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.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

What Is "Age Approprate" & Where Should It Be Applied?

When is a book age appropriate? I thought about that question a lot as I read Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce. 

[Yeah, I broke down and bought the hardcover book. Even read it through my hurting thumbs and bedtimes.]

The title promises all sorts of gore, but to my mind, it doesn't deliver. Which is probably ok since lots of readers under twelve will demand to read it, especially familiar with Pierce's earlier books. Which means nine and ten-year-olds will be reading it. Many young good readers  demand syntactically difficult reading matter than their years might suggest.

Oh, there are gladiators maiming and killing each other, murder, and other mayhem, but the telling of the tale foregos the the graphic descriptions. Most of it also occurs off stage, and the book itself is more concerned with mending than slashing. The book even casually includes light sexual references. At the same time, it doesn't feel like Pierce is pulling punches as you read.

My problem is I'm an adult, even, very close to being an old oldie. Yet I recently immersed myself in Crenshaw, a middle grade novel for ten year olds. And, I pushed through a 400+ page book in about three days, in spite of my thumbs, thinking the book was tame. I guess what I'm complaining about is the almighties deciding the book is for 12 to 17 year olds. My kids would have read the books when they were 10 and will still read it when I toss it into the family lending library. Why are there age boundaries on innoucuous material? [Yeah, I know. Guidelines. But the subtext gibbered at me while I read.]

Tempests and Slaughter lacks the tension of Pierce's female warrior novels. This doesn't mean that nothing happens during Araam Draper's first years at the mage university in Carthak. The tension of good storytelling is there in spades, but it's more intellectual than brawny. [I resisted the temptation of saying "brainy".] 

Read a sample and other people's reviews on

My Writing Rut

Am still editing On the Run. Guess I won't be done until April sometime. I still have copy edits to go, too, and the decision on how I'm to publish the novel.

While I'm working, I'm going to take a holiday. I've been hankering to re-read some of Pierce's other books. I've decided I'm going to read the quartets from the Lioness series to the Protector of the Small. Sorry I can't sent you a postcard from Tortall.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Character Growth Keeps the Books Running

You gotta admire writers who keep a series going, but one that's 47 books long and still popular? J. D. Robb [aka Nora Roberts] does just that with her Eve Dallas novels. I'm late to the game, but I've just read Secrets in Death. Granted murder mysteries get a kick in the action from the unending ways and reasons to killing someone. The personal development of the sleuth doesn't have to carry the novel, just give it some momentum. A personal crisis can take a couple of books to resolve, but the crime is always solved in one...unless the villain escapes. I doubt many villains get away from Dallas.

Secrets in Death is the first Eve Dallas book I've read. I've read other Nora Roberts novels from time to time, mostly her paranormal ones. Don't know why I bought this one so late in the series, but I did along with another super popular writer of many, many books and series. Started both books at the same time, a couple chapters each. Dallas is the one I kept reading, to the point I stayed up late to "read one more chapter"...and the chapters are on the long side. Sometimes, I read two more chapters.

The mystery was intriguing. An obnoxious gossip columnist is killed in a bar under unusal circumstances. [Yeah, a cliche, but Robb/Roberts adds some interesting twists.] Who the murder victim was was as convoluted as who the killer turned out to be. Watching Dallas march through the procedural caught my interest and kept it. The mystery part provided enough entertainment to make the book worth while.

What makes the book, though, are the characters. As each clue is discovered, Dallas interacts with the suspects and the investigators. Each one is rounded out, some with more detail than others, but none of them are cardboard cut-outs. I'm almost tempted to go back to see how the major characters were developed, but I won't. I'm too lazy.

I've seen many mentions of "Robert's futuristic detective" series. On that note, I think Robb/Roberts falls flat. Serious science fiction readers wouldn't give her world building much of a pass. Everything is too generic, too vague to make the world feel different from our own time. "Airboots" and other "mod" terms just don't cut it.

Many of the reviews of the book complain that Secrets in Death isn't Robb/Robert's best book in the series. But it was more than good enough to amuse me at the end of the day. You can read a sample and other opinions at
Amazon       Barnes & Nobel       kobo/Rakuten

Other Interesting Reading

Writer? Reader? Both? Found an interesting blog at The Swivet about writers shouldn't write in alone: Writing in a Vacuum: Why Community is Essential to Writers. Basically, it says writers should build networks. It got me thinking that readers should too. Only they're called book groups, meeting once a month to discuss a book over coffee. The blog is old, but the ideas are still good.

Interested in good writing? This list of the best writing blogs is making the rounds. I've seen several links to it, so I thought I'd share it. I really enjoy the Absolute Write blog, and if your're serious about writing, you should check their forums.

 My Writing Rut

Editing. Editing. And, Editing Some More.
[On the Run]

Maybe Someday I'll Get Around to Writing Something New.

In the meantime, I'm working on the blurb for On the Run:

Orphaned teen travels across the country to discover her mother's secrets, unaware she's pursued by a demon seeking to destroy her.

Pillar Beccon can't remember ever belonging anywhere, especially not in the Freemage commune where she grew up. She's a null, a person without magic, the lowest of the low in Andor. When she gets the chance to learn more about her mother's family, she jumps at the chance.

The teen draws the attention of Grylerrque, a commander from The Demon Wars secretly surviving in Andor, who recognizes what Pillar is and seeks to feed her life force to her clutch. She sends her minions to capture her. Pillar escapes when Thelma Tankin, her mother's cousin rescues her, but the teen soon learns she was pulled out of the frying pan into the fire.

