Tag Archive | reading

Today’s Notes: March 5

dangeronxyone_msrIn addition to the birthdays, quote and tips, I’m happy to announce the print version of my futuristic romance, Danger on Xy-One, is available from Ellora’s Cave Blush. It’s been available as an ebook, but now will be in print format as well. The publisher is Ellora’s Cave found in their “Blush” line (the non-erotic portion of the site). It is a futuristic romance full of danger, mystery, and, of course, romance. A story in the Hunters for Hire series.

Aleksia Matthews is an asteroid assayer who would like nothing better than to be left alone. Her life is soon turned upside down when a band of ruthless pirates attack her ship. Shemanages to escape, but fears the worst for her brother. Ali swears revenge. Although well-trained by Fleet Security, she knows she can’t do the job alone. When she literally runs into a stranger, Jason Cole she knows she has met the perfect partner — in more ways than one.

Special agent and Bounty Hunter, Jason has spent the past year tracking the pirates who killed his brother Zack and Zack’s family. He’s always one step behind, too late to help the victims. There are never any survivors — until now. It is up to him to keep Ali alive and out of trouble until the gang can be captured, and maybe longer. Buy here: http://www.ellorascave.com/danger-on-xy-one-1.html#

Birthdays: Mark Handley, Michael Resnick, Howard Pyle

Tips and Teasers: Go to your nearest public library and browse the stacks. Check out areas you don’t normally go. What can you find that’s new and different for you?

Thought for the day: “When I sit down at my writing desk, time seems to vanish. I think it’s a wonderful way to spend one’s life.” – Erica Jong.

Today’s Notes: March 4

Today is “Hug a G.I.” day – actually, for what they do and endure, that should be every day. Thank you to the men and women of the Armed Forces.

Birthdays: Alan Sillitoe, Johann Wyss

I’m not overly familiar with Sillitoe, though I should be, but Johann Wyss? Even if you don’t know the name, I know you’re familiar with his most famous work – The Swiss Family Robinson. Sillitoe was a prolific writer of fiction, poetry, plays, and more.


Thought for the day: “The muse whispers to you when she chooses, and you can’t tell her to come back later, because you quickly learn in this business that she may not come back at all.” – Terry Brooks

Tips and Teasers: What is your book about? Boil the answer down to no more than two sentences. This becomes the basis for your pitch to editors and agents.

Today’s Notes: March 3

Birthdays: Emile-Auguste Chartier, Sidney Lanier

Okay, I have to admit, I’ve never heard of either of these authors. But I did look the up when their names appeared on the birthday list. Interesting people. Go ahead, check them out. Lanier was a well-known American poet who has a school in Alabama named after him. And Chartier was a French philosopher and essayist who wrote under the name “Alain”.


Thought for the day: “I know some very good writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts” – Anne Lemont.

Tips and Teasers: If you are not hearing impaired, try watching TV without the sound on, using closed captioning. What do you feel like you’ve missed, if anything? Write down your feelings about going all day without sound.

Today’s Notes: March 2

Birthdays: John Irving, Philip K. Dick, John Jay Chapman, Theodor Geisel

Okay, I’ve heard of all of these, but my favorite is Theodor Geisel, aka Dr.Seuss. His lessons in silly rhymes educated and amused me for years, and still do. As a young librarian, my students used to challenge me to see how fast I could read “Fox in Socks” (a lot faster than I can now) and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” went to each of my children as they graduated, and has become a classic gift for that event for thousands. And can anyone forget Horton and his care over eggs and tiny Who’s? His birthday (today) is the inspiration for Read Across America.


Thought for the day: “Sometimes, it’s simply best to rip it all up and start over.” – Chuck Leddy

Tips and Teasers: Find a Dr. Seuss book (or several) and sit down and read it – to yourself, or someone else, it doesn’t matter – listen to the words – the sounds, the rhythms. Then write your own Dr. Seuss story.

Today’s Notes: Feb. 28th

Birthdays: Ben Hecht, Michel de Montaigne

Ben Hecht was an American journalist, novelist and screenwriter, winning an academy award for “Underworld”.  Michel de Montaigne was an influential writer of the Renaissance era.

Thought for the day: Wherever your life ends, it is all there. The advantage of living is not measured by length, but by use; some men have lived long, and lived little; attend to it while you are in it. It lies in your will, not in the number of years, for you to have lived enough – Michel de Montaigne.

Today’s Oddities:  Today is Public Sleeping Day. You can sleep in your car, on a park bench or on a beach (please check local laws first!) Take a nap at your desk (at your own risk!) Or what about a quick doze on the train, subway or bus?  It’s also Floral Design Day, named in 1995 by Massachusetts Governor W.F. Weld in honor of Carl Rittner, founder of a floral design school. So while you’re taking your nap, dream up a beautiful garden of flowers.

