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 19, 2016

What Keeps You Reading???

Here a Book, There a Book

Am wondering ... about the books I started pile. Not the to-read pile, which is growing, but the books I started and put down to read again ... whenever. At last count, there're eight of them in various stages of completion. 

The one I finished last? Neil Gaiman's Stardust, the story of a feckless lad who grows up during a quest to bring his lady love a fallen star. I picked it up last weekend and finished it in three days. Written in the classic fairy tale style, I enjoyed the sly humor of the piece as well as Gaiman's inventiveness in using the standard motifs. Well worth reading. But you probably already know that. It's been around for a while as the various covers tell you.


You can take a look on Amazon and Nook.

So, I finished Stardust midweek. Did I pick up one of my already started books? No. I'm reading Darynda Jones' The Curse of the Tenth Grave

Am wondering if you hop, skip, and jump through your reading pile. 

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On my writing front,  the content editor has On the Run. Yeah, I finally got all the critique and beta edits collated into the draft. 

Other progress, finished Pissing at the Green Onion, a short story meant to be a freebie sometime or other. Also, got a couple pages into a post-disaster Andor story set during the times the Kingscourt established its rule over the western lands. Yeah, both There Be Demons and On the Run happen on Andor's west coast. After all, I'm a California valley girl -- Central Valley, that is. For sure.

May seem silly to have a cover so early [My critique group isn't going to be looking at it until January.], but some people seem to think it helps with the writing to have a working cover.

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Writerly Things

Colorado Writers have a wonderful marketing tool in the Ultimate Pitchfest. If you're a writer having problems with your queries, they offer digital lessons on how to create a perfect pitch. Again, having a pitch while you're editing, can help to keep you focused on your story line even if you don't have a manuscript ready to shop.

On the Run won't be ready in time to shop there. [They do Skype pitches to good agents.] But I'm going to be doing the digital learn to pitch workshop soon.

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Oh, Happy Holidays All
Hope you celebrate several during the holiday season.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Wandering in My Make-Believe Worlds

I'm Back ... Maybe

Has anybody out there noticed I've been playing hookie?
First, both me and my old man have been having health issues -- more chronic than critical -- but energy sapping. More important, I think, is that I got tired of writing book reports. Never fear. I've been buying and reading books. More important, I've been re-reading favorites. Charlaine Harris' Midnight series.

For the record: I can't wait for the NBC series to appear. At least, I think, it's appearing on commercial TV since I refuse to pay for cable when I only watch the weather and PBS News Hour and, maybe, 60 Minutes, though the new crew is flat compared to the old standards.


 The Writing Front 

 One thing I have been doing is writing -- something I enjoy as much as reading.

"On the Run" has progressed through beta-reading and is almost through the first re-writing. Lots of backstory has been eliminate, like 2000 plus words. Yeah, other things were clarified so it still reads at about 85,000 words. Only about 50 pages to go, if I can get out of my post-election fog.

Hope to have the re-write done by next week. Then, content edits. My slot is already reserved. 
                                                                                                        

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Magical Thinking

Have you woken up from the election nightmare yet
 -- or, are you jumping for joy?

My thought on the election: I mourn for the relevant facts lost. I have the curious habit of accepting facts until they are proved wrong. It's not quite the scientific method, but close since I'll admit to an emotional bias -- the elites are up to "no damn good" -- as defined by: "being most concerned for their own self-interest".

So, my chuckles.

My biggest concern during the election was for the fate of the Supreme Court. Then, I read that 10% of college graduates think Judge Judy is a member of that august institution. Granted, Judge Judy might be a Ruth Bador Ginsburg look-a-like, but ????????
{Does "WTF" fit in here?}

Then, there are all those liberals taking cold comfort from Trump's promise to spend a billion on infrastructure. Granted, things look hopeful since maybe around 75% of city big infra-structure ballot measures passed. I'm waiting to make sure Trump considers crumbling bridges, not golf courses, as infrastructure.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Just Writing & Reading Along

Reading this last week has been disappointing. Am reading three books at the moment, none of which is keeping my attention for more than an hour or so. I'm just hooked enough to go back to the book, but none of them is pulling me along for "just one more chapter".

