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.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Oh, Oh. Writing the Same Way

The Read and Progress???
Discovered Simon R Green's new series introduction, Ghost of a Chance, and discovered half-way through it that I was writing the same way in my struggle to finish a short story for Renna's Tales.   Way too much exposition.  Like telling, telling, and more telling.   While I'll grant, Green sticks mainly to the events at hand, I kept trying to expand the story into the larger political battles in mine.

The reason I'm late in getting this blog up is:  1) the Renna story, and 2) I couldn't get to the end of Green's book.  I decided to put it on the trade pile just when the evil villains were winning the fight with the associates while the leader of the ghost hunters went chasing a ghost through the London Underground.  [The half-way turning point of the story.]  Granted, Green's Nightside series had a lot of exposition, but it came across as a ballerina pirouetting rather than the giant clomping in his seven league boots.  Or, was that seven inch boots?

Other Progress ...
Voices is lying fallow again.  Got one revising run through done on the computer.  Now I have to print out a copy to revise.  Also, do I have any excuses not to query agents?  No, but I doubt I will.

Oh, remember Maren who I couldn't turn into a novel?  Well, she's back haunting me saying she's a short story or maybe a novelette.  I wonder if I can turn her into a full blown novella ... if I dramatize the exposition.  Hey, maybe I didn't learn something from my reading.

Web Stuff ...
I enjoy way too many blogs, but Justine Musk posted one every new and experienced writer should read about blogging last week.   [Reducing the number of times I blog ... builds in some delays in my comments.  I apologize if the ideas have already turned into compost for you.]

The if agent queries are haunting you, you might find Jessica Faust's blog on openings and the following comments helpful.

Perhaps the most important bit of info for me came from a link from the Writer Beware blog of ....  If any of you are considering e-publishing as I am [for Dark Solstice] you might be interested in what ... has to say about "The Seven Secrets to e-Book Publishing Failure".  Some of the ideas might even apply to "traditional" publishing.  This is one of the few articles I bookmarked. 

Then, there's promotion of what you publish ... either on the web or on paper.  1st Turning Point points presents a blog by Cristyn West on how to get the best use out of Twitter to promote your blog, book, or whatever.  Title:  Using Twitter to Expand Your Readership.  Yeah, another bookmark.

Trivia ...
Got a chuckle when I traced one of my stats for referring urls ... and it was an air conditioning site.   Then, there's google search engines.  For some reason, I'm getting a lot of hits for the Half-Elven website from a Cyrillic alphabet site.

I've never grown out of being a "bad girl" ... a habit that exasperated her mother.  Why else would I get such inordinate pleasure from eating unhealthy meals.  Oh, I ate two vegies and a fruit ... plus a little starch and some shrimp (sauteed in butter with garlic).  But gasp, the vegies were both light colored.  (cauliflower and cucumber)   So much for Dr. whomever and his call to eat bright colored vegies.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Formatting and Being Well-Spooked

The Read ...
Abandoned the book I was reading again ... for the new book I ordered:  Mary Downing Hahn's The Ghost of Crutchfield HallThe clone of The Secret Garden mixed up with The Turn of the Screw and a host of other ghostly classics makes a good read even if written for young readers.  The other book only featured Mexican vampires doing vampire things.  I read a Crutchfield review somewhere and ordered it and was immediately hooked by the first paragraph while drinking coffee at the bookstore.

"Take good care of this girl," Miss Beatty told the coachman.  "She's an orphan, you know, and never set foot out of London.  Make sure she gets were she's going safely."

[Many writing gurus say you aren't supposed to start with dialog, but this works ... even if it breaks the "fiction formula".]

The book is early middle grade as you might guess from the reading level above, but it makes it all the easier to see the structure of the novel.  The introductions of the somewhat cliched characters and the bits that individualize them, the hints, and the growing power of the ghost all happen in the midst of the action.   The end result a scary story in the grand tradition that can hold the attention of an adult.

