A Note of Thanks

Years ago, I saw a comment from someone who was trying to break into the business in response to a question about what people read when they are writing in a certain genre. This person replied that they didn’t read anything whenever they were writing. Why? Because they didn’t want their prose “infected” by anything someone else wrote. After all, they had such a unique voice and unique story that they didn’t want to weaken it by exposing it to outside influences. The comment boggled my mind and made me think long and hard about the question.

I read every day, whether I’m in the middle of a project or not. What I don’t do is read in the same genre in which I’m writing. It isn’t because I don’t want to “infect” my work. It’s because I simply got into the habit of reading different genres from the WIP years ago and haven’t broken the habit.

But that’s not what this post is about. This post is a thank you note to author Faith Hunter, not only for writing one of my favorite series (Jane Yellowrock) but for reminding me about an author and woman I respect a great deal: Jean Rabe.

I’ve known about Ms. Rabe for years, mainly as an author. I’d read her Dragonlance books. Back when certain members of the “woke club” decided to declare war on Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg, Ms. Rabe became one of their victims. I wrote about it for MGC here. But this isn’t the only time Ms. Rabe has been featured here on MGC. Search her name and you’ll find other posts, including at least two interviews with her.

Now, the reason I’m thanking Ms. Hunter is in one of her FB fora, she recommended one of Ms. Rabe’s series and linked to the pre-order page for the latest book in the series. Since I was looking for something to read, I followed the link and picked up the first book in the series. I opened it up and was instantly hooked. Three books read in two and a half days and now I’m waiting for the next book in the series.

The Piper Blackwell Mystery Series is a fun, engaging series. More than that, it is one where a master of her craft shows us not only how to do pacing but point of view changes without confusing the reader. Her character development for Piper over the course of the three books is realistic and engaging. Sure, there are a few places in each book I shake my head. But that’s not to say Ms. Rabe got it wrong. It’s more that I would have done it differently if I were in Piper’s shoes.

In other words, Ms. Rabe pulled me into the character and, after all, isn’t that what a writer is supposed to do?

So, thank you, Ms. Hunter. I tend not to switch genres with an author because I’ve almost always been disappointed. Good fantasy writers don’t always make good mystery writers. Good romance writers don’t always make good science fiction writers, etc. But Ms. Rabe is simply one of those writers who does her homework and puts out an engaging book, no matter what the genre.

Here’s a link and description for The Dead of Winter, the first book in the Piper Blackwell series. It’s a great buy at only $0.99.

In a deceptively peaceful county, a murderer hides in plain sight…

Fifty-eight minutes into her first day on the job, twenty-three-year-old Sheriff Piper Blackwell is faced with a grisly murder—the victim artfully posed amid decorations on his lawn. Drawing on former military training, Piper must prove herself worthy of the sheriff’s badge, and that won’t be easy.

Chief Deputy Oren Rosenberg, Piper’s opponent in the recent election, doesn’t like her and wants her to fail. She doesn’t like him either, but she needs Oren to help catch the killer before another victim is discovered. Too late!

As Piper leads the manhunt, another crisis hits close to home. Her father, the previous sheriff, is fighting for his life, and she is torn between family and duty. Facing personal and professional threats, Piper has to weather a raging storm, keep the sheriff’s department from crumbling around her, and reel in a killer during the most brutal winter sleepy Spencer County, Indiana, has experienced.

For more information about Ms. Rabe, check out her website, her Words About Words, her Amazon author page.

I also highly recommend Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series. Skinwalkers, shapeshifters, vampires and blood servants all set in New Orleans. What isn’t to love? Seriously, I’m not a fan of the vast majority of books that have vampires but I appreciate the way she does them. She is another author who is very adept at developing characters over the course of a series.

So, while I wait for Ms. Rabe’s next Piper Blackwell book, what would you recommend I read?

Featured Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

39 comments

  1. These days, the community feels less like high school and more like kindergarten, with everybody squabbling over toys and bursting into tears if someone looks at them wrong.

    1. So totally agree. That’s why, when I find an author I respect recommending another author, I at least give them a try. Since I was already familiar with Ms. Rabe’s work on Dragonlance, I was hopeful. The series met and exceeded my expectations.

  2. “So, while I wait for Ms. Rabe’s next Piper Blackwell book, what would you recommend I read?”

    You should read -my- book and leave a glowing review. ~:D

    In the next breath, I never read these days. It’s becoming a thing with me. Not because of some foolishness about “infecting” my masterpieces with other people’s more humble ideas, that’s for sure. Half my work is homage to the Ancient Lore. But more because I just don’t want to anymore.

    If a favorite author has a new book out, then I’ll devour it. But I have maybe five or six favorites, and they don’t write very fast.