On the Run tells the story of Pillar's journey to find a place to call her own. The book continues the chronicles of Andor where a the mundane world clashes with one of magic and demons from another plane of existence. If you love paranormal stories of discovery and mayhem, this is the story for you.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Surviving the Layers of a Mystery Until the Puzzle Disappears

The Prairie Grass Murders by Patricia Stoltey starts as a straight forward mystery, simplistic even. Nam vet discovers corpse at his family's old farm while on vacation. When he runs afoul a corrupt cop, his little sister, who happens to be a judge in another jurisdiction, comes to the rescue. Stoltey piles the clues as the perps do their best to silence the sister/brother sleuths. But as in the best mysteries, nothing is as it first seems. There're plenty of red herrings to chase, but the best parts come after the reader learns who-done-it.

What makes this book so engrossing is the well-rounded characters. Sure some of the bad guys are telegraphed from the git-go, but Stolety is deft at adding motivational twists to the action that keep the reader guessing. When you think the story line has settled onto a well-trod path, Stoltey lurches off in another direction that adds a new interpretation of the facts.

The above isn't a criticism. Most mysteries are linear: A influences B, B influences C, etc. The Prairie Grass Murders' storyline twists and turns like any good mystery, but Stoltey takes it one step further. Reading her plotline is more like peeling an onion or opening a set of nesting dolls. You never quite know what you're going to find even though you have a fair idea about where the story is going.

Read sample and other reviews at
Amazon       Barnes & Noble 

More Interesting Reading

Against some writing advice, I always have a thesarus behind the manuscript as I write/revise. There always seems to be a page link to the origins of "bad words". When I finally looked at the page, I was amazed at the staying power of curse words. You might be too. 

Were you as amused as I was when I saw most were related to bodily functions rather than actual curses?


Life is another subject that present layers and layers of experience. Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch wrote a blog about the important writing influences in her life, including Ursula K. LeGuin--Business Musings. It's a long blog, but thought-provoking. Think everyone has similar experiences between mentors and hinderers.

My Writing Rut

Am feeling old. Have been trying to write new stuff for a third book in my trilogy while editing/revising On the Run, the second book. It was supposedly ready to copy edit, but I sent it back to the content editor. Result? More suggested changes. Worse, she said my chapter hooks were too weak.

Here's a look at a revision:
The PA system belched news of another arriving bus, adding to the racket bouncing off the station walls. The garbled words made no sense. Pillar ignored the announcement as she licked her fingers clean. The tenor of the air shifted. The hair on her nape rose. Pillar glanced back towards the benches in the lobby.
Taking another bite of her gooey sandwich, Pillar licked her lips as she searched for the disturbance in the station’s energy. The power became so intense even Pillar’s weak talent felt the rising pulse. A chill crawled across her shoulders and down her back. Pillar turned around. Her eyes locked on a tangled-haired girl, clutching a backpack in her hands and using the wall by the platform doors to protect her back. The girl's eyes grew wider as she scanned the station.
Pillar's frizzy hair stood at attention. A strange odor, the like of which she'd never smelled in Osseran, wafted from the outside doors. Her stomach churned, and Pillar dropped her no longer appetizing sandwich. 

Marketing is still my biggest pain in the behind. Below is one of my more recent tweets. I keep trying to come up with something that'd encourage people to sample my short stories, novellas, and book. So far, I'm falling on my face.

A land
Where mages rule in the name of a king 
Where people without magic are scum
Where demons prowl
Visit Andor where There Be Demons
#kindle  myBook.to/ThereBeDemons
#kobo  http://ow.ly/79nz30fmm9e   
#iTunes  http://ow.ly/KeZk30glC3x

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Nightmare Assassins Threaten Danger in a Dreamy Landscape

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman gives the reader a familiar storyline--assassins chasing a fair maiden through a dangerous world, helped by a good-hearted man. In this Gaiman's writing stars a creative, alternative London [London below]. The quests of the two characters--one to find out who killed her family and the other on how to return to the real world--keeps the two main characters apart for a good share of the story. Gaiman creates a dreamy world where nothing works quite as expected, but just right enough to keep the reader anchored.

Actually, no one tilts and teeters as much as Richard Mayhew, the well-meaning, spineless hero. The poor man is first caught up in our time-driven, wealth-chasing modern world.  A chance meeting with a bleeding girl on the streets of London throws him into an alternative world of London below where he tries to save her from nightmarish assassins. Fate has given him a alternative to a mapped out social rut stifling his soul. But Mayhew wants nothing more than to return to the real world.

The black-suited, kitten-maiming assassins are the run-from highlight of the book. Believe it or not, they even provide the comic relief. Unfortunately, it's the background that stars in this book rather than the progtagonist who remains rather blah in spite off his battle to return to London above. None of the human characters are as sharply drawn as the minor ones named for physical location in London above. Still, a wonderful, creative read.

Take a look at the sample and other reviews--all 2,000+ of them, mostly 5-star--ones

Amazon          Barnes & Noble         Rakuten-kobo

Other Interesting Reading

Ever wonder what writers think of their writing. I happened to click this blog on Twitter. You might be interested since it gave me a chuckle. Like, "Oh, so true." Read about Nighttime Blabbing.

The Bookmuse always writes interesting, useful blogs for writers. Anyway, I find they always jerk my chain when I read them. It seems I always forget more than I know. Becca Puglisi recently wrote on on Character As Mirrors. Lots of her comments put life's little tragedies in perspective.

My Writing Rut

Got my editorial comments back for On the Run, complete with cuts, additions, and new chapter suggestions. Every time I think I'm done and ready for copyediting, someone throws ice cubes over my head. Grumble. Grumble. Yeah, like most writers, I think editing and revising are never done.

Also got a new cover for the book. What do you think?

First Cover

Second Cover

It's been an arty week akround here. I've also been getting new ad banners for There Be Demons made. Here's an example.

You can read a sample and the reviews on Amazon and Rakuten-kobo.