Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Review for Nightwoods

This review is for a book by the author of Cold Mountain, made into a movie in 2003, starring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law. Some of you may have seen it. This is the first work I’ve read by Charles Frazier.

What an interesting story! The characters in this book are definitely quirky and extraordinary.

Luce lives alone in a large old lodge in the hills of North Carolina on the other side of the river from the small town, deciding to stay on after the owners die because “why not? Who else will look after the place?” She is a reclusive woman, everything there suits her just fine until her twin niece, and nephew arrives, which really upsets the apple cart of her ordinary and independent life.

After Luce’s sister is murdered, Luce becomes guardian of her children. She is anything but thrilled about this arrangement, but tries to make the best of it because the children have nowhere else to go.

The children refuse to talk and always get into some sort of trouble, such as setting fire to things and killing chickens. Luce does her best to control them but it is very difficult, if not impossible, yet she refuses to believe they may be retarded and thinks they are very smart and just traumatized from the whole situation of their mother’s murder.

Luce walks everywhere she goes, to the small village for the few needs she has and to the neighbors, an old woman who makes potions and homemade remedies. Luce is quite a fascinating character and at times it almost seems as if she is living her life on autopilot and walking around in a daze or trance, but then the children will do something deplorable and she must act and try to talk some sense into them.

The scheming brother-in-law eventually returns thinking that Luce has the money her sister hid from him.

I loved all the description in this book and the unforgettable characters, although at times it moved so slow I thought it would be hard to read another page, but then it would take off again. Otherwise, the writing meanders all over with flowing descriptive sentences and Luce’s quirky character traits and daily rituals. When thinking about it, it does make you wonder if oddness just doesn’t run in the family genes.

Despite the slowness of this overall story, I enjoyed the descriptions very much and those put you right in the story with the characters and the beautiful scenery of the hills.

A definite dislike is no quotation marks at all. This was hard to figure out at first. I’ve never seen another book written this way. Please use quotation marks next time because it would be much easier to read. I would give it three stars for that, but the story was very interesting and memorable, so I’m giving it four.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thoughts on Writing a Book

I wonder what your thoughts are on this.

They always say you’ll be more successful if you write about what you know, or where there is an interest. However, that is not what readers are always looking for. I may be wrong but it seems to me that today the self-help books seem to be very popular along with the end-of-time books, yet I always prefer to pick up a fiction work and immerse myself in that type of story

Sometimes I think I’m the exception when it comes to wanting to read fiction over something perhaps more constructive. I suppose this is due to always researching stuff for the freelance writing work I get involved in. It’s a nice diversion for my mind to get into something I can enjoy and not have to think too much about.

That being said, what kind of books do all of you prefer to read in the spare time you have?

If you are of a mind to write something useful and positive here are a few ideas:

The Mistakes Book: People are always interested in learning about mistakes they can avoid.

The How to Book: Now this subject is wide open. The public always wants to learn how to do something they don’t know how to do. The how-to topics are endless, so if you have an expertise in something, this may be the way to go.

The Question and Answer Book: Think about a subject you know well and think about the answers to the most important questions – maybe people ask you things about this all the time.

The 10, 50 or 100 Ways to do Something Book: I have seen many books written like this.

How to Hire Someone Book: This kind of book could be anything you have experience with, from gardeners, to nannies to secretaries.

The Networking Book: People today are especially interested in this topic. So much of what we do today takes place on the internet and there is always a need to market yourself, or your books.

The Collection of Stories Book: This could be anything with a similar topic to interweave the theme together. You could even collaborate here and collect stories from several people to incorporate in one book. Inspirational stories, funny stories, animal stories, taking a trip stories, etc.

The Memoir or Biography: Lets face it; people love to read about other people’s lives. You see many memoirs and life stories on the bestseller list. Just make it a compelling read. You could tell your life story, or share lessons from your life.

The Investing Book: The public is always looking for ways to make investment income, especially with the economy the way it is today. If you have expertise in this area, maybe you could help others out as well as selling many books.

The Joke Book: Again, this is wide open because there are many jokes about everything out there. People always like to be entertained.

A Collection of Your Previous Writings: This could be blog posts, or other articles you’ve written. Use your imagination here. As writers, we all have one.

So take that single step and get started. I hope I’ve sparked some ideas.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Blocked? This Will Get Your Creativity Moving

Sometimes we all run into a situation where we find ourselves stumped and cannot seem to put a single word down on paper. This is when the use of writing prompts can come in handy. Sometimes selecting one and then writing a short story will get those creative juices flowing again. Reading will also help. Simply, just picking up a book and browsing through, reading several snippets, works wonders.

In fact, just reading a list of writing prompts can usually get my mind going.

I thought I would include a list of sites that can supply you with writing prompts. Doing the exercise of writing, using a prompt once in awhile, will allow you to practice your craft when you aren’t working on your next book.!/search/%23writingprompt

This last one has prompts posted by individuals from all over the world. You’ll get some interesting scenarios there.

If none of this works for you, think along the lines of what interests you, such as time travel, the 1950’s, zombies, ghosts, villains and the thought of “what if” this really happened. Let you imagination go and write a story about that.

Something else to try would be focusing on some personal issues that nag at you from time to time. This can be anything from a bad event in childhood, to the hatred you have for bugs. Perhaps your parents got divorced and sent you to live with a relative, your father was a drunk and your sister smoked pot, and once you arrived to live with the relative, you were the subject of abuse. Maybe you always wanted to be rich and wondered what it would be like to live in a mansion with servants. The list could be endless. Take any of these situations and carve up a story.

You can do other things too. Dig up a story about an event you witnessed and write about that. This event could be from your childhood, or something that happened later in life.

Sometimes stepping out of your usual genre can generate many ideas to play around with as well. Maybe you write mysteries and you always wanted to write a horror story, or a western. Try it. If nothing else, it’s a good exercise.

If all else fails, use your dreams, literally. I play around a lot with this one. In fact, a couple of my novels started out as actual dreams that I expanded on. I typically have some real colorful and crazy ones, but I usually write in the fantasy genre, so this works well for me.

It is useful to keep a notepad handy because you never know when random thoughts will enter your head. You could be doing other things and not even thinking about a story you’re working on when all of sudden a brilliant idea for a character, a scene, or a book title will flash through your mind. You want to be able to write it down before you forget it. This may sound silly, but this happens to me a lot. Sometimes I can be cooking dinner, or outside and a great idea will suddenly come to me.

Sometimes inspiration strikes by watching a movie, TV show, or listening to music. Lately, I’ve been trying to organize the 27,000 pictures I have on my computer and looking at those can inspire me as well. Remain open and tap into these things when they happen. Also, be open to using Google to type in things that interest you or perhaps pertain to the current story you’re working on. You can get any number of ideas from those searches sometimes.

Good luck everybody and happy writing!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Celebrating the Fourth

A Happy Fourth of July to all of you as we celebrate our country and the freedoms we all enjoy. Thanks to our service members who lay down their lives everyday to insure those freedoms. With the way things are changing, let us hope that the lives lost in battle are never lost in vain.

Enjoy your family get-togethers and the fireworks, but be safe and remember to give thanks for the great nation we live in. Things may not always be the way our forefathers envisioned it.