Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

Browsing Category Blog


First paragraphs

In a recent comment, Pete Mack provided an “anti-Bulwer Lytton paragraph” — the first paragraph from a Raymond Chandler noir dectective novel:

“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”

So, sure, let’s pause for a moment and take a look at anti-Bulwer Lytton paragraphs. Rather than taking time right now to go through my own library, I will cheat and link this post: IN SEARCH OF THE FIRST PARAGRAPH, from the Fantasy Author’s Handbook blog. This post provides a nice selection of good opening paragraphs from SFF novels, in the context of discussing what does and doesn’t work well in such a paragraph.

My favorite of their choices — in the category of “beautiful writing that would make me run screaming from this book” — is this one:

Last Dragon by J.M. McDermott

My fingers are like spiders drifting over memories in my webbed brain. The husks of the dead gaze up at me, and my teeth sink in and I speak their ghosts. But it’s all mixed up in my head. I can’t separate lines from lines, or people from people. Everything is in this web, Esumi. Even you. Even me. Slowly the meat falls from the bones until only sunken cheeks and empty space between the filaments remind me that a person was there, in my head. The ghosts all fade the same way. They fade together. Your face fades into the face of my husband and the dying screams of my daughter. Esumi, your face is Seth’s face, and the face of the golem.

Aaaah! No way would I read this book, but that sure is beautiful writing.

The post then goes on to attempt to pin down what fails and what succeeds in an opening:

The first paragraph of so many well-intentioned manuscripts begins with the author either lovingly describing the weather or other physical conditions of the setting, or describing in equally loving detail what the hero is wearing. Truly bad attempts managed both a weather report and fashion report in one opening paragraph.

Where is your character (and for Clarke, English magic was as much a character as Strange or Norrell) at the beginning of your story—not physically, but emotionally? Details may be sprinkled in, but all of these paragraphs are about feelings.

Interesting observation! Over the weekend, maybe I will take a look at some of the books in my library and see if I think their opening paragraphs are about feelings and where the protagonist is emotionally.

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Here’s a pretty good post that uses three specific novels-in-progress to describe the process of revision.

1.The big issue I saw in the early draft: The protagonist’s efforts to manifest his powers on Earth were largely fruitless until near the end, which threw the pacing off—and when he told people about that second world he’d traveled to, no one seemed quite as skeptical as they should have been. The evidence tying the protagonist to his best friend’s disappearance also seemed pretty flimsy, so the threat of him being found guilty of her murder didn’t seem all that convincing.

2.The big issue I saw in the early draft: The protagonist appeared to have a big realization at the end that was all about the power of self-love, but there was very little at the beginning to suggest that this was even an issue in her life. In fact, at the beginning of this novel, the protagonist seemed pretty happy—until some trouble came along to destabilize her work life.

3.The big issue I saw in the early draft: There wasn’t enough focus on the POV of the protagonist for the reader to really identify with him and his struggles—the author seemed more interested in exploring this fantasy world than he was in actually telling the protagonist’s story.

Considerably more details about each at the linked post.

I’m wincing a little while reading through these comments about revision because these “big issues” ring thoroughly true. These are exactly the sort of comments that are (a) really helpful, and (b) going to make you spend a good deal of time revising your novel.

If you’re stuck with revision, or wondering what sort of editorial comments would help, then this sort of analysis of your manuscript is probably exactly what you need.

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Recent Reading: Divergence by CJC

So, here we are, the … 21st? Yes, 21st book in the Foreigner series.

As you may recall, I was not impressed by the 20th book, Resurgence.

The full sequence of the recent books is not tracking the trilogy model; that system broke down several books ago, which was signaled by the change in titles from titles that were words ending in -or and -er to titles that are words ending in -ence. So the current series includes Convergence, Emergence, Resurgence, and now Divergence. There will obviously be at least one more in this arc, after which who knows.

Now, I liked Convergence and Emergence a lot, and then as you know tripped HARD over a continuity problem between the end of Emergence and Resurgence, as Nomari was very definitely confirmed as lord of Ajuri at the end of Emergence and very definitely had not yet been confirmed in Resurgence.

I did not expect Cherryh to fix this — it is unfixable — so I went into Divergence with a gritted-teeth determination to tolerate this problem and pretend I never noticed the continuity problem. This, combined with a more active, fun plot, enabled me to enjoy Divergence much more than Resurgence. There is, however, a continuing problem with Nomari that got in my way through the whole book, which I will now share with you, so if it wasn’t bothering you and now it does, sorry, but here we go:

Nomari is three years older than Cajeiri’s mother. Yes, we are told this explicitly. I reread all the books of this arc, so I noted this speficially.

