Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

It’s all in the voice #amreading #amwriting


Image by Rebekka D from Pixabay

Now that the garden is pretty much finished, except for the peppers and the cool-weather stuff like kale and brussels sprouts, I’ve been spending more time writing–well, okay, reading. And not just because Jim Butcher’s Peace Talks came out and the next one, Battle Ground, is being released this very same year! Harry Dresden rules!

I’ve been reading mysteries (and the various flavors of them) lately, but I always make room for select urban fantasies, like Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series and Jim Butcher’s Dresden, of course. During the wait for the highly-anticipated release of Peace Talks, Butcher’s first new Dresden novel in, like, five years, one of my blogging friends suggested a different series, the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews.

So, I figured, what the heck. It’s UF, and M said it was good. So I read the first book of the series.

Now, for those who don’t read urban fantasy, one thing popular in the genre is snark. The snark is often based on things we know, like books (The Princess Bride, for one), TV shows, movies, or other things of common “modern” knowledge. Butcher does it well. One of my favorites is the first line of Blood Rites: The building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault. Not snark as much as tongue-in-cheek.

In the same scene, as Harry is running away from the bad guys, he mentions how his boots were made for walking, not running through hallways (or something like that).

When done well, it makes for an entertaining read. In the Kate Daniels series, they (Ilona Andrews is a husband and wife team) do it so well I laughed out loud more than once (even the second time around). Everything from references to Rambo to the Three Musketeers to jokes made by the main character that the reader “gets” but no one else in the scene does because they aren’t old enough.

Anyway, there are 10 books in the Kate Daniels series. I blasted through the first book in a day. Heck, I blasted through each book in two days (because I had to take time off to do important stuff like pick tomatoes and cleaning πŸ™‚ )

Needless to say, I didn’t get much writing done the days I got sucked into Kate Daniels’ world.

Here’s the thing: Many people will only read a book once. I like to reread good books years after I read them the first time to enjoy the prose and the story again. As a writer, I want to figure out why I want to read it again. It’s like watching a TV show in reruns a decade or more later, like MASH or Seinfeld.

This series, however, was different. I have never felt compelled to reread a series right after I read it the first time. Ever. Not even the Pern books by Anne McCaffery. Not even the Eve Dallas series by JD Robb.

When I finished the last book of the Kate Daniels series, I felt drawn back to it. I couldn’t stop thinking about reading it again. (I blame you, M!)

Then my writer brain piped up. Why do I feel compelled to reread this series right after I read it the first time? What is it about the story that makes me want to jump right back into it? It’s like other UF series where the main character is pitted against tougher and tougher opponents, and discovers more about herself and what she can do. It’s like Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series or Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, where each book reveals a little more about the main character and how/why she changes.

But I never felt compelled to reread those series. Why was this one different? The clever snark? Yes, but other series have clever snark. A kick-ass heroine? Sure, but again, other series have kick-ass heroines. Hot guys the main character tries to resist but eventually falls for? Yep, the others have that, too. Awesome secondary characters? Yep, they all have some great backup singers.

World-building? Sure, but like other UF, the world we know is filled with magic and the associated creatures, and the explanations for the juxtaposition are all different, from “it’s always been this way” to some cataclysmic occurrence that introduced magic into our world.

So, what’s left?

Voice. That elusive element that is part of a writer’s style, or at least style for a particular book or genre. Voice is that thing we’re all told we need to find for ourselves, that maddening part of writing that is so hard to define, but we can pick out in other writers’ prose. It’s the voice that draws me back, I think. Andrews’ voice in the KD books is easy-going, natural for the character, and engaging, with a touch of laugh-out-loud humor.

Note that a lot of UF is written in first person POV, so voice and character are woven tight with each other. Come to think of it, almost all the UF I’ve ever read is written in 1st POV.

