for the Bookworms

The perks of a small book.

Most publishers won’t risk as short a story as this.
 
I will. In fact, I think it’s quite appropriate that my debut book is so small. Here’s why:
 
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I grew up with a love for reading. I devoured books as a kid from a young age, until I didn’t.
 
Ya see, I hit that age where I was supposed to move from short stories to chapter books. Ya know, those bulky things that take forever to get to the point and describe too much because there aren’t pictures to do the describing for it. My kid brain couldn’t handle it. While other avid readers were finding big books to love, I had this hurdle I couldn’t seem to get across as I entered my teenage years.
 
Perhaps my love of reading, my future of writing, perhaps it would have died there. If it weren’t for my mom who didn’t give up, and if it weren’t for TCDC. The Three Cousins Detectives Club series (that’s an affiliate link – I may receive $ from purchases made with that link). Teeny tiny chapter books. 40 pages max. A mystery that kept my kid brain hooked and made the concept of longer stories manageable. My mom bought me every single book in the series (that’s 40 books) once she saw I’d devour them.
 
And that was the gateway to larger books. I pretty quickly jumped from those teeny things to Ted Dekker books like Blink (also an affiliate link – I may receive $ from purchases made with that link), well above my age range. Fast forward to getting an English Lit degree and becoming a writer. And it started with TCDC.
 
Small books get a bad rap, but small books kept my love for reading intact.
 
And small books aren’t just for kids learning to read big books.
 
  • They’re for grownups who want to dig into a good story but don’t have the time to devote to a novel.
  • They’re for stolen moments in frenzied lives.
  • They’re for the non-bookworms, not quite ready to commit to those huge tomes on the bookshelves, yet still wanting a good story in a digestible format.
  • They’re for those who would be readers if reading was just a little more accessible.
 
One of my greatest surprises and delights in publishing I Know You Like a Murder is the number of non-readers who see it and say – “Oh, that I could read!”
 
That thing I found as a kid – that short mystery in quick chapters that pulls me in for a brief adventure – I now get to offer that to others. I think that makes kid me super proud.

 

for the Bookworms, Showcasing other Creatives

Book Review: 49th Mystic & Rise of the Mystics

(Sidenote thought that has no bearing on the review whatsoever: I have so many questions about how the whole “49th” mystic number works. So many questions. And while we’re at it, I have absolutely no idea why the second book was called “Rise of the Mystics”, besides the fact that it’s a fantabulous intriguing title.)

But onto the reviews. I am thrilled to be part of the Rise of the Mystics launch team, but had to jump back and read/review the first book of the series too.

The 49th Mystic

(The above is an affiliate link.
I may receive money for purchases made through that link.)

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The 49th Mystic invites us into the world of the Circle once again. The nostalgia is strong with this one. But it’s not just for Circle fans. It’s a new story, a new character to love, beckoning a new generation of Dekkies I suppose. The story feels familiar and new, all at once. A blind girl who falls asleep and dreams of another world. And the fate of both worlds rests in her hands. See? Familiar, and new. Dekker pulls off a satisfying ending with resolution while also including a cliffhanger that leads into the sequel. Go figure. The good news is, you don’t have to wait. The sequel, Rise of the Mystics, is at your fingertips so you can scoop them both up at the same time.

 

Rise of the Mystics

(The above is an affiliate link.
I may receive money for purchases made through that link.)

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Rise of the Mystics starts more or less where we left The 49th Mystic. Oh, except the story is turned on its head. I won’t spoil it, but it starts in a fresh way, not just same old same old. The pace of this book moves a little slower than the first, but it’s still a satisfying read. More than that, Dekker is one of the few (only?) writers who can weave a sermon into story without being preachy. A parable. A riveting story that makes you think, question your beliefs. And Rise of the Mystics builds to a great ending, a wonderful conclusion to the Circle world (although it’s not the end of Circle stories) that every Circle reader needs in their life. Snag this book for that alone, to end the journey with the promise fulfilled!