Damiri is, at a minimum, 28 years old. That assumes she married Tabini at 18 and had Cajeiri almost at once. This makes Nomari a minimum of 31. He could well be older than that, but he cannot be significantly younger.

In Divergence, there is great concern that Nomari and an unsuitable girl may be attracted to each other. She is 16. These two are referred to repeatedly, by Bren, not just by the Dowager, as “the young people.” This is just weird.

I am perfectly aware that in many or most human societies throughout history, girls of twelve or thirteen or fourteen routinely married young men in their late twenties and early thirties. Maybe this is typical of the atevi as well and we just have never seen enough of their marriage customs to know that. But it doesn’t matter. If Nomari is twice the girl’s age, it is just weird to call them “the young people” as though they are both teenagers. It is especially weird for Bren to do that, since he cannot be that much older than Nomari. It seems to me that CJC just decided, arbitrarily and for no reason at all, to age Nomari sharply downward and declare that he is in his early twenties. This was completely unnecessary, as she could have kept the exact same plot and aged the girl upward. Instead of a sixteen-year-old girl, she could have been a particularly shy, protected woman of twenty-four or so and that would have worked exactly as well!

So … FINE. Yes, I am unhappy by what appears to be real, continuing, carelessness from CJC or from her editor(s) or both. If you, as the author, change your mind, I think you have to do a much better job than this of fixing the continuity problems that you’ve created. But FINE. I will still go on with the series. A lot more happened in this book than the previous one, and I did manage to set aside my problems with this arc of the series and enjoy the story.

But I will never not be gritting my teeth during re-reads.

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The Bulwer Lytton Winners for 2020

Oh, I’m glad I happened to spot a link to this post!

I’m absolutely certain you all want to see the winners for the Bulwer Lytton Contest this year.

Here is the Grand Prize winner:

Her Dear John missive flapped unambiguously in the windy breeze, hanging like a pizza menu on the doorknob of my mind.

Lisa Kluber, San Francisco, CA

There are, of course, lots of other winners. Let me see … quite a few fun entries … I like this one, from the Romance category —

It had been fifty-seven days since Madi left him, and still her stinging parting words slithered through Brett’s mind and echoed jarringly in the emptiness of his life like a half-frozen iguana falling out of a tree in an unseasonable Cozumel cold snap.

Lisa Hanks, Euless, TX

Here, I think, is my actual favorite:

“Dilly, Dilly,” Nelda sobbed, “Tell me you still care, Dilly,” as his blood spurted rhythmically onto her freshly-starched, pink pinafore—the one given to her on her 16th birthday by her maternal grandmother, Nana Gertrude, the one she had worn the previous Sunday to the witch dunking, the one she swore never to stain— which was now permanently stained, but she mused that it didn’t matter since it was in the same color family.

Pat DuVal, Arlington, VA

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Tolkien Week

I am, as a rule, both unimpressed by and unaware of the various This Days and That Weeks and so on. Who can keep track? Who cares?

But since I happened across this post at tor.com, sure, fine, it’s Tolkien Week this week, so have a post on hobbits. I mean, who doesn’t like hobbits, right? That line about second breakfast may be the most memorable line in the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy of films, complete with Pippin’s firm little nod that says This argument is unassailable.

  • Aragorn : Gentlemen, we do not stop ’til nightfall.
  • Pippin : What about breakfast?
  • Aragorn You’ve already had it.
  • Pippin We’ve had one, yes. What about second breakfast?

Anyway, hobbits! The post at tor.com is satisfyingly long and goes into some depth about the origin of hobbits and their role in the Lord of the Rings:

Hobbits are beneath the notice of so many, right? We see it with the good guys and the bad guys alike. The Elves in Lothlórien know of them, but thought them long gone from Middle-earth (say, was Galadriel keeping her people in the dark about them?). To the Men of Rohan and Gondor they are halflings, “little people in old songs and children’s tales.” The three trolls don’t know what Bilbo is. Smaug’s never smelled one before. The Ringwraiths are sent to discover them because they’re an unknown quantity to their master. Sauron overlooks Hobbits big time, to his own uttermost ruin. Even Saruman, who at least knew about the Shire for far longer than his secret rival in Mordor, couldn’t be bothered with them until it was too late. 

Yet we, Tolkien’s readers, find Hobbits anything but inconspicuous. They are the story. They are our eyes on the wonders and terrors of Middle-earth outside their borders...

