Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How Far Would You Go For Novel Research?

Courtesy Creative Commons

Okay, people here is another wide-open topic that begs the question, what kind of novel are you writing. If an author went all out with wanting to experience first-hand the kind of things that they would be writing about, it could hold serious consequences.

Let’s look at this a moment. If you were writing about romance or erotica and are in a serious, committed relationship, you could be in trouble with your significant other in many ways, not to mention perhaps significant medical problems in today’s times.

If you were writing about murder, you certainly wouldn’t want to be the villain to experience what it feels like to kill another. It would be very unlikely you could also take the role of the detective or police to help solve the crime unless you are retired from that profession, or know someone in the force and could arrange a ride-along to get the feel for police business.

It is almost impossible to put yourself in the spot of a western these days unless by galloping out in the country on a horse and spending the night under the stars would inspire and give you enough of a feel for what the real cowboy was up against in days gone by.

I think we can all forget about experiencing sci-fi first hand. This pretty much goes for fantasy too, unless you happen to be writing about knights and sword battles. You can experience this by taking a fencing class, which is what I did for a sequel I’m writing for one of my books. Of course, this was nothing like wielding a broad sword in full armor, but it did give me a feel for what it was like to have an opponent coming at you with a sword when you had to defend yourself.

I will have to say I was not good at this. I definitely would find myself laid out in the courtyard straightaway had this been for real. But between that and attending a few medieval fairs, where I watched the jousting tournaments and talked with some of the die-hards, I had a good feel for the battle scene I wanted to write.

I really would like to hear your ideas for putting yourself into the action in order to write better.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

    “I’d be careful around that ole cemetery.” Ed called after her and looked fearful as he turned the keys in the door and then checked the lock by rattling the doorknob.

    “Oh don’t worry about me. I can take care of myself. Thanks again.” Stephanie got in her car and wondered as she drove off what in the world Ed was afraid of.

    As she turned onto Main Street, she saw the sheriff and one of his deputies talking to Betty Sue in the parking lot of the diner. The end of yellow crime scene tape floated in the breeze from its knot on the dumpster.

For those new to this, the rules are simple:

1) pick a project – a current Work in Progress, contracted work or even something readers can buy if you’re published

2) pick six sentences

3) post ‘em on Sunday

See? Easy. Want to play? See the site for information on how to do just that:

If you have a Twitter account, you can add the hashtag #sixsunday to your tweets when you tweet a link to your Six Sentence Sunday post. If you’re a writer (regardless of published/unpublished status) come join us!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Imagination Runs Wild in This “What If” Scenario

Courtesy of Creative Commons

My imagination always runs wild. Another blogger posted an article on the subject “what if,” the end of September. I’m always thinking about “what if,” so I decided to weigh in on this. That subject is so wide open. It can take your mind in a thousand different directions. Literally, in your mind, roads run out everywhere across a vast plain, which path will you decide to walk down?

I live in the desert, as many of you know, and outback, behind my house, the desert stretches out with nothing in sight except various native bushes and red sand, but among that the jagged faces of giant cliffs and bluffs rise up. There are numerous nooks and crannies there where owls, ravens, and birds of prey roost, perhaps other things too. However, I always look on that as a magical world – as I write fantasy most of the time – so why not?

The carved rocks intermingle with old black lava flows. Jackrabbits go there to stay the night and then venture out into the desert sand and sagebrush during the day. There is a low spot where tamarack trees grow and they hang out there too because the water supply is abundant, fed by underground springs.

I can imagine all sorts of life going on back there, as animals have a daily routine, just as humans do. It is easy to let your imagination carry you away with thoughts of getting everyone up for breakfast, off to school and such, or gathering the group back together before sunset with their anxious and mournful cries. It leaves me to wonder if the animals also enjoy the cool that evening brings.

There is a large mountain, 10,000 feet high, behind my house, that has a large crevice, and I can imagine that as the entrance to a magical world, abuzz with life in the fairy kingdom, yet just a common rock when looked at by most human eyes, which perhaps don’t even notice it at all. (I’m talking about the crevice – or magical door if you will, not the mountain.)

