Category Archives: Books

2019 Books Archive

Time once again for an old favorite… the recap of what I read last year so I can look back on it with satisfaction and celebration. And what is this? Also within the first week of January? Yes, life is slowly getting back to normal in every area of my life. As always, this list is mostly for myself but if you’re looking for recommendations or get ideas of what to put of your list, then I’ve paid it forward for a fellow author, too. This year in books in chronological order looks like this:

  • Where Should We Begin: The Arc of Love, Esther Perel – an Audible Original that I found fascinating.
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1), Patrick Ness – a YA read that Big Sister (who’s an actual adult now) recommended. It was entertaining but not enough to read more.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee – assigned reading for my Lit class. I’m sure I read this as a kid (also as assigned reading then) and it was interesting to have an adult perspective this time. A classic, but I’m not sure why it is still held up as the best example of literature when so many other books have been written on the topic more recently.
  • Power Moves: Lessons from Davos, Adam M. Grant – another Audible Original that was very political and fascinating. A very quick read.
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer – a book club pick that at first I didn’t think I would like but which grew on me and stuck with me after I finished. Recommended read.
  • Rule of the Bone, Russell Banks – requiired read for Lit class. This one I really liked. Gritty, real, relevant. Highly recommended.
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, Mark Manson – I thought this was the book by an author I saw on a TED talk but wasn’t. It was still a good book, but not the one I was looking for. A great topic for anyone – especially if you suffer with the “what will other people think” syndrome.
  • Brave, Rose McGowan – I devoured this book and found it a fascinating look into all the things in our society that came to a head with the #metoo movement. If you’re political and a feminist, this is a must read. If you’re not, why not start your journey with this book?
  • The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction, Lex Williford (editor) – required reading for Lit class. I didn’t read the entire thing but liked what I read.
  • Augmented: Life in the Smart Lane, Brett King – for the tech geeks and the futurists among us. This was a recommendation from one of the ladies in my book club and it was a very eye opening look at the technologies that exist today and how they are predicted to change our experience of the world in the future. Highly recommended.
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford – book club read that was not especially noteworthy. Another wartime novel if you’re into that genre.
  • The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides – one of the best books I read this year. The structure and pacing added depth to a fascinating premise and left me completely satisfied. I couldn’t put it down.
  • 2018 Associated Press Stylebook, Associated Press – textbook
  • McGraw-Hill’s Proofreading Handbook, Laura Killen Anderson – textbook for my Copy Editing class. The logical and detail oriented part of me actually really loved this class even though it is a LOT of work. Not that I ever have, but I will definitely never take a copyeditor for granted!
  • This is PR: The Realities of Public Relations, Doug Newsom – textbook, obviously. For a class I ended up getting a ton of relatable information out of. I have zero regrets about my Communications minor.
  • Out of My Mind, Alan Arkin – an Audible Original that I thought was going to be about mental health but turned out to be new age meditation nonsense that didn’t resonate with me.
  • Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman – book club pick that I would not have read otherwise. I had tried to read it before unsuccessfully. While I don’t regret having read it, I can’t say I totally enjoyed it. There’s something about irony and British humor that just doesn’t resonate with me.
  • The Last Days of August, Jon Ronson – Audible Original that was like a train wreck you just can’t look away from. Don’t waste your time.
  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley – book club pick. It was my first cozy mystery and I can safely say that I’m not a fan of the genre. I need my murder on the page and bloody or I am not satisfied, I guess.
  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Dr. Brene’ Brown – I love everything Brene’ Brown. Each book builds on each other as her research grows and evolves. If you haven’t read anything by her, start with this one. It is amazing. Big Sister had to read it for her English class and she loved it, too.
  • Sometimes I Lie, Alice Feeney – a book club pick and a great thriller that I thoroughly enjoyed.
  • Lucky Suit, Lauren Blakely – a romance novella that was a quick and satisfying read. Pretty sure this was also an Audible Original.
  • Educated, Tara Westover – I’m not always a fan of the memoir but this one was fascinating about a woman who was home schooled by a conspiracy theorist and religious extremist. Highly recommended read!
  • Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts., Dr. Brené Brown – another great one with the focus on working relationships and leading effectively while being vulnerable from my favorite shame researcher. Seriously, if you haven’t read Brene’ Brown you really need to fix that.
