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, June 12, 2018

What Everyone Needs: Someone to Care

Had fun reading Mary Balogh's Someone to Care. No I'm not going to write a review. Actually, I shouldn't even have to say it's good. Her stuff is...mostly because she masterful in setting up her characters to find someone who who will care for them as people not as a means to another goal.

I simply marvel at how Balogh manages to keep her plotlines engaging [not boring], especially since they are romance [one of the most unrealistic forms of fantasy]. I think she and Laurel K. Hamilton [Anita Blake] are the only romance writers I still read from those I was reading religiously five years ago. [Balogh was an outlier since I read mostly paranormal romances.] If anything, Balogh is a leftover from my Georgette Heyer reading of the 1970s.

Writers who want to write romances or include a romantic thread in their books should study how Balogh does it. Readers can just enjoy. Me? I think I'm going to dig into my Georgette Heyers for one of her less well known Regencies instead of the few I still reread regularly.

[Any other Heyer fans out there? What's your favorite book? Frederica immediately comes to my mind, but there are a couple others I can't quite remember the titles of I reread off and on.]

You can check out what other people say about Someone to Care plus read a blurb and reviews. Find both epub and print versions at
Amazon       B&N/Nook       kobo/Rakuten

Other Interesting Reading

Caught a blog by Janet Reid, agent extraordinaire, on white writers writing black characters when someone pushed the politically correct button. No wonder the alt-right calls fuming liberals "snowflakes". In this case, I think they're either fuming about the right thing in the wrong way or just wanted some media time. Whatever, here's the link to Janet Reid's answer to a pertinent question.  --  Granted I'm influenced by the fact I included black kids in classes in There Be Demons. 

My Writing Rut

Wasted almost a full week trying to write a battle scene for the first third of Rendezvous with Demons. Have two chapters of character and world development roughed in, have the wall of the nest broached by explosives, have Britt and Gillen secretly shadowing the Crosssings mages, but... the stupid chapter won't get written.  Result, one more week without any real progress on the novel.

Actually it was for a good reason. Britt and Gillen don't go in and save the day ala the calvary. I'm setting her up to be royally put down... I think. This is written on Wednesday. I'll add something more before I post this. I'm wondering myself what answer I'm going to come up with. Didn't get any more written. Good thing the blog got done on Wednessday when I finished the book. -- Yeah, have been distracted by other things.

Think I feel a little envious of corporate authors who get their publicity done by the company. While trying to write, I've been also juggling promotion. Came up with an ad from my artwork of Vetis. Also think I may have found a new artist to create line drawings of my characters. -- Not that I really expect it to increase my sales. You can check out the ebook of There Be Demons on Amazon, B&N Nook, and kobo/Rakuten.

                                     Artwork                                       ad

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Witches, Crows and Murder Most Cozy

Witches and Salem are almost synomyns in the US.  Carol J. Perry makes good use of the convention in her cozy mystery series starring Lee Barrett, sometime TV personality. It Takes a Coven is an enjoyable example, so enjoyable that I decided to write a book review even though I'm on vacation.

Barrett's Witch City series is bubbly without being fluffy. She doesn't juggle as many characters as say Louis Penny does, but each of her secondary characters have ongoing subplots that progress from book to book. That for me is masterful writing. [Maybe because I have problems with it.] 

The best thing? I think you can read the book as a stand alone. I haven't read all the books [6] in the series, but I followed the mystery action well integrated with the daily stuff...though I thought the wedding sequences missed an opportunity to be sarcatistic about US wedding preps. The "compromise on the cake" was a throw-away when common sense ruled.

Integrating plot elements so there are no loose, dangling bits can be difficult. Barrett takes her crows, modern witches, and historical witches and weaves an interesting tale of cause and effect. Some plot elements from previous books have been "put to bed" in It Takes a Coven--which leaves me wondering what direction the next book will be taking. Guess I'll have to wait a year to find out.

Check it out for yourself on Amazon, B&N Nook, or kobo/lRakuten. For the record, these links include ebooks.

Interesting Reading

Writer R. Mac Wheeler takes wonderful photos. Here recently posted some wonderful close-ups of flowers. You can check them out here. He also writes some fun fantasies.

