What are you reading?

I’m reading ABOVE SUSPICION by Joe Starky. True crime story about how an FBI Agent lost his way in the biggest way possible.

Also this month I’ve read…

Bone Baby by Diane M. Dixon

Ghost Writers in the Sky by Anne R Allen

And I’m happy to say I can recommend all of them.

So…what are you reading? Anything super good, fun, interesting, or different? Leave the link in the comments so we can check it out.

Phew just one more day til the weekend! Have a good one.

Annie

 

Advertisements

What I’m Reading This Weekend

So, I’m reading this book by Dan Blank called “Be the Gateway.” Sounds a little scifi/fantasy, right? Actually it’s about reaching out to real readers and sharing your work. I don’t really want to say marketing because that word has such a stigma attached to it.

I have to say it is not the usual stuff you see on this topic. It’s pretty unique. And a helluva lot of work from the looks of it. I think I’m up for the challenge though.

I never thought that gaming rankings, offering endless freebies or other standard tricks of the trade were the way to go. I don’t really want to trick readers. I just want to give them a story that will do something for them, right?

Anyway – do check it out. Be The Gateway is available on Amazon in print and Kindle.

Have a great holiday and don’t eat too many hotdogs, those things will kill you.  😉

Annie

Doing Backstory Right and Other Good Reads

 

elf-478330_640

I’ve been away much longer than I realized, in my quest to finish the third book in a new trilogy among other highly distracting activities. And I wanted to reassure my three undying fans I still live and breathe. Also have been catching up on my reading and have some nice reads for you.

The Shocking Truth About Info Dumps by Lisa Cron discusses how to do backstory right. And folks, she is spot on.

Scene Structure: Scenes as Segments and Capsules of Time by CS Lakin Good nuts and bolts on scene structure, especially good statements on time in writing.

Beware the Writing Rules Police by Anne R. Allen. Anne takes the writing rules police to task and kicks their butts.

Burnout, creativity, and the tyranny of production schedules by Elizabeth Bear. Hardworking author Elizabeth Bear makes a good case for taking pressure and time off from writing. I totally get what she is talking about here.

Really Going There by Annie Neugebauer makes a good case for the argument that our best stories come from the places we are terrified to write about.

Have a good week everybody – step away from the political arguments on FB – real life is much better for your blood pressure. 🙂

How many pages will you give an author?

There’s a blog that sometimes visit where the author takes the first page from NYT best selling books and analyses them to see if his readers would read past the first page. It’s an interesting exercise and he has a list of criteria that he follows to determine if it’s a page turner or not. And sometimes I agree with him on his analysis and sometimes I don’t.

In fact, this morning I read a post and I knew after the first sentence who the author was – because I read his books. Sadly, he didn’t fair well with most of the other commenters and it got me thinking about the whole concept of quick judgment.

The first page test

I don’t know when it happened but today it seems to be a given that if the first page of a book doesn’t slap you upside the head with a car wreck, dead body or exploding kittens that it is deemed bad – or at least not good. And God forbid that the author should tell you anything at all about the character because her wrestling with a twenty-armed octopus while solving world hunger should show you everything you need to know about our hero, right?

And writers seem to believe this because it seems that just about any book you pick up these days opens with some big confusing mess of action that you have to read twenty pages further to finally understand. Because that puts you in the moment. Or at least it’s supposed to. But does it really? In my case, it just puts me into a painful confusion from which I try desperately to escape.

And it’s not just this particular blog that seems to have this philosophy, you see how-to writing articles all the time about how you’ve got to grab readers from the first second. But that’s what they say about resumes too. And websites and movies. And well, just about everything.

So…what happened? Did we all just reduce our attention span down to that of a gnat? Are we all just over-active, hormone-laden 14-year-old boys who can’t land? Is substance a thing of the past?

The first 50 pages

Many years ago I saw an interview with John Irving, author of  The World According to Garp, among other best sellers. And he was asked how many pages he thought readers should give a writer before they decided to reject it or not. Irving’s answer was 50 pages. He went on to explain why and I honestly can’t remember his reasons but whatever they were they made sense to me.

