Category Archives: Writing

Of Paper-Cuts and the Dangers Therein

Mary Robinette Kowal and Neil Gaiman

Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog today addresses authenticity in historical fiction, and digging deeper to find the right reference.

The term that concerned her was “paper cut.”  Making a humorous reference to a paper-cut as a safety issue works today, but not two hundred years ago when paper didn’t have sharp edges. She began to go through potential ‘safety issues’ involved in handling one’s correspondence, until she found one that worked–but even better, it was more interesting.

She says, “This is a better joke, and I got to it because I’m using language that
reflects the culture. Doing so also forces me to really think about what
is happening in the scene, and what the lives of people in the time
would be like.”

This is true, and it’s what I love about research, even though sometimes I drive myself mad googling and digging through my own references, and sometimes asking on facebook or twitter or emailing colleagues with vast knowledge in the area of my current projects.  What makes it worth it is that I inevitably end up with something, at the very least, more interesting than my original thought.

Often it opens up a new avenue to explore in the book itself, an ‘aha!’ moment that will brighten up my day, week, or longer, as a wonderful new ‘what if this happens?’ presents itself, because that small detour for research took me to new knowledge of the subject I hadn’t considered before. Sometimes it makes a scene ‘pop’ and work in a terrific way I hadn’t anticipated.

Sometimes–and this is more common than you might think–it presents a plot twist that makes me squee.

So, am I musing about research here, and authenticity, and if you don’t write historical fiction, you don’t need to care?

No. The idea of historical authenticity just got us into this idea.

The bigger idea is ‘digging deeper’ whenever the first thing that springs from your fingertips is so natural, so easy, so obvious–that it might even be a cliché.

While the paper-cut reference was satisfactory if the setting was contemporary, and nobody would have stopped cold and wondered about it, nor would any readers probably have thought, “How obvious, what a cliché,” it’s also worth highlighting or marking for later thought. (Never stop your writing process in the middle of a scene that is flowing over this kind of issue. Note that MRK was returning to this much later rather than during the writing process.)

Even if the setting is the year 2014 and paper-cuts are real, painful and can be funny if used properly in your story–if you dig deeper, can you think of something else to substitute? There are several options, and I’m sure you can come up with more.

1)  Some other easily-imagined minor office injury that is less generic and expected and thus–more interesting.

2)  A minor injury that reflects their specific location, business or interests, whether they are in a taxidermy shop, a morgue, or having a picnic in Central Park.

3)  A minor injury that refers back to something one of the characters did earlier, something meaningful. It can be a jab or tease, it can be an insult, or it can be a tender reassurance.

Have fun with it!

Oh, and sometimes, after much work and consideration, you will decide it really can be a paper-cut, after all.

Cross-posted at classofpooks, the place where I post links to helpful things for writers.

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WWW Wednesday 7-09-2014

WWW Wednesday. This meme is from shouldbereading.

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

• What are you currently reading?

equal ritesSeveral things, actually. Some for research for The Dead Shall Live, Volume Two of The Fury Triad. Some just for pleasure, but always with a British accent/voice.

Testimony of an Irish Slave Girl, Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire, The Anatomy of Story, for research and such. Mary Balogh’s A Christmas Bride/Christmas Beau, Terry Pratchett’s Equal Rites (which I somehow ended up buying on sale for Kindle and also the audiobook, which gives me choices on how to read/listen), and Carolyn Jewel’s Indiscreet for pleasure. 

As usual I wonder if I’m providing spoilers when I reveal what I’m reading for research. As usual, I decide if you figure it out, you deserve to know. Not that I’d confirm, mind you!



• What did you recently finish reading?

silkwormThe Silkworm, and it was a fabulous read. Just as I suspected it would be. Now I simply have to wait for the next to be written, sigh.

As I said on goodreads: Jo Rowling has knocked another one out of the park. Excellent plot and characterization. Points off for unnecessary use of author intrusion on a few points, but still, excellent book.


• What do you think you’ll read next?

Hopefully I’ll finish some of the ones I’ve started and mention them here, maybe, on goodreads for sure. Beyond that? I have no idea!


What about you? What have you been reading lately? Put the link to your WWW Wednesday entry in comments, or just tell us!



Filed under Book Pooks Wrote, Books, Reading, Writing, WWW Wednesday

Tuesday Top Ten: Bookish Confessions

I’m participating in the Tuesday Top Ten, something I’ve never done before, because I am in the mood to make some bookish confessions (today’s top ten list).

1)  I gave away or sold many, many boxes of TBR books when I received my first Kindle for Christmas a few years ago. For some reason the new Kindle made me realize that the books I’d been accumulating over the many years with the thought, “This looks interesting,” hadn’t been interesting enough (to me) to tempt me to read them, no matter how many times I’d picked them up and read a page or few. And it was time to free up the air around me instead of having it weighed down with dusty books that looked interesting but weren’t. I know. Heresy. But it made me feel amazingly wonderful to start finding room to walk and move around in my office, instead of navigating around boxes and piles of books.

2)  My original idea of not loading up my Kindle with piles of TBR books that I never get around to reading was successful for a year or two. Instead, I loaded it up with sample. My plan was not to buy books unless I’d already begun them and they’d passed the “might be interesting” test and were definitely in the “interesting enough to buy, store and most importantly–read” test. Impulse-sampling (thinking, “this looks interesting” and grabbing the free sample) almost always will satisfy me, without spending any money. This is a win.

