Posts tagged ‘reading’

November 5, 2014

My #NaNoWriMo progress, #burgersandbooks giveaway and more

Family of the Tri-Rune, by Charles Yallowitz

Family of the Tri-Rune, by Charles Yallowitz

It’s been another busy week, and once again, I’m behind on the blog.

I actually signed up for NaNoWriMo this year–something I’ve wanted to do for about five years now and just never have. So far this week, I’ve written just over 10,000 words. That makes me feel good.

Kathy Robinson, who won the first week of the Burgers and Books giveaway, also won the Burger King gift card. There were very few entrants for this giveaway. I enjoyed the idea of promoting reading parties while promoting indie authors, though, so I may continue to do these once in a while.

I wanted to review Charle’s Yallowitz’s Family of the Tri-Rune on Friday, but the day really got away from me. Here are my top thoughts (and possibly spoilers, so readers, beware):

Where Luke Callindor’s character grew immensely in Allure of the GypsiesNyx’s character grew in Family of the Tri-Rune.  It seemed like she started to come to terms with some changes she needed to make (for the good and safety of all), as well as with who she truly is. There were some remarkable and fun revelations about her origin in this book.

There were more revelations about Selenia Hamilton, too, as well as some of her contemporaries, and I was surprised when someone from Sari’s past showed up. These elements added twists to the plot that gave me lots of A-HA moments. Lots of fun! I also found some compassion for someone I thought was an enemy, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in this character’s future.

Some new champions stepped forward toward the end of this book, which makes me excited to read The Compass Key and start to follow their character arcs, too. While I won’t be running a #burgersandbooks giveaway in November, I hope to find time to read Yallowitz’s most recent book and post my thoughts on it here on this blog.

 

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October 18, 2014

Excellent weekend reading: The Prodigy of Rainbow Tower

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

I first read The Prodigy of Rainbow Tower back in 2013. Here’s the Amazon review I wrote for it:

Months after reading this book, my mind is still drawn to it. The fight scenes are descriptive without being overdone, the characters are realistic and dynamic, and there are surprise punches I just didn’t see coming. It’s a great adventure story. There’s a lot going on in this book, but Charles Yallowitz somehow made it all flow together seamlessly. I’ll continue to recommend this series to anyone who enjoys reading fantasy.

That holds as true now as it did when I first read the book. Nyx is a complex, exciting character who I feel really compliments Luke Callindor’s character. The fight scenes are realistic and the action is both fast-paced and smooth. It kept me reading and reading.

It’s been a busy week, so I haven’t finished reading through The Prodigy of Rainbow Tower the second time, but I’m enjoying what I have been able to read. I’m looking forward to finishing it again sometime soon.

I will say this: I don’t read every book twice. Especially when it comes to an entire series. Charles Yallowitz has done a great job with his books. (Check out his blog, and watch for his first video interview coming up on October 22).

From my blog review last year:

According to Dave Farland’s Million Dollar Outlines, books should evoke strong emotional responses. I would say Yallowitz’s settings do that for me. I’m only a third of the way through the book, but I had to fight myself to put it down long enough to blog about it.

If you’re looking for a book to really draw you in this weekend, this is a good one. I’m hoping for more entries to the #burgersandbooks giveaway this week so I can give this book away next Friday.

Happy reading!

 

October 3, 2014

Burgers and books #free #giftcard #giveaway #promo

October is here! Celebrate with me!

October is here! Celebrate with me!

I had so much fun with last month’s giveaway that I decided not to wait to November for the next one, so I’m celebrating October with a gift card promo of a different kind!

My family and I love reading parties (in fact, we’re planning one for this Saturday evening). These are simple to plan and lots of fun. All you do is 1) stock up on good books, 2) stock up on yummy foods, and 3) sit in the same room together, reading and munching to your heart’s content.

Since I wanted to promote the idea of family reading parties, I settled on the following idea:

Each week in October, I’ll  give away a free book to whoever wins the drawing for that week. For this promo, I’m focusing on the Charles Yallowitz’s Legends of Windemere series. I’ll draw a name for electronic versions of book one on October 10, book 2 on October 17, book three on October 24, and book 4 on October 31. If you already have these books and you win, let me know–I’ll gift the book you won to a friend of your choice and send you an electronic version of Trusted, by Krista Wayment or Dark Birth by Scott Bryan instead.

