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 14, 2015

Happy Holidays All

'Tis the season to make merry.

And I wish you lots of fun and joy during the season 

without too much hassle.

On the other hand, we've been going though some minor, but time consuming, health hassles, and I won't be blogging for a few weeks. Tried to keep going the previous couple weeks. But. I've found  I don't have the energy to juggle everything.




Monday, December 7, 2015

Want an Underdog Doomed to Surviving in a Hostile Environment?

   Slow writing week, but I managed to read three books -- given added reading time while waiting for the Christmas cookies [gifts] to bake. Skimmed one book with flat character development but got drawn in by two Yasmine Galenorn books. Flight from Death won my reading derby this week because I thought the characters were more original, even though it's an Otherworld spin off. Maybe because Flight is complicated ghost story featuring a dragon and the other book felt like a predictable urban fantasy.

   Galenorn has a talent for creating three dimensional characters. She layers enough quirks and problems on her characters to make them live and breath. More important, their quirks add to the twists, turns, and suspense of the plot--even when the lsupernaturals land well within fantasy norms. Yeah. Galenorn's characters break cliches.

   What's more, even her secondary characters stand out as individuals. One example, the all important lore-resource character has flaws that both make him more likable and ratchet up the danger in the plot line when he makes mistakes in judgement So, much for the all-wise guru.  [Sorry if you think that's a spoiler.]

   Imagine. Shimmer, an orphan blue dragon exiled to the earth plane without most of her magic for a stupid adolescent-type prank/revenge on a bully, must survive in a world where supernaturals are tolerated on the edges. So, she broke the rules in a society that favors clan, lineage, and wealth above all. But being indentured to a vampire private investigator?????? I really liked that twist. The kid's definitely an underdog, errrr under dragon.

   Flight from Death the the first in a new series for Galenorn. Loosely set in the Seattle of her Otherworlds fae/multi-sup series, it looks like she is letting the book gets its legs under it without playing into the previous saving-the-world-from- the-nasties plot. The book takes us to Port Townsend, Washington where ghosts riddle the town, including the house where a former vampire friend of the boss wants to open a bed and breakfast for supes. Only there is something nastier than discontented ghosts haunting the place, and Shimmer proves she more than just another urban fantasy pretty face with attitude.

   Liked that Galenorn managed to recycle her Otherworld world so it felt new rather than a rehash.

   Recommended. Oh, I felt there were a few missteps where Shimmer exhibited fad/fashion knowledge too subtle for the length of time she'd spent on earth, but these were minor glitches. Overall, the read gallops. A great start for a new series with an intelligent protagonist.

Read excerpts and more reviews on Amazon and at B&N Nook.

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My Writing Rut

What writing?
   Granted I revised an originally drafted chapter to fit the Pillar, the current main character of On the Run. Since I had two such chapters in the que, it should've been a breeze to pound out both of them last week. Didn't get that done. Can only blame baking cookies. At least, I spend very little time in stores trying to find gifts for family.

   Still, it feels good to finally be using material written last spring when I had an entirely different main character for On the Run.


Monday, November 30, 2015

Who Are We Are -- And How Do We Get There? -- Bless Me Ultima

   Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya is a classic coming of age story filled with magical realism, where magic is part of the fabric of the normal world touching everyone. That the writing itself is magical is just another literary dimension -- and enjoyment. I could almost see a Jesuit nodding, like a deus machina, in agreement as Antonio, the protagonist, begins to weave various threads gathered from the world around him into who he will become as an adult, making the decisions that favor one possibility over another. But then, I'm weird.

  How weird? I actually miss the summer evenings when the neighborhood ladies, about 3 to 6 depending on the day, would gather after supper and chat -- before TV arrived -- on rotating porch steps. Think teens miss a lot by not hanging on the edges and listening to the mothers chat about the news [gossip] and the events of the day.

   Bless Me Ultima takes place in similar times...before TV, in New Mexico at the end of World War II when Hispanic hamlets were mostly separate from Anglo world, but that didn't mean that conflict didn't exist. The Hispanics separated themselves into different cultural groups too -- those of the plains who herded cattle and farmers, religious and non-religious, traditionalist and more modern. Antonio's parents were rooted in different ways of organizing their lives, between the freedom of the plains and the structure of the farm. Antonio's family was also isolated from the rest of the village by a river because the father grew up on the plains and preferred the freedom of the wind to being cloistered in town.