An older Write Unboxed blog had a short, to the point blog on writing a synopsis. Anyone needing to write a short report can benefit from its tips. Take a look.

Ever wonder about what's actually in the food and care products you use? I found this interesting because so many heath articles blame inflamation for tons of bad health conditions. This one has links to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Click here is you want to know what is lurking in your toothpaste, maybe.

Yeah, some of this weren't posted yesterday. Maybe it's another point we should all take...about how long items last on the web. You never know when a search engine might spit out one of your posts. You can't count on the ads taking up enough space to conceal things. I'm still bouncing around the web seeing what there is to see. Am really disappointed in how low search engine results have sunk in the last three-five years.

My Writing Rut

Have been playing on Fivver, looking for something interesting to promote my books. Found an artist who might be able to create pictures of my characters in my demon books. Here's the one of Vetis, my arch villen, who proclaims in There Be Demons: "The Angeli have lost the war. They just don't know it yet." Now have to figure out how to use the picture.

Next illustration? Britt or maybe a group of demons?

Writing is going slow. Have been working for a week on my first demon fight in Rendezvous. Today I just got to the Freemages blowing a hole in the wall around the demon compound...in Docket's Diggings from Noticing Jamilla. Still, haven't gotten to the big fight.

A *chuckle*. When I "drafted" the book, Britt linking up with Cahal in Pacifica happened in the fourth chapter. I'm working on Chapter 10 on a demon fight I didn't contemplate until Britt got off the bus in the mountains. That fourth chapter was from Pillar's [Running from Demons ?, thinking of title change...] pov. Still have a major fight with a demon biker gang before they even get to Cascadia.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Magical Adventure Sparks Up the Heat on a Summer's Day

It's Summer Time
and the Living is Lazy
At least that's the way I'm feeling. So, I'm not always going to have a book review each week. In stead of taking a vacation, I'm just going to review when I finish a book...that isn't a reread.

Yeah, I'm itching to reread some books again, and there's a good chance I've already reviewed them once. The fact that my eyes prefer print to screen has a fair amount to do with this.

Then, there's Naomi Novik's book Uprooted, which had me staying up late again. Really, liked the stolid, earthy [like soil and growing things] peasantness of the book. The story worked on so many different levels, including the enthralling adventure to defeat a devouing evil presence. Though I really enjoyed the depiction of the fumbling elite the most.

The Grimm-like tale traces hostage story much like Beauty and the Beast, only with Slavic overtones. All sorts of evil dangers lurk and emerge from the Woods. Agnieszka, the protagonist, is unexpectedly chosen as tribute to the wizard keeping the evil at bay from the peasants. The girl, then, becomes a witch in her own right. Together, the two take on the evil at the heart of the forest when a prince of the court stirs up an ant's nest of trouble. I loved out Angeieszka had no use for the pomposity of the court.

No, this isn't a political diatribe. Novik is too masterful a rival for that. Her descriptions are deep and involved. There's enough adventure and magic to satisfy even the most supeficial action reader. 

Best is the depth she gives to her characters. Many of the figures in the book are first presented as stereotypes, but Novik soon gives them a twist that make them three-dimensional. The twists and turns in the action keep the reader reading past the time they should be yawning as Agnieszka is forced to leave her beloved forest home, then to go to the court, and return again for the final showdown.

You can check things out for yourself on Amazon, B&N Nook, and kobo/Rakuten.
Other Interesting Reading

Am I right in thinking there's a bias for reading among the readers of this blog? Whatever, I'm biased towards reading, especially to young children. Science even supports my bias. The Passive Guy posted a blog on what goes on in a kid's brain when they're told a story in different media. You can check it out here. 

Do you have problems getting pertinent answers to your research questions. I've been getting complaints from writer friends that their search results have too many ads. Know this is a big topic to argue about over a cup of coffee. Still, you might want to look at Kristine Pope's blog: Do Your Homework: How to Research Your Writing Topics.

An interesting take on the similarities of storylines. The BBC did a piece of the basic story plotlines. Take a look here. Writers will find some interesting takes on story arcs.