I won’t even attempt to explain voice, because there are so many other writers and writing teachers out there who have done a good job of it. Check out Janice Hardy, Jane Friedman, and Lisa Hall-Wilson, for starters. Lisa Hall-Wilson has been doing a good series on POV and voice in recent months.

In other news, I have one lesson left to turn in, then I’ll check in with my writing teacher (who runs the program) to see what my next steps are. And just maybe my son will send me some more pictures of his kittens πŸ˜€

Happy Writing!

Author: Julie Holmes, author

A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for over a decade, I have been published in small press magazines such as "Fighting Chance" and "The Galactic Citizen". I write adult mystery with a touch of romance, mystery with extrasensory elements, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy, and I'm represented by the fabulous Cynthia Zigmund of Second City Publishing Services. My debut novel, "Murder in Plane Sight", has been released by Camel Press (an imprint of Coffeetown Press/Epicenter Press). In real life, I am a technical writer and empty-nester with a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), two dogs, five chickens, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. My garden, our hobby farm, and Nature's annual seasons are some of my muses.

19 thoughts on “It’s all in the voice #amreading #amwriting

  1. Hahahahahaha, heheheheheheeeeeeeeeeee. M is VERY happy that you’ve enjoyed Kate Daniels so much. Oh, how I love that series. And pretty much everything else Ilona Andrews has ever written. I’ve read many of the books you mention above, too, but Team Andrews is only bested by Jim Butcher, and even that’s a pretty close call, influenced highly by the fact that I’ve always been head over heels in love with Harry, and am therefore inclined to lean a bit in his direction. πŸ˜€ Peace Talks is fantastic, btw, but … but … but have you READ the blurb for Battle Ground???? OMG. I’m scared to read it, now. (Curse you, Jim Butcher! Why must you torment your readers so??? Oh, yeah. Now I remember. Because we LOVE it. πŸ˜€ )

    In all seriousness, I’m truly happy that you’ve enjoyed Kate & Curran, and I hope you’ll check out some of their other work. One of my favorites was the second (I think) book in a series called The Edge, which I wish they’d continued. But ALL of their books are great.

    BTW, I have Murder in Plane Sight coming into plain sight on my Kindle soon. πŸ˜€ I have so many books on there, it’s a wonder it hasn’t exploded by now. I’m going to have to live to be about 125 before I get to all of the ones already downloaded. And who knows how many more I’ll have by then! But I’m looking forward to reading yours, for sure!

    Have a great weekend, and happy reading, my friend! πŸ™‚ ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    • As I get sucked into the Kate Daniels books AGAIN (and I think of you every time I do πŸ˜€ ), even though I know what will happen, I’m still enjoying them. The spin-off series with Julie and Derek is coming out soon; they had some free chapters on their website that I just HAD to read. I’m going to have to put myself on an Andrews break, because I’m not getting anything else done! I hear you about the towering TBR list. I’d have to take a no-writing vacation for about a month to even put a dent in my list, I think. Especially with NaNoWriMo coming up. It’s just too tempting to read one more chapter. Or reread that chapter. Or reread that book. And the next one …

      Seriously, great recommendation (even if it means I’m not cleaning, or writing–wait, I’m supposed to be writing …). So glad I got to meet Kate and Curran (and the rest of the crew, tho’ I did mourn Aunt B. She was a badass!)

      Now to try and catch up with emails and blog reading and stuff. But the next KD book is right over there … I could read a chapter, then my emails. Or maybe two chapters …

      Have a wonderful rest of your week, Marcia! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Again, I’m cackling with mad laughter! You sound like me with several of my favorite series, Kate Daniels being one right at the top. But Dresden still trumps all in my heart. And hey, remember my old saying that the good thing about books is that they’re ready when you are? Well, oddly enough, the same thing applies to dust. And laundry. And sweeping the floor. Around here, the only thing that can’t be put off very long is litter box duty! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