    So I write instead. That way I have the whole universe to draw on, and the stories turn out the way I like. Because if they don’t, I yell at the characters and make them do it properly.

    It’s only fair, they yell at me all the time. “No, I’m not doing that! Forget it, author boi!”

    1. I have gone through periods like that. There’s a problem though, as an author, if you don’t read. Even if you are writing homages to ancient lore, you need to know what readers are buying and why. Others are writing in your genre or sub-genre. Have you read them? Have you checked out their reviews and seen what the readers like and don’t? As writers, we have to remember we read for several reasons: for entertainment, for education and research and to learn what is in demand in the craft at the moment and why.

      I prefer reading for entertainment but have learned to do both.

      As for Ms. Rabe’s books, I marvelled at the way she created a character who is competent and capable but knows she has weaknesses as well. She questions whether she wants to remain in her current job, home as the series progresses. In short, her character grows. Better yet, she is a strong woman who still has feelings and who has a sense of duty I wish more folks had.

      I’m going to go back and reread the series with a special focus on pacing and character development. It’s been a while since I’ve done that with anyone and I’m thrilled it is with someone I admire and who I’ve been a fan of for a long time.

      1. Mea culpa, after -swearing- up and down in this very comments section that I wasn’t going to read the reviews, I peeked. Most were over 2/5, so I read them. Thanks, reviewers!

        The single negative one was put off by the overpowered main character and quit reading when the nerd side character got his dream robot girlfriend. Which is a fair criticism. Most people seemed to like that part, but if the reader is looking for something more in the Frankenstein mode, they’ll be frustrated.

        I did get a 3.5 from a proper reviewer who gives Martha Wells a 4, so I feel I’m at least on the right track. (Truthfully I’d probably be a fan of Martha Wells if not for the SJW boilerplate riddled through the stories.)

        What I need to do immediately is get the next book out, and that means finish the cover.

        1. I will admit, I tread very lightly into my own reviews. Usually, when I see a low ranking review and read it, I find myself wondering if they read the same book I wrote. But, there have been a couple of occasions where I’ve actually picked up a pointer I needed to remember for the next book in that particular series.

          1. “…I find myself wondering if they read the same book I wrote.”

            Yes, I was very shocked by one person early on, before I published it. Extremely disturbing, seemed to be coming from a completely different planet.

            Luckily it seems that most readers so far are from the same planet as me (that would be Planet Clair for those who were wondering, we have pink air).

            I guess some people buy a book and they want a particular thing out of it, or they have a pet hate that you managed to step on, and that’s the thing they fixate on.

            1. If I ever say something again about a trope in your books, the proper response is probably, “I know, right? But my Muse made me do it, and some people love this trope! And they’re the ones who give me money!!”

              C.J. Carella just also exploited one of the litrpg tropes that I find incomprehensible, and made it so amusing that even I was amused. (Which didn’t mean that in real life, there wouldn’t be a murder ballad in the makings….)

              Tropes are dreamlike, and plug into weird corners of the subconscious. And in troubled times like now, they probably have a right and a duty to be as crazy as they want to be.

              You keep having fun and making money. Your art is between you and your Muse, and your customers and their green folding stuff. And there is nothing wrong with that, at all, at all.

    2. I have a similar problem. I’ve been trying to read for about the past year and generally failing. I’m determined to finish the one I’m on now, partially out of a morbid curiosity about whether the protagonist is ever going to take an independent action (or for that matter, if the alleged villains are), but partially just because its been so long since I’ve finished anything I’ve started that I feel like I’m out of practice. (The book is a sci-fi pulp from the 80s, so I can’t even blame the modern PC idiocy for it).

      Both Jean Rabe and Faith Hunter sound like authors worth trying, but I’ve got the complication at the moment that the libraries are closed, and given my recent lack-of-success rate, I’m hesitant to spend money on an author I don’t know.

      1. The first book in Rabe’s series mentioned in the post is only 99 cents. It is, however, a mystery. I haven’t checked the prices of her Dragonlance books because I have many of them in hard copy.

      2. Part of it is me just being cranky, that could be what’s going on with you too. I have things in the TBR pile that are pre-PC, and a basement full I can go back to.

        Its a cranky-making kind of year.

        Maybe I’ll go re-read Schmitz. Tezly Amberdoon always cheers me up.

        1. If you are in a Schmitz mood, I highly recommend the Karres sequels (in which Mad Genius Dave Freer had a part). Worth the full Baen price, IMHO – I really can’t tell the difference between the “authentic Schmitz voice” and the “simulated Schmitz voice” – a very, very rare thing.

          I saw that one negative review when I posted mine. Made me wonder why she even picked up the book after reading the blurb, to be honest.

