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!

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Interview with Christopher Bailey, author of WHISPER

cover of Christopher Bailey's new book WHISPERWe are in for a treat today! Christopher Bailey’s new book Whisper just hit shelves and he has taken time out of his very busy schedule to tell us about his writing life. Christopher Bailey is the author of many books including the Starjumper Legacy YA sci-fi series and Without Chance.

As I mentioned in my previous post Exciting Firsts, this is the first of a series of upcoming author interviews and what a fun and informative interview it is!

Let’s get started:

We met at a writer’s social meet-up, so let’s start off with: When did you first know you were a writer?

In the third grade, I was given a school assignment to write my own Greek myth. It didn’t have to be long, only 200 words, but I was dreading it. I complained and fussed about it until my mother finally made me sit down and get it done.

What I ended up with was a thousand-word short story about the God of Lost Socks, the one who was responsible for the disappearance of single lost socks all throughout the world, leaving its mated pair only to taunt you.

It was creative, it was funny, and to my third-grade mind, it was brilliant. I turned it in to my teacher the next day with more pride than I’d ever had in an assignment before or since. It was filled with errors and problems, but my teacher raved about it. Instead of berating me for the problems, she loudly praised my creativity and originality. She constructively showed me how to fix the problems, and then gave me an A on the assignment.

I was hooked, and haven’t stopped writing since.

Do you write every day? Tell us a little about your writing practice.

I wish. Seriously, I’m currently working on arranging my schedule to allow for this, but at the moment I write only a couple of times a week. Usually binge-writing, if I’m being honest. I’ll sit down on a Saturday morning and write non-stop for ten straight hours.

Luckily, my wife is a candidate for sainthood, and interrupts only occasionally to bring me food and give me kisses. Both are required to keep up my writing flow you understand, so those interruptions are welcome.

Countless times I’ve been told by other writers that I should write every day, but it’s just not possible right now in my life.

My best advice to writers struggling to write every day is this: write when you can, and don’t feel guilty when you can’t. Make sure you’re getting some time in, but it’s far better to write once or twice a week than not at all.

Are you a plotter or a pantser (someone who outlines and plans or someone who writes by the seat of her pants)?

Definitely a pantser. I plot only a start point, an end point, and maybe one or two key points along the way. My characters and worlds live so vividly within my mind that they inevitably stray from any planned course if I get more rigid than that.

When writing my first novel, I tried a trick one of my favorite authors told me about at his book signing. He writes out the major theme for each chapter on index cards, and sorts and reorganizes them until he has the best flow. Then for each chapter, he writes another set of business cards with major points he wants to hit in that chapter, and then does the same organizing and reorganizing procedure. Then he sits and writes it exactly as scripted.

I’ll be honest, I made it halfway through step one of that process, and I almost gave up writing for good. It was only after I realized that there were two different types of writers, plotters and pantsers, that I understood I could still write a full novel without scripting every single nuance before ever sitting down to write the story.

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

Detailed descriptions added in the first round edit. My rough drafts are never too short of my intended goal, since I’m a chronic over-writer anyway, but the best way I’ve found to push that word count up is to flesh out my descriptions during my own first round edit.

Changing “He pushed opened the creaky door,” to “He slowly pushed open the ancient, cracked wooden door and winced at the ominous creak,” only adds a few words to the sentence, but it adds a great deal of flavor, and will significantly contribute to your final word count when you do it to a few hundred sentences throughout the manuscript.

In my push to get the story out, I find I often miss opportunities to add flavorful descriptions like that in my initial rough draft. I just have to be careful not to overdo it.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

Like most artists, I draw inspiration from the world I see around me.

With my Starjumper Legacy trilogy:Starjumper Legacy: The Crystal Key, Starjumper Legacy: The Vanishing Sun and Starjumper Legacy: The Plague of Dawn for example, the idea originated from an argument between a pair of fourth graders I had been working with. They were arguing the advantages of magic over science and vice-versa, and I couldn’t help but point out that magic is simply science we don’t understand yet. The discussion that grew between the two children eventually became the idea for Starjumper Legacy.

