Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Whatcha Reading Tuesday!!

It's time for Whatcha Reading Tuesday!! The only reason you should love Tuesdays...okay maybe not but it's worth doing a little dance for :) Share what you're reading with us. From novels to comics to screenplays to cryptic symbols in an ice cave. Anything at all!! And answer our little question if you will: It's Banned Books Week, so what is your opinion on banning books? Hmm...a brain tickler =P

Monday, September 26, 2011

Employing Effective Hooks


What do you think of when you hear that word?

Me? I think of fish and how, if you hook a fish by the lip, you're giving him an easy escape. But if you hook the sucker through the cheek—nice and deep— he's yours. The same concept applies to readers—if you have an ineffective hook, the reader isn’t going to stay with your hero/heroine through the journey.

Now, novel hooks are quite subjective things.  What can grab a reader’s attention, may not grab another. Believe me, I’ve gone through novels and—though they sounded really good—the beginning didn’t pull me in and make me want to read more. So, I’d put the book down and try again later.

That “try again later” view isn’t what you want from a reader. You want them to read your work ASAP—you want them to think about it even in the wee hours of the morning when they can’t be bothered to get up out of bed, yet cannot wait to see where you’ll take them next. You want to hook them through the cheek and never let go!

I can think of a few novelists who have made me feel this excited. You know, I can’t do a blog on hooks without mentioning the author who has kept me on my toes throughout every novel I’ve read. Mystery/thriller novelist, Harlan Coben, has really made me judge—for that particular genre— how a hook is effective, what makes a moment just…stop your breath, just as things couldn’t get any worse, and make me—the reader—hunger for more.
Now, thriller and mystery aren’t the only genres that can have heart-stopping hooks. Any novel can, really. 

What’s their big, beautiful, alluring secret?

Hooks—the first line in a novel that kicks it off, in particular, and the last line that finishes a chapter. For this blog, I’ll be focussing on the hook that starts your novel because it’s the hardest to get just right. For this type of hook, it’s all in the technique, how the writer employs the hook and if it’s at the right moment that the story begins—if a character’s life is about to change…or be threatened, if a revelation is about to be revealed…lots of things can become hooks if done right.

Before you start panicking (believe me, I’d be panicking right about now—hooks are hard things!) I’ll give you a few examples.
There are many ways to begin a novel—depending on your genre, audience and on your novel’s point of view. I’ll go through and explain, and give you an example of each. Keep in mind, readers, this is a subjective matter, so what would hook you in would not do the same for me.


Now, this hook is one of the easiest ones to do: The novel opens with a question. The tricky part of this particular hook is that this question hook must then create more questions, a reason for the reader to wonder and thus—throughout the novel—find out the answer to the question.


Must it feel so surreal to fall?


This hook uses what we call an ‘epistolary element’—using a journal or a letter to tell the story. But with a hook, you don’t have the luxury of waiting for your narrator to mention that the weather was bad today or how his/her day was—you need to cut to the chase.


Saturday February 12th/2011

Today it happened. It finally happened!
Someone kissed me.
Well, granted, they were preforming CPR, but it was a kiss. That ought to count for something right?


Pretty self-explanatory—the chapter begins with a fact that relates to the novel’s subject matter or to a scene.


A woman’s heart beats faster than a man’s at seventy-eight beats per minute. But how much can the female heart stand? How many cracks and holes can be patched up and endured before those seventy-eight strong beats become muffled by a jaded shell, before she herself becomes like stone?
If you ask me, it doesn’t take much.

Looking into the Past

These novels generally begin with a prologue, or a short introduction, presenting the protagonist at a later age, looking back over their life and recounting it for the reader.


When I was eighteen, confused and jaded, I met the girl of my dreams. She stood across the road from me, her eyes shining, and her smile small and tentative. Curious and desperate, I stepped off the sidewalk corner to meet her.
And that was the moment I regret most.

The most common method of opening a novel, and the most difficult to grab a reader with, description sets the scene—the setting, the time period, character description. However, if the description isn’t compelling, doesn’t stand out in some way then there’s not going to be much of a hook to grab the reader.


