Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Halloween's a comin'

Ghosts are goblins are tuning up their tricks and parents are gathering treats for beggar's night. In the meantime, I'm spending my time looking for good Halloween books for kids. Know any?

On my new Bella Online Horror Literature site I'm going to focus on a classic Halloween tale and a relatively new tale for children. I'll let you all know when the article is up, but in the meantime any insights into what your kids are reading or have read in the past is always helpful. My kids are grown and gone and I'm a bit out of touch with things, especially since I always opted for stories with a bite that left the reader hungry for bigger and better frights. I'm strange that way.

But while I look into the tricks and treats of days gone by and yet to be, why not tell me what your favorite stories were at this spookiest time of year or what you're reading to your kids and grandkids? What do you look for in a book and what do you think is too much for young minds and hearts? Then tell me, please, the stories that kept you up nights checking the shadows and blowing curtains in your room afraid to shut your eyes and what made them haunt the corners of your active imaginations.

After all, I'm writing for the reading public at large and not just for my own amusement, although I write for that reason, too.

Come one, come all...

...and see the insanity first hand.

Last year I entered the NaNoWriMo contest and finished a 100,000-word novel. I still need to edit it, but it's written. I'm also rewriting it, but that's the beauty of the process.

This year I'm unsure of which novel to begin and I may just write two novels since I can't choose. It would be good for me and a friend told me I could write 12 novels a year, or at least six. He's not a writer, but I'm going to give it a good try and November is a good time to start getting serious.

You may read the progress of said novel(s) at NaNoWriMo Novel Challenge 2004 if you're interested in the insane rantings of a writer.

So, I'm going to give it my best shot, quit chatting with friends on IM, focus on writing something more than blogs, of which I have three (and now four), articles and columns and stretch my creative literary wings. It won't be perfect (well, maybe it will be), but it is a start in the right direction. Who knows? I may end up with 12 novels coming out within the next two years and I will have the rest of my in a cabin in the Rockies and making a good living as a writer. You never know. Stranger things have happened. Now go write something and give me some competition and some company.

Do you know who you're reading?

On September 25, 1999 I had just moved to Hudson, Ohio when a friend called and told me Marion Zimmer Bradley had just died. Marion was a good friend and a mentor, one of many writers who have given me so much of their time and talent and believed in me.

Marion had been ill for several years and had battled diabetes for a very long time. Her body couldn't take any more and she slipped into a coma and died. It was a loss to her family but also a loss to her friends and to the reading public who had been so ensnared by her stories and characters from so many of her worlds and times.

At the time I was reading a new novel, a continuation of her Avalon series. Something was off with the book and I thought it was Marion's illness. The book was good, but it didn't have Marion's signature style. I soon found out that most of the books in the previous few years were not written by Marion, but by one of her proteges. I had no idea such things happened. I knew James Michener had a staff of researchers and writers who churned out his books on an assembly line. He couldn't have written so much in a short time otherwise. But to find out Marion's books were penned by someone else seemed wrong to me.

It's not uncommon, however. Marion had the name and the writer authoring her books didn't, but s/he knew Marion and could mimic Marion's style.

To anyone who reads an author and gets to know them, any change in the nuances of characterization, plot, and mythology are as obvious as a 6 mm pimple on your nose. So many "lost" novels published after Marion's death are more of the same. Case in point, Witch Hill is the latest book published in the wake of Marion's death. It is purportedly a book that wasn't published prior to her death and part of the LIGHT series.

I finished the book Monday night and was immediately struck by the inconsistencies to Marion's style and her literary sensibilities. There is a brief connection to the characters of Frodo and Emily from The Inheritor, which features two sisters, Emily and Leslie Barnes, who are caught up with a musician who plans to use Emily's musical gifts to bolster his own. Colin McClaren and Claire Moffat, who also briefly appear in Witch Hill to help Sara Latimer free herself from the clutches of a coven of dark witches, one of whom will possess Sara and take over her body and her future.