My standalone Without Chance was inspired by a difficult situation I helped a friend through many years ago, as his parents threatened to disown him when he came out as gay.

Whisper, my newest standalone novel, came from a news story I had been watching about a kidnapping victim, and from a girl I dated in my teens who was schizophrenic.

Of course, once the initial concepts take hold, the stories themselves take on a life of their own and grow into something far beyond what I’d ever initially envisioned.

Life is such a wonderful, terrible, beautiful, ugly thing, that there are no limits to creative inspirations for stories of any kind if you’re willing to look for them in your own life.

Who have you found most influential to your writing?

My brother, Jeff. Since we were little, we’ve loved reading many of the same books and analyzing the stories to death. We look at everything, from the broad concept of the plot to the delicate nuances of character, right down to any hidden subtexts we can discern. We then debate the finer points potentially for hours on end. Our shared love of the written word has been a huge influence on my life, and most especially in my writing.

Do you listen to music while you write? What do you listen to? Do you create playlists?

Absolutely. I can’t write without music playing. I don’t create custom playlists, but rather add a few artists to a Pandora station and let it take over from there. My musical tastes are greatly varied, and I love everything from Beethoven to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, from Michael Bublé to Metallica.

Interestingly, when I write I prefer heavy metal. I’ve tried a dozen different styles during my writing, including changing styles to suit the scene. For me, it breaks my flow to change styles, and anything other than the hard-driving metal seems to negatively impact both my flow, and the power of my writing. Some favorites include Samael, Rob Zombie, and Celldweller.

Who are your favorite authors?

Wow, this is a hard question. All right, some favorites that come first to mind would be Dean Koontz, Bruce Coville, Robert Heinlein, Brandon Sanderson, Terry Pratchett, Mercedes Lackey, Brian Lumley, and R.A. Salvatore. This is by no means a complete list.

What are your favorite books?

As above, this list could go on forever. There have been a few that have really changed my perspective, though.

I read Homeland by R.A. Salvatore as a youth, and the theme of a young man fighting to be a virtuous soul despite the darkness of his upbringing really resonated with me. I’ve carried that message with me my entire life, and attribute a great deal of who I am today to that book.
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein almost literally rocked my world. His ability to take social norms and spin them so completely to force the reader to look at them from a completely outside perspective is staggering. So many things about our world that we simply take for granted. This book shook them all up for me.

Hogfather: A Novel of Discworld by Terry Pratchett is, I maintain, one of the finest pieces of literature ever created. The entire Discworld series is great, but this book in particular was absolute genius.

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

http://thewritepractice.com/ is great for tips and tricks on the more technical aspects of writing.

http://www.thecreativepenn.com/ has some amazing information on marketing.

And of course, https://experiencewriting.com/.

Ha. Ha. Thank you very much. What three writer’s websites do you visit most often?

http://rebeccaconnolly.com/ This is a personal friend of mine and while I openly admit I’m not a big romance fan, her books are genuinely fun to read. It’s always interesting to see what she’s up to, since she always has some reader-participation game going.

http://brandonsanderson.com/ This guy is a brilliant writer in the Fantasy and YA Fiction categories, and I have yet to read one of his books I didn’t appreciate.

http://www.deankoontz.com/ Dean Koontz has always been a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, and I’ve read more of his work than possibly any other single author. The Odd Thomas series is among my favorites.

Let’s talk about your book:

What inspired you to write Whisper ?

Whisper was inspired by a combination of a news story I read about a kidnapping victim who had recently been rescued, and an experience I had with a girl I dated in high school who was schizophrenic. Sounds like an odd combination, but in my mind the pairing just clicked and the story came alive in my mind.

What was the hardest part to write? How did you push through?

The most difficult part to write was the part of the book where Jackson is in the mental institution for treatment of his schizophrenia. I had second-hand experience with schizophrenia, thanks to the girl I mentioned above, but have no personal experience in a place like that.

Wanting to get this part right was important to me, so I interviewed a number of people who had spent time in institutions just like the one now in the book. Some readers may have had different experiences than that portrayed in the final book, but that part is based closely on the personal experiences of several people who’ve spent significant time in a variety of hospitals and institutions.

