Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, September 28, 2019

RANTS - Old & New

This cake is just the "teaser." For the pièce de resistance, see below.

The creation* on the video below was made by Riley's dad Mike, his cousin Lionel (chief designer), and Riley's younger sister, Cassidy. Under the "sand mounds" was real cake, one strawberry, one chocolate. (Don't miss the airplanes on the runway.)

For a video of what has to be one of the world's most unusual 15th birthday cakes, click here.

*For my many foreign readers, Area 51 is allegedly where the remains of a spaceship and aliens that crashed in the desert in 1947 are kept. It's become something of a joke—a tongue-in-cheek "raid" was planned for 9/20/19. But when it became plain the government was not amused, the raid became a desert "party." The fact remains that Area 51 is very much a "secret" base. I, for one, believe the facts that made it to the newspaper when I was child—before the government turned the whole incident into a "weather balloon."

~ * ~


I scarcely know where to begin on this one! How to critique a book that has so much going for it? How to separate a flaw that was not the author's fault from those that, to my eyes, were?

This week I read a book by a new-to-me author, a book I suspect was the author's first novel. I came close to archiving it in the first chapter, but the setting was fascinating and I plowed on through the heavily "tell" manuscript, only to be shocked by anachronisms that fairly flew off the page, hitting me in the face. Huh? I put the book aside, selected Charles Todd's Inspector Rutledge, Book 5, and read a good quarter of it before forcing myself back to the newbie's book.

Fortunately, the style of the book became less "heavy," less academic, as it went along, and proved to be a well-thought-out "who dun' it" with a wide variety of refreshingly different characters. I ended up liking it enough to be willing to read another book by this author, though I hope he/she learns from the mistakes of the first before tackling a second.

So why was this book such a hard read?

Granted, I have spent a good many years studying the styles of U.S. and U.K. authors, particularly in the genres of Romance, Mystery, and Suspense. And it's possible these more "modern" styles are not popular in other European countries. For example, I may do enormous amounts of research on Regency England (the setting for so many of my books); I may work hard to get everything RIGHT from the language and clothing of the times to the mores and general atmosphere, but when I sit down to write, I do not write in the style prevalent in the 19th century. I try to keep my work "active." I make every effort to "show" my stories from the viewpoint of a few main characters, instead of acting as a storyteller of old and "telling" the story from the author's viewpoint.

Basically, in the U.S. and U. K. these days, even Historical novels are written in modern mode, not in the storyteller style so common in works of fiction until the mid 20th century. "Modern" style means that the action is seen through the eyes of the main characters, not told to us by a narrator standing on the sidelines. What I suspect happened with the novel I'm using as an example this week is that it is the work of an academic, very well versed in the time period of the novel, but not well enough versed in the demands of fiction. Here is what happened—at least from my point of view.

1. Style. The book I read this week was excruciatingly "tell." It only became "active" during scenes heavily laced with dialogue. There were times, later in the book, where the hero's introspection began to perk up, becoming more his thoughts rather than the author telling us about his thoughts. But all in all, this book was a perfect example of a novel told from the viewpoint of the Author, a book that did not take the readers inside the heads of the Main Characters and allow us to see what they see, hear what they hear, feel what they feel.

2. Point of View - everyone but the kitchen sink. As regular readers of this blog know, I am an advocate of multiple POV, as long as the author can handle it well; i.e., make it clear whose eyes we're looking through at any given moment. But I also advocate not overdoing it. The hero, the heroine, a villain, maybe a best friend or two. Perhaps a one-liner here and there by a minor character. But that's it. More than that becomes confusing and tends to distract from both plot and main characters.

This book, however, gave readers the viewpoint of just about every last character in the book. With great care the Author told us what each person was thinking, right down to the most minor character. The equivalent of using a shotgun when a rifle would have done the job so much more cleanly. A blatant case of "head-hopping" distracting from the flow of the story.

3.  History Dump.  The book in question was clearly written by a serious scholar of the period, the facts, the descriptions wonderfully done. But there were "information dumps" - long paragraphs of history that the Author clearly loved but which did not move the book forward. An absolute no-no for authors writing fiction in time periods not our own. 

4.  Story Arc.  There were many, many outstanding descriptions in this book, but the Author failed to recognize where the end should be. Yes, the Action ended before the Romance, bringing the book to a satisfactory conclusion. But, alas, the book did not end there. It went on and on, dumping page after page of exotic description that would have added greatly if inserted earlier in the book, but which, as a tag-on, was positively teeth-gnashing, bringing the book to a slow, stumbling finish instead of a triumphant end.

5.  Translation Problems. Here we have a problem that no author can do anything about. In general, the translation of this book seemed to be excellent. But every once in a while—evidently in an effort to be truly idiomatic—the translator inserted language of the modern age into a setting several hundred years in the past. Each instance was a slap in the face - but then I'm fussy about such things. (I hasten to add that being able to translate an entire work of fiction is a remarkable feat, and I probably shouldn't be so demanding.)  

Regular readers of Mosaic Moments will note that Numbers 1-4 above have been frequent topics over the years. All are beginner mistakes. This book had so much going for it that I hope readers will do what I did and plow through the out-of-fashion style to find the "meat" of the story. I also hope that the author will get past the necessity of imparting Too Much Information, peeking inside too many heads, and learn to plunge readers into the thoughts and inner feelings of just a few main characters, rather than use a scatter-gun effect that never allows readers to truly empathize with the main characters.

Above all, I hope the author will avoid the deadly lure of telling the story entirely from the Author's Point of View and adopt the modern style of allowing the main characters to tell the story from their points of view.

I suspect this book was Number One in a series, and I look forward to seeing if the author grows into a more modern style in the next book.

~ * ~

 Two Bargains

The boxed sets of The Aphrodite Academy 
and the SciFi Saga, Blue Moon Rising

For a link to Amazon, click here.

For a link to Amazon, click here.

~ * ~

For a link to Blair's website, click here.

For a link to The Abominable Major on Amazon,  click here.

For a link to The Abominable Major on Smashwords,  click here.   

Thanks for stopping by,

No comments:

Post a Comment