M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Memories, bad and good, Can Propel Your Story

One of my joys this last Christmas was a copy of E. C. Tubb's last Dumarest book, Child of Earth. My son searched high and low for the last two [missing from my book shelves] only to find that the next to the last one was totally expensive. He couldn't find a "cheapie", and I told him to give up. I'm satisfied to know how Tubb depicted parts of earth once Dumarest finally arrived after some 33 books.

I started out liking the books because they were an interesting, easy to follow books after I was exhausted chasing kids. I've continued to re-read them over the years because they are well written and filled with action, however unbelievable.

The more important fact I learned:
Tubb has become something of a cult figure.

That isn't surprising to me because Dumarest is a space opera version of Jack Reacher, a good guy who's always one step ahead of the bad guys. The chase is always depicted in fast paced action scenes with interesting characters and villains. 

People still collect Tubb's books even though he's an obscure British writer who published Dumarest novels between 1967 and 2008. It's sort of weird that the long line of books on my bottom shelf are collector's items, almost a complete set except for the super-expensive next to the end book.

Child of Earth isn't a novel in the usual sense of the word. More of a novella padded with memories of important past events mentioned in the series. None of the solving a big problem after several adventures. The book is more of an escape story--without any of the imaginative world creation. Just a bleak, killing snowy environment and a limited number of characters. A nice read. But a novel, no. More of a guilty pleasure for Tubb fans.

If you want to learn more about E. C. Tubb's Dumerast, check out Amazon. Some of the reviews are really interesting, and I learned a lot. Since he died in 2010, it was surprising to see how many of Tubb's Dumarest books are ebooks and still being sold.
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Other Interesting Reading

It's the time of year when "my best ten books" lists sprout like leaves, in spite of the snow. Somehow, I doubt if many self-published books appear on them. Not many traditionally published books do, either. The Passive Guy has an interest take on publishing and books, arguing that there are way too many books being published. You might find it interesting, too.

Found another interesting blog about writing and New Year's Resolutions: Pat Stoltey's Blood Red Pencil blog about Colleen M. Story’s
 Overwhelmed Writer Rescue: Boost Productivity, Improve Time Management, and Replenish the Creator Within, There's a lot in the book that applies to everyone, not only writers.

Stoltey comments: The author also tells us a little flexibility and a lot of grit are the writer’s best tools for pulling us out of the quicksand and getting our feet on solid writing ground. I think the advice applies to everyone. Not giving up is one of the keys.
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My Writing Rut

Was going to get back into writing new stuff this month. *pause while looking sheepish* But had a problem. I was trying to write Rendezvous with Demons which is a continuation of On the Run. Only I couldn't remember details from the manuscript. So, I'm editing it again. I was only going to skim it, but I found lots of typos and passive "to-be" forms. 

Think it's a good idea. My copy editor charges by the hour so I get a double benefit. I refresh my memory and I save myself some money. A nice way to start the new year, all in all.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Thief Eyes: Brooding and Scary, Even When It's Not Horror

Jannie Lee Simner captures the brooding atmosphere that haunts Iceland, even in the summer time, in her YA book Thief Eyes. [Yeah, I've spent serveral tourist days in Iceland.] More important, scary things happen in the book, from rapidly descending fogs, to threatening magic, to disappearing memories. But the scariest thing in the book: Haley's mother has disappeared without a trace. 

Determined to solve the mystery of her mother's disappearance, Haley has insisted her geologist father take her to Iceland the summer where Haley learns her father is responsible. She immediately collides with magic and the rougher mores of the Icelandic Sagas. Was nice to encounter a different mythology than the usual Celtic cosmology.

I also liked the touch where the villain, Hallgerd, is an direct ancestor of Haley. The descriptions of how the magical connenction works is effective and believable, even if you're a skeptic or unable to desengage your mind from the real world.

