Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Sunday, March 25, 2012

NEVER Enough Time For it All!

Well people, I’ll post some more writing info in a few days.  Right now, I’m so overwhelmed with work and can’t seem to catch up with deadlines facing me right and left.  I’d probably rather be reading or anything about now, but this pays the bills and unfortunately they never stop coming.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Spring Equinox Has Arrived!

And not a moment too soon, although it was a very chilly 29 degrees here this morning - very unusual for March.  The bats have gone back to their caves and who can blame them?  But the birds and chipmunks are all frolicking about and seem very happy the sun is out and warmer weather is on the way.  I hope you all had an enjoyable day.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patty's One and All!

I hope everyone has had a very nice day!  We have rain here and very dark skies, but a good day to read and catch up on email.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

More on First Pages

My last post was about the importance of the first page of your novel and how it is essential that something captivating happens in the first couple of paragraphs. We all want readers to keep reading. Every writer seems to have their own voice and their own method of drawing the reader into their story. This is easier to do with practice and lots of reading and writing. All of us can look back on previous work and find several places to make it better. One of my favorite sayings is to “never ever give up. Anything worth doing takes a lot of time and effort and things never happen overnight.” The important thing is to keep moving in the right direction. It also helps to know that not every reader will like your book.

I wanted to post some first paragraphs from another genre. There is so much variety out there that all of us can find our perfect genre to write in and who says you have to stay with just one? I bet I have half a dozen stories that I’m working on at any given time and they range all over the place. Fantasy is my favorite, but I don’t stop there. I have some pretty wild dreams and I usually find parts of those working their way into my stories. I really think if you can dream it up, you can write about it and let it be the basis for a good tale, no matter what genre you choose to write in.

So let’s look at some fantasy tales. I love anything that revolves around King Arthur. What a man he was! We would be very lucky to have people of such character in our governments today. I collect King Arthur tales, among other things, and have quite an extensive library of these books. Reading these stories can really inspire me. In my opinion, one of the best series is by Marion Zimmer Bradley “The Mists of Avalon.” I have all of the books in this series and have read them several times. I also watched the movie four times, but as we all know the movies aren’t anything like the original books, although the movie was very good.

Here is the first paragraph for that book:

Even in high summer, Tintagel was a haunted place; Igraine, Lady of Duke Gorlois, looked out over the sea from the headland. As she stared out into the fog and mists, she wondered how she would ever know when the night and day were of equal length, so that she could keep the Feast of the New Year. This year the spring storms had been unusually violent; night and day the crash of the sea had resounded over the castle until no man or woman within could sleep and even the hounds whimpered mournfully.

Strangely, there is no dialogue until the end of the second page in this novel, but it seems to work for this story. The reader gets a sense that Igraine has a lot on her mind and that she is alone much of the time in that old castle. I think the story starts out with a bit of mysteriousness and not at all with a bang like in our mystery and thriller examples, yet there is something very chilling about looking out into fog and mists.

Let’s look at another one. This is from the “Queen of Camelot” by Nancy McKenzie.

The night of my birth the famed witch Giselda, the ugliest woman in all Britain, came to see my father, the King of Northgallis. It was the last night in April, cold and blowing a fine, icy rain. My father and his drinking companions, such nobles and petty lords as could leave their lands in the hands of others, sat in the hall before a great log fire while the women attended my mother and brought him tidings as the night wore on.

You can see this one also has a very mellow start, but we do know this baby is born into royalty and somewhere that witch will enter the story and maybe we’ll find out why she went to see the King of Northgallis on that stormy April night. Since this is a fantasy story, there are several ways that could go.

This next example is the same way. This is from Mary Stewart’s “Merlin Trilogy.” This first paragraph is simply one line: The day my uncle Camlach came home, I was just six years old.

Obviously, we would have to read more of this to get into the story, but this one line does make you wonder where was uncle Camlach all this time and why did he go away to start with and for so long? Many things spring to mind here. He could have been working to pay off a debt, or perhaps he was imprisoned for some evil deed. A lot of imprisonment went on in medieval times and sometimes with no reason at all. Has the child always lived with uncle Camlach, or is there more to the story than that? Where are the child’s parents or perhaps he/she is orphaned.

Now let’s look at one that starts with dialogue. This is from “The Excalibur Murders” by JMC Blair:

“Good heavens look at them, Colin. They actually enjoy hitting each other. And hurting each other. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that.” Merlin stood at the window at the top of his tower in Camelot. A large raven sat perched on his shoulder, and another one sat on the windowsill beside him; he fed them from a pocketful of bread crumbs. Below in the courtyard knights were exercising, which meant drilling with sword and shield. The clang of metal on metal rang clearly, as did their cries and grunts.

I’m sure Merlin thinks he’ll be expected to heal all the injuries later, being a wizard and all. At least this tale starts out with more action and promises adventures along the way.

Here is the first paragraph from “The WYRD Sisters” by Terry Pratchett:

The wind howled. Lightning stabbed at the earth erratically, like an inefficient assassin. Thunder rolled back and forth across the dark, rain-lashed hills.

There is no dialogue here, but this looks to be a bit more promising as far as excitement that may be coming. We get the picture of a dark and stormy night. Perhaps something lurks in the shadows.

As I began reading the openings of some of these novels it made me wonder why I like them so much. The stories certainly don’t get started right away, but maybe this is more typical of the fantasy genre. I’d like to hear your thoughts if you’d care to share.

Next time we’ll look at historical fantasy and romance.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The First Page - The Most Important One in Your Book

The first page and, more importantly, what is in the first two paragraphs of your book is probably the most crucial writing you can do. This part needs to introduce your main character, your setting and also the conflict your character faces. You can hint at some need, desire, or trouble that your character may be facing as the novel progresses. But it is essential to have your hook in the first few lines if possible. You want the reader to pick up your book because they are curious enough to want to read the rest of the story to see what happens.

You don’t have long to do this because most readers probably won’t read past the first couple of paragraphs, or even sentences of your book, so if you can set your story off with a bang all the better. Of course there are many ways to do this depending on the genre.

Let’s look at Gone by Lisa Gardner. This is her first paragraph: “She is dreaming again. She doesn’t want to. She wrestles with the sheets, tosses her head, tries to keep the dream vision of herself from walking up those stairs, from opening that door, from entering the gloom.” Now this is a mystery novel and hooks may be easier to do, but it makes me want to read more. I want to know what is behind the door she doesn’t want to open, don’t you?

Now let’s look at one that starts off with dialogue. I feel that dialogue always gets the story moving in a hurry because you can show fear or other emotions right off the bat. This is the opening from Steven King’s Desperation.

“Oh! Oh, Jesus! Gross!”
“What, Mary, what?”
“Didn’t you see that?”
“See what?”

Doesn’t this make you wonder what Mary saw? Whatever it was, it must be shocking.

Of course another master at thrilling suspense is Jeffery Deaver. This is the first paragraph of Coffin Dancer: “When Edward Carney said good-bye to his wife, Percey, he never thought it would be the last time he’d see her.” Okay, you can see with just that simple sentence that something dramatic and life-changing is about to happen to either Percey or Edward. I wonder what it is.

As I said this is pretty easy to master with mystery, suspense and thrillers. Next time we’ll look at the first paragraphs in some other genres. You can see how it is an absolute necessity to catch the reader’s attention as soon as possible.

Just thinking about all this makes me what to look at the first paragraphs of my novels again. I know I can always do better, but I wonder if all writers feel that way, even the big names.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Dreaded Task of Marketing our Books

Whether we writers like it or not, when you write a book you have to market that book to get any sales. An we all know we’d rather be spending that time to write something else wonderful, whether it’s another mysterious fantasy or paranormal book, an action-packed adventure, a steamy romance, a thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat or something historical to transport you to another time and place.

Marketing has always been the dreaded, but necessary evil. Of course I don’t spend near the time I should to market my books and I’m not that good at it since my imagination lies in other places, like mysterious and magickal fantasy worlds. But here are ten things you can try.

Some things I have tried and think are necessary:

1.) Put up a website, even if it’s just a blog right now. That is free if money is an object and it usually is, unfortunately.

2.) Set up a Facebook page for your book. You can load pics and links there. And it’s also free to get started.

3.) Set up a Twitter account, another freebie.

4.) Post on as many writing sights as you can with links to your books, but be careful not to use the same post on all the threads, especially with Amazon. Reword them first. It’s a pain, but it will keep them from deleting them for you. Posting is also free.

5.) Find other writing blogs that you like and make comments about things that interest you. This is another free one.

6.) If you live in a place that has any bookstores, try to set up a book signing. Again, it’s free.

7.) Submit a press release about your book to the local paper. Again, free unless you snail mail it.

8.) Donate a book to your local library. This will only cost you the price of one book.

9.) Join a local writer’s group, if there is one in your area, and if not think about starting one. This may cost, but probably would be free.

10.) Have business cards, flyers and bookmarks made to pass out to readers. It’s especially nice to give a bookmark with each book purchase. If money is a problem here you could make them yourself, if you have a picture program on your computer and a color printer. Nice stock can be found at the office supply stores these days. Or you could look on the net for a cheap place to have your things printed. I think there are also free photo programs on the net you could check into for doing your artwork.

Good luck all of you, and as always comments are welcome. If someone else has other good marketing ideas we can all benefit from, please feel free to post them here.