Book Review – CHARACTERIZATION AND SENSORY DETAIL (Writing Active Setting) by Mary Buckham

CHARACTERIZATION AND SENSORY DETAIL (Writing Active Setting #1) by Mary Buckham

CHARACTERIZATION AND SENSORY DETAIL (Writing Active Setting #1) by Mary Buckham

5 Stars

Synopsis
Readers usually remember the plot and characters of a story, but setting is every bit as important in creating a memorable world. Discover the difference between Ordinary Setting that bogs down your story, and Active Setting that empowers your story — creating a compelling story world, regardless of what you write.

* See how to spin boring descriptions into engaging prose.
* Learn to deepen the reader’s experience of your story world through sensory details.
* Notice how changing characters’ POV can change your setting.
* Explore ways to maximize the setting possibilities in your story.

WRITING ACTIVE SETTING is a powerful combination of fresh insights, practical examples, and how-to advice on the often overlooked but critical element of Setting … written in a quick-to-read and easy-to-understand style, and packed with useful application exercises. ~~ Kelly L. Stone, author of THINKING WRITE: The Secret to Freeing Your Creative Mind

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My Review
This is my favorite book on the craft of writing so far this year. To say my scene setting needs work would be a massive understatement. This first in a three-book series, is a fast read packed with tons of helpful advice and examples to drive Buckham’s point home. I immediately applied the lessons learned to my latest manuscript and ran to Amazon to buy the next two books in the series. With chapters like, Subtext in Setting, and Revealing Character Through Setting, I was able to quickly grasp where my writing was lacking and make corrections. Every pass I make, I look for ways to incorporate what I learned from this book. The common sense approach and relatable writing style of Mary Buckham makes this an outstanding resource for the writer at any stages of their journey.

Bottom Line
An outstanding resource on writing setting for fiction and nonfiction alike.

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About the Book
Title
:  CHARACTERIZATION AND SENSORY DETAIL
Series: Writing Active Setting #1
Author: Mary Buckham
Publisher: Cantwell Publishing, LLC
Publication Date: October 7, 2013
Pages: 59
Category: Fiction Writing
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

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Author Mary Buckham

Author Mary Buckham

About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Mary Buckham credits her years of international travel and curiosity about different cultures that resulted in creating high-concept urban fantasy and romantic suspense stories. Her newest Invisible Recruit series has been touted for the unique voice, high action and rich emotion. A prolific writer, Mary also co-authors the young adult sci-fi/fantasy Red Moon series with NYT bestseller Dianna Love. Mary lives in Washington State with her husband and, when not crafting a new adventure, she travels the country researching settings and teaching other writers. Don’t miss her latest reference book Writing Active Setting.

Currently she is neck-deep into writing an Urban Fantasy series centered around five women drafted to combat preternatural beings agitating for world domination. The INVISIBLE RECRUIT series combines a fantasy/paranormal element with high stakes and the pace of action adventure stories. Mary loves creating thrills, spills and spells as she follows the ups and downs of fascinating characters starting with Alex Noziak, the heroine of INVISIBLE MAGIC, INVISIBLE FATE and INVISIBLE POWER.

Where to find Mary Buckham
Goodreads Website | FacebookTwitter | Pinterest
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Book Review – MASTERING SUSPENSE, STRUCTURE, AND PLOT by Jane K. Cleland

MASTERING SUSPENSE, STRUCTURE, AND PLOT by Jane K. Cleland

MASTERING SUSPENSE, STRUCTURE, AND PLOT by Jane K. Cleland

4 Stars

Synopsis
Enthrall Your Readers!

Suspense is one of the most powerful tools a writer has for captivating readers–but it isn’t just for thrillers. From mainstream fiction to memoir, suspense creates the emotional tension that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. Mastering Suspense, Structure, & Plot is your hands-on guide to weaving suspense into your narrative. Award-winning author Jane K. Cleland teaches you how to navigate genre conventions, write for your audience, and build gripping tension to craft an irresistible page-turner.

Inside, Cleland will show you how to:
Implement thirteen no-fail techniques to construct an effective plot and structure for your story Use Cleland’s Plotting Road Map to add elements of suspense like twists, reversals, and moments of danger Write subplots with purpose Improve your descriptions, character development, sentence structure, and more Packed with case studies, exercises, and dozens of examples from best-selling authors, Mastering Suspense, Structure, & Plot is the key to writing suspenseful, engaging stories that leave your readers wanting more.

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“Indispensable! For newbie authors and veterans alike, this terrific how-to is your new go-to. Don’t write your book without it–it’s a treasure.” —Hank Phillippi Ryan, Agatha, Anthony, Macavity and Mary Higgins Clark award-winning author

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My Review
One of my New Year’s resolutions was to read at least twelve books on craft this year. This is my second of 2017. Regardless of what you write, adding a little suspense will always lead to a better story. I found the recommendations in this book on creating, adding, and the pacing of suspenseful elements to be quite useful. There is also a lot of information on structuring and plotting your story. The author includes lots of examples from both fiction and narrative nonfiction which helps drive her points home. I learned some helpful tips, and a lot information I’d previously learned was reinforced. One of my biggest weaknesses is scene setting and she provides numerous ideas on how to improve this aspect of your writing

Bottom Line
I found much to like in this book, from new ideas to reinforcing previous ideas.

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About the Book
Title
: MASTERING SUSPENSE, STRUCTURE, AND PLOT: How to Write Gripping Stories That Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats
Author: Jane K. Cleland
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
Publication Date: March 31, 2016
Pages: 242
Category: Fiction Writing
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Writer’s Digest

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Author Jane K. Cleland

Author Jane K. Cleland

About the Author
Jane K. Cleland’s multiple award-winning and IMBA best selling Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery series [St. Martin’s Minotaur] has been reviewed as an Antiques Roadshow for mystery fans. Library Journal named Consigned to Death a “core title” for librarians looking to build a cozy collection, one of only 22 titles listed, along with books by Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. The full article is at www.libraryjournal.com. “Josie” stories have also appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

Jane chairs the Black Orchid Novella Award, one of the Wolfe Pack’s literary awards, granted in partnership with Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She is a past chapter president of the Mystery Writers of America/New York Chapter and served on the national board as well. Additionally, Jane is the host of the Writer’s Room, a series of interviews with today’s bestselling crime fiction authors that appear on cable television and online.

Jane also writes noir and comedic plays around the theme of women who love men they hate.

Jane has both an MFA (in professional and creative writing) and an MBA (in marketing and management). She’s on the faculty of Lehman College, part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system. She also mentors MFA students in Western Connecticut State University’s MFA in Creative & Professional Writing program and is a frequent guest author at other university programs..

Where to find Jane K. Cleland
Goodreads Website | FacebookTwitter
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Book Review – How to Write Dazzling Dialogue by James Scott Bell

How to Write Dazzling Dialogue by James Scott Bell

How to Write Dazzling Dialogue by James Scott Bell

4 Stars

Synopsis
There is one sure-fire way of improving your novel fast. . .

You may know the fundamentals of how to write fiction. You may be more than competent in plot, structure and characters. But if your dialogue is dull it will drag the whole story down.

On the other hand, if your dialogue is crisp and full of tension it immediately grabs the reader. And if that reader is an agent or editor, sharp dialogue will give them instant assurance that you know what you’re doing as a writer.

Writing a bestseller or hot screenplay is no easy task, but dazzling dialogue is an absolute essential if you want to get there.

