Thursday, February 28, 2013

Revisions Done -- For Now

So, I've spent January and the first half of February revising my newest MG novel. I love revising. I especially love cutting! I also love going to different spots in the ms. and weaving in what needs to be there. I love that we don't have to get it right the first time, but that we can work at it to get it better and better and better. I love the story. I hope I can make it all it can and should be. And I love that there are so many things to love. :)

Right now, the book is in the hands of four much-appreciated beta readers, and I'm in the much-needed cool-off period before diving in again in response to their feedback.

Just in time to get our taxes done. :(

How about you? Where are you in your various projects?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Soapbox Series #7 (Or Reading, 'Riting, Ranting) -- Fiction Writers Telling Lies

You've heard it, haven't you?

Albert Camus said: "Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth."

Stephen King said, "Fiction is the truth inside the lie."

William Faulkner said, "A writer is congenitally unable to tell the truth, and that is why we call what he writes fiction."

Neil Gaiman said, "Stories may well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things, and which can sometimes pay the rent."

Marcia said, "Balderdash."

Congenitally unable to tell the truth? Actually, the rest of the quotes come much closer to getting it right. They get that fiction is a vehicle for truth, in which novelists are highly interested or they wouldn't write novels.

Still, I have to quibble with that lie part. In fact, it drives me bananas, and this is why: It comes across as a shallow attempt to get a laugh or appear wise, when actually it's much too facile a comparison  for these intelligent thinkers to let themselves get away with.

Does knowledge equal wisdom? No. Do facts equal truth? No. Does invention equal lies? Of course not!

I have to say, though: there's a book for writers by Lawrence Block called Telling Lies for Fun and Profit. That's just plain witty and cute, and brings a smile. Probably because it doesn't take itself seriously.

So -- what do you think? Are fiction writers lying when they create a story that everyone knows from the start is not happening to real people, named those names, in exactly that way?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

We had a visit from three little valentines recently. Here they are one evening, all cozy. But do we detect a certain disinterest in having their picture taken...
Okay, let's try again. This is a nice moment...well, for two out of three, anyway.
Need to get more smiles out of the two-year-old? Singing "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider" to her is a sure way.

Well, we never did get the perfect shot. Perfect, no. Lovely, yes. Happy Valentine's Day to you and all those you love.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Malcolm at Midnight, by W.H. Beck

My love affair with animal stories continues. In this excellent MG novel, Malcolm the rat becomes the 5th grade pet at McKenna School, only he's such a small rat that everyone thinks he's a mouse. Rats, of course, are normally despised by humans, but even the other class pets at McKenna think rats are "skuzzy garbage-eaters who lie and cheat." The pets, you see, all leave their cages after hours and gather as The Midnight Academy, named for the hour at which they meet, supposedly to protect the school. We have Aggy the kindergarten iguana, who (wearing a pair of red glasses possibly belonging to the librarian) is the leader, followed by the rabbit Honey Bunny (who will allow only Aggy to call him that), a hermit crab, a fish, and other assorted school pets. They all think Malcolm is a mouse, and this is crucial for his survival in the short run. But in the long run, Malcolm aspires to not be one of those skuzzy garbage-eaters. Malcolm's greatest desire is to be a rat of "valor and merit."

"Never speak to humans" is one of the Midnight Academy rules, but Malcolm can't help but love Amelia, the 5th grade "nutter" (the animals' term for the kids) with whom he spends the most time and who guesses least some of his abilities with communication. Some of the other nutters, and even a few lankies (adults), aren't so bad either, so when it turns out that there really IS something to protect the school from, Malcolm is determined to take action. "Action" means saving the kids from the the wicked animal on the fourth floor, an abandoned cat they call Snip who wears a too-tight collar and schemes to poison the school's water supply at the biggest event of the school year. It also means having to do what he can from outside the Midnight Academy, since Aggy the iguana has also turned up missing, and the rest of the animals, having learned that Malcolm is a rat, expect he's at the bottom of it.

All of the characters, human and animal, are well drawn, and even Snip's backstory is so sad that it makes her villainy heart-wrenching. I kept wanting to gather her up and make a nice kitty-cat out of her again, but I also found in her story a reminder that if we choose to "go bad" due to pain in our past lives, it is indeed our choice.

Some of the specific action in Snip's plot I found to be a little farfetched for even a personified animal,  but all in all this is an engrossing story with excellent characters and an inspiring valuation of "valor and merit." Highly recommended -- also keep this book in mind for a younger child who is reading beyond grade level but maybe isn't ready for a lot of human emotional angst or near-YA situations.