Tag: Fiction

Winter is Coming

Winter is Coming

Okay, I know that line has been taken, but it seems that winter is a theme running through my writing these days. I recently finished a new alternative history mystery novel, (as yet unpublished—still at first reader stage) that arose out of a writing workshop I attended on the Oregon Coast. It is set in what is Kyrgyzstan in our world. Okay, okay. I can hear you now. KYRGYZSTAN? Where the heck is Kyrgyzstan?

Think north of Afghanistan in and around the Tian Shan and Allay mountains.

It’s a small, ex-Soviet Union country—one of the ‘stans’.

My story grew out of an exercise at a Historical, Time Travel, and Alternate History workshop presided over by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, author of such wonderful time travel novels as Snipers. She asked us to take an event out of the wonderful non-fiction book The Great Upheaval, and use that as a jumping off point for an alternate history story. The short story that arose presumes that history diverged way back in the late-1700s at the time of Catherine the Great, or Yekaterina as I call her. It was around the same time as the American and French revolutions when Catherine was the great Tsarina of the Russian people. She was an interesting lady who wasn’t even Russian by birth, but she married the Tsar and then usurped his throne. Like I said, interesting lady.

In her younger years Catherine was tempted by the influence of the great statesmen and philosophers of her day to consider democracy for her people, but eventually decided that it wouldn’t work—for Russian peasants. Instead she went to war against the Ottoman Empire. In our world she won her battles because the Ottoman Empire was waning.

But what if Catherine’s depredations (and they were vicious) woke the Ottomans up? What if the Ottomans found their strength again and took the battle to Catherine and the Russians? The Russians were stretched by conflicts on their northern and southern borders and with Poland.

Because the Ottomans won (in my version of history), it led to a world very unlike this one. It led much sooner to the end of the French Revolution so that Napoleon never became emperor and never ruled. As a result, the French government never supported the fledgling United States in their great democratic experiment, and that led to Great Britain taking over most of North America.

At least in my made-up world.

In the novel that grew out of the short story, a rag-tag group of Russian refugees escaped the Ottoman juggernaut and now live in a small country called Fergana. Fergana lies caught like the gristle in a joint between the two behemoths of the Chinese and Ottoman Empires. In the late fall of a modern day New Moscow a young girl is found dead in a city park. Thus begins my new novel, After Yekaterina. It’s late October and the first snow is threatening as Detektiv Alexander Kazakov stands over her body.

That is how I came up with my latest mystery series. And now, as I start the second novel in the series, the autumn ocean storms are settling in over my home, but in Fergana it is deepest January and the long winter has arrived.

My goodness I like this writing thing.

There be Dragons…

There be Dragons…

A new bundle including the illustrious Kevin J. Anderson and myself and others is available at your favorite online retailer.

My novel, Ice Dragon, is a post-apocalyptic YA with zombies, romance and, yes, dragons!

Check it out!

Back to Burma (Myanmar)

Back to Burma (Myanmar)

I traveled to Myanmar (Burma) in 1997 while I was living and working in Thailand. At the time, the country was still mostly closed to foreigners. Only select parts of the country were open. During my month ‘in-country’ (the maximum the visa allowed) I conducted research on the Burmese puppet troupes and stayed at small guesthouses for a better chance of meeting local people. Unfailingly, everyone I met was giving of their time, knowledge and their kindness.

That began my love affair with Burma. (You can read more about my travels here.)

Since then I’ve written a number of novels set in Burma, including the modern, paranormal romance Shades of Moonlight.

In April 2017 Guardbridge Books published Death By Effigy, the first in my historical Aung and Yamin Fantasy Mystery series, in which an aging puppet singer and a mischievous puppet, must solve the murder of the king of the puppets or risk the destruction of the entire troupe.

I’m pleased to announce that the second in the series, A Death In Passing, has just been released, continuing the trials and tribulations of Aung, the puppet singer, with his troublesome assistant, Yamin, as they try to solve the murder of Burma’s most powerful spirit dancer.

In all of these books I’ve attempted to be true to the country’s culture and to accurately present the wonderful nature-magic systems (with a few embellishments). Burma seems to be in my blood and I envision more novels set in this wonderful and varied country. Whether historical or modern novels, I hope to capture the country’s magic for readers.

