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, November 29, 2012

Capturing a Reader's Attention: Hook, Story Line, and Characters

Can a book trap a reader? One assumes when a reader picks up a book, they want to read a good story. I know I do ... even if I sometimes have two or three books in process. Then, along comes a book that captures my attention with a complicated story line.  L. E. Modisett Jr.'s Lady-Protector is just such a book.

Lady-Protector is a b-a-a-a-d book. It pulled me away from two perfectly nice books I was enjoying -- one fantasy and one thriller. Yeah ... Lady-Protector sunk its claws into me and kept me up w-a-a-y past my bedtime for two nights, forcing the other books to languish on my side table among the Christmas catalogs. So what kind of hook did Modesett bait for his readers -- and he has a lot of readers and a huge body of work?

Mykella has survived a bloody coup using the Talents she inherited from long distant ancestors but finds herself facing a looted treasury, a restive merchant elite, a severe lack of funds, a crumbling infrastructure, and invading enemies -- both human and other-dimensional.  Sounds complicated ... but Modesett builds three-dimensional characters for his world that have you caring for the good guys and wondering why the bad guys seem to get away with their villainies for too long.

The first chapter opens with Mykella's investiture after she has destroyed the conspirators who killed her father and brother and robbed the treasury. Modisett draws the royal family and political situation with such a deft hand, complete with back story from the previous book, that the story line doesn't bog down once. Then, he pulls the hook tight when Mykella learns her aunt, the wife of the would-be usurper, has disappeared ... pregnant with a rival heir.

Lady-Protector is a long book, almost 500 pages, but it never becomes tedious. Maybe there's a bias here for those who like politics ... but Modisett stresses the personal aspects such as the rivalry of the three sisters, a tentative love interest, and Mykella's growing confidence as she solves one crisis after another.

There a eight books in the Corean Chronicles with Lady-Protector and its predecessor forming a self contained duology within the world.

Rating: Five Stars ... what else can I give it when it extended my reading hour each evening by two or three hours until the book was finished. I might go back and get the first book, The Lord-Protector's Daughter, but the blurbs for the other books in the series didn't catch my fancy. [Maybe I have terminal Tamora-Pierce disease.]

Progress?

Doing the dumb marketing bit. Granted promotion is like housework. It's never done. I can accept that, but I don't have to like it.  Am slowly making changes in my Twitter accounts. My @kaytheod account is turning into an author account while @TakingVengeance is more of a promotional sink hole.

One thing: Through December, I'm offering a free copy of Troublesome Neighbors to my readers in whatever social media. Just send me your email address to mkkaytheod [at] yahoo [dot] com. I'll send a PDF or epub file. [I'm doing it this way because I don't want to get tied up into the Kindle Direct stuff.]

As for writing, don't ask. But I am progressing, slowly if regularly, on my edits of Bad Luck Emma.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Does Your Backstory Clump like Lumpy Gravey

Back story can be a bitch. Inserting information smoothly, aka back story, into my story lines is one of the most difficult craft skills I'm trying to master. My Far Isle Half-Elven stories have over 400 years of history, and I explain too much too often.

I imagine setting up back story in the opening of a novel in a series is especially difficult. The more books in the series, the harder it is not to explain everything that happened before. Got hit over the head by this idea when I read Yasmine Galenorn's Shadow Rising. This eighth book in the DiArtigo sisters' Otherworld series tells its story from the viewpoint of Menolly, the vampire sister. [my favorite]

Demons threaten the Otherworld, but the sisters have their hands full with malicious ghosts erupting in the mortal world. Menolly must solve her personal problems -- her relationship to the Vampire's queen's son and her coming promise ceremony with her lover -- while the minions of the Lord of Ghosts attack on the sisters' mixed household of supernaturals.

That comes close to a log line, but it doesn't give the book full justice.  I love how Galenorn grows not only her major characters but many of the secondary characters within the story line. The plot line is filled with creative, twisting action.  Once it starts rolling, that is. Yeah, I found this volume a slow start with lumps of back story in the first chapters that sometime seemed like info-dumps.

The goal to reach for? A writer needs to scatter it through the chapters of his/her book like a rare spice. Too much back story slows down the read. I tell myself that over and over when I'm editing a story. Maybe that's why I stumbled over the back story because I'm trying to get Bad Luck Emma to read faster.

Rating: Galenorn's a master, but I only gave the book Four Stars at Goodreads because it didn't keep me up pass my bedtime.


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What's going on with my own writing. I'm trying to find book reviewers for Troublesome Neighbors at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Transferred the first fourth of my ruler edits of Bad Luck Emma. Beating back Mac who wants her story started ... now, instead of dinking with the opening lines.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Best Seller Success: Finding the Magic Fiction Formula

Looking for a formula for writing successful fiction? I’ve been distilling the info from a lot of the classes and articles so I'll share a bit. One element: how to structure your story lines into a simple formula for fiction success. 
 
Yeah, it all boiled down into a formula of sorts – you organize in three acts. The first act you introduce your characters. The second act has the main character achieving some form of their goal before everything starts to fall apart. The third acts the nadir where every thing seems lost, but the MC keeps struggling until s/he triumphs. 

So, how does this fiction formula work? Having done a lot of reading and rereading over the few weeks, I think it does. The stories I enjoyed most followed the formula. Each “act” in the books began at approximately the first, second, and third parts of the story – given some wiggle room. 

I tested the idea recently on one of Christine Feehan’s Carpathian novels – Dark Predator. Feehan’s a best selling author of three series. I’ve read many of her Carpathian and Game series … until I got tired of the repetitive character dynamics [the hyper macho man bit]. I've sort of ignored some of her recent novels even though they were on best seller lists. Yet, I still reread some of the first novels in each series.

Dark Predator starts with a wounded Carpathian ready to give up and face the dawn rather than turn vampire by killing one of his meals. He retreats to a family farm where he is saved by the love interest/life mate before he burns up. Result? He tries to surround the love interest in cotton wool. Of course, she’s the spunky sort who doesn’t obey rules and dictates very well. Second act opens with the two reaching an accommodation and recognize they are in lust with one another. The life mate bit happens and the story line shifts gears with many complications piling on top of their relationship until they all don't walk off into the sunset.

Simple, huh? Don’t you believe it. The fiction formula is just the framework. Ya gotta fill in the picture's details without falling into the cliche pit like Feehan. So there. Have i given you a key to becoming a best-selling author? It all depends on how you develop your other craft skills.

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I’ve been on an enforced break from blogging when Blogger locked me out of my blogs. Just as mysteriously, they are now letting me in. Here I am again. Be sure to read an excerpt of Troublesome Neighbors at my author page on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or iBookstore

I wouldn't mind if you bought the fantasy novella and gave me a review either.

Friday, November 16, 2012

What Happened?????

Well, I'll be darned.
Somehow, I got back into my blog.
I won't ask questions.
Now I must decided whether I will post my blog at my author website [in process].

How did I return? I think it has something to do with scrounging around for book reviews for Troublesome Neighbors, a story of how a young Renna, now a veteran of the Half-Elven Rebellion, turns the tables on Lord Gorsfeld for his annoying harassments of her people. You can read an except at the Far Isles Half-Elven Website. Anyway, some form wanted me to check in and my old login info worked.

Oh. Troublesome Neighbors even has a four-star review which you can read here.

If my login info works again tomorrow,
I'll post my review of Dark Predator which has been languishing in a Word doc.