Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What Am I Reading Wednesday (4/27/2016)


I can't believe it's been nearly a month since our last "What Am I Reading Wednesday" post! So let's dive in, shall we?


Today's "What Am I Reading Wednesday" book is:

Title: Justice & Mercy: A Justice & Mercy Mystery

Author:
 Britni Patterson

First Reading: Second!

Initial Impression: "Everything is bigger in Texas"...Especially the murders!


I am LOVING this cover!

Today's book is especially exciting for me to share, as I happen to know the author!

"Justice & Mercy" is Britni Patterson’s debut novel, and follows the trials, tribulations, and Texas-sized suspense that comes with co-owning a private detective agency with your twin sister. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, if only you knew.

Justice and Mercy Givens (you'll have to read the book to find out how they got their names!) have a strict rule against taking murder cases. Absolutely. No. Murders. But what are the sisters supposed to do when the bills are due and work is scarce? Take on TWO murder cases, of course!

Patterson weaves a story full of intrigue, humor, and little glimpses into the life events that have made the sisters who they are today.

I was lucky enough to moderate an author panel recently, with Britni as one of the panelists! It was such fun getting to delve deeper into what influenced her to craft her novels and characters the way she did. I had so many questions: Why is Justice's favorite pastime line dancing? What were the motivations behind the childhood accident that left Mercy as a paraplegic? (Curious? You can find more information about the books HERE)


Another feature of Patterson's novels that is wonderful for me, (speaking as someone who tends to jump sporadically from one genre to another depending on what I'm in the mood for), is that each book in the series can be read chronologically or as a stand alone!

The second 'Justice & Mercy' novel is already available, titled: "A Thousand Deadly Kisses", and the third one is currently in progress!


Can anyone guess what this one is about? 



**Disclaimer: The "What Am I Reading Wednesday" posts are my personal opinion and not to be taken as "professional" literary reviews. I just love to share the books I've enjoyed!**

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

BONUS POST: "The Girl on the Train” Movie Trailer!

Last weekend, as I was innocently perusing my usual online news sources, (both reputable and otherwise), I happened to notice a newly posted article discussing “The Girl on the Train” movie trailer.

I’d read and thoroughly enjoyed Paula Hawkins’ debut novel when it first came out in the U.S. last year. I knew the film rights had been quickly purchased, so naturally I was anticipating the possibility of a movie being made from the book.


Photo courtesy of Goodreads.com


Happily, I clicked PLAY.

First thought: Yes! "The Girl on the Train" movie is actually happening! And it’s coming out this fall? Even better!

Second thought: Why is Emily Blunt the only one with a British accent?

But wait…that means…DAMN IT!

Hollywood has done it again, I immediately thought, they’ve taken a key component to a novel, (In this case, the COUNTRY WHERE EVERYTHING HAPPENS!), and they changed it.

I understand there is often room for interpretation when books are turned into films, but I’m definitely of the camp that believes there are certain things you do not mess with.

This would be one of those things.

Trying to keep an open mind, I then searched for any reference of Paula Hawkins’ reaction to this decision, or perhaps some proof of if she was even consulted about it. What I found did serve to fizzle out my indignation: The setting change was partially Hawkins’ decision.

The full article can be found on TheGuardian.com, here: The Girl on the Train Film

They quote Hawkins as saying: “I’m not really concerned about the re-positioning as I think it is the type of story that could take place in any commuter town.”

This is absolutely true, especially for a novel like this one. And while this knowledge that the author was in on the major decision makes me feel better about it, I know myself well enough to acknowledge that this is also going to make me more initially critical of the film than I might have been otherwise.

My question I put to everyone is this: Does it ruin the movie adaption of a novel to make such a big change to the story’s plot/setting/characters? Or, as with many forms of art, does the artistic license of the filmmakers allow for some deviation from the book’s original makeup?

Watch the trailer for yourselves, and let me know what you think!




Monday, April 25, 2016

My Experience with the James Patterson MasterClass (Part II)

And we're back!

Thank you again to everyone who stops by the blog for your patience last week. Both of the pups are feeling much better and no longer have to get up in the middle of the night due to stomach troubles!


All better!

Last time, we talked about my general experience with the James Patterson writing course provided by MasterClass*. (In case you missed it, you can find that post here: My Experience with the James Patterson Masterclass (Part I).

Today, I'd like to dig a little deeper, highlighting the individual lessons provided in the class that benefited me the most as an aspiring writer. One of the great things about a course like this, is that everyone who participates can take away something different. It doesn't matter if you're already an established author with a slew of published novels, or a beginner looking to learn from someone with more experience, there's something valuable for everyone.

1) I'd have to say the top lessons for me were the two segments on Outlining. Yes, the dreaded OUTLINE!

For a very brief time, I honestly tried to be a pantser. (For those who don't know, a "pantser" is a writer who writes everything on the fly! By the seat of their pants! No road map in sight!...you get the idea.) I once believed that pantsing was the answer and that I could easily write everything as the ideas came to me.

And I was...wrong.

Sadly, I am not a pantser. There are actually many successful authors who use this method of writing (Stephen King being one of the most notable), however, I soon learned that pantsing was not for me.

