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, July 27, 2015

Does a "Hausfrau" Character Weigh Down Your Book's Pace?

   Wasn't going to review another Mercedes Lackey book, but Blood Red intrigued and puzzled me, especially when I contrasted it with her other new release, The House of Four Winds. The book plods and plods and plods some more--while the action and fights with vampires and werewolves keep coming.  

   Blood Red is an elemental magicians book, the tenth in the series. While I like the series, but this is definitely not the most engaging for me, even with her  take on good and bad werewolves. *shrug*

   Then, I saw a picture of Angela Merkel carrying her briefcase somewhere, but she was wearing a tunic and pants, not her dumpy, ill-fitting blazer. [Does she try to imitate the male politicos in their suit jackets?] Whatever, Merkel looked like a "hausfrau" going shopping rather than one of the most powerful people in the world.

   So, what do I mean by "hausfrau". Not just the uptight Germanic cliche. But more along the lines of practical and no nonsense. See the job, and get the job done. Plod. Plod. Plod. While the trait's a virtue, it does for a dull book make. At least, that's the reason I used to explain why I kept putting the book down to go look or do something else.

   Blood Red is long on the "hausfrau" factor as the story line slogs from one fight to the other. Rose, the main character of Blood Red, is a stoical, but clever Master Huntsman with earth magic, who readily acknowledges much of her success is based on her male opponents underestimating her.

   Even the potential romance is even keeled. The whole book felt tired, like all the plot ideas had already been used once too many times. Maybe tighter editing would have helped. Maybe it doesn't happen because Lackey is an author diva.

    The same might be said about the princess from a minor principality main character in The House of Four Winds, the opening shot of her new series about a passel of princesses needing to go out into the world to seek their fortune. The romance is a central part of the book, but it also proceeds at a slow pace amidst a mutiny on the high seas. Granted Clarice/Clarence is masquerading as a master swordsman, but that doesn't stop her from finding true love while fighting for justice for the underdog seamen on an ill-fated ship.

   Did love the corruption factor, though.

   Descriptions of life aboard a sailing vessel and an interesting major villain keep The House of the Four Winds moving faster than Blood Red. Villains are central to the plot of Winds since there are several who are integral in moving the plot forward.

   Was disappointed because I couldn't lose myself in either book, and I don't think it was because Lackey seems to be mining the German world view for a break from the stodgy Brits. I've seen Germans get emotional, even loose it. Neither of the books main characters seem to have enough depth to do something unexpected.

Recommended as light reading, if your looking for something that'll engage your brain without overtaxing it. Both books are competently written, but with flat characters who fill their roles adequately, eh. I'd buy the books used or maybe for your reader. Read excerpts and more reviews on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. A must buy if you're a rabid Lackey fan.

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My Writing Rut 

    Am wondering why I can't just write the current chapter of On the Run. Pillar has been assigned to take care of a great-aunt, because she's hopeless at working magic. It's a crucial scene, but I can't seem to make any progress. Every time either character opens their mouth, I have to go back and make an adjustment in previous chapters. Ugh.

   Then, I have to keep going back over the same words to make sure they are saying what I think I want to say. Yeah, I'm still working on the same chapter I started last week. Of course, I've written my daily quota of new words. But the darn things were all revision and had to make up for the words I deleted. Worse, the revisions were spread over four chapters, including one at the beginning.

   Maybe if I outlined to a deeper depth I wouldn't spin my wheels so much, ya think? Problem: I'd loose the element of discovery which is one of the reasons I write. I definitely don't write for fame and/or fortune.

   Did get a Trapper Tremaine story outlined, complete with mystery solution...and ending. It's an early history Andor story, with a mage dog figuring into the story line. Working title: Trapper Tremaine: Trial by Accusation.

   If I didn't know me, I'd think knowing too much about the ending of my stories slows down their progress.

   Oh, Vengeance progresses slooooowly. Hope to get it to the copy editor this week.

Think "slow" is my new middle name.




Monday, July 20, 2015

Reading About Brave Black Ops and Doomsday Machines. Fun!

