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Posts from the ‘MARGARET BALL’ Category

Who puts the books in the book book book-a shop?

(With apologies to Barry Mann)

Sarah Hoyt’s recent post on  The Day the Bookstores Died (no, not the actual title; I seem to be in a pop music mode this morning) got me thinking about my own issues with bookstores; specifically, used bookstores. I think (can’t prove) that one of the factors diminishing my enjoyment of used bookstores is, ironically, something that’s probably good for their bottom line: the ease of Internet research. Read more

The Stories We Aren’t Telling

During a recent attempt at mindless escapism I recently downloaded some collections of popular novels from roughly 1900-1920. As a supply of reading material it’s worked out excellently (as long as I give myself permission to skip nine out of ten books). The escapism, though, failed with the very first book I read, by Mary Cholmondeley (Nope, never heard of her, and thought it had to be a pen name until I looked her up. Sic transit gloria mundi.) It featured people being very earnest about social issues in a very recognizably contemporary way.

Early in the book our heroine and designated Good Person muses on the injustice of life: “‘If anyone had told me,’ she said to herself, ‘when I was rich, that I lived on the flesh and blood of my fellow-creatures, that my virtue and ease and pleasure were bought by their degradation and toil and pain, I should not have believed it, and I should have been angry. Read more

Entwined Series

What do you do when two series decide to get friendly with each other?

One of the problems with spending January wrestling alligators instead of writing is that it left my muse free to plot in the shadows… and she has a nasty sense of humor. Read more

The Doors of Perception

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

– William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Payne’s gray, cold gray, pewter, silver, warm gray.

Bronze, brown ochre, burnt sienna, burnt umber, copper, gold ochre, orange ochre, modern brown, raw sienna, raw umber, stil de grain brown, transparent oxide brown, Vandyke brown, yellow ochre.

One of these lists is not like the other, right? Read more

Endings and Beginnings

This week, in between more amusing activities involving a five-year-old on a trampoline and a suddenly mobile baby trying to eat the Christmas tree decorations, I’ve been adding front and back matter to A Revolution of Rubies in preparation for formatting and publishing. Usually I put a teaser for the next book in series at the back, but this time there isn’t a next book in series. I could put the start of the Regency fantasy that’s up next, or the first chapter of the upcoming series that’s kind of a spin-off from this one… or I might do something completely different.

I’ve noticed that a lot of books now have a list of Book Group Questions at the end. I can see the benefit from the publisher’s point of view – getting a book picked up by a discussion group has to be great for sales – but most of the questions seem to be written by literary types who are all about symbolism and subtext and not at all interested in storytelling and having fun. So I had a crack at creating my own BGQ’s for A Revolution of Rubies. And concluded that I’m no good at this; most of these questions are only fun before you’ve read the book. Oh, well. I guess I’ll put a teaser for Salt Magic at the end of the book, after all. Meanwhile, enjoy:

1.    Thalia and the rest of the Center for Applied Topology have been sent to Europe to ingratiate themselves in diplomatic circles so that they can help bug the homes and offices of the diplomats. What could possibly go wrong with turning a bunch of topologists loose among diplomats? What couldn’t go wrong?

2.    Would you steal a woman’s borrowed rubies in order to get access to her niece’s paranormal abilities? Wouldn’t you even wonder about the wisdom of provoking someone who can become invisible and walk through walls?

3.    If a foreign agent and a woman with serious skills in card manipulation walk into Casino Barcelona, who’s going to have to borrow cab fare home?

4.    Lensky flatly forbids Thalia to try using her paranormal abilities in certain contexts. More than once. Whatever could have given him the illusion this would work? Will the handcuffs do it?

5.    A Revolution of Rubies takes place in Paris, Barcelona, and the imaginary Central Asian country of Taklanistan. Talk about these places from Thalia’s point of view, with particular attention to the various forms of chocolate-enhanced snacks available in each one.

About those Kindle categories

A week ago I finished the first draft of what I’m provisionally calling A Trail of Dragon Scales, and this time I’m doing something a little bit different after that. The first couple of days went as usual: a euphoric sense of accomplishment, slight mystification about why nobody is having a parade for such a fine fellow as I am, the dawning realization that we don’t actually have any champagne… After a few days of trying not to break an arm patting myself on the back, usually I pull up my socks and get started on the next book.

But if you count Dragon Scales – and I do, because it doesn’t appear to need any structural editing, just the usual reading and re-reading for minor fixes – I currently have four completed books in the publication queue. Even I can’t create a sense of urgency about finishing another one in the next couple of months. And the next book isn’t helping out with that, either: there’s this one major theme and resolution floating around in my head, surrounded by huge gaping bubbles of nothing where the rest of the plot ought to be.

And, you know, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Cookies to bake, grandchildren to spoil, all that good stuff.

So I made an Executive Decision: any time I’ve got four books waiting for proofreading and covers and formatting, I’m taking a month off.

That worked fine for the week of babbling idiocy that frequently follows a prolonged writing push, but I started getting twitchy yesterday and revised the plan. Okay, for the rest of the month I will spend half an hour each day fishing around in my subconscious for the rest of that missing plot, and I will do… something… about marketing and promotion every day. Follow up on some of those programs that are recommended for tracking sales or picking keywords or whatever, evaluate some promotion sites, learn how to do Amazon ads. Whatever. I’m just trying to tame the general topic, which right now looks to me like a writhing mass of tentacles straight out of Cthulhu, into… well, at least into a collection of subtopics that can be addressed one at a time. Each of which will, most likely, also look like a writhing mass of tentacles, but you have to start somewhere, right? Read more

The Unreliable Narrator

 

 

 

I’m quite fond of this device, though I admit that in its simplest form (“and then I woke up and it was all a dream”) it has been done to death. No, I didn’t think Agatha Christie was cheating in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and I enjoyed the double-impostor twist of Mary Stewart’s The Ivy Tree with its narrator who misleads us delightfully by telling the truth… just, not all the truth. So I was pleased to see a new twist on this in one of the fantasy novels I’ve been reading via Kindle Unlimited, and I’ve made a note of the author for further reading.

In W.B. McKay’s Bound by Faerie the narrator is hired to retrieve a magical artifact. She’s warned in advance:

Today, however, we’d gotten word that Lou was in possession of a heavily enchanted necklace. I hadn’t been given any particulars about its power, just a strict warning not to put it on and a description.

 Of course she puts it on – what do you think? It’s part of the rules of the game, isn’t it? Psyche brings in a lamp to gaze on Cupid, Beauty picks up the only remaining spindle in the kingdom, and McKay’s Sophie Morrigan puts on the necklace, part of whose enchantment is the power to lure her into doing exactly that. Read more