Would you believe they're all thrillers,
 books duty-bound to keep me reading in spite of sleep?

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It always feels nice when I managed to complete some writing task for On the Run. This time it's the sticky notes. They're all incorporated with their chapters. Now I have to go back and revise for my beta readers. It's a tedious process. *grin* But, I'm progressing and am further ahead than my co-readers.

More important. I found the rough idea outline for a short story/novella, Pissing at the Green Onion. Who knew Cahal [from: There Be Demons] was living in Taddledon? I didn't until I found the situation floating floating in a college town. Of course, Taddledon is a major city, but that doesn't mean it lacks a beer scene. Am thinking about a sequel combining the character of the two manuscripts, so plopped Cahal into the short story notes. Managed to add about 300 words for a tentative beginning.

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A link I found interesting and wish I could chat about:

A video from Slate about how a musical theme has been used over and over again in creative ways.

Anyone remember the list of the different kinds of plots?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Getting to Know You -- Using Flashbacks to Develop Characters

Did you miss R. S. Belcher's debut novel, The Six-Gun Tarot, when it first came out? 

I know I did. I can't even remember seeing the striking cover in the new books sections of the two bookstores I frequent. Fortunately, the family lending library treated me to the read. Guess New York City stores get to sample more books than the boonies where I live. Not only did the book keep me reading past my bedtime, but it snuck up on me with a lovely, believable steampunk subplot.

The Six-Gun Tarot takes place in Golgotha, Nevada on the other side of the 40 mile Desert from Reno/Virginia City. Belcher gives us one of the most ethnically mixed populations I've encountered in my reading and integrates the various belief systems into a complicated, occult fabric that's one of the most original takes on the western fantasy arcana I've seen. Yeah. The Tarot plays a big part in it.

Belcher develops his characters with extensive flashbacks which almost stand as novellas. Each of the main characters having some occult power or other ... even the supposedly Christian ones ... was just frosting on the read. Through the flashbacks, the reader learns about the acute danger the town faces.

Of course, the wounded hero and his pals must save the sheep like citizens. Sound like the cliches runneth over? Don't believe it. All the characters have odd-ball pains and strengths that will save the people of Golgatha ... if they can only arrive at the pit in time.

So recommended, I've been lending or suggesting the book to all my writer friends, even the ones that don't read fantasy. See excerpt and reviews at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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Interesting Links

To Blog or Not to Blog. Rachelle Gardner recently posted some interesting comments about effective social media and writers. It all boils down to what you are passionate about. Makes me wonders why I'm blogging. Is it just a marketing myth? You can read it by clicking here. Care to comment on what you think? 

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My Writing Rut

Guess I'm back. Just ran out of steam over the winter doldrums. Medical issues didn't help. Besides I was/am tired of doing book reviews. Reminded me too much of English classes, I guess.

I'm in the process of revising my whole media presence. keeping Facebook ... because I interact with people I know there as well as having an author page, where it's easy to interact to comments -- when they happen. Yeah, I'm a pipsqueak, but the only media that turned out humanish was Facebook, in spite of all the manipulations.

May continue on Twitter, too, where I have two accounts: a "personal" one and a promotion one. Chances are you're reading this by responding to a tweet.

Oh, yeah. The writing. May have been scarce on social media, but I've been writing. I've finished the draft of On the Run. The 50 page novella turned into a 280 page draft with an entirely different protagonist than the one I started out with. Guess there won't be a sequel to Noticing Jamilla. The short story did give me a better idea of my demons than the outlined world I used in Night for the Gargoyles and There Be Demons, but I guess Cassy Mae will remain a singleton quick read.

Now I'm incorporating all the addenda into the draft so I can get On the Run to my beta readers. Then, I get to go back to edit There Be Demons because the world is more complicated than it was before.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Squeezing All of a Series Characters into the Action

Wasn't going to review Eighth Grave After Dark by Darynda Jones, but the other book I'm enjoying is over 500 pages long and complicated -- and I'm helping my old man learn enough Word so he can transfer his written memoir into a computer. Not that Eighth Grave is an  unworthy read. But ... *shrug* Yah only can do so much in a week, especially when you're in the winter doldrums.

