Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Study in Samples: Gunmetal Magic: Information

Information in Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews

One of the marks of a professional writer is the deft handling of information, and there are some nice examples of this in this sample by Ilona Andrews.  The first nice handling comes in a character introduction.  If you recall in the last post, I mentioned that in Chapter 1 the sound in the MC's dream had a mirror in reality.  It was someone knocking on the door: Mrs. Haffey.  At Kindle Locations 193-200, the MC (Andrea Nash) describes the disheveled and worried appearance of her neighbor a floor below.  She has come pounding on Nash's door in her nightgown.  Just after this description and reveal of relationship, Andrews writes, "Normally Mrs. Haffey viewed her appearance as serious business.  In terms of battle readiness, she was my hero--I've never seen her without her makeup and hair perfectly done.  Something was really wrong" (Kindle Locations 193-200).  Andrews ties physical description reveal into the plot, into what is happening now.  She makes the description relevant.  After all, Monica Wood in her book Description, declares that good description is not only accurate but relevant (4).  Andrew's use of description here is not only relevant, it adds to story.  It adds tension.  Great job there.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Study in Samples: Gunmetal Magic: Openings

Openings of Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews

Gunmetal actually has two openings.  One is an untitled prologue, and the other is the proper chapter 1.  I'll cover them both.

Untitled Prologue

This world needs setup, because it is our world, modern times, but it isn't.  Or rather, it is, but with a major, interesting twist.  The world has suffered an apocalypse by magic, but it is recovering well.  Andrews does an excellent job of setting this fact up right away through a faux document that explains that magic hit the world hard, but the people are still persevering.  Besides giving some basic facts about magic waves and magic powers, this document gives a hint of time frame.  This magic attack happened 40 years ago.  This information is told in an engaging writing style, and it is brief and quick.  It gets the simplest facts across, it gets emotion across, it hints at cool stuff, and then it moves on.  And this all within four paragraphs and one set of attributions.

Monday, August 20, 2012

My Other Jour De Fete Purchases: U-Dog-U

My mom and I saw a cute white dog walking around with a hat on, so we decided to ask if they got that at the Jour De Fete.  They had!  They got them at booth held by U-Dog-U.  So, we decided to go down and claim at least one of our own for our newest doggy.

Dog with Hat and HarnessDog HatDog Hat

My other Jour De Fete purchases: Wood!

Wooden Bowls and More

These are something I always buy, every fair I see 'em (though just usually not this many).  Homemade wooden cups and bowls and now candleholders.  There they are all in a row, nearly $60 worth of 'em.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Coming Soon

I'm a little behind on many intended blog posts.  I hope to post the rest of the Jour De Fete purchases this weekend.  Then, I want to start on my first in a new series, A Study in Samples.  Besides that, I have other ideas for blog posts--writing articles, research articles, business-related articles (remember Weird Wednesday?).  I also want to post details about my own fiction. 

Lotsa plans, yes, but little time.  My vacation is ending, and I am feeling the pressure (from myself) of getting another novel ready for eventual publication.

So, I'll do my best by this blog, but "tomorrow" might actually mean "next week," sometimes.  Well, maybe a lot of times ;-)  But at least this blog will be active and fun again.  Delays are worth that.  

A Study in Samples: A New Series

I recently found a writing ebook recommended on the OWW SFF mailing listHow to Improve Your Speculative Fiction Openings by Robert Qualkinbush.  Qualkinbush's book was a good, informative read about spec fic short story openings.  Thought-provoking.  So much so that I decided to apply similar analysis to novels--not just beginnings, but on what makes them tick, on what makes them purr.  Since I got a new ereader (Amazon's Kindle Keyboard), I decided I'd use Amazon lists.  (Mostly because this ereader has 3G, a must-have for someone who has no access to WiFi.)  Amazon has a Book list broken down by genre.  I picked Fantasy, and on my Kindle, it's automatically sorted by popularity.  From there, I downloaded samples. 

At first thought, a sample may not seem like enough to analyze.  But as Hooked author Les Edgerton writes, "A good, quality story beginning is a microcosm of the work entire.  If you capture the right beginning, you've written a small version of the whole" (7).  Edgerton is mostly concerned with material far less than a chapter in length.  Ebook samples often give more than that.  So if he can get so much out of a few pages, I feel much can be learned from a chapter or so.

And much can be learned about what works and doesn't work from such a sample.  You see, I'm not one of those people who believe commercially published writings are free from flaws.  No writing is perfect.  But that doesn't matter in this blog series, for the parts I want to tell are the parts that work well, because errors did not shoot a particular novel up the ranks, its excellencies did.  And a lot can be learned from the good stuff.

That being said, I have finished my first sample: Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews.


Edgerton, Les.  Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Them Go.  Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 2007.  Kindle Edition.

