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, May 29, 2018

Magical Adventure Sparks Up the Heat on a Summer's Day

It's Summer Time
and the Living is Lazy
At least that's the way I'm feeling. So, I'm not always going to have a book review each week. In stead of taking a vacation, I'm just going to review when I finish a book...that isn't a reread.

Yeah, I'm itching to reread some books again, and there's a good chance I've already reviewed them once. The fact that my eyes prefer print to screen has a fair amount to do with this.

Then, there's Naomi Novik's book Uprooted, which had me staying up late again. Really, liked the stolid, earthy [like soil and growing things] peasantness of the book. The story worked on so many different levels, including the enthralling adventure to defeat a devouing evil presence. Though I really enjoyed the depiction of the fumbling elite the most.

The Grimm-like tale traces hostage story much like Beauty and the Beast, only with Slavic overtones. All sorts of evil dangers lurk and emerge from the Woods. Agnieszka, the protagonist, is unexpectedly chosen as tribute to the wizard keeping the evil at bay from the peasants. The girl, then, becomes a witch in her own right. Together, the two take on the evil at the heart of the forest when a prince of the court stirs up an ant's nest of trouble. I loved out Angeieszka had no use for the pomposity of the court.

No, this isn't a political diatribe. Novik is too masterful a rival for that. Her descriptions are deep and involved. There's enough adventure and magic to satisfy even the most supeficial action reader. 

Best is the depth she gives to her characters. Many of the figures in the book are first presented as stereotypes, but Novik soon gives them a twist that make them three-dimensional. The twists and turns in the action keep the reader reading past the time they should be yawning as Agnieszka is forced to leave her beloved forest home, then to go to the court, and return again for the final showdown.

You can check things out for yourself on Amazon, B&N Nook, and kobo/Rakuten.
Other Interesting Reading

Am I right in thinking there's a bias for reading among the readers of this blog? Whatever, I'm biased towards reading, especially to young children. Science even supports my bias. The Passive Guy posted a blog on what goes on in a kid's brain when they're told a story in different media. You can check it out here. 

Do you have problems getting pertinent answers to your research questions. I've been getting complaints from writer friends that their search results have too many ads. Know this is a big topic to argue about over a cup of coffee. Still, you might want to look at Kristine Pope's blog: Do Your Homework: How to Research Your Writing Topics.

An interesting take on the similarities of storylines. The BBC did a piece of the basic story plotlines. Take a look here. Writers will find some interesting takes on story arcs.

My Writing Rut

The business stuff of writing is sticking in my craw at the moment. Sometimes it seems like I do nothing but support work, but I'm getting in 500 to 750 new words a day on Rendevous, even though some of that is addition/revision. Then, there are the few days when I get over a 1000 written. Think only a slow writer can appreciate the sweat that goes onto that grindstone. Still, it keeps me out of mischief.

Did get a new cover ordered for an old free short story: Cavern Between Worlds

It's a Far Isles Half-Elven story. The politics is at a minimum here as two Half-Elven warriors investigate why all the animal life is disappearing on an isolated island. Can't wait to see what the artist does with the concept. I'm wondering if I dare call it a romance. Anyone have an opinion? -- Think I have to rewrite the story too but you can check it out at Smashwords and Nook. I'm also working on gifs for my free stories.

Copyedits of On the Run are happenin, sort of.

The fun part? I'm exploring what Fivver artists can do with some illustrations of the characters. Maybe I'll have something to share for my next blog. Vetis for There Be Demons is my first trial.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Conflict Among Allies, When do the Ends Justify the Means

Louise Penny's recent Superintendent Gamache novel, Glass Houses, is a tale ripped from the opiod headlines. More important, Penny gives writers a wonderful example of how to mine the backstory of an enduring series to create depth in her latest book.

Penny has already characterized the small hamlet of Three Pines as an idyllic hideaway from the bustle of the wider world, in this case Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I even think I remembered that bootleggers in the 1920s used Three Pines to smuggle booze into the Prohibition US. Or, maybe I'm just reading info into a previous crime. The deep woods on both sides of the Vermont/Quebec border are the perfect place to hide all sorts of nefarious activities.