Character developement is a strong point in the Thief Eyes. The reader quickly learns about about the well-rounded life Haley left behind in the states. More important, that life directly impacts the the storyline of the book to make it richer and adding plot twists. Ari, the next most important character of the book is just as well-rounded as Haley with his own growth decisions. The villain sorceror who causes all the problems comes across as a real person even though lifted from the Sagas. Simner's judicious addition of fiction to legend works well.

In a universe filled with fey, werewolves and vampires, Simner's raven, fox and shape-shifting bear are refreshing. The mystery is quickly solved, but the adventure to save the world [preventing a massive earthquake in Iceland] grabs your attention and seldom lets up. All in all, a well written book with a nice clean style.

If you'd like to read samples and other reviews, click the following:
Amazon           Nook

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Other Interesting Reading

First: Have a Good 2018 filled with lots of fun.

New York Times Book Reviews gave me some thoughts to chew on over Christmas in a review of Eric Metaxas"' book Martin Luther The Man who Rediscovered God and Changed the World.  Reviewer Carlos Eire said, among other things, "He [Luther] is a champion of personal freedom and of the rights of the common folk."

I like the idea of Luther being a major rebel in the fight to overthrow autocracy and reintroduce a form of hunter and gatherer democracy, aka concensus decision-making. [How that for an oversimplication???]

Another book on religion caught my interest: a commentary on the Qur'an. The reviewer, also a Qur'an scholar, said: having read the Qur'an cover to cover, there was no mention of 72 virgins waiting for jihadists' in Paradise. Had me thinking about rude awakenings.

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Just a reminder if you live in the US. The GoodReads Giveaway for There Be Demons in hardcover is still open for entries until 7 January 2018. If you live outside the US, I'll be doing a giveaway through Amazon sometime in February of the ebook.


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My Writing Rut

The rut was abandoned over the holidays. Spent the time with friends and family. Did do some mop-up work, like deleting emails, but mostly I ate too much, just like everyone else. Biggest vice? See's chocolates. That tells you I'm a California gal still, even though I live in Colorado.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Make Your Cliche Stand Out from the Crowd

It's no secret that Regency romances are one of the most cliched genres. Just look at the number of the books published in Britain and the US since Georgette Heyer set the formula. I'm guessing there must be over 10,000 dukes [not counting other noblemen] each decade desparatelly searching for a bride. Preferably a spunky "flawed", but beautriful girl who deserves to live in luxury for the rest of her life.

The fact that the "ton" of Great Britain, totally, only totaled about 10,000 adults...and they didn't all die every year...is one of the ironies of the genre cliche.

I'll rest my case that Regencies are fantasies.
Since I'm a fantasy reader, I'll review Mary Balogh's Someone to Wed.

To tell the truth, I don't read many Regencies any more, though I think I still have all of Georgette Heyers books, except My Lord John, stored on my bookshelves. I have this fantasy that I'm going to binge read them in historical sequence. So far, I'm safe. I've never organized them by time period. There one Regency writer, though,  I still automatically buy--Mary Balogh. Why? She makes you engage with her characters as they work through their problems with a romance on the side. They always have a problem much greater than the romance, often a unique problem.

The example I read most recently was Someone to Wed. It's one of her novels involving the extended Wescott family. The book follows the  standard romance, historical variety, formula. Handsome nobleman needs to marry a rich wife, in this case because he's inherited a rundown estate and he has a super-strong sense of responsibility to restore it to profitability but he has no capital. The love interest comes out of left field as a cit who has loads of money but wants a husband. Sparks start to fly when she proposes a marriage of convenience to him. They waltz around a bit and eventually fall in love. He gets the money, and she gets the caring family she's needs.

Think that sounds trite? Maybe. But in Mary Balogh's masterful hands the stoyline of Someone to Wed blossoms. Balogh develops individual characters with believable traits, that  you care and cheer for. She's very sneaky in organizing her novels. Balogh builds a family or clique first. Then, she tells a series of stories of how each lonesome soul in the group finds love and acceptance.

