Need your next great idea? Try this!

A few years ago, after reading Dufresne’s Is Life Like This?: A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months, I created my go to story idea generator; my Plot-o-Matic. The Plot-o-Matic is a set of three different colored cards: green = Subject (person or occupation), yellow = Conflict (something the subject wants or needs), and blue = action (something the subject does to achieve that goal or overcome the conflict). When I’m looking for a story idea, I pick three cards, one of each color, and see if the story I want to write comes together. I have used that Plot-o-Matic to come up with many short story and flash fiction ideas. It’s a fun and useful tool and it was free, other than paper and printer ink.

When I became a blogger, I started searching Amazon for fun things to recommend for you, writers and readers, and noticed there were Plot-o-Matic-esque products on the market like The Storymatic and The Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the ‘Write’ Side of Your Brain. Then, when shopping for a game for my nephew, I noticed Rory’s Story Cubes among the games and bought a set to try them out.

DSC07558

Rory’s Story Cubes

The game and how to play

Rory’s Story Cubes are six-sided cubes with simple images on each side. For a long time I’ve been fascinated by human symbols. They dominate my fabricglass art and my puzzle design. I love looking up symbols in symbol dictionaries and dream dictionaries. How people express so much meaning through a simple shape over eons is exciting to me. So this game is  right up my alley.

There are different ways to play. The instructions page provided with my set provides 3 ideas:

  1. Roll all 9 cubes and look at the face up images. Pick an image that will be the starting point for your story. Beginning with “Once upon a time . . .,” make up a story that somehow links together all 9 face up images.

  2. Think up a title or theme for a story. (Examples: The beach, My fantastic vacation, Dream.) Then roll all 9 cubes and try to tell a story that relates back to the title or theme.

  3. Divide the cubes evenly among the players. (It’s ok if some get more than others.) Starting with one player and continuing in a circle, take turns rolling the cubes and adding to the story based on the face up images. Stop after all 9 cubes have been rolled, or continue rolling for additional rounds.

Rory’s Story cubes also offers more inspiration on their website.

Let’s Play

So let’s test it out. Can these story cubes inspire my writing? How will they compare to the Plot-o-matic?

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What story does this roll give us? Hmm. Who’s my protagonist?

A happy man examines a letter that says he has to come home right now, so he jumps out of the plane, but on the way down a bee stings him. While sucking on the sore sting on his hand he does not pay attention to his magnifying glass that sets fire to his parachute. Luckily he lands in a tree, but he walks with a limp from then on and has to use a cane.

How about another one?

DSC07560

The hour was getting late for saving the earth, so the alien came disguised as a rainbow to alter the magnetic poles, but when it did, the water flowed upside down confusing the fishes and killing the bees and now the earth is overrun by scarab beetles.

Here’s one for you. Please leave your stories in the comments.

story cube 5

Now let’s play another way. One cube at a time.

story cube 7

Sasquatch, of course.

story cube 8

took a trip to Egypt to visit the great pyramids.

story cube 9

A freak storm surprised him. Lightning almost hit him, so he found an opening and hid inside the pyramid.

story cube 10

He pulled a flashlight from his backpack and began to look around the small chamber in the pyramid.

story cube 11

While examining an intricate spiderweb, he felt a chilly hand on his shoulder and roared turning around ready to attack.

story cube 12

But it was only a friendly mummified pharaoh who wanted to meet the furry large guest in his home.

story cube 13

The pharaoh asked if the bright light and crashing sound outside had been a meteor or an asteroid. He hoped it was the gods come to join him in the afterlife. Sasquatch hated to disappoint him,  but  told him it was only a bad storm.

story cube 14

Sasquatch pulled his favorite book out of his backpack. It was a book about the pharaohs of Egypt. He gave the pharaoh his flashlight and a sharpie. “Hey, could you find yourself in my book and sign your pic?”

The pharaoh started leafing through the pages. He started laughing. “I’m not in here. They haven’t found my chamber.” He shined the flashlight around the room. “See,” he said, “Not discovered yet.” He held the book and pen out to Sasquatch.

Sasquatch shrugged. “Wanna sign it anyway?” he said. How about right in the front?”

story cube 15

After the pharaoh signed his book, Sasquatch climbed to the very top of the pyramid, waited for a large gust of wind and opened his parachute. The giant wind, helped along by the ancient pharaoh’s good wishes took Sasquatch all the way back to his home in the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

Here’s a video from the Rory’s Story Cubes website showing another story inspired by the story cubes:

Analysis

My stories inspired by story cubes tend toward the silly and ridiculous, but I had a lot of fun and wasn’t using them to work on anything in particular.

The Plot-o-Matic also lends to the silly and ridiculous. I’m seeing a trend here. It may not be the tools, but the user. Hmm.

I like the story cubes. They feel less rigid than the Plot-o-matic, as the different images can symbolize the subject, conflict and/or the action. The story cubes also seem more conducive to group writing and play.

As you can see, like the Plot-o-Matic, story cubes are a fun, playful, idea-conjuring resource with a vast array of outcomes, but what if some of the images don’t work for you and/or you would like something more specific to your story idea?