Do you get the idea my feelings on Jones' series are mixed?

The few urban fantasy books of hers I've read have great, action-filled plot lines. Jones has built up a cast of interesting, revolving characters who usually do intriguing things to push and pull the plot along. Then, there's a main character, Charley aka Charlotte, who I find about as mature as my fourteen-year-old granddaughter, which is especially annoying to me after the revelations in Eighth Grave After Dark. She's going to be responsible for saving the world from Satan ... when she's got the hots and is married to the Son of Satan?
 
A lot is going on in Eighth Grave After Dark. Charley, who is terminally pregnant with the child phophecised to off Satan to prevent the end of the world, is hosting a wedding for her assistant to her uncle in the confines of an abandoned convent because twelve hell hounds lurk on the boundaries, waiting to rip Charley's throat out so said child won't be born.

Yeah, complicated. But that's not the only thing going on in the book. Huge numbers of ghosts are gathering on the convent grounds, including a mysterious nun who refuses to talk to Charley. The wedding goes off with all sorts of weird relatives gathering, including Charely's stepmother who made her childhood miserable. Said Son of Satan is acting strangely. Charley has contacted the parents he was kidnapped from in spite of his forbidding her to contact them. Oh, did a mention the FBI comes to her for help in locating a kidnapped neice of one of the agents?

And that's only the first third of the book.

If you're a writer, I recommend you get the series and map out what the main secondary characters do in each  book. You'll get a great idea on how to squeeze the most out of the characters you create. On the other hand, I recommend you pick a grown up for your main character unless you're writing young adult or children's books. I really got tired of reading Charley make one dumb decision after another, especially when she was putting her child in danger by being an adolescent idiot.

Yeah, I'm recommending the book because it's so entertaining. The craftsmanship is outstanding too. I don't think the pace slowed down much more than to give the reader a chance to absorb the next facts -- though sometimes these were confusing. The book left me wondering why a character couldn't be snarky and grown-up at the same time.

This review getting posted "late" is just another example of my
winter doldrums.
Enjoy the typos.

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My Writing Rut



Got a lesson on why taking a break from your writing can be beneficial. Took a look at the
"chapter" I was trying to fit into the current version of On the Run and realized why the action wouldn't fit. The fact that the main character was called "Cass" should have been a clue. Yeah, I'm still back tracking ... but I think I'm making the manuscript more coherent.

I hope.

Still, I'm in the doldrums though ... but now its the marketing of my short stories which seem to be getting ignored.

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Simple Trick to Keep a Book Series Going -- Stop Boredom

Am wondering how often your give up on a favorite author/series because the last book Bored You.

I lose interest in books I'm reading all the time. Often, I miss a following book because the I didn't finish the previous book in a series because my interest wandered, ie another book stole it.

Sometimes, I think even publishers seem to get bored with long running series and try to mix things up a bit. Think Anne Perry's Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mystery series might be an example. Or, maybe I'm just digging for an excuse why I've missed a couple books because I didn't see them in mass paperback. Still, the Pitt mysteries, totaling more than thirty, are running strong if their rankings are any measure.

Yeah, I ended up reading a trade paperback. When I sent the trade pile to the store, I stumbled over some copies of Perry's newer Victorian  mysteries while I waited for my credit. Haven't read the Monk one yet, but I rushed to read the Pitt one, Midnight at Marble Arch -- mostly because Aunt Vespasia is one of my favorite characters. I wasn't disappointed.

In Midnight at Marble Arch, Perry explores the sexual mores and the privileges of rank when several proper young ladies are raped by a rich banker's son, including the daughter of the Portuguese ambassador. Then, there's the seemingly unrelated rape/death of a society matron. Pitt is settling in with his new promotion to the Special Branch [a political arm of the government] ...and is nostalgic for the simpler days when he was solving murders and other crimes.  Charlotte is regaining her society chops but hasn't lost her fearlessness or compassion -- though she doesn't do much active sleuthing in this book. Pitt learns the identity of the privileged perp early in the book, and the problem becomes bringing him to justice, especially after an innocent man is convicted of the similar crime.

