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.

.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Going Back to to an Author's Roots

Roots make a great metaphor and can mean many things for a author. In Laurell K. Hamilton's case: Her new mass paperback, Hit List, mines the beginnings of her Anita Blake series when she takes on Mommie Darkest, whose minions are killing were-tigers in Seattle. The biggest- baddie-of-all wants to possess Blake's body. There's more arse-kicking than rolling-between-the-sheets.

Perhaps Hamilton's greatest achievement here is how she weaves elements from her previous Blake books ... even the erotica ... to give Blake the tools she needs to come up with a satisfying ending. This book is leaner than the previous few in the series, and I liked how the action moved as many of the characters from previous adventures were woven into the plot. Of course, those who can't be named -- the Harl***in -- make almost invincible opponents until Blake brings her talents to bear ... and no, I don't mean her prowess in bed. 

Personally, I like Blake's sense that "god" is a non-judgemental being, who doesn't deny her/his help just because Blake doesn't follow a prescribed religion.

Hamilton also indicates the series will continue. One, an except of the hard back book , Kiss the Dead, is included. [I was pleased to see that Zerbrowski was featured in the first chapter, though he seemed more serious than before.] Two, Olaf, the serial killer with a fixation on Blake, escaped and disappeared with another victim.

#

Have been struggling to produce more than 500 words a day, much of that rewrites. It's enough to make you wonder if you're doing the "right" thing. Like why am I doing all social networking stuff????

A blog by Yasmine Galenorn over at Life on the Fringe addresses much of that territory. Why not take a look at "Writing Tips: Just Do It". No hand holding here, just sound advice. You should be writing for yourself.

Then, there's L. M. Preston's blog on why she loves writing.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cliches Uber Alles -- But Still, A Hook?

Wasn't I the person who pronounced that she only skimmed books that didn't hook me because they were filled with cliches? Guess what happened on the next book I read.

At the grocery store, I caught a book by Kay Hooper I hadn't seen before: Unmasking Kelsey. The book's a suspense/romance first published in 1988. Yeah, 20 years ago, and how publishing has changed! 

But, if you're a best-selling author, you get you old stuff republished -- even if it doesn't meet today's conventions. While I didn't count or try to estimate the words, I suspect the book qualifies as a short novella made to look like a novel by using double spacing. -- Hey, I looked at the book before I bought it so I knew I was paying $7 bucks up front.

So, the cliches:

What could be more of a cliche than an enigmatic alpha male and a damsel in distress falling in lust/love at first sight? Kelsey is the emotionally suppressed male who gets his chain yanked by said damsel whose sister has been kidnapped by the bad guys. Hooper uses this premise to base a solid puzzle piece using private super-competent agents for law and order. I enjoyed it more because you can see where her Bishop FBI series incubated. 

In short, good ideas trump cliches.   

#

Useful Information

Some surprising stuff falls out of my stat listings. [You do look at your blog stats, don't you? What has surprised you when you look at them?] While checking "More" on my stats, I sometimes click on the more unusual urls who checked out the blog. Recently found a blog on some basic boxing moves that can help your/my characters in a street fight: "Three Basic Boxing Combos that You can Use in a Street Fight". It's on a Mixed Martial Arts blog where I couldn't find any name attached.

Also, liked Scott Bury's take on keeping your writing simple -- stupid. Though he doesn't put it that way. Just had to show my age, I guess. Anyway, Scott blogged at "Written Words" about some Writing Tips: Don't try to be a Writer. 

His blog reminded me when I was in college when a couple of friends of mine and I tried to surpass the others in writing term papers in the most ponderous German academic style. Once I wrote a sentence over 100 words long ... and it sort of made sense.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Plodding through the To-Read Pile Without a Hook

What makes a book hook you? I'll be darned if I know. I'm one of those readers who likes to get lost in another writer's world ... whether it's set in the past, present, or future. I buy several books a week in hopes that one of them will keep me reading until 2 AM. Many purchases go on the trade pile after just a few pages or chapters beyond the opening that had intrigued me.

Just went through the second part of a what-turned-out-to-be a minor health crisis -- my kidney which seems to be okay but hospitals still freak me out. The biggest effect of the experience seems to have been in my head. I haven't be able to concentrate on much of anything. I haven't even been doing the social media efficiently. Got the first 1000 word of the introduction of my new short story done in the time it'd usually take me to finish the first draft. Did managed to get through seven new books in the past two weeks. Plus, I reread a couple of my favorites which I won't count.

