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.


Monday, May 30, 2011

"Changing of the Guard" and Perspective

Bad Haiku:

Sorry.  My lips were
zipped for proprieties' sake.
I've been good too long.

I think my psyche's telling me it's time to create.  Maybe I shouldn't inflict my fun on you, 
but here it is. 

"Changing of the Guard"
War’s winners force change.
Old King chained to dungeon wall.
Faces hide secrets.

 New ruler’s goons prowl,
Steal in the name of taxes.
New fortress needs built.

Press gangs haunt the night,
Collecting poor men and boys
for work crew fodder.


The "Taking Vengeance" trailer is in draft form.  [It's up on YouTube, if you can find it.]  I rather like it in spite of the anachronistic armor and wrong type of sword fighting.  Music for the trailer is slowing things down because my daughter is painting her new apartment instead of arranging the score.  Not that I mind, but the trailer producer might.

Then, there's "Cavern Between Worlds".  The cover and formatting are almost done.  Now is the time for the computer klutz to try and upload the stuff, and build an author's page, and ???? --  It's going to be another free story, for awhile at least.  "The Foiling of Gorsfeld" is the other free fantasy story I have up on my website

Ugh.  Two things to promote.
Have I mentioned I hate marketing?
Still, I forgot how good it feels to see your name in print -- 
even if it's self-published.

Am reading Social Marketing for Dummies, wondering whether I wasted $27.00 because it seems focused on business.  I'm hoping it's got ideas I can apply to my own marketing since buyers seem to keep the book.  I've looked in six used book stores without finding a copy.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Writing with an Irish Lilt

Writing Lesson:
Kevin Hearne wrote a nice Irish-oriented book -- Hounded, the first part of his Iron Druid Chronicles trilogy -- a well conceived fantasy.  His druid uses magic to work iron into his spells while he plays with the Tuatha De Danaan.  Maybe that's why this last of the druids has managed to survive 2000+ years.  

Don't get me wrong, Hearne has a firm grasp of Irish mythology, much better than many writers I've read.  He really manages to make the god characters fit in the modern world while, at the same time, they don't understand our foibles.
His set up of the druid is just as knowledgeable.  No new-age druid knock-offs for him.  The magic his protagonist uses fits seamlessly into the plot while he's trying to save his wolfhound's life as well as his own.  Each appearance of a god may seem idyllic -- until all hell breaks out and the tension winds tighter.  The best part?  Hearne managed to tie up all the loose ends and give the reader a neat forshadowing for the next book.  --  Any time spent studying his chapter arcs will be time well-spent.

And, what a nice feeling, it was, to see the book on my grocery store bookshelves -- an actual big publisher book by a blogger [Writer's Grove] I read and comment at regularly. But that doesn't make me biased.  I would have put the book on my trade pile and not mentioned it, if I didn't like it.  I liked the Irish voice and the Irish setting [in Arizona, for a good logical reason without belaboring the back story] a lot.  

Web Links:
I'm sure I use Twitter the wrong way lots of times when I tweet.  Nathan Bradford gives a run down on how to tweet correctly to give the most exposure to your comments:  How to Use the Twitter @Reply.  

Guess I'm in a Twitter vein.  Thanks to the AW Water Cooler Promotion forum, I found the new blog LKWatts Confessions.  She has a piece: Marketing Useful Tips.  Since I picked up an idea from her, I thought I'd share it.  On the same page, she talks about Twitter too.  If you're puzzled by hashtags [#], you should give her a click.

Since Twitter is a prime networking site, let's talk about another type of Networking.  Tamela Buhrke at Chiseled Rock blogged about networking with critiquers and agent/editors.  Interesting.  As I often said, good critiquers are worth their weight in gold ... or is that royalties?

I've managed to beta and critique a couple people's manuscripts.  Still, have some more stuff to go.  I'd use this as an excuse for being late in posting the blog, but I can't.  I wasted a whole day when my old man had cataract surgery [which, while not serious, is still a pain in the a*&@].

It's not all bad.  I only have four more chapters of Demons to edit.  Hope to have it done over the week-end.  But then, I thought that last Friday.

