Review of Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews

Iron and Magic (The Iron Covenant, #1)Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OK, so even though I love Ilona and Gordon’s writing, I was not going to read this because I honestly couldn’t see how they could make Hugh sympathetic enough to be a hero rather than a ruthless villain. And I’m not just saying ruthless for effect. This man seriously has no ruth.

But I bought the book, and just like all their other books, I read it in every spare moment, to the exclusion of all other voluntary activities, until the end, because it was just that good. What makes this book amazing, besides the story, the characters (Elara rocks, Landon sucks, Rafael gets in some hits, the bad guys are scaaarrrryyyyy), the action, the setting, the magic, the twists and turns and timing, the pacing, the…everything…the best part is that they honestly achieved what I never expected them to. They made Hugh into a hero.

Don’t worry, Hugh is still a villain, depending on where you’re standing, but he…without giving too much away…he done good. And if you have not read anything else in this series, you can still get most of the impact of the character arcs in this book. Read it. The next one is going to be good too.

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2018 RWA Conference Countdown

Photo of sunglasses
Wikimedia Commons photo of sunglasses

Oh man! I’m so excited. Someone once said “I hope you get to unplug this summer,” and that’s what I feel I’m going to be doing at the RWA national conference I’m leaving for in (gasp) 15 days.

I’ll be unplugging from my daily life (even though, hey, I’ll still be there, and it’ll still be daily). The odd thing is that I’ll also be plugging IN to all the knowledge and excitement other authors will be sharing, I’ll be getting together with writing friends I haven’t seen for ages, I’ll be plugging my brain in so it can soak up all the yummy authorial goodness on offer.

I ordered new business cards to reflect the fact that I have a new website, then I made a couple of little updates to the website. I’ve made a few strategic wardrobe purchases, scanned the workshop listings to see what I might be interested in, and made sure my Cheeky Tarts (writing friends) dinner is on my schedule.

Fifteen days to go!

The Man With The Golden Arm

Firstly, as a writer, I must apologize about the capitalization in that heading. There seems to be some confusion regarding said capitalization amongst my various colleagues about this, so I went with caps for every word.

Secondly, this is a marvelous story and I highly recommend you type this blog heading into your preferred search engine and read any one (or more) of the articles with which you will be presented. I don’t wish to ruin it for you, so I won’t give you all the facts, but this is an admirable man who has saved–literally–millions of lives. He’s humble, courageous, and loyal. He hates needles and trucks with them regularly anyway, simply because it’s the right thing to do. The science involved is remarkable, and the human-factor (pardon the pun, or ignore it, as it won’t hit you until after you read more about him) is engaging and charming.

I know I won’t ever make this much difference in my lifetime, and in fact I don’t even aspire to. I’m just not that nice. But his example does tempt me to try to be a better person, and that anyone can affect others that way is also quite remarkable.

Ploddanzing 101

If you are a writer, you will have heard, read, or even asked the question: are you a Plotter or a Pantser? A Plotter is an author who plans every aspect of the story, perhaps in great detail (How many cheeseburgers did the heroine’s grandparents eat before their first kiss? What color is the hero’s fourth favorite pair of shoes?) before writing anything. A Pantser is an author who “flies by the seat of his pants,” also known as “winging it.” This kind of writer may or may not start with an idea, or even a genre, simply writing what comes as it comes, perhaps on random scraps of junk mail or the odd bit of napkin.

I am neither of these.

My process is a combo-pack, which I suspect is true for most writers. If I plot too much, my brain decides I’ve already finished writing the story. Why do so again? I get terribly distracted. But surfing the web for the woman who perfectly resembles my heroine so I have a proper poster of her to look at while I write (dusky caramel skin, not too orange, with green eyes like emeralds, not grass, and curly red hair,  just wavy…) is incredibly fun, and I can righteously tell myself I’m writing. No procrastination here, nope, no sirree Bob’s yer uncle.