 

And a caveat to the whole Circle series I don’t know how to introduce…

One caveat I’ll give, something that disturbed me this time around about the Circle world that I wish I’d noticed years before: The representation of the horde and the albino seems racially insensitive, with traditionally black descriptors (for example, dreadlocks) assigned to the stinky diseased horde and typically white descriptors (like the name “albinos”) for those who have been cleansed. The story includes a brief phrase that clarifies the albinos are called that for the smoothness of their skin, not the color, but that felt a little forced when albino has always been about color not smoothness. I wrestled with this a long time, because I like to give honest positive reviews and I appreciate Dekker’s work. I’m mentioning it because it seems insensitive to me, and I’m surprised that no one else has raised this concern (although TV tropes lists the series under “Fantastic Racism”).

 

for the Bookworms

Preorders now available – break open the crime scene

Don’t be late to the murder mystery party!
I Know You Like a Murder launches October 23, and if you want it on your ereader or in your mailbox for the big day, you can now preorder right here. When you preorder a paperback from my site, it’ll come with a small personal touch from me – a little bow of crime scene tape.
Grab a chai, cozy up, and break open the crime scene to solve this case.
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for the Bookworms

Book Review: In a Dark Dark Wood

Leave it to me to bring this book on my vacation in a cottage in the middle of nowhere… (is there any other way???)
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And leave it to me to pinpoint the psychopath right away. So I knew the murderer pretty quick, but I was still entranced by the story, wondering how it all went down and wanting to shake the other characters into seeing what’s happening right in front of their eyes.
If you want a book that keeps you guessing as to who kills and who gets killed, a book with a psychopath’s calculated plan, with clues piling up like a map for the reader, with a theater backdrop… this is that book. Oh, and also, my book is that too! This reminded me of I Know You Like a Murder in a number of ways. It’s like my book, but in grip lit or psychological suspense genre. It had characters like Cami’s BFF, Shy Boy (or in this case girl), Makeup Artist, and of course Cami herself. Read both stories and tell me if you see the resemblance.
If you need a gripping read while you wait for my book release, this can take a day or two of your time. But no longer than that, because you won’t be able to set it down for work, sleep, or social obligations. So grab a chai and settle in. It’s gonna be a long night.
I Know You Like a Murder
for the Bookworms

Want to be murdered & live to tell the tale? (a bookish giveaway & cover reveal)

Here’s your chance!

You can enter for the chance to have a character named after you in my book “I Know You Like a Murder”. Why, it might even be the murder victim!

Enter to be Murdered*

*But don’t worry, remember, you live to tell the tale 🙂 

Picture it: your name in lights, or in murder. Maybe both 😉

Speaking of picturing it: Here’s the cover! designed by AMBER&GRAPHICS. Isn’t it spectacular!

I Know You Like a Murder

The book is really coming together and it’s just missing one thing: YOU! So jump on board for a diabolical conniving ride of a book.

for the Bookworms, for the Creatives, for the Writers, Showcasing other Creatives

Why I wanna be like Ksenia Anske when I writerly grow up

Although, let’s be real: Ksenia and I don’t plan on actually growing up in our writerly lives. It’s more like staying daydreaming children forever, but then pretending to be grown-up long enough to do the business stuff.

I don’t remember how I discovered Ksenia. But I do remember what stuck in my mind about her:

  • She said, “Reader, you are my publisher. Share my books.”
  • She gave away her books for free, as in all of her older drafts of her story were publicly available to read (maybe still are) and you can even still download her stories for free.

Why did that grab my attention? She saw the value of her readers. That readers are what make or break a story. That’s what I want my philosophy to stay forever.

And she has a mindset of abundance, not scarcity. Those are artistic buzzwords right now, but they ring true. Artists can tend to want to hoard their ideas, their best work for themselves, as if there’s a finite capacity. But we need a mindset of abundance, that we can throw it all out there and celebrate others successes too, because creativity is infinite.

Why else do I want to be like Ksenia Anske “when I grow up”?

  • Curly haired people goals!
  • Quirky personality
  • You are getting to know the person through every online engagement.
  • She is authentic – what she’s learning, what she’s done wrong, it’s all out there. You’re following the journey, the person, not just book sales promos.
  • She’s always learning and sharing what she learns. I’m sure paying attention.
  • She’s not afraid to work out of the box, experiment.
  • It all comes back to her READERS! They support her because she supports them. She listens to their feedback and engages with them.
  • Need proof? Anyone who read her last email newsletter, she requested their address and she sent them a card with a personalized short story.
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the story Ksenia sent me
  • Note the above bullet point also goes back to the concept of abundance rather than scarcity. She didn’t freak that she wouldn’t have enough stories in her for each person or that she wouldn’t be able to send cards to her readers because of the expense. She just said she’d do it, then she did it.
  • okay, I’m losing track of what these bullet points are for and when to use bullet points and when to not….
  • Switch gears!

