The Challenge of Cheerfulness

Well I’m sure you’ve been waiting for my exalted opinion on the matter (no really, you can breathe again!), so I will start out by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed Anne Bishop’s latest novel, Written in RedI’m not going to go full-on book report on this mini-review, but I’ll give you my impressions and my sincere recommendation that you give the book a try if it sounds at all interesting.

A departure from her previous works of fantasy, Written in Red is an urban fantasy novel complete with werewolves, vampires, and a variety of other paranormal creatures (those that are called “The Others”). I expected that this novel wouldn’t be your run-of-the-mill, standard vampire vs shifter kind of story, and I was completely right. The characters had the Anne Bishop charm that I have come to expect from her work, and The Others were portrayed in an organic, character-driven light that I haven’t seen so much in other urban fantasy books. Specifically, she did a great job characterizing her shifter characters as very animalistic and… well, other. Of course she has done this kind of thing in the past – the kindred from Black Jewels were some of my favorite characters.

Above all, Written in Red was an example of how an author who has a history of writing deeply dark and sometimes disturbing fiction can take you to the extreme opposite end of the emotional spectrum. Somewhere in the middle of Written in Red the main character, Meg, works her naiive charm on a very broken, sad character, and the moment where Meg’s kindness comes to fruition was so adorable and lovely that it brought me to tears. So freaking adorable!

It got me to thinking, of course, about my own work (after all, learning is about observation). I view Anne Bishop as a sort of role model – I have been in love with her characters for the last 8 years, and devour each book in less than a week of purchasing it. She’s not a classical master of prose or anything like that, but she is an author who has sucked me into her worlds over and over again. Her darker themes please me on whatever level causes me to write dark stories, and her style is fluent enough that it doesn’t grate on my senses. The heartwarming thing, though…

If you met me on the street, I don’t know that you would peg me for the kind of gal who writes tragic, bloody fantasy stories. I smile pretty easily. I like to laugh and joke, and I fancy myself to be a cheerful person most days. I wear colors, though I have been known to dress in some quantity of black (it is so very attractive… and helps one blend in with creatures of the night… >.>). However, as cheerful as I might be in person, I do not write heartwarming stories in any sense of the word. Sitting on the bus during my commute, I kept trying to think of a hearth-fires-and-hot-chocolate moment from any of my scenes.

I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t come up with one. Witty moments? Maybe… at least I’d like to believe I have a few of those in there. Funny moments? Smirk-worthy moments, at least. Heartbreaking moments? I certainly felt heartbroken when I was writing a few of the scenes from Forsaken Lands and Fathers and Sons, so I can only hope that you felt what I was feeling at the time. Heartwarming moments, though, not so much.

Anne Bishop had a few of those delightfully cheerful moments in her prior work, but none so prominent as those in Written in Red. It’s an intriguing proposition, really, to consider putting a scene in the book that makes the reader feel that unique blend of heart-wrenching and soul-feeding happy-sadness that comes with a dramatic… is there another word for heartwarming? I’m getting tired of using the same word too many times in this post. Anyway. It’s a skill that would seem to take some training for those of us who specialize in the tragedies; a skill I would like to sharpen in the future. Will there be any warming of the hearts in Forsaken Lands 2? It remains to be seen at this point…

That’s just my musing of the night. I was feeling guilty about not posting anything in a while, especially when the release date for Forsaken Lands Book 1 is so very, very close! The cover art is coming together beautifully, and the final pre-publishing edits are certainly somewhere in the process. I wouldn’t say almost done. Or even halfway done. Close enough that I can finish it off before the end of the month, though, that’s for sure!

Trust me, we got this over here.

As usual, I leave you with a question to close: are there any emotional states you have a hard time reaching with your writing? To those who primarily read, what scenes do you find authors struggling with in the work you enjoy?

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