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Things My Textbook Does a Fiction Book Should Never Do

23 Mar

I’ve been talking a lot about my recent reading slump. I think a lot of it is because I’m reading so much for school that reading for fun seems weird. I’m reading at least one 50+ page chapter per week on top of what I read for fun. And my textbook is awful. I read the first chapter and thought it was a little weak, but the second and third chapters were worse. One of my classmates even asked me if I thought the textbook was terrible, which I said “YES” to a bit too loud for how quiet everyone was before class. Be warned, if you have to read Purchasing and Supply Chain Management 6th edition, you’re in for a treat. Here are some things the book does that a fiction writer would never get past an editor.

Repeating something multiple times and reacting like it’s new information. If I read the definition of a preferred supplier one more time, I swear this thing is going across the room. I think this term has been defined in 7 of the 9 chapters I’ve read so far. In Chapter 7, its defined twice. This is the equivalent of Hagrid telling Harry he’s a wizard in the fourth book, and Harry freaking out again. Not cool.

Repeating large passages, slightly reworded. I read chapters 7 and 9 pretty close to each other, and both have 2-3 pages devoted to sustainable supply chains. No language referring to, “As discussed in chapter 7…” Nope, none of that. Same wording, same vocab words, another three pages. Imagine if John Green had two scenes of Hazel describing her lung cancer. Same information, no recognition that we already knew this, just coming at us again. Like we forgot. Honestly.

Citing wrong page numbers or nonexistent figures. I wish I was kidding on this. I wrote in the right page number for one of them because the page it was referencing was in the previous chapter. This kind of inconsistency is an early catch for a fiction writer. Did Frodo have brown hair or blonde hair? Tolkien got it right and referenced the same color each time. Technology should make this easier.

Non-parallel formatting. The decision between main headers, section headers, and subheaders seems to have been decided by a coin flip. A paragraph introducing the next section will have a main header. So will each part of that section. Then in the middle of a bunch of subsections, we’ll jump to a section header and back like it was no big deal. Imagine an epic fantasy that was broken down into books and chapters at will with no logical reason for when it was changed. So confusing!

 Not defining terms. There are bolded vocab terms that are not defined. And there’s no glossary! I read the paragraph the word appears in and no clues! Vague context, but that’s not much to go off of. I remember reading The Maze Runner and being annoyed at all the slag. I’d be more annoyed if it was never defined!

Not highlighting key terms. Some rather important-seeming terms are not bolded but are defined. Honestly, it’s like the authors are trying to sneak something in on me. Like the clue in Dark Places that I totally caught onto, but with knowledge. The authors are trying to sneak knowledge in and pretend it’s no big deal.

Too much foreshadowing to content in future chapters. Kind of like my second point up there, the book will have a short paragraph about something that’s not-really-but-kinda-related to what it’s talking about. And then say we’ll read more about it in four chapters. Oh, but the term is bolded and is a vocab word for this chapter. With no definition. Like when you were reading Perks of Being a Wallflower and wanted to know about Charlie’s aunt and you knew it was important, but you had to wait till the right time to find out why it was so important. But instead of being heartbreaking and having Emma Watson and Ezra Miller in it, it’s about what conflict minerals Intel avoids purchasing. Not the same.

I hope to have actual content next week. I hope this is OK for now. Love you all for reading. Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Last Lines- Can You Figure It Out?

21 Mar

Alright. Still struggling here with my reading slump to give ya’ll some content. Here’s my next attempt. I’ve listed the last lines to ten different novels below and want to see if you can guess them WITHOUT GOOGLE. If you want to look at your own shelves, fine, but please don’t use the internet to cheat. I’ll respond to comments to let you know if you were right. My only criteria for selecting these is that I own them and that if it’s a series, it will be the final book in that series.

  1. He likes the thought of ships moving over the water, toward another world just out of sight.
  2. There are much worse games to play. (Kourtni knew it was The Hunger Games: Mockingjay)
  3. And I finally began like this: When I stepped into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home… (Deanna knew it was The Outsiders)
  4. It was not until they had examined the rings that they recognized who it was. (Faith knew it was The Picture of Dorian Gray)
  5. He was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance. (Faith knew it was Frankenstein)
  6. All was well. (Kourtni knew it was Harry Potter: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)
  7. Being tired isn’t the same as being rich, but most times it’s close enough.
  8. Isn’t this a great country altogether? ‘Tis.
  9. For now, he starts to read.
  10. She opened the door wide and let him into her life again. (NOTE: Not technically the last in the series)

I know some of these will be much harder than others, but I have faith in you all! I’ll post the right answers after they’re guessed with a link back to the blog of the first person to get it right. If I think you’ve cheated, I’ll delete your comment so please be truthful!