Hahn follows the "fiction formula" for story arc.  Looked down at the page numbers of the chapter where the new girl meets her secretive invalid cousin ... and it was indeed half way through the book.  If your having problems with you story flow, I suggest you buy the book and study it.  

Is Hahn worth studying?  Well, she's the award winning author of some 20 books.  [I may loan the Crutchfield Hall book to the step-grandkid, but I want it back.]

The book I abandoned?  I stayed up last night until after midnight to read it, but I won't be commenting.  Not only did it have a strange chapters long flashback (novella length) ... just when the story started to get rolling, but the characters weren't much more than cardboard stand-ins.  Two boys and girl, helped by an old codger, fighting evil Mayan vampires.

Web Stuff ...
For all the time I spend at the AW Water Cooler, you'd think there was nothing new to discover there but the daily posts.  Wrong.  While seeking tech info on formatting I found an article by one of the members on using Microsoft Word for quick edits covering such items as word frequency counter, and phrase frequency counter.  Carlson also gives instructions to highlight passive words and adverbs.  These come from Robert J. Carlson , and you can check his website for the whole story.

Of course, you smarties already know this ... but I flunked computers. Now I have to get up the courage to download the band-aids and use them.

Progress ...
Nothing spectacular or even much worth mentioning. -- Entered a flash fiction piece in the Jeffrey Archer/St. Martin's  short story contest.  -- Revising/editing of the Voices of Ghosts Creek continues, but I'm starting to worry because I like it too much.  --  Mariah is still pondering how to one-up Martonsfeld in the Half-Elven saga.  --  Still, thinking about sending out agent queries.  [Only have two books to submit.], but can't get interested.  

Yeah ... I really did have a piece of fiction that was more literary/mainstream and not fantasy.  (Thanks to a Northern Colorado Writers class given by fantasy writer Victoria Hanley.)   Got the contest info at AW Water Cooler too.

Oh, and I'm trying to format Dark Solstice, the most worked Half-Elven manuscript, to submit to an e-publisher.  Got the 1.5 spacing done.  Can't figure out how to get the extra space deleted from my periods.  Got some answers at AW Water Cooler and gave rep points.  Unfortunately, after I follow the directions, the form says it "made 0 replacements'.  --  Have I ever said I hate computers ... or is that Microsoft Word?  I never had such problems with WordPerfect.

Fall's happening.  

While the temperatures are dropping, the leaves have started to drop too ... right in my front yard.  Have never figured out why the Lindens (Lime trees in England) are the last to leaf out and the first to drop them. 

The jays have also moved in to harvest the acorns in the backyard.  One got territorial and dropped an acorn on the old man's head when he got too close to the tree.  I prefer the robin song in the spring to the jays' squawks in the morning.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mining the To-Read Pile

The Read ...
Actually, went to the to-read pile for a book to read.  I only have four piles ... at last count.  At least I took care of three dust-catchers.  Two landed on the trade-pile after a few pages because I couldn't sink into them.  The other:  Anne Perry's Long Spoon Lane.  Frankly, I can't believe it was sitting there unread.  The Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series has been one of my favorites since the Cater Street Hangman first appeared.

The book was enjoyable and competently written.  Sounds like faint praise, but when there are so many books in the series, that's a great compliment.  I was disappointed that Charlotte wasn't  featured more and that her family was almost absent.  [I like the dynamics in the juxtaposition of social class in late Victorian England.]  Still, Aunt Vespasia, one of my main ladies, got a decent role in this episode.

The book languishing on a to-read pile bothers me a bit.  I've completely missed a couple mass paperback editions somewhere I think.  Problem:  I think the lapses will continue to a greater degree since B&N has reduced their display space in favor of other peripheral merchandise.

Web Stuff ...
Have you noticed the buzz about censorship lately?  Well, lots of good people are speaking out against it.  I've read several blogs, but I think literary agent Janet Reids' "This I believe With All My Heart" blog gives you a good start with its links.  If you missed it, take the time to read it.  I know I'm a little late with the comment ... but reading is a basic right that needs to be monitored constantly.

