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.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Reading Historical Fiction for Truth or Fairy Tale

Most weeks I start browsing to see which book on my to-read pile holds my interest. This week's winner: Phillpa Gregory's The Last Tudor. Yes, she has finally come to the end of her Plantagenet and Tudor novels. The Plantagenets are favorites, the Tudors not so much. Still, I've read many of her novels set in the period. They' ve all been fascinating reads.

The Last Tudors tells the story of Lady Jane Grey who became Queen of England for nine days as her father plotted to rule England. [They were Protestants and Princess Mary Tudor was Catholic, which was rapidly important then.] Most people know how that turned out, but they don't know much about her two sisters who were among the possible heirs to Queen Elisabeth I. The book's about being jerked about and imprisoned by someone who has the power to remove your head from your shoulders.

Phillipa Gregory's lack of admiration for Elisabeth is obvious. Very little nice is said about her. Of course, she was dealing a bankrupted kingdom back on its financial feet at the beginning of her reign. But she could have been nicer.

Must say though, I rather agree with Gregory's interpretation. I've always thought that all three Tudors were autocratic despots. In fact, I can remember reading this glowing book about Elisabeth I in eighth grade and suddenly realizing: Hey, this woman's a dictator. Having a difficult childhood wasn't any excuse, in my opinion, to take her anger out on other people. Queen Elisabeth I was lucky to have Cecil as her right-hand man.

Okay, Gregory is a master at writing historical Fiction, but she does it differently than most. Her books aren't dense, weighed down with tons of factoids. She concentrates on her character's thoughts with sparse, judicious descriptions to anchor the reader in the time period. In The Last Tudor, Gregory gives one of the best descriptions of what a lady in waiting actually did in court taking care of the queen.

Other people think she's better than sliced bread; others not. Read a sample of the book and other reviews on:

Amazon       Nook       kobo/Rakuten

Other Interesting Reading

Romance appears in all genres as well as being a popular genre of its own. I'm not a big romance reader...though I like to think I tolerate it. Anyway, I encountered this discussion of romance novels curtesy of Books Go Social. Darcel Rocket explores Where Are Romance Novels Headed Given Given the Current State of Women's Issues? In the Chicago Tribune. Yeah, it's complicated, a lot more complicated than the news bites lead one to believe. Think the ideas can apply to other genres too. 

My Writing Rut

Still revising/editing. My editor was right. The ending seems a little rushled. Am think whether I really want to write a new chapter and drag it out. The middle of the book was important because that's where Pillar's assumptions are destroyed.

But I have got my taxes done and in. Think a lot of people are going to be surprised when they do next year's taxes.

Interested in adding some short stories to your ereader for when you want a quick fantasy read? Check out my Andor stories about the problems demons cause. Available at

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Was the Pirate King Intentionally So Funny?

Oh, for the days of yesteryear, when meglomaniacs made movies with scant crews. Such is the setting of Pirate King by Lauire R. King, a Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes novel. Not much space is devoted to Holmes in this book, which is fine with me. I consider Sherlock Holms a meglomaniac. [Nice to have him on our side, though.] The play on a Gilbert and Sullivan play adds seasoning for Mary Russell's sardonic commentary.

In short, all bets are off when Mary Russell agrees to go undercover, solo, on the set of a new British movie [ala 1920's] filmed in Portugal and Morocco. Goal: to find out why the film company is connected to crimes similar to those featured in their movies. Oh, there was some other doggerel about a missing person which appeared briefly at the beginning and end.

Though King uses first person narrative well, the last couple of books I've read in the series came across as ponderous, without the enjoyable, sacastic wit. The Pirates of Penzance gave King a broad canvas to work with, especially when combined with Valentino imagery. Nothing like a little abuse to make the heart grow fonder. But it does give some plot twists a target as well as pratfalls.

Okay, not the best of the series. But I enjoyed it as light reading after working on all the writerly things that have nothing do with creating a readable story. Sometimes this story became just plain boring. Granted there were lots of opportunities wasted, like one of the thirteen blond bells containing an adolescent male with a stage mommy. Guess I have an appetite for pratfalls.

Other episodes rose high on the just plain silly stage, like Russell dangling by a rope outside Holmes' cell. Still, if you're not a mystery fanatic, you can find a decent amount of entertainment in the book.