The best part is, the skills of the dialogue craft are easy to understand and put into practice. #1 bestselling writing coach James Scott Bell has put together and expanded upon the dialogue lectures from his popular writing seminars. In How to Write Dazzling Dialogue you’ll learn:

What fictional dialogue is … and isn’t
The 11 secrets of crafting memorable dialogue
The 5 essential tasks of dialogue
5 ways to improve your dialogue ear
4 can’t-miss methods to increase conflict and tension in any dialogue exchange
The top 10 dialogue issues, and how to resolve them

You’ll also see dazzling dialogue in action with examples from hit novels and screenplays.

Don’t sabotage your chances of selling your work to readers or publishers because the dialogue is unexceptional. Dazzle them with what the characters say. How to Write Dazzling Dialogue will give you the tools to do it. .

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My Review
I had this on my wish list and was given it as a Christmas gift. I cracked it shortly after breakfast Christmas morning and found it quite an easy read. There’s a little bit of something for everyone between the covers. Both those new to writing fiction as well as more seasoned writers should find something useful. The new writer will benefit greatly from Chapter 7 which discusses the proper way to format and punctuate dialogue. A number of unique exercises will help experienced authors stretch outside their comfort zone. The book is filled with helpful examples of both good and bad dialogue to really drive the author’s point.

Bottom Line
A useful book on the craft of writing dialogue that will help both new and experienced fiction writers.

Title: How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript
Author: James Scott Bell
Publisher: Compendium Press
Publication Date: May 28, 2014
Pages: 135
Category: Fiction Writing
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author James Scott Bell

Author James Scott Bell

About the Author
Jim is a former trial lawyer who now writes and speaks full time. He is the bestselling author of Try Dying, No Legal Grounds, Presumed Guilty, Glimpses of Paradise, Breach of Promise and several other thrillers. He is a winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Inspirational Fiction, and was a fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine. He has written two books in the Writers’ Digest series, Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure and Revision & Self-Editing.

Jim has taught writing at Pepperdine University and numerous writers conferences. He attended the University of California, Santa Barbara where he studied writing with Raymond Carver.

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Where to find James Scott Bell
Goodreads Website | FacebookTwitter
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Book Review – The Early To Rise Experience – Learn To Rise Early in 30 Days by Andy Traub

The Early To Rise Experience - Learn To Rise Early in 30 Days by Andy Traub

The Early To Rise Experience – Learn To Rise Early in 30 Days by Andy Traub

2 Stars

Synopsis
love being up early. If you’re willing to take one minute a day to change your life then you can become an early riser. I wrote this book because as a father of three kids under five I needed time to work on myself and my business without neglecting my family. I found that time in the morning and it has changed my life forever.

You need more than a book to build a habit

Inside the book are instructions to sign up for 30 days of emails from me. Each day I’ll email you that day’s passage as well as the audio of the same passage. You need encouragement every day for this challenge and we use multiple ways to help you build your habit.

Daily emails
Facebook group – Search for EarlyToRiseBook
Twitter connection using the hashtag #EarlyToRise
Updated resources at our EarlyToRiseBook website.

You can change your life if you’re willing to change what time you wake up in the morning. This book helps you achieve building that habit.

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My Review
I really hate leaving bad reviews, but this book just didn’t do it for me. That doesn’t mean it’s not the book for you, though. I originally started reading Early to Rise two years ago when I was looking for more time in my day. Getting up at 5:30 a.m. seemed like the perfect solution, and all I needed was the right motivation. Hence, I bought this book. The first portion delves into the various reasons someone wants to rise early. Since I picked up a copy of the book, I already had a good reason and other people’s reasons weren’t really of interest to me so I ended up skimming the beginning.

The next few sections focused on various exercises to help me rise a little earlier each day, such as going to bed 15 minutes earlier the night before and setting my alarm an equal number of minutes earlier for the morning. This progress is then repeated until I was able to get up at my desired hour. This approach was just a little too basic for me. Sure, there’s more to the book than that, but not much I personally found useful.

In the end, it boils down to whether or not getting up earlier in the morning is productive for you. I didn’t find that extra hour productive at all. Mostly I was fuzzy-headed, trying to find two brain cells to rub together. After six months of my new routine, it finally hit me that I’m my most productive in the early afternoon. No matter what time I get up or go to bed, that’s my sweet spot. I’ve adjusted my schedule to make the most of my productive time. This is what I needed, and what I ultimately took from the book, but I think another book would have gotten me to that point a lot faster.

Bottom Line
A lot of people have found this book useful. I’m not one of them, but it might just be exactly what you need.

Title: The Early To Rise Experience: Learn To Rise Early in 30 Days
Author: Andy Traub
Publisher: Take Permission Media Press
Publication Date: January 25, 2013
Pages: 140
Category: Self Help/Productivity
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Andy Traub

Author Andy Traub

About the Author
Andy Traub is a creator. Whether it’s a podcast, book, blog post or speech, his message is the same. You must take permission if you want to live a great life, create great art, and positively impact the world.

In 2010 Seth Godin gave him permission to produce The Unofficial Linchpin Podcast. In that same year he partnered with Cliff Ravenscraft, the world’s most popular podcast consultant, to create a technology show called Business Tech Weekly. He has worked with or been a guest on shows with thought leaders like Michael Hyatt, Todd Henry, Chris LoCurto, Jeff Goins, Jon Acuff, Dan Miller and Andy Andrews.

In early 2013 Andy self-published his first book The Early To Rise Experience: Learn To Rise Early in 30 Days. His book was a tremendous success and in late 2013 he published two follow up books to the Early To Rise Experience, both written by and for moms who want to learn to rise early. In mid-2013 he created The Self-Publishing System to teach other authors how to market and sell more digital copies of their books.

Where to find Andy Traub
Goodreads Website | FacebookTwitter
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Book Review – Plot Perfect – How to Build Unforgettable Stories Scene by Scene by Paula Munier

Plot Perfect - How to Build Unforgettable Stories Scene by Scene by Paula Munier

Plot Perfect – How to Build Unforgettable Stories Scene by Scene by Paula Munier

5 Stars

Synopsis
Build an Exceptional Plot, One Scene at a Time!

Think of your favorite story–the one that kept you turning pages late into the night, the one with a plot so compelling, so multilayered, so perfect that you couldn’t put it down. How can you make your own plots–in your novels, short stories, memoirs, or screenplays–just as irresistible?

“Plot Perfect” provides the answer. This one-of-a-kind plotting primer reveals the secrets of creating a story structure that works–no matter what your genre. It gives you the strategies you need to build a scene-by-scene blueprint that will help elevate your fiction and earn the attention of agents and editors.

Inside, literary agent, editor, and author Paula Munier shows you how to:
Devise powerful plots and subplots and weave them together seamlessly
Organize your scenes for the greatest impact
Develop captivating protagonists, worthy antagonists, and engaging secondary characters
Use dialogue, setting, tone, and voice to enhance your plot
Layer, refine, and polish your storyline
Define your story in terms of its theme

Filled with writing exercises, plotting templates, and expert advice, “Plot Perfect” helps you dive into the intricacies of plot–and write a compelling story that readers won’t be able to resist.