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

My Bookshelves

14 Mar

I’m sad to say my reading speed is not keeping up with my posting speed! I blame school (because it’s easy to). It’s forcing me to come up with some more creative things to post here that still relate to books and reading. I hope none of you mind! I thought today I’d take you on a brief tour of my bookshelves.

I don’t believe bookshelves are only for books! You can see I keep a number of knickknacks on my shelves. The right one has some games, travel mementos, and a lot of my Harry Potter keepsakes. The center one has some keepsakes and the left has pictures, coin banks, and some workout equipment. If there’s space on the shelves, I’ll fill it! I also love having things on top so you’ll see our wine rack, my paper model of the Titanic, and a wedding picture with our families.

The left and right bookshelves, the bigger ones, house books I’ve read or don’t intend to read, either because they’re my husband’s school textbooks or they’re reference books. These are alphabetized by author and further by title. In the event of a series, I keep the series together.

The center bookshelf is my TBR. Yes, I have a physical TBR. The LOVE book in the middle is an ArtFolds of Sense and Sensibility that I did over a year ago and I love it (even if I didn’t love the book). I keep this book in TBR order, based on what’s been on my Goodreads TBR shelf the longest. This is the first time in over a year that I haven’t had anything on the bottom shelf, so I had to find another way to fill it. Those volumes are the publications of my short stories. There’s three of them there. You can always read more about my publications on this page (linked in my top menu). I’d love to keep this shelf empty going forward, but that might not be feasible because book buying is so addicting. And hey, I’m trying to get another story published so maybe I can fill it that way!

One of the best feelings I can experience is taking a book off my TBR and moving the books after it forward, creating space at the bottom. I love this feeling! It’s a feeling of seeing physical progress of reading. I tend to do it at night when my husband can’t watch the goofy-happy look on my face.

The exception to my organization is the top two shelves of my left bookshelf. This is where I keep my signed books! The dust jacket on the upper left is a book I lent a co-worker who was fired before I could get it back. I doubt I’ll ever see it again and I ended up reading the ebook of it anyway. The rest of the top shelf is signed books I have yet to read. These are listed in TBR order as well.

The second shelf (bottom in this picture) contains my read-signed books. I’m almost out of space for them to share with the A and Bs of my read books (to the right of the big candle) so I slowly keep moving the As and Bs down to make space for read-signed books.

As you can see, I’m almost out of room! Pretty soon, I’m probably going to buy a half-bookcase which will go on the other side of the room from this one. I’m thinking of having that one house only my YA series books, mainly Harry Potter but also allowing room for The Maze RunnerThe Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and The Hunger Games. Depending on space, I might include other series as well, or go with just J.K. Rowling works.

Thanks for taking this tour with me! This was really fun to write. I’ll try to buckle down and read some more with all the craziness going on in life, but I may have to find more fun reading things to post about for a bit.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Library Writers’ Group: Revising

27 Feb

I’ve told you all before how amazing my friend Kristine Kruppa is, right? She led our writers’ group this month and talked about the revision process, using a lot of her experiences from revising her novel and giving me some good insight on the revisions she just gave me for my manuscript. I’m excited to share with you some things we learned.

First, revising and editing are different in a very notable way. Editing implies line editing, looking at structure and grammar and improving it. Revising comes earlier in the process and is on a story-level. You have to revise before editing or else your edits might get revised away. After finishing the first draft, leave the story for about a week or so to get some distance from it. Then do a read-through and start the revision process.

The first thing to look for is characters. Could any be cut from the plot if they don’t contribute to the action? Maybe combining two characters into one makes more sense to reduce the number of characters. The motivation behind each character must be believable and drive their actions. As many characters as possible should have an arc and develop through the book.

The setting is sometimes easier in contemporary novels that it will be for science fiction, speculative fiction, or fantasy. Many times, an outsider will show up in a created world to help build it. While this is the easiest way to do it, others can build one from scratched. Our group touched on transitioning between settings. It’s not always necessary to have the character driving from home to work, but you need to know as the writer how that happened.

The plot is the biggest area to look at. Is your plot predictable? CHANGE THAT! You want to keep the reader guessing until the end. Look for plot holes. Does anything happen for a reason that doesn’t make sense? Does anything contradict? Also look at the flow of the book. Pacing is hard to fix but try to use subplots to keep the book moving. A really key part to pace is the climax. We all said we’d read books where the climax happened too fast. After the whole rising action, it’s okay to linger on the climax a bit so the reader feels satisfied with the resolution. One member suggested exploring third level emotions. (More at this link, scroll down until you see the questions in bold.) This technique is pulling out the less obvious emotions a character has at a key moment and expanding on that feeling. Make sure that this climax and resolution happen for every character arc and subplot, not just the main one.