          1. That one reviewer is a “Vine Voice,” part of an Amazon review program which I’m unsure how it works. Presumably they have an audience too, and they cater to it. It’s cool, everybody has their thing.

            Looking back over the reviews, there were a couple of people who liked it but took issue with the break in the middle for the “harem” part. That part is definitely different, it was where the characters started taking over and running the show, with me in the back seat.

            Originally it was supposed to be a little digression where we get to see what kind of person buys a robot girlfriend (a hopeless weirdo, obviously) and how the robots turn out. You know, what happens when you get your robot girlfriend home? What does she do? What do you do? What does your mom say? (Jimmy’s mom is a lot more understanding than I’d be in a similar circumstance, let me tell you.) Something to explain the plot element, I suppose.

            Well, they turned out a hell of a lot different from what I started with. The robots have their own internal consistency which firmly resisted the vague outline of how I expected the plot to go. After writing along for a while and having it come out stupid every single time, I followed the logic of how the robot characters were. They acted like -people- instead of fancy mannequins. Ultimately I had to go back and sprinkle some explainium on how a mechanism turns into a person. Because that’s what they did, no matter what I had to say about it.

            That’s also why there’s no sex scenes in any of the books. Those scenes exist, but they’re lame. Ended up on the cutting room floor.

            1. Well, that’s one thing that editors _can_ be good for — helping to smooth out the transitions between different parts of the book.

              What a lot of authors seem to do is that they let their characters do what they want, and then they go back and fill in the beginning to drop more hints. (Although honestly, you dropped plenty of hints. It was more the sudden change of subgenre/tone.)

              I’m not really sure what could be done, though, because the first part was pretty good as it was, and the second part was fine for what it was.

              When I was editing my brother Kevin’s book, he had some transition problems. Some of it I figured out, and some of it he figured out. Mostly we talked a lot about it, and I threw out some suggestions… and he rejected pretty much all of them, but that gave him ideas for what would work.

              (Heh, and that’s how you can tell we’re siblings.)

              Anyway, it doesn’t really matter for this first book, because either way you’re done. But with the next book, you might want to see if there are places where you need to spackle, or add some supports.

              1. The second one I’ve pretty well banged together. It started off being all kissy-face for five chapters, then wandered off to become an adventure story. Cutting out four of the first five and chainsawing the remainder into a fun intro helped a lot. We do get two major character introductions, but the book doesn’t turn into a whole new genre this time.

                See? I do listen. ~:D

            2. IMHO, the “sex” scenes you left in are perfect. The character of Jimmy would not have worked with a “standard” harem plot.

              I’m happy to hear that you haven’t / aren’t planning to change this. Some of the series that I have been reading have decent plots – but the sex subplots I tend to call “The Skylark of Sexual Exploits.” Always have to top the previous novels, and become quite ridiculous over time.

              1. Thanks, I appreciate that. Vote of confidence! ~:D

                I don’t think of the harem thing as a sub-plot, more as an alien response to a human problem.

                They’re artificial intelligence, they don’t have biological parts at all. Sex doesn’t mean anything to them. Its a human thing, like eating or blowing your nose. They’re solving the problem of how to hang out with the crazy humans without breaking anything. They’re a little weird, so they do it funny. But they’re smart, so it works.

                You noticed that Detective Cook doesn’t get a harem? That isn’t because they don’t like him. It’s because they know it’ll mess him up. He’s got issues. Six books later, spoiler, Cook still doesn’t have a harem.

                But besides all that, how idiotic would it be if all these machines gained cognizance and then immediately started doing high school monkey dominance and contesting with each other for boyfriends? To me that would be the least likely outcome.

                1. Well, to be fair, the reason women in real life do the territorial/dominance thing is because evolutionarily, it works.

                  And it’s not one-way. Men may think they’re not doing anything to create catfights; but there are evolutionary advantages for them, too.

                  And vice versa. Women can set off dominance fights between men without meaning to, but it’s more likely to happen if they _don’t_ realize they have something to do with it. Malicious provocation is bad, but innocent provocation is what does the damage.

                  Kids learn to push people’s buttons, for attention and various other reasons.

                  Teenagers must learn _not_ to push buttons.

                  Obviously, a computer brain would find it easier to ignore reflexive simian provocations, because it’s not in their evolutionary interest or programming.

                  1. Yes, all of the above. Humans have biological imperatives. An AI would have imperatives too, but they’d be -different- ones.

                    I’m not smart enough to predict what kind of imperatives an artificial, non-biological being would have. But I expect they wouldn’t they wouldn’t enjoy boredom. Humans are complicated enough to be worth paying attention to, even for something very smart.

