Posts Tagged ‘Reading’

The Woods-3.jpg“What is that?” Jesse looks around, alarmed.

Kevin is busy inspecting the object in his hand.  It is rounded with the mud and rotting leaves stuck to it.  He can’t tell what it is.

“Probably a squirrel.”

“I don’t think so.”  Jesse can’t stop looking around.  He feels off.  Something is wrong.

“Kevin,” he hesitates.


“It doesn’t look right.”

“What doesn’t look right?”

“Everything.  It’s… off.  The color is off.”

Kevin looks at him.  “You are a goof.”

Jesse’s wide frightened eyes make him pause.  He looks around them.  Jesse is right.  His heart beats faster and his chest feels tight.  Everything looks a little off.  The color.  The light.  But it’s more than that.  Something he doesn’t know how to describe.  It’s just … off.

Slowly, he bends down and puts the unknown object back down, wanting to free his hands.

He stands up and looks around again.

“Now he’s got my mind playing tricks,” he thinks.  There is nothing strange at all about anything.  Everything looks exactly like it should.  Exactly like before.

“It’s nothing,” Kevin says. “You really are a goof.  I don’t know what you’re talking about.  Everything’s normal to me.”

Jesse looks like he’s ready to bolt.

“Go run home scaredie-pants,” Kevin sneers.  He turns his attention back to the strange item at the base of the stump.

Jesse backs away, moving back towards their yard.

Kevin bends over and picks it up.  He stands up and looks around.  He feels off.

Jesse is moving away and Kevin doesn’t want to admit he’s afraid to be alone in the woods.  He pockets his treasure and chases after Jesse.

They reach the yard and stop.  They both look around.

It all looks a bit … odd.

The color is off just a bit.  It all feels a bit odd.  Out of sync maybe.

The house is not large, a lower middle-income home, all but the windowsills and doors was repainted last year.  The paint of the windowsills is cracking and starting to peel.  A job their father has not yet gotten to.

The lawn, mowed only three days prior, is only just starting to show the sprout of faster growing grass blades reaching over the others, although the dandelions have already popped their heads up, flashing their yellow flowers to the sky like round smiles.  A bicycle lays discarded on the lawn and a swing set stands on one side of the yard waiting to be used.

It all seems a bit dulled, muted, a bit off color.  Like a television set that someone has buggered with the color settings on.

Jesse broke first, running for the house.

He falters, not watching and almost tripping on the bike laying discarded on the grass. Recovering, he keeps going.

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too many booksSo you thought all it takes to write great is to read a lot.


Nothing worth doing is that easy.


Do you think the Blue Jays and Chicago Cubs hope to win the World Series by watching baseball?  Did Wayne Gretzky become a Canadian hockey icon from watching hockey games?

Did George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, Ernest Hemingway, and C. S. Lewis all become famous authors by simply spending hours reading?

All of these successes are attributable to many things, but one in particular is common to each and every one of them.  Hard work.  No matter what you strive to be good at; it takes a lot of practice and hard work.


True success, the kind that stands the test of time, is earned.


I am a believer that studying what you want to be good at is essential.  Reading good books is a good way to study what makes a good book good.  Let yourself get lost in it, soak up the ambience, and let your subconscious absorb it so that it will reflect in your own writing.  But don’t forget to also take note of what makes you like the book.  The little moment in the midst of tragedy or horror that puts a smile on your face or makes you laugh.  The heartwarming moment that breaks away from the cold seriousness of the story.  A particular scene you felt was well written.  This is feeding your conscious mind.


Read articles and advice on how those who are successful made their success happen, and what they believe makes a story and its author good.  Study the art of writing in all its forms.  Cross boundaries and read about genres you do not write to expand your knowledge base.


The most important part – practice.  Write, write, and write some more.  Edit until you cannot edit anymore and then put it away to come back and edit it again.  Re-write.  Let your writing sleep and work on a new story.  Try different kinds of writing.  Each variation has a lesson to be learned.


Types of writing practice:

The writing prompt –      The writing prompt can be anything.  It can be provided by someone else, or by yourself.  It can be the first random item that draws your attention on your commute.  The point of the writing prompt is to take something which you know nothing about, and create a story about it.  It is an exercise in writing and stretching and building your creativity muscles.

Flash fiction –  Can you write an entire story in less than 1,000 words?  In 300 or less?  The whole point of flash fiction is to write a very tight and very short, yet compelling story that feels complete.   This is good practice to help you improve your ability to write tight, losing the extra verbiage.  There are many online sites where these are popular, so they can be fairly easy to get published.  But you typically won’t be paid for it.  The value in this is that you are building a fan base through having these ultra short stories published.

Micro fiction –    A variation of flash fiction, only shorter.  Some require the story to be written in 100 words or less.  This is more of a single scene, but it needs to be a complete scene.  Are you up to the challenge?  This ups the ante in forcing you to write tight and concisely.  Micro fiction has a smaller following, but also a smaller number of writers competing for publication.  Again, you will likely not be paid for it.

Short stories –    Typically running up to 5,000 words, a short story gives you more wiggle room.  Short stories are a good start for beginning writers to wet their feet.  A short story allows you to develop a full story with subplots and character building without the daunting task of trying to write an entire novel.

Short story anthologies seem to be making a comeback.  Once popular, they dropped out of popularity some time ago.  Many anthologies are not paying publications.  You are likely to be paid for your short stories only if you get an anthology published consisting of only your short stories.  If your name is not Stephen King, then that’s not likely to happen.  Getting your short stories into anthologies is still to your advantage even though you likely will not be paid.  You get bragging rights.  Hey, look, you got published!  And by someone who is not you! That means someone else thought your work worthy of publication.  You also are getting exposure.  The publisher has their own following, and each writer who has a short story included in the anthology has a following.  If just one tenth of those people buys and reads the anthology, those are potential fans that might love your story and want more.


