Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Sunday, June 30, 2013

10 Affirmations For Creative Writers


I’m busy with my book so I am reblogging again from a post I read on Writer’s Relief a couple of years ago. I don’t know how many of you believe in affirmations, but I think there is something worthwhile about this concept of training yourself to have positive thoughts.

Here are some good ones for writers:

1. I am a writer. Writing is my art.

2. I strengthen my by constructive criticism from others and from myself.

3. Rejection is a valuable part of the process.

4. I am creative. My words flow easily and beautifully.

5. I write every day, with confidence and enthusiasm.

6. I can visualize success, and I have the patience and talent to reach it.

7. I can be a successful writer and a successful (mother/lawyer/cab driver).

8. I can create vivid images and put them down on paper.

9. I am responsible for my own destiny.

10. I am not at the mercy of my muse. I can find inspiration at any time.

When you believe that whatever happens is for your own development and success, nothing can bring you down, and you don’t have to have lived in an ashram to use positive affirmations.

Creating a positive mindset will not only help you achieve your goals as a writer—it’s a powerful strategy for all areas of your life! Why not use all the tools at your disposal? Your writing will thank you.

The Writer’s Relief site is here:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How to be a More Confident Writer


We all need encouragement from time to time, so today I thought I’d reblog part of a post from Writer’s Relief that I read over two years ago. Sometimes it helps me to read over things I already know, things I can find in the back of my subconscious mind.

Remind yourself why you are a writer. We’re willing to bet you didn’t become a writer for the money or the glamorous lifestyle… So it must be because you have a passion, a talent, a need to write, no matter what other people think.

Review your best work as evidence. Whether it’s a towering stack of great short stories or simply one particularly perfect scene from a novel in the works, gather the writing you’re most proud of and remind yourself of your talent.

Rejoice in rejection. Rejection letters from literary agents and editors are evidence that you are submitting your work, plugging away at your dreams. A writer without a rejection letter is a writer who hasn’t had the courage to reach out.

Don’t compare yourself to others. Your writing style, publication credits, background, inspiration—these are all uniquely yours. If you constantly compare yourself to “more successful” writers, you are doing yourself a disservice.

Step out of your comfort zone. If poetry is your strength, push yourself in a new direction just for fun—explore the world of short stories or personal essays and see if you have an undiscovered talent.

Let go of expectations. Try sitting down and just letting your writing come. Don’t obsess over a perfect first sentence, and don’t try to force a certain style if it doesn’t feel natural. Just do what you love to do without putting pressure on yourself. Edit later, if you must.

Share your work. Whether you join a writers group or start submitting your work for publication, face the anxiety of what other people may think and deal with it. Even if you receive nothing but constructive criticism, you’ll have faced a writer’s biggest fear: putting your writing out there.

Tap into your fears and insecurities. A well-fed, complacent cat is more likely to sun itself than go hunting; writers can use the energy of their anxiety to get them off the couch and out there, hunting for a new idea or a new market. Fear and anxiety are energy—energy writers can use to their advantage.

You can find more about writing here at Writer’s Relief:

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Writing using our senses and feelings

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I know many of us do this already, but lately with the rewriting of areas of my book, my mind drifts to many places.  I think people usually take their senses for granted as they go about daily life.  Did you ever think about using all the emotions and senses that invade you daily to create things in your writing?  We smell, taste, see and hear things everyday and probably pay no never mind to any of it, or to the emotions it may stir in us.

 But what if we were deaf, blind, or unable to speak?  How does it feel to walk around in the dark bumping into things?  We come to expect things in our daily life because it has always been there for us.  What if this familiarity was suddenly gone?  When you turn out the lights at night, you can still see the room and you know what is there because you can see it in your mind.  This is remembering what we have seen earlier and recalling it, the same as a blind person would do if they had sight before they went blind.  You can use this imaginary picture to draw upon when writing your stories.  How does this room look and smell?  Is there a feeling of comfort, or is it sterile and cold.

 Do you have a “seeing in your mind” act that you perform daily on a regular basis?  In a room you know well with the lights off you can still maneuver across the room, around the furniture, and find the light switch because you are seeing the room in your mind.  Can’t you get to the bathroom or even the refrigerator in the dark?

 But what if the room is unfamiliar and you have to navigate it in the dark.  You walk slowly with outstretched arms so as not to bump into anything, probably still knocking things off as you go, maybe even stubbing your toe as well, or slamming into something causing excruciating pain.  This is the difference between seeing something in your mind that you know and something foreign that you don’t.