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My Review
This is one of the best books I’ve read on structuring plot, regardless of genre. Packed with examples, checklists, and exercises, this book explains in plain English how to outline your novel to ensure your plot zings, you’ve built in layers of subplot, and your theme is expertly woven. Plot Perfect covers all aspects of writing fiction, albeit at a high level. It contains the building blocks necessary to create a plot that works with developed characters that reflect your story’s theme. It’s an excellent resource for both planners and pantsers. Even writers who don’t outline will benefit from understanding how story works as they hammer out a first draft by the seat of their pants. I had an outline of a book I was working on, and as I was reading Plot Perfect, I revised my outline after noting several problems with it.

Bottom Line
Plot Perfect is a great resource for novelists of all genres at every stage of their careers.

Title: Plot Perfect: How to Build Unforgettable Stories Scene by Scene
Author: Paula Munier
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
Publication Date: October 17, 2014
Pages: 281
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Powell’s

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Author Paula Munier

Author Paula Munier

About the Author
My professional evolution mirrors that of publishing itself. From my early days as a reporter to my latest incarnation as all-around content queen and bottle washer, I’ve reinvented myself as the publishing industry has changed–and keeps on changing. The only constant: My love of the written word.

Over my 20-plus years in the business, I’ve conceived, created, produced, and marketed exceptional content in all formats across all markets for such media giants as WGBH, Fidelity, Disney, Gannett, F+W Media, Quarto, Greenspun Media Group, among others. I’ve written my own work as well, including Writing With Quiet Hands: How to Shape Your Writing to Resonate with Readers, Plot Perfect: How to Build Unforgettable Stories Scene by Scene, and the acclaimed memoir Fixing Freddie.

In 2012, I joined Talcott Notch LIterary Services as Senior Agent and Content Strategist. I’m always looking for good crime fiction, women’s fiction, mainstream fiction, high-concept YA and SF/Fantasy fiction, as well as nonfiction.

My mission: To tell great stories and sell great stories. Why? Because the world needs them.

Where to find Paula Munier
Goodreads Website | FacebookTwitter
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Book Review – Writing Fiction — A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, and Ned Stuckey-French

Writing Fiction -- A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, and Ned Stuckey-French

Writing Fiction — A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, and Ned Stuckey-French

5 Stars

Synopsis
The most widely used and respected text in its field, Writing Fiction, 7e by novelists Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French guides the novice story writer from first inspiration to final revision by providing practical writing techniques and concrete examples. Written in a tone that is personal and non-prescriptive, the text encourages students to develop proficiency through each step of the writing process, offering an abundance of exercises designed to spur writing and creativity.  The text also integrates diverse contemporary short stories in every chapter in the belief that the reading of inspiring fiction goes hand-in-hand with the writing of fresh and exciting stories.

A bestseller through six editions,Writing Fiction by novelists Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French explores the elements of fiction, providing practical writing techniques and concrete examples. Written in a tone that is personal and non-prescriptive, this book encourages writers to develop proficiency through each step of the writing process, offering an abundance of exercises designed to spur writing and creativity. The text Writing Fiction also integrates diverse contemporary short stories in every chapter in the belief that the reading of inspiring fiction goes hand-in-hand with the writing of fresh and exciting stories.

Thorough and practical discussions of all the major fictional elements offer readers a comprehensive guide to the craft of writing stories.  Topics include freewriting, plot, style, characterization, dialogue, time, place, imagery, and point of view.

For novice writers looking to develop proficiency.

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My Review
This is a comprehensive book on craft that starts with the basics and works deeper with solid examples that drive the point home. With detailed chapters on the process of writing, showing vs. telling, and creating three-dimensional characters and settings, this may be the penultimate book for beginning writers. Even intermediate writers will find reminders about all the things we’re doing wrong that we knew were wrong, but forgot we were doing. Filled with vivid examples to illustrate every lesson, the book even has a few things for more seasoned writers.

New writers often have the hardest time grasping the concept of showing vs. telling, and this section in Writing Fiction is one of the best yet I’ve read, teaching the difference between the two with well-written examples perfectly re-written to ensure the lesson is learned. The section on characterization is exceptionally thorough, delving into great detail on what makes good characters and what makes great characters. All stories need good characters, but the best stories have great characters.

With about one-third examples and writing exercises and two-thirds instruction, I firmly believe this is the first book every aspiring fiction writer should pick up and study.

Bottom Line
Writing Fiction is expensive, but worth every penny. This is the textbook every aspiring novelist needs to read.

Title: Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft
Authors: Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, and Ned Stuckey-French
Publisher: Longman
Publication Date: February 2, 2014
Pages: 400
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Janet Burroway

Author Janet Burroway

About Janet Burroway
Janet Burroway is the author of seven novels including The Buzzards, Raw Silk (runner up for the national Book award), Opening Nights, and Cutting Stone; a volume of poetry,Material Goods; a collection of essays, Embalming Mom; and two children’s books, The Truck on the Track and The Giant Jam Sandwich. Her most recent plays, Medea With Child, Sweepstakes, Division of Property, and Parts of Speech, have received readings and productions in New York, London, San Francisco, Hollywood, and various regional theatres.

Her Writing Fiction is the most widely used creative writing text in America, and a multi-genre textbook, Imaginative Writing, appeared in 2002. A B.A. from Barnard College and M.A. from Cambridge University, England, she was Yale School of Drama RCA-NBC Fellow 1960-61, and is Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor Emerita at the Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Where to find Janet Burroway
Goodreads Website | Twitter

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Author Elizabeth Stuckey-French

Author Elizabeth Stuckey-French

About Elizabeth Stuckey-French
Elizabeth Stuckey-French is the author of a novel, Mermaids on the Moon, a collection of short stories, The First Paper Girl in Red Oak Iowa, and, with Janet Burroway, Writing Fiction: A Guide to the Narrative Craft.

Her new novel, The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady, is forthcoming from Doubleday in spring 2011. Her short stories have appeared in The Normal School, Narrative Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Gettysburg Review, Southern Review, Five Points, and The O’Henry Prize Stories 2005.

She was awarded a James Michener Fellowship and has won grants from the Howard Foundation, the Indiana Arts Foundation, and the Florida Arts Foundation. She teaches fiction writing at Florida State University.

Where to find Elizabeth Stuckey-French
Goodreads Website | Facebook

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Author Ned Stuckey-French

Author Ned Stuckey-French

About Ned Stuckey-French
Ned Stuckey-French teaches at Florida State University and is book review editor of Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction.

He is the author of The American Essay in the American Century (University of Missouri Press, forthcoming May 2011), co-editor (with Carl Klaus) of Essayists on the Essay: Four Centuries of Commentary (University of Iowa Press, forthcoming fall 2011), and coauthor (with Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French) of Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft (Longman, 8th edition).

His articles and essays have appeared in journals and magazines such as In These Times, The Missouri Review, The Iowa Review, Walking Magazine, culture front, Pinch, Guernica, and American Literature, and have been listed three times among the notable essays of the year in Best American Essays.

Where to find Ned Stuckey-French
Goodreads Website | Twitter

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Month in Review – December 2015

Two weeks late, but you know, the holidays… Also, some front yard landscaping, and Aussie exchange student for eleven days, and final edits and publishing of The Uprising (which comes out on Tuesday!). Better late than never. Here are the books I read and reviewed in December, 2015.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Story: 4 Stars
Audiobook: 5 Stars

Title: Gone Girl
Author: 
Gillian Flynn
Release Date: 
May 24, 2012
Publisher:
Random House Audible
Narrators:
Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne
Length:
19 Hours 11 Minutes
Genre:
 Contemporary Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
Story Rating: 
4 out of 5 Stars
Audio Production Rating:
 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AudibleAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge.

Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

Bottom Line
Gone Girl is a disturbing tale, beautifully written, and the audiobook version is one of the best produced I’ve ever listened to.

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Bad Romance: A Stepbrother Novel by by Jen McLaughlin

Bad Romance A Stepbrother Novel by by Jen McLaughlin

Bad Romance A Stepbrother Novel by by Jen McLaughlin

4 Stars

Title: Bad Romance: A Stepbrother Novel
Author: 
Jen McLauchlin
Publisher: 
Loveswept
Release Date: 
September 15, 2015
Pages:
242
Genre: 
New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Synopsis
In this explosive novel from New York Times bestselling author Jen McLaughlin, a good girl falls for the ultimate bad boy: her stepbrother. Perfect for fans of Sabrina Paige, Caitlin Daire, and Krista Lakes, Bad Romance proves that passion can be so wrong it’s right.

Seven years in the army will change a guy. But after a shoulder wound ends his career as a sniper, Jackson Worthington finds himself back home, fighting a battle that’s all too familiar: keeping his hands off Lily Hastings. She’s still her rich daddy’s little angel, innocent, impossibly lovely, as squeaky-clean as Jackson is dirty. And she’s still his stepsister—forbidden but not forgotten, not after the soul-melting kiss that got him kicked out of the house at eighteen. He couldn’t resist her then. How the hell can he resist her now?

Lily is about to marry a man she doesn’t love, and commit to a high-stress job she hates, all to please the father who controls every waking moment of her life. On top of everything, her teenage crush is back, with a sleek, chiseled body and a trace of the rebellious boy whose lips sealed her fate. Jackson’s timing couldn’t be worse . . . or better. Because Lily’s all grown up, too. She’s aching for another taste. And for the first time, she’s ready to be a bad girl.

Bottom Line
Bad Romance is a page-turning romance about forbidden love and learning to live your own life.

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Royal Marriage Market by Heather Lyons

Royal Marriage Market by Heather Lyons

Royal Marriage Market by Heather Lyons

4.5 Stars

Title: Royal Marriage Market
Author: Heather Lyons
Publisher: Cerulean Books
Release Date: December 15, 2015
Pages: 335
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
Every decade, the world’s monarchs and their heirs secretly convene to discuss global politics and social issues—and arrange marriages between kingdoms. Elsa may be the Hereditary Princess of Vattenguldia, but she finds the entire situation archaic and unsavory. While she wants what’s best for her country, she isn’t about to jump into an unwanted relationship—let alone a marriage—with a virtual stranger. Of course, her feelings matter little to her parents, whose wheeling and dealings over trade pacts and alliances achieved at her expense begin the moment they set foot in California for the Summit. So when a blindingly handsome royal runs into her, she doesn’t hesitate to tell him there’s no way she’s marrying him.

Christian is all too happy to agree: no marriage. As the Hereditary Grand Duke of Aiboland, his main goal is to get through the summit without a bride being foisted on him. Which is why he suggests they help each other field potential intendeds. As Christian slowly gets to know Elsa, though, he realizes they have a lot more in common than just their feelings about the Royal Marriage Market. Only he can’t fall for her, because royal or not, they’re not meant for each other. Elsa and Christian will have to evaluate matters of the heart verses those of state and crown, and decide whether or not tradition trumps love.

Bottom Line
Royal Marriage Market is a fun twist on the contemporary romance genre with plenty of chemistry and more than a few laughs.

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The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

The Writer's Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

3.5 Stars

Title: The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus: An Interactive Guide for Developing Ideas for Novels and Short Stories
Author: Fred White
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Pages: 320
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
Endless ideas at your fingertips, and at the turn of a page…

Need an idea for a short story or novel? Look no further than The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus. It’s far more than a collection of simple writing prompts. You’ll find a vast treasury of story ideas inside, organized by subject, theme, and situation categories, and listed alphabetically for easy reference. Author and award-winning writing instructor Fred White shows you how to build out and customize these ideas to create unique plots that reflect your personal storytelling sensibilities, making The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus an invaluable tool for generating creative ideas and vanquishing writer’s block—for good.

Inside you’ll find:
•2,000 unique and dynamic story ideas perfect for novels and short stories of any genre or writing style
•Twenty major idea categories, such as The Invasion of X, The Transformation of X into Y, Escape from X, The Curse of X, and more
•Multiple situations that further refine the major categories, such as The Creation of Artificial Life, The Descent Into Madness, Love in the Workplace, The Journey to a Forgotten Realm, and more
•Invaluable advice on how to customize each idea.

The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus is an interactive story generator that opens the door to thousands of new story arcs and plotlines.

 Bottom Line
The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus lives up to its name as a unique reference guide to aid writers in developing story ideas.

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Next Door to a Star (Star Series) by Krysten Lindsay Hagar

Next Door to a Star by Krysten Lindsay Hagar

Next Door to a Star by Krysten Lindsay Hagar

4 Stars

Title: Next Door to a Star
Series: Star Series #1
Author:
Krysten Lindsay Hagar
Publisher: Limitless Publishing, LLC
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 185
Genre: 
Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon InternationalBarnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | BAM!

Synopsis
Hadley Daniels is tired of feeling invisible. After Hadley’s best friend moves away and she gets on the bad side of some girls at school, she goes to spend the summer with her grandparents in the Lake Michigan resort town of Grand Haven. Her next door neighbor is none other than teen TV star Simone Hendrickson, who is everything Hadley longs to be—pretty, popular, and famous—and she’s thrilled when Simone treats her like a friend. Being popular is a lot harder than it looks.

It’s fun and flattering when Simone includes her in her circle, though Hadley is puzzled about why her new friend refuses to discuss her former Hollywood life. Caught up with Simone, Hadley finds herself ignoring her quiet, steadfast friend, Charlotte. To make things even more complicated, along comes Nick Jenkins… He’s sweet, good-looking, and Hadley can be herself around him without all the fake drama. However, the mean girls have other ideas and they fill Nick’s head with lies about Hadley, sending him running back to his ex-girlfriend and leaving Hadley heartbroken.

So when her parents decide to relocate to Grand Haven, Hadley hopes things will change when school starts…only to be disappointed once again. Cliques. Back-stabbing. Love gone bad. Is this really what it’s like to live…Next Door To A Star?

Bottom Line
While Next Door to a Star moves slow at times, it’s filled with a colorful cast of young teens who think and act like the kids on the cusp of adulthood they are.
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Book Review – The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

The Writer's Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus by Fred White

3.5 Stars

Synopsis
Endless ideas at your fingertips, and at the turn of a page…

Need an idea for a short story or novel? Look no further than The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus. It’s far more than a collection of simple writing prompts. You’ll find a vast treasury of story ideas inside, organized by subject, theme, and situation categories, and listed alphabetically for easy reference.

Author and award-winning writing instructor Fred White shows you how to build out and customize these ideas to create unique plots that reflect your personal storytelling sensibilities, making The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus an invaluable tool for generating creative ideas and vanquishing writer’s block—for good.

Inside you’ll find:
•2,000 unique and dynamic story ideas perfect for novels and short stories of any genre or writing style
•Twenty major idea categories, such as The Invasion of X, The Transformation of X into Y, Escape from X, The Curse of X, and more
•Multiple situations that further refine the major categories, such as The Creation of Artificial Life, The Descent Into Madness, Love in the Workplace, The Journey to a Forgotten Realm, and more
•Invaluable advice on how to customize each idea.