Enter my foray into outlines. There are several schools of thought out there when it comes to outlining, (a separate discussion that we can spend an entire blog post on later!), and I'd tried a few of them prior to taking James Patterson's class.

Mr. Patterson is a well-known outliner, he swears by them. His lesson on this subject also highlighted the benefit of doing both a "bare bones" outline (Just the facts, ma'am.) followed by a more "chapter focused" outline to fill in the key details. Once both of these exercises are done, then the writing begins, piecing each component together and editing as the story evolves.

I really gravitated towards this method because, deep down, I am a planner at heart. Now, do I necessarily follow this exact method? No, not really. I've taken some elements from Patterson's outlining philosophy and meshed it with others that have worked for me in the past.


Honestly my favorite picture of Stephen King! Here we see him
with his faithful pup, Molly (aka: The Thing of Evil!).
Photo courtesy of DailyMail.com


2) The other lesson that really stood out for me, was the one on Creating Characters.

For a long time I struggled with the fear that my characters would appear one-dimensional. That they wouldn't really jump out from the page and become people that readers could relate to, even if it was on a small level.

Character building, much like plotting, scene crafting, or building suspense, are all aspects of writing that have to be honed over time. Very few writers start out with the magical ability to create amazing, memorable characters. Generally, you have to go through a few shitty protagonists before you find the one that really speaks to you and to your readers.

One exercise that Patterson recommends, is to think about five of your favorite fictional characters. (The ones you love and the ones you love to hate!) Write them down, then define five character traits for each one. From this list, choose a few of your favorite traits these characters possess, and write out what it is about them that made you choose them, what drew you in when you first read about them.

Applying this same technique to some of your own characters can really flesh out more of their personalities. I personally had one character that I loved, and sincerely didn't want to put on the "back burner", but no matter what I did he kept coming across as flat on the page. (No pun intended.) By listing out some of my favorite characters from other novels that were similar to my character, I was able to really look at what was missing from my original depiction of him.

This may not work each and every time, but it can be a great tool for determining which characters have potential and which might need to be put aside for the time being.


Speaking of characters you love to hate....grrr!



Well, there you have it, this concludes my review of the James Patterson Masterclass. If anyone has any other questions that I didn't answer in either of the posts, please feel free to leave me a comment below!


 **This blog post was written with permission from MasterClass. Any opinions stated about the James Patterson writing course and co-author competition are my own and not to be attributed to MasterClass or to Mr. Patterson.**

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Apologies for the Delay!

Hello Everyone!

My sincerest apologies for not updating on our last two scheduled post days! I have been dealing with two very sick puppy dogs.

Did anyone else know it was possible for a canine stomach virus to hit a whole neighborhood? Well, now I do. We've been up multiple times a night for nearly a week as this thing has worked its way through the pups' systems. (Don't worry, we consulted with the vet and they suggested home remedies first before bringing them in.)

My biggest tip from this experience: When your dog has any kind of stomach problem, make sure they know you're not upset with them for having accidents in the house. It's not their fault. How many of us have been hit with a sudden bug before, it's rough. It will make them a LOT less anxious and make the whole experience just a little bit easier.

Also, boiled chicken, white rice, and chicken baby food are your friends! (Assuming your dog has no weird allergies.)

The good news is that both of them are now on the mend and are no longer waking up sick in the middle of the night! Regular posts will resume next week!



Monday, April 11, 2016

My Experience with the James Patterson MasterClass (Part I)

Evening Friends!

One light housekeeping note: I think our regular Monday updates will now be posted in the evening, as opposed to during the day like I’d planned. I’ve recently started a new job (yay!), however, this puts me doing most of my writing at night (meh…). Such is life.

Now that that’s taken care of, on to today’s post!


Over the last few months I’ve taken the James Patterson writing course offered by MasterClass.

What I’d like to talk about today are my initial impressions from the class itself. In the next post I’ll be highlighting which specific lessons I found the most beneficial.

First, a little background information for those not familiar with the course:


There he is!


Class Title: James Patterson Teaches Writing (MasterClass)**

Duration: 22 online lessons that can be completed at your own pace. Lesson lengths varied, on average no longer than 15 minutes. 

Cost: $$ 
(i.e. – Not as expensive as some writing courses I’ve seen out there, but not super cheap or free.)

Materials Provided: A PDF lesson plan that accompanied each module, along with homework assignments that stemmed into the following lessons. Examples of basic and detailed story outlines based on one of James Patterson’s published novels.

Extra Perks: “Office Hours”. A separate webpage where students can submit questions and samples of their homework assignments for feedback. (Now, does Mr. Patterson have time to answer each one individually, no, but there are many that he has answered and you can watch his videoed responses.)

Community Facebook Page: A place to bounce ideas off of other students who are also taking the class, also to hear about other writers' experiences with their work, forays into publishing, etc. 

Initial Impression: Putting all aspects of writing instruction aside for a moment, I just have to say that I loved the overall format of this class! Each lesson was like having a casual conversation with James Patterson while he covered whichever topic was assigned to that particular lesson. The lessons have a very relaxed feel to them, yet at the same time you are able to absorb so much information from a writing professional who has been working in the publishing world for decades.

