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 11, 2017

My Worst Writing Fear - Ridicule

My Worst Writing Fear: Ridicule

by

Shannon Heuston


I wrote my first book at the age of six, carefully printing the words in an orange spiral notebook.  It was about a group of naughty children misbehaving in school.  I illustrated it with blue ballpoint pen.  Deciding I was finished, I scrawled The End, then abandoned my masterpiece.
            
Days later, my sister and her friends discovered it.
            
Fists clenched, I listened to her giggle to my mother about how they had taken turns reading it.  This first audience did not please me.  They thought my book was a joke, and it wasn’t supposed to be funny.
           
I was furious, embarrassed, and hurt.  Despite the cavalier way I’d tossed my creation aside, I cared about it. Hearing it mocked stung.   I never forgot how that felt.
            
I didn’t stop writing, but I never lost my fear of sharing it.  The memory of that derisive laughter echoes in my head whenever I hit the publish button.
            
Writing is invasive, an excavation of the soul.  When finished, it becomes your contribution, your purpose for living.  It’s you.  Criticism is an unwelcome intrusion.
            
Writing my first novel, The Playground entailed reliving the past.  Based on my childhood bullying experiences and its aftermath, I felt brutal honesty was required to increase awareness about the ongoing trauma suffered by victims.  This meant reopening old wounds andrisking the same kind of rejection I experienced as a child, a frightening prospect.
            
Publishing my novel was both terrifying and exhilarating.  It wasn’t something I could take back or undo.  What if I regretted it?  Sending it out into the world was like jumping off a cliff.
            
The initial reaction was overwhelmingly positive. My novel was a hand reaching out to others who were also suffering, to let them know they are not alone and what happened was wrong.
            
Sometimes I receive notes from readers telling me how deeply my book touched them.  They always arrive in the nick of time, just when I’ve begun to question my vocation, to reassure me that all the hard work is worth it.
            
Then there’s the criticism.
            
It’s inevitable, and that’s why we writers fear it.  Any book that inspires great passion will eventually be hated by someone. 
            
The negative reviews hurt, but I try to take it in stride.  I may shed a tear or two, but my book continues to sell.  That’s the important thing.  I concentrate on the good and try to dismiss the bad. It’s silly to focus on a few negative reviews when they are outnumbered by the positives ones.  That’s what I tell myself, anyway.
            
Criticism is the first sign of success.  Rather than signaling failure, it’s a sign you’ve arrived.  People are not motivated to write a negative review unless you’ve awakened their emotions.   All great artists receive their share of criticism.  Occasional negative feedback is the price youpay for doing what you love and sharing it with the world.
            
I’ve learned that it’s okay to fear criticism, it’s okay to hate it, and it’s even okay to cry over it.   Butdon’t let it shake your confidence.  Contrary to popular belief, successful people sufferthe most rejection.Instead of giving up, they use it as motivation to work harder.
            
Writing is a brutal profession.  Rejection is guaranteed.   But the ability to share your message with the world, reach people in their loneliness, and have an impact on their lives is worth it.  Criticism is  the buzzing of a mosquito in comparison. Celebrate it as a sign of success.

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Author Bio

Shannon T. Heuston was born in Boston, MA but grew up in Westchester County, New York, where she still resides. She first professed her desire to become a writer at the age of eight, when she tried to write a mystery series titled "The Sally Bridgman Mysteries" styled after Nancy Drew. Her first book had Sally Bridgeman and the gang traveling to France and then right away going out to peer in people's windows and spy on them, because, how else would you find yourself a mystery? She would like to believe her writing has grown more sophisticated since then.

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Blurb 

This novel is for anyone who has ever suffered bullying.  Rachel Parsons was horrifically bullied as a child.  Thirty years later the memories of the abuse she suffered still haunts her.  What happened on the playground?  And why can't she forget it?  A book that explores the long term effects of childhood victimization.

Check out the reviews for Shannon Heuston's novel, The Playground, on Amazon. You can also find Shannon on GoodReads and on Facebook.