My Writing Rut

The business stuff of writing is sticking in my craw at the moment. Sometimes it seems like I do nothing but support work, but I'm getting in 500 to 750 new words a day on Rendevous, even though some of that is addition/revision. Then, there are the few days when I get over a 1000 written. Think only a slow writer can appreciate the sweat that goes onto that grindstone. Still, it keeps me out of mischief.

Did get a new cover ordered for an old free short story: Cavern Between Worlds

It's a Far Isles Half-Elven story. The politics is at a minimum here as two Half-Elven warriors investigate why all the animal life is disappearing on an isolated island. Can't wait to see what the artist does with the concept. I'm wondering if I dare call it a romance. Anyone have an opinion? -- Think I have to rewrite the story too but you can check it out at Smashwords and Nook. I'm also working on gifs for my free stories.

Copyedits of On the Run are happenin, sort of.

The fun part? I'm exploring what Fivver artists can do with some illustrations of the characters. Maybe I'll have something to share for my next blog. Vetis for There Be Demons is my first trial.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Conflict Among Allies, When do the Ends Justify the Means

Louise Penny's recent Superintendent Gamache novel, Glass Houses, is a tale ripped from the opiod headlines. More important, Penny gives writers a wonderful example of how to mine the backstory of an enduring series to create depth in her latest book.

Penny has already characterized the small hamlet of Three Pines as an idyllic hideaway from the bustle of the wider world, in this case Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I even think I remembered that bootleggers in the 1920s used Three Pines to smuggle booze into the Prohibition US. Or, maybe I'm just reading info into a previous crime. The deep woods on both sides of the Vermont/Quebec border are the perfect place to hide all sorts of nefarious activities.

In Glass Houses, opiods are the cargo most terrible, and the hidie-hole in the church has been resurected. But illegal drugs aren't the only problem the book contends with. Penny is an adept at spinning several plotlines at once and makes head-hopping among various characters seem the best way to share plot points and feelings. No movie/tv paradigms here. Just a thick juicy mystery novel set inside a courtroom procedural--with a touch of creepiesness.

Penny is a masterful weaver of plot points and emotions. More intriguing for a writer, she works with several communities who touch each other much like a Venn diagram--the Surety, the villagers, and occassional outsiders. Penny creates characters with so many dimensions, readers seem to return to Three Pines to find out what the secondary characters are doing as well as trying to solve the crime before the big reaveal. Am thinking that many readers wonder why more communities aren't as caring as Three Pines.

If you like to read a sample and/or other reviews, you can check
Amazon       B&N/Nook       kobo/Rakuten

Other Interesting Reading

The Passive Guy published an interesting take on why Barnes & Noble and other brick & mortar book stores are losing out to Amazon, the main reason. 

I slowly duck my head. We go to Barnes and Noble for coffee about once a month. They really have some good desserts even if they serve Starbucks coffee....But, we usually spend between $50 and $100 between the two of us. [Yes, it's nice to be truely middle class.]

My Writing Rut

I really admire mystery/suspense writers who manage to write an enthralling book like Glass Houses. I feel envious. I have some short stories that I once hoped would be the start of mystery short story series, sort of like Isaac Asimov's sleuth club where the waiter mostly solved the puzzle: 

      --- Dumdie Swartz [The Ghostcrow and The Ghost in the Closet]

     --- the Highgrim/Allsdipp duo [Doom Comes for a Sold Soul] whose meeting with Britt's [There Be Demons] Granny Nan has grown mold in my computer. 

     --- I could also include Trapper Tremaine who's stuck after getting captured because I couldn't figure out how he could prove his worth and be accepted by the village. Nothing published here yet... or, maybe, ever.

That's not all. I think if I double checked, I'd find starts of Half-Elven stories that lack an executed mystery. Yeah, I think books should not only solve a characters' problems but provide a puzzle too.

Rendezvous continues to progress, though slowly. My outline's first skirmish is turning out to be the turning point battle with Britt feeling terribly alone and isolated, similar feelings but very different. But...I'm sort of a third of the way through [pushing halfway through, depending on how useful my notes are], and the first big battle is coming up, and Cahal hasn't even joined Britt yet...