If you’ve traveled in Burma, I’d love to hear how I did.

Inspiration and a new Short Story

Inspiration and a new Short Story

I’m pleased to announce the publication of a romance novella called ‘The Rescue’. The story is based loosely on the fact that I broke my leg in January just like Amanda did in the story. The difference was, I fell on ice, not wet wood and I never had a handsome search and rescue man come and rescue me. Sigh.

I had to walk out.

I hope you enjoy the story. Here is the blurb:

The Rescue, by Karen L. McKee

Amanda Ripper escaped a controlling husband who convinced her that she was weak and an invalid. To convince herself that it wasn’t true, she fills her life with friends and hiking and refuses to become involved with anyone again. Then she falls and breaks her leg, reigniting the specter of her old life. Can a handsome man from search and rescue to give Amanda a chance at life again?

Available on Amazon, Smashwords and Kobo.

Great Expectations: Cats and Readers

Great Expectations: Cats and Readers

Kayaking the west coast. (1996) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

This past week I was supposed to be on the coast of Oregon with a group of writers learning about marketing books to bookstores. I was really looking forward to the trip and being with a group of great friends. I had everything packed and ready to be loaded into my car. My cats were primed and ready to for the trip. (They always travel with me, and the hotel where I stay at has known these boys since they were babies—it’s like a second home).

Then Ben, the larger of the two boys got sick and not just throwing up, but a total shut down. He quit eating (a VERY big thing for this guy) and drinking and became very quiet and cooperative. Now you have to know Ben. This is a cat that pulls paintings off walls and statues off shelves just to get your attention. When he took a downturn I ended up taking him to the emergency veterinarian. The next day more vets and more bills and at that point the I was still holding up hope that he might recover and I might still head to my course a day late.

Not to be.

Ben.

More tests, more bills and by this point I was administering subcutaneous fluids twice a day, force feeding three times and day and wrestling pills down his throat twice a day. It’s a wonder he’s still speaking to me. How do you spell stress?

The point I’m making here is that all my expectations were dashed and so I had to totally regroup and refocus myself from a week that I had booked off from work to a week working and caring for sick cats (yes, Ben’s brother got the same bug). It was jarring. It was unpleasant not least because I had a sick cat, but also because I wasn’t doing what my mind had expected. I raise this because it brought home something important writers need to think about, which is reader expectation.

Reader expectation is what the reader is expecting to experience in a book. For instance, if J.R.R. Tolkien had written a shoot-‘em-up Science Fiction book as a follow-up to the Lord of the Rings, think about how disappointed the Lord of the Rings fan would have been when they bought the book. Same goes for the reader who picks up a book that has a cover and blurb that looks like a suspense story, but when they get reading they find it’s women’s fiction. Or the reader whose book spends an immense amount of time early on lovingly describing the gun the hero owns, but by the end of the book the gun has never been used or even appeared in the story again. Each of these authors has violated reader expectations.

Shiva trying to catch a fly in Oregon.

A few days ago I was talking with a writer friend of mine. He was bummed out because his editor at a New York publisher had turned down book two of his two book contract and my friend couldn’t understand what that had happened. In discussion with the writer he advised that book one was a lavish fantasy involving the Jewish kabala. Book two was a comedic superhero novel. Anyone see a problem here? Apparently his editor did, because the publishing house had ‘bought’ my friend as an author of lavish Jewish fantasies, but his second novel failed to deliver this in every respect. The publishing house likely turned the book down out of concern for reader expectations. Basically my writer friend was asking to his readers to give up the expectations he had created through his first book and start all over again. I suggest that readers don’t like to do this anymore than I wanted to give up my week in Oregon.

In all of these cases the author failed to meet reader expectations and as a result the reader would have as dissatisfying an experience as I have had this week. Yes, the book(s) may still have been well written. My writer friends second book was undoubtedly wonderful (he’s a great writer), but it wasn’t what the publisher was banking on the reader wanting. He should have written another Jewish fantasy. He should have written under a different name for the superhero novel. Not that all our books have to be the same, but if we want to establish a career as a writer, we need to establish a brand. We might have several brands for different kinds of books written under different  names. For instance my romance novels are under Karen L. McKee, while my fantasy/SF is written under Karen L. Abrahamson. It helps reader know what they are getting and this helps meet reader expectation.

