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?
There are a number of ways that stories come to me, one is using writing prompts because they always spark ideas or images in my mind. Some result in a short story or, occasionally a poem, but others have become full blown novels.
I recently responded to the prompt below and the character emerged complete in my mind. I could see him walking along the sidewalk, and the effect he had on the people he passed. He may appear in a future novel – who knows. Some characters stay with me and after a time begin to demand attention. This one is mysterious and I am keen to know his backstory and his future plans.
Heads turned, chatter ceased and whispers began as the tall, dark clothed man strode along the high street. His focused gaze ahead, never glancing at the store fronts, or the recoiling of other pedestrians as he passed by. The summer atmosphere cooled as an ominous air pervaded his very being. The holiday town was used to many visitors but this one was different and dangerous.
Would you like to ‘meet’ this character?
One prompt that resulted in a published book was my novella, The Rython Kingdom, which was actually a series of prompts that combined into the basis of the story. The prompts were – blue beads, a beast and a medieval town. You can read the full story (and its sequel if you want) here:
Another inspiration are dreams. And the reason, I have a small notebook on my bedside table. If I don’t write it down immediately, the dream dissipates never to be remembered again. The opening sequence of The Commodore’s Gift was a snippet of a dream that just needed to be used in a story. At the time, I had no idea that Owena, would become such a integral part of the story and evolve into it’s central character.
Do you have questions about my writing inspiration? Please ask on the comments, I will be happy to answer them all.
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.
I finished Eeny Meeny in record time, it was one of those books you couldn’t put down. Hence my review:
Absolutely riveting! I didn’t see the culprit coming. Well written and structured. A fast paced, who done it. A real page turner.
I have moved onto another detective book, to continue my detective/crime research. It is The Secret Place by Tana French. Her style is completely different to M.J. Arlidge that’s for sure.
As always I still have a good pile of books on my TBR pile as you can see above. I’m unsure which one I will choose when I finish Tana’s novel.
Do you have a system to your TBR pile? Is it alphabetically, by genre or just what catches your eye first? Or do you lay them out, mixed them up and pick one, making it a surprise?
I would love to know your method.
In the meantime, at the time of writing, I am almost at the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words. As I write this morning, I am at a tantalizing word count of 48352, so today I will reach the goal but certainly not the end of the novel. That will take at least another 20,000 words.
Please feel free to ask me about my novels, my writing process, how I create my imaginary worlds and characters. Or anything regarding the books of mine you have read. I am always happy to answer questions.
Today I am ‘interviewing’ one of the main character’s from Creature Hunt on Planet Toaria, a YA novella. Lenni is the main instigator in persuading her three friends to seek out the invading alien monster on their planet.
Can you tell us about why you live on another planet instead of Earth?
I can tell you what I know from history lessons. The human race suffered multiple pandemics over decades, which decimated the world population. In an effort to save the human species, one hundred generation ships were built and several space stations. These were built to offer a temporary home above the planet until the virus’ could be controlled or eliminated.
So how did you get here?
The expected term for being on the ships was extended over and over for years until each generation ship struggled to sustain its population. As the remaining human population on Earth died, a decision was made to head out in as many different directions as possible. The hope was that one or more of the generation ships would find a suitable planet to populate. After many years my ancestors ship found Toaria.
So then they landed and built all the domes?
It took another generation to build the domes and establish the growing pods. Several new technologies were created so that ‘soil’ was artificially grown from agar, molds and vermiculite and then seeds regenerated from capsules that had been frozen in transit.
Can you describe Planet Toaria?
It is mainly rock and dust but there are frackist trees and whickety vines. We have two moons and when they align, the sky becomes magenta then burgundy before total darkness. That’s our curfew time – we must be home by then. All the other plants are from germination of seeds brought here and cultivated in the home dome’s central gardens or in the growth pods. We have metal paths in-between the home domes and the community domes. Apart from the living areas, there is a complex of industry domes restricted to only workers and the military. Most of the planet is uninhabited still but as our population grows we expand with more sections.
Can you describe frackist trees and whickety vines, they sound fascinating?
The trees have thick trunks, which are topped with branches that look like an upside-down scalene triangle. They have sticky buds, which you mustn’t touch as the sap causes instant numbing to anything it touches. Climbing them is discouraged because of that. The vines have a natural luminescence in the leaves and they are planted along the main paths to grow along them and climb the metal columns.
I noticed that you do not have ‘normal’ pets, like dogs and cats. What do you have instead?
No, we do not have animals as such on Toaria, they were not allowed on the first ships from Earth. We have robotic ‘pets’ or bots as we call them. Each child is assigned a bot when they are born. It is a protector as well as a companion. They are made up of a series of metal intersecting plates, have compartments for supplies and technology and power up overnight as we sleep.
Can you tell us a little about the alien invader?
Initially, no one knew there was an invader but then my bot, Bubble chased off something and did not return for a long time. This is unheard of as they are to stay with their owner no matter what. When Bubble was found, his recording data did not identify what the thing was and that’s when I began to wonder.
Why did you decide to find the alien with your friends?
At first I thought it would be a fun thing to do with Troon, Braze and Nevis. You know to explore a little further than we are allowed. There are sections to the habitat only open to the military. I didn’t really think we would find it! As our search continued it got more serious and we all thought it would be an excellent way to be considered for a position within the security force.
Thank you for being with us today, Lenni and telling us about your life on Planet Toaria.
If you want to know more of the story the e-book is available here, on Smashwords, Kindle, Kobo and Barnes & Noble.