 Visualizing something, seeing your mind, is the way writers write and painters paint.  Musicians and photographers may use this as well without thinking about it.  We can see the way things will be before we start out.  We have to organize everything that flows through our minds daily and make use of these feelings in our writing.  All of the senses play important roles in the minds of creative individuals.

 If you come upon a fallen tree in the forest, did it make a loud crash when it fell even though there was no one was there to hear it?  If you get out of a chair and turn the light off, does the chair still exist in the dark?  You can see it in your minds eye and you’ll find it if you walk towards it in the dark.  When you run into it and hurt yourself, you’ll know that it exist, even though you can’t see it there, except in your mind.

 These things are what we need to call upon in our writing.  We need to use all the senses to make the reader envision the way the characters in our stories are feeling.  We would use this same technique with anguish and joy.  Step back to a place where you are in tune with your character and remember those feelings you have had in the past, so that you can bring them to light through what is happening to your character.  In my opinion, this will bring your reader into the story, having them walk alongside your characters and feel what they are feeling, whether it’s disgust, sadness, delight, or confusion.  This works the same way for the other senses.  If we, as writers, are able to successfully “be” the characters in our stories, it will be much easier to use all the senses in our work through “seeing in your mind” techniques and personal experiences.  It’s all about putting you there and staying there for the entire book.  To achieve this will take digging deep into your inner self.  This is what makes a good writer with a story the reader can’t put down.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Importance of the First Page and Opening Lines

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I’m mulling this over as I do some rewrites on my book. I read that the first page is perhaps the most important one in the book. Of course, all of us want the reader to keep reading beyond that, but this shows how important the opening is. The first few sentences need to be intriguing enough to make the reader keep reading. I know from my own looking in the bookstore, when I browse books at random, that if I’m not interested by the time I finish the first page, I’m likely to put the book down.

This led me to do some research on opening lines and/or paragraphs. For novels, action always gets my attention as well as a captivating problem via dialogue. I decided to use this approach for my current WIP, a mystery novel. I don’t think there are really any rules here, except to have something interesting or thought provoking to entice the reader to keep going. As I have learned, there is plenty of time for descriptions and character backgrounds.

This is my first mystery novel, so I’m using a different strategy. I usually write fantasy, but my two favorite genres for reading are fantasy and mystery/thrillers. I decided to read the beginnings of some mystery books in my library to see how they compare with the beginning of my book. After doing so and letting a couple of people read the first chapter of my WIP, I am happy with the beginning of my book.

I thought I’d share some beginning lines from the books of authors I like to read.

She came here to lay flowers at the place where the boy died and the girl was kidnapped.
..........Jeffery Deaver – The Empty Chair

Eight gray birds sitting in the dark............ Jeffery Deaver – The Maiden’s Grave

“Oh! Oh, Jesus, gross! Gross!”.................... Stephen King – Desperation

One June day in the mid-fifties Tom Pasmore, a ten-year-old boy with skin as golden as if he had been born with a good fourth-day suntan, jumped down from the milk cart and found himself in a part of Mill Walk he had never seen before...... Peter Straub – Mystery

He’d put in a fifteen-hour shift the night the call the came in....... Lisa Gardner – Alone

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Grand Prize Winner for ABNA 2013

From ABNA website

Here is the winning book, Timebound, a Y/A time travel novel.

Cover of winning book

Naturally, this wasn’t my pick, but this was an interesting excerpt. This is what they say about this book on the ABNA website. Readers can pre-order the book now for a 35% discount. The book will be out October 22, 2013.

In Timebound, seventeen-year-old Kate learns that she's inherited a genetic license to time travel when her grandmother shares a strange blue medallion, an even stranger tale about future historians, and the unshakeable conviction that the fate of half the planet lies in Kate's hands.

Kirkus Book Reviews said author Rysa Walker exhibits "sharp writing, a flair for dialogue and a big, twisting imagination."

Congratulations to the author of this book: Rysa Walker

Rysa Walker - the lucky author

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Guest Author Interview

Lisa Fender - Author of Fable - Book One in The Lorn Prophecy

Today I have a guest author. She published her first book recently and this is a blog stop for announcing this exciting time and getting to know this writer better. I hope you will leave a comment for her. Each person who leaves a comment will have their name entered into a drawing for a copy of the book and a Starbucks gift card. So please, comment or ask questions.