Following that, the difficulty was in not allowing the darkness and hopelessness in many of those places from overwhelming the greater story. It was a tricky balance, keeping the realism of his experience there while not detracting from the story I was trying to tell.

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

I sort of collect hobbies. I paint, play guitar, do some low-grade woodwork and leatherwork, all sorts of random things.

That said, my two favorite things in the entire world are curling up next to my wife with a good book, and playing with my daughter.

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

I’m very much a dog person. They make sense to me, and I relate well to them. My wife teases me a little about this because she says I behave much more like a cat. Funny thing is, she behaves much more like a dog and is very much a cat person. Perhaps that’s why we’re such a good fit.

What bit of wisdom would you share with new writers?

Writing is an art form. Like any art form, nearly nobody starts off brilliant. We all start from the bottom, learning the tools of our trade and the techniques of our craft. Even the masters have things they are still learning.

Don’t get discouraged if your first piece isn’t a masterpiece. Nobody’s is. Practice, refine, listen to constructive criticism and tell those who offer only nonconstructive criticism where they can shove their unfounded opinions.

No matter what, keep writing. Brilliant or not, marketable or not, popular or not, pursue it because you love it. Write because the stories live in your mind and need release. Write because it is a passion, a freedom, and an outlet.

Just keep writing.

Thank you so mush Chris! Readers, go get your copy of Whisper !

picture of author Christopher Bailey
Christopher Bailey lives in Seattle with his incredible wife and daughter, eagerly expecting their second child. A lover of literature from an early age, he began writing short stories in the third grade for a school assignment and has never looked back. Having worked professionally with children and teens for many years, he has developed a particular fondness for young adult fiction, which is where he now focuses his writing in the hopes of helping a few more children learn to love the written word.

About Writing: Guest post by Michael Onofrey

picture of man sitting next to his dictionary on a grassy hill writing in the park

The urge to write is what got me into writing fiction, or trying to write fiction. And by “urge” I mean a feeling that I want to write. This was what motivated me and what continues to motivate me. I don’t think this is unusual—the urge to write. A lot of people have it. But of course those numbers diminish considerably when it comes to picking up a pen or sitting down at a keyboard.

It wasn’t until well into middle age, forty-five years old, that I sat down at a keyboard with the intent of writing fiction. Of course in college (community college and then university) I wrote papers (essays and book reports) like everyone else. But that’s different than composing fiction with the intent of submitting to publications. Of course all writing counts. I’m not belittling college. I’m simply distinguishing between college papers, with the exception of creative writing classes, and fiction for publication. I think anyone who has done both understands the distinction.

Also, in college I majored in U.S. History, which is now call American Studies. So my only background and my only qualification for writing fiction was, and is, reading books, fiction mostly. But there, too, I got a late start, for I didn’t begin to read until I was in my last semester of high school (Industrial Arts major). I could hardly read. This might strike some people as strange. But it’s not strange. A lot of people coming out of high school are poor readers.

An odd set of circumstances prompted me to pick up a book. I was dating a girl from another high school, which made our dating possible because we were of very different social circles, for if we had been going to the same school we wouldn’t have gotten together. But by going to different schools neither one of us, her in particular, suffered any social embarrassment, for high school life is all about cliques. She was a half a year ahead of me, which meant she would be graduating in June, whereas I wouldn’t be graduating until the following year at the end of January.

When summer rolled around, the summer of her graduation, university life about to begin for her in September, she jilted me, which, even though I expected it, sent me into a mental tailspin. Strangely, on the afternoon of that devastating phone call I started driving and wound up in front of a bookstore. She had mentioned the titles of books during our time together and I, for whatever reason, had remembered two—The Stranger by Albert Camus and Another Country by James Baldwin. Still dizzy with confusion, I went into that bookstore and asked for those two books.

What a way to begin reading, not to mention having to look up words on nearly every page. Fortunately, as if it were a minor miracle, I was able to follow the stories, and a window flew open and there I was, looking out at a new world.

