BOOK & BLOG
April 14, 2008
Books of the Week: VICIOUS CIRCLE by Mike Carey and EMBRACE THE NIGHT by Karen Chance
Mike Carey’s VICIOUS CIRCLE is published by Orbit in the UK in paperback form. I’ve read and reviewed the first book in the series, and the second is arguably a better book, which is certainly not always the case. CIRCLE again features Felix Castor, who’s in a bigger mess than he was in THE DEVIL YOU KNOW. Castor is very short on money, his friend Rafi is still possessed (due in part to Castor’s own mistakes), and Castor is still very conscious of the questions he didn’t ask himself earlier in his exorcism career.
A handsome couple show up in Castor’s office to beg Castor to track down the missing ghost of their daughter, a murdered child. Having her ghost present is their only comfort, and they tell Castor that the child’s spirit has been abducted by the wife’s former lover. Castor feels he’s on the side of good in this case, and he is only baffled because the ghost turns out to be very hard to track.
Then people from a nearby church start killing other citizens almost at random, and the succubus Juliet comes into the case, and his friend Rafi temporarily becomes lucid. What does it all mean? We have an excellent time finding out. Felix Castor is very much a character in transit, and I found VICIOUS CIRCLE to be a wonderful read.
I usually enjoy Karen Chance’s books, too, and EMBRACE THE NIGHT was no exception. The titles are oddly anonymous; you could actually switch titles among her books in the same series, and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. But the books themselves are very exciting and fast-paced, and this third book in the Cassie Palmer series is almost frenetic. In fact, I was tempted to draw a chart to keep track of the time-jumps and plot points because I got really confused; probably my fault, not Chance’s.
Cassie, a powerful clairvoyant and now the Pythia, is trying to keep undercover while the complicated threads that bind her to the vampire Mircea cause Mircea to sicken. She is searching for the Codex Merlini, an ancient book which contains spells that will cut the binding between her and Mircea. She’s not averse to having a relationship with the vampire, she just doesn’t want to be compelled to become his slave. The renegade magician Pritkin is her partner in the search for the mysterious book, and he has his own secrets. For goodness’ sake, don’t try to start the series with this book. Read TOUCH THE DARK and CLAIMED BY SHADOW first.
I’ve been reading a lot of opinions about blogging lately. Many of these opinions say the readers don’t want to hear about a writer’s personal life, they want to hear about the writing process. My own blogs have always been a bit in-between; what’s been on my mind, some incident that sparked a few thoughts, what’s coming up in my schedule. I’ve always felt the process of writing was very personal, the choices I make for each book arise from complicated considerations, and the eventual outcome was best judged by others.
But if you’re really actually interested in the nuts and bolts of how I do it: I sit down and I work. I get asked a hundred times a year, “How do you get inspiration?” The blunt answer is: you don’t “get” inspiration. I’m not even sure what the term means any more. Does it mean the flow of ideas that actually gives the writer material to put down on paper? Does it mean the original idea that gives birth to the plot? Does it mean the ability to create characters to populate the books?
If you’re a writer, you write. I believe the questioners are asking if there’s some spark that ignites, firing up the writer to put words on paper. Yes, there is, but I’m almost at the point of believing it’s genetic. I’m not saying a certain incident, a piece of film, a story on the evening news, won’t produce a fascinating idea to be included in a writer’s plotline. I’m saying that the ability to utilize that incident, film clip, odd story, is born with the natural writer. There’s a difference.
When people tell me (as they do often) that they’ve wanted to write a book for ages but haven’t been able to find the time to sit down to do it, I say, “Yay!” Do I want more competition? Heck, no. And believe me, if you ever do find the time to sit down to write that book, you’ll soon realize that you’ve got a tiger by the tail. Writing is hard, and it’s lonely.
Several other writers have told me they have “friends” (and I’m using the quote marks purposely) who tell the writer, “Oh, yes, when I finish writing my treatise on quantum quarks, I think I’ll just sit down a whip out a mystery/paranormal romance/urban fantasy. I need some money.” This is laughable on several levels. I’m not even sure I have to spell them out. The “money” part will strike almost any working writer as the most humorous part of this pomposity. The average advance for a first book is $5,000, and many writers earn less than that. I was in the business for twenty years before I made enough money to make my tax guy sit up and take notice.
If my blog readers are interested in the world of writing, I can keep blogging about it. After twenty-six years in the writing business, I have a few things to say. But I don’t want to bore anyone, and maybe sometimes the details are tedious.
© 2009 Charlaine Harris