Despite the recurrence of characters from The Inheritor, Witch Hill does not show Marion's fine hand and sensibilities. Devil worship and graphic sexuality were never part of Marion's writing style. It is immediately obvious that Marion contributed little to this book outside of plot and direction. The gossamer thread that binds Marion's characters is frayed and broken throughout and characters who she likely intended to play a more integral part in the story are shuffled to the sidelines and given little more to do than lend their names and shadowy presence at the end.

That is not to say the book is not good. It does have its moments and I am not opposed to graphic sexual content. However, I am appalled that Marion's name is on this book because she would not have written this book. It's sad to see her name used in this manner and her stories darkened with mythologies that she would have opposed--and did oppose--during her lifetime.

Marion belongs to a generation of writers who believed that although sex sold books, it wouldn't be the central theme in any book she wrote. There is a time and place for graphic sexual content and I have enjoyed and written it many times. However, I also enjoy reading books that focus on other things and still offer readers an alternative rich in history, mythology, and characters that don't follow the graphic sexual pack.

If you want to feast at Marion's table read The Fall of Atlantis, which begins the story of Emily and Leslie and provides the background to Mists of Avalon and the story of sisters and the men who loved them reincarnated again and again to learn and grow. You will notice the difference in writing and style.

Marion invited many writers to play in her worlds and created anthologies for new writers to test their wings and grow. Marion also borrowed from history, mythology, and other writers, just as Witch Hill borrows from H. P. Lovecraft's settings of Arkham and the dark backward communities of the eastern seaboard to create his Cthulu mythos, but paying homage to another writer is not taking their name and their audience to turn a fast buck and lie to the public.

Ultimately, it is about the bottom line--money--and not about honesty or faithfulness to an author's creations. The question is how readers and writers feel about this issue. I will not deny a good story, but I prefer honesty. How do you feel? Does it really matter if an author writes their books or not?

Monday, October 18, 2004

Mixed bag o' thoughts

It's Monday and it's snowing just a little bit. Funny, but I always know when it's snowing even when I'm sleeping. Must be something about the difference in sound. Snow softens and deadens sound or maybe it just insulates everything and pushes the rest of the noisy world away. I don't know for sure, but I know when it happens even when I sleep.

I had a semi-productive weekend, finishing off all the library books and three books I need to review, one for my new horror site. I'll be writing more articles and replacing the old stuff today and tomorrow, getting ready for the new launch. I'm getting excited now and anxious to move on. The urge to crawl under the deck and stay there until the shouting and arguing are over (from when my parents were here) is gone and I'm back to feeling normal.

You have no idea, or maybe you do, how sleeping in a too soft bed where you can hear every single snore, gripe, moan, groan, and complaint wrecks my sleep. It took me a while to catch up, but I'm back and the psychic bubble has burst. Time to burn some sage and sweet grass and clear the air.

I knew the psychic bubble had burst on Friday evening when I got a call from Ginny at Atriad Press to tell me she had been trying to get hold of me for two weeks to let me know they were buying one of my stories for their anthology. That's two weeks, bookended before and after my parents' visit, where two of my stories have been bought and checks are being sent. Good news overall. Saturday got better.

I found a strange name on Yahoo Messenger and, since the person was online, asked them who they were. I vaguely recognized the name, but not really and had not had YIM on for at least two years. We began talking and it turns out he was looking for a writer to do something unusual. He hired me for $50 a 2000-word story and the contract could turn into something really big and lucrative. Bingo! Regular money and lots of it. There is one small hitch to the deal, he seems to have developed an affection for me after we talked on the phone. I told him that I wanted to keep things friendly but focus on business since I'm not in the market for a lover/boyfriend/significant other. He seems to think he can wear me down, but 41-year-olds are like that, especially the entrepreneurial types. Oh, and I did eventually remember him when we talked.

On a last note, since the snow seems to have stopped drifting past my window, I received an email about a situation about which everyone should be aware. Ever hear of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy named Mohammed al-Dura who was gunned down by Israeli soldiers? Well, truth is stranger than fiction, but it is evidently fiction the PLO and Yasser Arafat is creating and passing off as documentary journalism. More people should be from Missouri.

That is all. Disperse.