I’ve read a lot of shifter novels. There’s always the strong alpha, his 2IC beta and sundry others. There’s nearly always a cruel alpha or pack in someone’s history. And, of course, there’s the discovery of Mates and a HEA. Wolf Run has these things but with a difference that’s refreshing.
The alpha hero isn’t as obviously strong as you’d expect. He’s a lost soul searching for a pack of his own. Scott, the beta, isn’t strong and decisive, just one rung below the alpha. He’s a ditzy artist with a sense of direction that wouldn’t challenge a blank piece of paper. The ‘sundry others’ is Danny, a man never meant to lead, but who works his butt off to provide for his Mate. He’s the real hero of this novel.
Scott and Danny live in a run-down trailer. Their relationship glows for all its dysfunction. You know from the first page they’re meant to be together forever, and you know, just as clearly, they’re floundering. They don’t have long before everything explodes. Danny can’t keep going the way he has been and, when he trips and falls, Scotty will be gone—not because he wants to be, but because he can’t function without Danny.
Enter Mick, stage right. It’s Mick’s job to provide the stability and security Danny and Scott need to keep them together, to make them more than before.
The identification of Mates was another difference in this novel, from other shifter stories. Usually, meeting your Mate is something that hits the shifter between the eyes so sharply every previous idea of life and love is completely overturned. That didn’t happen in this story. There was no emotional acknowledgement that Scott and Danny were Mick’s Mates. We were told it was so. That lack of drama with regard to Mates confused me at the beginning. My preconceptions made me question Mick’s motivation, especially when he had sex with Scott almost immediately, before he met Danny, even though he knew Scott and Danny were Mates. At the time it seemed to show a complete disregard for the connection Scott and Danny shared, regardless of the fact Mick told Scott he respected it.
Scott is absolutely adorable, although he came across as very young, often too young. His naivety and absolute, unquestioning trust made me worry about him.
Danny broke my heart. He worked so hard to keep Scotty safe but nothing he did was enough. Then in waltzes Mick, who takes over and makes everything wonderful with little more than a snap of his fingers. Danny was drawn beautifully.
It’s no wonder, with two such unique characters as Scott and Danny, that Mick would come across flat and insipid for the first half of the book. I think Tortuga intended Mick to be—not weak, but translucent—at the beginning because he’d been alone too long. He certainly grew in substance throughout the story and, by the end, was a protector worthy of the other two. Unfortunately his lack of character strength at the beginning, and his too-slow growth throughout, set my opinion of him as… meh.
My test for a book: would I read it again? Yes. Definitely. Even with the problems with Mick at the beginning, this book is so different from other shifter stories, it’s like the first autumn breeze. I know, without knowing where or what, that there are subtle layers in this story that I’ll find on a second or subsequent reading.
I love writers' retreats. It was such a productive time.
In two days (Friday night to Sunday lunch) I edited an entire novel (Just the Way You Are), jotted down notes for three new stories, plotted another new novel and thought about--never underestimate the importance of thinking--what I was going to do to fix a half-finished novel.
Since then, I've done another read-through of Just the Way You Are and picked up 128 things to change. They're minor, though, so won't take long. The novel is actually hanging together well. I was surprised there weren't more things for me to change in this round because the last edits were major. I took out one character's point of view completely, combined two other characters into one character, and removed one plot line completely. I didn't think I'd rewritten the bits around those things cohesively enough to withstand another major edit, but I did. *feeling good*
I worked on the synopsis for that story tonight. I've changed it a lot--it needed it because the plot had changed--and I think I've ruined it, but I'm not sure. I'll leave it sit tonight and have another look at it tomorrow night after I finish making the rest of the small changes to the story. I'm up to 68/128.
I love working on a project when it's so close to being ready to send out. It's the same kind of feeling I get when I begin a new story and everything is the exploration of the unknown.
I have two weeks' holiday coming up and plan to spend most of it editing a SF story I've been editing for a while. It's been sitting for a few months so I'll need to read it again to see exactly where I'm up to with it. There was a lot of passive writing in it that's taken a number of passes to remove. It's another story that suffered major plot changes after I'd written the whole thing. Primarily, that was because a couple of plot elements clashed with the way the protagonist's character developed. It was clunky and unbelievable. It works better now; I just need to strengthen the main character's motivation at the beginning so the conflict in the middle is clear. I can't wait to get back to it.
Okay, I've spent enough time talking about writing. Time to go back and DO the writing. *love my job*
This weekend I'll be away at a writers' retreat. It's one I go to every year with members of a crit group I've been with for more than a decade. We're all friends as well as crit partners.
We go to the same place every year and the weekend follows a similar pattern: walks, workshops, writing. We stay in the same block of apartments near the beach. It's very comfortable and familiar now. Some years we've focused on the workshops and had very little writing time. This weekend, we'll have two workshops and lots of writing time.
So, why go on a retreat and not just spend the weekend at home writing?
Therefore, the retreat means I'll write a lot more than I usually would on any given weekend. I really need that at the moment because my writing time has become sporadic and that achieves nothing. I need a push-start to get it back to routine.
(The pics are from last year's retreat.)
This week I had the pleasure of reading Out of the Gate by EM Lynley.
This story has something for everyone. It’s a story of struggle against inner demons, others’ prejudices, selfishness, foolishness and danger. It’s also a story of growing love, and the nature of friendship.
Evan trains horses because he loves them. His small but growing business provides him with a sense of satisfaction and joy his previous acting career didn’t. It’s obvious he has secrets and the tension builds beautifully before the final reveal of them.
Actor Wes Tremayne is on his way up. The only thing threatening his rising career is the possibility he’ll be outed. In the end the decision to out himself is an easy one: Evan deserves more than to be someone’s dirty secret. The reaction of the television network he’s contracted to isn’t what Wes expects, and the timing of his big reveal is cruelly taken from him, perpetrated by someone he’d never suspected.
You’d think that would be enough plot for a story, but, wait, there’s more. There’s also Evan’s less-than-likeable soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend. As well, something strange is happening with the owners of the horses Evan trains, security at his farm is threatened, and Evan himself comes under investigation by the racing authorities. All the plot elements weave in and around each other, skilfully linking the world of horse racing with the world of acting until they come together in a series of (figurative) explosions that kept me turning the pages because I had to find out who was responsible for what. The clues were there, but so were some red herrings.
The world of horse racing is skilfully drawn, showing the devotion and dedication of those working with the horses, as well as promoting a need for training facilities to buy shares in ice machine companies or medicinal cold-pack manufacturers. The only thing that made me question the reality of the world is that someone other than a jockey unsaddled a horse after a race. That might be an American thing: in Australia, the jockey is the only person to handle his riding equipment from weigh-in before the race to weigh-in after the race.
EM Lynley is a solid writer. I’ve yet to read something from her that isn’t eminently readable and enjoyable. Out of the Gate is another good one. Four stars.
E E Montgomery
About writing, life, and random thoughts.
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