Rory’s Story Cubes has created a variety of different cube sets to address that issue. You can choose from:

Rory’s Story Cubes Actions

Rory’s Story Cubes – Voyages

Rory’s Story Cubes Bundle with Original, Actions, Voyages, Prehistoria, Enchanted, Clues, Intergalactic, Medic & Score 

But what if you want something very specific to your story that all those almost infinite possibilities didn’t symbolize?

How to personalize your Story Cubes

I came up with a quick DIY project for you to get the most out of your Story Cubes.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A pen
  • White label stickers
  • Scissors
  • OR for those who cannot read their own drawing
  • A printer
  • ink
  • printer paper and tape (double-sided preferred)
  • or printable sticker paper

I’m pretty sure you get where I’m going with this, but since I want to draw little symbols for my cubes . . .

Instructions:

  1. Measure one side of a cube (height and width to cover image)

three story cubes, a ruler, a pen and some white stickers

 

I don’t think I need an abacus, a teepee, or an L in a box (?) so I’ve chosen to replace these three symbols with symbols more pertinent to my story.

 

2. Take the sheet of labels and draw out a square that matches those measurements

3. Draw your preferred symbol within the square you drew

Drawings on sticker paper. A goatman has been placed over the teepee.

To be more specific to my stories, I’ve drawn a volcano, an alligator and a goatman. I’ve already cut out the goatman and placed him over the teepee.

My symbols may not curb the silliness of my stories, but they are more specific to what I’m writing.

4. Cut out the square and stick it over the side of the square you want to replace

5. Repeat until all unwanted symbols have been replaced

Three story cubes with hand-drawn symbols

6. Roll cubes

And there you have it. Three unique and fun stories to write. I would love to see what you come up with in the comments.

I found that when I rolled with my story-specific tiles, the game changed for me. The symbols became more of a What If game. What if the alligator is afraid of his own shadow? What would happen if the goatman got a bee sting? Do I want to bring magic into my volcano story?

I may be onto something. Adding personal symbols to the story cubes may be a more powerful writing tool than I thought.

I look forward to reading your interpretations of the story cube rolls.

Happy Reading and Writing!

 

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Reaping A Bountiful Harvest

summer squash, pole beans, kale, Swiss chard and a lemon cucumber nicely displayed on a wood countertop

The harvest: Summer squash, lemon cucumber, pole beans, Swiss chard & 4 kinds of kale

I find no meal more satisfying than the one picked fresh from my garden. This year’s harvest is turning out to be very exciting. This year is the year of vine vegetables and many kinds of kale. Yum. The beauties pictured above were used for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

For breakfast this morning I had a piece of grain and seed toast with a little yogurt ranch Three slices of lemon cucumber showing the pretty star-shaped centers and seedsdressing, white cheddar cheese and slices of lemon cucumber. The first bite was surprising. The sweetness of the cucumber drew out the salt in the bread to an acute surprise.

For lunch, the summer squash served as noodles after going through the spiral slicer . The raw squash had less taste than I expected, but was full of flavor once topped with an olive oil sauce of onions, garlic, Roma tomatoes (from my friend’s garden), and fresh rosemary and thyme (growing in pots on the porch).

Harvest DinnerDinner was wonderful. We put brown and wild rice in the rice cooker and food steamer and steamed the beans and some cauliflower. Then when those veggies were done, we steamed the greens and some mushrooms. I topped the whole thing with my favorite spicy peanut sauce. I used the Gado Gado recipe from The New Moosewood Cookbook .

This wonderful harvest after years of being mostly thwarted is a great metaphor for the writing life. It takes persistence and constantly trying new and creative things.

I keep planting every year, no matter how the last harvest turns out. Every year I try something new. I try new vegetables. I change where and when I plant. I’ve planted horizontally, vertically and in arcs. This year I added planting up with poles and twine. This year, I’m also going to try a fall/winter garden, replanting as soon as I finish the harvest.

In my writing life, I make another Gator McBumpypants picture book, another NaNoWriMo novel, another short story, another poem, no matter how the last one was received. I read, I enjoy online courses and I learn and practice the craft every day. I don’t approach the page the same way, but try new skills and ideas all the time.

At the beginning of the week, I organized all of my writing projects for this fall and found an amazing word harvest. I found a lot more words on the page than I expected. I have so many wonderful projects to work on, it’s hard to choose; in a good way.

Today is about celebrating the harvest. It’s about time and patience. If we keep at it, one day we may be happily surprised with enough to eat.

Happy Reading and Writing!

 

Interview with award-winning screenwriter Geoffrey Calhoun

After sharing his fun guest post, Finishing Your Script by Defeating Act Two, Geoffrey Calhoun kindly took the time to answer my questions about his writing practice and his business We Fix Your Script. His answers are full of great information. Make sure to follow the links to learn more about his favorite books, authors and websites. I’m going to thank him up here because I like the interview ending with his advice for new writers. Thank you, Mr. Calhoun, for sharing your time and experience.

Geoffrey Calhoun

 

Geoffrey D. Calhoun  has optioned several screenplays and has worked as a writer on two features coming out in 2017 “The Little Girl” and “Studio 5.” His multi-award winning thriller “Pink Bunny” is scheduled for a 2018 release. Geoffrey has won multiple screenwriting awards and has worked as a producer, an assistant director, and director on indie film productions.