I found a new hobby -- as if I didn't have enough drags on my time -- bad haikuI'll be posting them on Facebook and Twitter ... and archive them here if I can figure out how to set up the page.  But, first ...  I have to get the fan page link for the Far Isle Half-Elven up on my website.

Sigh, a writer's work is never done.     

Monday, May 23, 2011

"Taking Vengeance": Questioning Book Trailers and Genres

Slowly goes the e-book promotion efforts ... and
everything else.
No wonder old people think time flies by.

The book trailer for Taking Vengeance is progressing slowly.  The maker, Big Burrito Media will be giving me some places to market  So where do you place your trailer ... if you have the bucks to buy one ... or have the time to create your own?

So far I've found the following:  YouTube [the obvious, but you gotta be there] -- Vimeo [no separate listing for books in the drop down, but they have a tag for book trailers] --  Channels [way beyond my level of sophistication, but take a look to see what the publishers and others are doing].

In case you think trailers are only for e-books, take a look at this short trailer on buying used books [produced by Big Burrito Media].   I thought it was sort of cute.

More time is being consumed by thinking about my author's page.  I've been reading the pages at Amazon and Barnes & Noble where I guess I can put my trailer up ... provided I can upload it or whatever I should be doing.  I'll keep you posted on what I manage to do.

Actually, my big question is how do people find you when they don't know you exist?  I can Google/search my name [M. K. Theodoratus], and Smashwords has my stuff all over the place.  I can see two problems here:  1) spelling my last name ...  and 2) the different first names.  Guess this is a case of learning after the fact.

Then, there's the question of what sub-genre I'm writing in...
[Yeah, I know I should know what I'm doing at this late stage,
but my evaluation of things doesn't always agree with
mainstream thinking.]
So, now that I'm trying to promote Taking Vengeance, I'm trying to figure out what type of fantasy I'm writing.  Stacey O'Neale at YA Fantasy Guide has a nice list of fantasy genres: Identifying Your Fantasy Novel's Sub- Genre.   Unfortunately, I still feel in the dark because "dark fantasy" comes the closest, but I don't think I'm a particularly dark writer.  

Can anyone who read Taking Vengeance, give me some insight? At the moment, I'm wondering how that plays to middle grade.  --  I hate questions.

Wish I had some answers to all my questions.
How do you feel about your own writing?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Writerly Goals

Goals:  Someday I want to join James Mitchner's niche.
[No, not on the best seller lists.]

"I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent re-writer."
-James Michener

Lessons from My Reading:
If you are one of those organized people who outline, have you ever wondered who'll complete your draft?  If you're a writer like me -- a minnow swimming in the shoals -- it's probably a dumb question.  If you're a much published author with a couple of popular series under your keyboard, it's probably a major headache for your estate when you die.  So, if you're aiming for your writing career to land over the fence, you might consider what's in your files.

More than a friend's death raised this question in my mind.  I also discovered a copy of Hastur Lord on the grocery store shelves.  The book sported the co-authorship of Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah J. Ross.  Now, I've been a fan of Darkover since discovering a couple thin books back in the 1970s. [I still have some of the Ace books I bought at the time.]  When I saw the new book, I had to read the story of Regis Hastur's life after his grandfather's death.  I'm sure many other fans grabbed the book as quickly as I did.  It fills in an important gap in the life of a major character.

Was it a good book?  I'd say it was good enough.  I enjoyed it.  I'll keep it ... just because it illuminates in an important part of Darkover history. At the same time, this book didn't engross me as the latter books, time wise, in the series had.  I won't say Ross did a bad job, but the plot lines just didn't seem as elaborate as I had expected.  But then, not everyone has the vision of a master when rewriting, ie. I suspect Bradley would have come up with some telling phrase that'd create greater depth to the scene at hand. 

For the record, I don't think I'll have to worry about who completes any of my outlines after I croak.  I write by the seat of my pants.

Web Promotion & Writing Craft Stuff:
So, I'm been dithering on the age level of my manuscript: THERE BE DEMONS.  Michelle Schusterman  at the YA Highway recently wrote a helpful blog about five distinctions between middle grade and young adult books.  I thought the distinctions very useful even though I'm trying to figure out the differences between young adult and adult when your human characters are young teens.  I know I write fantasy.  But, where the blazes does it land in the marketplace?

