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Book Review – 1,000 STRONG VERBS FOR FICTION WRITERS (Indie Author Resources Series) by Valerie Howard

 

1,000 STRONG VERBS FOR FICTION WRITERS (Indie Author Resources Series #2) by Valerie Howard

1,000 STRONG VERBS FOR FICTION WRITERS (Indie Author Resources Series #2) by Valerie Howard

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
LIST OF 1,000 VERBS

Are you searching for stronger verbs for your works of fiction (or non-fiction)?

Aren’t we all?

This handy little reference booklet contains a list of 1,000 strong verbs to help you replace the weaker verbs in your fiction writing as you self-edit your work. Just look up the weak verb you’d like to replace, and choose a stronger verb from the alphabetized lists.

For example:

Weak: Sally walked across the room.
Stronger: Sally scurried across the room.

Weak: Harry lightly touched the edge of the book.
Stronger: Harry trailed his fingers along the edge of the book.

Weak: Karen ran as quickly as she could to her closet.
Stronger: Karen charged her closet in a panic.

Weak: Lucy hit her palm on the desk.
Stronger: Lucy smacked her palm on the desk.

Ready to weed out the weak verbs and not-so-helpful adverbs in your writing and replace them with strong verbs?

Let’s get started!

Indie Author Resources Book 2

 

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My Review
This is a reference book full of useful verbs, like a thesaurus dialed in specifically for the fiction writer. It has easy to find, quick to use suggestions for weak verbs. Because I borrowed this with Kindle Unlimited and will have to return it, I do think I’ll end up purchasing a copy to have at hand when I’m revising. The suggestions are plentiful, and just a single strong verb can spark an entire creative process at the keyboard.

Bottom Line
A thesaurus on steroids, this reference tool is something novelists will find themselves reaching for over and over again.

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About the Book – Read for free with Kindle Unlimited
Title
: 1,000 STRONG VERBS FOR FICTION WRITERS
Series: Indie Author Resources Series #2
Author: Valerie Howard
Publication Date: July 24, 2019
Pages: 111
Category: Writing
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR

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Author Valerie Howard

Author Valerie Howard

About the Author
Valerie Howard has been writing stories since she was in second grade when she wrote “The Mystery of the Missing Crayon.” She lives in Maine with her husband and two sons. She graduated from Sacopee Valley High School in Hiram, Maine and Piedmont Baptist College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Where to find Valerie Howard
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Amazon

Book Review – ROMANCING THE BEAT (How to Write Kissing Books Series) by Gwen Hayes

 

ROMANCING THE BEAT, the first book in the writing craft series, How to Write Kissing Books, by Gwen Hayes

ROMANCING THE BEAT (How to Write Kissing Books Series #1) by Gwen Hayes

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
What makes a romance novel a romance? How do you write a kissing book?

Writing a well-structured romance isn’t the same as writing any other genre—something the popular novel and screenwriting guides don’t address. The romance arc is made up of its own story beats, and the external plot and theme need to be braided to the romance arc—not the other way around.

Told in conversational (and often irreverent) prose, Romancing the Beat can be read like you are sitting down to coffee with romance editor and author Gwen Hayes while she explains story structure. The way she does with her clients. Some of whom are regular inhabitants of the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.

Romancing the Beat is a recipe, not a rigid system. The beats don’t care if you plot or outline before you write, or if you pants your way through the drafts and do a “beat check” when you’re revising. Pantsers and plotters are both welcome. So sit down, grab a cuppa, and let’s talk about kissing books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
One of the panels I virtually attended at RWA this year recommended ROMANCING THE BEAT. I’m a devoted plotter, so I wanted to see how best to weave the romance beats into the greater story beats. Hayes’s book is short and sweet. She lays out the beats, where they fall in the three-act structure, and gives a brief description of what each one needs to accomplish. Because it’s so short, you can read it easily in one sitting and be ready to plot or revise your next romance novel. However, because it’s such a quick read, it’s short on details that would have been nice. Whether you’re new to writing romance or have been at it for awhile, there are some great tidbits in here for every romance writer.

Bottom Line
A solid resource that you’ll find yourself referring to over and over.

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About the Book
Title
: ROMANCING THE BEAT: Story Structure for Romance Novels
Series: How to Write Kissing Books Series #1
Author: Gwen Hayes
Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Pages: 100
Category: Writing
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Barnes & Noble

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Author Gwen Hayes

Author Gwen Hayes

About the Author
Gwen Hayes (that’s me) lives in the Pacific Northwest with her real life hero and a pack of wild beasts (two of whom she gave birth to).

She is a reader, writer, and lover of pop culture (which, other than yogurt, is the only culture she gets).

Gwen also edits kissing books.

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Where to find Gwen Hayes
Goodreads | Website | Facebook

Book Review – RUNNING FOR OUR LIVES by Robb Ryerse

Cover to RUNNING FOR OUR LIVES, A Story of Faith, Politics, and the Common Good by Robb Ryerse

RUNNING FOR OUR LIVES, A Story of Faith, Politics, and the Common Good by Robb Ryerse

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Empowered by the Brand New Congress initiative in 2018, evangelical pastor and progressive Republican Robb Ryerse embarked on a long-shot, grassroots congressional campaign against Steve Womack, one of the most powerful Republican incumbents in Washington, DC. After he ultimately lost his race, Ryerse worked with the Vote Common Good campaign, traveling across the United States to help turn Congress blue.

