Another review on my book was just posted. It's always a heartpounding experience to see what a reviewer thinks of your book. So far, I've received two very complimentary reviews (Dayna Davis, LDSfiles.com; Richard Cracroft, BYU Magazine). And I've had so many people tell me in person, send emails and letters, about how much they've enjoyed my series, including the most recent volume. But still . . . there's the "Oh, the review is finally here." Then, "Good or bad?" The skimming for any words of disdain, and finally: "Relax, breathe, and read the entire thing, word for word."
The reviewer (Andrew Hall, reviewer for the AML-list) hasn't read the first two volumes in the series. So his induction took place with volume three, about eight years into the lives of well-established characters. Nevertheless, he seemed to enjoy the book quite a bit, and offered interesting insights. He also gave away a couple of plot twists, but now that my book has been out for almost four months, everyone should have read it already. Right?
Interestingly enough, he compared me to other LDS historical fiction authors: Gerald Lund, Orson Scott Card, Margaret Blair Young, and Dean Hughes. Ironically, I've never read any fiction work by Card, Young, or Hughes. I read a few of Lund's books, but that was more than 12 years ago--way before the seed was planted for me to attempt writing historical fiction.
One thing that Hall pointed out was that my description of nature fell flat. He just may be right. It takes a pointed effort for me to insert description, and yes, that's what I basically do, "insert." One writer might take a paragraph and a half to describe the sunrise as it cascades onto the escarpment, infiltrating the cool mist. I might say, "Jon walked through the camp, mist clinging to his robes." Then we quickly get into the action and dialog. That's because when I read a book and a description runs for more than a sentence or two, I find myself skimming to get to the meat of the story. I think overall I'm more interested in character growth than setting a scene. Members in my critique group often say, "Umm, Heather . . . where are we, and uh . . . what time is it?"
If my readers have to ask that question, then, yes, more description is required. Just for some practice: The afternoon has grown cold as the winter sun settles against the western mountains. Surrounded by static sounds from the baby monitor and the occasional hum of a portable heater, I continue to work at a feverish pace, counting down the minutes until my children walk in the door. Then my life will not be my own. Piano, dance, homework, dinner . . . But for now, piles of books and paper clutter my basement office, surrounding me with comforting familiarity. The brown veneer furniture is cheap, purchased at a garage sale over ten years ago, but sturdy and practical. Toys and computer games are scattered about, in addition to several discarded manuscript edits--that I'll get to, someday.
But the clutter can wait, for the moments of writing are precious, and I have a blog to post.