The Precious Cinnamon Roll

 

Nevilleroll2

Too good, too pure.

Late summer is a good time for writing.  It’s incredibly hot here, and so we’ve been spending more time indoors lately, even though we have projects we really ought to be working on outdoors.  We’ve been putting decorative rocks and edging around the house, for example, and that’s sitting half-done.  And the newly planted grass in our lawn is long enough now that it really needs to be cut.  But, as I say, it’s too hot for that.  So we might as well stay inside with a cool drink and write, yes?  Yes.

S is finishing up Fiat Justitia, the third Oleg Omdahl mystery, set in our Myrciaverse.  Last night she finished up a chapter, and I think she’s going to try to write another one today.  Perhaps she’ll give an update on that sometime soon.

But anyway, the other day S and I were sitting around, discussing writing and characters (yes, we really do this), and we started talking about how to make a good character who is also a good person.  In other words, how do you make a character who is interesting and realistic, and yet is also virtuous?  It’s a question that interests us, because it seems like there’s a tendency on the part of many writers (I won’t name names) to assume that in order for a character to be interesting, the character has to have a dark side—a tendency to assume that the best way to make a character complex is to give him some sort of terrible moral flaw.

The topic came up because, in my latest novel, Joint Command, I managed to work in a cameo for one of our favorite characters from the Quartet.  We’ve mentioned this character before, when we were discussing our favorite fantasy characters, and we compared her to Neville Longbottom.  Neville doesn’t really have a moral flaw.  (I mean, who knows what he grows in the greenhouses, but what happens in Herbology stays in Herbology.)  As far as we ever see in the books, though, he’s a decent guy, and his flaw, if he has one, is that he’s a bit of a klutz at the beginning, and he’s really forgetful.  None of that is his fault, though.  And none of his problems really amount to a moral failing on his part.  In fact, insofar as his life has a dark side, it all comes from the actions of other people.  And he perseveres and puts up with it and eventually becomes an awesome hero.

That, I think, is the answer to the question we posed.  A virtuous character can be interesting, but he still has to have an arc.  He has to overcome something or achieve something, even if he’s a nice guy the whole time.

Our character, whose name is Tynble, has a similar arc to Neville’s.  Obviously, I don’t want to give away too many spoilers about exactly what happens to her, but I suppose I have to reveal that she does manage to live through all four books, since she’s in Joint Command, and that novel takes place about twelve years later.  To be honest, I mainly put her in as a surprise treat for S (who is the audience for whom all my books are written), though I do think her appearance in the book actually makes sense.

When I wrote her, I didn’t really give much thought to how her character might have changed in the intervening years.  She’s just as cheerful and happy and whimsical and fundamentally decent as she was before.  Perhaps that’s lazy writing on my part, but I like to think it isn’t.  It’s not that I think she hasn’t had misfortune and sadness in her life over the course of those twelve years.  But no matter what problems she might have had, she wouldn’t stop being who she fundamentally is.  I think it says something about a character that she stays good, no matter what.

As S and I were talking about her and Neville, we started thinking of other fictional characters we’ve loved who share that same kind of unshakeable decency.  Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter books, for example.  And we can’t forget Lucy Pevensie, our favorite fantasy character of all time.  And a few from outside our genre, like Richard Quinn in The Fountain Overflows, by Rebecca West—a book we read for S’s book club just recently.  S informs me that this type of character is known on Tumblr and Twitter as “a precious cinnamon roll, too good for this world, too pure.”  And what S and I have discovered is that apparently we like cinnamon rolls.

I suppose it’s a matter of balance.  There are plenty of dreadful people in the Harry Potter stories, and there are people, like Ron Weasley, for example, who are good, but occasionally do the wrong thing or act like jerks.  Likewise, Lucy’s shining light of goodness is balanced out by the much grayer morality of her brother Edmund or her cousin Eustace.  Cinnamon rolls are great, but I doubt you could make a meal out of them and nothing else.

