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, March 13, 2012

Some Things Promotional

For the record, I still haven't given up on promoting my writing -- only I'm promoting my two free Half-Elven stories more than Taking Vengeance. Did set up a Facebook page for the novelette, not that it has many likes. Don't keep it up like I should either. Such fares the social networking when you're running behind.

At the same time, I'm thinking of setting up a new website under my author name -- M. K. Theodoratus. Grumpy Dragon says they are progressing on the artwork revisions for the vowel-controlled, color-a-comic pre-primer. How's that for a mouthful. That's the academize for Pat, the Pet.

Whatever, the ladies over at Duolit shared some info on search engine optimization: Five Things that Really Matter to Search Engines. It includes some useful tips well worth seeing if you can modify your current networking endeavors.

Once Search Engines find you, the people who searched will want to know more about you. That's where your "About Me Page" comes in.  Sonia Simone recently blogged, asking if you are making these seven mistakes with your about page. Rather than doing a major retooling here, you get a chance to improve with relatively minor revisions.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Review: Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse & Writing Complicated Characters

Tried to watch the third season of True Blood, the HBO series based on Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series, while I was in deep recovery. I'm still stuck on episode six ... and can't seem to find time to watch it even though the DVD is loaded and ready for the click of a button. I don't mind the series not following the books, but I do mind the way the scenes jump from one character to another without much development. Like chickens running around without their heads to no purpose.

Guess, I'm a character kind of gal. Don't like the character, I don't read ... or watch, in this case. -- Maybe that's why so many TV series fail? Because the simply-drawn characters keep going through the motions after their characters stop growing. Still, I need to get back and watch it. I think the show should be introducing Sookie's Fae cousins ... and I definitely want to see how the series handles them. -- Hey, there had to be a reason why Sookie could read minds.

Instead of watching the series, I ended up reading Definitely Dead, the tenth (?) book in the Sookie Stackhouse series. Seems I missed it ... or got confused by the sample chapter at the end of the last book I read into thinking I had read it.

Definitely Dead again has Sookie smack-dab in the middle of vampire politics while she tries to settle her cousin's estate and start a romance with a warm-blooded creature. How good is the book? The storyline is complete in itself with just enough back story to understand what's going on and a few loose ends to lead you into the next book in the series.

Harris is sort of an old hand at this series stuff. She has four successful ones [Sookie Stackhouse, Lily Bard, Harper Connelly, and Aurora Teagaren] and has fans still asking for more in the series she's closed. So far, when Harris has ended a series, the major character complications have usually been solved, ie the character stopped growing. If Harris continued, the character would be on repeat of solving a mystery in the British cozy pattern where the detective seems more a deus ex machina rather than a character.

Of course, at this point, I'm not worried about ending my own stories, but found an interesting blog on getting an ending on your stories -- long or short. I have more problems with getting them into second gear. Do you have trouble progressing with your current story, ie floundering for an ending? WiseInk has some ideas that might help you locate the the problem at Four Reasons You Can't Finish Your Book. I've tried to use the ideas to jump-start my writing, but so far ... I just run out of steam. [I'm blaming my surgery.]

Complications can help move a story. I've been trying to create more three dimensional characters, especially with my Half-Elven. Alexia Reed has a neat little list of Seven Ways to Create Character Depth. She even includes backstory as a way of preventing your characters from appearing sui generus from the page.

Give them a visit. I'll wish you an insight that will put you in Charlaine Harris' league.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Review: Gregor, the Overlander -- Overcoming Genre Norms

Pity the poor boy whose two-year-old sister saves his life when he drops down the laundry chute into a strange underground world.  Fortunately, Suzanne Collins created a caring eleven-year-old boy in Gregor, the Overlander who managers to be the hero because he's able to work with a team rather than be a super-hero, who can take on all comers. Collins has Gregor using his brain more than his muscles -- even when one of the "good guys" turns into a traitor.

Think I like Gregor more than Collins' Hunger Games series, even though that work is a masterpiece. Why? My intro is one reason. The other is that Collins creates a complete, self-contained alien world out of the few elements that might exist in an interlinked cavern world. How would you do with a group of humans who disappeared into the independent underground world, giant cockroaches, giant rats, spiders, and bats?

[Cows are mentioned and explained briefly, but aren't concerned with the over all plot -- except to provide jerky which runs out. Fish also provide protein.]

Running out of food is the least of the problems Gregor faces. The book is basically a quest novel. Granted Collins has Gregor being the focus of a vague prophesy. But, once he learns his father is alive, Gregor's main problem to find his father, who is a captive of the rats. All in all, Collins kept coming up with twists on the obvious as Gregor built his team ... which had me amazed at her creativity.

More important, Collins left me thinking I should read more middle grade.  Only problem there? Too many books seem to have the hero/protagonists do most of the heavy lifting. Actually, it's a problem inherent in much of genre fiction. You know a good author, when they break the conventions. 

On the other hand, writers have come a long way from many genre limitations: Ilona Andrews a popular fantasy writer [and one of my favorites] wrote a blog on Rules for Mystery Writers. As I read through them, I kept thinking urban fantasy couldn't exist if writers still followed them. Of course, the Brit social life was once bound by all sorts of rules of conduct.

What do you think? Can you have civility of discourse with hide-bound rules of conduct?

Another lead from Andrews sent me to another discussion of "strong Women" by Shana Mlawski on Why Strong Female Characters are Bad for Women. Actually, Mlawski takes on the super-nerdy concept of females as they all too often appear in action movies. Made me feel bad for nerdy adolescents who dream of banging the cheerleaders as opposed to the human encapsuled in the body, which would entail making love rather than banging.

Which makes me wonder what kind of flaws you give your characters to overcome. Isn't that the key to writing memorable people? I know I struggle with it. Do you?