This is all very general because I'm trying to work through her process and presentation.  Plot lines and setting are drawn in bold strokes. Balogh concentrates on the internal conflicts of the characters for her drama. What makes her masterful is that the problems aren't superficial or repetative, but focused on each characters until they are unique individuals. The end result is book after book worth reading. At least, I read them.

Read a more specific description, sample and reviews of Someone to Wed on
Amazon         Nook          iBooks 

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Giveaway Announcement

Like contests and giveaways? Enter the GoodReads giveaway of There Be Demons if you live in the US. Prize is a chance to win one of five hardcover copies of my fantasy book.
30 December 2017 to 7 January 2018

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Other Stuff

Not doing much. Got all my Christmas preparation stuff done. All that's remaining is to get the daily stuff done. Son's coming to stay a week, but he's just going to have to tolerate my messy house. I'm not cleaning up my husband's messes.

I think my short Andor works are going to be free for some Smashwords promo around Christmas. [All my short stuff is available there, but not There Be Demons.] Supposedly you can download from them no matter which ereader you use. You might take a look if your eReader needs something new to store. 

Four of my short stories are perma-free on Amazon too.  Otherwise, they are a whopping 99c.



Oh, I won't be doing a blog until January 2018. It's Christmas time. I'm going to sit around enjoying the company of family and friends and binge watch The Lord of the Rings. [Not The Hobbit because I didn't like the movie much. The action scenes dragged on until I found them boring.] Along the way, I'll also probably eat too munch. 


I hope you get to do the same.
If you don't celebrate Christmas, I hope you just enjoy,
especially peace and goodwill
and the lack of hatred.





Monday, December 11, 2017

My Worst Writing Fear - Ridicule

My Worst Writing Fear: Ridicule

by

Shannon Heuston


I wrote my first book at the age of six, carefully printing the words in an orange spiral notebook.  It was about a group of naughty children misbehaving in school.  I illustrated it with blue ballpoint pen.  Deciding I was finished, I scrawled The End, then abandoned my masterpiece.
            
Days later, my sister and her friends discovered it.
            
Fists clenched, I listened to her giggle to my mother about how they had taken turns reading it.  This first audience did not please me.  They thought my book was a joke, and it wasn’t supposed to be funny.
           
I was furious, embarrassed, and hurt.  Despite the cavalier way I’d tossed my creation aside, I cared about it. Hearing it mocked stung.   I never forgot how that felt.
            
I didn’t stop writing, but I never lost my fear of sharing it.  The memory of that derisive laughter echoes in my head whenever I hit the publish button.
            
Writing is invasive, an excavation of the soul.  When finished, it becomes your contribution, your purpose for living.  It’s you.  Criticism is an unwelcome intrusion.
            
Writing my first novel, The Playground entailed reliving the past.  Based on my childhood bullying experiences and its aftermath, I felt brutal honesty was required to increase awareness about the ongoing trauma suffered by victims.  This meant reopening old wounds andrisking the same kind of rejection I experienced as a child, a frightening prospect.
            
Publishing my novel was both terrifying and exhilarating.  It wasn’t something I could take back or undo.  What if I regretted it?  Sending it out into the world was like jumping off a cliff.
            
The initial reaction was overwhelmingly positive. My novel was a hand reaching out to others who were also suffering, to let them know they are not alone and what happened was wrong.
            
Sometimes I receive notes from readers telling me how deeply my book touched them.  They always arrive in the nick of time, just when I’ve begun to question my vocation, to reassure me that all the hard work is worth it.
            
Then there’s the criticism.
            
It’s inevitable, and that’s why we writers fear it.  Any book that inspires great passion will eventually be hated by someone. 
            
The negative reviews hurt, but I try to take it in stride.  I may shed a tear or two, but my book continues to sell.  That’s the important thing.  I concentrate on the good and try to dismiss the bad. It’s silly to focus on a few negative reviews when they are outnumbered by the positives ones.  That’s what I tell myself, anyway.
            
Criticism is the first sign of success.  Rather than signaling failure, it’s a sign you’ve arrived.  People are not motivated to write a negative review unless you’ve awakened their emotions.   All great artists receive their share of criticism.  Occasional negative feedback is the price youpay for doing what you love and sharing it with the world.
            
