Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Getting a chance to read...

I admit, I don't read as much fiction as I would like. Not at all.

So, that helps explain why it is I am just starting in on my discovery of Karen Hancock's work. One would think, as an aspiring female Christian Fantasy author, that Hancock would have been one of the author's I'd have tracked with all along. Well, finally, thanks to inter-library loan, I have finally begun her Legends of the Guardian King series, having just finished The Light of Eidon.

I won't give a synopsis here, but here's a link: http://www.kmhancock.com/Eidon.htm in case you want to research on you're own.

My reaction?

World: Ms. Hancock created a convincing world with enough detail that I could visualize the locales in which she placed the characters, as well as the local inhabitants of those places. She took the time to create the macro-scale relationships between cultures and governments as well as to get down to the micro level so much as to mention the peculiarities of local cuisine. I found the world a nice blend of exotic and familiar, which she achieved only using "human" characters.

Characters: I cared about the fate of just about all the characters woven into this story. (Almost...the only character I found a bit flat was Philip. And Clarissa was irritating, but I am guessing that was by design.) When characters died or turned out to be on the wrong side in a plot twist, I was saddened at the "loss" of those characters. Ms. Hancock does a great job of crafting the friendship between Abramm and Trap, which I found genuine and a good story driver.

Plot: The Light of Eidon has no shortage of twists, a lesson I hope to take away from the book for my on writing. The plot moved forward well and quickly, and perhaps my only gripe were places where we got summary instead of scenes. (I know we can't show it all and expect to end up with a publishable wordcount, but still, I consider it a compliment to the writing that I didn't want to miss a moment of interaction between these characters.)

Some who read Hancock's work, from what I've heard, have a little trouble with some of the more "adult content" in the text. Yes, there's violence, and some gore (though none of it did I find gratuitous) and yes, there is some immoral sexuality employed by major characters. However, where this morality issue comes up, I believe that Hancock handles it by not letting it slide without repercussions, showing remorse in the offending character, and also by having the behavior occur at what was a spiritual low point for that character. So, while I know it sparks debate, in my opinion, the use of sexual content in the context she offers has rhyme and reason. It's not there simply to titillate.

On a more general note, I found it interesting that Karen Hancock managed to use both adverbs and clauses that start with -ing and get published. (Tongue firmly planted in cheek here!) But seriously, I am heartened that the so-called "rules of 21st century writing" that many would-be writers bang over others' heads don't seem to hold sway here. There is hope for the well placed adverb! ;)

So, overall, I give the book a strong affirmative nod, and I'll be hitting up those inter-library loan folks for the next book in the series. Of the time I've spent reading fiction this year, I'm glad that The Light of Eidon graced some of it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Coined words

When people are geniuses, they get leeway the rest of us don't. But what are we, as writers, allowed to do with the precedent these geniuses set?

My current train of thought comes up over a single word I am debating over using (or not.) People like Shakespeare coined words all the time, words that have worked their way into our everyday speech. After all, according to Michael Macrone's Brush Up Your Shakespeare, the Oxford English Dictionary credits Shakespeare as the first to use these words, among others: "arch-villain," "bedazzle," "cheap" (as in vulgar or flimsy), "dauntless," "embrace" (as a noun), "fashionable," "go-between," "honey-tongued," "inauspicious," "lustrous," "nimble-footed," "outbreak," "pander," "sanctimonious," "time-honored," "unearthly," "vulnerable," and "well-bred." Now, if I used any of these words in my writing, would anybody point at me and say "You lifter of words?" I think not.

Where my trouble comes up is over one single word, not from Shakespeare, but coined by Tolkien. What word?


In the sense of using the word to mean the mustering of troops, it is generally regarded as Tolkien's invention. If I wrote romance, or thrillers, or some other genre, perhaps it wouldn't be a big deal. But since I write fantasy, would the use of Tolkien's word, a word he coined within the last century, invite ire?

Clearly, I spend too much time ruminating on the absurd and the obscure.

But the fact remains, I love the sound of the word, and I think it sits in my story nicely. But the last thing I want to do is thrust my reader out of my tale with word usage.

But here is my bigger question: when does the word an author coins become the property of the populace? When you use a word used in an unconventional way by another author, are you giving a nod to a master, or are you functioning as nothing more than a pale shadow of someone greater? These are the questions I hope to answer as I think my weapontake dilemma through.

And I better figure it out before June, since that's when Digital Dragon Magazine needs the story in which the word will (or won't) appear.