Tuesday Teaser/Opening ~ The Help

I figured I was way overdue to read The Help by Kathryn Stockett, so I got a copy from the library and dug in. It's easy to see why it was the book everyone was talking about a few years ago.

The Blurb:
Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who's always taken orders quietly, but lately she's unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She's full of ambition, but without a husband, she's considered a failure. Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town...

The First Paragraph:
Mae Mobley was born on an early Sunday morning in August, 1960. A church baby we like to call it. Taking care a white babies, that's what I do, along with all the cooking and  the cleaning. I done raised seventeen kids in my lifetime. I know how to get them babies to sleep, stop crying, and go in the toilet bowl before they mamas even get out a bed in the morning.

The Teaser:
When I started typing out her bathroom initiative for the newsletter, typing words like disease and protect yourself and you're welcome!, it was like something cracked open inside of me, not unlike a watermelon, cool and soothing and sweet. I always thought insanity would be a dark, bitter feeling, but it is drenching and delicious if you really roll around in it.


Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following: Grab your current readOpen to a random pageShare two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! To see what others are sharing on the Teaser Tuesdays, check the comments at:: http://shouldbereading.wordpress.com/ 


Share the first paragraph (or a few) from a book you are reading. Here's the link: Bibliophile By The Sea

Nuggets for September

Show don't tell can be hard when you don't know the minutia of how things are done. It's so easy to get it wrong even when you try to play it safe. Lee Lofland's post is of course not comprehensive, but if you have a cop collecting evidence, there's some nice detail here.
http://www.leelofland.com/wordpress/12-tips-to-help-your-detective-become-a-real-crime-solving-pro/

Got a story that includes the FBI? The FBI is willing to talk to you.
http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2008/october/a-guide-for-writers-authors-and-producers-1

Every writer I know struggles with the best way to start their novel, so this is an excellent reminder of what to watch out for.
http://storyfix.com/better-way-open-novel

Lee Lofland often posts about those little details of police procedures. Here are some nice ones that might inspire an idea or two and maybe add some authenticity to a story.
http://www.leelofland.com/wordpress/toilet-training-a-top-ten-list-for-your-hero/

Emma Darwin's blog The Itch of Writing is almost a master-level course in writing. It comes right to my inbox whenever there's a new post. This one talks about a topic that makes a lot of authors uncomfortable: writing sex
http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2014/08/ten-top-tips-ahem-for-writing-sex-scenes.html 

Thursday Writing Quote ~ George R R Martin

I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect. ~ George R R Martin

Tuesday Teaser/Opening ~ Boy's Life

A friend turned me onto Boy's Life by Robert R. McCammon, and I'm so glad she did. Part coming-of-age, part mystery, part nostalgia (set in 1964), part magical realism, I don't know any book to compare it to. There are so many oddities in Cory's hometown--the rich man's son who walks naked around town; the giant crocodile that lives in the river; Cory's bike, Rocket, that seems to have a golden eye in its headlight and a mind of its own; the ghost that drives a stretch of highway in his black hot rod with flames painted on the side named Midnight Mona--but McCammon makes them seem almost normal. Hardly worth mentioning.

The Blurb:
In Zephyr, Alabama, a bizarre murder is only the beginning.

Small town boys see weird sights, and Zephyr has provided Cory Jay Mackenson with his fair share of oddities. He knows the bootleggers who lurk in the dark places outside of town. On moonless nights, he’s heard spirits congregate in the churchyard to reminisce about the good old days. He’s seen rain that flooded Main Street and left it crawling with snakes. Cory knows magic, and relishes it as only a young boy can.

One frosty winter morning, he and his father watch a car jump the curb and sail into the fathomless town lake. His father dives into the icy water to rescue the driver, and finds a naked corpse handcuffed to the wheel. This chilling sight is only the start of the strangest period of Cory’s life, when the magic of his town will transform him into a man.
 
The first paragraph (chapter 1):
   "Cory? Wake up, son. It's time."
   I let him pull me up from the dark cavern of sleep, and I opened my eyes and looked up at him. He was already dressed, in his dark brown uniform with his name--Tom--written in white letters across his breast pocket. I smelled bacon and eggs, and the radio was playing softly in the kitchen. A pan rattled and glasses clinked; Mom was at work in her element as surely as a trout rides a current. "It's time," my father said, and he switched on the lamp beside my bed and left me squinting with the last images of a dream fading in my brain.