And I have to say, that became my benchmark and has remained my benchmark for evaluating a book. Of course there are exceptions to that rule:

  • If the book is really badly written
  • If the topic or genre doesn’t interest me at all
  • If the writing is littered with typos, bad grammar

Things that would make anyone put down a book. But aside from that I try to the give the author a fair shake. I know that she sat in a room in front of a computer or notepad and spent hundreds of hours conceptualizing, plotting, writing, editing, rewriting, and doting over the story. So why shouldn’t I give her a mere 50 pages to make her case? That’s maybe an hour or two of reading – not a big commitment is it?

So what do you think? How many pages will you give an author before deciding to stop or keep reading? Why? What’s your criteria? Do you like books that start with so much action it takes your breath away. Or would you rather ease into the story? Feel free to expound in the comments.

Writer Chick

Words that only a writer could love

words
I’ve always thought that words were the coolest thing. As a kid (and now as an adult) my idea of a good time was reading dictionaries. For me, discovering new words – the weirder the better – was more fun than a box of bunnies.

I suppose that’s not much of a surprise – I don’t know any writer who doesn’t love words. Readers love words too. There’s a certain magic, a certain power in a well placed word – even if most your friends have no idea what you’re talking about when using it. In fact, maybe some of your friends and family have word shamed you – accused you of using a $20,000 word when a $3 word would do, right?

Following is a list of a few of my favorites:

Discombobulate: Don’t you just love the sound of that word? It conjures up pictures of machines deconstructing or things blowing up, right.
Definition: To upset or confuse.
Aunt Myrna was discombobulated by the food fight at the family picnic.

Fetching: This was once a fav in romance novels.
Definition: Attractive, pleasing to the eye
Her raven hair and bright green eyes fringed with thick lashes made her quite the fetching lass.

Balderdash: So Wodehouse, right?
Definition: Foolish words or ideas
According to the World Health Organization, the idea that one can contract Swine flu from eating pork chops is pure balderdash.

Peckish: A word you’re more likely to hear down south.
Definition: Slightly hungry : Irritated or annoyed
Let’s stop for lunch – I’m a might peckish.

Gumption: A word Jimmy Stewart could’ve uttered with a straight face.
Definition: Courage and confidence
What we need here is a little gumption – give those high and mighty bankers what they deserve. That’ll teach ‘em.

Drivel: Don’t you just love the sound of this word?
Definition: To talk in a very foolish or silly way
I’m so tired of TV, nothing but one-dimensional characters talking drivel to one another.

Drubbing: Now here’s a word you can sink your teeth into
Definition: To beat severely : To berate critically
After the drubbing the actor received from the NY Times critic, he cried like a baby.

Licentious: Sounds kind of dirty, doesn’t it?
Definition: Sexually immoral or offensive
Though 50 Shades of Grey was lauded as a romance, it was really a licentious tale of two very troubled people.

Licketysplit: You can feel the motion in this word, can’t you?
Definition: Fast. Quick. At great speed
Get cracking boy – time to move it – licketysplit.

Maw: I love this three letter word, it’s dark, it’s sinister and so easy to spell.
Definition: The mouth, jaws, or throat of an animal
His heart was a gaping maw of blackness.

So, what are your favorite words? Share them with us. Why do you like them? Have you been word shamed too? What happened?

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

Book Thoughts and What do You Think About Books?

photo courtesy of morguefile.com
photo courtesy of morguefile.com

I think I came out of the womb loving books – I seriously can’t remember any time in my life when I didn’t love them. Let’s face it, life is a fickle mistress but books are always good and the most well-behaved children in the world.

I think a lot about books. Sometimes the thoughts are logical and cogent but just as often they are random – perhaps fired off by a dysfunctional brain cell screeching during its final death throes. Still… Recently there have been lots of memes about books around the Internet and these have inspired the following thoughts:

Should books be free?