Relationships  -- both personal and societal -- are the keystones in Anne Perry's mysteries. In fact, they take the plot lines in new directions in this book. Don't think the hinted attraction between Charlotte and Narraway, Pitt former boss in the Special Branch, had much traction for others as well as me. Perry seems to opening up the story lines with the Pitts' matturing children and a romance between Vespasia and Narraway. That the latter possibility has me intrigued enough to go looking for the next in the series ... provided it isn't a hard back. [They cost too much and hurt my thumbs when reading for much longer than a chapter.]

Recommended. First, mostly because of  Perry's socio-political chops. She gives as good a feeling for the Victorian age as Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey did/does for the Edwardian period, especially the conforming mindsets of the better classes. The moralizing got a little tedious, but I skipped that. Second, because her plot lines are complex and intriguing. Plus, interesting subplots featuring ongoing characters with different problems, including boredom.

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 My Writing Rut

Writing?
Did I hear you say writing?

My brain still hasn't pushed into gear. It's not like I've writing block. I keep acquiring sticky notes. But I don't seem to be getting words added to my new chapters. Maybe the stock market has me reading more financial newsletters than cleaning off my email? Maybe I'm just feeling lazy? S. A. D. syndrom? Quien sabe?

Whatever. I'm not promoting my aging short stories. I'm not writing new short stories. I'm not working on On the Run. I'm not editing any of the manuscripts in my computer. I am watching the birds at the feeder.

I'm also setting up my old man a computer so he can transfer the handwritten notes of his memoir into a computer. Must say Windows 10 is much easier on the eyes than 8. In fact, Windows 8 is one of the main reason after costs that I have gotten a smartphone.

Hope your new endeavors are progressing faster.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Alack! Young Princess's Half-Brother Steals Her Throne

First:
Back at the Salt Mines?
Hope you all enjoyed the holidays --
which ever ones you celebrate.
Guess I'm showing my northern hemisphere bias in thinking
 the dark time of year is a good time to party.

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Dipped into the to-read pile a lot over the holidays. One of the most enjoyable reads was Alma's Alexander's The Hidden Queen. Think the book languished there for years because I looked at the jacket and went "eh". 

How many books have you read about a lost princess whose throne was usurped by an unworthy pretender?. Thought I read it all before, but I'm still trying to get rid of the piles of book laying around. So, I gave the book its try and was hooked.

The book quickly moves from the battlefield where the king, Red Dynan, is killed with nine-year-old Anghara, his legitimate heir who also possesses the magical Sight that sustains the kingdom, surviving back at the palace. But she has a grown half-brother, Sif, who takes control of the army and sets his sights on becoming king even though he doesn't possess the Sight. Anghara is spirited from the palace by loyal retainers and fostered by obscure members of her mother's family. Several years later, she is betrayed by a jealous relative after she unwittingly displays her growing powers. The result is a pogrom where Sif uses genocide to rid his country of any magical influences. Anghara escapes over the border into a hostile desert land where she homes her powers.

The plot line's a cliche. So why was I hooked?

First Plus. The book is more than another medieval Europe rehash with an overlay of magic. A good part of the book takes place in a desert culture well-flavored by Silk Road nuances where the main character's magic is tempered. At all stages of her journey back to her throne, Anghara is supported by nicely rounded characters. 

Second Plus. The book's told from several points of view which adds layers of complications to the plot as Anghara struggles to survive long enough to control her magical powers.

Third Plus. The sensory detail of Alexander's writing is lush to say the least and all her characters well motivated.

The big negative. The Hidden Queen ends with her decision to return to reclaim her country. There is a sequel but it is not readily available. Still, I recommend it if you run across The Hidden Queen in a used book store. It was published in 2009. It's a well-orchestrated read.
 
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 Didn't really write much over the holidays.
Just reread a bunch of books
 because I enjoyed them the first or fourth time around.
Nothing like lazing around and talking to visiting relatives.