Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why So Serious?

I don't know where this came from or who drew it, so I'm using it without permission. Normally I wouldn't do that, but I had to show it off, and I couldn't think of a place it would be more appreciated than here. Please enjoy.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Weight of Shadows

Our tour date is June 26, 2010, and there will be a give away. The rules are basically as follows: comment on the review/interview post, your name will go into a hat and we'll draw a winner. The winner gets a copy of Alison Strobel's new book, The Weight of Shadows.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vintage Writing - Through Darkness

I wrote this on April 26th, 2003, according to the little note I left at the bottom of its original post...which I believe was on Pile of Crap back in the day. I'm rather glad I did that...left the note, I mean, since otherwise, I'd have no idea when I'd actually written it.

Anyway, I was reading it over again, and I don't think I would change any of it, awkward phrases included. It's rare that I would say that about a piece of writing of mine, especially one that's as old as this one is.

Other bit of back history...I wrote it before I took any writing classes. I think, in many ways, I was a much better writer back then. I didn't know the rules, and so didn't care if I broke them.

Whatever...hope you like.

Through darkness I strode, in the fullness of a dream, watching wearily the solid black, though I could see nothing. And yet, my steps knew their purpose, and heading, and my legs moved of their own accord, so while even though I could see not a thing, I could walk and be unworried that I would trip.

Wearily still, however, I peered around, hoping that I could discover something that I could see, and perhaps learn of how I came to be in this place, where there is no light. But I could see nothing, hear nothing except a dull echo of my foot steps upon the inky black floor, and could feel nothing except a slight, very slight, breeze from my passing.

And so I walked, into time uncounted, wondering and wandering across a void so profound that even its presence began to weigh heavily on my heart, and my steps - firm until now - faltered, and stopped. I could not move. What had once been a comfortable walk, albeit a weary one, was now sorrow unbound. I felt now tears on my face.

A vision came to me then, in the back of my mind, although I could see nothing through my physical eyes. A vision of a smile, a look, a glint of blonde in weary weather, a laugh and a fond remembrance of a joy long shared, of lying on a hill top and watching clouds drift lazily above, slowly and away, of a hand holding mine...

I remembered now my purpose, to find him on the other side of the darkness. I had forgotten, in my long walk, what it was that I had been looking for, but, now I knew, more deeply than I had ever known, exactly what it was that I had lost. And now had to find.

With a cry that echoed as dully as my footsteps, I lurched forward, breaking into a run. My heart knew now where I had to go, and to that place I ran and never grew weary. Sounds returned to my ears; laughter, tears - waves upon a shore. Feeling returned to my face; a caress, a chaste kiss, hair upon my cheek. Scent returned to me - summer rain and summer fields, and the wind off the ocean. And finally, most wonderfully, sight!

For an instant I was blinded, the deep darkness through which I had come had left my eyes starved for sight, but unused to it. Pain at first, but it was bearable. The brightness faded, and I saw his face, looking down at me from above, and I knew.

Through darkness I had come - and I was Home.


Monday, May 17, 2010

eReaders - The End of Paper Books?

I've spent a lot of time over the last little while thinking about e-readers and whether or not they're going to eventually mean an end to paper books. I really hope not.

It's not that I don't want people to be environmentally conscious. I do and I recognise that every little bit helps, so even though switching to ebooks isn't going to have the same impact as, say, driving a fuel efficient car or walking to work every day, I don't think it's a bad idea to do something to help the environment, especially where trees are concerned. This seems to be a hot topic for debate at the moment, but so far, even where there is a clear support of the continuation of paper books, everything I've read suggests that, over all, for avid readers, ereaders are the environmentally conscious way to go. Two blogs with differing opinions on the subject, but which present essentially the same research are Daniel Goleman's (E-Reader Versus Book: The Eco-Math) and Earth Beat (The future of paper books ... and e-readers).

So, why, as an environmentally conscious writer, would I not want ereaders to replace traditional books? A few reasons.