Click through if you have a minute, and happen to want to pretend that Tolkien Week is a real thing.

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Futura in YA titles

Here’s a post on covers of YA novels. The post covers the EVERYTHING IS BLACK phase, the girls-in-ballroom-gowns phase, the drowned-girl phase, and the illustrated cover phase, ongoing now.

The post then moves on to discuss the current trend for very large centered titles that take up a lot of the cover, in sans sarif fonts, especially (I guess) Futura. Also that the titles are not tilted and there is no drop shadow.

Like these:

The argument is that these titles are easier to read in thumbnail form than sarif titles, titles with drop shadows, smaller titles, etc. Although plausible in theory, I would like to point out that this cannot be the reason.

Of the 24 covers presented above, at least 7, which is roughly a third, have titles that are hard to read. The only ones that are really easy to read are the ones where the titles do not walk down the entire vertical cover and also WE USED TO BE FRIENDS, where the background is ultra simple.

WATCH OVER ME is one of the hardest, as the pale letters wash out against the pale background colors. The blue letters of ALL OUR WORST IDEAS is tough to read against the blues of the cover. The “here” in YOU WERE NEVER HERE is nearly invisible to a first glance.

Go back and look at YOU WERE NEVER HERE. Did you see the girl’s face at first? Am I the only one who didn’t see the face at all to begin with? Just curious. To me, perhaps because I was looking at the title, it was just blurred background colors until suddenly the face appeared.

But that’s not the point. The point is, are those titles really easier to read than this one?

In this cover, the title is big, but very much sarif, and confined to the bottom of the cover. As the letters are pale against a dark background, and the title is all in one place and you don’t have to search for it, I’d say the title is a lot easier to read than many of the ones above.

Here’s another:

Yellow against yellow, but the drop shadow, specifically noted as absent in all the examples above, makes these letters stand out. They are front and center, but not floating in front of an image. Also, putting the title in one confined place makes it easy to find and read. This title is a hundred times easier to read than most of the ones that are supposedly made to be easy to read.

Here’s another:

The title is small, confined to the bottom of the cover, and SO much easier to read than the ones that come down the middle of the page.

No, as far as I’m concerned, readability at thumbnail size CANNOT be the reason for the trend in title size, font, and placement in those covers. That is therefore just another trend, like the Drowned Girls trend … which I notice has not entirely ended. Three Drowned Girls out of 24 — if the girl in WATCH OVER ME isn’t underwater, then what’s with her hair? — and if she’s drowned, then that’s 12.5% Drowned Girl covers. I would be fine if that trend ended at once. I’ve never seen the appeal.

I also don’t see the appeal of dropping the title a word at a time down the entire front of the book. As I conclude that’s just a trend, I can hope the trend will become soon become less prevalent.

One final note: I missed this at first, but one of those covers above is by Elizabeth Wein — THE ENIGMA GAME. I’m glad to see that one has a title that is easy to read. Here’s the description:

Facing a seemingly endless war, fifteen-year-old Louisa Adair wants to fight back, make a difference, do something — anything — to escape the Blitz and the ghosts of her parents, who were killed by enemy action. But when she accepts a position caring for an elderly German woman in the small village of Windyedge, Scotland, it hardly seems like a meaningful contribution. Still, the war feels closer than ever in Windyedge, where Ellen McEwen, a volunteer driver with the Royal Air Force, and Jamie Beaufort-Stuart, a flight leader for the 648 Squadron, are facing a barrage of unbreakable code and enemy attacks they can’t anticipate.
Their paths converge when a German pilot lands in Windyedge under mysterious circumstances and plants a key that leads Louisa to an unparalleled discovery: an Enigma machine that translates German code. Louisa, Ellen, and Jamie must work together to unravel a puzzle that could turn the tide of the war — but doing so will put them directly in the cross-hairs of the enemy.

This story is connected to Code Name Verity. It’s not quite out, but nearly — scheduled for release in early November. Just thought I’d point that out, as surely some of you are fans of Elizabeth Wein, as I am.

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Unforgettable antagonists


Sure, I’ll bite! Go ahead, who are the most unforgettable antagonists in fiction?

Before looking at the list given in the linked post, I should probably mention that (a) I’m not always that interested in the antagonist; and (b) actually, one of the tropes I like best is the fairly rare antagonist-to-ally trope. That requires an antagonist who isn’t a terrible person; eg, Inspector Ronsarde is a great antagonist for Nicholas Valiarde in The Death of the Necromancer. The real enemy in that book is, of course, the necromancer. He is not nearly as interesting or fun to read about as Ronsarde. All the scenes I’ve bookmarked in that novel involve Ronsarde and Nicholas interacting.

