2014 A Year in Books

2014 hasn’t ended as yet, and already I find myself in a reflective mood. Truth be told I haven’t even considered possible new year’s resolutions or cleaning (since I do that routinely), but I’m going through the 70 plus books I’ve read in search of additional insight and tips.

So, how do you know when you’ve found a good book? Usually you end up reading it again, to see if the juicy parts are just as meaningful. Anyway here’s my line up:
1. Essentialism (Greg McKeown)- A great book, that tells us to do most of the things that we know we should do, but often don’t. Like pare down to the essentials. Focus on the work.


2. Fire in Fiction (Donald Maass) –  Does just what the title says. This book shows you how to improve your writing technique, how to learn new skills by reading different authors across various genres.

fire in fiction

3. Pure (Julianna Baggott) – A fantastic novel with well-crafted characters, whose names are interesting: Pressia, El Capitan, Glassings, Partridge and Bradwell. Who knew using the present tense could be so evocative. I enjoyed the characters immensely. The novel reminded me of a great movie with an ensemble cast like Schindler’s List. Or Chicago. (Insert your own movie here).

4. The Devotion of Suspect X (Keigo Higashino) – A while back, when I lived in Japan, I was intrigued by a television series called Galileo, about a University professor who was helping the police. Now seven years later two of the books (that led to the serithe devotion of suspect Xes) have been translated into English. What I love about the books other than the fact that they are detective mysteries, is that sometimes a translation can show you how easy it is to explain things in a novel, if the writer just takes their time. What I’m referring to here is what W.S. Merwin referred to as knowing the limits of your language, his advice for poets. Here though it can also refer to the vocabulary needed to tell your tale. Check it out for yourself. Is there anything you’ve read in another language and then explored in English, or your own language, if English is not your mother tongue?


5. The Maze Runner (James Dashner)- I know it’s been adapted for the screen but I still haven’t seen it as yet. MazerunnerAlthough I’ve watched If I Stay and the Perks of Being a Wallflower. Both of which made me feel totally gutted, in a good way because the stories were adapted well. Anyway, The Maze Runner was intriguing. I liked not knowing the whole story, and having to discover everything along with the characters, be it their environment and personal things about their life. In this respect, it reminded me of False Memory (Dan Krokos), where Miranda North had to figure things out for herself. As your write your story, consider the predicament of your main character. What is he or she trying to figure out? And how are you getting the reader involved?


6. Uguglieslies (Scott Westerfeld) – Tally Youngblood is an intriguing character. What else can I say, I like Pretty Town and the fact that she was trying to chase after some boy, Peris who had been made handsome. Other than that there were diverse character, an intriguing setting and genuine friendships.

7. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (Holly Black) – A few people I know didn’t quite get it but the book struck a chord with me. I get howthe coldest girl in coldtown Tana yearned to be reunited with her mother and in the end tried to do what was best for her sister. After all life is full of trade offs. And surprises.


This year I’ve managed to read more books, maybe next year I’ll have read more, somewhere between 100-120. Recommendations anyone? I’m not trying to go for gold, it’s all about pacing.
Whether you’ve read a few books or many, kudos to you! Remember part of being a good writer means we have to be even better readers. So, I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog thus far and will be back next year. Let me know if there’s anything you’d like me to blog about, possible topic or book suggestions and I’ll see what I can do. Have big dreams, set them down in writing. And ladies and gentlemen, after you’ve indulged a bit and spent some time with your family recommit yourself. Get back to work.

Create Suspense: Always Leave The Reader…Wanting More

Clarice-Starling-and-Jack-CrawfordNo matter what genre you choose to write in, it would be wise to leave the reader wanting more. Don’t believe me, thumb through the first few pages of the latest thriller, mystery, or romance novel in your collection and answer one question: Does the writer leave you wanting more? If so, then maybe they have started to reward you for making the choice to purchase their stories. But if not, then something in their skills may be sorely lacking….

Hopefully not. Anyway, creating suspense is a useful technique no matter your genre. Something according to Donald Maass (in his novel, Fire in Fiction) must always be kept taut. According to Maass, “Micro-tension is the secret behind page-turning fiction,” pg 97. Another thing he hints at, is the fault of beginning writers, to create tension at the start of a chapter, only to release it a few pages down. A let down to any reader, who is looking for something to span out over time. Something that builds slowly and then releases. One way to do this according to Maass, is to not start the next chapter with the scene or episode that the reader is most likely waiting for.

Think of the movie, Psycho, with its discordant music, and the woman bathing as the killer pulls a knife. Or The Silence of the Lambs with Clarice Starling, training at the Academy only to be called in on a case and then told to go see Dr. Lector. Wait. Were you expecting Buffalo Bill? Watch it again, see if any of the scenes go where you expected them to, and then postulate why or why not. No matter what you are writing, there are always tips and tricks…use the ones that work for you…and dump the others.


Because readers, like those cinema patrons want to be on the edge of their seats…waiting for that shock. They want to know what will happen next…and now and then it is good to keep them waiting…reading.

Give them clues if you have to, but leave them to mull it over for themselves. Eventually they will come around, and they will love you for it…I know I do. Anyway, remember a scene is written one word at a time, so take out anything that might be skipped…and include everything that is pertinent.

Once again, thanks for reading, and have a great week! Sorry for the delay in post, but I spent the last week recuperating from a very bad cold. Hope you’re all well though and wishing you all the best!