Lisa'a First Novel

1.) Give us a brief summary of your book and how did you become involved with the subject or theme? First of all, Thanks Sunni, for having me on your blog! I look forward to any comments below and will have a drawing giveaway for a free copy of the book Fable, and a 10.00 gift card from Starbucks, so leave me a comment or question!

I will post the blurb from the book; it’s easier to explain the basics that way. I became involved with this by making it up. It’s a fantasy fiction novel with a made-up world and even a made-up language. It has been a lot of fun writing it and I look forward to seeing what the next books turn out like!

Blurb: Stevie Barrett lives an ordinary life in Golden, Colorado, where nothing remarkable ever happens. That is until right before her high school graduation, when Stevie’s life takes a bizarre turn. Her best friends, Jack and Alyssa, want to be supportive, but are confused by the events plaguing Stevie.

Stevie’s mom is attacked by men with glowing gold eyes. A strange being spies on Stevie, hidden in shadow. She has waking visions of a people called the Djen and their archaic world. And when her and her BFFs don’t think it can get any weirder, Stevie heals a stranger with a touch. The abilities build until they are a tidal wave awakening within her and threaten her sense of reality.

Her efforts to understand what is happening lead her and her friends to discover a group known as the Rebellion. These warriors from another dimension are hunting her. Their leader is a man bent on destroying Stevie and possessing her legacy. In order to stop him and save everyone she loves, Stevie and her friends must embark on a quest to find and return Tecton, one of the five Orbs—relics—of the other plane she comes to know as Djenrye. The journey will alter everything she believes, propelling her into another world and another life.

2.) What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them? My goal was to make the story sound as believable as possible and to not use the typical supernatural characters that everyone uses, such as Vampires, Werewolves, and the like. I think so far that I have achieved my goals. I guess only time will tell as I get reviews from my readers.

3.) What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing your book to life? My biggest challenge, at first, was creative writing skills, (or lack thereof). I had to hire a writing coach and take classes, but it finally came together and is now a novel, instead of chicken scratch. We researched the trip that my characters had to take, which is in British Columbia, more exact, Princess Royal Island of the west coast. We also had to research the boat they use and little things like made-up names for Gods. We did research weaponry too.

4.) What is the most important piece of advice you would give an aspiring writer? Don’t ever give up and seek someone who knows how to critique. Take their advice to heart and don’t ever fall in love with a line from your book. It might not be necessary to keep it in there.

5.) If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? I have thought of a few things I wish I would have added, but nothing I would change at this point.

6.) As an author, how have you used social media to connect with readers and boost the success of your book? What tips do you have for new writers? If you believe your book will be ready within a year and a half, you need to start building your list of followers now. First, email all those in your email list who you think would be supportive of you and your writing. Ask them if they would be interested in becoming part of your ‘tribe’ and would be willing to read a few chapters and give feedback. Then once your blog is up and running, would they join at least for support.

Then the ones, who are all in, send them your first chapter. Give them time to read it, and after a week or so, if you haven’t heard from them, email them and ask how the chapter went. Some will never read it; others will get right back to you. You will begin to see who truly supports you after a while. Once you have done a few chapters this way and established some supportive people, start a blog. Also, you need to get on Facebook and Twitter, too. The biggest thing I found is a lot of people I know just aren’t into reading. But you have to keep reaching out and build a following. Some will join your blog just to shut you up, lol!

7.) What are you working on now? I am working on a novella, which is a side book about the world I created. There will be one in between each of the bigger novels - the continuing story. The one we are writing now explains more about Stevie’s history. The second ‘novel’ will be out next spring, but the novella is planned for this fall.

Thanks again for having me on your blog, Sunni! I hope some of your followers plan to participate and leave some comments so they can be a part of the drawing!

Here are links to Lisa’s sites. Please check them out.


Twitter Account:


Amazon Book link:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

My ABNA Pick for the Grand Prize

From Contest Website

I don’t know how many of you have read the brief excerpts from the five finalists’ book for this years ABNA contest. If you haven’t, you have until June 16 to cast your vote.

I have read them all and posted a short review for the excerpt portion I read, which was about the first 15-20 pages of each manuscript. I always like to see what other authors are writing and take a stab at guessing the winner/winners. I haven’t been right yet, of course, but we all have a different taste in books.