J

Fanfiction: The Stigma and the Literary Value

Hey readers,

As you know, I’ve spent the last year pretty immersed in fanfic, and I really rather like this post on the topic, and I wanted to share. Hope you enjoy!

~S

Fanfiction opens community discussions of deeper metacognition than I have ever seen anywhere else. People have gone into deeper psychological and deconstructive analyses than I have ever encountered…

Source: Fanfiction: The Stigma and the Literary Value

Midcourse Correction

midcourse correction

Hard a larboard! (My screencap from Horatio Hornblower)

When is something a tick or a bad habit, and when is something a part of your process that needs embraced?  This is something I started thinking about a lot in July as I essentially moved from one project (my modern, mainstream novel The Sorrow Thereof) onto a new fanfic (which we shall call Bob’s Big Adventure, just so it has a title). I got the idea for Bob’s Big Adventure as I was nearing the end of Act 1 in The Sorrow Thereof and starting to panic a bit about the direction of that novel. Since I had a new idea I was excited to run with, I figured I should just go ahead and set aside The Sorrow Thereof for a while. But guess what? As I was starting Act 2 of Bob’s Big Adventure, I began having serious questions about the direction of that story.

TV procedurals have taught me twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern for a serial killer. Has the transition from Act 1 to Act 2 flummoxed me before? If so, perhaps there’s something trying to kill my stories.

Dock 29

This is my first Oleg Omdahl novel, and I wrote it for my first Camp NaNoWriMo several summers ago. It was the first time I tried doing a detailed outline for a novel, and it was the first time I attempted a mystery. I looked at several mystery structures, took what I thought I needed and ignored the rest. Of course, when I was diving into Act 2 (this is about 25-30% of the way into the book), I started to worry about how boring everything coming up suddenly looked to me. This is what comes from writing with a formula, right? Actually, it’s what came from ignoring it. I hadn’t thought that second murder in a whodunit mystery was important, but my novel needed something to propel it through the middle of the book. So, I stopped writing, thought about who I might kill, who might do it and why, and reoutlined Acts 2 and 3. It was my first midcourse correction, and that was fine. I was just learning mysteries.

The Queen’s Tower

If my very faulty memory is correct, I think I made it all the way through my next Oleg novel, The Science of Fire, without having to make major changes. I think it might have something to do with the fact that I knew these characters at this point, and I outlined the story to within an inch of its life. I’m currently finishing up Act 2 of the third Oleg book, Fiat Justitia, and I haven’t had to make any serious changes to my very exact outline.

On the other hand, The Queen’s Tower was a mess to write. I never have finished revising it to my satisfaction, although I genuinely want to someday. It was a novel I started with very little outline, and if you look at the hardcopy of the outline I worked from while writing the first draft, you will see that it is a giant mess of additions. And when did I realize I needed to make some pretty fundamental changes? That’s right, as I was finishing up Act 1, and I realized I didn’t have a compelling story waiting for me once I finished introducing these people I was just starting to understand.

The Sorrow Thereof

So with these experiences behind me, I should have seen my issues coming with The Sorrow Thereof, right? Well, I didn’t. I’ve done some reoutlining, but the biggest issue I still have with the structure of this book is that Act 1 doesn’t tie in particularly well with Acts 2 and 3, which I’m afraid are going to feel like a different story. If everyone will forgive the sacrilege, I noticed a similar issue the other night when J and I were watching Return of the Jedi. What does that business at the beginning with Jabba actually have to do with blowing up the Death Star? You could argue that it ties in because they had to rescue Han, except rescuing Han doesn’t require the entirety of Act 1, and Han doesn’t actually help much in Acts 2 and 3—Luke, Leia, and C3PO are responsible for winning over the Ewoks, and Lando is the one in the space battle. Han, bless his snarky heart, is actually kind of useless. Point is, I don’t want people to read The Sorrow Thereof and wonder why the hell they read the first eight chapters of the novel.

