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.
In British history, we learn about Queen Boudicca, who ruled the Celtic clan, the Iceni tribe and united a number of other British tribes to revolt against the Roman occupying forces in 60 – 61 AD. She famously succeeded in defeating the Romans in three great battles but alas the war was won by the Romans. However, this does not deter from the fact that Queen Boudicca was a courageous queen, who fought for freedom from her oppressors.
Her rousing speech united the tribes and even today stirs the blood.
“We British are used to women commanders in war; I am descended from mighty men! But I am not fighting for my kingdom and wealth now. I am fighting as an ordinary person for my lost freedom, my bruised body, and my outraged daughters…. Consider how many of you are fighting — and why! Then you will win this battle, or perish. That is what I, a woman, plan to do!— let the men live in slavery if they will.”
Ancient Celtic women served as both warriors and rulers, and girls would be trained to fight with swords and other weapons, just like their male counterparts. As an adolescent, Boudicca would have been sent away to another aristocratic family to be trained in the history and customs of the tribe, as well as learning how to fight in battle. Celtic women were distinct in the ancient world for the liberty and rights they enjoyed and the position they held in society. Compared to their counterparts in Greek, Roman, and other ancient societies, they were allowed much more freedom of activity and protection under the law.
Owena Wintermute of The Commodore’s Gift
Owena has a unconventional upbringing within Victorian society. Motherless, she is brought up by her father and only sibling, an older brother, Benjamin. Feminine conventions are a mystery to both men and they welcome Owena’s tom-boy personality and actions. This leads to instruction in horseback riding astride the saddle instead of side-saddle and freedom to read whatever literature she wanted. Her attire is adapted to accommodate her other activities, such as instruction in swordplay, with the removal of corsets. Owena becomes proficient in this discipline. She also joined her brother as he played with toy soldiers and not only learnt battle formations and strategic planning but won against him.
Owena is certainly not a meek and mild woman but a warrior and worthy ally to the men of the rebel force. She joins them in their fight against the Buldrick Empire and ultimately gains their respect.
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.