Friday, December 30, 2016

Anthology Co-Author Published!

Know what made today particularly awesome? A fellow author from One Thousand Words for War, Valerie Hunter, also has a story in the 2017 Young Explorer's Guide anthology, and she lists One Thousand Words for War in her bio! I was so thrilled to see that, and congratulations to Valerie for her additional publication!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Characters with Anachronistic Mindsets: Do They Have a Place in Fiction?

Parental warning:  I speak frankly about romance novels below.

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I always get nervous when I see book blurbs like this: "A 14th-century story told with a 20th-century sensibility.” 

Ugh.  I hate that!  By and large, people of the 14th century did not have the sensibility of people living in the 20th century.  Please don't give it to them!

Whether my perception is accurate or not, the above statement screams to me: "The heroine in this book will be an anachronistically modern-thinking woman, and the villains will be portrayed as period-stereotyped chauvinistic assholes!"  Granted, this is my knee-jerk reaction, and it will have to be tempered by me actually buying and reading the book in question.  I simply saw the blurb today and groaned.

The reason I am having this knee-jerk reaction is that it is, sadly, so often shown in books when the author and publisher want to make a point and care more about that than about maintaining historical accuracy and entertaining readers.  You often see this in Hollywood movies, too.  That type of movie often fails because audiences don't want to feel that they are paying to be preached to.

I fervently hope that none of the red flags popping up in my mind will be true for the above novel.  I believe that, if you're going to write a historical novel, you should be very well versed in the attitudes of the day and understanding of them, at least for the length of the book.  Yes, it is quite possible that at least a few people back in the 14th century held to more progressive beliefs than the norm.  If they had not, we would not have had the Protestant Reformation, for example.  But whether the Church was Catholic or Protestant, 14th century attitudes about morality, particularly female morality, were anything but those of the 20th century.  The same is true of ecological concerns and attitudes toward people of certain ethnicities or sexual orientations.  I hope the author of the above book kept that in mind.

I also wonder if some of my objection to finding characters with anachronistic mindsets stems from the fact that I read science fiction, in which it is not uncommon to read something from the point of view of an alien.  The more alien such a character's thought process is, the more interesting.  Frankly, exploring the point of view of a character from an earlier time period is quite similar to looking at the mind of someone who is sort of alien.   If the aliens in SF novels thought exactly the way we do, there would be little point in making them aliens, right?

All of that said, there are times when I have enjoyed slightly anachronistic character attitudes in books.  Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael novels, for instance, always intrigued me with the way Brother Cadfael would figure out ways using the technology and logic available in his time to do things that we know to do in the 21st century to find out who committed a murder.  

In the romance genre, author Eloisa James regularly deals with topics which used to be taboo in the industry when I was a teenager--but I like that she acknowledges them and has her characters deal with them--painful intercourse, oral sex, homosexuality, and so forth.  These are issues that modern people deal with, too, and it is refreshing to see that her heroines tend to be equal partners in their lovemaking.  Unfortunately, ignorance of sex, particularly among well-bred Victorian girls, was something that too many of them did experience before marriage, and I think that is tragic. 

I believe a definite and subtle balancing act is required between writing characters whom readers can relate to and making them mostly accurate examples of their time and culture.  Would most of us want to read a story about a Regency or Victorian-era girl who truly is ignorant of what goes on in a bedroom and who believes all manner of bizarre and period rumors and superstitions she's been told, or would we want to toss the book away in disgust because we can't believe any girl of eighteen could be that ignorant?  It's an interesting question to me.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Latest Short Story Submissions

Early, early this morning I submitted my completed story for the Snape Showcase.  I also just now submitted a short story, "The Eyes of Death," to the anthology, The Death of All Things, which is being published by Zombies Need Brains LLC.  Here is a link to the ZNB Kickstarter for The Death of All Things and two other anthologies to be released next year.

Now, to start work on more stories.

Friday, December 9, 2016

On the Importance of Boyfriends in YA Fiction

Sorry for the pompous post title.  If I can think of something better, I'll change it. 

Today I came across a YA book blurb.  "X was having a rotten year at school until she met Y."

On the face of it, this doesn't seem terribly objectionable.  But I got to thinking that it is pretty much the same premise that is behind the Twilight books, at least the first one.  To me, there is something wrong when we regard our lives as awful or, even worse, meaningless, unless there's a romantic interest present.  Maybe this sort of plot device is used so often and is so profitable because it truly does reflect the way some teenagers feel.  I would rather see books being written that teach teenagers to be morre assertive and more self-sufficient.  Yes, I know there's peer pressure.  Yes, I know you feel left out if everyone you know has a romantic interest, and you don't.  I get that.  The loneliness is real. 

But I would like to see the occasional book written in which having a romantic interest doesn't magically improve the main character's life.  I'd rather see books in which the main character's own accomplishments improve his or her life.  What kind of person is going to be interested in someone who has no accomplishments or who goes around just being depressed and dependent on others for his or her happiness?

Okay, I mean aside from vampire guys named Edward Cullen.  :)

I would rather see YA books in which the main character first finds some niche to excel in and then finds a romantic interest.  I want to see more books in which a romantic interest is simply the icing on an awesome cake, rather than the cake itself.