by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
"Taxi! Follow That Byline!"
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
First thing, I'd like to point you to a blog -- this happens to be an entry by Heather Massey, and it's about the Sime~Gen Game I've mentioned here a number of times, the one taking Sime~Gen (an SF series of mine with Jean Lorrah) into its space age.
I'm expecting to have more news about that game for you this year.
So now to today's lessons in writing.
Previous entries in this "reviews" series of blogs are here:
I was in a school library a few days ago and asked the school librarian if they still teach kids to follow particular bylines when they find something they like.
I had decided I rather liked that library. It had a higher book-density than our public library currently has, and had the books shelved by genre, with very good books featured prominently.
OK, being a writer, I know that the way certain writers and titles get that treatment in school libraries is to be reviewed in School Library Journal etc -- and that only one or two titles of a publisher's monthly output are sent to those special reviewers.
So a school library (or a public one; same deal) does not present a legitimate cross section of what's available, or even what's good or what's advisable. That's what parents are for. But the school library is the hook to get kids reading for fun -- which leads to reading for profit and reading easily enough to be able to take in and understand complex subjects necessary to earn a living.
However, I discovered (as is usual in my career) that the school librarian was a science fiction/fantasy FAN -- and did a lot of work with the local used book store, too. She knew her stuff, and the field. (Yes, I handed her a Sime~Gen promo flyer.)
We had a great conversation, and I learned that at least this one librarian is dedicated to teaching kids to FOLLOW THAT BYLINE!
Today, since we haven't yet recovered from all the Holiday Cheer, and maybe you have some gift cards left from stocking stuffers, I'm going to point you to some books well worth their cover price, that I think you will benefit from reading.
These books are recent entries in series, or by writers who've done series. Some are recognizably Romance, others have driving dynamics using our principles without hitting the reader over the head with ideas and attitudes the reader wouldn't find amusing. Sample and you'll find many more books to read in that series.
First lets look at Simon R. Green's Ghost Finders Novels -- this is one series in a Universe which Green has been writing other series in.
Spirits From Beyond
Spirits From Beyond has the velocity and format of a YA. It's a very simple "adventure" by a ghost-hunting group that is involved in peeling away very complicated layers of the facade of reality to solve the puzzle of what it all means -- and who is masterminding this mess. The ongoing story is told in these small, ultrasimplified increments. The other series are not at all YA. Taken together, the novels display a universe background as rich and complex as Heinlein's multiverse.
The story relies heavily on visuals, and thus gives the impression of being a set of novels trying to become a YA TV Series (somewhat like Buffy).
Green is not particularly great at characterization or dialogue, but is very strong on simplified structure. For that reason, all these books under his byline are well worth careful dissection by the Romance writing student.
Susan Sizemore (one of my all-time favorite writers since I first encountered her fan fiction about the TV Vampire Series FOREVER KNIGHT) has a Vampire Hunter novel set in Chicago -- replete with the politics and warfare tactics of Demons, Vampires, and mortals.
Read anything you can find by Susan Sizemore.
And I say the same about Ann Aguirre.
Ann is starting a new series, but here is one in her Corine Solomon series -- read all these series starting with the 1st novel in them. Aguirre's writing skills are top notch, and her story material is right on target for the Romance reader who wants stories about feisty women (just like themselves) instead of wimps.
But Aguirre also explores the feisty female spirit faced with living as a woman who is somewhat "different" -- having telepathic or magical Talent, or some other attribute that just makes life's problems require a different set of solutions.
Aguirre has a number of series, so just dip in and sample whatever strikes you as interesting. I'm a particular fan of her space-adventure series about Sirantha Jax.
Now we come to an interesting writer. She's an actress you probably remember from Buffy The Vampire Slayer (has had other roles, but that's the one readers of this blog will likely know).
This is Amber Benson, and she used her acting talents and experience to start selling Fantasy Novels. I ran into her on twitter, and gobbled up the novels in her Calliope Reaper-Jones series -- starting with Daughter of Death.
That's a title which is a real eye-stopper. It doesn't LOOK like the title of a Romance, but this is a Romance driven story. The main character, Calliope is the daughter of the holder of the office called Death (and is in charge of the dead and the causing of dying).
It's a story of family, inheritance, inherited talents, responsibility -- and how all those things tend to conflict with one's love-life.
In this growing series, Amber Benson weaves a long, complicated story against a deep, complex background, and pulls off all the nuances with grace and aplomb.
Like Buffy, the premise and the universe is "dark" but the characters are of the "light" side of Nature.
And here's the most interesting part!
In 2013, I was invited to contribute an essay to a non-fiction book about fan fiction.
Here's the book - released Nov 26, 2013:
I did my essay, and several rewrites as the book took shape, and when the contributors list finally appeared in the promotional materials, I discovered that both Amber Benson and Rachel Caine were also contributors.
At that time, Rachel Caine (whom I also knew via twitter) was involved in a Kickstarter for a webisode series based on her Morganville Vampire series (which I also recommend to you)
The Kickstarter made its goal, and the webisode production is in development.
BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE!!!!
Amber Benson is starring in the webisodes!!!!
Now do you see why you have to "Follow That Byline!"
To understand your field - the Romance Novel and the Romance Genre - you must understand the people and their relationships to each other.