Saturday, October 21, 2006

How Much is too Much?

Baggage, that is. A few months ago, when I was looking at my latest WIP and trying to figure out how to make my characters, and their conflict, more compelling, I wanted to give them more internal reasons to stay apart. Specifically, I needed a very concrete, believable reason why two people who loved each other would have broken up. My heroine was the one who did the breaking up, and I decided to give her the unfortunate - but realistic, I thought - quality of being unable to have children. Her decision to break up with the hero was based on the fact that she had never told him, and he was from one of the most important, influential families in a major city. She couldn't give him an heir, but rather than tell him, she left him. Then, years later, they meet up, older and wiser, and one of the things they have to deal with is the truth about why she left, and what their future holds.

Originally, I liked it. I thought examining how two people interact in the face of something this big would provide me with a lot of conflict and emotion. Now, I'm beginning to wonder whether I went too far. Because here's the thing: people who read romance want the Happy Ending. I know that. And my hero and heroine get the happy ending - they choose to be together, anyway, and to deal with whatever life has in store for them, children or not. But I wonder if the idea of two people falling in love and deciding to marry WITHOUT the possibility of biological children is too depressing, for the sake of a better word. I wonder if romance readers want something lighter to deal with, conflict that isn't so heavy, conflict that can be wrapped up so everything the future holds is shiny and bright.

Part of this comes from the fact that Kristin Nelson, who had been reading my partial, sent me the polite but firm "No" yesterday afternoon. Now, I know from reading her blog that she likes quirky chick lit, for the most part. And that's not what I write. Should I have sent her a query? Maybe, maybe not. She requested the partial, anyway.

I also, in reading over this WIP for a third revision, wonder myself if sometimes the issues are too heavy, esp. for the romance genre. Let's face it: a lot of things in life are depressing. We read to escape that, right? So maybe most readers won't want to read about a woman who lost the ability to have children when she was 19. That's not exactly a happy thought.

So I am putting this novel away for a little while and moving on to something a little lighter. We'll see. I do have a lot of ideas jumbling around in my brain, so perhaps I'll take some time to see who'll win out.

Any thoughts? Are there variations in happy endings? And how much do you want to wade through on your way there?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

E-Publishing vs. Traditional Print

Anyone have an opinion on this? All of a sudden, Triskelion has popped up all over the first-timers' sale page of RWR. I didn't realize it was primarily an e-book publisher 'til I checked it out today. I know there are more and more of these e-pub sites showing up, that let the consumer download a story rather than buy it in the store or borrow it from the library.

I recently took a tour of a private school which is planning a huge renovation of its library into a wireless, distance-learning site. The Dean giving the tour admitted that they have no plans to continue expanding their current library/book collection, and most future money will go into maintenance and constant updating of the technology on campus instead.

I found that rather sad. I mean, as a life-long reader, and lover of literature, I think there is something special about curling up in a chair with a book in your hands. But our society today is so computer and Internet-tied, it seems, that the publishing and reading and buying of books strictly online will become common practice in the next few decades.

Will traditional print lose out altogether? And is that a bad thing?

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Essential 55

Has anyone picked up this book? It's a quick read, a best-seller written by award-winning NYC teacher Ron Clark, about the 55 rules he uses in his 5th grade classroom (or used to, anyway. Now he's such a bigshot that he's actually opening his own school in Atlanta). TNT also did an original movie back in August, based on his experiences in Harlem, starring Matthew Perry. Not bad.

Anyway, I was browsing in Borders over the weekend, and they had their fantastic 25% off for Educators sale (which, by the way, applies to just about anyone who works in any kind of education setting - including homeschoolers). So I picked up a few books, including this one.

I started it last night. I thought it would be a list of his rules, which it is, at first. But it's more than a list of classroom rules. It's also a list of life rules - which Clark states outright in his introduction. He's a southern boy, so he was raised in the "Yes, ma'am," "No, sir" way of life, and his rules are pretty much about common courtesy. But as you read, it's amazing how many of them, if we followed them on a regular basis, would make our communities happier places.

The funniest one of the 11 I've read so far:

"If someone in the class wins a game or does something well, we will congratulate that person. Claps should be of at least three seconds in length with the full part of both hands meeting in a manner that will give the appropriate clap volume."

He goes on to say he knows how silly this rule sounds outright, but you have to admit, the intention behind it is pretty solid. How often do we really congratulate someone wholeheartedly? How many times do we keep our congratulations to a minimal mumble? How many times are they cloaked in another emotion, like jealousy? Clark also says that if a few students in the class begin to clap, then everyone must join in - because what's worse than a few half-hearted claps? And who's to say what accomplishment is too small to be recognized?

It's a pretty inspirational book, and it's easy to see even from the start why this guy has won several teaching awards.

I'll post some other of my favorites as I work my way through-