I recommend to any new writer that they start with the short story.  Write many short stories.  Then dial it back and tighten your writing with flash fiction and micro fiction.  When you feel comfortable with those; move on to tackle a longer project.  Try a novella.  All this will help you prepare for that epic novel you are dying to write.


Novella –          A novella can be characterized as a short novel or long short story.  A novella typically runs between 7,500 and 40,000 words and allows you to write a much more in depth and compelling story than a short story.  It makes a good practice to build your writing stamina towards writing a full-length novel.  It also may be the hardest length to sell to a publisher.  A publisher will likely have a similar cost to produce a novella as a full novel, but won’t be able to sell it for as much.  On the other hand, if you are hoping to follow in the footsteps, for example, of the writer of Brokeback Mountain, Annie Proulx, whose story was adapted for screen to become a movie that brought her to fame, your best bet is a good short story or a novella.  A full novel is too long to be easily adapted to film.

Novel –              This is your ultimate goal if you are a fiction writer.  A novel typically runs between 80,000 and 100,000 words.  The length you want depends on the genre.  Some genres just are not forgiving of an epic 100,000 plus word count.  Others would find 80,000 laughably short.



Just as with anything, practice makes you better.  The more you write, read, and study what makes good writing, the better your writing will be.

Now go get them tiger.  Get out there, hit that keyboard, and write your best.

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I just finished reading Jeffery Deaver’s The Blue Nowhere.  I should probably start by mentioning that this really isn’t my kind of book.

“What do you mean?” you ask?

The simple truth is that there are a very large number of books being pigeonholed into a small list of broad category genres.

While I enjoy most genres including crime fiction and thrillers, they include a large variety of story types and I’m not going to like every story type.

The idea of the whole story revolving around a computer hacker just didn’t appeal to me no matter how much the usual cover blurbs praised it.  And, if you read my other reviews, you should know that I don’t pay attention to those blurbs anyway.  They strike me as being little more than an advertising gimmick and don’t mean I’ll like the book.

I bought the book for the price.  Two books for ten dollars!  Who could go wrong?  Even if I hate the book, at least I paid only a third of the usual cover price.  There wasn’t much of a selection at the time either, so Blue Nowhere won by default.  And, just because I can feel your curiosity, I’ll let you know that the other $5 book I bought was a Stephen King short story anthology.  No doubts there about whether I’ll enjoy that one.  Who doesn’t enjoy a good Stephen King short story?  I’m saving that one for summer camping reading.  Nothing stirs the creative juices for a good late night campfire story than stories by a good thriller writer.

Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll let you in on another secret.  My review is inevitably tainted by my personal tastes and preferences, which happen to not include hacker stories, and are likely very different from other’s personal tastes and preferences.

In essence, this is a story about hacker vs. hacker.  It plays on the simple internet truth that even our closest online friends are most often complete strangers who we really know nothing about.

Our main hacker “Wyatt Gillette” a.k.a. “Valleyman” is pitted against his ex-hacking partner “Phate”, who turned from the dark side of hacking to the darker side of blurring the lines between violent online games with real life.  Disgusted with Phate’s deadly online activities, Gillette abandons his identity as Valleyman and turns on his online friend.  It’s funny how the lesser of two evildoers is the one who gets sent to the big house.  Not funny in a “ha-ha” way, but rather in a “isn’t that just the way things go” way.

When Phate’s deadly online hacks and snuff games turn to real life hands-on murders, the fine folks of the Computer Crimes Unit need an expert matching Phate’s skills in order to catch their killer.  The bureaucracy springs Gillette from prison and he becomes our main character with an entourage of police officers leading him in the contest against his rival hacker.

Naturally, when Phate learns that his ex-faceless friend and now sworn enemy “Valleyman” is involved in the investigation, he changes the direction of his own online snuff game turned real life and makes his rival into his new main target.

Gillette is something of a geeky character and that pretty much fits my image of a hacker type.  Sure that’s stereotyping, but we’re all guilty of that to some degree.  I never really got a feel of that reader-character connection to any of the other characters.  They seemed more like supporting characters to me.

I haven’t read a bunch of hacker stories, and really know very little about the hacker lifestyle.  As a reader not in the know, I really didn’t buy the finger pushups thing.  While it may very well be something they do and believe strengthens their fingers, it just seemed weird to me.

There were some events in the book, at the end, that were never explained.  But, I think that was by design, a little reminder by the author that there will always be unexplained things in life and in stories.

The scariest part of this story is the reality that hackers like these are alive and well and living in large numbers across the globe.  That, and the damage that could be caused at the psychotic whim and a few keystrokes of some anti-social loner who likely is unable to emotionally connect with real people and therefore is likely incapable of empathy.  Of course that doesn’t describe all hackers, but even one who does fall into that category is one too many.

While I wouldn’t put this in my “I would read it again” pile, I was not disappointed with the read.

Jeffery Deaver managed to entertain me even though I had pretty much decided I wouldn’t care for the book before I even started reading it.

The story dragged a little at times for me, but the descriptions are good and Deaver moves the story without a lot of extra unnecessary words.  It isn’t one of my favourite reads, but I certainly can see that someone who likes this kind of crime thriller would enjoy the story a lot more than I did.

While personal taste is relative, for the reader it means a lot.


Personally, I liked Jeffery Deaver’s Roadside Crosses better.

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