Man carrying dictionary by a lake
“I carried a dictionary and a novel everywhere I went”

I carried a dictionary and a novel everywhere I went for eight years, and when loading up a backpack every bit of weight counts. I’m still a poor speller. I still consult a dictionary often for spelling and definitions and word usage. I wouldn’t recommend getting a late start on reading, just as I wouldn’t recommend getting a late start on serious writing. Six years after I started writing and submitting, a small literary journal (Words of Wisdom, North Carolina, a publication that has since ceased publishing) accepted one of my stories.

Six years—that’s a lot of rejection. And I still get a lot of rejection. My writing is not consistent, and I don’t think it ever will be, just as I will never be a good speller nor will my vocabulary have the natural range that it might have had if I had started reading at an early age. Okay, so that’s the way it is. A lot of other people have it worse. Imagine trying to write in Aleppo, Syria.

Writing will probably never be more than a hobby for me, and by hobby I mean an activity that doesn’t generate enough money for me to live on. I wish there was another word besides “hobby.” “Pastime” maybe? But that’s even more nonchalant than hobby. If I were teaching at a college or university, I could say that publishing stories, while getting little in the way of remuneration, was worthwhile because it adds to my curriculum vitae (CV), which might serve to boost my position and income. But I don’t teach at a college or a university.man carrying dictionary by some shops

In addition to not making millions there is rejection, which is always painful. In dealing with rejection, stoicism would be a nice rejoinder. After all, rejection is part of the weather. Even the most renowned writers have had work rejected, primarily before they became famous. There are only two choices when faced with rejection: feel the pain and move on, or feel the pain and give up. This isn’t about heroics. This is pragmatism. Most stories that are submitted to a publication are going to be turned down.

I’m hardly different from anyone else. I like acceptance. I write, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, and submit. Rejection, rejection, rejection. After six months or so, another look, another rewrite. Revising has become fun. I don’t know why. Maybe because it presents an opportunity to play with words and sentences, as well as ideas and point of view. I do give up on stories, but I keep them on file. Now and then an idea will occur that pertains to a story I’ve given up on. I’ll draw the story up and try the idea. And then I’ll submit. Hey, all they can do is turn it down. Now and then one of those formerly dead stories will get accepted.

Also in the hash are different publications with different editors who have different tastes. Usually a rejection carries no real comment, perfunctory comments yes, but no real comments. Every once in a while, though, there is a genuine comment. Some are encouraging. But some . . . On a couple of occasions an editor has given me a totally pissed off lambasting, boredom and tedious detail cited. I guess they had had it up to their necks with that stuff, dull writing and details, and took it out on me. Or maybe they had a hangover, or maybe they couldn’t meet a mortgage payment, or maybe they were in the middle of a divorce. Yet, within that same week that same story (respective stories, but at different times) got accepted by a publication which I had deemed more reputable than the one(s) the tongue-lashing(s) came from. Highs and lows—the landscape.

man with dictionary walking by rocks

“Highs and lows—the landscape.”

 

At other times, I had given up on a story only to have it accepted after a whole lot of time by the last publication where the story was still (as it turned out) under consideration. Recently a story of mine was accepted and published by a university journal after the story went through two years of rejection and rewrites—forty-seven rejections. Why did I keep at that story? Because I believed in it. Giving up on a story or continuing with rewrites and submissions is a tricky thing, a case-by-case thing. But—I keep all my stories on file.

Favorite authors—here’s the link to my listing on Poets & Writers where I’ve listed my favorite writers: http://www.pw.org/content/michael_onofrey

About books concerning reading and writing—I return again and again to How Fiction Works by James Wood and Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (P.S.) by Francine Prose.

 

author Michael Onofrey bio picMICHAEL ONOFREY was born and raised in Los Angeles. Currently he lives in Japan. Over seventy of his short stories have been published in literary journals and magazines, in print and online, in such places as Cottonwood, The Evansville Review, Natural Bridge, Snowy Egret, Terrain.org, Weber–The Contemporary West, and The William and Mary Review. Among anthologized work, his stories have appeared in Creativity & Constraint (Wising Up Press, 2014), In New Light (Northern Initiative for Social Action, 2013), Road to Nowhere and Other New Stories from the Southwest (University of New Mexico Press, 2013), and Imagination & Place: An Anthology (Imagination & Place Press, 2009). He can be found online at Directory of Writers, Poets and Writers, and on Facebook.