On another note, you can picture that landscape as it was in the days of the old west, with perhaps Indians lined up on the ridge in all their war gear, as they looked down on the covered wagons below and the brave adventurer’s making camp for the night on their way to greener pastures and new beginnings.

Perhaps a sheriff chased outlaws back there yeas ago, galloping on horseback past all the boulders, their hoofs kicking up the red dirt. Shots fired, as they’d take cover in the hollows of the lava fields.

Alternatively, turn this into a suspense story with a killer on the loose back there, existing in the desert to creep out in the still of the night to do his deed and disappear again before daybreak.

Going in a totally different direction, what if I had never ended up living in the desert, but had stayed in one of the other states I’ve lived in, never gotten married, had a great job or a lousy job, was homeless and living on the street, or residing in a great mansion you only see on TV.

As you can see, the mind can go anywhere on this subject. Where does the phrase “what if” take you?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

Courtesy of Creative Commons

From my WIP

     “Oh, are you still here?” He looked up sounding annoyed that she wasn’t going to let the subject drop.

     “I’m afraid so,” Stephanie said. “You’re warning won’t get rid of me that easily.” She gave him a courteous smile and he finally showed her to a dusty back room where boxes lined the shelves against two walls. A tiny desk and chair sat under a filmy window that was so dirty barely any daylight showed through. It was obvious this room didn’t get much use.

For those new to this, the rules are simple:

1) pick a project – a current Work in Progress, contracted work or even something readers can buy if you’re published

2) pick six sentences

3) post ‘em on Sunday

See? Easy. Want to play? See the site for information on how to do just that:

If you have a Twitter account, you can add the hashtag #sixsunday to your tweets when you tweet a link to your Six Sentence Sunday post. If you’re a writer (regardless of published/unpublished status) come join us!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Are You Lacking in Self-Discipline?

This is something that we all struggle with from time to time. When you look at it, a certain amount of discipline goes into just about everything. We won’t accomplish much of anything if we don’t have some sort of control and order in our lives.

I have to admit that I probably suck at this on many levels, although I have more self-discipline than many of the people I personally know, just in different areas. I’ve been trying to be better at this. I’m bad about keeping any kind of schedule unless it revolves around writing. When you don’t live alone, that’s not a good thing.

I will be the first to say that I usually lack the drive to clean the house, or to cook too for that matter. However, I have to do these things once in awhile, so I make myself get started, which is half the battle of accomplishment and discipline. Naturally, I’d rather be writing or doing some other sort of artistic venture.

Being determined will help you to get the job done and I do have a bit of stubbornness that I inherited from dear old dad. That is a great help because to me cleaning is not really stretching my mind or a very exciting task, although I like a clean house. The problem with this is that it never stays that way for long. That’s very discouraging when there are only the two of us and the cats. I won’t even go into all the problems with the garage. That project is one huge waste of time.

Cooking is something I rarely get in the mood to do either, but it is another thing that is there everyday because you have to eat. The thing about this is standing over a hot stove for an hour or so, the meal is gone in a flash and then it’s another hour standing over the sink. Of course, all the while, thoughts are darting in and out of my head that I really feel the need to get down on paper. Usually I’m thinking about escaping to the quiet of my office and away from the TV where politics is blaring out polluting the room. I know this is just one of my issues, but politics 24/7 is excessively much for my blood. I always wonder how all the talking heads do it, but then I have to think about my passion for writing. I suppose they have the same passion.

I wonder if I’m obsessed as people tell me I am. Sometimes I do ponder that, but then I think almost every person out there is obsessed with something. I tend to wind myself up with things and then it’s hard to put them down until the thing is complete, whether this is a writing project or reading a very good book. Even with cleaning, or yard work, I won’t take a break until the job is finished.

I was so interested in a novel series a couple of years ago that I took the books everywhere, even to the kitchen and would read them while I was cooking. These were huge books too – 1000 pages each.