The Teaser: 
He twisted the wheel back and forth because he could see the passing apparition even if Lainie was blind to it. Then Midnight Mona had gone through the front fender, it taillights the shape of red diamonds and its exhaust pipes spouting in Donny's face, and the Chevy started spinning around and around like a Tiltawhirl, the brakes and tires shrieking like drunken banshees at an all-night haunt.


Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following: Grab your current readOpen to a random pageShare two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! To see what others are sharing on the Teaser Tuesdays, check the comments at: http://shouldbereading.wordpress.com/ 




Share the first paragraph (or a few) from a book you are reading. Here's the link: Bibliophile By The Sea

The Soundtrack - Three Dog Night

In Knight of Hearts, Mac is a fan of old-time rock and roll. (Odd, how my characters like the music I like.) One of the groups that shows up on the CD player in his truck is Three Dog Night. This video is actually pretty cheesy but it's the best I could find for their classic, Eli's Coming.


Thursday Writing Quotes ~ Christoph Lichtenberg

There is no mistaking a good book when one meets it. It is like falling in love. ― Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

Tuesday Teaser/Opening ~ Unveiled



Last week, I did a teaser from Courtney Milan's The Governess Affair. That started something, so this week, I'm rereading Unveiled. I don't read a lot of historical romance, but Courtney Milan is on my auto-buy list, and this is my favorite of her books.


Blurb:
Of all Ash Turner's accomplishments, stealing a dukedom from his old enemy is by far the most brazen. Now that he's been recognized as the heir, nothing remains but to head to Parford Manor and survey the estate that will be his. He expects opposition.

He gets Lady Margaret.

Margaret lost everything when Ash claimed the dukedom: her dowry, her legitimacy, and her place in society. Now Ash wants to take her family home, too. She disguises herself as a nurse, determined to learn his weaknesses. But the closer she comes to Ash, the greater the pull of his reckless charm. If she wants to reclaim what she has lost, her only choice is to betray the man she is beginning to love...


The First Paragraph:
Somerset, August 1837
  So this was how it felt to be a conquering hero.
  Ash Turner--once plain Mr. Turner; now, so long as fate stayed Parliament's hand, the future Duke of Parford--sat back on his horse as he reached the crest of the hill.

Teaser:
It was not lust itself he felt, but the premonition of desire, as if the wind that whipped around his cravat were whispering in his ears. Her. Choose her.

Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following: Grab your current readOpen to a random pageShare two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! To see what others are sharing on the Teaser Tuesdays, check the comments at: http://shouldbereading.wordpress.com/ 

Share the first paragraph (or a few) from a book you are reading. Here's the link: Bibliophile By The Sea

Fire Up Your Fiction - A Review

I wish Fire up Your Fiction: An Editor's Guide to Writing Compelling Stories by Jodie Renner had been available when I was a novice writer. It is jam packed with the most wonderful advice - advice I give novice writers in my critique group all the time.

Jodie Renner is a free-lance editor (specializing in suspense) who I've been aware of for some time. I respect her, so when I saw she'd written a book about writing, I jumped on it. Sadly, for me, I'm past the point where this has anything new to offer me. Actually, I suppose that's not a bad thing. It means my skills have grown to a place where I don't have to worry about embarrassing myself. I'm just so incredibly bummed this book wasn't available when I was stumbling around, trying to figure out how to write well.

There's so much good advice in this book, it's hard for me to pick out what to share, so I'm just going to pick some sample from a few of the later chapters.

Her chapter on Pacing for Power

...sometimes, at a critical, tense, or emotional moment of a stroy, you actually want to expand time, to slow things down to give the reader a chance to realize the significance of the problem and appreciate the challenges the character is facing to overcome obstacles.

At times of life or death, show every little critical detail.

(I've known this for a while, but Hugh Howey used this technique in his book, Wool, reinforcing this lesson for me in such a big way that I blogged about it here.)

Then she gives specific tips and examples about how expanding the moment is done.

For example, she writes:

Write longer, more involved sentences. This forces the reader to pay more attention and concentrate on every word.

Or

Show your characters' increased apprehension and other heightened emotional reactions to what's going on around them.

Or

Pause for significance. Isolate critical info on its own line so the reader doesn't miss it.

Those are just a few of the tips.