Read the manuscript through at least once more, making sure you caught everything. One suggestion Kristine had was doing a draft map. For this, she writes down the POV character, characters involved, purpose, and a synopsis of each scene. Any that don’t add to a plot or subplot can be scratched and it helps with pacing for main and subplots.

Next, make the changes!

After you’ve revised, it’s time to turn to Beta readers. Kristine suggests 2-5 who read the genre of your book. It might be great to hear what your mom says, but if she reads high fantasy like mine does, her feedback on my 1920s YA book might not be as helpful. One exception to this is if you’ve written something you don’t know well and what someone to check it for you. I’ve written a book about a woman during her pregnancy. I need to have someone who’s had a child read that one, even if they don’t read women’s fiction. My YA book has a male protagonist; I’ve asked several male friends who were at one time 17-year-old boys to read it for that reason. If your book has occupational details, try getting someone in that field to read it. Ask the Beta reader questions that help drive at the points brought up earlier.

Kristine is one of my beta readers and has given me some amazing advice. If you haven’t read her book yet, please go take a look!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Mental Health Day: I’ll Be Back Tomorrow!

21 Feb

Hi, all.

I had a very stressful weekend which is only worse because I was on vacation! Yuck. As such, I don’t have anything ready to post today but I’ll be using this evening to prepare for the rest of the week.

My apologies for a delay in content but rest assured my brain is recovering!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Why do they make abridged versions?!

6 Feb

As a warning, this post is being written in a flourish of anger. Be warned.

I just finished listening to a beautiful and haunting story that I loved. Between a long run and a long car ride, I finished the six hours of audio in four days and it was partially because I loved the story and was always anxious to hear what happened next. I had 15 minutes left and decided to sit down and just finish the darn thing. And I did. And the ending was great and the character arc was wonderful and I was floating on cloud nine. Before I could stop it, the credits read and it mentioned the name of the individual who abridged the book.

WHAT?!

Are you telling me that I just spent 6 hours listening to PART of a book? A book that won me over completely? What if they took out all the bad parts and the book is actually terrible? How would I ever know? I looked and it seems there is no unabridged version of this book on audio. The famous person who read it must not have been willing to give that much time.

So what am I to do? I feel seriously cheated to be sure. I want to know the whole story because, for once, there is more to a book I enjoyed! I want to know all the details someone didn’t think were worth making it to the end. The parts that seemed rushed will slow down and that excites me.

So, do I wait or read it soon? I own a copy so I could grab it next and read it, looking for the small or large changes. Or I could wait, maybe a few years, until I don’t remember the details and I can be surprised by them again instead of knowing what’s coming for the characters and not being surprised by twists. I’m at a loss. All I know is I feel cheated and I’ve never felt shortchanged by literature before.

Grrr.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

You know you want another challenge… The 2017 When Are You Reading? Challenge

20 Jan

There’s still time to join the 4th annual When Are You Reading? Challenge!

when-are-you-reading-2017-final

If you want to join in, let me know! I’ll add a link to your blog or tracker page in the event details. If you choose not to join, I promise not to get mad as long as you enjoy your books in 2017 and stop back often to share with me how it’s all going.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Bookstore Destinations for Travelers

19 Jan

I’ve got a couple great trips looming ahead of me this year and I’m really excited to for two staples of my travels: beautiful churches and books. Every time I travel over the weekend, I try to go to a local church (preferably the cathedral) and see the architecture of a different part of the country. Northern Michigan versus Arizona versus Florida, etc. I love to compare them and see beautiful buildings. The other part of my trips is going to bookstores. I love local and usually used bookstores. They reflect a great character of the area and often have tons of people excited to talk about books with you.

It seems I’m not the only person who does this. My friend Sue sent me an article before Christmas that shares some favorites of author Ann Patchett (see book review for Truth and Beauty). If you have some travels planned for this summer, take a look at this list for some suggestions and things to fill your itinerary. It’s always a welcome add to a trip.

This may be a bit early (except for those of you in Australia), but happy travels for this year! Bring a good book with you and see if you can find another one along the way.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Club Reflection: Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell

17 Jan

My book club had very split opinions about Bonnie Jo Campbell’s Once Upon a River. I was a huge fan. Others disliked Margo and by default, didn’t like the book. With such a strong narrator, it didn’t surprise me we were polarized.

