RSS

Tag Archives: Sisters in Crime

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

Advertisements
 
1 Comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Unlock Your Dreams With a Little Help From Your Friends

Turn Key Solutions_1

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.” – Anais Nin

I have jumped back into my writer’s groups this year. Yesterday was the first meeting of 2015 for both Iowa Romance Novelists and Sisters in Crime. Both meetings involved setting goals and preparing ourselves for the journey of completing a new project this year.

I am Co-President of IRN and so will be very involved with that group this year. Our theme for the year is Finish the Book. We had a presentation that helped us identify the different things that may be holding us back. Way too many to list here but I thought it was interesting that even the published authors struggled with many of the things that are keeping the rest of us back.

Each month we will focus on a different aspect of getting our book done. We also have a new reward system set up. We have a list of goals to choose from. We choose only the ones we want to focus on. They have to be a little stretch and they involve several categories from reading to attending classes, conferences, workshops, writing so many minutes a day or pages per day, critiquing, and many others. If we accomplish 4 of the 12 listed goals, we will get a $10 Amazon card, 6, $25, and 10 $50. It looks to be an interesting year.

My Sisters in Crime group started out the year with Creating a Dream Vision. Our new President Jordyn Meryl brought all the supplies and members brought plenty of enthusiasm and magazines. Jordyn also brought each of us a VIsion journal. We spent the afternoon cutting out inspirational images to paste onto our Dream board. It could be just to help you with your life dreams or for your manuscript. I chose to start making it for my current wip. Will maybe post a photo of it when I get done.

All in all it was very inspirational. Today I have managed to make my list of characters and start my book bible. That is the binder I use for my project. I will continue to do character sketches this week and aim to have them done by next Friday. I printed off photos of my characters for both my vision board and my book bible. Plan to hang my vision board next to my desk. By end of month, I plan to have my outline complete so that I can start writing with my online campers, a closed writers group at Perley Station Colony Writers in February. I plan to set a weekly writing goal and get the first draft done as quickly as possible. I don’t plan to have it totally done by the end of February though. Iwill give myself at least a couple months for the first draft.

Have you started any new projects for 2015? Do you have any pre-writing rituals that you use before you start writing?

Are you struggling along on your own and would like some help? If you are in the Central Iowa area, IRN and SINC are always looking for new members. IRN meets the third Saturday of each month at the Urbandale Library this year from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM. We have monthly programs, critique, and we are there to help and support. SINC meets the same day each month at Smokey Row Coffee Shop from 3:00 to 5:00. You can visit but if you are interested in becoming a member, you will need to join the National Organizations as well as the local chapter. Writing can be lonely, we can help.

Until next time,

Keep writing!

Virginia

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 18, 2015 in Novel Writing, Writing a Novel

 

Tags: , ,

What’s Up Wednesday

This has been a fun, busy week. Had two meetings Saturday. Iowa Romance Novelists met in the morning and Sisters in Crime in the afternoon. Katy Madison from the Kansas City chapter of RWA presented a program in the morning – Writing Blind – Revising Brilliant. She is a pantzer who whips through her first draft as soon as possible and then spends her time revising. She broke it down in the steps that she uses to revise. This was a great workshop with six pages of detailed information.  Very thorough. She must be doing something right, she is a 2012 Daphne Award winner.

Sara Humphries gave a talk at the Sisters in Crime meeting about ‘Fifty Shades of Red: A Study of Reader Expectations and the Contemporary Mystery. This lady likes details. She found “Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories by S.S. Van Dine from 1928 and we discussed whether each rule was relevant for contemporary mysteries.

We meet the third Saturday of the month and it feels like a monthly mini-conference. I always leave feeling motivated.

I have been writing a scene a day on my current story and feel like it is finally starting to come together. I understand that this will take me a while to complete and will keep pushing forward.

Lots of writing events coming up. The Montezuma Writer’s Conference is mid September and I am going to a Debra Dixon Workshop for ‘Goal, Motivation,and Conflict’ the end of September so I am trying to get as much writing done before those events.

If you live in the area and want any information on either the group meetings or workshops, feel free to comment. I would be happy to share that information with you.

Have a great week writing.