Also on Halloween day, everyone who has entered during the month of October will have a chance in a drawing for a $15 Burger King gift card. Food for your personal reading party!!!

Sound fun? Here’s how to enter:

OPTION ONE:

On your blog, post a story, poem or opinion on this prompt: What makes a good fantasy character? Ping back to this article so I know you’ve entered.

OPTION TWO:

If you don’t have a blog, you can like my author page on Facebook and respond to the status with the same prompt. What makes a good fantasy character? Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorGwenBristol.

Wishing everyone a Happy October, Happy Reading and a truly happy day!

 

 

March 6, 2014

Why all authors should join a book club

"Epic," by Conor Kostick, in a nice shiny library protective page. :) Take a closer look at the book  on Amazon.com.

“Epic,” by Conor Kostick, in a nice shiny library protective page. 🙂 Take a closer look at the book on Amazon.com.

In November, a neighborhood friend invited me to a book club. I went, although I felt a bit nervous…I had never been to a book club before.

The winter holidays and planning for 2014 meant no real book club meetings again until the second week of February. I attended again, and solidified my opinion on book clubs: All authors should join one.

Here’s why:

  1. Book clubs are a great way to get a feel for what readers love to read. This doesn’t apply just to the books that the club chooses, but also to the way a book is written–the prose, the structure, the characters. It’s just a good way to learn about the elements of a well-written book (and, in some cases, it’s a good way to learn what not to do).
  2. Book clubs are a great way to get your name out in the local community. I’m an open book online (pardon the pun), but in real-life situations I’m generally shy when it comes to talking about writing. I usually won’t even mention it unless someone else brings it up, but in January I took a risk and let the book club members know I love writing. They’ve become a great new support group for me.
  3. Even better, five die-hard fantasy fans from this book club have agreed to beta-read for me. Finding solid beta readers who will follow through in a timely manner can be difficult, so I’m excited to give them a try! (If all goes well, they’ll be reading for me sometime early this spring.)

This month, we’re reading and discussing Epic, by Conor Kostick. I’m about three quarters of the way through and I love it so far. It’s one that’s going to make it onto my Great Worlds list.

If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear what you think about it.

February 14, 2014

Great fantasy worlds, and what makes them great

A world I grew up loving...Oz!

A world I grew up loving…Oz!

I fell in love with fantasy worlds in fifth grade. That year, one very influential teacher held a reading contest, and I won by immersing myself in Frank L. Baum’s Oz books, the chronicles of Narnia, Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, all of the Mary Poppins books, and just about everything else I could get my hands on from the tiny elementary school library.

My prize: a boxed set of Tolkien’s works–The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings–which, I am sure, stamped, sealed and certified my enduring love of fantasy.

Decades later, I still think it’s all about the worlds. Even then, I knew the revitalizing power of escaping. I understood there was a real chance of finding my lost self when I delved into a good book.

Who doesn’t love immersing themselves in someplace new? Taking a break from reality? Isn’t that why people take vacations?

I could contend that reading is even better than a vacation, often allowing readers to work out day-by-day problems in a setting that allows for adventure and excitement, and almost always, a difficult but realized success.

Even then, much of the magic is provided by the world the story takes place in. Good plots take into account the setting. So does good character development. Perhaps that’s why fantasy author David Farland, in his book Million Dollar Outlines, counsels other authors to lock down their settings before they even finish the outlines for their books.

So what is it, exactly, that makes new worlds worth reading?

Description:

I like worlds best when descriptions aren’t just listed, line by line, in a series of paragraphs long before the action starts. Very occasionally, this kind of description can hold my attention, but most often, my imagination catches on descriptions that are integrated into the plot. 

In my mind, the best descriptions wind their way through stories. Good settings wrap themselves around characters, making them take notice and even react to what they see and feel. The best descriptions are ones that characters see, feel, hear and react to. They NOTICE their world, and because they notice it, readers notice it, too.

