Thursday, May 06, 2010

Moving Right Along

Marooner’s Haven has comfortably past the 50,000 word mark; so, I’m justified in referring to it as a novel rather than a writing project. It’s going well too. There’s still a great deal of work to be done on it, but at last I’m cautiously optimistic that I might actually finish it one of these days.

Maybe it’s my Celtic melancholy or maybe it’s something else, but my pleasure in how well MH is going devolved today into uncertainty and even mild gloom. It’s all very well to write a novel, but when it’s written, will anyone buy it? It’s a simple, quiet book with no violence, no sex, little strong language. There are no chases or explosions or murders, no espionage or space exploration or rampaging aliens. I’m fond of the characters; I find the story absorbing, but will publishers and readers?

I don’t hold with writing what the market dictates. I believe in writing what’s inside you, the stories that demand that you write them. It seems to me that only in that way can a piece of writing be true and genuine. I also understand the concept of toiling for twenty-five years in order to become an overnight success. But I’ve been working that long and longer and have yet to make my first “professional” sale. Is the problem that I’m a bad writer or that I don’t write material that has commercial potential? The question that has begun to trouble me is, are they the same thing? If I can’t produce work that a commercial editor will buy, can I consider myself a good writer?

So, despite how well Marooner’s Haven is going, I find myself downhearted and doubtful.

Part of the problem might, of course, be organic. I haven’t been sleeping well, which lowers the defenses.

Because of the insomnia, though, I’ve been doing a good deal of reading. This Spring I’ve read The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Finished Changes, book 12, last week. I wish there could be further books in the series, but don’t really see how that would be possible. It’s an excellent series. Someone has called it Harry Potter meets The Rockford Files, which seems to me an apt description.

The series really hits its stride with book 3, Grave Peril, but from the beginning with Storm Front it is at one and the same time a well realized world of its own and a riff on, sometimes a spoof of, Fantasy and Hard Boiled Detective conventions. There are vampires and werewolves, madams and gangsters; and there’s a hard nosed but cute and golden-hearted police detective, Karen Murphy, with whom Dresden never quite manages to get off. There’s also magic, magic which is viewed in a very down to earth, practical way.

The interpersonal relationships that develop over the course of the series are complex and realistic, many of the recurring characters finely drawn and nuanced, people the reader cares about. I would recommend the series to both fans of detective fiction and those who enjoy stories about magic.

I’ve also been reading, and in a few cases rereading, Agatha Christie and Mary Roberts Rinehart. One Rinehart book that I particularly enjoyed is The Amazing Interlude. This is not a mystery. Instead, it is set in 1915 Belgium, I presume based on the author’s experiences as a war correspondent. It deals not with the conduct of the war but with a young girl from Pittsburgh, Sarah Lee Kennedy, who opens a soup kitchen and rest stop just behind the lines. Though others may read it differently, The Amazing Interlude seems to me very much an antiwar book. In any case, it is an absolutely lovely story.

Besides reading old standbys, I’m also au current. As well as Changes which, if I’m not mistaken, came out this year, I’ve read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and started The Girl Who Played with Fire by Steig Larsson, both of which were all the rage on Library Thing last year. They are excellent books, though extremely violent. I’ve preordered The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, which isn’t out from Audible yet.

I’ve also been reading Robert J. Sawyer. In the Winter I readCalculating God, went on to Starplex, my favorite of his books I’ve read so far, and devoured The Neanderthal Parallax. The first volume, Hominids, was serialized in Analog some years back; but, I read it again before proceeding to Humans and Hybrids. Now I need to reread Wake before tackling Watch. I also read Rollback when it was serialized in Analog.

I like Sawyer’s books. They’re more laidback and thoughtful than some. I tend to attribute this difference to his being Canadian, but it may simply be due to his personality. He is one of my FaceBook friends, or I am one of his. From what I’ve seen of him there, he seems like a really nice guy.

Of course, his success is depressing... No. I’m not going to go back there!

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