Also, I think I probably often prefer depersonalized antagonists, like the environment itself, rather than a bad guy.

So maybe I’m not the very best person to think about making a list of great antagonists! Even so, if I tried for a list of great antagonists, I wouldn’t stop short at nine! No matter who is on this list, I’m going to feel compelled to try to come up with one more memorable antagonist in order to bring that list to a nice, even ten.

Now, to be memorable, it seems to me an antagonist who is a person needs to be interesting in some way. That lets out evil antagonists like, say, Sauron, who really is not at all interesting. Dangerous, sure, but not interesting. Saruman is more interesting than Sauron, though that doesn’t mean he’s interesting — it’s not a high bar.

A more interesting antagonist … let me see … all right, how about General Woundwort in Watership Down? He’s evil, no question, but you can sympathize with what he was trying to do as he created a totalitarian society and crushed his people beneath his iron paw.

So that’s my pick for a memorable antagonist! I bet that is not one of the ones on this list from Crime Reads, but let’s see …

1) Rebecca, from the book by DuMaurier. Okay, that’s fair.

2) The Storm, from The Perfect Storm. All right! That’s a great choice. Glad to see they’re picking some depersonalized antagonists. We could undoubtedly do a top ten list just with examples of Nature As The Antagonist. No shortage of outstanding examples, that’s for sure. I’ve never read The Perfect Storm, but I bet I would like it.

3) Cujo. Oh, no no no. No.

Listen, you cannot pick a sick dog as a great antagonist. How can anybody not feel sorry for the dog? Also, the protagonist — can’t remember her name — is such a wimp! I’m getting angry again just thinking about this book. Put me in that car and I could handle that dog, I don’t care how big he was. Poor Cujo! I wouldn’t have wanted to kill him, but I would have done it. And so would you. A reasonably intelligent, able-bodied adult human with all the time in the world and everything in the car to work with could absolutely kill a big SICK dog who has already been weakened by the disease and thirst.

I’m inclined to be done with this list right now.

You know what, I’m going to just poke around for a minute …

Okay, here is a different list about antagonists:

MIND MELD: Who Are Your Favorite Villains In Fantasy And Science Fiction?

That’s more like it! Let’s focus on SFF and see about picking out some antagonists. Since the post is about villains, there won’t be any Nature-as-Antagonist, which is too bad, but with any luck we won’t be seeing Cujo again either, so there’s pluses and minuses.

Here in this post, we have … let me see … Scott Lynch, Helen Lowe, Howard Andrew Jones, and twelve others pick out some of their favorite villains in SFF. (There are so many authors who contributed to this post, I’m just naming the ones I’ve read stuff by.)

Oh ho, we do get Nature As Antagonist! — here’s someone, Shaun Duke, picking out “nature” in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. I’ve read that one! It’s the one where McCarthy plays with punctuation. Very literary. Very dark. There is a tiny, tiny glimmer of light in the darkness, right at the end, or that book would be unendurable. It almost is anyway.

Anyway, glad to see Nature As Antagonist. Plenty of post-apocalyptic novels where that’s a feature.

Hah! LB Gale picks various others AND General Woundwort from Watership Down! Good for her.

Ah, Helen Lowe picks out Galadan in GGK’s Fionavar trilogy. I should have thought of him! Great choice! I love the little redemption arc he gets right at the end.

I’ll be darned, here’s something you don’t see every day — Ian Sales is picking out an antagonist from The Ophiuchi Hotline by John Varley. I always think of Varley when I think of authors who are all but forgotten today, but should absolutely be brought back into the public eye. Though this title isn’t my favorite of his and I have to admit I do not remember the antagonist at all.

All right, I’ll stop there — lots (lots!) more at the linked post.

I’ll end by saying that my favorite villain from my own books remains Lelienne from The City in the Lake. She’s really creepy and honestly quite inhuman. It’s like you know she has motivations, but they are so weird it’s hard to decide what they might be. Or that’s how I think about her, anyway.

If you’ve got a favorite villain (or other antagonist) from one of my books or any SFF novel, or both, drop some names in the comments!

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Your protagonist must fail

Here’s a post at Pub Rants: Your Protagonist Must Fail

Throughout your story but especially in Act II—that yawning abyss between your story’s beginning and end sometimes referred to as “the swamp” or “the mushy middle”—your protagonist must fail. They must fail big. They must fail often. Why? Because if they’re not failing, they’re not trying.