The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus is an interactive story generator that opens the door to thousands of new story arcs and plotlines.

My Review
The concept behind The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus intrigued me. I don’t suffer from a lack of story ideas, but sometimes in fleshing them out, I need a little inspiration. It’s definitely an interesting concept, but I found it a little overwhelming. I tried to consume it the way I do most books, by starting at the front and working my way to the back. It’s really designed to allow you to jump around, so I gave that a try next. Ultimately I came to the conclusion it’s really more of a reference book, just like your regular thesaurus. Once I figured that out, I realized it’s got a lot of promise. Think of it as one of those flip books for kids with the three parts — you flip the pages to put a cow’s head on an ostrich body with kangaroo legs. Pick and choose from various concepts to put together your own unique story idea.

Bottom Line
The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus lives up to its name as a unique reference guide to aid writers in developing story ideas.

Title: The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus: An Interactive Guide for Developing Ideas for Novels and Short Stories
Author: Fred White
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Pages: 320
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

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Book Review – Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Writing Deep Scenes - Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Writing Deep Scenes – Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld

3 Stars

Synopsis
Take a Deep Dive into Plot and Scene and Improve Your Writing

Whether you’re planning your first novel or have already written a first draft, you need to master the concepts of plot and scene to truly realize your story’s potential. “Writing Deep Scenes” teaches you how to write strong, layered, and engaging scenes–the secret to memorable, page-turning plots. It’s filled with practical tools for building layers and nuance into your scenes, employing the right scene types at the right junctures, and developing a profound understanding of how plot and scene intertwine.

Inside you’ll learn: How scenes are comprised of three key layers: action, emotion, and theme.How to recognize each layer and weave them seamlessly into a scene.How to develop an intricate relationship between the action and emotion in every scene.How thematic imagery embedded in scenes increases a story’s tension and contributes to the story’s meaning.Using contemporary examples from a variety of genres, “Writing Deep Scenes” provides an effective method for plotting at the scene level. Use these techniques and enrich your fiction and memoirs with page-turning suspense and pathos, and explore new depths in every story you write.

My Review
I think I was looking for something different when I picked up this book. My goal was to learn techniques to help me add more depth to my writing, getting deeper into the emotions of my characters. While I don’t think the book delivered on that, I definitely think it has something to offer. The book delves into plotting using themes to drive your scenes, but there’s a lot of new terminology in here that took a little getting used to. The examples from published fiction help drive the points home, but I almost felt as if the examples overshadowed the lessons. Sometimes a page or more was devoted to showing the technique being presented.

Each chapter concludes with a summary of the topics covered, which is a nice refresher. All the pieces of what’s needed to write a compelling story are presented, chapter-by-chapter, but I would have liked a master checklist, or outline, or something, at the end that pulled everything together. That said, anyone can create their own while reading the book.

This book may be better suited toward someone just starting out because the terminology is quite different than other books on writing fiction. I had to keep referring back to remember what the terms meant and cross-referencing them against the terms I’m more familiar with.

Bottom Line
Writing Deep Scenes presents solid techniques for developing your plot and creating layered scenes, but the terminology takes a little getting used to.

Title: Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme
Authors: Martha Alderson and Jordan E. Rosenfeld
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books
Publication Date: October 2, 2015
Pages: 248
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

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Month in Review – October 2015

October is by far my favorite month of the year. I love when the temperatures, sort of, sometimes, get cooler in San Diego, plus Halloween. But mostly it’s all about the pumpkin. Pumpkin spice lattes, This Pumpkin Walked into a Bar, pumpkin pasta, muffins, pie, and more. I also managed to do a little more reading this month than I did earlier in the summer. These are the books I reviewed in October:

Mad Love 2 by Colet Abedi

Mad Love 2 (Mad Love Series #2) by Colete Abedi

4 Stars

Title: Mad Love 2
Series: Mad Love #2
Author: Colet ABedi
Publisher: Bird Street Books
Pages: 262
Category: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
Heartbroken by the handsome and enigmatic Clayton Astor Sinclair, Sophie Walker has put her whirlwind romance with him in the Maldives behind her and is determined to focus on her career as an artist.

But when her new job in the south of France turns out to be too good to be true, she can’t help but wonder if she is making a mistake. Their passion cannot be denied, but when Clayton shuts her out after a family tragedy, Sophie is determined to fight for what is right. She must defy all odds to find her own happily ever after. 

This book is intended for mature audiences.

Bottom Line
A worthy follow-up to Mad Love, it’s intense, emotional, and delves deeper into the characters we’ve come to know. The jury is still out on whether or not I love them.

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Pepped Up Forever (Pepper Jones Series) by Ali Dean

Pepped Up Forever (Pepper Jones #5) by Ali Dean

4.5 Stars

Title: Pepped Up Forever
Series:  Pepper Jones #5
Author: Ali Dean
Release Date: October 1, 2015
Pages: 180
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
This is the fifth and final book in the Pepper Jones series, and it’s one you don’t want to miss.

Pepper Jones is ready to start breaking some records. She’ll be a junior in college, and if she wants to run professionally when she graduates, it’s time to step things up a notch. This time around, she knows it won’t be accomplished by ramping up her training. While Pepper’s hoping for a race day breakthrough, she wonders if there’s a mental barrier holding her back, and if so, how is she supposed to confront it?

Meanwhile, Jace Wilder wants Pepper back any way he can have her, but he’s reluctant to bulldoze his way into her life having already crushed her once (okay, probably a few more times than that) before. More scenes from Jace’s point of view in the book shed a new perspective into the character Pepper fans love to hate, and hate to love, delving into those layers he’s only given glimpses of in the past.

The Brockton crew is growing up. Zoe and Wes. Jenny and Rollie. Lexi and Brax. Bunny and Wallace. Pepper and ??? It’s time to find out what Pepper’s happily ever after will be.

Bottom Line
A worthy ending to a great series.

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The Rebel by Adrienne Giordano

The Rebel by Adrienne Giordano

4 Stars

Title: The Rebel
Author: Adrienne Giordano
Publisher: Harlequin Intrigue
Release Date: October 1, 2015
Pages: 234
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Rating: 4 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | GooglePlay | Harlequin

Synopsis
Bad to the bone…in all the right ways

A brilliant civil lawyer, David Hennings has always been the outsider—at odds with his wealthy family, shunning relationships, defying convention as a sexy leather-jacketed biker. Which is why sculptor Amanda LeBlanc agrees to his request to reconstruct a skull from a cold case murder. The instant heat between them is scorching.

But once Amanda takes the job and gets too close to the rebellious attorney, her carefully balanced life is upended by a series of methodical attacks. Someone doesn’t want her to finish the job. Now David will risk everything not to lose the woman he unknowingly put in jeopardy.

Bottom Line
The Rebel is a mystery wrapped in a romantic suspense with a big dose of fully-developed characters.

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How to Say I Love You Out Loud by Karole Cozzo

How to Say I Love You Out Loud by Karole Cozzo

5 Stars

Title: How to Say I Love You Out Loud
Author: Karole Cozzo
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Pages: 240
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
When Jordyn Michaelson’s autistic brother joins her at her elite school, she’s determined not to let anyone know they’re related. Even if that means closing herself off to all her closest friends, including charming football stud Alex Colby.

But despite her best intentions, she just can’t shake the memory of kissing Alex last summer, and the desire to do it again.

