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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

And Here We Are...

So, yep. The SF Bay Area is now in full shelter-in-place mode, something I'm sort of familiar with given my sick leave, but this time the situation's a lot more sobering than merely waiting for my thumb to heal.

On my end, as I've noted before, I've been fully abusing my KU promo, which will expire at the end of this week. I'm currently reading possibly the last novel I'll be able to borrow through KU, and I'll be back to purchasing books as needed. I did discover a few authors whose books I want to collect (permanently, not just borrow and then return), and I'm one of those readers who go back and savor favorite titles on repeat.

A few are ex-Dreamspinner Press writers, for which I'm grateful, as it feels great supporting them as they navigate their way through self-publishing (though some found new presses with whom they now publish). It pains me not to buy books from some of my favorite writers while they're still tied up with DSP, and I'm really, really hoping Don Travis will free himself of his publisher soon as I'd hate to see him and his books held hostage by an unscrupulous, thieving press.

In addition, I've been writing pretty much non-stop and ended up setting Automata aside (at around 2/3 complete) in favor of charging onward with The Ghosts of St. Grimald Priory, which is almost finished. And that, ladies and gents, gave me a bit of a surprise.

While I at first targeted a finished book of 25 chapters, we're now looking at either 28 or 29, with a possible 30 thrown in. Now if the two lower chapter counts happen, St. Grimald will be published as a long novella at slightly less than 50K words. If the chapter count ends up at 30, it'll be a short novel of just over 50K.

Of course I'll still be going back and rewriting a lot, but any additional material will be fairly minimal compared to past books. And I think it's down to the nature of epistolary fiction.

The text, on the whole, is pretty dense reading. And what I mean by that is that there's hardly and dialogue because we're looking at journal entries and letters. What I'm trying to do is avoid the usual pitfalls of 18th and 19th century epistolary fiction by pruning those dialogues between characters as well as the long, detailed accounts from a character's POV (which make things look as though the author of the book momentarily forgot it's a journal, not a traditional narrative, they're writing).

Take Dracula, for instance. Especially in some of the longer journal entries of some of the characters - they tend to read more like first-person fiction as opposed to actual passages from journals. If anything, the log of the captain of the Demeter is the most convincing part of the book to me. The entries are short, to the point, and they leave out all the necessary details of the doomed ship's disappearing crew while encouraging the reader to fill in the holes with what they already know about Dracula.

It's freaking phenomenal, the way the captain's log was written. It's just too bad Stoker didn't use a similar technique with the other characters' journal entries.

But that's what I'm trying to do with St. Grimald. The journal entries are mostly first-hand accounts that include lots of descriptions and especially thoughts and reactions from the journal's owner. Dialogue is pared down and is used mostly for comic effect. And that's what I mean when I say "dense" reading, which, to me, works just as well in the form of a long novella or a short novel. I honestly can't see this being sustained for 70K+ words because the book will end up being tedious reading. And that to me defeats the purpose of giving readers something light and funny as escapist entertainment.

Once I'm done with it, I'll be able to finish Automata, which is also nearing the home stretch.

The current COVID-19 pandemic is really shaking things up. As I'm trying my best to stay positive and optimistic, I understand the need for pragmatism, so I'm taking each day as it comes.


I did finally manage to watch Knives Out, which I highly recommend, and I'm considering owning it despite the fact that I already know whodunit. As with other mysteries I love, it's the journey from A to B that's the best part, and there's a lot of laughs to be had from beginning to end.

I think the weakest part of the film is the political argument that explodes among family members. Now I understand that's Rian Johnson's method of laying out the privilege, the entitlement, the racism of some members, and the liberalism (via white privilege) of the others. That scene was too on the nose, and I think showing how the family treats the nurse via dialog and even non-verbal cues would have worked much better, especially considering the final scene, which is dialogue-free but very, very effective.

Anyway, yeah. Highly recommended for the laughs and the crazy mystery. And it's worth every penny seeing Daniel Craig in a comedic role.

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