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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Monday, December 16, 2013

Taming Twitter

My opinion: Social media, including Twitter, are a time-suck. Almost as big a suck as playing games when you should be writing. Have you heard that bitch before? I know I've grumbled and snarled about it ... and I read about it a lot too.

The big question is: What have I done about it?

At this point, I have two Twitter places: my normal one [@kaytheod] and the advertising/promo one. I set up the second one because I got a little tired of sifting through the "Buy-my-book" ones. They've both been up since at least 2010 and have over 2,000 followers. My guess is I engage with only about 50 of them regularly. -- I can beg people to buy my book with the worst of them.

I spend about 30-45 minutes a day on Twitter ... readng, following back, replying, and retweeting

So what good has all the time I've spent done for me?
1) Attracts People to my Websites. This is a flawed measure since the Go Daddy counters go spastic every once in a while, but I do notice an increase in visits when I promote my websites. One of my main enticements are the free short stories I offer. Visit my author website to learn more.

2) "Sells" A Few Free Short Stories. If I promote a lot using hashtags, I get a large increase in the number of people who download my free short stories. My base line comes from my epub The Foiling of Gorsfeld which I only publicize on my websites.

I also promote the links to buy my e-novellas, Troublesome Neighbors and Taking Vengeance. I'm not a stellar seller, but I don't do too badly for a self-published writer with only a few listings. My rank yo-yos worse than a chronic dieter's, but I have risen to the 30,000s in author rank a couple of times. I'm always amazed at how high one sale lifts the ranking of one of my novellas ... for a day.

3) Drives People to My Blog. This is where Twitter shines. If I come up with a catchy title my numbers soar. I post maybe once a day at both of my Twitter accounts. Usually my blogs get over a hundred reads in a week or so. My highest number of views for a blog so far is 600.

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Oh yeah, I'm supposed to be a writer, so what have I written. I did get the package for The Noticed One, a soft horror short story, ready to send off -- if Kindle Singles accepts it for publication -- though I'm still agonizing over the blurb. [Have I ever mentioned I'm lousy at doing promo c**p?

Cover

Current Blurb:

Plain Cassy Mae goes to live with her grandmother in the mountains after her mother died, in spite of GrammyJo’s working juju. But worse dangers lurk in the hills than her grandmother’s herb lore.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thinking About Where Do Book Series Begin? End?

My obsession with series continues. You can blame it on The Grumpy Dragon and its suggestion that I write a sequel to There Be Demons. The thought's scary like jumping off a cliff without a parachute.

Why? All the novels that have come out of my computer so far have grown organically as my characters careened from one situation to the next. The Demons sequel demands a outline. Why? Because if there's a middle, there logically has to be an end. Seems to me setting up the situation is the easy part. The rest has to build an expand on what happened before.

What are your feelings on this?

Cricket McCrae, aka Bailey Cates, poured gas on my fire, aka questions. She's the author of the Magical Bakery Mysteries among others. I recently read the last two in the series ... trilogy? ... close together -- Bewitched, Bothered, and Biscotti and Charms and Chocolate Chips. Yeah, the titles reek of cozy cutesie, but I read and enjoyed them anyway -- without having to control my gag reflex. McCrae/Bailey has a light touch with murder. I'll take my smiles where I can find them.

The first book,  Brownies and Broomsticks, sets up the series when Katie Lightfoot moves to Savannah, GA. She hopes to start a new career helping her aunt and uncle set up a bakery. Lightfoot's running from a bad job, a relationship gone teminal, and a mother who forgot to tell her she was a witch-in-waiting. The most important "man" in her life is the stray mutt who sets himself up as her familiar though the book sets up two possible suitors.  The storyline follows her trek of discovery -- including a knack for sleuthing when her uncle becomes the prime suspect in a murder. 

Bewitched, Bothered and Biscotti has Lighfoot learning her magical abilities mean more than charming the baked good with herbs and good intentions. She continues finding murdered bodies and solving crimes, in spite of police opposition. She's also in the enviable situation of choosing between two hunks -- one with magic and one normal. Lightfoot also comes to terms with the fact she's a witch and learns about the various permutations the Craft can take. The most important revelation in the second volume is that Lightfoot is more powerful than a common hedge witch ...only she has no one to teach her.

Charms and Chocolate Chips continues Lightfoot's journey -- and leaves me hanging. Is the book the last of a trilogy or the third in an ongoing series? 

Lightfoot is becoming part of the community now and is volunteering for a local conservation group when the director is murdered, supposedly because she opposed the sale of a swamp to a consortium who wants to build a golf course. She settles on the normal guy for romance, but she doesn't know if she can make it work, especially when she puts him in harm's way. 

Her mother coming to Savannah to reconcile with Lightfoot makes me wonder if there will be more Lightfoot mysteries. Many of the protagonist's problems are wrapped up in an acceptable way in this book, including a reconciliation with her mother. I can see where the series could go on as Lightfoot solves more murders in Savannah. But took a look at the author websites, but didn't find any clues as to the writer's intentions.

So what about the writing craft aspects of these novels? I especially admire how McCrae/Bailey draws her characters. Even the tertiary ones are well-rounded. The plots twist enough to be interesting. Her villains are well motivated. McCrae/Bailey puts together a nice paranormal mystery, based on nice people you wouldn't mind knowing. Maybe even make you wish you did know people like them.

McCrae/Bailey stirs up a nice, cross-genre confection. I'm stuffing all three volumes in my overloaded book shelves. Five stars to the series as well as the individual books.

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Writers write, right? Sometime during the day, I know I'm supposed to write. I try. Really I do. I even have a schedule. Toy with Forbidden Fruit in the evenings. [I still want to publish more novellas about the my Half-Elven world.] 

In the morning, I was working on edits for Black Tail's War. Now, I'm launching a new project. Why?
  1. Taking Vengeance is finally up on Amazon, Nook, and Smashwords. I need to promote it.
  2. I've submitted The Noticing One, a short story, to Amazon singles.
  3. Since it worked the first time with Night for the Gargoyles, I'm writing a short story set in the world of the sequel to There Be Demons. Even have a tentative book title, Crossing the River.
Think that's enough on my plate.

Oh, I've been offering Taking Vengeance free on Smashwords to people who follow me on the various social media that consume too much of my time. The code is EG75E, and it's good until 30 November 2013. Link to buy

If you like it, I'd appreciate a review. Just a short paragraph. No Master's Thesis.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Do You Have the MOJO to Write a Series?

While I haven't been keeping up on this blog very well, I have been reading lots of books connected with a series. Even re-reading some old favorites such as Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small series about the second new Tortall Lady Knight. But Barb Hendee's The Mist-Torn Witches started my trend.

