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.

.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Just Re-Reading My Favs -- A Tamora Pierce Read-a-thon

First Test (Protector of the Small Series #1)   Think I got the goofing-off bug bad--even though my visiting relatives are long home. Neil Gaiman's book, The Ocean and the End of the Lane, was so short I decided to treat myself and give myself permission to re-read a favorite book.

   Did I say "a favorite"? I ended up reading both Tamora Pierce's Alanna, the Lioness, and Keladry of Mindelan quartets in her Tortall series. Would have tried to squeeze in The Immortals quartet, but could only find three of the set on my bookshelves.

   So happens I've reviewed so many of Pierce's books that I don't think there's anything much I can say about them. But the big question is: Why do I keep reading kids' books when I'm an old lady. I re-read Lord of the Rings regularly, too. But it's a more massive series focused on adults. Still, I think Pierce has out produced Tolkien by a long shot.  Maybe even has more readers?

   Maybe I read them because Pierce's books also depict more realistic relationships between men and woman? Actually for middle grade books she comes up for some strange situations in the parenting department. My favorite couple is from the Trickster series where a crow turns into a human to help Alanna's daughter survive after she is kidnapped.

   I'm surprised that Pierce alludes to adult human relationships so often in middle grade books without raising a ruckus. At least, I haven't heard of anyone trying to keep her books off the library shelves or trying to burn them.

   Pierce started writing in the 1980s, presenting strong female characters who could best men at their own games. Not that I'm particularly a feminist. I did manage my kids and still manage my home in a rather traditional peasant manner. But I also do what I want when I want when not carrying my load as part of the team.

   Guess I need another reason for re-reading the same series so many times. The best I can come up with is that Pierce creates such a tangible world the reader gets carried away with the characters. Magic exists in abundance in her Tortall books, but the characters still have to use mundane skills to solve their problems. Yeah, I guess I'm guilty of immersing myself in a rich, comfortable world.

   So, I'll ask the larger question. Why does anyone keep rereading a book or series? After all they could be getting an entirely new experience with a un-read book.

Why do you re-read books?
Or, are you a seeker of new experiences?

~~#~~
 Working the Writer Pit

    Remember that goofing off bit I mentioned at the beginning? Didn't think I was wasting time at the computer, but I did little shilling and less writing. Mostly, I worked on guest blogs and interviews to go with a blog tour for The Ghostcrow. If you haven't yet read it, you can read an extended excerpt on my author website. It's even sold some...and gotten some decent reviews...but like most writers I'm always looking for more reviews.

   Think I'm slowing down. My hip doesn't like sitting in an office chair for long periods of time--even if I get up and move. One of the charms of becoming an old lady.




Monday, April 20, 2015

Do Cliches Matter if You Got Imagination? -- Review Neal Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane    Don't know what took me so long to read Neil Gaiman's heroic childhood fantasy The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Maybe I was afraid of having my mind blown by what Gaiman does with the cliche of the loner, bookish kid not liking the caregiver his working parents dump on him.

   Of course, Gaiman wrapped the plot in magic, including three powerful immortals who pretend to be human on the farm at the end of the land.  The heroic battle comes after the narrator becomes the means used by a malignant entity to invade our dimension.

   This is supposedly an adult novel, narrated by an adult who had just given an eulogy at a funeral and decides to kill some time between events by visiting some of his childhood haunts. In matter of fact prose, the unnamed main character tells his dark tale of heroic sacrifice. Yet, the whole story takes place during the narrator's childhood, when he was seven-eight years old.

   The beauty in the reading comes in Gaiman's writing. Yeah. The Gaiman gives the reader the realistic whimsey at the core of all his books. It continually amazed me with how he manages to get such preternatural suspense from such a mundane, suburban setting. Even so, the action doesn't seem to have had much effect on the character. You might even say the story lacks character development. The kid seemed much the same to me at the end as the two ladies who livied at the end of the lane.

   I felt the tale skimmed along the surface of some great thoughts. The story did become a lyrical poem to the wonders of childhood with all its mysteries and what ifs. The bottom line, I think, is that Neil Gaiman has written another modern fairytale in his spare style with depths buried in the action rather than the description.

   Writers can take lessons from how Gaiman creates his images without noticeable adjectives. His descriptions widen the possibilities in the reader's imagination. Most writers narrow down the possibilities within their story lines.

A delightful coming of age story, beautifully written, which will stick into the back of your mind and resurface at unexpected times. Gaiman's amazing imagination and story-telling make this a must read for fantasy readers. You can read more reviews and samples on
Amazon     &     B&N Nook

 ~~#~~
A Writer's Tool Kit & Interesting Links

   Came across a blog: Write Small: 5 Ways to Make Your Readers Care on Writer's Write by Mia Botha. One thing struck me was that people react to social crises much the same. They pick one cause or the problem of one person to work on. It's the details that matter.

   This pipsqueak writer is far too small to worry about Hugos or Nebulas, but it seems to me everyone should be aware of the current nomination process at the Hugos, a popularity contest which has always ignored some of the most enduring writers in the fantasy/science fiction genres. The Passive Guy, my favorite writing guru, posted this blog: Some Sad Puppy Data Analysis.