Throughout his political journey, Ryerse gained new insights on the relationship between religion and politics in America today, the dynamics of our deep partisan divide, and the power of faithful people working for the common good. Running for Our Lives is the honest and authentic story of how one pastor tried to make a difference. Through all the joys and struggles of daring to make a stand, Ryerse shares what he’s learned about how our political identities shape us, what the role of government has in helping to meet peoples needs, and how others can get involved in politics as an expression of progressive faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
When I saw this title on NetGalley, I was sure it was something I wanted to read. What I didn’t know was if it would infuriate me, give me hope, or change my views. But after finally deciding to request it, I’m happy to report that it did all three. I’m a strong believer in a solid wall between church and state. The state shouldn’t be telling religious institutions how to worship and religious institutions shouldn’t be trying to tell the American people how to live. I didn’t know anything about author, Robb Ryerse, before starting this book, but I soon learned he’s a pastor in Arkansas who ran to unseat the incumbent congressman from his district. I wasn’t sure if he was going to try to convert me to his way of thinking regarding the intersection of politics and faith, but I went into it with an open mind. No one is going to convert me to their religious beliefs at this point in my life, but I was willing to entertain different ideas on how elected officials and the faithful can best serve their country without sacrificing their beliefs.

RUNNING FOR OUR LIVES is about a lot of things. It’s about how politics work in America (hint, it’s seriously broken), how many of the American faithful have embraced an immoral president in the name of Jesus, and how people of faith can put their beliefs in action without trampling on the rights of others to believe something differently. I found this book refreshing. Having been raised Catholic, Robb and I have had very different religious upbringings, and yet we oddly have similar ideas when it comes to the teachings of Jesus. Nowhere does Jesus say that we should blame the poor for their circumstances. Nor did he ever say to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others if it mean less financial security for you. Yet I see these ideas being shared by Christians. That, “If only those people would do what I did, they wouldn’t be poor.” Or “We can’t help everyone.” I get it. We can’t necessarily help everyone, but we also shouldn’t, as a nation, make life harder for people in their own countries with our policies. But that is exactly what happens when our president rails about trade deficits with countries like Mexico. Mexico has a population of less than half of the United States and a GDP per capita of just $9,670 vs. our $62,794. It is unconscionable to expect a nation of impoverished citizens to buy the same amount of US products as we do from them. It is also very unchristian. Nowhere will you find Jesus demanding the poor buy more of your products in order for you to buy more of theirs. That is not how Christianity works.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Robb is my kind of Christian. Someone who really gets that Christianity is not about getting rich, or even ensuring your are comfortable enough before you help the less fortunate. I also completely understand the argument that Jesus wasn’t talking about government. He was talking about people. But people have let down the poor over and over and over again. When that happens, governments have the duty to ensure no one falls through the cracks as part of ensuring the common good. If people would step up and do what’s right, government wouldn’t need to. To ignore the crisis at our southern border because they aren’t Americans is a grievous sin in my opinion.

Once I realized Robb saw human suffering the same way I did, I was even more willing to really hear what he had to say. I highlighted more passages in his book than any other I’ve ever read. The following are some of my favorites:

Could we as potential candidates for Congress demonstrate that people are more important than party?

I’m so tired of both major political parties putting their party loyalty above their duty to their constituents, those who elected them to office in the first place. But we see it time and time again. It’s one of the biggest reasons people hate government. We feel as if government works for itself, but not for us. What is surprising about this is that most people think their own particular elected officials are generally doing a good job, but it’s those “other” guys who are messing it up. Which is why incumbents have such a high rate of reelection. I loved that Robb really got it and that he was determined to do whatever little part he could to right that enormous wrong.

Those who are cynical about American politics are convinced that the tribalism of the two-party system can’t be overcome. They frequently complain that their elected officials won’t cross the aisle to compromise. But how can we expect our leaders to put people ahead of party if we’re unwilling to do it first?

This is another paragraph that really stuck with me. I’ve been guilty as much of anyone of believing that I’m right. Because if I didn’t think I was right about an issue, I would be searching for what WAS right. And even if I think I’m right, I also know that nothing good ever comes from forcing my opinions onto others. We ping pong back and forth between liberal and conservative policies, depending on who is in the White House, giving the country whiplash. But if we stopped trying to make everyone bend to our will and realize that compromise is a beautiful word, not a curse, everyone could get a little of what they wanted, but no one would get everything they want. It means our country will change gradually, even if a big overhaul is what many of us believe is needed. But these gradual changes are more likely to be lasting changes that can be built upon over time.

The twenty-four hour news cycle means that each and every minute of airtime has to be filled in a way that drives ratings among people who already know the news. For this reason, sensationalized stories that feed the public’s appetite for entertainment and draw the largest audience get more play than substantive stories.

He precedes this statement by mentioning that everyone walks around with a handheld computer in their pocket, pushing news headlines constantly to our attention. So if we read that Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign in five different news stories on our phones, when we tune into the news later, we don’t want to see what we already know. So the cable news channels look for that angle, the something different they think will appeal to their viewers. For Fox News it may be how the DNC orchestrated once again, a scenario to allow the establishment candidate to win the nomination. But CNN may start speculating on who Biden’s running mate may be, and MSNBC may run with the ideas that Bernie brought to the table and how they changed the conversation within the Democratic party. All of which leads to Americans, understandably so, believing the cable new stations are biased. I think it’s far less about the stations being biased and more that their viewers are biased and they know it. They want to appeal to their viewers, even if it means slanting a story a certain way. In most cases, the media gets the facts right. Not always, but more often than not. Where bias comes in is how they present those facts, and of course, the salacious punditry, speculating on everything and anything when additional facts are not available.

I started to refer to myself as an “Eisenhower Republican,” because I wanted people to recognize that I was not trying to do something that had never been done. I was trying to stand on the shoulders of other Republican leaders who fought for progressive ideas.