My first impression about Witches was that it was ideal for a series, even if the two poor, orphaned sisters eked out a living in an obscure village. The elder sister pretended to be a seer. Fortunately, the warlord of their district tries to kill them for not following his orders. Pretend seer gave a true reading when her unsuspected powers manifested. 

See what I mean about cliches?

Barb Hendee is lucky to be an experienced writer. She quickly turned the lukewarm fantasy into a mystery. While book wasn't engrossing, it was a pleasant read -- that I read in a couple of sittings.

Four stars out of five because I'll probably go out of my way to read the sequel. 

Hendee rates high because I finished the book in good time. I'm still trying to wade through Kevin Hearne's last Iron Druid story where the chase back to fairyland where he hopes to be safe from the Olympians, Nodic gods, and vampires trying to kill him. [You can note I can't remember the title at the moment and am not going downstairs to find where I left the copy.]

Yeah, Hearne is still funny ... or, at least Oberon is. Hearne sort of lost his edge for me when Coyote took a hit for him. The story lines have really slowed down in following sequels.

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 Marketing Lament

Of course, I don't have an edge to lose. I manage to stay solidly in the lumpen of self-published authors who make a few sales here and there. Of course, most of my posted works are free. I must say I'm good at selling free stories. But I'm not going to get rich on 99c sales either. 

I get a laugh, though, when someone puffs their book ... and I do check because I like to like author pages ... and their Amazon ranking is lower than mine with one short novella up.

Just got the new version of Taking Vengeance up. Will start promoting it when the upload doesn't have two copies of the cover in it. Don't ask me how it happened. I'm a star computer klutz. Just as the "help" departments of where I post or self-publish stuff.



Maybe I'd do better if I liked marketing and promo. Any authors out there have any semi-good suggestions on linking with actual buyers? I don't expect you to give away your best secrets. Just a place where you can contact engaged buyers of books. 

Of course, it'd be nice if they read their downloads and gave reviews. I'd be happy for just a few more sales.




Monday, November 4, 2013

Finding an Alien Viewpoint -- Not Different -- Allochthonic

Gotcha with the "allochthonic", didn't I?  

Heh. Heh. Discovered my word-of-the-year when looking for synonyms of alien. Chthonic as to do with "of or characteristic of deities or supernatural beings thought to dwell in or under the earth". Allo means "a combining form meaning other".

I just went through about a half hour's work looking for a word that implied "ultra-different".  Why? Because I've been struggling to create description of the Elflands that would be different from our mundane, human world. It doesn't matter that I've veered off into the "edit" path. I still think of my characters in stasis even though I've been concentrating on getting publications ready to self-publish.

So, where is a poor, struggling writer supposed to find an alien viewpoint. It can be done. Ursula K. LeGuin has done it marvelously in The Left Hand of Darkness, but few of us have her skills.

I'm suggesting a cheat. It came about all because I've recently read Erin Hunter's Survivors: The Empty City. A huge earthquake leaves a city deserted by humans, forcing a pack of pampered dogs to learn for to exist without their humans. Fortunately they are found by Lucky, an unleashed dog, who shows them the ropes.

First Hunter has so many five-star ratings as well as other best-selling series, all told from an animal viewpoint. As such her books are a good object lesson on how to focus in on a few distinct thought patterns and sensory details to tell a story. I would study which type of details Hunter emphasized if you are looking to create a true alien experience.

Okay, for the rating. Five-Stars. What else can I give since the book kept me riveted for a one-sitting read. Granted it's relatively easy to do with a middle grade book, but I wasn't aware of time passing by until I closed the book.

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Have you noticed I haven't been posting to my blog? Got caught tangled in edits, rewrites, and publishing. The new fantastic revised version of Taking Vengeance with a wonderful cover is now up on Smashwords. My new opening is in the sample.


 On  Allochthonic: There's nothing supernatural about dogs, but I still love the word.



Monday, September 23, 2013

Twisting the Cliche. Are There Any New Ways to Write About Vampires?

Readers, how many times do you browse the paranormal shelves and get haunted by the undead?

Writers, how many times have you read agent wish lists that say: "No vampires, please"?

Yet, if you look, writers do come up with viable variations on the vampire cliche and write a fresh story.

A couple of my favorite variations. Ilona Andrew's mindless killers driven by by intelligent nasties. [I've never quite pictured the semi-humans in my mind, and I think the Andrews team wants it that way.] Charlaine's Harris' hierarchical kingdoms. Laurell K. Hamilton's pioneering efforts of vampire hunks which have now become a cliche in itself.

Now I've found a new twist on the vampire theme in Phillipa Bornikova's This Case Is Going to Kill Me that I like. Her vampires are affected by ultraviolet rays, not daylight. Think vampires feeding on specially fed hosts during business lunches behind screens  Also for Bornikova there are no female vampires. The reason remains vague even though the main character, Linnet Ellery, was fostered in a vampire family to gain career advantage.

After due law-school diligence, Ellery is given a position in a powerful vampire law office over the objections of one of the senior partners. Bornikova weaves together some nice plot threads to create no only the intrigue of a big-time law office plus a good detective story about searching for a will that totally disinherits a werewolf who think he owns a powerful security firm after he settles one claim to the business. 

You might say Linnet Ellery has her hands full. I don't read many lawyer novels but I thought the plot development fresh, even the romance was handled differently. Oh, almost forgot. Yeah. There's a romance with a Fae, but it doesn't run down a one track cliche either.

I'm going to keep this one since I think I might like to re-read it.


Another Bonus Read:
I don't read many e-type books, but I'm slowly reading Revenir Intern by R. Mac Wheeler. [Available on Amazon] In a world at war, a teen is picked to intern with a vampire queen's forces after drawing the her attention with her junior essay. The short of it, spoiled Caitlan is forced to change her summer plans to hang out with a bunch of soldiers. 

I haven't finished it yet because I need to get away from screens after spending all day sitting at one. Still the book keeps me stuck in my chair before the confuser longer than I must. Even though I sometimes have to turn off my internal editor. You might go to the Amazon page to see if the sample of Revenir Intern interests you. It's hooked me on its plot line and sense of humor. 

Author Update
What have I been doing? W...e...l...l  ... just about nothing. 

Wish I could say I finished something I was working on. Am still waiting for the next set of edits for There Be Demons. Should be writing new stuff for Forbidden Fruit, but am revising from my critique comments. Revising from the edits of The Pig Wars which is now Black Tail's War. 

Here's a second look of the cover since my website got first looks. You can read the first chapter at the website. Did you guess the book's the sequel to Troublesome Neighbors.







