Two Great Books For Writers

Now that the rainy season is here in British Columbia, my afternoons of yard work are pretty much over, so I’ve rejigged my daily schedule to reserve more time for reading and online learning in the afternoons. Maybe I’ll do more editing as well. Heaven knows there are still plenty of changes to make in my urban fantasy.

Those who follow my blog know that I’ve reading a fair bit on self-publishing and marketing over the past month. I’m also investing my time on great books for writers. One of them is Writing Monsters by Philip Athans, which is a great guide for anyone who’s writing horror, science fiction, or fantasy. What I really like about this book is the way he makes the reader think about why a monster should appear in one’s story. What is its purpose? How and when it should appear? He even provides a checklist of questions as we come up with new and innovative scary creatures. There’s plenty in the world to frighten us these days, and tapping into what scares us most is a good start to creating fictional monsters.

Stephen King’s book On Writing, was published twenty years ago and has been recommended to me numerous times, so I finally bought a copy and am just over halfway through the book now. I’m really enjoying his unique and candid approach which, as the title reflects, is more of a memoir in the first half than a how-to book. The book is filled with anecdotes from his childhood, teen years, and early married life, when he first wrote Carrie, a character he’s never really liked, by the way. Out of those experiences, are terrific writing insights and tips, which I’m jotting down.

If you’re stuck indoors and looking to improve your writing, these books might help. I’ve also started reading The Occupation Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. The introductory pages have already given me ideas for a paranormal series I’ve been mulling over for several weeks. The ideas are coming along, faster than I can write and edit them, but that’s not a terrible place to be!

Five of My Favorite 2020 Reads So Far

I’ve read so many terrific books this year that choosing favorites has been tough. So far, I’ve finished 25 novels and am on track to meet my 50 book goal for 2020. Looking over my list, I haven’t read as much nonfiction as planned, but I’ll do something about that later on.

I like to read different genres, although I haven’t gotten to all of them yet. I also enjoy reading both established authors and new ones (or at least new to me), independently published, and traditionally published authors.

The Sinister Pig

Let’s start with the authors who are familiar to me, Tony Hillerman and Sue Grafton. I hadn’t read a Hillerman novel in some time, nor have I read them in order, but I picked up a copy of The Sinister Pig and loved it. Honestly, if you like mysteries and haven’t tried this author, to do. His protagonist Sergeant Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police and retired lieutenant, Joe Leaphorn are great characters. He’s also a master at describing landscapes, and incorporating Navajo culture, beliefs, and myths into the plots.

Q is For Quarry

I’m working my way through the latter half of Grafton’s alphabet series, and my favorite so far is Q is For Quarry. She’s always inspired me, and I never tire of reading about Kinsey Millhone’s complex cases. Like Hillerman, she’s a master at plotting, pacing, and descriptions. I’m reading T is For Trespass now and fear reaching the last book she wrote before her passing. Maybe I’ll just go back and reread them all, who knows?

The Templar Legacy

Steve Berry was unknown to me, but I wouldn’t be surprise if some of you have already read this terrific author. The Templar Legacy is a contemporary story about an antiquarian bookseller living in Copenhagen and former U.S. agent who finds himself in the thick of danger when a former colleague appears. Her quest inadvertently involves the Knights Templar who were thought to have disbanded in the 1300’s. It was educational, suspenseful, and simply a great story with references to actual historical figures.

Saturn Run

My favorite science fiction read was Saturn Run by John Sandford and Ctein. Sandford is another great mystery author with a long list of books under his belt, so I picked this one up to see how he tackles science fiction, and it did not disappoint. The book isn’t set that far in the future and features a race between the Americans and Chinese to reach Saturn, where alien life has been detected. Really enjoyed this one.

The Daemoniac

On the supernatural suspense front, I just finished reading The Daemoniac by Kat Ross and I just loved it. Don’t let the title put you off, as this is more of an entertaining historical mystery than a horror story. Set in 1988 in New York, the protagonist is goddaughter of Arthur Conan Doyle and she encounters real-life journalist Nellie Bly. It’s very well done.

I could go on, but it would mean adding another 20 more books and this blog’s long enough today as it is. Happy reading!

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Searching For Great Urban Fantasy Novels to Read

BookshelvesGiven that I’m editing my first urban fantasy (still untitled), I’ve read a fair number of fantasy novels over the past three years. I’ve discovered great authors in Jim Butcher, Kelley Armstrong, Justin Cronin, Darynda Jones, Deanna Chase, Charlaine Harris, Morgan Rice, Deborah Harkness, and Terry Pratchett. I could list another fifty lesser known speculative fiction writers whose books I’ve really enjoyed, yet I still feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface of great books I should be reading.

When I came across an article listing “The 21 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Ever”, I had to take a look (you can find it HERE). My problem with these types of lists, though, is that they are subjective and woefully incomplete. Only 21? How come? Perhaps this is a word-count issue for the piece, and the author does admit that a lot of great writers have been left off.

Many on the list are classic novelists such as Tolkien, William Gibson, Lois McMaster Bujold, Douglas Adams, and Ursula le Guin. Given that not all of the must-read authors are urban fantasy novelists, I’m not rushing out to read every book mentioned. I’m still looking for more great urban fantasies to read, so if any of you have some favorites, let me know.

This brings me to the link within the article, (HERE) which features the best books of 2019 so far (31 are listed). None of the titles are familiar to me, but the author provides descriptions of each. No matter how you cut it, I have a lot more reading ahead. It’s impossible to stay on top of even one genre, isn’t it?

So, what do you think of the list(s)? Would you agree with the author’s choices? Would urban fantasy novels would you suggest as must-reads these days? I’d really like to know.