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, April 17, 2018

It's All Blowing on the Wind, for Good or Ill

Happened to grab Nevada Barr's Ill Wind, an
older Anne Pigeon mystery, off my to-read pile. Who knows how long it'd been buried there?. But it's about another Colorado localle, Mesa Verde National Park.The book really coveyed the wind-swept atmosphere of the Southwest plateaus I remember from my visits there. I most remember Mesa Verde for its isolation, in spite of all the other tourists running around the place.

[No. I am not on an intentional Colorado reading kick.]

In this third book in the series, Pigeon has just been transferred to Mesa Verde, so recent an addition to the staff that she must live in a "dorm situation" with uncomfotable roommates until permanent, private housing is available. As she gets to know the people around her, Barr uses the time to plant a number of red herrings among the clues. The result is an intricate mystery with several interesting subplots. Perhaps the most interesting--a fellow rangers dwarf step-daughter who provides one of the up-beat notes in the book.

Was surprised to find myself labeling Ill Wind a cozy even though it doesn't have cutzie stuff connected to it. It's all in the development of the characters. Barr takes her time to describe them and their inter-relationships before she gets down to the serious stuff--solving the murders. The reader gets a real feel for living in an isolated spot, over an hour from towns, and how people can grate on others perople's nerves. Barr makes these characters so real that readers root for them.

Then, there are the settings. You can almost feel the cool night winds as you read. If you're looking for loads of background about the Anazazi, the old ones who built the abandoned southwestern US towns, you'll have to go elsewhere.

Read a sample and more reviews on

Interesting Reading

This blog, When a Pantser Revises, by Chris Marra made me pause. As a writer, I'm a panster trying to reform into an outliner. Marrs's an unapoligic panster, a writer who writes without an outline. Writers can find the blog useful for its revising tips. Readers can get an idea about how the "sausage" is made.

While fictional mysteries like Ill Wind tend to be neat and tidy, the real stuff is often the opposite. The New York Times has been running longer pieces on different topics for some time now. On 15 April 2018, it published an article by N. R. Kleinfield on "Never Solved, a  College Dorm Fire Becomes One Man's Obssession". I think the article demonstrates an interesting, reality-based counterpoint to the standard mystery novel is constructed.

My Writing Rut

It's happened. I finally turned On the Run over to my copy editor to play with. I went through the manuscript one more time and didn't find many corrections. But I know that she's going to find all sorts of places there should be commas and other places where my commas should be deleted. We won't talk about all the other stuff.

Anyone want to guess how marked up my manuscript is going to be when she returns it?

Here's a short excerpt from Pillar's first day visiting at a school for mages run by unknown relatives:

Gracie [Pillar's mother's great-aunt] smiled broadly at her. “I see someone taught you how to keep your eyes to yerself. But, you really must learn how to stop leaking power.”
"Don't have any power to leak. Didn't you hear Principal Tankin."
"Oh, it's there if you know how to look."
Thinking Gracie felt as comfortable as the bus lady [a host containing a demon pursuing Pillar] should've been, Pillar relaxed, wishing she knew how to ask the questions buzzing around her head. She didn't want another academy person spitting nails at her. Knowing Delia [Pillar's foster mother] would want her to keep a low profile made her more hesitant.
"So, tell me about yerself."
"I'm Maisie's daughter. I come from the Osseran Commune, and I just graduated from high school."
"I know all that. But, who are you?"
Pillar gave her a sharp look but didn’t know how to phrase the thoughts buzzing in her mind. The question blurted out on its own. "Why didn’t you guys come looking for me when Ma died?”
“I thought it best you were where you was.” Gracie shrugged, her gaze flicking to the hall door. “Going to be fun to have a true Beccon living here again.”
“I thought my father’s last name was Beccon?”
“Goodness gracious no, child. Your parents weren’t married. In fact, Maisie never did name your father.”
I’m nameless? The fact hit Pillar like a fist in the gut. No wonder no one came looking for Ma. Her brain throbbed as she tried to absorb the information. Why didn’t Delia say something before?

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