My head is aswirl with cookies to bake, cards to send, and rooms to clean. But rather than bore you with all those details, a few random highlights.
Good friend, Michelle Knowlden just published a mystery novella, Sinking Ships, the first of an Abishag Quartet. When Leslie Greene decides to solve her monetary woes by becoming an Abishag wife--spending each night lying beside a dying, comatose man as a form of hospice therapy--the worst thing she's anticipating is an end to her social life. Instead she finds herself entangled in a mystery that includes a dead body, stacks of hidden ledgers, and a Portuguese shipwreck. I was fortunate enough to Beta read Michelle's novella and it was excellent: clean prose, good characters, and great emotion. I recommend you buy it.
I saw The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on Friday night, and I really enjoyed it. Granted, the beginning was slow and the "Spiders and Flies" chapter got a short shrift, but as the movie went on, I began to enjoy more and more, the character development, the action sequences, and the landscape. I'm an incurable romantic--transport me to a far-off land with beautiful costumes, kings and dragons, Shakespearean drama, and stirring speeches, and I just melt.
A less inspiring portion of my week was spent researching agents. This is depressing for me, because I wind up judging myself by the industry standards and finding myself lacking. However, I did find some interesting ewssays written by speculative fiction enthusiast agent Russell Galen. His inights actually prompted me to think about how I write my stories and how I can improve them. For example, in an essay called "Wired Differently," he explains how fantasy writer J.K. Rowling was able to secure mainstream appeal:
"[Scifi/ Fantasy readers] like us are eager to crack the code of a science fiction or fantasy novel by lewarning about all the complicated background necessary to understand it. But the other 90% of the audience gets so annoyed by the homework--learning magic systems, the galactic politics, etc--that they can't enjoy the superb storytelling, characterizations, and ideas [...]. What JKR managed to do, probably without realizing it, was to introduce magical elements slowly, so that the heavy background lessons are held back until we are acclimatized to her world."
Finally, a funny thing happened during my subbing this week. As I entered a Language Arts classroom, I found--in the teacher's handwriting--my name written on the whiteboard, followed by a line from a poem I wrote in high school called "Coffee." I blinked, wondering if I was asleep. Students later told me that the teacher found the poem on my website and liked it so much, she asked her studewnts to integrate it into their essays. I tell you, it was enough to make me blush.