 

First, thank you for your guest post, I noticed people have been re-tweeting it and liking it on Good Reads.

That’s fantastic! I’m really glad people enjoy it. I love this craft and writing about it. It’s important for us as writers to pass down what little tidbits of knowledge we’ve learned for the up and comers. Just like our mentors did for us.

When did you first know you were a writer?

Jeez, that’s a tough one. I guess it was quite by accident really. I had a coworker who moonlighted as an editor for a local kids show. One day he just walked up and challenged me to see who could come up with a better treatment for a script. I secretly have a bit of a competitive streak in me. So I accepted. That night I went home and learned how to become a screenwriter. Eventually we compared stories and I won. That was the end of it, until my wife read the treatment and suggested I do the script. I confessed that I really enjoyed the process. I’ve never stopped since. As a side note, that script was actually optioned at one point but never made it to production.

Do you write every day? Tell us (me and my readers) a little about your writing practice.

I do. In one form or another. When I am actively working on an assignment then it’s a minimum of four hours a day for writing. When I’m not on assignment, then I am constantly developing stories. I can’t give you an approximate time spent on this because it’s all of the time. Perfecting and developing a story is always on my mind whether I’m grocery shopping or actively mind mapping. I keep note pads all over my home and in my car so I can jot down ideas.

What is your best trick for getting more words on the page?

Music. When I am writing I have to have music playing. Right now my son is practicing his baritone, so I can write while he plays, but otherwise I pull up a customized playlist. I have specific tracks I listen to when I want to write a specific emotion to a scene. If I don’t have music on, it’s more of a struggle.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

Honestly, with my peers. When I want to clarify an idea, I pick one of a handful of people that I trust. I will chat with them and bounce ideas until something sticks. They are a sounding board. They’ll tell me what’s crap and what’s genius. The myth that a writer sits alone at computer and creates brilliance one key stroke at a time is a lie. No one does that. Sure we do the work, create the character, and story, but every great writer has a few friends that they turn to and clarify their ideas with. It’s usually done over a casual drink or lunch. But it’s done. Anyone that says otherwise isn’t telling the truth.

Who have you found most influential to your writing?

Syd Field. This man is one of founders of modern screenwriting. I had read a lot of how to books before I got to his book Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting. His was the first book that really opened my eyes to story and the importance of structure. It changed my writing. To this day I read it every year and still learn something new.

Who are your favorite authors?

With novelists I’d say a gentleman by the name of R. A. Salvatore. He’s written a thirteen book series within a fantasy realm that is fantastic called “The Legend of Drizzt.” I’ve read all of them. As a screenwriter I’d say David S. Goyer, Christopher McQuarrie, and Jonathan Nolan. These guys are masters at their craft and are what I aspire to be.

What are your favorite books?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The smart humor in that book has seeped into my writing style.

For screenwriting it would be Screenplay by Syd Field. “How to Write a Screenplay” by Viki King and “The Screenwriter’s Bible” by David Trottier. I still reference all of these books to this day.

What three writer’s websites do you visit most often?

John August’s. His is great. It keeps you up to date on the latest changes in screenwriting. Screencraft, I visit their blog. They talk about a lot of the struggles that screenwriters face. Stage 32 is another website that is nice to go on and get support from other writers.

Let’s talk about We Fix Your Script (really nice looking website btw):

Thank you 😊

WeFixYourScript.com

What inspired you to start this business?

Having been in this business for awhile now I felt it was time to stand up and give a supportive voice for the indie screenwriter. I think back to all of the times I had paid for and received coverage from “professionals” and more times than not it was filled with vile comments. Never positive or supportive. It was brutal. I would get feedback telling me that I would never make it. Some would be offended that they had to read my work.

To me, this is unacceptable. This bullying attitude of arrogance that can be found in our industry has to stop. To tell someone that they’ll never make it and to slander their work is wrong. That writer came to you seeking help. They put their soul into that script and you tell them it’s a terrible piece of garbage and they are wasting their time. How dare you? Sure this writer may just be starting out. Yes they need help. So why not help them? Mentor them.

I’ve seen great writers, people with serious potential, walk away from our craft because they couldn’t take the criticism anymore. I can’t stand by and let that happen. I founded this website to offer a safe place for a writer to bring their work, where they know they will be supported and treated with respect. We won’t just dog your work to make ourselves feel superior. We will help you become better at our craft and provide creative ways to make your script great. Think of us as mentors.

We Fix Your Script has an impressive group of consultants. How did you all get together / find each other?

I’m lucky to have found a great crew that shares the same vision for this service as I do. I’ve met all of them while I toured the country with my multi-award winning script “Pink Bunny.” Over time this idea had been brewing in the back of my head of starting this service for the indie writer. I’ve vetted all of our writers to make sure they have the best of standards and every single one of them is just an amazing and beautiful person. I couldn’t be luckier.

Tell us about how We Fix Your Script works. At what stage in the writing process would we contact you? We’ve ordered a product, what happens next?

We have options for any stage of the writing process. If you just have an idea and you need to develop it more then you can get a one on one session with a consultant and work it out over skype. We call that our development package. If you’ve written a short script/feature/web-series and need feedback, we do that as well, but we take it a step further. Not only do you get comprehensive notes but we also give you a one on one skype session with your award winning and produced consultant that specializes in your genre. Say you want us to do a rewrite or need grammar and formatting fixed, we do that as well, on a case by case basis. We cover all of your screenwriting needs.