Robb ran as a “progressive” republican. Many people on the campaign trail asked him why he was running as a republican, if he was a progressive, and not as a democrat. He had to explain time and again that his ideas were the same ideas of republican presidents of the past. The party has shifted from what it once was, but that doesn’t mean Robb wants to abandon the party of Eisenhower and Reagan. Rather, he wants to bring the party back to what it once was. I found that refreshing, particularly with so many republicans allowing their party to be hijacked by nationalism and protectionist policies.

Blaming social media and cable news networks for this division is easy, but assigning blame doesn’t help us move beyond it.

He’s so right. We often look at how divided this nation is right now and point to Twitter and Facebook, which have made it easy to spread false information and to attack people for holding views different from ours from the safety of our keyboards. These platforms allow us to shut off our phone if we don’t like the ugliness we started with our harsh words. But saying that the cable news channels who pander to their viewers’ beliefs or the internet for making it easy for us to find our echo chambers, doesn’t help us do anything about it, unless we’re ready to give up cable news and computers. Instead, he offers his own thoughts on how to move ahead as a more civil society. His background as a pastor provides him with a different worldview than mine and gave me a lot to think about.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God and others as we love ourselves. This is not two commandments, but one, a unified vision of love. It is recognizing that when we love others, we love God. When we feed the hungry, visit the incarcerated, welcome the stranger, and care for the sick, we are serving not just other people but Jesus himself. … In fact, maybe the most loving thing I can do when I enter the voting booth is to cast my ballot not for my own interests but for the common good.

This may have be the single most powerful few paragraphs in the book. Here is where he really breaks down his views on how religion and politics should mix. How faith can influence our vote, but not in the way I’ve always assumed. I always thought that Christians voted for other Christians, assuming they would bring about Christian policies. But it goes much deeper than that in Robb’s view and I found myself nodding throughout this chapter.

Until our campaign finance system is revamped, the best–and I believe only–hope we have for significant and needed change in Washington is working Americans supporting grassroots candidates with acupunctural interventions of small-dollar donations.

This is where the book infuriated me. Robb talks about how campaign financing works and how much it costs JUST to get your name on ballot to run. He also explains how, with big money donors, once elected, incumbents are tasked with making fundraising calls by their respective parties, eating up large chunks of their day. Time they are not spending working for the people who elected them. I know money in politics is a problem, but Robb’s inside information on the workings of elected officials in congress was mind-numbingly maddening. This is not what we send them to Washington to do. Also, if they need this money to get re-elected, where do their loyalties lie? Ryerse provides concrete examples of how this plays out, and trust me, none of it is good for average Americans.

This was an incredibly fast and engrossing read and I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in understanding politics in this country. You do not need to be a republican to appreciate it. You do not need to be a progressive of any party to understand what’s at stake. And you do not need to be a Christian to find something deeply satisfying to take away from this book.

Bottom Line
An eye-opening, stunning look at American politics from an outsider’s point of view.

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About the Book
Title
: RUNNING FOR OUR LIVES, A Story of Faith, Politics, and the Common Good
Authors: Robb Ryerse
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Pages: 179
Category: Politics/Religion/American Elections
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links:  Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Barnes & Noble | Publisher

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Pastor and Author Robb Ryerse

Author Robb Ryerse

About the Author
Robb is the copastor of Vintage Fellowship, a progressive evangelical church in Fayetteville Arkansas. He serves as the Executive Director of Brand New Congress and the Political Director of Vote Common Good. In 2018, Robb ran for United State Congress in the Republican primary in Arkansas’ 3rd Congressional District.

He lives in Northwest Arkansas with his wife Vanessa and four children.

Robb is a graduate of Mission Seminary in Philadelphia PA and Clarks Summit University in Clarks Summit PA.

He is the author of Running For Our Lives: A Story of Faith, Politics and the Common Good and Fundamorphosis: How I Left Fundamentalism But Didn’t Lose My Faith..

Where to find Robb Ryerse
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Book Review – EMOTION AMPLIFIERS (A Companion to the Emotion Thesaurus) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

EMOTION AMPLIFIERS (A Companion to the Emotion Thesaurus) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

EMOTION AMPLIFIERS (A Companion to the Emotion Thesaurus) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
When writing fictional characters, it’s hugely important to convey their emotions effectively so readers will be drawn in and become invested in those characters. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression was written to help writers convey the quality and depth of their characters’ feelings through their thoughts, body language, and visceral reactions. But there are also ways to amplify what a character is feeling, thereby heightening their emotional responses.

In Emotion Amplifiers, a companion guide to The Emotion Thesaurus, we explore 15 common states that naturally galvanize emotion. States like exhaustion, boredom, illness, pain, and extreme hunger can push characters to the limit, compromising their decision-making abilities and decreasing the likelihood of them reaching their goals. Emotion Amplifiers is a great tool for any writer wishing to tighten the screws on their characters and amp up the tension in their stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Review
This is the perfect companion to The Emotion Thesaurus. The authors expand on some of the most common emotions, providing example scenarios where those emotions will ramp up, giving authors even more ideas for torturing, I mean, challenging our characters in ways we may not have thought of on our own. Once again, the authors provide an introduction on what emotion amplifiers are, how tension can enhance emotions, and how best to use the guidance they provide in your own writing. They provide fifteen amplifiers that may take an ordinary emotion and dial up to a ten, such as pain, addition, and attraction. Within each amplifier are both physical and internal manifestations of a particular emotion based on the amplifier as well as mental responses, cues of long-term exposure and suppression. Additionally, they provide specifics to a particular amplifier as well as tips to help writers utilize this resource to the fullest.

Bottom Line
A must-have resource to take your character development to the next level.

