I’ve just bought the most awesome research book called ‘Georgette Heyer’s Regency World’ by Jennifer Kloester. It’s fascinating! And when I get to June’s reading list, you’ll see that I couldn’t resist reading some of the books mentioned in it – hence the large number of Regencies I’ve read this month.
What’s a paranormal/fantasy author doing buying a research book about the Regency period? (Especially since, aside from a liking to read the genre every now and then, I have no desire to actually begin writing Regencies!) Well, if the weird and wonderful idea I have for a futuristic/fantasy manuscript is anything to go by, I might well get some value out of this book as a research aid. If not, it was still a really fascinating, very comprehensive insight into the Regency period and reading it certainly enhanced my understanding of certain things sometimes taken for granted that the reader already knows when they read a Regency novel. I’ve generally got the gist of most terms used in Regencies from the context, but for me it’s not the same as actually ‘knowing’… sort of like being forced to guess at some of the bizarre, made-up words used in a sci-fi/fantasy novel when it’s not immediately obvious what the hell they mean! (BTW: I have glossaries at the end of ALL my manuscripts for just this reason, even though I do hope the meaning is obvious because I’d hate to draw my readers out of my story to flick to the back and look something up… that’s a big no-no!) Obviously this suggests I’m a details person: I want to know exactly where the word ‘ton’ originated from, even though I understand the term refers to those born and bred into upper-class circles. And this book gave me all that and more. I now know the word ‘ton’ (used when referring to the ‘Upper Ten Thousand’ or ‘Polite Society’, i.e. the nobility) comes from the French phrase ‘le bon ton’, meaning ‘in the fashionable mode’. Anyway, the point of this particular blog is that ‘Georgette Heyer’s Regency World’ has now been added to the other ‘writing’ books shelved in my (ever growing!!!) library.
I’ve divided my ‘writing’ books into four main categories:�
1. How to Write books
2. How I Write books
3. Nuts-and-Bolts books
4. Research books (Read on, if you can be bothered, to discover why this is my favourite category!)
1. In the ‘How to Write’ category, there’s Julia Cameron’s ‘The Right to Write’. I freely admit that although I really loved this book, I didn’t do a single exercise she suggested and I still don’t keep a personal diary or a goal-setting diary because I just like to jump on the computer and get to work on the current WIP. But that’s me. What I do particularly like about this book, though, is that I came away with a sense that I’d finally been given permission: permission to write WHATEVER I want, HOWEVER I want – even really badly – just so long as I DO write… which as every aspiring writer knows, is essential – the actually getting bum-on-seat and writing part, I mean, not the worrying about whether it’s fabulous or it sucks, part.
Also in this category is Donald Maass’s ‘Writing the Breakout Novel’ – always good for getting the old brain engaged when you’re in a rut and your current WIP can only be described as blah. What can you do to make you characters’ suffer miserably… and then REALLY ruin their lives? What would your main character NEVER do? Now make her do it! I don’t care if it’s going to ruin her life – that’s the whole point, you numnit! Tension on EVERY page… mwah ha ha! Not a book for the fainthearted, but boy, does it work!
2. In the ‘How I Write’ category, I have Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ and Janet Evanovich’s ‘How I Write; Secrets of a Bestselling Author’. Evanovich’s is a like a comprehensive bible for writers which takes the reader through every aspect of writing, such as: creating great characters, mechanics of writing, structure, revising and editing, getting published and beyond even that, the writer’s life. It could span all my categories but what compels me to place it here is its Q&A style, where questions Evanovich has been asked over the years are answered by her. Reading this book was almost like being at a writers’ conference and being able to quizz a really inspiring keynote speaker to your heart’s content.
King’s ‘On Writing’, on the other hand, is less a ‘here’s how I do it’ and more a commentary on his journey to becoming (and remaining!) a bestselling author… which of course is what’s so fascinating about it! Who doesn’t want to read all about an amazing writer’s journey to get where he is today? Harken againto a conference I attended where I had the thrill of hearing Pamela Morsi speak. She gave an off-the-cuff talk about some of the hard knocks she’d taken during her life as a writer and by god was it inspiring! Not a dry eye in the house, I can tell you. King’s book has the same quality about it. His anecdotes were hilarious but beneath it all was a gut-wrenching sense of the struggle and the less-than-stellar moments of his life that he portrayed so honestly, I sometimes cried for him. Anyone who just wants a damn good read – writer or not – should read this book.
4. Then there’s my ‘Nuts-and-Bolts’ how-to-write-books. These are the ones designed to teach you the ‘craft’ of writing. Unfortunately, they’re also the one’s with rather dry, scary titles such as ‘Scene and Structure’, ‘How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy’ and ‘The Novelist’s Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes’. You have to be reeeeeally serious about your craft to pick up one of these babies! I am, so I have. And they’re good, too, but all I can say about their lamentable choice of titles is thank heaven’s for Bill Bryson and Lynne Truss, who came up with (thankfully!) less-than-traditional titles for their books about correct word useage and grammar. ‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves’ is Truss’s contribution and ‘Troublesome Words’ is Bryson’s. Both books live up to the promise of their names, too, by the way, so if you haven’t read them yet, you really should. Bryson and Truss somehow manage to actually make all this stuff fun to read!
Anyway, I’ve dutifully bought and read a number of these and hopefully much of the wisdom has sunk in… the proof of course, will be if I ever get ‘it’ right and sell a bloody book! And I’d like to thank… Sigh. Wouldn’t that be nice?
4. Lastly, there’s my favourite category: my ‘Research’ books. Books with titles such as: The Little Book of Modern-Day Spells, Wicca, The Crystal Bible, The Little Book of Love Letters, In the Forest Fey, The Book of Chakras, Medieval Life, An Introduction to Viking Mythology, Barbara Cartland’s Book of Love and Lovers, Aromatherapy an A-Z, The Story of Philosophy… the list goes on. Basically, as you might have guessed by now, this category is an excuse to buy any book on any topic that catches my eye. I can spend money and justify it with the truly excellent excuse that ‘it’s for research purposes and you never know when it might come in handy!’ And hey, it’s proper research, right? Not just reading the latest book that’s just come out by my favourite author and then having to find a place to store it because it’s a keeper. Which is very important, too, but is a little more difficult to explain to the hubby who’s generously funding my writing career!
And now to June reads:
-A Rake’s Vow by Stephanie Laurens
-Anybody Out There, Marian Keyes
-Hero, Come Back, three stories by Stephanie Laurens, Christina Dodd, Elizabeth Boyle
-The Taste of Night by R.L. Stine
-Black Widow Bride by Tessa Radley
-Danse Macabre by Laurell K. Hamilton
-Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts
-Insiders by Olivia Goldsmith
-He’ll Be OK: Growing Gorgeous Boys into Good Men by Celia Lashley
-Georgette Heyer’s Regency World by Jennifer Kloester
-Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer
-Master of Dragons by Angela Knight
-The Foundling by Georgette Heyer
-Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer
-The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer
Catch you next month,