Bob’s Big Adventure

So, I thought something might be up when I found myself making some pretty profound changes to Bob’s Big Adventure as I started Act 2. (And I mean big—I went back and cut a sex scene I’d already written from Act 1 of my smutty fanfic.) I realized that the relationship I was trying to build was happening too quickly and easily, and in a story planned to run at least 70,000 words, a little slow burn would be for the best. Also, the characters involved are the kind of people who would make this difficult on themselves and others, so putting some things off will hopefully prove to be both truer to the characters as well as being more compelling.

Planning for Planning

Now, in the future, I could handle the midcourse correction in one of two ways. I could simply not let myself start writing until I have a very detailed outline, although I still had to make some changes to Dock 29, even with a good outline, so that’s no guarantee. Or, I just need to plan for the midcourse correction. Become one with the fact that once I know the characters and story a bit better and have a different perspective on it all, I’m going to want to make changes. I can go into a new project and know that I’m going to “lose” a day or two of writing in order to reoutline, and be okay with that. I can just make the midcourse correction part of my process. And I think that sounds like a pretty good idea.

~S

It’s a Mystery

mystery_machine_side_view

Ruh-roh

July Camp NaNo is finally over, and my summer class has finished up, and S and I are on vacation this week.  We’re at Panera today so S can write some more of her rapidly-expanding Musketeers fanfic.  At this point, she thinks it’ll end up being at least 70,000 words long when it’s all finished.

I’ve updated the section of this blog about The Myrciaverse with my two latest novels, including the one I just finished, Joint Command.  I had a lot of fun writing that one, and the outline I used was somewhat more complicated than what we normally use.  There were three POV characters, so I decided to do a different sort of story for each one of them.

For Deborah, whom I describe in my synopsis as “a veteran, fighting her disillusionment,” the story is about rediscovering her love for her job as a spy and for her rather eccentric colleagues.  So I used Nigel Watts’s Eight Point Story Arc in plotting out her chapters.

  1. Stasis (everyday life)
  2. Trigger (something beyond hero’s control sparks the story)
  3. The quest (hero spurred to action by the trigger)
  4. Surprise (obstacles and complications)
  5. Critical choice (hero makes a crucial choice, revealing character)
  6. Climax (highest point of tension, direct result of Critical Choice)
  7. Reversal (change in status of characters, direct result of Climax)
  8. Resolution (a new Stasis, result of Reversal)

The second POV character, Geir, is on the same side as Deborah, though working for a different, allied country.  He thinks he’s on the trail of a mole, but he discovers to his horror that there’s a conspiracy that goes much deeper than he thinks.  So I plotted his eight chapters as a Thriller.

  1. Shock opening.  Meet the hero.
  2. Meet main characters, intro into some of hero’s backstory and personal life.  Disaster threatens.  Hero understands what’s on the line if he doesn’t do it.  He has to step up.
  3. Subplot introduced.  Hero on bad guy’s trail, always behind, figuring out the bad guy’s game.  Midpoint.  Stakes raised.  New character introduced, and an old character is killed.
  4. Bad guy on top.  Bad guys get worse.  Hero’s team dissents, and hero is on his own.  It’s all gone wrong.  (Other people doubt hero, but hero doesn’t doubt self yet.)
  5. Someone else gets killed.  More pressure on hero.  Hero comes to doubt self.  Then hero figures out what to do.
  6. Climax section.  Hero gets bad guy’s underlings, then gets bad guy.  Payoff.  Hero prevents the disaster that threatened in Chapter 2.
  7. The real threat emerges.  Twist: the hero realizes there’s another layer of threat (hopefully foreshadowed).  Rush.  There’s no time to waste.
  8. More payoff.  Breathless pace.  The uber-bad guy is stopped.

My third POV character, Nitya, is on the other side from Deborah and Geir.  She’s trying to find the mole and bring him (or her) home.  So, since she’s trying to solve a mystery, I outlined her chapters using “The Classic 12-chapter Mystery Formula,” only with the events condensed to fit the eight chapters I had allotted her.