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About the Book
Title
: EMOTION AMPLIFIERS: A Companion to the Emotion Thesaurus, A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression
Authors: Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
Publisher: JADD Publishing
Publication Date: December 4, 2014
Pages: 72
Category: Writing
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR

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Author Angela Ackerman

Author Angela Ackerman

About the Author
ANGELA ACKERMAN is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of 7 bestselling books for writers, including The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression (now an expanded 2nd Edition). Her books are available in six languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world.

Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers®, as well as One Stop for Writers®, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling. A strong believer in writers helping and supporting other writers, she tries to pay-it-forward however she is able to..

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Where to find Angela Ackerman
Goodreads | Website | Twitter.

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Author Becca Puglisi

Author Becca Puglisi

About the Author
Becca Puglisi is a speaker, international writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via her newest endeavor: One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library like no other, filled with description and brain-storming tools to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter..

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Where to find Becca Puglisi
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Book Review – THE EMOTIONAL WOUND THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

THE EMOTIONAL WOUND THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

THE EMOTIONAL WOUND THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Readers connect to characters with depth, ones who have experienced life’s ups and downs. To deliver key players that are both realistic and compelling, writers must know them intimately—not only who they are in the present story, but also what made them that way. Of all the formative experiences in a character’s past, none are more destructive than emotional wounds. The aftershocks of trauma can change who they are, alter what they believe, and sabotage their ability to achieve meaningful goals, all of which will affect the trajectory of your story.

Identifying the backstory wound is crucial to understanding how it will shape your character’s behavior, and The Emotional Wound Thesaurus can help. Inside, you’ll find:

• A database of traumatic situations common to the human experience
• An in-depth study on a wound’s impact, including the fears, lies, personality shifts, and dysfunctional behaviors that can arise from different painful events
• An extensive analysis of character arc and how the wound and any resulting unmet needs fit into it
• Techniques on how to show the past experience to readers in a way that is both engaging and revelatory while avoiding the pitfalls of info dumps and telling
• A showcase of popular characters and how their traumatic experiences reshaped them, leading to very specific story goals
• A Backstory Wound Profile tool that will enable you to document your characters’ negative past experiences and the aftereffects

Root your characters in reality by giving them an authentic wound that causes difficulties and prompts them to strive for inner growth to overcome it. With its easy-to-read format and over 100 entries packed with information, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus is a crash course in psychology for creating characters that feel incredibly real to readers.

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My Review
This is my favorite book in the series so far. It’s filled with ideas for deep emotional wounds that shape characters in foundational ways. Each entry describes the various ways this wound can manifest itself, examples of responses to the wound and how it can impact every facet of life as well as ways in which a character can overcome the wound. The book is broken down by types of wounds from violence to emotional turmoil and being a victim versus a perpetrator or merely an observer. Far from a psychology book, rather it’s a guide for developing characters from a skeletal perspective, allowing the author to further research on their own to get deeper into their characters’ backstories.

This is a fabulous resource for planners and pantsers alike as we seek to define what makes our characters tick and ensure they respond to events in believable ways based on their defining wounds.

Bottom Line
Another great resource from Ackerman and Puglisi to assist writers in creating deep characters.

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About the Book
Title
:THE EMOTIONAL WOUND THESAURUS: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma
Authors: Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
Publisher: JADD Publishing
Publication Date: October 25, 2017
Pages: 325
Category: Writing
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Barnes & Noble

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Author Angela Ackerman

Author Angela Ackerman

About the Author
ANGELA ACKERMAN is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of 7 bestselling books for writers, including The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression (now an expanded 2nd Edition). Her books are available in six languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world.

Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers®, as well as One Stop for Writers®, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling. A strong believer in writers helping and supporting other writers, she tries to pay-it-forward however she is able to..

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Where to find Angela Ackerman
Goodreads | Website | Twitter.

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Author Becca Puglisi

Author Becca Puglisi

About the Author
Becca Puglisi is a speaker, international writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via her newest endeavor: One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library like no other, filled with description and brain-storming tools to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter..

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Where to find Becca Puglisi
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Book Review – THE NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

THE NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

THE NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Crafting likable, interesting characters is a balancing act, and finding that perfect mix of strengths and weaknesses can be difficult. But the task has become easier thanks to The Negative Trait Thesaurus.

Through its flaw-centric exploration of character arc, motivation, emotional wounds, and basic needs, writers will learn which flaws make the most sense for their heroes, villains, and other members of the story’s cast. This book’s vast collection of flaws will help writers to explore the possible causes, attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and related emotions behind their characters’ weaknesses so they can be written effectively and realistically. Common characterization pitfalls and methods to avoid them are also included, along with invaluable downloadable tools to aid in character creation.

Written in list format and fully indexed, this brainstorming resource is perfect for creating deep, flawed characters that readers will relate to.

“In these brilliantly conceived, superbly organized and astonishingly thorough volumes, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi have created an invaluable resource for writers and storytellers. Whether you are searching for new and unique ways to add and define characters, or brainstorming methods for revealing those characters without resorting to clichés, it is hard to imagine two more powerful tools for adding depth and dimension to your screenplays, novels or plays.”

– Michael Hauge, Hollywood script consultant and story expert, author of Writing Screenplays That Sell and Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read

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My Review
As with the rest of the books in this series, THE NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS is a must-read for all fiction writers. A brief introduction covers how negative traits help develop well-rounded characters. No one has only positive traits, so weaving in negative traits allows us to create lifelike fictional beings that will take shape in believable ways, allowing readers to identify with them. After that, the book again provides a large number of negative traits, including a brief description and possible influences that could be responsible for them within your character. Each entry dives deeper with similar attributes, associated behaviors and thoughts, possible emotional responses, and what traits in supporting characters may cause conflict. Also included are example characters from literature to really drive the point home.

If you’re looking to develop in-depth characters who come across as authentic, add this to your arsenal, along with THE POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS.

