As you well know I write in multiple genres, so how do you choose which one to read? There are several options on where you can research a book and decide if it will engage you.
Local Bookstore Staff Picks
Friends and Family Recommendations
Purchase sites – compare reviews in the genre sections
As a last resort you can try:
Best Sellers, Prize Winners or Best Books Ever Lists – just remember these can merely succeed on an authors name, or through a massive advertising campaign. I know I was extremely disappointed in one ‘famous author’ book, which was badly edited because it was rushed into production.
Here are a few other things to think about. It maybe that there are certain writing styles that appeal to you or you find more enjoyable to read. These can be due to:
Pacing: How quickly does the narrative move? Is it a page-turner or is it a slow burn?
Characterization: Do you become engaged with the characters?
Story line: What is the orientation of the plot – character-driven, action-oriented, complex, fantastical or inspirational?
Frame and Tone: What is the mood of the book – heartwarming, thrilling, quirky, or dark?
Style: What is the author’s writing style – descriptive, expository, persuasive, narrative, technical or poetic.
How do you choose a book to read?
Do you have a ‘favorite’ genre?What draws you to it?
For someone who loves the ocean, I now live somewhere that is hundreds of miles from it! In England, I could drive for 30-45 minutes to the seaside. The salty air, the granular feel of the sand, the sound of lapping waves, has always been my happy place. In Alberta, the closest I can come to that is a lake. The larger the better.
On our recent road trip to Cold Lake, I was delighted to have the ability to walk down to the harbour in the early morning and evening and hear the water lapping. I also discovered a tiny cove with a sandy beach. I sat there, with my eyes closed and imagined the ocean. The air was not briny but it was close to perfect. I dipped my toes into the water and wiggled them in the sand. Such moments evoke happy memories for me.
Sammie as always, was happy to explore and sniff.
We may not always understand why we are drawn to a particular element, but water is certainly mine. However, if I look up the element I should respond to, it is air. I can sort of understand that salty air is a favorite, but it has always been water for me from childhood. I can watch flowing streams, rivers and waterfalls for hours – my first love has always been the ocean though. I am drawn to it. Interesting enough, my spirit animal is a dolphin, which seems to be counter intuitive to an air sign to my way of thinking.
What is your favourite element? Does it correspond to your star sign element?
Time spent in our element allows us to relax, to re-energize and to refresh. This particular #GoEastofEdmonton road trip certainly gave me that and more. And, of course, we collected all the stickers for the game too.
My daughter asked me to find certain photographs for her recently. As I went though hundreds of photos (not the digital kind either!) in this large tea chest, that belonged my Mother, it was quite apparent that the numerous family day trips and vacations all had one common thread – nature and wildlife. We went to zoo’s, safari parks, wildlife parks, and even family walks ended up at farms or in fields and forests. This interest has been passed down from parent to child and grandchild. It is a family interest to this day.
My narratives reflect this fascination, even if a location is ‘off world’ there are always references to the natural inhabitants of that world. In Ockleberries to the Rescue, although there are magical woodland sprites caring for forest animals, it is based on Earth. Each chapter allows a child to learn about a specific animal or bird on Earth. These sketch’s by J.E. McKnight illustrate some of the chapter headers.
In Clickety Click there is a hidden world within our own and in Creature Hunt on Planet Toaria there are fantastical plants and animals of my imagination. The initial spark for the story behind Creature Hunt was a chance encounter with this enormous mullein plant on one of my road trips. As can see it was taller than me! You will have to read the book to find out what character it plays.
In The Twesome Loop, an Italian olive grove is a fundamental part of the story. Olive trees can grow for hundreds of years and their gnarly trunks give them character. The story is set between England and Italy, two places I love very much, having lived in one and visited the other.
I used my new found knowledge of my new home, Canada, for the setting of my novel, Life in Slake Patch, which has a prairie location. And The Commodore’s Gift has my protagonists living in a forest cavern, while I take my readers back to medieval England in The Rython Kingdom and Rython Legacy.
As you can see the settings for my stories are as much a character as the protagonists are. It allows my dear readers to imagine the surroundings and the flora and fauna. I personally love discovering the natural world, while letting nature relax and inspire me. There is always something new to learn and see from a bug to a bison, from a flower to a tree.