Personally, I've always had problems with people who think childhood ... life, actually ... should have no problems.  While mine were mostly economic, others have had more shattering personal experiences.  Bottom Line:  I think books should discuss all the problems that life can present for kids ... if only to present possible solutions and examples that it is possible to survive.

Then there's the possibilities of making money blogging.  It's the secret keystone of building a platform -- you want to sell your book ... someday ... somewhere.  There's another way of making money, ProBlogger.  Along with lots of ads and information, they have a job board of people who want articles for blogs.  Didn't notice much for fantasy writers at the few listings I looked at, but if you're into memoir and personal experience -- you might find a source to increase your exposure and get paid too.  [I got the info from an article on "Buy Like Buffett" about three ways to make freelance money on the web.]

For fiction writers, Rachelle Gardner has another excellent blog; this time on selling your work.  While she's emphasizing crafting your pitch, the advise she gives also applies to writing your magnum opus.  If your story-telling doesn't cover the answers ... maybe you should go back to the revising board.

Progress ...
Wasted my writing time last night formatting Dark Solstice for submission to a small e-publisher.
Still, since I'm doing the website thing, I feel compelled to go back and market.  Ugh!  Still have some Word stuff to clean up.  More Ugh!!  

Someday, I may get the next Half-Elven story written.  In the meantime, I blogged about writing short stories.  Need to get in my noodle that the arc of a short story is like the arc in a chapter.  Anyone want to go back to writing one-oh-one with me?

Trivia ...
Time to praise asters, black-eyed susans, and fall crocus.  Without them, there'd be little color in the garden.  On the other hand, the zucchini aren't dead yet. 

Castle is back.  At first it seems like he was giving the team the brush off, but they made up in the end [no surprise since this is a television series, after all] in the process of solving a nicely complicated murder mystery.  Think it's going to be an enjoyable season if they mine the possibilities indicated in the course of the action.  Love still developing characters. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Avoiding Series Traps

First, a Warning ...
I picked up a virus on Sunday night.  As soon as the little shield on my bottom tool-bar popped up, I shut the computer off -- so I don't think I infected anyone.  But, if you visit a lot of the stuff I do, you probably already know you've been infected.  Whatever, it took two days to get the computer guru here to remove the stuff.

Seems to be a lot of the stuff going around from the stories the guru told me.  So, if you haven't updated your security lately ... you should look into it.  I've added two new security systems.  A Windows Security thing and some anti-Malware stuff.  Don't ask this computer idiot anything more.

The Read ...
Kay Hooper is an author I look for, but I almost missed her new book -- Blood Ties -- because of the similarities in the title with others in this trilogy (Blood Dreams and Blood Sins).  My momentary lapse in judgment ... or was it because I haven't visited B&N recently and the book was buried at the bottom of the supermarket shelves.  Unless you shop a lot on line, readers as much as authors are at the mercy of book placement on the shelves.

A structural tidbit:  Within 25 pages there are two murders with similarities to other murders in the region.  Halfway through the book, the FBI Special Crimes Unit realizes they aren't dealing with a  garden variety serial killer, but one that's targeting the unit for some not so obvious reasons.

That said, it was comforting to sit into a comfortable read by an author who avoided the common series traps.  The characters I have known and enjoyed continue to grow as people while in the middle of life and death situations with truly sinister opponents.  Yes, Hooper's plotting is masterful and suspenseful ... making me want to get up and take a break from reading to relieve the tension in my mind as well as my back.  She gives just enough setting to picture the Southern background of poor county sheriff departments that can't afford all the forensic bells and whistles.  [Yeah, I know other parts of the country can't afford them either.]  The villains, of course are satisfying as well as not the usual suspects.