Bottom Line
If you want to create deep, realistic characters, look no further than the Writer’s Guide series.

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About the Book
Title
: THE NEGATIVE TRAIT THESAURUS: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws
Authors: Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
Publisher: JADD Publishing
Publication Date: October 13, 2013
Pages: 263
Category: Writing
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble

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Author Angela Ackerman

Author Angela Ackerman

About the Author
ANGELA ACKERMAN is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of 7 bestselling books for writers, including The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression (now an expanded 2nd Edition). Her books are available in six languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world.

Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers®, as well as One Stop for Writers®, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling. A strong believer in writers helping and supporting other writers, she tries to pay-it-forward however she is able to..

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Where to find Angela Ackerman
Goodreads | Website | Twitter.

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Author Becca Puglisi

Author Becca Puglisi

About the Author
Becca Puglisi is a speaker, international writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via her newest endeavor: One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library like no other, filled with description and brain-storming tools to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter..

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Where to find Becca Puglisi
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Book Review – THE POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

THE POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS (A Writer's Guide to Character Attributes) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

THE POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Character creation can be hard, but it’s about to get a lot easier. Inside The Positive Trait Thesaurus, you’ll find:

* A large selection of attributes to choose from when building a personality profile. Each entry lists possible causes for why a trait might emerge, along with associated attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and emotions
* Real character examples from literature, film, or television to show how an attribute drives actions and decisions, influences goals, and steers relationships
* Advice on using positive traits to immediately hook readers while avoiding common personality pitfalls
* Insight on human needs and morality, and how each determines the strengths that emerge in heroes and villains alike
* Information on the key role positive attributes play within the character arc, and how they’re vital to overcoming fatal flaws and achieving success
* Downloadable tools for organizing a character’s attributes and providing a deeper understanding of his past, his needs, and the emotional wounds he must overcome

If you find character creation difficult or worry that your cast members all seem the same, The Positive Trait Thesaurus is brimming with ideas to help you develop one-of-a-kind, dynamic characters that readers will love. Extensively indexed, with entries written in a user-friendly list format, this brainstorming resource is perfect for any character creation project.

“In these brilliantly conceived, superbly organized and astonishingly thorough volumes, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi have created an invaluable resource for writers and storytellers. Whether you are searching for new and unique ways to add and define characters, or brainstorming methods for revealing those characters without resorting to clichés, it is hard to imagine two more powerful tools for adding depth and dimension to your screenplays, novels or plays.”

– Michael Hauge, Hollywood script consultant and story expert, author of Writing Screenplays That Sell and Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read

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My Review
As soon as I finished THE EMOTION THESAURUS, I rushed out to pick up this book, and it’s just as informative and useful as I hoped it would be. An introduction details how positive traits help to build not only protagonists, but also villains. It explains the importance of having antagonists that are as fully developed as our heroes. Once we get a primer on WHY we need positive traits, the book dives into a huge variety of these traits with a brief description and possible influences that brought it about. Each entry dives deeper with similar attributes, associated behaviors and thoughts, possible emotional responses, and what traits in supporting characters may cause conflict. Also included are example characters from literature to really drive the point home.

If you’re looking to develop in-depth characters who come across as authentic, this is the definitive guide.

Bottom Line
Another outstanding guidebook from Ackerman and Puglisi. A must-read for all novelists.

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About the Book
Title
: THE POSITIVE TRAIT THESAURUS: A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes
Authors: Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
Publisher: JADD Publishing
Publication Date: October 21, 2013
Pages: 241
Category: Writing
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble

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Author Angela Ackerman

Author Angela Ackerman

About the Author
ANGELA ACKERMAN is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of 7 bestselling books for writers, including The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression (now an expanded 2nd Edition). Her books are available in six languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world.

Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers®, as well as One Stop for Writers®, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling. A strong believer in writers helping and supporting other writers, she tries to pay-it-forward however she is able to..

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Where to find Angela Ackerman
Goodreads | Website | Twitter.

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Author Becca Puglisi

Author Becca Puglisi

About the Author
Becca Puglisi is a speaker, international writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via her newest endeavor: One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library like no other, filled with description and brain-storming tools to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter..

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Where to find Becca Puglisi
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Book Review – THE EMOTION THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

THE EMOTION THESAURUS (A Writer's Guide to Character Expression) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

THE EMOTION THESAURUS (A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
The bestselling Emotion Thesaurus, often hailed as “the gold standard for writers” and credited with transforming how writers craft emotion, has now been expanded to include 55 new entries!

One of the biggest struggles for writers is how to convey emotion to readers in a unique and compelling way. When showing our characters’ feelings, we often use the first idea that comes to mind, and they end up smiling, nodding, and frowning too much.

If you need inspiration for creating characters’ emotional responses that are personalized and evocative, this ultimate show-don’t-tell guide for emotion can help. It includes:

Body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for 130 emotions that cover a range of intensity from mild to severe, providing innumerable options for individualizing a character’s reactions A breakdown of the biggest emotion-related writing problems and how to overcome them Advice on what should be done beforedrafting to make sure your characters’ emotions will be realistic and consistent Instruction for how to show hidden feelings and emotional subtext through dialogue and nonverbal cues And much more!

The Emotion Thesaurus, in its easy-to-navigate list format, will inspire you to create stronger, fresher character expressions and engage readers from your first page to your last..