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Excerpt

I had outgrown my old sneakers, so my mother found a pair of white boy’s Nikes with a baby blue swoosh on the sides from Odd Lot, a store that sold brand name merchandise at steeply discounted prices.  They cost three dollars, an enormous bargain for sneakers even back in 1985.  Happy that my parents were happy, I innocently wore those sneakers the next day, not realizing that life as I knew it was about to end because of this fashion misstep.
            I had no idea I had just committed social suicide until Alicia, the gorgeous girl I had been trying vainly to impress, wrinkled her nose at my blinding white shoes.  “Are those from Odd Lot?” she asked.
Instinctively, I knew to deny it from her tone.  
“No,” I said, forcing a smile, “I’ve had them a long time.  I just haven’t worn them.”
I was hoping I could trick her into thinking I had bought them before they’d been marked down and condemned to the discount bins.
Darren, the boy who had asked me if my refrigerator broke because I ate all the food, materialized like a dog scenting blood.  Bending down with his hands on his knees to get a closer look, he chortled, “You’re a liar!  Those sneakers are so from Odd Lot!  I saw them in the three dollar bin when I went shopping there on Saturday with my mom.”
My cheeks burning, I drew my feet in beneath my desk, wishing I could pull them up inside me like a turtle withdrawing into its shell.
“Definitely from Odd Lot,” was Alicia’s final verdict, presented with a toss of her perfectly coiffed head.  “wouldn’t be caught dead in sneakers from Odd Lot.”  She swiveled her ankles to show off the delicate gold colored sandals adorning her feet. “These came from Bloomingdales.”
La-di-da, I had no idea what that meant anyway.  I knew nothing of brand names or stores.  If you said Banana Republic to me, I thought you were talking about a country whose main expert was bananas.
“Are you poor?” Alicia asked me bluntly.  “Only poor people buy their sneakers at Odd Lot.”
            “No,” I breathed, horrified.
I quickly scanned everyone else’s feet, for the first time observing something absolutely alarming.  My sneakers were completely wrong. Almost every other kid in my class wore the same sneakers, white low topped Reeboks with a jaunty British flag stitched into the sides and the brand name stamped on the back in blue block letters.  Even Jason, who was studying a book at his desk with way too much concentration not to be aware of what was going on, was wearing Reeboks.
I was an alien studying human life.
The feeling that had swept over me the first day of school, that everyone else was speaking a language I didn’t understand, was back.  Everyone was in on the joke together.  And I was all alone.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Two Books for the Price of One Isn't Always a Bargain

Knew Laurell K. Hamilton's new Anita Blake book was long when I saw it on the bookshelf, displayed face out. Didn't realize how long it was until I started reading it. There's something daunting about sinking into a morass of detail and not quite saving yourself by skimming. Yeah, I've read enough of the Anita Blake books to known all the characters that Blake encountered while preparing to go to Ireland to chase down mysterious vampire activity where none should exist. Problem: it was all busy work that really didn't add to the suspence.

This doesn't mean that Crimson Death was a bad book, exactly, but it was long. [I'm sure the sexual puritains have long been winnowed out of Hamilton's readship.] The book is padded with extra details I wasn't really interested in. I'm not a rabid fan of all things Hamilton. Let's just say that the Anita Blake books come, in the movie cliche, with "a cast of thousands".

Crimson Death starts out with a great puzzle--why have vampires suddenly started increasing in Ireland, the one country in Hamilton's world that only has one known, secretive vampire nest. My problem was once the hook was set, it took 350 pages for Anita to get on the plane. From then on, the book was Hamilton's usuall intricate, suspenceful read. A plus: readers get to learn more of Damian's maker, She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

Take a look at the excerpts and other reviews at:

Amazon        Nook       kobo
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Other Reading of Interest

Editing manuscripts. Anyone can be asked to edit a friends writing -- whether a work report, non-fiction writing, or creative writing. Then, there's you own writing. Click here for some suggestions on making the editing process easier.
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My Writing Rut

What, oh what to say. Haven't been writing much, though I've been writing everyday. Actually, I don't seem to be doing much of anything...though I almost have the Christmas baking done. Think I've been reading a 700 page book.

Interested in reading my short stories. I've got several free ones, how many depends on which venue you download from.


     
     Amazon - Most of my published stuff can be found here, including my book There Be Demons.
     Nook - You can find my Far Isles Half-Elven stories here as well as the Andor ones.
     kobo - This venue has a selection of my stories in e-format, including There Be Demons.
     Other places you can find my stories are: iBooks,  and Smashwords [which probably has the most complete listing of my stories, even my free Half-Elven stories, but not There Be Demons the last time I looked.




Monday, November 27, 2017

Bad to the Bone, So Bad, a Devil Wants Him

Clive Barker's Harry D'Amour is the classic bad guy with a heart of gold, so bad his actions, though logical, isolate him from most of his associates.

Yeah, not all heros are played up as good guys. Clive Barker came to the top of the gotta read list when I searched for something different to read, and I ended up grabbing The Scarlett Gospels. Wanted to get out of my comfort zone since it felt like I was reading the same authors over and over again. Well, The Scarlet Gospels was different, but not that much since R. S. Belcher has join my "'panwriterdom" of writers I buy without even looking at the book blurb

Lots of good stuff going on in The Scarlet Gospels, something you'd expect from a writer this prominent with so many books in his portfolio. Thought the characterization a little weak, but there was just enough sympathy/curiousity to keep me at least skimming through the pages. Norma, the character who sees ghosts, kept pulling me through the more cliched parts, a bad thing for a thriller, when you start getting the feeling been there, seen that. Harry D'Amour, indeed, is seedy beyond the max, but he never quite jelled for me like Jack Reacher does.

Found the trip into Hell interesting in light of my own demons, but thought the description rather bland. Liked the political turmoil of the plot line a lot though.

Worse point. I skimmed way too much of the book. Even was beginning to wonder if I was getting too sleepy to early, feeling older than I felt before I started reading the book.

Take a look at a sample and other reviews for yourself on
Amazon       Nook        kobo

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Other Interesting Reading

The "By the Book" of the New York Times Book Review section gave me a memory-chuckle again this week. Anthony Boudain, a food writer, made a comment about cooking snobbery--one of his favorite food writers was never a snob about food, even though he wrote about French cuisine. Don't know about you, but I've always equated French cuisine with snobbery.

