Monday, June 16, 2014

Off the Bookshelf: ROMANCE-OLOGY 101 by Julie Lessman

Julie Lessman is a "name" in Inspirational romance, so when the "kissing queen" writes a book on writing romance, you better listen, folks!

The chapters are presented as if she were the teacher -- a somewhat hyper, ruler-wielding, no-gum-in-my-classroom teacher -- in front of her class. Her students happen to be the people she mentions in her acknowledgments page, fellow writers and friends. I'm sure there are a number of inside jokes in some of her comments, and it's funny when she scolds her "students" and at other times tells them not to tell the Principal what she's teaching them.

Liberally sprinkled with examples from her published books, Lessman demonstrates she certainly knows what she's talking about, how to handle relationships and voice and POV and build tension. This is a fun, fast read that I will include in my list of books to re-read on a regular basis, just to brush up on the things I know, with a few chuckles thrown in. I have a few of her books in my to-be-read stack/bookshelf. After reading this book, I'm eager to get through the pile (at last count, 80 on my Kindle, 100-some in the bookshelf, another 100-some on my Nook, and dozens on dozens in iBooks ... *sigh* the pressure of riches!) and get to her stories in particular!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Off the Bookshelf: THE STORY TEMPLATE by Amy Deardon

The subtitle of the book says a lot: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story.

By analyzing the structure of movies and books, Deardon creates the template for a solid book that works. She takes readers step by step through the entire process of creating characters, locations, situations, relationships, plot points ... essentially, assembling the "pieces parts" for a solid foundation and then solid walls and the finishing touches for your book. Each step of the process, she provides exercises to go through. By the end of the book, you're ready to write.

I have to confess, reading through the exercises made me realize I'm a lot more of a "pantser" as a writer than I thought! I discover a lot about my characters, their situations, their problems and goals and secret pains during the process of writing -- first draft, second draft, third draft. But this book is still useful for pantsers, even if the mere thought of doing all the prep work gives them hives -- because the clear, step-by-step explanations and discussions will be helpful in figuring out why their characters aren't cooperating, why the road the story is on just turned into a dead end, and why the ending isn't quite satisfying.

Note: I had the privilege of meeting Deardon at this year's Realm Makers conference, and she said to pass on that it is NOT necessary or required to stick strictly to the book. Use what works for YOU, and feel free to ignore the rest (or save it for future exercises and experiments).

One of these days, when my schedule is a little clearer and I don't have a rough drafted book to revise, I might just take a story idea and try to go through each exercise to put my book together. I might just find I like the process. On the other hand, I might need an industrial strength dose of Benadryl for my hives ... But either way, the learning process will be beneficial and may just give me some new skills or "muscles" as a writer.

READ it, even if you're the ultimate pantser. If you're a plotter, you're going to love it.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Off the Bookshelf: BORN AT MIDNIGHT by C.C. Hunter

YA paranormal series. A new take on the whole vampires/werewolves/other "weird" people living among us theme.

I got this book at a local writing conference I went to, courtesy of the author's publisher. C.C. Hunter was the featured speaker/teacher at the one-day conference -- under her romance writing name of Christie Craig.

She caught my attention, talking about her YA series, how she decided to write it, and her sometimes snarky, sometimes offbeat, self-deprecating sense of humor.

The story? Kylie, a high school girl, feels her life is in the toilet. Her boyfriend dumped her, she's been having horrific nightmares that wake her screaming, she's seeing things (a dead soldier), her parents are divorcing, she went to a party and got picked up by the police and she didn't DO anything ... and now her therapist has recommended her mother send her away to a camp for troubled teens for the summer. And just from the people she meets on the bus going to the camp, this is a weird place.

Of course, the book is all about how Kylie learns why the weird things are happening and just how weird she is among the weird people. It's a fun book, at the same time it deals with some painful issues, and establishes the groundwork for the whole supernatural community. I'm so glad the book is a two-book set, so I can keep reading!