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My Review
I want to scream from the rooftops to every author out there: go get this book! We’re constantly told to “show, don’t tell,” but finding the right way to show can make all the difference in the world between a scene that merely goes through the motions and one that that brings the reader deep into the story and allows them to get lost. THE EMOTION THESAURUS is part how-to, and part reference. After learning how to use the guide, there are 130 entries to help you find the right way to show character emotions. With helpful cross-references it’s easy to find the right way to show escalation from anger to rage or de-escalation to mere annoyance. All the body language, both internal and external, can be used to kickstart the analogies and symbolism necessary to tell a compelling story. Because weak verbs can be the death of good writing, the authors also include power verbs for each entry to further stimulate creative writing. And finally, each entry includes helpful writing tips, such as:

Pay special attention to the events leading up to an emotional response. If the plotting feels contrived, the character’s emotion will feel contrived as well.

Each entry includes physical signals, behaviors, internal sensations, mental responses, long term responses to an emotion, and signs that an emotion has been suppressed rather than dealt with, providing all the pieces to construct dazzling scenes.

Bottom Line
One of the best references for creative writing I’ve ever read.

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About the Book
Title
: THE EMOTION THESAURUS: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression
Authors: Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
Publisher: JADD Publishing
Publication Date: February 19, 2019
Pages: 304
Category: Writing
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble

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Author Angela Ackerman

Author Angela Ackerman

About the Author
ANGELA ACKERMAN is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of 7 bestselling books for writers, including The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression (now an expanded 2nd Edition). Her books are available in six languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world.

Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers®, as well as One Stop for Writers®, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling. A strong believer in writers helping and supporting other writers, she tries to pay-it-forward however she is able to..

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Where to find Angela Ackerman
Goodreads | Website | Twitter.

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Author Becca Puglisi

Author Becca Puglisi

About the Author
Becca Puglisi is a speaker, international writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via her newest endeavor: One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library like no other, filled with description and brain-storming tools to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter..

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Where to find Becca Puglisi
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Book Review – THE SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR MINDSET by Joanna Penn

THE SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR MINDSET by Joanna Penn

THE SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR MINDSET by Joanna Penn

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Being a writer is not just about typing. It’s also about surviving the roller-coaster of the creative journey.

Self-doubt, fear of failure, the need for validation, perfectionism, writer’s block, comparisonitis, overwhelm, and much more. When you’re going through these things, it can feel like you’re alone. But actually, they are part of the creative process, and every author goes through them too.

This book collects the mindset issues that writers experience, that I have been through myself over the last nine years, and that perhaps you will experience at different times on the creative journey.

Each small chapter tackles a possible issue and then offers an antidote, so that you can dip in and out over time. It includes excerpts from my own personal journals as well as quotes from well-known writers. I hope it helps you on the road to becoming a successful author.

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My Review
This book is full of helpful advice on how to be a writer, everything from handling self-doubt and rejections to finding your tribe. Peppered with quotes from successful authors as well as the author’s own journey, not everything will apply to every writer. I found myself skimming many portions of the book, but I suspect that’s the author’s intent — find the pieces that you can relate to and devour them, but move on if it doesn’t apply to you. I found much that did apply to me though and I highlighted a number of passages, including:

Think long term. Create a body of work.

This one really resonates. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the end of the current work in progress. To only think about the upcoming release day, but writing isn’t a trip with a start and end point, it’s a journey, a career. Even in all the years I worked as a project manager, with one eye on the end-date of my current project, I knew another contract needing my attention was on the horizon.

 

Bottom Line
Lots of good advice on surviving the writing process.

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About the Book
Title
: THE SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR MINDSET: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey
Author: Joanna Penn
Publisher: The Creative Penn, Ltd.
Publication Date: June 29, 2016
Pages: 166
Category: Writing
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble

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Author Joanna Penn

Author Joanna Penn

About the Author
Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thrillers writing under the name J.F. Penn. She also writes inspirational non-fiction for authors and is an award-winning creative entrepreneur and international professional speaker. Her site, TheCreativePenn.com is regularly voted one of the top 10 sites for writers and self-publishers.

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Where to find Joanna Penn
Goodreads | Website | Twitter
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Book Review – WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS by Regina L. Brooks

WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS by Regina L. Brooks

WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS by Regina L. Brooks

3 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
Break into the Bestselling Young Adult Market with this IndispensableGuide!

Whether you’re just getting started or are on the hunt foran agent or publisher, Writing Great Books for Young Adults is your completeinsider source on how to succeed in the flourishing world of YA fiction andnonfiction. In this updated and revised edition, veteran literary agent ReginaL. Brooks offers invaluable advice for YA writers on everything from shapingyour novel to crafting the perfect pitch for your book.

Learn How To:
�Develop an authentic, engaging voice and writing style
�Construct dynamic plots that will resonate with readers
�Avoid common pitfalls related to tone and point of view
�Navigate the emerging genres of YA nonfiction and New Adult
�Create an exceptional query letter and proposal that will grab the attention of agents and publishers

You’ll also discover how successful film adaptations like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games have broadened the market for your book.Filled with tips and advice from agents, editors, and popular YA authors,Writing Great Books for Young Adults is your ticket to an incredible YA career!

“Brooks offers writers who are serious about attracting teen readers solid guidance through the creation process of writing YA fiction.”—LibraryJournal

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My Review
This one has been sitting on my bookshelf for a while, and I think I might have found it more useful if I’d read it when I first bought it a few years ago. There’s certainly useful tidbits throughout, but it’s neither a how-to nor a definitive resource on all things young adult fiction. Instead, it’s an overview of fiction writing with additional information on what makes writing for young adults different from writing for adults. It’s pretty void of details, but the overall concepts the author touches on are critical to success. I found the most useful information in Chapter 9 on theme. Depending on where you find your own writing lacking, you may discover something to help you as well.

Bottom Line
Useful information at a high level, but not much depth.