  1. Mystery, clues disclosed with dramatic event.  Sleuth introduced.  Ground reader in time and place where crime occurs.
  2. Sub-plot introduced.  Sleuth set on path to solving mystery.  Plausible suspects (each with a motive) introduced and questioned by sleuth, one of which must be the perp.
  3. Reveal facts about suspects.  A clue is discovered that points to ultimate solution.  Flight or disappearance of one or more suspect.  Sense that if mystery not solved soon, there will be terrible consequences.  Investigation broadens to put suspicion on other characters.
  4. Return to sub-plot to reveal sleuth’s background—show what drives sleuth/haunts her/is missing in her life.  Sleuth shown to have personal stake in outcome.  Hidden motives and secret relationships revealed (romantic involvements/scores to be settled/kinships).  Clues from Chapter 1 clarified.
  5. Sleuth reveals results so far of investigation.  Reader can review things so far.  Sleuth is stymied, as she has misinterpreted clues.  Sleuth has to look at things from new direction.  Chain of events that provoked crime revealed.  Crucial evidence from Act I points way to solution.
  6. Sleuth weighs evidence and information gleaned from other characters.  Based on what sleuth knows, sleuth must seek positive proof to back up undisclosed conclusion.
  7. Resolution of subplot.  Protagonist, having been tested by his or her private ordeal, is strengthened for the final action leading to the actual solution of the mystery.
  8. Resolution.  Revelation of clues and the deductive process which led to the solution.  Establish that the case has been solved and justice has been served to the satisfaction of all involved (except the villain).

As you look through these, you’ll probably see how they can work together.  Geir’s “Shock Opening,” for example (number 1 on his outline) is the same event as Deborah’s “Trigger” (number 2 on her outline): they go together to meet a third agent and discover that he’s been murdered by the mole.

Finally, I had to set up all the various suspects who could be the mole, so I outlined each “Suspect Arc.”  First I briefly stated the Means, Motive, and Opportunity for each suspect.  In other words, I figured out why my three POV characters might even consider that person a suspect.  Then I listed two clues and two counter-clues (or alibis, if you will), like so:

Clue one: Bob’s hat found at the scene of the crime.
Counter-clue one: But Bob was at work when the crime was committed.
Clue two: Proof found that Bob wasn’t really at work.
Counter-clue two: But he lied because he was with his mistress.

Then there’s a “twist,” which can be a further clue or a definitive alibi, followed by a “resolution,” where the detective, and the reader, can see whether the person is guilty or innocent.

Having figured this out for each one of my four suspects, I went through my story outline and figured out where my three POV characters could encounter each of the suspects, and where each of the clues and counter-clues would be revealed.
In the end, I think it turned out pretty well.  When the reader gets to the end and finds out who the mole really is, I think it makes sense, but isn’t so obvious that the story is boring.

J

 

The End

the end

My silly edit from The Musketeers.

It’s the last day of Camp NaNoWriMo, and J and I have both gone well past our goals for the month. J is somewhere in the 6 digits, and I officially have over 34,000 words typed up, but more still lingering in my journal, and I plan to write more today. (My Camp goal was 25,000, so, yes, I “won” by Camp standards.) I think we can both leave Camp satisfied with the work we’ve done.

Because it really has been a productive month for me. I did some work on my modern romance novel, although, I will admit, I would have liked to do more. But I got distracted by two fanfics. One was a brand new idea I got this month, and I just had to run with it. I’ve written 12 chapters in it and have a solid outline for the rest. (I’d say I’m not quite half way yet.) I foresee some serious revision down the road, but this one is really writing itself. More than anything, I’m not further along because of lack of time.

The other fanfic, which I’m hoping to finish up today, is one I’m coauthoring with a friend. It’s been an interesting experience collaborating with someone other than J, and it’s gone well. I think the key to working with someone else is having an outline ahead of time so both parties can be working at the same time with minimal revision later on to smooth over the rough patches. But there will always be some inconsistencies that need worked out in “post,” as it were, even when you write alone. J, bless him, has agreed to read through it for us for continuity, and I have real hope it will be a well-received story.