In Glass Houses, opiods are the cargo most terrible, and the hidie-hole in the church has been resurected. But illegal drugs aren't the only problem the book contends with. Penny is an adept at spinning several plotlines at once and makes head-hopping among various characters seem the best way to share plot points and feelings. No movie/tv paradigms here. Just a thick juicy mystery novel set inside a courtroom procedural--with a touch of creepiesness.

Penny is a masterful weaver of plot points and emotions. More intriguing for a writer, she works with several communities who touch each other much like a Venn diagram--the Surety, the villagers, and occassional outsiders. Penny creates characters with so many dimensions, readers seem to return to Three Pines to find out what the secondary characters are doing as well as trying to solve the crime before the big reaveal. Am thinking that many readers wonder why more communities aren't as caring as Three Pines.

If you like to read a sample and/or other reviews, you can check
Amazon       B&N/Nook       kobo/Rakuten

Other Interesting Reading

The Passive Guy published an interesting take on why Barnes & Noble and other brick & mortar book stores are losing out to Amazon, the main reason. 

I slowly duck my head. We go to Barnes and Noble for coffee about once a month. They really have some good desserts even if they serve Starbucks coffee....But, we usually spend between $50 and $100 between the two of us. [Yes, it's nice to be truely middle class.]

My Writing Rut

I really admire mystery/suspense writers who manage to write an enthralling book like Glass Houses. I feel envious. I have some short stories that I once hoped would be the start of mystery short story series, sort of like Isaac Asimov's sleuth club where the waiter mostly solved the puzzle: 

      --- Dumdie Swartz [The Ghostcrow and The Ghost in the Closet]

     --- the Highgrim/Allsdipp duo [Doom Comes for a Sold Soul] whose meeting with Britt's [There Be Demons] Granny Nan has grown mold in my computer. 

     --- I could also include Trapper Tremaine who's stuck after getting captured because I couldn't figure out how he could prove his worth and be accepted by the village. Nothing published here yet... or, maybe, ever.

That's not all. I think if I double checked, I'd find starts of Half-Elven stories that lack an executed mystery. Yeah, I think books should not only solve a characters' problems but provide a puzzle too.

Rendezvous continues to progress, though slowly. My outline's first skirmish is turning out to be the turning point battle with Britt feeling terribly alone and isolated, similar feelings but very different. But...I'm sort of a third of the way through [pushing halfway through, depending on how useful my notes are], and the first big battle is coming up, and Cahal hasn't even joined Britt yet...

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What Problems CanYou Solve When You Raise the Dead?

Rin Chupeco's The Bone Witch gave my linear, little mind a workout. Was kind of nice. Just when everything around me seems to be sinking to lowest common denominator, someone like Chepeco comes along. Nothing like flash backs and flash forwards, different cultural perspectives, and multiple viewpoints set in different time periods to keep the reader's brain cells bouncing.

Think I would have put down the book during the first chapter except for the opening statement from the protagonist's point of veiw. Have you ever seen a better hook than: "Let me be clear: I never intended to raise my brother from his grave, though he may claim otherwise.” 

Oh oh, the main character can raise the dead. Necromancy usually leads to no good, but the character was depicted positively. Obviously, a puzzle waits for the reader.

At first, the book seems like just another magical apprentice in training after Tea, the protagonist of the book, is discovered by a more experienced bone witch or necromancer. Chupeco quickly forcesTea to make life or death decisions each time she uses her magic. 

Descriptions are often lovely in this book. How many scenes have described magic being worked? Here's Chupeco's take: "With shaking hands, I drew the Heartsruin in the space between us. The red flowed from my finger and followed the path my hand took, staining the breeze with every movement, so that when I was done, the symbol stood before me, written in my own blood. I felt that welcome rush of relief and elation as the magic filled me up, infused itself into the rune."

Simple English sentence structure the above isn't. But it throbs with imagery and emotion.

Descriptions are especially important when world building. Chupeco's magic system is both simple and complicated as it is concentrated in the heartstones all adults in her world seem to wear. Her magic organized and easy to understand in spite of the twists as Tea delves deeper into her powers. Chupeco even makes the strength of Tea's magic one of her weaknesses.

