Thursday, March 22, 2007

On Writing...

I finally got around to "reading" Stephen King's memoir On Writing. Actually, I listened to the audiobook, which never seems like "real" reading to me. (But, at least it was read by the author.)

Anyway, I was driving along listening to the thing when this gem popped out at me...

"Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around."

Fortunately, I was on a surface street and not a highway because I was able remember this piece of wisdom until the next stoplight, when I had a moment to jot it down. (Always have a notepad and a pen handy, even in the car. Ya never know when it'll come in handy.)

Labels: , ,

Monday, March 12, 2007

Unfinished books

Here's an interesting article on the books Britons are most-likely to buy, but not read all the way through.

It got me to thinking about what books I've started and have just not been able to slog my way through to the end. Two that immediately came to mind were Little Women and The Secret Garden. I have read both of them all-the-way-through now - but it must have taken at least a half-dozen attempts for each one.

The funny thing is, I loved the opening chapter of both of them. I would read the opening chapter with enthusiasm. And then I'd get to chapter 2, which wasn't so great (IMHO). I might push myself to read chapter 3 - but that would be about it.

For years, these books haunted me. I could not get through them. I did finally read Little Women after the Winona Ryder movie came out. I absolutely loved the movie and that gave me the courage to attempt the book again. I read it, enjoyed it, and moved on to Little Men and Jo's Boys. Though - it may be worth noting that I've never attempted a re-read of them.

I did not get around to finishing The Secret Garden until last year - when I resolved I was going to get through all those books in the back of my closet if it killed me. I didn't think much of it, and soon got rid of the copy I'd been holding on to for all those years. However, I also discovered Heidi in my closet-raid, and thought that was a fairly good children's book - even though I'd never given it much of a fair chance when I was a kid. It's funny that I didn't like The Secret Garden, though, because I always loved the first chapter - and Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess was one of the seminal books of my childhood. (I wrote many a piece of juvenilia involving orphans and cruel boarding schools after reading that novel.)

But, I guess that's the reading life. You win some, you lose some.

So, what are some books that you could never get through?

Labels: , , , , , ,


Here's a lesson to all you would-be authors out there...

When you think it's about time to make a back-up copy of your manuscript on CD-ROM. Do it. Right then. Don't put it off because you're busy and you have a million other things to think about.

I almost made a CD with my latest TOTK draft Saturday afternoon - and didn't. By Saturday night it was too late. In a completely boneheaded move, I somehow managed to delete that draft from my hard drive without noticing - and then I destroyed the only other copy I had of it by overwriting my flash drive with documents from my hard drive.

All in the name of "backing up my files"!

Ironic isn't it.

Unfortunately, yesterday when I noticed what I had done, I could only rage and cry and reinstall my latest copy from the end of January.

It could have been much worse. I could have lost everything, if I hadn't bothered to make backups at all. I'm only out the work of the last month and a half - which, unfortunately, has been some of the most productive I've had in recent years.

I'm not back to square one - but I feel like I did get kicked back a couple of squares on four very important scenes.

I had been thinking I would soon be announcing that this draft was OVA' and that publication was just a bit closer to reality.

Now, all I can do is paraphrase Winston Churchill as a word of warning to other writers:
"Always back up. Always back up. Always, always, always back up things, great or small, large or petty."

Labels: , ,

Friday, March 02, 2007

Rutherford's first cousin?

In the vein of Edward Rutherford, I have to recommend The Children of First Man by James Alexander Thom.

This is also a multi-generational epic, exploring the legend of Prince Madoc, a 12th Century Welsh prince some people believe may have colonized America centuries before Columbus arrived.

Thom vividly imagines the kinds of trouble an expedition of Welsh refugees crashing onto American soil at that time might have caused. His group of pre-Colombian settlers causes almost as much upheaval as their European cousins did later, but there are too few of them to overthrow existing societies. Instead, over several generations, they become assimilated into Native American culture, and eventually become known as the Mandan people - a tribe early sociologists believed had European ancestors.

Whether or not the legend is true, it makes for a fascinating story - and it will leave you wondering if maybe, just maybe, that's how it really happened.

Labels: , ,

Rutherford Rules

Sarum by Edward Rutherford
London by Edward Rutherford
The Forest by Edward Rutherford

In case you haven't guessed by now, I'm a bit of an Anglophile. (It must have something to do with all those hours spent watching Masterpiece Theatre as a child). I love historical novels, particularly those set in the British Isles, and these three are like taking a travelogue through ancient times.

They aren't really related, except the author wrote them all in a similar style. He takes a few fictional families and weaves their stories into real historical events through the centuries. For example, during Sarum's 10,000-year time frame, we see characters and their descendants build Stonehenge, the Roman Baths at Bath, and Salisbury Cathedral. They also fight in the Norman invasion, the American Revolution and World War II. It wraps up in the mid-1980s, with Prince Charles kicking off a campaign to restore the Cathedral spire.

Rutherford often gets compared to James Mitchner, who wrote the same sort of epic, multi-generational stories, but I think he's better - mainly because he doesn't spend half the book telling you about volcanoes and beavers before the story gets going. He starts out right away with people.

He also has written two books in recent years about Ireland - which I can't recommend because I haven't gotten to them yet. (Me bad.) I'm sure they're just as good as the three that already have a permanent place on my keeper shelf, though.

Labels: , , , ,