  • The 3-Day Effect, Florence Williams – a quick psychology-based study about how getting into nature and away from constant connection to the world can affect us.
  • Profit First, Mike Michalowicz – a fantastic business book for entrepreneurs who want a way to be profitable in their business from the beginning.
  • Mala, Melinda Lopez – another Audible Original that I think was actually a screenplay that was acted out.
  • I, Jedi, Michael Stackpole – a Star Wars book not based on any of the movies. I’m a Star Wars movie fan but had never read any of the tie-in books. This was one of our keynotes at Quills and is said to be one of the best. It felt to me like what fan fiction must be like – a story that feels familiar because the world is familiar but it isn’t any of the characters you know.
  • Social Media for Writers, Tee Morris & Pip Ballantine – assigned reading for my New Media class and a great reference book for writers. I’m distilling this down to key takeaways for a class I want to teach to other writers because it was invaluable.
  • Create Your Writer Platform, Chuck Sambuchino – also assigned reading for my New Media class and a great book to establish what people actually mean when they talk about having a platform as an author.
  • Social Media Communication, Jeremy H. Lipschultz – textbook for class of the same title
  • Becoming, Michelle Obama – I admit, I had no real opinion (good, bad or indifferent) about our former First Lady. After reading this, I am a huge fan. Highly recommended especially for working moms. I loved this book. It was also a book club pick after I read it on my own.
  • Eat Fat, Get Thin, Mark Hyman – my new healthy lifestyle approach grew from the basics of this book that did an amazing job explaining why American’s are more obese and sicker than any other time, and how to correct it. At the risk of sounding like a keto-obsessed freak, everyone should read at least the first half of this book for all the science.
  • The Murder House, James Patterson – book club pick that was a very satisfying thriller.
  • It’s Not What It Looks Like, Molly Burke – an Audible Original that I can’t even remember much about.
  • The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders, Michael D. Watkins – nothing earth-shattering about this book except that it takes concepts you can get by reading several other business leadership books and boils them down into an easy to consume summary. Truth: I saw the senior leadership team reading it while I was going through the manager interviewing process and wanted a leg up in speaking their language. Maybe it helped?
  • Skyward, Brandon Sanderson – a surprisingly good YA book that the whole family loved – listened to on our summer vacation road trip.
  • The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides – re-read when it was picked for book club. Even better the second time!
  • I Know Who You Are, Alice Feeney – I picked this one up because I liked the first book by this author. It was a pretty good thriller but not as good as the first I read by her.
  • Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert – recommended to me by a coworker. One of the best books about effective approaches to nurturing creativity. If you’re a writer, this is a highly recommended read!
  • Three-Fifths, John Vercher – I loved this book and the ending still stays with me. Highly recommended contemporary drama #ownvoices read.
  • Organizational Behavior, Talya Bauer – the last textbook I will every read for my undergraduate degree!!! Surprising timing: getting to take away HR concepts to apply immediately as a new manager.
  • Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel, Lisa Cron – a craft book for writers. One of the better ones that started very strong and resonated with great ideas and approaches to story but which then derailed (for me anyway) when the author tried to then tell me how exactly I had to execute said ideas. I loved the first half and skimmed the second half at best. Still a great read for writers.
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver – book club pick that was extremely difficult to get into but which finished amazingly.
  • Stillhouse Lake, Rachel Caine – a great strong female character thriller that came highly recommended by a friend. I loved it and will definitely read more in this series.
  • The Luminous Dead, Caitlin Starling – a great mix of horror, science fiction and thriller that I picked up at a writers conference and loved.
  • The Ninja Daughter, Tori Eldridge – the first book I’ve read specifically because of who the editor was so I can decide if my books would be a fit for them. It was good!
  • The Man Who Knew The Way to the Moon, Todd Zwillich – very cool insider NASA story for the space geeks among us which sadly took a turn in the middle. The ending made up for the whiny middle section and I am overall glad I read it.
  • Polaris Rising, Jessie Mihalik – holy shit this one was good!! The best of so many things that I love all rolled into one: space-based science fiction with a strong female lead and a steamy romance that was well done and didn’t detract from the fact that this is first and foremost a scifi action story. I can’t recommend this one enough. Another of my top reads for the year.
  • Bannerless, Carrie Vaughn – an okay book but which I thought was going to be about something that it wasn’t (based on the cover blurb). Kind of disappointed by the ending but overall not sad I read it.
  • Sleeping Beauties, Stephen King & Owen King – so long but reminiscent of the old Stephen King with a giant cast of characters that all contribute to the story in meaningful ways.