Before you say, "have an agent tell you", my submissions of this book have exhausted the major agents who specialize in younger fantasy.

Again on YA and Middle Grade.  Mandy Hubbord of the D4EO Agency blogged about The Epic Trends (YA & MG).  Granted I'm up to my ears in revising rather than writing, but I think trends in one reading level wash over into other age groupings.  --  Bunnicula, anyone?

Thinking of self-publishing?  While chasing links, I found Alan Ringler's blog at Books Unbound. While he discusses reasons for author's to get back the rights to their back list, he also gives links to some useful places self-publishing authors need.

I'm getting too accustomed to getting next to nothing done.  Oh, I spend a hell of a lot of time dithering around, but I'm not accomplishing what I want to do.  Write.  Creaing something new.  Getting excited about what I'm doing. 

This week I messed around trying to get the links to "Taking Vengeance" properly up so people could buy my books from the blog and from my website.  Notice: the cover to the right and text below.  I won't whine about how long it took me to get the links up here and on my website. --   Next step up is getting some author's pages going.

Do have Cavern Between Worlds in the process of being converted [aka formatted] for e-publication plus a cover.  Not a back list item, but at least it'll give me two publications on my author's page when it's up -- maybe in a couple of weeks.

[Hey, if anyone bought the book or buys it, I'd appreciate a review.  Hint.  Hint. :).]

When it rains, it pours.  After four to five months of drought, we're getting enough rain to bring us up to average precipitation for the year in 18 days.  With our heavy snowpack, I'll probably soon be moaning about floods.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Finally! I'm Published -- Again.

Excuse me while I sit back and stare at the book cover.

I'm still somewhat amazed that the cover is done,
you can
access a sample of the story -- Taking Vengeance -- at

You can even buy the story ... if you are so inclined.
[I won't object.]

If you like it, would you please forward it to friends, family, etc who might enjoy it too.
Then, there's the Twitter and Facebook thing.
Thank you.

So, my fifth career as a published writer has begun.  This time as a fantasy writer.  Consider this my first promotion effort.  Now, my work begins.  I need to study what I'm going to do next to market the novella ... and do it.

[I also think I'm supposed be writing something new somewhere around in my copious free time.]

Promotion alert, in case you don't do it already:  

Do you Google your name and/or the titles of your books and stories.  You should for two reasons.  One, of course, is if someone out in the  "web-o-sphere" takes your name in vain.  The other is in case some good news is lurking out there without you knowing it.  I knew WolfSinger Publications would be publishing the novella soon, but I didn't know it had until I checked my "Googles" Saturday night.  There was a link to Smashwords ... and there I was:  published again.

Excuse me while I go check my name on the other major search engines.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Adventures in Reading,
aka:  Learning My Lesson:
While in NYC, I got the itch to look at debut books [after reading Allison Pang's Brush of Darkness].  Since I was in the "flagship" B&N, I had the perfect opportunity to check out solid paper books.  While they didn't have a debut author section, I did find quite a few just by turning the to the backs of the books.  [Yeah, I know I could probably search new authors at the online stores.

I came across Cheryle Ann Smith's The School for Brides where a plain, stern-seeming young Regency lady runs a school for mistresses who want to get married rather than ply their trade.  Nice premise.  Nice secondary characters.  But the main character turned into a beautiful redhead who then turned into a stupid piece of fluff the first time she gets bedded by the vindictive love interest.  I skimmed through it enough to know it was decently written, but the main character turned me off.

Hate to admit it, but Brides had me returning to the romance section where I picked up It Happened One Season which featured stories by Stephanie Laurens, Mary Balogh, Jacquie D'Alessandro, and Candice Hern.  The authors were given the same premise:

"A handsome hero returns from war, battle-scarred and world-weary.  But family duty calls and he must find a bride.

"A young lady facing yet another season without a suitor never expects to find herself the object of his affections."  

My favorite story of the lot was by Hern, whom I had never heard of before.   I think the book's going on my keeper pile since the book's a good object lesson on how the same plot metamorphises in the hands of different authors.