You’ve won many awards for script writing (there’s a list in your bio on WeFixYourScript.com):

Yes, I’ve been very blessed.

How did you choose which contests to enter?

Film Freeway is great. They give you reviews on each contest. You can also use the ISA International Screenwriting Association as well. They even offer discounts on contests. Between the two I was able to figure out where I wanted to enter.

Any advice for putting together a winning submission?

Screenplays for contests can be very different than ones you want to sell. If you are looking to put together a winning script, I would suggest something character driven with an interesting concept that really grabs the reader. I would also recommend that you play around with your structure a bit. Do what ever you can, to make it stand out from the rest of the pack. For instance, “Pink Bunny” is a Rashomon styled thriller that really bends reality at a few points but the characters are so interesting that it keeps you around for the long haul. But if I wrote a summer blockbuster, it would be dead in the water in a contest. Also, I have to say this: make your script perfect in every way, whether it be grammar, format, or structure. A perfect script with a cool concept and deep characters will land you in the top 10 percent of most contests.

Are you working on any enticing new stories you can tell us about?

I just finished an assignment for a popular TV channel but unfortunately mums the word on that one. I was also hired to rewrite two scripts that are moving into production this year. Which is exciting. I’m currently in negotiations to have one of my scripts optioned.

And just for fun:

When you’re not writing, what is your favorite thing to do?

I love family time. We can be hanging out at home or grabbing a bite to eat. Doesn’t matter as long as I’ve got them around.

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

I’m a dog person. Right now, my greyhound that we saved from a racing track is asleep next to me. That’s what she does, nap. The fastest couch potato on earth and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Final question:

What bit of wisdom would you share with new writers?

Don’t give up. Screenwriting is about the long game. It’s about sticking with it and perfecting our craft. Remember, it takes, on average, ten years to become an overnight success.

Power through Act 2: Tricks and Tips for finishing your story.

Today we have a special treat, a guest post from award winning script writer and founder of WeFixYourScript.com, Geoffrey Calhoun. His advice applies to all writers milling about in the middle of their stories.

WeFixYourScript.com

Finishing Your Script by Defeating Act Two

We’ve all been there. Stuck. Not sure where to go. Our lead characters milling about as they are lost in act two. Suffering in their own purgatory, begging us to usher them to act three. Do we cheat and jump a few sharks or dig some plot holes to get them there? NO! We will not allow that. We know better (cue rousing war speech soundtrack). We shall not stoop to that level. We shall not let our script be damned by desperation and deadlines. We shall not save the cat…because WE ARE SPARTA! (sorry, got a little excited) WE ARE SCREENWRITERS!!!

Then what do we do? Give up? Hell no! We get creative, and use a few tricks. Let’s get started. Everyone gets stuck. It’s normal. If you are a writer and don’t get stuck during your work then I’m going to pray for you. Because one, you’re not human (possibly a robot overlord) and two, your work is probably overly outlined which can result in a work that lacks a special spark.

Getting stuck is the worst, most annoying, terrible, frustrating, anxiety inducing, best, amazing, and euphoric thing that can happen to a writer. Many writers do extensive outlines to avoid getting stuck. This does work, but can end up giving you a story that is stale and lacks a certain creativity to it. We are not those people. We write from the heart. We pour ourselves onto the page. I’m a firm believer in writing a mini-outline, which is no more than 15 lines and minimally filled out. Then I begin my script and practically throw the outline away (I ignore it). I have a general idea of where I want to go and I let myself get there by allowing my inner creative spark to flourish. Inevitably it creates something amazing and beautiful. But eventually you can get stuck. Which happens around act two. That’s where everyone gets stuck btw. Writing through act two and not giving up is what separates a Youngling from a Jedi (I went there).

Mind Map

So, we’re stuck in act two. No biggie. Time for some free-form thought. I mind map. It’s fun. You put an idea (plot) into a bubble then branch out from those ideas which in turn have branches from those ideas and soon you’ve filled a page in twenty minutes with some pretty killer stuff. See the great thing about this is that my mini-outline gives me a general idea of where I need to go. Having that thought in my head while I mind map gives me direction. This approach forces you to creatively go to different places than you expected it. Which brings out that inner spark and makes your script more original and less predictable. So basically better.

 

Now that we’ve learned a nice trick on how to get out of a creative slump, let’s discuss a mysterious and ancient technique that we are already using. Many writers don’t realize what this technique is really used for. Are you ready…wait for it…SUBPLOTS. Yep. The big mystery is solved. You’re already using these. I’m not just talking about your B-plot which has tragically been downgraded to love stories (it’s actually the heartbeat of your script) but actual subplots. These are the added meat that get you through act two. Which is why they come in late act one and are resolved in early act three. Use your subplots with your supporting character. It does double duty this way. The supporting character gets developed more and we beef up our act two. You can even use a subplot that focuses on your antagonist as well. Oh man! Now we’ve got our main plot/the B-plot/a subplot with our supporting character/ and another subplot with our antagonist. 4 plots! Holy crap! We are going to be chewing through the pages of act two!