All Is Quiet, Or Is It?

I realized that if you’re following me solely on my website that it’s been fairly quiet the last few weeks. You might assume that means not much is happening, picture me lounging on the couch, sipping an adult beverage. Eating bon bons. If only that were true!

The lull in updates and commentary here indicates a far different situation. Once again, I might or might not have embarked on more than I can keep up with. How is this possible? I was just as involved with a writing organization last year as I am now with my new President gig. My day job isn’t any more demanding than last year. My husband doesn’t work nights anymore so with him here at night to take some of the load I should be ahead of the game. I learned how to say No! So what the hell is going on?

SCSteamfest-ARGH

I forgot one giant detail. I didn’t have to do the Dance Mom thing with Big Sister last year. It was bliss which I did not appreciate and now is gone. Welcome back twelve to eighteen HOUR days, every weekend, sitting on bleachers in high school gymnasiums. I could write during that time. Except I’ll have a six year old in tow, who wants to follow in her sister’s footsteps next year, and will have to be entertained. I still hold out hope I can get some extra writing in over the next two months of dance season, even if it means shoving an electronic device in her line of vision to accomplish it.

I have a deadline – self imposed but still a deadline – to get my novel drafted by May. Not only because I want to pitch it to a publisher – a hand-picked publisher via an inside track with one of their editors – who will be a World Horror Con. Which is a big enough reason alone. But, I also need to go back to school and finish my degree so it doesn’t hinder me with the day job anymore. I know I can’t write and be a college student at the same time. I assume it will only take me six months to finish my degree. In that time I could be shopping the novel around for a home. Querying doesn’t take as many hours, right? Wishful thinking? Perhaps. Call me a dreamer.

I haven’t fully committed to the school thing and logistics are far from being worked out on both the scheduling and the financial fronts but it keeps coming up. I think it’s the Universe pushing me into action. To test my theory, or so I tell myself when I wonder why I didn’t say no to this one, I enrolled in a month-long workshop with three classes a week AND homework this month. No, I did not know it was that intense when I enrolled (on a whim of course).  It’s a fabulous workshop taught by a very successful author about the art of revision. The knowledge will not be wasted and I’ll know if I am capable of adding the school insanity if I survive the month and keep up with everything else in life. I’ll let you know how that goes.

If I’m quiet here, know it isn’t because I don’t have anything going on. It’s because I have too much going on and I’m working hard to get a novel out for those of you who keep clamoring for more, more, more. (Something I only ever dreamed of.) In the meantime, if you’ve picked up a copy of “It Came From the Great Salt Lake” and liked my story, I’d love it if you left a review so other people could stumble across it, too.

Thanks as always for sharing this journey with me!


Cover Reveal – It Came From The Great Salt Lake: A Collection of Utah Horror

My publisher revealed this glorious cover yesterday and I am even more excited now for the upcoming release. It is gorgeous and haunting and mysterious. But best of all is seeing my name on the cover. (Call me narcissistic but it’s a first so I’m going to celebrate it!)

UHWA2015-cover via Facebook

The cover artist is Carter Reid, creator of The Zombie Nation web comic.

One of the unique elements of this anthology is that every author either is from, or has lived in, Utah – including the cover artist. The theme draws every story together around one of the most recognizable and distinguishable landmarks in the state but the stories are still extremely diverse, showcasing some amazing talent the state houses. I can’t wait for you all to read it!

In a creepy side note that thrills me beyond compare… I am the thirteenth story in the collection. My lucky number!


Book List Archive 2015

Time for the yearly round up and archive of my efforts to remain a well-read person. This year I did not reach my goal but I did read a lot of really great books. Here they are, all summed up, for your reading pleasure. And in reverse chronological order because my OCD did not win that fight – this time.