And yes, Hooper has left, I think, an intriguing lead-in to the next trilogy when the evil genius of the Blood one is reincarnated.  I think it'll be a long time before Hooper stagnates.  The thought warms the cockles of my heart.

Then, there was R. L. LaFevers third Theodosia book -- Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus.  While the book was entertaining, I felt she landed two-feet-square in the writer's trap Kay Hooper avoided.  She had her structure set and filled in the blanks with new bits of information, all of which were interesting.

Problem:  Theodosia didn't grow ... just kept doing her remarkable things.  Worse, at the end, her cantankerous grandmother emerged as a deus ex machina.

Web Stuff ...
Got a big surprise last Friday (besides the one at the supermarket cash register).  Was strolling down the blogs I read, and there was Emma staring me in the face.  Ariel Emerald at Writer's Craze query critiques gave me one. :)  I had forgotten I had sent it out to be critiqued (by a publisher slush pile reader).  

The first thing I noticed was:  I didn't put the "pitch in" right after the description of the book.  Not that that would've done much good.  The critiquer said you should jump right into the premise.  My choice of vernacular (from my search for my "voice") also lead to some misunderstandings.  [Gotta tell the internal editor to keep the vernacular to the dialog and out of the exposition.]

Ahh ... another example of where you get conflicting advice.  Of course, he had a bunch of other nits to pick ... or maybe they were full grown lice.

Progress ...
Still deep into revisions of Voices of Ghost Creek, a never-ending process.  But, I don't mind I'll be doing it at least twice more after I get to the end.  I don't know about you.  Here, I'm always finding new stuff to change.  Must say, though, I feel like clapping when I get through a page without a change. 

My next Renna's tale is progressing too.  Felt good when I was able to eliminate a lot of back story.  Does anyone else see the stuff better when it's on the computer screen?

Trivia ...
The annual plum kuchen is made.  (Feeling very virtuous since I don't really like the stuff.)  More important the tree apples are gone.  Put a couple gallons of applesauce and two pies in the freezer.  The apple crisp from the pie leftovers evaporated. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Adventurous Fluff

The Read ...
The book the family lending library gave me provided lots of adventurous fluff to enjoy -- the second volume of R. L. LaFevers Theodosia series, Theodosia and the staff of Osiris.  Think of all the mummies in London, public and private, coming to life and running around after the staff of the Eqyptian god, Osiris, in the dead of night.  All this is complicated by the police inspector who tries to solve the mystery -- without a clue that magic is happening under his nose.

At the beginning of the book, Theodosia is presented with a major problem for an eleven-year- old girl.   Her veddy proper grandmother insists she have a governess so she can become a proper lady, ie. stop mouthing off to the adults in her life  --  In spite of her being smarter than 80% of them.  Of course, all the governesses are despicable and complicate her life, limiting her ability to solve the mystery of the over-active mummies and neutralize the secret societies pursuing her.  [Yes, that was plural.]

LaFevers' plot rolls downhill gathering speed.  The main villain is the Serpents of Chaos come back for another round of trying to best Theodosia, of course.  As the plot twists, possible villains turn into friends.  Friends turn into villains, and possible villains are just red herrings.  As I said, a delightful bunch of fluff.  I wish all the books I read entertained me so much.

I'll close with the pitch:  "Once again, Theodosia takes on secret societies, evil curses, and dark magic too sinister to imagine!"
Web Stuff ...
Dark Urban fantasy writer, Justine Musk  blogged on the elements of scenes that make them building blocks of your novel.   There's lots more info in the blog, but I thought this quote should be read by every writer.

"A scene is the basic building block of your novel. A scene is like a novel in miniature. It has its own tiny plot. It starts out in one place, builds tension, reaches climax, and then ends up in a different place."

Looking for critiquers?  Or, just maybe a litmus test to tell you where you need to revise your current WIP?  Isolated without a good writer support community?  Well, Operation Awesome recently posed a blog on identifying the garbage in your writing.  The blog gives some places where you can get some knowledgeable fresh eyes to make some comments about your writing.