Virginia

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 22, 2012 in Writing a Novel

 

Tags: , , , , ,

In The Bleak Midwinter – Book Review

 

This is the first Julia Spencer-Fleming novel I’ve ever read and I thought it was an enjoyable read. Her protagonist is a female priest of a small Episcopal church in an upstate New York town called Millers Kill. Isn’t that a great setting for a murder mystery? Come to find out kill means the river running through the area. Being in the Midwest, I have never heard that term. We call our waterways rivers or creeks, and occasionally  maybe a crick but nothing as interesting as a kill.

The story starts out with the protagonist, Clare Ferguson finding a baby on the steps of her church in December. Who and why would someone leave a baby there like that? The story introduces you to some of the residents of Millers Kill, some good and some not so good. Kept me guessing till close to the end. Clues were spread out so that you didn’t feel cheated when everything was revealed.

I especially liked the little romantic twist. The hero is a police officer Russ Van Alstyne who doesn’t go to church and lets Clare know from the beginning that he questions his faith. The author explains a enough about the denomination so that we know that even though Clare is a priest, she is able to marry.  There are sparks of interest between Clare and Russ but the twist is that Russ is married, making it a forbidden romance, not because she is a priest. I plan to read more of this series. Clare is a strong female lead and Russ is a good Beta male lead that feels natural when the two work together.

The author described the setting so well, I could feel the cold and snow they had to trudge through and it made me that more grateful for the mild winter we’ve had so far here in Iowa. Any mystery lover should enjoy this series. Thanks to Library Thing again, I discovered a new author. Well, at least new to me.

On another note, I have been working on my own novel, slowly progressing. Developing my characters, setting, and plot a little more with each writing session. I have finally concluded that I will never be able to sit down and outline a story from start to finish and complete it. Once I have outlined the story, it feels like I have already told it and lose my enthusiasm. I have decided that I have to plot out just enough to feel like I have some structure and a little direction, then just write.  So for now, I have plot points determined and each time I sit down to write, it gives me a direction but I have to discover how I will get there. I may write myself into a corner and have to back track. That’s okay. For now, I’m enjoying the journey.

Currently reading Mary Higgins Clark‘s “I Heard That Song Before.” My Sisters In Crime chapter decided we needed to read a romantic suspense for February.

Tell me a little about your writing process. Do you outline everything first and then write or do you let the story unfold as you go?  Also what are you reading now?

Next week, I have a guest blogger, Lois Greiman.    

Until next time,

Virginia

 
 

Tags: , , , , ,

Power of Positive Energy

Today my local chapter of Romance Writers of America met to retreat. One of the members who had to drive the furthest, also brought breakfast. A great egg, sausage, and hash brown breakfast, homemade cinnamon rolls and orange juice. Most of us stopped at the local Caribou Coffee for our shot of caffeine and then we focused on writing until 12:30. After lunch we went straight into a workshop on using cliches and ended with each one of us sharing the goal, motivation, conflict and inciting incident for the story we are currently working on.

Do you determine your characters’ goal, motivation, and conflict when you plot your story. Do you plot, or do you sit down and write letting the story tell you where it wants to go?

Love spending time with my writer peeps and look forward to the next time. Actually it won’t be that long. Our monthly meeting is next Saturday. If anyone lives in the central Iowa area and is looking for a writer’s group. My RWA chapter and my Sisters in Crime chapter meets the third Saturday of every month. Romance in the morning and mystery in the afternoon. Let me know if you’d like more information and check out our website – http://www.iowaromancenovelists.org/. For Sisters in Crime Iowa you can find us on facebook.

What have I been reading?  I’m half way through ‘Maybe this Time‘, by Jennifer Cruisie. If you like ghost stories, you need to read this one. It has plenty of humor which should be no surprise but it does have a few spooky moments and a great story line. I did guess that her inspiration was ‘Turning of the Screw’. Her blog says she took the story and told it the way she thought it should have been told. Very entertaining.

I recently finished reading ‘The Girl Who Stopped Swimming‘, another story that surprisingly had a few ghosts too. This was an audio book I listened too during my commute to and from work. The author narrated it and she did a superb job. Loved the southern accents and her ability to read in very distinguishable voices. Loved the relationship between the sisters and the authors ability to weave all the subplots together with the main story into a tapestry of emotion, action, and conflict as beautiful as if it were the finest literary silk. Will watch for more from Joshilyn Jackson in the future.

Happy reading and writing,

Virginia

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: