what I've been reading and what they're doing right (#SFWApro)

Last Thursday, I finished my latest work, Cygnet Moon, and shipped the novel and its accompanying submission package off to my agent. Writing a novel is an immersive business for me, especially when I get into the final quarter and during edits. I don't read anything but the story that I'm working on. I do this so that I don't accidentally pick up someone else's voice during my final round of edits.

I restrict my reading to blog posts and research, then once I'm done, I go on an absolute binge of reading. Here are a few books that I've found worth my while:

Preternatural by G.S. Anderson

I once had an agent who offered up a unique challenge: Anyone, he posited, can tell you what is wrong with a story. The challenge is in telling someone what is RIGHT with a story. Find what works, and you can discover writing secrets, which you can then apply to your own writing. That suggestion has remained with me all these years, so when I find myself enjoying an author's work, I start looking for what that particular author is doing right.

Anderson tells twelve unique stories in this little volume, and I had to read it twice to find out what she was doing right, because her writing is so smooth and enjoyable, I found myself reading for fun the first time through.

What she did right: smooth storytelling with skillful prose made me forget to study fiction and simply enjoy stories for fun. Anderson's writing reminded me Stephen King's Joyland. Skillful storytelling with a cool Twilight Zone twist hidden within each tale. I read it quickly--too quickly--and read it again. My favorite story was "The Unicorn" and I hope that Anderson will give us more shorts such as these. If you're looking for something perfect to while away an afternoon, I highly suggest you check out Preternatural.

Those Across the River and The Necromancer's House by Christopher Buehlman.

Over the winter, I read Christopher Buehlman's Between Two Fires. I enjoyed his story and writing style so much that when my daughter gave me a B&N gift card for my birthday, I ordered his other two novels: Those Across the River and The Necromancer's House.

Of the two, I found myself enjoying the Those Across the River more than The Necromancer's House, but I believe that was more to do with my mindset. Both stories are well worth your time, though, especially if you love horror.

I read Those Across the River in two days. The story is set in post-World War I Georgia when Frank Nichols and his wife Eudora move to Whitbrow, Georgia and learn of the town's disturbing history. Once a month, the town sends a gift of two pigs across the river where the old Savoyard plantation once stood, but the Great Depression is hitting all of the farmers hard, and the town votes to stop wasting its livestock in a ritual that only a few want to maintain. However, it isn't long before those across the river return to take what is no longer freely given.

What is right about this book: everything. The pacing moves at a breakneck speed and Buehlman has a talent for dark fiction, knowing just how much to weave into the story to keep the reader hooked without going overboard into the dreaded school of over-writing. The story is lean, quick, and cuts like a knife.

Unlike Those Across the River, The Necromancer's House jumped between different points of view, which jarred me at times. I had a little trouble getting into the story and the characters, but once there, I really found myself enjoying this twisted take on Baba Yaga. Buehlman's climax and ending were superb.

What he does right: Buehlman takes the time to research his stories, and he puts just enough of that research into the work to give his story authenticity. The balance is absolutely perfect. I'll be watching for more of Buehlman's work.

The Tainted City by Courtney Schafer.

This is the second book in Schafer's Shattered Sigil series and I am currently reading it. I love Schafer's storytelling.

What she does right: Likable characters woven into a good, old-fashioned adventure story with lots of twists and betrayals. Kiran is my favorite character in this story, and Dev is back with style.

I'll be back with a full review when I'm done, but Tainted City is my last fun read before I start work on a new novella.

If you've got a minute and you're reading something good, leave it in the comments. Let us know what you find right about the author's work.