(Incidentally, it seems I feel the most emotion as a reader when I know a character is feeling something about the environment he or she is in. Emotion sells books. Does it follow that good settings sell books, too?)

Believe-ability:

I always like my worlds to have rules. These are not necessarily the rules our planet and solar system and universe abides by (otherwise, where do fantasy and science fiction stories fit in?), but rules that form a decent framework for the plot and characters. (Mythic Scribes has a great piece on keeping worlds real.)

 

Mostly this relates to my ability to answer questions in my mind as they arise–whether or not something could happen, in that particular universe, and why. When I come across a book where worlds feel unstable, which seem to often using Deus Ex Machina for an easy ending, I become an uncomfortable reader. Usually this means I lose interest and move on to something else. 

As enjoyable as reading great worlds is, writing real worlds is hard work. I’m still studying it. I probably will be for a long, long time. 

Ease:

This relates only to how hard I want to have to work to read or understand a book. I still really love fantasy, and I love science fiction and a host of other genres. Sometimes I like stories that are really far-fetched, and but most often I like ones that hit closer to home. 

These kinds of worlds are strangely comforting as well as refreshing. When I’m looking for a world to escape into, I look for something that has familiar elements that wind through the magic. Then I’m in my happy place. I can put up my feet and disappear into that world for a long time…or at least until the story is finished.

I’m sure there are other things that make worlds great. These are my top three tests for worlds I really love, worlds I mull over in my mind long after I’ve read the book.

What do you think makes a great world? 

 

August 25, 2013

Bruschetta for writers

Homemade Bruschetta and string cheese

Homemade Bruschetta and string cheese

I have wonderful memories of cold winter days made warm by the company of good friends.

Once a week, we met together to talk, work on projects, watch chick flics and allow our young children to run around in the immense back yard of one particularly wonderful lady.  While they wore themselves out in the snow, we rejuvenated our minds and hearts.

Here I found willing readers for my first attempts at fiction, encouragement when I accepted challenging nonfiction assignments and dedicated discussions about books. We talked about books we were reading, books we loved, books we hated, plot lines and characters and what made certain books original. I found several new favorite authors this way.

A larger group of us met once a month for lunch. In the summer, we often picnicked at parks in and around the Bismarck area. During cold weather, we met at restaurants.

One February day, we met at Olive Garden, where one of my dearest friends introduced me to Bruschetta.

I’m busy chopping fresh garden tomatoes today, content with the idea of Bruschetta for dinner.  It’s like dining with a friend.

I’m inclined to believe that all writers need friends.

Author Janet Sketchley recently put it this way:

We may do the actual writing alone, even if we do it best amid the background chatter of the local coffee hangout, but it’s the writing community that lets us thrive.

I’m nodding my head here. Writers need a strong network, for emotional health if for nothing else.

I haven’t been able to attend a slightly geographically-distant critique group for months now, but the few times I was able to attend saved my sanity during some rough times.  I’m hoping to get back to it this fall. I loved it.

Likewise, I love the local writing group that I attend more regularly. I love chatting with my daughters about their own works-in-progress, and I love that some of my writing friends I’ve left behind will call me two or three times a week just to talk writing with me.

I do, however, think that writer’s friends can—and should—extend beyond other writers.

Like my Bruschetta friend from North Dakota, and my daycare-crib-keeper friend, my German party friends, my do-it-yourself home decorator friend, my librarian friend, my running friends.

Those friends are now joined by my dessert club friends near my non-North Dakota home—the one who takes in pets for the animal shelter, the one who creates beautiful beaded hair  clips, the one who knows how to make gum paste flowers for wedding cakes and the one who enjoys Dr. Who and Monarch of the Glen.

Every person is amazingly unique, and yet it seems like any time I get together with friends, we talk about stories of some kind. I learn something from each interaction with them. Usually, I learn something about myself.

I believe that transfers directly to my writing. It makes me both a better person and a better writer.

These moments with friends are like the basil in my Bruschetta—they make something ordinary like garden tomatoes into something completely wonderful, something worth savoring and worth sharing.

