Sympathy for Anita; Incubus Dreams in depth (lots of spoilers)

Some people are really upset about where the Anita Blake series is going. That’s just proof that these characters are so real and so vivid to readers that they’re capable of getting upset, a huge compliment to a writer. It takes a certain sturdiness of will to keep creating in the face of that sort of outcry, though, and I’m glad LKH has got it, because I can’t wait to see what happens next in Anita #13.

I don’t think the changes in the Anita series and in Anita herself are mistakes. Why not? First of all, Anita had to change or she wasn’t going to survive to her 30th birthday. Since Anita is first and foremost a survivor, it is very much in character for her to make the changes her survival depends on. Anita had reached the limit of what she could do as the lone gunman. To face the bigger challenges ahead, she needed to assemble a team and learn to be a team player.

There are some very big challenges looming on Anita’s horizon. The Mother of All Darkness is waking, and her unkillable servants are waking up with her. Then there’s the fact that America is full of vampires not bound by a blood oath who could all turn rogue without warning. Anita says herself, “If that happens, even The Executioner is going to need a little help”.

In Incubus Dreams, Anita takes a lot of steps to secure her power base and gain allies. She forges a compromise with Richard, a task that appeared impossible but was essential given his position in the power structure. She reaches a new level of understanding with Jean Claude. She creates a second triad of power with Nathaniel and Damien and her allies gain abilities in the process. She’s instrumental in helping Asher come into his full powers in the end of Cerulean Sins. Gaining allies and helping her allies gain strength had to happen, because Anita is not going to win the fights that are coming alone.

The arduer is something that I predict will prove a gift and not a curse. It’s another form of power. It isn’t one Anita particularly likes, but the ties that have given her such strength came out of her need to feed it. It’s forced her to come to grips with issues about intimacy, and the result has made her stronger. Happier, too.

I know better than most that erotic writing is incredibly difficult. It might just be the hardest thing there is to pull off. LKH does it wonderfully. Sex is never gratuitous; it always serves a purpose in the story and there is always something at stake. It’s done with a depth of feeling and accuracy of detail that I really appreciate, both as a reader and a writer. I think the erotic turn the series has taken has added a whole new dimension, not taken anything away.

Incubus Dreams was obviously a difficult book because it’s transitional in the series and it’s more of a story of internal conflict setting the stage for future external conflict than a straight shoot-em-up. I haven’t checked, but I think it has the lowest body count of any Anita book so far. When there were only 2 corpses two thirds of the way through the book, I started bracing for the bloodbath I figured had to be coming. I think it’s going to come in Anita #13.

The series has changed, no question. It either had to change or end, and I’m glad it’s not ending. It isn’t just Anita that makes the books so good, it’s the entire cast of characters. I can keep visiting that world and those people indefinately.


Nice word, isn’t it? Break it down: re-vision. When you first write something, you had an ititial vision of what it would be. Although usually I have a pretty limited idea of what I’m doing until I’ve done a large enough chunk to gain some perspective. In revision, you get to go back and look at things in a new light.

This is today’s topic because I’m working my way through the revisions for Love and Rockets. I find it very slow going compared to writing new pages, so I’ve broken the task into bite-sized chunks and set myself the goal of finishing one chapter per day. If I get more than that done, great. But if I’ve done my daily chapter, I’m free to call it quits and do something else.

Some people love revision and hate the blank page. I love revision because I want the story to be as good as it can be and it excites me to see how much better it can get, but I still find it very slow going. I’d choose the blank page any day!

The revisions for Love and Rockets are going to be well worth the effort. I have terrific editorial input and I can envision what the end result will be. It’s just the distance between here and the end that’s the killer. Hence, breaking the task down into small enough chunks that I don’t find it overwhelming, but big enough to get it done well within the time limit allowed.

Breaking tasks down is something you have to learn to do if you work with big projects. I’ve had the great advantage of learning project management in the course of my job history and it’s very useful to me as a writer. Setting reasonable goals means you don’t exhaust yourself by doing too much at once or procrastinate forever because the task seems to huge to ever finish. I’m happy when I have a particularly productive day and overshoot the goal, but if I do the minimum I’m still happy because it means I’m on schedule.

Alpha heroes

Why alpha heroes? And what exactly does that mean, anyway?

I’m so glad you asked. Have a seat.

First of all, I’m sure whoever first coined the term did not mean to imply that men are pack animals, but the alpha is the leader in dog terms. In human terms, men with leadership qualities are sexy. Hence, alpha heroes.

