Craft Book Review: The Linchpin Writer: Crafting Your Novel’s Key Moments

The Linchpin Writer: Crafting Your Novel’s Key Moments by John Matthew Fox is the best book I have received from the Library Thing Early Reviewers Program. I am so glad I can share this book with you to finish up this year. I highly recommend it for writers and everyone who enjoys reading.

Why I picked it up: I received an e-book copy from the author as part of the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.

From previous experience, I expected a bunch of blog posts thrown together, and imagined one or two possible insights at best. However, I liked the cover and hoped the writing would be as sharp.

Intended Audience:
At first glance, this book appears to be intended for novelists  interested in traditional publishing. However, this book is full of actionable information for all writers and storytellers of all kinds, and the anecdotes may be interesting for all readers.

What I liked:
I am happy to say I like almost everything about this book. I like how the metaphor and theme are illustrated on the cover, clearly explained right at the beginning of the book, and continued through out. This is a craft book for people who think they have read all of the craft books. It’s inspiring, has fresh ideas, and makes you want to get to work. It lays out a writing rule, and then instantly shows examples of impressive ways to break it. It offers useful “Writing Challenges” at the end of each chapter to get you reading as a writer, and applying what you learn. I really like the approach to character description which I find challenging. He even brought up the game of Clue (which I had recently bought a modernized version of at the thrift store) when talking about surprise and mystery.

What I didn’t like:

I don’t like that he uses Google as a verb, instructing the reader to search certain phrases to find things on his website, when he could just as easily directed the reader to his blog and stated which category to click. The blog is well designed and full of interesting posts. The only reason to tell people to Google things is because he believes it will improve his SEO (listing position on the Google search engine). I feel like it cheapens the merits of the book itself. Which brings me to the only other thing I didn’t like about the book which was that it was too obvious that the book was trying to sell online classes and direct traffic to the website instead of the other way around.

Rating: ♦♦♦♦♦ 5 out of 5

Overall, I highly recommend this book to absolutely everyone. It’s an inspiring craft book for writers and a great read for everyone. I am so glad I stuck with the Early Reviewers program through all the bad reads to get to such a good read, and get to share a great book with my readers. Treat yourself to a Happy New Year and get this book!

Happy Reading and Writing!

Anatomy Coloring e-books: 2 New Book Reviews

I received two e-books from Library Thing Early Reviews, both anatomy coloring books. This review posed a bit of a challenge: how I would color an e-book. I found a free PDF editor, XODO, which has many drawing colors and highlighter colors to choose from, and was able to color with my stylus. Though not the same joy as crayons or pencils on paper, it made it possible to color without having to print out the pages.

Why I picked it up:
I received a free e-book version of Human Anatomy and Physiology Coloring Book (amazon associate link) by Dr. Fanatomy from the publisher through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.

Intended Audience: In the stamp on the title page it says” Fun activities for medicos.” I doubt medicos it is meant to be the Spanish word for doctors, but more the slang term for physicians, medical students, and others interested in medicine. In the disclaimer on the copyright page, it states that this document is for educational and entertainment purposes only. So I would say it is intended for people who find learning about human anatomy entertaining.

My Expectations:

I’ve wanted an anatomy reference book for some time, and thought anatomy coloring books looked fun and useful. For my purposes, I look at it as a reference book for my writing. If my characters get hurt, I can look up a specific term for the location of their injuries. Or if I create a hypochondriac, he or she can think they have pain or damage to all the things on these pages. If I want to be more specific in my poetry, instead of talking about an aching heart, I can talk about a specific part.

What I liked: I like the way that the book is organized by systems, giving a diagram of the whole system and then looking closer at its parts. The opening organ systems chart is an informative, and interesting chart of what you’ll find in the book. I also like the terminology charts in Appendix 1 and 2, but think they should be at the beginning of the book instead of appendices. I like the specific, detailed diagrams like the knee, the hip, and the heart. Those were the kinds of references, I was hoping for when I picked this up I appreciated having the PDF so I could enlarge the images of the diagrams, otherwise I think they would have been too small. I did learn a few things (like I don’t know much about lymph nodes), and I had fun trying to color with my stylus on my tablet.

What I didn’t like: I didn’t enjoy some of the design choice: I’m not a fan of the cover. I think it’s the use of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man that makes it look like a kid’s cut an paste project. I thought the background pattern on the pages didn’t add, but distracted from the text. I didn’t like the font chosen for the titles. Consistency in fonts would have been more professional looking. I did NOT like the first coloring page of Andreas Vesalius with the poor dog in the background. And there were some bad typos.

Though I enjoyed the format of the book over all, I thought the note lines on the diagram pages took up too much space when the diagrams needed the whole page, Instead of instructing over and over to assign different colors to the different structures, more information about the anatomy would have been appreciated. On the Skull diagram, for example, there isn’t enough information. It lists “Frontal,” “Temporal,” and “Parietal.” Are these bones, or parts of one bone? And “Zygomatic” and “Sphenoid” and “Ethmoid” what? I’m afraid I didn’t find that diagram very educational. But if I want to know more than just terms or names, I’ll have to look it up on the internet anyway.