  • The Innocent, Harlan Coben (Book Club) – a light yet entertaining whodunit perfect for the beach or a long weekend. The ending was satisfying although pieces of the story were a tad predictable.
  • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt – one of the best books I read all year which definitely lived up to all the hype I had heard about it. There are very bleak elements that leave you feeling grateful for the life you have since they are painted so authentically through the characters. A truly phenomenal book that everyone should read!
  • The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Laroux (Book Club) – a classic that I hadn’t read. I probably would have put it down had it not been a book club pick. I just can’t get into period pieces that old but still I’m glad I read it.
  • The Good Girl, Mary Kubica – also a good read but only because of how it was written. I found myself trying to solve the mystery of “before or after WHAT” all the way through. The ending was very satisfying. A great read for anyone who likes a whodunit.
  • The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins – one of the best reads of the year. Finally a smart, adult novel with twists I didn’t see coming and characters with real depth. It kept me guessing to the end and I recommend it now to everyone who asks.
  • Birthmarked, Caragh M. O’Brien (Book Club) – a light and easy read that left me wanting far more details than were given since it was written for the superficial YA market who doesn’t demand it. Such a shame!
  • All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr – had so much potential but, just like most novels set in the WWII era, left me feeling bleak and unfulfilled. I think it’s safe to say this is not one of my favorite genres.
  • The Fold, Peter Clines – I picked this up because I recognized the author’s name from the best scifi book I’d read the last year or so. Little did I know it was a continuation of that story which had stuck with me so much. Very enjoyable read!
  • The Paper Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg – I disliked this book so much. It was very clearly written for a YA audience who cannot think critically for themselves. The concepts were intriguing but not enough detail was given for anything to be plausible and the whole thing left me feeling insulted. My daughter probably would have liked it when she was eleven. To be fair, that’s probably the intended market so there’s that.
  • Warbreaker, Brandon Sanderson – a great stand-alone read from the master of epic fantasy. He is still one of my all-time favorite authors.
  • Mao’s Last Dancer, Li Cunxin (Book Club) – it was interesting to see how poor Chinese live but the book overall was not a very compelling one.
  • Mr Mercedes, Stephen King – a good old horror novel by one of my favorite authors.
  • Being Mortal, Atul Gawande – a fantastic book about living on our own terms and dying the same way. Every person everywhere should read this book. I expected it to be a social commentary about the current hot topic of Physician Assisted Suicide or The Right to Die which I was also expected to hate. What I got instead was one of the best books about one of the hardest topics any of us will ever face. I wish I’d read this book before my Mom passed away…
  • Celeste, The Unseen #2, Johnny Worthen (ARC) – the much anticipated sequel to Eleanor which did not disappoint. Except for the fact that the third is not released yet and so I must wait.
  • The Wise Man’s Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2), Patrick Rothfuss – a much anticipated sequel that fell short for me and felt disappointingly like a setup book for the third one.
  • Altered Perceptions, short stories to benefit mental health – I bought this as part of a crowd fund campaign to benefit a local author suffering with a mental health disorder. It is a collection of well-known authors with either deleted scenes or unpublished works. I got it for the Brandon Sanderson early draft of The Way of Kings. And THEN…. It was by far one of the BEST books I’ve read in a long time. Not because of the stories themselves, but because every author included a personal essay about how mental health had touched their lives in some way. Every person everywhere should read this book! Better yet, they should just publish the author essays and that is what everyone should read. Seriously, go read this book.
  • The Brand Demand, Johnny Worthen – FABULOUS social satire set in Salt Lake City so it felt like all the politics and struggles were real. One of my favorite books of the year.
  • Bog Child, Siobhan Dowd (Book Club) – a novel set around the time of the IRA in Ireland with some interesting facts about archaeology.
  • ITIL Service Strategy – a brutal course but I passed the exam and am now certified!
  • The Dovekeepers, Alice Hoffman (Book Club) – an interesting novelization of ancient Christianity with strong female characters. I wanted to hate it but it was a good read.
  • The Archangel Agenda, A.K. Alexander & Jen Greyson – this was a light and semi-steamy read but felt like a serialized novel where just the first act of the story was included and you had to buy the second (and probably third) to get the entire story. Apparently that’s the “in” thing now for Kindle readers?
  • Cutting For Stone, Abraham Verghese (Book Club) – a very slow burn but a fantastic read with a killer ending.
  • Firefight, Brandon Sanderson – much anticipated sequel to Steelheart which Hubby and I both loved.
  • Pretty Things, Christine Haggerty – a novella retelling of a Grimm Fairytale. I’m not a huge fan of the fairy tale but this was not a bad read. Not as Grimm or as dark as I had anticipated and it was very short.

It was disappointing to count and realize I only finished twenty four books of the forty total I set out to read this year. That’s an average of two books a month which is better than years past when I struggled just to finish the book club pick each month. I consume most of my books on Audible which means this small list represents the amount of time I had over the year where it was possible to multi-task. Because of that, it still feels like an overall accomplishment for the year. Here’s to bettering it next year!


Cover Reveal: The Finger Trap by Johnny Worthen

The genre will never be the same… one of my favorite authors jumps into the noir detective pool with his latest book. I want to read it based solely on the beautiful cover.

TFTCover

Because I know it is hard these days to judge a book JUST by the cover, here’s the blurb:

With wit and humor, this modern mystery is a refreshing spin on the noir detective genre

Tony Flaner is a malingering, part-time comedian who is full of sarcasm and never finished a thing in his life. He’s had 12 years to prepare for his divorce and didn’t. He had his entire life to choose a career and hasn’t. Now time’s up, and he’s in a world of trouble. But all of that changes when Tony takes a first date to a drunken party and ends with him facing prison for the murder of a girl he hardly knew. To save himself, wise-cracking Tony must discover who the mysterious girl was, what she was involved in, and what the hell she saw in him in the first place.

Let me tell you, I’ve been hearing about this story – the first in a series – for almost a year and I am dying for my own copy.

Pre-order your copy here!


Cover reveal: Black Jack by Mikki Kells

Mikki Kells is a very hip fellow author and friend. When she asked me if I’d help spread the word about her new book coming soon with a cover reveal, I agreed.

Black Jack Cover

It is a second book so don’t read the synopsis if you don’t want tiny hints of spoilers… Seriously, you’ve been warned (but it sounds ubber cool so just read it anyway!)

Melanie S’velare is a survivor, the strongest witch in her coven, and a princess. With the key to her magic, the Ace of Hearts, presumably destroyed, her powers continue to grow. As her power increases, her control on them becomes weaker until it is clear she may be the most powerful witch on the planet and the most dangerous. The Alaman, another coven, concerned by her strength, send an ambassador to gauge her control, stability, and how dangerous she truly is. The Alaman are well known for killing witches who pose a threat to their own powerful hold over the globe and if they see fit to end her life, she will have no choice but to fight.

With her soulmate by her side and the remains of her Vanguard, Melanie strives to maneuver a maze of political scandals designed to make her falter. If she fails, she will not only lose her throne to the traitorous Lord Rossi, but also her life to the fiery Alaman.

Melanie can only pray her secret that the Ace of Hearts is alive and manipulating them all in a final deadly game is never revealed.

