Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Yes, I'm Still Alive and Scribbling

It's been over a month since I had the report back from the assessor, and I now have several directories on three separate computers (not to mention a USB stick) filled with drafts, rewrites, attempts and ideas, trying to incorporate the main suggestions she made. Each time I go off in a certain direction I get disillusioned, try something else, then inevitably the process repeats itself and I either backtrack or take yet another path.

(pauses for breath).

So, at the moment I'm seriously considering dropping all these attempts and pitching the book as it is, with just the simpler suggestions addressed. Either that or I seriously fear I'll be at the end of the year and still in the same position. In the meantime, I may well start on a completely different book, the idea for which has been rattling around in my head these last few weeks and growing like a snowball rolling down a hill (hopefully not the type that hit a building at the bottom and explode in a white fluffy shower of nothing).

How do the Stephanie Meyers and the Jo Rowlings of the world manage to just blurt it all out onto the page with such apparent ease? Could it be that they never sent their books off to be professionally assessed?

I can see it now - "sorry Jo, your book has promise but the whole baby on a doorstep thing had been done to death, we suggest a total rewrite..."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

No Wonder Book Sales Are Bad

I just went into Borders on my lunch break to get hold of Kristin Cashore's book, Graceling. I finally found it, in trade paperback form, for $36. $36!!!! Are they kidding? I would *at a pinch* pay that for a large hardback, but never for a trade paperback.

Usually I wait until their email vouchers come out - sometimes they offer %50 discount. Until they do that again, Graceling will have to wait.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Inkpot Article on Asian Fantasy

Read an interesting article posted on Inkpot about the wonderful fantasy themes to be found in Asian legend, and why more western authors don't make use of them. Once more my heart skipped a beat.

I agree with some items in the article. Fantasy has too often drawn on European pseudo-mediaeval themes while ignoring the other 95% of the world's mythology. That's the main reason I started writing a book based on Chinese and Japanese legend.

Some things in the article I'm not so sure about. It seems to suggest authors should use Asian myth complete, without attempting to 'westernise' it or 'water it down'. In my opinion, this rarely works. To do that is to present a story that is more a showcase of Asian mythology, rather than an entertaining story. The Kapas might be defeated by getting them to bow, but once you've done that - where do you go next? Good fantasy (imho), takes existing themes and ideas and moulds them into an exciting and suspenseful story, without worrying about the purity of the underlying source. Could this be why Asian style fantasy has often failed in the western market?

I'm loving that this debate is starting to raise its head in literary blogs. It's making me feel pretty happy to have an Asian themed fantasy nearly ready to submit. Of course it's no guarantee of success, but it puts me in a better situation than if I'd spent the last two years writing a book about Vampires.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

It Makes Your Blood Run Cold

It's the would-be author's nightmare. You walk into a bookshop and make for the new release's section. There's a new book, interesting title, glossy cover. You pick it up and read the back cover blurb - and your skin crawls.

Someone has written your book.

Oh yes, it might be different in many ways, but the essence of the story, the feel of the characters and the setting is nearly identical to the one you've spent years slaving away at. There goes any faint hope you ever had of getting the damn thing published.

Thankfully, to date, this nightmare hasn't come true for me - though on a few occasions it's been close. Each time I saw a book with a title and cover evocative of my own, but when I read the blurb I saw (to my great relief) that it was nothing like mine. Phew.

But this morning, as I was reading the excellent blog Editorial Ass (odd name, I know) I saw this...

And I read this....

If the cover image of a fearless Chinese heroine reminds readers of such films as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, that’s intentional; the story inside will, too. First-time novelist Pon has a screenwriter’s talent for producing a sweeping saga, and in this, the first of two books set in ancient China, 17-year-old Ai Ling faces demons, monsters, and gods as she tries to fulfill her destiny. Frightened after a local man tries to blackmail her into marriage, Ai Ling resolves to journey to the emperor’s palace where her missing father was last seen. Along the way, she meets the handsome Chen Yong, who is of mixed parentage and on a quest to find answers to questions about his family that have haunted him his whole life. (In the story’s prologue, readers get hints about his origins.) As in most martial-arts movies, the story sometimes takes a back seat to the action, but Pon doesn’t stint when it comes to her characters. Ai Ling is a clever and determined heroine, Chen’s younger brother is a witty teen whose girl-crazy ways transcend the centuries, and even the monsters have dimension. Pon’s writing, both fluid and exhilarating, shines whether she’s describing a dinner delicacy or what it feels like to stab an evil spirit in the gut. There’s a bit of sex here, including a near rape, but it’s all integral to a saga that spins and slashes as its heroine tries to find her way home.

And afterwards, although I could see straight away the characters and the story are different, I felt a little bit ill.

Ancient China, 17 year old protagonist, demons, gods and monsters - oh my!

But then.... I realised something. In my reading of countless agent's blogs I've noticed a theme - everyone is totally sick of Vampire novels, and everyone is looking for something new. If Silver Phoenix is a big hit, perhaps the way will be open for books set in a similar style and feel, and maybe it won't be such a disaster that somebody has beaten me to it.

I really hope so - in the meantime, what a roller coaster ride this writing business is turning out to be.