Now do your mini-outline, bust out some mind maps, throw in some killer subplots, and get out there.

Act two is the death star (oh no he’s going full star wars mode) you are Luke as he barrels down that narrow trench, your nav computer is your outline that you have to let go of, your mind map is the force…fire away. BOOM!

Great shot kid, now don’t get cocky

-Geoffrey D. Calhoun

Geoffrey is listed as a top 100 indie-writer Geoffrey Calhounin the world. He is a multi award winning and produced writer that is the founder or wefixyourscript.com.

You can find more information at:

Twitter: @wefixyourscript

Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/wefixyourscript/

Instagram: We Fix Your Script

Email: info@wefixyourscript.com

Preparing for a book signing? Here’s what I did.

In my last post I told you about my great adventure to my local independent bookstore. While there, I was offered the opportunity to sell my books during Rhubarb days this weekend. I’m really excited and have been preparing for weeks. Now that the event is here and I’m as prepared as I’m going to get, I want to share what I did to get ready.

Preparing for the saleA Good Book Storefront

First, I invited a friend and local author who I know has experience selling at events. Chris Bailey, author of <a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0989973417/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0989973417&linkCode=as2&tag=experiencew03-20&linkId=922fa1eed4feb46266c21fc8ded629f2" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Crystal Key (Starjumper Legacy, Book 1) and the Starjumper Legacy series, Without Chance and Whisper has done many local events including Oddmall and Sumner's A Victorian Country Christmas, so I knew he could show me the ropes. Also, his daughter is Gator McBumpypants's biggest fan and I've enjoyed his books, so we can cross-sell and talk each other up.

It's important to know exactly what will be provided by your host and what you are expected to bring.
After Chris okayed things with A Good Book he said all we need to bring is a way to take payment and our books. The store is supplying the tables and chairs.

Make sure you have enough books and they are exactly how you want them.

I asked Chris for advice on this as well and ordered more books than I would have otherwise. I thought I would sell the first book the most. His experience was that if you sell the whole set at a discount, you are more likely to sell the whole set. Since I was planning on selling the whole set at a discount already, I ordered only a few extra of the first book, and more of the rest than I had originally imagined.

I also used this re-order to review the books and update them to include online information about the other books and Gator McBumpypants website and facebook on the last page. Because I use Create Space to make my books, I can make these changes for free and it only takes a couple days. The books I ordered arrived a week before expected.

The next thing to think about is your display. You will want to have:

  • A table cloth or table skirt (I have not tried this product. I will be using a piece of stretch-velvet fabric)
  • Book stands to display the books well
  • Signs so customers don't have to ask the prices
  • Business cards - make sure your business cards are up-to-date and appropriate for the books you are selling. I have separate business cards for my adult and children's books
  • Email sign-up sheets - I printed sheets with a table with three columns for name, email, and comments. Everyone who signs up gets a copy of the first book in PDF form.

You'll also want to think about give-aways

I designed and printed bookmarks but I have seen other things like little pins or stickers. Get creative.

One Little Extra

This should be an opportunity to get some great pictures of people enjoying my books, so I'm going to bring photo-release forms in hopes that people will give me permission to use their images for publicity.

Time to promote your sale!

Now that you're ready. It's time to get people to come. Because this is a local event, I approached promotion a little differently.

Facebook.com- I created my first event from Gator McBumpypants's Facebook page. All you have to do is click on Events on the left sidebar and then click Create an Event. Fill out the information, add a nice picture and invite your friends who live nearby. I also shared my event with some local writer pages I follow.

Nextdoor.com- I participate in a neighborhood website on nextdoor.com. I was happy to see that I was also able to set up an event on this page. This is directed to my neighborhood and the close surrounding area, so I hope my event will reach the people most likely to go to Sumner Rhubarb Days.

Blog - This post will go out to Twitter, Google+ and Tumbler.

There you have it. The inside story of how I prepared for my book signing/ sale this weekend at Rhubarb Days in Sumner, WA.

Anything I forgot? What would you do differently? Any fun book signing stories to tell? I would love to hear from you in the comments.

If you are in the Pacific Northwest and are looking for some Free Family Fun this Sunday, July 16th, please come enjoy Rhubarb Days in Sumner. I'll be signing books in front of A Good Book Bookstore, 1014 Main Street from 11am to 4pm.

 

 

 

Summer Book Bingo 2: Adventures with A Good Book

In my last post, I told you about all the fun squares/book choices of the Seattle Summer Book Bingo. One of those squares said to get a recommendation from an independent bookseller, so I headed over to A Good Book in Sumner, WA to see what they could recommend.

Recommendations

When I mentioned to the dark-haired, bespectacled young man behind the counter what I was up to, he motioned toward the woman behind him who was the proprietor of the establishment, Evelyn Nicholas. They were both quick to point out the books that were next to the cash register.

Campfire Bookclub

The first book they showed me was A Darker Shade of Magic: A Novel (Shades of Magic) by V. E. Schwab. This is the book selection for their June Campfire Bookclub. You are welcome to join in a discussion of the book around a campfire with a drink and marshmallows on June 28th from 7-9pm. The book is part of a trilogy and Evelyn told me that her customers who read the first book rush back in for the second,  A Gathering of Shadows: A Novel (Shades of Magic). The third book in the series is A Conjuring of Light: A Novel (Shades of Magic).

