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.


Monday, November 24, 2014

When Authors Dissappoint

Voices from Beyond  Think I mentioned I should write a 3* review a bit ago. Didn't expect to do one so soon or for the author to be Simon R. Green, one of my go-to authors for humor.

  I'm in the process of reading a complicated, dark trilogy at the moment. When I finished the second book, I decided I needed a change of pace and went searching the bookshelves. Never cared much of the other Ghost Finders stories I'd read before, but decided to give Voices from the Beyond: A Ghost Finders Novel a chance. It was good enough to keep my interest without a bunch of lay-downs, but the book still disappointed me. I expected better from Green than mysterious voices from the beyond terrorizing the workers at a radio station housed in an old British mansion.

  Why? First off the story was so padded with extra words and unnecessary chatter that drew-out scenes to no purpose that I almost got out my red pen. I could almost hear someone say: "You need a book, have a short story, make it a book."
  Okay, probably not, but it felt like it.

  The first third of the book is a prolonged prologue, in my opinion, that would be best used in a independent short story.  Next, a scene showing the relationship between the crew with the director of the Camarki Institute, hinting at traitors within the ranks, created a bridge to the rest of the book. The Ghost Finders had two puzzles to solve and another looming on the horizon.

  I didn't even think the story a ghost story per se. A being from another dimension must be stopped before "our" world is destroyed. An idea often used, but in this case, it didn't rise above a cliche. The book was in terrible need of a personal vendetta. The ghost finders acted and reacted pretty much the same as they had in previous books, though there were some hints of changes in their relationships. The secondary characters remained card board cut-outs filling up the pages as needed.

  My biggest complaint is a spoiler. Still, I'll say, I can't understand why at least one out of almost a dozen intelligent adults wouldn't explore the basement first or second thing. 

  The story-writing mechanics, except for the excessive verbiage, was competent enough. Still, can't give the book more than 3***.  Definitely not one of Green's better efforts.


And how's the pipsqueak writer doing?

Slowly writing, thank you.

  Have gotten The Ghostcrow waiting for its second paper edits before I send it on to the beta readers. Have decided not to change the title since I couldn't come up with an expanded version that added anything. One of my critique partners did say that the title was unusual enough it could stand on its own. Guess I'll leave it there.

  Hear that Damn Owl has been revised and is fermenting. It's staying a short story, thank the powers that be. It's hard to expand a story when you kill off the protagonist.  Oh oh. Guess I should have given a spoiler alert, but don't think it matters.

  Out of curiosity, have any of you blog readers read any of my stories: free or 99c.

 Then, there's the squirrelly marketing wheel. Gargoyles is slowly sinking in the Amazon rankings. Didn't expect it to stay in the top ten of its two micro free-read categories much longer, but can't seem to raise much effort to do more promotion. Don't think I want to bother with the effort. I can't see where giving away free stuff helps you sell books or novelettes, for that matter.

  To be honest, I sometimes wonder why I even bother posting a blog most weeks. Still, some writers make a blog a great sales tool. Are you inclined in that direction? Quanie Miller recently posted an insightful blog: Six Easy Ways to Grow Your Blog Readership. Her title illustrates one of her key points.

Me? I sort of follow her pointers. 
But, am satisfied that my readership's growing at its own slow pace.

Monday, November 17, 2014

When is a Mystery a Cozy? What's Your Definition?

Murder at Westminster Abbey: An Elizabethan Mystery  A strange thing happened in B&N when flipping through the new mystery mass paperbacks a week or so ago. The lady next to me, said to me: "Oh, you don't want to put that one back. It's a wonderful book." The book happened to be one of those woman-oriented mysteries with a cutesy cover and title.

  Now I do read some mystery authors whose books fall into that sub-genre of mine. But not that day. I picked up Amanda Carmack's Murder at Westminster Abbey, a historical mystery -- since I remembered marking it as a to-read on GoodReads instead. About a third of the way through, I realized the book was a cozy in its own way.

  May have a strange definition of cozy, but for me, cozies are all about well-rounded characterizations of both protagonist/secondaries and the community around them. Murderous English villages set the genre in concrete. Murder in Westminster Abbey meets my criteria plus gives the reader an in-depth historical perspective in living during Elizabethan times. 