May 12, 2013

Ten wonderful quotations about success

DCF 1.0

Yesterday I relaxed with SUCCEED—Inspirational and Motivating Quotations About Success, compiled by Peter Begley. It was one of those experiences that made me feel like I was adrift on a floating chair in the middle of a beautiful lake. My soul went Ahhhh.

And so I’m sharing the Ahhh—someness of it here, with my top ten favorite quotes from this book (not necessarily in any order):

  1. It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.~Walt Disney
  2. I criticize by creation–not by finding fault.~Cicero
  3. Expect problems and eat them for breakfast.~Alfred A. Montepert
  4. Remember that what you have now was once among the things you only hoped for.~Epicurus
  5. Wise men make more opportunities than they find.~Francis Bacon
  6. Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.~Thomas A. Edison
  7. First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.~Mahatma Gandhi
  8. Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.~Howard Aiken
  9. Find a job you like and you will add five days to every week.~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
  10. A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not the desire to beat others.~Ayn Rand

And in light of my last post, this one is just for me, I think:

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.~Bill Cosby

That’s why, as a writer, I have to think about my target audience; as a marketer, I have to think about branding; and as an individual, I have to strive for a balanced life.

April 18, 2013

An interview with author Gabe Berman

I always want to be better, and I deeply want to enjoy the process of getting better. I suspect this is a big deal for the majority of the other writers and bloggers and life-livers that I know. For that reason alone, Gabe Berman‘s Live Like a Fruit Fly: The Secret You Already Know completely appeals to me.

So does his second book, The Complete Bullshit-Free and Totally Tested Writing Guide: How to Make Publishers, Agents, Editors and Readers Love Your Work.

I’ll be reviewing that one next week, and I’m pretty excited about it.

Meanwhile, Gabe Berman agreed to an interview (with a very fast turn-around, I might add). And here it is:

What led you to write Live Like a Fruit Fly? (Readers, an exciting note here: this book was reviewed by Deepak Chopra)

For years I’d walk the aisles of the bookstore, looking for the perfect book to inspire me to live an extraordinary life. I knew it was possible and life being as short as it is, I didn’t want to wait. I was sick of all the preachy, otherworldly books, so I wrote the book I could never find.

Same question for The Complete Bullshit-Free and Totally Tested Writing Guide: How To Make Publishers, Agents, Editors & Readers Fall In Love With Your Work.

And the same answer. I wrote the book I wish was given to me long ago.  My book whispers in your ear, “Keep going. It’s going to be ok.” It will keep you from writing crap and remind you, because you deep down already know, how to make readers fall in love with your work.

Why did you self-publish at first? And why the second time around?

After writing for the Miami Herald for eight years, I thought everyone would be interested in my radically different self-help book. I was ridiculously wrong and rejected by everyone. Twice.

But since I decided my ordinary days were over, I knew the extraordinary move would be to keep moving forward. To kick doors open that appeared to be sealed shut.

I self-published and proved the gatekeepers in the publishing industry didn’t know everything because people fell in love with Live Like A Fruit Fly.

Through a string of miraculous events, HCI, the original publisher of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, found me and offered me a contract.

I decided to once again turn to self-publishing for my new book The Complete Bullshit-Free and Totally Tested Writing Guide: How To Make Publishers, Agents, Editors & Readers Fall In Love With Your Work. This writing guide is unlike any other ever written and I wanted to have complete control of it. For example, the kindle edition is just $1.99.  It’s certainly worth the $9.99 a traditional publisher would charge but I wanted to make it accessible for everyone right away.

How did you get picked up by HCI, and what was your initial reaction?

It’s your typical story: guy meets girl in a bookstore. Girl’s friend is the acquisitions editor at a publishing company. The rest is history (I’m oversimplifying it but you get the gist).

How did I react? I was more relieved than anything else. Destiny finally fulfilled.

How in the world did you get to have your book reviewed by Deepak Chopra?

It’s your typical story: famous person finds my self-published book on Amazon. Famous person is friends with Deepak Chopra. I force myself to find the guts to ask famous person to ask Deepak to read my book. Deepak digs it and says, “In Live Like a Fruit Fly, Gabe Berman shares his recipe for living a more joyful, worthwhile, and abundant life in every way. A witty, entertaining, and insightful read.”

Did you ever have a chance to meet him or talk with him about your book?

