Archive for June, 2009

A Bach Symphony?

June 28, 2009

 I had completely immersed myself ina very nice mystery for kids when I crashed headlong into the following line:  “A symphony, that’s what the place is like–a complex Bach symphony that sharpens your mind even if you can’t comprehend every strand of harmony. ”

A Bach symphony?  I knew that J.S. Bach had written preludes, fugues, tocattas, oratorios, variations, concertos and orchestral suites. But a symphony?  I doubted it.  He belonged to an earlier era. After I finished the book, I did a check and discovered that one of his orchestral suites had been reclassified as a symphony.  But the character’s words sure implied to me that Bach had written more than one symphony.  Sure, his musically inclined descendants had written plenty of them, but I doubt that the author was referring to any of the other not quite so famous Bachs. 

Yes, this is clearly a case of Nitz-picking at a comparatively minor mistake that probably would have flown right over the head of a large percentage of middle grade and tween readers.  But what was the net effect on me?   I lost a lot of trust in the author’s story and wondered what else wasn’t right. I knew from a section in the acknowledgments that this writer had every intention of being meticulous about her setting. Why hadn’t she or her editor caught this problem? 

I was pulled out of a different novel when the author set a key scene at the Arch.  When I lived in the St. Louis suburbs, I’d gone up to its viewing area at the top at least five or six times with different sets of visitors.  His description didn’t fit my experiences.

Now I should not be casting stones because  I made an awful soccer mistake in DEFENDING IRENE.    It makes me feel sick to think about it even to this day.   I’m feeling symptoms even as a type.  My only excuse is that I actually thought I’d seen this scene happen on the soccer field, but I must been at an angle that gave me the wrong impression.  So I rather hope that the other two authors are drifting along in ignorance.  Sometimes it is bliss.

So here’s what to think about as a writer.  If you’re not 100% sure of your facts, check them.  This is an important way to keep your reader firmly anchored in your reality.

In Braille

June 22, 2009

I’m afraid that I have a narcissitic habit of googling my books to see how they’re doing in the world.  Sometimes this can be depressing such as when a teacher or librarian is dismissive of my plot or characters in a blog.  At other times, delightful news can pop up.  That’s what happened today when I learned that SAVING THE GRIFFIN had become a braille book.  Wow.  First of all, some person or committee would have had to think that the project was both worthy and accessible.  And since I’m a bit hard-headed about the book business, I realize that such an undertaking would have to be quite expensive.    

I couldn’t help thinking about how Brian Jacques first REDWALL book had been intended for students at Royal Wavertree School for the Blind.  Jacques knew that he had to carefully paint his pictures with words.   So I’m hoping that my word pictures will be adequate to transport some new readers to Italy with Kate and Michael.

Peeled

June 20, 2009

Sometime in the next six months or so, I’ll be revising my YA mystery.  It’s current title is STAND-IN FOR MURDER.  (I’ve learned not to get too attached to titles.  I often think that Marketing–and yes, I did mean to capitalize that word–gets the final say.  They’re the people who know what’s out there and what’s selling. )  One of the ways that I’ve been preparing myself is to read some YA.  At heart, I’m more of a middle grade novelist, but I love the adult  mysteries of Elizabeth Peters, Barbara Michaels,  Sharyn McCrumb, and Charlotte McLeod.  The mystery that came to me needed a high school student as the main character for any number of different reasons. 

The latest book that I picked up was Joan Bauer’s novel, PEELED.    I was pretty sure that I’d like it even before I plucked it off the library shelf.  Ms. Bauer consistently writes stories with heart and humor.  I’ve read a few YA novels where the layers of death and dysfunction remind me of a sandwich randomly assembled at Subway.     In PEELED, the losses that characters suffered in the past feel organic and authentic.  The main character Hildy really seemed to have grown up in Banesville, New York.  And when she and her cohorts from the school paper put themselves at risk to cover an important issue to their area, their reasoning felt real instead of “must endanger characters in order to create an exciting plot. ”    Ms. Bauer’s research into journalism paid off.  I found the world of PEELED to be utterly convincing except for maybe one thing.

I had one quibble with how Ms. Bauer handled parts of the ending.  But that’s because I have seen a very different ending to a similar situation–alas, no ghosts– in real life.   If anyone cares to know, ask in a note and I’ll put what would amount to a few spoilers in the comments section.

Writers’ Anonymous

June 8, 2009

My name is Kristin, and I haven’t written any fiction in two weeks….   

Instead of murmuring approval, fellow members of Writers’ Anonymous are likely to offer advice of how to start writing again.  They might ask things like ‘Why has it been so long?’

Well, my daughter graduated from high school at the end of May, and there was a lot of work that went into preparing for her open house and preparing for some wonderful out-of-town visitors.  I’m not a neat and tidy person by nature–I’d much rather write than clean–so I had a lot of work to do in order to make things presentable both inside and out.   But now I’m finally caught up with my students’ assignments.  I did manage to do a bit of brainstorming on the plot of a story last week as detailed in an earlier post on thinking with a pencil, but that’s different from really getting buried in a scene.  I’m looking forward to saying,

My name is Kristin, and I wrote today.