 

Black Jack book two in the Ace of Hearts series will be released July 2015.

 

headshot Mikki Kells

Mikki Kells is both a writer and a rider. She spends her nights crafting fantastical stories and her afternoons bowing to the demands of her beloved horse. Her interests in fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal stories developed from a childhood of imaginary exploits and continue to influence her professional career. She resides in central Utah.

To check out book one in the series go here: http://www.amazon.com/Ace-Hearts-1-Mikki-Kells/dp/0615885055

 

 

Follow Mikki for more news, contests, and extras.

www.mikkikells.com

Twitter/Instagram: @mikkikells

Blog: www.mikkikells.tumblr.com


Interview: Adrienne Monson

Today I have the pleasure of talking with fellow author, Adrienne Monson, about her new book Defiance releasing later this month.

 

Defiance HighRes

Leisha and Samantha barely survived. Now, an explosive battle between the vampires and immortals seems imminent. It’s more important than ever before that the prophecy child is found, but there’s a problem—Leisha has lost her powers. She seems like nothing more than a human. Her newfound humanity is further complicated when Tafari, her old lover, appears with a desire for reconciliation. Can Leisha lock up the past to save those she loves, or will fate tear everything from her once again?

 

 

 

 

Where did your idea for Defiance come from?

I’ve had a fascination with vampires since I was 11. It was inevitable that the first story I write included these mythical creatures, with my own personal twist to them.

Many argue the trend in vampire novels have come and gone. What makes yours different from the rest?

Like everything else, the market for vampires does a roller coaster. But even on the downward slope, there’s fans that will always pick it up. My vampires are unique in many ways, one of which is the story talks about how they came into existence in the first place using Voodoo magic.

What is your secret to balancing romance without cliche?

If you have a strong plot and three-dimensional characters, the romance will just work. It’s when an author forces a romance that a reader doesn’t really feel that it becomes cliche.

What’s the key to writing a second book in a series?

Have the end in mind. Even if you plan on writing a 12 book series, always know exactly where everyone is going to end up at the end. Hopefully, if you do that, all the previous books will flow together.

How long did it take you to write Defiance?

One year. Someday I’ll get as good as some other authors I know and pop out a new book every couple months. Someday…

Adrienne Author - 3650What is your writing process? Where and when do you write?

I have young kids at home, so it’s dicey to have that time. I generally wait until the kids are in bed, which gives me a solid two hours a night. I also have an amazing critique group, and we go on writers retreats twice a year. It’s amazing how much I write during those trips!

What is your favorite part of being an author?

Interacting with the readers! I’ve gotten some amazing messages online from fans and it’s always a blast to meet more readers at book signings. They keep me going on the days I feel like throwing in the towel.

Least favorite?

Actually sitting my butt in the chair to write. Maybe I chose the wrong career… 😉

How did you go from aspiring writer to published author?

It’s really about keeping your eyes open for opportunities and taking it when they come along. I kept going to writers conferences, joined writing groups and critique groups. I immersed myself in the industry as much as possible and worked on improving my craft while seeking opportunities. One day, it paid off!

Any advice for other aspiring writers?

Join an awesome critique group with other writers that will tell you what’s what. Keep an open mind and don’t get defensive about your work. If people are putting in the time to give you feedback, recognize it. It doesn’t mean that they’re right – that’s up to you to decide. But make sure you listen with an open mind before you disagree.

Keep writing. Keep seeking opportunities and don’t give up!

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned so far on your journey?

That people actually like my books. I know it sounds silly, but I’m critical and insecure when it comes to my craft. I handle criticism from others better than compliments. So I was actually surprised that people really like what I write! (And I have to remind myself of that sometimes.)

Where can readers find and connect with you?

If you’re in the Salt Lake area, don’t miss the launch party for Defiance! Come get your book signed by the author, win door prizes (signed books, gift cards to restaurants and Amazon) and have a great time.

When: February 28, 2015 from 2:00 – 5:00 PM

Where: Barnes & Noble – Sugarhouse

1104 East 2100 South, Salt Lake City UT

http://www.adriennemonson.com/

https://twitter.com/#!/adriennemonson

https://www.amazon.com/author/adriennemonson

https://www.facebook.com/adriennemonson

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6584385.Adrienne_Monson

 


Secrets & Doors: My Personal Irony

I love being part of the Secret Door Society. The vision of giving back to the world appeals to me on many levels. This project isn’t just about getting a publishing credential or selling books. And when you buy a copy, it isn’t just about buying another book. It’s about helping make a difference; making the world a better place. Secrets & Doors is significant for me as a debut author. Wherever the rest of my career takes me, this will always be my first; the culmination of toil and hard work that started with my love of reading way back when I was a child, thanks to my mom.

The irony of Secrets & Doors for me also lies with my mom. All proceeds – from both the authors as well as Crimson Edge Publishing – are being donated to diabetes research. After decades of suffering from this horrible disease, my mom died just five months before my first published work would help rid the world of it. Wherever the rest of my career takes me, this one will always be dedicated to her.

