Lessons from My Reading

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.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Does a Series Need All it's Ends Tied -- Odd Thomas?

    Decided to review on the odd side this week, the last of the Odd Thomas series--Saint Odd, by Dean Koontz. When I picked up the first book, I first thought, "Interesting. Koontz is writing about an idiot savant. Might be interesting."

   Koontz had me hooked by the second or third chapter. Definitely by the time Odd was on the run. The abandoned hotel is one of the scariest settings I've encountered. It's still in my mind several years later.

   Scary, supernatural "things" or is that "entities" are the norm in Odd Thomas life as he weaves a path between the good and evil, building mystical skills beyond his ability to see ghosts and mourning his lost love who was killed in a terrorist attack at a shopping mall, even though they are destined to "be together forever". Yeah, Odd Thomas suffers from "survivor's guilt".

   Koontz uses a very narrow, first person point of view in the Odd stories. The reader knows nothing but what Odd tells them. Fortunately, Odd is a minute observer while he wonders about people, things, and the supernatural. I won't go into the technical aspects of Koontz's writing. He's a master, and the construction of the novel is masterful, even if he did leave a huge number of dangling loose ends.

   The hallmark of a Koontz story is action. In Saint Odd, the villains are chasing Odd from the get-go as he tries to sneak back to the town he left because something significant's going to happen. More important, I think, is Odd's distinction between "killing" and "murder". Odd Thomas is the good guy, but he only ends a human life to save himself or other innocents. Murder is the killing for selfish purposes. For some reason, that thought keeps bubbling up to the surface of my mind. So, I'll consider it profound.

    Definitely recommended Saint Odd, but you might want to read some of the other books in the series if you haven't done so, especially the previous volume. An epic tale of good vs evil. Granted it gets a little boring when good wins, but that's what we're rooting for. Right? Too bad it's the end of the series. But, there is the possibility of a continuation if Koontz every gets around to it. Meh.

See excerpts at Amazon and B&N Nook.

Interesting Link

   Cate Hogan, a writer/editor of romance novels, recently posted an article on 8 useful tools for writers , information that can improve writer's communications and money making ability. The tips also apply to anyone who emails a lot. I realize emails are a little old fashioned in this day of smartphones. But, when I want to "talk" to people, I prefer the amount of information I can convey via emails as opposed to texting.

   Of, course, I could write a letter... ... ...

My Writing Rut

   Ended up backtracking last week. Added another chapter to On the Run where Pillar learn moreabout her past and her abilities.


   Maybe I'm done with the academy now and can get on to Nate. Not really much to say. I've been under the weather and just didn't have the energy to stare at the computer as long as usual. For some reason, I don't feel the enthusiasm I felt last week. At least, I'm getting back to the part of the story I wrote last Spring. And then, I have to have the showdown with the demon -- about which I don't have a clue outside of the brief description of the aftermath when Nate gather's up Pillar's pieces.

Monday, November 16, 2015

How to Remove Your Characters from Their Cardboard Packages

    Since my to-read pile was larded with fluffy, cozy mysteries, I was rather upset after I put a bunch of them on the trade pile without finishing them. I vowed I was going to force myself to read the next one the surfaced to the bitter end -- in hopes of finding out why I had turned on one of my favorite forms of escapism. Only the book was Some Like It Witchy by Heather Blake. I discovered I looked forward to my nightly reading sessions to see how the plot developed -- and how the characters' lives changed.

   Murders seem to make the enchanted Salem village go round, and Darcy Meriweather, witch, wishcrafter, and sleuth, is right there in the middle of events to solve them in this series, helped by her romantic relationship with the village's top cop. This time, a real estate agent is murdered in the midst of showing a house connected to a famous diamond robbery. Of course, the diamonds have magical as well as monetary importance, and who wants them most isn't instantaneously obvious.

   So, what kept me reading when other best selling cozy mysteries got dumped on the trade pile?

   The summary sounds just like a hundred other cozies. The hook ended up being Blake's warmly human characters. The secondary characters had me reading "just one more chapter" until after midnight turned my eyes bleary...just to see how they'd react to the coming twist.

   Some Like It Witchy even created an innovative character type I haven't seen before in my reading. Imagine a person whose visiage turns from fair and inviting in the light to evil and menacing in the dark/shade. Definitely, not someone you want to meet in an alley ... even though all this character's actions depicted in the story line were rather blase plus a nice twist I won't mention for fear of delivering a "spoiler".

   But that one character isn't the only three-dimensional one in the book. Blake's Salem village is filled with individuals -- well-rounded characters who sneakily drop clues to solving the murder in the middle of innocuous conversations. More important, many of the characters have problems of their own that get expanded and/or solved during the course of the book. The people add complexities to the plot line which seem organic to people's lives rather than manufactured by the writer to create thrills.

   Too many of the mysteries I read get set on a one-lane highway to solve a murder, with most of the suspects just red herrings to hide perp. In Salem village, all the characters seem to have secrets which are or are not solved in the current episode in the series. Blake does a good job of wrapping up the loose ends, except for the on-going town secrets -- especially the identity of the mysterious town elder who acts as the "ruler" for the various witches/crafters in the village.

    I recommend Some Like it Witchy because the warm community Blake creates makes an enjoyable read. I could do without the puns in the title, but many more people must like them because so many publishers do it.

See excerpts and more reviews at Amazon and B&N Nook.

An Interesting Link
What are the rules you think make a successful book? 

   Anyway The Writing Chimp [aka Georgina Cromarty] recently blogged about 9 Writing Rules Science Fiction & Fantasy Authors Should Break. You might take a look and see if your reading supports her claims -- when you're reading the work of a master writer, that is.

My Writing Rut

    On the Run  continues to develop...or should I say, Pillar continues to develop right under my eyes, even though the story is probably 75% drafted. A critiquer suggested that Pillar needed to talk more; she didn't act like a normal teen. He thought Pillar needed to act more like a natural teen. --  I'm thinking about it.

   Yeah. That was a good critique suggestion if you look at it from how taciturn Pillar is. Maybe too much "action" does happen in her head.

   The insight gave me one of those ta-dah incidents. I spend a lot of time on Pillar's inhibitions on working magic/manipulating energies, but I hadn't thought of other attributes connected to her mixed heritage. Result, is I have a lot more blue notes at the head of chapters to incorporate into the story line.

   Got my demon transition chapter out of the way. This coming week I return to the meeting with Nate, who now will be a sort of love interest. This is where I originally started the novella last spring. Don't think I'll finish by Christmas, but it might be a possibility ... even though it looks like both Thanksgiving and Christmas are going to be at my house this year. -- Good thing only family's coming. I don't have to clean up the books ... or, is that straighten?

   My desk, if not my house, is getting cleaned up though. All the yellow sticky notes I've used to save ideas as they occur are getting attached to the chapters that raised them or clipped to clothes pins for the stories I'm not currently working on. I can see the black finish of the desk top rather than a blanket of yellow, green and orange squares.

   Really need to get a new snippet up on my website. Incidently, you can find extended samples of my short stories there if you want to click. They are available on iTunes so I think you can download them on a smartphone to kill time in waiting rooms and sports events.