On the other hand, if I don’t have a series of story targets, my characters tend to take the baton and run with it, as if being chased by wild things through a brush-filled forest, dark even in daylight, full of menacing–well, you get the idea.

So a happy middle ground is required. My writing partner Deb and I have gathered a series of steps to plan a story, develop its themes and vet its conflicts for viability before setting pen to paper (or finger to key). I still have to envision each scene before I write it, and there’s still a risk of over-thinking the story and boring myself as I write, but mostly this let’s me figure out whether or not the hero really could love a heroine with a fear of cheeseburgers, or if that would strike him as petty, and if the heroine can be attracted to a man with a shoe collection larger than hers. I have to know some details about each character before I get started, but not so many that the grey matter goes on vacation during the actual story writing.

I call this Plottancing (Plotting + Pantsing, with a nod to “dance”), and I’ve been thinking that when I’m rich and famous, (or when I’ve managed to publish a couple-three of those manuscripts under the bed) I would convince Deb to do a conference workshop with me on our process. Seven Anchor Scenes, Four Acts, and the Scaffold Draft would be a few of the high points. We could call the workshop “Plottancing 101.”

Rather, I used to call it Plottancing. Yesterday I had to change it to Ploddanzing. The change is my husband’s fault.

Early some mornings Fred is already hard at work before I wake up. Fred is in charge of Research and Development in my brain. Yesterday Fred woke me around 5:30 (yes, it WAS Sunday, but Fred doesn’t care) to review the outline of the Plottancing 101 workshop. (Fred is more of a Plotter than I am) When I brought Hub his first cup of Elixir of Consciousness (coffee) about an hour later. I mentioned Plotting and Pantsing.

“Plodding and Panzer?” Hub asked.

Panzer tank made of Legos
Image of Panzer tank made of Legos. www dot brickmania dot com/panzer-i/

Hmmmm. Yes, sometimes Plotting IS rather plodding, when every little detail has to be worked out (First she visits her grandmother to hear about the first time she and PawPaw had a cheeseburger together, then she goes to elementary school, then she gets a job at Chuck’s House of Cheese, where she meets the hero, who has just returned from his own high school reunion, where he reacquainted himself with the friend he had in the tenth grade who was always just that much better in English class and now wears Armani exclusively, then he goes to an Armani shop to see what the fuss is all about, then he decides he needs a cheeseburger to give himself time to think about his career choices, which so far have not allowed him to purchase any Armani whatsoever.).

Also, writing on the fly IS sometimes a bit like driving a tank through enemy lines, barreling along with an idea, taking no prisoners, simply getting words on paper because the cute niece of the hero has just lost her first tooth and everyone in the scene can’t wait to hear all about it even though they were about to launch a rescue expedition of the niece’s paternal grandmother’s pet chihuahua who somehow chased a Manx up the neighbor’s maple tree, which has a fungal disease of the roots and could come crashing down into the pond, killing the last of the…wait, what?

Where was I? Oh, yes, Ploddanzing…the process of getting enough of the story planned to keep me on track while I write, but not so much that I succumb to the overwhelming pressure to take a nap in the middle of a sentence. It’s a bit of a balancing act.

Hmmm, perhaps I should change the name of the workshop to Tight-rope Writing 101…

Review of Escape to You

Escape to You (Montana Heat, #1)Escape to You by Jennifer Ryan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not having ever read Jennifer Ryan before, and not reading a lot of western romances, I didn’t have high expectations; I was pleasantly surprised! I will be seeking out the other stories in the series, and I expect to read this one again before I let it go.

Creative plotting, good-to-excellent character development, and this story does not commit one of my pet peeves, which is to wait until the last possible moment before you know if the characters are going to manage to stay together. I kept thinking that the heroine was going to run away to save the hero from danger, which I would have hated, but she listened to reason…hooray!

Being a romance, you have an idea going in what the ending will be, so it’s the journey that counts…the journey was fun, enjoyable, made sense (in a story-logic way) and had plenty of escapism, plus, the bad guys get what’s coming to them!

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