                    Obviously the AIs would make themselves attractive, so that the humans would want them around. Basic problem solving. The smarter the AI, the more attractive it can be.

                    The more interesting the human, the more robots that want to pay attention to them? Could be. There’s your harem right there.

                    But it’s not really a harem. It’s more of a petting zoo. ~:D

          2. Incidentally I have all those Karres sequels except the latest, because I’m lazy and didn’t buy it yet. But I will, inevitably, get to it.

      1. I can’t post a direct link because it will make this huge thing here, which is in very bad taste for me to do as a visitor.

        If you goggle “Unfair Advantage Edward Thomas” the Amazon link should be right at the top.

        Enjoy. ~:D

  3. *grin* Don’t look at me for fiction recommends right now. I’m alternating between Eastern European folklore, the medieval history of Japan, the ideas that drove the American Revolution (T. H. Breen’s latest), and an autobiography of an English US Marine that reads like John Masters (especially the “blissfully ignorant of what was about to happen, I said . . .” feeling like John Masters.)

    1. Oh, I do more than my fair share of non-fiction. I’m reading Sowell right now and have a book on Russian history in my tbr pile I need to get to. I’d love some recommendations on Eastern European folklore.

  4. The pretentious git has half a point. Keeping a consistent voice is hard, and outside experiences (including vicarious ones) can shift it off true.
    .
    I don’t tend to read when I’m writing, simply because I’d much rather read than write. It’s much better to have a celebratory binge after, as palette cleanser and reward, because then I might actually get something finished.

    1. Ah, but that was not quite the point. This person was afraid the sub-par plots would infect their unique, never before written and so totally awesome plots and make them mundane.

      And yes, it is hard sometimes to keep a consistent voice. That’s why I don’t tend to read the genre I’m writing. But I need to step away from the book at the end of the day, even if for only a few minutes. That’s when I read. It might be non-fic, it might be fiction but another genre. But I read and it gives my mind a few minutes to step back and my subconscious time to recharge. Of course, I’m not saying it works for everyone.

      1. IIRC, Andre Norton didn’t read in genre when she was writing, and she was writing almost all the freaking time. (But I guess she was a fast reader whenever she wasn’t writing.)

        And yeah, it’s probably not a good idea to read Andre Norton when writing, because her voice is so overpoweringly strong. Same thing with a lot of famous authors.

  5. And my TBR pile gets even bigger. Thank Bhob for Kindles – without such a thing I’d need another bedroom just to store my books.

    1. I’m always glad to add to someone else’s addiction to books. VBEG.

      And I agree with you about the kindle. I don’t have any more room to store physical books. My kindle is wonderful because I don’t have to worry about getting rid of a book so there’s room for a new one.

  6. Also, I am seeing books by Kate Paulk that I cannot find on Amazon and it is making me cranky. Where might I purchase the rest of the Con series?

    1. Kate’s books will be out within the next four weeks. They are being reformatted and new covers are being done. An announcement will be made here once that happens.

      Oh, and a little birdie has told me she has another book or two in the editor’s hands right now. So new stuff to look forward to.

  7. I can see the idea of “what you read colors what you’re writing,” but… it’s like research-vs-plagiarism. If the result is bad enough that you give up on reading other stuff entirely, the problem isn’t reading.

    Maybe it’s even just “I need to write some bad fanfic for FUN” or something.

    I am glad to hear other folks sometimes hit periods where they just don’t want to read anything but I-know-it-will-be-awesome stuff.

  8. I am glad to hear other folks sometimes hit periods where they just don’t want to read anything but I-know-it-will-be-awesome stuff.

    Would hearing that I’ve been bouncing between intensities of this for about 15 years have any positive impact? 😛 Some odd combination of fatigue and depression.

    I’ve been buying more from Kindle lately, and I’m in the middle of a bunch of great stuff because of losing the frame of mind that made it possible to read them, and to enjoy it.

    There’s an author here having a rough patch, that I’ve been meaning to get into more. Have one of their books on Kindle, read the first chapter, interested but not pulled in. Finally wandered over to a state of mind to try again, and the second chapter is great. Now, I’m ready to continue reading, and will probably finish it shortly, unless the day to day routine puts me down from stress first.

    Anyway, it hits every type of fiction reading, without much regard to how much money it might cost me, or how well written something is. Some combination of my mental state and an estimate of the emotional costs of engaging with the story.

    If it is any degree of what Tuesday evening Dave is talking about, it is a more generalized kind. Because I think that my level of investment into doing creative writing is not so high as to produce the effect, or as high as my investment into doing other things,

  9. I read less genre work and more history than I used to. But then, when I was younger I had the whole history of fantasy and it was all new!

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