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Monday, September 16, 2013

What the Heck Is Fantasy Anyway? A Book Review of A Wanted Man & More

While goofing off the last month or so re-reading fantasy books I'd saved, I got caught in some existential questions about what fantasy is. Frankly I don't even care what the SFWA thinks. I'll fall back on the infamous "porn" definition. I know fantasy when I see it.

Fantasy is by definition unrealistic.  My prime example, even though bookstores don't shelves the books in the Fantasy section, is Lee Child's Jack Reacher series. Just finished A Wanted Man as a break in all the oldies I was reading. [And still itch to read]

Why do I think Reacher is a fantasy hero. How ofter do you think someone reaches into a moving car and not only grabs the the cell phone but the driver too? And, survives with their arm intact? Yet the New York Times Book Reviews will give Child and other mystery writers regular mentions but only it only reviews fantasy when it's Young Adult or written by the likes of Margaret Atwood.

In case you haven't heard, Jack Reacher is a 6'6", muscle bound, former military MP hitchhiker who gets in all sorts of trouble while he's travels around the country with his trusty toothbrush. A Wanted Man has Reacher getting involved in an FBI operation when he is picked up by some bad guys on the interstate. 

Child writes a terse style which makes the action in his plots seem faster than it is. His character development shines with an ability to make the same-old, "stock" law enforcement people into individuals. His villains are well drawn too, but often sink into cliche territory. 

Most enjoyable for me is Child's dead pan humor. An example, in A Wanted Man, he has an FBI agent copying Reacher's pattern of buying new clothes when the old ones get dirty. Only she saves her old blouse to wash later.

Again, how realistic is it for a guy to maintain basketball-sized biceps by throwing bad guys around rather than working out in a gym for hours. For me, every Jack Reacher novel is a must read ... at least until they become cliches of themselves. May that be many books from now.

An Addition

Re-discovered a gem: Katherine Neville's The Eight.  While it's been sleeping behind a bunch of other books, it's become something of a thriller classic. I reviewed it for Goodreads. [I think.] If you like cross-genre fiction with a strong fantasy element you might look at it. Warning: The plot structure is more complex than most novels written today, and it's slow to start since there's a lot of back story about a mysterious, magical incident from Charlemagne's time involving a chess set.


Updates

While I'm supposed to be a writer, I've been mainly fussing with my websites. Hope all the stubborn broken links are fixed now, and I haven't seen any typos the last couple of times I looked. 
You might take a look at the Far Isles Half-Elven site

I've put up the opening chapter of The Pig Wars ... though I may change the title to The Black Tail War. Must give the pet pig her proper due.

And a little gift for all your writer's out there if you don't follow Janet Reid, Literary Agent. Watch this video.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Golden Fantasy Oldies -- Revisiting Favorite Reads

Most fantasy readers I've talked to still get warm fuzzies from the favorite fantasy worlds of their youth. It's enough to make me feel unnatural because I seldom feel warm fuzzies about anything. Yeah, old pickle puss, that's me. Still I do reread and reread some of the same books over and over. 

Andre Norton's Year of the Unicorn and Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight are just two recent examples.

The Year of the Unicorn is what might be called a novella today by some publisher requirements, but it was an Ace single when I bought it. The lords of Dales made a bargain with a pack of were-riders to give them 13 brides of good birth if the weres helped them defeat their Alizon attackers. The Unicorn book tells the story of how the debt was paid and how two young misfits who must find a their place in the world.

Set in Norton's Witch World,  Year of the Unicorn demonstrates one of the things Andre Norton does best -- a coming of age story of two talented young people who don't fit their society's expectations. The story is sparsely written but characters and setting come through loud and clear as the two struggle for their lives.

Anne McCaffrey's world of Pern is another classic fantasy franchise. I read Dragonflight  with enjoyment. The plot lines of the two main characters, Lessa and F'lar, coping with a deadly danger from space and each other held up well. So well it sucked me right into reading the sequel.

Can't say the same about Dragonquest where coping with a four-hundred-year time difference is the prime problem . Lessa became a secondary character, and F'lar become a deus ex machina with the right answer for everything. A few dust ups but no conflict, let alone angst.

###

Am spending huge amounts of time on the computer ... but not getting much writing or blogging done. Primarily because I don't know what I want to do. Oh, I have plenty to do. 

The beginning of the Half-Elven of the Marches ... some 20,000 words into it. Is it the beginning of a novel? Another novella. The more I ponder while petting my muse, I think it will be a series of novellas. Then, if it ever becomes a novel ... Who knows what will happen.

There Be Demons is waiting for the teen editors. It's an interesting concept to have teens part of the editorial process. On the other hand, teens are part of the editorial process. Not quite ready to start singing: Some Day My Edits Will Come.

Have been as slow to blog as to write. I don't do formal well ... so I'm going back to mouthing off. It's what I do best ... even if no one agrees with me.
Summer's over with. Hope you have lots of interesting projects to keep you busy over the winter. Maybe even a bright new idea for NaNoWriMo.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Guilty Pleasures -- Do You Read Them? Write Them?

Guilty Pleasures? What are they any way? Something you consider not worthy of reading but enjoy any way? Something you are ashamed of reading and are glad you have an e-reader so no one on the train or bus knows what you are reading?

No I don't consider Erotica a guilty pleasure. Hey, I read and have kept all the Anita Blake series except for Affliction which hasn't come out in mass paperback yet. I think Laurell K. Hamilton's bed scenes are more exhausting than titillating.

For me guilty pleasures involve Romantica of the Happily-Ever-Afters because I don't think any human should be so stupid as to bank all his/her happiness on one individual. In other words I have a short tolerance level for Idiotica. 

Having said that, I admit that I read romances. Hey I've even read a few Barbara Cartland Regencies in my life... until I ignored them because they lacked the detail of Georgette Heyer's settings and her intelligent heroines. [Yeah, I still have all of Heyer's Regencies on my bookshelves and even re-read them.] 

What kind of romances to I succumb to? Ones with a good mystery, and better yet, an interesting supernatural/real world connection tied to a mystery.

So what did I read while my brain was on meltdown from
There Be Demons edits?

Mary Balough: The Proposal -- Lord Trentham, a commoner [rich], gained his title for battlefield bravery but now reluctantly looks for a wife since he promised his father on his deathbed that his sons would carry on the family business. Hero chances upon Lady Muir, a widow and part of the intricate family networks of the Bedwyn world. The premise: the struggle to reconcile two conflicting worlds. Yeah this is a b/g meets g/b - b/g loses g/b - b/g wins g/b book. Balough makes the book a winner with her command of the Regency era .and the complexities of her characters. -- Five Stars and a Keeper.

