16 June 2011

Microfic time - lost

I had to do 100 words on the theme of 'Lost' last week. It get's tricky when the word count goes that low. I was amazed how much people could pack into it. I opted for monologue as a strategy.

Under the Bed


Look under the bed.

Under. The. Bed.

No, not in your sock drawer. When have I ever been anywhere near your sock drawer? I'm down here, behind the crisp packet.

It's really nasty under here. You know that, right?

Look, this is getting us nowhere. Get your mum to help.

No, I'm not behind the radiator. How would I even fit... oh. So that's where my boots went. Right.

That's it! Just reach a bit further in. Mind the old apple... yeah. That.

Finally! Action Man reporting for duty. Let's get this battle started. But first, find me some bloody clothes.

10 June 2011

Waterstones and dark fantasy

I was browsing the genre shelves of my local Waterstones today to pick up a book for my flight on Monday. While I was there I thought I would do that writerly thing they all tell you to do and check out what's on the shelves in general. You know the sort of thing: what's selling, what's getting promotional coverage, etc etc.

I have tweeted before that Waterstones has a dark fantasy shelf. Yay, said I. Clearly this stuff is selling. Maybe they'd like an English one to go with all the American ones on the shelf. Maybe my book will not be the subject of agentish sniggers and coffee expelled in the direction of monitors.

Got to be honest though, after a closer look today, I have my reservations. They seem to have lumped all the paranormal romance and urban fantasy featuring female MC's onto this dark fantasy shelf. Okay, fine. Except the Jim Butcher books, which are urban fantasy, are across the way in Science Fiction. So is American Gods by Neil Gaiman (bought that one for the plane, can't wait). High fantasy and comic fantasy were also in Science Fiction.

So why is urban fantasy split across the two shelves?

There are two reasons that I can think of, and I don't like one of them very much. Have we got into the situation where the bookshops think we need a separate shelf of urban fantasy for girls? Heaven forbid that they should corrupt the proper books. Better keep them nice and clear in case it's contagious.

The second one is that the whole shelf was paranormal romance, which I was mistaking for urban fantasy. That makes me wonder where the line is. Does an urban fantasy become a paranormal romance as soon as there is a relationship in there somewhere? Would any urban fantasy with romantic elements be viewed as a paranormal romance for the purpose of shelving?

What I really need to do, I suppose, is make a note of all the authors and see where they fall on the spectrum. As for where my book would fall? I haven't a flaming clue any more.

05 June 2011

What did you read in your teens?

This morning I woke up to the big twitter kerfuffle #YAsaves about a Wall Street Journal article. I read a lot of young adult fiction and follow a few YA authors on twitter, so it pretty much jumped out at me.

In the article the author slated modern young adult books as being overwhelmingly dark and violent, and unsuitable for teens. This led to an avalanche of twitter posts and blog posts about how many young people are trapped in dark and violent lives and value something which makes them feel less alone. This came from YA authors who have received letters from teens saying this, and direct posts by teens. Sadly the spammers latched onto a trending topic and drowned the feed in garbage, but a wonderful person preserved some of these tweets on storify so you can see what I mean.

I tried to think about the books I read as a teen to see how this alleged flood of darkness compared with the late 80's (yes, I know I'm old, shut up), and to be honest, I realise that I didn't read young adult. I had a library card and the freedom to read whatever I chose (no censorship in our house. Love you, Mum!) so I ploughed through the children's section and read everything in it, then pretty much without looking up moved onto the next available shelf, which was adult genre fiction. For some unknown reason, they put what young adult books there were on the other side of the library. I didn't even see them until I had exhausted the adult genre fiction and was eyeing the non-fiction shelves.

So, the books I read as a so-called impressionable teen were adult horror (every one I could find), fantasy and thriller, with the occasional old-skool rapetastic romance thrown in, the kind that the Smart Bitches have a field day with occasionally. If this article author thinks YA darkness is bad, she should have seen what I was reading.

Those horror books didn't do anything to change me. What shaped me were my real life experiences, not things I read on a page. I don't propose to censor The Boy's reading, even if I did chicken out of reading the Tales of 1001 Nights to him.

I am really curious about the rest of the world, though. What books did you read as a teen? Do you feel that you were scarred by inappropriate books or saved by loving censorship?

02 June 2011

Careful who's listening

Cartoon courtesy of Mark du Toit

I'm in the opening stages of another book at the moment, and researching my little socks off. This has caused a certain amount of domestic alarm. Beloved mother, you see, was a nurse before she retired, so when she rang her eldest daughter to ask how she was and how The Boy did in his school cross country race, she got a barrage of questions I had been saving up to ask her. They went a bit like this:

  • How often do you turn someone who is completely paralysed to prevent bedsores?
  • Would you feed them through a tube?
  • How soon would muscle wastage set in?
  • What kind of physical therapy would they receive?
  • If someone was just pretending to be paralysed, would the therapist be able to feel it?

We wittered on for about twenty minutes about the care and treatment of paralysis, until suddenly I hear: "No, stop it. Give me the phone back, go away. Everyone's fine. Stop worrying."

Then in a tone of complete exasperation: "She's writing another book."

Turns out that esteemed stepfather was having kittens listening to her end of the conversation, thinking that someone in the family was paralysed and in hospital. I suppose it's slightly better than being caught trying to find out how to be an effective terrorist.

And so my personal contribution to the craft of writing today is: when you do your research, be careful who's listening.

My writing challenge is going to be how to cover do-it-yourself catheter removal when breaking out of hospital. Sexy, huh?