And that has been my Camp. Between now and the NaNoWriMo in November, I hope to finish some stuff. I’ve got the fanfic and the novel I worked on this month, but I also still have the third Oleg Omdahl novel lingering unfinished from last November. And, of course, I’ll have to start planning and outlining for this November. Not sure yet what I’ll do. I have pretty solid ideas for Oleg Omdahl 4 and 5, so perhaps Oleg 4. Or something completely different in the Myrcia ‘verse. Who knows. But we’ll be sure to keep you updated!

~S

Yet Another Camp Update

Aramis and Anne

Aramis gets busted sneaking into the girls’ cabin.

We’re still at camp, and today we’re at Panera having a write-in with some friends from the local NaNoWriMo group.

S is still moving along, and she’s almost certainly got enough words to win, except that first she needs to get it all typed up so she can validate her word count. If you’ve never done NaNoWriMo, the way you win is to copy and paste what you’ve written into a window that then counts your words and verifies that you’ve got enough. And that’s perfectly simple for people like me, who compose at the keyboard. But for people like S, who prefer to handwrite with a pen in a journal, there’s always the challenge of getting everything typed up.* I’ll be helping her with that in a little while, once I’ve finished writing this blog post.

As for me, my novel has been finished for a while now, and I’m working on a reference file on the history and culture of one of the imaginary countries in the Myrciaverse. We’ve done a number of these files over the years, starting with the very first ones, which we were working on before we even had names for the countries. Somewhere in the basket by S’s chair at home, there’s a journal that still has headings in it like, “Bad Guy Country” and “Other Country.”

Doing the research for this sort of thing is usually pretty fun. All our fictional countries are, to a greater or lesser extent, based on real places. So reading up on, say, ancient Chinese nobility or the types of Viking ships, is always a good time. And, on the occasions when it gets a bit tedious, I can always just remind myself that I’m saving myself time later on, someday when I write a novel that takes place in this country, and I can just open up the file and find what I need to give the story a little local color, rather than trying to make it all up on the spur of the moment.

So that’s what I’ll be working on later today. But for now, there’s typing to be done.

J

*Technically, NaNo allows you to have a friend count the words and then you can use a Lorum Ipsum generator, but that’s a lot of work to put in when it needs typed anyway. ~S

I’m Late!

Whiterabbit_tenniel

Lewis Carroll has been on the mind thanks to Philosofishal, a fellow local WriMo.

What can I say but that I’m running late for another write-in with my local NaNoWriMo group. My Camp NaNo is actually going great. I did some excellent work on my modern novel, The Sorrow Thereof, before I got a crazy idea for a new fanfic. Of course, the original idea was for what we call a one-shot in the fanfic world, meaning it was supposed to be short and self-contained. Then I got another idea, couldn’t figure out how on earth the scenario I had playing in my head could actually work, and then realized that what I needed was a bridge scene between my one-shot and my new idea, and I could put them together in one story. And as long as I was doing that, I thought I should maybe outline a little, give it an actual story instead of making it Porn Without Plot, and the next thing I know, I’m knee deep in a project I have outlined to run at least 18 chapters. But I’m absolutely in love with the story, and the drafting is just flying by, so I’m alright with everything I decided.

I try not to actually cross-contaminate, as it were, the work I do as part of JS Mawdsley with my fanfic, which I write under a completely different pseudonym, but when I finish this story up (which doesn’t have a title yet), I may make an exception. Some fellow fanfic authors who I’ve been chatting with lately about our processes have shown some interest in mine, so I’m trying to be more careful than usual documenting just how I go about writing so I can share the complete beginning to end process I go through with them when I’m finally ready to publish my story on AO3. If I think it’s of genuine value, I just might share it here as well.

~S

 

A-Camping We Will Go

Milady ring

Milady wins the camp scavenger hunt.