Tips and Teasers: Make a list of words that sound good in your ears. They might be onomatopoeic (words that sound like what they mean: buzz, sizzle) or simple words that suggest particular emotions or qualities. Use three of them in a paragraph.

Write the Novel #7 – a Rant about the Craft

No lessons today. Today, I’m asking you to indulge me in a little rant – though the rant is definitely about writing. The rant concerns the technique of writing – not the storytelling, but the craft.

One of the hats I wear is as a reviewer for my own site, the bookstore where I work, and a couple of other places where my reviews get posted. I’ve been at this for twenty years so I have some experience. My reviews have appeared in magazines, online, and in multiple newsletters. In addition to this, I have a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s in library science. I’ve also been a copy editor for various publishers for a dozen years, and a multi-published writer for fifteen. I give you this information so you know my background and know that I do know a little about this business.

So what’s the rant? Authors who don’t bother to learn the craft. They have no idea what good grammar is, mix up homophones, split infinitives, head hop, change tenses, misspell words, and more. Although I am not trying to downgrade any one aspect, I find this is especially true of self-published writers, but it also pertains to some of the “professionally” published books I’ve seen lately. I just finished reading a book for review that had the basics of a good story, but I could not finish it because the writing was so bad. The writer head-hopped all over the place, sometimes within the same paragraph, and once within the same sentence (basically, this means switching point of view too many times so the reader doesn’t know which character’s head she is in).  In addition, she constantly mixed up word usage, especially peek/peak/pique and other homophones. These are not the same words and do not have the same meaning. It was obvious, at least to me, that she used just a basic spell-check program. This would not pick these words up since they are spelled correctly, but they were definitely used incorrectly. It’s a shame the book came across so poorly because I think there was a kernel of a good story in there, but I could not in good conscience recommend it because of the writing (And no, I did not post a review. I wrote back to the author and gave her my opinions and suggested she find a good editor before she went forward, which she is doing.)

I’m not saying nobody makes mistakes. Typos happen. They happen to me all the time, especially when typing fast. So do other mistakes. And I’m horrendous at editing my own work. Most writers will tell you they have trouble editing their own work – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It is always a good idea to have someone else read your manuscript before it gets sent out. A new set of eyes will pick up what you may have missed. But therein lies part of the problem. If you’re going to pick someone out to critique your manuscript, they should at least know the basics of grammar or they’re going to miss the problem issues as well.

So please, if you’re going to write a novel – or anything – learn how to spell, learn the definitions of words, learn punctuation and grammar, learn about point of view and continuity. In other words, learn the craft of writing. If you don’t care for these basics, or are too caught up in your own writing to care, then at least lay out the bucks and hire someone to take care of it for you. Your readers will thank you. And I will too.

Some books and/or links to look at for help:

The Chicago Manual of Style – THE book for all things grammar

Strunk and White’s Elements of Style – a classic that should be in every writer’s library

A good dictionary – Merriam Webster is a good place to start, but any good dictionary will do

Common Errors in the English Language

Random House dictionary

American Heritage dictionary

Getty Research Institute – for vocabulary

Grammar Girl

Grammar Now!

Etymology Dictionary

Purdue University Writing Lab

Urban Dictionary

Writing a Novel #2 : Choosing a Genre

What do I write?

You’ve got your space all set up, or you know where you’re going to go to write. You’ve got your supplies. You sit down and you look at the blank page…and you blank. What do you write?

This is the first big challenge. A lot of people claim they want to write, but when it comes to actually doing the work, they back off. They don’t have a clue where to start or what to write. The blank page, whether paper or a computer screen, can be intimidating.

One of the first things you need to figure out is what genre you want to write in. There several major genres and dozens of subgenres to choose from. Let’s start with some of the main ones (Note: since I’m talking novels, I’m talking strictly fiction here)(second note: this is by no means a comprehensive list):