Stephanie Laurens: The Taming of Ryder Cavanaugh -- At first, the book looks a simple romance where Mary Cynster, the last unmarried Cynster female of her generation, finds her true love with the help of a mystical necklace connected with the Lady, a mystical Scottish entity connected to her family. The story soon complicates into a decent who-done-it as Ryder and Mary try to figure out who is trying to kill them. -- Four Stars since too many of the Cynster heroes blend into an repetitive pattern. Still the series has been enjoyable, if unchallenging, reads.

Last but not least, Heather Graham's Heart of Evil -- Graham's supernatural villains are the topping that makes her supernatural mysteries so enjoyable. In this story, former lovers must reconcile against the background of the "Krewe of Hunters" -- an FBI group of paranormal mystery solvers -- tackling the murder of a Civil War enactor who is found swinging from an angel in a plantation cemetery. -- Five Stars for inventiveness here.

So now you know what I've been reading during the three weeks I've been doing edits of There Be Demons for the Grumpy Dragon Press editors. Yeah it's escapist "literature". But they are all good, relaxing reads. May I be so successful.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Writer Rip-Offs and More Pleasant Topics

So ... you've written your book The edits are done.  What's going to happen next?  Chances are you you're going to get ripped off -- one way or another. And no. It's just not my permission saying so.

The IndieReader posted a guest blog by Coral Russell: Ripping Off Authors: Let Us Count the Ways.

End of Public Announcement.

###
 
Think I'm neck deep in edits for There Be Demons
My tongue is sticking out
My face is turning blue
Visit my website http://bit.ly/WBnYOU

Was surprised when that rhymed. Don't think of myself as a poet though I've been known to write Bad Haiku on occasion.Even have a draft of a novel hidden in my laptop ... if it got transferred. I'm finding some stuff didn't in spite of the sales person's promises.

Have some "guilty pleasures" I want to blog about ... but the next week has my nose to the grindstone. [Do you think it'll get smaller? Maybe neat and dainty. .... Nah.]

Am posting this so people will know where I'm hiding the coming week. Somehow I've got 20 chapters to edit. Don't think I'm going to do it. 

Maybe it's a good thing I don't have an agent.
They'd starve if they depended on me to eat and pay the rent, etc.

 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Can You Write a Gripping Book?

I'm sure you've been told gripping books sell. I'm sure you've tried or are trying to write one. But have you figured out why writing a good book is so hard? 

My take: it's a matter of opinion. Publishers. Agents. Writers. Book Stores. Readers. All have their own idea of what works. Was thinking about this when I read Ilona Andrews, of the Magic urban fantasy series of Atlanta gone awry with fluctuating magic, making a comment in a blog which I think sums the situation up beautifully:

"A gripping book is like porn.  You know when you see it, but if you try to identify the elements of it, chances are someone will come back with a gripping book that does exactly the opposite."

Want an amusing look at a successful writer's day seen through the eyes of his/her hypothetical intern? Here's a link to the blog "Interns".

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So do I write gripping stories? I don't think so. I'm sort of a dilettante who writes more to amuse myself than become a great author or even a best-selling writer. Still, do have a publication date for "There Be Demons" of Spring 2014. Arcs should be ready about October-November. Then, I have to go into marketing mode to justify the investment Grumpy Dragon is making in me.

Have a big editorial meeting coming up in a couple weeks. I'm hoping my editorial board asks enough questions to fill in the holes in my storyline, characters, descriptions and all that other stuff that goes into making a readable story. In the meantime, I hoping the storyline is gripping enough not to put them to sleep.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Some Writing Thoughts -- Making Your Writing Better

Am really putzing. Like I'm not making much progress with my word counts.  One problem: I try to edit as I write. Slows you down, but I like the results better than encountering an embarrassing mess the next day.

Not doing much marketing either. Read Facebook but haven't contributed anything ... not even about the rioting roses and clematis. Even have slacked off on Twitter. Did read six of the early Anita Blake novels in front of the fan-enhanced A/C. In fact, I recommend the early Blake books by Laurell K. Hamilton. Better than anyone else I can remember off-hand, she weaves two-three plot lines with finesse ... without the romance/erotic stuff which adds other complications and distractions.

Are you editing yet?. Better yet, do you want to memorize some words that'll make your writing leaner so your storyline reads faster? Lauren Spieller has some suggestions for you: Words to Eliminate from Your Writing.  --

One of the ways I check for "flabby" words is to use the "find" in my toolbar. For "to-be" forms I seach for "ing" since it usually happens using "to-be"

While you play with ideas, do you also play with titles? What do you think of Emily Veinglory's comments on adding "xxx: a novel" to the end of your title? -- 

Titles are always hard for me. Like my current title for the opening to my Half-Elven series is 'Forbidden Fruit'. Don't like it but it sums up the situation. And, no. It isn't a 'romance' even though relationships are central to the plot line. And, yeah. I added "A Tale of the Half-Elven" to the title "The Foiling of Gorsfeld". [free at my author website]

Coming up with new, unused, or beaten-to-death situations is another problem for writers.  Susan Vittitow Mark wrote a blog at The Writing Bug about Making Big, Messy Art.   Bottom line: Mark writes about journaling to create a mine where you can dig for ideas. The opening is a gas. Won't do a spoiler here. Just go look at the pictures.

Then there's procrastination. There was a great article on the differences on being a writer 20-30 years ago. I didn't capture the url and paste it here for further use. In the meantime my computer and the phones died. Short version: Being a mid-list for major publishers has become a version of "hell". 

Oh, the computer -- I'm learning how to type on a new laptop computer. Don't have all the files finessed ... but it looks like I haven't lost any in the transfer.

Gargolye news. Have a tentative publication date for April 2014.  I'm waiting for the second edits on There Be Demons which should be done when I get back from visiting family in July. Oh, it is July. Well I'll be gone for a couple weeks.

And Pat, the Pet will come out in February or March. The delay here has been the artwork edits. Think we have an artist for the work -- both for the short-vowel stories and the unpublished long vowel ones. May do another set on dipthongs/letter combinations but the editor hasn't decided what. -- Actually, she's making noises about chapter books, and that scares me.

Enjoy ... and don't melt in the heat.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

20 Years and Counting -- Think You Could Write a 23-Plus Book Series?

The Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton has dwindled down to a "guilty pleasure" for me -- and no, not because of her multiple-multiple sex scenes. She's created characters I care about but often have no major roles in subsequent books. 