Then, there's all that conflicting query writing adviceNathan Bransford has a great blog on what to do with it.  [No, not that.] One of the founts of information I picked up from his blog is how fast the publishing industry changes.  I think all the agents who blog are acting like yeast in the setting of preferred styles.  Then, there's that thing called "voice".  Does that mean:  to thy own self be true?"

All sorts of good stuff seems to popping up in the blogs.  Guess the end of summer rejuvenates the brain cells.  If you're fussing about querying like me, you will be interested in agent Mary Kole's blog about how she evaluates manuscripts at Kidlit.  She's also doing a Webinair, but it costs.

Progress ...
The revision of Voices is coming along.  I keep finding holes I need to fill and infodumps I need to dramatize, and all sorts of stuff to delete.  Haven't gone after the nags -- "to-be-forms", "lys", "ings", passive verbs, etc yet.  [Ain't revising fun!]

Haven't done much with querying ... for any of my manuscripts.  [You do know I hate marketing?]  I do need to send out a couple status queries.  Which comment means I have to go back to websites to see if  "no answer" = rejection.

Did send my Hattenel Half-Elven story to Untreed Reads because Smashwords was much too complicated for me to figure out how to format.  Now I don't have to think about the story for three months ... or more.  Don't have to worry about cover art either.  If I'm lucky, they'll accept and do the formatting for me.

Trivia ...
We were going to take a day trip to Estes Park, Colorado yesterday, but the smoke clouding the hogback some three miles from our house changed our minds.  You may have heard of the Boulder, Colorado mountain subdivisions threaten by fire.  We're about 50-75 miles away, north and east.  Hopefully, the winds die down, and weather pumps some moisture into our air.  Everyone needs more rain than fell yesterday. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Digging for Something to Read

The Reads ...
With all the books laying around my house, unread, you'd think finding something to read would be a cinch.  Duh.  The first two books I picked up got tossed on the trade pile within 10 pages. 

One was a Harlequin romance I'd bought used because it had such a neat cover and promo blurp.  It also mentioned demons when I was deep into the gargoyles.  By page 10, my internal editor was screaming so loud I was twitching.   I fear the book will end with the Friends of the Library since the used bookstores don't do Harlequins.

So, I reread Georgette Heyer's A Civil Contract, a romance about a marriage of convenience that turned into a happily-ever-after.  Heyer took the romantic infatuation so common in romances and juxtaposed it with a mundane marriage which turned out to be the HEA.  The writing?  Well, it tells ... and tells ... and tells the story some more, ie. very little dramatization.  The paragraphs are long and involved.  Sometimes, there are two viewpoints on the same page.  Still, the characters are multi-dimensional and compelling, making you care about even the secondary characters. 

What I was looking for was the new Theodosia book from the family lending library.  I knew I had seen it, but it was buried in a box under a pile of books and papers behind another box.  But, I found it.

Still reading Nick Bunker's Making Haste from Babylon.  Again, the reading is heavy going, but interesting how the "implementers" of the Puritan movement in Calvinism defy Queen Elizabeth's national church.  Yeah, I'm still reading the back story in northeastern England that caused the Puritans to be.  Very little was "national" at the time even though Elizabeth I and James I ruled. 

Interesting how the various regions of England had their own customs and beliefs yet consider themselves "Englishmen".  As I read Bunker, my mind kept popping to the words "Tea Party" and wondering what the stocks would feel like.  I don't think I'd like them, ... but enough to keep my mouth shut?  [Mouthy women were anathema to the Puritans.]

Web Stuff ...
Last Friday, I discovered Fiction Groupie thanks to a writing friend, Patti Struble, who has a funny blog called "The Writer's Bump".  In Friday's blog Fiction Groupie discusses how the website she reluctantly put up helped her get an agent.  I found the comments soothing since I still in the middle of getting the Half-Elven site set up.