Seven book in two weeks? How did I do that?
Well, I skimmed, mostly.
I'd start out with great hopes, be sort of interested, but the books
 didn't hook me enough to pull me under.
Why?
Let's discuss what pulled me out of a book rather than what I envied.

I had great hopes for Stacia Kane's Sacrificial Magic. She has a freshly conceived world of after the Church of Real Truth took over and controlled the magic disrupting people's lives. Within that world, Kane sets up a nice convoluted mystery involving ghosts. She even has some interesting secondary characters. One -- named Terrible who played the love interest -- kept me skimming, even though I knew, in spite of his suspicions, the MC and he would be together in the end. 

So, why did I end up skimming the book? Kane made up a dialect that my dyslexia found very hard to understand even though I figured out the linguistic rules. It may have been based on a local English dialect, but every time my eyes hit the dialog, I got bounced out of the story.

Devoured Charlaine Harris' Dead Reckoning. It was an adequate read with all the main-stay characters walking through the slight plot. Think it would have been better served as a novella.

G. A. Henty's The Boy Knight: A Tale of the Crusades showed its age with its ponderous telling. I picked up a used reprint of his 1891 book, Winning His Spurs.

Sometimes, I'm a glutton for punishment. I read Thomas Dixon Jr.'s 1902 book, The Leopard's Spots. It focused on the Southern viewpoint of the aftermath of the Civil War and dripped with more sentimentality than Thackeray. The plot flow didn't even reach a ponderous pace, though some of the plot points were interesting. -- Again, too many points reiterated and said again.

I'll close this off with Trenton Lee Stewart's The Mysterious Benedict Society. I know the series is on the New York Times best seller list, but I found the plot predictable. The characters were also cliches. 

Cliched plots and characters pretty much sums up the other books I read. 


Friday, May 18, 2012

Blog, Blogged, Blogging

Have been thinking, a lot, about blogging the past couple of days. Partly, because I haven't been blogging much. Partly, because I'm thinking of ways I might change this. Partly, my link to the blog about making money by turning your blog into a book. -- Not that I think I'd ever spend the effort to do that. Still, I've been blogging for maybe three-four years. Maybe it's time to do things a little differently.

Perhaps the best advice would be to write a better blog. Julie Rosen at Social North wrote about "The Art of a Well-Written Blog". You might take a peek. I found it useful. Hope you do to.

Of course, when you've written the blog, you want someone to read it. Don't you? Looking for some new ideas to mine, I put "improve blogs" into Google. The #1 listing was a blog by SEOMoz : 21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic [Updated 2012]. The blog is a revision of a blog written in 2007 and prints out a small binder full of pages, if you print it. There's a lot of technical info which I think might even help me understand what's going on.


#

Yeah. The need to market is ever-present. Twitter. Blogspot. Facebook. I'm on all of them with varying degrees of success. My "eh" factor usually turns my attention to other efforts, but still, I try to be more efficient about marketing. 

Sometimes, I even give myself a chuckle. Recently, read an article by Jeff Bullas on how to run a successful Facebook page promotion. Since my Far Isle Half-Elven page is so anemic, I thought it was worth a look -- even though I had other things to do. Result: They discussed the campaigns of Kohl, Target, Southwest Airlines, and Corona beer among others -- all of which spend millions on marketing. ...

Yeah, some self-published writer is going to be as successful as them.
 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Help Build Your Platform with These Links

Okay, am planning on catching up with all my emails though I'm still revising Dark Solstice, a Far Isle Half-Elven novel. Below are some interesting things I've found that don't fit into my book review blogs. Hope you find some of the interesting too. You'll find some promotion /social networking stuff since that's what I'm studying. -- Don't act on the information much, though.

Platform building. Does it increase sales? Kevin Lucia discusses his efforts On Building a Platform here. I think his discussion is interesting, especially in dealing with time constraints. How do your efforts measure up. ... And, yes. I retweeted it. [Do you follow me on Twitter [@kaytheod & @TakingVengeance] and Facebook [under the Far Isle Half-Elven]? I'm hiding there.]