Was hoping Kiss the Dead would change the pattern. But it's gotten worse. Many characters have just stopped growing as people. Or if a character has changed, like Claudia hinting she has a significant other in Kiss the Dead, Hamilton mentions it and drops it.  --[Claudia is a senior security guard in Master of Saint Louis' underground compound.]--

When I first started reading the series I was fascinated by Hamilton's plot twists and her take on the preternatural/ paranormal conventions. I also like the the fact the main character is short and Mexican/German. --[Hey, there aren't that many of us around in the US.]-- Even understood the conflict of Blake's abilities to raise the dead and the Roman Catholic church, not to say her German grandmother, who unfortunately never made an appearance in the books. Unfortunately, Blake has moved on from her conflicted youth to accepting her unconventional, polyamorous live style.

Yeah. I consider the books a guilty pleasure because, even though Hamilton kept her place on the best seller lists, the plot lines got thinner and thinner and potential conflicts get mentioned and tossed without much, if any, emotion or elaboration. Like Hamilton tells us what was going on rather than showing us. 

Still I hung in there when Hamilton introduced  Mommie Darkest, the mother of all vampires [in Blake's world at least], as an antagonist. When the big denouement with Mommie Darkest came in Hit List , it lasted maybe five pages. Big Time Bummer.

Then, Kiss the Dead appeared in mass paperback. I couldn't resist buying it ... just because I was wondering what Hamilton would do once the founder of all vampires had been destroyed. Also had a interesting hook -- the capture of a fifteen-year-old. I waited, hoping Hamilton would get back some of her old moxie. Wondered how defeating Mommy Darkest would influence Blake's life, reactions, and feelings. Turned out ... Blake hardly thinks about it as she chases a laisez-faire vampire who believes in individual liberty.

Okay. I liked the book better than Hit List. But, and it's a big but. The writing competence is there. But the characters don't seem to exhibit much fire. Blake seems to be wading through much of the same emotional ground without a strong mystery component. The flavor of the book doesn't include much cayenne or even chili. 

And where oh where did Jean Claude go. Wasn't he supposed to be a major character? There aren't any conflicts going on with him setting up a Council of Masters of American Cities though there is a minor toss up with Asher being pissy. What's new?

I give Kiss the Dead three stars -- even though I'm keeping it for now.

One thing the book did do -- sent me off to read Guilty Pleasures, the first in the series. No, I won't be doing a review. I only review about a third of the books I read. Guess I need to get on Goodreads more.


====

Turned in the first round of edits for There BE Demons to the Grumpy Dragon. Now seem to be wallowing in summer-type ennui even though we've turned on the a/c. Still trying to finish the first novella of the Half-Elven companion novels ... but it's a slow slog. Think I'm trying to draft it too perfect ... if that makes any sense

I might be self-publishing the short story that started it all:
Night for the Gargoyles
which was published by Spectra Magazine, volume five.
Grumpy Dragon is deciding if they want to do it. 
Here's the tentative cover if I self-publish.



Friday, May 31, 2013

To Self-Publish? -- That is The Question Every Writer Faces

Can you really, truely succeed if you self-publish? Are you stuck in the ghetto if you give up on traditional commercial publishing too soon?

Was ambling down the post on my Facebook page between chapter edits of There Be Demons. At Chisled Rock, J. A. Kazimer -- a romance, mystery writer -- blogged about the "7 Things I Wished I Knew Before I Indie Published". She doesn't knock it. In fact she's planning to repeat the process ever though the sales were disappointing. Read her comments and be forewarned about what you must do, especially in the dreaded area of marketing.

-- Thought Kazimer was right on. May be glad that my self-publishing efforts are to build platform more than selling epubs to make money. Though my self-published novella [Troublesome Neighbors] has sold more than the indie publisher one [Taking Vengeance].

-- Psssst. Don't tell the Grumpy Dragon that I may still self-publish if I ever am able to get some short stories written.

One Writer's Progress

On LinkedIn, I read a lot of unsuccess stories. I can even contribute grumps of my own. But self-published writers can achieve greater success as they go through the process of writing and self-publishing. Milo James Fowler is a case in point. He's self-published lots of short pieces including the funny western fantasies about Coyote Cal [Amazon]. I networked with him first at Write One, Sub One -- basically a group who aim to write and submit at least one story a week. Fowler combined stories written in 2011 for Immaterial Evidence.

-- Even joined it in hopes of speeding up my own writing ... but fell by the wayside. First couldn't keep up. Second my ideas tend to turn into novels.

Back to Milo. Since he has lots more reviews that I do, I assume he's more successful with his self-publishing. Now. Ta-dah. Musa Publishing is released his new book Immaterial Evidence

Tagline: A detective with a price on his head. An invisible criminal with nothing to lose...  Basically, it a story about a private detective who comes out of hiding to help the FBI solve an impossible theft. If it's runs true to form, you'll get more than one chuckle along with your mystery.       

So a book you like gets published: What can you do to foster its success -- especially if a friend wrote it. Chuck Sambuchino of Writer's Digest blogged at Writer Unboxed about ways to support a writer's new book. Some of the support tactics are real simple and don't cost anything. Some of them are even doable by the author anonymously.

-- Now if I wish I was the type who networked easily. Fowler is good at it and has all those Write One, Sub One rooting for him. He has implemented some of the marketing advice: built a following with his stores and his networking activities. 

===

Progress of sorts. I'm building up a sympathetic character to be killed later in There Be Demons. I'm also starting to Twitter-promote it with the hashtags #WIP, #novelines, #writer, and #amwriting. I'm not impressed with Twitter, but I'm doing it anyway. Also mention what I'm doing on my author Facebook page. [I even have some 60 likes and 20-some reads on the page.]

Also am still rewriting the first couple of chapters of Forbidden Fruit, the beginning Far Isle Half-Elven story, for my critique group.  -- Then I'm going out and read under the hackberry. If I'm lucky the hawk will come sit in the bird bath. For some reason we aren't seeing many small birds again this year.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Ending Your Series: What Would You Do If Your Fans Develop Fangs

I admire writers of series. A lot of the writers I read regularly write multiple books in the same world. I even look for new books by them -- if I can remember their names. If I don't, they're back to the cover, blurb, and/or the first couple of paragraphs catching my interest. This process results in an impressive to-read pile. It's a wonder that Charlaine Harris' Deadlocked ever managed to get read. 

At the moment, my reading stats are: 
  •  five books in the process of being read, though I thinking of putting a couple on the trade pile [three stacks & needs to go out the door],
  • six books in my recently bought pile,
  • about twenty books in my fermenting to-read pile, and
  • who knows how many on my bookshelves I might decide to reread like I did that first two books in the Anne of Green Gables [L. M. Montgomery] series over the last weekend.
  • Oh, the number of books I've read and haven't reviewed -- eight.
At the moment, I think most people who read mysteries and/or paranormal [fantasy] know Sookie Stackhouse. Even people who don't read know her from the TV series True Blood, a take off from the books that doesn't much follow the plot lines much. [Yeah, I own the DVDs even though "I don't watch TV." And they do tell a good story.]   