There are arguments pro and con on this idea. Many argue that thanks to libraries they are free. Except that libraries pay for the books they stock and tax dollars pay for libraries, so not really free. See where I’m heading? There are also authors out there offering free books as a promotional tool. On the other hand, some people think that you get what you pay for. And some of these free books as this post points out aren’t even the actual bonafide books. Personally, I believe that if someone went to the trouble and torment (and yes I mean torment) of writing a book you should at least want to see them get paid for it. Because contrary to popular belief writers need money to eat and stuff like that. If Beyonce can be a millionaire, can’t I earn enough to pay my rent? Just saying.

Do you love the smell of books? What do books smell like?

One of the favorite arguments against eBooks is that they don’t smell like ‘real’ books. So that begs the question, what do books smell like? One person I asked said they smell like dust and paper bags, others go for the metaphor and say they smell like knowledge or imagination – personally I think they smell like equal parts of ink, paper, wood, dust and mildew. Now there’s an aftershave I want for my man. Also, if an eBook could smell like a ‘real’ book would you be more likely to buy it?

Are writers who use foul language in their books, hacks?

This is my own version of the question but there have been several blog posts scolding/warning writers not to use poor language because well you know, unprofessional much. I’m down the middle on this issue. On the one hand, I really do get tired of characters dropping the f-word every two seconds, which currently seems very popular with cable TV shows (maybe they just discovered the word?). And I’m not fond of characters who curse every time they open their mouths in a story. However, I also believe that books have to have some connection to reality and the reality is that people swear all the time. Poor people, rich people, highly educated people, high school dropouts, ethnic people, non-ethnic people, kids, adults, teens – we all swear. Sometimes it’s a habit and sometimes it’s to express an extreme response. I write murder mysteries so I don’t think anyone would believe a cop who said something like, “I’m ever so distressed by your rude and inconsiderate behavior.” If I wrote something like that I’d lose my fictional P.I. license. I think it’s impossible to have a hard and fast rule about this and would rather say a write should keep context in mind. If it’s appropriate in the context of the situation and the character than feel free to swear in your books writers.

Should books have trigger warnings?

This was a new one on me. Honestly, I’d never heard of it until I read this well-written and thoughtful post and it inspired me to write a long comment. But for me, the issue is similar to that of swearing. It’s a matter of context. If your subject is very highly emotionally charged, it might not be a bad idea to add a trigger warning somewhere in your book’s page or promotional material. After all 50 Shades of Gray was not a book about interior design, right. However, since apparently just about anything anyone says can act as a trigger, a writer can’t go around trying to figure out what might trigger someone she doesn’t know who might buy and read her book. Much as I sympathize with individuals who have had a truly traumatic experience the tendency in our society today for all people to yearn to somehow be victims causes me dismay. And too, reading reviews about books and what others say about the books should give you a bit of a clue as whether a story will trigger you. So, we’ll try to be more sensitive and you try to be more diligent. Fair?

I’m sure if I really tried I could come up with other recent thoughts about books but those cover it for now.

Do you think about books too? What do you think about books? If I missed anything but sure to let me know and feel free to share. Thinking about books should always be encouraged.

PS: Don’t you love that photo? Is he wearing the book as a hat or is he thinking with the book or is the book thinking for him?

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

I Wish I Had a Book

I Wish I Had a Book

I wish I had a book today
A book to chase my blues away
A funny book, a silly book
A big fine book
For which I’d pay.

I’d rather read than go to school
I’d rather read than follow fools
I wish I had a book to read
From which my mind could greatly feed

A book of wonder, words and clues
With lots of colors and lovely hues
A book of mystery and romance too
That keeps me guessing
Until I’m through

I want a book to take me home
That frees my mind and lets it roam
That stirs my heart forever more
And makes me want to lock the door

I wish I had a book today
A book to take me far away
A clever book, a tender book
A lovely book
In which to stay

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015