A Few Good Men: Friday's Child by Georgette Heyer

I wish this was A Few review, but it's not.  It's been too long since I read Georgette Heyer's novel to do it justice.  But even so, I'm still left with a strong, good impression of the manly goodness of not only the main male character but that of the three secondary males.  So in the end, all I can say is this: the men were excellent in this novel, and it was well worth the read.  Definitely one of my faves of Heyer's.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

More Jour De Fete Purchases - Coming Tomorrow

I have some more Jour De Fete purchases to post about, but it is getting late, so I will do so tomorrow.  These include cute dog purchases (sadly, not dogs, but dog products, but still cute), some more lotions and oils, some handcrafted wooden bowls and like, and one of those cool neckcloths you see people wearing at hot events like fairs.  If my aunt returns to the fair tomorrow and picks it up for me, I may have one more item to post about, homemade deodorant.  Until then!

More Bug Off Products

Repel Inspect Spray Because I am regularly sought out by tiny, flying bloodsuckers, I'm really into bug repellants.  The commercial products just don't cut it, and I don't like constantly dousing myself in their inefficiency.  So, at the Jour De Fete, I keep an eye out for pest-offs, and we found another homemade product.  This one is Grandma Bea's Repel Insect Spray. 

I like the fact that this one is a spray.  Mom tried this one out today and liked it.  I haven't had a chance to yet, but I am looking forward to using it so I can keep my blood to myself.

The creator of this product has several links you can look at, including a website under construction, an etsy page, and a facebook page.  Her email address is gmabeas@hotmail.com.

Emu Products

twoemu1Something else I purchased at the Jour De Fete was some Emu products from Granny Lou's Emu Oil Products.  Rarely does a year go by that we don't purchase something from her, because we love her products.  This year, as my wallet was getting a little light, I only got two items: lipbalm and wound cream.

The main reason why I purchased the wound cream was because it is also capable of keeping off the insects.  I make up the mosquitoes' main course, so anything helps.  And because I could drown myself in commercial bug spray and still be carried off by the little buzzers, I am looking forward to natural products, especially a creamy one.  That way repeat applications won't be a toxic problem.


The lip balm I purchased because my lips are perpetually dry.  I believe Dr. Oz claimed beeswax products are great for protecting and locking moisture into lips.  And this one smells great.

So, good purchases all around.  And pretty containers too.

Birdhouse and Wind chime

We went to the Jour De Fete today.  This is a two-day craft fair.  We made a lot of purchases, including having Mom pick out two presents, one for her birthday and one item for her Christmas present.  Here is the early Christmas present.

Bird house made from recycled itemsBird house made from recycled items

We were tickled by the fact this product reused items.  The actual house part is made out of a plastic flowerpot, for instance.  We also liked the bottom.  Many times pretty birdhouses found at fairs do not have an easy way to access the insides of the birdhouse (for cleaning out old materials).  This one looks like it will be easy. Besides that, it had an interesting, bird-related scripture on it.  According to the King James 2000 Bible on Biblos.com site, the Psalm is "Yea, the sparrow has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God."

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Few Good Men: Upcoming Reviews

I did have to dip back into Heyer to find a testrogenic work.  In fact, I think it is my new favorite of hers, Friday's Child.  But it will be a busy week, so though I am finished with it, it won't be till Friday or the weekend before I get the chance to review it.

Concerning Gail Dayton's works, I have read the first and made it page 164 in the sequel, The Barbed Rose, and I don't think I can read any furtherThis work appeals only to a certain sect of people of which I am not one.  If you like to read about women having sex with multiple males, sometimes simultaneously, and the males liking it and being superfocused on her, this novel is for you.  For that is the main plot.  In the first novel, The Compass Rose, the demon killing plot doesn't really occur until say the last 50 pages of the 400-odd work.  (Can't remember exactly, it's in my to-trade-in bin.)  I don't expect this one to be any different.

But I don't want to seem like I am disparaging this work just because I don't enjoy orgies and super-doting men. Because the major appeal of this story is interesting worldbuilding--though, the first few chapters make it a little hard to get through.  Later on it gets less infodumpy.  However, I'd take an infodump any day if the works would explain what the heck men do.  Almost every position from military on down to bakers are filled by women 90% of the time.  They are admitted into some positions, like bodyguards of the magicians and some other military positions--mostly to channel some of their aggressive traits, the novels say, but still that cannot account for the lack of men in working positions.  Do they stay home and take care of the children from their group marriages?  Given the main female's background, I don't think so.  For it sounds like a second mother raised her.  So what the heck do the men do?

Besides worldbuilding, I enjoyed the strong female character in the first chapters of the first novel, which is saying a lot.  I don't generally like female MCs.  But she lost that strength steadily throughout the novel.  She has yet to regain it in The Barbed Rose.  In fact, the main female character has an almost fanficy feel to her (nothing wrong with that, for that's why I read the Twilight series), and the males definitely do.  They are almost all instantly supportive of the female MC, despite the fact that I find it hard to believe men like to share a single woman or that misogynistic males can change colors that fast or care to lose their nationality that fast through forced marriage.  The men generally also get along really well with each other fast, too.

I dunno.  I just can't get into it or don't get it.  Now if the demon-killing plots had been predominate, that would be another story.