Enjoy the Read, Stay Your Course

I always have to remind myself when I’m reading an author I love that I can respect and admire them, enjoy the read, but that’s IT. I’m not looking for sympathy here or fishing for compliments, but so often, when I read a REALLY good book, I wish I could write like THAT author writes. I have to remind myself that what makes each author special is his unique voice, his take on stories. And I have my own voice. We all do, so no one should try to be like someone else.

The authors that I love, but are dangerous for me:

  1. P.J. Parrish and Louis Kincaid. (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086MXN3FQ?binding=kindle_edition&searchxofy=true&ref_=dbs_s_aps_series_rwt_tkin&qid=1679854907&sr=8-4) Louis pulls me in every time I read him. He’s so HUMAN, flawed, complex, with more problems than anyone needs. And his cases are so bizarre. Too bizarre for me to ever write. Some of the villains are horrible monsters. Disturbing. I don’t want to come up with anyone that horrible. But every once in a while, I wish I had a character with as much angst as Louis has. Not the right main character for a cozy. But boy, am I hooked on him.
  2. William Kent Krueger with his Cork O’Connor series. ( https://www.amazon.com/Iron-Lake-Novel-OConnor-Mystery-ebook/dp/B000FC0QBQ/ref=sr_1_3?crid=3UGQ800W7QCPK&keywords=cork+o%27connor+series+books+in+order&qid=1679855033&s=digital-text&sprefix=cork+%2Cdigital-text%2C89&sr=1-3) Just like Louis, Cork is a complicated hero. I love some of his books more than others. Right now, I’m reading Trickster’s Point, and it’s AMAZING. Joan Hall is as hooked on him as I am, and she’s written great book reviews for the series: https://joanhall.blog/2021/07/27/book-review-iron-lake-by-william-kent-krueger/. Krueger’s Cork series is set in Minnesota, and he makes the landscape as much a part of the story as his characters. And then he adds Ojibwe Indian lore and teachings into the mix. Pretty darn fascinating. In cozies, authors try to make the setting a big part of the novel, too, but for a different reason. Cozies like to have a personal feel, so a setting where people know each other, where a community has a personality, is an important part of the tone of the book. In Krueger’s stories, the settings make the story more complicated. There’s no cozy feel to them at all.
  3. Julia Donner’s Regency Friendship series. (https://www.amazon.com/stores/Julia-Donner/author/B00J65E8TY?ref=ap_rdr&store_ref=ap_rdr&isDramIntegrated=true&shoppingPortalEnabled=true) First, I love Regencies. The dry wit. The complicated social intricacies. Buttons are important. So are coming-outs. Once you hit twenty-five, you’re a spinster. And everything is about social status and aristocracy. Like Jane Austen, Donner has heroines who thumb their noses at the rules of the day. I love that. I love even more the men who fall for them. Unlike Austen, Donner can get a lot steamy. But I’m reading them in my living room, so no one sees me blush but HH. And he doesn’t care.
  4. Mae Clair and her dual timelines: (https://www.amazon.com/Cusp-Night-Hodes-Hill-Novel-ebook/dp/B078LJX83X/ref=sr_1_8?crid=21QIPZWGK7F38&keywords=mae+clair&qid=1679855302&s=digital-text&sprefix=mae+clair%2Cdigital-text%2C89&sr=1-8) It’s not just the dual plots combining the past and the present that appeal to me, it’s her language and writing skills. She’s so lyrical, her writing so beautiful, it makes my teeth hurt. I’ll never be able to write like that. I’m a plot driven person, concentrating from going from point A to point B, so that poetic language gets lost most often. Like Elizabeth George and Alice Hoffman, I just love her use of words. But I have no pretensions that I can write like that. It will never happen.
  5. I love historical mysteries, but I’d always be afraid I’d screw up something small in them. Or worse, something big. They take SO MUCH research! But that’s why I admire Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby series and P.B. Ryan’s Nell Sweeney series. Both ladies tell great mysteries with great characters and wonderful writing, but they’re set in past times. And I know that they do a lot of work to make sure they get everything right. My friend, D.P. Reisig, is in my writers’ group, and she’s writing a mystery with Abraham Lincoln trying to solve mysteries during his days as a lawyer, and she has more books for research than I’d ever believe possible. Nope, historicals are not for me. I’d always worry I messed something up.