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About the Book
Title
: WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS: Everything You Need to Know, from Crafting the Idea to Getting Published
Author: Regina L. Brooks
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication Date: October 17, 2014
Pages: 225
Category: Fiction Writing
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble

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Author Regina Brooks

Author Regina Brooks

About the Author
Regina Brooks is an award-winning author and literary expert with an indefatigable passion for guiding the careers of some of the publishing worlds best and brightest stars. As the founder and president of Serendipity Literary Agency LLC., a full-service company based in Brooklyn, NY, which was hailed by Writers Digest Magazine as one of the top 25 literary agencies of 2004, Ms. Brooks continues to break down barriers and shape the literary landscape by signing authors who challenge the written word.

Led by Ms. Brooks, Serendipity Literary Agency LLC., has established a diverse base of award-winning authors in the adult and young adult fiction, non-fiction, and children’s genres; including three-time National Book Award finalist, Newberry and Coretta Scott King award-winning author Marilyn Nelson, and Coretta Scott King Award winner, Sundee Frazier, author of Brendan Buckleys Universe and Everything in it, an Oprah Book Pick and an Al Roker Book Club selection.

With over fifteen years of experience in senior positions at major publishing houses, including John Wiley & Sons Inc (where she was the youngest member of the editorial staff and the first African-American editor in their college division) and the McGraw-Hill companies, Ms. Brooks, a graduate of the Howard University Publishing Institute and faculty member of the Harvard CME publishing course, is also the author of the childrens book, Never Finished! Never Done! (Scholastic, 2004). She is a book blogger for the Huffingtonpost.com

Ms. Brooks is also the founder and executive director of YB Literary Foundation, Inc., a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to promote the reading of literature as a meaningful, lifelong activity and transformative experience for youth. Much to her delight, this aspect of her charitable work in particular keeps her apprised of the latest teen trends. Through a roster of community-focused programming that draws on popular culture, YBs goal is to expose youth to literature that is relevant to their livesliterature that speaks to their realities, their experiences and to their potential as future leaders. The organization has touched thousands of high school students in the NY/NJ area alone. Under her guidance, the YB Literary Foundation established a partnership with The National Urban League to launch the hiphopreader.com program.

A New York Urban League Rising Star Award winner and a 2004 finalist for the StevieTM Award for Women Entrepreneurs, Regina Brooks is featured in books such as The Guide to Literary Agents and the NAACP nominated Down to Business 10 steps for Women Entrepreneurs. She is also listed in International Who’s Who under the categories of Professional Management, Technology, Entrepreneurs, and Engineering.

Ms. Brooks serves on the board of Soul Mountain Literary Retreat Center and is a member of the Brooklyn Book Festival Committee for Childrens and Young Adult Literature. An active member of the National Association of Female Executives and NY Women in Television and Film and a member of the National Association of Professional Women, she lectures at over a dozen conferences annually, including the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Bologna Book Fair and the American Library Association.

Where to find Regina L. Brooks
Goodreads | Website | Twitter
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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 out of 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 out of 5 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 out of 5 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 out of 5 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 out of 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 out of 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 out of 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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Month in Review – November 2015

Since I decided to give NaNoWriMo another go this year, I didn’t get as much reading done as I normally would. Still, sixteen hours in a car, travelling to Northern California and back, provided some much-needed reading time last week. Here are the books I reviewed in November:

Return Once More by Trisha Leigh

Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh

Return Once More (The Historians #1) by Trisha Leigh

4 Stars

About the Book
Title
: Return Once More
Series: The Historians #1
Author: Trisha Leigh
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Pages: 289
Category: Young Adult SciFi/Time Travel/Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes and Noble | Bloomsbury

Synopsis
If you could learn the identity of your one true love—even though you will never meet— would you?

Years have passed since refugees from a ruined earth took to space, eventually settling a new system of planets. Science has not only made the leaps necessary to allow time travel, but the process engineered a strange side effect—predicting your one true love.

If you could save your one true love from an untimely death, would you be able to resist?

Sixteen-year-old Kaia Vespasian is an apprentice to the Historians—a group charged with using time travel to document the triumphs and failures of the past—and she can’t resist a peek at her long-dead soul mate in Ancient Egypt. Before she knows it, she’s broken every rule in the book, and the consequences of getting caught could destroymore than just her new romance.

Or would you have the strength to watch him die?

But when Kaia notices a fellow classmate snooping around in a time where he doesn’t belong, she suspects he has a secret of his own—and the conspiracy she uncovers could threaten the entire universe. If her experience has taught her anything, to changing history means facing the consequences. The Historians trained her to observe and record the past, but Kaia never guessed she might have to protect it— in a race across time to save her only chance at a future.

Bottom Line
Return Once More is an engaging time travel scifi romance with an intricate plot and intriguing characters.

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Rival Love (Rival Love Series) by Natalie Decker

Rival Love (Rival Love #1) by Natalie Decker

Rival Love (Rival Love #1) by Natalie Decker

4 Stars

Title: Rival Love
Series:
Rival Love #1
Author: 
Natalie Decker
Publisher:
 Swoon Romance
Release Date: 
August 26, 2014
Pages:
286
Genre: 
Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 
4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
Skylar Fletcher is a proud Harris Academy Bulldog! She has everything she’s ever wanted: a perfect boyfriend, great friends, and her dream college waiting for her in the fall. But nothing lasts forever. Skylar’s world shatters when her mom decides it’s time to move and drags Skylar, kicking and screaming, into Bobcat territory.

At Delmont High School, home of the Bobcats, Skylar has no friends and is often bullied. To make matters worse, her home life sucks thanks to all-star quarterback Caleb Morgan, nephew of her mom’s live-in boyfriend.

At first, Skylar and Caleb want nothing to do with one another. But they soon discover they’re not that different after all–and each is harboring a secret attraction to the other. But can a Bulldog and a Bobcat ever really be more than friends? And are Skylar and Caleb willing to risk everything to find out?