Writing a Page Turner: Chapter Endings

Our exploration of conflict and suspense sprinted out of the gate in the first month of 2016. We have great books to read, a study plan, tools for evoking emotion and Moxie Sharpe is having weekly misadventures to put it all into practice. Exciting!

So what’s in store for February? Application.

Writing Moxie’s misadventures is a fun exercise, but, for me, this study is about turning my novel into a page turner. This month, we’ll be diving into aspects of revision where we can apply our new tools for creating conflict and suspense.

I began this focused study based on advice from a friend who said I needed to work on my chapter endings. So let’s start there. Chapter endings are convenient places for readers to put a book down and come back to later, right? Wrong! We don’t want the reader to ever put the book down, so chapter endings are tricky. We want to create a satisfying conclusion to the chapter, but also keep the reader in suspense so they will have to read the next page.

How do we create suspenseful, cliff-hanger chapter endings without being too obvious?

First, take a look at how your favorite authors do it.

I made a simple chart for exploring chapter endings. The left column is the number of the chapter; the next column is for checking if the chapter ends in a cliff-hanger and a quick note of how the cliff-hanger is accomplished followed by a column for the conflict at the end of the chapter and the fourth column is for the chapter’s final emotion and whether it is positive or negative. I have filled it in for Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay

Chapter Cliff-hanger Conflict Emotion +/-
1. No. Occupational death Sarcastic/Bored
2. Yes. “Something’s happened” Ex-wife and new boyfriend Concern/Guilt
3. Yes. “Is our girl still alive?” Daughter left things in room Hope +
4. Yes. “Your daughter’s car” Found car Surprise +
5. Yes. “It’s blood, isn’t it?” Possible physical death Fear
6. No. Daughter’s bad-girl friend Humor +
7. Yes. “I’m pretty sure your daughter is alive” Is email telling truth? And Kate’s mental health Hope +
8. Yes. Yolanda legit. Daughter on other side of country? Psychological death- it trust Yolanda, more mystery Trust +
9. Yes. Picture of Syd Will picture arrive and be Syd Joy +
10. No. Airplane ride Hope +
11. Yes. Yolanda not answer phone Yolanda not work   at shelter Confusion/Disapp-

ointment

12. Yes. Left stuff in diner (not resolved) Psychological death – thinks sees Syd in every blond girl Frantic
13. Yes. The house had been trashed No luck in Seattle went home Defeat
14. Yes. “I think we found what you were looking for.” Psychological death. Scarf from Seattle pic found in room Betrayal
15. No. Can’t stay at home-crime scene
16. Yes. Ian carrying blonde girl over shoulder like a sack Question of physical death Curiosity/Fear
17. No. Not Syd Relief/Humor +
18. Yes. Found cell phone Conflict w/x’s boyfriend Curious +
19. Yes. A new clue X’s boyfriend’s son Surprise +
20. Yes. Syd might be pregnant Fist fight at car lot Surprise
21. No Evan’s sorry not good enough
22. Yes. Car-napped Threat of physical death Fear
23. Yes. Jumped from car Threat of physical death only temporarily avoided Humor +
24. Yes. A girl’s voice said, “help me” Phone woke him up in middle of night Concern/Fear/Hope
25. No. Daughter’s friend Tired
26. No.
27. No. Drive-by but okay Attempted physical death Relief +
28. Yes. Patty’s missing Police suspicion Dread
29. Yes. Andy from work connect Recent dealings with Andy Surprise
30. No Police suspicion Anger
31. Yes. Sets up going to bar to find Gary Conflict with Andy from work Anger
32. No, but intrigue Human trafficking revelation +
33. Yes. Place where Syd’s pic taken was hotel Saw something shouldn’t have Weird

discovery

+

34. Yes. Dead Kate in house Physical and psychological death -He will be a suspect Discovery
35. Yes. “For being Patty’s father” Psychological death surprise
36. No Two daughters missing revelation
37. No Patty’s dad humor +
38. Yes. The bad guys reveal Imminent death Betrayal
39. Yes. Has a plan Imminent death Hope +
40. No.
41. Yes. Leaving for Stowe Ex’s boyfriend Bob coming along Humor +
42. No Hands over wheel to Bob
43. Yes. Is Patty alive? Syd still missing Surprise
44. Yes. Bob has Syd Patty knew where Syd was whole time Relief +
45. Yes. Woman with gun Imminent death Surprise
46. Conclusion