   All of the above elements create the conflict in six/seven-year-old Antonio's life, and come to a head when the local, elderly curandera, Ultima, comes to live with them --  because the old lady had saved Antonio's mother's life in childbirth, a much more risky endeavor back then, and the family felt obligated to her. Bless Me Ultima chronicles Anotonio's growing awareness of the world around him and how he balances all the elements against the happenings at school, preparing for his First Communion, and the traditions of his people.

   Highly recommended if you haven't read this classic before. I had forgotten how beautifully written the book is. More to my mind, I kept thinking of the imaginary Jesuit sitting in the background, muttering I get him as a priest when he grows up. No such luck, I think. Yeah, a great coming to awareness novel.

You can read more reviews at Amazon and B&N Nook.

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My Writing Rut

   Took it easy this week with Thanksgiving and all. Just spent time "back and forthing", adding bits and On the Run where they were needed, I think. I won't know for sure until I get an ending on it and printed out to actually look at what I wrote. Yeah, my old-fartism [or should I be polite and say "old ladyism"?] influences how I write. I really like looking at screens less and less.

   Also added bits and pieces to several possible short pieces -- Trapper Tremaine, Trial by Lies [set in the early days of Andor], Renna's tales about the early days among the Far Isles Half-Elven, and a sequel to The Ghostcrow. Who knows which one will jell first? Of course, I could do a loop-de-loop and do something entirely different, finish up Black Tail's War, a sequel to Troublesome Neighbors.

Or, I could finish the revisions of There Be Demons,
the first of the Demon Trilogy.

Do I dare think of starting something new from scratch?
Perish the thought.

Feel like I'm sitting in the middle of a puddle of words.

 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Does a Series Need All it's Ends Tied -- Odd Thomas?

    Decided to review on the odd side this week, the last of the Odd Thomas series--Saint Odd, by Dean Koontz. When I picked up the first book, I first thought, "Interesting. Koontz is writing about an idiot savant. Might be interesting."

   Koontz had me hooked by the second or third chapter. Definitely by the time Odd was on the run. The abandoned hotel is one of the scariest settings I've encountered. It's still in my mind several years later.

   Scary, supernatural "things" or is that "entities" are the norm in Odd Thomas life as he weaves a path between the good and evil, building mystical skills beyond his ability to see ghosts and mourning his lost love who was killed in a terrorist attack at a shopping mall, even though they are destined to "be together forever". Yeah, Odd Thomas suffers from "survivor's guilt".

   Koontz uses a very narrow, first person point of view in the Odd stories. The reader knows nothing but what Odd tells them. Fortunately, Odd is a minute observer while he wonders about people, things, and the supernatural. I won't go into the technical aspects of Koontz's writing. He's a master, and the construction of the novel is masterful, even if he did leave a huge number of dangling loose ends.

   The hallmark of a Koontz story is action. In Saint Odd, the villains are chasing Odd from the get-go as he tries to sneak back to the town he left because something significant's going to happen. More important, I think, is Odd's distinction between "killing" and "murder". Odd Thomas is the good guy, but he only ends a human life to save himself or other innocents. Murder is the killing for selfish purposes. For some reason, that thought keeps bubbling up to the surface of my mind. So, I'll consider it profound.

    Definitely recommended Saint Odd, but you might want to read some of the other books in the series if you haven't done so, especially the previous volume. An epic tale of good vs evil. Granted it gets a little boring when good wins, but that's what we're rooting for. Right? Too bad it's the end of the series. But, there is the possibility of a continuation if Koontz every gets around to it. Meh.

See excerpts at Amazon and B&N Nook.

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Interesting Link

   Cate Hogan, a writer/editor of romance novels, recently posted an article on 8 useful tools for writers , information that can improve writer's communications and money making ability. The tips also apply to anyone who emails a lot. I realize emails are a little old fashioned in this day of smartphones. But, when I want to "talk" to people, I prefer the amount of information I can convey via emails as opposed to texting.

   Of, course, I could write a letter... ... ...

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My Writing Rut

   Ended up backtracking last week. Added another chapter to On the Run where Pillar learn moreabout her past and her abilities.

Sigh. 

   Maybe I'm done with the academy now and can get on to Nate. Not really much to say. I've been under the weather and just didn't have the energy to stare at the computer as long as usual. For some reason, I don't feel the enthusiasm I felt last week. At least, I'm getting back to the part of the story I wrote last Spring. And then, I have to have the showdown with the demon -- about which I don't have a clue outside of the brief description of the aftermath when Nate gather's up Pillar's pieces.