Web Promotion and Other Stuff:
Joe Konrath, one of the author gurus of e-publishing has a blog called:  A Newbies Guide to Publishing.  Last week, he wrote a long multi-faceted blog:  What Works: Promo for Ebooks.  It's one of the best summaries I've seen.  If you are promoting some short stories or even a full length book, you might check it out.  I'm sure you'll find some ideas on how to promote your work.  I know I did.

You might like his closing line:  "There's a word for a self-published writer who never gives up... rich."

Of course, you have to have something to promote ... something that doesn't die in the middle.  Justine Musk in her blog, The Tribal Writer, discusses some ways to make sure your book doesn't sink like a soggy cake:  The Secrets and Revelations of a Powerful Middle Act.  She takes the position that your characters need to have secrets which are revealed in the middle of your book.  Oh, I forgot.  You also have to have confrontations.

Am a little jittery, got my line edits for Taking Vengeance back to WolfSinger Publications  ... and now I wait for the publication date.  I'd send you there, but they don't have the excerpt up yet. 

How did I celebrate?  I finished off a short story and sent it off to Asimov's.  It's no longer flash fiction, and I like it much better with the bugs crawling around.  My main character got even crankier, a man after my own heart.

Got another short story finished too --  Cavern Between Worlds -- which I'll self-publish so I have two choices up online.  [Yes, mommy, it has been professionally edited.]

  Back to Mother's Day and all the good wishes.  I always think of Mother's Day as the day I changed my mother's life for the worse.  I'm more stubborn than she was.  

How stubborn was she?  She sat in the hospital lobby, refusing to budge, when the nurses said she was too small to be in labor -- until her waters broke five minutes later..  Unfortunately, it was me that popped out ... on Mother's Day ...  rather than "Shirley Temple".

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cover Art 's Here & More

Cover Art
Taking Vengeance:

Artwork: Marge Simon

Don't know what progress has been made on getting the printing on the cover.  I thought I'd wait until today to bug the publisher ...  after I take my friends good jewelry to the estate buyer ... and whatever else rears its time-consuming head.  I think I'm going to get five chapters revised today?

One thing surprised me.  The WolfSinger Publications site mentions the book is coming out in trade paperback ... or maybe that got misplaced from another pub.  Another thing I have to ask them about.

Okay.  I have trailers on the mind too, just one reason why I enjoyed Got YA's blog on book trailers so much.  Actually, they've posted 20 reasons to like their blog.

My trailer for Taking Vengeance?  The script is done and the work under way.  My daughter will be doing the music.  Fortunately, she has a huge number of special effects pedals.  They were made of guitars, but she's used them to good effect with her harp.  Yeah, I'll be posting it along the side.

All in all, I don't know what I'm learning here -- except to paddle fast enough to keep my head above water.

Once I get "Taking Vengeance" semi-settled, I'll be self-publishing a short story which has been rejected by all the major and semi-major- paying zines.  Another Half-Elven story:  Cavern Between Worlds.  "They" say sales increase with the number of e-offerings you have listed ... but I don't think "they" mean that two pieces are enough.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Newbery Books, Ghosts, and Other Things

The Reading Lesson:
A couple months ago, I thought it might be nice to read all the books that got the Newbery Award, but had already read most of them.  One I hadn't:  Ruth White's Belle Prater's Boy from 1996, if I read the copyright correctly.  The book was a nice dose of magical realism combined with a mystery.  Each character -- the narrator and her cousin, Belle Prater's Boy -- had a problem to solve.  Thought the book gave a good lesson in weaving two similar strength plot lines involving two different characters together.

Everybody likes a ghost story.  So, it's no surprise I picked up another middle grade book:  Mary Downing Hahn's The Old Willis Place: a Ghost Story.  The book was told from a ghost's point of view.  The three main characters are well drawn with an evil old woman's ghost lurking in the background, scaring the bejesus out of the kids, ghost and alive.  Hahn's setting the clues about the wild kids in the woods is masterful. --  Hop the younger step-grandkid enjoys the book when I give it to her for Mother's Day.