The first and biggest reason is that I think our society depends far too much on technology. Just about everyone in North America remembers that wide-spread, three-day blackout and the rolling black and brown outs that followed it. In the realm of disasters, it ranked pretty low, but it wasn't nothing. Some people died as a result, because they had no air conditioning and the financial damages done to businesses due to products spoiling or stores having to stay closed for long periods of time, was immense. And that is a system that has been in place for many, many years. What makes us think that the Internet (something new enough that I remember when only rich people could afford it, something which, at the time, couldn't be accessed without a dedicated phone line and ten minutes of horrible beeping and gurgling) is any less likely to spontaneously go down? Or, Hell, if you believe the Internet is bullet proof, good luck using it if the power goes out again. Good luck charging your ereader, too. If we've converted all of our old books to efiles and, especially, if our new books were never (or hardly ever) actually in print, a technological breakdown would be crippling to the acquired and compiled knowledge of the entire world. Think the burning of the library at Alexandria. Having all of our knowledge stored in one place is a bad idea.

It's also a money thing. Right now, especially, people don't have a lot of money to spend on, well, anything. So while an ereader might save you money overall (from what I can tell, ebooks aren't that much cheaper than paper, but they are a bit), most people don't have the money to spend on an ereader up front, and if they do, and enough people switch, it's going to drive the price of traditional books up - which means that people who couldn't ever hope to afford an ereader now won't be able to afford paper books either. Any new technology does this at first, drives out the old technology while simultaneously being too expensive for many people to afford (I saw this first hand with the transition from tape-cassette to CD, Discmans to mp3 players and videos to DVDs), and yes, eventually, it does balance out, but in the meantime, it sucks for the people who are too poor to afford the new stuff and (because the new stuff is so widely available to those who can afford it) can't find the old stuff anywhere.

Then there's the issue of the traditional in traditional books. It may sound a bit snobby and like it's not much of an argument, but there is something to be said for the feel of a paper book in your hands. There is something to be said for the idea of taking your book on a plane or a bus or to the beach or camping or hiking through the mountains and not having to worry about what happens if your batteries die. I don't know, the idea of reading The Paper Bag Princess to a kid on an ereader just doesn't work for me.

As for the solutions to the environmental implications of sticking with paper books, my suggestions to the publishing world at large include using recycled (preferably sustainable) paper and natural inks and printing books on demand, rather than printing huge quantities then warehousing them and eventually pulping the unwanted ones.

Obviously, this is a subject which readers and writers alike have strong opinions about and most of the articles I've read contain very evident biases (I read one article comparing various ereaders and paper books, which ranked most of the ereaders' readability as high and the readability of paper books as medium.) and I don't want to suggest that I think that ereaders in general are a bad idea, or that people shouldn't take steps to help the environment. In fact, I think they're a good idea, especially for people who want to read a book but don't necessarily want to own it (especially popular books which may not be in stock at a nearby library but are often overstocked at bookstores) or for people who spend a lot of time travelling and don't want to put fifteen books in the carry-on when they go on vacation. I think there are a lot of great uses for ereaders; I just don't want to see them replace paper books.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Gender Bias in Book Selection

Someone on Book Blogs started a discussion (and posted this link to her blog) about gender bias in book selection. Apparently, she has a colleague who will not read books written by women. As a female author, this bothers me. As a human being, it scares me a little. As a reader, I can kind of see his point.

I can't imagine deciding against picking up a book to read because its author is female, but if we didn't judge books based on things other than their content, all books could just be a flat light grey with their titles printed in an easy-to-read font. So I judge books (at least a little) by their covers, and part of that includes the author's name*. If an author's name is gender-ambiguous, I don't feel any great need to find out their sex. In some cases, the rest of the book cover gives that away (P.C. Cast, anyone?), but by and large gender doesn't really matter to me when choosing an author, as long as the book looks good.