Rival Love is a debut young adult contemporary romance from Natalie Decker.

Bottom Line
Rival Love is an contemporary teen romance with themes of bullying, belonging, and finding love and acceptance for who you are.

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Never Trust a Happy Song by Natalie Bina

Never Trust a Happy Song by Natalie Bina

Never Trust a Happy Song by Natalie Bina

3.5 Stars

Title: Never Trust a Happy Song
Author: 
Natalie Bina
Release Date: March 14, 2015
Pages: 180
Genre: 
Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
When Cassidy Diamond is admitted to a prestigious summer program at Stanford University, she looks forward to being surrounded by people just like herself: smart, studious, and antisocial.

But when Cassidy is assigned to stay with the Harper family and meets their vivacious and uninhibited daughter Grace, the two girls clash at first sight.

Cassidy is determined to not let Grace distract her from her studies, while Grace wants to show Cassidy that maybe her grades aren’t all she has going for her, and that life might be about more than building the perfect resume.

Bottom Line
Never Trust a Happy Song is a realistic contemporary teen story about learning to let go in order to find yourself.

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

The Revolution of Ivy (Book of Ivy #2) by Amy Engel

The Revolution of Ivy (Book of Ivy #2) by Amy Engel

5 Stars

Title: The Revolution of Ivy
Series: The Book of Ivy #2
Author: Amy Engel
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: November 3, 2015
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoogle Books

Synopsis
**WARNING: Contains spoilers if you haven’t read book one**

Ivy Westfall is beyond the fence and she is alone. Abandoned by her family and separated from Bishop Lattimer, Ivy must find a way to survive on her own in a land filled with countless dangers, both human and natural. She has traded a more civilized type of cruelty–forced marriages and murder plots–for the bare-knuckled brutality required to survive outside Westfall’s borders.

But there is hope beyond the fence, as well. And when Bishop reappears in Ivy’s life, she must decide if returning to Westfall to take a final stand for what she believes is right is worth losing everything she’s fought for.

 Bottom Line
The Revolution of Ivy moves away from familiar territory, raising the stakes, and finishing the series on a high note.

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Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp

2 Stars

Title: Get Yourself Organized for Christmas
Author: Kathi Lipp
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 144
Genre: Organizing/Holidays
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & Noble

Synopsis
Have you lost your Christmas joy? Does the thought of jam-packed malls, maxed-out credit cards, overcrowded supermarkets, and endless to-do lists give you the feeling that maybe Scrooge was on to something?

In Get Yourself Organized for Christmas, Kathi Lipp provides easy-to-follow steps to reduce the stress of the holiday season, including tactics for how to

put together a holiday binder you’ll use year after year determine a budget that won’t break the bank gather your elf supplies get your gift list together (including ideas for various ages and relationships) collect your recipes and prep your kitchen

By putting into practice Kathi’s tricks and tips, you’ll finally be able to fully enjoy this most wonderful time of the year.

Bottom Line
A good book for someone who is really disorganized. If you’re looking for something revolutionary, it’s not here.

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Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass) by Erin Butler

Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass #5) by Erin Butler

Abby and the Cute One (Backstage Pass #5) by Erin Butler

4 Stars

Title: Abby and the Cute One
Series: Backstage Pass #5
Author: Erin Butler
Publisher: Entangled Crush
Release Date: November 16, 2015
Pages: 172
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
He’s cute. He’s famous. And he could ruin everything…

Every member of Seconds to Juliet has a girlfriend-except for Nathan Strong. Now the band’s manager is leaning hard on “The Cute One” to play the role of the band’s heartthrob. With the band’s sales in decline, it’s up to Nathan to keep the fans’ fantasy alive.

The plan is to stage a fake relationship and a fake breakup, and then let the fans fight to be the one to mend Nathan’s broken heart. Just one problem. There’s another girl in the picture-one Nathan can’t stay away from. In private, Nathan’s stealing kisses with the band’s new opening act, Abby Curtis.

If they’re caught, no one wins. Abby will be fired, and the band might not recover the success they need to survive. But even with the pressure mounting, Nathan and Abby can’t stop themselves from stealing one more touch, one more kiss. And it’s only a matter of time before it all falls apart.

This Entangled Teen Crush book is as forbidden as the secret romance it contains! It has hot kisses, graphic language, and extreme misbehaving. DO NOT GET CAUGHT WITH THIS BOOK…unless you want everyone to know you believe in true love.

Bottom Line
Abby and the Cute One is a lighthearted contemporary romance that’s as adorable as the characters themselves.

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Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project) by Karri Thompson

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

Mirror X (The Van Winkle Project #1) by Karri Thompson

4 Stars

Title: Mirror X
Series: The Van Winkle Project #1
Author: 
Kerri Thompson
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: June 30, 2014
Pages: 360
Genre: 
Young Adult SciFi/Dystopian Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
I was born more than a thousand years ago. Put into a cryogenic tube at age seventeen, forgotten during a holocaust that decimated the world, I’ve finally been awakened to a more serene and peaceful future.

But things at the hospital are new and strange. And it’s starting to scare me.

Everyone is young. Everyone is banded and tracked. And everyone is keeping secrets.

The cute geneticist Michael Bennett might be the only good thing in this crazy new world where “life is precious” but no one seems free to live it. The problem is, I don’t think he’s being totally honest with me, either.

When I’m told only I can save the human race from extinction, it’s clear my freeze didn’t avoid a dreadful fate. It only delayed the horror…

Bottom Line
Mirror X is an interesting scifi/dystopian adventure with some unique aspects. I’m interested to see where this series goes.

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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

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

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.

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.

.

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 out of 5 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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