Anything That Moves Me
November 12, 2016
I'm a reluctant member of Goodreads and other amateur book reviewing and rating sites, including Amazon. Maybe it's my age, although I think it's more about temperament. One of the best things about graduating from college (English major) was never having to write a research paper again, or a "book report." And that's what these sites feel like to me: a class assignment. (more…)
February 8, 2016
In Greek mythology, the Erinyes (Furies) are "the angry ones." They are chthonic (underworld) deities whose purpose is to punish crimes against the ancient "natural order": young against old; child against parent; host against guest. The furies are so terrifying that they are seldom called by name. The title of Euripides' play The Eumenides is a euphemism: "the kindly ones."
In my Christmas letter, I included a link to a video of me performing my latest work, "What is the Matter?" Apart from any question of poor judgment (guilty!) what has troubled me in some peoples' responses is what I would call a one- dimensional way of thinking about the subject of the piece: two points (terminals) linked by a shuttle. There is no place in the middle, much less a second or third dimension.
April 20, 2015
A friend, one of those rare, almost mythical beings who reads fiction but has no desire to write it, once asked me if was true that a writer needs to have a boring life.
I said yes.
July 19, 2014
(with apologies to Grace Burrowes and Anita Loos)
"Good morning, brother! ... Dare I hope that you, like I, are coming home from a night on the town?" (The Heir, by Grace Burrowes. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Casablanca, c2010, p. 85)
"Are you talking to me?" the earl of Westhaven said.
"I don't see anyone else in the road," said his brother, Valentine. (more…)
May 11, 2013
Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander began life as a Regency romance novel. The first regencies, written by Georgette Heyer in the 1930s and 40s, are comedies of manners that take place in Great Britain between 1811 and 1820, when the future King George IV acted as Prince Regent because his father, George III, had become incapacitated. Heyer’s prototypes established a popular subgenre of the historical romance: witty, lighthearted love stories among members of the wealthy and leisured upper classes, while the darkness of world conflict occurs mostly offstage in the final years and aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. (more…)
February 26, 2013
I finished reading Bring Up the Bodies, the second book in Hilary Mantel's planned trilogy about Henry VIII and his crew as seen through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, two days after our book club's discussion. Now I'm reeling from self-imposed Tudor overload. Wanting to know more about the standard interpretation of Cromwell and his character (as opposed to Mantel's partisan approach), I started with Wikipedia. But I also needed my regular nightly fix of TV, and what more logical than The Tudors, the over-the-top (and I don't just mean breasts spilling out of tight bodices) cable series starring the acting world's physical antithesis of Henry, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, four seasons ready for binge-streaming on Netflix. And to put the cherry on this sex-and-violence sundae, (more…)
February 5, 2013
As regular readers and viewers of my Facebook author "fan page" have probably noticed, most of my posts are about writing, usually links to articles in publications like the New York Times. But what generate the most interest are photos (Facebook is a visual medium) and posts that in some way address the substance or theme of my own writing: male bisexuality, and the m/m/f ménage. (more…)
December 31, 2012
For my last blog meditation of the year, I want to revisit a favorite topic: the use of language in fiction, especially historical fiction. Yes, I've written about this a lot, but the issue keeps sitting up and jumping off the slab each time I think my last autopsy has established a cause of death. (more…)
November 11, 2012
Letters to Alice on first reading Jane Austen by Fay Weldon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"Alice" is a fictional character, the author, Fay Weldon, signs her letters to this nonexistent niece "your aunt Fay" and most of the book reads more like essays than a novel. Sounds ghastly, right? It probably is if you read it at the wrong moment.
October 15, 2012
The Jane Austen convention (formally known as the JASNA AGM, the Jane Austen Society of North America's annual general meeting) that ended a week ago on Monday was such a mind-blowing experience for me that I had hoped to write up a kind of "what I did last summer (week)" school report. I'd discuss, in chronological order, or more ambitiously, in order of fabulousness, the events of the five days, and devote a paragraph or two of evaluation to each.
Well, that's not happening. (more…)
September 17, 2012
I'm lighter by a couple of Facebook friends recently and, what's worse, I'm down one "Like" of my Author page.
As anybody who uses Facebook knows, we live or die by how many "Like"s we get— (more…)
July 1, 2012
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
We don't really need another three-star review of Karen Russell's Swamplandia! Most of what I have to say about the book has been said wittily and well by other reviewers. But after mulling over my reaction to this critically acclaimed but, for many ordinary readers, disappointing book, I feel it epitomizes the problem of today's publishing world. (more…)
June 25, 2012
Most of us, if asked, will probably say we enjoy reading or seeing movies about survivors, not losers. But if presented with genuine survivors, people who struggle so hard at just getting by that all other concerns—love and sex and leisure and pleasure and creativity, must of necessity be pushed aside—we don't like that either. It's too depressing, too…threatening. (more…)
June 14, 2012
"Andres is passionately writing his third novel." That's the deceptively benign situation of Muerte Subita* (Sudden Death), the exhilarating--and frightening--play by noted Mexican playwright Sabina Berman that has just three performances left at the Gershwin Hotel in New York City. If you are a writer, an artist, or anybody who enjoys intimate, perfectly realized theater productions, you won't want to miss Muerte Subita. (more…)
April 30, 2012
I arrived at this silly title after reading Daniel Mendelsohn's review of Madeline Miller's debut novel, "The Song of Achilles," in Sunday's NY Times book review and filtering it through a recent conversation with a friend about Mary Renault's novels.