The reason I said I could kind of see Buddy's point is that, when I thought about it, I realized that most of my favourite authors are male (Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Robert A. Heinlein, etc.). I don't think that's because of their use of “male” language (although, in the case of Gaiman and Pratchett, I would say it definitely has something to do with their British language), so much as the (often) male perspective on characters. Apart from a clever and engaging style, what I look for most in fiction is something character-driven. Fun and wonderful plots are all well and good, but if I don't care about the characters, I can hardly be expected to care about how they spend their time... and I think that men are more likely to write characters I care about. The reason for this? Flaws. Female authors (and I am way generalizing here; clearly I don't think this is true of all female authors) tend to have the unfortunate habit of forgetting to give their protagonists flaws of any kind – and many times, when they do have flaws, they're things like thinking that they're more flawed than they really are. I like my characters to be overcoming addiction, or give careless criticisms to people or be so heartsick that they can barely function. I don't want to read men who never ask for directions and frequently forget to pick up milk or women who insist on watching chick flicks and won't eat Chinese. There are flaws and there are quirks, and I think male authors are quicker to heap on the flaws when their characters are in their planning stages.

With all of that being said, I should mention that my favourite book EVER is Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen's style is very distinctly female and her characters are real, flawed people who I can relate to and enjoy reading about.

A few (though admittedly, a very few) people on Book Blogs didn't think there was much of a difference between male and female authors and Amanda Markham, the author of the blog that prompted this whole thing, points out that “... men can be every bit as fluffy and emotional as women”. This is true, but, as Ms. Markham goes on to point out, there is a discernible difference between the way women write and the way men write. She directs her readers (and I direct you) to the Gender Genie, which boasts something like 80% accuracy when determining if a passage was written by a male or female author. What's really interesting is that it shows you how it reached its conclusion, which is great, especially if you want to get really good at writing first person characters who aren't the same sex as you.

I'm still fairly ambivalent about this issue, because while there are traits that are often attributed to female authors (some of which I attribute to female authors in this post), I don't think that women should strive to be/write/act more like men. Actually, I think that if everyone strove to be and write more like themselves, we would have a lot more interesting and varied fiction available to us and a lot less weird men refusing to read woman authors.

*If an author has a name like Adrienne Loveheart, I'm likely to avoid anything she's written on principal.

May 11, 2010

Okay, that title is remarkably uncreative, but it's early and my brain is too fried to come up with anything more useful.

So, my authorless book tour started yesterday. Moloch and the book travel to Mississauga, Ontario next, then on from there. There has got to be an easier way to maintain the flow of information about this kind of thing - and even as I type this, I realize that that way is to become famous enough that your publishing company pays for other people to organize these things for you. I don't mind, really, it's just that I'm scatterbrained, so remembering to update this blog and my other blog with normal blog like things, as well as update the tour blog, my news page, the Facebook page and Moloch's Twitter, is difficult for me.

Anyway, I didn't mean for this post to be a rant. Just the opposite, actually. I woke up way earlier than I intended to this morning, so I've just kind of been puttering around the house, and I decided to post my daily twitter post (I still refuse to say 'tweet' in that context, and I still usually post once per day or less). Whilst on Twitter, I noticed that Godchecker had posted something about the tour. My tour. Since I've been a big fan of Godchecker for years (not only an excellent reference site, but a great one for coming up with character (or pen ;) names), this made me qo squee in a huge way. They like my tour idea, they said, and plan to steal it. So that is pretty exciting stuff.

Also pretty exciting, Devereaux Court is going to be one of the stops on the June-July blog tour for Alison Strobel's new novel, The Weight of Shadows, released today. Alison is a member of Book Blogs and she found me in the Promote Your Books group (more on that site when I write the post on networking that I have planned for the nearish future). She suggested that we trade reviews, so here we are. I'm going to be interviewing her as well, about the writing/publishing process. I'll let you know when the post will go up as soon as I know. Sometime in mid-June to early July. Also, Alison is giving us a book for a giveaway contest, so there'll be details on that.

I think that's all of my news for today. Well, so far, anyway.