I’ve read two books of hers:

  1. Rosehead. Magical realism at its finest. If you want a quirky read about a girl and her talking dog and a carnivorous garden, this is it! Everyone’s been looking for a book about a carnivorous garden, right? 🙂

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  2. Blue Sparrow. A collection of tweets on writing, reading, and the creative life. Motivational, inspirational, even instructional (mostly “KEEP WRITING!”). My favorite detail would be that it’s 140 pages long, with 140 tweets. Like an inside joke for us Twitter users 🙂 And to whet your appetite, check out a couple of the tweets:

 

So now you know what I’m working towards. Quirky writing. Lovable hair. Personable interaction. Perspective of abundance. And reader centered. Check out Ksenia’s work for yourself….you won’t regret it!

for the Bookworms, for the Writers

DNA of a writer: how my reading affects my writing

Last week I shared my top 10 books and their commonalities. Now you get to see the top 3 elements that are in more than half of my favorite books.

*Props to Maggie Schoepke guessing there’s a supernatural element in my fav books.
I don’t specify it that way here, but that’s definitely related to these.*

Are you ready? 🙂

The halfway point: Huge cast of characters forced together towards a common goal

  • 6 instances in 5 books

A slew of characters stories intersecting towards one common goal. Often by force, involuntarily, or unwittingly. Often that means multiple protagonists, multiple storylines (see above), etc. If you like stories that span many different characters and their own stories being intertwined, half of my reading list is for you 🙂

 

Very prevalent: Two different worlds

  • 8 instances in 6 books

This element ties in well with the above one, so it’s no surprise that it pops up again and again. Two different worlds doesn’t necessarily mean fantasy (although there is that in my list.) I have so many different genres in my list of favorites, but this theme came into play in different ways: fantastical world, parallel universe of the real world, psychological world versus real world, dual timelines, two perspectives of the same story, etc. If you want to see things from more than one lens, you might like some of my favorite books 🙂

 

The most common element {brace yourself…}: Blurred line between what is real & what is not

  • 11 instances in 7 books

If you choose to read one of the books from my list, you will statistically speaking likely see this element in play in some way 🙂

 

Though I have so many different genres represented in my favorites, there is a blurred line between real-world and not-real-world in many of these. Sometimes it’s a magical universe or an alternate reality. Sometimes the reader is unsure if it’s all in the character’s head: dream, imagination, or madness. Sometimes the story leaves the reader questioning if something magical is going on or if there’s a logical explanation that’s hidden. Sometimes there’s 2 different realities and no idea as to which one is real. Many of my favorite stories leave the reader unsure – sometimes until the end of the story, and sometimes the question is never even answered. If you want to question reality, my favorite books list might be for you 🙂

 

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This reminds me:

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Did any of the above sound familiar?

Three of my favorite TV shows share the above elements to some degree:

  • LOST
  • Heroes
  • Vampire Diaries

 

 So I think I’m onto something here 🙂 

 

Now that I have my list of all the things that I really love in books (and also apparently TV shows) and how that may affect my writing style…

What I tend to write – #MyWriteDNA if you will:

I write quirks, obsession, madness, misfits, strangers, and unbelonging. I write bigger than life stories….where small nuances change everything. I write community. I write to connect: characters to each other, disparaging ideas, and narrator to reader. I write awe and surprise and emotion and detachment. I write stories of questioning realities. I write lies and truth. I write the horror between the lines. I write unease and tension. I walk the line between reality and enchantment. Magical realism. Hope, crushed and fulfilled.

 

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for the Bookworms, for the Writers

DNA of a writer: My top 10 books

Ahh, the dreaded question: “What’s your favorite book?”

Rachel Giesel was kind enough to expand it to “What’s your top 5 favorite books?”

I’m taking part in a free online course to figure out my writerly DNA – analyzing who I am, what I read, and what I write to come up with who I am as a writer. #MyWriteDNA if you will. And because I have a website for such a time as this, I thought I’d share with you my favorite books and their themes that contribute to my writing style.