3)  Unfortunately, I have begun snagging the “this looks interesting” books that are free or .99 and my Kindle (or cloud) is cluttered with them. The problem is that I rarely go back through them and find new things to read. Which leads to…

4)  I wasn’t bitten by the iPad bug even though the Resident Storm Chaser has one. I have been totally happy with my black-and-white, eInk Kindles (except I wish they had a whiter page, which is why I may end up buying a paperwhite). But I eventually realized that the reason I don’t go back through my library and browse is because the black-and-white covers just don’t have the power to grab me the way color covers do. And this makes me look longingly at iPad minis or perhaps Kindle Fires. What I should do is start browsing using the Kindle app on my laptop.

139_Luxe1_FINALfront5) Which led me to a side-confession, not Kindle-related.  I am way too influenced by book covers. A wonderful book cover makes me click through every time and has on occasion made me buy a book I never read. (The Luxe, I’m looking at you.) The display of these books at BN was mind-blowingly gorgeous. The way the spines lined up was stunning. But I was never able to get into the book. Never. It’s still around here somewhere.

6) I re-listen to audiobooks far more often than I re-read books.

7) I’ve never read one of my all-time favorite novels, Lolita. Instead, I listened to the audiobook with Jeremy irons reading.  i bought the book in hardcover and it now lives in my personal library waiting for me to reread it, and I will, oh yes I will.

8) I have a strange hoarding issue. I hoard unread books that I know are going to be divine. Example: I still haven’t read the last Lymond book, even though I was champing at the bit to get into it as soon as I finished the penultimate Lymond book, and it was already on my Kindle waiting. I still haven’t read Persuasion, many friends’ favorite Jane Austen novel. Though I adore Terry Pratchett, there are many of his books that remain on my TBR list.  There is something so devastatingly final about finishing ‘all’ and knowing they are all gone.

9)  My favorite reading emotion is angst, but only when followed by glorious and triumphant and ecstatic joy. (Yes, I want books to make me feel, damn it, feel.

10) I don’t have enough friends who love the same books I love, but that is because I’m an odd duck and love an odd assortment of books. So I have many friends who love some of my favorite books, and end up reading reviews and book blogs in varying fandoms and genres without feeling a member of any of them.

Those are my bookish confessions on this fine July Monday. What are yours?

[Now, I must get some words written if I’m going to finish the second book in the Fury Triad any time this year. Which is a good thing, because I can’t wait to read it myself.]



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The Author Visits!

This week I’m at TheAuthorVisits, where you’ll find this:

O'Toole & Harris

And this:


And a chance to win a print copy of this–autographed to you!


In addition is a fabulous new review of this:


So go, read, enter, comment!

See you there!

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WWW Wednesday 6-4-2014

Yes, it’s Wednesday, but first I’ve just got to share this amazing news. My book, This Crumbling Pageant, just got a 4.5 star review from RT Book Reviews. “Fantastic story!” I’m over the moon! RT doesn’t give 5-star reviews so…. yeah. Color me stardust & moonglow blissed!

Now, back to WWW Wednesday. This meme is from shouldbereading.

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

• What are you currently reading?

fitzosbornes at warI’m reading the third book in the Montmaray Journals,  The FitzOsbornes at War. What a terrific series. In the first book we find a tiny island nation off the coast of Spain with only a handful of inhabitants. A mad king who spends most of his time behind closed doors, a prince and two princesses, their housekeeper [madder than the king, truth be told] and her son, all living in a castle filled with relics of an earlier age, and in dire poverty and scraping along as best they can with less food and comfort than the handful of ‘subjects’ who still live on the island.

This doesn’t do it justice.

All I can say is World War II, Nazis, more name-dropping of major players of that time period than you can begin to list, all the pangs of young love, London, balls, the Blitz… all told through the three journals of Her Highness Sophia of Montmaray, Princess, and in this book, employee of the office that oversees food rationing in England. Honestly, I can’t describe these books. But I do like the heck out of them.

• What did you recently finish reading?

Miss Mabel'sI don’t think I mentioned this book when I was reading it, and I finished it recently. Miss Mabel’s School for Girls (Network Series #1). First off let me say that the magical world building is dark, intense and solid. However, I just am so distracted by the term “Network” in this context. It is just an “off” term in the context of a magical world, but oh well, minor in the general scheme of things. Good book, and I’m looking forward to more in this series.

It’s a very unusual cover. I like it.


• What do you think you’ll read next?

sex in georgian englandSex in Georgian England.

Hey, don’t judge. It’s research!

It’s odd that for a long time I could post whatever I wanted and not worry about it, but now there are people trying to figure out what happens next in The Fury Triad and I certainly don’t want to tip my hand here.

Just to be safe, if you’re reading the books and don’t want spoilers, close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and say, “La la la la la!” and pretend you never saw it. Deal? Deal!


What about you? What have you been reading lately? Put the link to your WWW Wednesday entry in comments, or just tell us!


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Filed under Book Pooks Wrote, Books, Reading, Writing, WWW Wednesday