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.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Who Knows What Secrets Lurk in the Heart of Sangamon?

Pat Stoltey knows, and she reveals them in the historical thriller, Wishing Caswell Dead.

It's easy to forget that the US Midwest was once the great western frontier where fierce Indian Wars were waged. Stoltey sets her tale in the 1830s when that frontier was only partly tamed.

In those days before the Civil War, Philadelphia debutante Mary Proud goes west with her soldier husband, but she is left destitute after his death. She leads a poverty-stricken life, with her two children, sadistic Caswell and victim Jo Mae. Caswell is found dead in the opening chapter, and the reader gets to amble through the minds of various Sangamon inhabitants, learning all the reasons why people in the small hamlet wished Caswell dead.

Jo Mae's attempts to gain control of her life after years of abuse is the thread that stiches the tale together. Sounds dreary, but the fate of Jo Mae provides a hook to pull the reader through the narrative. I found her the most powerful of the several raconteurs in the story. The others characters are well-drawn, with quirks, faults, and strengths, but it is Jo Mae that shines.

Stoltey weaves a tightly contstructed narrative which keeps the reader engaged even though the book is more about revealing its characters' inner lives than creating surprising plot twists. She also captures the period and speech patterns well. An enjoyable and intriguing read with a wonderful depiction of a historical time which isn't often seen.

Sample a few chapters and see the other reviews of this newly published book on
Amazon          Nook


Other Interesting Reading

Was recently asked to do a guest blog on someone else's blog, like write a short essay or op-ed piece. "About what?" I asked. While I got very little direction, I did manage to bumble through. Margaret McGaffey Fisk has some great ideas about writing blogs. A lot pertains to writers, but it applies to many different endeavers. Take a look.

Do you like reading blogs about of books? Found a link to the 100 most influential, often read book blogs. Probably something for everyone in this list, so says the pipsqueak.

Perhaps the most interesting blog I read came via the Books Go Social author support group. Jonathn Vars, a Christian fiction writer, did a guest blog on plots, specifically HOW TO CREATE A PLOT FROM NOTHING IN 5 STEPS. Many writers might think the steps simplistic. I think their very simplicity makes them easier to understand and implement.

My Writing Rut

Still working on On the Run. My editor has told me she's available earlier than she first thought. Not like getting your tail feathers lit to get you moving. Fortunately, I was more than half-way done when she told me. Below is an excerpt from the opening scene set in a bus station:

As she took another bite of her gooey sandwich, the station’s energy shifted gears, became so intense even Pillar’s weak talent felt the rising pulse. A chill crawled over Pillar’s shoulders and down her back. She dropped her sandwich to turn around again.
 “Look at all the people coming through the platform doors,” said Mari. Her eyes gleamed.
Pillar groused to herself. Nothing like being addicted to danger. She enjoyed adventures, too, but didn’t care to play with fire. Some amusements aren’t worth the heat.
Mari’s voice squeaked with excitement. “Hey, Tally, a girl just came in. She looks like she’s been traveling a reeeaaaally long time, just like a roamer. Do you think her family tossed her out?”

Must apologize. Had this written by Sunday. Yesterday, I waltzed around with my daily stuff, including getting a temporary bridge put in my mouth... Didn't get this published, but here it is today.

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.

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.

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


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.


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.


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 


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


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.