  Elizabeth I is about to be crowned, and red-headed women who look like the new queen are dieing. Kate Haywood, a court musician to the young Elizabeth, finds herself first dawn into a minor mystery of why one of her few friends at court is acting so strangely to solving those mysterious murders. Three sets of intrigue are intertwined within Carmack's story line, but only one's the bulls-eye. Carmack does a great job of not so much pulling red herrings across her scene as of using the complexities of the Elizabethan Court to add the plot twists in the story line.

  Carmack's grasp of her craft is deft and assured. Not once does she spin her wheels. Her historical characters tend to be two-dimensional but they aren't the focus of the story. The three-dimensional fictional characters are.  Her grasp of the historical period, though, has me thinking I need to put her on my must-read list. What I liked best was the personal revelations about Kate at the end. The scene showed rather than told why Kate had so much personal attention from the Queen.

  Another 5***** book, I'm afraid. Maybe I should review what I consider a 3*** one someday, but I tend not to finish them. There's only so many books I can read during my one-to-two hour reading space each night.


  Need to get my writing gear oiled ... or something, so I get some new material written and published. I don't know where the week disappeared to. Only had one doctor's appointment ... ????. As usual, I suspect I spent too much time on social media.

That's a mis-speak. I'm twisting and turning on the "the writer's must market" promo line. Took the many gurus' suggestions. Got two short stories up for perma-free on Amazon [until they decided to change the rules]. Best result, Night for the Gargoyles as ranked in the top-ten-free-15 minute-teen-fantasy reads for a month now. Of course now that it's freebie status isn't being promoted, it's sinking fast. At the same time, my 99c short stories aren't selling any more than the dribble they sold before. -- No. I have no idea on how to change the situation.

  Did get a new snippet of The Ghostcrow Awakening posted on my website. It's short but pivotal in Dumdie's understanding of her danger. Which reminds me of the other major task looming in my future. I need to do major revisions on the website now that GoDaddy has changed their format. Or, I can just design a new one in the new format, more compatible with mobile devices.

Ugh. Computers are going to kill me.
A question. 
Writers, are you able to promote your books with only a minimal amount of computer smartz?.
Readers, what kind of book promotion catches your attention?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Finding Old Reliables -- Authors You Can Count On to Give a Good Read

  The store bookshelves have been stingy lately. Spent over a half hour flipping covers, but nothing new tempted me. Oh, I have plenty to read, but nothing hooked my interest in my infamou
Widow's Tears (China Bayles Book 21) s to-read piles. During reading droughts like this, I go to an "old reliable" author to see if I can find a book I haven't read. Susan Wittig Albert, the author of the China Bayes series and several others, happened to grab my fickle attention this time with her book, Widow's Tears.

  Thought it a little strange because I not a particular fan of hers. Few cozy mystery writers escape the cutesy bit that annoys me.

  My reward was a mystery with a difference -- the main series sleuth wasn't the center of the story. In fact the mystery, involving a bank robbery, took a second fiddle to the main story line -- Ruby, China's best friend and business partner, accepting her suppressed paranormal talents when she helps a friend control a ghost in a house she inherited.

  Albert again weaves multiple story lines together. Solving a series of bank robberies, Ruby's confrontation with burn-out and putting a ghost to rest, plus a prequel story set during the destruction of Galveston during the hurricane of 1909. In a less skillful author this would create a clunky read, but Albert intertwines them seamlessly.

  For the record, I found the Galveston parts the most intriguing as people did their best to cope with an unexpected storm of gigantic proportions. It wiped out most of the town.

  The book also gives another example on how keep a series going. Give the secondary characters the limelight. You might annoy a few fans, but it'll save a series from sinking into a formula.

  This well-written and enjoyable read gets 4**** from me. While the Texas hill country gives the book a unique cultural flavor, I found myself skimming the modern day stuff ... even once the bank robberies are being investigated. The telling of the Galveston hurricane disaster of 1909 had me flipping through the book to find those chapters first. Then I went back and read the rest of the book.