In her chapter Dialog That's Real and Riveting, she identifies when you can get away with cliches.

And on the great "use only said" debate, she agrees with those who say that said is the way to go, but she has some exceptions that include shouted, whispered, mumbled, yelled, murmured, and screamed. (Notice there's not a single adverb in the bunch.)

There's a lot more to this chapter as well, like how to show tension with dialog. There's also two other chapters that deal with other aspects of dialog.

Putting direct thoughts in italics can be very effective for expressing a sudden strong emotional reaction. Showing these visceral reactions of your characters helps us get inside their heads and hearts more deeply and bond with them more. Showing a thought-reaction in italics works best when used sparingly, for a significant or urgent thought or reaction.

Later, she goes on to say:

Don't have your characters think in complete sentences. Expressing thought in grammatically correct, complex sentences is just not realistic. Many of our thoughts are emotional reactions, flashes or images, expressed through a few well-chosen words.

Another thing I like about this book is she disabuses some of the groundless "rules" new writers like to latch onto. For instance:

Rewrite ing verbs whenever you can and you'll strengthen your writing and increase its power. But use -ing verbs when needed for background or ongoing action. (emphasis hers) You need -ing verbs for continuous action, one that's already taking place when something else happens. For example, "When we pulled up to the house, a man was washing a car in the driveway." Or "Christy was heading out the door when the phone rang."

So much good stuff for a novice. And one of the best things about it is that for every "rule" that a novice is likely to latch onto, she explains the why behind it. That's a crucial point in my opinion because they say you have to know the rules before you can break them, but I think that's wrong. I think you have to understand why the rule exists, so you know when it's appropriate to break them. And that's what this book will give novice writers that they so seldom find elsewhere.


And for anyone who's interested, Snow White & the Eighth Dwarf is free on Amazon this weekend. Get your copy today.

Thursday Writing Quote ~ W. H. Auden

In relation to a writer, most readers believe in the Double Standard: they may be unfaithful to him as often as they like, but he must never, never be unfaithful to them. ~ W. H. Auden




Tuesday Teaser/First Paragraph - The Governess Affair

Today's teaser is from  The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan, who is my go-to for historical romance. This is the prequel to her Brother's Sinister series. And yes, I'm hedging a bit, stepping a little beyond the two sentence allowance, but only because I love this bit, and no, this isn't a "random" selection, but when I read it, I had to share it.

The Blurb:
Hugo Marshall earned the nickname "the Wolf of Clermont" for his ruthless ambition--a characteristic that has served him well, elevating the coal miner's son to the right hand man of a duke. When he's ordered to get rid of a pestering governess by fair means or foul, it's just another day at work.

But after everything Miss Serena Barton has been through at the hands of his employer, she is determined to make him pay. She won't let anyone stop her--not even the man that all of London fears. They might call Hugo Marshall the Wolf of Clermont, but even wolves can be brought to heel...


The First Paragraph:
London, October 1835
   The door to the upstairs library slammed viciously, rattling the frame. Heavy steps marched across the room, bearing down on Hugo's desk. Fists slammed against the wood surface.
   "Damn it, Marshall. I need you to fix this."
   Despite that dramatic production, Hugo Marshall did not look up from the books. Instead he waited silently, listening to boots marking a path upon the carpet. He wasn't a servant; he refused to be treated as one.

The Teaser:
  Before she could lose her nerve, Serena made a fist and delivered an extremely rude gesture. He stood at the window, stock-still, before turning away.
  She received his note not two minutes later. She opened it, her heart pounding. But there were only two words on the paper.
  Marry me.


Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following: Grab your current readOpen to a random pageShare two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! To see what others are sharing on the Teaser Tuesdays, check the comments at: http://shouldbereading.wordpress.com/ 

Share the first paragraph (or a few) from the book you are reading. Here's the link:  Bibliophile By The Sea


You can Fool the Fans but Not the Players

A while back, I read a book that included a house fire. I've never been inside a burning house (knock on wood), but I've seen an amazing safety film that made an indelible impression and I know it looks nothing like a Hollywood fire.

First, the smoke is thick and black and visibility is next to non-existent. The video below gives an idea of how visibility decreases. I'm guessing they used something that generated white smoke, but house fires tend to generate black smoke which makes it much worse.