Though this sounded interesting, and the bookclub sounds fun, I was curious to see what else they would recommend.

MC The great train robbery 75

The Great Train Robbery

The second book near the register that they recommended was a 2014 re-release of the 1975 novel by Michael Crichton. I had heard of the film and didn’t know it was based on a Michael Crichton book. I have read most of his books and found this tempting, but it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for.

Evelyn said, “and we also have used books,” and took me into the other half of the shop. This reminded me that I had read on their website that they buy used books, so I asked her about their buy-back policy. Turns out they do a one-to-one exchange, meaning for every book you bring in, you get a discount on a purchase. I’ll definitely be taking her up on that, next time I visit.

Since I recently enjoyed Pest Control and The Exterminators (Assassin Bug Thrillers) by Bill Fitzhugh and I’ve enjoyed every book by Carl Hiaasen, I asked her if she had any recommendations in that vein.

Evelyn said, “You like funny,” and took me to another section of the shop. She told me about a couple of books then grabbed Hidden Palms: A Butch Bliss Novel by hidden palms coverHarry Bryant. The plot, as she described it, sounded like something Mr. Hiaasen might have conjured and I really liked the cover. Then she directed me over to another area of the store while she explained that Harry Bryant is a new nom de plume of an author that works at the store. I was pretty sure I knew who she was speaking of because I had met him and as I looked over what she called his “darker titles” I saw I was right.

Harry Bryant is the “more light-hearted and funny” persona of Mark Teppo who I met at an authors’ talk at the Sumner library and again when I went to a NaNoWriMo write-in at this bookstore. I haven’t read any of his books yet, so this was a perfect recommendation. SOLD.

While back at the register, where my adventure began, I saw that they, too, have a Summer Book Bingo. I excitedly got my first BUY A BOOK square stamped in the top

A Good Book Summer Bingo Card

row, though I was given a choice, so I recommend reading through and seeing where it will be most advantageous for you to fill a row.

This bingo card is a clever way to inspire me to come back and buy books. The squares aren’t only types of books to read, but calls to action as well. Not only do you get a stamp for buying books, but also:

Read a media tie-in – Okay, this isn’t a call to action. Turns out it’s a genre. The call to action is, I had to look this up. I thought it would be reading articles or essays about books, but it’s not. It’s a genre all its own and, actually, will help me out with my “Genre that is new to you” square on my Seattle Summer Book Bingo card. Media tie-ins are books made from TV or movies. Things like Star Wars and Star Trek books. I really enjoyed the TV shows Monk and Castle, so I will probably read one of the books made as extensions of those series.

Attend an event – I’m not sure, but I would think that attending the Fireside Bookclub would get stamps for an event and a book discussion. Another event at A Good Book that I think sounds interesting is A Good Talk Salon where local people give talks on subjects other than their profession. The only problem being I would have to sign up to give a talk. I hope they have another one soon.

Have a book discussion – It’ll be interesting to see how I prove some of these things for my stamp. I have book discussions all the time.

Show them your library card – I should have gotten this stamp while I was there. I always have it on me.

Review a book – this is something I have been working on. Reviews are so important to authors these days. If you like a book, you should quickly head over to Amazon and Goodreads and let everyone know.

and Gift a book – I’m always excited when I find a book that I think is just right for a friend or family member.

Supporting Local Authors

Evelyn told me, as the only bookstore in town, she really wants to help local authors. She showed me a Free Books in return for review shelf at the front of the store that she hopes to fill with local authors. These are the books I took.

Wedgie & Gizmo- This will be my “Gift a book” bingo square. I plan to give it to my niece and can picture her reading it to her little brother. I’ve already posted my review on Goodreads.

The Fallen Star: The Nocturnals Book 3- Not a local author, but I’m hoping this will be a nice birthday gift for my niece. I better read and review it quickly as she’s an independence day baby.

The Best of Talebones-I was excited to see this on the free-for-review shelf. I met Patrick Swenson at the same author talk at the Sumner library as Mark Teppo. I got a signed copy of The Ultra Thin Man: A Science Fiction Novel and enjoyed it. Though the sequel, The Ultra Big Sleep

was on the shelf, I left it for another reader, for now, and grabbed the collection of short stories from Patrick Swenson‘s previous magazine. As a short story writer, I’m always looking for interesting short story collections.

Another way that A Good Book is supporting local authors is by inviting local authors to sell their books in front of the shop during the Rhubarb Days weekend. Evelyn offered me a spot on Sunday, July 16th and I am very excited to bring Gator McBumpypants to my local community. I’ll talk more about it soon.

I want to thank Evelyn and A Good Book Bookstore for her time, great book recommendations and her work for local authors. I had no idea that trying to fill one square on my Summer Book Bingo Card could be such a great adventure. Goes to show how important independent bookstores are to a community. I hope this inspires you to venture to your local independent bookseller and ask for a recommendation. I would love to hear about your local bookstore and the latest book you bought there.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Great Summer Reads: Summer Book Bingo

book bingo

I had a lot of fun with Seattle Summer Book Bingo last year, so I kept an eye out for it this year to get an earlier start. Are any of you enjoying a reading challenge this summer? I’ve chosen some of the books I’ll be reading and have already enjoyed a couple, but look forward to your suggestions as well. I have typed an exclamation point (!) before the square topics that I need suggestions for. I hope you’ll share your book knowledge and also join me in a summer reading challenge.