Can Jordyn find the courage to tell Alex how she really feels—and the truth about her family—before he slips away forever?

 Bottom Line
How to Say I Love You Out Loud is an emotional look at finding your own words and the strength to say them out loud.

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How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall

How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall

3.5 Stars

Title: How Fiction Works
Author: Oakley Hall
Publisher: Story Press
Publication Date: January 5, 2001
Pages: 240
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis
In How Fiction Works, Oakley Hall expands upon and broadens the instruction that made The Art and Craft of Novel Writing so successful.

This new book covers all forms and lengths of fiction, probes deeper into every topic, offers new examples and includes exercises and the end of every chapter. He explains the basic and finer points of the fiction-writing process from word choice and imagery to authority and viewpoint.

The book is divided into three sections, beginning with “The Basics.” In this section, Hall explores the micro elements of storytelling, such as details, word choice, images, symbol and metaphor. He then moves on! to “The Elements,” which covers the primary elements of fiction: point of view, characterization and plot. Citing numerous examples from classic and contemporary work, he shows readers how these elements function separately and in concert. Finally, the focus shifts to the specific types of fiction – short shorts, short stories, novellas, and novels – also known as “The Forms.” Each form presents a unique challenge to the writer, and Hall explains how to meet those challenges.

Beginning, as well as more advanced writers, will find much to like about this book.

Bottom Line
How Fiction Works includes sound advice for fiction writers with illustrative examples. It’s definitely worth a read.

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The Book of Ivy (Book of Ivy Series) by Amy Engel

The Book of Ivy (Book of Ivy #1) by Amy Engel

4 Stars

Title: The Book of Ivy
Series: The Book of Ivy #1
Author: Amy Engel
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: November 11, 2014
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo BooksiTunesGoogle Books

Bottom Line
The Book of Ivy is a familiar dystopian tale with enough of its own uniqueness to set it apart from the rest.

Synopsis
After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.

This year, it is my turn.

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

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Book Review – How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall

How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall

How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall

3.5 Stars

Synopsis
In How Fiction Works, Oakley Hall expands upon and broadens the instruction that made The Art and Craft of Novel Writing so successful.

This new book covers all forms and lengths of fiction, probes deeper into every topic, offers new examples and includes exercises and the end of every chapter. He explains the basic and finer points of the fiction-writing process from word choice and imagery to authority and viewpoint.

The book is divided into three sections, beginning with “The Basics.” In this section, Hall explores the micro elements of storytelling, such as details, word choice, images, symbol and metaphor. He then moves on! to “The Elements,” which covers the primary elements of fiction: point of view, characterization and plot. Citing numerous examples from classic and contemporary work, he shows readers how these elements function separately and in concert. Finally, the focus shifts to the specific types of fiction – short shorts, short stories, novellas, and novels – also known as “The Forms.” Each form presents a unique challenge to the writer, and Hall explains how to meet those challenges.

Beginning, as well as more advanced writers, will find much to like about this book.

My Review
I originally borrowed this book from the library and ended up purchasing it because it had some really solid information. Oakley Hall uses examples, good and bad, to illustrate his point. The first third of the book I found outstandingly useful, particularly the section on scene setting and choosing descriptive details. I also found the center section about symbolism and indirection to be an area where my writing is weak, and it gave me some good ideas. The section on characterization didn’t come across as quite as strong for me. I’m not sure why I found it lacking, I just know that I struggled to get through it and ended up skimming portions. I completely glossed over the short story section as well since I don’t have much interest in that topic. However, the parts I found useful more than justified the price I paid for the book.

As the director of writing programs at U.C. Irvine for 22 years as well as the author of 21 novels, Oakley Hall knows a thing or two about writing fiction. I love that he uses examples of both good writing that illustrates his point using those that seem to break the rules, explaining why in his opinion, it doesn’t work.

Bottom Line
How Fiction Works includes sound advice for fiction writers with illustrative examples. It’s definitely worth a read.

Title: How Fiction Works
Author: Oakley Hall
Publisher: Story Press
Publication Date: January 5, 2001
Pages: 240
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

World Building – Part 1

IMG_8888Invariably, the first question anyone asks someone writing a novel is, “What’s it about?” not realizing what a loaded question that is.  How do you take an 80,000+ word novel and distill it into a single sentence? This is a problem every author runs into. But a novel is primarily about four things: 1. Setting, 2. Characters, 3. Goal, and 4. Dilemma, although not necessarily in that order.

I set about defining the setting first. I knew the world before I even had my first character. I wanted to set my story in a world after global warming. Imagine what might happen if we can’t stop climate change. If the United States devolved into a second civil war sparked by government regulations to curb greenhouse gasses. And from there, the setting took root and grew.

World building is my favorite part of the writing process. I get to decide how the government works, what sort of dwellings people live in, what careers they have. For me, world building starts not with envisioning the end result, but with following a natural progression from here to there. I did a lot of research, not only on what’s happening now, but on technology that could be used in the future to help us recover from climate change.

I stumbled across this article on Israelis desalinating ocean water to create drinking water, and suddenly, The Union was set at the coasts, hugging a strip around the perimeter of the country. So much fell into place after that decision was made. One article sparked an idea that spawned a whole world building exercise that turned into a novel.

The Writing Process Blog Tour

Screenshot 2014-07-10 09.03.23My beautiful blogger/gluten-free/writer friend, Debi Smith, invited me to participate in The Writing Process Blog Tour. The Tour began some time last year, with each participant answering four questions about their work in progress then inviting a few more writers to participate. You can trace it back it its roots if you’re really interested (or bored). You can read Debi’s post and see who invited her on her blog, Chocolate Wasteland.

What are you currently writing?
I’m working on final edits to The Union, the first book in a young adult adventure series. It’s set 100 years after global warming and a second civil war have reshaped the United States into the Union, a green-energy, utopian society that hugs the coastlines of the former U.S.

I’ve been working on it for more than three years, revising it based on feedback from beta readers and my fabulous critique group, and now it’s almost done. I’ve already drafted books 2-4 in the series and will work with my critique group on the second book next.

What makes your work different?
While some have tried to classify it as dystopian, it’s really not. I know there are some elements that fit into that category, but the book isn’t anywhere near as dark and hopeless as almost everything else in that genre. Instead, it’s an optimistic adventure that just happens to be set in the future. It compares and contrasts a semi-socialistic utopian society with a world devoid of law and order, but with complete autonomy.

My characters stretch the upper age limit of young adults, straddling the young adult/new adult line. And while there is a love triangle, it’s very different than almost every other one I’ve read. The two boys are as different as the two worlds they come from and it’s not so much about a choice between two boys as it is a choice between fate and desire, with each boy representing one of those elements.

Why do you write what you do?
I don’t like rules. Sure, there are rules we have to follow. I can’t write a story that wanders aimlessly, without world building or character arcs, but I didn’t want to be constrained to the conventions of the world we live in now. By setting it in the future, I get to make up my own rules, decide which of our technological wonder devices survive and which don’t. I get to create a society that functions the way I want it to and choose what happens when things fall apart.

Once I decided when I wanted my story to take place, I had to think about the logical flow of the world we live in now and what it might take to get us to my imaginary world 150 years from now. That was really fun. It was a chance to take the what-if scenario on climate change to one possible conclusion.

As to why I chose young adults as my characters, well, that’s a post all its own.

How does your writing process work?
It’s an evolving process, but I think after drafting four books, editing three, and running one through my critique group, I have something that works well for me.