Fictional alpha heroes are not hairy knuckle-draggers. They are smart, talented men who know how to succeed in life and have the will and the drive to attain any goal. They aren’t whimps. They don’t sit around waiting for somebody to fix their problems for them. They don’t ask everybody’s permission before taking action, either.

Political correctness came along and messed up a perfectly good thing in romantic alpha heroes. Writers began to commit all sorts of atrocities in the name of political correctness and the mandate to make men in romance novels more sensitive. The result? I once hurled a book at a wall when I read a scene in which the hero, unable to rescue the heroine, BURST INTO TEARS. I’m not making this up. In another book, just as bad, the hero finds out the heroine is pregnant and instead of taking responsibility, leaves her to decide what she thinks is best.

What would an alpha hero do? Well, he wouldn’t cry if he couldn’t attain his goal immediately. He’d wait and plot his revenge and it would be thorough. And he wouldn’t leave the fate of his unborn child up in the air as if he had no interest or concern (or responsibility) in the outcome. Alpha heroes are like that. Which is why readers (and writers) adore them.

There are all sorts of reasons you could point to in psychology and biology that prove that alpha heroes provide the best survival characteristics and so on, but the bottom line is: a real hero is the one who is there when you need him. He might have rough edges, he might look the farthest thing from a nice guy on the surface, but his heart is true. And once he commits, he’s going to be there come hell or high water. That’s pretty sensitive, if you ask me.

Site changes, and 2 sides to every brain

There have been some site changes. A newsletter tool was added, under the Stay Informed tab. You can click on the link to sign up and then respond to the auto-email to verify the address. After which you will be all registered to get an email notification whenever I have a new release.

The e-books and In Print pages were condensed into just Books, because it really made more sense that way. And the Home page now has two headers, new releases and coming soon. I think that covers all the major alterations.

On to the two sides of the brain. I’ve been re-reading Becoming A Writer because I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen that describes how to get the tool-using conscious brain working hand in hand with the idea-producing unconscious brain. This is handy for everybody, from engineers to teachers to artists of all types.

To put it in writer terms, the art comes from the unconcious part and the craft comes from the conscious part. Which is why if you only focus on craft, you will really limit your progress. It’s good to be an expert craftsman, but don’t forget to be an artist, too, or your craftsmanship will lack something vital.

The two sides are both important and they need to be in balance. Which is why Dorothea Brande is good to visit and revisit. Balance is something that has to be maintained continually. I maybe dwell more on the art than the craft side here in the blog, but that’s mainly a reaction to the fact that so many others are focused on craft.

I suspect this is a reaction to the general tendency to fear the unexplained. That side of the brain is mysterious, unpredictable, heretical. But it’s where all the good stuff is, believe me. It will get you further than logical analysis or studied technique if you give it a chance. Because while it may not make rational sense, it does produce sound results. Story lines that hold up, characters that are engaging and believable, plot twists that in retrospect were inevitable. It’s just that that part of the brain tends to produce the intuitive leap from point A to point B without the rational brain being able to understand how it got there. It’s the job of the rational brain to accept this and not discard the intuitive leaps.

Does this mean every idea will be a good one? Of course not. But far more of them will be the more you work with both sides of the brain and learn to trust the mysterious workings of the hidden mind. It’s amazing how often that part is absolutely correct while the thinking part of the brain is dead wrong.

And as a side note, I apologize if more spelling errors than usual are popping up. There’s no built-in spell checker and I’ve noticed that my dyslexia is worse now that I’m pregnant. I may have to switch to writing in Word, spell-checking, then transferring to the blog.

It’s really too bad there’s no Thanksgiving carol

I injured my husband with a couple of parodies (Christmas carols forced in unusual directions) but the results were worse than usual, so I’ll spare the blog. I am occasionally kind. Still, doesn’t it seem like Thanksgiving ought to have a song or two? Christmas has more than its fair share, it could spare a couple. Like To-om the Turkey (to the tune of Frosty the Snowman). Carol of the Bells could be Carol of the Plates. OK, I’ll just stop there.

Thanksgiving is one of those top-notch days. Ours has exceeded expectations. I’m feeling a lot better (as evidenced by the awful parodies) and was even able to eat Thanksgiving dinner. My fabulous husband did the turkey and all the food prep so that all I had to do was mix the stuffing together and cook it, boil and mash the spuds, steam the veggies, and candy the yams. We took a walk through the woods to one of our favorite spots overlooking The Straits; very heavy surf today. It’s been one of those nice times to lounge around, eat, talk, walk, and just enjoy being with my favorite people on the planet.

I’m thankful to have people I love who love me to hang out with. I’m thankful to be able to eat something besides toast. I’m thankful to have the greatest job in the world, making somebody forget their troubles for a little while.