   Don't know how many of you read historical mysteries, but Jeri Westerson recently wrote a blog about how she came to write medieval mysteries: Writing Was My Secret. It made me wonder how many readers are secret writers. It's no secret that writers are readers.

~~#~~
    Did enjoy my sister-in-law and daughter's visit. She says she enjoyed it too--in spite of the cottonwoods doing their spring-thing. Barely managed to keep my emails cleaned. The break did energize my #writing. While my brain forgot about the plot of On the Run, the back stories and socio-magical-political structure fell into place. The action and time lines in the whole Andor series have become more coherent in my brain. Like Doom for a Sold Soul happens before the Celestial Wars. Surprising since I write by the seat of my pants. Maybe there's some scientific basis for automatic writing.

   Didn't get anything done on my website...though people seem to be visiting it before I get all the SEO done. Since I haven't gotten anything corrected for the public. Here's the first paragraph of the current version of On the Run, which happens after the Celestial Wars.

   The waitress chewed a wad of gum so large her white-coated tongue appeared each time her jaw moved. Pillar Beccon lowered her eyes at the sight. “I’d like extra cheese.”

   It does get a little more exciting when she and her friends encounter a stalker at the bus station.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Must a New Series Mirror the Old Ones? Charlaine Harris' Midnight Crossroad

Midnight Crossroad (Midnight, Texas Series #1)New Series.

New Style.

Iffy  Mysteries

   Finally found a paperback of Charlaine Harris' new series--Midnight Crossroad--and was first annoyed with the arm's length point of view of the tale. Harris chose to reveal the action from mulitiple viewpoints of the rather strange inhabitants of Midnight. At first I didn't care much for the distance, then it grew on me.

   From the beginning, Midnight, sounded intriguing. It screamed small town with deep currents to me. Then, the name Bobo Winthrop popped up on page three. Harris recycled a character. Or, if you want to be more generous, you might say she put Bobo front and center in the plot line, giving him a main role in a new story, if not his own story. If you've only read the Sookie Stackhouse series, you might not recognize Bobo. He was a secondary character in Harris' Lucy Bard series. Poor Bobo, he's still unlucky in love...and family. But Harris creates two interrelated mysteries out of his problems.

   Everyone one of the dozen or so inhabitants of Midnight have secrets, some more hidden than others. Midnight Crossroad concentrates on a newcomer to town, Manfred Bernardo, a psychic, who may or may not be real deal and runs an online psychic business. The poor fellow soon finds himself awash in people acting strangely.

   Harris use of multiple viewpoints gives the reader an intriguing impression of the three most normal people in town. Hints of danger come when two strangers come to an infrequently patronized restaurant. Danger builds when they threaten Bobo for information about a cache of weapons belonging to his super-racist grandfather. But the plot really takes off when the decayed body of Bobo's missing lover is found on the first and only annual town picnic. The mystery plays out until the end.

   The plodding pace of the book is my biggest criticism of the book. First, Harris spends a long time to introduce us to her interesting cast of characters without revealing very much. But, being a master, she still manages to create people rather than stick characters. The weakest link, unfortunately, was her villain. Harris needed to develop his motivations, like she should have explained why he needed an aging arsenal while he seemed to have loads of money. Thought Harris should have made it more front and center why he was chasing a Patriot rumor. After all in this country, rich guys can buy armaments of many kinds of lethal until doomsday.

   My biggest disappointment was the ending, but can't say much about it because of dumping a huge spoiler on you. Just let me say I thought reactions of the characters were too passive.

Recommended with reservations, basically because I felt Harris left too many questions unanswered. Still, Midnight Crossroad is an intriguing read, if not exciting.  


~~~#~~~
Interesting Stuff I Wasted Time On

   Ever wondered how to get more out of your writing time? I've given up being fast, but Anne Allen wrote a wonderful comprehensive blog with useful links on how to get the most out of your writing time: The 10 Commandments of Highly Productive Professional Writers. It might give you some insights on how those best-selling, big name authors manged to complete two novels a year. Yeah, I spent a lot of time chasing through her links.

   Care to be entertained? Doing a search on something or other, I happened upon the Fantasy Name Generator, a site that's much more than its name implies. Someone named Emily curates, babysits, and manages the effort. The site can be many things to many people. Click the link to see what intrigues you.  I spent a whole afternoon there and enjoyed my discoveries much more than doing marketing. One of the reasons I'm linking here is so I can easily return again. [I lost my bookmark button.]


~~~#~~~
Writing Chores

   Still can't use a website builder worth a limp noodle. Oh, the mistakes I make! Have made three calls to the help center to solve, but the page is still shrunk to the size where I can't read the print. The new snippet of On the Run is delayed in the process. This is the revised version featuring Pillar Beccon...whose strange ancestry makes fitting into any of the Andor factions easy. Given all the linear story bits and pieces, I think this is going to be a longer effort than I've self-published in the past. Whatever, my critiquers are liking the change. Maybe someday readers might be able to see what I'm writing now.


One funny note. The Ghost in the Closet still is my "best seller", though can't say I sell much. Most people download one or more of my free stories in spite of my not doing any promotion of them.

And, an alert.
Next week I may not be posting a blog. My daughter's coming in from out of town to visit.