If you want to sample the richly rewarding book, you can go to
Amazon        Barnes & Nobel/Nook        Rakuten/kobo      

Other Interesting Reading

Have you heard of "cockygate"? A romance writer trademarked the word "cocky" and sent letters to other other writers to change their titles and asked Amazon to take down listings that didn't. Yes, there is a brouhaha. Here's a link to the Passive Guy's link and the Writers Beware blog.


Janet Reid, my dream agent if I were a successful traditionally published writer, had an interest discuss of characters and character flaws. She even sounded neutral about Dath Vader. Take a look here.

My Writing Rut

Rendezvous with Demons. Just when I thought my writing might turn productive [a 1000 words a day], I hit another boggle. Not write's block per se, but a mess of dialog that had no anchor. Oh, there was a little bit of setting...but my go to search engines seems to be overrun with ads from sites wanting to sell me stuff related to my search. Though California
was specifically written in the search parameters, I got results from places like New Mexico and South Africa and points in between. Am willing to make a "donation" if I can find the data I want, but think the commercialization of the web is going too far.

Oh. How do I get the best of "writer's block"? I write dialog for a pertinent scene. Before I get 500 words written, I'm going back to insert pertinent facts...description and narration and characters' reactions...as is appropriate for close third person viewpoint. I also use a lot of internal dialog to sum up loads of narative. Sounds good, but I'm still slow as molasses.

Still setting up Britt, as an adult, getting ready to fight the demons at Dockets Diggings with Gillen and Cahal with the Crossings Freemages. So far, after his dripping blood, first appearance, Gillen's been sleeping a lot in shrunken form. Cassy Mae and her grandmother are long gone. [If you are curious about their encounter with demons, you can visit Amazon, B&N/Nook, and Rakuten/kobo. It's free in the US and the equivalent of a buck in other countries. If you live in another country you might try Smashwords and see if you can download it free there.]

On the Run is progressing. I have the copyedits. All I have to do is transfer them. Guess I won't be marketing much.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Shine On, Gibbous Moon Until the Monsters Rise

Took a creepy ride on the paranormal side with Lincoln Child's Full Wolf Moon, If you take one, you'll get a bit of a science fiction explanation for werewolfism.

Never read a Jeremy Logan book that I can remember, though I've read several Pendergasts. Logan, the protagonist in this book, felt flat, not quite unidimensional, but almost. 

Too many other suspense and thriller writers do a much better job of giving their main characters or sleuths more depth for Child to get top marks for this book. Not that Logan is unlikable. But all the descriptions of him feel like rehash. Example: as many times as I have read about Heather Graham's Krewe of Hunter characters, there always some little twist in their backgrounds that is new in most of the books.

What annoyed me the most? Child's secondary characters were often more interesting than Logan. Still am wondering what the heck worries the guy at the core.

At the same time, the book has enough hooks to keep the reader reading even though this book is easy to put down for another task, like going to sleep. There is a true puzzle wrapped in the plot, complete with a couple of red herrings. Problem: I prefer more twists and turns in the plots of the mystery suspense I read.

The descriptions of the Adirondacks' deep woods pleased me most. Never visited them though I've driven through the Catskills. [If they're part of the same mountain system, that last statement needs to be adjusted. I'm not an easterner, so I don't know.] I loved the descriptions of small isolated dwellings surrounded by dark forests. The location adds a scary dimension to the vacation ambiance usually associated with the place. If you enjoy well written atmospheres with adequate craftsmanship, Child's descriptions are worth the price of admission.

In the end, I found this an okay, entertaining read but found it very easy to find a bookmark when it was time to go to bed. If you want to read more reviews and/or a sample the book, you can look on

Other Interesting Reading

Everyone can use tips on improving their writing. Came across one one by Mark Nichol about making lists that had me reading the whole thing. You might want to take a look at:
A Guide to In-Line Lists. This should be especially useful for those who write business or school reports.