Team Unicorn is still at camp this week.  S has been working on The Sorrow Thereof, her novel set in Cleveland and Chapel Hill.  And she just recently got a new idea for a Musketeers fanfic starring Athos and Milady de Winter, which she’s hoping to get started today.  Perhaps she’ll write more later about what she’s been up to.

I’m plugging away at my latest Myrciaverse novel, Joint Command.  It takes place immediately after one of the chapters of My Private War, involving many minor characters from that story, and it required a lot of pretty intensive outlining, just to make sure that I knew who was there and who wasn’t, and which characters already knew each other, and which ones are meeting for the first time.

There are definite benefits to this—I’m writing about characters I already know, for example, and I don’t need to spend much time figuring out who they are.  But there are problems, too.  For example, once I’d figured out which characters could possibly be around, and I’d identified the ones that would be most interesting for my main character to meet, I looked at my outline and discovered I had my heroine meeting three women in two pages, all of whom had names starting with the letters, “MA”: Marcella, Maedea, and Martina.  And the last two are pretty important in the story.

That’s the sort of thing you’d never do if you were able to start picking character names from scratch.  But there’s no way around it, other than to give them nicknames or codenames or something.  I’ll figure out a solution when I revise the novel.

Anyway, our Camp NaNo meeting is getting started, so it’s time for me to get writing in earnest.

J

Literary Fireworks

fireworks_rwb
Happy July 4th a day early, everyone! And to our Canadian friends, Happy Canada Day two days late! Camp NaNo has started up again (there are sessions in both April and July), and if you haven’t signed up and started your writing project, you should go do that right now! It’s good fun, and it’s a good way to keep yourself from getting lazy in the summer. I mean, come on—it’s hot outside. You know you were just going to stay inside in the air conditioning anyway. You might as well write a novel while you’re there.

Thinking of writing and Independence Day (the actual holiday, not the movie), we decided to come up with a list of our top ten favorite and most influential American literary works. These are the novels, nonfiction, short stories, and plays that we read over and over, and use as points of reference in our own discussions of how to write well.

Here they are, alphabetical by author, because it would just be cruel to expect us to rank them:

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Edward Albee
Snap went the dragons! We quote this one all the time. It’s probably one of the most enjoyably quotable plays ever written. It’s our reference point for snappy, well-timed dialog. Also, believe it or not, watching the movie version of this on VHS was our first date.

“Sonny’s Blues” James Baldwin
“For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.” Baldwin’s masterful short story of jazz, addiction, loss, and family hasn’t lost a beat of its meaning. Even while feeling of its era, it has a timeless quality to strive for.

The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
Poor Gatsby. His name has become a sort of shorthand for a certain kind of striving character who doesn’t realize that he’ll never quite fit in and who, invariably, has to die by the end. Stringer Bell from The Wire, for example, or a certain character from our Quartet who is far more morally admirable, but ultimately just as doomed.

A Farewell to Arms Ernest Hemingway
Love and war have rarely felt so real and visceral. Hemingway’s sparse prose isn’t up everyone’s alley (heck, it isn’t always up ours), but this novel couldn’t be written any other way. Propulsive and emotional, this novel is great for studying pace and structure.

A Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin
As we’ve mentioned before, George R. R. Martin is an absolute master of POV. Even if you think a character is irredeemable, once you see the world from his perspective, you understand and sympathize with him.

Long Day’s Journey into Night Eugene O’Neill
Gun to head, if asked to name American’s greatest writer, I (S) would answer Eugene O’Neill. No family is a bigger, more compelling mess than the Tyrones, and while each character is amazing on their own, there are endless lessons to be learned in how people who know each other too well interact. On top of it all, every line sings. “Stammering is the native eloquence of us fog people.”

The Name of the Wind Patrick Rothfuss
Prose as beautiful as any literary novel and worldbuilding to stand with the absolute best in fantasy, the tale of Kvothe, in the frame story and the past, is a masterful mix of mystery, humor, and just damned good storytelling. Watching Rothfuss layer the present, history, and myth is precisely the sort of thing we strive for in our most epic books. Is it Day 3 yet?