I’ve learned that it’s okay to fear criticism, it’s okay to hate it, and it’s even okay to cry over it.   Butdon’t let it shake your confidence.  Contrary to popular belief, successful people sufferthe most rejection.Instead of giving up, they use it as motivation to work harder.
            
Writing is a brutal profession.  Rejection is guaranteed.   But the ability to share your message with the world, reach people in their loneliness, and have an impact on their lives is worth it.  Criticism is  the buzzing of a mosquito in comparison. Celebrate it as a sign of success.

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Author Bio

Shannon T. Heuston was born in Boston, MA but grew up in Westchester County, New York, where she still resides. She first professed her desire to become a writer at the age of eight, when she tried to write a mystery series titled "The Sally Bridgman Mysteries" styled after Nancy Drew. Her first book had Sally Bridgeman and the gang traveling to France and then right away going out to peer in people's windows and spy on them, because, how else would you find yourself a mystery? She would like to believe her writing has grown more sophisticated since then.

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Blurb 

This novel is for anyone who has ever suffered bullying.  Rachel Parsons was horrifically bullied as a child.  Thirty years later the memories of the abuse she suffered still haunts her.  What happened on the playground?  And why can't she forget it?  A book that explores the long term effects of childhood victimization.

Check out the reviews for Shannon Heuston's novel, The Playground, on Amazon. You can also find Shannon on GoodReads and on Facebook.

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Excerpt

I had outgrown my old sneakers, so my mother found a pair of white boy’s Nikes with a baby blue swoosh on the sides from Odd Lot, a store that sold brand name merchandise at steeply discounted prices.  They cost three dollars, an enormous bargain for sneakers even back in 1985.  Happy that my parents were happy, I innocently wore those sneakers the next day, not realizing that life as I knew it was about to end because of this fashion misstep.
            I had no idea I had just committed social suicide until Alicia, the gorgeous girl I had been trying vainly to impress, wrinkled her nose at my blinding white shoes.  “Are those from Odd Lot?” she asked.
Instinctively, I knew to deny it from her tone.  
“No,” I said, forcing a smile, “I’ve had them a long time.  I just haven’t worn them.”
I was hoping I could trick her into thinking I had bought them before they’d been marked down and condemned to the discount bins.
Darren, the boy who had asked me if my refrigerator broke because I ate all the food, materialized like a dog scenting blood.  Bending down with his hands on his knees to get a closer look, he chortled, “You’re a liar!  Those sneakers are so from Odd Lot!  I saw them in the three dollar bin when I went shopping there on Saturday with my mom.”
My cheeks burning, I drew my feet in beneath my desk, wishing I could pull them up inside me like a turtle withdrawing into its shell.
“Definitely from Odd Lot,” was Alicia’s final verdict, presented with a toss of her perfectly coiffed head.  “wouldn’t be caught dead in sneakers from Odd Lot.”  She swiveled her ankles to show off the delicate gold colored sandals adorning her feet. “These came from Bloomingdales.”
La-di-da, I had no idea what that meant anyway.  I knew nothing of brand names or stores.  If you said Banana Republic to me, I thought you were talking about a country whose main expert was bananas.
“Are you poor?” Alicia asked me bluntly.  “Only poor people buy their sneakers at Odd Lot.”
            “No,” I breathed, horrified.
I quickly scanned everyone else’s feet, for the first time observing something absolutely alarming.  My sneakers were completely wrong. Almost every other kid in my class wore the same sneakers, white low topped Reeboks with a jaunty British flag stitched into the sides and the brand name stamped on the back in blue block letters.  Even Jason, who was studying a book at his desk with way too much concentration not to be aware of what was going on, was wearing Reeboks.
I was an alien studying human life.
The feeling that had swept over me the first day of school, that everyone else was speaking a language I didn’t understand, was back.  Everyone was in on the joke together.  And I was all alone.