Granted, this may seem like damming with faint praise. You can read a sample and read other reviews on:
Amazon          Barnes & Noble [Nook]         kobo/Rakuten

More Reading

Did get my three Tortall, women warriors quartets read and enjoyed to the fullest. Then, with all the hype surrounding the release of the Wrinkle in Time movie, I read the first three books in L'Engle's Meg series. Surprising how the Dell glue doesn't stand up to time like the Ace paperback glue. Hard to read when pages are coming loose.

The stories don't stand the test of a novel quite as well as I remembered. The three [including A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet] read more like novellas than novels. But by the time an aspiring world dictator got his comeupance, I felt like I'd finished a novel. Many of Madeleine L'Engle's ideas in the books still felt fresh, though. Who says fantasy is pure entertainment?

One of the interesting things was I found out how much my copies are worth...at least the one where the glue held.

My Writing Rut

Still in the middle of revising/editing on On The Run. My editior didn't have too many changes to recommend, but I find I must reread every page word for word. The worse part is
thinking about it.

Here's a sample of my "false resolution" in editor speak:

...Swirling yellowish darts swarmed towards Gracie’s wall of light. Next to Pillar, Gracie’s body waxed into a pillar of warmth. The darts stuck into the wall of power like arrows in a target until they evaporated with soft pops. The bright wall grew thicker, longer until it arced back around to protect the house. Pillar’s ears fill with Gracie’s chanting voice.
“You’re doing fine, girl. Keep it up. Keep it up. Keep feeding the energy to me.”
Pillar hadn’t realized she was treating Gracie like her pinkie ring. She rested both hands, glowing with blue light, on Gracie’s shoulders as the old lady crouched to the ground.
“Good, girl. Keep it up.”
Trembling, Pillar concentrated harder. A flurry of blue spears flew from Gracie’s hands, passing through the expanse of putrid light to hit the demons’ personal shields. The sparks flew higher than the barn.
The next round of spears Gracie sent rolled into flaming balls that exploded above the demons, knocking them to the ground.
The demons staggered back to their knees.  ...

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

What Is "Age Approprate" & Where Should It Be Applied?

When is a book age appropriate? I thought about that question a lot as I read Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce. 

[Yeah, I broke down and bought the hardcover book. Even read it through my hurting thumbs and bedtimes.]

The title promises all sorts of gore, but to my mind, it doesn't deliver. Which is probably ok since lots of readers under twelve will demand to read it, especially familiar with Pierce's earlier books. Which means nine and ten-year-olds will be reading it. Many young good readers  demand syntactically difficult reading matter than their years might suggest.

Oh, there are gladiators maiming and killing each other, murder, and other mayhem, but the telling of the tale foregos the the graphic descriptions. Most of it also occurs off stage, and the book itself is more concerned with mending than slashing. The book even casually includes light sexual references. At the same time, it doesn't feel like Pierce is pulling punches as you read.

My problem is I'm an adult, even, very close to being an old oldie. Yet I recently immersed myself in Crenshaw, a middle grade novel for ten year olds. And, I pushed through a 400+ page book in about three days, in spite of my thumbs, thinking the book was tame. I guess what I'm complaining about is the almighties deciding the book is for 12 to 17 year olds. My kids would have read the books when they were 10 and will still read it when I toss it into the family lending library. Why are there age boundaries on innoucuous material? [Yeah, I know. Guidelines. But the subtext gibbered at me while I read.]

Tempests and Slaughter lacks the tension of Pierce's female warrior novels. This doesn't mean that nothing happens during Araam Draper's first years at the mage university in Carthak. The tension of good storytelling is there in spades, but it's more intellectual than brawny. [I resisted the temptation of saying "brainy".] 

Read a sample and other people's reviews on

My Writing Rut

Am still editing On the Run. Guess I won't be done until April sometime. I still have copy edits to go, too, and the decision on how I'm to publish the novel.

While I'm working, I'm going to take a holiday. I've been hankering to re-read some of Pierce's other books. I've decided I'm going to read the quartets from the Lioness series to the Protector of the Small. Sorry I can't sent you a postcard from Tortall.