  •  Adventure (aka Action-Adventure) – these are stories where the main character does something risky in order to obtain something. Examples include Indiana Jones, Die Hard, Jackie Chan
  • Comedy – something inane, lighthearted, witty, designed to make the reader chuckle. Examples: Marx Brothers, Lucille Ball, Jackie Chan (an example of a combination of two or more genres)
  • Fantasy – contains magic and/or supernatural beings/devices. It is magic based and not technology based. Dragons, sword and sorcery, witches, etc. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc. (C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling)
  • Horror – a story meant to shock or scare the reader. Anything by Stephen King fits this genre, but the father of all is Edgar Allen Poe. Also check out Mary Shelley, Dean Koontz, Anne Rice.
  • Mystery – focuses on a problem, usually a murder, to be solved. Includes many subgenres like true crime, crime and cozies. Agatha Christie books, James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark, Perry Mason, Carl Hiaason, Elmore Leonard – all good mystery writers.
  • Romance – a story about the relationship between two main characters. Though romances run the gamut of subgenres (romantic suspense(mystery), futuristic romance, paranormal(fantasy), sweet, snarky, etc.) the main focus of the story is the development of the relationship and not the underlying genre. Norah Roberts, Susan Wiggs, Katie MacAllister, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Beatrice Small and more.
  • Science fiction – uses technology. If there is no science, there can be no science fiction. You might have a dragon – but you’d better have a plausible, science-based reason for it being in your world. It can include apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, dystopian, alternate history, alternate universes, aliens, genetics, plagues, military, social science fiction (concerned less with technology and more with society – think 1984), space opera, cyber-punk, steampunk and more. Examples: Star Wars, Avatar, Wild Wild West, Star Trek, Firefly
  • Thriller – usually something that involves spies, espionage, dark crimes, disasters, etc. where there is a constant sense of impending doom or physical threats. Silence of the Lambs can fit this as well as any Tom Clancy book, Ludlum’s Bourne series, etc.
  • Western – any story set in the American west, usually involves ranches, cowboys and girls. Authors include Zane Grey, Louis Lamour.
  • Literary (also known to some as “Women’s Fiction” – though I might argue with this) – usually have strong female protagonists (heroines) overcoming personal issues. Not always with a happy ever after ending. Authors include Fannie Flagg, Nicholas Sparks, Anne Rivers Siddons, and more.

Each of these can be combined with each other or with other sub-genres to make dozens of different types of stories.

For instance, in mystery, you can have cozy mystery (think Murder She Wrote) where there is a body (or two, but rarely more), an amateur detective (someone who is not a cop/detective/etc.), and a mystery to be solved. There is rarely gore or violence. They are light, quick reads. On the other hand, a straight crime mystery usually has a professional detective or cop as a lead character, the possibility of multiple bodies, violence, gore. They are edgier and darker than a cozy. Both of these can be set in contemporary times, but they can also be combined with science fiction for a futuristic mystery, or placed in a past century for a historical mystery. Or they can be westerns, or psychological, or urban…you get the idea.

Action/adventure can be science fiction in nature (Terminator movies). Urban fantasy takes place in the here and now. You can pick any one or combination of them to write what you want – just be forewarned that not all sub-genres will sell well so if you want to write something marketable, keep this in mind.

Most writers tend to write in the genre which they read the most in. And you’d better be reading! So what do you love? What kinds of books take up the most space on your shelves (or in your electronic reading device)? That will probably be the genre you are most comfortable writing in.

Homework for this week:

Decide on a genre and make notes on what is needed for that particular area.


I have discovered I have an obsession with books. Okay, no surprise there, especially for my family, but it is becoming an issue of space. In the past several years, I have donated/sold/otherwise disposed of thousands of books and yet my shelves are still overflowing. My to-be-read piles continue to pile and there is no way I will ever read them all, not even in two lifetimes.

And yet…I continue to get more. I’ll see a title by an author I love and I have to have it. Or an intriguing blurb by a new (to me) author and it goes on my list. Working in a bookstore only feeds my obsession. And please, don’t point out that I can go to a library and borrow a book – doesn’t work for me (and I have a Master’s in Library Science!). I have to *have* the book. It has to be mine. Mine to read, to review if I like it, to get rid of if I don’t. Mine to savor and put on a shelf, or share with someone else.

I don’t understand why I am like this. And it really is just books. I have other collections and interests, but they don’t pull at me like books do. Books, whether paperback, hardback, or in e-format, are doorways to other worlds. Within their covers, people have problems that are solved and adventures in exotic places. They take me away from my troubles and let me live in a fantasy world for as long as I am in them.

And maybe that’s the draw.

Whatever the reason, I know I’m not going to quit getting books, whether for myself or others. And I know I’m not going to stop reading. After all, where else can you find such enjoyment for such a small amount of money?


Just one more chapter…

I’m reading a book by an author I love – wait, let me amend that – I love her books, her…not so much. I have met her. She comes off as a snob and I’ve seen her snub fans in person, including young teens who really don’t need that kind of attitude from an idol. And no, I won’t tell you her name – not setting myself up for a lawsuit. But while I may not personally like her, I do like her writing. And like many others of my favorites, I find myself putting off things that need done just to read one more chapter.

One more chapter and I’ll go take care of the dishes. One more chapter and I’ll make dinner. One more chapter and I’ll get to my own writing. Just one more chapter…

That’s the kind of book I want to find more of. Ones that draw you in and won’t let you go. Even now, I’m sitting here with the book next to me, about a hundred pages left to read, and all I want to do is finish it. And yes, it wouldn’t take me that long to read a hundred pages, but I have things that have to be done. Things I’ve been putting off just to read one more chapter. And no, it’s not the dishes or dinner – I can put those off. I’m leading a writing workshop on Saturday morning on editing and I need to get my notes together for the class. And I do have an actual job that I occasionally go to – one where I earn a paycheck. Things I need to do.

But just one more chapter…