Friday, July 19, 2013

These Stories Don't Mean Anything If You've Got No One To Tell Them To

My love of books is something bordering on psychological disorder. Anyone who's seen my house can tell you that. Anyone who's ever looked at a picture of the inside of my home can tell you that. We have a joke in our home about how we used to have a dining room and then one day we woke up to discover that our table was in the kitchen, there was a library where the dining room had disappeared and the bookshelves were marching relentlessly towards the living room (which now has three bookshelves). If you do the math something like a full third of our wall space is covered by bookshelves. The number of books we have has a comma in it, and we acquire approximately 3-10 books a month. You might be able to accuse us of hoarding if it weren't for the fact that we actually read them.

I've also never made much of a secret of the fact that I'm a huge snob. Up until recent years I've sworn I'm a classics girl to the bone. I love Jane Austen on a rainy day. Some Dostoevsky or Tolstoy when I need an escape in the winter is perfect (given my obvious issues with spelling, would it horrify you to know I spelled Dostoevsky without the aid of spell check?). I recommend books like Gone with the Wind to my female friends. I insist that you can find entertainment in Tudor biographies. You can. Promise.

So up until now, well, recently, I was the kind of girl you could sit and have a cuppa with and I would be happy to discuss why certain British authors bore me (really, have you read Dickens?) or why I don't really care for most early American literature (trite) and how The Three Musketeers gets way too much credit for being Dumas' great work, when anyone with half a brain has read The Count of Monte Cristo and know better. I can even tell you which unabridged edition I prefer (the one with the introduction by Lorenzo Carcatera, he wrote Sleepers, by the way).  What you couldn't do was ask me for a recommendation about a romance or fantasy series. I was useless there. Until about a year ago.  When I quit my job and became a housewife.

I am always protesting that I actually do work pretty hard at the house, and I do. But the truth is, I've been trying to work on my writing as well. For some reason I can't recall, I decided I wanted to write a historical romance novel this year for NaNoWriMo. I think it was an inspiration that hit while we were at the Kansas City Renaissance Faire in October. I was sick of trying to write lesbian romances and literary fiction (not together, both are hard enough on their own) and so I thought I would branch out and try something new.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a lot of experience with the field. So I got on my favorite networking site for writers and I asked some of the ladies (it really is mostly ladies) in the forum who their favorite authors were for historicals. I discovered Candace Camp and Eloisa James and Connie Brockway and Alexandra Hawkins and Tessa Dare and would you believe I got so wrapped up in those books I found it hard to write? Its intimidating. The women I listed? They're all college graduates. There's an Ivy Leaguer in there. Let me tell you, they aren't lacking in plot or detail or execution. They write brilliant female characters who love themselves and their bodies (and food, bless them!) and know what they want. They write women who won't take crap from men. They write stories I want to read. Two years ago I would have died rather than admit I read romance, because I didn't know any better. Now I'll freely admit I have one whole bookshelf stacked two deep full of romance novels. I also have several that have taken over Dean Koontz's bookshelf. Its okay, he was getting lonely.

One day right before we left on our trip (the dreaded which I did, in fact, stop to buy more books- five of them- because I had read the four I had brought along halfway into the trip) I was talking to Felix about books and we got on the topic of fantasy novels. Again, I found myself out of my depth. I've read Imajica (Clive Barker) and I loved it. Of course I've read Tolkien and  Paolini and the Harry Potter series. Otherwise, I'm pretty useless- that's more Kitten's bag and she leans more towards SciFi. But then I remembered while we were talking a book I had checked out of the library at school when I was in 5th grade or so and I remembered liking it. All I could remember was the cover was red and there was a princess in a diamond box on the throne. That's right kids...The Diamond Throne, by David Eddings; the first book of the Elenium trilogy. I'm sure you know how this turned out. I read through it on the trip and was salivating for book 2 by the time we got home. I've finished that series and I'm going to start the Belgariad, which is supposed to be just as good. I've also agreed to start reading Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series with Swisslet and I'm truly excited about it because my buddies on Goodreads have all rated it as one of the best series they've ever read.

Speaking of Goodreads, I have no idea how I missed it before. Its like Facebook for literature nerds like me. I'm obsessed. You know what's funny? I look at the books on my shelves (on goodreads not in my house) and I almost feel bad there's not a wider genre representation on there. I've got tons of other stuff in my house. There's more to life than classics and non-fiction. And I'm learning. Slowly, but I'm learning.

Today is my literary liberation moment. I'm making my confessions boldly and proudly:

I love romance novels. Dashing rakes and silk ball gowns make me happy. I read fantasy and find it engaging and enriching. Yes, I did read Fifty Shades of Grey (it was just as awful as I thought it would be). No, I don't care if you judge me, I do own the Twilight series and I've read it enough times the spines on the books are cracked. Bite me, its a brilliant idea, however poorly edited or executed it might have been. I do read children's series and not just Potter. Johnathan Franzen is not god (even if I want him to be sometimes).  There is nothing wrong with my tastes. I do not have to give up Austen just because I like Seth Graham Smyth's version of Pride and Prejudice. Urban Fantasy is actually a thing.

Well, that wasn't so hard, was it?

I don't care what you read, but read something y'all. Then tell me if its good. I'll read it too. After Swiss and I finish that series...(something like 17 books, you know that, right ST?)


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