Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Book Report: Good Guys and Bad Boys (and a mystery)

I'm almost done with this short story/novella/novelette. It's definitely no longer a short story, but according to the Nebula Award guidelines, it's probably going to end up on the border between novelette (7,500-17,500 words) and novella (17,500-40,000 words) (Not that I think this is award-worthy; I'm just looking at their rules to get the general length expectations). I'm at about 14,000 words and have the climactic action to go. I imagine it will both expand and shrink in revisions, since there are parts I skimmed over that may need some flesh on them, but there may also be some excess verbiage to trim. It's even possible that if I expand on it and go into some of the other points of view, it could turn into a shortish novel. It all depends on what I end up deciding to do with it. The main point of this exercise was to get back in the habit of writing new words daily, since I've been in revision mode for the whole year so far, and it helps to do it with an "easy" project with no pressure or expectations. Meanwhile, I'm hoping the subconscious is developing the next book I need to write.

Now, for recent reading beyond Wuthering Heights.
The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe was something I read about online, and the title alone gave me that "ooh!" response. It turned out to be a really intriguing contemporary fantasy that bordered on magical realism -- I suppose you could almost call it magical realism coming from the fantasy side of things. It seems to be the start of a series about the Tufa, a tribe of people living in the Tennessee mountains. They aren't Native American, but they were already there when the European settlers arrived (we learn what they are, but that would be a spoiler). For these people, music is a kind of magic, a way they protect themselves and each other and create their community. In this book, a young Tufa woman who'd been in the military and who is coming home from Iraq as a badly wounded war hero has to reconnect to her people and find her music again in order to protect her family. Meanwhile, a young Methodist minister newly arrived in town is trying to figure out the mysteries of these people. I think that was the part of the book I loved the most because it's so very unusual for fantasy. The Methodist minister is a good guy -- one of the heroes -- and he read very true to me, reminding me of most of the Methodist ministers I know. You almost never see a minister or religious character in fantasy who actually acts like a religious person and who is a hero. This book is wonderfully atmospheric but also laugh-out-loud funny at times. There's another book in the series coming out this month. It looks like it's about different characters, but I hope that since it involves the same community we'll check in on the people from this book because it didn't seem like their stories were entirely over.

Then I went through a bout of what was that book? When I was in junior high, I read a book that had something to do with time traveling, perhaps in dreams, and it involved lacemaking and an inn or pub called The Lacemakers' Rest. I remember describing this book to a friend in great detail, but I couldn't remember the title or author for the life of me. I'd tried every Amazon search I could think of, and came up with nothing. Then I was checking my library listings for books by Penelope Lively, who wrote some delightfully spooky teen books that probably would be considered urban fantasy today. I remember reading a couple of those books in junior high and wanted to find them again. It turns out they were British publications that don't seem to be widely available in the US, but they did have a book of hers called A Stitch in Time that sounded like it could possibly be my mystery book, since I was reading her books at around the same time. It did involve a contemporary girl going on vacation to an English village and having an encounter with a girl who lived a hundred years earlier, but it turned out that the stitching was a sampler, not lace, and the book would have really pissed me off when I was a kid because it turned out to not really be fantasy at all. It was just a girl with an overactive imagination thinking about the girl who'd lived in that house a century earlier. Books that pretend to be fantasy but then turn out not to be are a pet peeve. I think if I hadn't been expecting the fantasy, I might have enjoyed it more, but I was reading it because of what I hoped it would be.

So, since that turned out to be a false lead, I turned to Google, and it seems like I'm not the only person who was haunted by this mystery book and who remembered the same details but not much else because I found several hits on "Lacemakers' Rest" that were all "what was this book?" queries. The book in question is apparently A Pocket of Silence by Barbara Freeman. The title doesn't sound the least bit familiar, but the details mentioned in the discussions all were. My library doesn't have it (and it's long out of print), but other libraries in the county do, so I should be able to get it through Interlibrary Loan. Then I'll see if it merits the amount of brain space it's been taking up all this time.

Now, back to Wuthering Heights. One thing that disturbs me about that book is the fact that apparently Heathcliff is seen by a lot of people as some kind of romantic icon. I don't think even his supposed love for Cathy is all that romantic because his love is so destructive. He wanted to hurt her and all the people she loved. To me, that's not love. That's obsession. I wonder how much the "romantic hero" stuff comes from the movie adaptations, where he's usually played by some movie idol type. Then again, apparently the Boston Marathon bombing suspect has fangirls. There was an article in the newspaper recently about the number of tumblr pages swooning over him and either claiming that he's innocent and misunderstood or praising that he's so passionate about his beliefs that he was willing to make the utmost sacrifice. And there's an article today about how more than $8,000 in donations has been sent to him. Sometimes people scare me, but that does explain why bad boys are so popular in fiction, I guess.

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