Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Salon - The Sister

Time for another Sunday Salon! I'm feeling a bit more energetic and able to do thigns I've been meaning to do for a while, and that includes reviewing books. This is not one I have been reading for a month (I mentioned earlier that I'd been struggling to get through one, but it's one I decided not to review). I read this one in a week and am now going to write a review.

The Sister by Poppy Adams is a debut novel set in an eerie mansion in rural England. Ms. Adams does a great job of setting up a dark, creepy atmosphere for a story rife with mystery and puzzlement. Who is this woman, Virginia (the narrator)? Why has her sister Vivien not been home in fifty years? How did their parents die? Why is Ginny such a recluse? And what is going to happen as Vivi intrudes on Ginny's solitary existence, with her cheer and modern ways and little dog? Not one of these answers can be good.
I am fascinated by books with the "unreliable narrator." We as readers typically automatically trust the narrator unless things start happening to indicate we shouldn't. And they have to be pretty big things, really. I have tried to write "unreliable narrator" stories before, and often people don't get it if you're subtle. There have to be some grand signs.
Ginny gives a few signs, but a lot of them are stated. People avoid her. Kids in the town harass her occasionally because she's a hermit. She as an obsession with orderliness and clocks. But until Vivien starts telling her (and us) that there's something wrong with her, we aren't really going to get it. We do at the end, of course, when subtlety is thrown to the wind, but...somehow the ending seemed a little bit tacked on. It wasn't a crescendo or a climax; it was a novel building in one direction and then a very predictable-but-wanting-to-be-shocking ending.
There are some fascinating aspects to this book. I assume that Poppy Adams, a documentary filmmaker, has not studied lepidoptery (moths) but with the amount of detail in there, one would thinks she had a doctorate in it. In fact, there's a little too much. I kept thinking all the moths and details were going to be some kind of grand symbol, but it didn't work out that way. They were her obsession, but lots of people have obsessions. There are many people who actually obsess about bugs. I don't happen to like bugs, but the fact that they do doesn't make them crazy. So Ginny's entomology didn't really serve a bigger purpose. I know, I know, not everything in literature has to be a symbol or gateway to something deeper, but there was so much here about moths, I wanted it to do something.
I kept waiting for a big reveal about Ginny's condition. We get a big reveal about their parents, but while one of the central questions (why Vivien stayed away) is partly answered (unsatisfactorily, in my mind, since it didn't really involve Ginny, the protagonist), a bigger one (why she came back) remains forever a mystery.
There's a lot of good here. Ultimately, if you have spare time, I'd say read the book. Just don't break down any barriers to get to it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A day late and a dollar short

The title accurately sums up my mental state lately. Why? That's a good question. And I don't have much of an answer. I made it through another draft, but the ending is just not coming together yet. So I'm working, going to the gym (and I've started taking a running class, which I am enjoying), editing some articles freelance, and that's about it. And yet I feel like I can't get a handle on my life. Why? Is watching the Olympics really that taxing? Keeping my bedroom clean? Curious. I did get sick again this weekend, though I think I managed to stave off something much worse by taking Friday off work, sleeping nearly the entire day (literally 7 hours BETWEEN 8 am and 6 pm, after having gotten an okay-even-if-interrupted-by-a-sore-throat night's sleep) and much of Saturday and Sunday. I didn't feel 100% Monday but had to come in because I was the only assistant on the floor that day. But boy, that only took four days. Why has the rest of my time felt so harried?

There are a few publicity plans in the works for the book, but I haven't thrown myself into them fully yet. There is an upcoming blog tour (excitement!) in September and a few other things I'm planning. I mentioned before that this is a mountain to climb (the explanation for the picture) and I had decided to have a picnic at the bottom in the shade before starting the ascent; well, now I've taken two steps up and decided to rest. But I remain committed to scaling this mountain. It is probably the closest thing I will ever have to a real mountain climb. Freezing cold temperatures and oxygen tanks don't appeal to me.

I am now trying to import the cover of "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer, the tale of an Everest expedition gone horribly wrong, culminating in frostbite, amputations, and death. Blogspot will only import into the top of this post, however, not right here, where I want it. So much for the rest of my metaphor.

Anyway. My solemn goals: 1) more running. That does seem to give me more energy. 2) More writing. At the very least, I need to do some writing ABOUT the screenplay ending...hopefully to wriggle and twist myself into some kind of good ending. 3) More editing to get more money for 4) more publicity efforts.

I'll let you know how I do.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

a quick note...

Wow, things are still kind of happening. August 24 is the first anniversary of my publication date. As I've mentioned, I was told that I have to keep pushing the book for at least a year after publication in order to make it do anything. I had planned to do just that, though my plan dictated that (a) if zero was happening, I would reassess, and at the one year mark, (b) if things were still happening, I would keep going. So the big oh-one is approaching, and small things continue to happen. Nothing has propelled DIEA to the best-seller list yet, obviously, but the little things that occur are enough to tell me to keep going. Hmm.

I checked my Amazon ranking again this evening. As you may recall, I'm slightly obsessed with this number; it's really the only way to see if I'm selling anything. And I can't tell how many I sell, just whether or not it sells at all. The pattern lately has been that the number floats up to about 700,000 and then someone buys a copy and I go back into the one hundred thousands. I've never been higher than 800,000, happily. (I have seen books at the 3 million mark.) So I check once or twice a day, and the number floats: 150,000, 200, 250, 300, 500, 700, back to 150. Every time it goes to 150 (or thereabouts) I am relieved, knowing it's still floating. yesterday I was in the five hundred thousands, so imagine my surprise when I checked this morning and it was 76,000. Hmm. This is more than one copy selling. Okay. Then I checked this evening, just for the heck of it (right after determining that the Yankees game is on, so I can go to the gym and watch it, since I'm too cheap for cable and the Yes Network--yes, dear reader, I'm missing it right now FOR YOU!) and had to do a double-take: 28,634. Crazy! Besides my brief stint under 10,000 (8,698 if I remember correctly) this is the lowest I've been. Woo-hoo!

I ask again (regular readers can repeat it with me): a one-time thing, or are we starting to catch on?

I'm going to be doing a blog tour in September, arranged by the lovely and wonderful Trish Browning Collins. Trish, as you may recall, was my terrifically enthusiastic blogger/reviewer, and she is starting a business called TLC Book Tours, which is an answer to my prayers. I had been looking for the right people to arrange a blog tour for me, and it only makes sense that it be Trish (and her friend Lisa), with whom I just feel a bond and for whom I have such great affection--and I've never even met her! (It just warms my heart to find readers who really like what I wrote. It's a very primal thing!) I will gush more and further as we get closer to the blog tour, but meanwhile I needed to mention it to my faithful (tiny) group of readers. Check out their website here.

I will go -- the Yankees beckon -- but I just wanted to check in. My screenplay is demanding a whole lot more of my time and energy, and I'm wrestling with the ending like I haven't had to do in a very long time. I'm tired and working hard (and haven't even finished the book I've been reading for, oh, a MONTH for Sunday Salon), but things are good. And more yet to come!