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, February 13, 2018

Nightmare Assassins Threaten Danger in a Dreamy Landscape

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman gives the reader a familiar storyline--assassins chasing a fair maiden through a dangerous world, helped by a good-hearted man. In this Gaiman's writing stars a creative, alternative London [London below]. The quests of the two characters--one to find out who killed her family and the other on how to return to the real world--keeps the two main characters apart for a good share of the story. Gaiman creates a dreamy world where nothing works quite as expected, but just right enough to keep the reader anchored.

Actually, no one tilts and teeters as much as Richard Mayhew, the well-meaning, spineless hero. The poor man is first caught up in our time-driven, wealth-chasing modern world.  A chance meeting with a bleeding girl on the streets of London throws him into an alternative world of London below where he tries to save her from nightmarish assassins. Fate has given him a alternative to a mapped out social rut stifling his soul. But Mayhew wants nothing more than to return to the real world.

The black-suited, kitten-maiming assassins are the run-from highlight of the book. Believe it or not, they even provide the comic relief. Unfortunately, it's the background that stars in this book rather than the progtagonist who remains rather blah in spite off his battle to return to London above. None of the human characters are as sharply drawn as the minor ones named for physical location in London above. Still, a wonderful, creative read.

Take a look at the sample and other reviews--all 2,000+ of them, mostly 5-star--ones

Amazon          Barnes & Noble         Rakuten-kobo

Other Interesting Reading

Ever wonder what writers think of their writing. I happened to click this blog on Twitter. You might be interested since it gave me a chuckle. Like, "Oh, so true." Read about Nighttime Blabbing.

The Bookmuse always writes interesting, useful blogs for writers. Anyway, I find they always jerk my chain when I read them. It seems I always forget more than I know. Becca Puglisi recently wrote on on Character As Mirrors. Lots of her comments put life's little tragedies in perspective.

My Writing Rut

Got my editorial comments back for On the Run, complete with cuts, additions, and new chapter suggestions. Every time I think I'm done and ready for copyediting, someone throws ice cubes over my head. Grumble. Grumble. Yeah, like most writers, I think editing and revising are never done.

Also got a new cover for the book. What do you think?

First Cover

Second Cover

It's been an arty week akround here. I've also been getting new ad banners for There Be Demons made. Here's an example.

You can read a sample and the reviews on Amazon and Rakuten-kobo.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Midnight Lines: Reaching for a Simple Stopping Point

I can just imagine it. Hundreds and hundreads of people staying up past midnight, searching for a dull spot to place a bookmark until tomorrow. Finding stopping spots is hard to do with a Lee Child Reacher novel, and the newest, The Midnight Line, is no exception.

Child's minimilist writing style is fascinating. You read one line sentence after one line sentence. Yet, he creates images that stick in your mind for days afterwards. He also doesn't loose you as the plot twists in and out, and round about. Oh, Child writes paragraphs too, but all his writing is as spare as a long-distance runner. He gets from the starting blocks to the finish line with few or any loose-ends dangling.

Complicated things can happen by doing simple things. In this case, Reacher finds a West Pointer's ring in a pawn shop and decides to return it to the officer. He soon gets a target on his back for being a "complication". He also lands in the middle of our opiod crisis and the lousy treatment our wounded veterans all too often get. The reader gets a lovely roller coaster ride along some back country roads.

Remember the Shadow who was always asking: "What evil lurks in the hearts of men?"

Well, Child keeps asking what evil can Reacher find along US highways and roads. This time he explores back-country, dirt roads, not the highways. That the setting was over the mountains from me was a added bonus. I always wondered what might happen up in the hills away from the firewords emporium. Used to hike in the mountains on the other side of the ridge, and Child's descriptions felt real.

Child made his name dishing out action and more action. If you're an action junkie, this may not be the book for you. As Reacher grows older, he's thinking more and more, even philosophizing. Read a sample and more reviews:
Amazon          Barnes & Noble          Rankuten kobo

Other Interesting Reading

The local writing group, Northern Colorado Writers, has an interesting blog, The Writing Bug. I like it because writing usually bugs me. Besides, I know many of the writers. Any way, David Sharp recently wrote of blog on the importance of a writer's voice. You can check it out here: In search of Voice.

My Writing Rut

Rendezvous with Demons is finally lurching forward. Have be writing around 750 new words a day, an improvement on the old 500 words a day if I was lucky. Another plus, is I haven't yet reached the episodic descriptions I wrote during NaNoWriMo. Am guessing that's a good thing.