More embarrassing.  Judith Laik discusses the importance of have a decent photo for your website and other promotions on 1st Turning Point.   Frankly, I strongly suggest you follow 1st Turning Point if you are any where near to marketing your WIP -- whether to agents or publishers.  --  If I can figure how to put it up, I'll shock you with the writer picture I'm hiding in My Photos.

One last thing.  A newbie to the Absolute Write Water Cooler put up a YouTube Video on the benefits of the forum.  I thought it was a clean, simple format ... that anyone with computer skills should be able to do.  [That doesn't include me though]  Whatever, you might check out the AW Water Cooler forum on your own.  You might even find me there.

Progress ...
Took it lazy for the weekend.  Actually, I spent a lot of time playing regular solitaire and spider solitaire ... as I tried to think of a problem for Mariah to solve in the next Renna's Tale.  My false starts are filling my "bits and pieces" files as I dump all the backstory and infodumps.  Who'd ever want to know that the Marches are divided into three parts and why? 

Also dinked with my agents list ... after I goofed on sending a query to an unlikely agent.  [Form rejection, to be landing in the inbox soon unless ignored.]

Did a little clean up for my platform building.  I'm sort of resolving to post on Twitter every day ... but I usually don't have anything to say.  I do follow some interesting people though [who don't follow me.]

Trivia ...
Did I say I didn't do much of anything?  

But, I did find this interesting tidbit on Facebook from the Huffington Post, courtesy Writer Beware. How many of these "must read" books have you read?  [These are the books people say they've read to impress others, but usually haven't.]  

I was surprised to find I had read 6 out of 13.  Really.  Including Chaucer's Tales ...  a couple in old English, but the whole thing in a modernized version.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Deciding What to Do...

The Read ...
Still wondering what fiction I'll read next.  I think it's going to be the second Theodosia.  Still, got some important stuff done during my "Hunger Games break".  The unread and half-read magazines piled by my reading chair is down to an inch ... including catalogs from which I might buy something.  [Christmas's coming.  Ugh.]

My non-fiction reading includes Nick Bunker's Making Haste from Babylon: the Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World.  He calls his work a "new history".  It's definitely more of a social commentary of the economic and religious conditions of late Elizabethan and early Stuart England than a list of events and people.  The events/people form the backbone of the work, but he offers his readers some different interpretations from the American mythology.

The surprising thing.  This work dove-tails with my Half-Elven who are set in a transition from a feudal society to a mercantile one.  I've even picked up some interesting information about boat keels and tonnage.

Some interesting facts.  The Puritans may have been "religious refugees", but they were also a commercial venture.  If they hadn't discovered vast quantities of beaver living north of the colony, the whole enterprise might have failed.  The "godly", as they called themselves to distinguish themselves from the popish contamination,  were as interested in their wallets as their salvation.  Of course, the sure sign of their salvation was their fat wallet.  [How's that for circular thinking?]

The book is slow going, but I'll continue to read in small doses.

Web Stuff ...
Am having problems finding time to market and network.  Actually, I think the things are the same bit of torture.  Maybe that's why I find them so hard to fit into my day. Big thing is to get my [free] stat counters up.  Somehow I managed to goof up the first time I tried.

Have I ever said I hate marketing? 

Progress ...
I solved the whole problem of submitting Dark Solstice by finding a beta reader with a full plate.  I, of course, should wait until she finishes her reading.

Finally ...  I'm making progress on Voices of Ghost Creek.  While worrying the opening hook, and not finding a scene I liked better than the starting point, I've copy edited the first chapter two times and eliminated two small info dumps.  Also, added a couple comments to foreshadow the conflict with the main "villain" in the story.  --  There, I sprained my arm patting myself on the back.  Now if I can only clean off my desk again, I might have some room to revise in earnest.

Guess the gargoyles are feeling neglected.

Trivia ...
The weather must be turning.  The cat spent more than ten minutes on my lap.