  Don't feel like I accomplished much of anything last week ... though I spent my usual amount of time at the computer. Revisions do that to you. Now I have three projects going.
     A new beginning Taking Vengeance.
     Adding depth to a flash fiction piece -- the last of my short stories I had sitting it my computer -- to self-publish as a free story, Hear That Damn Owl.
     Cleaning up The Ghostcrow Awakening, a new Dumdie short story.

  Will be posting a new WIP snippet this week on my author website. Probably from The Ghostcrow Awakening,  the new title -- maybe -- of The Ghostcrow. I'm still taking input on which people think is a more interesting title if you care to comment.

  I'm still debating on maybe posting a piece of "Owl". Guess some would think it strange I already have a cover, but I find it helps me revise. Maybe something about reinforcing the atmosphere? Who knows?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

My Worst Writing Fear: Where to Find the Time to Write by Andrew John Rainnie

Guest Blog from Andrew John Rainnie, Author of Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits, a Sword & Sorcery Fantasy.

Where to Find the Time & Energy to Write


Andrew John Rainnie

What bothers me most about writing?

The act of writing in itself is not really the issue; as a copywriter and screenwriter I have never aimlessly stared at a blank page, but filled it with something, anything, until I have something better. When plotting stories, you can have a number of different ideas, and the best way to see which works best is to write them all until you find one that serves the story and characters best.

No, the issue with writing is the sheer amount of time and energy it takes. My new fictional novel, has taken me almost a decade from the initial idea to presenting a polished book. As a self-confessed workaholic, the issue is not time management, but having too many fingers in too many pies, or wearing too many different hats. I work a job that pays the bills, I freelance as a copywriter and games journalist, I write screenplays, I make films, I design websites, and occasionally, when time permits, I relax.

Focus is a big key to overcoming these obstacles. I often jump between projects as enthusiasm wanes for one and increases for the other, or a story that has been gestating for a while in the back of my head finally bears fruit, these ideas have to be scribbled down and organized into something coherent. In terms of losing energy or passion for a project, the best thing to do is concentrate and slug through it. If it seems like a slog, and you are not enjoying it, then chances are your readers will not either. In this instance, some time and space from the material is often required, meaning you can return with fresh eyes.

I have also been looking at tools to help speed up my writing process. Another writer I know often uses a Dictaphone to take a note of ideas, snippets of dialogue, or even whole chapters of books. I’ve tried a few apps with my phone, as I feel quite exposed if I’m walking in public talking into a microphone, saying strange, odd words out loud.

As a self-published writer, the whole aspect of marketing a book deflates me, as it takes an incredible amount of energy to seek out reviewers, make a trailer, write a press release, and generate online support. The time this takes could be spent writing, but it is a necessary part of the job of finding an audience who will love the words you have written. I am attempting to record video blogs, as they are relatively quick to make, and it adds a more personal approach to connecting with people.


About the Author

Andrew John Rainnie is a Scottish novelist, screenwriter, and filmmaker. He has an MA. Joint Honours in English Literature and Film & TV Studies from the University of Glasgow, and an MA/PGDip in Screenwriting from Bournemouth University.

He has written and directed a number of short films, which have shown at festivals around the globe. His last, The Collector, based on a short story by Jonathan Lethem, was shown at the London East End Film Festival, the London Short Film Festival, and Aesthetica Film Festival in York.

After working as a media analyst and script reader in London for six years, Andrew quit the rat race and embarked on an epic around the world adventure, details of which were published in a compendium of his travel blogs, titled My Right Leg Is Tastier Than My Left. During that journey, he finished writing a passion project, his first fantasy novel, Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits.

You can learn more about Rainnie's writing at his Website
 His social media Links include: Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads, and Google+. His video blogs can be found on YouTube.

Blurb: Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits

In the land of Enara, the religious zealot Lord Malenek marches across the continent of Amaros, cleansing the world with his army of Vengeance Spirits. Standing in his way is an unlikely adversary, Kamina Elloeth, a young tree elf who is inadvertently entangled in Malenek’s plans. She embarks on a quest with her ghostly brother and a mysterious Ranger to find an ancient artefact, one that may hold the key to saving the world from Malenek’s destructive schemes. Facing her fears, Kamina will trek over oceans and deserts to unearth the power hidden within the Stone of Spirits.

Sample and pre-order Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits on Amazon, KOBO, or Smashwords.