The author of the post, Angie Hodapp, identifies three types of failure:

  1. try-fail, which is obviously where the protagonist tries to solve a problem but the attempt crashes and burns.

2. The attempt succeeds, but leads to a unanticipated bigger problem.

3. This one doesn’t seem to fit to me, but: the protagonist is suspicious about something and that suspicion is quickly confirmed.

That third one is odd, because the protagonist isn’t the one trying and failing to do something; the author is the one trying and failing (to create and maintain tension). Let’s leave that one aside and consider the broader point that the protagonist must fail.

At first glance, it seems basically true that the protagonist has to try stuff and those attempts have to fail. That’s what happens in most novels. But not quite all. When I try to think of counterexamples, I can think of a few novels where the protagonist is faced with a dire problem, tries stuff that succeeds, repeat, repeat, repeat as increasingly dire problems fall like dominos, success! The end.

In fact, I can even think of a few novels where the problems aren’t actually dire. I’m thinking here of Nathan Lowell’s fun but perhaps not entirely plausible slice-of-life novel Quarter Share, where the protagonist, Ishmael, embarks on adventure and puts his life in order through general competence at working with people. None of the problems in that story are particularly important, and I can’t offhand think of any moment when the protagonist makes a significant mistake or fails in a significant way.

Slice-of-life may be like that. Hogarth’s Mindtouch is more than a bit that way. Choosing the wrong course of study and/or dithering over relationship issues constitute the mistakes, such as they are. The failures are pretty trivial because the problems are trivial and the happy ending certain. That’s why the story is relaxing to read.

There are also competence-porn novels where the protagonist faces a much more serious situation, but takes various brilliant steps one after another, basically without failing at any point. The situation may present the protagonist with increasingly dire problems, but the protagonist succeeds in dealing with all those problems. Here, I’m thinking of stories like The Martian. This sort of story can be immensely satisfying, as it’s always a pleasure watching a really competent character overcome obstacles, especially if the problems and solutions are all plausible. As in the case of The Martian, it’s not necessarily important for the protagonist to have a lot of deep, complicated character development in order for the story to work.

Still, the overall point that generally the protagonist must try and fail seems largely true for most SFF novels.

I will add a failure mode for the author that particularly drives me crazy in this context. Not the same problem with suspicion-rapidly-confirmed that the linked post pointed out. Way worse than that:

The protagonist tries stupid things that are obviously going to fail. That is the exact opposite of competence porn: it’s incompetence on display and it’s a major, major turnoff. I would therefore revise the idea of protagonist failure this way:

Most of the time, a novel should feature the protagonist trying to achieve a goal in a plausible, intelligent way and failing because of unforeseen complications. It is okay if the protagonist fails because of character-based imperfections, but being a total idiot is not just an imperfection, it’s an unendurable character flaw that renders the story unreadable. Failure should therefore not depend on that quality.

Bonus points if the complications are perceptible in retrospect, but neither the protagonist nor the reader saw them coming, even though the author foreshadowed those complications.

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High, Low, and Middle Fantasy

Okay, so, “high” and “low” fantasy came up here fairly recently. I said my tendency was to define high fantasy as epic or heroic fantasy that also has a more poetic or formal tone; low as non-heroic fantasy that has a grittier or more casual tone.

However, the terms are also, perhaps more commonly, used this way:

High fantasy = secondary world

Low fantasy = contemporary world.

I think that’s an odd usage, as it seems sensible to me to say “secondary world fantasy” if that’s what you mean and then divide secondary world fantasy into high and low; ditto for contemporary fantasy. But fine, either way, this post at Book Riot caught my eye:


Okay, I said, what do YOU mean by “middle fantasy?” It’s certainly true that if you have high and low, then you should have middle! Do you mean, um, halfway between secondary and contemporary worlds? Because that would actually sort of be interesting! The Death of the Necromancer might fit, as the world is secondary BUT highly reminiscent of gaslamp London. I’m sure it would be possible to think of plenty more examples like that.

OR, do you mean the novel strikes a tone that is midway between the poetic or elevated or formal tone of high fantasy and the everyday or gritty tone of low fantasy? That could be … lots and lots of books, I guess, including some that reach for a high fantasy tone but don’t quite make it.