I’m the same way with writing when I’m on a role with a project. I tend to breathe and sleep the thing until it’s finished, taking pen and paper to bed or getting up in the middle of the night to write, surviving on two hours of sleep at a time for weeks. On several occasions, I’ve stayed up three days in one stretch. I don’t know if this is a curse or a good thing. Does anything like this ever happen to any of you? Maybe I just need therapy...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

Royalty Free Pic

From my current WIP

     “Well look what we have here,” his eyes flashed as he held the flashlight on my face.

     “Good evening Sheriff Donavan,” I replied.
     “Looks like we caught you red handed this time,” he smirked. “Want to tell me what happened?”
     “It’s not what it looks like,” I replied, looking down at my blood-covered clothes.
     “Of course not,” his eyes drilled into me as a deputy joined him.

For those new to this, the rules are simple:

1) pick a project – a current Work in Progress, contracted work or even something readers can buy if you’re published

2) pick six sentences

3) post ‘em on Sunday

See? Easy. Want to play? See the site for information on how to do just that:

If you have a Twitter account, you can add the hashtag #sixsunday to your tweets when you tweet a link to your Six Sentence Sunday post. If you’re a writer (regardless of published/unpublished status) come join us!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Do You Let Negativity Seep Into Your Writing?

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that this can happen, as we aren’t always happy about our situation sometimes. However, I try hard to maintain a positive outlook. Mood affects us all and that isn’t a good thing unless, perhaps, you’re ready to write a murder scene.

Do not listen to negative people who try to discourage you from your dreams. You may not be the next New York Times bestseller. So what? You are slowly working on your dream and that’s okay. Nothing happens overnight, we all know that. I used to be upset over things people would say about my writing life, but not anymore. At least I try not to let it get to me. Most people you meet won’t have a writing passion, so they can’t understand what pushes you to express yourself in this way.

In this economy, many of us are out of work too, but don’t let that fact take over your life either, just because you wish your writing would pay the bills. Believe me; I get this all the time. As they say, you have to grow a thick skin to be a writer. It is just a shame when your friends are also critics. When I say that, I mean of this lifestyle, not of my writing skills. If your friends are like mine, chances are they’ve never read one word of your writing. Don’t let this dampen your spirit. If you persist, you will only get better at what you do. You are still pursuing something you love and can take this extra time to improve your skills. Somehow, when you think about it, all things work out.

Yes, I know we still have to survive in the meantime. I’m not a total dreamer although people tell me at least once a day that I live in a fantasy world all the time. We can’t all be millionaires or even well off, or retired with accrued income coming in. I’ll always have to work, even after I retire, but it’s best to be doing something anyway. There isn’t any point in getting down about that. Keeping your mind active as long as you can is a good thing. I try to pick up odd writing jobs, hoping something a little more concrete will come along eventually. Keeping a positive attitude is the key thing.

Try to relax and participate in networking with other writers and writer’s groups, post to your blog. You never know what is waiting down the road and some opportunity may present itself. If it doesn’t, you still will stay informed about writing, keep your mind sharp and you’ll be practicing your craft at the same time.

There really are good things that happen around you everyday. You just have to take notice of them. I’m a believer that what you put out there comes back to you, so you can see how sending out positive energy will attract positive energy and vice versa. Besides, no one will want to be around you if you’re sour all the time. Everyone has his or her own problems to deal with.

So keep your mood out of the picture and go forth with a positive mindset. You are alive to write another day, after all, and chances are Mother Nature is putting on a lovely display outside your window.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

After I hung up, I went to my car to look for an old towel I usually keep in the trunk. It was for washing the car, but I need anything at this point to stop the bleeding.

I moved his arm and tried to squelch the blood flow with the towel, but that quickly became saturated. He let out a groan, but was not moving much at all. Where is that ambulance? Even in the dim light, I could see that Robert had gone ashen. Don’t let him die.

For those new to this, the rules are simple:

1) pick a project – a current Work in Progress, contracted work or even something readers can buy if you’re published

2) pick six sentences

3) post ‘em on Sunday

See? Easy. Want to play? See the site for information on how to do just that:

If you have a Twitter account, you can add the hashtag #sixsunday to your tweets when you tweet a link to your Six Sentence Sunday post. If you’re a writer (regardless of published/unpublished status) come join us!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Banned Books Week

Courtesy of American Library Association

This kind of thing makes me spitting mad because this is not right. Who is to say what we can and cannot read? When it comes to stuff like this the rebel in me comes out and I want to do something about this, if nothing else for spite because right now I guess there is nothing else we can do except corrupt our minds and read a banned book.