Mom - pic from FB

How does one die of diabetes? In more ways than a horror writer can imagine. Cardiovascular disease, stroke, and kidney failure are the most serious long-term complications. Diabetes also damages the nerves, can lead to amputation of limbs and muscle wasting diseases, damages the eyes and affects every organ system if left untreated. In my mom’s case, it led to liver disease and kidney failure which took her from us at the arguably young age of sixty-five.

Imagine a world where no more moms died of diabetes. No more kids had to take daily injections of insulin to survive. Projects like this are just the beginning for the Secret Door Society but none will have such a personal impact for me like Secrets & Doors. Thanks for letting me be a part of it!


Another Interview for Secrets & Doors

Another stop on the blog tour took me to visit the lovely Kathy Jones and an interview that peeks into my writing process.

Author Interview with Terra Luft part of the Secrets & Doors short story collection

Thanks to Kathy for hosting me!

 


My First Interview as an Author

Check out this very insightful interview over at Amy Bank’s blog today.

My Interview with Author Terra Luft

It was fun to be the author interviewed rather than doing the interview (and hoping someday someone would want to interview me). Thanks for having me, Amy!


Setting the Scene in a Small Piece

Let’s talk short fiction for a minute. I learned so much about writing any length piece by writing short stories. For the Secrets & Doors blog tour, each author is discussing an aspect of writing. Writing is far more difficult when each sentence must do more than one thing since you can’t devote an entire sentence to each aspect of the writing. The old adage of “choose your words wisely” applies especially to short fiction. Set a tone, build characters, set the stage, provide necessary information for the reader to move the plot forward – all of these can be done with an economy of words.

Reflection is a sci-fi dystopian story where the people of Earth have been living on another planet after fleeing a threat that is still searching for them. In order to protect themselves, they hid the truth in rules that over generations have become folklore and superstition. It was originally written as a novelette at eight thousand words. Far too long for the submission guidelines for this project. Cutting more than half the words while conveying an alien world and telling the story was challenging. When setting this particular scene, I found it most effective not to point out every detail but, instead, to note those things that were different from our world. The sky that isn’t blue, the absence of tall mountains, and that it rarely rains become significant. Contrasting these differences with what the reader knows already from his own experience highlights them, creating the backdrop of the story.

Choosing your words wisely is true in individual scenes as well. I am a novel writer which means I can use lots of words. But I don’t have to. Instead of saying he turned and picked up a box, he just picked it up. My writing group called me Verbose Girl because in the early days I had a tendency to write a lot to make sure I fully explained every detail. It didn’t always translate to the reader as I wanted it to. The truth is, even novel writing is better when you use an economy of words like a smaller piece. The last thing you want is your reader to get bogged down. The tighter the language, the more engrossing the story becomes.

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Interview: Callie Stoker, Editor

CallieheadshotAs part of the official launch, I have the privilege of interviewing the talented Callie Stoker, Editor of Secrets & Doors available from Crimson Edge Publishing. Callie is a freelance editor and owner of The Manuscript Doctor.

 

 

 

 

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Open the door and unlock the secrets in eleven short stories from The Secret Door Society, an organization of fantasy and science fiction authors dedicated to charitable work. All proceeds from this anthology benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in their quest to cure Type One Diabetes (T1D).

In these pages you’ll discover a modern woman trapped in an old fashioned dreamscape, a futuristic temp worker who fights against her programming, a beautiful vampire’s secret mission disrupted by betrayal, a sorcerer’s epic battle against a water dragon, the source of magical mirrors—and more. There are tales for every science fiction and fantasy taste, including new works from award-winning authors Johnny Worthen, Lehua Parker, Christine Haggerty, and Adrienne Monson.

Join us in the fight against T1D as you peek into a world of magical and mysterious doorways—if you dare.

 

In my own history as a reader, I never knew the value of an anthology and rarely picked them up. A collection of short stories gives you a taste of the writing style of many authors and could be the way you find your next favorite, or decide which novels you’re willing to take a chance on. Being one of the authors in this anthology, I know exactly what went into creating my individual piece. The editing process is more of a mystery. I wanted some insights – secrets even – so I sat down with Callie to get all the insider information I could.

Secrets & Doors is an anthology with eleven authors, but your name is the only one on the cover. How does that work?

The decision is ultimately up to the publisher. Some anthologies will include the author’s names on the cover, although that can often result in a busy and confusing image. For this anthology it was decided that a streamlined cover with a beautiful image would sell best, and I think we are all very pleased with the result. The editor is often the driving force behind the creation of an anthology, sending out a call for submissions and choosing from those submissions, and thus usually receives a publishing credit on the cover. The creation process for this anthology was a cohesive and synergistic one. Although my name ended up on the cover, that shouldn’t overshadow the incredible work by the Secret Door Society in writing, polishing, and perfecting their stories. I think we accomplished a lot with this collection and I’m very proud of it.

Tell us about your journey. How did you become an editor?