My mind skipped to the snobbery of literary writing circles towards genre writing circles. Like, wondering how often to you get put down because you read genre fiction? I know I drew all sorts of comments the one month I tried to work on my college's literary journal, even heard the words "genre hacks" more than a few times. Did think it was ironic that I was the only one in the group that had been published...as a freshman. 

That's definitely not important now. But I did chuckle again when I saw the ad for Anne Rice's new book Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra. No, I'm not going to say that Anne Rice is an literary writer. But I did get a chuckle from the copy saying it was a blend of "historical fiction, fantasy, and romance."

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Going back to the point of The Scarlett Gospels putting me to sleep. Got Laurell K. Hamilton's new book. Stayed up until 1AM reading, even though her editors didn't do a good job of using the cutting room floor. Which makes me wonder why Hamilton's books haven't been turned into "film". Plenty of streaming services on there distorting books ala Crossroads, Texas.

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My Writing Rut

Have decided marketing books is an addtiction. I look at the promo stats even though I'm not doing any promotions. [Yeah, sales stopped.] Which means I'm wasting lots of time not writing. Not that I'm worried. It's the cookie baking time a year around our house. I do Greek 
cookies and 
baklava for Christmas presents. No one in my family needs any more stuff and buy what they need when they need it.

Would be negligent, though, if I didn't plug my short stories, you can check them out by clicking here. Showdown at Crossings is a prequel to There Be Demons. It tells the tale of Granny Nan's death. Britt Kelly, the protagonist of There Be Demons, worrys Granny Nan's advice like a sore tooth as her world crashes around her ears.

You can also access my 99c and Free short ebook versions on kobo.






Monday, November 20, 2017

Magical Murder Most Fluffy--A Cozy Mystery Shines

Murders needing to be solved isn't the only reason to read cozy mysteries. It's all the people surrounding the mystery solver. Yeah, I love the way Bailey Cates builds her characters. Potions and Patries gives several members of Katie Lightfoot's coven and friends moments in the sun with life changing information. Even the mystery solving protagonist gets life changing moment when she figures out what her foretold "sacrifice" is to be.

All satisfying, well, and good. But, how does Cates put her mystery together?

The book starts out with the promise of a "sacrifice" Lightfoot must make, the Traveler fortune teller dies before she can elaborate on her message. With character growth Cates' strong suit, Katie spends the book solving the mystery while wondering what sacrifice she's going to have to make as she and her fiance look look for a larger house than her beloved carriage house. Other characters are face other life changes, which is good for series readers. It reduces the chances they'll get bored.

The book may be feel-good and fluffy, but proving the fortune teller's "suicide" is really murder is the point of the book. All the clues are subtly there as Lightfoot pursues her witchy intuition that murder was committed. Danger follows with several attempts on Lightfoot's life when the perp tries to stop her.  All good clean fun for a mystery reader.

Read a sample and look at other reviews of Potions and Pastries on
Amazon       Nook        kobo    

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Other Interesting Stuff

New York Times Book Review section gave me pause again: a review of Jessica Buder's Nomadland: Surviving in America in the Twenty First Century by Arlee Russell Hochschild. 

Reminded me that real poverty doesn't appear often in the genre fiction I read. There Be Demons touches on it. But my characters don't really suffer physically from poverty, inconvenience abounds but the true pain of living in sub-existential conditions doesn't. With few counties in the US able to offer a one-bedroom apartment affordable by a single, full-time minimum wage earner, you'd think real poverty -- rather than the wanting-mores -- would get more "press" in fiction.


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My Writing Rut

Am trying to get Rondezvous with Demon jump-started. Tried doing NaNoWriMo for the first  time since 2010 when my back gave out. Failed again. My writing style, psychi just doesn't respond to competition. Plodding plodder, that's me. One step at a time gets me where I'm going, provided I have fun along the way. Any one else think fun is important?

Am making progess on all the stickey notes I've accumulated. Think half of them have been attached to chapters as notes. Today, I got a bunch of pages from a small spirel binder transferred. Have 20,000-plus words, and I haven't even started writing.

One of the ways I save ideas is to write tthem down on sticky notes. My computer is stacked with piles of them, in all collors, right and left. Started out with enough sticky notes to cover almost a fourth of my desk over an inch high. I decided gettig my ideas posting an approximate chapter a higher priority than just poundinng out words. Do have over 10,000 words connected to Reondezvous, about half coherent writing and the rest jotttings. Still have a 10x7x2 inches deep pile of pink, yellow, green, and blue bits of paper to place.

Not all the pieces of paper are connected to Rendezvous. Some a political tweets, that soothed my growls plus tweets promoting There Be Demons. Yeah, promoting a book takes lots of time. 

Next project is to work the list of review places I've discovered. So far, only have one 2*...because I included too much mundane stuff in the book. Don't know who she is or where she posted but it's not showing up on Amazon or GoodReads. Other readers appreciate my "magical realism".


A Heads Up
There's a giveaway of There Be Demons on Amazon for US readers. To win a chance for a free copy just follow this link.