Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St Pat's

Happy St Patrick’s Day! Once again we are surrounded by ludicrous caricatures of green leprechauns. :) Even the Horror channel is dishing up all night runs of appropriate films...well, all four versions of Leprechaun. Hmm.

Ah well, being half Irish I can hardly complain. Even though I dislike the increasing commercialism surrounding our holidays, I do like to celebrate the spirit of the events (in this case whiskey or Guinness ho ho ho) and for me that means socialising. Problem is I’ve spent the previous two evenings out schmoozing whilst supporting the CAMpaign for Real Ale at the local beer festival. A girl can have too much fun, especially when she’s recuperating from a chest infection that rattled on into weeks and months. So, I’m at home this St Pats. The Man of the House is out for the afternoon cheering on the Irish with friends, and I will lift a glass to St Pat and all he stood for when my man gets home. If you are out celebrating this evening, have fun and be safe!

Otherwise I’ve had my head down here at the desk the past few days trying to get my writing up to speed. We’re away from the homestead and PC for a week at the end of the month so I need to crack on. I’ve got two major projects to get done by June 1st, one that has to be done, (i.e. contracted) and one that I want to get done before then as well. It’s gonna be tight!

I read a very informative review of THE STRANGELING from Joyce at Speculative Romance online today. I’ll post it in its entirety because it gave me some very useful feedback about my work, things that I can learn from, and brought up some things I had wanted to discuss about the story anyway.

AUTHOR: Saskia Walker
PUBLISHER: Juno Books PUB DATE: 2007
GENRE: Romance w/ Spec Elements ISBN: 978080955793
REVIEWED BY: Joyce Ellen Armond on 03/01/07 EISBN:

What do you get when you mix a heroine with the strength of love, a hero with the strength of faith, and scary demons? A surprisingly satisfying fantasy romance.

The Back Cover Tempts Us Thusly…

"One woman alone holds the power…to undo the hundred-year-old curse of a deathless army. Maerose, a beautiful and resilient maiden, must repel this evil horde by mating with a man of faith – on Samhain Eve, at the gates of hell. Unleashed, the girl's dormant magic can save the world. But a demonic madman hungry for power threatens to doom them all…"

The Bravos:

Forevermore, Saskia Walker shall be known as The Author Who Made Me Like It. THE STRANGELING tapped my two most hated romance elements and somehow made them work.

Virgin heroine: check. The bulk of the novel describes the sexual and emotional awakening of Maerose. Normally, that's a cringe-fest for me. But for the most part, Maerose came across with dignity, believable vulnerability and admirable emotional strength.

Soul mates: check. Maerose and her hero, the magic-using Bron, are fated to be together according to the elder scrolls. Walker delivered me from the short-handed feeling I usually get from soul mate romantic development. Even though he's the preeminent elder scroll scholar, Bron is still charmingly caught off guard by the strength of both his physical and emotional bond with Maerose. Maerose avoided the "he's my magic man and I love him" emotional immediacy precisely because her girl-to-woman awakening read true.

Plus, after a little bit of a slow start, the fantasy elements of THE STRANGELING satisfied with a nice mix of accessible ideas and unexpected twists – especially in the author's vision of magic.

The Lone Cat-Call from the Back Row:

Clunky dialog jarred me out of the narrative in far too many places. When the hero says he wants to take a deep draft of the heroine's body, I start wondering where she keeps the frothy head.

Final Verdict:

Short, sensual and sweet, THE STRANGELING delivers an unexpectedly good read out of usually suspect elements, and with a slight sexual and thematic sharp edge. I stayed up past bedtime to reach the happy ending, and my bet is you will, too.


Loved the review and thanked Joyce for her valuable feedback. I was, of course, disappointed the dialogue came across as clunky (although there is a built-in joke in there about the good head that I won't even attempt to make ;) Seriously though, when I write a story set in an ancient world I work hard to make every word seem appropriate to the time and place, and I wonder if that’s what my problem is -- or am I just crap at this job and should throw the towel in! LOL. It's something for me to think about. On the one hand I feel my dialogue is improving over time, and I’m always working at it because it’s a weak point. On the other hand I've still got a lot of learning to do and I know that.

I expect readers of my contemporary set stories might be surprised I wrote a virgin heroine. In my contemporary work my female characters are independent women very much in touch with their sexuality. It wasn’t something I had to think about, it was instinctive: this was right for the story. I’m really glad I carried it off in an acceptable way for a reviewer who cites it as a hated romance element.

When I set out writing THE STRANGELING I had Patricia McKillip's WINTER ROSE in mind, a novel I totally adore and worship. I was trying to get some way near evoking the kind of world she had for me in that story – eerie, rustic, beautiful and yet sometimes cruel. I wanted to create something like that for a story with an overt, explicit romance. I expect I’ve made some hideous error by making any kind of comparison between such a truly great fantasy writer and myself, a stumbling novice. It’s like comparing a sows ear (my effort) to a silk purse (Patricia’s book.) But I also believe we have to have our heroes and our goals as writers, to help us in our journey. How does the saying the sailor who uses the stars to guide him, we may not reach what we follow but we find our destination along the way... or some such? Maybe someone knows the correct version.

The “predestined lover” angle is something I wanted to talk about when this book came out. There's been discussion on line about authors who use this plot angle, which crops up a lot in paranormal romance because it's often appropriate to stories such as werewolf and vampire tales. I admit I sometimes feel cheated if I read a story when a guy looks at a woman and recognises her as his mate, because it can short circuit the potential male conflict about the relationship. I say can, because not all writers use it to short circuit, but as a means to explore that dynamic. Depends who’s doing it. So why did I choose to do it and take the risk? Again, it was about the story, it was what the story wanted and needed, but I didn’t want it to be easy for my hero and heroine, I tried really hard to show that the “predestined” angle carried its own peculiar set of issues (like an arranged marriage would.) Joyce’s review shows me I achieved that, at least in some part, which gives me a good feeling (i.e. I let out a long withheld breath…).

I feel like I’m moving at a slow but steady pace on this writer’s journey, and each step is teaching me so much. Of course I wish the perfect book would come out every time. Maybe one day. :) I’ve had interesting feedback on this particular story in reviews, and it really helps. I’m always keen to learn from constructive criticism. Anyway, better get back to it or it’ll be time to crack open that Guinness before I know it ;)

Cheers all!


May said...

I normally take off points when I see the predestined lovers angle--I have read too many of these, but I can't always resist another para/fantasy romance.

The Strangeling, at least for me, earned back those points, because Maerose/Bron's relationship developed beyond "We are meant to be together! Let us make love! The world is saved, and we have a happy ever after!" (sorry about the exclamation points)

Even without the destined lovers thing, I could believe that they have a HEA, which therefore makes the point that they are destined lover moot.

Caffey said...

Hi Saskia. Its my first time visiting here but have been at your site and read some of yours so I'm looking forward to more, especially THE STRANGELING because I recently got into Fantasy Romances and read about this one so its one I'd love to read. Going to check out more here at your blog but wanted to say Hi!!! Too hope you're feeling better soon. We too spent the day home for St. Pats. Hubby worked the day then rested the evening. We enjoy being home so it was a nice one. He's almost full Irish, and not sure what else his background is. I forgot. I should remember after 23 years, LOL Again, a joy to read your books!!! I have so many more to get!!!

Saskia Walker said...

Hi Caffey! Welcome. I hope you enjoy what you found here and at the site ;)

May ~ thank you! It's so good to have it reaffirmed. For me, it wasn't the easy option. I'm much more used to writing experienced, new-to-each other characters with a blank slate, but it suited the story so well. I'm thrilled people are responding to it so positively.