I started out as a writer! A wonderful group of me and three women expressed an equal desire to write, so we formed a writing group called Once Upon a Keyboard. This was ten years ago and since then, two of the women have been published, I became an editor, and we gained a new member, a copy editor, over a year ago.

My shift from writer to editor is expressed perfectly in my favorite quote by E.B. White, “An editor is a person that knows more about writing than writers do, but has escaped the terrible desire to write.” This fact was a frustration to me early on when my writing buddies would talk about their stories with such passion and I struggled to eke out a plot from a single idea. My passion emerged as I read and critiqued my fellow writers’ work. I was able to see the weakness while praising the strengths. I could clearly define what wasn’t working and put them on the path of how to make it successful.

I’ve spent the last several years intensely educating myself in the craft of writing. I believe that a good editor teaches and instructs while critiquing so that the author is left uplifted and inspired to apply a better understanding of craft to their future work.callielogo

I launched my personal business in 2014 and its success has shown me the current need writers have of an editor that can not only correct punctuation and grammar, but supply individualized instruction based on writing craft.

What goes into editing an anthology?

Anthologies are a collection of short works (stories, essays or poems) tied together by a common theme. It is the editor, often called the curating editor, who sends out a call for stories fitting the theme and reads and selects from the submittals. The curating editor also chooses the order of the stories so that each transition creates the best experience for the reader. Finally, the curating editor takes the lead in the editing process, completing or overseeing the stages of revisal.

What do you like the most about the editing process?

I am unendingly impressed by the creativity of writers. It is often said that there are no more “new ideas,” yet there are also infinite new perspectives on old ideas. I often feel privileged to read a writer’s fledgling ideas and witness as they develop. I love helping the author see how their ideas can be coaxed and nurtured into a successful story by helping them understand what kind of a story they are writing and how to make each scene and each character leap off the page.

Anything you wish you didn’t have to do as an editor?

At times I’ll need to change the tense or point of view of an entire manuscript which can be a little tedious. At the same time, making these changes is extremely satisfying when the end result is a clean draft. Proofreading may be the most tedious of tasks, but there are creative ways to go about it like changing up the font and size of the document to trick your eyes into seeing it for the first time, or reading the manuscript backwards so that you forget the story or the grammar and see only the typos or misspelled words. Sometimes I enjoy mixing up my content editing work with these tasks.

What other projects are you currently working on?

I have an ongoing client list that keeps me always reading and editing. These clients include published authors, unpublished writers, screenwriters, bloggers, and non-fiction writers. I am currently working with a publisher on the second book of a series and look forward to working in the future as a freelance editor for publishers.

Any free advice to any aspiring writers out there?

First: Read. Read. Read. Read your genre. Read outside your genre. Read the greats. Read the current stuff. A big part of storytelling is about story tropes. Tropes aren’t a bad thing, they are a recognized story form and there is a reason they exist: because they are story types that are repeated again and again. When you know the tropes, you are better equipped to treat them correctly in your own writing and to know what has come before and how to build on it. I can promise you that your level of reading will affect the depth of your writing and increase your creativity.

Second: Know what kind of story you are writing. This may seem simple and obvious, but I’m not just talking about genre and demographics (although knowing these is also important). Are you telling an adventure story? A mystery? Is this a character development story or a save the world story? The best tool for discovering this is Orson Scott Card’s M.I.C.E. Quotient. If you don’t know it, learn it. Every story is either a Milieu (Setting), Idea, Character, or Event story, or a mixture of these. When you know the story you are writing you’ll know where to begin and end your story, what conflicts to focus on, and how to create the most satisfying arc for your characters. This is the number one thing I work on with my clients.

Where can readers find you?

Please visit my website, www.themanuscriptdr.com, to see what kind of services a freelance editor can offer. If you are curious about what level of critique could help your own work, you can submit your first chapter through my website for a free sample edit. Perhaps a personal editor is exactly what your writing needs to get you to the next level.

Also find me on Facebook and Google+ as “The Manuscript Doctor” or Twitter @themanuscriptdr

Check out my writing group’s website, www.onceuponakeyboard.com. We’ve compiled the best articles, links, videos and podcasts on writing advice. We’ve done the research so you can do the writing.

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If you’d like to pre-order your copy of Secrets & Doors, you can do so at the following links.

Paperbook: https://www.createspace.com/5209804

eBook: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SNUZYGE


The Art of Combat – with Joshua Robertson

Today I have the pleasure of hosting Joshua Robertson, author of the upcoming Melkorka from Crimson Edge Publishing. I asked him to share some writing tips and he was nice enough to oblige. Thanks, and welcome, Joshua!

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The Art of Combat

In younger years, I always thought that R.A. Salvatore was the master of writing fight scenes. If you have not read his works, I would suggest starting with Homeland, Book 1 of the Dark Elf Trilogy, featuring the legendary Drizzt. This fantasy author presents combat so well that it appeared to naturally flow in his novels in the same way that other storytellers would write about the scenery. When I think of exceptional fighting in novels, I still think of Salvatore.