For those who haven't heard of Sookie Stackhouse, she's a southern gal of mixed fae heritage who survives a world filled with vampires, weres, faes and murder. Sookie is the naive solver of the mysteries though she has wised up considerably during the series.

Harris hooked me as a fan with her Lucy Bard of Shakespeare, Arkansas  series. Harper Connelly of the Grave Sight series also hooked me.* Never could get interested in the Aurora Teagarden, even though one of my aunts' name was Aurora.  ... She just doesn't appeal to me enough to spend a couple hours with her.  -- That attitude influences my own writing in the characters speak to me first, and then, I have to figure out a coherent book from a bunch of interesting situations.  Of course, they have to keep getting into trouble.

Harris has ended at least two series, the Shakespeare and Grave Sight* ones, but she really pitched some rabid fans a bone with the 13th Sookie book . Harris dared to end her Stackhouse series in a way they disagreed with. So. They threw a hissy fit. How juvenile ...  or is that todleresque? Am glad Harris is laughing all the way to the bank. I think writers have the right to write their books as they see fit.

Incidentally, I give Deadlocked five stars, like *****. Read it in a couple of days. Harris gives wonderful lessons on filling in back story without bogging down the storyline. Also liked the way the opening paragraph foreshadowed one of the central puzzles of the book.

===

I don't write series -- though I thought my Hagstone draft might be a trilogy. [It shrank back into one volume, 3/5 drafted & partly critiqued, and may even get finished if I can get untangled.]

The Far Isle Half-Elven world consists of a number of companion novels and novellas. [Forbidden Fruit Isn't getting drafted very fast because of edits of There Be Demons.]

Then, there's There Be Demons. The publisher is making noises about a sequel with an older Britt and Cahal. 

Have some notes with Britt and Cahal using their angel-given powers to wipe up the demons left over when the portals to Gehennathh were closed. Have gotten as far as a wounded Gillen appearing on their doorstep ... at Granny Nan's farm. Even know the nemisis/villain. But a book????? Not yet. -- Besides I feel an obligation to tell Teemon's story so he can give the young Mariah a hard time.  

Announcement.
I'm thinking about doing fantasy author interviews -- Quick Chats -- for the blog. Any readers out their with a published fantasy book care to be a guinea pig? You can email me at mkkaytheod [at] yahoo [dot] com 

*I assume the Grave Sight books ended because the last one had a logical end-of-a-series ending. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Are You Honest About Your Writing? Do You Know Where You Want to Go?

Am deep in the first round of edits for There Be Demons ... which will become a book with a real publisher, Grumpy Dragon. They may be small, but I have a lot of respect for the editor/publisher and how she and her husband have grown their business over the last couple years. 

So, I'm even more of a double-threat writer. I will be published by two small publishers as well as having self-published some of my Far Isle Half-Elven stuff. 

--And no, I don't like Grumpy Dragon because they like my comments on my Far Isle Half-Elven Facebook page.

All this leads into a link I found on Facebook, courtesy of Writer Beware sharing it. Chuck Sambuchino hosted guest blogger Matt Mikalatos writing about the 5 lies unpublished writers tell themselves. Yeah, he's published by a major company and gives some hints on the right tactics so you can share his status. 

-- Bottom line. Don't whine and make excuses. Writing an fresh intriguing story competently helps too. I say this even though I'm ambivalent about dipping a toe in the big league pools. I don't think I have the energy to maintain the pace needed at this point.

Then, let's the question on its head. What do other writers think of writers? Found this link on my Facebook page and got more than one chuckle out of it so decided to share. "The 30 Harshest Author-on-Author Insults in History"

Then again, there's Rachelle Gardner's blog on when a writer is ready to get published ... and why having a few trunk novels isn't such an bad idea. "Will Your First Book Be Published?

-- I'm not exempt from this question because my first novel is still sitting in my file cabinet ... typed on erasable bond, if it hasn't rubbed off over the years. Everyone can blame The Clue of the Clay Cats for my addiction to writing 

###

Checked in with my editor today. She liked what I said I was doing with There Be Demons.  ... But I bet she's reserving judgment until she sees it completely edited manuscript.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Openings -- Deciding Whether To-Read or Not-to-Read

Which book do you pick up from your To-Read-Pile? You don't have one? Either you have more time than I do or you're obsessive on finishing what you start or some other reason.

Doubt if you don't read. You wouldn't be here if you didn't.

At the moment, I've about six books "in process". I've started them and stopped somewhere between the covers. I've put the bookmark in them ... and gone on to other things. Sometimes, it's even embarrassing. Like when I abandoned a book by Simon R. Green for Richard Castle's Frozen Heat. Gads ... the Frozen Heat author isn't even real and is probably a committee! Yet I dropped a bunch of competently written books to read it ... in two days, all 400+ pages. I think the opening lured me into the mystery.

"Oh, yeah, that's it, Rook," said Nikki Heat. "That's what I want. Just like that." A trickle of sweat rolled down his neck to his heaving chest. He groaned and bit down on his tongue. "Don't stop yet. Keep it going. Yes. ..."

What do you think is going on there? Some hot and heavy sex scene? Actually, it's a rehab session as Rook works to gain back muscle-strength after getting shot at the end of the last book. Of course, the scene segues into a homicide case that is directly linked to Heat's mother's death. The plots in the Heat books mirror the tv show. What ever. The scene hooks, and the "Castle team" keep the action moving without any info-dumps until Heat discovers her initials carved into the suitcase wheels ... a suitcase which contains a frozen body.

Not all openings are bait and switches like the above. This time I'll give an example from There Be Demons ... which my editor/publisher at Grumpy Dragon loved: 

"Vetis, a prince of demons, burst through the portal connecting Gehennathh to the city of Trebridge. His magnificence blazed brighter than the setting sun. The narrow gate, stretched by his bulk and wide horns, closed with a tired sigh. He rubbed his sore neck as he surveyed his new foothold on the human world." 

So what makes a good opening, besides knowing after the fact that you and others got hooked? 

My opinion is that it's action. Both example have description. Both introduce characters. But both are contained within the action. Guess that's the summary of "show, don't tell" or the screenplay paradigm of novel writing.

Rating: Four Stars. I found Frozen Heat a nice read, but it's not a "keeper". 


===

Am experiencing something new. Publisher edits on There Be Dragons. The submission process has been slow, probably complicated by finding an artist for Pat, the Pet, but the project is finally progressing. Contract's signed ... and change requests made, including one that I need kill someone to raise the stakes for my Gargoyle Posse. -- Explanation: That makes the book a definite YA even though my main characters are freshmen.