Second, the author describes it as a miracle that the couple who lived in the house hadn't succumbed to the smoke. A miracle would be exactly it in the most literal sense of the word. Barring the smoke, in roughly 4 minute in a house fire, the temperature can reach nearly 600 degrees. One breath will sear your lungs. There won't be a second breath. (This is a big reason firefighters have masks and oxygen tanks.) So in a house where the floors are already collapsing, these people will not be begging the firefighter to save them as the author of the book I read had them doing. They would already be dead.

Will I ever read another book by this author? Not likely. The author lives too far inside fantasyland for me and they couldn't be bothered to do any research. Will others read them? Of course. Because many people read uncritically and they don't know any more about fires than the author did. But anyone who does know better will roll their eyes over that. And I do wonder how many emails the author got about how unrealistic the scene was.

So doing research is important because someone out there will always know the reality of whatever you're describing. But it's more than big things like house fires.

For instance, I don't know what it is about the game of pool, but I regularly see scenes where the hero and/or heroine play pool. I'll admit, on this subject, I'm that well informed reader authors fear. I've played the game. Both eight- and nine-ball. Not only that, but I used to run with players. You know. Players. Those people who actually bet money on the game. Some even made their living at it. I know the hustle. I know how they spot a weaker player. I know the jargon.  Like what a race to five is, or double-foul, ball-in-hand, in the jaws, or what hard eight means. I know what lagging for the break is, what they mean when they call someone a bar champ or when they call a shot "slop," and how to spot someone in nine ball. I know there's a difference between "bank the eight" and "bank to the eight," and how to use the difference against your opponent. I even know what a rainbow spot is and what is meant by the money ball.

So when I see authors (and editors) disrespecting the game, I'm not amused. Especially when it's something easy to look up like what color the two ball is or which balls are solids and which are stripes. (Yes, I've seen an author get that very basic information wrong.)

Probably the most accurately written pool scene I've ever read was in Jennifer Crusie's Faking It. Jennifer admits she found someone who knew the game to help her. Kudos on that. Except, of course, that anyone who feels pool is their religion, as the heroine's brother did, would default to nine-ball because that's the money game. It's also a game of greater skill.

Since I try to keep this at least PG rated, we won't go into what appears to be the most common fallacy of the romance genre: where the hymen is located, but I will say, it's not where most romance authors seem to think it is, and shame on them for not doing their research.

Don't be that author who gets it wrong. Don't base what you write on the Hollywood version. Don't think having an editor is any guarantee of anything. Do your research. Find an expert. Because you may be able fake it and fool the fans, but you will never, ever be able to fool the players.

What errors have you seen in books that drove you crazy?

Thursday Writing Quote ~ Barbara Kingsolver

This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don't consider it rejected. Consider that you've addressed it "to the editor who can appreciate my work" and it has simply come back stamped "not at this address." Just keep looking for the right address. ~ Barbara Kingsolver

Tuesday Teaser/First Paragraph - The Eighty Dollar Champion

This week's teaser comes from  The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts.


The Blurb:
Harry de Leyer first saw the horse he would name Snowman on a truck bound for the slaughterhouse. The recent Dutch immigrant recognized the spark in the eye of the beaten-up nag and bought him for eighty dollars. On Harry’s modest farm on Long Island, he ultimately taught Snowman how to fly. Here is the dramatic and inspiring rise to stardom of an unlikely duo. One show at a time, against extraordinary odds and some of the most expensive thoroughbreds alive, the pair climbed to the very top of the sport of show jumping. Their story captured the heart of Cold War–era America—a story of unstoppable hope, inconceivable dreams, and the chance to have it all. They were the longest of all longshots—and their win was the stuff of legend.

The First paragraph:
New Holland, Pennsylvania, 1956
The largest horse auction east of the Missisippi was held every Monday deep in Pennsylvania Amish Country. Anyone with the time to drive out to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and a good eye for a horse could find a decent mount at a reasonable price, especially if he arrived early. 

The Teaser:
It was true that the situation was a little funny. Here was a horse that couldn't jump a pole lying on the ground, and now he had gotten himself confused with Lassie Come-Home.


Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following: Grab your current readOpen to a random pageShare two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! To see what others are sharing on the Teaser Tuesdays, check the comments at: http://shouldbereading.wordpress.com/ 

Share the first paragraph (or a few from the book you are reading. Here's the link: Bibliophile By The Sea