Without the luxury of travel during COVID, regular writing retreats have been cancelled, but it is not all bad news. We can create our own mini retreat at home. There will be some necessary arrangements to be made, which relate to your personal circumstances but it can be done. If you have a full household ask if it is possible for your partner to take your children out for an extended walk or to a play ground or even outside yard activities? Set times that you want to write without interruptions. This may be early morning or late evening, a time of day that you can set aside for writing. If staying in the home is too difficult, maybe drive to a secluded spot and write in a notebook to type up later. There is always somewhere you can find to accommodate writing time.
The length of time you have for your retreat will, of course, depend on what is possible for you. You may have two hours a day over a couple of days or a day or two. Before creating your retreat think about the following:
Why do you need a retreat? This might seem like a silly question but take the time to decide if the retreat has a direct purpose for your writing.
What is your goal? Again ask yourself, what can this retreat help you accomplish. Is it to begin or finish a project, a full edit, or a final read through?
Once you have identified these two points, you can plan by initially setting targets with measurable realistic goals, don’t overwhelm yourself. Depending on the time allotted for your retreat, create a daily writing plan. What are your objectives for each day? This can be writing or editing a certain number of pages, sequencing chapter content or revising scenes.
It is important to eliminate distractions as much as possible allowing you to concentrate. This should include switching off your cell phone, setting specific times for social media interactions, or even setting a timer!
The more you organize before hand the better your experience will be. Let’s look at some essentials.
Plan Your Retreat Time– use your preference – a simple sheet with goals for each day/hour, or a whiteboard with retreat objectives or notes in a day planner.
Tools – these can include a notebook, laptop, post-its, record cards, mood board, a print out of your manuscript, reference books or research sites bookmarked on your search engine. Everything that you need to successfully accomplish your goal.
Snacks& Water– the brain needs to be fed and watered as you delve into your project. Have plenty of water and easy nibbles handy.
Space – designate a space where you will work, where you and your tools will not be disturbed.
Rewards – how will you reward yourself for accomplishing your set goals? Decide how, it can be going for a walk, or thirty minutes on social media, or relaxing reading a book.
Remember this time is ultimately for you and your writing, a time to invest in your craft.
I’d love to hear your experiences with a home writing retreat.How did you achieve it?
Why did you make the decision to write about your life?
I decided to share my life journey so far to give hope and inspiration to others and let them know they are not alone.
What do you believe readers gain from your experience?
I believe by reading my story readers gain hope, inspiration, an honest birds eye view of New Zealand, a reminder never to give up, it makes one think and is informative, entertaining, a means to draw strength from and can even save lives.
Did you think The New Zealand Dream idea would grow into a series?
Originally I planned to release The New Zealand Dream as one book, I may still do this later. The idea of releasing the books as a series is a way for me to give my readers something to read while I am still completing the series.
How has your life experience impacted your writing?
Writing has been my therapist and brought me healing. My life experiences made me realize people need to hear my story, so many go through similar experiences isolated and alone, by sharing my story one can know they are not alone and you can heal and come through. I wanted to give readers the bare truth, no sugar coating, keeping it real and honest as this is what people need to hear, by doing my story is relatable.
Do you have a favourite place to write?
Somewhere quite, usually my lounge room or outside in amongst nature.
How do you juggle home life and writing?
When I was working as a nurse full time and bringing up two children, one with special needs. I would write in the evenings and early mornings. My health dictated I change careers, I know write fulltime, my books, short stories and my blog. I also help others to share and write their story and collaborate with other writers and authors. I am very blessed that I now have a loving husband who supports me in this.
What factors made you choose a pen name?
I chose a pen name and to use made up names for the characters and places in my book to protect myself from any law suits and respect the privacy of the characters who are real life people and some are still alive.
When writing fiction and non-fiction what differences in your demeanor occur?
When I write fiction my imagination really shines through and I can take the reader into another world. When I write non fiction I write simply and to the point as though I am sharing a lesson or revelation.
I offer one on one mentoring services where I can coach you through finishing your writing project. Sessions are done by email in hourly slots.
This is for anyone struggling with a writing project fiction or nonfiction or who would like to share their story and discover how writing can help you heal.
My name is Elise Brooke, I grew up in Hawkes Bay NZ. My parents moved to NZ from England and South Africa, to create their New Zealand Dream, this quickly turned into my New Zealand nightmare. Writing is a very powerful healing tool, sharing your story can save lives. I have written and published two autobiographies in my book series “The New Zealand Dream,” by Sheila my pen name, I wrote this book to inspire and give hope to others.
My passion is creative writing, I’ve been writing for 24 years in fiction and poetry and content. I have published many articles and guest post and conduct interviews on my website I built from scratch. I am a writing coach/mentor I mentor people who would like to write and share their own stories.