So let’s see what this Book Riot Post has in mind — one of those options or something else:

The term “high fantasy” has only been around since the 1970s and describes books that are set in a fictional alternative world (think Middle-earth). Literarily, the term was used to differentiate between real-world and alternative fantasy world …

Okay! So that’s clear. High fantasy means secondary world, low fantasy then presumably means contemporary world. … Yes, that’s the starting point for this post.

Okay, then, what’s middle fantasy? ???

Without reading further, here are some options that occur to me:

a) Portal fantasy, that starts off in the contemporary world but then the protagonist(s) go to a secondary world. We don’t really need a special term for that, as “portal fantasy” is well understood.

b) The world started out as our contemporary world or as our historical world, but WOW is it different now because something dramatic happened. There are lots of examples and have been practically forever. I’m thinking of Ariel by Boyett. The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews also fits this type.

c) The world has some contemporary elements, but the fantasy elements are big and dramatic and always have been in the history of this world. A whole lot of paranormal and UF fantasy falls into this category, including, oh, say, the Others series by Anne Bishop. So do lots of other novels, such as, hmm, well, Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede, say. Zillions of examples, some historical and some contemporary in flavor, but all with lots of important fantasy elements that thoroughly shift the world away from the real world.

d) Something else.

Let’s see how Book Riot defines middle fantasy …

In middle fantasy, the rules are bent, known mythologies and folklores are explored, and magic abounds!

Okay, so (d) then! I hadn’t thought of this option — lots of magic, but it draws on actual mythology and folklore. A perfectly fair conception for the term! Not quite real, known world, but real, known mythology. What have I been calling that kind of fantasy all this time … probably “mythological fantasy,” if I used a term. Not sure I did. That’s probably the term I would choose, rather than “middle fantasy,” because here I’ve come up with three other possible ways to define a chunk of middle ground between high and low fantasy. Given a choice, I prefer descriptive terms that are harder to misunderstand or define in confusing ways. But the category itself seems fair to me.

Let’s see what specific works Book Riot chose to exemplify the category:

Wow, not a single title that I’ve read. In some cases, the book doesn’t really appear to fit the category — a category they just defined! Come ON, this is not a difficult category at all. I believe the post is trying much too hard to stick to very recent titles and also perhaps to titles that echo current events. I’d rather stick to the topic of the post and pick titles that actually exemplify the category.

And to exemplify the category, well, I thought immediately of the Percy Jackson novels. I only read the first one — it was a bit young for me — but it’s a very obvious example.

There are surely lots of others. Let me see. American Gods, obviously. Hounded, by Kevin Hearne.

My actual favorite is the Powers and Dominions duology but Burton/Hetley. Here’s my post about Powers. I should re-read those.

What titles would you put on this kind of list?

Middle Fantasy; eg, contemporary fantasy that draws heavily on mythology or folklore, but is not a retelling:

  1. American Gods
  2. Hounded
  3. Percy Jackson stories by Rick Riordan
  4. Powers and Dominions
  5. Agent of Hel series by Jacqueline Carey
  6. …. What else?

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On proofreading

A post at Kill Zone Blog that made me laugh:

The librarian at an active senior community has been wonderfully supportive and included all my books in their collection. In Eyes in the Sky, she found a typo which she emailed me about. She noted the exact page where it appeared. I opened my copy to that page and read it over and over, searching for the typo. I emailed her back and asked which sentence the typo appeared in. She quoted it. I read and reread her email and couldn’t find a typo in her quote. Again, I stared at the sentence in the book for several more minutes and still couldn’t see it.

I was about to call her, admit humiliation, and ask what I was missing.

At last, my now-bleary, squinting eyes recognized it. The sentence was supposed to read: “Let’s go back to the hotel.” Instead, it said: “Let’s back go to the hotel.”

Wow, does that resonate. I’m chipping away at the proofreading comments for COPPER MOUNTAIN … it’s so tedious that I’m just doing it a little at a time. By now I’ve gone through the typos several of you caught, and I’m working my way through the comments provided by Linda S., who (of course) caught quite a few that everyone else spotted plus quite a few no one else spotted. As always, everyone caught unique typos, many egregious.

Anyway, my point is, if someone just quotes a problem sentence, then when I look at that sentence, I can sometimes stare and stare for AGES without seeing the typo. It’s EXACTLY like the experience described above. Suddenly, all at once, I see that the sentence says “off” instead of “of” or “his” when it should say “her” or whatever.

Sometimes I literally give up, come back later, and stare at a sentence some more before I finally find a completely obvious typo in that sentence.

I guess it’s good to know other authors have the same problem, in a misery-loves-company way. Or an at-least-I-know-this-is-normal way.

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