I always start with a general idea of what I want to accomplish with the book. I visual the opening and the ending and then decide on at least three major plot points. Once I have that, I do a quick rough outline, draft my character arcs, and begin the detailed outline in Scrivener. Scrivener is easily the best $50 I’ve ever spent.

Screenshot 2014-07-10 15.19.30

When my outline is done, I create my writing soundtrack. Every book has a theme song, the music that feeds my soul as I write, and the soundtrack builds on the theme song. I conduct any research I’ve identified during my outlining, scour the internet for photographic inspiration, if needed, and then pop in my ear buds, launch my soundtrack, and begin drafting each scene.

When I realize I need to make some changes in what I’ve already written, I jot down notes of things to fix on the next draft. I always run through the first draft without any revising at all. Then I go through three or four more drafts before seeking feedback through my critique group. After incorporating all of their feedback, I do several more editing rounds and send it off to my copy editor for final cleaning.

Who’s Next?
I’m tagging some of my favorite fellow YA writers, Jen Glenn, K.A. Cozzo, and Randi Cooley Wilson.

Book Review – Wired for Story by Lisa Cron

4 Stars

Synopsis
This guide reveals how writers can utilize cognitive storytelling strategies to craft stories that ignite readers’ brains and captivate them through each plot element.

  Imagine knowing what the brain craves from every tale it encounters, what fuels the success of any great story, and what keeps readers transfixed. Wired for Story reveals these cognitive secrets—and it’s a game-changer for anyone who has ever set pen to paper.

 The vast majority of writing advice focuses on “writing well” as if it were the same as telling a great story. This is exactly where many aspiring writers fail—they strive for beautiful metaphors, authentic dialogue, and interesting characters, losing sight of the one thing that every engaging story must do: ignite the brain’s hardwired desire to learn what happens next. When writers tap into the evolutionary purpose of story and electrify our curiosity, it triggers a delicious dopamine rush that tells us to pay attention. Without it, even the most perfect prose won’t hold anyone’s interest.

Backed by recent breakthroughs in neuroscience as well as examples from novels, screenplays, and short stories, Wired for Story offers a revolutionary look at story as the brain experiences it. Each chapter zeroes in on an aspect of the brain, its corresponding revelation about story, and the way to apply it to your storytelling right now.

My Review
Billed as The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence, I have to say it delivers on that promise. Wired for Story presents a scientific argument for why we love a good story, and what makes a story good. Lisa Cron includes the science behind her arguments and examples that demonstrate her point. This isn’t so much a “how to” book so much as a “why” book and understanding why is the first step in figuring out how to.

Just some of the topics she covers are hooking the reader, getting to the heart of your characters’ feelings, and why our brain requires everything to connect. In other words, anything that doesn’t move the plot forward, contribute to characterization, or world building as it directly relates to plot or character, doesn’t belong in the story. That’s something all writers know, but Lisa Cron shows us why, scientifically, anything that doesn’t will quickly kill your story.

Bottom Line
Wired for Story is a great book for understanding the evolution of story, and why our brains are wired to read or hear a story in a particular way. It helps us understand why books are formulaic and why some that break the mold work, and others don’t. This is almost the first book any aspiring author should read, before reading about technique.

Title: Wired for Story
Author: Lisa Cron
Publisher: Random House, LLC
Pages: 272
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links to Purchase: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble

What Does it Mean if I Don’t Suffer from Writer’s Block?

Writers BlockI’ve been seeing a plethora of articles lately on writer’s block and how to overcome it. Sometimes I’ll skim them, but more often than not, I’ll move on without reading them. Because I don’t suffer from writer’s block.

Merriam-Webster defines writer’s block as: a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece.

Just yesterday, Publisher’s Weekly posted this piece on seven steps to overcoming writer’s block. I didn’t even bother to click the link in my email. My problem is that I have too many words and ideas in my head. My first draft of my first novel was nearly 120K words. It’s now down to a much more manageable 90K, but could still use some trimming. The problem is, with every draft and every cut I make, I think of more things that would be fun to include.

In fact, I googled “What does it mean if I don’t suffer from writer’s block” and the first five pages of hits were all about getting rid of writer’s block. I realize this isn’t really a problem. And I’m probably lucky, except what I DO suffer from is a lack of focus. I could easily spend ten hours a day writing or editing. But instead, I spend my time on Twitter, Facebook, googling, emailing with my friends, or just generally screwing off.

Luckily there are pages and pages of articles on how to be a more disciplined writer. I wonder how long it will take me to read them all.

Come to think it, that sounds exactly like Merriam-Webster’s definition of writer’s block — my distraction is preventing me from proceeding with my writing. Maybe I’ll go google some more definitions.

The Hardest Part of Writing

file0001269229027For me, the hardest part of the writing is not the planning, the drafting, or even the editing (which I secretly loathe). No, it’s the waiting. All the waiting.

When you finish a first draft, you’re supposed to put your manuscript in a drawer and do something else for a week or two. Really? Does anyone actually do this? But it’s true. Writers need to edit with a little distance between drafts. So what do you do with your downtime? That’s the hard part.

Sometimes I’ll begin planning the next book. But usually I’ll stew for a few days and decide that maybe four days is enough distance and get down to my next round of edits. I’m not good at the waiting.

But waiting between rounds of revisions isn’t even the worst part of waiting. After all of the edits, it’s finally time to query. Which involves…more waiting. From days to weeks. I’m back to the dilemma of what to do with all of my free time. Do I go back and tweak the manuscript again? Because once I queried, I suddenly see all the flaws I missed on the first 30 passes.

And then, miraculously an agent asks to see sample chapters, or in my case, a full. After shipping it off, all of those flaws are now magnified 1000 times and my fingers ache from not going in to fix them.

And it begins again. The waiting.

I wait.

And I wait.

And the waiting is killing me.

If by some chance the agent offers to represent me, then I’m sure there will be edits and I can get back to work. But then the real waiting starts as the agent submits to publishers. And I’m guessing this will be the most difficult waiting of all.

Tom Petty was right. The waiting really is the hardest part.

Happy Father’s Day

CreateHappy Father’s Day to the two best fathers I know — my dad and my husband. My dad made me this paperweight from a rock out of his garden and a some gold paint, to remind me every day that what I do matters. I may not be published yet, but he believes in me.

My dad set a pretty high bar, but I still managed to get knocked up by a pretty awesome guy who has been the best father to my children I could have asked for. He’s patient, kind, playful, generous, and on top of all that, he’s my best friend. In fact, he was my best friend years before he was ever anything more.

What does any of this have to do with writing? Nothing and everything. Both of these fantastic fathers support and encourage me, each in their own ways, but they also provide me with a solid foundation of what fathers and love interests should be in the stories I write.

Book Review – Write Tight: Say Exactly What You Mean with Precision and Power by William Brohaugh

Wright Tight by William Brohaugh

Wright Tight by William Brohaugh

4.5 Stars

Synopsis
“These days, most creative-writing courses teach self-indulgence. Write Tight counsels discipline. It is worth more than a university education. Its advice is gold.” -Dean Koontz

Foreword by Lawrence Block

Not since The Elements of Style has a writing guide had the ability to turn a writer’s work around so effectively. Every writer struggles with keeping their prose focused and concise, but surprisingly few books address this essential topic. Write Tight is an informative and utterly readable guide that tackles these issues head-on.