Regardless, the five finalists are all winners in the contest this year. As I stated earlier, the rules have changed again. Instead of two winners (one in the adult fiction and one in Y/A fiction), the administrators decided to have five categories. I don’t know if this will continue in future contests.

The five finalists are:

Ken Moraff – General Fiction – It Happened in Wisconsin

Jo Chumas – Mystery/Thriller – The Hidden

Evelyn Pryce – Romance – A Man Above Reproach

J. Lincoln Fenn – Sci-Fi/Fantasy – Poe

Rysa Walker – Y/A fiction – Timebound

Here are my brief reviews:

It Happened in Wisconsin (general fiction) didn’t interest me, but it isn’t the worst of the finalists.

This book didn’t draw me in. I think this story is about an old man telling the story of his youth when he played baseball. Descriptions of riding on the team bus are well done and vivid. There is very little dialogue in the first fifteen pages. This book could benefit from some, as well as something gripping to draw the reader in. I gave it three stars.

The Hidden (mystery/thriller) takes place in Cairo and that is about all I got from the excerpt I read.

A woman’s husband, who was a professor, is murdered. We go from the dead professor’s wife coming to the school to pick up a package from the dean to a ruthless high-ranking official who is the King’s advisor and has a threat against his life.

I love mysteries, but this didn’t do it for me. It was confusing and there wasn’t enough in the excerpt to interest me. I gave it two stars because if I can’t get interested in the first fifteen pages, I probably won’t read the book.

A Man above Reproach was engaging from the beginning and I’m not a romance reader.

A Duke finds a perfect match in a whorehouse, the Sleeping Dove run my Mother Superior, when a friend drags him there one evening. Bawdy Bluestocking, or BB, as the patrons call her, plays piano for income and is not one of the “ladies of the night.” She is clearly not in his class and I can see where this story is going, but I really liked this one. The characters are interesting and it left me wanting to read more. In my opinion, this is a close contender for the big winner of this year’s ABNA, so I gave it five stars.

Poe is the Sci-Fi Fantasy winner of this year’s contest.

This author uses an interesting concept to write an engaging story. Poe is about an Obit writer, Dimitri, who works for a small newspaper in Alaska. What a turn of fate for a young man when most of the population is over 65, but he has to support himself after his parents lose their lives in an accident, and he flunks out of college, although he wonders if it’s the right decision, thinking he should have taken a fishing job instead.

The other workers at the newspaper play practical jokes on him daily. The writer’s description of them is comical and well done. The reader gets the picture that they are no gift to humanity, each with their own issues. Perhaps that is why they tease Dimitri excessively.

Dimitri has a twisted sense of humor, but then to make an obituary column interesting, you would have to be an extraordinary person. In a twist, due to some unusual developments, he gets a haunted house assignment on Halloween. Is this his big break with the newspaper, to show he can write more than the obituary columns?

This short excerpt left me wanting to read more. The characters are quirky and interesting. The writer drew me into this story right away. In my opinion, this is a strong contender to win this year’s big prize in the ABNA, so I gave it five stars.

Timebound (Y/A fiction) gets four stars because it is interesting, but a typical fantasy story.

A teenage girl, Kate, meets her estranged grandmother for the first time at lunch that the grandmother arranges because she wants to get to know her granddaughter. The grandmother, who says, “Call me Katherine,” is psychic and finds out she is dying of a brain tumor. She wants to give her mysterious blue medallion to Kate.

Kate spends time with each of her parents because they are divorced. Her mother hates her mother (the grandmother) who actually gets along better with the ex-husband than her own daughter. The ex-husband helps Katherine buy a house in the same town and near the school, so she can get to know Kate in the time she has left. This is good story with likeable characters. I would keep reading, even though I know where it’s going.

It is hard to decide between the romance and the fantasy story because I would read both books. I think one of these will get the grand prize of $50,000 as an advance, along with a publishing contract. The other four will get a publishing contract and a $10,000 advance.
If you don’t have a kindle device, get your free kindle for PC here:

Go here to cast your vote and to download the excerpts to read:

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Guest Author a Week from Today

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I’ll be hosting a new fantasy writer on my blog a week from today. Lisa Fender just published her first novel, Fable, the first in the Lorn Prophecy series. I’ll be interviewing her about the writing process and the plans she has for her book, as part of a blog tour.

Please stop back by on 9 June and leave a comment if you want to enter a drawing to win a copy of the book. If you’re a fantasy fan, this is your chance.