I have many more authors that are auto-reads for me, but these are the ones I have to remind myself that I’m not them. They do what they do well, and I do my best at what I write. They’re them. I’m me. And I have to stay true to myself. It’s not safe to compare myself to other writers. I have to stay true to me.

BUT, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t enjoy all kinds of writers in lots of other genres. And I do, (especially Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series.. Lots of action and magic). I hope you find lots of writers to love, too.

Oh, The Pain!

For the last couple years, I’ve had a surplus of favorite authors to read, bouncing back and forth between them because I found their series late enough that I got to play catch up. It was wonderful. If I read a new author that didn’t quite live up to expectations, I’d download a favorite author and know I was in for a good time. But like all good things, I ran out of books in their series. I have to wait, like everyone else, for the newest to come out. So I read blurbs on BookBub and tried some more new authors and tossed in some new genres, and I’ve found some I really like, but I’ve kept waiting for my favorites to show up.

And waiting. And waiting. And then I realized that the new books were going to take longer than I expected. The authors each started new series, so now they have to divide their writing time between the ones I love and the second and sometimes third series they’re offering. I know how this works, because I’ve done the same thing. Instead of writing one Jazzi and Ansel after another, I took turns, adding two Lux novels, a Karnie Cleaver mystery, and a darker thriller to my list. I understand that a writer needs to stretch once in a while, to try something new.

But oh, the pain! I finally looked up upcoming releases to see how much longer it would be before a new book in my favorites would come out. I read Anna Lee Huber’s A WICKED CONCEIT in April of 2021. The next one, A PERILOUS PERSPECTIVE, is scheduled for April 5, 2022. A year apart! Fair enough. The Lady Darby series is historical and takes lots of research, and they’re not quick reads, so I’m sure that they’re not quick writes. I’ll just have to hang in there.

So I turned to Lynn Cahoon, who writes cozies. I love her Tourist Trap series. But once again, I’ll have to hold my breath. PICTURE PERFECT FRAME was released on March 16, 2021. WEDDING BELL BLUES comes out March 1, 2022. She writes the Farm to Fork mysteries, along with her Cat Latimer series, and recently started The Kitchen Witch novels.. I’ll have to wait my turn.

I follow three Ilona Andrews series, and I’m waiting for a new book in any of the three. Her books are long and complicated, so it might be a while. And she has more series than the three that are my favorites. She’s shared some really interesting blogs lately about writing and how she works and how often things don’t go as planned. Here’s a good one about waiting for your favorite author to deliver what you want: https://ilona-andrews.com/2021/answer-it-is-upsetting/

Luckily, I’ve found some new authors I really enjoy. Who knows? I’ll probably catch up on their series, too, and then I’ll have to find even more new authors I want to read over and over again. But that’s a good thing, right? And even the authors who don’t make me want to read their next book and the next have been mostly good. But finding authors you treasure is sort of like dating. There might be lots of good possibilities out there, but finding the one that makes you want to commit doesn’t happen that often.

Favorite authors take up a lot of room

One of my favorite authors, Ilona Andrews, just came out with a new book.  While I was at the book store–yes, I actually drove to the store to buy it, BUT Barnes and Noble didn’t have it–I ended up buying another favorite author’s book that I was on the fence about, Patricia Briggs’s latest Mercy Thompson novel.  I probably would have passed on this one, since Mercy is on her own in Europe without her usual cast of characters (or so the blurb makes me think), BUT my online friend Midu read it and told me I HAD to give it a chance, I’d like it.  And I trust Midu, so it’s waiting its turn near the top of my reading list.

I’ve bought more than a few books lately to read on my Kindle.  No matter.  For the next week or two, they’re all getting bumped.  It made me think.  I have NO name recognition as a writer and when I come out with a new book, I probably get bumped by a whole battalion of favorite authors before a reader is willing to take a chance on me.   It’s not easy to get readers to notice you, let alone buy you.  Even harder to get them to read and review you.  Favorite authors, though, have EARNED your loyalty.  They deliver what you like.

Even my bookshelves verify that it’s hard to find room as a new writer. I can’t bear to part with my favorite books, and as soon as those authors come out with a new one, I want to buy and read it.  Which means they get more and more space and new authors get squeezed or shuffled to the bookcase upstairs, along with Harry Potter and the favorite children’s books I read to my kids.  (I’m slowly but surely giving these to the little girls who live next door when they come to visit).