The Killer Angels Michael Shaara
Reading this is how we learned how to write battle scenes, basically. Also, it’s an excellent lesson in how to create sympathy for characters on both sides of the conflict, and how to create tension and drama even when the reader knows darn well how it’s all going to end.

The Guns of August Barbara Tuchman
Again, as with The Killer Angels, the outcome is never in doubt. But it’s a fascinating, page-turning read about how that outcome came to be. We drew a lot from this book about the start of World War I when we were writing the start of the war in the first book of the Quartet.

House of Mirth Edith Wharton
Is Lily Bart the female precursor to the likes of Jay Gatsby and Clyde Griffiths? We think she is. An American Anna Karenina, her fate seems so depressingly certain from the beginning, yet it’s a challenge to maintain a dry eye at the end. A challenge we happily lose. It’s the sort of focused character study I (S) am trying to tackle right now in my first modern, non-fantasy novel.

Honorable Mentions
In Cold Blood Truman Capote
As readable as any novel, Capote’s nonfiction gem is a lesson in understanding human beings. Or at least trying to.

Death Comes for the Archbishop Willa Cather
Such a simple tale of a man literally with a mission, the writing is just gorgeous. It’s also a brilliant example of great archetypal storytelling, which I (S) would love to try some day.

An American Tragedy Theodore Dreiser
To be blunt, if it weren’t for how the story gets really bogged down late at the trial, this one might have merited more than just an honorable mention. Even with that pacing issue, Clyde Griffiths’s attempts to find a better life, to get a little bit of the American Dream, is a heartbreaking character study about how striving can go terribly wrong.

Billy Budd Herman Melville
When I (J) was in law school, I took a seminar on “Theories of Justice” where we read this book. It’s a fascinating study in character and motivation. Like The Guns of August on a much smaller scale, it shows people being driven toward a tragic end that virtually no one actually wanted. That sort of tragic inevitability is something we’ve tried to show in a number of our books, particularly the third book of the Quartet.

Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell
We’ve been rereading this one recently for S’s book club, so it’s been on our minds a lot. It’s hugely problematic for a variety of reasons, but it’s great for showing how to keep a romance going on the page when the couple are apart for most of the book. And it’s a masterclass in how to make a heroine sympathetic, even when she’s often not especially likable.

J and S

Is It that Time Already?

IMG_0047

My picture from our trip to Cleveland. My heroine, Susan, lives in the apartment above these stores in Little Italy.

So, we’re less than a week away from the start of Camp NaNoWriMo, and everything is sneaking up on me. I’m still not entirely sure what exactly I’ll be doing. I’ll definitely put some time in on the contemporary novel I started for J’s birthday, The Sorrow Thereof, and I might get back to the latest Oleg Omdahl. Whether or not there is a fanfic component of this Camp will probably depend on whether or not a friend I’ve decided to co-write a story with wants to get started on it in July. (Co-writing with someone other than J should be an interesting experience! I’ll report back.)

But while I’m here, it just dawned on me that I haven’t really said anything about The Sorrow Thereof. Perhaps I should quickly. It focuses on a single character, Susan, trying to put her life back together after her divorce from the husband she loves quite a lot, Randel. The story focuses on her attempt to become a better person and live with the guilt of her past, and just maybe, find a little happiness at the end of the day. I don’t know. Crappy elevator pitch, but it’s what I’ve got for now. On the bright side, I should be able to start adding more great details to her life. As I mentioned about a month back, part of the story takes place in Cleveland, but the rest of it is set in Chapel Hill. Our dear friend who currently lives in Chapel Hill is going to be visiting soon, and I can’t wait to harass her endlessly with questions.

And other than that, I’m just trying to figure out where my weekend went. And finish up Gone with the Wind, which we really might have to write a goodly amount about at some point. At any rate, we will pop in when we can with Camp updates.

~S