Here's a sample--my tentative opening:

            A party. A party? You're going to a stupid party?
            An invitation to a post-exam party from a future Kingscourt flunky had goaded Britt Kelly to visit the posh northern neighborhood where she now stood, hands on her narrow hips and shaking her head in disbelief.  The dark morning silence the suburban river-bend park rang in her ears. Empty swings drifted back and forth on the early morning breeze as mist rose from the river that flowed through Trebridge.
            The banks of the river in her neighborhood were more likely to be filled with warehouses or garbage strewn lots than groomed grass and trees. That's where she belonged. Not among the neat rows of single houses, separated by groomed yards, that surrounded the park.
            But she had been invited, and she was curious. Mostly, about how her life might have been if her father hadn't abandoned his family for another woman when she was a teen.
            Not that I'm unhappy about how my life turned out. Wish Cahal had stayed in Trebridge, but you can't have everything you wish for.

There Be Demons is still getting decent Amazon and GoodReads reviews, but I'm rewriting and rewriting the book blurb. Effort so far: [Any body have any comments?]

Britt Kelly doesn't have time to be a demon fighter. After her parents' divorce, Britt Kelly's posh suburban life turns upside down. Not only must she cope with a new high school. But she learns she's an Angeli Chosen--picked to fight invading demons at the side Trebridge's four Gargoyle Guardians. Her family's main babysitter, Britt just wants to get grades good enough to escape the projects. Dreaming about her new crush, Cahal, takes even more of her time.
Gillen, the leader of the gargoyles, races to teach the four teens under his command enough magic to survive the coming demon battles. But he soon learns that teaching the four teens is like herding cats.

 Britt must learn to follow orders if her loved ones are to survive the coming fight between good vs evil.

You can see the old stuff at Amazon and Rakuten kobo

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Losing Steam: Do Book Series Need Mayhem to Survive?

Yah gotta admire Kevin Hearne. The Druid Chronicles, featuring Atticus O'Sullivan, are now in their eighth book, Staked, and still haven't lost steam. Hearne still manages to surprise even though the actual structure of his books is rather simple -- mayhem and more mayhem, with dollops of humor along the way. Though, sorry to say, Oberon, O'Sullivain's wolfhound, only adds a few weak comments on the human condition in this book.

O'Sullivan's foes are legion: vampires, gods, and magic workers of all kinds. The ever-approaching end of the world or the Norse Ragnarok is approaching, fast or slow. Of course, Ranganook has been approaching for centuries. In this book, you can sort of see a possible ending of the series, if not the world. [Hearne published an excerpt from a new series in this book.]

Am wondering how many fantasy thrillers are laugh-out-loud funny. Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid series is one the few I've encountered. I can't remember any others. Hearne's most recent book, Staked, is no exception. Where else would a character be harder to find than "a snake's nuts". Still, I miss philosophizing Oberon. In this book, he's shunted off from the action and makes few comments on the human condition, though he gets regular doses of gravy. Owen, the recently found druid, takes over the comedic bleachers.

[Confession: I laughed out loud when my favorite grumpy secondary character, Owen, complained and many other times as I read. Even got my old man interested in Sullivan's troubles with the various human Pantheons.]

All in all, this is one of the weaker books. While entertaining, it mostly went over the same old territority. No new introductions to complicate O'Sullivan's life. No new insights into his character. His side-kicks showed more growth than the main hero did. Worse, the story lacked the tension coming from imminent defeat. It's a problem when you write a stellar series and the latest episode in only good normal.

Hearne wrapped up lots of loose ends in this book. I cringed every time I read one, especially since Hearne is introducing a new series, the sample of which seemed rather pronderous and cliched. I thought through most of the book that this was the last of the Lost Druid Chonicles. Then, I learned there's a ninth one. So, I'm again waiting for the mass paperback.

Take a look at the sample and read the other reviews:
Amazon         Nook        kobo

[Incidentally, I thought I'd complain about the lack of a search function on the iBooks ap. I've got the link to my shortstories and book, but I can't search for the url of other books in their store.]

Other Interesting Reading

With a book like Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing, can you guess that Dean Wesley Smith is a rabble-rouser? His recent blog on writer earnings just cements that reputation. Love the way he keeps exposing how the accepted writing paradigms are off kilter and biased by the data collected. It was a lesson for me. I've been bamboozled by putting too much em-PHA-sis on Amazon being the only book seller.