Those that have read my novels tell me that I share this strength in my writing. If anything, I assume that this comes from years of playing tabletop RPGs, combat-oriented video games, and sparring with my brother throughout the years. I will leave it to the fans to decide how well I actually execute combat in my novels. However, I wanted to take an opportunity to share just a few tidbits on improving your written combat. My disclaimer to these tips is that I don’t always follow the rules. Sometimes, it is important to intentionally neglect them to capitalize on something within a scene…and sometimes, I simply forget. In any case, it is good to keep these concepts handy!

Keep It Quick

A fight scene is supposed to be fast paced and tense for the character. This is not the time to be explaining how the horizon melds perfectly against the tree line. You want to keep the language in the book glued to the fight scene when it is taking place, while maintaining a flow that does not make it confusing for the reader. What do I mean by that? The English language can be molded in many ways to enhance your writing. Changing passive sentences to active sentences will change the entire feel of a fight. However, I think the easiest rule to begin with is to cut your adjectives and adverbs. They slow the reading process and destroy the emotional feel that most authors believe them to enhance.

John fiercely thrust his serrated sword forward and quickly pierced through the knight’s armor. [or] John thrust his sword through the knight’s armor. You get the idea. One example gives a fancy visual for speculation where the other pushes the reader into the next line of action. Combat is a time for action.

Another quick tip, if the terrain is an important element for the combat, then you must set it up in a previous scene or prior to the combat. Good writers will lay the groundwork well in advance of when it is actually needed.

Use Suspense

Suspense is your friend. Take any great fantasy novel and know that you are spending the first hundreds of pages preparing for a climatic end that may only last a few pages [or paragraphs] at the end. One of my beta readers for Melkorka shared with me that this was an element of the novel that kept him turning the pages. And, even at the end of the novel, he was yearning for more.

In reality, most fights do not last long. Anyone else watch UFC in their spare time? A couple of minutes and the entire conflict is over. You may watch commercials the entire week prior to the fight, and then watch someone be beat to a pulp for 45 seconds. The trick for the fantasy writer is having this also be reflected in the novel. Well-structured suspense is what makes that fight scene great.

Be Clear

Your readers will lose interest if they cannot visualize the scene or the characters placement. It is not everything, but it is important to know your battleground. I have done fighting scenes many ways. I have used maps, figurines, or even danced around my house to practice different maneuvers with swords and whatnot. The author has to know what is going on in order to tell the reader what is happening.

Without being too stereotypical, fantasy has long been a genre for nerds and geeks. As you may have guessed that we within the nerd community have certain expectations. We like things to be realistic within the guidelines of the genre. Sure, magic exists – but there are certain rules and properties it has to follow, right? Fights, including pure physical combat, also have rules to follow, such as force and leverage. You will find that readers can forgive some of these mistakes in a well-written novel, but if it is consistently flawed, you will lose your audience. Conducting fight scenes requires the author to conduct research. You have to know the weight of a sword, the reloading rate of a crossbow, the distance a person can jump, and what impact a lance has on iron armor. Then, once you know what you are talking about, write the scene be clear, accurate, and realistic.

Be Purposeful

One of my biggest peeves in some fantasy novels is fight scenes that have nothing to do with the plot structure or character development. Many times you will find authors that will write fight scenes without any purpose, or they will defend the scene with “This scene is important to demonstrate my MC’s strength and agility.” That, my friends, does not advance the plot. It is filler and confuses readers because they are looking for a deeper connection and how this particular scene ties into the character’s motivations. It is not helpful to open your book with a scene of a character fighting a band of robbers on the side of the road, unless those robbers are an intricate piece of the plot line.

Why is this important? I think the primary reason is that the reader grows to skim your battle scenes, no matter how important they could possibly be. If I am frequently reading about punches, kicks, and parries in the novel, then the combat begins to lose its meaning. I can remember great scenes in Tolkien and Jordan and Sanderson because the motivation of the characters enhanced the fight. There should always be a good reason for combat.

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MelkorkaFinalFrontCoverKaelandur was forged by the Highborn to slay one of their own, Nedezhda Mager. As their slave, Branimir Baran never thought to question his cruel masters until he is forced to take part in the execution. His actions begin a chain of events that will lead him to confront demons, cannibals, and himself as he is forced to question his own morality and the true meaning of good and evil.

Book One of the dark fantasy series, Thrice Nine Legends, available on Amazon January 2015.

 

 

 

 

Author Bio

Joshua began crafting the world for Melkorka in 1999, and has since continued writing flash fiction, short stories, poems, children’s books, and epic fantasy novels. Joshua is the author of the transitional children’s book, Bo Bunny and the Trouble. He is also the co-creator of the fantasy tabletop game, Thrice Nine Legends, due to be released in 2015. Joshua currently lives in Alaska with his wife and children.

 You can find Joshua at the following links:

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Website

Crimson Edge (Melkorka Ebook available for Pre-Order Now)

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