I stared around at my son’s room, feeling the walls close in on me. He was here—in his pictures, in his posters and even in his dirty laundry. I picked up a shirt off the floor and breathed in the scent. Tears choked me as I imagined bars on the window. How could you? He was my son


Another self-explanatory hook: Dialogue hooks your reader—be it be a single line or part of a conversation. For this hook, a short, cut-to-the-chase line is best to hook your reader and keep them guessing as to what the hell your character’s saying and why.


“Don’t you get it, Dad? You can’t fix this!”
“Just give me a second chance—”
“It’s too late for that.”

That phone call haunted me. Became like a specter in the house, a specter with my child’s voice—screaming at me, strangled with tears.
Those were the last words we exchanged.


The hook that most often grabs a reader, but if done poorly, can often be taken as a ‘cheap hook’—a hook simply used to grab a reader and has no other purpose, doesn’t add to the story or to a character. Action hooks however can be effective tools to bring us right into the action, if it’s possible to deliver both character development and to keep from confusing the reader—while, at the same time, keeping the momentum.


Wasting no time, I sunk my fangs into the woman’s jugular. My hold on her throat tightened as she fought and I felt lightheaded as hot blood poured down my throat. It had a spicy flavor, the flavor of fire and of ice—burning in my veins. Like a vintage wine, I drank it in, thirsty for the rare taste of vampire blood. She was a young vampire, only a couple centuries old. Young and gullible. I took it all in, watching the light leave her eyes.

Which hooks do you guys like using? Which ones out of the examples above caught your eye? Why do you think that was?

- M

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bits O'Wisdom: Author Branding

Hey y’all! It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to put a blog post up. I have no excuse to give except that life tried very hard to swallow me whole. Good news? I won. =)

Alright, so the last time I posted one of these Bits O’Wisdom, I mentioned author branding. And next week we’re going to cover WEBSITES. *awaits screams of horror*

But for this week, let’s talk about author branding. What is a brand? And how can an author be one?

A brand is basically the essence or promise of what will be delivered or experienced.

What does your name promise your readers?

I know! I can already picture the looks on some of y’alls faces. You’re probably groaning at the screen and saying: “I just want to finish this book! I don’t want to worry about creating a public image or building a following. Heck, I don’t have time!” Or maybe: “Once I get an agent…then, then I’ll start on the whole branding thing. Right now I need to focus on writing.”

Writing should always be your main priority. Always. And yes, creating a public image can be time consuming—I’ve recently begun to realize just how much time it takes. About the same amount of time I DON’T have. Publishing can be and is a slow business. I mean, first you have to write the book. That usually takes a while. Then send out query letters in an effort to snag an agent. That can take even longer than writing your book. So it’s easy to say you’ll worry about building your public image/following later. And that’s perfectly okay. There is no rule saying that all writers must do this before getting published, but what happens when you do get published?

Anything that you’ve attached your “name” to—is now your brand.

This means Twitter, Facebook, Google +, writing groups, blogs, websites, etc….

You may not have all of these but all of you have at least one. So…what if you’ve spent all your time posting pictures of your dog? Or blogging about how cute you think pink elephants are? Tweeting about the cramps from hell….?? Guess that leads to the next question:

What Does Your Brand Say About You?

Or better yet…What SHOULD it say about you? I know you’ve heard that you should have a target audience. If you write romance, target the romantics. If you write YA—your posts and tweets should be teen friendly. The problem with this is that it does put a limit on who you can reach and what you can say. It stuffs you into a genre box. Stifles the real…You. Of course, if you write horror you’re not going to be tweeting about how adorable fluffy yellow kittens are. Just like if your audience is YA, you shouldn’t be cussing like a sailor. Obviously. You want to be relatable but the genre you write in is only half the package. Your brand is your name and it should be YOU. No, you don’t want to scare away your target audience but you should be yourself. Readers/fans will want to get to know you as a person…not just the writer.

