Lessons from My Reading

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.

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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.

Trivia...
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.
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