After reading the two books close together, I'm thinking more and more people trying to write publishable books for adults should read good middle grade.  It's so much easier to see how the writer's work their craft tools.

Web Promotion and Other Stuff:
I've been sending rough drafts of a short story out for critiquing lately, mostly because of time crunches.  This gives my critique partners an easy target where they get back at me for highlighting I've done of their use of "to-be" forms.  Only not all "was" forms are wrong.  Do you know when "was" is the correct word to use?  The Grammar Divas give you some hints, if you care to read them.

Tagging can get your or your friends books noticed in the great e-publishing swirl.  Karen Nut writes about a technique to bring your book to people's attention at the 1st Turning Point.

For those seeking agents, I thought I'd add this blog [from a link at Writer Beware's Facebook comments].  Jennifer Laughran of the Andrea Brown Agency commented on agency agreements at her blog Jennifer Represents.  While I'm not querying agents at the moment, I thought it interesting and filed it for when I get Emma revised, edited, etc.

Let's go on to imagine when we become a best selling author like, say, Yasmine Galenorn.  In her blog, Life on the Fringe, she blogged about how many pages she should produce each day ... and then goes on to explain there's much more to being a best-selling author than just writing, or even revising/editing, pages.

Got the short short story [Devil in the Details] -- which is different from flash fiction -- back from the critiquers.  Sent it out to Betas after revising/editing it a couple times.  Wanna bet I won't revise it when I get it back again?  You'd lose.  --  It'll be nice to have something to submit to the professional-paying markets again.   

Also, I'm reaching the middle of the editing (yet again) of There Be Demons.  [Then, I'll submit it to a couple of e-publishers.  In the end, I expect I'll be self-publishing it.  The language is really rather strong even after I've been removing the f-bomb.  [Hey, it's my favorite expletive, though sometime I soften to "screw it".]  We won't talk about my bureaucratic angels, twisting of Catholicism, and wrong-aged protagonists. --  And, I thought it was middle grade?

Say, aren't I supposed to be creating something new?

I've been reading a couple romances and thinking about "happily-eve-afters".  I think the HEA comes after you learn to keep your mouth shut ... until you think of a neutral way to present your position.       

Monday, May 2, 2011

Publishing Blues

While procrastinating before writing this blog, I discovered Rachelle Gardner's blog on how she "invented publishing".  Actually, she was asking for writers to be understanding ... and don't kill the messenger when the agent has bad news ... whether on a query or a rejection by a publisher.

Her discussion pointed out some things I'm doing right [which made me feel good].  Blogging.  Trying to social network.  Sticking to a genre [sort of since I write fantasy for both for adults and older middle grade].  She also confirmed my suspicion that my writing, even if decent, may not fit into the guidelines publishers and their marketing departments prefer. 

Yeah, there' a system with guidelines on how publishing works.  Thus, a problem for my writing.  I've skirted "proper" rules for decades.  I don't think my psyche is going to change at this date to get my writing accepted.  

Is this the time to say:  "Thank the powers for e-publishing?"  

The charms of self-epublishing's are growing in the back of my mind.  I just discovered bookbaby.com, thanks to an AW Water Cooler forum.  They only distribute through four sources:  Amazonkindle, B&N Nook, Sony Reader, and iPad.  More important they format your doc or rtf manscript for distribution, can supply a cheap ISBN, and do covers.  

Being me, I wondered how bookbaby.com handles the money.  Even though they deposit though PayPal or your bank, they could hold your money for weeks or months.  Not to worry said my NewYorkie daughter.  Seems bookbaby.com is a new venture by CDbaby.com, and she distributes several CDs through them without any complaints on the money front.

So, why is this spinning around in my head?  The "Taking Vengeance" cover art has been sent to WolfSinger Publications, and the "check is in the mail" to the trailer maker.  So, I'm sitting here in wait mode, probably thinking too much.

Did decide one thing though.  I'm going to self-publish a Half-Elven short story as soon as I get the trailer settled.  Reason?  That way I'll have two things up for sale.  Given my computer klutzieness, paying bookbaby.com their fee is worth it in aggravation to me.

If I get the Renna stories combined and rewritten in proper format, I'll have three -- but that'll be a novella and more worth the fee per word.