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, 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.

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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.