Overall, I had fun figuring out how to use my tablet as a coloring book, and it’s fun to color lymph node diagrams, and the digestion process, but I wasn’t a fan of the design or the typos.

Rating: ♦♦▾ 2½ out of 5

Why I picked it up:
I received a free e-book version of Human Anatomy and Neuroanatomy Coloring Book with Facts & MCQ’s (amazon associate link) by Dr. Fanatomy from the publisher through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.

My Expectations:

I was excited to review this book, since I took neuroanatomy in graduate school.

Intended audience: The neuroanatomy addition to the book, appears to be intended for those with photographic memory and a good understanding of neuroanatomy to begin with.

What I liked: I was excited to see that the second part for the brain anatomy didn’t have the design issues of the first, but it still had the repetitive instructions and absolutely no information at all, only numbered lists of names that correlated to numbers on the diagram.

What I didn’t like: I don’t like the cover, except for the colored heart.Though I like the look of the pages, and I’ll probably spend some time coloring the detailed diagrams, there’s very little useful information for anyone who doesn’t already have a working knowledge of neuroanatomy. And even then, it doesn’t provide anything but names and arrows. I found the arteries diagram odd, like there were a couple golf tees shoved in that brain.

Overall, the first part of the book was the exact duplicate of the book I reviewed first, flaws and all. The second part, the neuroanatomy section got rid of many of the design issues I didn’t like in the first part, but also provided absolutely no information except names. Though I like the clarity of the coloring book aspect, some of the diagrams aren’t clear, and there isn’t much to learn just memorizing names.

Rating: ♦♦▾ 2½ out of 5

So it looks like I have plenty of body parts to color badly, since I can’t really control where the color goes with my stylus very well. Maybe I’ll expand the images and finger paint. The images are kind of fun to color, though not as educational or useful as references as I had hoped.

Happy Reading and Writing!

#Poetry out in the world

Cover of Washington's Best Emerging Poets 2019

Today’s the day! Two of my poems have escaped Experience Writing and are out exploring the world. I hope you will pick up a copy of Washington’s Best Emerging Poets 2019 and read all the great poetry by Washington State poets. It will also make a great gift for the lovers of words in your life.

I want to thank all the poets of OctPoWriMo, NaPoWriMo, dVerse Poets Pub, and PAD Chapbook Challenge for keeping me motivated and inspired over the last few years.


The Planner Experiment: The Third Week of June


How was your week? I hope you got some good writing done, enjoyed a good book, poems and stories and sent out some submissions. I had a pretty good week. I typed up my poems, worked on a story and read a lot.

This summer has already shaped up to be the summer of a house full of water and tiny black ants. It seems like this house is desperate to fill itself with water. Every hose that can bursts, the water tank got a hole in it, and this week I had mystery water creating a damp spot in the carpet that I have no idea where it came from. The ants, usually a creature that hangs out in a line, so you can see where they are coming from, seem to just drop down from the ceiling to appear, one at a time, on this computer, a table top, or my arm.

The Pages

This week, I finally experimented with printing the pages as a booklet. I had to add an extra page at the front for everything to line up. I used the blank page to break down my goals for the week into achievable tasks. I like the idea of leaving the page blank, so I can use it in different ways each week.

I also tried out the writing prompts in my morning pages. I ended up with a good story idea and about a half of a story draft. I’m excited that the prompts I made up inspired my writing. I’ll continue to try them out in my morning pages.

2019 Planner June week three

Happy Reading and Writing!

The Planner Experiment: First Week of June

Deadly Again This Summer(3)

Looking for some fun summer reading? I hope you’ll check out this new anthology of twelve fresh, fantasy stories from Pacific Northwest authors, including me!

The Planner Experiment

Quick recap: I started the Planner Experiment at the beginning of the year with the intention to find homes for all my stories by learning more about literary magazines and increasing my submissions. I set a goal of 100 rejections this year in an attempt to change my feelings about each rejection and continue submitting through rejection after rejection. Toward this end, I designed a daily planner that organizes the year by quarter and month.

I post these pages as weekly experiments, making little changes as I come up with new ideas to see what works best to motivate me to write and submit my stories. My hope is that you will also try out the pages and share your experience, so that by the end of the year, I can compile the best planner to help writers get their stories into the world in 2020 and beyond. I hope you will join me in this experiment. You can hop in at any time. I look forward to hearing your experiences.

The pages

2019 Planner June week one

This week’s pages have writing prompts that can build on each other. I’m enjoying this idea. Did anyone try them out last month? Did it help you write a draft?

What do you think of the colors, background, fonts? Are you finding that you use all the different sections, or are only a few of the boxes getting filled in? Which ones are you finding most useful? Which ones would you get rid of/replace? With what?

This week’s pages start with a couple of heavy hitters that I highly recommend submitting to: Ploughshares is one of the top literary journals and it is open for fiction and poetry; and Granta is open for poetry for the next four days. Send them some poetry!

I hope you are feeling motivated.

Have a great week!


Washington’s Emerging Writers Anthology now available!

Information about Almost Paradise, a short story by Maria L. Berg that is in the Washington's Emerging Writers Anthology

Click on the image to get your copy today!

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.