My Writing Rut

Have been worrying about what my climatic human vs demon fight would be for Rendezvous. How was I ever going to squeeze out enough words for a full length novel. I think the problem will solve itself. My chapter 4 just became five chapters by the time all the action was mapped out. It may be shorter than the first two, but it only has to be over 100 pages and I'm almost there already. 

I find it interesting at how my chapters grow. What I thought would be the middle of my book is now seeming to be the final confrontation. At first, I thought Rendezvous with Demons was going to by equally from Britt and Pillar's point of view. The first scene I thought of for the book was their meeting in Taddledon. Have a good 10 chapters written and/or mapped out before the first major demon fight--still in Pacifica. 

Guess the book's Britt's again. There Be Demons started out a mainly from Gillen's point of view because his problem training of the teen draftees is what motivated me to write the book i the first place.

The 99c special for There Be Demons went well in spite of glitches. I broke well into the top-100 in all three of my sub-categories. My author rank had never been higher either. Now everything is sinking. One odd result: had lots of downloads of the free Andor short stories. 

Got my Noticing Jamilla, a free Andor short story, cover photoshoped to make the cover image more demonic. It's subtle but I'm hoping it makes a difference. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Escaping the Bad Guys With a Spiritual Twist

Read Dorothy Gilman's Incident at Badamya this week, a very nice teen, coming of age suspense novel. Still, I got a big laugh out of it for a serious novel set in Asia just before the Korean War. The Communist Chinese are inciting revolt in Burma just as Gen Ferris' missionary father kills himself and tells her to find her way to America via Rangoon. The laugh came when I pulled the book from my to-read pile, a brand new novel with a price of $4.95 on the cover. I'm not even going to guess how long it was gathering dust on my shelf.

Of course, Dorothy Gillman isn't known for her YA books. I've only seen her marketed as adult fiction...with ladies of a "certain" age as her main characters. The adventures of Mrs. Pollifax is her most famous series. I prefer Madam Karitska, the Clarvoyent Countess mysteries. Incident at Badamya is one of her several stand alone novels. Of course, they are all mostly out of print and not in e-format. I think they're worth a little time in digging up a couple if you're looking for well-crafted mystery/suspense/adventure/light romance novel. Not many other books measure up to Gilman's writing.

After her father kills himself, Gen Ferris must find her way through insurgent lines to return to her aunt in America, but she is captured on her way to the river ferry that'd take her to Rangoon. The river ferry doesn't land in her village as usual, but when she tries to catch it coming back down the river, she's captured by the Red Chinese. She is trapped behind enemy lines with some other European captives. Suspense builds as she and her bickering fellow prisoners figured out how to escape. Of course, nothing goes as planned.

The book gives the reader a sense of traditional Burmese country life, before the place became Myanmar. The Buddist mysticisim, though different from her usual European turn, gives a thought provoking and educational aura to the book. You'll also get a feel for the rhythms of Burmese life from her multi-sense descriptions.

Unfortunately, Gilman can't be found in e-format. You can read more about the book on Amazon. Used paperbacks are still available.

My Writing Rut

Rendezvous surprised me again. Couldn't wait for Britt Kelly and Gillen, the gargoyle, to meet again. Dreamed of this big emotional scene of gore oozing every where. Got it written. Three pages of matter of fact back story, explanation of why Gillen is wounded, and some emotion, but not much. What a let down. But then, Britt's rather stern of purpose, when she isn't mad. 

Today shot down my chance of a big demon fight, but I'm going back to the chapter tomorrow. To see if, the Markham's from Docket's Diggings can fit into the flow. [Noticing JamillaCassy Mae is long gone from the town, and I assume her grandmother is too. Nothing like having life-force sucking demons controlling your town.]

Got another Five Star Review for There Be Demons:
on May 1, 2018

Whats not to like about a rollicking good story involving Teens teaming with Gargoyles to fight invading Demons? It was fun to see her use Gargoyles as the supernatural helpers of mortals in protecting the Mortal Lands from Demon-kind instead of the usual Elves, Fairies and Dwarves. Was a nice change of pace.
The review kind of made me sad. I'm still thinking of revising one of my Far Isles Half-Elven manuscripts--Dark Solstice. Mariah is still my second-favorite character, and she's been sitting in my computer since I published Vengeance.