So as writers we need to make sure that we don’t put our readers through the experience I’ve had this week. With two sick cats, I definitely didn’t get what I’d thought I bought when I booked the week off.

(and in case you were interested, the boys are both on the mend.

The boys.
Book 2 of the Terra Trilogy is now available!

Book 2 of the Terra Trilogy is now available!

I’m thrilled to announce that book two of the Terra Trilogy is now available in e-book and the print publication will be available in May.

In the years after the ‘Big One’ destroyed most of human civilization, a lone city perches precariously on the Pacific Northwest coast of North America.

When nomadic marauders attack the Independent city of Couver, seventeen-year-old Terra Vargas must choose: use her Cartos powers to protect her city, or rescue her mother from the marauders’ camp. But as her control over the earth power erodes, so does her ability to choose wisely.

Stay or go?

Either way, there will be a horrible price to pay.

Available on Amazon and at Smashwords and other fine e-tailers.

 

Rhumb Lines, Novel Writing and How to get from point A to Point B

Rhumb Lines, Novel Writing and How to get from point A to Point B

Dhow in coastal waters off Zanzibar Island (1994) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m in the midst of a year of writing sequels. Actually it may take two or three years to get through all the sequels needed for my current novels. As I have already mentioned on this blog I’ve found writing my first sequel a bit of a challenge even though I knew where I was going. It seemed that I kept straying off course.

This puts me in mind of the challenges mariners had back before Gerard Mercator created his famous projection in 1569. A projection is a way of taking three dimensional landforms off of a globe and placing them onto a flat surface (a map) while retaining relative conformity of shape and relation between the landforms. What Mercator did was take meridians of latitude and longitude and make them all aim straight north-south or east-west creating 90 degree angles at each intersection. Sure it expanded the landforms closer to the poles, but it also gave mariners a means of plotting courses over long distances.

Picture this overlaid on top of a typical world map with latitude and longitude laid out.

You see, prior to Mercator, mariners shared two fears – bad weather and getting lost. (Actually I share their fears, the latter most particularly when I’m writing.) In the years before Mercator’s projection, mariners had generally confined their sailing to the Mediterranean and coastal waters. The transatlantic voyages to America were done by the stars, but there were no helpful portolano (mariners maps using compass roses to show sailing routes) of the great oceans. Mercator’s grid made sailing the open ocean as easy as sailing the coasts because it gave sailors a means to chart a straight line (a rhumb line) from Point A to Point B across the ocean. From this they could plan their headings and make their voyages.

Of course sailing the distance from Cape Town to New York is about as huge an endeavor as writing a novel (or a sequel) from page one to the end and neither route actually takes a straight line. Sailors travelling that distance recognized that they didn’t travel a flat earth, they travelled a globe and so they added to their calculations, the curve of a great circle that was the largest circle they could draw through a sphere and this route showed the actual shortest distance between two points. Sailors then chose their routes by drawing straight chart lines between the great circle and rhumb line that allowed them to approximate the great circle along the route.

Tall ship off Portuguese coast (2006) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

This seems a lot like the process I use when I’m writing. I know where I start and I know where I want to finish (most of the time). The writing process then becomes one of deciding how far to travel from the rhumb line (the plot or the backbone) of the story, for it seems to me that novels have great circles, too. These are the themes you are writing about and you don’t want to allow your plots to take over, so that your story is nothing but plot, but neither do you want your subplots to take you so far out of your way that the story no longer fits within its themes. And that’s where sailing and writing diverge in their process. Sailors use the great circles and rhumb lines to plot their course and they follow it from Point A to Point B. A writer, on the other hand, will use them to plan their novel or their series of novels, but also to look behind and check whether they have wandered too far off course to get to their final destination. This is the challenge in sequels: viewing the second or third book as just one of the charted lines between the rhumb and the great circle, building its way to the ultimate end of the voyage.

 

 

Free Fiction

Free Fiction

Pretense for Murder (part two)

By Karen L. Abrahamson

Vallon Drake continues her investigation into a dead girl where no girl should be. In a school with too many students with too much power, continuing the investigation might just lead to a second body: Vallon’s.

To read on, click here.

Recent Fantasy

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Recent Mystery

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Recent Romance


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