Not as of yet. All in due time.

What are you doing when you’re not writing?

Procrastinating at Starbucks.

What writing project are you working on now?

The sequel to Live Like A Fruit Fly and a couple of top secret projects (I’d tell you but then I’d have to…)

What marketing strategies work best for you?

I seem to sell more books when I stop worrying about marketing so much. The Universe is a sly one.

What is the best part of being a writer?

It allows me to add a little goodness to the world.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

My dad always said: stupid rules are made to be broken.

And the best advice you’ve ever given someone?

Follow your gut, not the tornado of thoughts in your head.

And–just for fun–your favorite kind of ice cream.

Are you kidding me? Chocolate of course.

by Gabe Berman

by Gabe Berman

Thanks, Gabe Berman, for a chance to get to know you and to learn about your books! I’m looking forward to reading them soon. 🙂

April 8, 2013

Writing first, blogging second

For me, prioritizing is always the hardest part of time management

For me, prioritizing is always the hardest part of time management

Starting today, I’m making a change in how and when I blog.

This is partly because of my Rome Goals. I want to write at least two hours a day on one of my works in progress. I discovered if I blog first and write last, I can wrap myself up in the virtual world so much that I don’t get any real writing done.

It’s also because I’ve been pondering Sheila Williams’ Time For Your Life again. One of the things that’s been sticking in my mind lately is the need to separate ‘work’ from ‘career.’

This is what Sheila Williams had to say about it:

The work zone relates to the time you spend on the primary activities that you carry out on a daily basis. I use this broad definition to include your role as:

  • an employee, if you are employed
  • a business owner, if you run your own business
  • homemaker and’or carer
  • a student
  • a job-seeker, if you are not in work

Sometimes it may be a combination of two or more of these.

The career zone relates to time spent on all those activities that are important to you in developing your career aspirations and your knowledge, skills and abilities relevant to your role zone(s); for example, related skills training or qualifications.

For me, I’m defining the actual writing as my career–after all, I hope to only write each book one time, and I’m hoping that each book will increase my ability to write better and write more.

I’m defining all the other fun writing-related activities–e-mails, social networking, marketing, blogging and everything else as my ‘writing work.’

In order to get anything done, I have to separate the two.

This means I’ll be writing first, blogging second–so my blog posts might not appear until later in the day. I’m hoping this strategy will allow me a little more time to get to my reader, too. I love reading what other people write about. It will be my reward for getting my real writing done.

It seemed to work like a charm today. (I don’t know why I wasn’t doing this all along.) I finished nearly 3,000 words on one work in progress and have time now to go visit other blogs while dinner cooks.

 

 

 

 

March 11, 2013

Thoughts on Diary of a Teenage Superhero, by Darrell Pitt

TeenageSuperhero-2240x1400 [Desktop Resolution]

I finally had a chance to read Diary of a Teenage Superhero by Darrell Pitt this weekend.

It was a fast read–which to me means it was a page-turner that I couldn’t put down. Pitt does an excellent job building tension and suspense through the story all the way to the end. This is a skill that I truly admire.

The story begins with an action scene–there’s almost no down time in this book at all, and as far as I can tell, all the down time here is used for character development. I especially appreciate how the teenage protagonist really doesn’t know how to handle girls. It made him realistic and very likable.

I also enjoyed the process as he slowly stepped into a leadership role. It’s not something he sought. It’s just something that happened, and that made it believable, too.

All in all, I think this was a well-developed story.

My first favorite passage:

There’s no time to think. There’s only time to act. I don’t run as much as fling, scramble and tumble down from one level to the next. I hear something thud on the escape above me. More footsteps. They’r giving chase.

Like Charles Yallowitz and other authors I’ve read lately, Pitt’s present-tense writing gives the story a feeling of immediacy. It was a great weekend escape. I’ll be reading more of his work in the future.

Darrell Pitt has agreed to an e-mail interview with me, which I’m hoping to post this coming Thursday. I learned when I posted about Secrets of Successful Writers (also by Pitt) that he now has a major publisher looking at his work. Exciting news! You can bet I’ll be asking him about that.

Also by Darrell Pitt:

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