Books & Blog: August 10, 2015

Books of the Week:

  • Wake of Vultures, Lila Bowen
  • The Drafter, Kim Harrison
  • Armada, Ernest Cline

In addition to reading these three outstanding novels, I am working my way back through the novels of Karen Chance and Ilona Andrews. Sometimes you just get an impulse to reread series in order, and it’s best not to ignore such an impulse. I find there’s usually a reason.
Lila Bowen is better known under another name, but this YA book is not only fascinating but very challenging. Half-breed Nettie Lonesome is living with a couple in a dry, lonesome, western area, eking out an unhappy existence and waiting for her life to improve somehow. Change comes in a very unexpected way when she kills a creature that invades her farm. Suddenly, Nettie can see the world in a different way and her place in that world is not the same. Nettie has other less obvious adventures: she is a girl who dresses like a man and acts like a man, but when she begins to experience her first sexual stirrings, she has moments with both sexes. Wake of Vultures is a coming-of-age story on several levels. IT WILL BE ON THE SHELVES OCTOBER 27, 2015.
Everyone knows Kim Harrison, right? She’s moved beyond The Hollows now, into a very complicated novel, The Drafter. In 2030, a woman named Peri Reed, who works for Opti, finds herself in a terrifying situation. Peri is a drafter, with a very rare skill – she can alter time. But with all these alterations comes a lot of confusion, so she’s always assisted and taken care of by an anchor. The anchors remember both events . . . but the drafter only remembers one. Peri begins to suspect she is being used, and her talent exploited; and she remembers there’s a list of corrupt Opti agents. She’s absolutely right. It’s a learning curve to get all the terminology in this book straight, but once you do, it’s riveting. THIS BOOK WILL BE OUT IN SEPTEMBER 2015.
Armada is a book many, many people have been waiting for. Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One was a groundbreaker, one of the most original books of 2012, and an upcoming 2017 movie from Steven Spielberg. How could Cline top RPO, which made so many “best book of the year” lists? Armada, with its game-playing references and pop culture vibe, comes pretty close. A kid named Zack Lightman, whose father has been dead for many years, is about to graduate from high school and has no idea what the future holds. Zack has a part time job at a games store, and he is a high-ranked player of “Armada,” a combat game of earth vs. aliens. One day everything Zack thinks he knows is yanked out from under him, and he’s playing “Armada” for real . . . but wait! How come the enemy has thoughtfully provided the players with their weaknesses, too?

Blog

I’ve talked in this spot before about the less glamorous aspects of writing, and that would be ninety percent of them. A couple of months ago, I finished NIGHT SHIFT, the next Midnight, Texas book. Good enough! Now it goes to my editor, right?
Nope. Since I had time, it went first to my “beta” readers (I think of them as my “alpha” readers, actually), Toni Kelner (Leigh Perry) and Dana Cameron. Toni and Dana very kindly donated their time to read it and give me invaluable feedback, which in this case, meant some rewrites. Fair enough. That’s exactly what the beta reader is supposed to do: point out errors and inconsistencies and generally give you advice on how to make the book a more coherent narrative. At least, that’s my take.
So I rewrote, and sent it to my agent without sending it to my editor. If the book is very late, I don’t always take this step, but it’s good I did, because my agent found fault with the way I handled some characters. And he also pointed out several infodumps, which I have always prided myself on avoiding. So these rewrites were slower, more painful, and more extensive. Plus, embarrassing.
That took me two weeks – two weeks of struggle and anger. At myself, mostly. But those weeks of struggle paid off for the book, and I knew it as I was working, so I was at peace with the necessity. I was also glad I’d finished the book early, as I saw it, so I could do all this work NIGHT SHIFT needed.
But Friday, I hit “send” again, and this time I meant it. NIGHT SHIFT is out of the house and in the hands of my editor, and my agent is rereading it, and it’s done.
But not really. I’ll get it back from my editor with suggested changes and comments, and then the copy editor will send it back. And finally, I’ll get the page proofs, which will require another read-through. Is it any wonder that most writers hate their book the month this all takes place? I sure do. The saying “It ain’t over til it’s over” might have been formulated to remind writers of the way a book boomerangs.
So please don’t ever ask a writer how long it takes them to “pump out a book” or ask them how many books they “knock out” a year. There is nothing automatic or easy about it, for almost every writer I’ve ever met. I am slower than most writers I know, and one book a year is all I can handle.
However, by the time it’s due to hit the shelves, I’ll be waiting nervously to see if it gets good reviews, if people like it . . . all the while working on the next book. I guess I’m hooked!
Charlaine Harris