 

That was a great exercise! I am going to add it to the reading study plan. A quick glance at the table shows that the majority of chapters end in some kind of cliff-hanger. Mr. Barclay uses an array of techniques to keep the reader turning pages past the end of a chapter.

End of chapter techniques:The cover of Fear The Worst by Linwood Barclay

  • Split dialogue
  • Middle of action
  • Surprise
  • Revelation
  • Character has a plan

While filling out the table, I also discovered that when I read a chapter that did not end with a cliff-hanger, I had trouble identifying the emotion and/or the conflict. These are the chapter endings I will look for in my own work and try to increase the conflict and suspense.

Now it’s time to apply this chart to my own work and see where I can improve my chapter endings.

I hope you’re excited for Moxie’s next thrilling, chilling, spine-tingling, action-packed misadventure coming this Sunday. Oh, the suspense!

Book Giveaway Linky: #Freebooks

Book Giveaway Linky

Thank you to Mother Daughter Book Reviews for hosting the Book Giveaway Linky. It provides a great platform to let authors inform readers about their book giveaways.

Please click on the link and enjoy all the free books.

Happy reading.

Changing my approach to posting

Jack-o-lanterns in the wild.

Jack-o-lanterns in the wild.

Hi everyone,

I think I’ve figured out a better way to share everything I’m learning in my writing life. So far, I’ve had trouble keeping up with a weekly blog because I’ll have ideas during the week, but when I finally sit down to write, I’m overwhelmed by how many things are happening in my writing life that I want to share with you. So, I’m going to try short daily posts Monday thru Friday with each day dedicated to a different aspect of my writing life. I’ll try this new idea through the end of the year. We can review the decision in the new year. Okay?

The three main aspects of my writing life are: Marketing my self published children’s picture book Gator McBumpypants Hears and Scary Noise and its sequels to come, finding an agent for my middle grade fiction story, and rewriting/finishing my novel, so I’ll separate those three topics into Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I also want to focus on the importance of reading and improving  writing through reading so I’ll talk about that on Thursdays and Writing exercises and exploration on Fridays. I hope all of my followers don’t mind this change. I think it will help me be more efficient and informative and hopefully make this part of my writing experience more fun for me as well.

That said, as this is Thursday, I want to talk about the importance of reading. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been on a mission to find books similar to my work in progress and I have finally had some success. I’m writing a psychological, character driven thriller, so I tried Paranoia–Fiction in the library Keyword search, I also tried Agoraphobia–Fiction because one of my main characters, though not agoraphobic, is a self-proclaimed hermit, and looking up hermit didn’t get me anywhere. So, it took a couple weeks, but now I have three books I’m reading that I think relate to my novel in different ways.

One of the main focuses of my rewrite is to bring depth to my characters’ motivations. I want the reader to feel that the actions of my characters are justified and I think in my rough draft I kept a lot of those motivations to myself out of fear of writing them down and also because I may not have delved far enough into my characters’ histories. Finding similar characters in these novels is a tool I hope to use to compare their motivations to those of my characters. I also want to find creative ways to make my characters’ motivations apparent.

Any tips on how you make your characters’ motivations clear?

Any thoughts on my new approach to this blog?

Happy reading.

AND HAPPY HALLOWEEN!! I’m off to carve my pumpkin. My trick or treaters will be met by a Luchador (Mexican Wrestler) playing the theremin. What are you doing for Halloween?