The first square (top left) is Recomended by a librarian. I thought about calling out to librarians here and/ or twitter, but then I noticed the link on the Seattle Summer Book Bingo page to Your Next Five Books which turned out to be a form you fill out to get personalized recommendations from a librarian at the Seattle Public Library.

Because I tend to haunt the King County Library System I checked to see if they have something similar, and they do!! Your Perfect BOOKMATCH. I filled out their form and sent it in. It said I will receive recommendations in five to seven business days. I look forward to letting you know what my local librarians pick for me. Have you used any book recommendation forms/services with your local library?

Choose a book by it’s cover – Some of these categories I see as catch-alls. They leave a little wiggle-room for line-up changes. I would also include Fiction, You’ve been meaning to read and Finish in a day as catch-all categories. A few books I have already started could fit here:


The Lake House: A Novel
The Exterminators (Assassin Bug Thrillers)
Small Town: A Novel (Block, Lawrence)
Park City: New and Selected Stories

You’ve been meaning to read – This book has been staring me in the face every time I open my online library account as the only book on my wishlist for a very long time. I’m not sure how or why it was there, but I’m excited to finally read Seeing Red by Lina Meruane.

! Young adult – Here I would appreciate suggestions. I have found my personalYoung adult selections to be very hit or miss. I would love to know some of your favorites.

Biography or memoir – Here I think I’ll give another attempt to Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey. I received it as a gift from a friend and keep putting it on to-read lists. Hopefully, this time, I’ll actually read it.

Adapted into a movie – This category inspired me to add three books to my Goodreads to-read shelf. I like to read a book before I see the movie and there are two films based on books by Cormac McCarthy that I have not seen for that reason: The Road and No Country for Old Men (Vintage International)
Then I saw that Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch: A Novel became Jackie Brown(1997) by director Quentin Tarantino and that piqued my interest as well.

Graphic novel -This inspired me to read The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (New Edition) by Neil Gaiman. I liked it, but I found each page to be incredibly busy. I ended up reading through and not savoring. It wasn’t what I expected from the hype.

By an author of colorThe Turner House by Angela Flournoy. I was on a long waiting list for this book at my local library, but when I returned a book the other day, it was right in the front on the recommended shelves. I guess the paperback had recently come out and I was waiting for the hardback. I snagged it and cancelled my hold.

! Recommended by an independent bookseller – for this one I’m planning on going to this great little bookstore in Sumner, Wa. called A Good Book. I went to one NaNoWriMo write-in (so far) and it was there. The proprietor was very nice; I look forward to seeing what she recommends. However, if you are an independent bookseller, I would really appreciate your recommendations as well.

Set in another countryThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I have been looking forward to this one for a while. It is set in Barcelona, Spain, though more specifically, The Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

! Genre that is new to you – Okay. This one’s tough. I believe I have read books from every genre. If anyone has suggestions, I will keep an open mind.

! Banned – I really enjoyed my choice for this category last year. I read Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. This year I found The Mask of Sanity by Jacob M. Appel. I picked it because Wikipedia reported that it was banned preemptively in Malaysia for blasphemy. However he has another book banned in Qatar for its portrayal on Islam, The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up Anyone read either of these? Which one do you think I should read? Other banned book suggestions?

Collection of essays or short stories – I have a few collections that I am reading at the moment:
Park City: New and Selected Stories
Seek: Reports from the Edges of America & Beyond
The Unreal and the Real: The Selected Short Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin and a non-fiction book of talks and essays The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination by Ursula K. Le Guin.
I’m not sure how all of them will fit into the BINGO card, but that’s why it’s nice there is a little wiggle-room.

Published the year one of your parents was born – This category yielded an interesting result. Turns out Jorge Luis Borges published a surreal/fantasy collection called Ficciones the year my mother was born. I’m excited to “journey into a compelling, bizarre, and profoundly resonant realm”(Goodreads description).

Fiction – I’ll be using this as a free space for something I read that doesn’t fit the other categories. Probably Lawrence Block’s Small Town: A Novel

! About art or an artist – I haven’t chosen anything for this yet. Suggestions?

A SAL speaker (past or upcoming) – I started this summer’s BINGO with The Emperor of Water Clocks: Poems by Yusef Komunyakaa. He was a Seattle Arts and Lectures speaker on March 26th, 2009 (More at my poetry selection).

! Reread a book you read in school – I wasn’t too happy with this square. After talking it out with a friend, I came up with The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary. I think this re-read might be good for me as a writer in that it might bring back some childhood memories, but I’m not fixed on this one. What would you re-read that you read in school?

Finish in a day – I am known to finish more than one book in a day, so this is definitely a square I like for a book I read that doesn’t fit in a category.