Bonnie Jo Campbell is a Michigan-born author from the West side of the state. She was born in Kalamazoo in 1962 and for those out of Michigan, yes, a lot of our cities have awesomely fun Native American names. She got her Bachelors’ in Chicago, the closest big city to that side of the state. Her Masters’ is in Mathematics and her MFA is from KZoo’s own Western Michigan University (undefeated in the regular season this year!). She’s married but our moderator couldn’t find if she had children or not. Her other books, which have been well received, are primarily short story collections. We were able to find that her first book is about a girl born on the river with a mother named Margo. Um….! I might have to read that.

Being a Michigan-based author, we felt Campbell did a great job creating rural Michigan. The East side, where I’m from, is very different from the Michigan Campbell describes, but it reminds me of the parts of Northern Michigan I visit, where my parents own a cottage. It’s fun to remember how diverse a single state can be.

Though the Stark River and Murrayville, the settings Campbell created, are fictional, they were great representations of the state. The water is very important to the story and it’s used in a lot of ways. Margo is cleaned in it, eats from it, and recognizes that on it, she can be cleansed of her past. It’s also lethal (spoiler ahead). Smoke is literally dragged down into the river and couldn’t be saved. The river is always moving and changing. When Margo needs to run away, she can follow the flow downriver or make her way upriver to find a change and that’s what she likes about the river. Lakes are different. Her mother lived on a lake and Margo didn’t like the feel of it. She craved a river.

One thing we noticed is that while rape and sex were present in this book, they weren’t focal points. Especially when Cal raped her, it didn’t feel terrifying and victimizing. It was confusing and uncomfortable which we felt was likely more life-like. Margo used sex with various men as a survival tactic. She wasn’t looking to have a good time, she was trying to find her next meal and some shelter. I really enjoyed her character and strength.

Not everyone liked Margo as much as I did. We all agreed she was mature for her age and was very resourceful. A lot of people saw her as a misfit who didn’t fit in. I felt she fit in on the river but there were several references to her not fitting in amongst her peers. She was trying to get herself in order and have her life together and as a reader with a much different lifestyle, it was hard for us to recognize at first, but she had her life in order by the end of the book. She had what she wanted as far as a boat and a place to hunt and she was ready to start a family and settle down. Margo didn’t talk much. She was alone a lot so there weren’t a lot of people to talk to. There were some people who wondered if she was mentally impaired. A reporter asked Campbell if Margo had Autism. Campbell didn’t purposefully create a character with Autism but has said it’s possible Margo does. It wasn’t her intention.

A lot of Margo’s luck seemed to come to her because she was beautiful. She never says this about herself, but the men in the story and her mother say she is. She might not have been able to find shelter with men if she wasn’t, but it seemed incongruent with her rugged lifestyle. If she’d spent as much time looking good as her mother did, she would have been a knock-out.

Each of the men who loved her had a different name for Margo. It was a nod to how she recreated herself each time she was with another guy. All the time, she was trying to recreate the best relationship she’d had with a man until then, the relationship she had with her grandfather. In this respect, Smoke was the closest she found. He and Fishbone were the only ones who didn’t try to have sex with her and some of us think it’s because they’re gay. It’s implied in the story that the two loved each other but Fishbone wouldn’t admit to it. It reminded me of Brokeback Mountain. It’s hard to admit to a different lifestyle if there’s a lot to lose and Fishbone stood to lose his family and didn’t want to risk it.

Paul and Margo’s father were both shot in the book. In the case of Paul, Margo was in control instead of her cousin. We wondered if she noticed this. Michael was at risk and she stepped in the way her cousin did to save someone she loved. The difference was that she pulled the trigger instead of watching.

The Indian was the most confusing character for many of us. He was a personification of the river, something Margo loved. He gave her money and a ride, much like the river. With him, she leaves the river for the first time and maybe she needed someone who reminded her of the river to get away from it. We found it funny that he was trying to find his culture and, though Margo was in no way a Native American, she was living the culture he was looking for better than anyone else he’d found.

I’ll be missing my book club for a few months due to my class falling on the same night until May. I’m sad about this, to be sure, but I’m sure they’ll be fine without me. I’ll miss writing these for a few months but they’ll be back! Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Let me tempt you… into joining the 2017 When Are You Reading? Challenge

13 Jan

There’s still plenty of time to join the 4th annual When Are You Reading? Challenge!

when-are-you-reading-2017-final

If you want to join in, let me know! I’ll add a link to your blog or tracker page in the event details. If you choose not to join, I promise not to get mad as long as you enjoy your books in 2017 and stop back often to share with me how it’s all going.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!