Lessons from My Reading

M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.

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Tuesday, 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.