Magical Fantasy Stories, Both Light & Dark

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Do Your Characters Advance Your Plot? One Excellent Example.

Don't know which pulls me into a story more. Different, Interesting characters or a fast-paced plot with loads of suspense. Then, there are the books that give you both. White Fire, featuring their FBI Special Agent Pendergast, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child does just that.

Pendergast has landed in my to-read pile several times. Have always enjoyed the fast moving plots. But this time around, I noticed something different: how Preston and Child used their characters to squeeze the most out of their plot.

The book proceeds in a linear fashion, using very short chapters to feature each bit of action. More important, the chapters are told from different viewpoints. Not only do the chapters present important information within the action sequences, but they also flesh out both main and secondary characters. The reader not only gets to know who they are but sympathize for their problems too.

My favorite example in this book was Pendergast's encounter with a survivalist who has his whole community scared of him. Pendergast goes to his cabin deep into the high mountains of Colorado in spite of all the advice to the contrary, and then, squeezes the information out of the gun nut in a tense show down. The readers already know Pendergast has nerves of titanium but must wonder if a stronger metaphor is needed.

Another 5***** rating, for general, edge-of-the-chair excellence. Oh, the growth of Pendergast's somewhat clueless protege also deserves kudos.
 
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Absolute Write Water Cooler has been one of my favorite go-to places for information about the publishing world. Next on my list is Writer Beware, now written by Victoria Strauss and connected with the SFWA for years. The Writer Beware blog recently discussed a troll campaign against the Cooler -- mostly because commentators tend to be a little rough when they think someone isn't being quite honest or isn't a good bet to effectively deliver on the services the offer.Take a look at Strauss' blog: Haters Gonna Hate.

I've read the forums for years, mostly as a lurker because I don't think I have much expertise to offer. In my readings, I've thought the most of the comments are right on. If a discussion starts chasing its tails over the same ground, the moderator has usually stepped in to calm things down.

My biggest piece of wisdom from the forums: Give a new publisher a couple years to prove they know what they're doing before you trust your manuscript to them. They tend to go belly-up for many reasons -- even though their prinicpals have the noblest of intentions when they start their publishing enterprise. It's not just publishing. All start-ups fail at astonishing rates.


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Crossings: A Tale of Andor
is now #free
[at least until 15 Sep 2014]

You can download the enovella at Amazon, Nook, KOBO, and Smashwords.
It's also up on the iBookstore, but I couldn't find where they hid the price.

Special review exchange offer: 
If you download and review #Crossings, let me know. [You can contact me at mkkaytheod-at-yahoo-dot-com.] I'll return the favor if you send me a PDF or code for a free copy. Just be warned, I'll give three star ratings if your formatting, grammar, and spelling are off. I'll also say if you don't hold my interest. Whatever, I'll share my comments before I post them if the rating is less than four-star, and you can decide whether they go public or not. Think of this as being a one-time critique partner.

Guess you could also comment here if your book/story is a free download. It might give you a little publicity.



Monday, August 25, 2014

3 Ways Characters Can Help You Get the Max from Your Writing

Books on the writing craft give you all sort of tips for developing brilliant plots, great characters, and realistic settings. To me, intriguing characters are the most important part of a book. If the characters bore me, a book quickly goes on the to-trade pile, partially read.

In the last month or so, my look-for authors hooked me with a bunch of books by developing some of my favorite characters from previous books, some which are still teasing me from my to-read piles ... all four of them [at the moment]. 

[Yeah, I read two books or so a week, but the piles keep growing. Maybe because I buy books instead of clothes?]

The books even got me wondering about how to develop my own engaging characters while listening to the plane's engines drone on my way to and from Wales this month. No, I didn't come up with any great insights about writing irresistible characters. I feel asleep.

But I will give some mini-reviews on ways authors
can use the characters
 to build readership for three of the books I read.

  Some Enchanted Eclair by Bailey Cates. Must say Cates has an unfair advantage here. She's a local author, and I think I even took a writing class from her. Her forte is being able to write paranormal, cozy mysteries without getting sappy. Katie Lightfoot solves mysteries in between running a bakery and to discover the extent of her newfound powers as a witch. This is the fourth in the series, and Cates has set up Lightfoot's abilities to support a long-standing series, even without the developing love relationship which is progressing nicely. Cates has me wondering how Lightfoot is going to catch magical bad guys with a three-year-old in tow. 

Oh, in this book, a movie crew comes to town to film in historical Savannah, and when one of the crew members dies, Lightfoot must prove her catering service wasn't the cause. Not only does Cates reuse her characters well, she supplies a nice twist at the end. [Yeah the clues were there if you noticed them]. -- 5*****


   Loving Rose by Stephanie Laurens.  I distinctly remember deciding not to buy any more of Laurens' extended Cynster series after one of the Adair casebooks got tangled in lovey-dovey relationships rather than the concentrating on the mystery. But she's seen the light, and is now concentrating on the people with the problems rather than the people solving them. [In my opinion]

The Casebooks of Barney Adair...with his wife Penelope nee Cynster, one of my favorite secondary characters until Laurens gave her a book of her own...combine Laurens knowledge of the Regency period, somewhat mushy romances, and a decent mystery. Lauren's a master of recycling secondary characters, this time by redeeming one of her previous villains, Malcolm Sinclair, by the magic of love. [Hey, Laurens is a romance writer who transcends the genre.] 

Not only does Loving Rose work better than most, but Laurens comes up with a twist that keeps the true villain hidden until the end, though there are clues along the way. -- 5*****, again.


Affliction by Laurell K. Hamilton.

First, Hamilton deserves a standing ovation not only because she's managed to keep the Anita Blake series going for twenty years, but she also gives us a tight, action-packed thriller with lots of strong character development of the main secondary characters. This book gives us insight on why Micah, one of Blake's main squeezes, has avoided his family for so many years, all played out against the need to solve the mystery why Micah's father is dying from an attack of a flesh-eating zombie. It takes all of Blake's paranormal powers plus Edward's powers of mayhem to solve the mystery. -- I'm boring, but this is a 5***** too

In case you think I only read female authors: There were six books in my review pile plus a couple unreviewed books on another desk, including books by men. I may or may not get them reviewed on GoodReads. [My account link, in case you'd like to like me, or whatever you do on GoodReads.]

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 So what have I been doing during my summer vacation? 

Not much except a lot of reading and traveling. We made, probably our last, trip to Wales in the company of a couple of kids. We rented a cottage, stayed put a lots, did touristy things, visited old friends, watched birds, and stared at the sheep in the meadows. The cottage was on a ridge overlooking a valley dotted with enclosed fields, and it was fascinating to watch the movement from day to day of the animals from pasture to pasture.  

My writing? Didn't do much. Turns out daughter brought the wrong kind of electrical converter, and we didn't have wifi, so the mini-laptop I bought was useless.

 Then, there's Crossings,
the book is up on Smashwords as I type this.

Blurb

   Ebe loved the peaceful live of his isolated mountain community until abrasive newcomers started raising vicious guard dogs. The newcomers terrorize the locals, and Ebe finds himself in their sights along with an old family friend because they oppose their abusive ways. When the 'dog-farmers' murder a local healer/magic-worker, Ebe can only find his self-respect if he discovers a way get revenge. 

if you use code before 1 October 2014 --  PK78Y -- you can read it for free.

Of course, I'd appreciate a review even of it's on Smashwords rather than Amazon. With luck I'll get Crossings uploaded for Kindle today, but first I have to get my words tacked on my new Dumdie Swartz story [The Ghost in the Closet main character].
 

Hope your summer has gone to fun.