[The editor didn't think I should call my kids the "Gargoyle Gang", either, when one of my gargoyles was named Gang. Don't look at me. I didn't even notice it until my nose was rubbed in it. Don't know if I like "posse" or "crew" better. Anyone got any comments?]

The surprise is I'm enjoying reading the manuscript instead of cringing. The fact that the editorial comments are easy to change helps.

Oh ... Did anyone notice I cleaned up my sidebar on the blog? Need to go in and make changes on my websites too. -- Hopefully, next weekend.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Writers' Words, Writers' Worries -- 1

Okay, I know I hop around on the internet too much, but I come across so much interesting stuff. So, I'll share some of the comments I read and give links so I can pretend I'm not wasting my time.

I'll start with the saddest, a situation that all writer's face -- Quitting, via a The Passive Guy link. If I interpreted things right India Drummond describes what happened when she went looking for an author who disappeared from markets and social networking ... and her thoughts on the writer's situation. Maybe she even offers some support for writers who are thinking about quitting. 

Morgan Mandel says "editing is a real pain" in her blog on Sloppy Editing as she worries about the editing of Blessing or Curse, her five story romance/science fiction anthology. --  I can't agree with her more even though I just edit my own stuff ... over and over again. But then, I often think writings a pain ... but not writing is a greater one.

Then, Dean Wesley Smith made some comments on a blog which gladdened my heard: Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: Writing Fast. Summary. Everyone's different. Every project's different. Only he dishes up a lot of food for thought about the writing process while he discusses the myths writer's tell themselves. -- I'm a slow writer for a lot of reasons. I figure I've got to cut out the social networking and not play so much solitaire ... among other things. Editing as I go, on the other hand, helps.

===

This has been sitting in my computer a few days. No excuses really ... except maybe I've been playing too much spider solitaire. Seem to be suffering from writer's block plus distractions so I'm going to publish this and go downstairs and read Kay Hooper's Haven.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Mixing Fantasy Elements to Create a Gripping Story

Came a little late to Cassandra Clare's Immortal Instruments series. The family lending library had to send City of Bones to me in a bunch of books to trade. City of Bones was a keeper though.

By way of explanation, I remember seeing the books prominently displayed in bookstores, but never bit even though the storyline seemed interesting. Why? Well, the books are trade paperbacks. If you could see my two bookshelves, crammed with mass paperbacks, you'd know why. Even after we traded five boxes of books, there's no room. -- Besides, have I ever mentioned I'm cheap?

Cassandra Clare is an award-winning YA author who takes an interesting view of the Nephilem, angel-human hybrids. City of Bones is just one of many books exploring this  world by way of the shifting alliances among Shadowhunters, Demons, Fae,  Werewolves, Warlocks and Vampires. Along the way she twists on preternatural stereotypes quite nicely.

In City of Bones, Clare takes the common situation of the main character [Clary] learning s/he's living a lie and must learn to use her/his burgeoning powers to save ... well, something.  This time it's the MC's mother who had been living in hiding after she escaped from her husband who rebelled against the Shadowhunter authorities and has been found and tortured to reveal the location of a sacred artifact needed to renew the rebellion.

The storyline bounces from danger to danger as the three major characters -- Clary, Jace, and Simon -- learn about themselves and the parallel magical world that exists along side the mundane one. Sound familiar? The ideas may seem common, but the way Clare uses them isn't.

Some of the elements she weaves into the story line that I really liked:
       -- the travelogue of New York City, especially Brooklyn, which mentions places I know ...
       -- includes a normal, who contributes to the action, even though those with magical powers put him down ...
      -- the furtive, loyal personal relationships that persist in spite of ethnic discord and open warfare ...
I could name more ... but I'm not a cataloger. 

Rating: Four Stars -- Nice interesting book ... but it didn't keep me reading beyond my bedtime. Nor did it give me the itch to buy another trade paperback. On the other hand, I know the family lending library is buying more volumes ... and I get them for free.

=== 

Have you even cringed when you go back and read your early writings?

At the moment, I'm working on the beginning ... like at the beginning ... Far Isle Half-Elven novella -- or novel depending on how many points of view I use in telling the tale. 
Why cringe? Well ... it's almost all telling except for pieces of dialog every page or two. I having got any great hooks at the end of the chapters. Also the action seems predictable. 

Good thing I get to discuss new chapters with my critique group and hope they throw me a life preserver.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Do You Think a Villain Has to Be the Slitheriest? No,I'm Not Talking About Voldemort.

I'd like to nominate Kay Hooper's Bishop Files novels for creating great villains. Just finished Hooper's The First Prophet, recently published in mass paperback ... a year behind the hardback. Believe me it's as good a thriller as comes off the shelves. 

What's not to like? Hooper delivers a fast-paced story line with lots of twists and turns that lures you into turning the pages as fast as you can read. Most important she delivers another great villain who's manages to keep one step away from the fleeing protagonists. Short summary: the main character, trying to avoid her new found psychic powers, is pursued by an organization who seeks to control her while Bishop's team tries to save her.

While Hooper's villains in her previous Bishop novels tend to be slimy egomaniacs, the adversaries in this book have their own point of view and show inklings of honor within their confrontations with Bishop's side. So what if they are killing psychics? This a a good read to study for presenting ambiguous villains who aren't over the top ... yet... -- Who knows what'll happen later in the series.

Five Stars -- A fast moving multi-genre tale with a stable full of well drawn characters. It even has a believable romance. Would that I could keep so many people straight in my own writing. I can't even keep real people straight in a crowd.

===

Must confess. I've been goofing off ... reading blogs [and tweets and Facebook posts] instead of playing spider solitaire. Seems there's quite of bit about how not to piss agents off. Then I read Janet Reid, of the Chum Bucket and agent extraordinaire, comments about some things that must of appeared in the queries she received.

Of course, I never do dumb things like saying "fiction novel" in my queries, but I do plenty of other ding-bat stuff. Like spent most of the afternoon chasing the publication date of a sale I made back in 2010[?] -- "Night for the Gargoyles" to Spectra Magazine in Great Britain. 

Yeah, I know it's 2013, and I took my own sweet time to get my arse in gear.  Anyway: if you look up volume 5, you'll see my name on top of the author list on the cover. 

Why go look for it now? Well, I have a contract from Grumpy Dragon for "There Be Demons", the novel that grew out of that short story. Am thinking I'll put it up on my website -- for free -- since rights have reverted to me.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Looking for the Next New Thing in Genre Fiction: What's Your Flavor of Dead?