This year this event is from Sept 30 – Oct 6. This whole mess started back in 1982 when some naysayer thought that they would protect us from ourselves and ban certain types of literature lest it corrupt our thinking. It is still okay to read what we want and to be ourselves. So far reading, thinking, speaking and expressing ourselves is still all right in America.

This is what the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution Says:

The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” It goes on to say we may petition the government for grievances.

Here are just a few books on the list:

The Hunger Games
Farewell to Arms
To Kill a Mockingbird
Lord of the Flies
Their Eyes Were Watching God
The Great Gatsby
Green Eggs and Ham
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Grapes of Wrath
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Madame Bovary
The Scarlet Letter
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Of Mice and Men
Brave New World
Lady Chatterley’s Lover

So go ahead, let’s be naughty, and exercise our rights by reading something off this list this week. There are many classics here.

Here is a link to read more about banned books week.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Review for The Traitor’s Daughter by Paula Brandon

Confusing 3 stars at best – Deserves 2

I was anxious to get this book after reading the synopsis, but once it arrived, I found it very hard to get into. It took me more than two months to finish it and I love to read. I had to lay it down, then go back later, and try to start in again. It was hard to keep everything straight because this book is all over the place, not what I expected.

One thing making the book difficult to grasp is a robot and reptilian creatures along with people riding horses and swinging swords. It didn’t really mesh with my thinking about historical novels, which is what I expected this to be.

The robot introduced in the beginning really turned me off. As far as I can tell, it’s a clone of some sort. This clone thinks it’s smarter than the man who invented it. Introduced later, the Sishmindri are some reptilian servants. What is the purpose of these elements in a historical novel? To me, this doesn’t fit in and is too futuristic and more like a science fiction book, taking away from the story.

Now, maybe there is a reason for these elements that the author will bring to light in the sequel to this book. It surprised me that the heroine of the story, Jianna, doesn’t have magical powers that could have gotten her out of some of the situations she encounters. This girl is constantly beat up during the story and threatened with rape, the first beating comes when she is on her way to meet her betrothed. Along the way, Onartino kidnaps Jianna and kills her entourage. Onartino is a real bad boy who is supposedly seeking revenge because Jianna’s father murdered his father. His intent is to torture her repeatedly.

At one point, Jianna manages to escape, but captured by the healer, Falaste Rione, and returned to Onartino’s keeping because Rione is his ally and he doesn’t believe the horrible things she tells him. Later on, Jianna helps Rione with his healing of the wounded soldiers, not knowing they are there because of her father.

Jianna, brought up as a sheltered and spoiled girl, thinks her father is a wonderful man. He hides all his shady dealings from her and is really a manipulative traitor with only his best interest in mind. Of course, the reader and many people in the book know otherwise, except Jianna.

The story jumps back and forth from Jianna’s predicament to her father, Aureste, who has his own troubles with the political struggles to find his daughter while keeping his own position as a lord ruled by conquerors. He intends never to show his real self to his daughter as he hangs on to the kingdom, no matter what it takes. The powerful people are bickering among themselves while the world falls apart around them.

To add to all this, there is this magical power “the source” that is supposedly to blame for all this turmoil and the world is changing with the possibility of this power releasing a plague to destroy everyone. Yet, no one is much concerned with this at this point; perhaps the next book will cover this issue.

Another issue I had with reading this is the long, tedious sentences and archaic English language. There is a lot of back-story and setting up encompasses most of this first book. Only the last bit did I feel like I was getting down to the story.

To sum it up, I hate to give a bad review, and this novel did have some well-drawn characters, but overall it is hard to follow and a bit depressing. I’m sure some readers would enjoy the bloody crimes, revenge, and intrigue. It isn’t all bad but moves way too slow without enough coherent action to keep me turning the pages. I know how hard it is to write a book and how many hours go into it, so I’m sorry to say it, but I will not read the sequel and can only give it two stars.