Top 5 favorite books:

  1. The Map of Time (sci-fi series by Felix J Palma)
  2. Arena (speculative fiction by Karen Hancock)
  3. Night Garden (magical realism by Lisa Van Allen)
  4. Then and Always (romantic suspense by Dani Atkins)
  5. Inkheart Trilogy (fantasy YA series by Cornelia Funke)

Because I had a top 10 and somewhat-arbitrarily decided on a top 5 from that list, I give you….

The runners-up:

  1. The 13th Tale (gothic suspense by Diane Setterfield)
  2. Sinner (spiritual thriller by Ted Dekker)
  3. Godmother: the Secret Cinderella Story (modern fairytale retelling by Carolyn Turgeon)
  4. The Shadow Children series (dystopian YA series by Margaret Peterson Haddix)
  5. The Book of Lost Things (fantasy quest by John Connolly)

 

After I picked my favorite books, I analyzed them. I wrote down any elements of the story that immediately popped to mind, be it themes, style, characterization, plot points, etc. These are elements so prevalent that I remembered them off the top of my head, so there may be even more commonalities I’ve forgotten 🙂

 (Note in regard to spoilers: To avoid blatant spoilers, this section will not call out specifically which books have which elements. Of course if you read this section, you will know that any of the above books have some of these elements, but you won’t know which ones. None of these elements are along the lines of “The main character dies at the end” or something hugely spoiler-y. If a main character dies at the end of one of these books, well, I won’t be the one to tell you, muahaha.)

 

The small stuff:

Okay, so this isn’t very small. That more than one of my favoritest of favorite books has these elements probably makes it noteworthy, but it’s still less noteable than what you’ll see in my next blogpost. Anyway, here’s a snapshot of some commonalities:

  • 1 book has an investigative reporter. This is just one book, but that’s a key part of my work-in-progress, so I thought I’d include it in this list 🙂
  • 2 books involve a quest
  • 2 books have the theme of the power of words or story
  • 2 books have a small political change that greatly alters everything
  • 2 books are allegorical, but not preachy
  • 3 books have a noteable narrator – unreliable and/or chats directly with the reader
  • 3 books have romance as a prevalent sideplot – not the main deal, but still a deal
  • 4 books break the 4th wall (haha, 4 & 4)
  • 5 books are of epic proportions, involving an entire world
  • 5 books have changing alliances and deal with the question of who to trust

 

So there’s a snapshot of what I like in my reading and my writing. My next blogpost shows the top 3 elements that were in over half of the books on my favorites list, and then I also include what that actually looks like in my writing.

Any guesses as to the top 3 common elements? First to guess correctly in the comments gets major kudos from me and a shout-out in next week’s post 🙂

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Faith, for the Bookworms, Showcasing other Creatives

5 Books for Christian Artists

Being an artist is difficult. Adding Christian to that title puts a whole other spin on things. Here’s 5 Christian books I recommend for artists.

 

To build your artist brand:51fn4UIx9kL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_
“Crafting Your Brand”

Matt Tommey

This book is perfect for anyone looking to make their art a business. Branding is especially big right now, even though it’s been around forever. Matt Tommey’s book introduces readers to the basics of branding, while also tackling some of the lies we believe about creativity clashing with business.

 

 

 

To study artists in Scripture & apply to your life:
“Unlocking the Heart of the Artist” 51GfacF2pPL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_
Matt Tommey

 

Every artist should read this book. Every artist! This book studies the origins of artistry in the Bible and presents the lies (and truths!) that are prominent in that. Find your place in the Kingdom with chapters on community, prophetic voice, spiritual discipline, and co-laboring with God.

 

 

 

 

To find your life calling:512Q3lH0uqL._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_
“Chazown”
Craig Groeschel

For those artists (and non-artists) who are still unsure what their calling is in life, Craig Groeschel’s book has a very practical approach to discovering it through looking at your gifts, values, and experiences. Once you pin down your vision and calling, there’s still a bulk of chapters on next steps and living it out. Don’t miss this book!

 

 

 

To get a second chance at your career:51KE+8bOHwL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_
“Do-Over”
Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff’s Do-Over is perfect for those who feel they’re stuck in a rut, not moving forward with their dream. Maybe you’re an artist on the side with a day-job that drains the life out of you. Maybe you’re living what you thought your dream was and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Whatever the case, Do Over gives you the chance to do just that – call “Do Over” and start your dream anew. Acuff gives the tools to get you right where you want to be and start living life with your dream at the center.