Washington state author – In April, I finally got around to reading Maria Semple:Where’d You Go, Bernadette: A Novel and Today Will Be Different but, they don’t count because Bingo didn’t start until May 17th. Luckily, I had some other Washington authors on my to read list. I plan to read Truth Like the Sun (Vintage Contemporaries) by Jim Lynch. I also put another Jim Lynch The Highest Tide: A Novel on my to-read list. Anyone have an opinion on which to read first? Which is better?

Poetry – my poetry and my SAL speaker selections ended up being the same author, Yusef Komunyakaa. I randomly picked up The Emperor of Water Clocks: Poems from my local library because I liked the title and the cover. I enjoyed it, so I looked further into Yusef Komunyakaa. That is how I learned that he had been a Seattle Arts and Lectures speaker and that his book Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems (Wesleyan Poetry Series) had won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1994. I am reading it as my Poetry selection.

Science non-fiction or science-fiction – At the moment I am reading a fiction short story collection The Unreal and the Real: The Selected Short Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin and a non-fiction book of talks and essays The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination by Ursula K. Le Guin. One of these will most likely fill this square.

LGBTQIA author or character – For this square of my Bingo card I found a book by E. Annie Proulx, the author of The Shipping News which won both the Pulitzer prize and The National Book Award (US). I enjoyed The Shipping News, so I have high hopes for this year’s selection, Accordion Crimes which explores the lives of immigrants through the changing ownership of a small green accordion.

! Recommended by a young person – I don’t have this one yet. I will probably ask my niece or my neighbor, but to any young persons reading this, please leave a recommendation in the comments. What constitutes a young person to the Seattle Public Library? I’m not sure, but since this Adult Summer Reading BINGO is for people over 15, I would guess people under 15 are considered young persons.

Excitement!

There are so many great books on this list already and I can’t wait to see what you come up with! I look forward to hearing your thoughts on my selections and your suggestions to fill out my BINGO card.  Keep checking in for updates when I get recommendations from my local librarian and independent bookstore owner.

 

Happy Summer Reading and Writing!

Another First: McKenzie’s New Boyfriend

bokeh photography experiment with a wide angle attachment on a zoom lens

Galactic Unions                                                                                                    photo by Maria L. Berg

McKenzie’s New Boyfriend is my second story published by Fictional Pairings. They paired my story with a song called Recover by Second Still. I’m listening to it while I write this. It feels perfect for my story–spacey road trip–and on Second Still’s site it says the album was released on my birthday this year (coincidence?).

This is another first in my writer’s journey because this is the first time I have published twice in the same magazine.

When building a publication history, why the same magazine?

When I first submitted to Fictional Pairings, I had two stories that I thought might work. I chose the shorter and more obviously sci-fi because I thought it was a best fit. The moment I received my acceptance letter from Fictional Pairings for BAM-AG Home, I shot off an email saying that I thought I had another piece that would be a good fit. I asked if they might be interested and how long I should wait before submitting again.

Why did I do this? Because I love the musical pairings with flash fiction. It is a great fit for me and I think it will grow. It also shows a growing readership that your first piece was so good that the magazine wanted another.

Like I said in New #LitMag+, finding the right place for your stories can feel elusive, so once you find a good match, I recommend submitting more than one best fit.

Whisper by Christopher Bailey: a YA page turner.

I had an Amazon gift-card, so I treated myself to a copy of Whisper by Christopher Bailey and I’m glad I did. Like Chris’s other novels I’ve read, Without Chance and The Crystal Key (Starjumper Legacy, Book 1), it is a page turner. Christopher Bailey definitely knows how to keep me reading to the end.

cover of Christopher Bailey's new book WHISPER

four stars

In Whisper , Jackson, a high school football player, begins to hear a voice whispering in his head. His life is turned upside down when he has a vision while having a seizure. Doctors can’t find a physical cause for his condition, so he ends up in a psychological hospital. Jacks, however, comes to believe he is hearing the voice of a real girl, and she is in trouble.

This book has vivid characters and settings. I found it easy to empathize with Jacks’s sudden roller-coaster of fear and change. Each strange step, though frightening and surreal, leads to a natural chain of events.

The psychologist’s actions were sometimes hard to swallow, but I’ll admit that is personal bias because I have a psychology degree and hope that if I had gone counseling instead of research, I wouldn’t have ended up like that. I also had trouble relating to a Dad that would think doctors know best since I have a Mom who stored penicillin in the freezer and a Dad who almost fell off a roof before he would see a doctor because he had been getting dizzy (heart valve replacement), so again personal bias. However, since I felt that strongly about those personal biases, the characters must have been so well written that they affected me and made me think.

The mystery was intriguing. From beginning to end, the story concept kept me turning pages. There were times I would have liked more clues through the whispers, but the idea of pharmaceuticals stopping the whispers left me thinking the story could veer in many different directions; and it did, leaving me guessing!

Want to know more about this author? He wrote a great guest post for Experience Writing about breaking through writer’s block and did an author interview.

#Writerslife: The Key To Persistence? Celebrate every accomplishment.

An Urgent Note On The Floor

My short story “An Urgent Note On The Floor” was published in Sick Lit Magazine today. This marks an exciting milestone in my writing journey. Though I have had a flutter of publication recently, this is the first of my published stories that is long enough to leave the flash fiction category and fit in the short story realm.

I hope you’ll give it a read and let me know what you think.

Happy Reading and Writing