Back to Blogging

 The world has conspired against me -- though things seems to be working out. First, I couldn't find stuff in the Google+ new format. [The above was written back in April, I think. Anyway, the above article is still useful.]  Then, a good friend had a stroke and eventually died. Then, there were my own health problems ... but the kidney tumor hasn't returned. So far, so good until the next check up.

Have you thunk about: "Turn Blog Posts into Publishers Gold". The Passive Guy linked to another blog with these interesting suggestions. I read a couple blogs that give interesting information on the time period the writer works in, one who's give a lot of frugal news, but I can even think of some writing blogs that discuss writing techniques that are unique enough to publish. 

With self-publishing so easy, it would give you a way to build a platform which would relate to what you write. Might as well use that research for something.

No, I won't be following my own advice/suggestion. I'm trying to rev up my platform by revising my Renna's Tales and turn them into real stories. Yeah, I'm going to try to write another short story, then, self-publish it for free. -- I'm tired of tooting the same two stories.

Then, there's Fabian Pattberg who has decided not to Twitter or Google+. You can read his blog "My Social Media Experiment -- No More Twitter and Google+ for a Month".  Read his justification. He's going to blog. -- Guess he could come up with a short book if he chose his topics well.

Then, how do you tell if all your efforts are working? Well, there's Klout. It's a "score-keeper" of how many people read you and how you influence them. Guess, it's a handy tool if you are interested. My score is 38, not that I know what it means. Though, I can guess it reflects my non-interest.



Thursday, May 10, 2012

Setting as Character

The lovely thing about mysteries is they take you to lovely places, and more important, they give you a feeling for what it's like to live there. That's one of the charms about cozy mysteries. Whatever, I know that it's true for this anthropology-trained writer. I went all warm and fuzzy when I discovered Morag Joss's Bath-located mystery, Funeral Music, in a used book store. It's set in one of my favorite places: Bath, England.

Sara Selkirk, a world class cellist, is lucky enough to live in Bath. She's also unlucky enough to have lost her creative spark after her husband dies. On the night the a friend convinces her to play at a reception at the Pump Room, the museum director of the Roman Baths is murdered. Selkirk soon finds herself in the middle of the investigation not only because the detective investigating the crime is one of her cello students but she knows many of the suspects.

As she travels through the tangle of personalities, the city of Bath lurks in the background. You even get the feel for what it's like to shop at a British supermarket as well as taking an armchair visit to some major tourist attractions. The story line's also a nice journey because so many of the characters become red herrings. Joss' characterization skills transfers well to the suspects because the most likely, unsympathetic character isn't the perp. At the same time, the stealth suspect has a better motivation for the crime. -- I'd say more, but that'd be a spoiler.

Now that I've written this, I'm hoping I can find the posting spot again on the new Google+.
The links below are old, but still useful.

Busy?

Need some more excuses to social network? Cheryl Reif has posted a poll on "How Much Time Do You Spend Online".  The poll will make you think, but her summary of why you should spend time online plus her readers' comments are food for thought. 

Think social networking is just for your amusement? Don't have the confidence in your writing to think you don't need to social network yet. E. J. Wesley has some words for you on getting your game on.

And, then, there's your website.
You do have one, don't you? 
It's one of the keys to building your platform as an author.

As you might guess, I've been vaguely thinking about my website where the Far Isle Half-Elven roam. No revisions are going to happen to my website anytime soon. Too busy editing Dark Solstice for an agent. If you have your website up, you might check out Mark Lieberman's blog 10 Quick and Easy Upgrades You Should Make to Your Website Today.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Announcing: Pat, the Pet

Can't leave well enough alone. Still, can't do Google+ with facility and I'm setting up another web presence. Grumpy Dragon Press is getting close to releasing Pat, the Pet.  Pat is the "star" of a color-a-comic, vowel-controlled pre-primer. How's that for a mouthful, but that pretty much defines what Pat, the Pet is. 

Pat is now up on Twitter as @PatthePet. It'd be nice if someone followed me. Springlea, the editor at Grumpy Dragon, says they have a marketing guru to help authors market. It might be worth it to compare the development of Pat, the Pet to Taking Vengeance, where I learned what little I know about social networking/marketing.

Yeah, I consider Pat, the Pet a fantasy.