid from scary strangers. The truth was she was a loud cat hiding from scary bigger cats. We got along famously. She’s still one of the best cats I’ve ever had.

The thing they didn’t think about was what the future held. I moved out less then a year later, leaving these poor people with an animal that they really didn’t know what to do with. I would be in and out of the house over the next four years but for the most part she became my parents to deal with. The  four years after that were even worse. I got married and took off. Willow is a social cat and needs lots of attention. Being a cat in a dog person household meant that she wasn’t happy and neither was anyone else.

That leads me to today. Eight years since she first came home with me she made a trip. She was taken to the vet, bundled in a carrier, and flown 2000 miles to Philadelphia. That was probably the worst day of her life but one of the best of mine. When she showed up stressed and tired it felt like bringing her home the first time, only better. After all, we were already friends.

She loves the tortured noises
my tablet makes when she sits on it.
I’d been wanting to bring her out here for years. My parents had been hinting that they wanted her to come live with me, but distance and finances were always in the way. When Jonathon got a new job and I was at home alone it was time for us to get a pet. And the only one I wanted was the one I already had.

Jonathon was amazing. He and my dad arranged it all without me knowing. I think I squealed and jumped around in a circle a couple dozen times when I found out! Obviously I was super chill about it all. When we brought her home I was terrified that the long trip had permanently traumatized her, but as soon as we got in the house she took it over like the champ she is. Soon enough it was me who was having the trouble adjusting to her being here.

Some people have asked me why I bothered trekking her all the way out here. It would have been easier and cheaper to find a new home for her and get a new cat out here. All I can say is that I love her. To me she’s not just a disposable part. I could get another cat, and love another cat, but it wouldn’t be her. She can’t put her two cents in so it’s up to me to make the decisions. When I brought her home as a teenager I committed to her that I would take care of her. She’s nine years old now and probably has another nine years of life left. I’ll take care of her through all of them, and make sure she has a good home.

As I write this she’s sleeping next to me. She’s snoring loudly in the way only a cat can manage cutely. All I know is that seeing her here with me makes me feel I’ve finally come home.