I have quite a few shelves, but two of them are filled with cookbooks.  (I just bought another one of those today on the clearance rack, like I don’t have enough recipes already:)  Agatha Christie takes up most of another one.  Elizabeth George’s book are so thick, she spills from one shelf to another.  Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs each have a shelf of their own, then Nancy Pickard and Martha Grimes share another.

A lot of my brand new favorite authors exist in my Kindle.  I’m more willing to take a chance on someone unknown to me when I can buy their books at a cheaper price.  Sad, I know, but true.  The other bright spot of storing Kindle e-books?  I don’t have to dust them.  I admit, though, it’s not the same as walking into my office and being surrounded by books I love.

Someday, I hope each one of us will have our books lining someone’s bookcase, that someone will cherish our words and characters too much to part with them.  But for now, happy writing!  And have a great July.


Writing: Who are your favorite writers & Do they influence you?

I’m at the end of reading a novel that I loved–The Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence.  And it’s reminded me that I’ve read LOTS of dark fiction in my time.  Dark fiction, to me, is different than horror.  Horror aims to scare.  Dark fiction means to disturb.  I think “disturb” lasts longer.  But that’s not my point for this blog.  I was thinking about which authors have stood out, for me, above others.  And it made me wonder how much they’ve influenced my writing.

I’ve said before that I was a James Fenimore Cooper fan when I was in middle school.  His most famous novel was The Last of the Mohicans, but he wrote an entire series with Natty Bumppo (later known as Hawkeye) as his protagonist.  Natty’s parents were settlers, but he was raised by Delaware Indians and became involved in the conflicts of the Mohican and Huron Indians, and the white settlers and the Indians.  He developed a set of ethics that were his own and a moral ambiguity that combined his Indian upbringing and his white heritage.  And that’s what appealed to me about those books–that feeling of straddling two worlds, sympathizing with the good of both and irritated with the wrongs of both.  I like stories about protagonists that don’t fit in anywhere.   Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson was raised by werewolves, but she isn’t one.  Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels has magic and a bloodline that she tries to hide, and Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock has a heritage that she’s slowly starting to remember.  That type of protagonist–the loner who struggles to live by her own rules–spilled over into my Fallen Angels novels.  Enoch is fighting a losing battle.  He doesn’t want to stay on Earth, but Caleb doesn’t ever want to go Home.

During high school, Latin and Shakespeare filled my mind with myths and legends, tragedies and political intrigue.  I enjoyed the epic battles to wrest power from one another, both on Bosworth Field and at Troy, as the Greeks tried to defeat the Trojans.  Myths have crept into many of my stories, especially Empty Altars and some of my novellas.  And as I read Prince of Thorns, I couldn’t help comparing The Prince of Thorns with Shakespeare’s Richard III.  Both Jorg and Richard decide to become villains and to excel at it–at least in literature.

The next author who captivated me–and held me for years–was Agatha Christie.  With a few deft strokes, she created characters that I felt I knew, and she taunted me with red herrings and clues as I tried to solve her mystery’s puzzle before her protagonist did.  But it wasn’t just the murders that dazzled me.  She often wrote about exotic locations, and she firmly believed…and stated…that anyone was capable of murder, if put in the right circumstances.  Christie taught me the fine art of plotting.  I followed my Christie years with books by Nancy Pickard, Martha Grimes, and Elizabeth George.  They might not be the masters of puzzles and plots that Christie was, but they took mysteries and pushed them into literary gems.  Their use of language and characterization made me long to string words together to higher levels.

The last authors I’ll mention in this post are Jane Austen and Georgette Heyers.  They fascinated me for an entirely different reason.  They excelled at social mannerisms, which was just plain fun, but they also excelled at the independent, feisty female protagonist.  I tried out a few female P.I. novels, but they didn’t give me the same sense of enjoyment.  I don’t mind sarcasm or cynicism–it often appeals to me–but the P.I.s I read felt just plain jaded.  And that didn’t intrigue me.  I didn’t find heroines I liked nearly as much until I found urban fantasy.  And those females added more.  They didn’t just have wits and smarts and a thumb-your-nose at the world attitude, they also carried weapons and knew how to use them.  A literary bonanza.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that, among all the authors I found and loved, I also found a supply of short stories that became a steady stream of entertainment for me.  Every Christmas, I asked for the anthology, The Year’s Best in Fantasy and Horror, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.  And I slowly indulged myself in the best twisted, dark stories available for that year.  As I said, I like dark…

What authors are your favorites?  And how have they influenced you?  Or your writing?