I skip the boring bits

How is your social distancing going?

If we ignore the big issues, like not being able to go anywhere, and the general craziness of what’s happening, so far the hardest thing about the enforced isolation for me is remembering when to put the bins out.

Bin night is Thursday night, which I’d normally remember because it’s the day before Friday (last workday of the week, hooray) but because we’re at home all day, every day, I’m losing track of the days. Not only that, our little two-person bin, which we normally don’t fill, gets full.  We’ve already forgotten one week, which meant that the following week the bin was almost overflowing.  Thank you, garbage collectors, for still working.

I’ve not set a reminder on my phone.

I read somewhere that people should write down how it is for them in this time of pandemic and send it to the archives.  Not sure which archives, but it would be an amazing thing for a scholar of the future. One thing that is so hard to glean from historical records is how normal people lived through times of crises because often the records are newspapers and reports and government records, rather than everyday life.

Anyway, on to other things.

I convinced Sherylyn to read T. Kingfisher’s Paladin’s Grace* the other day.  “It’s great,” I said. “Lots of repartee between the characters, emotional support, and other things. And you’ll love Bishop Beartongue.”

Partway through the book Sherylyn said, “You like this book. All they do is think about each other.” (It is a romance.)

“I’d forgotten those parts,” I said.  “I don’t read those bits.”

“But it’s half the book!”

“Ah, I skip those bits.”

Sherylyn did agree, that in between the parts where the two protagonists kept thinking about how much they like each other, the book is a lot of fun, and the characters are great. (Especially Bishop Beartongue.)  But it is only half the book.

I confess, I skip a lot of the romance in books.  Sex scenes, especially. You write a sex scene then I’m not your audience.  I’m there for the story and they get in the way, so I skim them at best.  That doesn’t mean to say I won’t read your book. I will.  I’ll just likely skip those particular scenes.  And I won’t even remember they’re in the book when I’ve finished reading it.

Having said that, I do like a good romance.  The romances I love are the unstated ones. Like Wei Wuxian and Lang Wangji in The Untamed. The tv show, not the original novel, where you knew how they felt about each other, but tv show never explicitly spelt it out for censorship reasons.  Where you know how people feel about each other in everything they say and do, even when it’s not romantic.

Those, to me, are the best romances.

Stay safe. Stay sane. Stay healthy.

* I do like this book, by the way, and recommend it if you like fantasy romance. It’s fun.


In media res

We survived another week in isolation. How did you go?

Sherylyn and I both worked from home this week. At least Sherylyn ‘finishes’ work when she logs off. I finish when I’m done. I admit I am envious. I know I said last week I was going to take it easier this week. Unfortunately, this week was worse. I haven’t had a chance to look at our latest work-progress. Worse, I only went outside about two days. So far this week I’m already excelling in comparison. One day, one super-easy stretching from YouTube and one walk around the block.

I expect may writers will try their hand at pandemic books over the next couple of years. I’m not sure I could read them, it’s a little too close to the truth. Maybe I could read one about smugglers doing a run to get medical supplies to hospitals. Fighting against corrupt officials, gangs, even the army trying to come in and take it off them.

Maybe not. Roger Zelazny did this in Damnation Alley fifty years ago.

That’s how l like my dystopia. As science fiction.

Although, to be honest, it has been pointed out that through all ages, there has generally always been people somewhere in the world living in what we would consider dystopia.

On Friday night I went looking for books to read, and I hit a streak of them—three of them in a row—which all started the same. Books I had on the Kindle that we hadn’t looked at before, all by different authors.

Each one of them started with the protagonist supposedly in the middle of the action. One was in the middle of robbing a house, one waiting for an attack, the third in the middle of robbing a warehouse.

As an aside, thieves as protagonists are so common now the book has to work a lot harder to keep my interest in those first few pages. (Cate Glass’s An Illusion of Thieves, did work hard, and I loved it.)

The protagonists in all three books spent a lot of time thinking, describing themselves and their surroundings, and giving backstory. Believe me, if I’m in the middle of a stakeout, I’m not thinking about my long, chestnut tresses. Expect, perhaps, to think maybe I should cut it short because it keeps getting in the way. And to be honest, how many of you think about what colour your hair is (unless you’re worried about the grey and realise you need to go to the hairdresser)? Especially in the middle of a job.

Writing advice tells you to start the story in media res—in the middle of the story. And these authors started their story in the middle of something, kind of, but nothing happened. Not for pages. By that time I’d given up.

I decided to try out a variation of a combined slush pile/page 99 test on Sherylyn.

“Would you read on?” I asked and read out the first page of the novel.

No for the first, no for the second, no for the third. “Boring, all of them.”

After that I looked around to see what else we had.

I started with books we already have on Kindle.

Patricia Briggs’ Moon Called, the first Mercy Thompson book.

“Would you read on?” I asked.

The answer was a definite yes, although Sherylyn said the story sounded familiar. (It was. The only Mercy Thompson story she hasn’t read yet is the new one, but she’d read this a while ago.) We read on.

Next we tried a book I knew she hadn’t read.

T. Kingfisher’s Paladin’s Grace.

“Yes, I’d read on.”

Jackson Ford’s The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind.

“Yes. I’d read on.”

After that I looked around Amazon to see what I might choose and found an early Patricia Briggs. Dragon Bone. At first glance this story sounded a lot like those we’d rejected earlier. It started with some description, a bit of history, and a protagonist whose hair colour we know by the end of paragraph two.

“Read on,” Sherylyn says, and I did. I read all the way to the end of the extract, and then I bought the book. I stayed up that night reading it, and into the following day. When I’d finished, I bought the second.

It passed the read-on test.

Take care, everyone. Look after yourself.


Finally back on line

We’re finally back on line after some technical issues where the site kept bringing up an error and I couldn’t even log on from the back end to investigate the error. We ended up backing up everything, and reinstalling, then reinstating the whole site.

Which worked, kind of, except that we lost all the book data, we’re using the default styles, the contact form isn’t working yet, we don’t have a front page. We’ll fix these over the next couple of days.

It could have been worse. Bear with us in the interim please.