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 8, 2014

How to Weave Settings, Plot and Characters Together -- Anne Bishop's Take

  Discovered Anne Bishop's The Black Jewels series -- Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, and Queen of the Darkness -- while browsing in a used bookstore. My mouth sort of hung open in amazement of her writing chops as I read, figuratively but sometimes for real. Bishop uses the same storyline most writers do for one novel but gets three action oriented, psychological fantasy thrillers out of this go. The extra wordage goes into creating intricate settings, solid characters, and multi-dimensional conflicts between primary and secondary characters.

  What's more impressive, Bishop has written another well received series. Can you imagine getting close to 2000 reviews from one of your books? In comparison this pipsqueak writer's The Ghost in the Closet has 19 reviews. But then, I'm not the recipient of as many awards as is Bishop, including the RT Book Reviews 2013 Career Achievement Award in Sci-Fi/Fantasy.

 In a world of turmoil and despair, a few of the Blood, magic workers and rulers whose powers are exemplified by the darkness of the jewels they attract, hope for the coming of a witch queen who will end the corruption staining their world. Two rivals fight to control the witch-queen when the prophecized child appears, and the political games begin, using magic, politics, intrigue, and betrayal. I read the first three books in the series which ended with Jaennel and her consort achieving power but still facing terrible battles if she's to protect her people from other Bloods' greed for power.   

  The tone of the series is set in the first sentence of the book [I' ignoring the powerful prologue here.]:
   "Lucivar Yaslana, the Eyrien half-breed, watched the guards drag the sobbing man to the boat. He felt no sympathy for the condemned man who had led the aborted slave revolt. In the Territory called Pruul, sympathy was a luxury no slave could afford."

  The storyline soon makes it clear that the vampiric Saetan is one of the main characters, and he's soon flipped into a fearsome good-guy. Which gives the reader the clue, they are reading a highly original twist on the Christian netherworld mythology. [I use the term mythology because Satan's realm is interpreted in many ways by different Christian sects.] This is a world where the "the bad guys" live out their lives by their values, not ours. 

  The plot elements amaze as the depth of the society's corruption is displayed. They include a coherent take on a matriarchal society where males still are essential to wielding power, priestess and witches vying for supremacy, complications from groups who don't appreciate magic, a intricate but coherent magical system involving the color of different jewels, demon-dead, unicorns, harpies, and political perversion as greed takes the ascendency. The importance of love, in its many forms, is stressed repeatedly as the conflicts in this dark world unfold. The Black Jewels has it all, defined in some truly original tropes. More important, there's a glossary that helps the reader keep people and talents straight.
  
  The craftsmanship of the writing just blows me away. There are so many plot lines and sub plots intertwining around each other, one would expect an unintelligible mess. Bishop not only keeps the tangle understandable, but make its seem almost linear. Add to that complex characters, both primary and secondary, with internal conflicts. Overall Bishop creates a lush world that defies simple description.



Truly recommended. And, I still have more books set in this world to read.


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Think writers in other countries have it better than American authors? Think again. Here's a link to an Indian on-line writer's magazine that gives one reason for why I waste so much time doing social media. Five Scary Truths about Becoming an Author.

There are prizes, ... and then, there are prizes.
Ben Okri, Booker Award winner in 1991, recently achieved one of the more dubious awards, the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction award. Thought you might enjoy the link

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  Then, there're my anemic efforts. I do short reads because I don't have the energy to publish a full-length novel on my own. I'm also too cheap. Good editing costs, and I use both a content and
a copy editors.

  Still I may get Hear That Damn Owl out towards the end of December as another freebie. Then, I think I'll raise the price on my e-novelettes to $1.99. They don't really sell that well, so what the heck.

  Oh, The Ghoscrow is also sitting, waiting for outside edits too, but that's for the January or February.

  Next project. I'm going to return to the Far Isles Half-Elven. First off is a revision of Taking Vengeance. I'm going to add a fight at the beginning since too many people look at the sample, and then, don't buy it.  Next is The Pig Wars, the sequel to Troublesome Neighbors. I may combine the two books into one longer work which I might also do in paper.
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