The lessons themselves are set up in an easy-to-follow order, starting with a basic introduction and travelling through Patterson’s experiences as a beginning writer, nourishing raw ideas, developing plotting/outlining methods, becoming published, publicity, working with co-authors, working with Hollywood, and so on. You can complete the homework assignments after each lesson, however, I chose to watch all 22 videos through once and then go back to each lesson to complete the assignments.


I decided on this approach to the course because:

1)      Once you pay for the class, you can watch the videos as many times as you’d like. So, why not? 
2)      It helped me pick up on information that I might have missed the first time around.


How you want to complete the course is entirely up to you. For me, this was an added benefit to the format MasterClass has in place.

Below I’ve included one of the advertising trailers for the class, to give everyone an idea of how the lessons tend to flow:





Stay tuned for Part II next week!




**This blog post was written with permission from MasterClass. Any opinions stated about the James Patterson writing course and co-author competition are my own and not to be attributed to MasterClass or to Mr. Patterson.**

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

UPDATE: James Patterson Co-Author Competition

Evening All!

Today's "What Am I Reading Wednesday" post is being postponed until next week. (Sad, I know! But it's going to be a good one, I promise.)


Instead, I wanted to update everyone on the James Patterson Co-Author competition that I entered last month. (If you need a refresher on the details, you can find them in my blog post titled: "I've Entered a Contest! (What Was I Thinking??)".


Yesterday, the top ten semifinalists were announced by MasterClass. Unfortunately, yours truly was not among those ten writers. Trust me, if I was this post would have started with something along the lines of: "OHMYGODIACTUALLYMADEITTOTHENEXTROUNDSOMEBODYPINCHME!!!!"


Sorry the quality isn't better, but this pretty much sums it up.


Or maybe something a little more dignified, who knows?


Either way, I wish the ten writers who did make it into the semifinals a hearty congratulations! The three finalists will be announced at the end of April, with James Patterson choosing the winner in May. A very rapid timeline for a contest this size, especially considering they had literally thousands of entries!


For me, the experience of participating in the MasterClass and preparing all of the materials required for submission was well worth the experience. Granted, it would be fantastic to receive feedback on why my submission wasn't selected, but again with a competition this size there's no way they'd be able to critique each entry.


So there you have it, my foray into this particular contest has reached its end. But I shall not be discouraged! This is all part of the process, especially if you make the decision to enter competitions, which I highly recommend if they are reputable. (Soon we'll have a blog post devoted entirely to writing contests, some tips for submitting, and what to watch out for when selecting a contest to enter. I'm pretty excited about this one!)


And now I'll leave you with the below parting words from Mr. Patterson:


I had to do it!



Monday, April 4, 2016

A Trip to the Library

In last week’s “What Am I Reading Wednesday” post I mentioned that that particular Wednesday had been quite the adventure, and here’s why:

I had the opportunity to visit my hometown library!

I’m from a pretty small town. The nearest bookstore was a forty-five minute drive away and the local library, despite being quite tiny itself, was the only place where newer books were available. (We had school libraries of course, but the selection was limited compared to the public library.)

I spent more days than I could count in that library, waiting for my parents to pick me up after school, spending entire summer days camped out in one of the fat, 1970s-era reading chairs that sat by the back windows, or just wandering the shelves trying to decide what to read next.

The children’s section of that library holds a particular place in my heart. Even before I learned the organization schedule used for the books, I had the locations of my favorites memorized. (Clever child that I was.) Last week when I stopped by for a visit, I wandered back into the children’s room and over to a familiar row of shelves. There was no way two of my favorite books could still be in the places they’d inhabited for decades, right? Right??

Wrong!


The cover is a little worn, but that's "King Arthur & His Knights of the Round Table"

A treasury of different unicorn legends from around the world. 


There they were, in the exact same spots! Granted I’m now over a foot taller than the children’s shelves, so the angle was off, but they’re still there! 

I must have checked out both of those books a hundred times. They were the kind of stories that I could read over and over, and each time I’d discover something new about them that I hadn’t noticed before.

Have you ever had a book like that in your life? That special one that you could pick up right now and start reading, even though you could probably recite by heart by now?




By the way, someone had left this bookmark in the copy of “King Arthur”! How perfect was that? 


I know, I know - "The Pagemaster" got horrible reviews, but as a kid that was my favorite movie for a hot minute! 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

BONUS POST: Little Free Library!

I would like to announce that my neighborhood now has a Little Free Library!

The Little Free Library movement is not new, it's actually been around since 2009 and has spread across the globe. I told myself that I was going to sponsor a LFL for our neighborhood this summer, but lo-and-behold, someone beat me to it!


Behold!

A short walk through the neighborhood, and I was soon dropping off several books from my own collection and grabbing a couple new ones to enjoy!

This is such an incredible idea. It's a way to provide books to people who may not have the available funds to purchase them often, or don't always have access to a public library. Not to mention that it provides a community building opportunity.

If you'd like more information on Little Free Libraries, or how to start one for your own community, you can find the organization's website here: https://littlefreelibrary.org/

Happy reading, everyone!