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A Few of My Favorite Reads

Books Read2

 

“Reading usually precedes writing. And the impulse to write is almost always fired by reading. Reading, the love of reading, is what makes you dream of becoming a writer.” – Susan Sontag

Often when I find it difficult to write, I read. I have been dealing with some life changes, some health related and probably the most difficult was my brother’s death. He was in home hospice for several months before he died this past December. I tried to spend as much time with him as I could while working full-time and trying not to neglect my husband and kids.

I wanted to write but my heart wasn’t in it. During those months when I did have some spare time, I spent much of it reading. That has always been my favorite escape.

As you can see I got through quite a few since September. I discovered some new authors and caught up with some of my favorites.

I have been a fan of Jodi Picoult for years. “Breathing Time” is her newest and it was fantastic. It was one of those stories that surprised me at the end. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone. The twists and turns will keep you up late.

Dorothea Benton Frank was an AVID (Author Visiting in Des Moines) author this past year. I picked up a couple of her books and because she talked so much about “Sullivan’s Island”, I bought it even though it was not her most recent book. She said there is a scene in there that actually happened so of course I had to read the book to find out what she was talking about.  I can’t tell you about the scene here, I really think you need to let her tell you about it. If you get a chance to hear her speak, do it. Her stories are women’s fiction – set in the south.

Mary Kay Andrew’s “Christmas Bliss” was one of my holiday choices this year. I love her books. The characters are spunky and you never know what they are going to get into. She is another author I have read for years.

I discovered a new author to me – Julia Keller. I read a couple of hers – “A Killing in the Hills” and “Bitter River”. She has a third out and I plan to get it as soon as I get my to be read pile down a little bit more. Her stories are set in the Appalachia area. Her protagonist is a prosecuting attorney who has a teenage daughter and an ex-husband. Her stories are a little more nitty-gritty about the side of life that isn’t so pretty. She has won awards for more than one of her books. If you like suspense, you will like these.

I met an Iowa author –  Heather Gudenkauf. I had read her first book a while back – ” The Weight of Silence” and didn’t realize that she was from Iowa. This time I read – “These Things Hidden” Her stories are well crafted and will keep you guessing. She also is a great speaker. It was one of those really cold Iowa winter nights that she spoke at the West Des Moines library. I ran into some writer friends and it was so worth it.

My Sisters in Crime group has a book exchange every year at our Christmas party. We share a book that we really liked. This year I got one that had been on my wish list for a while. William Kent Krueger’s “Ordinary Grace”. It was just as wonderful as I thought it would be. His protagonist told the story of a murder that happened in his hometown when he was a boy. It is no wonder he won so many awards with this book.

The last book on my list is from one of those authors that I have been reading since his first in the series. Alan Bradley writes cozy mysteries with a little girl sleuth named Flavia De Luce. It is set in England in the 1940’s and they are so cleverly written. I have reviewed some of his books here before and I continue to look forward to each new one. This one was “The Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust”. If you like cozy mysteries, you have to check this series out.

One of my goals is to read more this year. I can’t count all of these toward my goal but I am starting with this Alan Bradley novel as my first for this year.

I read for pleasure but I also read because it motivates me to write. I read novels and books on the craft of writing too but novels are what I turn to most. What do you read? Do you set reading goals?

This year I also want to review more, not just here but on Goodreads, Librarything, and Amazon. Do you know that reviewing a book could be one of the best things you could do for your favorite authors?

I hope you add at least one of my suggestions to your to be read pile.

Until next time,

Virginia

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Posted by on January 23, 2015 in What I'm Reading

 

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‘The First 50 Pages’ – A Book Review

If you can’t hook an agent or an editor, how can you expect to hook a reader?

Just finished reading‘The First 50 Pages’ Engage Agents, Editors, and Readers, and Set Up Your Novel for Success by Jeff Gerke.

Donald Maass even wrote a blurb for the cover – “From the insider’s perspective, everything they’re not telling you about your first 50 pages. Invaluable.”  Jeff is an editor and author of fiction and nonfiction. I haven’t read any of his fiction but I had read Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction”. If you are writing to publish, I would recommend this book as well. It breaks down the differences between people who outline and those who don’t and how you can improve by looking at the process from the other kind of writer’s perspective.

 

Jeff broke ‘The First 50 Pages’ down into two parts. Part one covers the submission process, including proposal killers and a list of mistakes he has seen over and over again with submissions.

Part two consists of what your first 50 pages needs to accomplish. He spells out what you should and shouldn’t do to get published. Jeff’s explanations are easy to understand and he uses examples of both good and bad writing. I was surprised that some of those examples were from published books and well known authors. He showed how they could have been better.

Most of the mistakes made are considered lazy writing. It’s easier to tell instead of show is probably the biggest misstep. He used both books and movies for his examples.

I plan to keep this book handy once my first draft is finished and I’ve started revisions. Jeff reinforced how important beginnings are for publication. I think my biggest surprise was his advise on prologues. He thinks they have been given a bad rap and if done effectively, he thinks they can improve the beginning of a story. Jeff did admit that some Editors are so against them that he has heard of one in particular who would rip it off the front of the manuscript and throw it away before reading the material.

If you’re looking for a writing book to help motivate you to write better, check this one out, I don’t think you will regret it.

May your writing week be productive and your reading enjoyable.

Virginia

 

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