        Read on and be happy, I say! Or re-read on, as the case may be! πŸ™‚ ❀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the way authors can learn so much from what they read, Julie. That’s one thing I think should be a priority for every reader – reading. And then reading some more. That’s how you learn what works and doesn’t work. I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of UF, but I do respect that world-building skill. And I think we can learn a lot even from (sub)genres we don’t read much (or even don’t like).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed, Margot! I think the craft is applied a little differently in different genres, so by reading a variety of books, we as authors can see how other writers use the craft. It’s especially interesting when reading the same author but different genres, like Tami Hoag romantic mysteries vs thrillers, or Nora Roberts paranormal-touched stuff vs her earlier more romantic stuff vs the Eve Dallas books.

      Have a wonderful rest of your week!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I never reread books, Julie. For some reason, knowing what’s going to happen dampens the excitement. For that reason, I never read blurbs after purchasing a book, even if it’s been months/years. I like being completely in the dark about the story. That said, I can see the value of rereading a book as a learning tool. Why did I like it so much? Usually it comes down to incredible characters or incredible craft. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed! The books I have reread do boil down to really good characters, often an intriguing plot, but ultimately, I think, the craft. The first book I ever consciously started to pay attention to craft was Terry Goodkind’s first Sword of Truth book, Wizard’s First Rule. After that, I started to pay attention every time I read a book, whether I’m drawn into it, or feel I can put it down for a few days before going back.

      Have a great rest of your week, Diana!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve reread a few books that I loved and enjoy them even more the second time around:) I have the Dresden books on my TBR list, cant wait for that! Have a great weekend and happy writing and reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t reread whole books. I’m a slow reader; that would take forever. But I do pause and re-read sections to figure out what I love so much about the prose or dialogue or whatever. Beautiful cat . . . maybe I’ll get in a cap nap today too.:-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve done that too, Priscilla, reread scenes or passages to figure out why they work so well.

      Cat naps are awesome! I try to grab one every day after I’m finished with my work-from-home work. It’s a nice opportunity to just zone out for a bit.

      Have a great rest of your week!


  6. Great post, Julie. I love hearing your writer’s perspective. I think I’ll have to try out the series you mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I do love rereading books, although I don’t know that I’ve ever re-read an entire series. No, wait, LOTR was one I’ve reread. And then there are certain books I’ve read multiple times.

    I do read a lot of UF, but I adore Harry Dresden. Getting ready to start Skin Game. I already have Peace Talks waiting and Battleground on order. I love Butcher’s snark.

    Happy reading—and writing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mae, I am absolutely certain you’d LOVE the Kate Daniels series Julie is talking about. It is right up there only a wee tiny step below Harry in my all-time favorite urban fantasies, and I think you’d feel the same way. Hope you get a chance to check it out one day! (Curran, the Beast Lord, is amazing. πŸ˜€

      Liked by 2 people

    • There are few books I’ve read more than once, and I have the whole Dresden series on my “read again” list. I reread Skin Game before Peace Talks, but only one of the earlier books, Blood Rites, because that’s where Harry gets Mouse. He is so adorable!

      If you like Dresden, you’ll love Kate Daniels. And Marcia’s right, Curran is awesome! Kate’s no slouch, either. Andrews is also starting a spin-off series with one of the main secondary characters, so I’m looking forward to that.

      Have a great rest of your week, Mae!


  8. When, oh when, will your son send more pictures of his kittens?! πŸ™‚
    Sounds like you’re having a great time with those books! I’m so glad for you. I must make a note of them. To get to. Eventually. :/

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! I keep waiting for more pics. I’ll have to text him about it πŸ™‚ OR hey, I know, I could make the 1-hour drive to his apartment and get my kitty fix πŸ™‚

      Lovin’ the books (however, that is time I’m not writing, so there’s some guilt there). I hear ya about eventually. I have stacks (both paper and e-book) of books I need to read, but somehow there are those that sneak to the front of the line.

      Have a great rest of your week, Betsy!

      Liked by 1 person

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