 

 

To conquer your artistic vices: 51g2xDQtM6L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_
“The Heart of the Artist”
Rory Noland

Not to be confused with Matt Tommey’s book, Rory Noland also wrote a book about the Heart of the Artist. This one centers on the character struggles that artists tend to face – Perfectionism, Poorly Handling Criticism, Jealousy, Overly Emotional, and the like. There’s also an excellent chapter on how to Lead Artists, because we are a difficult to finagle bunch, ha! Excellent book for any ministry team or any artist individually to work through.

for the Bookworms, for the Creatives, for the Writers

Huffington Post Isn’t the Only Problem

Writers (and creatives in general) are up in arms about getting paid.

A Summary of the Discussion thus far:

Kristen Lamb has recently been posting about the problem with Free. She started by urging writers not to diss Amazon while promoting used bookstores, since Amazon actually pays authors and used bookstores do not.

She then speculated on what this Culture of Free is going to do to authors going forward.

Finally, she honed in on Huffington Post, a platform that is proud of not paying authors while making millions off of their work. 

Kristen Lamb isn’t the first or the last to call out Huffington Post. Wil Wheaton, Chuck Wendig, and Porter Anderson all have great posts about this issue.

This conundrum doesn’t just pertain to writers, but to artists in general, with artists being more vocal about deserving better pay – Taylor Swift pulling her music off Spotify, Ally Burguieres demanding reimbursement for Taylor Swift’s use of her artwork, or hula-hoop performer Revolva turning down an unpaid opportunity to perform on Oprah’s tour.

We Need Exposure….and Pay!

It’s the way of the world. It’s been the way of the world, and it’s only increasing. Exposure is important. All artists need exposure to live. But we don’t just need exposure to live. We need pay too. We need food on the table and a roof over our heads.

Plumbers and scientists and doctors and teachers and engineers, they all need exposure to live too. If no one knew about their skills or reputation, they wouldn’t be hired and they wouldn’t make it very far. But they still get paid. They still need paid.

What Can Artists Do?

You need exposure: That’s what Marketing and Brand and Advertising is for. Work for free if you want, but let it be on your terms. When you offer free. When you’re not being asked by a highly profitable company to work for free. Don’t give in and work for free, because “you have to” or because “that’s the way the world works.” Stand your ground for artists everywhere.

What Can EVERYONE Do?

Stop supporting the system. The system that says artists have to work for free to be truly authentic. Bullcrap!

Consider boycotting Huffington Post, now that you know the problem. Speak up about it being a problem. Many don’t know. Don’t share or Retweet or click the Huffington Post links that are exploiting writers for their own gain. Don’t perpetuate the cycle. Huffington Post can’t survive off of unpaid labor if no one supports their site any longer.

Most importantly: Stop with the Huffington Post mindset!

  • Stop assuming you can get free labor from artists.
  • Stop asking for them to write, edit, design, draw, paint, play music, or perform for free.
  • Even friends. You have artist friends, great! That doesn’t mean you get free stuff, that means you should support them in their art – pay them for their work, and I’m not talking about buying them a coffee (although coffee is a nice bonus!)My sister is a cosmetologist – I don’t ask her to work for free though; I pay her MORE than my usual tip, because I especially support her work. I want her to prosper with her talent!
  • Artists, walk the talk – don’t ask for free labor from other artists when you know you hate that.
  • Maybe your artist friend offers to help you for free – AWESOME! That means they’re willing. Don’t ask for free, but of course you can accept a free offer.Here’s the kicker then though – pay them in exposure. Brag on them, share their work, give them exposure so that they can get paid the next time around. Anytime I receive free assistance from an artist who offered, I try to remember to post their work on social media, tag their website, mention their expert work. Because artists need exposure too.

Always pay an artist – at least with exposure, but preferably with money as well.

We can stop this cycle. We can pay the artist what they’re worth. We can stop expecting free handouts. We can demand what we’re worth and plan to pay a person what they’re worth. We can refuse to profit off of exploiting another human being.

Let’s not be Huffington Post; let’s be better.

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