    Took a read outside of my genre zone last week. Our local Friends of the Library had their quarterly book sale, and I picked up James Rollins' Black Order, a galloping tale of former Nazis, crazies, a doomsday machine, and the good guys jumping around the globe, trying to save it. What's not to keep you glued to your chair for just one more chapter. I bought the 500+ page book Saturday afternoon, and was almost half-way through Sunday night, in spite of a funeral, kids' phone calls, and the two other books I was skimming through.

   Hey, how can  you not keep reading when the brave Americans are out to save the world against impossible odds? Oh, yeah. Not only was the book well written, but all those earthquakes in Nepal had recently happened.

   Well, first I was surprised by the intelligent planning behind the work. I've read thrillers before which were basically car chases and races combined with "fireworks" of various kinds. Rollins' characters all have motivation ... and surprisingly, personal growth in the midst of the bombast. His villains, not so much.

   Guess you can't do much with Nazis obsessed with creating the superior human being, a activity I think is moot in this day of robots. Still, it was one of the things I liked most was the extrapolation of science and facts to hold the plot line together. The evolutionary ideas weren't particular new. But then, I've been a fan of Teilard de Chardin and his attempts at reconciling faith and evolution since the sixties. -- How does that apply to escape reading? Darwin's personal Bible is a key plot element.

   I'm not a Rollins fan and don't know if I'll become one. Did take a look at his other Sigma Force books. Seems like he's effective at stretching his research to the optimum. Not only does the Sigma series got ten books, but he writes other action series as well. In fact, reading his list of published books made me tired, thinking about all the work.

   Rollins' chapter endings impressed me the most in his action packed read. He always breaks at a peak in the action and jumps to the other team [or villains] and then, back to scene that he had left hanging just before the gun is fired or the bomb thrown in the other scene. His characters always seem in media res.

   Net result. Made me wish I had bought two of the books so I could give one to a reluctant reader grandkid. Son won out, because I owe him for several books plus my Mercy Thompson graphic novels. Still, Rollins is so good, I going to be buying another copy to give to the grandkid.

    Recommended for light summer reading. What's not to like, especially if you're getting a little bored with your usual genres. Fast paced action. Intelligent, well-rounded characters. Twists and turns galore, sometimes in the same chapter. A grand fight between Good and Evil. All that, and second-hand trips to uncommon foreign countries. Read excerpts and more reviews on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.

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Story Idea Giveaway
I'm never going to get around to it so here's a gift--a plot idea. 
   In a land where robots rule, free humans develop magical/esp skills to maintain their freedom from the corporate oligarchy. Haven't checked it for overuse, but with all the dystopian stuff, it should be an easier sell than elves.

You think that's too cheap a giveaway?
Okay, How about a free copy of my short estory Noticing Jamilla?

Blurb:
   Taught to hate magic, Cassy Mae thought she escaped danger when she moved to her GrammyJo’s mountain home after her mother’s death, but a demon hunts Cassy in spite of grandmother's protective juju. Will Cassy find the strength and the power to save herself?

    This is my favorite Andor story. On the Road was going to be a sequel, but I couldn't make it work. You can read it for free in several ereader formats from Smashwords. Use Code: MH92U  It's free to sign up for a Smashwords account if you don't have one, if you want to go through the bother to save 99c. Otherwise, it's for sale at the usual suspects.

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Important Link:
 Taking Care of Your Blog When You Die?

   Got my own blog done early, and immediately hopped over to enjoy the blogs I follow. Came across Anne R. Allen's writing about having a social media executor: What Happens to Your Blog When You Die? The topic is as important for the young as the old grumps like me. 

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My Writing Road

    Still lots of ruts in the road. But the paper edits are getting transferred to Vengeance. Don't have the changes to the cover yet, but they are progressing too. Still, pondering on pre-orders. So far, the betas "loved" it, whatever that means.

On the Run is traveling into new territory. I have scenes mapped out, but they always morph while I write them as other characters help or hinder Pillar's progress.

   Biggest writing event. The timeline tightened up. Had a chapter titled "Lessons and More Lessons". I was cringing at the thought of endless classes of Pillar trying to keep her null image while learning how to work magic. Turns out that there are more lessons than magic to learn. Heh. Heh.

   Oh, I did get a new excerpt of the story on my author website. Take a look. Hope you don't find as many things to rewrite as I did. Remember this is my draft before paper edits. I edit better on paper because I can see the needs of the story line clearer.