William Brohaugh, former editor of Writer’s Digest, goes beyond the discussion on redundancy and overwriting to take on evasiveness, affectations, roundabout writing, tangents and “invisible” words. Other topics include:

-Outlining the four levels of wordiness
-Identifying 16 types of flabby writing
-Exercises that help writers avoid wordiness
-Streamlining through sidebars and checklists
-Tests that show how concise a writer’s prose is

“Write Tight is a supremely valuable, ‘must-have’ for aspiring writers in all fields from prose to nonfiction, journalistic copy, screenwriting and so much more.” -Midwest Book Review

My Review
As a writer and editor, I found this book to be useful for every kind of writing I do. I initially read it to help me shave word count on my novel, but I found it to be infinitely useful for the work I do for my day job. There are so many common sense lessons in the book that I easily shaved 10 thousand words off my novel in one revision and I continue to find additional areas to make my writing tighter with each pass.

There are useful checklists, exercises and examples to really help retain the lessons learned. The only thing that kept me from giving this book a full five stars is that it’s longer than it needs to be at 240 pages. I feel like it probably would have been fine at about half that.

Bottom Line
This is one of the top ten writing resources I’d recommend to all writers, not just those writing books. Anyone who writes anything for any reason will benefit from the lessons in Write Tight.

Title: Write Tight: Say Exactly What You Mean with Precision and Power
Author: William Brohaugh
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Pages: 240
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Links to PurchaseAmazonBarnes & Noble

Book Review – The Plot Skeleton (Writing Lessons From the Front #1) by Dr. Angela Hunt

The Plot Skeleton (Writing Lessons From the Front #1) by Dr. Angela Hunt

The Plot Skeleton (Writing Lessons From the Front #1) by Dr. Angela Hunt

4 Stars

Synopsis
In writing class, our teachers made sure we understood how to write a five-paragraph theme: introduction, thesis sentence, points one, two, and three, followed by the conclusion. But rarely did any teacher tell us how to write fiction–they simply urged us to write a story. 

But how is that done? Angela Hunt has been writing and teaching for thirty years, and she has boiled plotting down to the basics in thirty pages. Not only will you come away knowing how to plot, you’ll be able to point the important structural points in movies and other books you read. It’s all about the skeleton, Hunt says, and every working story has one.

(A condensed version of this lesson was originally published in A NOVEL IDEA, a collection of writer’s tips and techniques by published novelists.)

Enjoy this writing lesson for a fraction of the cost of attending one of Angela’s writing classes–your writing will never be the same.

My Review
Dr. Angela Hunt has published over 130 titles and sold more than 4 million books. That alone was enough to get me to try her Writing Lessons series. That and the fact that each one is about 30 pages in length. Additionally, she teaches writing workshops at schools and writers’ conferences, so she not only knows a thing or two about writing successful novels, but also has experience imparting her wisdom to other writers.

The Plot Skeleton breaks the plotting process down into a rather interesting analogy of the human skeleton beginning with the head and ending with the feet. While there is nothing new or earth shattering here, it does present an easy-to-follow organizational structure for creating a plot outline. She includes helpful examples to illustrate her points, making it pretty painless to grasp the concepts.

Even if you’re a pantser, it helps to have a basic understanding of your plot and where your story is going before you sit down to write. You don’t have to stick with your outline, it can ebb and flow with your writing, but if you don’t know where you’re going when you start, your story can meander, not really going anywhere. Personally, I hate the editing process, so the more work I can do up front to reduce the amount of editing required after the first draft, the better. While my story may not end up exactly as I conceived it, I know when I’m veering wildly off course if I have some sort of an outline before I start.

The first novel I wrote, The Union, has been through over 30 revisions. I wrote without an outline or any real understanding of where I was going other than I knew my storyworld, my protagonist’s story goal, and her hidden need. However, on the next three books I wrote in the series, I had a rough outline. Even though those aren’t polished yet, they’re a lot stronger structurally after early drafts than The Union was.

Bottom Line
This is a quick and easy read that lays out the process for outlining your plot in a pretty straightforward way. Even if you don’t learn anything mind blowing, it’s a useful tool. I tend to glance through it before I sit down to write a new project. It never hurts to refresh my memory on what makes a strong plot, and skimming a 30-page book is a lot easier than a 300+ page book.

Title: The Plot Skeleton (Writing Lessons from the Front#1)
Author: Dr. Angela Hunt
PublisherHuntHaven Press
Pages: 30
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links to PurchaseAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Review – Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy

Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy

Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy

4 Stars

Synopsis
A complete guide to writing and selling your novel. 

So you want to write a novel? Great! That’s a worthy goal, no matter what your reason. But don’t settle for just writing a novel. Aim high. Write a novel that you intend to sell to a publisher. 

“Writing Fiction for Dummies” is a complete guide designed to coach you every step along the path from beginning writer to royalty-earning author. Here are some things you’ll learn in “Writing Fiction for Dummies” 

* Strategic Planning: Pinpoint where you are on the roadmap to publication; discover what every reader desperately wants from a story; home in on a marketable category; choose from among the four most common creative styles; and learn the self-management methods of professional writers.

* Writing Powerful Fiction: Construct a story world that rings true; create believable, unpredictable characters; build a strong plot with all six layers of complexity of a modern novel; and infuse it all with a strong theme.

* Self-Editing Your Novel: Psychoanalyze your characters to bring them fully to life; edit your story structure from the top down; fix broken scenes; and polish your action and dialogue.

* Finding An Agent and Getting Published: Write a query letter, a synopsis, and a proposal; pitch your work to agents and editors without fear.

“Writing Fiction For Dummies” takes you from being a “writer” to being an “author.” It can happen–if you have the talent and persistence to do what you need to do.

My Review
This is a good entry level book for wannabe writers. It’s certainly not the ultimate guide or the only source you’ll ever reference, but if you don’t know anything about writing fiction, it’s a really good book to start with. Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy break writing fiction down into its fundamental components so that it’s easy to understand. They then build up from there to show how all of those components work together to help you write fiction in a way that works. There are sections on structuring your story, building strong character bios, creating scenes step-by-step, and how to get one scene to flow seamlessly into the next until you have a story.

As a pantser, one who writes by the seat of their pants, I found the idea of structuring my novel up front to be interesting and I tried it for the second novel I wrote. I was concerned that having an outline wouldn’t stifle my creativity, but instead it gave me a trail to follow. I now write everything with a very loose outline and that often changes as I go, but it helps to know where I’m going before I write my first word.

Like all Dummies books, Writing Fiction for Dummies contains checklists at the end of each chapter to help you review and retain the information you just read. Probably the sections I found most useful were those on editing. For me, first drafts come easy, but editing is the bane of my existence. Dummies helped me structure and execute drafts in the same way that I structured and outlined my first draft.

Additionally, the book contains useful information on writing a pitch, synopsis, query letter, and how to go about searching for and identifying appropriate agents in order to get published.

Bottom Line
How to Write Fiction for Dummies is a solid entry-level reference and if you’ve never written any fiction and don’t know where to start, I highly recommend it. Randy Ingermanson is also known as The Snowflake Guy and takes a scientific approach to writing. He developed a software application for structuring and writing fiction, called Snowflake Pro. If you buy Writing Fiction for Dummies, Randy offers a 50% discount off of Snowflake Pro. Not a bad deal.

Title: Writing Fiction for Dummies
Author: Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
Pages: 385
Category: Writing Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links to PurchaseAmazon, Barnes & Noble