A recent FB post by Karen Moning struck a chord so much with me that I find myself blogging about something she said now. Excerpt from her post..”My creativity comes from two things: Joy and Immersion. Joy I usually manage to hold onto even at the darkest times because I fundamentally love being alive. Immersion means being able to turn your back on reality and live in a fiction for extended periods. The longer you can stay in, the tighter and more tactile the story becomes. Immersion means not having to get out of the chair…”
I have been struggling with my writing recently, and it wasn’t until I saw her post that I realized the problem is immersion. When I first created my manuscript I didn’t have nearly as much in my life as I do now. Now I have a child, MANY animals, a house to take care of, a job that requires constant attention, relationships to manage with friends and family, bills to pay…the list goes on and on. Immersion is both the most wonderful and awful thing to happen to a writer. I equate it to the drug of choice for any addict. When you are immersed, you are high. Living in a world where the colors are brighter, the smells stronger, and the emotions take you on the wildest and fastest ride of your life. The type of writing you achieve is the best you will ever do. It’s tight and cuts right to the heart of what you wanted to say and do with your characters.
The problem with immersion is coming out of it. What will your life look like when you come down off the high? What relationships will you have wrecked from neglect? What does your house look like if you don’t do dishes or clean for a week? And this isn’t something writers need once or twice, we need it over and over and over and over again. The longer we can immerse, the better the manuscript will be.
Lately, even when I have the time to immerse, I won’t do it. It wasn’t until seeing Karen’s post that I realized, I’m afraid. I’m afraid of what will happen if I dive back into my work headfirst. What will I lose in the name of writing? What am I willing to sacrifice for the sake of this work? If I continue on without immersion will I always wonder if my manuscript could’ve been better? Do I really want to put work out into the world that isn’t my best? Where is the balance? Is there a balance?
I wish I had more answers than questions. Knowing I’m afraid of something brings in a flood of other negative feelings, but it will never stop me. I spend too much time convincing myself I can have it all to quit in the face of fear. Maybe I can’t have it all at the same time, but there is a way to achieve everything I want. I’m pretty sure no one’s first book is the best work they’ve ever written. For today, recognizing the fear is enough. The next step will be battling it and being a good and supportive friend to myself. Immersion, here I come.
Fair warning, I hate sycophants but I am pretty close to becoming one for Ilona Andrews. Pretty much anything she writes I love, with very few exceptions (sorry The Edge series, I tried to love you). When the Hidden Legacy Series started I have to admit I was skeptical. I wondered how the move to straight up Paranormal Romance from Urban Fantasy would work. They are very closely related but some of their differences are what make me a huge fan of Urban Fantasy. Suzanne Johnson has a great post on the differences here.
Wildfire is the third book in the series with promises of a fourth book, even if they have to self publish it. The main protagonist Nevada Baylor runs her family’s Investigative Business with the help of a loving and quirky cast of family characters. I continue to be amazed by Andrews ability to make me care about each and every one of her characters. One absolutely fabulous thing that I always notice about their books, it’s not ONE strong female character, it’s ALL of them. Good and bad. Nevada, her sisters, her mother, and both her grandmothers are all forces to be reckoned with.
In this installment Nevada finds herself up against a wall. She has hidden her top level or “prime” level magic poorly, and now enough people know about it that she has become a target. The only solution to protect herself and her family is to come out in the open and form a House, an open designation of two or more related Prime magic users. Becoming a house complicates her romantic relationship with the most dangerous Prime in Houston, Mad Rogan. In a society where magic matters, and especially passing that magic onto your children, her and Rogan may not be genetically compatible.
True to their writing style, Ilona Andrews moves a plot along! You are never sitting there reading a bunch of exposition wondering what’s going to happen next. They have a wonderful ability to form short-term, mid-term, and long-term plot points, investing you in a multitude of outcomes. As soon as a small plot wraps up you want to gobble up the consequences to the other plots. I consumed this book in one day. When I started reading I couldn’t stop. The romance line is very satisfying, maybe a little fast paced for your typical Urban Fantasy reader but I liked it.
If you haven’t read Burn for Me and White Hot, start there. If you have read those two books then you won’t be disappointed in this one. My only disappointment was that there was no Augustine Montgomery appearances in this book, I think he is a great foil to Rogan.
I am only so lofty in my blog post title because Laurell K. Hamilton can afford for me to hate her. And really, I don’t hate her. She is an incredibly talented writer who has many skills I don’t, and my never have as a writer.
For me writers break into three groups: Plot driven writers, Character driven writers, and the elusive perfect mix of both. Ilona Andrews did a great blog post in May that also delved into something similar to plot vs character when writing a series. Neither plot nor character can exist in a vacuum, you have to have both to keep a reader, but I find that authors tend to stray toward one end of the spectrum or the other.
I admit that Dead Ice was the first Laurell K. Hamilton book that I finished. I had tried and failed in the past to pick up an Anita Blake story, and I just couldn’t stay hooked. This time I tried an audio book and trapped myself in the car for 10 hours. To me Ms. Hamilton is a character driven writer. The back cover blurb has a great plot point about a zombie sex slave ring that we assume Anita will bust up and save the day. This came out prominently in the opening chapters. It stopped at chapter 4. I waited over twenty chapters before the plot came back around to the zombie sex slave ring. Anita had fleeting thoughts about her current case, but mostly she dealt with her complicated poly-amorous love life, which I found unbelievable and simultaneously fascinating. The book mostly felt like an in-depth look into a poly-amorous relationship, as that theme dominated most of the chapters. Near the end of the book Anita solves her case and breaks up the Zombie sex slave ring.
A few other things disappointed me even for a character driven writer. Anita didn’t seem to change significantly over the course of the novel. Some of her relationships changed, but not because of an internal struggle taking place within her. Also, there were some inconsistencies between how she interacted with other characters vs her internal thoughts. Example: She chastised another agent for calling the zombie sex slave “kink”, and then later when thinking about it to herself thought about it as “kink”. Lastly, in terms of repetitive phrasing, I could made a drinking game from the phrase “Work your issue(s)”.
Final Assessment (Five diamond scale):
I don’t think I’ll be picking up another Anita Blake story for awhile.
I will get over my introverted self and begin blogging. It seems no one would want to know what rattles around in my head and maybe that’s true. But what if it’s not? What if all of you are waiting out there in the ether of the internet ready to hang on my every word? Seems unlikely but I can’t take the chance. Thanks for reading, there WILL be more. MUHAHAHAHAHAHA