Let's start with that conversation. My friend, a gay man in his early thirties, (more…)
February 28, 2012
I recently watched an old television play, "I Remember Nelson," about the naval hero of the Napoleonic era. The story moved me so much I gave it five stars on Netflix, and was shocked to see how many viewers had given it only one or two. "Boooooring," was the common verdict; too talky. (more…)
November 14, 2011
I uploaded my fifth Eclipsis story today: Captivity. This is the first work of mine that isn't, in some way, a romance. It is, as best I can describe it, a family drama. But what a family!
If what I've written so far is alternative or unconventional romance, this is definitely alternative, (more…)
October 24, 2011
Many years ago I came across one of the books espousing the "Oxfordian theory," the belief that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare.
October 11, 2011
I live alone, making spaghetti with sauce from a jar tests the limits of my culinary abilities, and I love red meat. So one Thanksgiving I invited just one very good friend over and I served filet mignon.
When I put that first big bite of charred-on-the-outside, oozing-blood-on-the-inside tender beef into my mouth, I almost cried. It was that good. (more…)
October 3, 2011
Colm Toibin, in a review of a biography of E.M. Forster, derided the idea of the "honest novel" (as the biographer, Wendy Moffat, described Forster's Maurice): "novels should not be honest. They are a pack of lies that are also a set of metaphors … they are not forms of self-expression, or true confession." (more…)
August 1, 2011
I just spent a long weekend copy editing the second book in my ECLIPSIS series of Lady Amalie's memoirs, Choices. If anything could cure a person of wanting to be a writer, this would seem to be it.
But it occurred to me that the worst is yet to come: the synopsis. (more…)
July 15, 2011
Like many authors these days, I've decided to self-publish my backlist as e-books. Recognition, a $.99 novella, the first installment in what I'm calling the ECLIPSIS series of Lady Amalie's memoirs, is now available for the Kindle and Nook, and will be up in other formats soon.
My backlist is a little different (more…)
March 7, 2011
In a recent post, I talked about the problems of trying to write while earning a living at the same time. The issue comes down to the ability to write—that is, write well, produce good prose, the best you can—and work at a full-time job.
But the ugly secret nobody talks about is as old as the change from nomadic hunter-gatherers to villagers: (more…)
January 24, 2011
Anybody who’s worked at writing knows that creative success doesn’t necessarily lead to material success. We tend to think of the award winners and the bestsellers as two mutually exclusive sets of writers; and we hope, even if we don’t always believe it, that if a writer stays true to his or her voice, the work will be recognized on its merits, eventually. (more…)
January 10, 2011
Authors of “controversial” fiction go through a steep learning curve. If we get good print and mainstream reviews for our first book, as I did with Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander, we eagerly and obsessively check the blogs, the offbeat or specialized online reviews and our sales rankings on Amazon and B&N. And, wow—can that be a bucket of cold water, or, to use an analogy Henry Fielding might have employed, a chamber pot emptied over one’s head. (more…)
November 1, 2010
A couple of weeks ago I heard a talk by Francine Prose, author of Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them. Like many writers of fiction, Ms. Prose uses the word “books” here to mean novels, and her talk was similar to the first part of Reading, a discussion of the reasons people read, or might want to. First on her list was: Escape. (more…)
September 28, 2010
Readers of my LiveJournal blog may have noticed that my user name is Ann_Amalie. Some may have wondered where that came from. When I first started to write (fanfiction set in a sword-and-sorcery world), “Amalie” was my alter ego. She was a telepath, a misfit, who comes to this fantasy world in (more…)
May 2, 2010
I'm leaving in a day or two on my one event to promote my Pride/Prejudice: a three-day "mini-tour" of western North Carolina, centered around an invitation to the cosmopolitan Malaprop's in Asheville, and including appearances at two other independent bookstores.
Many people, when they hear I've had a second book published, routinely ask if I'm going on a book tour, even though, for most authors, the tour is no more a part of our lives than manual typewriters or fountain pens (which people also assume we use). We persist in our beloved stereotype of the shy writer who dreads speaking in public, with the agent or publisher pushing this reluctant wallflower into the spotlight, a modern Iphigenia sacrificed for favorable trade winds, or at least good PR.
April 13, 2010
I got my first angry e-mail message the other day from a Jane Austen fanfic site:
“It is thoroughly disgusting to read of your use of the P&P characters to write prono [sic] to Jane Austen's works.
You should be ashamed but I am sure the money you are raking makes it all worth it to you.”
Where to start? Surely Austen fanfic writers are better spellers, although perhaps it's a clever device for getting the message past my e-mail program's spam filter. And does anyone really believe that writers like me are “raking” in money? Seriously? Or that we write for any other reason than that we need to, have to--that it's a labor of love? And what, exactly, do fanfic writers do, if not “use” another writer's characters? And why is using them in anything, from “prono” to alphabet books to Christian inspirational romance, reprehensible? (more…)
January 31, 2010
Part 1. Getting to the Ball.
Whenever I tell my story, I’m inevitably compared to Cinderella. I even make the comparison myself in the dedication of my first book.
No, I didn’t lose a glass slipper at a ball and end up married to Prince Charming. I did something far more extraordinary: I self-published a first novel (subsidy published, print-on-demand), then got an offer from a real publisher—HarperCollins, no less. (more…)