The New York Times [28 January 18] had an important article on bots and fake followers for anyone concerned about keeping their accounts relatively clean. Buying followers, especially among those trying to make a splash or become an influencer on social media is a common practice. A front page article in the New York Times Sunday edition exposes under-the-rock where the media predators play. First, by stealing identities. Second, by selling them. You can read the full article here.

Are you concerned about social media manipulation? One way I often spot fake followers is by their profiles and what they post. 1) the lack of a picture is often a leading indicator.  2) a skimpy profile. 3) an great imbalance between  between followers and who they follow. 4) and probably most important, what do they post. Does it fit your profile and what you want to accomplish with your account?

My Wrting Rut

The light bulb went off in my head. Wasn't even thinking about writing as I sneaked a look at the most recent Lee Child Reacher novel. The organization of his storytelling as he switched viewpoints in the first 10% [?] of the novel hit me over the head. Duh. I think it's given me the push I need to stop spinning my wheels on Rendezvous with Demons. Other than that, I'm mostly spinning my wheels, doing all sorts of stuff except writing.

I also got a chuckle from having traveled through "Moose Crossing" [I'm not going downstairs to see if I remember the name Child gave Tie Siding] many times. Of course, the map calls it something different. But the location is right there on the two-lane road...provided you don't blink.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Crenshaw: A Fascinating Story Grabbed from the Headlines

Imaginary friends are popular among the younger set. I even admit to having had one myself--when I was confined to on the front porch by a gate taller than me. But, Crenshaw by Newbery winner Katherine Applegate is something else. Applegate takes the topic of homelessness and explores its effects on the kids of a working poor family. Crenshaw isn't just a tale torn from the headlines. It's a story of triumph on a small scale.

Jackson, named for his father's guitar, is a practical kid growing up in an artsy family of former muscians. His parents had put their music group aside to join the mainstream economy, but layoffs and MS [musclar dystrophy] knocked them out of the middle class once and is about to make them homeless again. Being working poor in the US isn't a comfortable lifestyle...unless you can develop a side gig that brings in more assets than low-wage jobs.

Jackson can see the signs and fumes that his parents aren't confiding in him. He wants the truth about their situation, not his parents sugar-coatings. Then, Crenshaw, a seven-foot invisable cat who was his imaginary friend the last time his family lived out of the family minivan, returns. It's touch and go whether Crenshaw will be a help or a hinderance. Creshaw's antics, such as surfing and taking bubble baths, supply the humor that leavens the book.

Crenshaw presents a child's perspective on homelessness with insights readers of all ages can appreciate. Suspensefully written, the book doesn't bore the reader, in spite of a long flashback. 

The first person POV seems particularly appropriate for telling Jackson's misery as he fears his family is going homeless again and his parents won't give him a straight answer. In fact, from the way they are characterized, I doubt if the parents are truthful with themselves. Appegate aptly depicts the problem of being practical in an artsy family by making the characters feel real. [Yeah, the opposite would also be a problem, but it's not the subject of this book.]

The book has lots of reviews, some interesting and some saying people liked the book. You can read a sample of some engrossing writing on 
Amazon      Nook

[Incidently, I can't remember the imaginary friend--just the gate and people telling me what I told them about Jerome. Seems like a surprising number of people listened to a three-year-old. Who knows why?]

Other Interesting Reading

The Passive Voice guy is one of my favorite blogsters. This week's book had me feeling defensive--like why would a self-respecting adult read a kid's book. I'd have argued that the book told an interesting story. Then, my guru came to my rescue. You can read why he reads kid's lit. It all boils down to an interesting, fast moving story that doesn't bore you. Read his whys here. Anyway, I'm not going to apologize for reading a kid's book.

Another topic of interest to readers is bookstores, especially since there are all sorts of doomsday stories about their eminent demise. Kristine Kathryn Rusch begs to differ in her recent blog: Business Musings: Bookstores (2017 in Review) Since I hardly ever read fiction on a computer screen, I found the blog held my attention and good wishes.

My Writing Rut

On the Run is off to the editor. Added about a thousand words to the book, but it's still shorter than There Be Demons. Wonder what excuse I'll find "not to write" next.

Thought I'd run an experiment. My free short stories about demons and mayhem are available on kobo. Click here to see. You'll have to scroll down and there won't be any reviews but it gives an alternative to Amazon.