Now I love Twitter. If you follow me, you know that tweeting is more like an obsession than a way to build a following—haha—and I tweet about everything. Anything from snippets of my writing to rants about how the washer exploded. (that’s not totally a joke) My genre is romance, but for me to tweet only sappy, sonnet like nonsense would not be true to the real me. I’m a total romantic…but I’m also a normal person that real life happens to. My followers are not only writers but people who can relate to the things I talk about and enjoy my sense of humor. Deranged though it may be sometimes.

Not everyone you come in contact with via social networks will buy your books. That’s probably not gonna happen. But some will. Even those who may not like the genre you write in. Why? Because there’s something about YOU they like. I’ve had people tell me they don’t read romance—at all—but they’re willing to buy my writing when it comes out because they like and can relate to me. And if they’ve got things in common with me…well what the heck? Maybe romance isn’t so bad either.

When it comes to creating a name for yourself…author branding…be yourself and not who you think you SHOULD be. Don’t make it all about your book either. Creating a website under the title of your first book is not a good idea. But we’ll cover that next week.

So…how are you creating an author brand? What do you think comes to mind when people see your name? How do you want to be perceived as an author?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Whatcha Reading Tuesday!!

C'mon, say it in your best soprano...It's Whatcha Reading Tuesday!! Share what you're reading this week from books to comics to song lyrics to the Necronomicon :P Anything at all as long as you are reading it. And this week answer our question which is a literary smackdown. J.K. Rowling vs. Stephanie Meyers...FIGHT!! Two authors enter, one author leaves :D LOL

Monday, September 19, 2011

Book Review: The Hero of Ages

Genre: Fiction/Epic Fantasy
Published by: Tor Fantasy
First Publication Year: 2008 
Author: Brandon Sanderson

As the third, and final, book in the trilogy, I was expecting something big. And Sanderson delivered on many counts. As the world is ending, dying around them, Elend and Vin and the few remaining members of Kelsier’s crew are up against impossible odds: Up against a god—Ruin—who is determined to destroy the world. Using clues left by the Lord Ruler in supply caches, Vin and Elend struggle to piece together how each event—the death of the world, the deaths in the mists, the constant fall of ash—connects to the Hero of Ages, to the ancient prophecies, to the Mistborn & Misting powers of Allomancy and the Terris peoples similar power, Feruchemy (storing physical attributes in metal to be used later), and creatures in the world.
In this novel, there is a lot of focus on the death of the world, how the past shaped the future, how the Lord Ruler recreated the world and had to deal with the consequences, reshaping humanity and the world to survive. Puzzles from previous books come full circle now, and questions are answered. Though, the conflict was stronger emotionally, rather than physically, the clues and answers kept me reading, eager to see how it all connected.
Characters that seemed to shine the most were, surprisingly, minor in the first two novels. Spook, a young man with the ability to burn tin, and the wise, scholarly Terrisman named Sazed. Spook’s transformation from an insignificant character to a leader was well done and his journey played a significant part in the world problem. Sazed’s journey in this book—his search for truth in the dead religions of the world—was significant in a way I never expected. To avoid major spoilers, I’ll not say anything more.     
This novel was a satisfying sequel to MISTBORN & THE WELL OF ASCENSION and uncovered much of the puzzling questions and revelations that the first two left unanswered, letting the trilogy come to a satisfying, fitting close.
Would I read this again: Yes.
My rating: **** (four stars)
Although this was a satisfying sequel and ending to the trilogy, it does suffer from a lack of tightness in plot structure, seemed too long at times, and doesn’t always deliver in terms of emotional impact or characterization. However, when it does deliver, it is done brilliantly and, in terms of plot twists and magic and the way Sanderson allows things to come full circle, the originality of this author shines.
Would I recommend this final novel in the Mistborn trilogy? Yes. If you enjoyed the first two novels and wish to see how Sanderson closes the series, I’d urge you to pick up this novel and find out.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Whatcha Reading Tuesday!!

One more time, woot woot!! It's Whatcha Reading Tuesday!! Come and share what you are reading with us one comment at a time. Whether it be a book, your own work, poems, or a how to pamphlet on hostage negotiations. Anything at all :) And our question this week is simple: Paper books or eBooks?


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