Checking my email first thing this morning and Amazon had sent me a link to a new Sharon Shinn book. Argh! She used to be an auto-buy for me, but I was not so fond of her last few books. This one was $13.99 for the Kindle version. I promptly checked the library but they didn’t have it, nor any sign that they would have it (based on the fact that they didn’t have the two previous books in the series). Dilemma, dilemma, dilemma… but I couldn’t resist. Mostly because I still had money on an Amazon giftcard so it was spending money that couldn’t be used for groceries or the electric bill anyway. My day is therefore starting about four hours later than it should, because I spent them pleasantly reading Jeweled Fire.

And pleasant reading it was. Also, from an aspiring writer perspective, it was interesting to analyze. If it had been written by an author unknown to me, nothing about it would have put the author onto my auto-buy list or my permanent keeper shelf. I probably wouldn’t even remember the author’s name. That happens a lot with authors — the first few books are really good and then they become, well, pleasant. The stakes are no longer high. The characters are harder to invest in. But it’s not just that the ending is guaranteed to be happy — I prefer happy endings so most of the books that I read are going to end well. It’s also that nothing along the way is going to be too unpleasant. But that should be okay, too. I like pleasant books.

But it made me realize that the books I like best are the ones where the characters are having an intense inner journey, a passionate emotional experience, regardless of the actual events of the story. Not a lot of action is not a problem for me as long as the character despairs, at least for a moment or two. This book — which, again, was a perfectly nice book — has a character who’s having a story. Scared, trapped, in love with the wrong man, her mother and sister murdered, driven to the verge of suicide, saved at the last minute, slowly making friends with strangers who may be safer for her than her family… seriously, she’s got a Story.

Unfortunately, she’s not the protagonist. The protagonist, on the other hand, is the kind of character who — pretty much the moment she realizes she has no money — receives a shipment of coins and clothes from the family she ran away from. Problem solved. She’s occasionally in danger, but she’s never remotely at risk. And sure, she’s discovering she’s in love with maybe the wrong guy, but there’s nothing much keeping them apart and he probably sorta loves her, too. Also, he’s a nice guy who any sensible person would be in love with. Pleasant, nice, readable, mildly entertaining. Not a keeper if storage is tight (although yay for ebooks, and certainly a keeper for my Kindle library.) Definitely not an auto-buy, despite the $14 spent.

There’s a scene in Grace that I haven’t been sure about. I keep circling around it. It might change my world-building somewhat. It might be out of place. It might not fit the kind of story I think I’m writing. But I think I’m going to write it anyway, because emotional intensity is interesting to read, and when it comes right down to it, I think I’d rather write interesting than pleasant. (Although I like amusing as well.)

I wonder if I will ever finish writing this book?

Yesterday’s word count was something like 1800 words — not quite the 2K I’d like to be making every day, but enough to break the 10K mark. And now it’s almost 11 and I haven’t even started my real writing yet, so it’s time to get to it!