What's your favorite "new" thing in genre fiction? For awhile, vampires were the most popular dead things. Zombies soon got their day in the sun. Or is that the moon for both? Then, there are the ghosts that float through fiction genres from mysteries to paranormals and more. 

Stephen Blackmoore uses some different preternaturals in his new book Dead Things, a stand alone novel that adds the supernatural to a down to earth mystery with lots of suspects heating up the action. If you want to learn more about Blackmoore, you can visit his website. You might find some ideas to liven up your website.

Eric Carter is on the run from his past. While he's more than willing to use his powers to fight the bad guys, he's reluctant to return to Los Angeles. He wants to protect those he loves/likes from his powers as a necromancer and his ability to talk to the dead and gods. When he learns his sister is murdered, he must decided whether on not to return home and solve the crime. Blackmoore gives the reader a lovely ride with a twisting mystery with lots of well-drawn, lively characters.

Liked the opening, especially since I'm struggling with three different openings at the moment:
     "When I pull up to the bar, the truck kicking up dust and gravel behind me, I know it's already too late to help anyone. Of the eight or nine cars in the parking lot, two of them are Texas State Troopers', their roof racks still flashing."

Immediately, you know the narrator is a "good guy" and that something bad is coming down. The fight in the first chapter demonstrates Carter's powers against a murdering demon which earns a warning by some voodoo loa in payment. Then he learns of his sister's death. Carter's pulled back to Los Angeles to finish a fight he left undone many years ago.

What I found remarkable in this book was Blackmoore's use of preternatural lore. Human friends and enemies display varying magic skills that fit into a consistent magical system. Plus his well-drawn Voodoo gods, demons, and Santa Muerte, who has a bigger role than you might think, stand out as individuals.

Rating: Five Stars. This is a keeper for me. Also read it in two days in spite of being busy. I think both his website and this book can serve as good examples to study.

===

As I said, I'm really interested in openings at the moment. I'm putting Mac and the Hag Stone back in the files, but I want to rewrite the first chapter first. After critique group discussions, it's going to be one book again.

I'm going back to my Far Isle Half-Elven world. After some of the reviews of Troublesome Neighbors, I feel obligated to come up with another story. This time, at my critique group's urging, I starting at the beginning of the saga -- with Teemon's arrival in the Far Isles. I'm opening with a confrontation between Teemon and Seradith on the elf planes. The fact that it's a revision of a novella length draft makes this an attractive project.

I'm also revising a short story, called The Noticing One about emotional vampires, because I feels a need to have something else to submit or self-publish. I don't know which at the moment. Probably both.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

To Tell or To Show -- The Secret to Why Writers Lose Readers?

Recently got burned in a critique because I told rather than showed. Granted it was a first draft of a work in progress, but the comments started me thinking about the great show vs tell debate. Can a writer tell a story anymore? Or, are they forced to follow the movie paradigm to get published?

Since I needed to review Patricia Briggs' recent mass paperback Fair Game, I thought I'd look and see what she'd done. Why review a best seeling author? Well, if you believe the comments on Goodreads, her fans pant in anticipation for her new books. ... I assume you wouldn't mind some hints on being a big time author too.

Fair Game, the fifth in Brigg's Alpha and Omega series, gives a twist on the werewolf's obsession to protect his mate. The storyline features the Marrok's enforcer and son, Charles, taking a back seat while his mate, Anna, is sent to the east coast to help capture a serial killer. Her special calming skills as an Omega wolf are needed to keep the werewolves and other preternaturals from exposing their more violent habits when trying to work together. In spite of his problems with his own demons, Charles must give Anna enough space to work with the local werewolves, Feds and local cops to solve the crime without her becoming a victim of the murderer.

Setting up characters in an on-going series is a balance. The writer must introduce each continuing character without an info dump that'll turn a readers off. Many long term writers have been sinking into the morass of giving too much back story thereby decreasing the tension. Briggs doesn't. Let me give you some examples of how she introduces characters without an info dump.

On introducing Anna at the start of the book: "Go home," Bran Cornick growled at Anna.
      No one who saw him like this would ever forget what lurked behind the Marrok's mild-mannered facade. But only people who were stupid--or desperate--would risk raising his ire to reveal the monster behind the nice-guy mask. Anna was desperate.
     "When you tell me you will quit calling on my husband to kill people," Anna told him doggedly. She didn't yell, she didn't shout, but she wasn't going to give up easily."

Actually that introduced two characters in action [plus demonstrating a bunch of other techniques commented on in writing blogs]. 

On introducing Charles: "Anna knew exactly when Charles drove up, newly returned from Minnesota where he'd gone to take care of a problem the Minnesota pack leader would not. If she'd been deaf to the sound of the truck or the front door, she'd have known Charles was home by the magic that tied wold to mate. That was all the bond told her outright, though--his side of their bond was opaque as he could manage, and that told her a whole lot more about his state of mind than he probably intended.
     From the way he let nothing leak through to her she knew it had been another bad trip, one that had left too many people dead, probably people he hadn't wanted to kill."

On introducing secondary character, Leslie Fisher, who was featured in the prologue: "Special Agent Leslie Fisher stared out the window that looked out over downtown Boston. From her vantage point she had a lovely, very-early-morning view. Traffic was still light, and though it would get a lot heavier as people came to work, lack of parking kept the streets from being as crazy as Los Angeles, the last place she'd been assigned. In the FBI, she got to move every few years whether she wanted to or not, but she'd always thought of Boston as home."

That described two characters if you consider the setting as a character. It's the integration of Brigg's prose that captures and holds my interest. I think she tells in the story, but her mind doesn't intrude as she lets the characters react on the stage. I can only admire because I know how hard that is to do.

After thinking about this, I'm still not so sure showing's all that much better than telling. I considered much of the text quoted above as telling ... and I don't mind it. So, I'll say who cares. Info dumps are another complaint.

Overall Rating: Five Stars. The mystery-thriller aspects of the Mercy Thompson world now outweigh the romantic and fantasy.  More important, Briggs keeps the tension tight as she juggles the motivations of her various characters.

===

About the long break between blogs: Have been stewing since I returned from visiting family in California. The trip was lovely ... with a day's long drive through empty hills covered in green pines and grey, leafless oaks. As my mind dislocated, I found myself musing about what I want to do as a writer. Still don't know, but I'm working on it.

Middle grade novel morphed into a trilogy. Progress? Have a third of the middle book drafted. Have almost a third of the new first book down and am reworking and reworking the new second chapter that introduces Mac as a teen ... older than I first envisioned her. Will be interesting to see what happens.

Also have some nice review comments up on my websites if you care to look. Even have a couple five stars ... and the three stars complain the Troublesome Neighbor novella is too short.