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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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Snagging a Reader

'Tis no secret. A thousand-and-one things clamor for people's attention. Don't think retirement will bring you the slow, easy life. I've never been so busy as I am now -- even when I worked, volunteered, and raised kids. Writers must work double time and weigh in with a tuna-hook to grab and keep my attention.

So, how's an author to grab my attention? A cover helps ... in both bookstore and scrolling down the new listings at the e-stores.But, the real hooker is an opening and situation that first grabs me and then keeps my interest. 

That said, I'm reviewing Mike Mullin's Ashfall, which starts out with a teen-aged boy throwing a sullen temper tantrum. I'm no fan of jerky teens, so the questions is: Why did I buy the hardcover, something I hardly ever do? The even bigger question is:  Why did I abandon my read-a-paragraph-here-and-a-couple-paragraphs-there pattern? Yeah, I sat down and mostly read through until I finished the book in one day. -- A terrible waste of money if you want your book to entertain you for a week.

First the opening two sentences: "I was home alone on that Friday evening. Those who survived know exactly which Friday I mean."  

The book then tells the tale of how a sixteen-year-old snot survived the eruption of the Yellowstone [like the park] volcano and became a man in the "... post Friday world of ash, darkness, and hunger."  The action centers around his long journey on foot to follow his family's trip [a few hours by car] to the next state to visit relatives. Along the way, he encounters many survival techniques. Some good, and some not so good, in my opinion.

The cover of Mullin's book caught my eye in a local bookstore. It shows two teens, a boy and a girl, looking into a cracked, dusty mirror. The boy wipes a clean streak across the mirror face, to reveal an eye looking back at them. Dark, grey tones add to the feeling of menace, for maybe "death by ash".

Yes, I bought the book in the early afternoon, gave it a deeper checking out, and read until I had to fix dinner, all without going upstairs to do the social media thing. After coffee and the TV news, I made the choice to read instead of writing, something I sometimes do on Friday nights. In short, I read the book in "one sitting". -- What intrigued me so much? Well, my family has visited Yellowstone Park ofter, over the years, and I always felt uneasy on each visit. My sense of danger always rose there, even when just passing through.

One of the neat things about the book was the way Mullin planted his chapter hooks. He spent three chapters on the events of that Friday, 25 pages which included his house burning down. Here is the ending of Mullin's ending for chapter 3:

"Everything would be better tomorrow. I thought: a new day, a new dawn would have to be better than this.

I was wrong. There was no dawn the next day."

Yet, Alex survived and strengthened during his journey through this distopian world and even picked up a companion who saved his grits a few times. The companion's addition kept the book from sinking into a monotonous, teen-aged-boy, one-person point of view. Must admit the action would probably have kept me reading.

Yeah, I think this is an extraordinary book. If I did such things, I'd give Ashfall five stars.Even though this is a hard bound, it's well worth buying to study how Mullin constructs his pacing, complications, and surprises along the way. No, an e-book won't do -- unless you've a secret way to mark pages and make comments on an e-reader.

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Another take on pounding out 10,000 words-a-day by Zoe Winters at the Weblog of Zoe Winters. I like her steady writing approach. 

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Then, there's the glow I'm basking in. Just got another nice review for Taking Vengeance. Here's the tweet I posted about it. Or, is that share? Who cares about the terminology?

Swift ... clear motivations.Taking Vengeance. 22niel review: Info:

WolfSinger Press has even lowered the price on the ebook to $0.99. So, now's the time to buy it if you already haven't. It's at Amazon [USA and UK], Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble. Just search Theodoratus to find it. 

Remember: you don't have to have an e-reader to download e-publications. 
Just a computer ... and I know you have one. 
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