Creating Fictional Worlds: Not just Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Creating Fictional Worlds: Not just Sci-Fi and Fantasy

from empmuseum.org

I recently visited the Fantasy exhibit at the EMP museum in Seattle. In addition to the fun and inspirational drawings, costumes, and interactive computer exhibits, they displayed J.R.R. Tolkien’s hand written timeline. It was kind of him to reiterate the point of my previous post (Ha. Ha!). It also spoke to a related aspect of organizing one’s writing: World Creation.

Creating a world for the characters to walk around in is not just part of fantasy writing. Every story, even if it happens in present day down the street, is within a world created by the author. Any imagined world needs history, culture, language and architecture. And don’t forget the microcosms within this world: The symbols and colors, rituals, beliefs, or antitheses of set beliefs that influence and drive the inhabitants of this novel world. An author can leave a lot up to the reader, but everyone sees the world through his or her own perception. Defining everything in a unique world including its history, music, traditions and ceremonies, even if the setting is one’s own home, can help to close the gap between the author’s intentions and the reader’s perception.  Every genre, not just fantasy, is a place for world building. Spend some time creating a world for your characters. Draw it, paint it, and build dioramas if so inclined. Write, or listen to the music, research or create the traditions and ceremonies. I recently got excited about a microcosm in my story, leading me to think, for the first time, of the possibility of a spin-off series. The exhibit inspired me not only as a writer, but as a costumer and artist as well, so if you want to read more about it you can head over to the inspiration page of my creativity website mbercreations.com.

from art nerd seattle

Creating a world for the characters to walk around in is not just part of fantasy writing. Every story, even if it happens in present day down the street, is within a world created by the author. Any imagined world needs history, culture, language and architecture. And don’t forget the microcosms within this world: The symbols and colors, rituals, beliefs, or antitheses of set beliefs that influence and drive the inhabitants of this novel world. An author can leave a lot up to the reader, but everyone sees the world through his or her own perception. Defining everything in a unique world including its history, music, traditions and ceremonies, even if the setting is one’s own home, can help to close the gap between the author’s intentions and the reader’s perception.  Every genre, not just fantasy, is a place for world building. Spend some time creating a world for your characters. Draw it, paint it, and build dioramas if so inclined. Write, or listen to the music, research or create the traditions and ceremonies. I recently got excited about a microcosm in my story, leading me to think, for the first time, of the possibility of a spin-off series.

The exhibit inspired me not only as a writer, but as a costumer and artist as well, so if you want to read more about it you can head over to the inspiration page of my creativity website mbercreations.com.

Nobody’s Perfect

Want to make me not at all interested in a character? Describe him, or her as beautiful and rich. I gave up on Mary Higgins Clark’s mysteries in middle school because I just couldn’t care about the plight of the wealthy, beautiful people any more. Isn’t it enough that they cover the screens of our T.V.s and movie theaters; that they create enough scandals to fill tabloids week after week? Honestly, do they have to pollute our fiction as well? This last week, I read a novel which included a very beautiful woman planning her wedding. Her father was a billionaire, of course, who had two helicopters. She went to have a moment to herself in a bar, but she had to keep refusing drinks from strangers because she was so beautiful. Then when her fiancé saw her before the wedding she was even more beautiful. Really? There was more beautiful to go? What did that add? One thing Americans learned through the economic collapse was that only 1% of the population holds the wealth. Now think of how many of those people would be described as beautiful. I would say the fictional population is a pretty skewed subset of our population.  And the perfect character problem does not only reside among the beautiful that are wealthy. There are also the perfectly skilled. Why would I want to read a story about a person who went to battle school and never lost a battle from his first day? Why would he go to battle school when he had nothing to learn? These perfect characters have nowhere to go and nothing to overcome which makes for a boring story. But worse than that, there is just no relating to them. I realize that some people like to fantasize about being some mass produced beauty aesthetic with unlimited resources and adoration, but when those stories are over the reader is left with an empty feeling of ineptitude. As a writer, one wants to hook the reader by creating ways for the reader to relate to the characters. Give your character some adult acne, back pain, a car that breaks down when it is least convenient, bills that are always due and an out of work family member on the couch and your writing might resonate with the not as privileged 99.75%.